Fri, Feb 5 2010
When I think of Easter, a Sinmel cake comes to mind but never into reality! Marzipan, fruits and the very traditions of it are what give me the desire to bake it, then many factors contribute to me never making it at all. As Easter is early next month, I thought I would get you ready in advance!
This delicious cake is thought to have originated in the medieval times and has also had ties with Mothering Sunday. Young girls in service took the cake home for their mothers on their day off. You can’t imagine this now can you? There are no girls in service and there are not many who can cook either. But these days a Simnel cake has all the symbolism of Easter. Laden with marzipan and fruits - like a Christmas cake - it then has 11 balls of marzipan on the top representing the 11 true disciples. Sometimes a ball in the middle will be representative of Christ.
Last year, in desperation, I decided to devise a recipe with all of the elements of the original, but a little less time consuming. I am not a lover of a twist on a classic so we perhaps can dub this a Highworth Easter Cake?
Preheat the oven to 180C/gas mark 4. Beat together 150g soft butter and 175g grated marzipan. then add 2 large eggs, beat well then stir through 150g self raising flour, a teaspoon of mixed spice and a teaspoon of baking powder. Next mix in 100g dried berries like cranberries and cherries. Pour the batter into a 2lb loaf tin and scatter over the surface another 175g marzipan, but cubed this time. Bake for just over an hour until the cake is springy to the touch and coming away a little from the sides of the tin. Remember to infuse a touch of Easter spirit whilst mixing or double up on the mix and give some of your spirit away to your friends.
blast from the past!
Wed, Jan 13 2010
Today I cooked more of those beef fingers I wrote about a few months ago. I get them from a lovely butcher in a food hall in Cornwall. Tucked away just next to a Macdonalds and a petrol station is a great place called Kingsley village. Not only do they have a terrific food hall but they sell local pottery, art and surfing clothes. Upon leaving Dads house, we stop for petrol and a peruse! For our journey home a roast pork and stuffing baguette is in order! In return for £2.95 you will hold in your hand the most delicious sandwich. And so reasonable in this day and age. A 10-12 inch baguette stuffed with local roast pork and the most amazing crackling. Also on the menu is salt beef or homemade sausages. Seriously, if you are on the A30 in Cornwall, come off at Fraddon in the St Austell area, for a really brilliant experience.
Anyway the point of me putting pen to paper was to talk about these beef fingers. I actually
made something I have always wanted to today and that is scotch broth.
Cook the beef fingers for about 2 hours with some vegetables in water to make a flavourful stock. Chop an onion, 2 carrots and 2 sticks of celery. Soften in a large pan then add about 2 litres of the beef stock along with the bones and meat. Introduce 150g pearl barley, 3 bay leaves and some sprigs of thyme. Season really well then cook for 1.5 hours until the barley is soft. Serve with some chunks of crusty bread and some Mull of Kintyre cheddar. Wowsers!
Tue, Dec 15 2009
christmas is a time when oranges seem to come into their own. foods flavoured with oranges. oranges made into decorations and beautiful clementines still with fragrant leaves attached which look so festive! I love this recipe. in fact, my dad had it in a lovely village restaurant in deepest france and we both have made our own version. so, a lovely seasonal treat the product of chinese whispers. perhaps, if christmas pud is not a favourite, try this to bring your lunch to an end with a bit of a twist!
Divine orange tart
For the pastry
175g plain flour
100g butter, cubed
1 tbsp icing sugar
3 tbsp cold water
For the filling
75g dark fairtrade chocolate
1 large orange about 150g
1 freerange egg
75g golden granulated sugar
100g melted butter
50g chocolate, dark and white is nice
You will need an 11 x 35cm loose bottomed flan tin
Preheat the oven to 180˚c/gas mark 4.
Place the flour in a large bowl and rub in the butter. Add the icing sugar and stir through. Pour in the water and with a round bladed knife stir thoroughly until the mixture comes together into a dough. Finally bring together with your hand then leave in a covered bowl to rest for 30 minutes.
Roll out the pastry and use to line the tin. Prick the base and fill with greaseproof paper and baking beans, then bake blind for 15minutes. Remove the paper then place back in the oven for a further five minutes.
Carefully melt the chocolate in a bain marie or a microwave and spread evenly over the pastry base. Cool until set.
Cut a generous 2cm slice from each end of the orange, discard and cut the oranges into 6. Place in a food processor and whiz until pureed. Add the rest of the ingredients and process again until you have a fairly smooth mix. Pour over the chocolate and bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes until the filling is set.
Melt the rest of the chocolate and drizzle generously over the top of the tart.
Serve at room temperature with a dollop of crème fraiche.
Fri, Dec 4 2009
Sausages are an integral part to our eating habits here in Eastrop. I know that healthy eating is important, but we love them! And if you plump for good quality sausages, the fat content is not so huge. With our inclement weather, we need something to cheer us up and food does this brilliantly. The onset of autumn and winter means our meals tend to become more hearty, more robust, and sausages fit the bill well. Our butchers do excellent ones. The thin plain sausages are a familiar sight in our fridge, along with Highworth banger and Bloody lovely. Any of these do a great job skinned then broken up in a tomato sauce stirred through some spaghetti. Or how about keeping them succulently whole, roasting them, then serve with a stew of sweetcorn, butter beans, onions and cream.
Hearty December nights start like this.. take a pound of sausages, skin them and put in a large bowl. Add a good bunch of chopped chives and a sprig of sage -leaves only- chopped finely. Next, 100g good strong grated cheddar, and a grated apple. Squodge it all together with your hand and season with some black pepper. Cut a block of puff pastry into half and roll both pieces out to the thickness of a pound coin. Brush the edges of one piece with milk or egg and evenly lay on the sausage mix. Fold the second piece of pastry in half and make cuts across the crease, 1cm apart and not all the way to the edge. Lay over the sausage and unfold. Press the edges well down to stick, brush with milk to bring up the shine. Bake for 40 minutes. Green vegetables and some onion gravy will suit this tip top fashion!
…Jack frost nipping at your toes.
Mon, Nov 30 2009
Maybe I am wishful thinking but it is the time of the year when we should be wrapping up in bobble hats and scarves. Highworth bonfire night was an event not to be missed at the beginning of this month but i was not wearing anything too woolly! and I have been able to light my log fire! With both of these come smells and tastes evoking some far distant memory, none more so that the smell of chestnuts. Are there vendors anymore selling roast chestnuts, huddling over the brazier, nurturing their little shiny brown nuggets? Maybe in the heart of fashionable Covent garden or some such, but I cant imagine for a moment in Swindon. Many of us have lost the ability to appreciate simple pleasures. Everyone strives for more and more and many taste buds have been sadly converted to junk food. But the act of roasting some chestnuts over your autumnal fire is satisfying and – quite frankly – delicious. All you need do is forage for a few, prick their little jackets with a fork and throw into the smouldering embers. Leave one untouched and when that explodes you will find the others are cooked to perfection. But if the task of peeling them leaves you daunted, plump for the canned or frozen ones and enjoy the autumn evenings with a terrifically easy pudding.
Crush 18 digestive biscuits. Mix with 100g melted butter and set aside. Place half a can of chestnut puree in a bowl and soften with a spoon. Add a 200g pack of cream cheese, 6 tbsp natural yoghurt and 3-4 tbsp icing sugar. Whisk everything together really well. Layer the ingredients in four individual glasses and finish off with a drizzle of melted 70 percent chocolate. Bliss.
Sat, Nov 28 2009
We, as parents, have a habit of embarrassing our children. At the start of my forties, my dad still does it. He loves to recount the story of how we had chicken for supper, which in fact turned out to be rabbit. My legs couldn’t carry me quick enough to the hutch in my garden where my two fluffy bunnies sat twitching. Phew! we hadn’t eaten them after all but it was something similarly furry - and it tasted tremendous.
In the butchers today I spotted some wild rabbit. The temptation was just too much to bear, although my six year old son looked up at me, unconvinced. I am always open as to where food comes from with him. If you cover things up there will be mountains of explaining to do sooner or later. So we meandered home with our prize, discussing that pigs make pork and cows make beef. I have it in mind that many parents feel they should spare their children’s feelings by glossing over the true meaty facts. In my day to day job I hear answers such as lion or tiger when you ask which animal produces pork and so on. If we want to be responsible and answerable about the meat we buy we must be true to ourselves about it or become a vegetarian. If the provenance is good, then we can have a guilt free supper.
Reduce your washing up with a one pot wonder. Start off by softening an onion in a large pan. Joint your bunny, flour and brown along with the onion. Add 2 large carrots and 2 sticks of celery -chopped into thick batons -and a handful of dried mushrooms. Pour over enough cider to cover, season, add a tbsp chopped rosemary and gently cook for 2hours.
Serve with buttery mash and some green vegetables.
food filled weekend
Tue, Nov 10 2009
Well! 2 months later I finally have my computer sorted out. It slipped 12 inches to the floor and promptly stopped working. Fortunately my husband has the nerve to take things apart and he found that the kind gentleman we had bought it from had wedged the hard drive in with cardboard. He generously said he had not done anything wrong and I should get a life. I had to spend 60 quid on a new HD. Rats! The side effects of buying second hand. Wish I could put his name on here but i only have his fist name which is about as good as a chocolate tea pot.
So, more importantly food is always on my mind. I am looking forward to the possibility of a job interview and my Pa has spent the weekend with us and all we thought about was what we were going to eat next! My husband found this astonishing when we first met but now he is the first to offer the seed of thought to the next meal.
I am not a sufferer of celebrity chef syndrome but I admire ones who truly show worth with lack of pretentious image and real love for their wares. On Saturday we ventured to a lovely bistro in Devizes owned and run by Mr Peter Vaughan. Some 3 weeks previous I had visited the very same establishment with a group of children doing 2 dedicated days of food workshops with myself and my good friend Belinda. These are children who are perhaps the wrong side of the law or young carers or even being bullied at school, ones who need care and attention really. They were given the chance to make a lovely loaf of soda bread and left with a beautiful loaf, a chefs hat, an apron and a brilliant memory of an utterly lovely man giving his time to help. I had picked up a menu and wanted to visit with Dad. I am sure many visit the Bistro because of who owns it but I wanted to because the menu I had picked up looked delicious.
Along we ventured taking a beautiful route through Avebury and the captivating landscape
lunch was most certainly not disappointing. I had the most gorgeous salt beef in a brown pitta with beetroot and coleslaw. I had been eyeing this up since my half term visit, yet ordered soup then changed at the last minute. Harley had a lovely marguerita pizza with a brown base and big chips that we all dived into! John sampled a flavourful thai fish curry and jasmine rice whilst my Dads wife had carrot soup with homemade brown bread. We had to have pudding as it is obligatory even at lunchtime with Dad! - I think its my step mum's influence- so I had a chocolate tart with caramel icecream, john had a kind of eton mess whilst Harley chose the cheesecake that was an age old recipe. The cheesecake was with quince and served with a clove icrecream. Again my poor son had four spoons and forks diving into his pudding of which he was very possessive. It was beautifully balanced and just tasted plain great!
We left feeling we had got our moneys worth. Fantastic service, well cooked food and Aspall cider. What else would you want?
It was supposed to be Dads birthday supper but we were so full I thought it would never fit. We did manage that evening to eat fillet steak with a red wine sauce, pink fir apple potatoes, purple kale and chard. Vegetables courtesy of Devizes farmers market. And our pudding stomach remained empty enough for rum and raisin ice-cream and sticky toffee sauce. Phew we made it! What could be better than a weekend of indulgence?
Sun, Sep 27 2009
What is it with people's attitude towards the way children eat? I find it astonishing that many bemoan the fact that their children wont eat things or do not like things and then consequently they feed them rubbish food stuffs. I get fed up with people saying that food is wasted on children. Why is it wasted? Food education is surely like learning behaviour patterns. They learn by example. Children have way more sensitive taste buds than adults and we are told that it is important to keep presenting children with foods they are not sure of. Young people love food actually. And if you start them out in life on good food, they will enjoy a life of appreciation of great ingredients.
This way of life is so rewarding in many ways. Take them to a michelin starred restaurant, feed them mussels, amuse bouche or 80% chocolate. Give them things that you feel they have no way of eating. It may surprise you, somewhat. I think that you need to be open minded. Children are. We learn to be reserved and narrow-minded. Children have no inhibitions.
Harley loves pesto, for instance, and talking to many children, they do too. But parents proclaim their child wont like it. Too highly flavoured, too sophisticated. But in fact these decision makers don't even give them the chance to try.
I worked at a show last week where we were offering 5 salad leaves for children- and adults - to try. Well the amount of adults saying their children will not eat rocket was crazy. In fact, rocket seemed to be the leaf that children loved the most. Why do we, as adults, talk about choice and then strip our children of any. Food is all about choice. We, as individuals, perceive things so very differently to each other and children are no different. So why are children's menus the same the country over. Fish fingers, nuggets, sausages . These make me cross, along with ketchup and coke. An adult's perception is that children only like these kinds of things. Maybe they should open their eyes. Don't make an issue, just present things and see what happens!
Wed, Sep 23 2009
I find it astonishing that so few people go blackberrying! One of the most accessible and plentiful wild bounties in our countryside, blackberries are a versatile fruit that you can use in as many ways as say, raspberries or blueberries.
Your friends may be a little possessive about their picking grounds, but in Highworth these hedgerows are not so hidden that you need to trek for days searching. Take your children or granny and granddad, lots of containers, plenty of time and really enjoy yourself.
We live in such a non-stop society that you may find it gives you time to contemplate and relax too. Meditate on the treasures our lands have to offer and just spend a few purple-hazed moments taking it all in.
September, to me, is the optimum time to pick. You can spot fruit from August until November, but the well-known old wives tale tells us not to pick after 10th October due to the Devil vandalising the crop. Realistically, this can be attributed to early frosts or dogs!
Use your berries straight away. Freeze on trays and bag once frozen. Make into a beautiful jam using equal amounts of sugar with added pectin or boil with some sugar to make a syrup to pour over ice-cream or baked custard. A feeling of satisfaction will ensue.
Using store cupboard ingredients, try this cake that doubles up as a scrummy pudding. Grease a 9inch/23cm springform cake tin or equivalent. Melt 225g butter and 175g light soft brown sugar together and stir in 200g oats and 125g wholemeal flour. Press half of the mix into the tin. Lay 2 peeled and sliced apples and 300g blackberries evenly on top and sprinkle the rest of the oat mixture over the fruit. Press down really well and bake for 35 minutes at 175c/350f/gas mark 4. Serve warm with some ice-cream or wrap up and pop in your picnic basket.
Tue, Sep 8 2009
As a rule, I don't care for buying branded icecreams for home consumption, instead I plump for Aldi's fantastic creations. They are of a practical size, use real vanilla, only seem to have the ingredients in that should be and they are reasonably priced. But in my local supermarket recently, they had 2 boxes of ice lollies for £3.00. We love a Fab every so often so I bought a box of 8 and then chose a box of Malteser choc ice style thingies. I happen to know that Maltesers contain hydrogenated vegetable fat but I thought once in a blue moon can't be terrible. We ate them. They were horrid. No flavour at all and I would not buy them again.
I actually steer away from rubbish chocolate, veering towards the better quality ones and the reason, really, is because the cheapies don't taste of chocolate, but of sugar and not much else.
Upon looking at the box the Malteser ices came in, it transpired that they not only have hydrogenated vegetable fat but also eight e numbers. I find this outrageous. There is no requirement for this level of additives. I do not know which e numbers are which, equally I have not looked them up to see which they are in the icrecream, but as a rule I buy things without any.
I feel that a company like Mars should really be more in tune with the ingredients in their products. It is a proven fact that children are better behaved when not subjected to additives. Maybe the icrecream may actually taste better without them......?
I feel a small letter to Mars may not go amiss and perhaps they may take some notice. Although do most of the general public really understand this convoluted subject? I know I dont, but that is where buying foods without additives at all is a much more savvy way to shop. Next time you go to the supermarket, give yourself a little longer and have a look at the labels. Do you really want to be giving your child something like MSG, a flavour enhancer which is the equivalent to a drug like speed. Find it in crisps and chinese food.
Enjoy having a little investigation and enjoy eating a better level of food. It will make you fell better all round.