Tuesday, 29 November 2011

DIY Wellies with eyes!

Yesterday was a horrible wet, windy day, and although we did get out, most of it was spent inside.
Windy weather tends to make Mini-M a bit rampage-y and her attention span drops to about three milliseconds (or at least that's what it feels like!).

In an effort to distract her for a while with something new, I made some sticky eyes (with some blank labels, a blue Sharpie and a pair of scissors) for her wellies - since she was toddling around the living room clutching them and shouting foot.

It took me about a minute, and after I stuck them on and she wore them, it entertained her for about ten, so I'm counting that as a success.

I love the jaunty expression it gives them!

Monday, 28 November 2011

Super Spicy Squash & Split-pea Soup

Now that I've got all that alliteration out of my system, here is a recipe for a really delicious soup I accidentally invented a few weeks back, when we got a knobbly orange pumpkin-y squash-y thing in our veg box from East Coast Organics.

It's hearty, creamy, spicy, filling, tasty, economical and orange. All great soup attributes! I'm sure it would work equally as well with any type of squash or pumpkin.

Super Spicy Squash & Split-pea Soup (Serves 4)

  • 1 onion
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 small hot red chilli (thanks Mrs H!)
  • 1 sachet of creamed coconut
  • 3 tbsp yellow split peas
  • 1 large squash or small-medium pumpkin
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 600ml chicken or vegetable stock (from a cube or powder is grand)

Heat the oil in a large saucepan, crush the garlic, chop the chilli and the onion and fry until softened.
Peel, deseed and chop the squash and add to the pan.
Add the split peas, then pour in the stock.
Add the creamed coconut and stir until dissolved.
Bring to a boil and simmer gently until the squash and split peas are cooked.
Allow to cool slightly, then blitz with a magic wand, or liquidise.
Enjoy the spicy orange deliciousness!

Apologies for the less than glamorous photos - they really don't do it justice, but soup is a tricky thing to photograph, particularly with no natural light!

Dark Chocolate Hazelnut Truffles

I'll let you into a secret. These truffles started life as an attempt at dairy free chocolate 'butter' icing. On that front, they were an unmitigated disaster! But, I'm very glad of that disaster, because as chocolate hazelnut truffles, they are fantastic. In fact, fantastic isn't a positive enough word to describe how I feel about them. I'm going to upgrade to stupendous.

Did I mention that they are also dairy free? Yep - stupendous and dairy free at once - something that is hard to achieve!

So if you have a dairy free fried, make these, and they will love you forever. I guarantee it. Since I made them for myself, it doesn't quite work, but it does make me quite proud to have concocted such a tasty recipe.

Dark Chocolate Hazelnut Truffles (Makes 12)

  • 4tsp hazelnut butter
  • 2 tsp coconut oil (which is solid at room temperature)
  • 50g dark chocolate (dairy free, of course)
  • 1 tbsp dairy free margarine (I used 'Pure' sunflower)
  • 5 tbsp icing sugar
  • 1tbsp cocoa powder for coating

Cream together the hazelnut butter, dairy free margarine and coconut oil until well mixed. Depending on how cold your kitchen is, you might need to soften the coconut oil a little first , but be careful as it melts very easily, and you don't want it runny!
Sieve in the icing sugar and mix - it will be quite stiff, and may even stay a bit powdery. Don't worry! It will all come together in the end!
Melt the chocolate gently in the microwave, and once it has all melted, stir it into the other ingredients. You will end up with a fairly stiff paste.
Allow to cool. If need be, you can stick the mixture in the fridge where it will keep happily for a few days until you're ready to roll them. Just take it out an hour or so before you want to use it to let it soften slightly.
Take teaspoons of the mixture, and gently roll into small balls. Once you've formed them all, roll each one in the cocoa powder to stop them sticking together.
Ready to be rolled in cocoa powder. Where is truffle no. 12 I hear you ask... I ate it! What can I say - I am impatient!
Then take a bite, and marvel in the chocolate hazelnut nirvana you have just created!

Pretty quickly, this is all you will have left!

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Daring Bakers' November 2011 Challenge: Sans Rival-esque!

Daring Bakers time again. A challenge with mixed success for me... what I ended up with is blatantly nowhere close to what I should have done, but (and it's a big but!) it also tasted fantastic, so it wasn't a complete failure!

Catherine of Munchie Musings was our November Daring Bakers' host and she challenged us to make a traditional Filipino dessert - the delicious Sans Rival cake! And for those of us who wanted to try an additional Filipino dessert, Catherine also gave us a a bonus recipe for Bibingka which comes from her friend Jun of Jun-blog.

I have to confess to being completely clueless about Filipino cuisine, either sweet or savoury and I had no idea what Sands Rival cake, or Bibingka were. I'm guessing that most of you reading this are in the same boat, so here's a brief description, taken from Catherine's words of wisdom in the challenge post...

"The first is a Sans Rival cake. “Sans rival” means “without rival” and any Filipino will argue with you that this is true. Although it’s one of the most popular desserts in the Philippines, its origins are certainly French. In the 1920’s to 30’s there were many Filipinos who went abroad to study. A good number went to France and learned many French cooking techniques which they then brought home. A Sans Rival is made with layers of dacquoise, typically using crushed cashews, with very rich French buttercream frosting. The dacquoise is allowed to bake and dry to a crispy layer so that there is the crunch of pastry and nuts with the buttery, silky frosting. 
Bibingka is traditionally served during Christmas. It’s similar to other Asian desserts that use rice flour as the base, like mochii. The traditional method of preparation is to line a special clay pot with banana leaves, pour in the batter, top with banana leaf, and then sit it in coals to cook. It is served with a shredded, mild, white cheese and slices of salted egg on top for flavor contrasts. But you can also top it with butter and shredded coconut."
So, my first thought was to make the Bibingka, since a main feature of the Sans Rival cake is buttercream, which is hard to make dairy-free.
But after pondering a) the availability of banana leaves in Scotland, b) white cheese - again difficult to de-dairy, and c) salted egg in a dessert, I decided to give the Sans Rival a shot after all!

The meringue mixture whipped up fine, and I spread half into small rounds, to make some Sans-Rival mini cakes, whilst the other I made a couple of large rectangles.

The small ones lifted off the baking sheets without issue, but the large ones stuck horrendously. Disaster no. 1. They swiftly just became a tub full of chunks of nutty meringue and a pile of crumbs!

Disaster no. 2 was the buttercream, although it was hardly really a disaster. I did not end up with butter cream. I did end up with completely delicious dairy free hazelnut chocolate truffle mixture - this cloud definitely had a silver lining!

So I spread a smear of the chocolate mixture on a meringue layer, and stuck another one on top, in a kind of sans-rival meets sandwich cookie. To finish them off I drizzled melted dark chocolate on top.

They disappeared swiftly as dessert when family were round for dinner, and they were enthusiastically eaten, however it's a good job they were eaten quickly, since being out in the air for even a short period of time meant the meringue started to go very sticky and chewy.

Will I make sans rival cake again - probably not. Will I make cashew meringue again - definitely yes. Will I make the chocolate filling again - another resounding yes. So all things considered, a successful challenge, despite ending up with something completely different to the plan.

Pumpkin Cheerios Muffins: Breakfast Club Stars and Stripes

The November Breakfast Club challenge was hosted by Susan at A Little Bit of Heaven on a Plate. I have just discovered whilst writing this post, that through my own stupidity, I completely missed the posting deadline, over a week ago. Oops. Doubly frustrating since I actually made them in very good time. Since I made them in time, I'm posting this anyway - better late than never, as they say...

The theme was 'Stars and Stripes' meaning anything with an American twist was fair game.

I decided to go down the muffin route, and went for an double American combination - Cheerios and pumpkin.

I found a recipe for Cheerios Muffins at Mr Breakfast, and decided to substitute the applesauce for pumpkin puree, and the milk for almond milk to make them dairy free.

Unfortunately it was only after I poured the batter into the tins, thinking that it didn't look quite right, that I read back and noticed instruction step one, which I had overlooked the first time...

"Crush the Cheerios into very small pieces". Oops again! I put them in whole, which meant that they didn't bulk out the mixture like they should have, and instead just went kind of oddly chewy!

The muffins were still nice, just a little denser and flatter than the should have been. The pumpkin flavour came through well, and made them even feel a little healthier than eating regular muffins - cake with hidden vegetables in it is always a win!

Next month, whatever the challenge is, I'll be making extra sure I read the recipe instructions thoroughly before I get stuck in though!

Friday, 25 November 2011

A Picture A Day: Week 47 plus 1

A quick post because it's getting late, and I'm hopeful that I can write this and still be in bed by midnight (my computer informs me that it's currently 23:37).

Here are this week's photos, plus last Friday's too, since I posted a day early last week before it had been taken.

Friday 18th November
Mini-M and Mr E  demonstrating her mini-ness in the woods at the Hirsel, near Coldstream, on our way to Cragside

Saturday 19th November
Mini-M tried some marshmallow at the Electric Estate, mainly because we were all toasting them over the braziers, and it seemed really mean to to let her have one. It was un-toasted. Judging by her expression I don't think she minded!

Sunday 20th November
The view from "our" front door, at Garden Cottage, Cragside.

Monday 21st November
And a view from the roadside, somewhere near Otterburn, where we had a short stop for milk time!

Tuesday 22nd November
Using-up-bashy-bananas-and-squashy-pears cake, with pecans and oats for health. It tasted a lot more exciting than it looks!

Wednesday 23rd November
Most of my library books at the moment appear to be River Cottage cook books!

Thursday 24th November
This is the reason my blog has been a little neglected this month - I'm participating in National Novel Writing Month, and trying to churn out 1667 words a day. Almost there though... roll on December!

Friday 25th November
Mini-M decided that despite having had her tea, play time, bath time and tooth brushing, it was time to try some of Mr E's Thai basil chicken. Which she seemed to enjoy, even though it was quite hot and spicy - and this from the girl that seems to sometimes exist on just bananas and toast! And yes, we do regularly eat our tea out of cereal bowls...

Monday, 21 November 2011

The Pink Whisk November Challenge: Traybake-tastic!

Traybakes are fantastic. They remind me of being a kid - mars bar crispie slice, mint crunch, flapjacks and other such delights were classic birthday party fare.

But you can bake a whole lot of exciting things in traybake form, and they can get very naughty, decadent, chocolaty, and delicious too!

For the Pink Whisk November Baking challenge, I made two traybakes - one from each of my mental sub-categories. Peanut Butter Marshmallow Rice Crispie Slice from the first category, and Mint Chocolate Marshmallow Brownies from the second. I made them both dairy free, one by following an existing recipe to the letter (a very unusual occurrence!) and the other by doing a whole lot of tweaking and de-dairyfying.

I took them away to a weekend catch up with some uni friends, where we had rented a cottage owned by the National Trust on the stunning Cragside Estate in Northumberland, and we spent the weekend pretending we lived in a country house, eating cake and partaking in a gin or two. Fantastic fun! Given that out of two entire trays of traybake, only three squares remained at the end, I think these got the thumbs up!

Peanut Butter Marshmallow Rice Crispie Slice

No ordinary rice crispie slice!
I made this following the recipe on Wayfaring Chocolate, and it works perfectly. Whilst reading her blog post, I also enlightened myself as to what Nuttelex and Natto are. For anyone clicking through, and sharing in my puzzlement, Nuttelex is an Australian soya and dairy free margarine, that comes in sunflower, and olive varieties. Natto is a fermented soya bean paste that seems to do weird stringy spider webby things - a little like melted marshmallows, hence the reference, but similar only in texture! (It sounds fairly icky to my palate, and definitely in no way whatsoever a Marshmallow substitute. Let's just make that bit crystal clear! I don't want to be responsible for any disgusting peanut butter rice crispie Natto slice concoctions!!!!)

Mint Chocolate Marshmallow Brownies
Makes 1x 9x13 inch tray

  • 100g dark, dairy free mint chocolate (mine was a bar of mint soya chocolate)
  • 100g plain dark chocolate
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tbsp dairy free margarine (sunflower in my case)
  • 1 cup plain flour
  • 3 tbsp self raising flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • A pinch of salt
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups of demerara sugar
  • 150g Marshmallows

Preheat the oven to 180C (170C fan) and grease a 9x13inch tray bake tin.
Next, cut each marshmallow into two or three with a pair of kitchen scissors (or use mini-marshmallows!) then scatter them over a tray, and stick in the freezer whilst you get on with preparing the rest of the recipe.
Break the chocolate into pieces and put in a medium saucepan along with the margarine, over a low heat, stirring frequently so that it doesn't burn onto the bottom. You could also do this in the microwave if you prefer. Leave to cool for about five minutes.
Whilst you're doing that, in a large bowl beat together the eggs and sugar, then also let them sit for 5 minutes to allow the sugar to dissolve a little.
Mix the cooled chocolate mixture into the eggs and sugar and stir well until combined.
Sieve both flours, baking powder and salt on top of the wet ingredients and mix well.
Pour half of the mixture into the tin, then take the marshmallows, which should now be frozen, out of the freezer and sprinkle evenly over the batter, then quickly top with the other half of the mixture so that the marshmallows are mainly covered.
Bake in the middle of the oven for about 25-30 mins.
Cool in the tin completely before cutting and carefully lifting the slices out.

Sticky, chewy, chocolaty, crunchy and gooey - everything brownies should be!
Twice baked Brownie cookies = extra chewy deliciousness
These were both fantastic traybakes. The marshmallows made the brownies chewy and sticky, and the mint added a nice subtle background flavour. I didn't bake mine for quite long enough, as I had to go out and took them out a few minutes sooner than I'd have liked. That meant that the middle section of the tray was just a bit too gooey to cut - but not to worry - once it was cool I scooped it out and rolled it into balls, then baked them for another 10 minutes, making fantastic chewy brownie cookies.

The peanut butter in the rice crispie slice balanced out the sweetness of the marshmallows very well, and made it very moreish - be warned!

And the general consensus was that these most definitely did not taste dairy-free - win!

Thursday, 17 November 2011

A Picture A Day: Week 46

Posting this week's photos a day early, since tomorrow morning we're heading off away for a long weekend, and wont be back until Tuesday. Tomorrow's photo will have to be tagged on to next week's post.

Here they are...

Saturday 12th November
Mini-M in her party dress before Miss A's 1st birthday party.

Sunday 13th November
Beat the eggs until they form stiff peaks... done! Sunday meringue making today

Monday 14th November
Gin tasting with Mrs McC at the Hyde Out - rather decadent for a Monday night! Six varieties were tasted in all - who knew gins could taste so different! This was my favourite - The Botanist, made by the Bruichladdich distillery on Islay.

Tuesday 15th November
The Ukrainian Catholic Church, Our Lady of Pochayev and St Andrew on Dalmeny Street, Leith, is complete with a Ukrainian style wooden top.

Wednesday 16th November
After a dinner fail (lasagna and stewed pears) in her highchair at the dining table, toast for supper was a success on her mini 'big' chair at the coffee table.

Thursday 17th November
Mini-M's soya milk stash - we bought out Waitrose's entire stock today... based on the pictures, she is going to grow up thinking milk comes from giraffes!

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Mini-M Makes... Scones and Collages

It has been an action packed afternoon here - Mini-M and I ventured into the kitchen for her first ever baking, and then later did her first cutting and sticking (OK well, maybe just sticking!)

I was surprised how successful baking with a 15 month old was, and how much she was actually able to do. Similarly the collage - she was really into it.

I hope you have as much fun looking at these pictures as we did!

We made scones - of the rough and ready singular giant variety. There was no weighing, and no recipe. To be honest, I'm quite surprised how well they/it came out.

The 'recipe' was 5 heaped dessert spoons of self raising flour, 1 heaped dessert spoon of margarine, 1 egg, a slosh of soya milk and a handful of raisins. The flour and marge were rubbed in together, then the egg and soya milk stirred in, the whole lot mixed up and unceremoniously dumped on a baking tray, squashed flat, with raisins stuck on, baked at 180C for about 15 mins.

Doing her warm up exercises...
Stirring the flour
Rubbing in the margarine
Mixing in the egg and soya milk
Mini-M was chief raisin-sticker-onner. If she had her way, pretty much everything in life would be liberally coated in raisins. Often our living room carpet is!
Caught in the act - raisin theft - and very almost a nasty scone/sock incident!
Baked and cooling until after tea
Mini-M enjoying the fruits of her labours
The collage was vaguely starry sky themed, since Mini-M is a big Twinkle Twinkle fan at the moment. I don't want to think about how many times each day I sing it! She sings along too with 'Howowowow' for how I wonder and 'Upabawaw' for up above. I covered a piece of black paper in Prit Stick, then gave her a selection of bits to stick on. After a lot of initial sticking and unsticking and resticking she got the hang of it, with an interlude of confusion in the middle as to why the stars would stick to the paper but no her jumper. Turns out that if your fingers are mucky enough, and you manhandle the stars enough times, they stick temporarily to skin - a source of much excitement!

This was not a set up - she stuck the star there, and was very pleased with herself!
In case you wondered, this is what pink tissue looks like suddenly very, very close up
The finished masterpieces :o)
And once the collaging was done, she happily spent another ten minutes posting a single star in and out of the washing machine. Simple pleasures!

Monday, 14 November 2011

The Daring Cooks' November 2011 Challenge: Cooking with Tea!

Sarah from Simply Cooked was our November Daring Cooks' hostess and she challenged us to create something truly unique in both taste and technique! We learned how to cook using tea with recipes from Tea Cookbook by Tonia George and The New Tea Book by Sara Perry.

We had fairly free reign this month - to cooks something (anything!) savoury using tea. 

It was the excuse I needed to give tea smoking a try - something I've been curious about for a while. I tea smoked tofu on the hob, using a bit of a Heath Robinson-ish cobbled together smoking set up, over sugar, rice and gunpowder tea.

Here are some step by step photos...

Demerara, rice and tea. Looking a bit like a national flag, but of which country I've no idea!
Essential item number one - a baking tin that is already quite trashed...
Essential item number two - a vegetable steamer

Feet. It need to have them!
Smoking mix, on tinfoil, in the tin 
Tofu on the steamer (smoker?)
Another layer of foil went over the smoking mixture, then the steamer and tofu, then I gave it a tinfoil blanket and wrapped it up tightly
Smoked tofu! Woop! After 15 minutes on the hob on medium
The spent smoking mixture
I made some of it into stir fry with rice, carrots, garlic, ginger, spring onions, egg and sesame oil and soy sauce.

And some into smokey baked beans, with dried kidney beans, black eye beans, tomatoes, tofu, onions and probably some other stuff that needed using up which I have forgotten about!

And I also made an oat bread, steeping the oats in camomile tea first. It was lovely :o)


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