The mother of all sandwiches…

•4 July 2012 • 3 Comments

Whew. This is a biiiiig sandwich.  It’s not a towering monster like some that I’ve seen, but it will certainly fill you up.

It’s based on a torta (Mexican sandwich) that Thomasina Miers made on her cookery show (recipe here). I’ve been eyeing up this recipe for a long while and finally got round to making it today. Thomasina’s recipe calls for chorizo, so I substituted halloumi cheese. If you’ve never tried this before, you should! It’s a salty Greek cheese which holds its shape when grilled or fried. Halloumi is easy to get hold of and makes a fantastic vegetarian option, especially at barbeques – take note please carnivores :).

I used my favourite focaccia recipe for the buns, then got cracking on making some refried beans. I added a little smoked paprika to mine to give them a little bit more punch – a lot of recipes call for lard or bacon fat (which I won’t use, of course) and smoked paprika seems to round out the flavours.

Once I’d prepared my beans, it was time to fry the halloumi and toast the buns, then gather the rest of my ingredients together and get ready to assemble. The layers were as follows:

1. Refried beans

2. Griddled halloumi

3. Avocado

4. Fresh tomato salsa (tomato, red onion, lime juice and coriander)

5. Little gem lettuce…

… and it should look a little something like this!

Now the challenge is to get your mouth round it – no point in trying to be ladylike here 🙂

Roasted butternut squash and garlic ravioli

•2 July 2012 • 4 Comments

Making filled pasta is definitely an activity to be saved for days when you have a little extra time. It’s incredibly satisfying, but it does take time and patience. Today I decided to drag out the pasta machine and test out a new filling idea. I’m by no means a pasta expert, I have a lot to learn (as you can see from the picture below!), but here’s how I made my my ravioli.

To make the filling, roast butternut squash and whole cloves of garlic with herbs and seasoning. Don’t balk at using five or six – once roasted, garlic becomes wonderfully sweet and really mellows out. After roasting, squeeze the garlic out of the skin and mash the ingredients together.

Then take your pasta dough and roll it out as thinly as you can. Place small amounts of the filling onto the sheet of pasta (be stingy – you really don’t need much filling for each ravioli) and run a wet finger around each blob of filling to help the pasta layers stick together.

Place another sheet of pasta over the top and press down firmly around the filling, squeezing out any air. Use a fluted cutter (or a ravioli stamp if you have one).

After I’d cooked my pasta I served it simply with lemon, basil, goats cheese and a good sprinkle of freshly ground black pepper. The ravioli filling is sweet, so a nice sharp goats cheese provides good contrast.

Here’s the recipe for the filling. I won’t go into detail about how to make the pasta dough, as there is plenty of information available on the internet, but I found that using 1 1/2 cups flour and 2 eggs for the dough gave me the right quantity.

Roasted butternut squash and garlic

Butternut squash, peeled and cubed (about half of a butternut squash should be fine)

5 cloves of garlic

2 bay leaves

A sprinkle of dried thyme (or other herb of your choice)

Salt and pepper to taste

A generous squeeze of lemon juice

A drizzle of olive oil

Pasta dough

1. Place all the ingredients in a roasting tray (leave the skin on the garlic) and give everything a good shake. Roast at 220ºC for about 25 minutes.

2. Leave everything to cool slightly. Squeeze the garlic out of its skin and remove the bay leaves, then mash everything together so that the filling is smooth. Leave to cool.

3. Roll out pasta dough and fill, as described above.

Serving:

In a small frying pan, gently warm olive oil with some lemon zest, a good squeeze of lemon juice, salt and pepper. Add some shredded basil and drizzle over the cooked pasta. Crumble some goats cheese on top and add some freshly ground black pepper and a few extra basil leaves.

A little bit of carb on carb – boulani

•1 July 2012 • 2 Comments

These have been on my Pinterest board of recipes to try for a loooong time and we finally got round to it today. According to my (somewhat limited!) research boulani originated in Afghanistan – they are simple turnovers, lightly spiced and usually filled with potato or spinach. This recipe uses pink peppercorns to add interest and colour to the potato filling.

Here’s a link to the recipe we used from The Spice Spoon – a really straightforward recipe. The dough casing ends up being both crispy and chewy and the final frying gives a beautifully fluffy potato filling. We served ours with a simple minted yoghurt dip and thoroughly enjoyed them. We didn’t include the white pepper in the filling, but I think perhaps we should have compensated by adding some extra pink peppercorns as the filling could have done with a little extra kick. I can’t help but think that these would be fantastic for a picnic, so let’s all keep our fingers crossed for some more dry weather…

Not-so-red velvet cupcakes

•26 June 2012 • 4 Comments

I’ve been contemplating trying my hand at red velvet cake for a while now. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little daunted – mixing vinegar and raising agents, then getting the mixture into cupcake cases in super-quick time before the reaction fizzled out? Hmm.

Finally I decided that the time was right. I turned to my most reliable source of baking recipes, The Joy of Baking and braced myself for a culinary disaster…

… and it all went surprisingly smoothly.

The recipe was straightforward enough to follow. I have to admit though, I balked at adding a whole tablespoon of red food colouring. My red food colouring is, of course, vegetarian and made with natural alternatives to cochineal (who want squished bugs in their sweets, right?). The downside of this is that it smells distinctly beetrooty so I completely wimped out and only added half a tablespoon to the mix. The result? Orange velvet cupcakes. Like a sort of mutant carrot cake.

Luckily they tasted absolutely fine. I had no cream cheese in the house, so I deviated from The Joy of Baking’s recipe and made a vanilla mascarpone icing that I had spotted at Lulu’s Sweet Secrets.

As the cakes are made with buttermilk, they are wonderfully moist. The small amount of cocoa powder means that they are lightly chocolate flavoured and not too rich – perfect for afternoon tea. The mascarpone icing is creamy and not too sweet, making it ideal for people like me who don’t like buttercream. I’d definitely recommend giving these a go!

Crispy bites

•24 June 2012 • Leave a Comment

This weekend we had a load of tofu that needed using up quickly. Normally we’d whip up a Thai curry but as there was no Thai curry paste in the house it seemed like a good opportunity to try something new. Tofu is not known as a flavourful ingredient and consequently many tofu recipes call for a list of spices as long as your arm. I really didn’t feel like making anything too complicated, so I started searching for something simple.

I began to think about deep-fried tofu and when I came across this recipe from Fresh Tart I knew I had found the answer. The tofu cubes have incredible texture, soft and moist on the inside but deliciously crispy on the outside. By themselves they have very little flavour so this dish relies on a tasty dipping sauce. I used a soy-based dipping sauce, but you could really choose anything, I can imagine a sweet chilli sauce being particularly good. I tweaked the recipe to adjust for my own tastes and what I had available in the cupboard, and here it is:

Crispy tofu

Block of firm tofu

A little rice flour

Chilli powder (optional)

Oil of your choice for deep frying

1. Drain the tofu well to remove any excess moisture. Use some kitchen paper and a clean tea towel to absorb excess liquid. I often place my block of tofu between two chopping boards and add a weight on top to help squeeze out the water.

2. Cut the tofu into bitesized pieces. Mix the rice flour with a little chilli powder in a large bowl, then toss in the tofu cubes and shake to ensure that they are well coated with flour.

3. Heat oil either in a deep fryer or a large saucepan – you only need enough to just cover the cubes. We put ours in the deep fryer for 4 minutes. If using a pan, make sure that you turn the cubes occasionally so that all sides are browned. Remove from the oil and place on kitchen paper to absorb excess oil.

Dipping sauce

3 tbs soy sauce

3 tbs sherry + a pinch of sugar (use mirin if you have it, I had to substitute!)

1 tbs water

1 tsp rice wine vinegar

2 cloves crushed garlic

1 tsp finely chopped ginger

1. Add all the ingredients to a small saucepan and simmer for about 5 minutes to cook off the alcohol. I strained mine before serving, but this is not essential.

A Middle Eastern treat – pitta and labneh

•17 June 2012 • 2 Comments

It’s been a while since I found the time to update the blog, so my apologies for the lack of posts over the last few weeks. Finally this weekend I had the opportunity to do some cooking and amongst the recipes that I tried were these two.

I spotted this recipe for labneh on Tomayto Tomahto a little while ago. Labneh is a sort of cream cheese made in the Middle East – it’s simply made from strained yoghurt and can be flavoured in a variety of ways. It is often sprinkled with za’atar – a spice blend including sesame seeds and wild thyme but the possibilities for flavouring are endless. I’ve even come across some sweetened versions of labneh with honey and ginger. For my own, I simply added a sprinkling of dried mint, a little salt for flavour and a little olive oil to help it keep longer. This is a good option for calorie-counters as (like mine) it can be made with fat-free yoghurt and flavoured however you like. It should keep for a week or two, so it’s a good lunchbox option if you fancy a change from boring old sandwiches (as I frequently do).

Having tasted these delicious pitta breads on my last visit home, I decided it was time to have a go at making my own. These were very straightforward to make and tasted infinitely better than shop-bought pitta bread, I’d highly recommend trying these.

The recipe is from an old bread book we have at home, I’m not quite sure which one, but here it is with one or two tweaks:

Pitta Bread (makes 8-10)

8 oz strong white bread flour

4 oz strong brown bread flour

1 tsp salt

1 tsp sugar

1 tsp fast action dried yeast

1 tbs olive oil

7 fl oz warm water

1. Mix the flours and salt together, then mix in the sugar and yeast. Make a well and add the oil and water. Bring together the ingredients to form a moist dough. Knead for about 10 minutes, until it is smooth and elastic.

2. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover. Leave to rise for about an hour – the dough should have doubled in size.

3. Knock the dough back and divide in 8-10 balls. Cover and leave to rest for 10 minutes.

4. On a lightly floured surface, roll each ball into an oval shape until the dough is about 1/4 inch thick. Place each oval onto a lightly floured tea towel and sprinkle with a little more flour. Cover the dough with another tea towel and leave to rise for 30 minutes.

5. Whilst the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 230°C/450°F and place two or three baking sheets in the oven to warm.

6. Place the ovals onto the baking sheets and bake in the oven for 5 minutes. Take a peek through the oven door and watch them puff up – it’s incredibly satisfying 🙂

7. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack for a few minutes, then wrap in a tea towel to keep warm.

8. Eat them while they’re fresh!

Cinnamon swirls for weekend brunch

•12 May 2012 • 2 Comments

Round the corner from my family home is an independent bakery (it’s called Cinnamon Square if you happen to live in that neck of the woods) and amongst many other lovely things they make a speciality cinnamon bun with cream cheese frosting. Since I’m far away from home I’ve had to resort to making my own…

I haven’t tried to recreate the cream cheese frosting yet, as these buns seemed quite naughty enough on their own. They’re definitely best for an occasional treat I think! One of the best things about these buns is that you can do all the preparation the evening before then just pop the buns in the oven in the morning so that they’re lovely and fresh. I only made a half quantity of the dough, but I still ended up with the dozen buns that the original recipe creates so I can only imagine that if you make a full quantity of dough you’ll end up with ENORMOUS buns…

The dough is rolled into a rectangle, then sprinkled with cinnamon sugar and rolled up like a swiss roll. This roll is cut into twelve sections, which are left to rise…

Finally the buns are baked in the oven, then finished with a sugar glaze.

 

Cinnamon Swirls from Bread Revolution by The Thoughtful Bread Company

2lb strong white bread flour

2 tsp sea salt

3 1/2 oz  caster sugar

3 1/2 oz unsalted butter (softened)

3 tsp dried yeast

6 fl oz lukewarm water

9 1/2 fl oz milk

2 eggs

9 oz soft brown sugar

10 tsp ground cinnamon

For the sugar glaze:

1/4 cup of sugar

1/4 cup water

1. Combine flour, salt and sugar in a bowl, then rub in butter until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs and sprinkle in the dried yeast. Make a well in the centre and add the warm water and milk (I warmed my milk slightly to help activate the yeast, although the original recipe doesn’t call for this). Add the eggs and bring the mixture together into a wet dough.

2. Knead the dough for about 10 minutes, then place in a lightly oiled bowl, cover and leave to rise for an hour. Then place the dough in the fridge for a further 30 minutes.

3. On a lightly floured surface, knock the dough back and roll into a rectangle about 12″ x 17″ – it should be about 1/2″ thick.

4. Mix together the cinnamon and the brown sugar. Mist the dough with a little water and then sprinkle over the cinnamon sugar so that the dough is covered with a generous layer.

5. Roll the dough tightly into a swiss roll – brush the seam with a little water to make sure that it sticks.

6. Slice the roll into 12 equally sized pieces, then place them onto a lined baking tray and cover with lightly oiled cling film. Leave to rise for an hour. (If you’re preparing these the evening before, place the buns in the fridge now and leave overnight. In the morning, take them out of the fridge an hour and a half before you want to bake them)

3. Preheat the oven to 190°C and bake for about 15 minutes, until the swirls are lightly golden. (You can brush the buns with an egg wash before you bake them – I omitted this step).

4. Place the buns on a wire rack to cool and brush with the sugar glaze (see below) whilst still warm.

For the sugar glaze:

1. Heat water and sugar together in a saucepan until the mixture starts to thicken to a syrupy consistency.

 

Fancy tart in just a few minutes

•29 April 2012 • 4 Comments

This is a recipe I came across a few years ago and really enjoyed. Best of all, it’s incredibly simple – it looks much more complicated to make than it actually is. Perfect for impressing friends who pop in for lunch, or add a few side vegetables for a lovely, light dinner in no time at all.

As a rule, when I cook I try to make everything from scratch. Not puff pastry, however. If Jamie Oliver says that he uses shop-bought, that’s good enough for me 🙂 Buy the best puff pastry that you can, all-butter if possible. This tart is made with a circular base as it’s more visually appealing, but there’s nothing to stop you making a more rustic version on a rectangular base.

All you need to do is slice your ingredients very thinly (use a mandolin if you can) and layer them on to the pastry:

The original recipe calls for Taleggio cheese but I needed to use a vegetarian cheese. I found this delicious cheese from Wooton Organic Dairy at a food fair recently, it’s a hard, unpasteurised sheeps cheese. You can use any kind of cheese you like as long as it melts well – you’ll probably want to choose a fairly mild cheese.

Rosemary, potato and cheese tart

1 packet of puff pastry

4-5 small salad potatoes, thinly sliced (use a waxy variety – I use Charlotte potatoes)

Half a red onion, thinly sliced

2-3 sprigs rosemary

100g mild, melting cheese

Olive oil for drizzling

Salt and pepper, to taste

1. Roll out pastry and cut out a large circle shape, I use a large mixing bowl as a guide.* Score a line about half an inch from the edge of the pastry – this will allow your crust to rise.

2. Arrange sliced potatoes in concentric circles, working from the outside to the centre.

3. Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper.

4. Scatter sliced onion, crumbled cheese and rosemary over the potatoes and finish with a drizzle of olive oil.

5. Bake in the oven at 180°C for about 20-25 minutes – until golden brown. Serve whilst hot with a side salad or some vegetables.

* You can sprinkle the leftover scraps of pastry with cinnamon sugar and bake later to make cinnamon twists – waste not, want not! 🙂

Bagels: crispy, chewy and easier to make than you might think!

•21 April 2012 • 7 Comments

This week I acquired a copy of Bread Revolution by the Thoughtful Bread Company. It’s a lovely book, full of tempting bread recipes and suggestions for how to make the breads the centre of a delicious meal. We were lucky enough to see a couple of their bakers give a demonstration last week, and I’ve been itching to make my own bread ever since.

I’ve never really thought of making bagels before as I assumed that it would be really complicated, but when I came across this recipe I was pleasantly surprised – I decided that it was definitely worth a go. I’ll admit that my shaping of the bagels is a little, erm, ‘rustic’ but the texture has turned out really well. I’d love to have another go at these and try incorporating some fried onions into the dough. Or cinnamon and raisin. Or strawberry and cardamom. Or chocolate chips…

After you have let your dough rise and knocked it back, shape it and let it prove again.

Boil the bagels for a few minutes:

After boiling, bake the bagels in the oven until they are lightly browned.

Brunch Bagels from Bread Revolution by the Thoughtful Bread Company

750g strong white flour

3 tsp fine sea salt

2 tsp dried yeast

375ml warm water

7 tsp honey

Optional: seeds of your choice for decoration

1. Mix flour and salt together, then stir in dried yeast. Make a well in the centre and add water and honey. Mix the ingredients together and knead for 10-15 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic.

2. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl. Cover and leave to rise until it has doubled in size (about an hour).

3. Knock the dough back and divide it into 12 equal portions. Shape each portion into a ball and leave to rest for 5 minutes.

4. Using your thumbs (I used the end of a wooden spoon) make a hole in the centre of each ball and gently stretch it out with your fingers. Place the bagels on a floured baking sheet and dust the tops with flour. Leave to rise for half an hour.

5. Preheat your oven to 200°C. Half-fill a large saucepan (I used my sauté pan – the water doesn’t need to be too deep) with water. Bring it to the boil and add a pinch of salt, then reduce temperature to a simmer. Place the bagels into the water in batches, allowing enough room for them to expand. Cook them for 2 minutes on each side then place back on the baking trays. This is the moment to sprinkle on any toppings that you fancy – I used poppy seeds for mine.

6. Bake for about 15 minutes in the oven until they are lightly browned. (Mine took a little longer).

7. Leave to cool on a wire rack.

8. Enjoy!

Vanilla pomegranate frozen yoghurt (and it’s healthy too – hurrah!)

•16 April 2012 • 5 Comments

Lately I’ve been a little snowed under and haven’t been able to post as often as I’d like, so this post is a little overdue.

First of all, a big thank you to Big Hungry Gnomes and Decidedly Delicious for nominating me for the Liebster Blog Award.  This award is a really lovely way for new bloggers to acknowledge and promote their favourite new blogs. As I have been nominated, it is now my happy duty to nominate five more blogs.

1. Kokopelli’s Chocolate (mouthwatering chocolate creations)

2. Kate’s Creative Space (beautiful food and craft ideas)

3. Zeelicious (lovely photography and some very good advice on cooking Indian food)

4.  My Fancy Pantry (a fellow spice addict with beautiful recipes)

5. Radish Girls (gorgeous photos)

Go and check these guys out! But before you do, here’s some frozen yoghurt.

I’m still working my way through the Snog cookbook and I’m really enjoying making frozen desserts at the moment – expect to see more of my experiments here in the near future 🙂 This is a no-guilt dessert, sweet but tangy and a perfect refreshment after a heavy meal. Of course you could make it in an ice-cream maker if you have one, but I don’t have that luxury so I blend the mixture every couple of hours until it’s frozen to avoid big ice crystals.

The recipe calls for pomegranate molasses – if you can’t buy any it’s very easy to make your own. Just don’t do what I did and boil it for so long that it sets solid…

Pomegranate and vanilla frozen yoghurt from the Snog cookbook

1/2 cup low fat milk

1 vanilla pod or 2 tsps vanilla extract

3/4 cup unsweetened pomegranate juice

3 1/2 cups plain Greek yoghurt

2/3 cup agave nectar

2 tbs pomegranate molasses

1. Scrape the vanilla seeds from the pod and place in a saucepan with the milk over a low heat to infuse – add the scraped out vanilla pod as well. Bring the milk to a simmer, then remove from the heat and allow to cool. Remove the vanilla pod (you can rinse it, dry it and then use it to make vanilla sugar).

2. In a large mixing bowl, stir together the infused milk with all of the other ingredients. Cover and cool in the fridge until well chilled.

3. If you are using an ice-cream maker churn the ice-cream now, following the maker’s directions. If not, place the mixture in the freezer and break up ice-crystals every 2 hours or so until the mixture is completely frozen. I recommend using an electric blender, but you can do it by hand with a fork or whisk.