Thursday, March 19, 2020

Keep Calm and Carry on Cooking - Cookbook Giveaway

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You may be home at the moment through no choice of your own, trying to keep your spirits up and perhaps with kids to keep entertained.
Keep Calm and Carry on Baking Cupcakes
I’m giving away my Kindle cookbook, Alchemy: Simple Ingredients, Magical Food, for the next 5 days, starting today, Thursday 19th March. I invite you to download it and try some of the recipes.
Click the image to go to the book
Make stuff with your kids as an activity – try the Cupcakes; the Carrot  Cake is always a hit; if you don’t have condensed milk and chocolate, then Wellington Squares can stop at Shortbread – simple and delicious!
Try Buttermilk Pancakes for breakfast (even if you don’t have buttermilk), or one of my favourites, Maple French Toast Sticks (without the maple if it means a special trip to the shops – choose your own flavours).
Keep Calm and Carry on Pouring Maple Syrup over French Toast Sticks
If you have panicked and bought a ton of pasta, there’s always Macaroni Cheese with Bells & Whistles.
Keep Calm and Carry on Eating Your Greens
There are lots of tips so you can adapt the recipes to suit you.
Keep Calm and Carry on Pouring Maple Syrup over French Toast Sticks
Keep Calm and Carry on Cooking!
Keep Calm and Carry on Eating Cake for Breakfast
Keep Calm and Carry on Finding New Uses for the Peppers at the Bottom of Your Fridge
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Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Mardi Gras - the world is your Pancake!!!

Pin It PANCAKE DAY!!!!!  Mardi-Gras-in-the-kitchen day!!!!

Pancakes and crêpes are nothing on their own. Left to their own devices they would never go out. Savoury or sweet, they depend on fillings and dressings to give them a social life.

Though I’m a fiend for maple syrup, sometimes something as simple as a sprinkle of sugar and a squeeze of lemon juice is just the thing to make a pancake interesting. However, for a real taste of Carnival, my current favourite is the zingy vanilla orange caramel sauce at the end of this page.  Pour the hot syrup over pancakes or crêpes and feel your taste buds samba! Or perhaps you'd like to try some of my other favourites from the Alchemy archive


Try...

Boxty - traditional Irish potato pancakes, sweet or savoury?
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)

Or perhaps...
Cider and Cinnamon Crêpes - Time to practice your pancake-flipping skills!

Or will you go off-piste altogether and opt for Pączki Tuesday - instead with these gorgeous Polish doughnuts


It's Stomp's fault... (you'll have to read the article to find out why)

If you are going for savoury, you could go gallic with buckwheat galettes

Or try this sensational Vanilla Orange Caramel sauce drizzled over a crepe - which to choose? The world is your pancake!

My choice? Yup! You've guessed it!  And yours? Let me know in the comments below.




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Sunday, February 9, 2020

Magical Marmalade - as Scottish as the Bonnie Prince!

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Bring some sunshine to the table
Who can hear the word ‘marmalade’ without tartan and bagpipes dancing across their mind?  Och, sure isn’t marmalade as Scottish as wee Bonnie Prince Charlie... as shortbread... as Irn-Bru, and Whisky without the ‘e’ ...  isn’t it?

Well, while there is a tale about a storm-battered ship, a load of sea-sick oranges and an enterprising couple named James and Janet Keiller, it appears that Dundee’s claim to be the birthplace of marmalade might be an “alternative fact”. 

It turns out that there are several recipes in archives around England that pre-date the Keiller’s 1797 marmalade factory by almost a century. However, even before that, various mermeladas were being made across Europe, (although not necessarily containing oranges) and even the Romans were known to partake of marmelo - preserved quince, pounded and mixed with honey. The Bonnie Prince himself was born in... Rome! ... so perhaps he knew a thing or two about marmalade long before it made an appearance in Dundee. 

A Spanish friend gave me the rough method for this marmalade. It’s all about proportions and once you stick to the proportions - and as long as the fruit contains enough pectin to set the marmalade - the citrus fruit content and any flavourings you choose to add are up to you. Seville oranges have a very high pectin content.  If I’m using any other orange, I include the juice of 2 lemons  to increase the pectin content. 

Because the St Clement's Marmalade recipe below contains both Seville oranges, and lemons, there is no need to add any extra lemon juice. Why is orange and lemon marmalade called St Clement's? Apparently citrus fruits used to be offloaded on the wharves of the Thames within the sound of the bells of St Clement's church in Eastcheap. 'Oranges and lemons say the bells of St Clement's.'

This marmalade doesn’t store for more than a few months outside the fridge due to the relatively low sugar content so I like to make small amounts that can be eaten quickly.

It is ready to eat straight away but the flavours develop wonderfully after a few weeks.
What this magical marmalade tastes like!

For 5 x 360g jars of magical marmalade you will need
1.5kg Seville oranges or a mixture of citrus fruits, untreated if possible
(I used 4 Seville oranges, 2 lemons and the rest eating oranges)

Approximately 1kg caster sugar
¾ teaspoon vanilla extract

You will also need:
A piece of muslin cloth / cheese cloth to enclose all pips and any stray pith
A plate or shallow bowl to catch any juices as you cut up the fruit
A jam pan (Maslin pan) or a large heavy bottomed pot
A ½ litre measuring jug (or equivalent) and a weighing scales
A sugar thermometer
Sterilised jam jars* (I used 5 recycled Bonne Maman jars – they take 360g each, or about 12oz)
Jam pot covers - they normally come in a packet which includes waxed discs, cellophane discs, elastic bands and labels
A jam funnel makes life a lot easier

Method
First wash the fruit, then place in a jam pan or a large pot and cover with water. If necessary, place a heatproof plate on top of the fruit to weigh it down to keep it submerged in the water. Bring the pan to the boil and leave it to simmer gently for about 2 hours or until the fruit is easily pierced with a fork. Leave to cool.


There's nothing like a hot bath to soften the skin...

Once cool, drain away the water and taking each piece of fruit in turn, halve it across the middle. Using a fork, rake out any pips, and any tough white membrane snagged by the fork, placing them in the muslin cloth. This will provide the pectin that will set your marmalade. 



Using a fork, rake out any pips, placing them in the muslin cloth

Using a sharp knife, slice each piece of fruit into shreds as thin or as thick as you like and tip into a large bowl along with any juices that have escaped. When you have finished preparing the fruit, you will need to measure it and add sugar in a ratio of 5:4. Put away the calculator! It’s simple.

Slice each piece of fruit into shreds as thin or as thick as you like

Take your measuring jug and fill it to the 500ml mark with the prepared fruit. Tip back into the jam pan or into a large heavy bottomed pot. Continue measuring until you have accounted for all the fruit.



For every 500ml of prepared fruit, add 400g of caster sugar

Now, for every 500ml of prepared fruit, add 400g of caster sugar to the pan. (I ended up with 1250mls of prepared fruit on this occasion. So, I added exactly 1kg of sugar to the pan.)


Make a little purse of the pips, wrapping them in the muslin or cheese cloth and tying the neck securely with string.  Tie the string to the handle of the pan so that the package is suspended in the mixture. Bring the pan slowly to the boil, stirring until the sugar has dissolved.
Pips and stray pulp ready to be packaged.

Once the sugar has dissolved, let the mixture come to a rapid (or rolling) boil, allowing it to bubble for between 8 and 10 minutes – stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon to make sure it isn’t burning on the bottom - then pop your sugar thermometer into the jam pan and wait for the temperature to hit 220°F/221°F for a nicely set marmalade. Below that, it tends to be too runny. At 222°F you’ll get a pretty solid set. At 223°F it starts to darken and become bitter. After that, you are heading into toffee territory.


A rapid or rolling boil full of bursting bubbles

You could also try the famous wrinkle test – pop three metal spoons in the freezer while you are boiling the marmalade. After 10 minutes take the marmalade off the heat and drop a small amount of marmalade onto one of the spoons. As soon as it is cool enough to touch, push gently with your finger. If the surface wrinkles, the marmalade will set. If not, continue boiling for another minute and test again with the second spoon. Repeat until you can see the wrinkles appear.

I prefer to rely on the thermometer as this test gives me wrinkles.

Once the marmalade has reached setting point, stir in the vanilla extract and remove the pan from the heat. (If you prefer, you could stir in 100mls of whiskey to the pan at this stage) Take the muslin bag out of the marmalade (carefully – it’s very, very hot!) and as soon as it is cool enough to handle, squeeze out any remaining pectin-rich juices and stir into the marmalade. Let the marmalade sit for a total of 15 minutes. This ensures that the fruit will be distributed evenly throughout the preserve when you transfer it to the jars.

Carefully transfer to the sterilised jars –it is still piping hot. A jam funnel makes life much easier and helps keep the jars drip free. Press waxed jam discs against the surface of the marmalade then seal with cellophane covers, or use Le Parfait ''kiln-clip’’ jars.

A jam funnel makes life much easier and helps keep the jars drip free
 
Store in a cool dark place for a couple of months or keep in the fridge.

*Sterilise your jam jars by putting them through the dishwasher on whatever cycle you use to wash glasses, or do as my mum does and wash them thoroughly in hot soapy water, rinse and allow to dry in your oven at 100°C (or 212°F).

First published 8 February 2017 Pin It

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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