Monthly Archives: January 2011

No-Knead Brioche

I saw this recipe over on BBC Good Food late last night and thought “Why not!”.  About 10 minutes later I had finished.  I was intending to have them for breakfast but life got in the way, as it does, and instead had them for a very nice afternoon tea instead.  Warm Brioche smothered in jam with a large cafe au lait, is there anything better? (Well, aside from actually being in France to do it!)

This recipe was simplicity itself.  So long as you do get the butter really really soft (bung it in the microwave, if you have one, on defrost or warm until it’s just on the point of melting) the first step will take you not more than 5 minutes.  Then you go to bed.  Easy!  The dough itself is ridiculously sticky.  I think mine was more sticky because I have very large eggs from a friend’s hens rather than homogenous  supermarket ones and there was no way it was going to make balls.  However, I surrendered to the goop and just washed my hands, it washes off very easily actually.  Children would love this bit, grownups may not! 

I made mine in a silicone mini brioche mould I picked up for a bargain price ages ago.  I’m forever seeing wonderful things like this and grabbing them so it’s nice to actually use one for once!  However, a muffin tin would be perfect for the job too.  I made a mixture of plain and chocolate, you will note that the Chocolate Brioche have flat tops, this is because I was being cheeky and cooking something else at 200C and thought I could cheat and do them together.  I figured 190C was quite low for a bread but I was wrong, 190C is perfect for this recipe. 

Makes 12

200g very very soft butter
2 tbsp golden caster sugar
3 eggs
500g strong bread flour
1/2 tsp fast action yeast
1 tsp salt
200ml milk
1 egg, beaten for brushing
1 small bar chocolate

– In a large mixing bowl beat together the butter, sugar and eggs.  This will get rather lumpy and gross. 
– Add the flour, yeast and salt and give it a little mix together, just a tad. 
– Pour in the milk and mix it all up until it forms a soft, sticky goop.  There will be chunks of butter, this is fine. 
– Cover it with a tea towel, leave it somewhere sheltered and moderately warm overnight. (My kitchen counters did fine.)
– The next day heat the oven to Gas Mark 5/190C. 
– Take your muffin tin and grease the holes with a little sunflower or other tasteless oil. 
– Rub your hands all over with oil too. 
– Grab small handfulls of the dough and drop it into the holes.  It will be very, very ,very sticky.  Go with it.  Shape it a little but don’t worry about it too much. 
– If making chocolate filled ones put a square or two of chocolate in the middle of the dough and pinch/twist/smooth the dough over the top. 
– Brush the tops with beaten egg and pop the tray in the oven and bake for 20 minutes until just browned on top. 
– Turn out onto a wire rack for a few minutes then serve warm with jam/nutella/whatever your poison is!  Fruits of the Forest Jam is my personal fave but go nuts!


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Filed under Breads, Breakfasts, Easy, Teatime Treats

Easy Seville Orange Marmalade

Guest Post from my Mum today as I don’t like marmalade at all! I thought you guys might like this recipe though.  All her own words so take it away, Mum:

I found this recipe many years ago and, having seen many others over the years, still cannot fault it.  It does require a pressure cooker, which, until I married 32 years ago, I had had no experience of – when I first started using it all those years ago; I was terrified of it, being convinced it would explode! I can say that I am now quite comfy with it, though it does give me the odd scare if its equilibrium is disturbed – for example, if someone walks past and hits the loose floorboard by the cooker, it screams and gushes steam out from under the weight!

The original recipe calls for the oranges to be frozen, but it is not essential. You just cut the cooking time by half on the first cooking.  The advantage of being able to use frozen oranges is, of course, that the Seville orange season is short, normally January/ February each year, and sometimes, having spotted them in the shop, you just don’t have the time to make the marmalade immediately.

2lbs Seville oranges
2 pints of water
4lbs granulated sugar, or jam sugar if you want to make it more expensive!
4 tablespoons of lemon juice.

 You can scale this up or down easily, though much will depend on the size of your pressure cooker. These quantities are the maximum mine will take. 
This made 2 x 500g jars and 4 x 250 jars, so about 4 lbs in total. Sorry, I work in pounds and ounces, but my jars come from France and Italy, where I stock up each year on the wonderful preserving jars they sell so cheaply over there.

Put the jars to warm, minus lids if they are screw top, minus the rubber seal if they are the rubber seal and wire closure type, in a very low oven, whilst you make the marmalade.

Put the oranges in the pressure cooker with the water, put the lid and the pressure weight on and bring to the boil and to pressure (15lbs) or max or whatever is the top setting on your particular monster. Once at pressure, cook for 20minutes if frozen and 10 minutes if not. Turn off the heat and slowly the pressure will revert to normal. You can speed this up by taking the pressure cooker to the cold tap and running cold water over the lid. Even after 32 years, I still consider this is a step too far! Once the pressure is off, the lid comes off easily – don’t rush it – yes, you can sometimes get it off when it is still under pressure, if you are strong enough, but the contents will potentially spray everywhere, and they will burn. I normally switch off the gas, and make a cup of tea whilst it sorts itself out.

Remove the oranges to a colander over a bowl with a slotted spoon. They should be soft and tender and a thin skewer should pass through the skin easily. Cut each one in half on a plate, to catch the juice, and with a soup or dessert spoon scoop out the inside pips, pith and all into the remaining liquid in the pressure cooker with any juice collected in the bowl. Put the lid back on and bring up to 15lbs/max/whatever for a further 5 minutes. Cool as before and then strain the liquid and orange flesh etc through a fine sieve into a bowl.  It is OK to press the flesh quite hard to extract the maximum of juice and pectin and doesn’t make the end result cloudy. Return the liquid to the pressure cooker. Scrape off any pulp from the outside of the sieve and add to the liquid, then discard the residue of pips etc.

The remaining skin shells need then to be sliced thinly, about the thickness of a matchstick, or thicker if you like coarse cut marmalade, and added to the liquid with the sugar and lemon juice.

I use the same pressure cooker without the lid to finish off the marmalade, but if you make larger quantities you will need to use a preserving pan. You need to bear in mind that the mix of liquid, sugar and peel will rise up as you boil it and you do not want it to boil over.

Warm the liquid etc over a medium heat to gently dissolve the sugar, stirring regularly. You know it is dissolved when you no longer can feel the gritty texture of the sugar between wooden spoon and pan.  Then bring to a rapid, rolling boil for 10 minutes before testing for set. Stir regularly, so that the peel doesn’t sink and burn, but watch out as it can get quite explosive and will burn badly if it erupts onto your hand.

To test for setting point, take a very small spoonful and pour onto a cold plate. Leave for a minute or so then slowly push your finger through the marmalade sample. If it wrinkles, it is ready.  Alternatively, use a jam thermometer and cook to 105C.  How quickly it gets to setting point is variable as it will depend on the age of the oranges, and the level of pectin in them.  The last lot I made took 15 minutes to get to setting point, and I checked it using the finger test, and the thermometer to be sure. Nothing is worse than runny marmalade as it gets everywhere, except on the toast.

Once setting point is reached, turn off the heat, add a knob of butter, and give it a quick stir to melt it and mix it in and then leave for 5 to 10 minutes before potting up.  This stops the peel sinking or floating.  The butter prevents scrum forming and seems to make the marmalade glossier.

Gently fill each jar, making sure you get an even distribution of peel between all the jars. Using a jam funnel helps for this and avoids sticky jars. Put the lids on tightly and leave to cool before labelling.  Purists would probably go for waxed discs, cellophane tops, and rubber bands, but I prefer the French/Italian jars with either metal lids or rubber seals and a wire clamp. It is very satisfying when you hear the metal lids snap as the vacuum is created, and I think the jam/marmalade stores better and for longer.  I have even reused shop bought jam jars, with the telltale vacuum seal lids, and these too will snap and reseal when filled with hot jam.

Store in a cool, dark place – we have a wardrobe in the garage full of jams, pickles and other preserved goods, that does the trick.


Filed under Jams and Preserves, Moderately easy


Sorry for the long break guys, I’ve been reverting to the old favourite recipes recently so haven’t had anything new for you!  However, I was feeling adventurous tonight!

I’ve been trying to think up an English name for these delicious deep fried morsels.  The Japanese name, Imodango, means sweet potato dumpling/ball, but this isn’t really a true dango and I think something a bit more poetic is called for so, if you want an English name, then Deep Fried Sweet Potato Pillows it shall be!

These come from one particular restaurant in Japan that I ate at at least once, if not three times, a week when I was on my gap year, Tokai Sendan.  The owner took it upon himself to educate us in Japanese food in exchange for practicing his English on us.  I still think we won rather, we got some astounding meals from him but the absolute stand out dish we ordered every time without fail was Imodango.  I wanted to visit again when I went back to Tokyo for University but the restaurant had closed.  Therefore it was about 7 or 8 years ago that I last tasted these, which made it rather difficult to recreate them, let me tell you! 

They might be a bit of an aquired taste for some.  Like much Japanese food they rely on the mixture of sweet and salty that some people just don’t like.  The texture is also out of the Western way as they use glutinous rice flour, which gives a sort of fluffy/chewy sort of texture inside, all wrapped up in a cripsy outside.  Now, all warnings aside, I do hope you try these, they’re unusual, yes but delicious! Serve these with any kind of stir fry (yakisoba for preference), may be some gyoza, and a nice bowl of steamed edamame. 

Serves 4-6 as a side

~200g sweet potato
200g glutinous rice flour
100g caster sugar
1 tsp baking soda
150ml boiling water

– Chop the sweet potato into chunks and boil for 20 minutes in very lightly salted water.
– Mix together the flour, sugar and baking soda in a small bowl. 
– Drain the potato and leave to dry a little, then mash in a large mixing bowl. 
– Gradually stir in the flour and most of the water, then the rest if it looks ok.  It will come together, never fear! Leave it to sit for a minute or two. 
– Dust your hands and a board in cornflour or rice flour and pinch off golf ball sized bits of dough and shape them into pillows.  You don’t need to be too precious about it, the mixture should make about 12 pillows. 
– Heat the deep fat frier to 180C.  May sure it’s good and hot, don’t jump in too early. 
– Place a few of the pillows in at once and fry for about 2 minutes then turn over and fry for another 2 minutes.  They should be puffy and golden, not too dark. 
– Take out and place on kitchen paper in a warm oven while you do the others in batches. 
– Serve with soy sauce to dip them in as a side with Japanese food.

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Filed under Easy, Japanese, Sides

Galette des Rois

Galette des Rois or “King Cake” is a French Christmas tradition, eaten on January 6th, or Epiphany.  It is essentially puff pastry filled with frangipane.  Just in case anyone felt the need to do some (very) last minute seasonal baking I thought I had better get this recipe up fast before tomorrow.  Not that you need to limit yourself to Epiphany, the French actually eat these for the whole of January but I’m a traditionalist at heart.  Well, not too traditional actually, I went with the Hairy Bikers’ recipe, which includes a lovely layer of raspberry jam.  I couldn’t resist!  One traditional aspect I kept was la fève which is usually a figurine that is hidden in the cake, in this case it is an almond, for ease of eating and to minimise choking hazards! Whoever gets la fève in their slice becomes king for the day.  (See this article for some fun history regarding Twelth Night and Misrule.)

Serves 8

500g puff pastry
125g unsalted butter, softened
125g caster sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
125g ground almonds
2 tbsp plain flour
4 tbsp raspberry jam
1 whole almond (if your almond has skin put it in a cup of boiling water for a few minutes, the skin will then pop right off)

– Heat the oven to gas mark 6, 200C
– In a medium sized mixing bowl cream together the butter and sugar. 
– Add the eggs, keeping back about 2 tbsp for brushing, and the vanilla. Beat until smooth. 
– Add the ground almonds and flour, mix until smooth. 
– Roll out half of the puff pastry until it is the size of a dinner plate. 
– Cut round a plate as a template to make a circle of pastry.   
– Place this pastry on a lined baking tray. 
– Roll out the second half of the pastry to the same size. 
– Score this half of the pastry with whatever pattern you desire. 
– Spoon the raspberry jam into the centre of the pastry ont he tray and spread out leaving a gap of about 4cm round the edge. 
– Spoon the frangipane on top and nestle the whole almond in somewhere. 
– Brush egg around the border you have left. 
– Carefully place the second sheet of pastry on top. 
– Press down firmly around the edge to seal. *
– Roughen the edges of the pastry with a sharp knife. (Hold the knife at a 90 degree angle and sort of tap the pastry, this encourages the layers to separate and rise nicely.)
– Brush the top with egg, avoid brushing the sides as this will interupt the rise of the pastry. 
– Place in the centre of the hot oven and bake for 30 minutes. 
– Take out and either serve warm or cool.  Don’t forget to have a crown ready for your “King”. 

* No, really.  I didn’t take the proper care to seal about 2″ of my Galette, as a result frangipane escaped everywhere! Although, I have to say it made a lovely dinner as I just ate that with an extra spoon of jam!  It does mean that one side of my Galette isn’t too pretty and may even be hollow in places so take care. 

(And can I just admit down here at the end just how proud I am of that decoration.  I took a gamble and went well outside my comfort zone and it worked so well!!)

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Filed under Cakes, Christmas, Easy, Teatime Treats

Couscous Salad

I love to make this salad in the summer when it’s baking hot but lately I’ve been craving it in what is pretty much the depths of winter.  May be I’m craving the warmth of summer or may be I’m after something lighter than all the “hearty” food that is prevalent at this time of year.  Either way it seemed like the perfect time to whip up a quick Couscous Salad, especially with so many New Year’s Resolutioners out there.  For my part I won’t be dieting but I have decided that I’m going to try harder with my appearance this year.  No more boring trousers and a top for work, trousers are banned! It’s all about skirts and dresses now. 

If you are looking to cut back a bit in the food department this is a light, healthy salad that fills you up and hits all number of spots!  Even better, if you have cooked chicken to hand it’s super fast too, ready in 5 minutes!

Serves 2

1 espresso cup couscous
1/2 chicken stock cube
1 tbsp lemon juice (lime is also good)
1 cooked chicken breast, chopped
1/2 tsp corriander
1/2 red onion, chopped
1/2 red pepper, chopped
~2 inches cucumber, chopped

– Put the couscous and stock cube in a meduim sized bowl. 
– Add 1 espresso cup of boiling water and the lemon juice.  Stir and leave to sit while you chop everything else. 
– Add the remaining ingredients and give it a good stir to mix. 
– May be give another sprinkle of lemon juice and then serve with a dollop of creme fraiche.

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Filed under Easy, Mains, Sides