Friday, December 6, 2019

Honey and Orange Stock Syrup - for mulled wine at the drop of a (Santa) hat... Mmmm !

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(Looking back over the years, this has proved to be one of the surprise hit recipes
 so here it is again - it was first published in December 2012.)
I’ve just finished the first batch of mince pies. The house is full of spicy, fruity scents so evocative of the impending feast. Here’s my tried and tested mincemeat recipe – it keeps for ages if you want to make it in advance, but is ready to use as soon as it has cooled. The gorgeous Christmassy aromas have made me long for mulled wine. 
Now there are mulled wines... and there are mulled wines...  I knew this bloke who was legendary for his seasonal concoction. He simply boiled together 6 bottles of wine with a carton of juice, a heap of sugar and a few ground spices ... from which he was able to fashion 5,000 servings (only a slight exaggeration). It was like the tale of the magic porridge pot.

This miracle he accomplished as follows: for every glass of mulled wine he removed from the pot, he topped it up with water and sugar. By the time he reached the 5,000th serving, the liquid was practically homeopathic, retaining just the barest memory of the original flavours. Shudder.
Bearing this example in mind, I want a seasonal punch that packs ... well... a punch!
I keep a spiced honey and orange stock syrup in the fridge ready to add festive spirit at a moment’s notice. Just add red wine, and some extra spices if you want to add a little more kick, and gently heat through. This quick and easy stock syrup is also great added to a dry Cava; and Santa might appreciate a drop or two in a glass of sparkling water or sparkling apple juice too, particularly if he’s got to drive that sleigh all the way back to the North Pole. 

For 300mls of stock syrup (approximate serving per 75cl bottle of wine) you will need...

150mls fresh orange juice
260g runny honey
The zest of 2 large oranges removed in strips, leaving behind any bitter white pith
The zest of 1 large lemon, as above
6 whole cloves
2 cinnamon sticks 

1.                 In a medium saucepan, mix together the orange juice and the honey. Place over a medium heat and bring to the boil. Simmer for about 2 minutes then remove from the heat and add the orange and lemon zest, cloves and cinnamon sticks. Leave to cool. Strain and store in a screw top jar or bottle for up to 2 weeks. I add dried slices of orange and cinnamon sticks to the jar because they look pretty and add to the flavour.
2.                 To make the mulled wine: gently heat a bottle of half decent red wine (yes, I know the budget added €1 but still, you want something drinkable...). Add enough stock syrup to satisfy your sweet tooth. Add further spices (slices of ginger, star anise, cinnamon, nutmeg etc) and slices of orange and lemon so it looks as Christmassy as it tastes.

Cheers!
For mulled wine at the drop of a (Santa) hat
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Sunday, September 29, 2019

Boxty – out of the laundry room and into the frying pan

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Out of the laundry room and into the frying pan
(the gorgeous bowl and jug are by my aunt, Patricia Casey, artist and potter extraordinaire)

Writing in The Medical Times and Gazette in 1865, Henry MacCormac M.D., of Belfast, mentions the preparation of Boxty or ‘poorhouse bread’.

“The country people prepare, for purposes of laundry, potato starch. Raw potatoes are peeled, grated and washed. The gratings from which the boxty cake is made remain in the colander. This boxty cake … has a peculiar but not unpleasant flavour. I remember having partaken of it… in one of the houses of the peasantry.”

Thanks Henry, I know there were particular reasons for such frugality at the time, but that sounds really, really grim. No wonder Boxty isn’t our national dish!

As if that weren’t bad enough, a traditional rhyme suggests that if you were a female at that time, and this concoction wasn’t in your repertoire, you were in big trouble: Boxty on the griddle /Boxty in the pan / If you can’t make boxty / You’ll never get a man. Yikes!

Mercifully, laundry methods, society, and potato cuisine have all moved on since the dark days of the nineteenth century. You'll find that Boxty can be a type of potato cake, a dumpling or a pancake. Today’s recipe is for the pancake. My preference is for the floury Rooster potato but any floury potato will do.




For approximately 12 boxty pancakes you will need…

350g freshly boiled and mashed potato
50g butter
250g raw potato, finely grated
250g plain flour
1 teaspoon fine table salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
¾ teaspoon bread soda
350mls buttermilk

A little sunflower oil or extra virgin olive oil for frying

Mix the butter with the freshly made mashed potato while it is still hot. Leave to cool.

Meanwhile, wring the grated potato out in a clean tea towel to extract as much liquid as possible. (Discard the liquid.)  Add the grated potato to the cooked mashed potato along with the flour, salt, baking powder and bread soda and mix to combine.

Gradually mix in the buttermilk to form a thick batter.

Now, heat a frying pan over a medium heat. Wipe the hot pan with a wad of kitchen paper dipped in sunflower oil, giving the pan the barest sheen of oil. (Keep the oily paper to wipe the frying pan between cooking each pancake.)


Fry gently until the surface of the batter has set

Scoop about 80mls of batter into the pan and quickly smooth it out to form a circle. Fry gently until the surface of the batter has set, then flip the pancake over. Continue cooking for a further 30 seconds or so, or until the pancake is golden brown. Repeat until all the batter has been used up, keeping the cooked pancakes warm in a low oven.

Serve as part of a cooked breakfast or drizzled in maple syrup.




Variation:
I make tiny versions of these as an alternative to blinis and serve with smoked salmon and crème fraiche.

First published 29 August 2013
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Friday, August 9, 2019

Boozy Summer Pudding – Bread + (Bob Geldof's) Berries + Booze = Brilliant !

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I’ve mentioned my school cookery class before. The course was “How to Make Kids Loathe Food”. Without doubt, it worked for certain dishes – like Summer Pudding. Honestly, how can stuffing bread with a few berries in sweet syrup ever amount to anything, especially if the bread is industrial and the berries from a tin.

When a friend served me Summer Pudding, I poked at it suspiciously remembering the awful school version. However, when I ventured to taste it, my taste buds died and went to heaven. It was one of the sunniest desserts I’ve eaten in a long time. You need to use day-old bread with integrity – that is, with a good springy crumb - and ripe fresh berries. However, the key ingredient is Time – it’s essential for the bread to soak up all the lovely berry juices so make it the day before you need it.

Like any simple dish, it will have a thousand variations. Purists will argue over the type of berries to include. I’ve chosen some of my favourites and included the slightly autumnal blackberries because they were sweet and available, and free (the ones in the picture from Bob Geldof's garden in Faversham - well they were leaning over the wall...) . Vary the proportions according to preference and availability. In total you’ll need about 1.125 kg of berries.


For a 1 litre pudding serving 4 – 6 people you will need…

400g strawberries
1 tablespoon caster sugar
225g raspberries
225g blackberries
150g redcurrants
125g blueberries
150g caster sugar
3 tablespoons Triple Sec, Cointreau or other orange liqueur
4 tablespoons water
7 – 9 slices of good white bread. This should be a day old, cut into slices 1cm thick, crusts removed

Whipped cream to serve

Method
First choose a few perfect fruits for the top of the pudding and set aside.

Hull and halve the strawberries and place them in a non-metallic bowl. Sprinkle with the tablespoon of sugar.

Place the rest of the fruit in a medium saucepan with the remaining sugar, orange liqueur and water. Heat gently until the sugar has dissolved and the fruit has begun to release its juices – this will only take 3 – 5 minutes. You want the fruit to hold its shape as much as possible. As soon as the sugar has dissolved, remove from the heat and add the strawberries to the pan. Stir gently to distribute them throughout the rest of the fruit. Taste and add more sugar if required.

Line a 1 litre pudding bowl with cling film, leaving an overhang large enough to cover the base of the pudding when folded back across. (It’s easier to line the bowl with two overlapping strips of cling film rather than trying to shape one sheet to fit the bowl.)  Cut a circle from one slice of bread large enough to cover the base of the pudding bowl. Do this as neatly as possible as this will form the top of the finished dessert. Cut and arrange slices of bread to line the sides of the bowl – like a bread patchwork - leaving no gaps. If you have any tendency towards engineering or architecture, this is your moment to shine.

Spoon the warm berries and boozy juice into the lined pudding bowl and finish with a layer of bread to seal in the berries.

Berries n booze n bread should equal bleaughhh... but Alchemy intervenes!

Fold the cling film skirt over the pudding and cover with a small plate or saucer that just fits inside the pudding bowl. Weigh it down – I sit a couple of 400g tins on top of the plate. When it has cooled, transfer it to the fridge and leave it – still weighted – overnight.


To serve, fold back the cling film. Cover the bowl with a large inverted serving plate. Carefully flip the pudding upside down and remove the cling film. Decorate the pudding with the reserved fruit. Cut into wedges and serve with whipped cream.


Note: if you prefer to leave the booze out, substitute it for the same amount of good quality berry cordial (undiluted).



First Published 4 August 2012
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Sunday, July 21, 2019

Home-made Hotdog Buns - heavenly!!!

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First published: 24/09/2016 

I had a heavenly hotdog in NY and a fabulous frankfurter in... Frankfurt and what they both had in common was that the bread was as good as the filling. The long-life yokes you get in the supermarket marked ‘Hotdog Buns’ aren’t WTC* (Worth The Calories) and I don’t know a bakery that does fresh hotdog buns.

Invest about 20 minutes relatively easy active time – think of it as therapy. You can be pottering about doing other stuff as they prove and bake and before you know it, you’ll have 9 heavenly hotdog buns ready to receive whatever deliciousness you decide to fill them with. Here's what the taste-testers had to say:


For 9 heavenly hotdog buns, you will need…
...to pre-heat the oven to 190C before baking

450g strong white flour (bread flour)
1 x 7g sachet of dry active yeast
1½ teaspoons of fine table salt
25g caster sugar
1 egg at room temperature, beaten
2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
100mls warm milk (approx. 38°C)
150mls warm water, (approx. 38°C). Note, you may not need to use it all

a little beaten egg

Method

Combine the flour, yeast, salt and sugar in a large bowl and add the egg and olive oil. Mix well. Next, add the warm milk. Continue mixing while you add as much of the warm water as necessary until the dough comes together in a ball (you may not need all the water). Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes until smooth and elastic. Alternatively place all the ingredients in a stand mixer and mix with a dough hook until smooth and elastic (about 10 minutes).
Cover with lightly oiled cling film and leave until doubled in size. (I sometimes leave it to develop overnight in the fridge for a bigger flavour but in a warm, draught-free spot, it should take about an hour.)

Next, turn the dough out onto a lightly-floured work surface and knead gently to deflate. Divide it into 9 even pieces – I weigh each piece, which is usually approximately 90g.

Flatten into an oblong, roll into a sausage, pinch along the seam and tuck in the ends

To shape the rolls, form each piece into a sausage shape about 9cm long. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough sausage out flat until you have an oblong about 6cm wide and 11cm long. Working from one long side, roll the dough up tightly into a sausage shape again, pinching along the join. Neaten the ends by tucking them in and pinching them closed. Sit the buns – seam side down – on a lightly-floured parchment-lined or non-stick baking tray about 2cm apart, and press gently along the top of each bun so that it doesn’t rise excessively. Cover loosely with lightly oiled cling film and leave to rise in a warm, draught-free spot until doubled in size.

Let sleeping dogs lie ... until doubled in size

When ready to bake, pre-heat the oven and about a minute or two before baking, place a roasting dish on the bottom shelf of the oven and add a cupful of hot water. (The steam will help the hotdog buns rise and help create a shiny crust.)  


I never go out without a touch of gloss...
Brush the hotdog buns gently with a little beaten egg before baking on the middle shelf of the preheated oven for 10-12 minutes, or until risen and golden brown. Remove from the oven and place on a cooling rack.


10 minutes later ... a tan worthy of the 'Strictly' makeup department !!!
Split across the middle when completely cold, being careful not to cut all the way through. Freeze or use within 24 hours.

The doggone dogs are all gone!

So, do you fry, grill, steam or simmer your hotdogs? Do you keep the topping simple with fried onion, ketchup and mustard or do you pimp your dog with exotic or unusual ingredients? Do you have a vegetarian alternative? Let me know by leaving a comment below.
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Thursday, April 18, 2019

Honey-glazed Cranberry and Apricot Hot Cross Buns - Sinful!

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Hot Cross Buns, Hot Cross Buns, One a Penny, Two a Penny, Hot Cross Buns

Hot Cross Buns have been a part of Easter for a very long time (how long depends on what version of history you believe - but they may have originated in the 14th Century or even earlier). They would originally have been plainer, as dairy products were forbidden to Christians during Lent, and the Mixed Spice would have been hugely expensive, and anyway, wasn't in common use until the early to mid-19th Century. Here, they have been updated further with the addition of a Tangzhong roux which helps lock in moisture and keeps these buns deliciously light and fresh. 

This recipe may seem long but no step has actual ‘hands on’ time of more than a few minutes and I think the result is worth the effort. Read the entire recipe first to make sure you have all the ingredients, and complete the steps in the order given. I recommend a stand mixer with a dough hook for this as it is quite a sticky dough to begin with, but if you do it by hand, you’ll have worked off enough calories to eat more than your fair share J

In essence, the steps are: make Tangzhong roux; make dough; make paste for cross; bake; brush with warm honey; eat with a good cuppa


Hot and Cross? Anything but!

Ok, here goes…

For 18 - 24 sinfully sticky buns, you will need...
... to preheat the oven to 180°C when ready to bake

For the Tangzhong roux
40g strong white flour (bread flour)
200mls water

Mix the two ingredients together in a small saucepan, slowly whisking in the water to create a lump-free liquid. Place over a medium heat and stir until the mixture begins to thicken. Continue cooking for another minute or so until you have a thick, creamy almost translucent paste. Remove from the heat and leave to cool to room temperature.

__________________________________

For the dough
50g ready-to-eat dried apricots, cut into small pieces (about the size of sultanas)
50g cranberries, halved
50g sultanas
10g mixed peel (candied peel)

580g strong white flour (bread flour)
80g sugar
1 teaspoon fine table salt
2 teaspoons mixedspice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
1 sachet of fast action dried yeast (7g)

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large egg, beaten 
260mls fresh milk (heated to between 37-39°C)

a little extra flour for dusting the work surface and your hands for kneading
a little extra milk to brush the buns before they go in the oven

Method
Put the flour, sugar, salt, mixed spice, ground cinnamon, orange zest, and dried yeast (keeping the yeast away from the salt) into a large bowl or stand mixer. Mix to combine.

In a separate small bowl put the dried fruit and mixed peel and cover with boiling water – cover and set aside until the dough has had its first rise. (This plumps up the fruit and helps to prevent it stealing valuable moisture from the dough.)

Add the prepared Tangzhong paste to the flour mixture along with the olive oil, beaten egg and milk and mix until just combined. Once you have a smooth mixture, leave for 10 minutes so the flour can absorb some of the moisture and make a less sticky dough (thank you Dan Lepard for that tip).

Next, knead the dough in your stand mixer or by hand for about 5 minutes until it is smooth and elastic. Cover and leave in a warm place to rise until about doubled in size.

When the dough has risen, drain and dry the fruit on paper towels before proceeding with the next step.


Turn the risen dough out onto a lightly floured board and gently knead for a minute or so.  With your fingers, press it out into a sheet about 1cm thick and sprinkle the fruit over, leaving a margin of about 6cm around the edges. Fold one edge two thirds of the way over the sheet, and fold the opposite side over this, so you have a long, narrow rectangle. Press down with your fingers to encase the fruit inside, expanding the sheet once again. Repeat the folding process one more time, then knead the dough lightly to form a ball. (All this helps to distribute the fruit evenly).




Now, weigh the dough and divide it into 24 even portions for small buns, or 18 even portions for monstrous buns.  Shape the portions into smooth round balls, and place in a lightly oiled baking tin around 23cm x 33cm leaving a little room between them and their neighbours. Cover with a lightly oiled sheet of cling film and leave until the buns have doubled in size and snuggled up to their neighbours.


__________________________________

Brush gently with a little milk before completing the next step.

Next, pre-heat the oven to 180°C. While the oven is heating, make the flour paste for the cross decoration below:

For the cross decoration
100g plain flour
75mls cold water

Mix the two ingredients together in a small bowl until you have a smooth and lump-free paste that holds its shape. Place in a small piping bag (a baking parchment cone with a small hole snipped is perfect). You could use a sandwich bag with the corner snipped off but I’m trying to avoid gratuitous use of plastic where possible. Pipe a long line down the centre of each row of buns, following the contours of the dough. Then pipe lines across the middle of each row to form crosses.




Place in the pre-heated oven and bake for about 15 minutes or until risen and golden.

Tip: I like to turn my oven into a sauna for these, and it helps them rise better by keeping the crust soft until the dough has had time to puff up. To do this, place a baking tin half-filled with water on the bottom shelf of the oven when you pre-heat it. Be super careful when opening the oven as you will release a cloud of scalding hot steam.
__________________________________ 
For the honey glaze
2 – 3 tablespoons runny honey, warmed (place in a heatproof bowl and stand the bowl in hot water for a couple of minutes, or nuke it in the microwave for a few seconds until warmed through.).

When the buns come out of the oven, brush with the warmed honey.




It is considered good luck to share these buns and the cinnamon and orange make them particularly good with coffee so what better excuse to invite some friends over!

They are good just as... but even better toasted and smothered with salty butter.



Happy Easter! 
x

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Mixed... Spice Up Your Life

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I've been filling the kitchen with the rich warm smell of Mixed Spice a lot lately. It is the baking equivalent of a big fat hug. Mixed Spice is a blend of warm sweet spices which has been used in British and Irish cookery since the early to mid-19th Century. It was widely used by the time The Lancet of January 3, 1852, did a study, calling out more than half the sample group of grocers tested, for adulterating the blend with "farinaceous matter" including sago, wheat and potato flour, among other things. It noted at the time that the adulteration of Mixed Spice was linked to its high value. It features in a lot of Christmas baking, and has become an essential ingredient in Hot Cross Buns (which have been around a few centuries longer).


According to The Lancet, it should - at the very least - contain allspice, cinnamon, cloves, and ginger. It can, in addition - contain caraway seed, cayenne pepper, coriander seed, mace and nutmeg.

Here is the combination I use:

1 tablespoon allspice berries
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon coriander seed
1 teaspoon ground ginger

Place all the ingredients in a food processor and blitz until you have a fine lump-free powder. Place in a small glass spice jar, and store with the rest of your spices, in a cool dry dark place. 

Essential in Hot Cross Buns (click on link for recipe) and Clootie Dumpling.


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Sunday, March 17, 2019

Colcannon Jacket Potatoes - Lá fhéile Pádraig sona dhuit !

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Cál Ceannann - more than the sum of its parts

At my sister’s wedding last summer, the Casey Clan had the absolutely pleasure of meeting the family and friends of her beloved. They had travelled all the way from Canada to celebrate the occasion, and to enjoy a relatively well-behaved Ireland, weather-wise.

At the feast, I noticed one of the guests tentatively poke the cnoc of carbs on his plate. It was flecked with green and spilling pools of golden butter. He aimed a forkful at his mouth and tasted it suspiciously ... and then his eyes rolled, and his face melted alarmingly into a range of emotions that shifted too quickly for me to read.

What! Is! This! Stuff!, he gasped.

You don’t like it? I enquired, somewhat anxiously.

Oh! My! God! It’s! Ah! Mazing!

It was Cál Ceannann - Colcannon - one of those simple little dishes that is so much more than the sum of its parts.

Here it is, with its jacket on, because March winds can be a little chilly!

Lá fhéile Pádraig sona dhuit !

Not so green as I'm cabbage-looking!


For 2 Colcannon Jacket Potatoes (which will serve 4 as a side, or 2 as a snack or lunch), you will need…

2 large baking potatoes
a little fine salt for coating

100g kale, or other frilly cabbage

25g Irish butter
1 large spring onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
Salt and white pepper to taste

50g Irish cheddar, finely grated


Irish Cheddar - grate!

Preheat your oven to 200°C

First scrub the potatoes to remove any earth, and remove any blemishes with the tip of a sharp knife. Stab about 8 times with a fork. Shake some fine salt into the palm of your hand and massage over the damp skin of the potatoes. Place in the preheated oven directly on the oven rack (or suspended on a rack over a baking tray) and bake for about 45 mins or until cooked and soft all the way through. 

Meanwhile, cook the kale (or cabbage) in boiling salted water for 5 minutes or until tender. Remove from the heat, drain into a colander. Once cool enough to handle, squeeze out any excess water with your hands, then chop very finely.

Check the potatoes after 45 minutes by piercing them with a skewer. It should easily pierce the potatoes all the way through. If not, then give them another few minutes and check again. Once cooked, remove from the oven and cut in two length-ways.

Using a teaspoon, scoop the flesh of the potatoes into a heatproof bowl, leaving behind the potato shell and about 1cm of potato flesh so that it forms a little bowl.

The food of the gods...

Mash the hot potato with the rest of the ingredients, except for the cheddar. When well mixed, taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Pile into the potato shells. Sprinkle with the cheddar (you may have to pack it into place) and return to the oven for about 10 minutes or until the cheddar has melted and the potatoes are hot through.



... just got better!

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Other Paddy’s Day dishes you might like:

Guinness Chocolate Cake – a piece of this is your only man!

Falafel – little green Patties on Paddy’s Day

‘Irish’ Eggs – Green, White and Gold for Paddy’s Day ! (And yes, I know it's really orange, not gold!) 


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