Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Pear & Marzipan Phyllo Crisp

Whilst blogging my Daring Bakers Baklava yesterday, I realised that I had another phyllo pastry creation in my 'waiting to be blogged' folder: Pear & Marzipan Phyllo Crisp.

I used this recipe from the Cutting Edge of Ordinary and modified it by using less pastry (since I wasn't feeding a crowd), olive oil instead of butter, and with about 75g of grated marzipan added to the nut mixture. Delicious and very quick to whip up. I'm sure variations on this will be made again.

Monday, 27 June 2011

Daring Bakers June 2011: Team Baklava!

Erica of Erica’s Edibles was our host for the Daring Baker’s June challenge. Erica challenged us to be truly DARING by making homemade phyllo dough and then to use that homemade dough to make Baklava.

I have to confess I was a bit daunted by this one! The recipe called for a LOT of kneading and a LOT of rolling - and I have dodgy wrists and problems with tendonitis, so there was a fair amount of scope for injury and pain. And much as I'll take baking to fairly extreme levels, I'd prefer not to injure myself in the process.

But by leaving it to the last minute, an ideal solutions presented itself: I suddenly realised it was the last weekend of June, and I HAD to do the challenge, or I'd not be able to post today, but we were going to spend the weekend at my folks. So I brought some ingredients with me, "borrowed" some from Mum's cupboard, and roped her and my Dad in to help knead, then Mr E was drafted in for the dough rolling - so we made team Baklava. And it turned out well :o)

As usual, I was unable to resist messing about with the original recipe. I didn't use butter, to make it dairy free, but instead used non-dairy sunflower margarine, melted. I didn't use as much as the recipe said, because I figured it wouldn't impart a nice buttery taste, and margarine overload isn't cool. I also didn't have pistachio nuts, and substituted that other well known nut variety... the gingernut! Yep, that's right, I used crushed up biscuits as one of my 'nuts' and it worked really well - and added an extra layer of spicyness to the filling. I also used set heather honey to make my syrup, white has a very strong and distinctive taste, which was delicious in the finished product.

So there you have it - dairy-free gingernut baklava!

For anyone interested... here's my modified recipe.

Dairy-Free Gingernut Baklava
Makes 1 9in round baklava which cuts into about 20 pieces. Rolling with a pasta machine or dowel would probably make it go further

  • 185g plain flour
  • generous pinch of salt
  • 105ml water
  • 30ml vegetable oil, plus a little more for coating the dough
  • 1/2 tsp cider vinegar
Sift flour into a large bowl, and add the salt. Measure the water, oil and vinegar into a jug and give a quick whisk, then pour into the flour and mix together well with a wooden spoon or spatula until it forms a soft but not too sticky dough, adding a little more water if required. Tip out onto a floured work surface, and knead for about 20 mins - do so quite vigorously, giving it a few good bashes and drops onto the counter top. Shape the dough into a ball, lightly coat with a little extra oil, cover in cling film, and leave to rest. The original recipe says 30-90mins - I left it for about 4 hrs!!! Seemed fine tho, despite my distraction.

  • 180g almonds (I used skin on)
  • 140g walnuts
  • 140g gingernut biscuits
  • 150g unrefined granulated sugar
  • 1/3 of a cinnamon stick
  • 12 allspice berries
Put all of the filling ingredients in a food processor and blitz until they are ground. I then sifted through them to remove any bits of cinnamon stick and allspice berries that hadn't blended very well. Put in a bowl and set aside.

  • 200g set heather honey
  • 300ml water
  • 280g sugar (unrefined granulated)
  • 1/3 of a cinnamon stick
  • A chunk of lemon peel (mine was about a quarter of half a lemon that had been squeezed for juice for another recipe)
  • 5 cloves
Put all of the syrup ingredients in a pan. Simmer for 10 mins, then remove from the heat, allow to cool, and strain out the bits.


Take a golf-ball sized piece of dough at a time (keep the rest of it wrapped in the cling-film) and roll it out on a well floured surface. You can do it with a pasta machine to get it super thin, or use a dowel, like in the original recipe, or just use a rolling pin, and a helpful husband, like I did! You need to get it as thin as possible - we went for a combination of rolling and stretching (a la pizza chefs) and it seemed to work ok. Make a pile of the rolled out pieces, using a generous dusting of flour between the layers to stop them sticking.

Brush the insides of your tin with the melted margarine. If you want to be neat, and you've rolled fairly uniform pieces, then set your tin on top, and cut round it, to shape the dough to your tin. Ours were a bit free-form, so we went with just folding in the excess pastry on each layer. It made the finished layers a bit thicker in places, but still got the overall effect, tasted good, and minimised the wasted trimmings.

Put a layer of dough in the bottom of the tin, and brush all over with melted margarine. Add another layer of pastry on top, and do the same. Then sprinkle a generous layer of the ground nuts and sugar filling. Then add another 2 layers of margarine-d dough, more filling, dough, filling etc, until you run out of dough. The original recipe suggests 4-5 layers of pastry at a time, but since we only got 12 in total (due to our manual rolling pin rolling) we went with 2. Brush the top with melted margarine again, and with a very sharp knife mark it into pieces.

Stick it in the oven at 180C (Gas 4) for 30 mins, then take it out, and cut along the marks you made earlier again. I also added a little more melted margarine on the top at this point, because I had some left, and it was looking a wee bit dry. Return to the oven for another 30 mins, until the top is evenly golden brown.

Once out of the oven, leave to rest for about 15 mins then pour over the syrup. I poured until the syrup was up to the level of the top of the pastry, left it to soak in, and an hour later topped it up to this level again. I still had quite a lot of syrup left (some of which I used with a bit of white wine to make some gravy for roast pork tonight!!!!), and it made a very sticky baklava.

Wait until completely cold before cutting again, and enjoying. Stored in an airtight container at room temperature, this baklava will keep for a couple of weeks - which is good, because it is so sweet, you only need a small bit at a time.

Friday, 24 June 2011

A Picture A Day: Week 25

This week's photos - not much preamble, since it's 23:12 on Friday night, and I'm sleepy!

Saturday 18th June
Mini-M's current favourite activity is unpacking the bookcase (and eating paper, but we'll not dwell on that). A librarian in the making?

Sunday 19th June
Chewing my work badge in John Lewis cafe - sitting on a proper chair :o)

Monday 20th June
Epic biscuit stash in preparation for some tray-baking action

Tuesday 21st June
Mr E & Mini-M wearing the same jumper. Lots of laughing and tickling and wriggling involved (for both of them)

Wednesday 22nd June
Apparently it's good luck to get poo-ed on by a bird. I reckon the lucky thing was that the rain cover was one!

Thursday 23rd June
The book I'm currently reading - which is actually quite upsetting - so far there have been abductions, graphic descriptions of surgical procedures, and baby-eating. I'm sticking with it in the hope that it turns out better than it is looking like it will... since there's still over half to go...

Friday 24th June
Watching the Red Arrows display over Leith docks. Mini-M ignoring the action and watching the crowd.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Some recent pies...

...seems I've made a few pies this June. And even taken photos (although not admittedly very good ones)! So here they are.

First up - puff pastry filled with asparagus, pea, feta and mint

Next up - puff pastry filled with chicken, pesto, sweetcorn, mushroom and feta

And lastly a Fathers Day pie - my homemade non-dairification of one of Mr E's favourite foods; the Gregg's macaroni pie. Personally speaking I think they are utterly vile. This Italian pasta pie, with pepperoni, tomatoes, roasted peppers & courgette, however, was rather nice. (Once you get over the weird pasta-in-a-pie carb overload thing).

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Ginger Oat Trickles (what oddly named biscuits!)

It is a fact of life that I have too many cookbooks. 2 shelves-worth to be precise, which to be honest is a lot more than I need! But for some reason recently, every time I've been needing a recipe for something, I've searched the BBCGoodFood archive, or browsed Foodgawker, and shunned the books on my shelf. So I figured they were feeling a bit left out, and made my Mid-June resolution: Cook stuff from books, not just the interweb!

So my first application of the new rule was some biscuits I made last week to take along to a meeting. I used a recipe from my newest cookbook acquisition - the Mornflake Oats Biscuit Book. Who knew there were enough oat biscuits out there to dedicate a whole recipe book to them! When I saw it languishing in the remainder bin of the bargain book shop for 99p, I knew I had to rescue it (that's another bad habit of mine - rescuing 'nice' books that I find in pound shops and the like, that I feel are too good to be destined to that fate!).

And flicking through, there was a recipe for the weirdly named 'Orange Oat Trickles' just that I can't leave a recipe alone, so I had to tinker with it, and made them ginger instead. Here's my modified recipe :o)

Ginger Oat Trickles (makes about 15)
  • 100g margarine (plus extra for greasing if you're not using parchment or silicone sheets)
  • 75g caster sugar
  • 2 tbsp golden syrup
  • 1/2tsp ground ginger
  • 100g rolled oats
  • 100g self raising flour
  • 1/2tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 100g icing sugar
  • 2 scant tbsp fiery ginger beer
Preheat the oven to 180C and line 2 baking trays with parchment.
Combine margarine, sugar & syrup in a bowl and beat until fluffy.
Add the oats, flour, ginger and bicarbonate of soda, and mix until well combined (it will be a very stiff mixture).
Take generous tsp of the mixture, shape into small balls and place well-spaced on the baking sheets, then flatten slightly.
Bake for about 15 mins (swapping shelves over half way through if it's not a fan oven) until golden brown. They will spread a bit, but not too much.
Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly and firm up, then transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool completely.
Sieve the icing sugar into a bowl, and add the 2 scant tbsp ginger beer, then mix until the icing is runny and smooth.
Trickle over the cold biscuits (hence the name I assume!) and leave the icing to set.

Friday, 17 June 2011

A Picture A Day: Week 24

I can't believe it's less than a week since we came back from the Netherlands - seems like a lot longer! It's been a good week tho - with some nice surprises like free outdoor cinema showing, and lots of good friends and good company.

Here are the photos...

Saturday 11th June
Family photon deck on the ferry - it was somewhat blowy! - just before we arrived in North Shields, and actually taken by some kind Dutch people who took pity on my self timer antics.

Sunday 12th June
Mini-M sitting in the proper child seat at the supermarket - no more baby seats needed!

Monday 13th June
A yarn-bombed tree on Leith Links as part of the Leith Festival

Tuesday 14th June
Mr E being fantastic and wonderful and cleaning squashed strawberries out of the carpet (whilst I very helpfully took photos) after a lovely but chaotic mum & baby lunch!

Wednesday 15th June
Mini-M made Mr E a father's day card at nursery :o) She put green paint handprints inside it... and of course on her jumper.

Thursday 16th June
This is what happens when you spend 9 months throwing up during pregnancy, then don't eat any dairy for another 8!!!

Friday 17th June
A lovely way to finish the week - free outdoor film screenings in St Andrew's Square as part of the Film Festival - Mini-M seemed to enjoy Shrek, and having her tea outside.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Daring Cooks June 2011: Potato Salad

Jami Sorrento was our June Daring Cooks hostess and she chose to challenge us to celebrate the humble spud by making a delicious and healthy potato salad. The Darking Cooks Potato Salad Challenge was sponsored by the nice people at the United States Potato Board who awarded prizes to the top 3 most creative and healthy potato salads. A medium-size (5.3oz) potato has 110 calories, no fat, no cholesterol, no sodium and includes nearly half your daily value of vitamin C and has more potassium than a banana!

Over the course of the month I made a variety of different potato salads - 4 to be precise. They were all very different, all nice, and all of them photographed hurriedly either immediately after they were made, or moments before they were eaten, so I'm definitely not going to be winning any kudos for my photos this month!

First up, I did a mayo-free salad with caramelised onions and sausages. I'd say it served 4 as a side salad - we pretty much had it as our main course for dinner. The inspiration behind it was a bit of an onion backlog from our veg box! We had about 10 onions waiting to be used in the veg drawer, and I made a big batch with brown sugar, caraway seeds, sherry vinegar and of course lots of onions, which as well as this potato salad, found themselves into scones along with sheep cheese which turned out really well but sadly went un-photographed. I thinly sliced a few cocktail sausages and dry fried them until they were crispy, to add a bit of meatiness, since we were having it as a main meal, and made dressing with grain mustard, parsley, olive oil and a splash of vinegar.

Secondly, a wee while before the challenge topic was announced, I'd bookmarked this recipe for spicy grated potato - or Batatyacha Kees. I decided it was almost potato salad, and gave it a shot. As usual, I didn't quite have the ingredients, so here is my corruption...

Makey-Cakey's take on Batatyacha Kees (serves 4 as a side dish)
  • 4 medium potatoes
  • 2 tbsp crunchy peanut butter
  • 2 frozen chili cubes (probably equal to 2 red chilies, or 2 tsp chili paste)
  • 1tsp cumin seeds
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of pepper
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1.5 tbsp oil
Wash the potatoes thoroughly, and cut out any eyes, then grate (leaving the skins on). Soak the grated potato in a big bowl of cold water). After 5 mins, drain, rinse, and soak again with new water for another 5 mins. Heat the oil in a frying pan, and when hot, add the cumin seeds. When they start to pop, add the chili cubes. Add the potatoes and a little more oil if necessary, and fry until the potatoes are cooked (this took me about 10 mins until they stopped tasting starchy). Stir through the peanut butter and lemon juice and eat whilst still hot.

Next up I made potato and egg salad, with about 250g salad potatoes, scrubbed and boiled then cooled and chopped. I added 1 chopped hardboiled egg, 1 heaped tsp chopped capers, 1 tsp mint sauce, and 1 tbsp mayonnaise, and mixed thoroughly. I didn't add any salt, as there was some in the mint sauce and the capers had been brined. This generously served 2 as a side dish, and because there is only 1 tbsp mayo in it, isn't too heavy.

Any finally, I took another 250g salad potatoes, scrubbed and boiled then cooled and sliced. I fried them in 2 tbsp of oil from a jar of roasted peppers, and once they were golden and crispy on one side, I drained and patted off the excess oil and mixed them with 3 or 4 pieces of roasted pepper from the jar, chopped, 1/2 tsp of paprika, a pinch of salt, and 1 tbsp sherry vinegar.

There you have it - potato salad 4 ways :o)

Sunday, 12 June 2011

A Picture A Day: Week 23

Picture posting is late this week, as we've been away in the Netherlands on holiday, and only got back yesterday. Therefore there's a striking similarity with some of these photos, and the holiday photo album I posted on Facebook - sorry!

Saturday 4th June
A close up of the ribbon daisy I sewed on a 1st birthday bib for a special little lady (not Mini-M, although it wont be long now - eek!)

Sunday 5th June
Setting off on the ferry - a windy walk on deck before bed

Monday 6th June
Road map of the Netherlands - a crucial part of the holiday! Thankfully my navigational skills were passable :o)

Tuesday 7th June
Mini-M peeking out through the windows of the mini adventure playground

Wednesday 8th June
Trip to the mini-farm part one - not so sure about goats!

Thursday 9th June
Trip to the mini-farm part two - lots more goats including cute baby ones - I liked them even if Mini-M didn't!

Friday 10th June
Entertaining herself with a baseball cap - I love the little bare feet in the air!

Friday, 3 June 2011

A Picture A Day: Week 22

This week it's a full 7 days of Mini-M pictures - turns out I didn't take photos of much else!

So here she is...

Saturday 28th May
Mini-M still in her pyjamas, unpacking my handbag whilst I was getting ready to head off to help out at a Brownie camp for the day.

Sunday 29th May
Behind the wheel of her new racing car brick trolley and taking some tentative steps...

Monday 30th May
Waterproofed up (and reflecting the flash) - another windy and rainy day in Edinburgh

Tuesday 31st May
Practising her royal wave - clearly she's got delusions of grandeur!

Wednesday 1st June
Trying out her sunglasses for the fast approaching holiday

Thursday 2nd June
Looking very pleased to be wearing a woolly hat... and pyjamas... and a sleeping bag... indoors... in June...

Friday 3rd June
Concentrating hard on watering the table

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Sometimes when Mini-M wont sleep...

... we give in, and let her stay up a while longer, and let her entertain herself for a while. Tonight was one of those nights in question. 7pm and she was bathed and pyjama-ed up, but refusing to drink any milk or go to sleep. So since an hour of screaming isn't really a fun option for any of the parties involved (including the neighbours!) she sat and played whilst I tried to finish off a sewing project.

Just that, about 3 mins in, my sewing machine broke - it keeps jamming and making some hideous and unhealthy clunking noises. I think it may need a trip to the sewing machine hospital :o( But by this time Mini-M was thoroughly engrossed with a bit of material, a stuffed duck billed platypus toy and a piece of crinkly paper.

So I looked about to see what I had to had that I could make something quick and easy with, to at least kid myself on I'd achieved something. Certainly not anything useful, but something nonetheless. So I settled on a scrap of red jersey cotton t-shirt material and a giant blue fake gerbera. And 15 mins later, Mini-M had a piece of ridiculous head wear!

I'm not even sure what it is - a headband I guess. A baby fascinator? There's a weird concept. Anyway, I think I might be on to something here. If every time she doesn't got to sleep I make her some weird accessory or item of clothing to wear, as she gets older and more opinionated about such things, she might realise that she can stop this from happening, but just going to bed! Either that or she'll develop an interesting dress sense...


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