Monday, 27 October 2014

Franken-Biscuits and Vampire Cupcakes

It's Halloween on Friday.
And for once I've managed to make something seasonal at least a few days in advance - wonders behold. On the other hand, I reversed into a bin when I was going out earlier - so you win some, you lose some…

Here are a couple of easy Halloween themed treats.

First up - Franken-Biscuits

I made 2 prototypes, and am going to let Mini-M loose creating her own Franken-Biscuit army later in the week. They use Lotus biscuits as the base which I found in the pound shop (are are dairy-free into the bargain) - just thought I should clarify that I did not raid the client biscuit cupboard at work, or save them up from coffee-shop visits for the purpose - that's a whole other level of forward planning!

You will need:
  • Lotus biscuits (or other plain rectangular variety)
  • Green royal icing (I used royal icing powder, made up with lemon juice and a little green food colouring)
  • Raisins
  • A couple of squares of chocolate
  • Writing icing (I used yellow and red but you could use any)
  • A few jelly beans
  • A few strands of wholewheat spaghetti
First cover the biscuits with the icing - it doesn't matter if it oozes off the sides - this isn't really about precision!
Next grate the chocolate and sprinkle over one end of the biscuits for Frankenstein's hair.
Use a raising for each eye and half a jelly bean for the nose and position to make the face.
Add the mouth with red writing icing, and eye dots in a light colour (I used yellow).
Snap off a piece of spaghetti a little wider than your biscuit and push half a raising onto each end to make the "bolt" and put on top of the biscuit then voila - you're done.

I had originally planned to use pretzels for the "bolts" with each end dipped in a little melted chocolate, but it turned out the pretzels in the cupboard weren't sticks but twists, which would have looked rather weird.

So… onto the Vampire Cupcakes - I first posted these 5 years ago!

But here's a recap…
You'll need some plain cupcakes, some very red jam and some 7-minute frosting.
After your cupcakes are cooled, take a small sharp knife and cut a cone out of the middle of each cake.
Cut the bottom of the cone off, leaving a little flat lid. Spoon jam into the hollowed out space then top with the little lid.
Cover with a layer of frosting, then use a toothpick to put some jammy fang-marks on the surface - done. Told you it was easy :-)

So - when the time comes… Happy Halloween!

I'm entering the Franken-Biscuits into Treat Petite, which is hosted alternately by Cakeyboi and The Baking Explorer, ever so slightly late but hopefully better than never! The theme for October, hosted by The Baking Explorer is "Trick or Treat"

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Dip your chips!

This is a quick-turnaround post of what we had for our dinner tonight, before I forget the recipe! (Excuse the poorly lit phone photo - it's October in Scotland and therefore we're into the season of living in the semi-dark until about April - joyful.)

For dinner tonight we had oven chips - with tuna and tomato dip, rocket salad and baba ghanoush. I'm putting it into the "slightly healthier than regular junk food" category - I was really delicious.

Don't worry, I'm not join to post a recipe for oven chips, but rather for the high-speed super cheat baba ghanoush, which was really the star of the meal and only took 10 minutes to make.

High-Speed Super Cheat Baba Ghanoush (makes a generous dollop for 3!)

  • 1 medium aubergine
  • 2 tbsp lemon infused oil (I used Supernature cold pressed rapeseed - it's delicious and made only 8 miles from Edinburgh)
  • pinch dried garlic granules
  • pinch salt
  • 1 tbsp tahini (or if you're pushing cheating to the max like me, 1 tbps nut butter - I had no tahini left so used almond butter)

Trim the top off the aubergine and prick all over with a fork. Put on a microwaveable plate and cover with clingfilm. Mircrowave for 2 minutes then take out, uncover, turn over, re-cover and cook for 2 more minutes. It should feel soft all over. If not, cook in 30 minute increments until it does.
Cut in half and scrape all of the flesh out into a mixing bowl.
Add all of the other ingredients and blitz until blended.

Mini-M wasn't entirely convinced, although she did try it, but Mr E and I definitely were. I think she possibly heard the word "aubergine" being mentioned before she tasted it.

Does it taste authentic - undoubtedly not. Does it retain some of the authentic character - definitely yes! And it is ready in 10 minutes. The taste would be a lot more authentic if you used tahini rather than almond butter and it would definitely down just as successfully. If you wanted a bit more punch you could use a clove of fresh garlic crushed instead of the granules too.

From a health comparison, I've compared it with a couple of tablespoons of mayonnaise, as a likely alternative chip-dip: it comes in at around 160kcal per serving, compared to 270kcal for mayonnaise but still tastes fantastically creamy with loads of flavour. It also packs in a good dose of fibre into the bargain. And it's delicious spread on chicken sandwiches too (which is what I did with it last time I made it, but forgot to take any photos).

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!


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