Thursday 22 January 2009

Going To The Sun

My Blog will be lying dormant for the next couple of weeks as we are off on what has become our annual trip to Barbados. The weather is so cold and dark here it will be a relief to feel the heat of the sun on my skin. It is the most wonderful little island. So very worth the nine hour flight. The people are so friendly, the food is wonderful, the beaches are glorious, the sea is warm and the climate perfect. What more could a body ask for. I shall be content for someone else to do the cooking and serve my food to me for two weeks. Absolute heaven. By the time I return I hope the days will have lengthened a bit here and maybe spring will be round the corner.
Happy cooking all and I will look forward to catching up when I return with a suntan, a larger waistline and hopefully lots of energy after the rest

Thursday 15 January 2009

Chilli Cheddar Flatbreads

I wanted to make flat breads but I had it in my head I would like something with a tongue tingling bite. What if I put some chillies in it? At worst I would blow our heads off. I really know very little about the varieties of chillies out there. I see so many mentioned on various blogs. It doesn't help that different parts of the world seem to call them different names. There are literally hundreds of varieties. The only thing I know is the smaller they are the hotter they seem to be. I stuck to the ones I buy in my local supermarket which I think may be red jalapeno peppers but in truth I am not sure. I only know they are not too ferocious. I was sorry I hadn't some green ones just to give a bit of extra colour.
They were very tasty. Not too hot but just a nice bit of heat.


2-3 chilli peppers de seeded and chopped
2 cloves garlic finely chopped
( I did this in the food processor)

500gms/18oz Strong white bread flour
1 tablespoon dried active yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
300-400mls warm water
1 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons olive oil plus extra for glazing
100gms/4oz grated cheddar cheese
1 good teaspoon english mustard powder or made mustard.


Stir the yeast and sugar into 300mls warm water and let it froth up for five minutes

Place the flour in a bowl (I used my stand mixer)
Make a deep well in the flour and pour the yeast mixture in.
Stir some of the flour into the liquid until you get a smooth paste.
Cover and leave for twenty minutes
Add the oil peppers garlic mustard salt and cheese and mix well. If the dough appears a little dry add some more water but just a very little at a time until the dough comes away clean from the side of the bowl.
It is quite a soft dough
Mix thoroughly for a few minutes
Cover and leave in a warm place until doubled in volume
Oil your worktop and hands and pull the dough out onto the work top.
Divide into four and then four again.
Form each piece into a ball and place on a baking sheet.
Flatten each ball with the palm of your hand.
Cover with a tea towel and leave to rise again for half an hour.
While they are rising again pre heat your oven to 200.C/ 180.C fan/400F/Gas 6
Dimple each bread with your finger tips and coat generously with oil
Bake for about 15 minutes until they are a nice golden brown.

No there is no need for fire extinguishers.....................really.

Wednesday 14 January 2009

Morrocan Chicken

This delicious and simple recipe comes from the Blog of our dear departed friend Pistachio. She has gone from us but her Blog still remains. There are some wonderful recipes so it is well worth having a wander round.
I have not made very much in the way of middle eastern dishes and am still trying to sort out the lovely aromatic spices used. I need also to master the art of flavouring couscous. This is a very tasty dish. I used chicken thighs as that is what I had. I cooked them first and then added the sauce ingredients to the juices in the pan. I also added some peppadew peppers which added a little warmth without taking away from the flavours. I always have a jar of these in the fridge as I just love them. Really nice on a salad too.


500g/Approx 1lb chicken fillet, cut into 2cm dice
4 tbsp (Aus. 20ml) flour, seasoned with salt and pepper
60ml olive oil
2 onions, sliced
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
2 tsp sumac
4 tbsp sultanas
250ml chicken stock
50g/2oz toasted pine nuts
4 tbsp chopped fresh coriander
Juice of 1 lemon, plus wedges to serve
Serve with couscous, greek yoghurt and Lebanese bread.


Toss the chicken in the seasoned flour.
Heat 40ml of the olive oil in a large frying pan over a high heat until hot, then cook the chicken in batches until golden and set aside.

Heat the remaining oil in the pan.
Add the onions, reduce the heat to medium and cook for 10 minutes, stirring, until golden and softened.

Return the chicken to the pan and add the spices, sultanas and stock.
Reduce the heat to low and cook for 5 minutes until heated through and thickened slightly.
Stir in the pine nuts, coriander and lemon juice.

Serve with couscous, yoghurt, bread and lemon.

Tuesday 13 January 2009

Keeping Tea Cosy For Breast Cancer

No you are not seeing things. These wonderful ladies from New South Wales ARE wearing tea cosies on their heads. It's all part of a drive to raise lots and lots of money for breast cancer. The idea is to knit make or create wild tea cosies which will be sold in aid of this very worthy charity.
They are members of the Country Women's Association and there are only twenty two of them so this is a huge project for them. If you would like to join in from anywhere in the world you will find the details here. Pictures of your tea cosy will be published and there is a prize too.

Come on you cooking ladies. I know you can create lots of stuff outside the kitchen too and it looks so much fun.

Monday 12 January 2009

Chocolate Amaretti Cake

I have a love of all things Italian. From the food to the language to the opera and of course to the gorgeous shoes and bags that come from there. I don't know why this should be. I have no Italian blood in my family and have only been there once. I took my mother to Rome years ago. I have always meant to go back but as yet have not made it. My father was stationed in Rome during the second world war. I don't know if looking at his photos as a young child triggered off this love affair with Italy but it is there for whatever reason. I found the recipe for this wonderful cake in Rachel Allen's 'Food For Living'. She says she was served a slice of this with a glass of Amaretti while in Italy. Gorgeous almond flavours mixed with orange and chocolate. Absolute heaven. During Roman times, almonds were considered a fertility charm, and newly-weds would be showered with almonds during weddings. There have been documented findings that nutmeats and dried fruits were treated as delicacies of this time, because the cultivation of these foods was not as prevalent as today. Imagine the value of something as small as a nut being a cherished gift for so many centuries! Back to the cake. It is dense and moist with a crunchy top and keeps extremely well. This makes it a great dessert for a dinner party as it can be made in advance. I imagine it would also be lovely served with some berries and /or cream on the side. Perfect. The plate it is served on came from Italy as a gift from a dear forum friend, Carlotta. It seemed appropriate to serve this gorgeous cake on such a lovely platter.

Serves 8-12

150g good dark chocolate (at least 55% cocoa solids, preferably 70%)
50g amaretti biscuits
100g flaked almonds, chopped
175g caster sugar
Zest of 1 orange, finely grated
100g butter, cubed
4 eggs, beaten
Cocoa powder or icing sugar, for dusting

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4.

Line the base of a 20cm-diameter springform tin with greaseproof paper and butter the sides.

Melt the chocolate in a bowl sitting over a saucepan of simmering water.

Place the amaretti biscuits, almonds, sugar and orange zest in a food processor, then whizz until the biscuits and almonds are almost finely ground – I like to leave them a bit gritty. Add the butter and eggs, whizz until blended, then add the melted chocolate and briefly whizz again until well combined.

Pour into the prepared tin and pop straight in the oven. Cook for 35 minutes until the cake is puffed and slightly cracked around the edges. Remove and leave to sit for 15 minutes before carefully transferring to a plate. The top is quite crisp, and cracks easily, so I dust it with lots of icing sugar or cocoa powder before serving, to hide any imperfections.

Notes: I did find this cake to a little longer to bake than the specified time. I suggest the use of a skewer. It is sticky in the middle so don't over cook.

I used ground almonds as that is what I had.

Friday 9 January 2009

Garlic Soda Bread

The other night I decided to make a pasta dish for dinner. It was quick and simple. My only problem was I needed bread. To sit down to pasta or rice for dinner without bread to me would be unthinkable. I don't know why it should be so but it is. I usually make my own version of Nigella Lawson's Garlic and Parsley Hearth Breads. but it was late and I really couldn't be bothered faffing around waiting for yeast to rise. I then wondered if I could make a sort of flat bread using my soda bread recipe. For those of you who are not familiar, soda bread is common in Ireland and is so called because the levening agent is Bicarbonate of Soda or Baking Soda. It's a mix, stir and pop in the oven bread. No rising time. It is really a scone mixture. The reason this bread is part of the Irish culinary heritage is simple enough. In this land where the influence of the Gulf Stream prevents either great extremes of heat in the summer or cold in the winter, the hard wheats, which need such extremes to grow, don't prosper .It's such wheats that make flour with a high gluten content, producing bread which rises high and responds well to being leavened with yeast. Soft wheats, though, have always grown well enough here. In Ireland, "plain" soda bread is as likely to be eaten as an accompaniment to a main meal (to soak up the gravy) as it's likely to appear at breakfast. It comes in two main colours, brown (also called wheaten bread) and white. I digress. I was not sure if this idea would work or not but I glanced through Rachel Allen's 'Bake' I saw she had done something similar and it looked good. I just sort of combined Nigella's Hearth Bread Recipe with the Soda Bread. I have to report it was a runaway success. I will definitely make it again. Do you know it was still nice the next day split and popped in the toaster.


3-4 tablespoons Olive Oil
250gms /9oz plain flour
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 teaspoon Salt
125-200ml /6-7 fl ozbuttermilk


Crushed squished or jarred garlic
Chopped parsley
Olive oil to mix
Maldon salt to sprinkle


Finely chop a little parsley and mix with some of the oil oil and garlic. Use enough that will spread generously across the top of the dough.

Preheat the oven to 200C/gas 8.

Brush an 20cmx20cm/8"x8" square sandwich tin generously with olive oil.

Sieve the plain flour,baking soda and salt into a large bowl

Make a well in the centre, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and pour in most of the buttermilk.

Mix until it comes together to form a soft but not sticky dough.

Tip onto a floured surface and roll out to fit the tin

Set the dough in the oiled tin and dimple it all over with your fingers

Brush the top with the prepared garlic and parsley topping and sprinkle with a little maldon salt if desired

Bake for 20-25 minutes Just keep checking as all ovens are different.

When ready it will be golden brown, should feel firm in the centre and a skewer will come out clean.

Transfer it to a wire rack and cool for a couple of minutes.

Cut into squares and serve.

This gave me about nine squares of bread which was more than enough for two. If you want more you could double it up and use a bigger tin such as a swiss roll tin.

Sunday 4 January 2009

Christmas Pudding Bread

Christmas has gone again for another year. Our fridges are returning slowly to normal. Did we really need quite such a variety of cheeses? What is that bit of goo in a bowl wrapped in cling film? Are those extra brussell sprouts never going to rot? I suspect there are still a few bits of Christmas pudding lying around too, waiting to be dispatched to the bird table or worse the bin. I hate waste so I thought this was a novel way of using it up. My Christmas pudding was very dark and sticky so it produced a very moist rich bread. Nice toasted and smells wonderful. I think you could also use Christmas cake in this recipe. Why not if it's lying around and you can't face any more.


Christmas pudding (Whatever you have but don't use more than 250 grms/9oz)
250 gms/9oz plain flour
250gms /9oz white bread flour
2 eggs
200 mls/7 fluid oz milk
1 tablespoon runny honey
1 tablespoon dried active yeast.
pinch of salt


12.5gms/1/2 oz butter softened
1/2 teaspoon mixed spice.


Mix the flours and salt in a large bowl or the bowl of your stand mixer if you have a dough hook.
Crumble in the Christmas pudding and mix through

Warm the milk and add the honey.
Sprinkle in the yeast and stir.
Leave for five or ten minutes until the yeast is quite frothy.

Beat the eggs.
Make a well in the flour and pour the yeast mixture and the eggs in.
Mix until you have a nice soft dough (not sticky though).
If you feel your dough is too dry add a little water a teaspoon at a time but go carefully. You want to be able to handle the dough easily not have a sticky pile in the bowl.

Knead with a dough hook for about five minutes or by hand for 10 minutes.

Form the dough into a ball.
Turn this in an oiled bowl so that the dough has a light film of oil.
Cover with a tea towel or cling film and leave in a warm place until it has doubled in volume (about an hour).

When the dough has risen, pull it out of the bowl onto a lightly oiled work top with lightly oiled hands. This stops the dough sticking to you and everything else.
Form it into an oblong and divide into two equal pieces.
Form these into two balls and place on a greased and floured baking sheet.
Flatten the balls slightly.

Cover with lightly oiled cling fim and leave to rise again for about half an hour.

Pre-Heat your oven to 200.C/180.C Fan/400.F/Gas 6
When the loaves have risen snip the tops with scissors or slash with a sharp knife a couple of times then place them in the oven and bake for about thirty minutes until golden brown and the bottoms tap hollow.

While they are baking, mix the spice with the softened butter,
As soon as you remove the loaves from the oven smother them with this spicy butter. (I find those silicone pastry brushes great for this job)
Leave on a cooling rack.