Sunday, 29 September 2013

Paul Hollywood's plain scones

Last Sunday we celebrated my nephew Max's 11th birthday with a traditional afternoon tea. I tried the recipe for plain scones from Paul Hollywood. I froze the  leftovers on the day of making them. Taking them out yesterday to defrost and not getting a chance to eat them, I expected them to be a bit past their best today. Maybe it's because everything tastes wonderful with clotted cream that they still tasted pretty good today. It seems like a rather long method for making scones, but it's quite straightforward.

Makes around 12 scones
500g strong bread flour, plus a little extra for rolling out
80g softened butter, plus a little extra to grease the baking tray
80g caster sugar
2 eggs
25g level tsp baking powder
250ml milk
1 free-range egg, beaten with a little salt (for glazing)

Weigh out the ingredients.
Preheat the oven to 220°C.
Lightly butter and line a flat baking tray with baking parchment or silicone paper (not greaseproof).
Put 450g of the flour into a large bowl and add the butter. Rub the flour and butter together with your fingers to create a crumble/breadcrumb-like mixture.
Add the sugar, eggs and baking powder and use a wooden spoon to turn the mixture gently. Make sure you mix all the way down to the bottom and incorporate all of the ingredients.
Now add half of the milk and keep turning the mixture gently with the spoon to combine. Then add the remaining milk a little at a time and bring everything together into a very soft, wet dough. You may not need to add all of the milk.
Put most of the remaining flour onto a clean work surface. Tip the soft dough onto the flour and sprinkle the rest of the flour on top. The mixture will be wet and sticky.
Lightly chaff the mixture - use your hands to fold the dough in half, and then turn the dough a quarter turn and repeat. By folding and turning the mixture in this way, you incorporate the last of the flour and add air. Do this a few times until you’ve formed a smooth dough. If the mixture is too sticky use some extra flour to coat your hands or the mixture to make it more manageable. Be careful not to overwork your dough.
Next roll the dough out: sprinkle flour onto the work surface and the top of the dough. Use the rolling pin to roll up from the middle and then down from the middle. Turn the dough a quarter turn and repeat until it's about 2.5cm/1in thick. Relax the dough slightly by lifting the edges and allowing the dough to spring back.
Using a pastry cutter, stamp out rounds and place them onto the baking tray. Once you’ve cut 4 or 5 rounds you can re-work and re-roll the dough to make it easier to cut out the remaining rounds. Any left-over dough can be worked and rolled again using a rolling pin, but the resulting scones won’t be as fluffy.
Place the scones on the baking tray and leave them to rest for a few mins to let the baking powder work. Then use a pastry brush (or your finger if you don’t have a brush) to glaze them with the beaten egg and salt mixture. Be careful to keep the glaze on the top of the scones. If it runs down the sides it will stop them rising evenly.
Bake in the middle of the oven for 15 mins, or until the scones are risen and golden.
Leave the scones to cool, then split in half and add butter, jam and clotted cream to serve.

Saturday, 28 September 2013

Sicilian sardine pasta

This was an interesting meal, very flavoursome, quite a lot going on. I wasn't sure if it was going to go down well with the children but they seemed to enjoy it. Steve loved it, but would have preferred more sardines, I only used one tin. It wouldn't be my first choice for a pasta meal, but it made a nice change. I found the recipe on the tesco website.

Serves 4

2-3tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 fennel bulb, halved, cored and chopped
1 heaped tsp fennel seeds, toasted
3 cloves garlic, chopped
zest of 1 orange
zest of 1 lemon
4tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
60g (2oz) pine nuts, lightly toasted
45g (1½oz) currants
220g sardines, drained
350g (12oz) spaghetti
extra virgin olive oil, to serve

Heat the oil and sauté the onion, fennel, seeds, garlic and zest and gently cook until soft, about 10mins. Add the parsley, pine nuts and currants, then flake in the sardines. Season.
Cook the pasta in plenty of boiling, salted water until al dente. Drain and return to the pan. Add the sardine mixture and toss together gently. Try not to break up the sardines too much.
Serve with a splash of olive oil and freshly ground black pepper.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Nigel Slater's moist plum cake

It's a good time of year to benefit from friends and neighbours fruit crops. We were asked to help ourselves to plums from a friends tree this weekend, which I did willingly. Avoiding all the wasps, sleepy and drunk from the over ripe plums, I came away with a lovely bag full. This recipe is from Nigel Slaters Kitchen Diaries, it can be eaten as a cake or warm as a pudding. Clotted cream is an extravagant but very necessary extra. 

150g butter
150g unrefined golden caster sugar
16 plums (size dependent, less if large plums)
3 large eggs
75g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
100g ground almonds
50g shelled walnuts (I didn't use these)

Set the oven at 175ºC. Line the base of a 20-22cm cake tin with baking parchment.
Beat the butter and sugar until it is pale and fluffy. A food mixer will do this far more efficiently than by hand. Stop when the mixture is light, soft and the colour of vanilla ice cream. Meanwhile, halve the plums, remove the stones, then cut each half in two.
Break the eggs, beat lightly with a fork, then add them bit by bit to the butter and sugar. Sift the flour and baking powder together and fold them gently into the mixture. I do this with a large metal spoon rather than the food mixer. Fold in the ground almonds, then chop the walnuts so they are the size of small gravel, then fold them in, too.
Scrape the mixture into the cake tin. Place the quartered plums on the cake mixture. Bake for 40-45 minutes, then test with a skewer. If it comes out clean, the cake is ready. Remove from the oven and leave to cool for 15 minutes before turning out.

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Hunters chicken

Trying new recipes regularly is a good thing and keeps me interested in food, but it also means I forget to cook my favourites on a regular basis. Last night I made
Hunters chicken for the first time in ages. I had forgotten how delicious it is. Yesterday I served it with a pile of buttery mashed potato, which is always a winner. With the leftovers today, which were even tastier a day later, I served the chicken slightly shredded with pasta. It was a kind of chicken ragu, and worked really well as a pasta meal.

Friday, 20 September 2013

Salmon with a lemon and Parmesan crust

This is my favourite salmon meal of the moment. One, because it is ridicoulously simple and two, because it is incredibly tasty. I have posted two similar recipes, but this is by far the easiest. Rachel even commented on how delicious this meal was, now that's something. 

Serves 4
Mix together a good handful of white breadcrumbs, the zest and juice of a lemon, some seasoning and a couple of tablespoons of grated parmesan. Add to that a good sprinkling of olive oil just to help the mixture brown in the oven. Press the topping onto four salmon fillets in a roasting tray. Bake in the oven at 180ºC for approx 20 minutes until the salmon is cooked and the topping is golden and crispy.

Sunday, 15 September 2013

The Hairy Bikers Lean lamb hotpot

Talk about tantalising the taste buds as this cooked in the oven this afternoon.  The smells were amazing. I'm pleased my mum and dad declined an offer to come for dinner as we polished off the whole thing between the four of us tonight. I think for all of us the crispy potatoes were the best bit. Delicious, and pretty quick and very easy to make. For my friends who ran the Great North Run today, this would have been a perfect post-run meal. 

Serves 4
700g well-trimmed lamb leg meat (or leg steaks)
2 tsp sunflower oil
2 medium onions, peeled and thinly sliced
5 medium carrots, peeled and thickly sliced (about 300g prepared weight)
3 tbsp plain flour
600ml lamb stock, made with 1 lamb stock cube
1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves or ½ tsp dried thyme
1 rosemary stalk or ½ tsp dried rosemary
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
flaked sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

- - -
Potato topping
3 medium potatoes (about 500g)

Trim any visible fat off the lamb and cut the meat into rough 3cm chunks. Season generously all over with salt and pepper.
Heat the oil in a large non-stick frying pan and fry the lamb in 2 batches over a medium-high heat until nicely browned on all sides. Transfer the browned meat to a medium casserole dish– it will need to hold about 2.5 litres.
Tip the onions and carrots into the pan with the lamb and sprinkle with the flour. Toss everything together well, then pour over the stock and add the thyme leaves, rosemary and Worcestershire sauce. Stir well.
Preheat the oven to 170°C. Peel the potatoes and cut them into slices about 5mm thick. Arrange the slices on top of the lamb, overlapping and layering them as you go. Season with ground black pepper and cover with a tight-fitting lid.
Bake the hotpot for 1 hour, then remove the lid and bake for a further 45 minutes or until the potatoes are nicely browned and the lamb is tender. Check by poking with the point of a knife into the centre of the lamb filling – if the meat is done the knife should slide in easily. Serve with freshly cooked greens.

Monday, 9 September 2013

Sweet potato and pea falafel with yoghurt and herb dressing

Lacking inspiration for meals this week I turned to the recipes on the Tesco website where I found this one, which I cooked this evening. It wasn't going to be a favourite with the kids as they aren't great fans of ths sort of meal. I really enjoyed it, but found the accompaniment of the tortilla a bit unnecessay and a bit heavy. I also found that the falafel were too soft in the middle, which could have been improved by making them a bit smaller. Actually, I have just re-read the recipe which says shape into patties. As I shaped them into balls perhaps that's why they were soft. I will perhaps try making more of a more traditonal falafel recipe next time.

Serves 4

4 sweet potatoes (1.6kg), cut into 2cm cubes
3 tbsp olive oil
300g peas, defrosted if frozen
1 ½ tsp ground coriander
1 ½ tsp ground cumin
3 tbsp roughly chopped parsley leaves
2 tbsp chopped coriander
2 little gem lettuces,
1 carrot, shredded
4 tortilla wraps

For the yogurt sauce
150g natural yogurt
2 tbsp chopped coriander
½ garlic clove, crushed
½ lemon


Preheat the oven to 200°C. Toss the sweet potato with the oil and spread out on a large baking tray lined with nonstick baking paper. Season and roast for about 25 minutes, until the potato is soft. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.
In a food processor, pulse the peas with the ground coriander, cumin, parsley and coriander, until finely chopped. Add the potato and pulse until combined.
Shape the mixture into 16 golfball–sized patties and arrange on a baking tray lined with nonstick baking paper. Bake in the oven for 15–20 minutes, until golden. Remove from the oven and leave to cool for 5 minutes, before lifting with a spatula.
Meanwhile, combine all the sauce ingredients in a bowl with some seasoning. Chill until needed. Serve the falafels in the tortilla wraps with lettuce leaves, a handful of shredded carrot and a drizzle of the yogurt sauce.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Red Lentil, jalapeno and lime soup

Even though this soup appeared in the October edition of Olive Magazine, I felt that it had enough summery qualities to warrant making it this evening while the sun was still shining. I loved the flavour of the cumin seeds and I sliced some red chilli on top to give it more of a kick.

serves 2
olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 jalapeno chillies chopped, (I used red chillies)
1 tsp of cumin seeds
1 carrot, peeled and grated
500ml of vegetable stock
400g tin of chopped tomatoes
3 tbsp red lentils
juice and zest of 1 lime
a dollop of natural yoghurt

Heat the oil in a heavy based saucepan and fry the onion, carrot and chilli until softened. Add the cumin seeds and cook for a minute before adding the stock, tomatoes, and lentils. Cook for 15-20 minutes until the lentils are soft, blitz briefly until you have a semi-smooth texture. Then add the lime juice and most of the zest. Add the natural yoghurt before serving and a nit more of the zest.