Friday, 29 July 2011

Forever Nigella - Iced Dreams

This month's Forever Nigella is hosted by Soul Curry, a lovely blog I only discovered recently. Arthi's photos are gorgeous and the blog is beautifully written so it's one I really love reading (and check out her strawberry shaped macarons, how cute are these?!).

Anyway the theme is Iced Dreams, which suited me just fine as Nigella has lots of recipes for desserts that are meant to be served cold. The only problem was choosing just one. I flicked past ice creams and mousses and settled on one of my all-time favourite desserts which for some reason I haven't made in a really long time.


Or, depending where you're from, creme caramel. But I've studied Spanish on and off for years and been to Spain lots of times, so in my mind it's definitely flan, and that's what Nigella calls it in her recipe.

Normally you'd make a kind of custard, but in her book Express, Nigella has a much quicker and easier way. You boil up a bit of caramel as normal, but for the custardy bit you just whisk together a tin of condensed milk, a tin of evaporated milk, some eggs and some vanilla, and bake it in a bain marie. I have to admit I overcooked this very slightly so it's not quite as wobbly as I'd like! But it's still delicious and this is definitely a recipe I'll be going back to again and again, I only wish I'd discovered it sooner!

Thanks to Arthi for hosting and Sarah of Maison Cupcake :)

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Random Recipes - My Favourite Cookbook

The theme for this month's Random Recipes really gave me a headache. Have you seen my cookbook collection?! How on earth was I supposed to pick a favouite? But I had a good think about it. Which ones did I use the most? Which recipes did I keep going back to, and which ones always worked? More importantly, which ones did I find myself reading in bed?

And after much pondering, I've decided that my favourite cookbook is...


How To Be a Domestic Goddess, by the wonderful Nigella Lawson.

I've had this quite a few years now and so many recipes in it have become old favourites that I've memorised from making them so often. The American Pancake recipe is ridiculously good. The Easy Almond Cake on page 6 is amazing, and so easy that my husband managed to make it all by himself for my birthday cake this year. And Nigella's sweet pastry recipe is the one I've adopted as my own, choosing it over the likes of Michel Roux because it just works so well.

Once again I got carried away and made two different recipes for this challenge.

The unappetising stuff in this jar is pineapple chutney. Doesn't it look disgusting? Please don't judge by appearances. This stuff is fantastic. Put a great blob of it in a cheese sandwich (even better if it's toasted). It tastes of cinnamon and star anise and turmeric and all things nice. There is absolutely no better use for a mouldy pineapple, I promise.

And the obligatory sweet cakey thing. I don't know why I haven't made these before: Baby Bundts. Delicious little yoghurty lemony squidgey things that, despite my coffee fixation, really need to be eaten alongside a cup of tea.

I'm not sure if this book is as popular in the US as it is in the UK - can any readers across the pond enlighten me? Do you guys love Nigella over there as much as we do here?

Anyway here were the other contenders for my favourite cookbook, in no particular order:

Muffins Fast and Fantastic by Susan Reimer
Baking From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan (even though I only started actually cooking from it last month!)
The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook by Tarek Malouf
The River Cottage Bread Handbook by Dan Stevens
Good Food: 101 Cakes & Bakes
The Italian Cookery Course by Katie Caldesi
Complete Chinese Cookbook by Ken Hom
Ursula's Italian Cakes and Desserts by Ursula Ferrigno

Thursday, 21 July 2011

A brief chat about coffee.

Up until recently, I was quite happy to drink instant coffee.

Not exclusively, mind you. My coffee of choice was Douwe Egberts ground coffee, brewed in a filter machine or (preferably) in a cafetiere. But on those mornings when I just couldn't be bothered, or if I needed to fill up a flask to take somewhere, I could cope with some Kenco instant. No problem.

No more.

I have always liked espressos but lacked the equipment to make them at home. Recently I did a bit of looking around on the internet and discovered that a little stovetop coffee pot was the next best thing to an expensive espresso machine, and one trip to TK Maxx later and £5.99 poorer, I became the proud owner of a little cream-coloured one. And to make my shopping trip even more successful, I found some pretty white and duck egg blue espresso cups and saucers in a House of Fraser outlet store - £3.00 for a set of four. It'd be rude not to.

For my first attempt with the little stovetop, I used my Douwe Egberts coffee. It was good. Really good.

The following day I popped into a coffee shop in the town where I work. They blend and roast all their own coffee and will grind it however you like. I bought a little bag of java mocha, which is apparently their biggest seller and which smells better than almost anything on earth. And you know what? This is the stuff that's ended my relationship with instant coffee for good. I can never go back now.

So I'm interested. Do you drink coffee? What type? How do you brew it? Tell me about your coffee habits.

The only thing that can improve a good coffee, by the way, is a good biscotti to perch on the saucer. So here's a recipe for a good chocolate chip & hazelnut biscotti (adapted slightly from Good Housekeeping Favourite Cakes, Bakes & Cupcakes).


125g plain flour
75g caster sugar (golden, if you have it)
1/2 tsp baking powder
pinch of cinnamon
pinch of salt
1 egg
1 tbsp milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
25g hazelnuts (remove the skins first)
25g chocolate chips, or chopped chocolate

Preheat the oven to 200ºC. Line a baking sheet with parchment or a Silpat or similar.

Mix the flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking powder and salt. In a separate jug or small bowl, beat the milk, egg and vanilla with a fork. Make a well in the dry ingredients, pour in the wet stuff, the hazelnuts and the chocolate and mix it all together with a fork until you get a sticky dough.

Knead this on a floured surface till it comes together and roll it into a log about 25-30cm long. Place this on the baking sheet, flatten it slightly and bake for about 20 mins till golden.

Remove from the oven and drop the oven down to 150ºC. Transfer the log to a chopping board and slice it on a diagonal into slices about 1cm thick. Stand the slices on the baking tray and put back into the oven for about 10-15 minutes until dry and golden.

This particular biscotti recipe produces biscuits that are very hard (this is traditional, but see here for a softer biscotti recipe) and you really need to dip them into your drink to make them easy to eat - but they are truly delicious!

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Millets Pick Your Own Farm - a grand day out!

This blog post is long overdue, and my excuse is that I was having problems with the memory card I used to take the photos - a bit of fiddling about was required! Anyway better late than never, and I want to tell you about a lovely day out I had a couple of weeks ago at Millets Farm near Abingdon, in Oxfordshire.

Some of the lovely stuff on offer

I was invited along with some other food bloggers for a tour of the pick your own fields, and despite days of horrible weather earlier in the week, we were lucky that the sun was shining! On hand were Jo from Millets with Orlin, the fruit expert, and Les who is in charge of the veggies, and they were happy to answer our many questions about growing stuff - apparently lots of food bloggers are also allotment holders (like me!) or have beds or pots of stuff in their garden, so it was great to get some expert advice.


Ickle baby beetroots!

We were all given a basket to fill with whatever we liked from the PYO fields, and I have to admit that I was the greediest person there - see my basket below, but what isn't pictured is that I stuffed my handbag with rhubarb too!

Greedy, moi?

They also have a fantastic farm shop there, which I've been to quite a few times before, and particularly fantastic is the fishmonger (I'm a sucker for fresh fish, as you may know) and the bakery section which is full of home made goodies and which I couldn't resist visiting and buying a treacle tart :)

Pick strawberries without even having to bend down!

I think we picked all the ripe ones...

One really unique thing about Millets is their Maize Maze! Unfortunately it was too early for it to be open as the maize would only have been about knee high, but it'll be open next week and hopefully we'll be going along to check it out. Although given my sense of direction I'll probably need to take a sat nav to find my way back out again. It'd be a great day out for the kids, and you can also visit the farm animals who live near the farm shop (home of a large porker that my husband called the "juicy pig" last time we were there!).

Juicy redcurrants

On departure we were given a lovely goodie bag full of stuff like scones, posh apple juice made from Millets' own apples, fudge... all of which disappeared before I could photograph them. But I did manage a quick snap of some lovely jam and chutney that was also in the bag.

Yummy goodies.

I would like to extend a massive thanks to everyone at Millets, and Hallane at Energy PR, for inviting me - I will be back very soon!

Les with his amazing carrots - I ate a raw one with the soil still attached and it was delicious!

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Upside Down Cake - about as retro as it gets!

Ages ago I made a pineapple upside down cake at work. The height of 1970s sophistication (or was it 1960s? before my time anyway), the upside down cake is sadly no longer as popular as it once was. Perhaps it's because fewer people eat tinned fruit these days? I don't know. Anyway I found the recipe in an old Good Housekeeping cookbook from the early 70s that used to belong to my boss's mother, and I liked it so much that I snapped a quick iPhone photo of it and was going to share the recipe on my blog.

Except I completely forgot about it.

Until today, when I went to a car boot fair and found a copy of the book (in much better condition, it even still has its dust jacket) for a pound. Obviously I snapped it up, and I remembered that I was supposed to share this lovely recipe with you. So here it is, in its original Imperial measurements because I feel it would be wrong to convert them, and in its original wording with my comments in parenthesis.

Pineapple & Gingerbread Upside Down Cake


1/2 lb butter
9 oz demerara sugar
1 15oz can pineapple rings (the equivalent size can nowadays is 432g)

2 eggs
10 oz self raising flour
1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/8 tsp grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
4 tbsps milk

Preheat the oven to 350ºF/gas 4/180ºC. Grease a baking tin about 8" square. (I used a 10" round tin. Don't use a loose-based tin because it will leak!)

Melt 2oz butter, add 3oz demerara sugar and dissolve, add 3 tbsp pineapple juice from the tin. Bring to the boil and cook until a thick syrup is formed. (I did this in the microwave, by the way - it only took a couple of minutes.) Pour this into the tin and cover with slices of pineapple. (I also added glacé cherries in the holes in the pineapple ring, which is how I always remember seeing upside down cake.)

Cream the remaining butter and sugar. Beat in the eggs and fold in the dry ingredients to give a soft consistency. Pour this mixture over the pineapple and bake in the centre of the oven for 1 1/4 hours (in fact I found it only took about 50 minutes in a fan oven, so be careful).

This cake smelled absolutely gorgeous while it was baking; I reckon it's worth making just so you can have a sniff!

My boot sale find :)

There are lots of lovely retro recipes in this book, so look out for more of them in future.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...