Monthly Archives: March 2013

Dyed Eggs

A little bit of a late post here, but 12 hours late is better than never I think! I thought I’d do a post in anticipation of Easter Weekend being almost upon us and share the secret of fabulous brightly dyed eggs!

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These are simply hard boiled eggs that have been dyed with basic liquid food colourings. Since I know I’m not alone in having made the switch to gel colours for baking but still having a stash of liquid colours in the cupboard this is an ideal way to use them in a fun project.

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I used to love Easter Morning back home. My mum… I mean, the Easter Bunny…used to prepare an Easter egg hunt all around the house and garden and my sister and I would chase around trying to gather the most eggs. Not that it mattered in the end, they were always divided absolutely equally once we’d finished!

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Mum would always do a selection of dyed hard boiled eggs in amongst the chocolate and it was always so exciting how an ordinary, boring egg could be transformed into a jewel coloured wonder!

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The trick is ever such a simple one: Vinegar!

You take your eggs and put them in bowls of water each with a splash of vinegar and your food colour of choice in. The longer you leave them to soak the brighter and more vibrant your eggs will be. If you were to start with paler eggs and leave them for only a short time you would get more pastel colours. But if you want the bright, bold colours you see here then all you need to do is soak them for longer. It’s easy to check how your eggs are doing, all you do is fish them out and see how deep the colour is. If you want more colour, simply pop them back in for longer! Easy!

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Filed under Easy, Starters

Mushroom Barley Risotto

This dish may not look much, I mean, it is a mushroom risotto and mushroom risottos are boring looking. However, the idea of doing a barley risotto or ‘orzotto’ has been doing the rounds a fair bit and I was tempted to give it a go for the sake of a little variety and a few fewer calories! I generally favour an oven risotto I think that they’re simpler and with equally good results being achieved compared to cooking on the hob with so much less time invested on your behalf!

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Sadly, pearl barley does not agree with my delicate constitution at all! So unfortunately I won’t be cooking it again, despite the fact that it is quite delicious. The barley adds an almost nutty flavour along with the chestnut mushrooms and instead of having a completely soft consistency like a risotto rice the barley has more of a bite to it. It’s sort of al dente. This is simple to cook you just pop everything in the pan and then pop it in the oven.

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Serves 4

1 small onion, diced
1 garlic clove , finely chopped
300g pearl barley
250ml white wine
400g chestnut mushrooms, chopped
1 tbsp thyme (fresh or dried)
1l hot chicken stock
3 tbsp Parmesan, grated

– Heat the oven to gas mark 4/180C
– Heat splash of oil and a small knob of butter in large casserole dish
– Add onion, garlic and a pinch of
salt and cook a few minutes until the onion is starting to soften.
– Add the pearl barley and stir well
– Then add the white wine and cook for one minute until the white wine is absorbed
– Add the mushrooms and the thyme and cook for a few minutes until the mushrooms are just starting to cook
– Season well With salt and pepper
– Add the stock and stir until everything is well distributed
– Put the casserole lid on and place in the oven to cook for further a 40 minutes
– Once it has cooked remove from the oven and stir through a knob of butter and the grated Parmesan.
– Serve with grated Parmesan and may be a sprinkling of parsley if you’d like an extra splash of colour.

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Filed under Easy, Low Fat, Mains

Chocolate Rapeseed Oil Cake

This Chocolate Rapeseed Oil Cake recipe was the result of a Clandestine Cake Club challenge.  The theme was Blind Date.  You had to bake a cake you had never baked or tasted before.  Now, this was a challenge in a lot of ways.  First, if I haven’t tasted a cake before it’s because I don’t think I’m going to like it.  Why would I bake something I won’t like?  Second, I like to have something reliable when baking for others.  I want to know how the recipe is going to work and what tweaks I might need to make to have something I’ll be proud of.  With this challenge I really was flying blind!

Chocolate Rapeseed Oil Cake

I hit upon Nigella’s Chocolate Olive Oil Cake because she happend to have tweeted about it around that time.  I like chocolate but I had never tasted an olive oil based cake before.  However, there was the small issue that I don’t like olives.  I use olive oil all the time in cooking where I’ll never taste the oliveyness but I felt that this was one of those times where it would make a difference.  I happened to have a bottle of Yorkshire Rapeseed Oil just begging to be used.  I love the nutty flavour of rapeseed oil, it’s just gorgeous, and I thought this would compliment the almonds nicely.  I was right, it gives a gorgeous nutty flavour and really gives another dimension to the cake.  I’m really keen on trying to use this oil in more cooking in the future.  I think it has a lot of potential!

The end result is a gorgeous nutty, moist, brownie like cake which would be a perfect dinner party dessert cake.  (Imagine it piled up with raspberries or other summer fruits and served with lashings of whipped cream if you will!)  However, it also held its own as a simple cake without any adornment.  The rich chocolateyness of the cake means it really doesn’t need any help to be delicious and the decadent squidgy texture will certainly have you coming back for more!

Chocolate Rapeseed Oil Cake Washing Up

Serves 16

50g cocoa powder
125ml boiling water
1 tsp vanilla extract
150g ground almonds
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
pinch of salt
150ml rapeseed oil (Yorkshire if you please!)
200g golden caster sugar
3 eggs

– Heat the oven to gas mark 5/190C and grease and line a 23cm springform cake tin.
– Put the cocoa powder in a mug then pour over the boiling water and the vanilla.  Mix together until you get a delicious looking chocolaty paste (don’t taste it, it’ll be gross!) Leave to cool while you do the rest.
– Mix the almonds, salt and bicarb together in a small bowl.
– In a large mixing bowl combine the eggs, sugar and rapeseed oil.
– Use a handheld electric whisk to beat the sugar, eggs and oil until plae and thick.
– Add the cocoa paste to this mixture and beat in.
– Add the almond mixture and gently fold in until everything is totally combined.
– Pour the mixture intot he prepared tin and bake int he centre of the oven for 45-50 minutes.  It should look just set int he middle and a skewer will come out clean when it is cooked.
– Allow it to cook for 10 minutes in the tin then run a sharp knife (I actually always use a thin bone handled knife for this) round the edge fo the cake to loosen it.  Then unspring your tin and either leave to cool completely or serve warm with vanilla ice cream.

 

 

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Filed under Cakes, Dairy Free, Desserts, Easy, Gluten Free

Simple Chicken Stew

I was in the mood for some good old fashioned simple comfort food.   This winter has been an odd one, veering from oddly mild to bitterly cold in the blink of an eye.  I needed something that would warm me up from the inside out but at the same time I didn’t want anything too heavy and fat laden.  A girl has to compensate for eating an entire tub of Ben and Jerrys on occasion, no?

Simple Chicken Stew

This Simple Chicken Stew hit the spot perfectly.  There’s nothing fussy here, either in the preparation or in the flavours.  This lack of adornment really lets the flavours stand on their own and boy do they shine.  There really is something so very deeply satisfying about the combination of chicken and vegetables.  It’s been a classic for centuries and while you can do all sorts of fancy variations there is absolutley no need to.  This is food that doesn’t just feed the body, it nourishes the soul!  I defy you to eat this and not come away satisfied and replete.

Simple Chicken Stew and Gnocchi

Serves 2

2 chicken drumsticks (with bone and skin)
2 chicken thighs (with bone and skin)
1 carrot, sliced
1 leek, sliced
1 small onion, quartered
2 stalks celery, sliced
1/4 swede, chopped into ~1cm cubes (3 medium sized turnips or 2 potatoes work well here too)
1 bay leaf
5 peppercorns
salt and pepper to taste
gnocchi to serve (a nice halfway house between potatoes and pasta I think!)

– Heat the oven to gas mark 5 and boil a kettle.
– Heat a splash of oil in a casserole pan on the hob.
– Add the chicken and brown lightly.
– Add all of your vegetables and herbs.
– Pour over enough hot water to cover everything.
– Give it a little bit of a stir and season well then pop the lid on and pop it in the oven for 45 minutes.
–  Remove from the oven and check that it’s piping hot throguhout.
– Get your gnocchi cooked while your stew is cooling a little.  No one likes a burnt mouth!

Notes:
You can use just about any winter veg that you like here, don’t feel the need to stick to what I’ve said.
If you like a thicker sauce you can add a little cornflour mixed with a splash of cold water at the end and simmer until it thickens.  Alternatively, you can dust the chicken in corn flour before cooking.  I prefer the lighter stock but I know that it’s a matter of personal taste!

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Filed under Easy, Low Fat, Mains