Thursday, 28 June 2012

Random Recipes 17: The Middle

This month's Random Recipes challenge, hosted as ever over at the lovely Belleau Kitchen, was The Middle - following on from last month's First and Last.

We were tasked with randomly selecting a cook book then making the recipe on the middle page.

I asked Mini-M to choose my book, and I'm sure there's some sort of conspiracy going on here... she chose 'Mornflake Oat Cuisine' which I 'rescued' a couple of years back from a clearance outlet because the retro feel appealed to me. (Just to clarify, when I say 'rescued' I mean bought because I felt sorry for it, not shoplifted!)

The NEW Oat Recipe Cookbook. What was in the old one? JUST porridge?!!
The middle recipe was for Cheese Pancakes, which I decided would be slightly pointless to make dairy free, and so bearing in mind the challenge advice for finding the middle recipe (if the number is odd, round down), turned to the previous page, and discovered that I'd be making...

Oat Drop Scones, (on page 63, although the chances of anyone else having this book are probably fairly small, and I'm doubtful that this post will inspire you to rush off and get pancaking, even if you do!).

As usual, I adapted the recipe to make it dairy free. Then as is also usual, I messed about with it - partially with good reason and partially just because! I'll explain the 'with good reason' bit first.

I'm not sure I had the right sort of oats, since after the recommended 1hr resting time, my 'batter' was pretty much still like soya milk with oats floating in it. Unsurprisingly, that makes BAD pancakes - I cooked one at this stage just to see, and ended up with a pile of oats sitting in a small lake of milk in the frying pan. Not really passable as a drop scone! So I added 1 tbsp flour, and then blended the mixture and let it sit another 15 mins. This time the pancakes worked well - phew!

Cooling in a tea-towel
 On to the messing-about-just-for-the-sake-of-it. I had some fresh pineapple in the fridge, so I decided to try making pineapple upside down pancakes. I took a slice of pineapple, dipped on side in demerara sugar, then placed it sugar side down in the frying pan to caramelise for a few minutes, before adding a ladle of batter on top and continuing to cook like a normal drop scone. It almost worked - the pineapple caramelised really well, but he mixture was too thin to stick properly to the pineapple, which ended up sticking up above the batter and meant the pineapple got dislodged during turning. Definitely one I'll be trying again with a thicker pancake mixture though...

Crispy caramelised sugar makes pineapple even tastier 
And so finally, here's my de-dairified and slightly adapted recipe!

Oat Drop Scones (Makes 12)

  • 100g rolled oats
  • 1 large egg
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tbsp SR flour
  • 25g dairy free margarine
  • 300ml soya milk 

Melt your margarine, then add the milk.
Stir in the oats and leave to rest for about an hour.
After resting, blend the oaty mixture, add the egg, flour and salt and give it another whizz.
Leave for another 10 mins or so.
Heat a griddle or frying pan and grease very lightly.
Drop half-ladles of the batter onto the hot griddle and cook until bubbles start to rise to the surface, (a couple of minutes) then flip over and allow to cook for another minute on the other side.
Cool on a wire rack lined with a tea towel to stop condensation forming and keep the pancakes fresh.

As Mini-M says about anything under a blanket... hide and seek pancakes!

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Daring Bakers' June 2012: Battenberg

This month's Daring Bakers' challenge was a very British affair!

Mandy of What The Fruitcake?! came to our rescue last minute to present us with the Battenberg Cake challenge! She highlighted Mary Berry's techniques and recipes to allow us to create this unique little cake with ease.

I used the recipe pretty much as it was described in the challenge post (I know - a rare occurrence). I made the usual dairy-free-margarine-for-butter substitution, chose the ground almonds option rather than ground rice, and instead of adding food colouring, went with adding some finely chopped dried cherries to one half of my mix.

The finished cake
I baked my mixture in a square roasting tin, with a makeshift partition made of tinfoil and greaseproof paper, as suggested in the challenge instructions - it worked a dream - great tip!

Almond on the left, cherry on the right
Since there was an open block of marzipan in the cupboard from the dessert section of Mr E's amazing three course meal pie (which will be the subject of a future blog post, but I thought I had to share a glimpse of it's glory here...) I used that to cover it.

Three courses, one pie, a feat of pastry engineering!
I thought it looked a bit plain, particularly without the pink chequerboard effect...

So I decided to decorate the top with some freehand piping in dark chocolate icing, topped off with some tiny edible stars.

These are the same swirls I grafitti-ed over all of my high school jotters!
We enjoyed most of it during Sunday brunch with friends and family last weekend, and the remainder has cheered up our packed lunch boxes during the first half of the week.

A Daring Bakers' success I think!

Monday, 25 June 2012

Shoe upgrade

It's summer and that means plimsolls, trainers and sandals. (With frequent interludes of wellies since we do live in Scotland after all!)

Hippy-dippy patchwork shoes!
I tried to find shoes for Mini-M that would be lightweight and comfortable, but stay on her feet. A summer full of buggy walk detours to recover thrown/kicked off footwear does no appeal.

All the girls plimsolls seemed to be slip on, though, and if they slip on, then they also slip off just as easily. I did however find some boys ones with velcro t-bars.

I'm not a big camouflage fan, so decided to use a few of the beautiful patchwork squares that Auntie L gave me at Christmas to give them a shoe makeover. I used some hi-tack fabric glue to stick on the pieces, which is apparently machine washable after it has dried and cured for 4 days. We'll see how they hold up in the rain...

I'm quite proud of the result!

Ta Da! No camouflage in sight

This weekend they had an outing to the swings at Inverleith Park - here they are in action...

Good for climbing
And for relaxing. Can you tell Mini-M helped choose her outfit?!

Thursday, 21 June 2012

What do woodland creatures taste like?!

Squirrels and rabbits feature largely in our life currently. They make regular appearances in many of Mini-M's story books. We look for them when we're out walking 'keeping eyes open' in the words of the little lady herself. Oh yeah - and recently we've tried eating them!

I made rabbit chilli a month or so ago, cooked with cornmeal dumplings, and it was absolutely delicious.

At £7.95/kg rabbit = budget friendly. Half the price of chicken!
Bunny browned and veggies and spices added
Yum! A cross between chilli and soup
Dumpling close-up
Then even more excitingly, when I took a buggy walk to Stockbridge Market on Sunday, look what I found...

The long-coveted squirrel 
Mr E has wanted to try squirrel for ages, so thanks to Ridleys Fish & Game, squirrel chilli was on the menu for dinner on Monday.

After simmering away, the squirrel meat was stripped from the bones ready to go back in to the pot
Squirrel chilli, served with couscous because we'd run out of rice!
No recipes because, well, I didn't write them down, and they were a bit haphazard. But you all know how to make chilli right? Onions, garlic, chilli, tomatoes, kidney beans then whatever else you have kicking about!

The squirrel version had some runner beans thrown in, and was made with tinned kidney beans and had a couple of squares of dark chocolate melted in at the end. The rabbit one was made with dried kidney and pinto beans and a smoky dried chipotle chilli.

They were both delicious. I'll definitely be cooking more rabbit and chilli in the future.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Father's Day Cake a la Mini-M

Sunday was Father's Day. (As an aside, you would not believe the internal debate I have just had about that apostrophe. And I'm pretty sure it is still wrong. Mini-M - what have you done to my brain? I used to know about apostrophes!!!!)

Mr E spent a lot of the weekend down in the Borders assessing a Duke of Edinburgh's Award expedition which left Mini-M and me with lots of time to plan some surprises!

Nothing says Happy Father's Day like footballs, pirates and liquorice all sorts!
On Saturday, we went on a shopping expedition to Lakeland for cake decorating supplies. I gave Mini-M free reign on the decoration choosing, and she went with footballs, pirates and orange sprinkles. I'm not sure if this is because she knew it was for Daddy, or because at the moment she is quite into footballs and pirates. She can quote the 'Mrs Pirate' book off by heart, and if you ask her what a pirate says, she replies "Aarrrrr". Is it wrong that I'm secretly pleased she chose the pirates over the flowers and sparkles, and more to the point, is the fact that she did so whilst dressed head to toe in pink (also her choice) the sign of a balanced individual...!

The master chef with her creation
On Sunday, once Mr E had headed for the hills again, we got baking. In fact, the cake was in the oven by 9am - not bad work for a Saturday morning. We made a fresh pineapple and coconut cake. Once it was cooled and nap-time was over (for Mini-M, not me I hasten to add) it was on to the decoration. She helped to drizzle the icing over the cake, and couldn't wait to get stuck in with the decorations.

Showing the camera her sticky icing fingers!
This is ALL her own work. My role was to stand next to her and make sure she didn't fall off the chair, and stop her eating too many liquorice all sorts!

She is definitely not of the less-is-more school of cake decorating. I mean, there was no question that all of the footballs, and all of the pirates would have to be used. The ultimate sprinkle quotient was low, since I had to intercept before they ended up sprinkled liberally all over the kitchen floor.

Pointing out a pirate
She was so proud of her handiwork. Unsurprisingly she wanted to eat it straight away, and I explained that it was a surprise for Daddy, and we would have to wait until he came home to eat it. After that, she didn't mention it again, and I thought she'd forgotten about it. But as soon as she heard Mr E's key in the lock, she took off at high speed for the front door and barrelled into him as he came in, shouting "Cake! Surprise!" in her most excited voice.

After a couple of minutes of conversation - of the 'how was your day' variety, she obviously decided things were not working out quite how she'd hoped, so hopefully piped up "Maybe cake?". Mr E, in full parent mode, suggested that main course would have to be eaten before cake. Next thing Mini-M was off at a run to the kitchen saying "My eating main course" - clearly hoping to clear the pre-cake hurdles as quickly as possible!

And thankfully, after that build up, it was a tasty cake! Truth be told, Mini-M pretty much just wanted to eat pirates and footballs, and was slightly aggrieved that they were rationed (since they are just sugar and food colouring - not a great pre-bedtime combination). Those of us with slightly more discerning tastes, however, thought that the cake was delicious - moist and fruity and tropical. And given that there was half a pineapple and a banana in the mix, arguably healthier than your average cake!

The proof is in the pudding!
Fresh Pineapple Cake (Makes 1 x 8in Cake)

  • 1 large ripe banana
  • 1/2 a large ripe pineapple
  • 1/2 cup rapeseed oil
  • 1 cup self raising flour
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs

Peel and core the pineapple, and puree the pineapple and banana together. Beat in the eggs and oil, then  stir in the sugar. Lastly add the flour and cinnamon. Bake at 180C for about 40 mins until a skewer inserted comes out clean. I'll leave the decoration to your individual taste!

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Daring Cooks' June 2012: Cannelloni

It's Daring Cooks' time again...

Manu from Manu's Menu was our Daring Cooks lovely June hostess and has challenged us to make traditional Italian cannelloni from scratch. We were taught how to make the pasta, filling, and sauces shared with us from her own and her family's treasured recipes!

I have to confess my heart sank a little when I saw what this month's challenge was. Cannelloni are usually smothered in creamy white sauce, topped with bubbling golden cheese and many of the filling options feature ricotta or soft cheeses. I made my sad face. I may have even stomped about the house a little, having a grump to myself, that I was going to have to miss out all the bits that make cannelloni delicious.
Lacking the bubbling cheese on top, but ticking all the other boxes!
I toyed with not participating - but you know, I'm a sucker for a challenge and not one to admit defeat, so after borrowing a pasta machine from a friend (Thanks other Mrs E!) I got stuck in. It was my first shot of a pasta machine, and lots of fun! Kind of like playing with play-dough when you used to get all the extruder attachments. Before we return it, I'm hoping to get a chance to let Mini-M turn the handle and help make some linguine.
5 years at uni and an Engineering masters wasted - Pasta machine set up back to front!
My strips of dough waiting to be cut. A bit wiggly, but nice and thin - not too bad for a first attempt.
I went for a mushroom filling, flavoured with tarragon and brandy. Confession time - I used a jar of pasta sauce!!!! Unintentionally, I might add. The dough was resting, the filling was made and it was time to make the tomato sauce - at which point I discovered the carton in the cupboard that I thought was chopped tomatoes was actually coconut cream, and the tin which I thought was tinned tomatoes was beans. Dolmio to the rescue - with Mini-M's return from nursery on the horizon, time was of the essence, and since I had a jar of tomato sauce that seemed like a better plan than an impromptu supermarket dash!
Ready to roll...
Pretend the sauce is home made ;o)

Instead of a béchamel made with butter and milk, I used olive oil for the roux base, then oat milk in place of regular milk. Oat milk can sometimes taste ever so slightly porridgy (not really surprising), but it easily overcome by adding a flavour, so I opted to mix in some wholegrain mustard.
Ready for the oven

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Leafless Salads - No Croutons Required June 2012

Today I had a really delicious lunch - health, filling and nutritious. It was an invention that thankfully worked out well, since it is my submission to this month's No Croutons Required challenge, hosted by Jacqueline at Tinned Tomatoes. She chose the theme of Leafless Salads, and without as much as a sprig of greenery in sight, this Tahini and Lemon Bulgur Salad fits the bill.

Sometimes unassuming can taste sooooo good!
I had cooked bulgur wheat leftover in the fridge, so that was an obvious starting point. There were also some 'sugardrop' tomatoes, and some pea pods which were fresh and lovely looking, so I decided they needed to feature too!

The sugardrop tomatoes are a lot darker than regular salad tomatoes
Tiny peas = supersweet

Today by lunch time I was also ravenously hungry - possibly because Mini-M appropriated a significant portion of my breakfast cereal this morning - so I topped it with an egg.

Ah well - not every egg cracks perfectly!
Tahini and Lemon Bulgur Salad with Fried Egg (Serves 1 as a main meal)

  • 1/2 cup cooked bulgur wheat
  • 8 small pea pods
  • 4 sugardrop tomatoes (or 1 regular one, or 6 cherry tomatoes!)
  • 1 garlic clove
  • Juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • 1 heaped tsp light tahini
  • 2 tbsp water
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 tbsp oil (I used lemon infused rapeseed which is delicious but any would work)
  • 1 egg

Heat the oil in a small frying pan, crush the garlic and fry gently for a minute or two.
Shell the peas and chop the tomatoes into chunks.
Whisk together the lemon juice, tahini, water and salt to make the dressing.
Once the garlic is golden, add the peas and tomatoes and give them a 30 second sizzle then tip in the dressing.
Allow to bubble for a second, then tip in the bulgur, stir to combine, then tip into your serving bowl and allow set to the side.
In the same pan (add a tiny splash more oil if it seems dry) fry your egg, then slide it on top of the bulgur salad and eat straight away.

This was absolutely fantastic - I'll definitely be making it again - or something similar. The combination of egg and tahini is one I've heard others rave over but never tasted, but now I can see their point. They are an unlikely but delicious pair. This would also work well with whatever vegetables you might have lurking in your fridge - an infinite possibility of lunchtime feasts!

Monday, 11 June 2012

Rhubarb rhubarb rhubarb...

I can't help thinking the title of this post is probably an accurate classification of the general waffle and nonsense I usually end up writing in here! But I will press on undeterred, and write some more.

I love rhubarb. I have done since I was a kid, and during the summer would pick it from the back garden and eat it raw, dipped in sugar. It was sweet and tangy crunchy - kind of a like a fresh sherbet dip. However I am frequently recoil in horror at the cost of rhubarb in the shops - In my head, rhubarb is something that grows like a weed in people's back gardens, and they struggle to find ways to use up, and not something that cost £3 for about three stalks!

Luckily I have both parents and in-laws with home-grown rhubarb resources who often share :o) (Thanks guys!). I've not got my own rhubarb plant on the balcony, but it's just a baby still, so I don't think we'll get much from it this year. Provided I don't kill it over the winter, next year we should have rhubarb on demand.

A couple of weeks ago, I was given a big bundle of rhubarb which provided two delicious desserts.

Firstly, I made a Rhubarb and Custard cake using this BBCGoodFood recipe, which I de-dairified by using dairy free margarine (200g rather than 250g, as I find it more greasy), and ready made soya custard dessert.
Plenty of chunks of rhubarb and custardy swirls
It was moist, fluffy and delicious with the tang of the rhubarb perfectly matched by the sweet vanilla-y custard. I took it into work when it was my turn on the cake rota, and it went down very well and no-one could tell that I'd used soya custard.

Rustic rather than elegant!
The recipe uses roasted rather than stewed rhubarb which is a lovely way to cook it. It becomes soft and tender without going completely mushy, and stayed in nice big rhubarby chunks in the cake.

Roasted rhubarb turns the most gorgeous pink colour
I stewed the other half of the bundle, and Mini-M and I made rhubarb slump for pudding. She was very excited, jumping about the kitchen saying 'my making daddy cake' 'my mixing!' (whilst catapulting mixture all over the floor) and 'my like baking'. (We're working on the whole 'I/my' thing at the moment, but I'm cutting her some slack, since she's not even 2 yet. Mind you, as soon as that milestone is reached, the grammar bashing will start properly ;o) - only kidding!) There were even tears of frustration and rage when she had to wait for it to cool down before being allowed to try some, and every spoonful was eaten accompanied by a rapturous 'Mmmmmmm'. Did I mention she has some rather melodramatic tendencies...!

Slump by name, slump by nature
Anyway, here's the recipe...

Rhubarb Slump (Serves 4-6)
  • 450g Rhubarb
  • 6 tbsp Granulated Sugar
  • 200g Self Raising Flour
  • 1 Egg
  • 30g Coconut Oil (which is solid)
  • 40g Soya Margarine
  • 4 tbsp Oatly Oat Milk
  • 1 tbsp Desiccated Coconut
Chop the rhubarb into chunks, place in a medium sized pan, cover with cold water, add 2 tbsp of the sugar and stew until just tender.
Put the cooked rhubarb into a casserole dish.
Preheat the oven to 180C.
Stir together then remaining 4 tbsp sugar and SR flour, then rub in the margarine and coconut oil until it resembles breadcrumbs.
Add the egg and 2 tbsp of the oat milk. Mix until well combined. You are looking for a dollop-able rather than pourable consistency. Add a little more milk if required.
Spoon over the top of the rhubarb, then sprinkle with the coconut
Bake for about 25-30 mins until the top begins to brown and feels firm to the touch.

Baked and cooling down - temper tantrum not photographed!

Mini-M's serving suggestion - an aesthetic masterwork?!

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Holiday Fare

I can't believe we've been back from our camping road trip around the Highlands for over three weeks now. Time flies when you're having fun... or when you go back to work!

Anyway, whilst we were away we sampled some lovely local produce and also made some pretty tasty camping food, even if I do say so myself. 

So here's a rundown of some of the highlights - with lots of photos and not too many words:

Freshly baked cinnamon and raisin bread at the Ythan Valley Campsite
Delivered to your tent door at 8am in a picnic basket!
Tuna and sweetcorn stovies made with potatoes baked in the BBQ embers
AMAZING Dark Chocolate Hazelnut Gianduja by Cocoa Mountain in Durness
Good old fish and chips
Sausage sizzle on the beach
Including Sweet Chili and Irn Bru sausages from the Castletown Butchers - awesome!
Pear and chocolate brownies - first time I've baked in a Youth Hostel!
In the very picturesque Tongue SYHA kitchen.

Beef Bourguignon made in Tongue SYHA, then 'casseroled' in a food flask
And enjoyed watching the rain in the car at Scourie!
Apricot bread from the Ullapool Bakery on the shores of Little Loch Broom
It was perfect - sweet and fluffy with whole dried apricots in it. Mmmm
Giant couscous with pan fried chili salmon and sugarsnap peas
Haggis and tomato omlette 
Best served with a tin mug full of white wine!
A tasty end to a wet and soggy day - burgers at The Colonsay Hotel

Porridge with syrup - not a drop was spilled!
And finally getting ready to cook...
Chocolate Brownie Pancakes - a successful, if not very photogenic, invention!


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