Hot Cross Saffron Scones

hot_cross_saffron_sconesA twist on the traditional buns, these scones make a nice change and come together very quickly unlike their yeasted cousins. I mis-read the original recipe and used a larger cutter to stamp the rounds out with – therefore, these are not very thick but I rather liked the way they turned out.

hot_cross_saffron_scones

Start by steeping the saffron – you don’t need a lot of this gorgeous spice to get a huge amount of flavour, heady perfume and colour. Also get the crosses ready – having the scone dough while you do this later will not be doing it any favours! I have detailed the order of play in the instructions below.

hot_cross_saffron_scones

Rub the butter into the flour – it should be a bit lumpy. You could do this step in a food processor but as it is the only time you will need to use it for this recipe, I think it is a bit of a waste of time. By the time you have got it out and set up, you can have the step done by hand. Then mix in the sugar, fruit and spices. Whisk the liquids and add to the flour mix.hot_cross_saffron_scones

Gently bring the dough together in the mixing bowl. lightly flour your surface and roll out the dough.

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Stamp out the rounds and place on the prepared tray

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Brush with milk, place the crosses and brush with milk again.

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Glaze with the sugar syrup while they are still hot!

hot_cross_saffron_sconesEat buttered and warm.

Not only is is Good Friday but it’s also Fiesta Friday over at Angie’s blog The Novice Gardener. Time to join the party with these scrumptious scones in hand!  See ya there…

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Click on the link to be taken to Angie’s wonderful blog The Novice Gardener and join the party! Mix and mingle with the the guests – who knows who you might meet! http://thenovicegardener.wordpress.com/2014/04/18/fiesta-friday-12-2/

If you blog and would like to join the party, here are the guidelines http://thenovicegardener.wordpress.com/fiesta-friday/

Hot Cross Saffron Scones

  • Servings: 8 - 9 scones
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Adapted from Hot Cross Scones by Silvana Franco for Delicious Magazine

INGREDIENTS

For the crosses

  • 50g flour
  • 1 ½ tablespoons water

For the scones

  • pinch of saffron
  • 2 teaspoons just boiled water
  • 225g self raising flour
  • 75g room temperature butter
  • 40g light brown muscovado sugar
  • 75g sultanas
  • 50g mixed peel
  • ½ teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 1 large egg
  • 4 tablespoons milk

For the glaze

  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 4 tablespoons just boiled water

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 200C/400F and line a baking sheet with paper.
  2. Crumble the saffron strands into a small glass and add 2 teaspoons of boiling water – set aside to steep.
  3. Make the crosses by stirring in the water into the flour and kneading until it comes together as a dough. Cover and set aside to rest.
  4. Place the self raising flour in a bowl and rub in the butter until the mixture looks like coarse breadcrumbs – you want to have some tiny lumps of butter to make the scones tender…
  5. Stir in the sugar, sultans, mixed peel, and nutmeg – make sure all is evenly distributed.
  6. Roll out the dough for the crosses and slice into enough strips to make the crosses. You should have more that you need. Put on a plate and cover.
  7. Lightly whisk the egg then add the milk and the saffron and whisk again.
  8. Make a well in the dry ingredients, pour in the egg mix and with a light hand, bring it together to form a dough. Do not over mix or the scones will be tough.
  9. Lightly flour your work surface and tip out the dough. Lightly flour the top and pat it into an oblong shape and gently roll out – mime ended up being 2 cm thick.
  10. Stamp out 8 or 9 3 inch rounds – I got 6 then with the trimmings, I patted them together gently, divided into three and hand-formed 3 more scones.
  11. Brush the tops with a little milk and form the crosses on them and brush them with milk too.
  12. Place on a prepared baking sheet and bake for 12 – 15 minutes.
  13. In the meantime mix the sugar and water to make the glaze
  14. Once the scones are done, brush with the glaze.
  15. Eat warm and buttered!

Orange and Coconut French Toast with Fruit

orange_coconut_french_toastEaster holidays are in full swing, which this year means LOTS of revision for GCSEs which start shortly after the beginning of next term. I made French Toast aka Pain Perdu aka Eggy Bread aka Gypsy Toast over the weekend and thought that you might appreciate a little reminder that it makes a really lovely and seasonal breakfast.

orange_coconut_french_toast

Years ago, when I lived in Weybridge, my brother came over from Canada to visit. He was probably about 19 or 20 and had a HUGE appetite in those days – I remember being astounded at how much food he could get through. He loves pointing out all the cultural differences between England and Canada – just recently commenting on how the English love living in tiny properties…I digress. We had a friend who owned a Novelle Cuisine restaurant in Hersham and she invited us to have a meal with her there. If this food fad passed you by, please click on the link for a visual. We started with a selection of tiny but beautiful amuse bouche with our aperitifs. Eventually our first course arrived –  a stunning looking plate of 3 slender asparagus spears, one quail’s egg with a 5 drops/dots/daubs of  hollandaise sauce. I deliberately avoided eye contact with my brother at this point. Our main course was served - my brother had chosen the steak – 3 tiny tournedos of filet mignon looking stylish and very, very  small indeed on the large white plate…I choked back a giggle and didn’t dare look at him for fear of disgracing myself – I mean it was such a lovely gesture for our friend to host us at her restaurant, right? He  leaned over to me and said, “What’s this? A snack?!” Yes, I was both mortified and hysterical with laughter. We ended up getting some pizzas on the way back that evening…

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I remember making a version of this French Toast for him which I think had rum or brandy in it; whichI baked in the oven – I  really was a novice in the kitchen back then and didn’t feel confident enough to fry them. It had a great flavour but not such a nice mouth feel.  I now always add something to the eggy mix and it is usually orange zest and cinnamon. This time I thought that coconut might be nice and it was. I also knocked up a quick fruit topping which was absolutely delicious.

orange_coconut_french_toast

So this is what you do…

orange_coconut_french_toastFirst, get the fruit ready – it really elevates this fairly simple dish into something weekend-worthy…Put a pan on to heat and slice up one banana per person. Put a pat of butter in and let it sizzle over med low heat. Add the banana slices and let their natural sugars caramelise (not on too high a heat or they will just burn) on one side – start segmenting an orange in the meantime – I had a blood orange left so used that. Then flip the banana slices over and carry on segmenting the orange. If the butter browns a little that is great – just keep an eye on the heat so that nothing burns. Once the banana slices are done, turn off the heat and toss in the orange segments, squeeze over any juice left in the membrane and in the bowl and toss in a few blueberries. The residual heat will warm everything up and make it absolutely delicious! (Please click the link to watch a short demo on segmenting citrus fruit, if you are unfamiliar with the technique.)

orange_coconut_french_toastThen get on with the egg mixture. Beat some eggs and a splash of milk in a dish; sprinkle over some cinnamon, grate in the zest of an orange

orange_coconut_french_toastand stir in some coconut.

orange_coconut_french_toastPut a large frypan on medium low flame to heat up and  dunk the bread in the eggy mix. (And yes, that is Hovis, Best of Both – my concession to Jake’s inevitable request for – what I call – white plastic bread, in the holidays.)

orange_coconut_french_toastPut some butter in the pan to heat up and flip the slices of bread over to soak on the other side. This type of bread soaks up an amazing amount of liquid…

orange_coconut_french_toastOnce the butter is sizzling, place the bread in the pan and cook gently for 2 or 3 minutes. I don’t add sugar to the egg mix because I find that then the  bread burns on the outside and is raw in the middle – I serve maple syrup on the side instead. Check the state of play by lifting a corner of the bread slices to see how they are coming along. Once they have browned nicely on one side, flip them over and  do the same – they won’t need as long on the second side.

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Serve with maple syrup, honey, icing sugar, fruit – whatever takes your fancy.

 

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Orange and Coconut French Toast with Fruit

  • Servings: 1-2 depending on the bread
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

INGREDIENTS

For the fruit

  • 1 medium banana per person cut into 1 cm slices
  • 1 small orange per person, segmented – save the any juice including what is left in the membrane
  • ¼ cup of blueberries per person
  • 1 tsp of butter per person

For the french toast

  • 2 large eggs
  • ⅓ cup of milk (approx 3 tablespoons)
  • ½ tsp of cinnamon
  • ½ tsp of vanilla extract
  • zest of one orange
  • 1 Tbsp coconut – desiccated
  • 2 slices of large sandwich bread or 4 slices of something smaller and not as absorbent!
  • 1 tsp of butter – please – just eyeball it!
  • ½ tsp icing sugar

To serve

  • Maple syrup, golden syrup, honey, agave nectar…
  • creme fraiche or yoghurt
  • Fresh fruit if you prefer – strawberries, blueberries, bananas, peaches, mango etc.
  • Fruit compote

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Put a small frying pan on a medium flame to heat up. Add butter when the pan is hot and once the butter is sizzling a little, add the banana slices in one layer , turning down the heat if necessary and allow to caramelise on one side.  Check after 1 or 2 minutes and when ready, flip over and do the same with the other side.  Once the slices are done, turn the heat off, scatter over the orange segments, juice and blueberries, shaking the pan gently to mix.
  2. Crack eggs into a container which will comfortably fit at least one slice of bread – one large enough for two or more slices would be better. Add the milk, cinnamon and vanilla and whisk until there are no traces of yolk or white remaining. Zest the orange directly over the egg mix and sprinkle in the coconut – mix well.
  3. Put a frying pan on a medium flame to heat up.
  4. Lay the bread in the egg mix and allow to soak for about 30 seconds to a minute, depending on what type of bread you are using. 2 slices of sandwich bread soaked up all the eggy mix but if you use smaller, less absorbent bread you should be able to double the amount you can make.
  5. Put the butter in the hot pan to melt and turn the heat down a little.
  6. Flip the slices of bread over and let them soak up the remaining eggy mix.
  7. Swirl the butter round the bottom of the pan to coat it well then transfer the soaked slices of bread into the pan.
  8. Let this cook for about 3 minutes or so but do check from time to time, that it is not burning – the idea is to cook the egg through to the centre of the bread whilst the bottom turns golden brown and crispy. It is better to lower the heat and cook for a little longer rather than have the heat too high and char the bread, obviously.
  9. Flip the bread over and cook the second side for 2 minutes or so.
  10. Remove to plates and serve with the warm fruit, a dollop of creme fraiche and the syrup of your choice

 

 

Cook the Books – Roasted Cauliflower and Hazelnut Salad

 

roasted_cauliflower_and_hazlenut_saladThis recipe caught my eye the other day and I have been desperate to try it – there are still lots of gleaming white cauliflowers around as well as large glossy, ruby pomegranates too so I determined to pick both up, sooner rather than later.  I was intrigued by the ‘spicing’. It’s almost Christmasy, warm, with maple syrup, allspice and cinnamon but with the fresh flavours of sweet, slightly tart pomegranate arils (seeds), crunchy celery and  grassy parsley, perfectly complemented by the roasted hazelnuts. I made it for an impromptu lunch yesterday and  two teenagers gave it a huge thumbs up. It’s a lovely way to eat cauliflower and would be a stunning addition to the Easter table.

roasted_cauliflower_and_hazlenut_saladThis really is a fabulous recipe book, full of gorgeous flavours and so much history too. Yotam Ottolenghi also writes for the Guardian at the weekend so you can catch up with his cooking there and be amazed at some of the vitriol in the comments section – I hope he doesn’t read them – from people who are sitting on their backsides contributing nothing at all to society…

roasted_cauliflower_and_hazlenut_saladPomegranates are an ancient fruit most likely originating from Persia – modern day Iran. Also mentioned in Babylonian texts, The Book of Exodus, The Q’ran and the Homeric Hymns, their history is quite amazing – do click on the link which will take you to the Wikipedia page, if you want to know more. Incredible that one was found in the tomb of the butler to Queen Hatsheput – makes one feel quite insignificant in the grand scheme of things!

roasted_cauliflower_and_hazlenut_saladNotoriously fiddly to extract, the arils can range from sweet to sour so do taste yours to see if you need to adjust the dressing. The best way to extract the arils is to cut a fruit in half then in half again. Bend backwards slightly, to loosen then, place skin side up in a high sided bowl and paddle (whack) the leathery skin with the back of a wooden spoon. The juice does get everywhere so don’t wear white like I did! Their pith is really bitter so do pick out any stray bits that may jettison with the arils.

roasted_cauliflower_and_hazlenut_saladStrip the leaves off the cauliflower, saving the best ones for the veggie-soup-making bag in your freezer – I know you have one! Insert the point of a sturdy knife into the edge of the core at the bottom and carefully tunnel out as much of the core as you can. The florets are easy to break off then. Cut any really large ones in half and spread onto a baking sheet. Drizzle with 3 tablespoons of olive oil and tumble them around to coat with the oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and roast for about half an hour ’til golden and crispy in places – I turned them halfway through.

roasted_cauliflower_and_hazlenut_saladMake the dressing while the florets are roasting – I added a little pomegranate syrup for a sharper flavour. Extract the pomegranate seeds and chop the celery and parsley. If you soak the chopped celery in a little bowl of cold water they will become super crispy – a trick I learned from my mum! When the florets are done, turn the heat down and pop the nuts in to roast. Once the nuts are done and cool enough to handle, chop coarsely then assemble and dress the salad.

roasted_cauliflower_and_hazlenut_salad

Roasted Cauliflower & Hazelnut Salad

  • Servings: 4 side servings
  • Difficulty: easy
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Adapted slightly from Jerusalem by Ottolenghi and Tamimi

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 head of cauliflower broken up into small florets about 660g (mine was about 800g)
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil (separated)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 sticks of celery cut on an an into ½ cm slices about 70g
  • 30g hazelnuts with skins (I also used a few walnuts)
  • 10g small flat-leaf parsley – leaves only
  • 50g pomegranate seeds (about half a medium pomegranate)

Dressing

  • ⅓ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ⅓ tsp allspice
  • 1 Tbsp cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp of pomegranate syrup)
  • 1 ½ tsp maple syrup

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Preheat the oven to 220C/425F
  2. Slice any really large florets in half and place on a baking tray. Drizzle over 3 Tbsp of oil over them and season with salt and pepper. Toss them about to coat in the oil, then spread out in an even layer and roast for 25 – 35 minutes, until the cauliflower is crisp and golden brown. I turned them over after 15 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl or plate to cool down.
  3. While the florets are roasting, make the dressing by mixing the ingredients together in a small bowl. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Set aside.
  4. Chop the celery on the diagonal and very coarsely chop the parsley.
  5. Turn the heat down to 170C/325F . Spread the nuts onto a baking tray and roast for about 10 to 15 minutes.  When cool enough to handle, rub off any loose skins and chop coarsely.
  6. In a large bowl, gently mix together the cauliflower, celery,  parsley and nuts. Turn onto a serving plate, drizzle with the dressing and scatter over the pomegranate seeds.
  7. Serve at room temperature.

‘Tennis’ Turkey

tennis_turkeyWhen my son was much younger, he, like most children these days, had all sorts of after school activities to attend; Mad Science on a Monday, swimming on a Tuesday, football on a Wednesday and tennis on a Thursday. I would make him an after school snack – usually Vogel seeded bread with either hommous and cucumber or peanut butter and banana –  to keep him going until dinner. We would get home and I would get something cooked  and on the table in record breaking time. ‘Tennis’ Turkey came about when we stopped at the Sainsbury’s Local near the tennis club on the way home and picked up a pack of turkey breast steaks. I got home, took a look at what I had in the cupboards and this dish came together.

It was so tasty, with a depth of flavour which belied it’s short cooking time, that I wrote down what I had done whilst Jake cleared away (he has been setting the table and clearing the dishes for a very long time now – just wish he would show some interest in cooking rather than just eating!). I asked him what he thought the dish should be called and without hesitation, he said ‘Tennis Turkey” and the name has stuck.

tennis_turkeyIt is one of those dishes where prep and cooking harmoniously segue into each other. I start by washing and putting some rice on to cook. Then as the oil in the frypan heats up, I slice the onion and toss that in, with a pinch of salt to help it along. As that cooks, I thump the cumin in the pestle and mortar, slice the turkey into long strips, mince the garlic and chop some herbs.

tennis_turkeyOnce the onions have had about 10 minutes – and cooking them long and slow is what give the dish such a great depth of flavour- I stir in the garlic and then spread the turkey strips out in a layer. While those are cooking on one side, I get the peas, creme fraiche and bouillon out and slice the lemon. Then I  give the strips a stir, add the cumin and cook for a minute or so until there is very little pink visible in the meat.

tennis_turkeyThen I yell up the stairs at Jake to set the table, add the bouillon powder, the creme fraiche and a little water, scraping the bottom of the pan to release any caramelisation and let that bubble and thicken, stir in the peas, squeeze over some lemon and it’s done!

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Of course you can substitute chicken breasts if you don’t like or can’t find turkey. Both cook really quickly and are ideal for this sort of cooking. Can I also mention this time saving flavour booster?

tennis_turkeyI love these tubs of crispy fried onions – a little sprinkle  adds crunch and a savoury note to things like egg salads, noodle soups and rice – a very short ingredient list (onions,  vegetable oil, wheat flour and salt) and a real time saver…I have seen them in bags in the Indian grocery stores too.

tennis_turkey

Tennis Turkey

  • Servings: 4
  • Time: 20-25 minutes
  • Print

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 Tbsp Olive oil
  • 1 large onion or 4 shallots
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 500g (or 4 x) turkey breast steaks
  • 2 tsp dry roasted cumin seeds, separated
  • 1 tsp Marigold bouillon powder or a vegetable stock cube, crumbled
  • ½ cup water
  • 2 Tbsp  ½ fat creme fraiche or double cream
  • ¼ of a lemon
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • ½ cup chopped parsley
  • crispy fried onions (optional)
  • red peppercorns (optional)

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Halve and slice onion in half moons and sauté gently  on a medium low heat, in the olive oil with a pinch of salt, until floppy and pale gold. This should take about 10 minutes. If the onions start to catch, stir in a little water and lower the heat
  2. While the onions are cooking, slice the turkey across the grain into 1 cm thick strips, chop the garlic and pound 1 tsp of the cumin seed in a mortar and pestle.
  3. Then stir the garlic into the onions and let this cook for a minute or so.
  4. Add the turkey strips, spreading them out in one layer and let them cook on one side, browning slightly, before stirring to cook on the other side.
  5. Sprinkle on the ground and whole cumin and stir for a minute.
  6. Sprinkle on the bouillon power stir, then add the water and the creme fraiche. Simmer for 5 minutes or until the sauce starts to thicken a little. Squeeze in a little lemon to taste.
  7. Stir in the peas and cook for a couple of minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Stir in the parsley just before serving.
  8. Top with a few crispy fried onions and a few red peppercorns if using.

Serve with rice.

In My Kitchen – April 2014

 

peter_layton_landscape_bowls

“Landscape” bowls by Peter Layton

I can’t quite believe that a month has rolled by so quickly and that it is time to take another look in my kitchen already!

In my kitchen I have 3 beautiful opaque bowls from the Landscape series by glass blower extraordinare, Peter Layton of London Glassblowing. They sit on the window ledge changing colour, hue and intensity depending on the time of day. Many years ago, I read that London Glassblowing were holding an open week and sale in their workshop so took my son to watch the process at their studio in Bermondsey. I remember walking through the historical old streets of Southwark with him, passing by narrow streets with names like Vinegar Yard, Lamb Walk and Crucifix Street. Where once, as far back as medieval times, the area was known for it’s flourishing docks, leather and food processing industries and later, for it’s slums, now the old brick warehouses hold thriving creative and retail studios. When I finally found it because I did get lost (this was in the days of the London A-Z, waaaay before smartphones and GPS ) we found ourselves in a cobbled courtyard  surrounded on all sides by old industrial units. When we located the studio, the contrast between their gallery; sleek and white with the displayed glass objects glowing like jewels and the workshop; hot as Hades, chaotic and with a true industrial vibe, well, it couldn’t have been more stark or wonderful. We watched great globs of liquid glass being blown and pulled and pushed into gorgeous organic shapes by artisans working next to the blistering furnace – Jake was fascinated. Even as his cheeks started to flush and his hair began to dampen and curl with sweat, he did not want to move. We went again with a dear friend, this time armed with my cheque book! On their  huge sale table were all sorts of wonderful glass bowls, vases, bottles and trinkets but I was drawn to these three bowls – I almost think that they chose me. The design is described thus on their website – “Landscape is one of our classic designs, evocative of meadows, spring landscapes and big skies, sometimes stormy, sometimes clear and bright in the English tradition. Soft gentle washes of colour, emulate the English landscape.” If you click on the photo, you will be able to see them enlarged and in more detail. They have been packed away for some years, through numerous moves, but seem to have now found their home on the window ledge in my kitchen.

fresh_garlic

In my kitchen I have fresh, purple tinged heads of “new” garlic – an odiferous harbinger of spring if ever there was one! As I was walking past my local greengrocers the other day, I noticed a box of these and stopped to buy a few. They are so different from the dry garlic we normally see – their skins are moist and pliable and the cloves themselves are much less strident in flavour. Because they are so much younger and moister than dry garlic, practically the entire head can be used. The green tops can be sliced and sautéed, the skins can be sliced and stirred in with shallots or onions; the layer around the actual clove itself can be blanched and then whizzed with olive oil to make a garlic paste that can be stirred into pasta, salad dressings and mayonnaise and the cloves can be thinly sliced and sautéed or added raw to salads.

fresh_garlicNew garlic does have a fairly pungent smell. A few years ago, a group of us went to Cannobio on the shores of Lago Maggiore in Italy for a hen weekend. We had such a brilliant time, exploring the town, eating gelato, drinking bubbly on the terrace of the boys’  apartment (it was a mixed party!) dancing in the town square with the locals, heading over to Switzerland on the ferry, for lunch, just because we could! There was a big market on that weekend and we had the most incredible lunch in a bustling trattoria where all the specials were market fresh. The mushroom pasta with truffles, I have never forgotten. I got a little excited to see fresh garlic (for the first time ever) and bought a few heads to take home. The smell of garlic was so pervasive – and I took it on as hand luggage so you can just imagine the wide berth I got! I always buy some whenever I see them and am instantly transported to those fun filled few days in Italy.

tiny_figs

In my kitchen, I have (had – they are all gone now) a little plate of tiny figs. Passing by the same greengrocer the other day, I noticed a punnet of these figs which were no larger than walnuts in the shell. They were very sweet with an almost rose flavour and we had them without any adornment whatsoever. I thought I had taken some shots of one squeezed open but they either didn’t upload or I had what my brother used to refer to as, a senior moment!

baby_leeks

In my kitchen I have these gloriously muddy, young and slender leeks. I got very excited about my new veg box (CSA) from Sutton Community Farm last month. You may have seen the post about the Mixed Roasted Beets where I waxed lyrical about the scheme. I am getting a small box every fortnight and really enjoying the quality and freshness of the produce with the bonus of it being a cheaper price than in the supermarkets. It is also forcing me out of my comfort zone of always buying the same vegetables which I tend to do if there is nothing inspiring on the shelves. These babies will be blanched then griddled and served with an smokey paprika aioli.

dry_roasted_cumin

In my kitchen I have a small jar of dry roasted cumin seeds. I love the warm, deep, husky flavour of cumin and use it quite liberally and in fairly unorthodox ways. One of my comfort dishes is rice cooked with chickpeas and cumin and eaten with yoghurt. I buy 100g  or 200g packets from the local Indian grocers and dry roast them, in batches, over a medium heat, in  a non stick pan until they are golden and toasted and the kitchen smells amazing. I store them in a small Kilner jar where they keep for a long time. I scatter them whole, rub them between my fingers to break them up or pound them to a powder in a pestle and mortar. Speaking of which…

pestle_and_mortar

In my kitchen I have a ridiculously heavy pestle and mortar. I bought it in the early 90′s when our High St used to have the most brilliant Oriental grocery shop. They stocked everything you could possibly think of -  galangal, lemongrass, holy basil,  fresh noodles, about a hundred varieties of dry noodles, rice, all sorts of sauces from chili to satay, frozen seafood, bamboo steamers…it was like an Aladdin’s cave of Oriental foodstuff in there. This is when I started cooking Thai food – how could I not when all the ingredients were literally on my doorstep! I went past one day and noticed that they had pestle and mortars in the window and bought one. I make sure that it is somewhere accessible on the worktop as I realised that I don’t use as much it if I have to lug it out of a cupboard or off a shelf. It makes short work of grinding dry spices and making pastes out herbs and garlic. I just wish it wasn’t so darn heavy!

in_my_kitchen

Well that’s it from my kitchen this month. In My Kitchen is is hosted by Celia of Fig Jam and Lime Cordial where she is joined by bloggers from all over the world affording us a glimpse of what they’ve been up to that month. I have been following the series for a little while now, enjoying a little nosey into the kitchen sink dramas of others, everywhere. Thank you to the IMK community for your warm welcome  to my first posting last month – it has been so nice to get to know you and your blogs. And a huge thank you to Celia for coming up with this series and hosting it. This is the link to take you to the archives http://figjamandlimecordial.com/in-my-kitchen/ Please do go over and take a look at what other bloggers are up to in their kitchens!

 

Iced Lemon Squares

iced_lemon_squaresCan we talk about Facebook for a moment?  Do you think it’s Lucifer’s own handiwork or do you embrace  it with open arms? I have a friend who doesn’t go near it or Twitter because she doesn’t want to have her identity accessible or stolen or to have to read inane tweets like “Ima in the shops innit” and the like! Personally, I find Facebook invaluable for keeping up with my large and far flung family, though ironically, not my brother who is social media averse and prefers to communicate by rather more conventional means, such as the telephone. Facebook has allowed me to connect (awful, awful word, marginally better than ‘reach out’…) with aunts, uncles, distant and not so distant cousins, nieces and nephews and watch as they grow up, get married, have children and continue that wonderful circle that is life. I have been able to stay in touch with friends who have moved away, colleagues who have moved on and teachers and parents from prep school, long after our children have  moved on to their separate senior schools. You know, the sort of people with whom it was once so easy to loose touch. I cheer along as milestones are reached, champion business endeavours and comment on birthday, wedding and holiday pictures. I have found and been found by old school friends, discovered by one of my mother’s best friends from our Kenya days and  stumbled upon family members that I would never have known otherwise. It is important not to post personal details like the year of birth, to remove geo tagging from home photos and to keep an eye on the privacy settings but in general, Facebook really works for me.

When I started this blog, I set up a Facebook ‘Page’ for it (you have ‘liked’ it, haven’t you?) and have been overwhelmed at the support. Posts have been shared, photos commented on and best of all, recipes have been made and photos posted on the timeline. Last week, my niece who lives in Toronto, messaged  me (on Facebook!) to say that she had a couple of days in London and wondered if we could meet up. It turns out that we last saw each other about 25 years ago, when she and her brother were just young ‘uns. I took them strawberry picking at Garson’s Farm in Esher and we made strawberry ice-cream when we got back. She is as sweet and gorgeous now as she was then and it was an absolute delight to spend time with her and her lovely friend. She says that she doesn’t cook very much but has made my Couscous Stuffed Red Peppers and sent me a photo. Now, of course, none of this would have happened without Facebook…

I knew I wanted to take her a little treat, something that would be light, easy to carry and easy to eat and I remembered these Iced Lemon Squares. The original recipe compares them to brownies (and called them ‘lemonies’) but I never saw the correlation. It is a slender bake – more of a bar than a cake but is dense with a lot of lemon flavour.  I have added ground almonds and tweaked the measurements a little too.

I am taking these over to Angie at The Novice Gardener‘s Fiesta Friday as the party is still going strong and I think that those die-hard revellers may just need a little hit of sugar to keep them going!

Click on the link to be taken to Angie’s blog The Novice Gardener and join the party! Mix and mingle with the the guests – who knows who you might meet! http://thenovicegardener.wordpress.com/2014/04/04/fiesta-friday-10/

If you blog and would like to join the party, here are the guidelines http://thenovicegardener.wordpress.com/fiesta-friday/

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Mix the dry ingredients, then beat in the butter which should be really soft. Nuking it for 15 or 20 seconds may help things along and don’t worry if some melts completely. At this stage the batter will be lumpy. Then, in a separate bowl,  (and without cleaning the beaters), give the eggs and lemon juice a bit of a whisking. Pour this onto the lumpen flour mix, beat and watch it transform into a smooth, creamy batter. Pour it into the prepared tin, spread it out  and bake for 25 minutes. It will be lightly golden rather than deeply tan.

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Let it cool in the tin for 10 minutes then, using the lining paper as handles, lift carefully and place onto a wire rack to cool. If you don’t have paper, make sure to butter the tin very well and also flour it, then when the cake is ready, run a knife round the sides, shake it a few times and flip it out onto a plate then back onto a rack to finish cooling.

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While the bake is cooling, make the icing. First, zest the second lemon and set this aside. Then sift the icing to get rid of any lumps. I have. in the past, tried to skip this step because the ‘dust’ that this process generates really gets my OCD to go into overdrive but this results in bumpy icing so what I do instead is put the icing sugar in a sieve, sit it on top of a bowl and use a spoon to stir and push it through – this really keeps the mess down to a minimum. Add the lemon juice and vanilla extract to the sifted icing sugar and whisk away until all the icing sugar has been absorbed. Keep going – it will happen! If the paste is too thick, add a teaspoonful of milk to loosen it. It should be thick but spreadable. Scrape it onto the middle of the bake and spread it out evenly. Scatter over the lemon zest and leave the icing to set before slicing.

 

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To slice, cut the bake in half then slice each half in half so that you have 4 long slices. Spin the bake a quarter turn and do the same again.

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Iced Lemon Squares

  • Servings: 16 squares
  • Difficulty: easy
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Adapted from Rita’s Recipes

INGREDIENTS

  • 125g flour
  • 60g almond meal/flour/ground
  • 170g caster sugar
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 115g unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 large eggs
  • finely grated zest of one lemon
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice

Icing

  • 70g icing sugar
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1-2 tsp of milk if necessary
  • ½ tsp of vanilla extract
  • zest from 1 lemon

INSTRUCTIONS

  1.  Preheat the oven to 180C/350F.
  2. Line an 8 inch square tin (mine is a 9 inch) with non-stick foil or grease proof paper. See my Tip and Tricks page, tip no 18 for an easy way to do this.
  3. Zest the lemon then juice it, keeping both separate and set aside.
  4. Hand whisk the flour, almond meal, sugar and salt to blend.
  5. Beat in the butter using an electric mixer until the butter has been incorporated – it will be quite lumpy.
  6. Whisk the eggs and the lemon juice for about 30 seconds.
  7. Pour it onto the flour mix together with the lemon zest. Beat until creamy – about 30 seconds to 1 minute. I always try to handle the batter as little as possible so as not to overwork the gluten which can result in a tough crumb.
  8. Scrape into the tin and spread out evenly using a spatula. It will seem like there isn’t enough batter but  don’t worry, there is.
  9. Bake for 25 minutes – it will have coloured a little on top. Place the tin on a wire rack for 10/15 minutes to cool, then using the foil or paper as handles, carefully lift out the cake , place on the rack and peel back the paper from the sides. Let the cake cool completely before icing.

To make the icing:

  1. Zest another lemon and set aside.
  2. Sift the icing sugar into a small bowl to get rid of any  lumps.
  3. Whisk in the lemon juice and vanilla extract and keep whisking until it has all been absorbed.
  4. If resulting paste is too thick, add a tsp of milk and whisk in. The icing should be thick enough stay put yet spreadable.
  5. Pour onto the middle of the cake and spread it out as evenly as possible.
  6. Sprinkle over the zest and leave to set for at least 10 minutes before slicing.

I find that the best way to slice these sort of bakes is as follows:

  1. Using a long sharp knife slice the bake in half.
  2. Then  slice each half into two equal slices so you now have 4 long equal slices.
  3. Spin the paper a quarter turn and do the same again – slice in half and each half in two.  You should have 16 fairly equal squares.

You can substitute oranges or limes for the lemons. You can double up the recipe to make in a larger pan.

 

Mushroom and Onion Marmalade Tarts

Mushroom_and-Onion_Marmalade_TartsThese Mushroom and Onion Marmalade Tarts are something I made when I catered cocktail parties. Those parties were a lot of work but also a lot of fun – lengthy discussions on menus, researching and brain storming recipes, finalising menus, compiling shopping and prep lists, food ordering and shopping, scouring charity shops and department stores for serving props, prepping, cooking, serving and enjoying the party later! I used to do this around my son’s nursery  and bedtime schedules and had to be so incredibly organised – lists were my best friends! Always requested as the first canapé to every party were the Bloody Mary Cherry Tomatoes – vodka and worcestershire sauce infused cherry tomatoes served with a rosemary dipping salt – it was a real ice-breaker and got everyone mingling. I would blithely churn out things like seafood stuffed rice paper rolls with a dipping sauce, hot and sour lamb with peanuts on cucumber, lettuce cups with Thai inspired beef salad, saffron mussels on garlic bread, pear and blue cheese galettes, garlic  mushrooms with lemon risotto, mini Christmas puds, lemon curd tartlets  - all made impossibly tiny, dainty and beautifully presented. A friend recently requested this recipe (from a party that took place 12 years ago!) and I was so pleased that I still had some gorgeous mushrooms left in my veg box from Sutton Community Farm to make them with.

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Mushrooms cooked with garlic and thyme with a squeeze of lemon is one of my favourite ways to eat them which I do so rarely because my son is really not a fan of the fungi. This recipe is a riff on that together with some gooey caramelised onions with a topping of melted gruyere cheese ensconced in a crisp, buttery bread case.

They are quite easy to put together and can be made ahead earlier in the day to pop in the oven just as your guests arrive. The Mushroom and Onion Marmalade Tarts also re-heat successfully as I found out when I took this batch round to a friend’s house last night. If you are making huge quantities of them for a party, then use a food processor to chop the onions and mushrooms (separately) to speed things up. Don’t be alarmed at the mountain of chopped mushrooms - these will swiftly cook down. You need that squigdy white sandwich bread for the bases – because that type of bread is so soft, it crisps up beautifully in the oven. You should get 2 bases out of each slice – going over the bread a couple of times with a rolling pin helps to stretch out the slices if they are just a little too small. These tarts are best made in mince pie tins as these are shallow and wide.

First the onion are caramelised, then the mushrooms are added and cooked down. While this is going on, the bread bases get stamped out and buttered and placed in the tin. Once the mixture is ready, the cases are filled, topped with cheese and baked for 10-15 minutes. They are very tasty indeed!

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Mushroom and Onion Marmalade Tarts

  • Servings: makes 12 tartlets
  • Time: 45mins
  • Difficulty: easy
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Adapted from a recipe by Celia Brooks Brown for the Independent Magazine

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large onion sliced fairly thinly into half moons
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 175g mushrooms chopped quite finely
  • 1 tsp of fresh thyme leaves, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp chopped parsley
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • Squeeze of lemon juice
  • 6 slices of large white sandwich bread
  • 2 Tbsp melted butter
  • 75 – 100g gruyere cheese, grated

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 200C/400F.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a wide heavy bottomed frying pan over medium low flame and fry the onions gently until they start to colour.
  3. Season with salt and pepper and stir in the sugar.
  4. Add the tablespoon of butter and then the mushrooms and thyme. Fry gently until mushrooms are soft and have released their moisture. They will reduce down quite a fair amount.
  5. Stir in the parsley and garlic and cook for an additional minute.
  6. Squeeze over a little lemon juice, taste and adjust the seasoning.
  7. Stamp out two 3 inch circles from each slice of bread. If the slices aren’t big enough, go over them a couple of times with a rolling pin.
  8. Brush one side with melted butter and place buttered side down in a mince pie tin.
  9. Press into the pan – I use the end of a rolling pin to do this but anything small and flat will work like the bottom of a small jar or glass, for instance.
  10. Divide the mixture evenly between the bases- approximately 1 ½  - 2 tsp per tart.
  11. Top with the grated gruyere cheese  (they can be made ahead to this point) and bake for 10-15 mins until golden and bubbly.
  12. Remove from the tin and place on kitchen paper to absorb any excess butter. The buttered bottoms lend themselves to slipping out very easily from the tins.
  13. Serve warm as a canapé or as part of a tapas style first course.