Monday 6 October 2014

Toffee Apple and Walnut cake

For the odd reader that still floats about in cyberspace, you may have noticed that this blog has been on a sort of hiatus for the past few months.

After the rather hectic last couple of months, things have begun to settle down allowing me to do a bit of baking and attempt to resuscitate this little blog from it's food coma.

Since I last blogged, I have had a little wander around Europe for a couple of weeks where I ate and drank some very fine things.
I have moved house for the 7th time in 9 years. I have left Lincolnshire to return to Yorkshire after a 3 year absence and last but definitely not least; I  have quit one job to begin a new job in another school.

So quite an eventful few months.

So to the food, well to quote a little known TV programme; 'Winter is coming' and with it brings all manner of delicious warming bakes.
This one I spotted on the Good Food Calendar which I have finally stuck up 9 months after getting one and it uses the all time classic flavours of toffee and apple. I do recommend Good Food/Olive very highly as all the recipes work due to their triple testing which is more than I can say for some recipe books (looking at you, Heston, you bald git). This one worked perfectly and tastes gorgeous, especially when warmed slightly. I substituted pecans for walnut because pecans are quite expensive and walnuts work just as well for half the price.

Recipe available here:


Wednesday 16 July 2014

World Cup Food Challenge, Erwtensoep & Poffertjes, Holland

That's all folks, over for another 4 years. You were magnificent Brazil 2014.

There was the great; Herzlichen Gl├╝ckwunsch, Deutschland!
The good; So close, Holland.
The bad; Yes England, I'm referring to you
The utter hilarious: The Brazil National Football Team'.

But as the World Cup ends, so does its food challenge and no matter how late I am to finish up, finish up it must.

I've moaned about Dutch food before and the final two recipes in this challenge are hardly the most inspiring but Dutch food is hardly going to set the world on fire. I am off to the Netherlands in 3 weeks and I don't hold out much hope of finding much decent Dutch food.

So to wrap up the challenge I decided to make Erwtensoep (Split Pea Soup) and Poffertjes, which are the Dutch equivalent of our drop scones in the way they are cooked in order to 'puff' them up.however these are proved with yeast which gives them a deeper flavour and well worth giving them ago.

The soup speaks for itself, a simple vegetable soup made with split peas flavoured with, traditionally, smoked sausage. I made a few tweaks to it by using garden peas to give a fresher flavour and because I couldn't find any split peas, I also swapped the sausage in favour of a few nice butchers sausages.

500g frozen peas
2 small potatoes, cubed
1 onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
2 sticks of celery, diced
1 bay leaf
1 litre of veg stock
4 pork sausages, I used Lincolnshire

Bake your sausages at 200C on a baking sheet until fully cooked
Fry the onion until soft and golden then add the celery and carrot, fry for a further 5 minutes.
Add the potato, bay leaf and veg stock. season and leave to bubble until all veg is soft.
pour in the peas and bring to the boil.
Blend to your required consistency.
Slice up the cooked sausages
Return to the pan and stir in the sausages.


Recipe available here


Thursday 3 July 2014

World Cup Food Challenge, Boterkoak, Holland.

 and the Dutch march on......

But for the love of all that is holy do they leave it to the last minute. it was a tough game to watch, Holland vs Mexico, with the attacking speed of Dutch football being sucked from their very bones, I can barely stand up in 38 degree heat, never mind play football at the highest level for 90 minutes. It's a good job that future World Cups are held in cooler climes......

but as the Dutch march on, so does the World Cup Food Challenge, I'm down to one team now with the cruel dismissal of the Chilean national side.

 I'm quite lucky having this team left in with their vast culinary history and repertoire, I mean if it was Spain, I would be struggling to find dishes at this point....

Anyhoo, sarcasm aside, I did find a dish with a glorious name; 'Boterkoak' which literally means: Butter Cake.

This is essentially the Dutch version of our shortbread only with mooooooooore butter, it is traditionally served in small pieces with coffee, which literally means that the Dutch are wusses and can't handle the butter, bless.

It is sometimes topped with flaked almonds but I had some Brazil nuts spare and they seemed much more appropriate

250g butter
250g caster sugar
250g plain flour
1tsp vanilla extract
1 egg
handful of Brazil nuts, halved

Weigh the flour and sugar into a bowl.
Melt the butter, gently in a saucepan and add the vanilla extract.
With an electric whisk, whisk the melted butter into the dry mix until fully combined.
Whisk in the egg
Pour the mix into a lined cake tin (20cm) and arrange the Brazil nuts in a pattern of your choice.
Bake for 25 minutes at 175C (fan).


World Cup Food Challenge, Chilean Fish Stew, Chile

I've seen a few World Cups in my time on this little spinning rock. France 98 was the first proper one, finally being old enough to appreciate the beautiful game and it's highs (Michael Owen vs Argentina) and its lows (Why Beckham, Why?). Since the, like most England supporters the belief has waned and now it's a case of when not if, we get dropped out of a major tournament.

Since we failed to qualify for Euro 2008, I've enjoyed watching tournaments more when not paying much attention to England and holy hell has Brazil 2014 been an enjoyable tournament. there have been few teams that have not come flying out of the box in terms of goals, attacking football and just sheer brilliance.

Brazil vs Chile proved no exception, brilliant end to end football from a team highly tipped for the title on their home turf and the underdogs who took the game straight to them. Of course it went to penalties, that stomach churning 10 minutes of impending doom (for England fans anyway) and it just wasn't to be, the underdogs fought bravely but were beaten in the end.

But their food lives on while their World cup dream dies and my choice for the final Chilean meal was inspired.

There is always one recipe that stands out during these types of challenges and this Chilean Fish Stew is the one that has stood out by a nautical mile.

Soft flaky fish in a creamy spicy, tomatoey fish broth made into a filling meal with the addition of new potatoes complimented by fresh herbs, It's heaven in a bowl.

The original recipe gave measurements in cups, which is the most idiotic measuring system on the planet so instead I just  took the ingredients and went with it.

This recipe traditionally uses Conga eel but any firm white fish will do and feel free to throw in some shellfish as well if you like.

400g white fish, in chunks
1 onion, thin slices
2 cloves of garlic
400g cherry tomatoes, chopped
200g new potatoes, halved
1 heaped tsp of hot smoked paprika
1 small bottle of white wine (187ml)
half a litre of fish stock
half a bunch of parsley
salt and pepper
small pot of double cream
handful of fresh coriander

Fry the onion and garlic together until soft, about 5 minutes.
Add the tomatoes and cook for a few minutes until soft and starting to break down.
Stir in the paprika.
Pour in the wine, stock , potatoes and parsley and simmer for 20 minutes until soft.
Pour in the cream and season to taste.
Add the fish and cook gently for a few minutes until cooked through.
Serve with coriander sprinkled on top.


Friday 27 June 2014

World Cup Food Challenge - Pavlova, Australia

Last but not least, the whipping boys of Group B: The Aussies.

It's a bit unfair to call Australia the whipping boys of the group, considering Spain's performance. As far as I'm concerend they have had a decent tournment considering the group of death they were put in. I had good plans for this country mainly revolving around kangaroo but several things got in the way of me getting hold of some and by then it was too late. However, I have got it in my head and I've found that Leeds Markets stock kangaroo fillets, so they will be cooked and sampled at some point.

Even though this is World Cup challenge, Wimbleydon, got into the swing of things on Monday and everyones favourite Brit (for now) as got off to a flying start so to incorporate all things Australian and all things British, I decided to make a Pavlova with Strawberries and Cream but.... if you have an aversion to all things Aussie, drop it into a glass and boom, Eton Mess.

4 eggs whites
250g caster sugar
1tsp cornflour
1tsp vanilla extract
1tsp white wine vinegar

tub of strawberries, chopped into chunks
600ml double cream
2tbsp icing sugar

Seperate the egg whites into a bowl and whisk with an electric hand whisk until stiff peaks form.
Whisk in the caster sugar 50g at a time until fully combined.
Whisk in the cornflour, vinegar and vanilla and set aside.
Preheat the ovento 120 C (fan) and draw a circle on a sheet of non stick baking paper.
Spoon the meringue onto the circle, with high sides and a well to hold the cream and strawberries.
Bake for 1 hour then switch of the oven and allow the meringue to cool inside.

to prepare...
Whip the cream until it holds a soft peak and then whisk in the icing sugar, pile high on the meringue and top with lots of strawberries.


World Cup Food Challenge - Churros, Spain.

Oh Spain, I had such high hopes for you. My tapas feast for the finale was well underway and then.....and had to get completely hauled over the coals, utterly ripped apart and made to look like a Sunday league team by the magic of RVP and Robben. A staggering performance from the incumbent World and European champions.

So with my tapas dream turning to ashes, I was left with only one chance to cook from Spain. This was a difficult job with there being no shortage of tasty Spanish food, recipes and ingredients available. Was I to stick with my tapas feast? or choose something else?

Well it had to be something else, the feast just wouldn't be the same with Spain being unceremoniously drop kicked back across the Atlantic, so instead I opted for a recipe that I've always wanted to have a go at but never got round to. Churros.

For the uninitiated, Churros are the Spanish (and Mexican) equivalent of a doughnut, only instead of being round and filled with Jam, they are long and thin, coated in a mixture of cinnamon and sugar and then dipped into whatever you fancy. I personally recommend a fruit compote or melted chocolate.

This recipe is simplicity in itself but.... it is far easier with two people.

First off, make your dough....
250g plain flour
1tsp baking powder
1tsp vanilla extract
50g of butter
350ml water
pinch of salt

Weigh out and seive together the flour and BP into a bowl, make a well in the centre.
Boil the water and pour over the butter and vanilla extract in a measuring jug, stir until fully melted.
Pour into the well and beat with a wooden spoon until a thick smooth dough is formed, allow to rest for 15 minutes.

Thats the easy part all done. Now...

Set up two trays, one with 150g of sugar and 2 tsp of cinnamon, mixed together and spread out. the other tray is to be covered with kitchen paper to absorb excess fat.

Next , fill a pan with about a litre of sunflower oil and slowly bring to about 150C, a piece of bread dropped in should brown within a minute.

While the oil is heating, transfer the mixture into a piping bag with a medium star nozzle, or a circle one if you don't want ridges.

Pipe into the oil to the desired length then, preferably with another person, cut off the end of the churro once the desired length as been piped.

Deep fry until golden brown, remove from the pan with a slotted spoon onto the paper and then roll in the sugar. repeat until all the batter is used.


Thursday 26 June 2014

World Cup Food Challenge - Escabeche, Chile.

To South America and the next country in Group B; Chile.

Chile have had a decent start to their world cup campaign, coming second in their group which can be considered a successful outing so far as they weren't the favourites to escape to the last 16 with the European powerhouses of football Spain (ha!) and Holland, taking up residence.

So what to cook...

Chilean cuisine has very strong Spanish influences and because of its location of the west side of South America has vast amount of seafood at it disposal. Scouring the internet I stumbled upon a recipe for escabeche, something I've wanted to but never had the opportunity to try.

Escabeche simply means 'pickled' and consists of fillets of fish, quickly fried or poached then soaked in a pickling liquor to marinade until serving.

So having decided to give Escabeche a go, I needed a recipe, enter River Cottage with this delicious recipe: Escabeche of mackerel. The recipe is also available in River Cottage Fish, which you really need to have in your collection.

I stuck to the recipe instructions with everything apart from the fish, I fancied rainbow trout and after trying it, it works fine.

The end result was delicious, lightly pickled fish, not to the extent of rollmops, and with a lovely spicing. You can almost feel yourself filling with virtue at the healthy deliciousness of it all. Give it a go.