Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Check out if your country has already visited

As regular readers of my blog will know, I have taken to publishing an updated list of all the countries and sovereign states that visit Click here for the list   Do please check it out, contact friends or family living in countries not listed and encourage them to have a look, thank you, Tôbi.

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Golden Sultana & Pecan Cake

There are times when I have to remind myself of two things, firstly, I hate waste of any kind, secondly, I do believe discovery requires a sense of adventure and courage.
I had in truth, left enough time to simmer the sultanas in the sherry and still get to watch the end, in my opinion the only interesting part, of Bargain Hunt. I hadn't of course factored in a phone call from the Chaplain. As I walked to the kitchen I was greeted by the unmistakable smell of caramelization. A moment or two later and I would have been greeted by smoke. I quickly tipped out the sultanas, now boiled down to a treacly syrup that was set to harden, out into a sieve and I took the dogs out for a walk while I reconsidered my plans for the cake I was making.
The sultanas undoubtedly tasted a little of treacle but the notes of the sherry remained so I forged ahead. I am pleased with the result and although I would urge caution when making this cake, I would also urge you to repeat as closely as you can the method I used.

Suriname brings the number up to 140! Welcome, welcome!
Welcome! The Solomon Islands brings the number up to 141.
Botswana, welcome now we have 142!
St Martin, you are very welcome, number 143!
For this recipe you will need;

250g of Self Raising Flour
250g of Light Muscovado Sugar
3 large eggs, I used duck eggs but large hen eggs are fine, weighing around 250 to 255g
250g of Unsalted Butter
200g of Golden Sultanas
110g of Pecan Halves
100ml of Pedro Ximenez or other sweet Sherry
200ml of water
1/2 teaspoon of salt.

Begin by simmering the sultanas in the sherry and water for roughly 30 to 40 minutes over a very low heat. As you see from the opening paragraph, you will need to watch these carefully until the liquid has almost entirely disappeared and a sweet dark syrup begins to bubble around the sides, strain the fruit and leave to cool. Toast the pecan halves in the oven set to 180C for 10 minutes.

Cream together the butter and sugar and salt, beat in the eggs one at a time. Add the flour and mix slowly to fully incorporate. Gently stir through the nuts and fruit and turn the mixture into a lined baking tin. I used a square silicon container, measuring 22cm x 22cm x 6cm. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes at 180C until a wooden skewer comes out cleanly when pushed into the center.

Leaving the pecans whole, halves as it were rather than pieces, means you get lovely big chunks of nuts in this cake.

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Maple Pecan Brioche

I was trying to think of a variation on my brioche recipe to serve for breakfast on my birthday this year and I came up with this idea. For me there is just the right level of sweetness and although of course these brioche buns would look nice glazed, it would be in my opinion, a step too far. I also considered adding the customary cinnamon often found with pecan nuts, which I am now pleased I chose not to.

For this recipe you will need (makes 18);
1 portion of brioches dough click here for the recipe
30g of softened butter
40g of light muscovado sugar
100g of chopped pecans
1 tablespoon of maple syrup

Make the brioche dough; at the point where you take the dough out of the fridge and it is firm enough to handle, roll the dough out into a rectangle measuring roughly 45cm by 30cm.
Mix together the sugar, softened butter and pecan nuts to form a rough crumble. Brush the dough with the maple syrup and scatter the crumbled pecan mixture over the surface. Beginning at the long edge of the dough, roll it up into a tight roll. Slice it into 18 pieces and pop each piece into muffin tins lined with baking parchment liners.
Leave over night in a cool place before baking in a hot oven 200C for 15 to 20 minutes. If after 10 minutes the brioche appear to be browning a little too quickly, turn the temperature down to 180C.
Don't allow to cool too much before enjoying with large cups of Illy coffee.

If you do not have a cool spot to leave these for their final proving, prove until only doubled in size and bake immediately.

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Balliol Date & Walnut Cake

This cake is very much the sort of thing the Chaplain enjoys with a pot of tea. Studded with toasted walnuts and chopped Medjool dates, it's ideal with a cup of Russian Caravan.

For this cake you will need;
200g of plain flour
80g of Self Raising flour
250g of softened unsalted butter
230g of caster sugar
180g of Medjool dates
100g of walnuts
80g of ground almonds
4 large eggs
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

Turn the oven on to 160C.
Begin by preparing a round cake tin 15cm X 10cm, line with baking parchment.
Toast the walnuts on a baking tray in the oven for 10 to 12 minutes. Break up into small pieces.
Chop the dates and sprinkle with a tablespoon of the flour in order to separate the pieces and keep the dates from sinking to the bottom during the baking.
Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, beat in the eggs one at a time. Beat in the ground almonds, salt and vanilla before folding in the flour, the dates and walnuts. Transfer to the prepared tin and bake in the centre of the oven for an hour and fifteen minutes to an hour and a half until a wooden skewer comes out clean when pushed into the centre.

Toasting the walnuts makes a big difference so don't omit this step if you can help it.

Friday, 6 February 2015

Another Tart

I've always got on terribly well with tarts; a tart is essentially a pastry concoction with pastry underneath and no pastry on top, pastry on top would make it a pie. I'm very fond of this sort of tart, you roll out a large disc of pastry place it in a container with enough of an edge to form the side and fold over a little, fill it up with a choice of filling, bring the edge up and over and bake in the oven. The only thing that limits you is your imagination. Each season brings its ingredients. This tart is packed with mushrooms, sprouts, potatoes, chestnuts and cheese, a simple and rather small amount of egg and cream mixture binds it all together. Admittedly it takes a little time to prepare all the filling ingredients; I roast/fry them in order to maximize flavour. Then it's simply a matter of assembly.
This tart is delicious hot or served at room temperature, ideal for a picnic, it delivers on flavour and equally importantly, texture. It serves 6 extremely hungry people, 8 with a more normal appetite.

Bringing the number to 138, welcome The Isle of Man!
Nicaragua, welcome! now 139.

For this recipe you will need;

1 portion of shortcrust pastry made from;
250g of plain flour
65g of unsalted butter, chilled and cut into cubes
60g of vegetable shortening, chilled and cut into cubes
100ml of chilled water
1 pinch of salt

For the filling
500g of button mushrooms
400g of cheese, a mixture in this case of cheddar, Jarlsberg and Lancashire
250g of small potatoes
250g of sprouts
200g of cooked chestnuts
3 eggs
200g of double cream
1 teaspoon of Marigold Bouillon Powder
1 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of ground black pepper
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon of olive oil

Begin by making the pastry. Pulse the flour and fat in a food processor until the fat is the size of peas. Add the water and pulse again until the pastry dough comes together. Wrap the pastry in clingfilm and set aside to rest.

Cut the sprouts in half and cut the potatoes into similar sized pieces. Toss in a teaspoon of olive oil and half the salt and pepper. Roast in a hot oven, 200C, for 10 to 15 minutes, turning the vegetables half way through to achieve even browning. Fry the mushrooms having sliced or quartered them, in half the remaining oil (half a tablespoon) and the remaining salt and pepper. Fry them for about 5 minutes, turning regularly to ensure even browning. Readers of my recipes will know I firmly believe in cooking mushrooms long and hard enough to bring out the most flavour. Finally fry off the chestnuts in the remaining oil, again cut up into small pieces. Fry for 3 or 4 minutes or until you begin to see the edges crisping and turning brown.
Prepare the cheese, I grated the cheddar, cubed and sliced the other two cheeses, so that in the finished tart you come across small nuggets of cheese.

Roll out the pastry and place in a container, I use my tart Tatin dish, 28cm across but any pie dish around 28cm to 30cm will suit. Then assemble the tart placing the ingredients in layers. I keep some of the cheddar to place on the top. Mix the eggs and cream, adding the Bouillon Powder and pour into the tart, it will trickle through the vegetables. Bring over the edge of pastry and finish by placing the last of the grated cheddar. Bake in a moderate 180C oven for 1hour to an hour and a quarter. Keep an eye on it and cover if the top looks as though it's getting too dark.

U.S. readers can substitute heavy cream for the double cream, it isn't as rich and I can't for the life of me understand why they don't sell double cream in the U.S. In the UK you can also substitute single or whipping cream if you want to reduce the fat content,.but really there is so little in the recipe I wouldn't bother.
Although the vegetables are cooked before placing in the pastry, the tart cooks for a long time in the oven because pastry loves long cooking, The result will be deliciously crisp and flaky.
Make twice the amount of pastry and freeze half of it, you'll then have a portion of pastry ready to make another tart when you've come up with an idea for the filling.
I used to use baking parchment in making this sort of tart but I think it served mostly as a helpful device for taking the hot tart out of the container.