Monday 18 July 2011

The Perfect Coffee Cake

I promised myself that the next cake I made would not be a chocolate cake. I tried very hard I really did but then I found this. It's not really chocolate. Not too much anyway. That's what I told myself. The chocolate is concentrated into two layers so when you sink your teeth into a perfectly harmless looking slice you hit this squidgy chocolatey bit. So much for good intentions. Could it be something to do with the fact I substituted the nuts for chocolate chunks? Nonsense. Didn't I tell you I wasn't making a chocolate cake.

So this 'not a chocolate cake' comes from a lovely book called Sweet Secrets by Carine Goren. It keeps really well which is a good thing as it is a large cake. Lots of not chocolate to enjoy. I didn't bother with conversions. Much easier to go with the volume measurements I think. Oh and by the way, it is a called a coffee cake but there isn't actually coffee in it. No I don't know either. It's probably why I was misled into believing it wasn't a chocolate cake in the first place. Just enjoy the chocolate that isn't there.

The Perfect Coffee Cake

A well buttered 9" Bundt Pan

1 1/2 sticks/6oz/220grms butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 eggs
3 cups of flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon of salt
2 cups sour cream ( I used creme fraiche)


3/4 cup dark brown sugar packed
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon coca powder
1 cup walnuts chopped (I substituted chocolate pieces/chips here)
 Icing /powdered sugar to dust over the top

Prepare The Cake

  1.  Mix the filling ingredients together and set aside.
  2. Preheat the oven to 180.C/350.F
  3.  In a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter, sugar and vanilla extract on a medium speed.
  4. Add the eggs beating well after each addition. 
  5. Sift together the flour,baking powder,baking soda and salt.
  6. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour alternating with the sour cream, three tome, starting and finishing with the flour. ( I bunged the whole lot in the food processor and whizzed)
  7. Pour 1/4 of the batter into the bundt pan. Sprinkle 1/3 of the filling on top of the batter and repeat to achieve four layers of cake batter and three layers of filling
  8. bake for about 50 minutes until a skewer inserted comes out almost clean (with moist crumbs) and the cake springs back to the touch.
  9. Turn out while still a little warm. Allow to cool completely and decorate with powdered/icing sugar.

    Monday 11 July 2011

    Macaroni Cheese

    The ultimate comfort supper. Just look at it. Bubbling hot from the oven,cheese oozing out, inviting you to have a forkful. While watching the pennies a bit more recently, this plain homely dish often appears on the menu. Little bits of salty bacon added or not as you prefer. Slowly cooked onion adding sweet buttery flavour. A few green leaves for your hearts sake and that's all it takes.

    The one thing I am fussy about is the sauce. It needs to be thick as the water from the pasta can dilute it and make the sauce very runny. I want something that sticks to my ribs. If you can be organised enough (I am not but try to make the effort for this.) add a peeled onion chopped in half, a handful of black peppercorns and a couple of torn bay leaves to the milk the night before you make it. Not hugely important but if you try it you will be glad you did. Don't throw the onion away as it can be cooked to go into the dish. We don't want to waste anything now do we?

    I use about 75g-100g (3-4 ounces) macaroni per person cooked as per packet instructions. I would like to warn you at this stage that when I cook pasta I could feed the street with it. I never seem to get it quite right.
    Now when it is cooked and drained throw in a lump of butter. Yes I know it's supposedly bad for you but nothing tastes quite like it. Now just do it. It's wonderful. Trust me.

    Strain the milk if infusing, reserving the onion.
    Now finely chop the onion and gently fry in a little oil and butter (yes more butter) for about ten to fifteen minutes in a small pan until it is very very soft and sticky. Keep the heat low and don't let it burn. Set it to the side

    For the Sauce

    50gms/2 ounces butter
    50gms/2 ounces flour
    350 mls milk infused as mentioned above if possible
    1 large teaspoon of mustard, whatever you have in the cupboard will be fine
    A good shake of cayenne pepper
     As much and as varied a choice of cheese(s) as you want. In other words whatever you have in the fridge.
    I like to use strong cheddar and parmesan. I also like to top it with mozzarella. Delicious

    Melt the butter and then stir in the flour letting it cook for a few moments over a low heat to get rid of the floury taste.
    Remove from the heat and stir in the mustard and a little milk. keep adding the milk a little at a time and using a whisk get it all blended in.
    Return to the heat and keep stirring until it is thick. Then keep stirring until it becomes very thick.
    Remove from the heat and stir in the onion, cayenne pepper and your chosen cheese.
    Now stir in your macaroni and put it all in a buttered pie dish and top with mozzarella if desired. This bit is not necessary but did I tell you it's delicious?
    Set the whole thing on a long piece of oiled foil and pull the foil over the top to form a loose parcel.
    Pop into the oven at 180.C/350.F/gas4 and bake for half an hour or so then remove the foil top to let it brown.

    Serve with some good for you salad leaves. Enjoy

    Monday 4 July 2011

    Wheaten Bread with a Little History Lesson

    This was my very first Blog post in 2008. I have moved it to the top as it is being published on this The Hankering Palate. Sarah is an aspiring Food Writer and has obtained her Culinary Diploma from The French Culinary Institute in New York City. She is publishing posts from other foodie Blogs in a series.  It is certainly a privilege for my little post to be used. Pop along, have a read and leave a comment. It will be an interesting week.

    Wheaten Bread

    Wheaten Bread (or Brown Soda Bread as it is called by non Irish folks)  is a part of the everyday diet in this part of the world. Very quick and easy to make it is a wonderful accompaniment to most dishes and delicious with just butter and jam or cheese. I learned to make this at my Mother’s knee. Very few meal times at home did not have this bread on the table. The very smell of it baking takes me back to my childhood. It is a haunting feeling to think that a Grandmother of mine, perhaps two hundred years ago, was making this bread too.
    Two major factors have long affected the course of Irish baking. The first is our climate. 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... And 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 here.
    The other factor, in the last millenium at least, has been the relative abundance of fuel. The various medieval overlords of Ireland were never able to exercise the tight control over forest land which landowners could manage in more populous, less wild areas, like England and mainland Europe: so firewood could be pretty freely poached, and where there was no wood, there was almost always heather, and usually turf too. As a result, anyone with a hearthstone could afford to bake on a small scale, and on demand. The incentive to band together to conserve fuel (and invent the communal bake-oven, a conservation tool common in more fuel-poor areas of Europe) was missing in the Irish countryside. Short elapsed baking times, and baking "at will", were easy.
    These two factors caused the Irish householder to bypass yeast for everyday baking whenever possible. The primary leavening agent became what is now known here as bread soda: just plain bicarbonate of soda, hence the name "soda bread". For a long time, most of the bread in Ireland was soda bread -- at least, most of what was baked at the hearthside ("bakery bread" only being available in the larger cities). Soda bread was made either "in the pot," in yet another version of the cloche baking which is now coming back into vogue, but which was long popular all over medieval Europe: or else on a baking stone, an iron plate usually rested directly on the embers of the fire

    The cooking/baking hearth of an Irish cottage, circa 1780: courtesy Ulster Folk and Transport Museum

    From these two methods are descended the two main kinds of soda bread eaten in Ireland, both north and south, to the present day.
    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  brown or white, and two main types: cake and farl. The latter are primarily regional differences. People in the south of Ireland tend to make cake: people in Northern Ireland  like the farl better (though both kinds appear in both North and South, sometimes under wildly differing names). Cake is soda bread kneaded and shaped into a flattish round, then cut with a cross on the top (this is supposed to let the bread stretch and expand as it rises in the oven but it’s really to let the fairies out) and baked on a baking sheet.   A farl is rolled out into a rough circle and cut through, crosswise, into four pieces and usually baked in a heavy frying pan or on a griddle, on top of the range rather than in the oven.

    With all this said, the basic business of baking soda bread is extremely simple. The urge to be resisted is to do more stuff to it than necessary...this is usually what keeps it from coming out right the first few times. Once you've mastered the basic mixture, though, you can start adding things, coming up with wonderful variations like treacle bread and so on.

    Now you have had the history.............go make some!

    Wheaten Bread

    8ozs/225gms Wholemeal Flour
    4 ozs/100gms Plain Flour
    Approx. 15 fl. ozs/400mls Butter Milk (or regular milk soured with lemon juice or vinegar)
    1oz/25gms Butter (Vegetable oil will do a couple of tablespoons)
    2 teasp Bicarbonate of Soda/Baking Soda
    2 good teasps sugar or a tablespoon of honey or maple syrup (Highly recommended yum)
    1 teasp. salt

    Greased and floured round sandwich tin or 2 pound loaf tin

    Oven temp 350F 180.C Gas 4

    In a large bowl mix together all the dry ingredients.
    Cut the butter into small pieces and rub through.
    Add enough buttermilk to form a soft but easily handled dough. It should not be runny.
    Knead lightly and quickly into a round and place in prepared tin.
    (It is essential you use light hands)
    Cut a deep cross in the bread. (To let the fairies out)
    Sprinkle with oats if desired

    Bake for approx 40 Minutes or until a skewer comes out clean

    When it comes out of the oven cut yourself a big slice, slather it in butter not minding that it dribbles down your chin in the enjoyment of it all.

    Friday 24 June 2011

    More Wheaten Bread

    Yes, I know, I spend my life trying new ways with this loaf. It probably gets a little boring but when I shuffle the ingredients once again and there is a good final product, I feel compelled to share it. This was good...........very good. Nice moist dark crumb (that's what bread geeks call the inside of the loaf) lovely golden oatie crust. If you are into healthy eating well it's full of oats and you could of course replace the  maple syrup with honey or leave out the sugary stuff altogether but there's no fun in that. On the subject of fun don't forget when it comes out of the oven cut a big piece and cover it thickly in butter. Use your other hand to catch the drips while you cram it in your mouth. Just tell your arteries to be quiet.

    Oatie Wheaten Bread

    Pre heat your oven to 200.C/180.C Fan/400.F/Gas 6

    Grease and flour a large loaf tin or a round sandwich tin or just a baking sheet and form the loaf by hand.

    350gms/12oz wholemeal/whole wheat flour
    100gms/4oz oats/oatmeal + a handful for topping
    200mls buttermilk or ordinary milk soured with lemon juice + 50mls milk just in case you need it
    50g/2oz butter
    1egg beaten
    1 teaspoons baking soda
    1 heaped teaspoon cream of tartar
    1 teaspoon salt
    2 tablespoons maple syrup or honey

    Place the oats, butter, salt and maple syrup in a bowl.
    Heat the milk in the microwave or a saucepan until quite warm.
    Pour onto the oat mixture and leave for half an hour stirring occasionally. Do not be tempted to skip this and throw the dry oats into the me you will just get a very dense loaf.
    Now stir in half of the beaten egg, the flour, baking soda and cream of tartar. You should have a spongy slightly sticky mix.
    Don't worry about rushing this bit. I have found that the dough sitting around for a few minutes is quite beneficial

    Spoon the dough into your prepared loaf tin/sandwich tin
    If forming by hand, flour your hands well and form the dough into a round on your baking sheet. If your dough seems a little soft for that just add a little flour to the mix.....simple.

    Brush some of the beaten egg over the top then sprinkle generouly with oats. Now splodge the rest of the egg over that.

    Using a sharp knife draw a deepish crevice the full length if the tin. If you are doing a circular loaf cut a deep cross. It's to let the fairies out...........yes it is.

    Now bake for 30-40 mins or until a skewer comes out clean. If it is getting a little too brown place a tin foil hat over the loaf after it has formed a skin.
    Turn the loaf out onto a wire rack to cool.

    Don't forget to cut that thick warm slice and butter it.

    PS If anyone knows anything about white balance in cameras give me a call.

    Wednesday 22 June 2011

    Sausage Plait

    Isn't it awful how the prices in the supermarkets have
    escalated? More than ever I am seeking out recipes which don't cost a lot to make but are tasty and interesting. This I think fits the bill. I used a product called Vegetable Roll which is peculiar to Northern Ireland but any sausage meat will do. I also made my own pastry which is so quick and easy to do. I am never organised enough to defrost frozen pastry. Five minutes in a food processor and you have it. Simple.

    Sausage Plait

    Serves 2

    1. Pork/beef sausages 4, skinned (approximately 250g/9oz)
    2. Onion 1 small, peeled and finely chopped
    3. Cooking apple 1 peeled, cored and chopped
    4. Chopped sage 1tbsp or 1 tsp dried
    5. Salt and freshly ground pepper
    6. Puff pastry ½ x 500g pack
    7. Vegetable oil for greasing
    8. Egg 1, beaten for glaze

    Preheat the oven to 200˚C/400˚F/Gas 6.
    Mix together the sausage meat with the onion, apple and sage for seasoning.
    Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface to a 30cm (12in) square. Cut around the edges to neaten them.
    Then make 5-6cm (2-2 ½ in) long cits on the opposite sides of the pastry, at a slightly downward angle and about 2.5cm (1in) apart -but not opposite each other, alternate them instead.
    Brush water around the edges.
    Place the sausage meat mixture in the centre of the pastry
    Fold down the pastry top, then bring up the cut sides, alternatively overlapping them to give a plaited effect, folding up the bottom edge of the pastry before bringing over the final side strip.
    Press the pastry together well at the ends to seal it.
    Slide the plait onto a lightly greased baking sheet, then brush the pastry with the egg glaze.
    Bake the plait in the centre of the oven for 30-40minutes, or until the pastry has risen and is golden. Remove from the oven and serve either hot or cold.

    I did the whole thing on the baking sheet. Saved faffing around

    Pastry (If you so wish)

    • 250g strong white flour
    • A pinch of salt
    • 250g cold unsalted butter, cut into 5mm slices
    • A squeeze of lemon juice
    • 5-6 tablespoons iced water

    Pulse the flour and salt together in the processor, then add the butter and pulse 3-4 times, the butter should be cut up but still be in visible chunks.

    Add a squeeze of lemon juice and the iced water, and pulse till the pastry begins to form a ball, then tip out onto the bench and form a ball. Wrap tightly in cling wrap and rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.

    Dust the benchtop with flour, then roll the pastry into a long rectangle into a long rectangle three times longer than it is wide, then fold it in three like a business letter. Roll out again to the same length and repeat the fold and roll another 2 times (not rolling out after the last fold).

    Wrap in cling wrap and rest in the fridge for another 30 minutes before using it to allow the gluten to relax.

    When baking, brush with a lightly beaten egg white and bake in an oven preheated to 200 degrees C till puffed and golden brown.

    I did the rolling and folding straight from the processor then stuck it in the fridge while I made up the filling. Works beautifully. Half the quantity will do for this recipe.

    Tuesday 12 April 2011

    Hello Fellow Bloggers.

    I haven't been around much I know.. I have missed dropping into all your Blogs. I will be back soon xxx

    Friday 4 March 2011

    Sticky Lemon Slice

    I found this fabulous recipe on a Blog the other day. Lesley has just started blogging and her Blog 'Eat Etc' is well worth a visit. I am looking forward to much more. This recipe is so easy and yet so divinely sweet and tangy I'll be making it again and again. These little bars are lovely with a cup of tea or with a big dollop of double cream on top. It contrasts with the tang of the lemon perfectly. Thank you Lesley for a real keeper.

    Sticky Lemon Slice

    225g/8oz unsalted butter, softened
    70g/2 1/2 oz icing sugar
    275g/10oz plain flour

    400g /14 oz granulated sugar
    4 medium eggs, beaten
    4 tbsp plain flour

    1 tsp baking powder
    grated zest of 2 lemons
    90ml lemon juice, strained
    icing sugar to dust

    Preheat oven to 170. C./150.C Fan/325.F/Gas3
     Line base of non-stick 32 x 21cm/ 12" x 8" Swiss roll tin with baking paper.

    Put butter in food processor and process until whipped.
    Add icing sugar and process until light in colour (creamed). 
    Add flour and process until mixture forms a ball.  
    Tip into tin and press flat.  If mixture is sticky, keep your fingers dusted with flour. 
    Bake 15 minutes, then remove from oven. 
    Leave oven on.  
    While base is cooling, make topping.

    Topping: Tip sugar into the cleaned bowl of food processor and add eggs.  Process 1 minute. 
    Transfer mixture to a bowl, sprinkle flour and baking powder over top.  Add lemon zest and juice, mixing together with a large spoon.  
    Pour mixture on top of base (it will fill the tin).  
    Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until golden and firmish to touch.
    Cool in the tin, then dust with icing sugar and cut into squares. 
    Transfer to airtight container when cool.  Will keep for 3-5 days.

    My Notes 
    I found the base was very sticky so I added a tablespoon of flour to the food processor and whizzed again 

    Thank you Lesley for a great recipe

    Wednesday 2 March 2011

    Fish Fingers

    Hands up who doesn't like fish fingers. I love them. I used to love having them with the children when they were small. I have just matured a little and now make them myself. So simple and so tasty. With apologies to Captain Birds Eye although you will always have a place in my heart, I think these may be just a tad better.

    Fish Fingers

    Firm white fish. I use cod loin
    A few ounces of breadcrumbs
    A little seasoned flour
    1 or 2 beaten eggs depending on how many fish fingers you are making.
    Oil to fry

    Dry the fish and cut  into fingers.
    Lightly cover them in the seasoned flour and shake off the excess.
    Dip them in the beaten egg and then the bread crumbs.
    Dip them in the egg again and then the breadcrumbs again.
    Fry in hot oil until golden, a few minutes.
    See, simple.
    Now wonder why you bother buying the frozen ones.
    Serve with chips mushy peas and grilled/fried tomatoes

    Sunday 27 February 2011

    Peanut Butter and Chocolate Cookies

     As usual I am running at the last minute. Mind you Dom this is the only challenge I have managed this month so feel extremely flattered. Dom is running a random challenge. The idea is brilliant. Run your hands randomly over the spines of your cookery books. Stop at one. Then open the book and cook/bake whatever appears.The book I stopped at was The Essence of Chocolate by John Scharffenberger and Robert Steinberg. I have never cooked anything from this book so it was good to make me perform so to speak. The book fell open at PB&C Cookies. So here they are. Lovely cookies but (there is always a but isn't there?) I followed the recipe except I halved the amount of cookie dough dropped on the tray. The impression given by the pics and the recipe is that the dough will spread giving you large thin cookies. That does not happen. I had three trays in the oven when I noticed this. I Had four cookies left to bake so I flattened the before ovening. I looked at the pic and I could see they had been flattened by fingers but nowhere in the recipe does it tell you to do so. I hate when recipes leave out details like this. Anyway I flattened the last four cookies with a spoon and that is what you see in the pic. I loved the flavour but would I make them again? No I would not. I will adapt another recipe I have which will give the thinness and chewiness I love. Watch this space.Thanks Dom for making me bake from this book. I don't think I'll use it again though.

    Peanut Butter and Chocolate Cookies

     1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
    1/2 tsp baking powder
    1/2 tsp salt (may need to reduce depending on your pb's saltiness)
    8 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temp
    1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
    1/3 cup granulated sugar
    1 tsp pure vanilla extract
    1 large egg, lightly beaten
    1/2 cup chunky peanut butter (natural preferred, with no added sugar or salt)
    1 ounce unsweetened chocolate, melted
    1 1/2 cups bittersweet chocolate chips (or 6 oz chopped bittersweet chocolate)
    1. Preheat the oven to 325° F and line two baking sheets with parchment or a silpat.
    2. Melt the unsweetened chocolate.

    3. In a mixer, combine the softened butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar and mix on medium speed to blend, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the vanilla, egg and peanut butter and mix for 2 to 3 minutes. Pour in the melted chocolate and mix just until combined. Stop the mixer and add the dry ingredients. Mix just until combined.
    4. Remove the bowl from the mixer and fold in the chocolate pieces by hand.

    5. Drop large mounds of dough, about 3 heaping tablespoons each, onto the two prepared baking sheets, leaving about 2 inches between each cookie. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until the cookies are lightly cracked on top, rotating the pans halfway through.
    6. Remove from oven, cool 2 min on sheets, then transfer to a rack and cool completely.

    Sunday 20 February 2011

    Seville Orange Jelly Marmalade

    I wait anxiously all year for the Seville Oranges to make this treat. This year I made 12 pounds of it. My kitchen was like a jam factory but it smelled heavenly. Just as I screwed the last lid in place I found out Seville Oranges can be frozen. Oh well I will remember  next year.
    There is nothing quite like the tang of marmalade made with these bitter oranges. I am not fond of thick cut marmalade so I strain it and add a some finely cut peel to give it a little texture. It is a great job on dark January days when the weather keeps you indoors. So obliging of these fruits to be in season at such a time. It's a three day event but so worth it.

    Makes About 2 Kilos/4 1/2 lbs

    450gms/1lb Seville oranges
    1.75litres/3pints/7 1/2 cups water
    1.3kgs/3lbs/81/2 cups preserving or granulated sugar
    60mls/4tablespoons lemon juice

    DAY 1

    Wash and dry the oranges using a soft brush to get into all the wee dimples on the skin.
    If you want some fine peel through your jelly thinly pare off the skin and finely shred the rind from 2-3 of the oranges. A zester is good for this. Place it in a muslin square and  make a little bag tying off with a long piece of string.
    Squeeze the juice from the oranges and place the juice and pips into a large pan.
    Chop up the remaining orange skins including the pith and add it to the pan.
    Add the bag of shredded peel tying the string to the handle so you can fish it out easily later.
    Cover with the water and leave to soak overnight.

    DAY 2
    Bring the mixture to the boil,reduce the heat and simmer for 1 1/2 hours
    Remove the bag of peel and set to the side for later.
    Put the kettle on
    Line a large strainer with a double layer of muslin.
    Now pour some boiling water through the muslin to scald it.(or you can use a scalded jelly bag if you have one)
    Place the strainer over a large bowl and leave to strain overnight.
    Don't be tempted to squeeze or push the fruit pulp as it will make the resulting jelly cloudy.

    DAY 3
    Heat your oven to 150.C/300.F and pop your clean jam jars on a baking tray and set inside the oven to sterilise and heat.
    Pour the strained juice into a large saucepan discarding the pulp.
    Add the sugar, lemon juice and rind .
    Stir over a low heat until the sugar has dissolved then bring to the boil and boil rapidly for about  twenty minutes or so until setting point is reached(105.C/220F) Sometimes this can take longer so don't be alarmed. A lot depends on the amount of juice and the vigour of the boil.
    If you don't have a sugar thermometer use a chilled plate. Drop a little jam onto it and wait for a few minutes and if the surface wrinkles when gently pushed with your index finger it is done.
    Remove the scum with a slotted spoon.
    Leave to cool for a while then pot up into your nice warm jars.
    Put the lids or covers on and leave to set.

    Saturday 19 February 2011

    Honeyed Porridge Bread

    Isn't baking amazing? I love the process of using a set of ingredients and making something. Then, taking the same ingredients using them a slightly different way and a completely different texture results. Magic. I love  oats in bread however, I have always found adding them in their dry state to the mix makes bread a bit dense. Nice toasted but not so good for sandwiches etc. After having a bowl of porridge one morning I wondered what would happen if I soaked the oats before adding. Well it worked. This bread is so light and soft it is just .....well magic.

      I use  23x13.5x6cm /9"x5"x21/2"(nearly three pounds) loaf tin which gives a large loaf .
    If you don't have a tin this size two regular 2lb loaf tins will do giving you of course two loaves.

    100gms/4oz porridge oats/oatmeal
    400 mls /4 1/4 cups boiling water
    3 tablespoons of honey
    50gms/2oz butter
    1-2 teaspoons salt

    Combine these first five ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer or if doing by hand a large bowl. Allow to cool giving it a stir now and then. You will have what is essentially a bowl of porridge when this bit is done.

    300gms/18oz Wholemeal flour
    300gms/18oz White Bread flour
    1 and 1/4  teaspoons instant yeast
    175mls/3/4 cup hand hot water

    When cool gradually stir in the flour and yeast. It will be a really shaggy mess.
    Using the dough hook mix slowly. If doing this by hand,use your hand to combine.
    Add 100mls water and continue mixing
    Now, you want the dough to be soft but come away from the sides of the bowl cleanly while kneading.
    Add a little water at a time until the desired consistency is reached.
    Turn up the mixer to medium and knead for approximately 5 minutes.
    Hand workers take the dough out of the bowl and knead on a lightly oiled worktop and you get to knead for 10 minutes until the dough is smooth ,elastic and satiny.
    Now oil a bowl and form your dough into a ball. Turn it round in the oiled bowl (stops it sticking) and then leave it in the bowl cover loosely with cling film or place inside a carrier bag (this keeps the moisture in) and leave for about an hour until it has roughly doubled in size.
    When this is done oil your work top and hands to keep the stickies away and gently pull your dough out onto the work top.
    Dimple it out flat with your fingers to disperse the air.
    Now take an oiled  rolling pin and roll it out into a rectangle about 18 inches by 12 inches.
    Fold it over towards you like a business letter. You know the top half down and the bottom half up and over it.
    Now take the side end and fold it over the top towards the centre then the other end and fold it over that, turn it once and perform the whole thing again.
    Once folded ease the sides down and press the top until you get a cob shape that will fit lengthwise into your tin/tins
    If using two tins cut the dough in half before shaping.

    A little milk in a flat  rectangular or oval container
    A handful of oats ground up finely in the food processor (or just some wholemeal flour if it is more convenient.) also in a flat container

    Now dip the smooth side of your cob(s) in the milk and then the flour of your choice. Place into your greased tin(s) flour side up of course.
    Place the tin(s) in a plastic bag leaving a balloon shape while tucking in the ends under the tin to keep it moist. Leave in a warm place to rise again for 30-40 minutes..
    A good test of when this rise is finished is lightly jiggle the loaf at the end of the tin. When it is ready you will feel it wobble slightly like a jelly. You really will feel it.
    Now slash the tops diagonally with a serrated knife two or three times. This will allow the loaf to rise without splitting in odd places.
    Put the bread into the oven and bake for about half an hour.
    The loaf should be a nice golden brown, feel firm and crusted on the top and when tipped out of the tin it should tap hollow on the base.
    Allow to cool completely on a wire rack before cutting.

    Monday 14 February 2011

    Hope Springs Eternal

    Having spent a couple of weeks being warmed by the sun, eating  deliciously prepared  food and being surrounded by some lovely people, we returned tired from a long flight feeling slightly dispirited. Our taxi turned into the drive and a wonderful sight met us. Snowdrops had sprung up all over the front lawn during our absence. A sure sign spring is on the way. I always see their nodding heads as little beacons of hope. Life is good isn't it?

    Sunday 16 January 2011

    Parsleyed Fish Gratin

    Sarah at Maison Cupcake has started a new Blog event called 'Forever Nigella'. The idea is we cook a dish from one of Nigella Lawson's books every month. This is not difficult as I have all of her books. A great idea Sarah and thank you for organising.

    I chose Parsleyed Fish Gratin from Nigella Christmas. It is a regular in my house. A very easy fish pie which saves all the mashing of potatoes and can be made in advance. It is a tasty everyday dish but would also grace  a table for guests as it is just so pretty

    I have made a few changes to the recipe. Nothing new in that as I am always fiddling. There is not one thing wrong with the original but I have just added a couple of things which I prefer or are just more convenient. I added salmon to the fish mix as I like the flavour. It also adds an attractive colour and makes it more pleasing to the eye.
    I use semi skimmed milk for the sauce rather than full fat for the simple reason it's what I have in the house.
    I add onions pepper corns and bay leaves to the milk the night before making (if I am organised enough) as it does give the sauce a lovely flavour. I always do this with any roux sauce. Well worth it.
     I also use pale sherry rather than vermouth as I have a couple of huge bottles to use up and I do like the flavour in cooking. It works very well. So because of these changes I get to print the recipe.

    Serves 6

    Parsleyed Fish Gratin

    For the Milk Infusion

    One raw onion peeled and quartered
    About twelve black pepercorns
    Two bay leaves ripped

     For the Sauce

    50gms/2oz butter
    50gms/20z flour
    1x15ml tablespoon pale sherry vermouth or white wine
    1/4 teaspoon ground mace or nutmeg
    1/2 teasp maldon salt or 1/4 teasp table salt
    1/4 teasp Dijon mustard
    350 mls/12 fluid oz  milk
    1 1/2 15 ml tablespoons finely chopped chives or 1 spring onion finely chopped
    75 gms/3 oz chopped parsley

    For the Fish Mix and Potato Topping

    2 medium sized (400gms/14oz total) baking potatoes, unpeeled
    One Kilo/2.2 lbs of fish to include salmon, white fish fillet and smoked cod or haddock

    For the Glaze
    1 teasp garlic oil
    25gms/1oz butter
    Good grinding of black pepper
    A little dried parsley


    Add the onion, black peppercorns and bay leaves to the milk and leave to soak overnight or for a few hours.then strain to use with the sauce.

    Make a white sauce by first melting the butter in a large saucepan and then addi the flour and stir for a minute or so.
    Then off the heat whisk in the sherry/vermouth/wine, mace/nutmeg, salt and mustard.

    Next whisk in the milk and put the pan back on the heat continuing to whisk the sauce as it thickens. Once the sauce appears to be getting thicker, keep cooking it for a further 3 minutes until it becomes very thick.

    Take it off the heat and stir in the chives and parsley then decant into your gratin dish (mine is a round shallow casserole about 26cm x5cm/10 inches x inches)

    Once cool you can leave this dish covered in the fridge overnight or up to three days.

    When ready to cook preheat your oven 200.C/400.F/Gas 6. and place a baking sheet in . Take your gratin dish out of the fridge and uncover it.

    Slice the unpeeled potatoes as thin as you possibly can.

    Scissor or cut all the  fish into large bite-sized pieces and mix into the parsley sauce

    Layer the potatoes in concentric circles over the fish and parsley sauce overlapping half way across each potato slice as you go around the dish.

    Melt the garlic oil and butter in a small pan or in a dish in the microwave, stir in a little dried parsley then paint the circles of potato with this mixture

    Grind some fresh black pepper over the top and place in the oven to cook for 50-60 minutes. The top should be golden and the underneath of the gratin bubbling

    Friday 14 January 2011

    Chocolate Prune Bars

    This month's challenge is from Chele at  The Chocolate Teapot. The monthly challenge is always chocolate but we are given another ingredient and have to make/bake something that includes the two. This month's ingredient to add to the chocolate was leftovers from our pantries. I chose prunes as I had half a bag lurking from Christmas. For once I am on time. Last month I didn't manage at all because of swine flue. Well they do say the world loves a trier. So Ladies and Gentlemen without further ado I present  
                              Chocolate Prune Bars

    It is quite a dense but very moist cake. I was uncertain as to what what the flavour would be like but I have to tell you it is amazing. It actually tastes better if you can keep your hands off  it for a couple of days. It is grand left plain but covering it in Chocolate ganache takes it to a different level.


    250g /9 oz Butter or Margarine

    250g /9oz Dark brown sugar

    200g /7oz S.R Flour plus 1 teaspoon of baking powder or plain flour with 2 teaspoons of baking powder (sifted)

    50 g / 2oz cocoa powder

    3 Eggs (beaten)

    250 g 9oz dried pitted prunes

    250mls strong coffee

    a little water or fruit juice


    Pre Heat your oven to 180.C/160.C Fan/400.F/Gas 6 

    Place the prunes in a medium saucepan with the coffee and simmer for ten minutes. 

    Set to the side and allow to cool a little then whizz in the food processor or puree with a stick blender. If the mixture is very thick add a little water or fruit juice to loosen.

    Grease and line a shallow baking tray 24 cms x 33 cms/ 13 inches x 9 1/2 inches.

    Leave an over hang lengthwise of your lining paper so the cake can be removed from the tin easily.

    Melt butter in microwave on 50% power or in a large saucepan on the hob.

    Stir in sugar and prune mixture then the flour and cocoa powder, add the eggs,  stirring well. A whisk is good.

    Pour into your prepared tin and bake for approx 20 - 30 minutes until the cake is springy to touch.

    Leave in the tin until cold before removing then slice into bars.

    Could I push my luck  here and say it could count towards your five a day.

    Thank you Chele for this month's challenge

    Thursday 13 January 2011

    Potato Wheaten Bread

    I love all the local (Irish)  breads. From those made on the griddle  wheaten and soda farls, potato bread and pancakes to the oven soda and wheaten (brown soda) bread. I am a great fan of potato bread, called lovingly by locals as"Tatie Bread", which is a flat unleavened bread made with potato and flour. I got to wondering what it would be like to combine the potato with the oven soda and wheaten. Naturally I had to give it a go.

    I made two versions One Wheaten Potato loaf (top) and the other my hubby has called the Ulster Fry loaf as the flavours are just like our traditional Ulster Breakfast Fry in a slice. They were both a great success I have to report. At their best straight from the oven and if any left after a day or two, just heaven toasted with lots of butter. Well I didn't say they were healthy did I?

    Wheaten Potato


    500 gms/ 1lb 2 oz Wholemeal/whole wheat flour
    250 gms/9 oz approximately of cooked mashed potato
    1 teaspoon Baking Soda
    2 Teaspoons Cream of Tartar
    1 teasp of salt
    300mls milk
    1 egg beaten
    50gms/2 oz butter chopped.


    Pre heat oven to 200.C/180.C fan/400.F/Gas6

    Put the potatoes into a large jug and gradually beat in the milk until you get a mixture resembling wall paper paste.
    Tip in most of the egg reserving a little for glazing.
    Sift the flour, baking soda, cream of tartar and salt into a large bowl
    Rub in the butter with your finger tips
    Add the milk and potato mixture and stir until you have a soft dough.
    Empty onto a floured work top and knead gently to shape with well floured hands as  it is a a sticky mixture. The potatoes make it so.
    I bake mine in a well buttered 7 inch brownie pan but you could use a round cake pan
    Slash a cross on the top of the dough
    Glaze with the remaining egg
    Bake for 30-40 minutes until golden brown and a skewer comes out clean.

    For the Ulster Fry Bread replace the wholemeal flour with plain /all purpose flour and add two or three pieces of finely chopped fried smoked bacon  and two finely chopped scallions/spring onions to the mix. Omit the salt as the bacon adds enough.


    I have given the method by hand but I make this in the Food Processor which makes life a lot quicker,easier and less sticky . Just whizz the dry ingredients then whizz in the chopped butter then add the milk mixture and whizz again.

    If you don't have cream of tartar use buttermilk or milk soured with lemon juice as the bicarbonate of soda needs the acid.

    For those of you who have never seen an Ulster Fry this is it. Not my photo as I usually only make a 'fry' when we have guests and a delay would not be tolerated. I wouldn't take the risk.

    Monday 3 January 2011

    Lamb,Pear and Cranberry Pie (without the pie)

    On Violet's Pantry, our members had the privilege of testing some of Lotte Duncan's recipes for her new book Lotte's Country Kitchen which was published last year. The recipes we helped with were wonderful and it was great fun trying them out. I am the proud owner of her book and it is so pretty I am afraid to get a splat of goo on it. It is one of the best cookery books I own.. It does not stop at beautifully laid out pages and stunning photographs. The recipes are seasonal and the chapters laid out monthly so it is very easy to find something that suits the time of year. All are very homely recipes.No complexity involved but Lotte has managed to capture what every home cook wants, lots of flavour and beautiful presentation but as well s being homely everyday fare for the family her dishes would grace a dinner party table perfectly indeed the quantities are mostly for 6-8 people but easily adjusted for smaller amounts. This recipe was for a pie but I just couldn't be bothered making the pastry. The mix of fruit meat and veg is perfect with just the right amount of sweetness and sharpness. A real keeper. If you have a few cranberries still lying around I would recommend this dish. I served it with fluffy creamed potatoes. Delicious.

    • Preparation time 30 mins
    • Cooking time 120 mins
    • Serves 6 people


    • 2 tbsp Rapeseed oil
    • 900 g (31.7oz) Leg of lamb, diced and trimmed of fat
    • 25 g (0.9oz) Butter
    • 1 Large onion, roughly chopped
    • 3 Large carrots, cut into 2.5cm/1inch chunks
    • 1 tbsp Soft brown sugar
    • 2.5 tbsp Plain flour
    • 570 ml (20.1fl oz) Lamb or beef stock
    • 150 ml (5.3fl oz) Red wine
    • 2 tbsp Chopped fresh parsley
    • 0.5 tsp Dried thyme
    • 1 Fresh bay leaf
    • 1 Small sprig of rosemary
    • 2 Large pears, peeled, cored and cut into chunks the same size as the lamb
    • 110 g (3.9oz) Fresh cranberries
    • 1 Small orange – grated zest and juice
    • 0.5 tbsp Clear honey or quince jelly
    • 1 tbsp Chopped fresh mint
    • 1 Pinch of salt
    • 1 Pinch of ground black pepper
    • 225 g (7.9oz) Self-raising flour - For the Suet crust pastry
    • 2 tsp Dried thyme - For the Suet crust pastry
    • 2 tsp English mustard powder - For the Suet crust pastry
    • 110 g (3.9oz) Shredded suet flour for dusting - For the Suet crust pastry
    • 1 Egg, beaten - For the Suet crust pastry 


    1. Preheat the oven to 160°C fan oven, 140°C gas mark 3. Aga 4/3-door grid shelf on floor of baking oven Aga 2- door Grid shelf on floor of roasting oven with cold plain shelf on third runners.
    2. Heat 1 table spoon of oil in a large flameproof casserole dish and brown the pieces of lamb a few at a time. When each piece of meat is sufficiently browned, remove it using a slotted spoon and transfer to a plate. You might need to add another tablespoon of oil to brown all the meat.
    3. Now add the butter, onion, carrots and brown sugar to the dish and fry them gently until they are beginning to soften and caramelise due to the sugar. You don’t want the sugar to burn, so keep the heat low. It just makes the vegetables sweeter and gives a lovely colour to the final dish.
    4. Stir in the flour and pour over the stock and wine. Bring up to boiling point, return the lamb to the dish with the parsley, thyme, bay leaf and rosemary. Season with a little salt and pepper.
    5. Cook in the oven for 45 minutes. Remove and then add the pears, cranberries and orange zest and juice. Cook for another 15 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Add the honey or quince jelly.
    6. Now pour into 1.4 litre/ 2½ pint pie dish and set aside to cool a little.
    7. Increase the oven temperature to 190°C fan oven, 170°C/ gas mark 5. Aga 4/3-door Top of baking oven. Aga 2-door Grid shelf on floor of roasting oven.
    8. Make the pastry just before you need it because just like dumplings, when you add a liquid to self-raising flour it starts the rising process and you need to cook it straight away to keep the pastry light. If you leave the pastry hanging around, it will be heavy and tough. Sieve the flour into a medium mixing bowl and add the thyme, mustard powder and a pinch of salt. Stir in the suet and mix with approximately 150ml/5fl oz cold water to make a soft dough. Turn onto a floured board and knead until smooth.
    9. Now roll out the pastry, bid enough to cover your pie dish with a little overhang. Moisten the rim of the dish with some water and position the pastry on the top and press it over the edge of the dish, and tuck it slightly under. It doesn’t matter if the edges are thick and pleated, this is a very rustic pie and the rougher the better!
    10. Make a slit in the middle to let the steam escape during cooking and brush all over with the beaten Egg to give a rich colour to the cooking pastry. Stand the pie on the baking sheet and bake until the Pastry is crisp and golden brown.
    11. Slice the pie and serve with steamed runner beans, tossed in butter and plenty of seasoning.