Sunday, 30 October 2011

Apple and Treacle Scones

Just a quick post and I promise this is my last word on scones….for a little while, anyway!

Bit of a strange recipe, this, and something of a misnomer. There isn’t any treacle in at all; it’s Golden Syrup! These are the ones I served with the spiced apple butter in the previous post last weekend; they were lovely and I’d definitely make them again but I have a feeling that instead of Golden Syrup, which adds sweetness but not much flavour, they’d be better with the addition of Maple Syrup.

I think I can feel another baking session coming on….!

This recipe was originally from Sainsbury's website - then it disappeared from that site only to reappear on their magazine website; I've been following this damn recipe all over the place! Here's the link to it - let's hope it doesn't disappear again... although this time I've done a bit of cutting and pasting and I now have it in a safe place.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Spiced Apple Butter

We picked quite a few apples from our small tree this year; it was here when we bought the house so I’m not quite sure what variety it is. The apples look like Cox’s and they have a similar texture and flavour; thing is, I’ve never liked Cox’s as an eating apple, which is a bit of a drawback, really, given that’s what we appear to have. I used some in chutney and mincemeat but we still had plenty sitting in the shed so I had to think of something else to do with them.  

I’d heard of Spiced Apple Butter through American blogs and recipe sites, but it doesn’t seem to be something we Brits have got to grips with; nothing ventured, nothing gained, I thought – I’ll give it a go. Despite being called ‘butter’ by the way, there’s no dairy in it; much the same as Lemon ‘Cheese’ doesn’t have cheese in it. Confusing, isn’t it?

Anyway, although I made this some weeks ago, we hadn’t actually tasted it. I was a bit wary of it, to be honest, and unsure how best to use it. The answer came in the form of some surplus scones that I’d put in the freezer; they were leftover from the batch I’d made to take with us when we popped round to see DS and DDIL (not forgetting Gorgeous Grand-daughter who, at the age of 15 months, is already partial to a cheese scone! That’s my girl...!)

I warmed a couple of apple scones** up in the microwave and gave them a hefty dollop of apple butter. “You can make this again!” said Mr Simply Veg as the scone rapidly disappeared…looks like I know what to do with those apples next year, then!

Many of the American recipes I found had apple juice or cider in them, which I didn’t fancy, so I took the general gist of their recipes and devised my own using a mix of spices and a bit of lemon and vanilla to soften the flavour a little. The slow-cooker method sounds odd but, trust me, it works. 

3kg apples, peeled, cored and chopped small
250g white sugar (maybe a bit more or less, depending on the apples)
juice and grated rind of a lemon
100ml water
1 tsp vanilla paste
2 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground ginger
½ tsp grated nutmeg
½ tsp ground cloves

Turn your slow-cooker on to High to heat up. Put the apples into the crock followed by all the other ingredients and stir well. Cook on High for 2 hours then stir the apples and turn down to Low for a further 3 hours until the apples are very soft; stir the apples really vigorously with a wooden spoon, or use a stick blender, until they break down to a puree; leave the puree to cook on Low for 8-10 hours (I left mine overnight).

In the morning you will have a kitchen that smells good enough to eat and enough dark, spicy apple butter to fill 6 x 190g jars.

**Recipe to follow 

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Autumn Vegetable Cobbler

The weather has been really chilly this last few days; all very autumnal with a promise of winter in the air.

The raised beds in the garden, which were groaning under the weight of assorted vegetables during the summer, are now almost empty and looking a bit sorry for themselves. We pulled up the last of the carrots at the weekend and I also pulled a couple of leeks to see how they were getting on; I’ll leave the rest of them there to use up throughout the winter. I can feel plenty of leek and potato soup coming on…

I’ve been looking for ways to expand my new-found scone know-how (I’m so chuffed with myself…you’ve no idea!) and was thrilled to be able to cook a cobbler for the first time. Along with the handful of carrots and leeks I’d collected from the garden there were sundry other veg in the fridge so I used a few mushrooms, a couple of sticks of celery and a solitary sweet potato to make a rather nifty autumnal dinner that will definitely be making further appearances in future.

**If you’re luckier than me the vegetable casserole base will all stay in the dish rather than bubbling up, running down the side of the dish and burning on the bottom of the blasted oven!

1 medium sweet potato, peeled and cubed
2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
2 leeks, well washed and cut into chunks
2 sticks of celery, chopped
150g chestnut mushrooms, halved
½ tsp dried thyme
1tbsp olive oil
1tbsp plain flour
350ml stock
2 tsp Worcester sauce
½ tsp Marmite
1 dsp tomato puree

100g self-raising flour
25g butter
½ tsp baking powder
75g grated mature cheddar
½ tsp dried thyme
75ml buttermilk (you may not need all of it)

Heat the oil in a large pan and sauté the veg for 10 minutes; stir in the flour and gradually add the stock followed by the Worcester sauce, Marmite and tomato puree. Bring to the boil, pop a lid on and simmer for 15-20 minutes.

Meanwhile, for the cobbler topping, mix the flour and baking powder together then rub in the butter until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Stir in the thyme and of the cheese then mix in enough of the buttermilk to form a very soft dough. Pat the dough out on a floured surface to form a small circle about 2.5cm thick. Cut out 4 small scones with a 5.5cm plain cutter. Heat the oven to 200C.

When the vegetable mixture is cooked transfer it to a small ovenproof dish and put the four scones on top; sprinkle the remaining cheese on top and bake for 12-15 minutes until golden and risen.

Serves 2

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Heston's Mince Pies

I do love a mince pie; I think they should be eaten all year round and not just for Christmas. The aroma of a warm mince pie instantly has the power to make everything seem a little better. I can’t wait to crack open a jar of mincemeat and get baking a bit nearer Christmas.

I saw a piece in an online newspaper today about Waitrose hoping to have the same success, this year, with Heston Blumenthal's Mince Pies as they had with his whole orange pudding, last year; so, like the fool I am, I bought some when I was out shopping. One thing in their favour is they are, at least, veggie.

Well, I warmed a couple up and we had them with a cup of coffee. I think underwhelmed would be the best way to describe our reaction; to be honest they were nothing special and Mr Simply Veg (bless his heart!) said the ones I make are better!

At £3.29 for six I’d expect them to come with a real Christmas tree attached not just a sachet of ‘pine sugar’ that does not, by any stretch of the imagination, make the house smell ‘pine-scented’. A complete gimmick, and pointless, if you ask me.

If you happen to have more money than sense then buy some but, if not, stick with whatever you usually have. Chances are, they’ll be better than Heston’s.

Monday, 10 October 2011

Mushroom Stroganoff with Rosti

I make mushroom stroganoff quite a bit; it’s quick and easy for those times when you want something really tasty but you don’t want to faff about too much. No fancy ingredients, just storecupboard stuff; I use crème fraiche because I like the slightly sharp tanginess of it and it’s less likely to split, but most recipes use cream so, if you have half a pot of cream hanging around in the fridge that you want to use up, feel free to sub that instead.

I usually serve stroganoff with rice but the husband requested we have it with rosti because he’d seen a recipe in a magazine. Now, I have a difficult relationship with rosti, they never quite do what I expect them to; although, to be fair, I’m not sure exactly what I do expect. (Incidentally, does the plural of rosti need an 's'?)

These ones were better than any I’ve made previously, but I still think there’s room for improvement. Next time I think I’ll add a small grated onion and just make one large rosti each. I can then serve the stroganoff on top; a bit like mushrooms on toast….without the toast!

25g butter
1 small onion, finely chopped
250g chestnut mushrooms, thickly sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
4 tbsp crème fraiche
25ml white wine
chopped parsley to sprinkle

2 large floury potatoes
ground black pepper
2 tbsp olive oil

Parboil the potatoes in their skins for about 15 minutes; drain and allow to cool. This can be done in advance or even the day before if you like.
Grate the potatoes coarsely into a large bowl, add plenty of black pepper and mix well; set aside until you’re ready to cook the rosti.

Melt the butter in a large pan and sauté the onion and garlic for 5 minutes; add the thickly sliced mushrooms and cook until almost all the liquid from the mushrooms has evaporated; add the paprika, thyme and white wine. Stir well and cook for a minute or two then add the crème fraiche. Take off the heat and keep warm while you cook the rosti.

Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan (I used two small pans). Place four large spoonfuls of the grated potato in the pan and flatten slightly with a spatula. Cook for 4-5 minutes on each side until golden.

Divide the rosti and stroganoff between two warmed plates and sprinkle with plenty of chopped parsley.

Serves 2

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Fat Tax?

I just wondered if you’d seen this in yesterday’s newspapers. I have to confess I don’t have a good word for any politician of any party; I think they’re all brainless, lying, self-serving idiots. I really feel, though, they've hit a new low here; this piece of nonsense just about takes the biscuit (low fat, of course!)

This isn’t about the nation’s health or the ‘obesity epidemic’, this is purely about bringing in tax revenue but, sadly, our esteemed Prime Minister doesn’t have the balls to say so. No-one’s denying that people are eating more and getting fatter, but taxation isn’t the answer, it never is, after all if taxation worked no-one would drink alcohol or smoke cigarettes (two nice little earners for the Exchequer!) and driving a car would be a definite no-no.

I don’t believe that any food is inherently unhealthy; I may have chosen not to eat meat or fish but I don’t think it’s an ‘unhealthy’ thing to do. Food of all types and descriptions is good for us – without it we’d die; to single out one type of food as ‘unhealthy’ seems simplistic and ill thought through to me.

True, some foods have more fat and calories than others, but that just means you have them in smaller portions than you might like, it doesn’t mean you have to stop eating them altogether. Having high fat and calories doesn’t make a food ‘bad’ nor does it make it ‘fattening’; anything, even lettuce, is fattening if you eat enough of it. It’s all about balance and moderation. Demonising certain foods whilst promoting others as ‘healthy’ seems deeply wrong to me and will never give people a better view of what constitutes a balanced diet.

The only way out of the current trend for people to become fatter and fatter is education; it’s not a quick fix – it’ll take time, money and commitment. Crucially, it won’t bring in any money through extra taxation which is why Cameron and his merry band of fools don’t want anything to do with it. Does he think I came down with the last shower?

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Cheese Scones

Well, I’ve finally done it…I’ve made some scones that are actually edible! I am so chuffed with myself! They probably wouldn't win a prize at a village fete but they are the best ones I have ever made.

Scones are one of those things that other people always seem to whip up effortlessly at the drop of a hat. Other people….but, sadly, not me; my scones have always been flat, or dry, or as hard as a rock….or sometimes all three! I’ve not attempted making them for some years now but I was inspired to have one more try after seeing a recipe (**see below) on the BBC Food Q & A; thank you Saffiewalks (msg #2). It looked very simple and easy so, with some trepidation, I thought I’d give it a go. Astonishingly, the recipe worked; they weren't flat, hard and dry, they were light, fluffy and lovely. Well, you could have knocked me down with a cricket bat!

The husband said if he’d been served scones like this in a National Trust tearoom he’d have been a very happy bunny; high praise indeed, given that the best cheese scones I have ever had were at Bateman's, a favourite place of ours when we lived nearby on the Kent/ E. Sussex border. (Word of advice if you happen to be going there; arrive at opening time and head straight for the stables tearoom while their scones are still warm; I promise you won't be disappointed!)

Now I’ve managed to make scones once, perhaps I’ll make a fruity version next time, or plain ones to have with some homemade jam. I can't wait to experiment!

**NB. For some reason the old BBC food board is no longer readable so I have paraphrased Saffie's recipe here

8oz self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
2oz butter
5 oz grated mature cheddar
125ml buttermilk (approx)
1 tbsp chopped chives

Rub butter into flour and baking powder then stir in the chives and 4 oz  of the cheese; stir in buttermilk gradually until you have a medium wet dough.

Pat the dough out on a floured board until it's about 3cm thick, cut into rounds and put on a baking tray. Sprinkle the rest of  the grated cheese on top of the scones. Cook for 12 - 15 minutes in a hot oven – 200C fan; cool on a wire rack.

You can leave out the chives and sift in 1/2 teaspoon dried mustard powder with the flour. The main thing is to handle  the dough as little as possible and get the scones into the oven as soon as you can after you have added the liquid.

Makes 6 - 8 scones.