Monday, 28 February 2011

Magazine Mondays - Carrot & Bean Patties

Ivonne at Cream Puffs in Venice, a blog I love reading, runs an event called Magazine Mondays. The idea is to actually use some of your stash of foodie magazines by choosing a recipe every week and cooking it. My magazine stash is getting way out of hand (bit like my cookbook collection, really) so I thought this was a great idea!

The magazine I'm cooking from is Cook Vegetarian. Now we are definitely not vegetarian, but one of my new year's resolutions was to eat less meat for various reasons (being poor, only buying free range meat, trying to be healthier) and I've been borrowing vegetarian cookbooks from the library and I bought this magazine because it had a free veggie curries booklet :) It's actually a really nice magazine, full of recipes you'd actually like to cook and eat and not feel deprived because they didn't contain half a cow.

So the recipe I chose was carrot and bean patties, the idea being that I could serve them like burgers with the sesame buns I made yesterday. I adapted the recipe only slightly.

1 onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for brushing
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
450g carrots, roughly chopped
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
200ml vegetable stock (I use Marigold bouillon powder, much nicer than stock cubes)
salt & freshly ground black pepper
1 can of red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
75g breadcrumbs
3 tbsp chopped fresh coriander (see note below)

Heat the olive oil in a large pan, add the onion, garlic and spices and fry over a lowish heat for a few minutes. Add the carrots and fry for another minute. Add the stock and seasoning, bring to the boil, cover and simmer for about 15 minutes until the carrots are tender. Drain and leave to cool.

Mash the carrots and onions with a potato masher. Then add the kidney beans and mash again. Add the breadcrumbs and coriander, mix well and check the seasoning.

Divide the mixture into six and shape into round burger-like patties. It's easier if you wet your hands. I used a steel chef's ring to make mine perfectly round.

At this point you can freeze them, or chill them for later, but if you're going to cook them, brush them on both sides with olive oil (I use an oil pump spray, which I fill with olive oil), place them on a baking sheet and bake at 220ºC for about 20 minutes.

I made some baked potato wedges to go with the patties, and served them in the sesame burger buns with a bit of rocket salad and some sweet chilli mayonnaise (just made by mixing mayo and sweet chilli sauce).

I just want to show you two of my favourite shortcut ingredients. As I live in a village, I often find it difficult to get hold of fresh coriander and don't always fancy driving a 12 mile round trip to the nearest big supermarket, and I can't seem to keep a growing plant alive for more than a week, so I keep this Gourmet Garden coriander paste in the fridge. It's great stuff, definitely the next best thing.

And the breadcrumbs... well, I never throw bread away. The stale bits go into the blender to be turned into breadcrumbs, which then go in the freezer, so I always have fresh breadcrumbs. And there's no need to defrost them before using. I have no idea why people buy breadcrumbs!

Sunday, 27 February 2011

Brilliant buns make the best burgers

A few weeks ago, in Dublin Airport, I had a cheeseburger from Burger King. The burger itself wasn't that bad, but the bum was horrible. A bendy, floppy, tasteless brown piece of cotton wool. I honestly wouldn't have a clue how to make a burger bun that was that floppy.

I do, however, know how to make lovely sesame buns that are a lot more tasty and filing and, importantly, don't bend when you pick them up! These are very easy, and they freeze very well so you can always have a few ready for when you just fancy a burger (or something else tasty in a bap).


450g strong flour
300ml warm water (not too hot)
5g dried yeast (or 1 tsp)
pinch of sugar
9g salt (if your scale doesn't weigh increments as small as this, just use 2 level tsp)
1 tbsp sesame oil
sesame seeds

Firstly, dissolve the dried yeast and the sugar in the warm water. Let it sit for ten minutes till it starts to foam. (If you're using easy blend dried yeast you don't need to do this step, you can just throw it all in together.)

Mix the flour and salt. Make a well and pour in the yeast and water mixture and the sesame oil. Mix it all together with your hand until you get a shaggy ball of dough, and knead it on a lightly floured surface for about ten minutes until it's lovely and smooth and stretchy. If it's very wet, add a bit more flour, but try not to add too much because the higher the water content of your dough, the nicer the texture of the bread will be. Alternatively, throw it all in a food mixer with a dough hook and knead for about five minutes on a low speed. You could also use a breadmaker on a dough setting.

Make the dough into a nice tight ball and sit it in a bowl that you've sprayed or lightly rubbed with oil. Cover it with a bit of oiled cling film and put it somewhere warm for an hour or so, or till it's doubled in size.

When it's looking ready, take it out of its bowl, knock it back and give it a light knead. Cut it into six equal(ish) portions, roll them into balls and place them on a floured or oiled baking tray, quite close together. Brush the tops with a little water and sprinkle them with sesame seeds. Cover with a clean tea towel and leave for about forty minutes or until they're starting to join up. Meanwhile preheat the oven to 190ºC and place a roasting tin or similar on the bottom of the oven.
Ready for their final rising

Put the buns on a high shelf, and pour some water into the roasting tin - this helps to create a lovely crust. Bake for about 25 minutes, or until they sound hollow when tapped on the bottom and are nicely browned on top. Cool on a wire rack.

Tomorrow I'll show you what we ate in these buns for our dinner tonight!

By the way, here's my "breadmaker", also known as a Kenwood Chef.

I usually can't be bothered to knead dough by hand so this is in constant use in our house, not just for bread but for cakes, pastry, pasta dough and all sorts of stuff. It's about seven years old and still good as new - I expect it'll probably outlive me. We do have a breadmaker but it very rarely gets used, because I prefer to be able to get a feel for the dough.

Friday, 25 February 2011

Stem ginger cake will make me thin

Yesterday, I came to a decision. I am going on a diet.

Today I celebrated that decision by baking a cake.

No, it's ok. Really. Because this is a low fat cake. In fact the original recipe (which, of course, I've tinkered with) came from a Weightwatchers cookbook. It's a bit obsolete now, because they've totally changed the Weightwatchers points system, but it's still a nice book with recipes that work and don't taste like cardboard, like most food aimed at dieters. It also has my favourite madeleine recipe, which is only low fat because they're quite tiny but is still made with proper butter, and I'll share that with you one of these days.

But for today, here's my recipe for stem ginger cake for people who would like to be thinner but still eat baked products.


175g porridge oats
175g self raising flour (or use plain flour with 1 tsp of baking powder and 1/2 tsp bicarb)
75g low fat margarine (Flora Light etc)
4 pieces of stem ginger, chopped finely
2 tbsp syrup from the ginger jar
1 tsp ground ginger
6 tbsp powdered artificial sweetener, eg Splenda
2 tbsp honey
1 egg, beaten lightly
150ml skimmed milk
zest and juice of 1 nice fat lemon

(If you're not on a diet, bake this cake anyway, but use butter instead of margarine, and caster sugar instead of the horrid artificial sweetener)


Preheat the oven to 160º. Grease and flour an 8" round tin. I just use low fat cooking spray, which works fine, it's not a particularly sticky cake.

Put the flour and oats into a bowl and mix it together (plus baking powder and bicarb, if using). Rub the margarine into the dry mixture until it looks like breadcrumbs.

Put everything else into the bowl, give it a good mix until it's all combined, and pour it into the prepared cake tin. Bake for an hour, or until a skewer comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.

I thought this might have turned out quite dry, but it's really not at all. In fact it's a nice moist cake, perfect to go with your 3pm coffee, and you won't feel guilty afterwards.

(Unless, that is, you've scoffed the entire cake in one sitting. Which really isn't that diet-friendly at all.)

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

more muffins and another cookbook

I don't plan to review cookbooks with every single post, but I happened to make some more muffins yesterday and I thought as long as I'm going to tell you about them, I might as well tell you about the book they came from.

So about a year ago, I had a few too many drinks one night, got home, looked at the internet for a while and collapsed into bed. A few days later, a package popped through my door. Apparently, in my inebriated state, I'd gone onto Amazon and ordered a book and had absolutely no recollection of having done so. Oops... as it turned out, it was one of the best purchases I'd made in ages. I'd bought Muffins Fast and Fantastic by Susan Reimer.

I won't post any of her recipes because I want everyone to go out and buy this book - I am absolutely evangelical about it - but you can find some of the recipes on her website. I've probably made 75% of the recipes and you can tell, because it's the dirtiest and most disgusting cookbook I own. The page with the chocolate muffin recipe is so sticky with drips of muffin batter that I actually have to peel the pages apart. I've made the lemon and poppy seed muffins more times than I can remember to feed workmates and friends and they have always been devoured eagerly.

The ones I made yesterday were carrot, bran and walnut. In order to fool myself into thinking they're healthy, I made them absolutely tiny by baking them in a mini muffin tin from Lakeland, and got about thirty instead of twelve.

Currently the book is £4.57 on Amazon. That's practically free. I really must insist you buy a copy and bake your way through it.

Monday, 21 February 2011

Baking Made Easy

If you haven't been to your local library for a while, you might be pleasantly surprised. Despite being in a small town, our library is fantastic. It's big and bright and very well-stocked, the librarians are smiley, and you can order in any book from the rest of the library network (I think there are about 15 branches) for the bargainous price of 30p. Needless to say, I borrow a lot of cookbooks. You can borrow 16 items at any one time, and currently I have 15 cookbooks and the book of Karl Pilkington's An Idiot Abroad.

Anyway, I'm rambling. If you're in the UK you've probably seen, or at least heard about, Lorraine Pascale's recent BBC series, Baking Made Easy. Lorraine is a former supermodel turned trained chef and baker, and her series was full of good ideas, inspiring recipes and little tricks. What it was NOT full of was gratuitous pouting, finger-licking and expansive bosoms, which meant it was a lot easier to watch than Nigella's latest offering!

Lorraine has written a book to accompany the series, and I've borrowed it from the library. Well... it's lovely! Lots of old favourites like the Victoria sandwich and brioche, some old favourites given an update like coffee and maple pannetone (definitely one I'll be trying) and hazelnut and lemon madelines and lots of both sweet and savoury recipes. I think that no matter how seasoned a baker you are, there's definitely something for you here. And she does seem to place an emphasis on entertaining, so expect lots of ideas and recipes for your next party.

I had a go at making her salt and pepper breadsticks today. They were super easy, took about two hours from start to finish (as there is only one rising) and tasted gorgeous. Just the thing to dip into the pot of Moroccan hummous I found in the Co-Op bargain bin this morning :)

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Ciabatta, and a celebration of my new toy

There are very few kitchen gadgets and appliances that I don't own, but one thing missing from my life was a panini press.

So on Thursday I bought a panini press. I'm so glad that I did. Look how shiny it is.

And while Sainsbury's ciabatta rolls are perfectly nice, I was sure I could do better. So I dug out my copy of Ursula Ferrigno's The New Family Bread Book which I was lucky enough to win last year on Let Her Bake Cake, found a recipe, and set to work.

Ciabatta is a long drawn out process, which you need to start the night before you actually want some bread, and it's best if you do it on a day when you're mostly at home as there are a few stages of knocking back and proving.

Here's the recipe (slightly adapted):

Make the biga the night before: Dissolve 1tsp dried yeast in 150ml warm water. Add to 250g strong plain flour and mix it to a loose, sticky dough. Knead for a few minutes, cover and leave overnight.

Next day, dissolve another 1tsp dried yeast into 300ml warm water. Add this to the biga and mix together. Add 250g strong flour and beat with a wooden spoon, your hand or the dough hook of an electric mixer for a few minutes. Cover and leave somewhere warm to double in size. (This took about 2 hours.)

Next add 2 tsp Maldon or other sea salt, or 1 1/2 tsp 'normal' salt, and 4tsp olive oil (extra virgin is nice, but normal is fine) to the dough, and add another 250g strong flour. Knead with your hands or a machine till the dough is smooth - it will be very sticky but this is normal. Cover and leave to double in size again. Turn on the oven to 200ºC.

Now throw lots of flour onto your work surface, knock the dough back and shape it into twelve little turd-like shapes (sorry, but look at the photo below to see what I mean!).

Sprinkle a bit of semolina onto two baking trays, divide the rolls between the baking trays, sprinkle the tops with lots more semolina (it gives the finished rolls a lovely texture), cover with clean tea towels and leave to prove for another half an hour or so.

Bake for 15-20 minutes till they are golden and crisp, and cool on a wire rack.

Now I know this all sounds like a bit of a faff, but believe me it is worth it - these little rolls are much nicer than anything you can buy in the shops.

So what I did was split two in half (they're small, and I was hungry, alright?), spread pesto on one half, sprinkled on some grated mozzarella, toasted them in the panini press and scoffed them with a bit of rocket salad. Yummy.

Incidentally, if you like baking bread, get yourself a dough scraper like the one below. If my house was on fire, this would be one of the things I'd grab (along with the Kenwood Chef and the pressure cooker). It's one of the most useful things in any baker's kitchen.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

the humble muffin

Dear blog,

I am sorry that I created you months and months ago, spent ages listing all my cookbooks on a separate tab and then completely neglected you. I promise to be better in future, and actually take photos of lots of lovely food and share them with the world.

By way of apology, here is a recipe for some healthy muffins. I know, healthy isn't a word you'd normally associate with the stuff that comes out of my oven, but now and then I surprise myself.

Preheat the oven to 225ºC.


225g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
big pinch of salt
240ml plain yoghurt (or as much yoghurt as you have, and make up the rest with milk)
1 egg
120g soft light brown sugar
2 heaped tablespoons honey
60g bran
90ml vegetable/rapeseed oil
handful linseeds
handful chopped walnuts
pumpkin seeds
extra milk to loosen mixture

Sift the flour, baking powder, bicarb and salt into a large bowl. I have to admit I don't do this - I just throw it in and mix it around.

Measure the yoghurt/milk into a measuring jug. Crack in the egg and mix it in with a fork. Add the sugar, honey, bran and oil, mixing with the fork after each addition.

Pour the wet mixture into the flour mixture and fold it in - you will probably need a bit of extra milk to loosen it up as it may be quite stiff. Don't overmix it, it should still be lumpy. When you're almost done, add the linseeds and walnuts and fold them in.

Divide the mixture into about twelve muffin cases (mine are from Ikea, I thought they were cute). Sprinkle pumpkin seeds over the top. Place in the oven and immediately turn the oven temperature down to 200ºC. The initial burst of heat helps the muffins to rise nicely, and turning it down immediately stops them burning, see? Time it for twenty minutes, take them out and cool on a wire rack. Eat at least one while they're still quite warm, they're much nicer that way.

Another confession - I have a new camera. I'm used to an SLR but this is a little compact with all auto settings, and I'm finding it very hard to get a decent photo. So as mine were all either over or under exposed, I have photoshopped the hell out of them, just for fun.

I doubt my next post (and yes, there will be one) will be as healthy as this one...
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