Monday, August 27, 2012

Honey Vanilla Oatcakes – oh lord it's so hard to be humble...

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Oh lord, it's so hard to be humble...

Himself is but a man of simple tastes. Not for him the lure of double chocolate, chocolate chip anything. His ice cream of choice is vanilla; his cheese, mousetrap (aka Cheddar); his biscuits, humble (“plain, cheap, unsophisticated” biscuits such as rich tea, digestives etc).
Unfortunately for him, humble isn’t a word that exists in my kitchen vocabulary. The only time anything resembling a humble biscuit appears is when it’s going to be mixed with half a pound of melted butter and smothered in 3 inches of cheesecake.   
Reluctantly I agreed to a request for homemade humble biscuits and they started off pretty well… oatmeal… wholemeal flour… salt… all pretty humble ingredients. But then I *accidentally* shovelled in a load of butter and honey and a hint of vanilla. Good with a cuppa, these are excellent slathered with fresh goats cheese or Philly.

For about 20 oatcakes you will need…
… to preheat the oven to 180˚C

180g oat flakes
120g plain flour
60g wholemeal flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon coarse sea salt
200g butter
100g runny honey
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

1.             In a large mixing bowl, mix together the oat flakes, plain and wholemeal flours, baking powder and salt.
2.             Place the butter, honey and vanilla extract in a medium saucepan over a low heat until melted together.
3.             Let the butter mixture cool before adding it to the other ingredients. Stir until the mixture comes together in a ball. Chill in the fridge for about half an hour – this makes the dough easier to handle.
4.             Roll out on a lightly floured surface (or between two sheets of cling film) to a thickness of about 3mm and cut into rounds (or flowers as I have done) with a cookie cutter. Re-roll any offcuts.
5.             Carefully transfer the oatcakes to a baking sheet leaving a few centimetres between each so that they bake evenly. Bake in the preheated oven for 15 – 20 minutes or until golden brown. Transfer to a cooling rack. When completely cold, store in an airtight container. 

Note: these make a delicious crumb base for my smoothie cheesecake (see I told you I couldn’t do humble!)
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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Tattie Pot – reet good Geordie grub, lamb!

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Tattie Pot - reet good Geordie grub, lamb!

Last year my beloved was reunited with several old friends from his scouting days. It was a hectic weekend as the lads had several decades to catch up on. We returned to spend a more relaxing few days with our wonderful hosts from that weekend, Chris and Anne, who are justly proud of the fabulous countryside near their home in Northumberland.

One magical place we visited was Long Meg stone circle just over the border in Cumberland. You can’t visit the circle without popping in to The Watermill, an organic flour mill at nearby Little Salkeld.  It has a cafĂ© and shop attached and does a great cuppa to wash down its wonderful scones and bread.  If you have a spare £850,000 lying about you might be interested to know it is for sale.

Buy this hen for £850,000 and get a free organic flour mill :)

If, on the other hand, you’d be hard pushed to rub £8.50 together here’s a meal that won't break the bank. This recipe came to Anne, via her friend Norma from her student days near Newcastle. It is reet good Geordie grub. It was designed to feed a family on thru’pence and was just what we needed after a day’s exploring.

You’ll need to chat to your local craft butcher to get lap of lamb but it is worth seeking out.

To feed 4 hungry people you will need…
… to preheat the oven to 180˚C

3 onions
4 carrots
4 large old potatoes
50g butter

½ teaspoon salt
750mls boiling water
1kg lap of lamb

1.                              Peel all the vegetables and cut into slices about 1cm thick.
2.                              Melt the butter in a large frying pan and add the slices of onion, trying to keep them as whole as possible. Fry gently until the onion begins to turn golden brown (about 5 – 8 minutes). Transfer to a casserole dish so that the onion is in one layer.
3.                              Scatter the carrots over the onions then arrange the potato slices in a layer over the carrots. Sprinkle the salt over the vegetables.
4.                              Carefully add enough of the boiling water to come halfway up the layer of vegetables – you may not need it all.
5.                              Sit the lap of lamb on top of the vegetables - skin side up. Transfer to the pre-heated oven and bake for 90 minutes. The meat should be crisp on top and almost falling to pieces and the potatoes should be golden on top.
6.                              Serve immediately and wonder how on earth something so simple can be sooooooo good.

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Saturday, August 4, 2012

Boozy Summer Pudding – Bread + Berries + Booze = Brilliant !

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I’ve mentioned my school cookery class before. The course was probably subtitled “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.

A friend served me Summer Pudding recently. 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 a 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. 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
150 caster sugar
3 tablespoons Triple Sec 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

1.                 Choose a few perfect fruits for the top of the pudding and set aside.
2.                 Hull and halve the strawberries and place them in a non-metallic bowl. Sprinkle with the tablespoon of sugar.
3.                 Place the rest of the fruit in a medium saucepan with the remaining sugar, Triple Sec 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.
4.                 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.
5.                 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!

6.                 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.
7.                 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).
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