Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Honey & Currant Cake

Friends, Sue and Dick are enjoying honey from their own bees this year, so I decided creating a recipe for them for a cake sweetened with honey might be a good idea. Readers of my blog will know I'm always very disparaging about currants and in this house they remain banned in all Christmas baking, but they do provide a great dark flavour to this cake, and of course if you care about these things, extra roughage.

For this recipe you will need;

250g of softened, unsalted butter
250g of eggs,
200g of Self Raising flour
200g honey
140g of currants
100g of ground almonds
80g of caster sugar
1 flat teaspoon of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of salt

Turkmenistan you are so welcome, making it 148

Line a 23cm square baking tin with baking parchment and turn on the oven to 180C.
In a food processor, begin by grinding up the currants to a pulp, add the butter and caster sugar and continue to blend until you have a smooth mix. Add the eggs, ground almonds and blend until you have a well amalgamated mix. Finally add the flour and baking powder and blend in short bursts for no longer than it takes to fully combine.
Transfer the mix to the prepared baking tin and place in the center of the oven, bake for 50 minutes when you should find a cocktail stick comes out clean when pushed into the middle of the cake.
Cool completely in the tin before turning out.

As with all cakes that contain nuts, this cake will improve over a 2 or 3 days period.
Personally I wouldn't replace the currants with other dried fruit, currants are the least sweet and their slight bitter edge works well with the flavour of the honey.

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Sausage Rolls

These sausage rolls can be made small, cocktail size ideal with a negroni, or larger, forming an excellent picnic component. You can easily freeze them, either pre-baked or fully baked. I simply add an extra egg to my Glamorgan sausage recipe, making the mixture softer and easier to pipe. Along with a pack of all butter puff pastry, a savoury treat could not be easier. Truly delicious served within minutes of being baked.

Welcome Laos, bringing the number up to 147!

For this recipe you will need;
1 portion of Glamorgan sausage mix click here for the recipe
1 egg
1 pack of all butter puff pastry, ready rolled.

Begin by making the sausage mix, add an extra egg and process until you have a soft smooth mix. Fill a piping bag with the mix, I use a large disposable one for this, and I cut an opening at the point that allows a 2 centimeter wide, long sausage to be piped out.
Unroll the pastry from it's protective paper and on a lightly floured surface, roll the pastry even further to about half as big again. Divide into three long oblongs and pipe the filling along the middle of one piece of the pastry. I have done this so often that I now don't bother dividing up the pastry to begin with, hence the misleading photo below. Lift the edge of the pastry up and over the filling and using a fork press the two edges together to seal. Then divide the long sausage roll into the size you prefer. I find I can get around 18 out of each long length..
Transfer the sausage rolls to two large baking trays and bake in a hot oven 200C for 15 to 18 minutes.

If you wish to freeze these before baking, allow to fully thaw before you pop them into the oven.
If you have frozen them fully baked, simply pop them into a warm 140C oven for 10 minutes, directly from the freezer.

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Teacakes for toasting

It must be nearly sixty years since I toasted teacakes in front of the fire in the Welsh farmhouse where I grew up, The long brass fork was only just long enough to ensure I too didn't get toasted in the process. The teacakes then liberally spread with the butter my mother used to make, were quickly devoured. My recipe produces teacakes that are slightly different to the ones that are commercially available, in as much as they resemble brioche a little more than a bread bun. I prefer a lighter albeit richer teacake. I also prefer not to add spice or any other dried fruit to this tea time treat, we are so close now to Easter and I like hot cross buns to have the spice.

For this recipe you will need;
600g of strong white bread flour
75g of caster sugar
50g of unsalted butter
300ml of full fat milk
7g of easy mix dried yeast
2 eggs, lightly beaten
10g of salt
130g of raisins

Begin by melting the butter in a small saucepan then adding the milk. In a large bowl, place all the ingredients apart from the raisins, including the melted butter and milk mixture. Bring the ingredients together until you have a soft dough and knead for 5 minutes. Add the raisins and knead for a further 2 or 3 minutes. Leave the dough to rise until nearly doubled in volume. I find at this time of year this can easily take 3 or 4 hours. The extra time only helps the flavour to develop so I'm very happy about this.
Remove the dough from the bowl and on a lightly floured surface, gently divide the dough into 8 separate pieces. Take each piece and form into a bun shape. I find the easiest way to do this is to use my right hand to form the bun, cupping the dough and rolling it around  and around on my left hand. Play around with this method but at the end of the day simply form a bun shape anyway it suits you to do so. The important thing is to roll out the bun after forming it to flatten it. This is important because you want a rather shallow end result rather than a domed one, so that splitting and toasting is made easier.
Place the flattened buns on two large baking trays and leave again to rise until doubled in size.
Bake at 200C for 14 to 15 minutes.
These are best left overnight before splitting and toasting only on the cut side until a good golden brown colour. Spread with butter and serve warm.


Raisins as with all dried fruit, that are exposed to the high heat of baking tend to burn, so if there are any exposed raisins I take them out and pop them underneath the teacakes so that they bake safely into their bases.
These teacakes freeze really well and will easily keep in the freezer for a couple of months.
I avoid glazing with a beaten egg before baking, it seems like a bit of a waste of an egg to me and the part of the teacake you never do see when enjoying them is the top.

Sunday, 6 March 2016

Broccoli & Cheddar Soup

There are many soups which benefit from long slow cooking, my tomato soup click here for the recipe is a good example. This soup however requires little cooking and is ready in a comparatively short time. As with most soups this produces an optimum result from very few ingredients. There are many good cheddar type cheeses on the market, Lincolnshire Poacher and Godmanchester being two of my favourites. The better quality the cheese the happier you will be with the result. In this recipe I use leeks, sadly under used in my opinion, they provide all the nutritional benefits of onions, with a gentler flavour, easy to prepare and good value for money.

For this recipe you will need;
250g of sprouting broccoli
250g of trimmed leeks
220g of good quality, full flavoured cheddar
70g of cream cheese
1 egg yolk
1, 1/2 litres of vegetable stock
1 tablespoon of sofrito click here for the recipe
1 teaspoon of light olive oil
1/3 teaspoon of freshly grated nutmeg nutmeg
white pepper

Begin by sweating the chopped up leeks in the olive oil, along with the sofrito in a large saucepan for 5 minutes. Add the vegetable stock and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the broccoli and bring the stock back up to the boil. Simmer for a further 3 or 4 minutes only until the stems of the broccoli are tender. Any further cooking and you will lose the fresh green colour in the finished soup. Add the pepper and nutmeg.
Being very careful, since blending any hot liquids requires care, blend the soup in a jug blender in two batches, blending half of the cheddar and cream cheese with both, Add the egg yolk to one of the batches. I find removing the central part of the lid and holding a tea towel on the lid while I switch on at the lowest speed is the best way of avoiding hot soup brusting out all over the kitchen. Return the soup to the pan and very slowly bring it back up to just below simmering point. Serve with crusty bread.

This soup requires careful reheating, bring it up to just below simmering slowly and don't overheat.

Saturday, 5 March 2016

Garibaldi Biscuits

I must have been about seven or eight when I first came across Garibaldi biscuits. My parents would have been visiting a great aunt or some other aging relative and I remember the words "lets see if I can find a treat for these boys" being said. The treat in question and indeed questionable I did consider it, was a plate of these rather miserable biscuits. The only feature that distinguished them from the poorest of pastry was the odd little currant, flattened and beaten into submission before being baked to a fine desiccated state that rendered the finished biscuit, something you would only ever try once. I'm told now that there are many adults who actually enjoy Garibaldi biscuits, but for two young boys they went on the list of foods that adults gave us as a bit of a joke, Bourbon biscuits, another, the correct colour of course, the promise of chocolate but bearing no resemblance whatsoever to a chocolate biscuit. Woolworth's chocolate was probably the highest on the list, such a large box, so many chocolates, all refusing to melt and all tasting vaguely of soap and not in a good way. Ask the average Italian and they will tell you that they have never heard of a Garibaldi biscuit, though we are led to believe they are named after a Guiseppe Garibaldi, an Italian General who after a visit to England in 1854 inspired Jonathan Carr to invent the biscuit seven years later.
You may wonder why on earth I would offer this recipe for Garibaldi biscuits considering my early traumatic encounter with them, well the reason is I was convinced that there should be a way of making a rather delicious version of them and since I had an amount of left over pastry I attempted to make them. Readers of my blog will know how I feel about the dried fruit called currants, they have their place but not at Christmas, well this along with a good Eccles cake, is one of those places. The addition of lemon peel is important so do try to find one.

For this recipe you will need;
500g of pastry, Click here for the recipe
50g of caster sugar
100g of currants
The grated peel of one lemon

Begin by processing the currants in a food processor with the lemon peel and the sugar for half a minute, this has the effect of not only combining the ingredients but breaking some of the currants down so that they blend more with the pastry. If you don't wish to do this you can skip this step and merely mix together the currants, sugar and grated peel.
Divide the pastry in half and roll out each half to an oblong roughly 5ml thick, place the currant mixture on one half, as close to the edge as you can, don't worry about spillage at this stage, fugitive currants can easily be recaptured in the rolling out. Cover with the second piece of pastry and roll out to be certainly no thicker than 5ml and a little thinner will do no harm. Trim and divide using either a pizza wheel cutter or as I do, a wooden pastry wheel. The trimmings can be re-rolled and still used, though they are slightly messier.
Place on two baking sheets lined with baking parchment and bake for 15 minutes at 180C, turn down the heat to 100C and leave the biscuits in the oven for a further hour to completely dry out and turn crisp. Store in an airtight container and serve with tea or coffee.

As with other recipes you can come up with adaptations of this basic recipe, using chopped nuts in place of currants, and spices such as cinnamon or nutmeg along with the sugar.
The result is far superior to the rather palid dry offerings you find in the supermarket, where the currants seem to have been rationed along with any flavour. I think they are somewhere between a Garibaldi biscuit and a Chorley cake and as such I am very pleased to offer you this tea time treat, my Garibaldi biscuit.
Some of the sugar will caramelise and seep out during the cooking, this, on cooling will form a delicious crisp coating.