Monday, 3 September 2012

From Ground to Grub

So, fellow Bloggers, after an extremely busy summer I'm back and attempting to find time for (one of) my favourite past times - cooking.
I don't think that I've yet shared the wonders of Farm Club with you dear readers? But you need to know about it because I think there should be many. mnay more projects like this around the country.
Farm Club is a community farm - you can have your own small plot of land and can get as involved as you want in all other aspects of the farm. When we discovered this little piece of heaven just a mile or so from our front door I was amazed. It's a brilliant idea and especially for those of us missing the countryside and living in a flat! 
Well, as I've said, it's been a busy time and I'm afraid to say that our lovely plot of land has also been abandoned for weeks. I know :-(
Luckily for us, we share our plot with the lovely and much more proactive Jo & Miles. As a result our little plot has provided us with many lovely veggies - see this week's hoard below.
Now, that's all pretty standard stuff this week. Nothing too odd to deal with! However, I had never cooked chard before. I'd eaten it (and not really liked it) but was assured that it tastes a lot lot better if eaten fresh. I cooked it very simply:
  1. Cut off the stalk and cut into 3cm (ish) pieces
  2. Roughly chop the leaves
  3. Add olive oil, 2 cloves garlic - diced and some rosemary
  4. Add the stalks and cook until softened over a medium heat
  5. Add the leaves and 3 spoons water, put the lid on and leave for around 3 mins.
The result was a very simple vegetable side dish - nothing fancy - but I tell you, I'm converted. I doubt very much that my cooking had anything to do with it. I suspect that chard is simply a waste of time unless it is FRESH!
Even better, if we can grow it, then you lovely lot definitely can. Give it a go and see!

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Citrus Cardamom Shortbread

I absolutely love Earl Grey tea. I would go so far as to say that it's one of my top 10 flavours! 

I treated myself to a cup of this lovely stuff yesterday from TeaPigs (any tea lovers really need to take a look at their website - it's tea heaven!). 

The only downside to my civilized afternoon was a lack of biscuits... I really do need biscuits with my tea, don't you?!

Well, I decided that shortbread would be the very thing.

To accompany the gorgeous bergamot citrus flavours of this tea, I have added delicate lemon, lime and cardamom flavours that I think work really well. Let me know what you think. 
Preheat your oven to 170°C.

  • Cream together 225g butter and 100g caster sugar.
  • Gently stir in 1/4 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp salt and 250g plain flour
  • Add the zest of 2 limes, 2 teaspoons of lemon juice (or a few drops of lemon flavouring)
  • Then take the seeds from 8-10 cardamom pods, crush them to a powder and add them to the mixture
  • Stir the mixture. Once it starts to clump together use your fingers to gently press the mixture together into a soft dough
  • Put the dough in the fridge for 10 mins (otherwise it will fall apart when you roll it out)
  • Flour the surface and roll it out to about 1cm thick
  • Use a small cutter (it will make around 25 biscuits) to cut the mixture into small circles
  • Put them onto a lightly floured tray and put back into the fridge for 5 mins (this is not essential but it will help your biscuits to hold their shape in the oven so they wont spread out and become too thin)
  • Bake for around 10 mins until the shortbread has just a hint of golden colour
  • Take them out and sprinkle with caster sugar while they are hot
  • Leave them to cool and store in a tin (they'll keep for around a week)

If you don't like the sound of any of the flavours then it will work just as well without them (just add a little vanilla for a plain but delicious alternative).
I hope that you will enjoy them with your afternoon tea - whatever your brew of choice!

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Classic Pancakes - the hassle & mess-free way

Happy Pancake Day! 

I thought I'd share my pancake recipe/method with you... don't get me wrong it's a simple pancake recipe, I haven't messed with it! But I think that this is the simplest and most mess free way to do it - perfect for kids.

You need:
100g plain flour
1/2 pint milk
1 egg
a pinch of salt

Measure everything out.

Now... here's the simple bit. Put the 1/2 pint milk back into the milk bottle (if you have more milk than this you will of course need to store the excess in a jug).
Add the other ingredients into the milk bottle. Screw the lid on TIGHTLY!

Then shake it! Cue crazy shaking dance around the kitchen! 

Check that it's lump free. If not, just shake some more.
And that's it done. Leave to stand for around 20 minutes (if you have time, but don't worry if not).
You should now have beautifully smooth pancake mix in a ready-made pouring jug and no messy bowls, whisks, spooons etc to wash up. Joy!
I hope you enjoy your pancakes as much as we did. Now if you'll excuse me I must roll off to flop onto the sofa. x

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Simple cocktail for a romantic night in

I would like to introduce you to the Bellini (cocktail) ...if you need introducing:
Bellini is a long drink cocktail that originated in Venice. It is a mixture of sparkling wine (traditionally Prosecco) and peach purée. It's one of Italy's most popular cocktails.

I'm not generally a fan of making cocktails at home - too many weird ingredients that you'll be left with for months going slowly sticky and disgusting in your cupboards! 
However, this little beauty is simple seductive and scrumptious (if you have yet to celebrate Valentines Day then that would be the ideal excuse for one or three of these!). 

All you need is peach purée and Prosecco or some other kind of sparkling white wine. At this time of year getting your hands on decent peaches could be tricky and who needs the mess of pulping them anyway?! 
I highly recommend that you grab yourself some ready made peach purée (see pic). 
[I'm not sure if it's widely available but Waitrose definitely stocks it].

1/4 fill a glass with peach, add a little wine and stir gently to combine. Then just top it up with more fizz.

Delicately fruity and delicious.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Melt-in-the-Middle Chocolate Brownie Cake

One of my favourite shop-bought puds are those melt in the middle chocolate puddings. They are just sooo sweet and wonderfully gloopy. However I do think they are a bit on the pricey side. So, here is my own recipe. Tried and tested.
It's easy and makes a slim cake shaped pudding. Just cut into generous slices and serve with vanilla ice cream.
Use a regular cake tin. Lightly grease it with butter. Preheat the oven to 160C.

Melt 100g butter and 200g soft brown sugar over a low heat. Allow to cool slightly.

Then whisk in 40g cocoa, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, 2 eggs, 100g plain flour, a pinch of baking powder and a pinch of salt. 
Keep whisking away until it is lovely and smooth and what you might call 'dropping consistency'. If it seems a bit too stiff then add a little milk.
Give it a wiggle until it is evenly distributed. Put into the oven - middle shelf. Now, the important thing is to really keep an eye on it. 
My pudding was ready after 15 minutes, so use that as a guide. This is a very simple recipe but if you leave it too long you will have a dry chocolate cake with no ooze-factor. Disaster.
It's ready when it looks cooked on top but has a slight wobble in the middle. Take it out of the oven and allow it to stand for 2 minutes.
Turn it out. Cut into generous slices and serve while it's still warm with vanilla ice cream. Your desert should have a chocolate Brownie style top, a cakey bottom and a melting middle.  
I promise... there will be no need to head to M&S for those puds any more!

Saturday, 14 January 2012

The best hot chocolate - ever!

Hands up, who's for hot chocolate?

Just a quick post today...something that I feel you need in your lives. :-)

In this sudden cold snap hot chocolate has become a firm favourite of mine again. 
Over Christmas I tried out Jamie Oliver's 'Epic Hot Chocolate' and it was indeed EPIC!
I made up a huge batch of it and it lasted right over the holiday and jars of it made lovely pressies for those who came down with colds and flu over the holiday season.

I can't pretend that it was as easy to make as the bung-a-spoon-of-power-in-a-mug stuff I normally use but it was the real deal
I recommend making 2 times the quantity suggested and store it in an airtight jar for months of amazing hot chocolate. 
This is a firm favorite with old and young alike. Even my lovely nieces - the Mini Diva's got in on the action and used the mixture for their own chocolate-faced fun! I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

Mr Jamie Oliver -  thank you!