Friday, 31 December 2010

Cranberry chocolate tart

The Christmas feel good movies and the festive music have all suddenly been replaced with countdowns of the Best and Worst of 2010. Perhaps I should do a reflective post of my own, and focus on what has been a year of tremendous change, but I am not in the right frame of mind for it. Really what I should do is dress up, make-up and go out this evening with the masses and welcome the New Year in the big city, but the slushy grey mush left behind by the snow is just so uninviting.

Instead we choose to stay home like lovebirds. This is not new to us, the past few years has seen us actually quite content to stay at home and see in the New Year, but this New Years Eve we are both seriously lacking cheer and sense of direction, so to lift our mood a little. D has picked up a bottle of bubbly and I have made this very adult dessert which we have already greedily tucked into.
I actually made use of my under-utilised Magimix blender to make the dough. I also used my American cups to make this tart. I thought it made sense this time as this was a very American recipe.

I really enjoyed biting into the almond pastry though it was a pain to roll out as it stuck to the marbled board. I also enjoyed the oozy tartness and zingy flavours of the bursting fresh cranberries, but the final drizzling of the melted dark chocolate was a different matter. The chocolate was just too intense. Even D who adores his chocolate said it was too dominant. Once the melted chocolate had set, I was able to peel it off the tart. In fact I think white chocolate would work better here.
This berry jewelled rich cranberry and chocolate tart needs something to cut through the sharp and intense flavours. I would recommend perhaps some whipped cream or vanilla ice-cream.
For now though, may I take this opportunity to wish you all a Very Happy New Year and may your 2011 be a good one filled with memories to treasure! I am trying to remain optimistic about 2011 and what it may bring for us.
Cranberry chocolate tart
Ingredients
For the pastry base
1 ½ cups plain white flour
¼ cup caster sugar
½ cup unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
¼ teaspoon salt
1 medium egg yolk
Grating of nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ cup chopped flaked almonds
1 – 2 tablespoons cold water
For the cranberry filling
3 cups fresh cranberries
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cornflour dissolved in ¼ cup of water
Optional: ½ cup of dark or white chocolate
Method
Combine the flour, sugar, butter and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until crumbly. Beat together the egg yolk, nutmeg and vanilla in a cup and pour it into the dough; pulse briefly. Add the almonds and pulse again. Add enough cold water to combine and make a firm dough . Cover with plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes to an hour.
Meanwhile cook the cranberries on medium heat, stirring occasionally for a few minutes until they begin to soften. Add the sugar and simmer until is has dissolved and the berries are juicy. Pour in the cornflour mixture and cook for a couple of minutes, stirring constantly until the sauce thickens. Remove from the heat.
Preheat oven to gas mark 6.
Roll out the chilled dough to line a 10 inch tart tin, pressing about an inch of the pastry up the sides and folding over the edges. Prick the bottom of the dough with a fork.
Bake for 10 minutes, then lower the heat to gas mark 4 and bake for 15 minutes more, until the crust is golden brown and firm. Set aside to cool for about an hour.
When the crust is cool, melt the chocolate. Drizzle half of it onto the crust and allow it to cool for a few minutes. Evenly spoon over the cranberry filling, then drizzle the rest of the chocolate here and there, so that the cranberry filling shines through. Allow the chocolate to firm up before serving the tart. Slightly adapted from Moosewood Restaurant Celebrates from The Mossewood Collective.

Thursday, 30 December 2010

Paprika Mushroom and potato pie

The flavours in this Paprika mushroom and potato pie were quite intense and meaty. If I had not made this with my dark brown hands I would have questioned what stock was used to make it? Beef, chicken or vegetable! A lot was to do with the making of the paprika based sauce, but to add to its intensity was the mushrooms. Most of us will agree that mushrooms reign supreme in the Vegetable Kingdom as the ‘meat vegetable’.

There are a number of paprika powders on the market. In my kitchen cupboards I have Hungarian paprika, smoked parsnip, hot paprika, sweet paprika and standard ground paprika from the South Asian grocers, which is what I used in this recipe.
I was just going to keep the mashed potato topping plain, but it looked a bit boring. I went overboard with the sprinkling of the paprika and made a five pointed red star.

If you don’t want to scatter the additional paprika on top, you could mash the potato with fresh thyme or parsley just to lift it visually. I do believe there is some truth in that people feast with their eyes first. You can make this pie in advance. It also reheats well.
Paprika Mushroom and potato pie
Serves 4 – 6
Ingredients
400g chestnut mushrooms, halved or quartered if large
2 – 4 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, finely sliced
4 celery stalks, finely sliced
40g plain flour
2 teaspoons sweet paprika or standard
1 teaspoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon cayenne
400ml vegetable stock
Salt and pepper to taste
For the potato topping
750g mashed potatoes
Method
Heat the oil in a wide pan, add the onion and celery and fry gently until the onion is soft and lightly coloured. Add the mushrooms and cook for a couple of minutes. Sprinkle the flour over the mushrooms mixture, stir until well incorporated, then add the paprika, thyme and cayenne. Remove from the heat and gradually stir in the stock. Return to the heat and simmer, stirring constantly, until the sauce has thickened and smooth. Remove from the heat Season with salt and pepper to taste. Pour the mushroom mixture into an ovenproof dish.
Evenly spoon over the mashed potatoes. Sprinkle with paprika if you wish. Then bake in the oven for 20 – 30 minutes until heated through. Serve immediately.

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Savoury Leek and Stilton 'Eccles' cake

For those of you may not be familiar with Eccles cakes, they are a particular kind of English cake. Individual flaky pastries filled with either currants or raisins, glazed and coated in crunchy sugar grains. D really likes Eccles cakes, but has struggled to find a good commercial brand.

Eccles cakes are believed to have originated in a little place called Eccles, formerly within the Lancashire boundary but this has been debated by some food historians who argue that similar types of sweet patties were being made elsewhere in England. This photograph is of an Eccles cake bakery was taken when we visited Liverpool last year.
To add to this, these sweet patties are known by different names. I’ve known them to be called Squashed Fly Cake, and even a Fly's Graveyard. I’ve been told that they also exist in Scotland, but in a very different guise: simply as a fruit slice. So it with some reservation that I call these Savory cakes 'Eccles' cakes, especially in the light of recent proposals to protect them and prevent bakers from calling cakes 'Eccles cakes' unless they have actually been made in Eccles. Something else of interest though, the word ‘eccles’ actually means church and is derived from the Greek word ‘Ecclestia’.
The pastry for this savoury version was light and flaky. The filling was creamy and salty from the cheese, and silky from the leeks. Although I preferred this warm I think these would be good eaten cold too. So perfect for taking to work for lunch or summer time picnics for those of you blessed with sunshine. The sun is rather shy to come out in Scotland, even on summer days. So picnics here are always followed by rain, well that has been my experience so far. Talking of weather, the snow here has finally melted away, but I wonder for how long until the next flurry?!
Leek and Stilton ‘Eccles’ Cakes
Makes 6
Ingredients
1 x ready rolled puff pastry
Plain flour for rolling
For the filling
1 tablespoon olive oil
300g leeks, trimmed and thinly sliced
Salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon dried oregano
100g Stilton cheese, crumbled
1 tablespoon dried breadcrumbs
To glaze
1 egg, beaten
Sesame seeds
Method
First make the filling, heat the oil in saucepan. Add the leeks, herb and season with salt and pepper, then cover and cook over low heat for 5 – 10 minutes until softened. Turn off heat and allow to cool before stirring in Stilton cheese and breadcrumbs.
Lay pastry out on a board and first cut out 4 x 5 inch or 6 inch rounds. Then gather the pastry roll out with a rolling pin and cut out a further 2. Divide the filling between the pastry rounds, placing it in the centre of each. Dampen the edges of the pastry and gather the pastry over the filling. Press the pastry together in the centre forming a ball. Turn the balls over and flatten them lightly with a rolling pin. Using a sharp knife, make 3 small parallel cuts in the top of each. Brush the top and sides of the pastry with the beaten egg and sprinkle the sesame seeds over the top. Chill until ready to make.
Heat oven to Gas mark 6. Place on a baking tray and cook at the top of the preheated oven for 20 minutes or until evenly browned. Adapted from Leiths Vegetarian Bible by Polly Tyrer.

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Eggnog and Pineapple Loaf

My first Christmas with Ds parents saw me introduced to shockingly yellow drink known as eggnog. It was served to me with lemonade and looked like banana milkshake laced with cinnamon and nutmeg. I actually didn’t mind it at first, but after my third glass I was sick of its heavy silky texture. Eggnog is a sweetened dairy-based beverage traditionally made with milk, sugar and beaten eggs. I have also seen a number of vegan alternatives recipes to eggnog. Eggnog is a popular drink throughout the States and Canada, and is usually associated with winter celebrations. As such the one time I see this turmeric yellow bottle is around the Christmas festivities.

D had a craving for some eggnog on Christmas day, hence the bottle in our home. So after he had satisfied himself with a couple of glasses, I was left with an on open bottle. Once opened, eggnog is one of those drinks that does not keep well and has to be consumed, or thrown away. As someone who does not like to waste, I set about finding recipes to use it up as there was no way I could drink more bubbly eggnog.

I have often seen eggnog used as a flavouring for both drinks and baked goods such as eggnog scones, eggnog ice-cream and eggnog coffee, but I settled on the idea of making an eggnog loaf studded with golden pineapple chunks. I did not go out of my way to purchase a can of pineapple rings for the recipe. I actually stumbled upon a can whilst hunting for the tinned pureed chestnuts for the soup. (I also found a can of water chestnuts and mango puree). So for me this was the right recipe to make.

On first bite, the eggnog and pineapple loaf reminded me of a cake my father would often bring home for his children known in the U.K as Iced Squares, also known in some parts as Iced Custard slice. D said this loaf had a touch of Madeira cake about it too. It was really nice, moist and light.

So if you have a open bottle of eggnog that is unlikely to be drunk in the next few days, please do give this Eggnog loaf a go. You can substitute the pineapple chunks for fat juicy raisins, and the nuts with walnut if you wish.

This is a moist loaf and is best made a day in advance.
Eggnog and Pineapple Loaf
Makes 2 loaves
Ingredients
450g self raising flour
110g caster sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 medium egg
200 - 250ml eggnog (that is all I had left in the bottle)
100ml vegetable oil
1 x 432g pineapple in juice, chopped if whole
80g chopped pecans
Method
Preheat oven to Gas mark 4. Grease with oil or line two loaf tins with baking parchment paper. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and nutmeg. In a separate bowl, mix the egg, eggnog, oil and pineapple. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir until well combined. Gently fold in the pecans.
Pour the batter into the loaf tins. Bake for 50 minutes to an hour or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Allow to cool for 10 minutes, then remove and cool on a wire baking rack. Recipe slightly Adapted from ‘Tis the Season by Nanette Blanchard.

Monday, 27 December 2010

Lentil and Chestnut Soup

We had planned to drive down on Christmas day from Scotland to Essex, England to be with Ds mother and sister. However due to the recent harsh weather and dangerous driving conditions, this did not happen and we have ended up staying at home.
I've already mentioned the reason why the Christmas tree and all associated decorative ornaments have remained boxed in the attic this year, so there were no exchanges of presents between the two of us. But it was not all bad for me, I did receive an unexpected gift in the post which warmed my heart. Thank you J.

In the box were a number of edible goodies like flowering tea, but it was this gorgeous hand knitted hat which delighted me the most. It complimented my purple winter coat wonderfully. Of course I wanted to wear it and show it off immediately. I asked D if we could go out for a walk in the snowy park and get some fresh air in our lungs. My real reason was to wear it on my noggin' and strut my magic stuff.
I am embarrassed to admit it, but there was once a time when I would snug and wrinkle my nose at the thought of a handmade present. It is only in the past six years or so that I have gained a greater appreciation of handmade gifts, other than them being unique, they are also made with a lotta love and kindness. Early in the week I also received these tiny mitts from Pia which I won in her giveaway a couple of months ago. These are just so cute and will adorn my Christmas tree come next year.
So after our walk in the snow, we tucked into this dense and creamy lentil and chestnut soup. I have to point out that this soup was made with tinned pureed chestnut. I know shame on me for not using fresh chestnuts especially as they are in season. But have you seen the price of them at the grocers and supermarkets?! Ridiculously expensive. I had hoped to have foraged for some this year, but it did not happen. So for ease I used canned. If you cannot find pureed, whole cooked chestnuts will do fine. Just chop them up before you add it them to the soup to simmer. This lentil and chestnut soup is deep and its texture and flavours are enhanced further by the celery leaves and fennel seeds.
Lentil and Chestnut Soup
Serves 4 - 6
Ingredients
140g green or brown lentils
4 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, finely sliced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 large carrot, diced
2 garlic clove, minced
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon fennel seeds
2 ½ pints of water
1 x 435g canned and pureed chestnuts
2 tablespoons finely chopped celery leaves
Salt and pepper to taste
Method
Heat oil in a pan and add the onion, celery, carrot, garlic, bay leaf, thyme and fennel seeds. Cook over medium low heat for about 10 minutes. Then add the lentils along with 6 cups of water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat an simmer covered until the lentils are tender (about 40 minutes). Remove the bay leaf, season with salt and pepper to taste.
Add the chopped up chestnut puree and simmer gently stirring now and again, to ensure that the chestnut puree has broken down and been absorbed into the soup. Adjust seasoning then serve with the celery leaves scattered over. Adapted from Vegetable Soups from Deborah Madison

Sunday, 26 December 2010

Brussels Sprout Pie

As a break from the faux meat loaf that dominates our Christmas meals most years, yesterday I had made this Brussels Sprout Pie.
Whilst making the vegetable filling for this raised pie, my heart sank a little as I was reminded in my head at the loss of my allotment plot. This time last year I had harvested a sprout tree and other vegetables from my allotment. This year that was not so, as all the vegetables on our plate were supermarket bought. I did attempt to grow some sprouts in my tiny garden plot specifically for Christmas, but most (if not all) of my Brassica family plants were ravished by the white cabbage butterfly. Oh well, such is life.
Once sliced open, the contents of the pie were revealed. The green baubles were surrounded by specks of orange. This hearty Brussels sprout pie was served with baked Parsley potato cakes shaped into Christmas trees.
Well I do hope you are all enjoying the festive holidays. D and myself are just lazing indoors. Neither of us is interested in joining the madness of the Boxing day sales here. Instead we are watching DVDs, flicking through (cook) books, playing Board and computer games with a little bit of cooking and baking in between.
Brussels Sprout Pie
Serves 6 – 8
Ingredients
1 medium onion, finely sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tablespoon olive oil
500g carrots, cooked and mashed
75g Brazil nuts, ground
250g Brussels sprouts, steamed. Mince half of them and keep the other half whole
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
1 teaspoon yeast extract (Love it or hate it, I use Marmite)
Juice of ½ lemon
Salt and pepper to taste
For the pie filling
First make the pie filling. Gently fry the onion and garlic in the oil until soft. Then mix in all the other ingredients and season to taste. Set aside and allow to cool.
Now make the hot water crust pastry.
For the hot water crust pastry
To line deep 7 inch spring form round cake tin
Ingredients
350g plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
½ teaspoon caraway seeds
1 teaspoon thyme
100g solid vegetable fat or shortening, chopped (I use Trex)
100ml water
Optional: Olive oil or beaten egg to glaze
Method
Mix together the dry ingredients.
Melt the fat in the water and heat until about to boil. Add the liquid to the flour and stir with a wooden spoon until a dough is formed. Now you have to work very quickly, as the dough will get cold and be tough to work with. Keep some of the dough back for the lid, then roll out the rest quickly and line the tin, pressing down so that it is snug to the tin and in its grooves. Then fill the tin with the cooled filling. Press gently down with a spoon. Cut of excess dough around the tin and roll out again so that it fits the top of the pie filling as a lid. It will overlap, just cut off the excess with a knife to make it look presentable. Place the lid over the filling, then gently press or pinch into the side of the pie so it seals or with a fork.
Optional: Brush with egg wash or oil and make a small steam hole in each pie.
Bake in preheated oven Gas mark 6 for 45 to 1 hour till golden. Serve warm or cold.

Friday, 24 December 2010

Cold Christmas

Some of you may have already detected from reading my blog that I will not celebrating Christmas this year.
Sadly it is not the merriest of times for us. The reason for this is my father in law died unexpectedly a couple of months ago. This year there is no Christmas tree, no presents and no crackers to pull. We will of course still be cooking and be eating, but no one will be celebrating at this sad time for us.

Tomorrow when Christmas day comes, I know with every tick of the clock our thoughts will be on my mother in law spending her first Christmas without her husband. There is nothing we can say or do to ease the pain, except just be there for her. I am also mindful that my husband has lost a father, his role model; and I, a dear father in law.

Monday, 20 December 2010

Winter Vegetable and Ale Stew

I made this Winter Vegetable stew for my mother in law at the weekend. She flew back to England last night. Whilst she was here, she described herself as a 'Southern Softy' as the cold weather in Scotland was a little too much for her to bare. She said she felt like the Michelin Tyre woman all wrapped up and unable to move for all the thick layers she had on.
This stew is very similar to the Winter Root Vegetable Stew I made early this year. The main difference with the stew is the choice of alcohol. In the previous stew I used cider and in this one it was Ale. I have to admit I am not a beer drinker at all and was actually going to substitute the alcohol content with additional vegetable stock, but D encouraged me to give it a go. I obliged as we don't eat many dishes that contain alcohol.

Well I thought if I was going to put Ale into my Stew, as an 'honorary Scot' it should be made with a Scottish ale. I chose one charmingly called Old Jock Ale. It is said here that the soldiers of the Highland and Lowland Regiments of Scotland had been referred to as "Jocks", a term of endearment.
The Stew certainly had layers of flavour. Sweetness from the swede and carrots, 'meaty' texture from the Portobello mushrooms and the ale which gave the sauce more body and depth. On top of this the soft fluffy dumplings that just melted in your mouth. Although I did not mind eating this stew, the alcohol content is something I have to get used to as D has said he'd be happy to eat this again. The way the snow is still falling here, I have a feeling I will be making this stew again - soon too. I served this stew with some Brussels sprouts and shredded green cabbage.
If you decided to make this stew. Please ensure that the vegetables are chopped to a similar size, so that they cook well.
Winter Vegetable Stew with dumplings
Serves 4
For the StewIngredients1 large onion, peeled and finely sliced
2 tablespoon olive oil
2 – 4 cloves of garlic, crushed
4 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
1 medium swede or rutabaga, peeled and chopped
2 potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
200g Portobello or chestnut mushrooms
1 sprig of fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon plain flour
350ml Ale
600ml vegetable stock
1 tablespoon Marmite or alternative yeast extract
1 tablespoon sun dried tomato paste
Salt and pepper to taste
MethodIn a large saucepan, heat the olive oil and add the onions and garlic and cook until soft. Add all the chopped vegetables and stir fry for a few minutes until the vegetables are beginning to look translucent around the edges. Add the mushrooms and the flour. Stir to combine, then pour in the ale, vegetable stock, tomato puree, rosemary and yeast and bring to the boil, turn down the heat and simmer with the lid on for 20 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. Season to taste. Whilst the stew is simmering, make the dumplings.
For the (cheesy) dumplings
Ingredients
120g self-raising flour
50g vegetable suet
1 teaspoon mustard powder
80g cheddar, grated (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste
Cold water to combine
MethodThe dumplings need to be added 15 minutes before the stew is ready.
In a bowl add flour, vegetables suet, cheese and seasoning to taste. Add enough water to combine and make a firm, not sticky dough. Then with floured hands, break the dough into 8 – 12 pieces and roll them into rough round dumplings. Add them gently to the stew, pushing them down into the liquid. Simmer gently for 15 minutes or until the dumplings have doubled in size. Slightly adapted from Rachel Demuths Green Seasons Cookbook.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Watching Waxwings in my garden

Our winter visitors - the waxwings have been hanging out in my garden in the West of Scotland all week. The waxwings have been enjoying the last of the apples in the tree.
I don't know if we will ever have the honour of seeing these majestic birds with their Punk hairdo this close again, so we decided to film them in their large numbers known as 'irruptions' as best as we could.
videoI am delighted to share with you what we were able to capture. Hope you enjoy. If you want to see some some more photographs of them. Please follow this link from last weekend.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Lavender Brownie butterfly

These may be the most beautiful brownies I have ever eaten in my life. I think this Lavender Butterfly is so pretty I could have pierced a hole in the top and hung it from a Christmas tree as an edible ornament. Then I could gaze upon it admiringly (and greedily), as it teased me with its chocolaty glitter and flutters of lavender scent.

I could feel the soporific effect of these lavender brownies (or maybe I was just really tired from a hard and grim working week, and Thankful once again for the weekend). These lavender brownies were pretty good. I had one just before my ‘beddy bye bye times’ last night helping me ease into sleepy lala land. It was a nice change from a mug of hot chocolate, or even a glass of red wine.
These fudgy brownies were made from fair trade dark chocolate, homegrown lavender and a little bit of shimmer and glitz in the form of edible glitter. The edible glitter is suitable for vegetarians. I’m not too sure how they last though. I’ve had this since I got married in October 2008. A word of warning, if you have fillings in your teeth they will react a little – a little sensitivity like ice-cream, but I think it’s a small price to pay for a little bit of extravaganza.
This recipe is based on the Orange Brownies. I used ½ teaspoon of lavender for this particular recipe. If you make a different brownie recipe resulting in a larger quantity, then adjust the lavender to 1 teaspoon. I want to forewarn you in advance though, I always do whenever I post a lavender recipes on my blog - Please be careful with the amount of lavender you use: too much and it could taste medicinal or worse, too strong that it will be unpleasant to consume and that will be a great shame.
Lavender Brownies
Makes 1 x 7 inch by 9 inch tin
Ingredients
100g unsalted butter
80g of dark chocolate
20g white chocolate buttons optional (or replace with more dark chocolate)
150g dark muscovado sugar
2 medium eggs.
75g plain flour
1/2 teaspoon lavender
Pinch of salt.
Method
Heat oven to Gas Mark 4.
Melt the chocolate, butter and sugar in a bain marie (or a bowl suspended over a pan of simmering water). Remove from the heat and allow to cool a little, then beat in the eggs. Add in the white chocolate buttons if using.
Stir in the flour, lavender and salt. Pour into the tin and bake on middle shelf for 12 minutes. Allow to cool in tin before slicing up and serving.

Friday, 17 December 2010

Cauliflower, broccoli and leek gratin

This is not the prettiest of dishes, but this vegetable gratin was packed with flavour, texture and bite. I especially liked the herby-seedy bread crumbed topping. It was light, crisp and very satisfying.
I don't have a recipe for this gratin, but it is quite straight forward. Either steam or boil the chopped vegetables: cauliflower, carrot and broccoli until tender. Drain and set aside. Saute the leeks in some oil, then mix into the cooked vegetables. Tip into a large ovenproof dish. Now make some béchamel sauce. Pour over the béchamel sauce. Top with some grated cheddar cheese (optional) and a breadcrumb topping.
For me it’s the topping that makes this dish. D made some bread at home, before you get all impressed, it was in a bread maker! He is a better bread maker than me. Whether its been from scratch or in a bread maker, many of my previous attempts have resulted in 'hit and miss' loaves. His have been consistent. I nabbed the butt ends and whizzed them in a food processor.
Added a mix of sunflower, pumpkin seeds, linseed, a little seasoning, minced fresh parsley and then drizzled over some olive oil, before scattering over the veg and béchamel sauce. Bake at gas mark for about 30 minutes. Serve with some new potatoes or brown rice if you wish, but I think its quite substantial as it is.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Steamed Lemon and Rosemary Pudding

We don’t always have dessert or pudding after our evening meal, but with my mother in law with us. I thought why not, we all need a little sweetening.
I had decided that I wanted to make something different, something that my mother in law would perhaps appreciate - a classic British steamed lemon pudding. But these are no ordinary puddings, these are made with the addition of rosemary. I knew in my mind that the rosemary and lemon combination would work perfectly, as I've made lemon and rosemary sorbet, plus a Rosemary, parsnip and lemon tart before. I was just not sure whether she would like it or not. I went ahead with my plans and made it anyway as I was determined to introduce her to some new flavour combinations.
Unlike the photographed exhibit above that was plonked on the plate a day later - cold. The fresh steamed lemon and rosemary puddings came out easy without any stick to the moulds. They were soft and perfectly edible, but there was one flaw. Sadly, neither the citrus zingy lemon or the rosemary flavour came though strong. Both flavours were very subtle. D described this steamed pudding as a recipe in progress. I have adjusted the recipe below, so this time the flavours should come though, that is of course if you are interested in giving it ago.

At the weekend we went for a walk around Glasgow Botanical Gardens. The only photograph we took whilst there was of this little monkey. Someone obviously thought he looked a bit cold and was kind to give him a snug knitted hat that looks a bit like a strawberry. His gorgeous hat amused me, well it is a well known fact that most of the bodys heat is lost through the head, so I've decided to call this photograph 'Keeping monkey warm' . I think the knitted hat also gives him a little colour against the snow white backdrop. The monkey is sat on the lap of it marbled owner King Robert of Sicily.
I am submitting the above image to Jacqueline of Tinned Tomatoes who is hosting this months No Croutons Required Challenge. The challenge is to submit a festive photo, it doesn't have to involve food, just something that captures the mood of the festive season. I think this monkey captures the festive wintry mood in Scotland. I also think if nothing else it may bring a smile to fellow bloggers faces.

Steamed Lemon and Rosemary PuddingServes 4
If you have them use 4 individual plastic pudding moulds with matching lids. Alternatively, make one large pudding using a generously buttered 1.3 litre ceramic or plastic basin. Cover the basin with baking parchment and foil, secured tightly with string. It will take about 1¼ - 1 ½ hour to cook for larger basins. Check the water level halfway and top up as necessary.Ingredients
125g unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
125g caster sugar
2 large free-range eggs
1 large free-range egg yolk
200g self-raising flour
Finely grated zest of 1 unwaxed lemon
Juice from 2 lemons
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary leaves, finely minced
MethodWhisk the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Lightly beat the eggs and egg yolk together. Gradually whisk the eggs into the creamed butter mixture, adding a tablespoon of flour if the batter threatens to curdle. Fold in the flour followed by the lemon zest, juice and minced rosemary.
Divide the batter among the prepared pudding moulds and cover with lids. Place the moulds in a wide pot and carefully pour in boiling water to reach two-thirds up the sides of the moulds. Cover the pot with a lid and steam over a medium heat for 45 minutes to an hour, until the puddings have risen and are lightly golden at the sides.
Remove the puddings and cool slightly. While still warm, invert the puddings on to rimmed plates and serve with cream or custard.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Butternut Squash and feta pastry

For many of us living in the U.K, the shapely squash like its crown shaped brother, the pumpkin is still a new ingredient to us. Its only in recent times that we have begun to invite it into our homes. It appears in our kitchens on Autumnal days, often welcomed with the invitation of Halloween or Bonfire nights.
(Above: Butternut Squash, Golden Apple Squash and Uchiki Kuri squash). Before discovering my culinary teeth and becoming an adventurous and experimental cook, I recall having had butternut squash twice in my entire life and both times were as savoury dishes - Butternut squash risotto, and a Butternut squash and ricotta pastry. I was not keen on either of them. I thought its sweetness was best suited for American pies, and other sweet bites such as muffins and cakes. Then a year or two later, my approach to this sunset orange fleshed vegetable completely changed and I began to explore its versatility - Thanks to Denis Cotter. I credit Denis Cotter for changing my mind and attitude to both the pumpkin and (butternut) squashes in savoury dishes. Now one of my favourite ways of eating this vegetables is roasted with spiced chickpeas.
Anyway, I decided to revisit the savoury butternut pastry recipe. The only thing I tweaked was to substitute the ricotta with feta cheese. It was a good light snack. The sweetness of the butternut squash complimented the salty robust feta.

As you can see in the photograph above, the sweet and salty filling in my pastry is well exposed. The ready rolled puff pastry I had purchased this time, let me down. It was sticky and just too soft. Despite the filling oozing out, these pastries held well and turned out pretty good. Maybe I should start a new food trend and call them an 'open pastry' (like an open sandwich).
D’s mother had a taste. I don't think she liked it much. She commented on the flavour of the butternut squash ‘its an acquired taste’. I agree with her, it certainly is – but if you let allow it, it may just grow on you.
Recipe for Butternut Squash and feta pastry
I made this recipe with the ingredients I had at home, so cannot remember the exact quantities. I used half a butternut squash, peeled and cut into cubes which I then roasted in the oven until soft. Set aside to cool.
In a bowl, I crumbled about 100g of feta cheese, with a sprinkling of dried oregano and freshly ground black pepper. I added the cooled butternut squash to it and combined well.
I spread out my ready rolled puff pastry and cut into 6 squares, then filled and formed into a pasty shape of sorts, brushed it with a beaten egg and then baked in the oven at Gas Mark 6 for 20 - 25 minutes or until puffed up and golden. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Vegetarian suet Mushroom Pudding

My mother-in-law is here with us. She braved the snow and decided to fly up to Snowy Scotland. She’s hardly been here long and is already worried about getting back to Essex as more snow is predicted here and apparently it is due to come back with a vengeance.

I usually make these steamed savoury vegetable puddings in individual basins, but this time for convenience I thought I would create a large one. It turned out great. One thing I noted is taking photographs when feeding guests who are waiting patiently to be fed is a firm no, no. Its not such a problem when serving dessert, but main meals which are made of different components or side servings is a different matter.

I knew D would like this dish. He’s already a convert of my steamed savoury puddings, I wasn’t too sure about my mother in law who is much more familiar with the traditional version of 'Steak and kidney pudding'. But I had nothing to worry about. The meaty texture and rich gravy sauce oozing from the chestnut mushroom filling was appreciated. To top that the doughy pastry casing comforted like dumplings. Warming and perfect for our dark and cold evenings.

The pastry for this savoury pudding is made from suet. Suet is used in old fashion English puddings like Roly Poly, Spotted Dick, Christmas sweet mincemeat and savoury meat dishes such as Steak and kidney pudding. I’ve written about suet on my blog before (see here). In the past I’ve also received a number of questions and comments about suet and its suitability for vegetarians and vegans. In a nutshell, traditional suet is the particular fat which surrounds the loins and kidneys of cattle. It is white, gelatinous and fibrous, when grated or chopped and mixed with flour it is used in cooking and baking. What makes suet unique is its capacity to give the pastry when cooked a soft spongy elastic and doughy crust - a bit like a bouncy dumpling. But as with most things - haggis, black pudding and bacon - there are vegetarian alternatives to suet. At least one that I know of is suitable for a vegan diet. This is what I have used in my Mushroom pudding. If you live outside of the U.K, it is very unlikely that you will find suet in supermarkets. Suet is quintessentially a very British ingredient.

For the mushroom filling
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, finely sliced
400g chestnut mushrooms, wiped and sliced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon tomato puree
salt and pepper to taste
Method
Heat olive oil, add the onions and cook until soft. Then add the mushrooms and garlic and cook until beginning to soften, then stir in the thyme, tomato puree and season to taste. Cook for a few more minutes before removing from the heat to cool down.

For the Vegetarian Suet Pudding300g self-raising flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
Salt and pepper to taste
100g vegetarian suet (make sure it is suitable for vegans too, as not all are)
1 teaspoon dried thyme
Cold water
Method for the suet puddingMix all the dry ingredients and the herbs in a large bowl. Mix in enough cold water to make a firm dough. Roll the pastry out on a well-floured work surface, to about 3mm thick circles that are big enough to fill the pudding basin with a small overhand. Line the pudding bowl with the pastry, gently easing it round the sides for a snug fit. Gently spoon in the filling. The filling should be 1cm below the rim. With a sharp knife trim off the excess pastry level with the rim. Re-roll this excess pastry and cut out circle big enough to cover the top. Place the pastry tops on top of the filling and press the edges together to make a firm seal. Trim off any excess. Put on lid or cover with foil. Then place the pudding into a large steamer. Cover with the lid and steam for for 1 hour - 1 hour 30 minutes, or until the pastry is cooked. Leave to cool for a few minutes and then turn out and serve immediately.