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! 🙂

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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.

Light, refreshing iced chai – perfect for sunny spring afternoons

•10 April 2012 • 2 Comments

I love a good cup of chai, so when I came across a recipe for a lighter, healthier version made with almond milk, I was eager to try it. This version is served chilled, so it’s perfect for sunny spring afternoons. You could even do what we did, pop it in a vacuum flask to keep cool and  I found the original recipe in the Snog cookbook, but I’ve tweaked it to suit my own tastes.

First, you need to get rummaging in your spice draw. The beauty of creating your own chai blend is that you can adapt it to suit your own preferences – try searching for chai blend recipes on the internet and you’ll find a hundred variations. Here are the spices that went into my blend (quantities below).

Iced almond milk chai (Serves 3-4)

5 green cardamom pods

3 cloves

1 cinnamon stick

5 pink peppercorns

1 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and sliced

2 cups almond milk

1 cup of black tea, brewed to your taste and cooled

2 tbs agave nectar + extra for sweetening to taste

Ice cubes, to serve

1. Take spices and crush lightly in a pestle and mortar (if you don’t have one, just bash them a bit with something heavy) Here you’re aiming just to release the flavours of the spices, you don’t need to grind them to powder.

2. Put almond milk in a pan over a medium heat and add the spices, agave nectar and ginger. Heat the mixture for a few minutes but don’t allow it to come to the boil. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool in the fridge.

3. When the almond milk  infusion  is cool, strain it to remove the spices and add the black tea. Stir well and adjust sweetening to taste.

4. Add ice cubes and serve

Rhubarb, rhubarb, rhubarb

•9 April 2012 • 7 Comments

No, I’m not auditioning to be an extra in a television series, I’m just excited that rhubarb is back in season.

I LOVE this rhubarb crumble recipe that I found a few years ago – Jamie Oliver has come up trumps with this one.This is a tried and tested recipe that I return to time and again. As soon as rhubarb comes into season (and is on special offer in the supermarkets) I get very excited and grab a couple of bunches so that I can make this crumble. I normally make the full quantity and enjoy the leftovers for a few days, but this time I limited myself to a few miniature portions.

First, stew your rhubarb with a little orange juice and zest (I didn’t have one on hand this time, it’s not absolutely crucial) and some brown sugar. I like my rhubarb quite well done, but you just need to soften it really. Spoon the stewed rhubarb into a baking dish (or several small ramekins for individual portions):

This is where it gets really good. Sprinkle on your crumble topping, which is made extra delicious by the addition of oats and preserved ginger (the sort that comes in syrup), and then bake in the oven. The crumble topping is my favourite part, so I sprinkle on a good, thick layer.

I know you’re supposed to make sure the sides of your crockery are clean before you present your food, but I think that an ooze of syrup down the side is a sign of something really good to come 🙂

Serve up your crumble with cream, ice cream or a generous dollop of fresh custard (my favourite accompaniment):

Enjoy!

Happy Easter!

•7 April 2012 • 8 Comments

A few weeks ago I had a flash of inspiration. I visualized beautiful little cupcakes, topped with a nest of frosting and miniature chocolate eggs. Then I looked on the internet and realised that, of course, other people had already come up with the same idea (and executed it far more expertly!)

I still need a little more practise with my new icing nozzles, but I think these look respectable enough:

I’m always looking for good, moist chocolate cake recipes – sometimes plain old sponge just doesn’t cut it. I came across this intriguing recipe for eggless, butterless cupcakes. Apparently it’s a very old recipe,  used as a money-saver during the Depression. I was really surprised how well it fluffed up and rose, but I found the flavour a little bland. That said – I think it’s probably worth tweaking. It would be a useful standby for anyone with egg/dairy intolerances as it doesn’t require any specialist ingredients.

I didn’t fancy making a buttercream icing, so I looked for another type of icing I could create using what was in my house. I love cream cheese frosting, but I haven’t mastered it yet – I often find myself having to add waaaaaay too much icing sugar to make it stiff enough to pipe. When I came across this cooked frosting I was once again intrigued. Rather than using lots of butter to thicken the frosting, a flour mixture is cooked and melted chocolate is added at the end. The finished texture is really good and the icing is not too sweet. I’m still not completely convinced about including flour in cake frosting as I felt like I could still taste it, but maybe I just needed to cook it for a little longer. It is a bit of a pain that there are so many stages to making this frosting, but it’s definitely worth bearing in mind as an alternative to buttercream.

All in all, an interesting experiment but the search for the perfect chocolate cupcake continues!

Lovely little potato pillows

•6 April 2012 • 6 Comments

I’ve been a big fan of gnocchi ever since I first tried it, but it wasn’t until a few years ago that I started making my own. If you have never made fresh gnocchi, I strongly recommend that you give it a go – shop-bought gnocchi just doesn’t even compare to the light, fluffy pillows that you can achieve at home.

This is my go to gnocchi recipe – it’s a really reliable recipe with some useful tips. The key to a good gnocchi dough is not to use too much flour or egg – otherwise the dough becomes too heavy and stodgy: good gnocchi should be delicate and fluffy. If you want a slightly richer flavour you can add a little buckwheat flour to the dough in place of some of the plain flour. I usually try to bake my potatoes rather than boiling them as this avoids them becoming too moist and heavy. Use a potato ricer to break up the potatoes; if you don’t have one, just push them through a sieve to make sure that there are no lumps. If you find that you really enjoy making gnocchi, you might want to invest in a gnocchi board like the one below, you can pick them up quite cheaply on the internet. This creates the characteristic ridges of gnocchi, which help to hold the sauce (if you don’t have one, don’t worry – a fork will do the job just as well!)

Once you’ve shaped and boiled your gnocchi you need to decide what sauce to enjoy them with – I usually use a simple herb butter type sauce (rosemary or sage will work very well with gnocchi) and serve them immediately. If you want something really warming and comforting, you can bake your gnocchi in the oven with a sauce and a little cheese – homemade tomato sauce with oodles of fresh basil and a few chunks of mozzarella thrown in is also a winning combination. Last night, however, I was feeling a little more indulgent so I baked my gnocchi in the oven with a blue cheese sauce, some tenderstem broccoli and a sprinkling of cheese on top. Here it is, ready for the oven…

Baking the gnocchi seems to make them even lighter, and a crispy layer of baked cheese contrasts beautifully with the softness of the gnocchi. There are so many ways to enjoy gnocchi, you can vary the sauce and the toppings or you can add herbs, beetroot, spinach or sweet potato to the dough. It’s even possible to pan-fry them instead of boiling them to get a crisp outer shell. I’d love to know more about your experiences with gnocchi – have you found a winning combination?