Monday, 27 July 2020

Socially Distanced Suppers

.Don't stand so close to me! England's new rules of social ...

They say that she who sups with the Devil should have a long spoon- and in these devilishly difficult times, that's sound advice.

But it's summer! We want to entertain and be entertained, to eat, drink and be merry with friends, to share suppers together..

And it can be done- with a little care, a lot of hygiene and a dash of creative catering.

Oh.. and a set of 1970's fondue forks.

I bought these retro classics in 1978 in France- and they remain amongst my treasured possessions.

My beloved fondue forks

Now I know the idea of a fondue pot, where everyone dips in their forks again and again- is pretty abhorrent these days. But a sharing platter can be enjoyed without the perils of the spoon sharers, double-dippers and sauce slurpers.

Take, for example, my Friday Night Aiöli:

Friday Night Aiöli

Give everybody a long fork, an individual dish of Aiöli sauce and a large sharing platter of vegetables, prawns, fish or hard boiled eggs. Guests can spear their choices and load their plates, then dip them as much as they like into their personal dish of creamy, garlicky sauce.

The simplest way to make Aiöli sauce is in the food processor:

Soak a pinch of saffron strands in 1 tbsp of boiling water and 3 tsps of lemon juice
Put 3 crushed fat garlic cloves ( or more if you like), 3 tsps Dijon mustard, 1 tsp salt, good grind of black pepper and 3 egg yolks into the goblet of your food processor and blitz to a creamy paste.
Gradually pour in 300ml of olive oil through the feed tube and keep blitzing until the mixture emulsifies. Finally add the saffron, water and lemon juice and blitz a little more.

Or you can whisk it up by hand if you need the exercise!

Aiöli the hard way!

Spoon the sauce into individual bowls.

Use the same idea ( individual dipping pots, long forks ) to make chocolate fondue for fruit:

Strawberry and Chocolate Fondue

Just put 100g dark chocolate, 1 tsp each of kirsch and icing sugar and a knob of butter in a pretty cup or bowl and microwave for 1 minute.

Or make Toffee Fudge Fondue:

Toffee Fudge Fondue

Melt together 1 tbsp muscovado sugar, 1 tbsp golden syrup and 30 g butter. Stir in 1 tsp vanilla essence and 2 tbsp double cream and serve in indivual pots

Or Ban-iteroles with Fudge Sauce:

Ban-iteroles with Fudge Sauce

(Choux buns filled with cream and sliced banana, threaded on to forks or skewers with individual sauce jugs.)

If you are unlucky enough not to have a set of fondue forks, of course long bamboo skewers would do as well.

Just remember to share with care!

Apex Signs on Twitter: "You may have noticed about Norwich city ...

Saturday, 27 June 2020

Strawberry Fields

Well..more small Strawberry Patch than Field-  but abundant this year nevertheless.

The season was short (pretty much finished now), but enough strawberries for jam and puds galore.

I know I posted up various strawberry ideas this time last year- so this time I have come up with some new recipes.

I'm starting with a Strawberry and Rosé Jelly, making some easy Strawberry Jam, a simple Strawberry Pavlova and finishing with a Strawberry Fool.

The idea of having leftover rosé might seem strange- but I bought some from the local supermarket and after a glass each we all developed headaches. Not a good sign. This wine wasn't a good choice for quaffing- so it's being used up for pot roasting chicken, marinading and boiling up for syrup as used in this jelly recipe.

Wash and trim 400 g of strawberries:

Strawberries prepped
Measure out 500ml of wine and add 100g of vanilla sugar.

Wine ready for boiling
Boil in a saucepan until the sugar is dissolved and for a further 6 minutes to reduce and boil away the alcohol.
Add 1-2  sachets of agar agar, dissolved according to the packet instructions and stir until well incorporated:
Add the agar agar
Put the strawberries in a suitable mould ( a metal loaf tin is good) and pour over the liquid:

Jelly ready for chilling
Chill overnight and then turn out onto a plate just before serving. (Hold the mould in very hot water for 30 seconds and it should turn out easily):

Strawberry and Rosé Jelly
I had 3 leftover egg whites in the freezer ( from making a Spaghetti Carbonara I think) and so defrosted them ready to whip up for an easy Pavlova.

Whisk them with 100g caster sugar, added gradually, 1 tsp cornflour, 1 tsp white wine vinegar and 1 tsp vanilla extract until they form stiff glossy peaks.

Glossy egg whites

Mark out a dinner plate sized circle on baking paper and spoon the mixture into it. Make some smaller spoonfuls too ( for 'nests' to go on top).

Spoon onto marked baking paper

Bake in a cool oven (150 degrees) until golden and firm ( about an hour). Switch off oven and allow the meringues to cool along with it.

Baked Meringues

Once cool, simply pile high with strawberries, whipped cream, a teaspoon of crème de cassis if you fancy, chopped pistachios ( if you want) , whatever you fancy.

Strawberry Pavlova

Whilst the meringues are cooking in the oven, it's just about the right amount of time to make some easy Strawberry Jam ( and to sterilize some jars in the oven at the same time too):

Sterilize jars whilst meringues cook

Wash and prepare a kilo of strawberries. Place half of them plus 200g out of a prepared kilo of jam sugar into a saucepan. Heat until the sugar begins to dissolve and then mash with a potato masher.
Mash half the strawberries over the heat

Then add the rest of the strawberries, the rest of the jam sugar and 2 tbsp of lemon juice and bring to a rolling boil.
Boil until you achieve a set

Once the jam has reached a temperature of 104 degrees ( and stays there for a while), you are ready to test for a set. Put a teaspoon of jam onto a very cold saucer and check it wrinkles when pushed, and a (clean) finger pushed through it leaves a clear trail.

It is ready for potting up in your sterilized jars:

Easy Strawberry Jam

And finally...if you didn't have leftover egg whites for the Pavlova, and instead you separated out some is an idea of what to do with the egg yolks.
Make a custard by mixing the egg yolks with a little cornflour and 2 tbsp sugar in a glass bowl. Heat 350 ml of milk ( or coconut milk or almond milk would be delicious too) and gently pour into the egg mixture, stirring all the time.

Whisk the coconut/ almond milk into the eggs

Whip the mixture in the glass bowl over a pan of simmering water until it thickens and forms a custard.

Blitz 300g of ripe strawberries into the mix, add a little whipped cream if you want, pour into dishes and chill. Et voilà- Strawberry Fool.

Strawberry Fool

And so ends this year's strawberry ideas. If you want to look at some others- here's the link.

Enjoy your strawberries responsibly and do keep safe!


Thursday, 7 May 2020

Little Lockdown Luxuries

Have you been doing your lockdown exercises? Green Goddess? Joe Wicks? Or my own favourite - Cathy McClendon? Well, so what if you haven't? This lockdown has been harder-and longer- than any of us imagined. Everyone deserves a little treat now and then - and so this month's blog I'm baking some goodies from storecupboard and leftover stuff - and some of them are almost healthy too!

I'm starting with a Date and Oat Slice, following that up with an Apple Cider Loaf. Next, I've poached the recipe for Laura's Luscious Carrot Cake- and I'm finishing up with a Moelleux au Chocolat. (Well, why wouldn't you?)

For the Date and Oat Slice, you will need:

400 g dates (I had them left over from Christmas)
250 ml water
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
400 g porridge oats
250g flour
170 g sugar
1/2tsp baking powder
175 g soft butter

1. Boil the dates, brown sugar, water and lemon juice and add the bicarb.
2. Simmer until easy to smush into a puree.
3.Combine the oats, sugar, flour and baking powder with the softened butter

Mix in the softened butter
4.Spread half the mixture in a greased baking tray

5. Spread the date mixture over this

6. Spread on the rest of the oaty mixture
7. Bake at 175 degrees for around 55 minutes.
8. Cool and slice
Date and Oat Slice ( ready for slicing!)

For the Apple and Cider Loaf, you will need:

400 g flour
50 g cornflour
200 ml cider ( it can be flat from yesterday's aperitif!)
1 tsp each of cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg
60 ml olive or coconut oil
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
75 g sugar
1 large apple, cooked to a puree with a little honey or golden syrup
1 dessert apple. chopped
Assemble your ingredients

1. Put all the dry ingredients in a bowl
2. Whisk the wet ingredients in a jug
3. Combine the wet and dry ingredients

Combine wet and dry ingredients
4. Pour into a greased and lined loaf tin and bake for 50 minutes at 175 degrees

Delicious served warm with butter and jam at breakfast.

Cider and Apple Loaf

Next is a real treat which I can claim no credit for at all. It's Laura's Luscious Carrot Cake:

You need:

 3 eggs separated
125g sugar
100 g flour
50 g cornflour
1 tsp baking powder
50 ml milk
1 tsp vanilla essence
Handful of sultanas( plumped up in leftover tea)
1 large carrot  ( grated)
1 large apple ( grated)
2 tbsp olive oil

1. Cream the egg yolks and sugar together
2. Add flour, cornflour, baking powder and milk and mix until smooth
3. Add the olive oil, grated carrot, apple and raisins and vanilla- but don't mix

Ready for the egg whites
4. Whisk the egg whites to soft peaks and fold into the mixture in two batches

Carefully fold in the egg whites
5. Bake at 170 degrees for 35 minutes

Ready for icing
6. Serve with a cream cheese icing- or even better- with custard

Laura's Luscious Carrot Cake

At least 3 of your 5 a day in cake form!

And finally- no apologies for this one- a soft and gooey chocolate cake cum pudding, a Moelleux au Chocolat

You need:
 200g of dark chocolate
150 g soft butter 100g sugar 50 g self raising flour 2 whole eggs and 2 egg whites
1.Beat the egg whites until just forming soft peaks

Perfection in beaten egg whites

2. Beat the butter with the sugar and then add the whole eggs one by one.
3.  Melt the chocolate in the microwave with a splash of water for 1 minute.
4. Mix it into the eggs and butter, then add the flour.
5. Carefully slide in the egg whites, folding them into the mixture rather than stirring them in.
6. Pour into a greased and lined cake tinand bake at 150 degrees for around 20 minutes until the top of the cake is firm to the touch but a cocktail stick inserted into the centre still comes out gooey.

Moelleux au Chocolat
 Wonderful on its own, or warm with cream, custard or ice cream- or indeed all three, as in the picture at the top of this blog.

Well, I hope these treats have encouraged you to indulge a bit- without making a pig of yourselves.

Oops!Too late!

Time for another exercise workout!

Saturday, 4 April 2020

Bake a Happy Loaf

LeftOverLiz's sage and onion cornbread
Sage and Onion Cornbread

Times are suddenly very tough right now and I think we all need a happier place to go to.
For me, that's my kitchen. And I'm not the only one.
According to le Figaro, sales of flour in France this week have increased 229% and in the UK an extra four million bags of flour were sold.

It seems that when the going gets tough, the tough get baking. So, aprons on guys- this month's blog is all about baking bread at home- and what to do if you don't have all the ingredients you need.

I'm starting off with a really simple basic loaf, for those who have never made bread before- and then looking at recipes which don't use yeast- or even much flour.

Easy White Bread

You will need 1 pack of dried yeast, 1 cup of warm water ( blood heat), 1 tbsp sugar, 1 tsp salt, 2tbsp flavourless oil, 3 cups white flour.

1. Whisk together the dried yeast with 1 tsp of sugar and the warm water and leave to froth up for about 10 minutes.
2. Warm the flour for 30 seconds in the microwave and add the rest of the sugar and salt
3. Mix in the yeasty liquid and the oil and mix, first with a knife and then with your clean hands until the dough comes together.
4. Turn it out onto a floured surface and knead ( folding, stretching, punching, rolling - whatever makes you feel better) for about 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and stretchy

Knead the bread with clean hands
5. Place it back in the bowl, cover with a clean cloth and leave in a warm place ( a sunny porch or airing cupboard) to rise.

Leave to rise...
6. After about an hour, it should have doubled in size

...until doubled in size
7. Repeat the kneading process, and then shape into a log and place in a well greased 1lb loaf tin

Ready for the oven
8. Leave to rise another half hour and then bake in a hot oven ( 200 degrees ) until risen, brown and sounding hollow when you tap it with your knuckles.

Easy White Bread

But what if you don't have yeast? Well , there's lots you can do- ranging from soda bread ( using bicarbonate of soda ), baking powder dough, scone dough, potato bread or cornbread.

One of my favourites is an Irish Soda Bread, which uses wholemeal flour.

Treacle Soda Bread

250g plain flour
200g wholemeal flour
50 g porridge oats
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
150 ml natural yoghurt
250 ml milk
1 tbsp melted butter
2 tbsp black treacle ( or muscavado sugar dissolved in hot water)

1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees and grease and line a baking tray
2. Mix together all the dry ingredients in a bowl
3. Warm the milk, butter and treacle then add it all to the yogurt
4. Mix the wet ingredients into the dry ones and turn the dough out onto a floured board
5. Shape into a round, cut a cross in the top, sprinkle on some more flaked oats
6. Place on the tray in the oven and bake for around 30 minutes.

Treacle Soda Bread

One of the first breads I learned to make as a child were these Baking Powder Rolls. So simple to make, the kids can knock them up whilst you soak in the bath.

Baking Powder Rolls

You will need 1 mugful of flour, 1 tsp salt, 2 tsp baking powder and 1 pot of natural yoghurt or milk.

1. Mix all the ingredients together, first with a knife and then with clean hands
2. Shape into 6 finger rolls or dinner rolls and place on an oiled baking tray or muffin mould

Place dough balls on a greased tray

3. Bake at 180 degrees for about 15 minutes, until risen and golden

And yesterday, I tried out this recipe for Cheese and Potato Bread and I can't recommend it enough.

350 g flour
1 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
85 g of cold butter, cubed
1 pot of natural yoghurt
4 tbsp milk
150 g assorted cheese ( I used Tomme and Emmental but any old bits will do- Cheddar, Cheshire, Parmesan..)
250 g cooked leftover boiled potato
1 tsp chopped rosemary

1. Blitz the flour, butter, salt and baking powder together
2. Warm the milk and yogurt together in the microwave for 20 seconds
3. Mix in the cheese- some cubed, some grated- and the rosemary

Mix up all the dry ingredients

4. Add the cubed potatoes

Mix in the yoghurt and milk
5. Mix in the yoghurt and milk- first with a knife then bring it together with clean hands

6. Place in a greased and lined loaf tin, decorate with sprigs of rosemary and olive oil and bake at 200 degrees for 30 minutes until lovely and golden.

Ready for the oven

Cheese and Potato Bread

Sage and Onion Cornbread
This is one for when you are short on flour and yeast.

Grease a 20cm baking tin generously and pre-heat your oven to 200 degrees.
Mix 110g of plain flour, 170g of cornmeal or polenta, 1 cup of breadcrumbs or crumbled leftover sage and onion stuffing, 1 tablespoon of baking powder, 1 tablespoon of sugar, a bunch of chopped spring onions (tired ones from the bottom of the salad drawer are fine) together in a bowl with a pinch of salt. Add 2 beaten eggs and a cup of olive oil or liquid Flora and a further cup of skimmed milk. Stir all the ingredients together and pour into the greased tin. Bake for 20-25 minutes until firm to the touch, golden on top and a skewer inserted into the
the middle comes out clean.

Sage and Onion Cornbread

There are plenty of other ingenious bakes out there if you search the web. My next attempt is going to be a cider bread - but that's for another time.
Meanwhile - keep your spirits up and, even if the only glimmer of light you can see right now is the reflection of the pilot light from your oven - make the most of it and stick a loaf on to bake!

Improvised face mask- not WHO approved!