four oozing salted caramel fudge brownies

Salted caramel triple chocolate fudge brownies

four oozing salted caramel fudge browniesIt’s National Brownie Day today so I made a little film about how to make salted caramel triple chocolate fudge brownies for Metro.

For the film and full recipe and instructions you can check out the Metro posting here: Salted caramel brownies.

four gooey salted caramel fudge brownies

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nettle and wild garlic quiche

Wild greens quiche

nettle and wild garlic quiche

Super simple and hugely flavourful

Another of the recipes from my wild food in the kitchen talk at Old Dalby WI, this is a really simple quiche that you can chuck all your green bounty into.

Now once I’d admitted that I hadn’t made the pastry for this myself I thought I would have been politely escorted from the village hall by the WI ladies but they very generously did not revoke my speaker’s pass and allowed me to continue!

The amount of pastry from one block of Jus-Rol shortcrust pastry makes enough for one large quiche and 3 mini ones, just saying ūüôā

Wild greens quiche:

a kitchen full of foraged wild garlic, nettles, goose grass and chickweed

Assorted wild greens from a gentle forage

  • A few handfuls of assorted gathered young green shoots. I used: nettle tops, chickweed, dandelion, wild garlic and goose grass, they will shrink right down.
  • 40g butter
  • half a white onion, finely chopped
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons plain flour
  • 200ml double cream
  • 80 ml milk
  • plenty of freshly ground pepper
  • pinch of salt
  • freshly grated nutmeg (optional)
  • 1 pack Jus-Rol shortcrust pastry (or a batch of your own properly made, wonderful shortcrust pastry ūüôā ¬†)

1: Wash your greens and blanch in boiling water for a couple of minutes, drain, squeeze out any excess liquid and roughly chop.

blanched wild greens in a bowl

Blanched wild leaves and shoots

2: Roll out your pastry and put into a tart tin with removable bottom, use a bit of pastry to push the sides and base down. Cover with some baking parchment and fill with baking beans and bake in an oven heated to 180C for about 15 minutes.

3: Remove the parchment and beans, gently prick the base with a fork and return to the oven for about 7-10 minutes.

4: Fry the onion in the butter occur a low heat until soft but not coloured, allow to cool.

5: Mix the flour together with one egg and a little of the milk to form a paste, add the remaining eggs, cream and milk and mix really well.

6:Add the cooled onions and butter and season generously, add nutmeg if using.

7: Arrange the greens over the tart base and then pour over the mixture,

Arrange a few nettle leaves on the top, use gloves!

Arrange a few nettle leaves on the top, use gloves!

8: Reduce the oven temperature to 170C and bake the tart for around 35-40 minutes.

souffle/quiche!

souffle/quiche!

9: Once the tart is baked, trim off the pastry edges to tidy it up ( I haven’t yet done this in the pic above) and serve either warm straight away of allow to cool.

Wild garlic pesto ciabatta rolls

Crunchy on the outside and soft and pillowy on the inside

Crunchy on the outside and soft and pillowy on the inside

Last night I was in Old Dalby giving a talk and cookery demo to the lovely ladies of their WI about incorporating wild food into the kitchen. Regular readers of this blog and those who follow my Twitter account will know I am a huge fan of raiding the wild larder for my recipes so it was wonderful to see so many people in the village hall who were keen to know more about it.

I brought along plenty of things to try and will be popping the recipes up on here over with the tag “Old Dalby WI” if anyone wants to find them all.

First up are these little wild garlic pesto ciabatta rolls.  I always make a HUGE batch of wild garlic pesto when the season hits, I put plenty into jars and store in the fridge and the rest I portion off into ziplock bags and freeze flat allowing me to break some off throughout the year and stir into pasta, make more bread, serve with lamb, make hummus, basically I use it in most things!

wild garlic pesto

Late night and with little light for the phone to take the pic but you get the idea ūüôā

Wild garlic pesto:

  • several handfuls wild garlic, washed and roughly chopped
  • enough olive oil or rapeseed oil to make a good paste
  • 100g chopped toasted hazelnuts (Morrisons sell these in 100g packets)
  • a couple of handfuls of freshly grated grand padano
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Place the leaves in a food processor and blitz, they will stick to the sides so start to slowly pour in the oil as the blades spin, you can add more leaves as they break down. Keep adding leaves and oil until you get a consistency you are happy with.
  2. Add the nuts and cheese and season, blitz some more and add a little more oil to loosen.
  3. Decant intio sterilised jars and cover with a layer of oil.

Wild garlic pesto ciabatta bread rolls: (makes 12)

wild garlic pesto ciabatta bread rolls

 

  • 400g strong white bread flour
  • 350ml warm water
  • 1 x 7g sachet fast action dried yeast
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons runny honey
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (plus extra for brushing)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • a few tablespoons of wild garlic pesto
  • blue poppy seeds (optional)

1: Put your flour and salt into a mixer, give it a stir and make a well in the centre.

2: Add the honey to the warm water and stir to dissolve, add the yeast and stir then the oil. Pour into the flour.

3: Have the bread hook attached to your mixer, start the machine on slow speed then increase to medium high, mix for a good 10-15 minutes or until the dough has formed a soft, smooth ball (my mixer is a bit rubbish so it took a while but just keep an eye on it).

4: Put the dough in an oiled bowl (the mixer bowl is fine) and cover, allow to rise until doubled in size.

wild garlic pesto bread4: Tip the dough onto a floured surface and divide into  two more manageable halves.

5: Roll and stretch the dough into as close to a rectangle as possible then cover with a layer of pesto.

wild garlic pesto bread-1-2

6: Roll lengthways from bottom to top, stretching as you go to make a swiss roll kinda thing then slice into rounds and place these into an oiled muffin tin.

wild garlic pesto bread-1-3

7: Cover and allow to rise for an hour or so in a warm place.

8:  Sprinkle with some blue poppy seeds and bake in an oven heated to 180C for around 25-30 minutes, during the last 5 minutes brush the tops with more olive oil. The rolls are ready when you tap on the base of one and it sounds hollow.

SOOOOOO good

SOOOOOO good

 

Homemade rye crisp breads with wasabi cream cheese and smoked salmon

Addicted.

Addicted.

It’s taken me a long time to try Peters Yard crispbreads but when a free box arrived in my goats cheese delivery from Brockhall Farm¬†(best goats cheese EVER) just before Christmas I had a nibble and was immediately hooked. Those wafer thin biscuits are ¬†SO good with cheese and a dollop of chutney but MY GOD they cost a bloody FORTUNE to buy.

The only logical option was to make my own and by my second attempt I had perfected the art of getting wafer thin crisp breads that have the perfect snap to them and are boosted by a selection of my favourite toppings.

So the crisp breads are perfect and what about the topping? Well the fab folks at The Wasabi Company sent me some of their fresh wasabi rhizome that they grow down in Dorset, along with a plant for me to plant and grow myself (whoop!). I used to use lots of fresh wasabi when I lived in Japan, we would grind some on a piece of shark skin at my friend’s sake bar in Kyoto and sip sake in between doses of wasabi or miso paste.

The tubes of “wasabi paste” that you buy over here are made up mostly of regular horseradish and only a tiny percentage of actual wasabi so finding out that it’s grown right here in the UK was a revelation, thanks Pam Lloyd and Polly Akielan!

Rye crispbreads:

  • 250g rye flour
  • big pinch sea salt flakes
  • 200g warm water
  • 9g fast action dried yeast
  • 1 tablespoon runny honey

Toppings: (optional)

  • caraway seeds
  • poppy seeds
  • sesame seeds
  • onion seeds
  • dill seeds
  • dukkah

homemade rye crispbreads

  1. In a large bowl combine the flour and salt.
  2. Mix the water, yeast and honey in a jug then mix into the flour.
  3. Cover with cling film and leave in a warm place for an hour.
  4. Heat your oven to 220C. Get a sheet of baking paper and lie it on a flat baking tray, flour it lightly.
  5. Take a small bit of dough (about the size of a ping pong ball), flour it well and also your hands. Put it on the baking paper and make a fist. Start to hit the dough with the flat side of your fist from the centre of the dough outwards, stretching it by pounding, keep it nice and floured. Once very thin sprinkle a topping on and hit it to embed with your fist again then prick it all over with a fork..
  6. Repeat that until your baking sheet is full then bake for around 8-9 minutes or until it is crisp. Repeat the process until all your mix is used up. These keep in a sealed tin for a few days easily.

Wasabi cream cheese and smoked salmon topping:

wasabi cream cheese-1

 

This bit couldn’t be easier, simply grate your fresh wasabi and stir into cream cheese, yep that’s it. Spread your cream cheese on the crispbread, top with smoked salmon, a squeeze of lemon, some freshly ground black pepper, sea salt flakes, chopped fresh dill and cress. So easy and so addictive.

 

Boozy lemon and almond drizzle cake

Boozy len and almond cake, hells yeah.

Boozy lemon and almond cake, Hells yeah.

I’m not going to waste any superlatives describing this cake, it rocks in all the best ways, end off.

Limoncello lemon drizzle cake

Ingredients:

For the cake: (makes 2 loaf tins)

  • 250g butter
  • 250g caster sugar
  • zest of 3 unwaxed lemons
  • 5 eggs
  • 150g self raising flour
  • 150g ground almonds
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon poppy seeds

For the drizzle:

  • juice of 3 lemons
  • 150g caster sugar

For the icing:

  • 80g icing sugar
  • 60ml limoncello
  • lemon zest to sprinkle (optional)
lemon drizzle cake-1

poked with a skewer, drizzled and cooling in their tins

Method:

  1. heat fan oven to 180C. Line 2 loaf tins.
  2. cream together the butter and sugar, beat in the eggs, one at a time, waiting until each egg is thoroughly incorporated. Beat in the zest and poppy seeds.
  3. Stir in the ground almonds and baking powder followed by the flour. Do not over mix.
  4. Bake for approximately 50 minutes.
  5. Combine the lemon juice and caster sugar in a small saucepan and heat on a medium heat. Once the cakes are cooked poke them all over the top with a skewer then pour over the drizzle and leave to cool completely in the tins.
  6. Once cool make the icing by mixing together the icing sugar and limoncello. Remove the cold cakes from the tins and drizzle with the icing and sprinkle some more lemon zest over the top.

Black Forest chocolate brownies

Gooey, fudgy awesome.

Gooey, fudgy, awesome.

So yesterday was my first day back doing BBC Radio Leicester’s Food Friday show with Ben Jackson since my knee operation last month. I’m still wobbly and having to use a crutch or two but by far the most agonising thing has been not being able to stand up to cook. It still hurts but my body feels completely out of kilter and my mind suffers if I can’t spend at least a small amount of time each day creating stuff in my kitchen.

One of the positives of being on crutches is that I’ve had to get a cleaner to come and help me around the house, she’s all kinds of ace and as it turns out an awesome cake maker who was telling me about a Black Forest cheesecake she made recently, a lightbulb flashed on in my mind and these rather kickass fudgy brownies were created.

You can hear me making this, it’s only 11 minutes long, by clicking on this link¬†where you will also find the recipe.¬†We always have a blast in my kitchen and yesterday was no different, although he did edit out my “only special people get to drink out of Lady Diana’s cup” line….

What I also forgot about was the “surprise” that I mentioned in the clip, this is simply to swap the cherries for Cadburys mini eggs, perfect for Easter ūüôā

Black Forest Chocolate Brownies (makes 12)

  • 300g unsalted butter, cubed
  • 250g dark chocolate broken into small pieces
  • 1 handful dried cherries
  • 2 handfuls walnut pieces
  • 1 capful vanilla extract
  • Pinch sea salt flakes
  • 80g plain flour
  • 360g caster sugar
  • 80g cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 4 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 x 400g can dark cherries in syrup, drained

For the glaze: (optional not essential)

  • 2 heaped spoonfuls morello cherry jam
  • 50ml kirsch or other alcohol such as dark rum

For the topping:

  • 300ml whipping cream
  • 3 heaped tablespoons mascarpone
  • 1 teaspoon cocoa
Method:

  1. Heat oven to 180C. Put the butter and chocolate in a bowl set over simmering water and melt until silky and thoroughly combined then add the dried cherries and nuts.
  2. Combine the flour, cocoa, sugar and baking powder in a separate bowl and stir to mix.
  3.  Add the flour mx to the melted chocolate and gently stir to combine then add the eggs and continue to mix gently with a spatula until it is all thoroughly combined.
  4.  Line a 25cm x 25cm baking tray with greased baking paper that overhangs by a few cm to make it easy to remove the brownie later, and pour in the brownie mix, scatter over half of the cherries and push them into the mix.
  5. Bake for 25-30 minutes (it will be quite wobbly, it will harden on cooling) then remove from oven and leave to cool completely in the baking tray.
  6. Put the glaze ingredients in a small saucepan and cook over a medium heat for 4 minutes. Brush over the cold brownie.
  7. Remove the brownie from the tin.
  8. Beat the whipping cream until firm then ad the mascarpone and mix well, put it in a piping bag and pipe over the top of the brownie to cover. Decorate with the remaining cherries and a dusting of coca.

 

100% spelt flour loaf (with 2 minutes of kneading)

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetMy cottage is old, with thick walls and high ceilings, in the summer its wonderfully cool to the extent that during this August’s heatwave I found myself leaving the cottage dressed for a crisp spring day and would have to instantly turn on my heels once hit with the wall of baking heat and remove a few layers before attempting to start the day again. Where this is glorious during the longer days of the year it’s also pretty damn Baltic come the winter.

I have an open fire in the living room and a wood burner in the dining room, on cold days like today when I’m working from home I’ll get the fire lit as soon as I’m up and about and work from my laptop next to the hearth. Today was one of those days and not one to waste a “day fire” I decided to bake some bread and use the heat to help the dough rise.

I’ve never made a spelt loaf before but had a bag of flour kicking about in the pantry. I had to pop to Tescos to pick up cat food so went and spoke nicely to the bakers who kindly gave me a big block of fresh yeast “we only measure by handfuls, one or two?”.

I’m now a convert to spelt, the loaf is rich and nutty which works so well with the sweet aromatic honey plus, its almost got the texture of soda bread which I adore. Yep from now on this is the loaf for me. It’s not a sandwich loaf though this one, it’s definitely one for spreading with butter and jam or marmite with a nice cup of tea, preferably whilst still warm from the oven.

Spelt loaf recipe:

  • 500g wholemeal spelt flour (I just guessed half of the bag of flour)
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • 400ml warm water
  • a chunk of fresh yeast the size of two match boxes (I don’t have scales)
  • 2 tablespoons runny honey
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  1. Put flour into a big bowl, put salt on one side, make a well in the centre.
  2. Crumble the yeast into the water and stir until dissolved. Pour in the well, add the honey and oil and mix with a spoon.
  3. I keep the dough in the big ceramic bowl and just knead with one hand for 2 minutes then lift the dough out, oil the bowl, put the dough back in, cover with cling and sit it in front of the fire for half an hour.
  4. After 30 mins I knock it back, dust it with more flour then put it into a lightly oiled loaf tin. Cover with a layer of cling then back in front of the fire for another 30 mins.
  5. Preheat oven to 200C. Sprinkle more flour over the top of the dough then put in the oven for about 50 minutes or until cooked through out.

I scoffed about half the loaf instantly with salted butter and some homemade quince and vanilla jam. Laziest loaf ever.

Homemade quince and vanilla jam

Homemade quince and vanilla jam

Quick Chocolate Orange Brioche

chocolate orange brioche-1-2

Chocolate orange brioche has been my baking Everest. A few weeks ago I was asked to make a selection of pastries for Lord Hall, the Director General of the BBC, err.. hell yeah I’m going to do that! But what on earth was I going to make him?

I was working away for the week running up to the big day and only returned two days before it was all happening and I STILL wasn’t sure what I was going to make him. Then it all just popped into my head on the drive back to my cottage, he was going to be presented with Chocolate Chip Pecan Cinnamon Swirls (kickass), Banana and Bacon Mini Muffins (AWESOME) and…mini Chocolate Orange Brioche: basically food clouds of total JOY.

chocolate orange mini brioche

My lovely friend Amanda very kindly lent me her Kitchen Aid and I found a plain brioche recipe and away I went. I’m not used to using a food mixer, I always create my recipes using sight, taste and touch and a mixer removes the touch element of the dough so I put blind faith in the recipe I’d found. It didn’t work. I tried another recipe, that didn’t work either so I decided to go back to instinct and just make up my own quantities and hey presto, perfect brioche! I then tried my version a second time so I could write down quantities and made the loaf at the top of this post, perfect result so I feel I can now happily pass on my recipe. This is a fast brioche recipe, only let it prove for a maximum of 2 hours each time but it does mean you can have lovely brioche is super quick time.

Chocolate orange mini brioche (makes 24 muffin sized brioche)

  • 10g fast action dried yeast
  • 80 ml warm whole milk
  • 450g plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 5 duck eggs, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla paste
  • 2 capfuls orange blossom water
  • finely grated zest of 1 orange
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 300g butter, softened and cubed
  • 150g dark chocolate chips
  • 1 beaten egg to glaze
  • finely grated zest of one more orange to sprinkle once baked
  1. Stir the yeast into the warm milk and set aside for 1 minute.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer combine the flour and salt then add the eggs and yeasted milk.
  3. Fit the dough hook to the mixer and start mixing very slowly for about 5 minutes then scrape all the dough down the sides and mix again at a medium speed for 10 minutes. It may look a bit like cake mixture rather than dough at this stage.
  4. Add the vanilla, orange blossom water and zest and sugar and mix for a further 5 minutes.
  5. Whilst the mixer is still kneading add the softened butter cube by cube, very slowly, waiting for the butter to be thoroughly mixed in, once all the butter is in the mix increase the speed of the mixer to fast for about 7 minutes, the dough will make spider web patterns on the bowl as the gluten is all stretchy.
  6. Add most of the chocolate chips as the mixer runs and stop once they are all mixed in.
  7. Scrape the dough into a large bowl that has been lightly oiled (it will seem very wet compared to a bread dough). Cover with cling film and leave to rise in a warm place for about 2 hours or until doubled in size.
  8. Prepare your muffin tin. I prefer not to use muffin cases for this but to cut squares of baking parchment and press them into the muffin holes to make cases.
  9. Once the dough has risen cut half of it out of the bowl and put onto a lightly floured work surface. It will be very light and fluffy, carefully push most of the air out, lightly flour the dough to make it easier to work with, roll it into a sausage (about 30cm x 8cm) and then use a sharp knife to cut rounds of dough. Put each round into a muffin case then cover very loosely with cling film and leave to rise again for about an hour.
  10. Preheat your oven to 200C. Brush each mini brioche with the beaten egg and sprinkle over more chocolate chips. Bake for 10 minutes  then reduce the temperature to 180C and bake for about 12-15 minutes or until the tops are golden brown. Remove from oven and zest the orange using a microplane over the brioche whilst still warm so the orange oils spray over the brioche as the zest falls. Allow to cool in the cases for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack. Repeat with the rest of the mixture.

If you want to make a large to make one batch of mini muffins and one large loaf then once you have divided the mixture into half lightly knock back the remaining half on a floured surface, sprinkle with extra flour to make it easier to work with then place into a lightly oiled loaf tin. Allow to rise covered in cling then bake at 200C for 10 minutes then 180C for about 45 minutes, if the top starts to brown too much simply cover with tin foil. If after 45 mins you remove it from the oven, let it sit for a few minutes for it to come away from the sides and gently lift the loaf out to check the base, if it needs more time simply pop it back in for a bit longer.

Wild hare and blackberry pie

Autumn's harvest in a pie

Autumn’s harvest in a pie

Well its’ been quite some time since I last posted anything, I’ve been really busy with my photography and doing bits with Radio Leicester (click to hear most recent recipe of chorizo sausage rolls and green tomato ketchup)¬†and writing for Metro and then I acquired a stalker so this blog kind of took a back seat for a couple of months. But I’m back, and its Autumn so I’ve been busy foraging the hedgerows to make amazing blackberry and vanilla vodka and now this blackberry and hare pie.

We are very lucky here in Melton Mowbray to have a proper Farmer’s market, you can buy anything from a herd of sheep, a prize winning bull, a few ferrets, some shot game, foraged mushrooms, homemade butter and antiques and collectables. Its all there every Tuesday morning and costs very little indeed, except the prize winning bull that is.

I headed over on Tuesday morning with the intention of seeing what the game auction was like that day, its very hit and miss depending on what’s in season and what the weather was like for the shoots over the weekend. You can normally expect to see a couple of deer, plenty of pigeons, pheasants, partridge, rabbits, hares and wild boar plus mallards, geese, woodcocks and squirrels. This week though it was very quite, there were a lot of pigeon but they weren’t in top condition so I left those (they went at 20p/brace) and hung about for the mallard and hares. I was bidding against an old boy for the mallard but had set my max at ¬£3.50/brace and it went on his bid at that so I came home with a couple of beautiful hares at just ¬£5.

Skinning hares is very easy, if you fancy watching a brilliant video clip then I totally fell in love with this guy being all masterful with an axe in the woods:

You just need to be really careful whilst gutting them not to pierce anything as the smell is really pretty nasty. Go for hares with head shots so your meat is nice and clean and none of the internals have been punctured.

skinning hare

 

Two large hares left me with a great deal of meat that I butchered into legs and fillets and froze most of. I instantly fried off a bit of fillet nice and pink for a bit of a cook’s perk then got to work on this simple pie for tea.

Wild hare and blackberry mini pie  (makes 2 mini pies that each serve one person)

Ingredients:

  • about 25g unsalted butter
  • 2 hare fillets, sliced into bite sized pieces
  • a few tablespoons of seasoned flour
  • about 150g smoked pancetta cut into matchsticks
  • 1/2 white onion, diced
  • 1 stick celery, diced
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 bay leaf
  • about 200ml of full bodied red wine
  • 2 handfuls fresh blackberries
  • a bit of sugar if the blackberries are not sweet
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • About 60ml hare blood (optional)
  • 175g puff pastry
  • 1 egg beaten
  • a few ladles of stock made from simmering the hare bones for a couple of hours

Method:

  1. Dredge the hare in the seasoned flour. Melt the butter in a saucepan and add the hare, cook over a medium heat to brown and add the pancetta, cook for another 3 minutes then add the diced veg, garlic and herbs. Cook gently for about 5 minutes whist stirring occasionally.
  2. Add the red wine, bring to just boiling then reduce heat to a simmer,add the blackberries and some of the stock until everything is well covered, add the blood also if using and put a well fitting lid on, reduce heat and simmer for about 1 1/2 hrs or until the hare has softened to meltingly tender.
  3. If the stew seems a little thick simply loosen with some more stock, season with salt and pepper and add a touch of sugar if it needs it, cook uncovered until you are happy with the thickness of the gravy then divide between two small pie trays.
  4. Preheat your oven to 200C. Roll out your puff pastry on a lightly floured surface and cut into two pieces big enough to cover your pies. Seal the sides and brush with the beaten egg. Make a little hole for steam to come out of then put in the oven for about 15 minutes or until the pastry is risen and golden.

 

 

Lychee and Rose cakes & Poppy Bumface gets stuck up a tree

lychee rose cake

Well my posts have been pretty much non-existent as I’ve been away travelling around the UK doing lots of photo shoots recently but I’m back at Wyldelight Cottage and back in my lovely tiny kitchen. Anyone who follows me on Twitter or Instagram (hazelpatersonphoto) will be familiar with my cats, Boris and Poppy Bumface. Poppy Bumface is a very strange little creature, mostly antisocial and with a voice like a drunken docker she’s more Oscar the Grouch than lovable kitty. She’s also never been allowed out of the cottage, up until last Monday that is.

The hot weather has meant that the cottage windows have been open and the ever resourceful PBF had managed to climb up and out of the living room window to the wilds of Melton Mowbray. For a couple of days she came back obediently when called, checking in every 20 minutes or so to make sure the cottage hadn’t upped and left it’s little spot tucked away in the town, all was good. Then on Thursday lunchtime she didn’t come back when I called her. I called and called but no little bell could be heard, no squawking meow. I went round the front of the cottage and could hear her crying. It took me a while to figure out where it was coming from but there she was, up in the big lime tree that grows in the park next to my cottage, she was about 17ft up and she was stuck.

lime tree

I called, I rustled her biscuits, I put tuna at the bottom of the tree and she just wouldn’t budge, she just cried. Now PBF is afraid of being alone, she cries if someone leaves the cottage to pop to the shop and she doesn’t like loud noises. I kept popping out to call her and see if she had moved but nothing. I rang the RSPCA and was told she needed to be up there for at least 24 hours before they will investigate. It was getting dark, the wind was picking up, the tree began to rustle loudly and sway and Poppy Bumface went from crying to howling with fear, it really was awful. I went round to the park (at this point I’m now in my Pyjamas), I’m rattling her biscuits and talking to a tree, it wasn’t my most attractive moment, tears welling up in my eyes and obviously having just split up with my boyfriend that was the exact moment he called: “sorry I can’t talk now I’m being a crazy cat woman in the park” is basically how the conversation went…

I didn’t sleep, her terrified howls carried straight through my bedroom window, in the morning I went out to see her. She’d now moved higher up onto a branch, not just any branch though Poppy had found a nice comfy nest to bed down in and there was a rather angry wood pigeon that wanted it back. There really was no chance of her coming down of her own accord, she just kept going higher and higher.

I rang the RSPCA again, she’s only a kitten and hadn’t had any food or water for 24 hrs now and her little voice had gotten so quiet. I was told to carry on waiting. I decided to bake some cakes for whomever managed to rescue her.

Lychee, Almond and Rose cakes (makes 10)

  • 100g unsalted butter
  • 120g caster sugar
  • 1 tsp cream of tartar
  • seeds from 1 vanilla pod
  • 120g ground almonds
  • 120g self raising flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • pinch salt (I use Halen M√īn Vanilla sea salt)
  • 1 25g tin lychees, roughly chopped
  • 2 tblsp lychee juice

Lychee Rose Buttercream: (really approximate quantities as I just kept tinkering unit it was right)

  • 200g homemade butter (from Maria at Melton Cattle Market)
  • about 2 mugfuls of vanilla icing sugar
  • 2 capfuls rose water
  • 2 tablespoons double cream
  • 1 capful natural red food colour
  • 1 tablespoon lychee juice

To decorate: edible glitter, gold shimmer spray, edible flowers.

Method:

  1. Put the butter in a mug and microwave it for 30 seconds then leave to cool. In a big bowl combine the eggs and caster sugar and using an electric whisk beat until very light and getting quite firm (about 4 minutes on high power) then stir in the cream of tartar and vanilla sees and beat for another 30 seconds.
  2. In another bowl combine the ground almonds, flour, baking powder and salt and mix well.
  3. Gently stir the cooled butter into the egg mixture being careful not to knock the air out then the butter, then carefully fold in the flour mixture then finally the chopped lychees.
  4. Divide the mixture between muffin cases in a tin and bake in an oven preheated to 180C for about 20 minutes or until skewer comes out clean when pushed through the centre. Allow to cool on a wire rack.
  5. Make the buttercream by beating the butter with an electric whisk until light and fluffy then gradually beat in the icing sugar, add the rose and lychee waters and food colouring and continue to beat and add icing sugar. Add a bit of double cream and keep beating until the mixture is smooth. If it splits just add more icing sugar and bit of cream and keep beating. When the cakes are completely cool splodge a decent amount of icing on top then decorate.

So the cakes were made and Poppy was still up in the tree, except now she was so high I could no longer see her, I could tell she had climbed higher than the cottage roof as her cry was no so quiet. The old lager boys in the park came over to investigate clutching their cans of super strength beer, they wanted to climb up to get her, oh dear this was all going to end quite badly. I stood with them for about 20 minutes saying it was going to be way too dangerous, they were pretty adamant though. They all know mybothr cat Boris as he goes over and hangs out with them on their bench, Boris knows everyone, he has a better social life than I do.

Now at about 23 hours and after another call to the RSPCA Inspector Keith Ellis arrived, I could have hugged him, the CAVALRY! We stood in the garden and tried to spot her, after about 10 minutes she appeared, she was SO HIGH up now, perhaps 40 – 50ft, well above the height of my chimney on the roof, she was now out on a branch. Inspector Ellis called the duty fire chief from Melton Mowbray fire and rescue to come and have a look.

Fire brigadeThe chief arrives, he can hear her but not see her, he calls the truck to come to the park and the boys get out. They can hear her but she is so high up they can’t see her, they go and get the thermal imaging camera…

fire brigade thermal imaging

Then, they spot her. The chief thinks she is too high up to reach but they get the ladder anyway.

melton firemen

It’s pretty rare they do this kind of thing so they were saying that its actually a really good training exercise for them, this made me feel much better.

fire crew rescue Poppy Bumface

As thunder started to rumble a fireman named Dex suits up into a climbing harness and the rescue mission is underway. One of the guys (bottom left picture) mentions to me that when they are called out to talk down someone sat on the edge of a roof they send a fireman that smokes up, apparently most jumpers are smokers and the act of sharing a cigarette bonds the pair together which helps talk them down. He jokes that they should adopt a cat that climbs up and talks down other cats from trees, a smoking cat preferably. Boris volunteers himself by heading over to their equipment and watching on…

boris and firemen

Boris in the centre of the picture supervises the rescue…

Dex comes down the ladder for the grabber then heads back up feeling pretty confident he can get her. It was actually incredibly sweet as I could hear him meowing at Poppy Bumface ūüôā Then I heard her bell and then very slowly Dex started to climb all the way back down clutching a very frightened kitten to his chest, I very nearly burst into tears.

Dex climbs down carrying Poppy Bumface

Dex climbs down carrying Poppy Bumface

And then after 24 hours stuck up a tree, little Poppy Bumface is down!

cat in tree, cat rescued by firemen, poppy bumface

Dex my absolute hero holding Poppy Bumface, RSPCA Inspector Keith Ellis on right

Hurray for Dex! Hurray for Keith, hurray for all the guys from Melton day shift Fire and Rescue, total stars!

2013-06-18_0009

So Poppy Bumface was rescued and the wonderful day shift from Melton Mowbray Fire and Rescue went off heroically with a tin full of the lychee rose cakes covered in edible glitter and flowers (and with 25% off a photo shoot if they wanted one for them and their families, although I’m totally up for taking pictures of semi naked firemen *if* thats what they¬†really¬†want!). Poor Inspector Ellis missed out on a cake though so I owe him one, everyone really was wonderful and yes Poppy Bumface is well and truly grounded for the foreseeable future….

Easy Easter Baking: Chocolate Mini Egg Swirls

 

Easter mini egg swirls

I love chocolate mini eggs and I REALLY love the fact that Easter means that they’re usually on special offer, I even love them enough to want to get the pastry out and get baking.

If you haven’t bought the book Bread Revolution by Thoughtful Bread yet or borrowed it from the library then I highly recommend it, thanks to that ace book I made the best cinnamon swirls ever which were my inspiration for these little beauties.

Instead of making a dough I just bought a pack of ready made, ready rolled puff pastry, it cost just ¬£1 and was brilliant, life’s too short for making your own puff pastry I reckon.

Ingredients: Makes about 10 swirls.

  • 150g soft brown sugar (I used dark)
  • 100g plain flour
  • 120g unsalted butter, cubed
  • 25g ground almonds
  • 1 x 375g pack ready rolled puff pastry
  • 300g chocolate mini eggs
  • milk
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla icing sugar

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 200C. Combine the sugar, flour, butter and ground almonds in a food processor and blitz until completely mixed and powdery.
  2. Lay out the puff pastry, brush with some milk then cover with the flour mix then dot with the mini eggs.
  3. Roll up the pastry very tightly and brush the ends with more milk to help the seams stick, then using a very sharp knife cut a thick slice (about 3cm thick) then use a second knife to help transfer the slice onto a baking paper covered roasting tray. Repeat leaving about 3cms around each round.

Easter chocolate mini egg swirls5. Bake for 15minutes on the middle shelf then reduce temp to 180C and continue to            cook for about 8-10 minutes or until pastry is lightly golden. My oven is really  temperamental so just keep an eye on the first batch. Once cooked transfer onto a cooling rack, dust with vanilla icing sugar whilst hot then once again when cold if you have any swirls that made it that long without being snaffled.

Easter chocolate mini egg swirls

Great to make with kids over Easter

Triple Chocolate Fudge War Cake

Yes, it's actually cake

Yes, it’s actually cake

Yesterday was Glen’s 40th birthday and as he has been dreading this for the last 10 years I decided to make him a rather special cake. Now I hate baking cakes and I REALLY hate baking sponge cakes, they are fickle things that don’t like to be fiddled with and the science behind getting them to rise and stay there often goes against all my natural “bit of this, dollop of that” instincts.

Cakes for people who hate baking have got to be pretty kickass in some way as an incentive to actually bake the bloody things. For me this is usually achieved by packing them full of booze and making them ridiculously easy to make, unfortunately I had no booze and all I had decoration wise in the pantry was some crystallised flowers and edible glitter, not exactly the butchest of decorations, so I popped out and bought a bag of toy soldiers instead, aces.

This cake wasn’t without its disasters though, the first one I accidentally made using plain flour instead of self raising so I ended up with an extra flat cake layer (see below pic) to stick on the top (bonus).See, nothing bad really happens when you screw up a recipe as long as the ingredients are nice, and cooked then it will be fine ūüôā . Halfway through baking I also realised I had no icing sugar for the fudge topping so whizzed up my own by sticking some vanilla pod caster sugar in my trusty coffee grinder- forget regular icing sugar, this is the way forward. Now vanilla pod icing sugar does have a brown “heroin-y” tint to it thanks to the dark sticky vanilla seeds and it’s probably just as addictive (not really, and I don’t advise substititing smack for icing sugar either).

I posted the recipe for my Triple Chocolate Fudge Cake over on DomesticSluttery.com, it’s dead simple so you can have lots of fun with the decorating ūüôā

triple chocolate fudge cake

Follow the recipe on Domestic Sluttery to get the cake to this stage then get all creative…

I picked up a bag of toy soldiers from Co-op for 50p, they have little plastic bases that just needed a camouflage smear of fudge icing before being positioned, a few more Minstrels served as rocks…

 

triple chocolate fudge cake soldiers 3

Then I gradually built the terrain with freshly grated Willies solid cacao bar as soil/leaves…And then a dusting of the vanilla icing for snow…

triple chocolate fudge cake 5

 

My mind created entire scenarios and personalities for them ¬†by the time the cake was finished…

chocolate fudge cake2

 

I may have gotten as little carried away with my iPhone…

Defend the CAKE!!!

Defend the CAKE!!!

So there you go, ways to make cake making more fun…cover them in still life scenes.

Chilli Cheese Profiteroles with Chicken Fat Porcini B√©chamel Filling

The secret is all in the rendered chicken fat...

The secret is all in the rendered chicken fat…

Savoury profiteroles are my new friend. Yesterday I picked up a kilo of spring onions from the reduced section of the supermarket for just 65p which suddenly meant I needed to make lots of spring onion recipes. Cheese and onion is one of my favourite pairings and as I was looking along the spines of my cookbooks for inspiration I clocked my Secrets of Eclairs book, eureka! Savoury Choux bites! I spent the entire day making lots of different variations, the base of this recipe I created for my Chilli Cheese Bites recipe for Domestic Sluttery and then tweaked it to make these profiteroles.

Now this filling is rather special. Yesterday I also picked up half a dozen skin-on chicken thighs for a creole curry, on a nod *ahem* to healthy living I put a bit of butter in the base of a deep frying pan added a few caraway seeds then put the seasoned thighs, skin side down into the pan and gently fried them (without moving them at all) so the chicken fat rendered out into the pan. The thighs were then lifted out, the crispy skin promptly scoffed as a cook’s perk (all healthy eating notions go right out of my kitchen window the moment crispy chicken skin is about) and the fat poured into a bowl and set to one side whilst I carried on making the curry. This deeply flavoured, seasoned fat also had the added bonus of a gentle caraway flavour and was to form the basis of a seriously naughty porcini b√©chamel filling.

These awesome bites are best eaten straight away and cooked in batches as you need them but you can also reheat them gently if you need to by popping them in the oven at 190C for a few minutes and they will go nice and crispy again and the filling will warm and ooze….

Ingredients:

For the smoky chilli choux:

  • 10 spring onions, chopped
  • 1 dried chipotle chilli, mashed into flakes (I get mine in bulk from Edible Ornamentals)
  • 1 tablespoon rendered chicken fat*
  • 70g butter, diced
  • 175ml water
  • big pinch Halen M√īn sea salt flakes
  • 120g plain flour
  • 4 large free range eggs, beaten
  • 100g extra mature cheddar cheese, grated
  • 25g grana padano cheese, freshly grated
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 teaspoons garlic granules
  • pinch freshly grated nutmeg
  • freshly ground black pepper

For the filling

  • About 100ml rendered chicken fat* (with caraway)
  • plain flour (enough to make a roux, approx 1 mug-ish)
  • milk (as much as it needs to get the right consistency)
  • 2 heaped tablespoons of porcini powder (blitz dried porcini in a coffee grinder)
  • 1 teaspoon powdered veg stock (I use Essential Cuisine)
  • 50g grated extra mature cheese
  • sea salt and white pepper

*how to make the rendered chicken fat is described in the introduction

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 220C. Gently fry the spring onions and chipotle in a tablespoon of the chicken fat for about 2 minutes to soften the onions then put to one side to cool.
  2. Put the butter, water and salt in a saucepan and bring to the boil, remove from heat and dump all the flour in at once, stir vigorously to mix and return to a medium heat mixing constantly for about 2 minutes, the choux will have come away from the sides of the pan and be all glossy. Put the choux into a big cold mixing bowl and leave to cool for a few minutes.
  3. Use an electric whisk to beat the choux mix whist adding the eggs about a tablespoon at a time whist continually beating until all the mixture is combined and smooth.
  4. Add the cheeses, spring onion, grated nutmeg, garlic, thyme and seasoning.
  5. Line a roasting tin with some baking parchment that you have greased with a bit of chicken fat then using a piping bag with a 1cm plain nozzle pipe balls of choux about the size of a cherry tomato all over the tray leaving about 3cm around each one as they will expand during cooking.
  6. Make the filling by heating the fat then adding the flour and stirring for a few minutes to cook out the flour, add the milk gradually until you get a nice thick sauce mixture then add the remaining ingredients, if it gets too thick just stir in more milk.
  7. Bake the choux balls for 10mins at 220C (top shelf in my oven) so they puff up then reduce temp to 190C and continue to bake for about 7 minutes or until they are golden and crispy (don’t open the oven door for the first 10 minutes to avoid them collapsing).
  8. Once cooked use another piping bag to pipe in your filling to the hollow centre or alternatively just slice and fill.

Beetroot, Chocolate and Cardamom Brownies

squidgy, fudgy brownies that count towards your 5 a day…

Oh brownies how I love you and your squidgy, gooey wonderment. Yesterday I headed into the BBC Radio Leicester studio to see presenter Ben Jackson with whom I do the Food friday radio cooking sessions with and gardening guru, chilli head and all round ace guy Ady Dayman. I decided to bake them something using goodies from my tiny garden and despite managing to set fire to the baking parchment TWICE during cooking the brownies turned out pretty damn awesome.

Ben and Ady enjoying the brownies during the phone in…

I managed to get to the studio whilst they were still warm and joined Ben and Ady for the Gardening phone-in, you can listen to us giving seasonal gardening and food tips by clicking here. It was a fab afternoon and the brownies went down a storm, even with Ben’s producer Nam who is somewhat vegetable averse! That’s the secret to people who don’t like vegetables, cover them in CHOCOLATE ūüôā

They are really easy to make too:

Ingredients:

I use a mug to measure everything out in, my mug holds 350ml water.

  • 4 eggs
  • 1 mug caster sugar
  • 1 heaped teaspoon cardamom powder (or 8 crushed cardamom seed pods)
  • 1/2 mug ¬†good rapeseed oil (or olive oil would be nice also)
  • 1 capful good vanilla extract
  • 2 beetroot (about tennis ball size)
  • 1 mug plain flour
  • 3/4 mug cocoa powder
  • pinch salt
Method:
  1. Preheat your oven to 180C. Put some gloves on or you will get very purple hands from handling the beetroot. Peel the raw beetroot, chop roughly and put into a food processor until chopped finely. If you don’t have a processor just grate the beetroot.
  2.  In a large bowl whisk the eggs, sugar and cardamom powder until quite creamy (I use an electric whisk but a hand whisk will be fine) then whilst still whisking pour in your oil in a steady stream.
  3.  Tip in your beetroot and stir in until fully mixed together.
  4. Sift in your flour, salt and cocoa and fold into the mixture completely.
  5.  Line and grease a 20cmX30cm tin, pour in your brownie mix and bake for about 25-35 minutes or until you can insert a skewer into the centre and just a few crumbs are stuck to it.  Leave to cool for at least 10 minutes before eating if you can manage to resist, sprinkle with a dusting of icing sugar and serve warm with some good vanilla ice cream.
If you find that your brownies are still too squidgy for you just pop them back in the oven for a little bit longer.

Raw Milk – homemade mozzarella, ricotta and lots of other things!

People are divided over raw milk but I am a big fan and I am lucky enough to live near to Lubcloud Organic Dairy who not only sell raw milk but also have chosesn not to homogenise any of their products.  When I was little I had to be quick in the mornings getting to the milk bottles on the doorstep. The birds were wise to the sight of Malcolm, our milkman back on Anglesey, and would peck through the foil lids to get to the cream that had risen to the top of the bottle.  I always used to sneakily pour a glass of that amazing creamy milk before putting it back in the fridge as a reward for being good and bringing the bottles in!

These days milk is homogenised as standard, so the fat is evenly distributed and not only don’t you get that wonderful creamy layer at the top of your pint but you also don’t get those glorious little dots of fat on the inside of your glass. ¬†Personally I think that the taste really suffers as a result of both pasteurisation and homogenisation so it’s no contest for me when it comes to flavour.

tiny dots of loveliness around the inside of the glass

Raw milk from an organic herd really can’t be beaten for flavour so I decided to see how many things I could make from 2 litres of the stuff. ¬†I started with mozzarella…

A quick look around the internet and I found Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s recipe for mozzarella and set to work.

The curds and whey quickly separated once the citric acid and rennet were added and the curds removed and left to drain. I should point out that this really does make your house smell like baby sick and it left me feeling quite dubious that something nice could be made from something that smelt so awful.  Nevertheless the curds were removed with a slotted spoon and left to drain for a bit in a sieve.

I wanted smallish balls of cheese, so the mozzarella curd was thickly sliced, put back into the hot whey then stretched and folded back on itself a few times before being rolled into balls and plunged into ice water.

Mozzarella on whey bread

still can't believe I made mozzarella so easily!

A quick shout out on Twitter for suggestions for the leftover whey brought a resounding call for ricotta.  Another quick look online for a really simple method resulted in me finding this method which seemed by far the easiest.

The remaining whey was strained through a coffee filter and left to drip in the fridge before being turned out onto a board.

I really couldn’t wait to try the ricotta, I wasn’t disappointed. I guess I’m used to bland, mass produced stuff because the flavour really took me by surprise – there was so much of it! ¬†I was now really excited about my bumbling foray into the world of home cheese making.

So now I had my beautiful cheeses I needed some pizza dough to showcase them on. ¬†I made a batch of plain and polenta flour dough using 650ml of the leftover whey. ¬†I hadn’t intended to use polenta flour but I hardly had any other flour so substituted it in and from now on I will always do this as it was amazing! ¬†It was about 1/3 polenta and made for a beautiful golden dough with great texture. ¬†Fingers were crossed whilst the pizzas cooked that the mozzarella behaved as it should…

It worked perfectly! The mozzarella melted and oozed and developed a lovely brown crust and most importantly it tasted wonderful, I was so happy!

I then made a polenta and bread flour whey loaf…

This loaf was eaten almost immediately topped with salsa verde from The Good Fork’s¬†deli box¬†and was seriously good!

So what to do with the rest of the whey? I still had about 2 pints of it left.  Another shout out on Twitter went out.  I was told by @pukkapaki that whey is wonderful for the skin and hair so I made a homemade face pack and added a ladle of whey.

Whey facepack/cleanser or as Glen calls it "that hippy shit in a bowl"

Soothing/moisturising facepack:

  • ¬†porridge oats
  • 1 chamomile tea bag
  • 1 Detox tea bag (milk thistle, dandelion & green tea – tastes like crap but great in a facepack)
  • 2 tablespoons almond oil
  • 1 tablespoon rose water
  • 1 ladle whey

Just mix them all and add more oats until you get a consistency you like then apply to a clean face and leave on for 10 – 15 minutes then remove with a warm cloth. ¬†I’ve been so impressed with the effect that its had on my skin that I’m also using this as a cleanser morning and night as the porridge oats gently exfoliate the skin. ¬†All of these wonderful beauty tips fall on deaf ears for my fella though who just calls it “that hippy shit in a bowl”.

*Update: from this morning (3 days later)

Glen: I wish you’d stop washing your face with porridge the bits get everywhere.

Me: It’s not porridge its a homemade face pack and cleanser dear.

Glen: It’s porridge with tea bags in it, you are essentially washing your face with breakfast.

Well he does have a point there but my skin is so soft and my rosacea is clearing up so breakfast face-washing will continue!*

I still had some more whey left so I decided to try Carl Legge’s suggestion of using it to lacto ferment vegetables and I gave Kimchee making a go. ¬†It’s still fermenting away though so I’ll do a separate post on this when it’s ready. ¬†The final bit of whey has gone to my chickens as a bit of a treat as it helps keep their eggshells hard and is a good all round tonic for poultry.

So from 2 litres of raw milk (which cost ¬£2.40 delivered to my door) I made the most meltingly wonderful mozzarella, the best ricotta I’ve ever tasted, 2 wonderful pizzas, a loaf of delicious bread, lots of face pack/skin cleanser, Kimchee and a special dinner for the chickens, not bad going really.

*Thanks for all the lovely messages on Twitter/Facebook/here about raw milk, I am updating this post with a list of dairies (cow,sheep,goat) that offer raw milk, if you know any please let me know so I can add them*

Raw Milk Dairies:

East Midlands

Lubcloud Orgainic Dairy (cow) www.lubclouddairy.co.uk

The South East

Ellie’s Dairy (goat)¬†www.elliesdairy.blogspot.co.uk

Hot Cross Baked Cheesecake

I have totally got my baking mojo on at the moment! ¬†In addition to my being a writer and recipe creator for Great Food Magazine I’m also a food writer for Domestic Sluttery, and so when we were asked to get our thinking caps on for Easter recipes (that weren’t hot cross buns) this is what I came up with.

I normally only make cheesecakes that you just leave to set in the fridge but my baking confidence has really been boosted recently thanks to a series of awesome successes that I’ve made from my Bread Revolution¬†baking book. ¬†Now I know you’re not meant to mess around experimenting with baking as it’s more of a science and you really should follow a tried and tested recipe but I can’t help myself. ¬†I wanted a cheesecake that despite being made from really rich ingredients actually felt silky, light and fluffy in the mouth but still had,well, a bit of balls behind it if you know what I mean? ¬†I had a look online for recipes but nothing really lit my fire so I threw caution to the wind, bought a selection of creams and soft cheeses and made it up as I went, bit of a risk as I only had enough ingredients to do it once but no guts no glory right?

It was a really anxious wait as the cake needed to cool for a couple of hours before releasing it from its tin. ¬†I could only do this once after all, and if it collapsed I would have cried, and Glen would have found me sobbing over a collapsed cake and would have said something along the lines of “it’s only a cake”, and I would have thrown the floppy cake of sadness at him. ¬†Luckily he actually found me crying tears of joy as I stood in the kitchen, holding the freshly released cake tin aloft and pointing proudly at my masterpiece, “it’s only a cake” he said, harumph. ¬†“But its not only a cake its a Hot Cross Baked Bloody Cheesecake!” I shouted triumphantly still waving my empty cake tin as if it were an Oscar, nothing was going to piss on my cake bonfire. ¬†Then I realised something…

I had lost the natural light and so the cake needed to go back in the fridge overnight so I could photograph it first thing in the morning. ¬†This meant that I didn’t yet know what the inside was like, it could be an awful scrambled eggy mess for all I knew. ¬†I had a large rum to steady my nerves that night before bed.

First thing the next morning I headed to the fridge, took out my cake and carefully sliced a triangle out.  Looked good so far, but how did it taste? AWESOME! Tears of joy! I quickly took a couple of shots of the inside of the cheesecake then celebrated with a very triumphant Hot Cross Baked Bloody Cheesecake Breakfast!

EAT ME!

So if you fancy trying something a bit different this Easter then my recipe is here.  Have a look around the site though there are loads of kickass recipes there and lovely things to fill your home with too!

Soda Bread

Straight out of the oven

I had a really crap night last night so this morning I decided I needed cheering up and what better to cheer the soul than freshly baked bread. ¬†I turned to my new favourite baking book Bread Revolution by The Thoughtful Bread Company¬†for Patrick’s recipe. ¬†Marvelous, I thought, I have all of that except the red wine vinegar so out came the big bowl, in went the dry ingredients (including the wonderfully coarse Whissendine organic wholemeal flour) and then I realised we were almost out of milk. Arse. ¬†I did however have Buttermilk in the fridge that I was saving for scones so I used that instead and swapped red wine vinegar for some Womersley Golden Raspberry and Apache Chilli vinegar.

Whilst mixing the sloppy dough (it’s meant to be that way) I realised that my loaf tin was out on loan so ended up adding extra flour so that the dough could be shaped and baked without a tin. ¬†I then kicked myself for ONCE AGAIN¬†starting a recipe without checking to see if I had all the ingredients and equipment (another reason I don’t really use recipes or bake much!).

Luckily it turned out really well, if a little more crumbly than it perhaps should have due to my substitutions but oh my it tastes so good! It has absolutely cheered my morning and I can now see soda bread being a much welcome and more frequent addition to the table. I used to eat quite a bit of soda bread as a kid, my Dad is Irish and so it was almost a staple loaf of the bread bin but for some reason I have just kinda stopped eating it, until now that is. ¬†Next time I am going to try Thoughtful Bread‘s recipe to the letter though and you never know, I might even check to see if I have everything I need before ploughing in!

Note: I don’t get paid for posts or links, I support great producers because they are wonderful and I want people to know about them and try their fantastic products and thats why I link, share the love!

Cinnamon Swirls

Recently I visited the ultra lovely folk of¬†The Thoughtful Bread Company at their pop-up caf√® in Bath. ¬†I love these guys, their attitude, their bread (and cakes!) and now their book too. ¬†“Bread Revolution – Rise Up & Bake” has been in my possession for less than 48 hours now and I am already smitten. ¬†It was my fella’s birthday yesterday and I felt bad that the only package that the postie delivered was my copy of Bread Revolution so I told him to pick out absolutely any recipe he liked and I would make it for his birthday (I’m nice like that see).

Now, I don’t really do baking. ¬†I’m not one for weighing and measuring anything and much prefer to rely on my instinct. ¬†I’m a bit odd, I see tastes in terms of shapes and colours (recently I found out it has a name and is called¬†Synesthesia), it’s totally normal for me and I grew up thinking everyone was the same – it actually came as a real shock to find out that other people weren’t manipulating triangles when cooking! ¬†Anyway, Glen picked out their recipe for Cinnamon Swirls which was really handy as I already had all the ingredients in the pantry. ¬†I’ve never made a sweet dough before and wasn’t entirely sure about whether I should keep flouring the worktop as I was kneading the dough (it was really sticky), but I did, and probably shouldn’t have as the dough was a bit tight as I went, but I carried on anyway.

I decided to try their Sugared Raisin version. I’m not a huge fan of raisins in any food (heaven forbid I find a raisin in a pot of curry sauce) but I had some jumbo sultanas and raisins set aside for making more smoked tea booze concoctions so I used them and threw in a load of flaked almonds too for good measure.

¬†So I rolled up my dough creation, and after some Twitter reassurance from Thoughtful Bread that a water sprayer wasn’t essential (massive relief as mine were all still full of last year’s Black Fly beating mix of washing up liquid and water), I sliced it and left them to prove for about 90 minutes. ¬†My intention was to pop most of them in the fridge overnight but I could only fit one tray of 4 in there (damn) so I had to cook the rest, all 12 of them (double damn!).

Just 15 short minutes later and the first batch of 6 were ready.  I decided to add a good dose of cinnamon to the sugar glaze that was bubbling away on the hob (I love cinnamon), glazed them then waited for them to cool before scattering a few more flaked almonds on them and drizzling with icing.

I can honestly say I was pretty shocked by the result, they tasted even better than I imagined, in fact they tasted amazing!  The dough was so soft and light, the buns sticky and sweet, and the filling was just wonderfully sweet/soft/cinnamony/crunchy.  I have a new addiction.  The buns that went into the fridge overnight were brought to room temp today and baked off Рthey turned out to be even better.  I think the overnight cold prove helped the dough become even lighter and if I can manage to resist eating them all on the same day I will from now on always do it that way.

I have completely fallen in love with this recipe and for the first time ever I am actually really excited about working my way around a baking cook book. ¬†Bread Revolution’s sweet dough has been quite the bread revelation (sorry) for me and I can’t wait to experiment more. I don’t own a food mixer, which they recommend in order to make their brioche, so it looks as if it may be their Bacon Fougasse next, or their Nettle and Chive Flowerpot Breads, or doughnuts, or rye crackers – there are just SO many I want to crack on with, ¬†but seeing as though I have eaten nothing but cinnamon swirls today perhaps a bit of a foraging walk first for ingredients…..

Thoughtful Bread

¬†I was born in Bath and whenever I head back for a visit I become so terribly homesick for many reasons, but one of them is the abundance of fantastic bread there. ¬†I don’t know why but great bread is really thin on the ground round my way. ¬†The upside of this though is that I bake quite a bit of my own, which I love doing, but my oven has a mind of its own (and its a bit of a nightmare) so it would be so lovely to have fantastic sourdough bread readily available.

I first heard about¬†The Thoughtful Bread Company last year through BBC 2’s The Big Bread Experiment in which founder Duncan Glendinning and head baker Patrick Ryan help a Yorkshire community set up their own bakery. ¬†I knew that they had a stall in Bath’s Green Park Station so vowed to visit them. ¬†I did just that last year and was not only really impressed by their amazing breads and cakes (oh my god their cakes!) but by the guys that make up the company itself. Ross was running the stall that day and we got chatting about the company and their eco-friendly business. Not only are they absolutely lovely guys but their passion for bread is really inspiring.

Ross at the Thoughtful Bread stand last year

¬†So when I headed off to Bath last week for my big sister’s birthday I made sure I popped over to see them once more. It was only 12:30pm by the time I got to the Farmer’s Market at Green Park Station and met up with Ross but he was already sold out. Gutted. All was not lost though because Thoughtful Bread had a pop up caf√® in The Guildhall for 2 weeks during the Bath Literary Festival – HOORAY!

Ross and Duncan were busy behind their counter and their cafè was a quirky mix of mismatched crockery, hay bale seating and trestle tables all surrounded by their gorgeous breads.

How beautiful do these loaves look? They make so many variations of loaves depending on what’s in season – cider, beetroot, walnut, wild garlic – all beautifully made and most importantly tasting amazing.

Flatbreads for homemade dips

Oh and their cakes really are something special. “Try our gluten free spiced orange cake” said Ross. ¬†For some reason I avoid gluten free cakes but I won’t anymore. ¬†The wheat flour had been replaced by ground almonds and the sweet, sticky orange cake was absolute heaven. Their Guinness cake, although I didn’t try it, completely inspired my Guinness free Guinness cake that I made for my Domestic Sluttery posting on Friday and those chocolate and raspberry tarts are just beyond delicious.

Gluten free spiced Orange and Almond, Guinness cake and Dark chocolate and raspberry tarts....swoon

They even have a book so you can make their breads at home!

I bought one of their sourdough loaves to take back to my sister’s later that day.

I stopped off on my way back that afternoon to pick some wild garlic so I could have my favourite Spring treat…sourdough, wild garlic and cheese sandwiches – hell yeah! Plus my gorgeous niece Nyla tried wild garlic for the first time and loved it!

 Nyla gave their sourdough an almighty thumbs up too!

So if you find yourself in Bath make sure you head to see the fab fellows of The Thoughtful Bread Company, say hello from me, try their goodies and stock up.  Oh, and if you happen to be heading up to Melton Mowbray, bring me a loaf too!

And no, they haven’t paid me to say all these lovely things about them!

Potato Dauphinois

This is not a traditional dauphinois, it’s just been adjusted to for our tastes. ¬† I know it’s really naughty so my concession is to use ¬†Elmlea 50% reduced fat double cream, yeah I know that’s like people ordering a huge takeaway meal and having a Diet Coke on the side but I don’t care! Garlic powder is something I also love. ¬†I use it in so many dishes, sprinkled on homemade oven chips/roast potatoes it gives a sweet garlicky taste without any bitterness or harshness and you control exactly how much you use as its in such a fine powder form. We have our own chickens that are ex-battery farm girls so we use a great deal of eggs, the yolk in this recipe just adds that extra bit of luxury. I never peel my potatoes for this as apart from their being so much goodness in the skin I just like it that way, I prefer waxy but it’s entirely up to your preference. My oven is really quite rubbish (actually its a bloody nightmare) and temperature fluctuates massively so the timings are what works for me.

Ingredients:

  • Enough waxy potatoes finely sliced on a mandolin to fill your bowl/tray
  • 500ml double cream (I always feel you can never have too much but it sucks to have too little, the creamy sauce is so good!)
  • 1 tablespoon chicken stock powder (I use Essential Cuisine as it’s brilliant)
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 egg yolk (or 2 if we have a surplus to use)
  • thyme leaves
  • sea salt flakes
  • few grinds black pepper
  • 1 tsp dried chilli flakes
  • a bit of finely grated parmesean/cheddar depending on whats in the fridge

Method:

Preheat oven to 180C. Combine everything except the potatoes in a bowl, mix thoroughly, leave to sit for 30 minutes (not entirely necessary but really does help bring out the flavour).  Keeping some creamy mixture to one side combine with the potatoes and give a good mix to make sure its all well coated in the tray then pour the remaining cream  over the top, grate over some cheese, cover with foil and roast in the oven for about an hour or until thoroughly cooked.  Remove the foil then cook for a further 10-15 minutes to brown. Dead easy and really tasty!

Salted Caramel and Blueberry Pancakes

I really hadn’t intended to make any pancakes at all today but I needed to buy some milk so popped to the shop only to discover a pack of blueberries reduced to 99p. ¬†Well I took that as a sign that actually yes, I should make pancakes, lots of pancakes to celebrate this little find and, as my love affair with salted caramel reigns strong, it seemed a natural pancake buddy. You can buy jars of salted caramel in the shops but they’re, quite frankly, way too tiny and you don’t get those lovely flakes of sea salt in them so its nice to make a big jug of your own, that way you can guzzle it whilst your pancakes are cooking and still have plenty left for drizzling.

Salted Caramel Sauce:

  • 120g soft light brown sugar
  • 100g unsalted butter
  • 1 tblsp water
  • 250ml double cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla Halen M√īn sea salt flakes

Method:

  1. Put the butter, sugar and water in a saucepan and heat gently until bubbling it’s important that you don’t stir it though just swirl the pan to combine.
  2.  Once it’s all melted, let it bubble away for 3 minutes then whisk in your cream and remove from the heat. Add a teaspoon of salt flakes, taste to see if it needs any more (careful though it will be hot).  It will seem very runny but it thickens as it cools so make several hours before if you want a firmer sauce and pop it in the fridge.

Boris Cat gatecrashes the shot

Pauls Bakery

¬†Paul’s Soyfoods¬†are entirely organic and in addition to delivering fresh fruit and veg around the country also bake 6 days a week. ¬†I spent an hour one morning watching the two bakers at work, it was fast, unrelenting and beautifully coordinated work and I was really struck by how tactile the whole process was. There are quite a few more photos to come over the next couple of days as I get around to it and I will be heading back to photograph them making their own tofu and tempeh soon.