Tag Archives: homemade

Saving bread by making bread 

As part of my plan to not spend unnecessarily in 2017, I’ve been looking for ways to cut down on our food waste too. We have a terrible obsession with bread. We love it in all its assorted and varied forms. But there are only two of us and buying a loaf a week seems to end with a few slices being thrown out each week. Which is wasteful but I really don’t need any more breadcrumbs in my freezer. And those are alongside naan breads and pitta bread and parathas and any other Indian bread you can think of. 

So with a bit of time on my hands this afternoon and a craving for my Sri Lankan curry favorites (Jaffna chicken curry and paripu), I decided to explore how to make my own naan bread. And it’s surprisingly easy. Well, this version is, I didn’t want to buy anything new with which to make these so just used what was in the fridge and store cupboard. So here it is. I may also share my paripu (Sri Lankan dhal, basically) recipe as it’s perfect comfort food, only uses one pot and can be frozen. But that’s my next post.

Easy Naan Bread

  • 250g plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp Caster sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 130ml milk
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil

Sift the dry ingredients together in a large bowl and make a well in the centre. Then mix the milk and oil in a jug and pour into the well. Stir together until the dough comes together and then knead for approximately 8 mins, till the dough is smooth. Oil the bowl and put the dough back in to it and leave it to rest in a warm place for 30-40 mins. 

Preheat the grill to medium and put a heavy tray to heat at the same time at the top of the grill. Take the dough from the bowl and split into six roughly equal pieces. Roll each one out into tear drop shapes (if you can, as you can see mine are less than perfect!)

Cook on the hot grill tray for a minute or two on each side, till they’ve browned. Remove from the oven and brush with melted butter. 

Serve warm with your favourite curry. 

Advertisements

Cranberry and Orange marscapone sponge cake

Welcome to my Christmas blogging spree. As you’ll have seen from previous posts, I kinda went a little political but I’m back on the food stuff now and frankly, that’s much nicer than being a little bit sad and miserable about the state of the world.

So I had a birthday last month. As you may remember, last year was a big ole birthday, so this year, I decided to keep it low key and went to see a play about the troubles in Sri Lanka at the Arcola. Slight change of pace but lovely fun day. I also indulged in a cronut from the newish Dominique Ansel London. Man, I’m glad that place isn’t too close to home, I could eat one of those every day.

img_20161102_120720

As part of it not being a big milestone birthday, I didn’t want a normal gift – I’m good at buying myself things and we’ve been complaining for years about how we hate our kitchen/dining room but haven’t been able to afford to do the big works (knocking a wall through). So this year, I told the wino I wanted a nice dining room for my birthday, so we spent a week ripping out cupboards, painting, putting up shelves etc etc. And it’s so very nearly there. I love it very much. But I’ll save that for a future post, when we’ve finished both rooms.

I hosted my inaugural proper Sunday lunch in the dining room last Sunday. We’d had a cheese and wine and drunken dancing party a few weeks before but what happens on a drunken night stays on a drunken night. So I’m just going to talk about the amazing cake I made for the Sunday lunch (in my new fancy cooker).

I love a Victoria sponge but I don’t love double cream that much. Also not a huge fan of butter icing. I may be a little late to the party on this, but I’ve recently discovered the joy of throwing all the icing sugar at a tub of marscapone and adding some orange zest and juice to it and using that as a quick and dirty icing. It’s delicious and simple.

And because it’s Christmas, I’d bought a bag of fresh cranberries and was thinking about making cranberry sauce for gifting (if you follow me on Instagram, you’ll have seen the kitchen clearout unearthed several hundred glass jars – hence the gifting).

img_20161125_101128
See? Crazy lady jar collection.

But then I had a brainwave. Why not make a cranberry cake? And then I had a second brainwave – why not make a cranberry jam to use in the aforementioned Victoria Sponge cake? So I did. And paired it with an orange marscapone.

My recipe for a sponge cake is well old fashioned but basically, weigh the eggs in their shells, then weigh out the same amount of butter, sugar and flour. And a pinch of salt. I’m a creamer (of butter and sugar) and then an adder but do what you feel best. I’ve just never been able to make the all in one method work for me.

The marscapone is done to taste (god, this is a rubbish recipe, huh?!) But basically, a tub of marscapone, the zest and juice of one orange and a couple of tablespoons of icing sugar – to taste. Mix it all up. Job done.

Now, here’s the cranberry jam recipe. I did it in American units, because I couldn’t be bothered to weight out the ingredients. Is that bad? It might be a bit. Oh well.

Cranberry, mint and ginger jam

  • 300g fresh cranberries – washed
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup caster sugar
  • A handful of mint leaves
  • 1 inch fresh ginger root, grated finely
  • One stick cinnamon

Put the water, sugar and mint leaves into a saucepan and bring to the boil until the sugar has completely dissolved. Leave to one side for 10 minutes, to let the mint seep in.

Remove the mint leaves and add the cranberries, ginger and cinnamon. Bring back to the boil and then simmer for 10-15 minutes stirring regularly. I’m sure there’s clever things you can do with checking temperatures and things – I didn’t. Cranberries thicken up as they cool so once you’re happy that the majority of the cranberries have popped, give it a quick stir. You want it thick but not jellified. Transfer to a clean bowl and leave to cool.

Meanwhile, make the marscapone as above, slice your cake in half and once the jam is cold, spread a layer of marscapone, followed by a few dollops of jam. Then repeat on the next layer (if you have two layers) or on the top (if you only have one middle cut.

Put some mint leaves on top if you’re that way inclined. Slice and enjoy.

img_20161127_130246
You can see a bit of my new dining room in the background. How awesome is that colour? 

 

Cheese and Jam Pizza – weird but so good…

Soft cheese, hard cheese, crumbly cheese, melty cheese, processed cheese (honestly, I’m not even joking about my love of Dairylea – it is one of the few constants in my fridge for comfort eating days) – I love me some cheese. So when the team at Castello asked me if I wanted to try a new cheese, I may have actually punched the air with joy before calmly saying, oh, sure. OK, if I must. I have uber cool appearances to keep up, you see.

The cheese is the story so here’s a little bumpf from the press release.

“Castello is bringing Aged Havarti to the UK following strong demand from cheese lovers…. With buttery caramel flavours, Castello Aged Havarti is base on an authentic Danish recipe dating back to 1952 and matured for 12 months for a richer taste experience.”

Sounds delicious (although would be interested in learning how strong the strong demand was – given I work in PR, I spot a stat fudge when I see one!) The challenge set by the team was to create a pizza using this cheese – they’re working with the super talented Trine Hahnemann to develop recipes for it and provided one she’d created using quite Scandi flavours. They’d also put some stuff in about smorging but by this point I decided all I wanted to do was cut the cheese (ha ha ha) and eat the cheese.

The second food confession I need to make is my love of pizza. Honestly. it would probably be my death row meal (washed down with a side of KFC and my mum’s chicken curry). I love pizza. I have been known to have pizza at lunchtime and pizza for dinner (earning me the not so interesting but factually correct nickname, Vinnie-two-pizza – thanks Sarah!) I have made pizza at home before but usually I order in and when I say usually, I try to limit it to only when I’m hugely hungover, there’s no bread in the house and I want chicken wings. I know, I’m filth.

But now I’m approaching (two days to go) 40, I figured I need to stop spending my money on Papa John and start making pizzas for myself. It feels like something a proper grown up would do, and I figure that grown up malarkey is going to kick in on Monday and I’ll start wearing power suits and reading the FT.

So with my niece and nephew hanging out with me over half term and with a pizza stone provided by Castello, we decided to make five pizzas. One for each of us and one dessert pizza. Here’s a selection of toppings from our savoury pizza day. We ate a LOT of pizza.IMAG3409

You know how a good cheeseboard will feature fruit? Usually figs or apricots or grapes. After I’d tried the Havarti, I couldn’t get the idea out of my mind to make a herby, spicy jam (and definitely a jam, not a chutney) to use instead of a tomato sauce and with the cheese on top. And it worked really well – just that right combination of salt and sweet and the thyme and fennel brought the whole thing together. I’ve been fascinated by the combination of cheese and jam since we ordered scones in Cape Town and they provided a side of grated cheese and strawberry jam and it worked really (if weirdly) well. So here’s my take on a Cape Town classic, using lovely Havarti Aged Cheese.

(If you couldn’t already tell, this is a sponsored post but all opinions are my own. They haven’t made me lie about cheese, I love cheese.)

IMAG3394

Roasted plum, thyme and fennel jam

  • 12 plums, halved
  • 1.5 cups of golden caster sugar
  • 3-4 sprigs of thyme, cut into smaller pieces
  • 2 tsps fennel seeds
  • 1.5 lemons, zested and juiced
  • 1.75 cups of water

Preheat your oven to gas mark 6. Place plum halves skinside down into a roasting tin – as you’ll see from the pic above, I didn’t bother to try and get out the pits, they come out easily after they’ve been baked.

Sprinkle over half a cup of sugar and the fennel seeds and place the thyme sprigs around the plums in the roasting tin.

Roast for approximately 25 mins until the tops are golden and the sugar is melted. Remove from the oven and leave to cool until you can handle them.

Remove and discard the pits. Scoop the flesh from the skins and put into a bowl. Put the skins and herbs and any juice from the roasting tin into a saucepan, add the lemon zest and juice. Taste at this stage to see if it’s got the right level of thyme/fennel for you and if not, add more – I put three more sprigs into the pan. Add 1/4 cup of water and bring to the boil over a low heat – you want to release the additional roasted flavours from the skins. Once the liquid has reduced by half, remove from the heat and strain. Add the liquid to the reserved plum flesh, along with the remaining sugar (1 cup) and water (1.5 cups), transfer to a saucepan and bring to the boil, then reduce to a gentle simmer until you get the consistency you want (check by doing the line test – drop a blob of jam onto a freezer cold plate and then drag the back of a spoon through it – if the line holds, your jam is set).

Put the jam into a sterilised jar – it should keep for a few weeks in the fridge.

Plum jam and Castello Aged Havarti Cheese pizza

IMAG3421

I used the Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s pizza dough recipe which worked REALLY well and will become my go-to. You can find it by clicking on the link.

To make a jammy cheesy pizza, simply heat up your pizza stone (or baking tin) in the oven at the highest temperature, roll out your dough, transfer it to a baking sheet with no edges that has a light sprinkling of semolina on it (this’ll help it to slide off the tin and onto the stone in the oven). Smear 2-3 heaped tablespoons of jam over the base (as you would with tomato sauce). Sprinkle a tsp more fennel seeds and a a similar amount of thyme and then top with Castello Aged Havarti – we used a good 150g, because I love cheese (have I mentioned that before?). Transfer to the oven and bake for 8-10 minutes – the cheese cooks a lot faster than mozzarella and you may burn the jam if you leave it any longer. Allow to cool before eating. I had mine with Green and Black’s chocolate ice cream which may have taken the weird food couplings a smidge too far but wasn’t bad. Maybe a dollop of cream or creme fraiche would have worked better? Regardless, utterly delicious and definitely something I’ll be doing again. Thanks Castello!

IMAG3427

A lot of herbs in a cake (and a commuting rant)

I’ve been a little slack in posting of late – well, it’s been a week but I was trying to do two posts a week and I think I’ve done one in a fortnight and whilst I’m pretty darned sure no one has been pining over my lack of posts, I am truly sorry for being a little bit rubbish.

In my defence I started working in an office again last week. Whilst everyone is really quite lovely and the work is interesting, it’s been a big ole mindset shift from being able to work in my pajamas from 9-11, then catch up on the previous night’s TV at 11am with a cuppa and a biscuit, then maybe have a shower at about 1pm, then do some more work, then contemplate dinner from about 4pm, I’m now actually accountable for what I do between the hours of 9-5. As Dolly said, what a way to make a living. Or something like that, I’m a fiend for mishearing song lyrics.

Anyway, yes, working – great. Being back in London on a daily basis – great. Commuting – actually sucks eggs. Why do people do this? (probably to be back in London, I’d imagine). But everyone seems so bloody angry about it and the Met line seems to be filled with people who tut. Enough with the tuttery please, it makes commuting (which isn’t fun) even less fun. And everyone must stop wearing black. I mean, I wear a lot of black, but my current handbag is pink. Black macs, black trousers, black backpacks. Cheer up buttercups, you work in the best city in the world, it’s spring (ish), get some colour in your lives. And smile. AND STOP TUTTING.

Rant over.

I do have a couple of posts lined up on various bits and pieces (like the lovely day out I had with my dear friend Charlotte who writes the lovely Baking Betsy blog but is so much more than just her blog!) but today I mostly want to talk about the <deep breath> orange rosemary thyme cinnamon clove polenta cake I made at the weekend. <And exhale>.

So I mentioned last week how my herb garden is growing a treat and I do really like using herbs and spices in sweet things. We had yet another lunch (such hardship) to go to on Bank holiday Monday so (as per boringly usual) I offered to bring dessert.

Because the herb garden is so fruitful, I decided to raid it for a cake. And because my wino loves an almond based anything, I thought a polenta and almond cake would work, and we had some oranges that were fast approaching the big orange playground in the sky and the rest as they say, came together beautifully. Do they say that? I have no idea. It was maybe a little Christmassy for May bank holiday, but heck, Christmas is awesome so I won’t hear any complaints, OK?

Here’s the recipe and some pics, anyway. Hope you enjoy. Next week, I may even leave the rosemary out of a pudding. I know right? CRAZY.

Orange cinnamon clove thyme rosemary polenta cake (with almonds too) 

IMAG2028

  • 5 small oranges or two large ones (I had that easy peeling variety but any orange would do)
  • 1 stick of cinnamon
  • 4 cloves
  • 6 eggs
  • 200g polenta
  • 100g ground almonds
  • 250g golden caster sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped rosemary leaves
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped thyme leaves

For the syrup

  • 100g caster sugar
  • 100ml hot water (from the kettle, freshly boiled)
  • Zest of one orange
  • 1 tsp mixed rosemary and thyme, finely chopped

Grease and line a 23cm tin – I used a spring form one and if you do, make sure you line all the sides and the bottom – there may be some leakage if not.

Put the oranges, cloves and cinnamon into a pan and cover with water. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for about an hour, until the oranges are super soft. At this stage preheat the oven to gas mark 4 – approx 160C.

IMAG2018

Take the oranges and spices from the pan, slice in half and remove the seeds (if they have any). Leave to cool, then put them into a blender and blend till you have an orange puree. Skin, spices and all.

IMAG2020

Beat the eggs so they’re light and airy – it’ll help give your cake a little rise.

Measure out all the other ingredients into a large bowl, then beat in the eggs, followed by the orange puree.

IMAG2019

Pour the cake batter into the prepared cake tin, put into the oven and bake for 50mins – 1 hour.

Whilst the cake is baking make the syrup by simply dissolving the sugar in the hot water, then adding the herbs and zest and allowing to steep. When the cake is cooked, prick a few holes into the top with a skewer and pour half the syrup over it.

Allow the cake to cool before pouring the rest of the syrup over – the flecks of orange and green look just lovely on the top of the cake.

IMAG2027


Slice and serve with a spoonful of cream or ice cream or creme fraiche or yoghurt. Or if you’re rubbish like me and forget all those things, it’s really nice on it’s own too. Promise.

IMAG2038

Easter recipe: Cranberry, Chocolate and Cardamom Hot Cross Buns

A couple of weeks ago, I was approached by the lovely folks at Hartley Jam (via the equally lovely folk at Havas) to take part in their hot cross bun challenge.

With a little bit of time on my hands, I decided to take part. However, I’m not a big fan of dried fruit so hot cross buns don’t often feature in the things I love about Easter. Honestly, when there’s so much chocolate doing the rounds, why would anyone go “oooh, I really fancy a delicious fruity bun instead of a chunk of an Easter egg?” Not me, that’s for shizz.

I received in the post a beautifully wrapped basket filled with ingredients with which to make my buns, which gave me flashbacks to my baby PR days where you’d be expected to be some sort of wrapping whizz to give media gifts or invitations that ‘wow’ factor. You’ve heard of kerbside appeal, this is desk appeal. It’s like that bit in Bridesmaids, where the invitation to the bridal shower included live butterflies. This one didn’t, thankfully, I’m not sure how I would have incorporated live butterflies into my final dish.

The beautifully wrapped basket
The beautifully wrapped basket
And the basket contents
And the basket contents

The basket contained flour, sugar, yeast, mixed spice, a bottle of Hartley’s Jam and a supermarket gift voucher to spend on the additional ingredients needed. Given that I hadn’t been sent dried fruit, I decided that I’d create something that didn’t include raisins or currants. So that’s what I’ve done. Recipe below, with pictures because it looked so pretty. Today is the day to traditionally eat Hot Cross Buns so that’s what I’ve done. Just three so far. I think I need a nap.

And the final bake

Cardamom, lemon, cranberry and chocolate hot cross buns

  • 200ml milk
  • 4 cardamom pods (broken slightly)
  • 1 stick of cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • A pinch of saffron
  • 2 cloves
  • 1 sachet (7g) of easy fast action yeast
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 450g bread flour (I was sent plain flour but had bread flour in my cupboard)
  • 100g butter
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1.5tsp ground ginger
  • 3 eggs
  • Zest of two lemons
  • 100g dried cranberries
  • 100g dark chocolate chips (at least 70%)

Put the milk, cinnamon stick, nutmeg, cardamom pods and saffron into a small pan and bring to the boil gently. Once this happens, take it off the heat and leave to infuse for at least 30 mins. Once it’s cooled to hand temperature, strain it into a bowl and add one tablespoon of the sugar and the yeast and stir. Take two of the eggs and beat them.

Put the flour into a large bowl and rub in the butter. Add the rest of the sugar, the salt and the ginger and give it a good mix. Create a well in the centre, then pour in the beaten eggs and the milk. Bring the dough together and tip onto a very lightly floured board and knead. Knead like your life depends on it, it takes a good 10 minutes. It’s quite therapeutic.

Once it’s smooth and elastic, put it into a lightly greased bowl, cover with a clean tea towel and put somewhere warm till it’s at least doubled in size – this took about 1.5 hours on top of a radiator on low.

Before the rise

And after

Whilst it’s rising, zest the lemon and mix with the chocolate chips and cranberries and put to one side.

Once risen, drop the dough onto a lightly greased board and give it a quick knead, then stretch it a little. Sprinkle the chocolate/cranberry/lemon mix over the top then give the dough another knead to incorporate.

The dough with sprinkled topping All incorporated

Divide the dough into twelve equal sized balls (I was a massive geek and weighed, then worked out how much each ball should weigh, so I weighed those too) and put on a lined baking sheet. Cut a small cross in the top of each of them.

Before the second rise

Leave these to double in size again – this only took about 45 minutes. In the meantime, heat the oven to gas mark 6/200c

Beat the remaining egg and make the paste for your crosses. This was about 5 tablespoons of flour and 3 tablespoons of water but was probably a little thin (as you’ll see from the less than perfect crosses) so maybe thicken it up a little till it feels like it’ll hold its shape.

Crosses. Bad crosses.

Once the buns are doubled, brush with the egg and pipe the cross onto the top. Bake for about 20 mins, till the top is golden. Once they come out of the oven, brush the top with a little sugar syrup. It just makes them look pretty. It’s not essential.

Obviously, I enjoyed these with a light spreading of Hartley’s Strawberry Jam and bloody good it was too. Someone somewhere suggested them with cheddar cheese, which I think sounds amazing and basically dinner so that’s what I’ll be eating tonight.

Thanks Hartley's

Pretending fridge soup is roasted duck with cherry sauce

One of my favourite things to do apart from eat and cook and eat more is go away on holiday. And as we’re off on holiday tomorrow, I’ve been playing my favourite cooking game; what can I make for dinner tonight using only the contents of my fridge?

It’s a fun game to play and the rules are simple. Open your fridge, get out all the fresh veg, check the dates on things like cream or yoghurt or stock and get combining.

My available fridge ingredients were: Carrots, celery, broccoli, mushrooms, chicken stock, Greek yoghurt, fresh coriander and galangal. Coupled with the four slightly sprouty potatoes I found in the veg basket and garlic and onions, a broccoli, mushroom, coriander soup was born.

It’s a really boring soup but as I’ve got a husband down with killer man flu, it’s the perfect thing to shut him up make him feel better. And I can pretend I’m keeping to my slightly rubbish version of a bikini diet by eating soup. Given that my bikini diet has involved buying a shit load of kaftans and kimonos, I’m really not doing very well at being beach ready. Apart from the bit where you’re absolutely exhausted and the only thing that’s getting you through is the thought of being on a beach in less than 24 hours. That’s beach ready, right?

Whilst I’m chowing down on a bowlful of soup, I’m going to reminisce about the dinner I made this time last week and share that recipe with you.

IMAG0952

I’ve never cooked duck before. Not sure why, I like eating duck and I like ducks in the park, but had never made it at home. So with a free day, I decided to roast duck legs and make a cherry sauce. The roasting duck legs bit is fairly straightforward so I won’t pretend to know better than Nigella and simply share her recipe for roasted duck legs and potatoes that was on the Food Network site.

I’m totally sharing the recipe for the cherry sauce though, as I’ve honestly never made one this good before. Or cared enough about it to do things like strain the shallots out of it. I don’t know what’s happened to me, I’ve changed.

IMG_20150108_202911

So here’s the recipe, I reckon it’d go with all sorts of roasted poultry, I’m planning on trying it with goose at some point in the future.

Cherry sauce recipe – serves four

  • 2 x shallots finely diced
  • About 2cm of grated fresh galangal
  • 1 x small glass of red wine (about 200ml, I think but that could be a generous pour)
  • 250ml of chicken stock
  • A generous squeeze of runny honey
  • 1 tsp sherry vinegar
  • 225g cherries, halved – this is their weight with stones in, I forgot to weigh them after I stoned them (I blame the generous pour)
  • 1 tbsp cornflour mixed with 1 tbsp water
  • 20g butter
  • A splash of olive oil

NOTE: I got a crunchy skin on my duck legs by starting them off in a frying pan till the skin went crispy then moving them into a roasting tin with the potatoes and some of the duck fat. I then made the sauce in the same frying pan to get the duck flavours.

  • Over a low heat, warm the pan that you’d cooked the duck in, adding a little bit of olive oil if there isn’t much duck fat remaining
  • Add the shallots with a small pinch of salt (stops them browning, clever, huh?) and fry till the shallots soften
  • Add the red wine and let it come to the boil, after it comes to a boil, add the galangal and cook for about a minute after that
  • Add the chicken stock and bring to the boil – let this mix reduce a little but after about 3 mins cooking time, add the cornflour paste
  • Let this cook a little further, you’re looking for a glossy, thick finish
  • Once it’s got to the right consistency for you, add the red wine vinegar and the honey and stir in
  • Take off the heat and pour through a fine meshed sieve so that you remove all the bits of shallot and galangal and any bits that were in the stock
  • Return the liquor to the pan and once it’s warm again (but not boiling) add the halved cherries
  • Stir to warm them through, season then pour onto your duck and enjoy

Here’s the final dish – I wish I was eating that tonight instead of fridge soup!

IMG_20150108_212303