Sunday, 24 March 2013

Hot Cross Buns

You can really tell it's Spring; the garden is under a blanket of snow and the temperature hasn't risen above -1C all day! Unbelievably, we change the clocks to Summertime next week...

There's only one thing to do – make Hot Cross Buns! Baking is not my forte, to be honest I’m not sure I even have a forte, but nothing ventured, nothing gained.

As it happens it was even more simple than usual since I threw the ingredients in the bread machine for the mixing and first proving, although it's not rocket science even if you choose to do it by hand. The warm spicy aroma while they were cooking was absolutely tantalising – so much so, we were forced into sampling one of the buns while they were still warm; purely in the interests of quality control, you understand….ahem.

I got halfway through measuring out the ingredients only to find the mixed dried fruit I was sure was in the pantry, wasn’t. Don't ask... Half a bag of cranberries and a handful of raisins had to suffice and made a very good substitute, happily.

½ a sachet of yeast
250g strong white flour
½ tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
25g butter
125ml milk
1 egg
½ tsp mixed spice
1 tsp cinnamon
75g mixed dried fruit
25g mixed peel

1 heaped tbsp plain flour

If you have a bread machine put the dough ingredients into the bread tin in the order given and set the machine going on the ‘Basic: dough: raisin’ setting, putting the fruit either in the dispenser or adding it when the machine beeps. When the machine stops follow the steps ** below.

If you’re making by hand, put the dry ingredients (except the fruit) and the egg into a large bowl, heat the butter and milk together until barely warm then add to the bowl. Mix with a wooden spoon to form a dough then turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead until the dough becomes smooth and silky; put the dough back in the bowl and cover loosely with clingfilm; leave in a warm place to prove until doubled in size then knead in the fruit and follow ** below.

**Divide the dough into eight equal pieces and, with lightly oiled hands, form into slightly flattened rounds. Put onto a baking tray lined with silicone paper, cover loosely with clingfilm and leave to prove in a warm place until doubled in size.

Turn the oven on to 200C.

Mix the plain flour with two tablespoons of water to make a thick paste. Spoon into a plastic sandwich bag, squeeze the paste into one corner and twist the bag tightly so it doesn't escape. Cut a tiny corner off the bag and you now have yourself a disposable piping bag.

Once the buns have doubled in size pipe crosses onto them and bake for 15-20 minutes until golden.
Boil 25g sugar with 2 tbsp water for 5 minutes to make a syrup then brush the buns with syrup whilst they’re still hot. Cool on a wire rack.

Serve with butter and jam.

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Tomato and Mozzarella Linguine

It’s allegedly the first day of Spring today, although I heard someone on the radio this morning say that Spring has been put back this year until the weather warms up a bit …round about August!  I’m thinking maybe we’ll just skip Spring and Summer; save time and go straight for Autumn…or perhaps we’re entering a new ice-age? It’s certainly blimmin’ cold enough.

I can’t believe I’m still cooking ‘winter’ food – it’s Easter next week for goodness sake! Note to self – must make some Hot Cross Buns…

I’ve just had a look back on the blog to check when I last made a new pasta dish; astonishingly it was in July 2012; this rather gives the lie to the widely held belief that veggies eat a lot pasta, don't you think?

Last night’s dinner was a tweak and a twist on a recipe I saw recently in a magazine – I’ve ditched half the ingredients (what is it with cream in everything these days?) and made the whole thing a lot less calorific and a whole lot cheaper. Proper week-night food…easy, simple and on the table in double-quick time.

Sorry about the iffy photo – I really must learn how to work that camera!
150g linguine
2 tbsp tomato pesto
100g bocconcini (baby mozzarella)
8 sun-dried tomatoes (in oil, from a jar)
grated parmesan-style cheese, to serve

Cook the linguine in a large pan of boiling water until just al dente – mine took about 7 minutes; cut the bocconcini in half and roughly chop the sun-dried tomatoes. Drain the pasta well in a colander; add the pesto, tomatoes and bocconcini to the hot pasta pan then tip the pasta back into the pan and stir to coat in the pesto.

Divide between two warmed pasta bowls and serve with plenty of parmesan-style cheese.

Saturday, 9 March 2013

I'm still waiting for Spring...

I was going to put a nice post on here today about Spring having sprung….Mr Simply Veg unpacked his brand new mower and cut the grass at the beginning of the week for the first time this year; it was a really lovely day, mild and sunny and such a pleasure to be out in the garden after all the awful weather we’ve had for the past few months. 

The smell of newly mown grass was in the air and a few daffodils were just starting to open; I even started looking up recipes for salads and lighter weight dishes for warmer weather…..and then it all went pear-shaped!

By the middle of the week it was cooler and raining and today it’s back to cold, misty and grey. What happened…?? It feels like November out there!

We went out for a walk this afternoon in the greyness – I was attired in boots, scarf, gloves and a heavy coat! On our return I mooched off to the kitchen and started making soup again; there’s a pan of Vegetable Beanpot and another pan of Red Lentil and Tomato on the hob. Looks like the salads and lightweight meals will have to wait for a while yet.

Watch this space.