Basic Biscotti

And, on Day 3, we have………….Biscotti. When I go to a coffee shop to meet friends, the one thing you’ll never find me drinking is coffee. I detest it (though, oddly enough, I make a mean coffee cake). Seriously. But I will have a hot chocolate and biscotti. Biscotti are hard little biscuits that are made for dunking. It softens them and saves your front teeth. You can change the nuts, the dried fruits, the chocolate…………it’s really a basic recipe that you can adapt to suit whatever you’ve got in your cupboards.

Biscotti

  1. 125g plain flour
  2. 0.25 tsp baking powder
  3. 85g sugar
  4. 75g nuts (I used hazelnuts here)
  5. 100g dried fruits (dried cranberries and sultanas here)
  6. grated zest of an orange
  7. 50g chocolate chips – any kind
  8. 2 tbsp sesame seeds
  9. pinch of salt
  10. 1 tsp mixed spice
  11. 2 medium eggs, whisked

Preheat your oven to 180˚C

Sift the flour into a large bowl and add all the other ingredients EXCEPT the eggs. Mix it thoroughly together until they’re well incorporated. The add half the egg mix and combine. If it doesn’t ‘come together’ keep adding a little more of the egg until you’ve got a soft dough. Divide the dough into 3 and roll them on a floured surface into a sausage shape, roughly 2cm across.

Put them onto a greased and lined baking sheet and gently flatten the top. Make sure they’re well apart as they’ll spread out. Bake for 20 minutes until they’re a light brown then take them out to allow them to firm up.

Reduce your oven temp to 140˚C and, once the biscotti have cooled, you can slice them up, roughly 2cm across. Put them back onto the baking sheet and pop them unto the oven to dry out. This should take about 15 minutes, and remember to turn them over halfway through. Cool them on a wire rack and serve with tea, hot chocolate…………yes, okay, even coffee.

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Left-over Madness……

Did you realise that it’s actually National Vegetarian Week? I’m going to try and update with new recipes every single day. For someone who’s lucky if they manage to blog twice a month, this is a big undertaking. I’ve tried it in the past, and failed, but fingers crossed, this year is gonna be my year.

So, today’s is a good recipe for using up the bits and pieces that clutter up your fridge – I can’t afford to waste food, I’m sure you can’t either. I was shocked when I watched Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s ‘War On Waste‘ at how much some people throw away. So the remains of a BOGOF, some half empty packs of pasta and box of tomatoes which was just about to become a science experiment in it’s own right results in……….

Cherry Tomato, Asparagus and Pasta

  1. 250g cherry tomatoes
  2. 1 pack asparagus spears (the one I used had 180g and was art of a BOGOF deal)
  3. 2 tbsp garlic infused olive oil (or just plain)
  4. 250g pasta – any kind. I used tagliatelle and macaroni as I had half packs of both left from previous dinners.
  5. hard cheddar/parmesan style cheese to grate over (tho, if you leave it off then this recipe isn’t just vegetarian, it’s vegan)
  6. Salt and pepper

Start off by bringing a pan of boiling water and salting it before adding the pasta to cook (about 10 – 14 minutes, depending on the type. Best to follow the manufacturers instructions). While it’s cooking, take one tablespoon of olive oil and smear over all the tomatoes and asparagus and place under a pre-heated grill till the tomato skins have burst and the asparagus tips are tinged brown.

IMG_9064Once they’re cooked, take them out and drain the pasta when it’s ready. Toss the pasta in the remaining olive oil and stir through the vegetables. 
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Serve with freshly ground pepper and with the grated cheese strewn over. 

 

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‘The Thinking Man’s Crumpet?……….

 

Well, it’s more flattering than being the lobotomised man’s crumpet, I suppose……’ Gillian Anderson.

Which is, I suppose, my point. The same word means different things in different countries. I was going to muse on what a crumpet was, but found that quote from Ms Anderson and liked it so much I’ve included it. But what I was going to say was that what is a crumpet in one country is not, necessarily, what is a crumpet in another one. An English crumpet is a “fluffy yeasted tea cakes” (according to Felicity Cloake). A Scottish crumpet is a “soft pancake-like fare but made larger and more thinly than pancakes. They can be spread with butter and/or jam and they are traditionally rolled up before eating.” (according to RampantScotland) . But, as you know, I’m Scottish, so……………

Scottish Crumpets

  1. 2 large eggs
  2. 250ml milk
  3. 200g self raising flour
  4. 100g granulated sugar
  5. 0.5 tsp baking powder
  6. 1 tsp vanilla extract

Sunflower oil, or solid veg fat for frying.

Whisk the eggs and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the milk and vanilla and combine. Add the baking powder to the flour then sift it into the liquid, whisking well to make sure there’s no lumps.

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Heat your frying pan, or griddle, to very hot, add a smidgeon of oil or fat and then turn the heat down low. Swirl the pan round so that you get a very thin, even covering of oil. The initial burst of heat before cooling it down seems to help giving the crumpets an even colour and to stop sticking. I have no idea why, but it works, so what are you gonna do?

Use a soup ladle and cook one at a time. Swirl the batter round to give good coverage of the pan and let to slowly cook until you can see the bubbles all over the surface of the crumpet and it looks a little dry.

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Flip it over and just lightly cook the underside. The top should be smooth, the bottom showing the little burst bubbles.

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Pop them onto some greaseproof paper and give the pan another basting of oil and get on with making the rest. You should get about 10 from this amount.

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I can thoroughly recommend strawberry jam, Nutella, or golden syrup (NOT all three at the same time) when you roll them up.

 

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Heavenly Pots of Happiness…….

You know how, if you’re on Facebook and you’re of a ‘foodie’ kind of nature, you end up with lots of posts appearing with mouthwatering recipes? Pages you follow are the worse,  but friends also share their recipes and, after a while, it’s almost too much, you can become, well, a little blase about the whole thing. I’m sure this post will end up the same for most people. But I saw this recipe originally pop up on a friends’ page (she knows who she is) and I had an avocado in the fruit bowl, so………..well, you can guess where this is heading. And it was delicious. But it was a bit too rich for me, so, next time round, I added some fruit, and some whipped cream. And it was too fussy. Sounds like the 3 bears – too hard, too soft, and the third time? Just right. I’ll give the original recipe in the ‘Comments’ section if anyone wants it, but trust me, my version is better.

Raspberry Chocolate Pots

  1. 1 ripe avocado, stoned and skinned.
  2. 0.25 cup of cocoa powder.
  3. 0.25 cup golden syrup.
  4. 100g fresh raspberries.
  5. 0.5 cup almond milk.
  6. 1 tsp vanilla extract.

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It’s very simple, just put all the ingredients EXCEPT THE RASPBERRIES into a food processor and blend till smooth. Or you can use a stick blender if you have one.

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You may have to scrape the sides a few times as the avocado can take a while to break up and you don’t want lumps of green through your dessert.

Split the raspberries between your ramekins (I used old Gu dessert pots and this made enough for 3) and pour the chocolate liquid over them. Chill in the fridge for at least half an hour.

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It’s softly set and was given the thumbs up by my daughter and her friend who was here for lunch today.

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I Wonder Why…….

……there is no sun up in the sky……………err, no, not exactly. What I’m wondering is, why these are actually called ‘Scotch Eggs’. They’re not actually Scottish (originally produced by Fortnum and Masons, a London based food emporium), so it’s a bit of a mystery (though, if you know, please do tell me). The nearest I can think of is that, as they were made for picnics, and that the company that produced them was fairly upper class, then the gentlemen may have been nibbling these while sipping their Scotch and the chauffeurs and maids arranged the picnics to the ladies satisfaction. Anyway, it doesn’t really matter, they’re very nice and easy to make, and one of the things that I actually missed when I became a vegetarian. It’s now 20 years ago (12th of March, if you’re interested) so Happy Anniversary to me. Now, if you’re going to make ‘proper’ ones, you’d just go buy some sausages and use the filling. Vegetarian sausages don’t really work for this, the texture is just wrong. You could use a falafel casing for the eggs, but if you’re in Britain, and are near an Asda store, I can recommend their ‘Chosen By You: Meat Free Lincolnshire Style Sausage Mix’ which already has sage and pepper added. I haven’t tried the SOS or Granose brands, but I suspect they’d be suitable.

Scotch Eggs

  1. 4 boiled eggs (put into a pan of cold water, bring to the boil, let it boil for 5 minutes, then turn off the heat and let it cool for 15 minutes before shelling them).
  2. 1 cup of plain flour
  3. 1 beaten egg
  4. 1 cup of Panko breadcrumbs (you can use ordinary ones, but the Japanese Panko ones give a better crunch)
  5. 150g pack of soy sausage mix

Preheat your oven to 180˚C

Okay, so you’ve got your boiled eggs…..

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And your flour, beaten eggs and breadcrumbs…..

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And you’ve made up the packet of sausage mix as per the instructions (you could add some extra herbs and/or spices, depending on your personal taste, just saying)…..

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So now you split the sausage mix into 4 and mold it round the boiled eggs. It doesn’t look like there’s enough, but persevere, it will completely cover the egg. Roll the sausage covered egg in the flour, then around in the egg, and finally in the breadcrumbs. Repeat with the other eggs. Wash your hands between each egg as the crumbs really stick to the egg. Place them on a baking tray and place into the preheated oven for 20 minutes.

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They should be a lovely golden brown colour when they come out. Then all you have to do is let them cool down.

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Then either pack them into a picnic basket, or have them for a pretty darn good lunch. In either case, sipping Scotch is optional.

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All The Nice Girls Love A Sailor……

It’s sometimes quite worrying how my brain works – someone once called me a ‘lateral’ thinker, and I think he may have had a fair point. After having a conversation yesterday with some friends about the chimes heard on ice cream vans, you’d probably expect my next post to be a recipe for something like ‘no churn’ ice cream, right? Possibly even for how to make something smothered in chocolate. But the music we’d been discussing was the theme for ‘Popeye the Sailor Man’, so you can see why I had spinach on my mind…….et voila, I give you my recipe for………….

Thai Sweet Potato, Chickpea and Spinach Curry

  1. 2 large sweet potatoes, diced
  2. 1 large onion, diced
  3. 0.5 cup frozen mixed veg
  4. 400g can chickpeas
  5. 400g can coconut milk
  6. heaped tablespoon of green Thai curry paste (make sure it’s labeled as suitable for vegetarians)
  7. 3 portions of frozen spinach
  8. 2 tbsp vegetable oil

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Gently fry the diced onion and sweet potato until they start to soften then add the frozen vegetables and the spinach. Stir these round for a few minutes until the spinach has started to soften and then add the tablespoon of curry paste. Stir again to make sure everything is coated with the paste then add the can of coconut milk.

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Bring to the boil and then drop the heat and allow to simmer with the lid on for about 10 minutes. Check that the sweet potato is soft by inserting a skewer, and stir to break up the spinach portion.

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Let it finish cooking for another 5 minutes with the lid off to allow the steam to evaporate and the sauce to thicken. You can serve it with a mound of basmati rice or just with with some Naan bread to scoop it up with.

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See? It’s Not Just Scots………..

……who enjoy deep fried and battered foods. The Japanese do as well. Still haven’t figured  out why our food has such an terrible reputation whilst theirs are considered super healthy. Must have a better PR agency than us 😉

If you go into a Japanese or South-east Asian shop you can find boxes of ready-made ‘Tempura Batter Mix’. I think this might be how it’s come to be considered difficult to make – after all, it must be difficult if you have to buy the batter instead of just making it at home – but I honestly can’t see why you’d need to buy it. It’s no more difficult than any other. In fact, the thought of making a beer batter fills me with dread, but this is (technical term coming up ) a doddle. Only 2 things to bear in mind – the water HAS to be ice cold (I’m lucky enough to have a fridge with a water dispenser so always have it available) and, secondly, that you don’t over mix the batter. You know how muffin batter is better the lumpier it is? Same with Tempura batter. The vegetables are best either sliced into thin strips or else try to get young ‘baby’ versions.

Yasai (Vegetable) Tempura

  1. 100g plain flour
  2. 150ml ice cold water
  3. 1 egg
  4. Selection of thinly sliced or baby vegetables
  5. Sunflower oil for deep frying, heated to 180˚C
  6. 50ml soy sauce
  7. 50ml Mirin Rice wine
  8. 150ml water
  9. 1 sheet of dried seaweed (also called nori or laver)

Place the flour, the water and the egg into a bowl and quickly stir to amalgamate the ingredients, but remember not to over mix it.

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While the oil is heating up, make sure the vegetables are ready for dipping into the batter .IMG_8916

The batter should have the consistency of single cream, and it doesn’t cling well, so work quickly. Dip the veggies into the batter and drop into the oil for 2 – 3 minutes.

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You’ll got lots of little floaty bits (tenkasu) which should be cleared out between each batch as they’ll burn if left in the oil. Apparently you can keep them for topping dishes with. Not supposed to pop them into your mouth while waiting for the next batch to cook 😉

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Make the dipping sauce by combining the mirin and soy sauce with the water, then shredding the seaweed finely and stirring it through. 

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Then, once you’ve cooked all the vegetables, serve with the sauce and enjoy.

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2015 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 620 times in 2015. If it were a cable car, it would take about 10 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Well, that’s the Christmas Cake 2015 done….

 

Finally got the cake from the previous post decorated. I toyed with the idea of making my own marzipan (oh, why do I watch videos on Youtube and think ‘well, THAT looks easy enough’?) but common sense prevailed and I just went for a 500g block from the supermarket, with the added bonus that, as I didn’t have to use it all up on the cake I could try my hand at making Mary Berry’s Marzipan topped mince pies, which were lovely.

  1. 1 stunningly gorgeous cake
  2. 500g marzipan
  3. 500g ready to roll icing
  4. 1 jar of apricot jam
  5. 1 (tiny) container of edible gold lustre. Mine is Jane Asher brand and I got it from Poundland. Yes, I know, I’m so flash 😀 😀
  6. A matching ribbon, to hide a multitude of sins.
  7. Icing sugar to stop the icing sticking to the table while being rolled and to stick the decoration on with.

So you’ll need a jar of apricot jam to use as glue to stick the marzipan onto the cake. Spoon about half the jar into a small saucepan and melt it over a low heat and then brush liberally over the cake. Roll out a circle of marzipan to cover the top and 2 strips for the sides. Press it on, trim to fit, and then smooth it so that it’s not got any lumps. I turned it over so the flat base was now my top and any gaps at the bottom were just filled with spare marzipan.

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Let it dry out for a week, otherwise oil from the almonds could seep through and discolour the icing. Then repeat the melting of the apricot jam and paint the marzipan. Roll out the icing big enough to cover the cake AND sides in one piece. and carefully lift it with your rolling pin and ease it over the cake. Smooth it down carefully and trim off the excess.

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Knead the trimmings into a ball and roll them out. Cut out any decorations you want – I went for stars dusted with gold lustre, but holly with a green one would be nice. Mix some icing sugar with a drop of water to stick them on and then sprinkle with the lustre. If too much goes on just blow gently and the excess will come off.

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All you have to do after that is to tie a matching ribbon round the outside and try not to be too tempted to dive headfirst into it before Christmas Day.

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Hope you have a good one xxx

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Oh Christmas Cake, Oh Christmas Cake……

…..why do you take so long to bake?????

Well, the ‘gluten free’ experiment didn’t last very long as it appears that it’s something that’s is regularly tested for at my daughter’s diabetes clinic, so we’re back to her still feeling terrible, and us waiting for a referral to a gastro-enterologist. Oh, hum.

Good news is that I can get on with making my Christmas cake, mince pies etcetera etcetera. I’ve tweaked and twiddled a fair few recipes in my time and think this version might be a winner. It’s currently sitting, wrapped in double layers of greaseproof paper and tinfoil, waiting to be marzipaned and iced. Now all I have to do is see how I want it to look. Traditional or modern? Decisions, decisions………..

A small note on dried fruit – I find this time of year to be an excellent excuse to clear out all those half empty bags lying around, spilling their contents at the backs of cupboards. So when I say ‘dried fruit’, as long as the larger pieces are chopped up (for example apricots or pears etc) as long as it comes to the required weight then it’s perfectly acceptable. Better, in fact.

Christmas Cake

  1. 750g of dried fruit. See note above.
  2. 75g glace cherries. It’s rare you can get the multi-coloured ones now (at least since the much lamented – at least in this house – shop ‘Julian Greaves’ closed), but I think they look more seasonal, so if you’re lucky enough to find them then I wish you well.
  3. 110g nuts. Pecans OR Walnuts OR Hazelnuts etc. Again, whatever you need to clear out.
  4. 300ml Brandy. Or Whisky. Or Rum…………you’re getting the idea now, aren’t you?
  5. 225g butter
  6. 140 dark brown sugar. It’s not a disaster if you’ve only got regular granulated, the only one I wouldn’t really use would be Demarara.
  7. 2tsp lemon zest
  8. 3 large eggs
  9. 2 tbsp black treacle
  10. 225g plain flour
  11. 110g ground almonds
  12. 1tsp cinnamon
  13. 0.5tsp fresh nutmeg
  14. 0.5 ground ginger

23cm (9″) loose bottomed round cake tin, greased and double lined.

Preheat your oven to 150˚C/Gas Mark 2

Start off by piling your dried fruit into a saucepan (okay, I went a bit wild and included the cherries and the nuts here – I have no idea why) along with the alcohol and bring to the boil, cover the pan and leave it aside while you make the rest of the cake.

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Mix together the butter and sugar, and once it’s well amalgamated add the eggs, one at a time. If you’ve got a mixer – easy peasy. Got an electric whisk? Still easy enough. A wooden spoon? I take my hat off to you. Add in the rest of the ingredients one at a time and mix well after each addition

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I’d call this an ‘action shot’ photo taken right in the middle of mixing.

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Then add the soaked fruit and drink into the cake mixture and combine thoroughly. Pour the batter into the prepared tin and put into the preheated oven.
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Cook it for between 2 to 2 hours 30 minutes. If it’s getting too brown then place another piece of greaseproof paper over the top to protect it.

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So it’s wrapped up, doesn’t really need to be ‘fed’ (300ml of booze already!!!!) but if you feel you must then who am I to stop you? I shall post again once it’s ready to be decorated.

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