Monthly Archives: November 2010

Asparagus

Not so much a recipe as a handy hint here.  I found some delicious looking asparagus on the market on Thursday but I knew I wasn’t going to be able to eat it straight away.  To keep your asparagus fresh, simply stand it in a wide mouthed jar of water and keep it on the side until you are ready for it. 

Then, when you are ready for it you simply need to snap off the woody root ends.  (Grasp the asparagus spear at the very end with your right index finger and thumb, then with your left index finger and thumb pull along the asparagus towards the tip trying to bend it and exerting pressure until you feel it bend and snap.) Discard the woody parts then steam your asparagus foe 7-10 minutes depending how thick the stems are.  Then serve asyou wish.  How about with a Microwave Poached Egg and some hollandaise sauce?

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Filed under Basic, Easy, Sides, Starters

Roasted Tomato and Red Pepper Soup

Soup season is well and truly upon us.  I recently bought a new cook book devoted entirely to soups but so far I haven’t even glanced at it.  I work on the basic principle of cook a vegetable or two, add stock, blitz it with the stick blender = Soup!  Most vegetables are better for a bit of roasting I find.  Especially peppers (yum, yum, yum!).  Tomatoes and garlic aren’t too shoddy either!  Eat this soup with hunks of well buttered bread for a lovely, warming lunch time pick me up. 

Serves 4 as a starter (or makes 2x500ml flasks for taking to the office)

2 red peppers, halved and deseeded
~5 vine tomatoes, quartered and deseeded
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 small onion, diced
1 pint hot vegetable stock

– Preheat your oven to gas mark 6, 200C while you do your pepper and tomato prep.  You want to get rid of all of the seeds. 
– Place the peppers, tomatoes and garlic in a large roasting dish and coo in the oven for 30 minutes. 
– In the meantime heat some olive oil and a knob of butter in a large pan on a medium to low heat until just getting foamy. 
– Add the onion and a generous sprinkling of salt and gently sautee until soft. 
– When your vegetables are done take them out of the oven and chop them up a bit. 
– Add them to the pan. 
– Add the stock. 
– Use a stick blender to blend the soup until smooth with no lumps. 
– Bring to a boil and simmer for a few minutes.  Season to taste (another generous sprinkle of salt and a good grind of black pepper does the trick.  You could also add some dried basil if you wanted.)
– Serve hot. 

Variation

I live alone and I often say that boredom is the mother of invention.  I didn’t want to eat this soup two meals running, no matter how delicious it was, so instead I took half the soup to work in a thermos and to the second half I added half a tub of marscapone and shredded some mozzerella in there as well and heated it all up.  Then I tipped it over cooked pasta. Voila! A whole new meal!  This served two so I spread it over two dinners.

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Filed under Easy, Mains, Starters

Chocolate Tray Bake

This is another recipe from our Pudsey Bake Sale.  I adapted my family parkin recipe to make a lovely, squidgy chcolate tray bake.  Typical me, I went out especially to buy some foil baking trays the day before… and left them in the office!  No matter, the brownie tin did sterling service once again!  I apologise for the shoddy pictures but since this was only cut into and served up at the office my options were very limited. 

 

This tray bake has a lot going in its favour.  First off, it’s delicious!  It has no eggs in it, so it’s suitable for those who are allergic.  (I used to be allergic to eggs as a child but thankfully grew out of it fairly quickly but as a result I always look out for recipes for those who are less fortunate.)  It also has very little fat in the cake itself (although, tonnes of sugar!) which is always nice as you feel a little bit less guilty!  The piece de resistance though is just how easy it is to make.  This would be perfect for any last minute cake emergencies you have. 

Serves 18

For the cake:
2 cups self raising flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
Almost a cup of light muscovado sugar
1 large tablespoon of butter
2 tablespoons of golden syrup
1 cup of hot milk
180g chocolate chips

For the ganache:
300g milk chocolate
150ml double cream

– Pre heat oven to Gas Mark 3, 170C or 325F.
– Line a brownie tin with baking parchment.
– Mix all the dry ingredients together, being sure to squish any lumps in the sugar and to seive in the cocoa to get out the lumps.
– Warm the milk, butter and syrup together until all melted.
– Add the milk, etc. to the dry ingredients and beat well.
– Stir in the chocolate chips. 
– Pour the mixture into the tin and smooth out so even. 
– Bake until set but spongy, check after 30 mins and test with a skewer and play by ear.
– Take out of the oven and leave to cool completely on a rack, still in its paper but out of the tin.  Put it back in the tin before adding the ganache. 

– Melt the chocolate in a pyrex bowl over a small pan of boiling water. 
– Take the bowl off the pan and add the cream and beat it all together like a demon! Keep beating! It will go all weird and oily and gross, KEEP BEATING!
– Once it comes together into a nice, smooth, glossy ganache (though you thought it never would!) simply pour it over the cake, use a spatula and wiggle it a bit to smooth it out and then leave to set.

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Filed under Cakes, Easy, Teatime Treats

Children In Need – Chocolate Crispies

To raise some money for Children In Need today I organised a Pudsey Bake Sale at work.  We put on a great little spread and the whole firm gave generously so we managed to raise an amazing £110!!!!!  I am so happy with such an staggering result.  Huge props to my department who helped with providing the delicious delicacies!

My colleagues Belinda, Doreen, Hayley and Me with our tasty treats!

 I’m going to be posting a couple of the recipes over this weekend but I thought I’d start with the classic of Bake Sales across the land, the Chocolate Crispie!  Everybody  loves these but unless you’ve got kids of your own they tend to pass out of your sphere after school.  No need for that, they really are the simplest treat ever!  Melt chocolate, add cornflakes… well, more or less!

 

Makes 18

100g butter
4 tbsp golden syrup
200g chocolate
150g cornflakes

– Put your bun cases in bun trays or muffin tins.
– Melt together the butter, syrup and chocolate in a small, heavy bottomed pan (or a bowl over a pan of boiling water)
– Pour the mixture over the cornflakes in a large bowl and mix really well so all the flakes are coated. 
– Put big spoonfuls of the mixture in the paper cases and leave to set.

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Pudsey Gingerbear Biscuits

For Children In Need this year I will be doing my bit by baking for the office.  I have a battle plan for this week to make sure I’ll have lots of treats, and lots of donations!  These are made from the same gingerbread recipe I used for gingerbread cottages last year but made in lovely thick, ginger biscuits.  I tried the recipe that came on the back of the Pudsey cookie cutter but the biscuits spread far too much so I won’t be selling those, no one wants deformed bear biscuits!

Makes ~19 (and one Pudsey Head!)

250g unsalted butter
200g dark muscovado sugar
7 tbsp golden syrup
600g plain flour
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
4 tsp ground ginger

– Heat the oven to gas mark 6 and prepare two baking trays… or more if you can do more than two trays at a time! 
– Melt together the butter, sugar and syrup in a large pan. 
– Put the flour, bicarbonate of soda and ground ginger in a large mixing bowl and mix them together. 
– Pour the melted butter mixture into the flour and mix well with a spoon until a dough is formed. 
– Roll out the dough to the thickness of your Pudsey cookie cutter.  Do this by placing the cutter on the worksurface next to the dough and rolling over that too so you don’t go too far. 
– Cut out your shapes and place on lined baking trays. 
– Bake for ~10 minutes watching carefully because it is very easy to burn these. 
– Once out of the oven allow the biscuits to cool on the trays for 5-10 minutes until hard then cool completely on a wire rack. 
– Repeat for the rest of the dough.

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Filed under Cookies and Biscuits, Easy

Butternut Squash Risotto

I am very fond of all squash but butternush squash has to be my favourite.  I firmly believe that there is no way in which it is not delicious!  My sister was staying over unexpectedly so I needed a hot, filling vegetarian main (my house is so cold it’s almost inhumane!).  Luckily I’d been planning to try this idea out for a while. 

It was amazingly tasty.  I have to admit to being the kind of omnivore who insists on having a recognisable protein with everything but this didn’t need it at all, it didn’t even need creme fraiche (which I normally dollop heartily over risottos).  It was perfect just as it was. 

Serves 4

~1kg butternut squash, peeled and chopped into chunks
~ 2 tsp dried sage
3 tbsp olive oil
25g butter
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
250g arborio rice
150ml white wine
700ml hot vegetable stock
small knob of butter

– Heat the oven to gas mark 6. 
– Put the chopped butternut squash in a mixing bowl, add the sage and oil and mix well. 
– Tip the squash out onto a baking tray thenroast in the oven for 30 minutes. 
– In the meantime melt the butter, with a splash of oil, in a large, deep casserole dishwith a lid until just bubbling and foaming. 
– Add the onion and garlic and cook on a medium to low heat until cooked anf soft. 
– Add the rice and cook for about 1 minute, stiring well. 
– Add the wine and cook, stiring until the liquid is absorbed. 
– Add the hot vegetable stock and stir.  Put the lid on. 
– Take the squash out of the oven and keep warm (I put mine in the grill, which is heated by the oven below, the floor of the oven would probably be fine too, doesn’t matter if it catches a bit). 
– Turn the oven down to Gas Mark 4/180C and put the rice into the oven for 30 minutes. 
– With a fork, roughly mash up the roasted squash, leaving plenty of chunks. 
– Take the rice out of the oven and tip the mashed squash into the pan as well as the butter, stir well to distribute. 
– Allow to rest for a few minutes (while you crack open the wine!) and serve!

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Gingerbread/Parkin

A little bit of a guest post from my mum here, heck, half my family are in on this one!  Every year around Halloween/Bonfire night we have this in my family.  It’s a lovely, moist, chewy cake and provides just the pick me up you need for elevenses or afternoon tea at this time of year.  It is also insanely easy!  But, I shall leave you with my mum’s words from her email of the recipe…

This was my grandmother’s recipe (my father’s mother) and I was told she got it from my Great Aunt Peggie

It is a very easy recipe, especially since it uses cups and tablespoons – not as in proper cup measures, but, I believe originally, teacups. I do use proper cup measures and that works too, but before I bought any I used the tried and tested Peter Rabbit measure.

 2 cups self raising flour
1 teaspoon of ground ginger
Almost a cup of soft brown sugar
1 large tablespoon of lard (Butter or Trex if you have a vegetarian)
2 tablespoons of golden syrup
1 cup of hot milk
Half a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda

– Pre heat oven to Gas Mark 3, 170C or 325F.
– Line a tin (8” x 10”, or I use a roasting tin – if it is too big, you get thinner slices of cake) with baking parchment.
– Mix all the dry ingredients together, being sure to squish any lumps in the sugar.
– Warm the milk, lard and syrup together until all melted.
– Add the milk, etc. to the dry ingredients and beat well.
– Dissolve the bicarb. In a little cold milk and add to mixture.*
– Bake until golden and spongy, depends on tin size, so check after 20 mins and play by ear.
– If you want Parkin, add some fine oatmeal and some chopped, preserved ginger, together with a little extra milk, lard and syrup, but it is not as light and spongy as the plain gingerbread.

*I actually just put the bicarbonate in with the dry ingredients, I’m guessing this step is just a bit of a throwback given the age of the recipe. 

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Filed under Cakes, Easy, Teatime Treats