Cooking with a Superfood

This weekend, after a hectic few weeks and prior to lots of exciting summery plans that we have coming up, I had absolutely nothing to do. Tom was off out on Saturday night and apart from begrudgingly going for a run at some point (must keep up with this), I had kept the weekend clear, and I was so excited! I decided that with all this lovely time on my hands I should tackle something more challenging than my usual Victoria sponge or choc chip cookies.

I gathered up my recipe books and started looking for something exciting to try and make. The first recipe I came upon was from the Hummingbird Bakery and was a blueberry and pecan crumble loaf. I’ve tried loaves in the past and struggled to get the mix to cook all the way through, but I decided the flavours sounded delicious so it was worth braving! I then saw a recipe for mini blueberry bakewells from the Great British Bake-Off cookbook which just looked too adorable not to turn my hand to! Also, it meant I could use a lot of the same ingredients, always a winner!

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You can find the recipe for the blueberry loaf in the Hummingbird Bakery cookbook Cake Days and it was really easy to follow. I did have to cook the loaf for a bit longer to ensure the middle was cooked all the way through and I think this made it dry out a bit. It has a bit of a strong crust but the flavours are really nice! Plus the marbled blueberries throughout look so pretty!

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I think with a drizzle of cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream this could be a real winner! I’m also pondering whether I could use slices of the loaf in a bread and butter pudding, that could be pretty good!

Next up this weekend was my biggest ever baking challenge: mini blueberry bakewell tarts. This recipe called for me to make my own blueberry jam, pastry, and frangipane, all for one teeny tiny adorable tart! Luckily the recipe is broken down into manageable stages and it was actually fairly easy to do. In my head frangipane was a terrifying baking term, mainly because I had literally no idea how to make it!

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I have to say I’m so pleased with how these have turned out! Probably my proudest baking moment to date! They’re a bit rough and ready compared to the incredibly neat ones pictured in the cookbook but I kind of like their quirky little wobbles and splurges of blueberry, makes them look all the more homemade! I will definitely make these again but might swap the blueberries for raspberries or maybe a lemon version with some curd at the bottom instead of jam. These little tarts would be perfect at an afternoon tea party or birthday tea, they’re so cute and look so pretty laid out on the plate. For this recipe, check out the first GBBO cookbook: How to Bake

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Prawn Tagine & Tomato Bread

A few months ago my mum and I went away for a weekend break to stay on a farm in the gorgeous Yorkshire countryside. We stayed in a lovely little cottage, went for long country walks and ate chips in the local pub, it was bliss!

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On the way we visited some friends and they took us to the Jordan’s mill where I went a bit mad and bought lots of lovely produce; jams, oatcakes, spices, and two bags of bread flour. I couldn’t resist the tomato and garlic or the multigrain flour, so obviously bought both!

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Last week I attempted to recreate a dish that I had at Honey & Co a few weeks ago: Prawn and Orange Tagine, which I served alongside some homemade tomato and garlic bread. I fried onion and garlic with cumin, coriander and turmeric spices, added orange juice and chopped tomatoes and let it simmer. When it had reduced down I added the prawns and slices of orange until everything was cooked through and delicious.

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To go with the tagine I baked a loaf using the tomato flour so we had something to dip in the orange sauce. The loaf had a good strong crust but I need to work on getting the crumb right, it was still a little doughy at the edges but the middle was getting there! I just need to keep practising, next up: a multigrain loaf

Oh, and Honey & Co was amazing! I’d recommend it to everyone! Such friendly service and the food was incredible – it’s small so make sure you book!

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Granny Rosie’s Lime Posset

A few weeks ago I went to stay with my Granny Roses and Grandad Don back home in Winchester. I always love visiting home, seeing the green fields whizz by on the train journey and enjoying a break from the big city of London.

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I love my grandparents, they are a huge inspiration and I always love spending time with them. My dad and my cousin Verity were coming over too for lunch and granny was in charge of pudding. She decided to make lime posset and it was delicious! Simple and quick to make, it was a light fresh dessert, and was the perfect end to a nice family lunch!

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Thinking of Theo

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My work colleague Lucy and her family are raising money to help fund life-enhancing therapies to help her son Theo. Theo was born at full term but suffered a complicated birth by emergency Caesarean section where he was starved of oxygen for a considerable amount of time. After several attempts at resuscitation, ventilation, 72 hours of cooling and pneumonia, Theo has survived to tell the tale.

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Gorgeous little Theo now lives with quadriplegic cerebral palsy, secondary dystonia and cortical visual impairment. Theo’s family are aiming to raise £50,000 in order to pay for special therapies and equipment that Theo can use to help him move better and learn to play. And so to help Lucy in her fundraising efforts we recently held a cake sale at work with the promise that the company would match what we raised. We also held a pub quiz in the local, with our resident company quiz master. We raised just over £900 which was a fantastic effort from everyone and I’m sure we’ll raise even more next time to help Theo with his progress.

Every little bit that we can raise will help towards Lucy’s target. For more information about Theo and his progress, visit his page here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1411664319070885/ or if you would like to donate, please visit wwww.justgiving.com/thinkingoftheo

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My First Attempt at Soda Bread with Mostly the Wrong Ingredients….

Soda bread, for me, is a bit like olives or red wine – it has one of those tastes that I associate with being a grown up; that once you become a grown up your taste buds will suddenly change and you’ll love to eat all these things that as a child you found revolting!

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My dad loves soda bread so we always had it in the kitchen; it was always sitting there in the bread bin when all I craved was a nice squidgy soft white loaf or perhaps an English muffin or bagel. Over the years I tried soda bread, often as a last resort to help me get my marmite fix but I just didn’t get it; why was it so cakey and oddly sweet?

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Fast forward a few years and I’m at the Guinness brewery in Dublin, specifically sitting in the cafe of the Guinness brewery, and I am marvelling at how delicious the soda bread is that they’ve served alongside the shepherd’s pie. Now I’m sure this had nothing to do with the pint I had just finished, but was all to do with how I finally understood the need for the slightly stodgier consistency and the sweetness and nuttiness of the soda bread. It perfectly complimented both the beer and the pie and was part of one of the nicest lunches I’d had in a long time.

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It’s been a while since our trip to Dublin but I’ve finally gotten round to giving soda bread a go. Except I had all the wrong ingredients! I couldn’t find buttermilk so I bought whole milk and I didn’t pay attention to what kind of flour to use. In the end the loaf came out ok but I think the consistency was slightly too cakey, even for this type of loaf. I also need to add a bit more salt next time. It looked good though!

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Sandie’s Lemon Drizzle

I’ve always loved a lemon drizzle but for some reason have never made one. Then along came Ovengate and put a stop to all baking. Now that I’ve got the power of the oven back again, I’m determined to bake all those recipes I never got around to.

This week my lovely friend Sandie posted some delicious-looking photos of her lemon drizzle cake and I knew that’s what I had to bake next! She kindly leant me her recipe, given to her by a friend years ago.

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I tried searching online for the history of this oh-so-perfect cake but found nothing. Whoever it was that first decided to flavour a sponge with lemon and then pour gorgeously sweet and citrusy sugar syrup over the top is a genius who I think needs to be remembered and celebrated!

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Sandie’s recipe was quick and easy to follow; she usually bakes a round lemon cake whereas I decided to go for the loaf tin approach, but the recipe still fit. If you don’t have a Sandie in your life to share her lemon drizzle recipe, there are loads online, including an article in the Guardian that compares and contrasts all manner of variations on the traditional recipe.

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The cake came out and looked so good I couldn’t help but have a piece straight from the oven! It was delicious: lemony, soft and with a nice density to it, not too much as it still crumbled slightly but enough to keep the slice in one piece. The best bit is when you get a slice where the syrupy lemon sugar has pooled in the sponge, it’s just so sweet and moist and lemony! Yum!

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Introducing PPB: Peanut Butter You Can Eat on A Diet

When I asked Tom what he would choose if he only had one meal left on earth, he asked for a peanut butter sandwich and ready salted crisps. My boy likes simple pleasures, and he loves his peanut butter! But when you’re on a diet, peanut butter is not your friend; or is it…?

Introducing PPB: Powdered Peanut Butter. With 70% less fat than other nut butters, no trans fat, and no added oils, it means you can enjoy peanut butter but without the calorie guilt! I thought this sounded too good to be true before I tried it and I wondered whether the taste would be as good as full-on peanut butter. Well, let me tell you, it tastes just like it! I mixed up a small amount to try with some bread and it was so tasty.

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With the peanut butter in powdered form, it means there are so many ways you can add the flavour to recipes. Add the powder to your curry sauce for a take on satay; mix it with bananas and yoghurt for a sweet, nutty smoothie; add some PPB to batter for biscuits and cookies; or pimp up your vanilla ice cream with a sprinkling of peanut powder!

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I finally have a working oven and now that I do, I wanted to satisfy my baking craving and my cookie craving! My first foray into baking with PPB comes in the form of these delicious, chewy, slightly crunchy-edged peanut and choc chip cookies.

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Sweet, nutty and crunchy, these biscuits went down a storm with the girls at work. I think next time I would increase the amount of PPB to amp up the flavour, but I was really happy with this first attempt. Next time I’m going to try a peanuty, satay dish and I also fancy trying my hand at peanut butter whoopie pies!

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What to do when you find yourself with a collapsing bundt cake…

….turn it into pudding!

I couldn’t have been more excited today, because guess what readers, our oven is fixed! Annnnd, I’ve had this oh-so-gorgeous bundt cake mould just waiting to be used, so it seemed like the perfect time to try it out.

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I don’t know if anyone has ever found this when cooking a bundt cake, but I did the clean knife test, and let it cool before attempting to turn it out; and that is when disaster struck! As I eased the cake out of the mould the bottom half came away perfectly, sadly the top half did not!

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Tom came and tried the sponge and declared that it was delicious and I wasn’t to waste it, so with a sudden burst of inspiration, I found a can of condensed milk in the cupboard which I thickened into a sauce. I layered up chocolate sponge with sticky sweet caramel sauce to make a tasty pudding. It’s not what I set out to make today but it tastes pretty darn good, and that’s the main thing!

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Winter salad

On Thursday, Tom and I went to see the legend that is David Gray at a small, intimate gig at The Emmanual Centre in Pimlico. Before the gig we stopped off at one of the pubs on Tom’s list of must-visit drinking establishments. Along with our drinks, we succumbed to their awesome looking burgers.

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I had no regrets, it was delicious, but Friday came and I felt the need for a healthy dinner. And yet, I still wanted a meal that was filling and full of flavour. I decided to make a warming winter salad of spinach leaves, crispy bacon, roasted butternut squash, crumbled feta and toasted pine nuts.

I love this salad and I’m definitely going to be making it again – you get the saltiness of the bacon, the crunch from the pine nuts, the freshness of the spinach leaves and the creaminess of the squash and feta. It also looks wonderful, with the bright rich orange against the deep green of the spinach: wonderfully inviting on a miserable, rainy night.

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Italian Beef Stew

From BBC GoodFood, this Italian beef stew is perfect for a quick hearty dinner when the weather is still so miserable. I probably could have cooked it for longer but Tom and I were getting too hungry!

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Braising steak, garlic, tomatoes, peppers, and herbs come together to make a rich flavoursome stew that can be served with rice, bread, broccoli or, as we had it, with couscous. I topped our dinner with some half fat creme fraiche to add a touch of creaminess to the dish – yum! Also, this dish comes in at 328 calories including the couscous and creme fraiche, so it’s perfect for all you healthy eaters out there!

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