Sunday, 19 October 2014

Homemade Chocolate Arctic Roll

Time for another blog post - and then bed!
That is pretty much the extent of my motivation this evening, and it's taking mind over matter to make myself write the post. It's been one of those weekends that you get to 9pm on Sunday night and slowly breathe out. Lovely, and useful and productive and sociable, but ultimately also fairly tiring! And wasn't the one that ice-skated for 2hrs this afternoon - no wonder Mini-M almost fell asleep at the tea table.

So, this post is my Random Recipes challenge submission for this month (hosted as always at Belleau Kitchen). I've missed a few, which is a shame as it is a really fun one to participate in, and encourages you to use some of those hoarded recipe books and cook outwit your comfort zone from time to time, and I'm glad to be joining in again this month.

The specific details of the challenge this time around were a) to make something sweet and b) to use the internet to randomly select a recipe, based on a particular ingredient or dish. I asked Mr E to choose the inspirational ingredient and he chose black cherries (a la black forest gateau).

After a bit of Googling I decided I wanted to make this Chocolate, black cherry and vanilla Arctic Roll.

I had a 1-shop, 1-time window for ingredient procurement, and the supermarket I chose didn't have cherry jam or black cherries in any form (well, aside form that weird gloomy cherry pie filling that I think has probably seen very few real cherries!).

So as is my habit, I used strawberry jam instead. Jam is jam is jam after all!

As well as switching the jam, I halved the recipe, and to make it dairy free, used some of the very delicious Booja Booja "Keep Smiling Vanilla M'Gorilla" vanilla flavour ice cream. It is awesome stuff - coconut based and tastes fantastic and luxurious, and this desert certainly lets it be the star of the show. I softened it slightly and mixed the jam through, rather than a coating around the edges, and that seemed to work well.

But apart from that, I completely followed the recipe ;-) The sponge is dairy free without any  modification which is always nice into the bargain - reduces my margin for random errors.

I've not replicated the recipe here, but encourage you to try it out if you fancy a nostalgic nod back to the semi-melted pudding of your childhood - it's a far superior product, and much easier than the end result would have you think.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

October Daring Cooks Challenge: Bitterballen

Two consecutive junk food posts in a row. Jeeps! Once upon a time I posted healthy recipes.
We still eat a lot of really good healthy food, just that time is as always short, and often it is just not that photogenic! It's hard to make cabbage stew look amazing. Particularly now that it's getting dingy for the winter.

But I'm holding up the fact that Mini-M was one of the only kids at nursery to polish off her vegetable goulash at nursery on Monday as proof that healthy food is frequently on the menu.

So whilst I give myself a "could-do-better" for blog content, if not our actual diet, let's return to the junk, and this month's Daring Cooks' Challenge.

Blog Checking Lines:
"The October Daring Cooks' Challenge was brought to us by Andrea from 4pure. She introduced us to one of her family favourites which is soon to become one of yours, too. Welcome to the world of Dutch Bitterballen!"

These are small deep fried croquettes and are traditionally filled with meat, seafood or cheese. They are a popular snack bar item, and apparently your average Dutch person eats around 25 per person per year.

The filling is held together in a thick roux, which is then chilled, rolled into balls, crumbed and deep-fried.

I halved the recipe since it was just for our family dinner, and made a spicy vegetable version. They were really tasty, so I'm sharing my recipe here.

Spicy Vegetable Bitterballen (Makes around 15)
  • 1 small leek finely chopped
  • 1 medium carrot finely chopped
  • 1 very small  pepper or 1/2 regular sized one finely chopped
  • 6 cherry tomatoes finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp Rendang spice paste
  • 60g olive oil
  • 70g plain flour
  • 500ml vegetable stock
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 egg
  • flour and dry breadcrumbs for coating
Heat a little splash of the oil in a small frying pan and fry the Rendang spice paste for a couple of minutes, then add the chopped leek and sauté. Next add the carrot, pepper and tomato and cook until just softened, then take off the heat.
In a small saucepan, heat the rest of the oil, add the flour and cook for 2-3 minutes, then add the stock, salt and pepper and stir until smooth and thick.
Take off the heat, stir through the vegetables, then pour into a tupperware box and chill for 3-4 hours in the fridge.
When you are ready to cook the Bitterballen, heat oil for deep frying in a pan or fryer. I used sunflower oil, and had about 700ml oil in a small saucepan which gave just enough depth. Check it is hot enough by dropping in a little piece of bread and seeing if it turns golden and crispy.
Whilst the oil is heating up, beat an egg in a bowl, and set up a production line with a bowl of egg, one of flour and one of breadcrumbs.
Take the chilled mixture out of the fridge and roll into golf-ball sized balls.
Coat each ball first in flour, then egg and then breadcrumbs.
Fry for around 3-4 minutes each. The filling is already cooked so it just needs to be heated through and the outside browned.
Drain on kitchen paper and enjoy hot.

We had them served with salad and chutney (or ketchup for Mini-M). It was delicious, if not exactly traditional!

It was great to be able to make a challenge recipe without extensive modification to omit the dairy - just the olive oil instead of butter, because even in the original recipe the roux is made with stock.

Thanks Andrea for a very tasty challenge.

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Junk food salad

Not really a recipe, however too successful and discovery not to share!

Junk food. We all know it's bad for us. We still all want to eat it far more often than we should.

This started as an attempt to chuck together a very quick tea using whatever I could lay my hands on in the fridge/cupboard, however the end result was fantastic, and I shall no doubt make it again on purpose.

It provides a psychological junk food hit - chicken in breadcrumbs and pretzels, but at least simultaneously provides some veggies into the bargain.

I'm not in any way claiming a) it is healthy b) it offsets the unhealthiness of the chicken/pretzels.
However, if say, for hypothetical example, you compared eating breaded chicken fillets in this salad, against eating them with chips, then this might edge ahead. Just.

I'm sure you could treat a number of junk foods in the same way - Scampi salad anyone? Or chopped up burger?

Junk Food Salad (Serves 3 as a meal)

  • 300g breaded chicken mini-fillets
  • 4 Chinese leaves
  • 1 orange pepper
  • 2 tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp crispy onion pieces
  • 1 handful mini pretzels (mine were from a rosemary and pepper mix)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp honey
  • Squeeze of lemon juice

Cook the chicken according to the pack instructions, and whilst it is in the oven, wash and chop up your salad veggies. You could use any veg you like - this was just what I had needing used up in the fridge.
Whisk together your dressing ingredients (or if you have a small child needing entertained, put them in a jar with a secure lid and give them to them to shake)
Once the chicken is cooked, slice it, add to the veg, throw in the pretzels and crispy onions, pour over the dressing, mix well and serve.

There is something very appealing about the combination of the warm savoury chicken, sweet dressing, crunchy pretzels and cold crisp chinese leaves. Better than chips anyway!

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Scones on a Stick!

I've just spent the past hour watching the semi-final of the Great British Bake Off.

The contestants have shown great skill, precision and patience with their Baklava, Schichttorte and Entrements.

So to counteract that, I'm going to share a recipe made a) without measuring, b) in a bonfire c) on a stick. I though there needed to be some good old chaos cooking let loose on the interweb to balance out all that precision. Chi or something.

So, I bring you….. drumroll please… Scone On A Stick!

This must be one of the most scenic scone photos out there...
We made these on holiday in August whilst on holiday at Portuairk. It is an insanely beautiful part of the country, and the perfect place for bonfire food. In fact it was so amazing that whilst chatting to the guide in the lighthouse museum, Mini-M told her that she thought we would probably be getting rid of our Edinburgh home to go and stay there all the time. If only!

Step #1: Give your small person something to do whilst the cooking is going on, to avoid too many trips to the fire to see if it is ready yet. Painting shells and sticking on goggly eyes did the trick!
These are thankfully not limited by good weather - they would be fantastic on an autumnal bonfire / BBQ / brazier too. Don't feel you have to wait for a sunny day to try them.

Dough, meet stick (and Mr E, who is too tall for landscape photos…)
They were an experiment that worked, and so much fun. But since I made them without any scales, my ingredients are a bit sketchy. I can only encourage you to be experimental too, and if it doesn't work out, be philosophical that at least it's experimenting with a wee bit of flour, marge and sugar and not fillet steak. Low cost = no pressure.

Going all out on the bonfire cooking - baked potatoes too (and sausages, which had already been cremated and consumed by this point!)
Scone On A Stick (Makes around 6 sticks)
Self-Raising Flour (around 150g)
1 sachet instant porridge (I used an apricot and honey one that was dairy free)
1 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp margarine (I used Vitalite to be dairy free - butter would be fine if you're not restricted)
Milk to mix (again, I used dairy free almond milk, but regular would be fine, or any other dairy free variant)

Chargrilled scones!
Put the flour in a bowl and empty in the porridge sachet. Stir to combine.
Rub in the margarine until it resembles breadcrumbs.
Stir through the sugar.
Add the milk a splash at a time and stir until it forms a sticky dough.
If you go too far, don't worry - just add a little more flour.
Find some sticks - ones without any side branches are best.
Take approx 2 tbsp of the dough and wrap it around the top end of a stick, leaving a handle to hold onto.

Mr E, the chief bonfire chef
Hold it over the flames or rest it on a rack, turning frequently, until it is cooked on all sides. About 5 mins should do it.
Enjoy hot, straight from the stick, with a dollop of jam or a drizzle of syrup.

Warm scone, woodsmoke, fresh air and jam = guaranteed happiness
Elegant afternoon-tea wear. In the mind of a child, Hello Kitty :-) Katie Morag Kilt :-) Rainforest leggings :-). All worn together = :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) 
The downside… subsequently handwashing syrup out of a kilt, and jam/syrup out of hair in an outdoor shower!

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

September 2014 Daring Bakers' Challenge: Koláče

So….. 27th September was supposed to be Daring Bakers' posting day, HOWEVER I was a little bit preoccupied with this lot (or 50% of this lot, to be more precise!):

All freshly baked by myself and my good friend Mrs H for an afternoon tea fundraiser in aid of Buttle UK which we hosted on the 28th.

So I'm classing that as a very good excuse to my late posting (and possibly a topic for a future blog post in its own right).

But for now, it's time for a virtual journey to the Czech Republic for some traditional sweet treats called koláče.

Blog checking lines:
The September Daring Bakers' challenge was brought to us by Lucie from ChezLucie. She challenged us to make a true Czech treat - Kolaches.

She shared recipes for three different types of Koláčes - different variants of sweet enriched bread with fillings ranging from quark to poppy seeds and jam.

I chose to make the Moravske Koláčes - a speciality from Moravia which are traditionally filled with two fillings: plum jam and quark, and topped with a streusel topping.

As usual, I didn't have the right ingredients, and I was trying to make it low-dairy. Mini-M can have a little bit now, but not into the realm of quark-filled buns just yet! So I substituted thick coconut milk yoghurt (I used Coyo plain) and homemade blackcurrant jam made by Granny E. I used regular milk but dairy-free margarine in the dough instead of butter.

These buns were a roller coaster to make. Initial excitement, then abject despair when the dough refused to rise (probably not that surprising given the vintage of the yeast I used). However 3.5hours later, I decided just to bake them and see what happened, and lo and behold they rose - phew!

The end result was delicious - Mini-M was smitten. They have now been reminisced about on more than one occasion since the eating, and are referred to as "proper buns" - as opposed to cupcake buns.

There is an excellent and comprehensive recipe available on the Daring Kitchen which I'm not going to recreate here, but I do thoroughly recommend you try it out. They are fantastic, and I'll definitely be making them again. Although first I might have to give Jagodzianki a try - the Koláčes have brought back a taste for my favourite Polish bake - a sweet bread filled with blueberries - one of these from the corner shop was a lunchtime treat when I did my summer placement in Warsaw quite a few years ago now.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Strawberry Tart in 10

Strawberries, chocolate and marshmallows turned into the fastest tart ever in only 10 minutes.

OK, 15 if you chop carefully and crush your biscuits without pepper your entire kitchen with over enthusiastic crumbs!

And the end result looks like you've spent at least 30… plus it tastes delicious which really is the most important thing.

This is a short recipe - after all there's a limit to how long it can be with only 4 ingredients.

Strawberry, Chocolate, Marshmallow 10-Minute Tart (Serves 6-8)
  • 200g chocolate sandwich biscuits (I used The Cooperative Free From Chocolate Sandwich Cookies, but bourbons or Oreo style cookies would also work)
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • 250g fresh strawberries
  • 50g mini marshmallows
Use a small amount of the coconut oil to grease a 8in round loose-bottomed cake tin.
Crush the biscuits with the end of a rolling pin into powder and small pieces.
Melt the rest of the coconut oil and mix into the biscuits.
Press into the prepared tin and stick in the freezer for 5 minutes to chill.
Halve/quarter the strawberries depending on size and place on the chilled base.
Sprinkle over the mini-marshmallows.
Grill on high for 5 minutes until the marshmallows bubble and brown.
Remove from the girl and cool for a few minutes before gently easing out of the tin.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Belated Birthday Cake

Back to the blogging and catching up on last night's Bake Off on iPlayer, since instead of watching it yesterday, I was in the pub discussing cake - more specifically planning a charity afternoon tea.

I knew it was ages since I'd last blogged, but… I'm ashamed to see it was actually the 27th July. We're in September new (somehow).

So I shall first make my excuses:
  • Work has been silly busy, and after spending 9hrs staring at a computer screen the last thing I've wanted to do in the evening is have even more screen time
  • My dodgy wrist has not been enjoying the long days and typing/mousing
  • My laptop / iPhoto combo are not very happy with each other, making manipulating photos a bit tricky
  • We've been on holiday, enjoying the festival, catching up with friends and lots of other things (see - not all moany, self pitying excuses)
And then I shall get back to the baking.

It was Mini-M's birthday back in July, and her cake request was thankfully not Hello-Kitty related (see previously Kitty Pirate Cake and Rainbow Kitty Cake). Nope, no Kitty. 

This time, she asked for a patchwork owl cake (!). After a fair amount of interrogation to try to establish her expectations, I eventually resorted to Google Images for inspiration, and found the majority of them seemed to stem from this Stitch Craft Create tutorial.

However…. I didn't want to use that quantity of fondant, or really get into cake carving, so I went off freestyle on the patchwork owl front.

I used buttercream in 3 colours (vanilla, light cocoa, and vanilla tinted with a small amount of lilac) and piped feathers all over the cake by piping a row of splodges and flattening them with a pallet knife, then putting the next row in front and repeating. I didn't use a nozzle on my piping bags since the shape was immediately going to be flattened.

I then used small amounts of fondant to make the features which I positioned on the top.

It seems like a dim and distant past, but I seem to recollect that the cake inside was a banana cake, at Mini-M's request. I didn't want it to be too damp, so I went for a regular 6 egg Victoria sponge, and substituted out 1 one of the eggs for a medium very ripe banana, very well mashed. And I definitely added some almond extract to the icing, since I made it with dairy free margarine, which tastes, well quite a lot like margarine, even when bucket loads of icing sugar are added.

So no recipe, no how to, but a cake that I really enjoyed making and was very pleased how it turned out. And plenty of pictures!

Bring on next year…
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