Friday, 30 September 2011

A Picture A Day: Week 39

Friday again! It's been a lovely sunny and hot week - very un-autumnal, but it does feel like a small compensation for some of the disgustingness of the "summer" we had. According to the forecaster tho, there will be frost and a chance of snow by the middle of next week - yikes! Hopefully Mini-M's wellies will arrive before then...

Saturday 24th September
Story time on the balcony - taken through the living room window before Mini-M and Mr E realised I was watching. Bunny knew all along though...

Sunday 25th September
Piglets at the East Coast Organics farm open day. Mini-M was OK with the piglets, but the pigs (and goats) provoked the sort of abject terror I would have thought should have been reserved for an approaching zombie army, rampaging hungry tigers, or a swarm of killer bees. So that's goats, pigs and cats on the epic fear list... and I suspect there may be more additions in the not too distant future!

Monday 26th September
Working the hat, babygrow and slippers look. Quite a combination!

Tuesday 27th September
Spot the mistake - or is it?! Maybe a burguer is something entirely different - either way at £3 including chips, I'm pretty sure it's not worth risking the food poisoning and artery clogging to find out.

Wednesday 28th September
Jen the Giraffe wearing a hat - it's all about hats right now.

Thursday 29th September
A dairy-free fish pie concoction portioned up ready for freezing. Since it made 10 servings, that is pretty much a guarantee that Mini-M will hate it. Had it only made 1, it would have been an instant hit... Oh well - it can join the assortment of other food failures lurking in the freezer.

Friday 30th September
Making the most of the sunshine with a lunchtime picnic in Queen Street Gardens - Mr E and Mini-M came to meet me during my lunch break and we were joined by Mrs McC who was also in need of a brief office escape.

And that's it for another week!

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Breakfast Club: Jammy Baked Porridge

For a whole now I've been aware of the 'Breakfast Club' blogging group. Their tag-line is 'Because breakfast should be more interesting than tea & toast or coffee and cereal'. I've had good intentions to participate on several occasions, and always missed the deadline, but this month I have made it by the skin of my teeth - yay!

The theme this month is Conserves, and it is hosted by Sonia's Kitchen.

Earlier in the summer I made a batch of gooseberry jam with a hint of ginger, and could hear it sitting in the cupboard, crying out the be used in something breakfasty (yes, really. Obviously I hear my ingredients talking to me...)

Here it is, mid-boil back in July. I found 4 packs of ruby gooseberries reduced to 20p in the supermarket and couldn't resist snapping them up for some jam.

And here it is today - on a spoon enjoying some uncharacteristically warm September sunshine that was streaming in through our living room all day.

I decided to incorporate it into a baked porridge. Apart from the jam it has no other sugar, so is even pretty healthy, which is a bonus, and it tastes great to boot.

Jammy Baked Porridge
(Serves 2-3)

  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 3/4 cup milk - I used Oatly oat milk
  • 2 heaped tbsp jam of your choice - I used the gooseberry with ginger featured above
  • 1 small banana
  • 1 egg
  • 1 heaped tbsp ground flax seed - mine had goji berries in it, purely because I had a random free sample of it lying about - regular stuff would work fine, or bran.
  • 1/2 tsp spice of your choice - I used grated fresh ginger to bring out the ginger in the jam

Lightly grease a small casserole dish, and preheat the oven to 180C (160C Fan)
Mash the banana in the bottom of a medium mixing bowl.
Add the eggs and beat with a fork.
Mix in the milk and jam.
Add the oats, flax seeds and spice and mix thoroughly until well combined.
Pour the mixture into the prepared dish, and bake for about half an hour until firmed to the touch, and browned on top.

Allow to cool a little before serving and enjoy it as it is, or with extra milk (coconut in this case!) and a drizzle of honey.

A breakfast to keep you going all day :o)

Random Recipes: Honey Biscuits

Whilst browsing blog-land the other night, I stumbled across the Random Recipe Challenge, hosted by Belleau Kitchen.

September's challenge is magazine cuttings and pull-outs. I have a LOT of hoarded recipes, so decided I had to give it a go.

The rules of the challenge were simple...

1. place all your magazines, clippings and pull-outs in a pile

2. close your eyes, or find a willing partner to close their eyes

3. randomly select an item from the pile and either flick through to select a recipe or if it's a clipping, cook that chosen recipe

So I did. And I have to confess, I had to apply this selection technique a couple of times, after the first two  recipes I pulled out I had literally none of the ingredients for, and given that it was already 9pm, and I wanted to bake there and then, they were out of the running.

Third time lucky I pulled out a recipe for Honey Biscuits, which I'm pretty sure came from a new-ish Tesco Food magazine.

I guess I only have myself to blame - I am always tempted to keep recipes that look from their ingredients list that they wont work. Mainly because I'm intrigued to see what kind of kitchen alchemy goes on to make them a publication worthy success. Turns out that sometimes actually it's most likely a just a typo...

So I present to you both the Honey Biscuits original recipe, and my fairly major emergency modification to turn them into something edible!

Honey Biscuits - original and completely culinarily impossible recipe...

  • 115g plain flour
  • 55g butter or margarine
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 tbsp hot water
  • 55g raisins or sultanas
  • 250ml clear honey

Mix the flour and butter together. Dissolve the bicarb in the hot water, and add it to the butter and flour. Stir through the raisins, then add the honey slowly, stirring constantly until it forms a smooth dough. Roll out until about 1cm thick, then mark into squares and bake at 180C for 10-15 mins until golden.

Here's what they were supposed to look like.

So I set off...
The flour/butter instruction was a bit vague, so I decided to go with rubbing the margarine into the flour, because a) that's the only way I know to combine flour and margarine directly, and b) the finished picture looked vaguely scone-like, and that's what you do with scones. So far so good.
I mixed in the bicarb and water, and the raisins - all going well. I started to add the honey. I stopped at less than half, because it was looking like quite a lot, and quite runny. I gave it a good mix. Dough, it most definitely was not!!!!! (It had the consistency extra sticky double cream).

Hence my fairly major recipe modification... here it is :o)

Honey and Almond Biscuits (makes 20)

  • 115g plain flour
  • 55g butter or margarine (I used dairy free olive)
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1tbsp hot water
  • 55g raisins
  • 120ml clear honey (I used Spanish orange blossom)
  • 100g ground almonds

Sieve the flour into a large mixing bowl.
Rub in the butter/margarine.
Dissolve the bicarbonate of soda in the tablespoon of hot water, and add it to the flour and butter, along with the raisins, and runny honey.
Stir well, and then add the ground almonds and mix so that it forms a sticky, dollop-able mixture.

Add a little more ground almonds or flour if necessary - the wetness of the mixture will depend on how thick the honey you have used is.
Put heaped teaspoons of the mixture onto baking trays lined with baking parchment.

Bake at 180C (Fan 160C) for about 15 mins until golden brown on top.

These were lovely! A very pleasant surprise given the disaster halfway through. They were sweet but not too cloying because they are made with honey rather than sugar. The ground almonds made them chewy, and the raisins didn't do that whole burned raisin thing, because the cooking time was short, and the temperature not too high. They even kept well for a day or so, and will definitely be made again. Random Recipe win.

And as a side tangent to the random recipe baking, I had a sort out of my recipe stash. I was amazed how many of the recipes I had 'accidentally' made over the years, without having referred to the recipes.  Hehe - so turns out my original recipe inventions maybe aren't so original after all! It seemed kind of odd to be keeping recipes for things I had approximately made without recipe reference, so I sorted out a whole load of cuttings into piles that I thought might appeal to some friends and family, and passed them on - sharing the recipe stash love!!!

And in case you're wondering what's on the plate under the biscuits... it's Mini-M's first attempt with a paintbrush - preserved forever in ceramic paint.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

The Daring Bakers' September 2011 Challenge: Fresh, Fluffy, French

The Daring Bakers go retro this month! Thanks to one of our very talented non-blogging members, Sarah, the Daring Bakers were challenged to make Croissants using a recipe from the Queen of French Cooking, none other than Julia Child!

It seems slightly strange to be blogging about making croissants, whilst watching the semi-final of the Great British Bake-Off on tv, and watching the contestants making... croissants!

So, croissants = butter. Which is a shame because I still can only have goats butter, and Mini-M can't have any butter at all. So yet again, I set out to make the Daring Bakers' Challenge dairy free. I have to say I'm looking forward to the day I can actually follow the real recipe, without any modifications, and then at least if it doesn't quite work out, I'll know it was because I didn't do it quite right, rather than due to my ingredient substitutions.

OK moan over - on with the croissants.

Warm jammy croissant... Mmmm!

You can find the challenge recipe and some fantastically detailed instructions here, so that if you feel so inclined, you can get croissanting yourself!

Unbaked and having a last little rise
I substituted dairy free olive margarine for the butter and didn't use the full amount - the different density and texture was going to make the dough completely unworkable if I added it all - I went for about 80g of margarine. I also substituted oat milk for the real milk, and reduced the salt down to a generous pinch to make it suitable for Mini-M.

Which is probably why they didn't quite work out - they were a bit more spongy than 'real' croissants. I think that the margarine merged into the dough, rather than creating pockets of fat which leads to the open crumb texture of a croissant, the different sugar/starch make-up of the oat milk caused the yeast to act slightly differently and the rise was not the same, and finally the salt reduction will have also affected the yeast.

Baked and cooling

Showing some signs of dough lamination - just not very much!

A few layers.... and quite a lot too spongy :o(
So all that said, I think they were a cautious success. Certainly Mini-M polished one off, they tasted lovely with jam, and also were super filled with ham and melted hard sheep-cheese.

Hmmm - this doesn't quite look like bread or pancakes
Contemplating whether or not to throw it or eat it (whilst clutching a hat with her other hand)
Thankfully Mini-M decided to eat it
Getting stuck in!
All gone! Time for some close up camera inspection
Will I make them again? I probably will, at some point in the future, once I can cook with butter again. They actually weren't as much effort as I thought, in a still-taking-quite-a-lot-of-time-and-effort way.

Thanks for another great challenge!

Friday, 23 September 2011

Alliteration! Carrot and Cumin with Chickpea Crackers

Last weekend saw a fair few recipes made and photographed, so I figured I should take advantage of Friday evening to blog some whilst watching Celebrity Masterchef.

During the week I found gram flour at Real Foods and I pondered what to do with it for a few days. Something that instantly appealed was these besan crackers from Bake Bike Blog

I also stumbled across this roasted carrot and cumin dip at Javaholic, and decided to make them both together.

So here are the results, and my variations on the recipes. The crackers were not quite crackery enough for my liking - I think they could have done with a splash more oil, a pinch more salt (mainly because I reduced it, in the hope that Mini-M would eat them - she didn't!), and slightly longer baking at a marginally lower temperature to give them a little more of a snap, and make them better to eat au natural. But that said, with the carrot and cumin dip, they were delicious, and the flavours really complemented each other beautifully. The carrot dip was lovely, not only with the crackers, but also in tuna sandwiches for packed lunches.

Chickpea Crackers (makes about 40 mini crackers, perfectly sized for dipping)
  • 1 cup chickpea flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt (I only used a small pinch)
  • 1 tbsp sesame seeds
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp olive oil (I might up this to 2 next time)
  • 1/4 cup water
Preheat oven to 180C (170C fan).
Sift flour into a bowl.
Stir in the sesame seeds, salt and paprika.
Mix the olive oil into the water, then add it to the dry ingredients and mix well. It is quite a stiff and crumbly dough, but will eventually form into a ball.

Place the ball of dough between two sheets of baking parchment, and roll out as thinly as possible.
Place on a baking sheet, and use a pizza cutter to slice into bite sized cracker shapes.
Prick the surface of each cracker with a fork.
Bake for about 15 minutes until the crackers are starting to turn golden brown.

Separate once cooled.

Roasted Carrot and Cumin Dip (Serves 4-6)
  • 6 medium carrots (yes, I know there are only 4 in the picture! I added another two after deciding that 4 didn't look quite enough)
  • 1 generous tsp cumin seeds.
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 heaped tbsp mayonnaise
Peel the carrots and cut into large chunks.

Put the olive oil and cumin seeds into a medium sized roasting tin, add the carrot chunks and shake to coat well.
Roast at around 180C for about 30 mins until soft.
Allow the carrots to cool, then tip the carrots and oil into a jug or bowl, add the mayo and blend until smooth and combined.
Relish in the amazing orange colour!


A Picture A Day: Week 38

Another week - and a much more successful one from a photography point of view!

Saturday 17th September
Street lights and sunset taken from our balcony

Sunday 18th September
Whilst out on a buggy walk I spotted this figure head attached to the wall of a house bordering Leith Links.

Monday 19th September
No wonder Mr E gets a bit confused sometimes about my jar labelling! Cherries? Millet? Actually, now it's sesame seeds... for the time being.

Tuesday 20th September
Mini-M helping me sort out the tupperware. She kindly licked most of the tubs and lids into the bargain, which wasn't exactly what I had in mind!

Wednesday 21st September
The dehumidifier that is currently working hard to make our house a little bit less damp.

Thursday 22nd September
Mini-M viewed through the haze of soya yoghurt she smeared across the lens!

Friday 23rd September
Uncle P chilling out after week 1 of uni, with a little gin and tropical fruit juice.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Baby Baked Apples

Mini-M is desperate to feed herself at the moment, so I've been trying to make things that are teeny-fingers-friendly.

A few weeks ago I got a copy of the River Cottage Baby & Toddler Cookbook, and so far it has been the inspiration behind a couple of recent makes, including these baby baked apples.

The apples that came in our East Coast Organics fruit box this week were so cute and tiny! Perfectly Mini-M sized.

Baby Baked Apples (makes 2 baby sized puddings)

  • 4 tiny eating apples (or 2 medium ones)
  • 4 squares of tinfoil
  • 8 blueberries
  • 20 small raisins
  • 1tsp honey
  • 1 tsp margarine (dairy free in this case) or butter if you'd prefer

Preheat the oven to 180C (or 160C fan)
Take an apple corer and push it through the centre of each apple to remove the cores.

Put each cored apple on a square of foil.
Put a couple or raisins in the bottom of each empty core, add 2 blueberries, then another 3 raisins.
Smear 1/4 tsp of margarine over the top of each filled core, then drizzle with 1/4tsp honey. (If you're making this for babies under 1 year old, don't add the honey.)

Fold the foil up to cover each apple loosely, and put them all in a small casserole dish.

Bake for 20-30 mins (depending on the size of apples) until they are soft when pierced with a sharp knife.
Allow to cool before serving.
These would also be fab served with a dollop of yogurt.

But Mini-M loved them as is, and got stuck in with her hands, pulling them apart, finding the raisins, and polishing the lot off in record time :o)

Saturday, 17 September 2011

A Little Blog Makeover...

I've decided it's time for a little blog makeover. Part 1 is underway, and I've chosen a new template. Next step is some customisation, which I hope to tackle soon - please excuse some of the slightly odd layout and formatting in the meantime!

Scrummy Scotch Broth

Here's another soup recipe from the variety I made for September's Daring Cook's Challenge. The post would have been truly epic if I'd included them all, so I'm following it up with a few individual recipe posts.

This morning I posted Cullen Skink (a Scottish creamy smoked haddock and potato soup). Now it's time for another traditional Scottish soup - Scotch Broth. Both Cullen Skink and Scotch broth are unlike many other soups in that they don't require stock to be made in advance - it is cooked integrally with the soup, so to speak, making it easy on the washing up, preparation, and of course cheap too!

Scotch Broth is a thick hearty soup made with lamb, barley and vegetables, and is delicious when it's cold and wintry outside - perfect since last week the weather suddenly changed from slightly summery to positively baltic. Now it's back to feeling just slightly autumnal - more appropriate for mid September thank goodness.

To make a successful Scotch Broth you need to get some nice lamb on the bone that has a good amount of fat to make it flavourful too. I got what I think (pardon my poor butchery knowledge) are neck pieces. They were being sold in the supermarket 'basic' range just as 'stewing lamb' but since I got 4 bits for £2.90 it seemed to be the sensible option, and I didn't spend too long puzzling anatomically!

Scotch Broth (Serves 4 as a main meal)

  • Approx 500g neck of lamb or mutton
  • 2 medium onions finely chopped
  • 2 carrots peeled and diced
  • 1/2 a large turnip (or swede) peeled and diced
  • 2 tbsp barely
  • 1 tbsp yellow split peas
  • 1 tbsp puy lentils (not traditional at all!)
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • 1tsp dried thyme
  • Salt and pepper
  • Water

Put the lamb in a large pan, cover with cold water, and bring to the boil, then continue to boil for about 10 mins until any scum floats to the surface.
Remove the lamb, and give it a rinse under the tap. Pour away the water, and give the pan a quick wash.
Put the lamb back into the clean pan, add the bay leaves, thyme, onion, carrot and a pinch of salt and pepper.
Add enough cold water again to cover the ingredients, and put back on the heat. Bring up to a gentle boil then turn the temperature down low, cover, and simmer for about an hour and a half.
Once the meat is tender, add the turnip, barley, split peas and lentils, a mug full of boiling water and then simmer for about another hour until the pulses are cooked.
Take the lamb out of the pot, allow to cook slightly so that you don't burn your fingers, then separate the meat from the bone/fat/gristle.
Roughly chop or shred the meat and return to the pot. Depending on how meaty your pieces were individually you may not want to add it all back in. I only added half back - there was loads of it - and used the other half to make a lamb, tomato and couscous pilaf later in the week.
Reheat and add more seasoning to your taste.
Serve with some crusty bread for dunking - making it a complete meal in a bowl.


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