Tuesday 31 March 2009

Vi's Oaties

These simple biscuits have become a weekly event in our house. They are wickedly addictive. Really easy to make. The recipe comes from Vi the administrator on 'Vi's Pantry ' food forum. She has a lovely Blog too. It was her Mum's recipe. I always double the quantities as they disappear so quickly. The recipe is quite easy to tweak. I like to use soft brown sugar instead of caster sugar as I like the caramely flavour it gives. To double the quantities in the recipe I also add 100 gms dried cranberries. They spread a lot so leave plenty of space on your baking trays. The recipe will give you about 15-16 biscuits.


4 oz/100g self raising flour

4oz/100g porridge oats

½ level teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

4oz/100g butter or margarine

4oz/100g granulated sugar

1 rounded tablespoon golden syrup


Heat the oven to gas mark 4 or 180 c

Grease on large baking tray with butter or margarine.

Mix flour, oats, and bicarbonate of soda together in a bowl put to one side.

Put margarine or butter, sugar and golden syrup in a saucepan and heat on a low heat until butter and sugar are melted, stir occasionally, take off heat and stir in the oat mix, beat well with a wooden spoon.

Scoop dessert spoons of mixture up and make into ball shapes and place on a greased baking tray when the tray is full slightly flatten the balls out with the back of the dessert spoon.

Cook in the oven for 15 minutes, when ready remove from the oven and leave to cool on the baking sheet for 5 mins before moving onto a wire rack.

Repeat and do the same until all the mixture has been used up.

Sunday 29 March 2009

Daring Bakers Lasagne Verdi

The March 2009 challenge is hosted by Mary of Beans and Caviar, Melinda of Melbourne Larder and Enza of Io Da Grande. They have chosen Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna from The Splendid Table by Lynne Rossetto Kasper as the challenge.

Thank you to Mary, Melinda and Enza for hosting this month's challenge

I love lasagne so this month's challenge was a pleasure to try. I have to say I would not choose lasagne verdi as I like to overhang the pasta sheets in the dish so they go crisp and brown and this does not look so appetising in green. The instructions were very good and easy to follow.

I find the easiest way to drain spinach is to place it in a muslin square and squeeze.

Is this the time to tell you I cheated and put it in the food processor?

It made a wonderful soft and easy to handle dough.

So easy to roll the old fashioned way.

Even to this thinness

I divided the recipe in four.
I did not include the recipe for Ragu or Becahamel sauce.
We all know how to do that
and it took up too much room.

Would I make pasta again?
Yes in the Food processor.
I have an old fashioned pulley hanging in the utility /laundry room.
Perfect for drying sheets of pasta


I may just buy the fresh lasagne sheets in the supermarket.

The recipe looks so long and complex
It's not
It's just Lasagne

Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna (Lasagne Verdi al Forno)
(Serves 8 to 10 as a first course, 6 to 8 as a main dish)

Preparation Time: 15 minutes to assemble and 40 minutes cooking time

10 quarts (9 litres) salted water
1 recipe Spinach Pasta cut for lasagna
1 recipe Bechamel Sauce
1 recipe Country Style Ragu
1 cup (4 ounces/125g) freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Working Ahead:
The ragu and the béchamel sauce can be made up to three days ahead. The ragu can also be frozen for up to one month. The pasta can be rolled out, cut and dried up to 24 hours before cooking. The assembled lasagne can wait at room temperature (20 degrees Celsius/68 degrees Fahrenheit) about 1 hour before baking. Do not refrigerate it before baking, as the topping of béchamel and cheese will overcook by the time the center is hot.

Assembling the Ingredients:
Have all the sauces, rewarmed gently over a medium heat, and the pasta at hand. Have a large perforated skimmer and a large bowl of cold water next to the stove. Spread a double thickness of paper towels over a large counter space. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (180 degrees Celsius). Oil or butter a 3 quart (approx 3 litre) shallow baking dish.

Cooking the Pasta:
Bring the salted water to a boil. Drop about four pieces of pasta in the water at a time. Cook about 2 minutes. If you are using dried pasta, cook about 4 minutes, taste, and cook longer if necessary. The pasta will continue cooking during baking, so make sure it is only barely tender. Lift the lasagne from the water with a skimmer, drain, and then slip into the bowl of cold water to stop cooking. When cool, lift out and dry on the paper towels. Repeat until all the pasta is cooked.

Assembling the Lasagne:
Spread a thin layer of béchamel over the bottom of the baking dish. Arrange a layer of about four overlapping sheets of pasta over the béchamel. Spread a thin layer of béchamel (about 3 or 4 spoonfuls) over the pasta, and then an equally thin layer of the ragu. Sprinkle with about 1&1/2 tablespoons of the béchamel and about 1/3 cup of the cheese. Repeat the layers until all ingredients are used, finishing with béchamel sauce and topping with a generous dusting of cheese.

Baking and Serving the Lasagne:
Cover the baking dish lightly with foil, taking care not to let it touch the top of the lasagne. Bake 40 minutes, or until almost heated through. Remove the foil and bake another 10 minutes, or until hot in the center (test by inserting a knife – if it comes out very warm, the dish is ready). Take care not to brown the cheese topping. It should be melted, creamy looking and barely tinged with a little gold. Turn off the oven, leave the door ajar and let the lasagne rest for about 10 minutes. Then serve. This is not a solid lasagne, but a moist one that slips a bit when it is cut and served.

#1 Spinach Egg Pasta (Pasta Verde)

Preparation: 45 minutes

Makes enough for 6 to 8 first course servings or 4 to 6 main course servings, equivalent to 1 pound (450g) dried boxed pasta.

2 jumbo eggs (2 ounces/60g or more)
10 ounces (300g) fresh spinach, rinsed dry, and finely chopped; or 6 ounces (170g) frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry
3&1/2 cups (14 ounces/400g) all purpose unbleached (plain) flour (organic stone ground preferred)

Working by Hand:


A roomy work surface, 24 to 30 inches deep by 30 to 36 inches (60cm to 77cm deep by 60cm to 92cm). Any smooth surface will do, but marble cools dough slightly, making it less flexible than desired.

A pastry scraper and a small wooden spoon for blending the dough.

A wooden dowel-style rolling pin. In Italy, pasta makers use one about 35 inches long and 2 inches thick (89cm long and 5cm thick). The shorter American-style pin with handles at either end can be used, but the longer it is, the easier it is to roll the pasta.
Note: although it is not traditional, Enza has successfully made pasta with a marble rolling pin, and this can be substituted for the wooden pin, if you have one.

Plastic wrap to wrap the resting dough and to cover rolled-out pasta waiting to be filled. It protects the pasta from drying out too quickly.

A sharp chef’s knife for cutting pasta sheets.

Cloth-covered chair backs, broom handles, or specially designed pasta racks found in cookware shops for draping the pasta.

Mixing the dough:
Mound the flour in the center of your work surface and make a well in the middle. Add the eggs and spinach. Use a wooden spoon to beat together the eggs and spinach. Then gradually start incorporating shallow scrapings of flour from the sides of the well into the liquid. As you work more and more flour into the liquid, the well’s sides may collapse. Use a pastry scraper to keep the liquids from running off and to incorporate the last bits of flour into the dough. Don’t worry if it looks like a hopelessly rough and messy lump.

With the aid of the scraper to scoop up unruly pieces, start kneading the dough. Once it becomes a cohesive mass, use the scraper to remove any bits of hard flour on the work surface – these will make the dough lumpy. Knead the dough for about 3 minutes. Its consistency should be elastic and a little sticky. If it is too sticky to move easily, knead in a few more tablespoons of flour. Continue kneading about 10 minutes, or until the dough has become satiny, smooth, and very elastic. It will feel alive under your hands. Do not shortcut this step. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap, and let it relax at room temperature 30 minutes to 3 hours.

Stretching and Thinning:
If using an extra-long rolling pin work with half the dough at a time. With a regular-length rolling pin, roll out a quarter of the dough at a time and keep the rest of the dough wrapped. Lightly sprinkle a large work surface with flour. The idea is to stretch the dough rather than press down and push it. Shape it into a ball and begin rolling out to form a circle, frequently turning the disc of dough a quarter turn. As it thins outs, start rolling the disc back on the pin a quarter of the way toward the center and stretching it gently sideways by running the palms of your hands over the rolled-up dough from the center of the pin outward. Unroll, turn the disc a quarter turn, and repeat. Do twice more.

Stretch and even out the center of the disc by rolling the dough a quarter of the way back on the pin. Then gently push the rolling pin away from you with one hand while holding the sheet in place on the work surface with the other hand. Repeat three more times, turning the dough a quarter turn each time.

Repeat the two processes as the disc becomes larger and thinner. The goal is a sheet of even thickness. For lasagne, the sheet should be so thin that you can clearly see your hand through it and see colours. Cut into rectangles about 4 by 8 inches (10 x 20 cm). Note: Enza says that transparency is a crucial element of lasagne pasta and the dough should be rolled as thinly as possible. She says this is why her housekeeper has such strong arms!

Dry the pasta at room temperature and store in a sealed container or bag.

Saturday 21 March 2009

Steak Slice with Lemon and Thyme (with apologies to Coby)

Coby is a huge Nigella Lawson fan. If Nigella has a recipe you can bet your boots Coby has made it and all cooked to perfection. She does not have a blog of her own but writes on a communal blog. Her stuff is really well worth reading as are the writings of the other authors. Do drop in HERE and have a look. Anyway to the aforementioned steak. I had read on her blog that Coby had made this particular recipe from Nigella Express. It looked wonderful. I wasn't sure about the steak being marinaded after the cooking as I was worried about keeping it hot. I hate food not being hot if it is meant to be hot. We had a bit of a cyber chat about this which culminated in me buying a large slab of rump steak last weekend. Events over took me and I realised I was not going to use this meat until tonight. I thought to myself what on earth is the point of this sitting in the fridge for a week on it's own when it could be soaking in a marinade. Back to the recipe. I decided to make the marinade which was meant for post cooking and I stuck the steak in it. I took it out today and cooked it as per instructions and just added a squeeze of lemon juice while it relaxed. Oh boy it was mouthwatering. The steak was beautifully tender and the flavour was exquisite. I may not have followed the recipe to the letter but my goodness it tasted good. So thank you Coby. I would probably never have noticed this in Nigella Express. My apologies for not doing it properly but I'm here to tell you it doesn't matter it still tasted great.


Serves 4

1 x 2.5cm-thick rump steak, approx. 600g
5 stalks thyme, to give 1 x 15ml tablespoon stripped leaves
2 bruised cloves garlic
80ml extra virgin olive oil zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
1 teaspoon Maldon salt or 1/2 teaspoon table salt
good grinding of fresh pepper


Cut away the fat from around the edge of the steak while you heat a griddle or heavybased pan. Brush the steak with oil to prevent it sticking to the griddle or pan, and cook for 3 minutes a side plus 1 minute each side turned again (this gives you pretty griddle marks) for desirably rare meat; the lemon in the post-hoc marinade “cooks” it a little more. While the steak is cooking, place the thyme leaves, garlic, oil, lemon zest and juice, and salt and pepper in a wide, shallow dish. Once the steak is cooked, place it in the dish of marinade for 4 minutes a side, before removing it to a board and slicing thinly on the diagonal.


The method is this: instead of marinating the meat before cooking, you marinate it after; it really does keep it extraordinarily tender. Please feel free to play around with the herbs; such as oregano rather than thyme.

My Notes:
I cooked it a little longer as I don't like my steak too rare.

Friday 20 March 2009

Savoury Wheaten Bread

Wheaten Bread again, or soda bread or brown soda bread. Whatever title you are comfortable with. I am constantly trying new variations of this theme. It's such easy quick bread to make. It can be made into scones or formed into a loaf. It can be left plain, made sweet or as I have done this time, savoury. The idea came to me one evening when I wanted some tasty bread to accompany dinner. Something quick and easy was the order of the day. I remembered Rachel Allen had made a soda focaccia in a swiss roll tin so I thought I would try my own version. Just perfect as it baked while dinner cooked and we had it warm from the oven. So quick and easy. This is definitely one I will make often. I had some next day for lunch with some strong cheddar. Delicious.


Olive oil
225g/8oz plain flour
225g/8oz wholemeal flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
100g /4 oz parmesan cheese
100g /4oz feta cheese chopped and crumbled slightly
8-10 sun dried tomatoes in olive oil chopped
2 good tablespoons caramelised onions (I make and use Nigella Lawson's onion mush)
400ml (14 fl oz) Buttermilk

To Top

25g/1oz melted butter
a clove of squished garlic or garlic paste
finely chopped fresh or some dried parsley


Preheat oven to 200. C /180.C Fan/400 F/ gas 6
Brush a Swiss roll tin or baking tray generously with olive oil.
Place the flour and baking soda into a big bowl and add the salt and lots of ground pepper
Stir in the cheese, tomatoes and onion
Make a well in the centre. Pour in most of the buttermilk, and mix until you have a soft dough. Not wet but soft. If you feel it is a bit wet just add a little more flour
Tip out onto a floured surface and roll it out gently to about 35 x 20 cm (14 x 8 in) and transfer it to the oiled tray.
Dimple the surface of the dough with your fingers
Brush the top with the melted butter garlic and parsley mix .
Put it in the oven and cook for about 20 - 25 minutes.
When cooked, it should feel firm in the centre and be golden brown.
Transfer to a wire rack and cool for a couple of minutes, then cut into squares and serve.

Wednesday 18 March 2009

Liver and Bacon

Liver seems to be making a come back. I was amused to see my son order it in a restaurant in London. If I had offered that to him when he was a youngster he'd have strung garlic round his neck and made the sign of the cross. When I was a child it was cooked in the pan until it was so tough it would have done soles on your shoes. It had to be eaten though. Remember the starving children in Africa? No great hardship. I was always hungry and they certainly weren't getting my dinner. I recall at school being taught to make Venetian liver. It was chopped up, rolled in seasoned flour fried lightly and then stock added. This was a huge innovation and went down very well at home. I have to say I learned long ago to cook it lightly. Much nicer a little pink in the middle. I love this version by Jamie Oliver. Lots of lovely oozy sauce to soak into buttery mashed potatoes. I have to serve it with cabbage. My hubby would think it heresy to eat liver without it. Do try it. It is so easy and like most of Jamie's recipes it works a treat. The crispy sage leaves are wonderful. I have taken to doing these with other dishes. They retain their colour when fried , add texture and a wonderful flavour.

Liver And Bacon With A Twist

Serves 4

12 rashers streaky bacon
olive oil
a small handful of fresh sage leaves
600gms/1lb 6oz calfs or lambs liver cut into strips
flour to dust
2 medium onions peeled and finely sliced
sea salt and ground black pepper
4 tablespoons red or white wine vinegar
4 heaped tablespoons butter

Get a big frying pan nice and hot
Add bacon cook until nice and crispy then remove to a plate.
Add some oil to the bacon fat sprinkle in the sage leaves and cook for thirty seconds until crispy Put with the bacon
Dust the liver with a little flour and shake off the excess
Add onions to the pan with a good pinch of salt
Cook until soft then remove from the pan
Add a little more oil then add the liver.
Cook in batches over a high heat. don't overcook
Put everything back into the pan with the butter and vinegar it will sizzle and spit becoming creamy and saucy
Season to taste Serve with buttery mashed potatoes

Friday 13 March 2009

Rocky Road Crunch Bars

When I was a child my Mother made a concoction of teabiscuits and chocolate which were called in our family ' Alistair's cakes' because a cousin of that name loved them. My brother who pops into my blog demanded of me why I didn't make them and write about them here. I refuse to. It's family confession time. I hated them. I never had the courage to confess that to my Mother. Dark chocolate was not readily available then for baking and it was prohibitively expensive so therefore not used. Wanton extravagance don't you know. A concoction of eggs and cocoa powder or drinking chocolate was made instead. Tea biscuits were broken and added. Marshmallows and syrup were meant to go into the mix but my Mother didn't like them. Gave her the heartburn and so were excluded. The whole confection was covered in melted chocolate flavoured 'Scotbloc' then cut into squares. When I first saw Nigella Lawson's Rocky Roads, it occurred to me they were much the same but much richer and used chocolate. Lots of it. I was intrigued. A comparison had to be made. Trust me there is no comparison. These are a delight. I recommend if you have never made them you must. So easy and a mouthful of sheer heaven. With apologies to my Mother.

Rocky Road Crunch Bars


125g/4½oz soft unsalted butter
300g/10½oz best-quality dark chocolate, broken into pieces
3 tbsp golden syrup
200g/7¼oz rich tea biscuits
100g/3½oz mini marshmallows
2 tsp icing sugar, to dust


1. Heat the butter, chocolate and golden syrup in a heavy-based saucepan over a gentle heat. Remove from the heat, scoop out about 125ml/4½fl oz of the melted mixture and set aside in a bowl.
2. Place the biscuits into a plastic freezer bag and crush them with a rolling pin until some have turned to crumbs but there are still pieces of biscuit remaining.
3. Fold the biscuit pieces and crumbs into the melted chocolate mixture in the saucepan, then add the marshmallows.
4. Tip the mixture into a 24cm/9in square baking tin and smooth the top with a wet spatula.
5. Pour over the reserved 125ml/4½fl oz of the melted chocolate mixture and smooth the top with a wet spatula.
5. Refrigerate for about two hours or overnight.
6. To serve, cut into 24 fingers and dust with icing sugar.


If you line the baking tin with baking parchment leaving an overhang, you can lift the whole slab out making it so much easier to cut.

Oh and I forgot to reserve some of the chocolate mix to spread on the top. Didn't make a whit of difference. One chore less.


My First Blogiversary

I can hardly believe it is a year since I took the plunge and started blogging. I had plans to bake a cake to celebrate but that didn't quite work out. I decided to have a blog make over instead. It was all done for me by a very helpful patient girl called Emily. Extremely quick and efficient. I can highly recommend her.
I would just like to thank everyone who calls in. I may not always get a chance to reply but I read all the comments and just love to get them. I feel I have made some lovely friends in the blogging world.
Thank you all you wonderful people.

Wednesday 11 March 2009

Strange Happenings

Anybody popping in will wonder what us happening to my Blog. It's in the middle of having a make over so it all looks a bit odd at the moment. Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible.