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Falafel Burgers

My kitchen karma has disappeared!  Tonight I made falafel burgers and pita bread for dinner.  Now the falafel burgers just aren’t that great I am afraid to say, at least in my opinion, but the pitas… well, I’m not sure they were pitas.  They were closer to really flat bread buns! 

I had seen the recipe for Falafel Burgers over at Good Food a while ago and thought they sounded great.  Not only were they low-calorie but it was a way of getting more pulses in my diet and all of the comments said how surprisingly tasty they were.  I followed the recipe exactly and I have to say I was not impressed.  They were essentially bland and squishy dollops of meh.  I ended up piling mine up with salad to try and get some flavour.  If you happen to be a fan of chick peas then I suggest doubling the amount of harissa paste and putting in at least 2 good pinches of salt.  I’m willing to accept that may be I just didn’t like them but I had such high hopes for this recipe that I find myself very disappointed. 

As for the pita, I must not have knocked down the dough well enough as they came out all puffy and fat.  More like someone had sat on a bread bun than a pita!  I had made up the dough then got distracted and it sat for 30 minutes and rose quite well.  I knocked it down and carried on as usual but obviously that was a mistake.  We had to cut the pockets into them, nothing had formed like normal.  They were delicious, really lovely and soft and you could, as you see above, cram so much more than you would normally be able to inside of them but not really pita.  I may, however have inadvertently come up with a lovely flatbread recipe!

Falafel Burger Recipe

Makes 6 small, 4 large

400g tin chick peas, drained and rinsed
1 small red onion, roughly chopped
1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
handful parsley, roughly chopped
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp harissa paste (or chilli powder) *
2 tbsp plain flour
pinch salt*

– Dry off the chick peas with kitchen paper. 
– Put everything in a food processor and blend until it forms a smooth paste and everything is well mixed. 
– Divide the mixture and shape it into patties with your hands. 
– Fry for 3 minutes each side, or use a health grill. 
– Serve with pita, salad, salsa and yogurt. 

* Double these. 

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For weeks now I’ve been trying to find a recipe to make ‘Brioche’ like we have for breakfast every day when we visit Italy.  They’re shaped like a croissant but it’s a sweet, bready, flaky pastry not at all like a croissant.  They’re often filled with jam or chocolate too.  Well, I thought I may have found a recipe for them… Unfortunately I was wrong.  These damned things were an utter nightmare!

Failed Brioche

It started out badly enough with me failing to convert measurements correctly.  No harm though, I realised early on enough for it to make no difference other than having 3 times as much dough as I had thought.  After that it was just down to the recipe being a bad one.  The dough was incredibly wet.  Even the addition of flour didn’t help very much it was still an incredibly sticky dough, a right diva.  It was almost impossible to work with at times, considering I had to roll it out and shape it that’s a real problem!  It did give me the opportunity to use the Kenwood chef for the first time though.  There was no way I was going to be able to knead it by hand but I gave the recipe the benefit of the doubt and thought that may be it would dry up a bit with kneading.  Nope.  Not a chance.  This was a recipe seemingly by a professional too! 

Added to that the fact that the ovens are having a tantrum at the minute made it all just a bit too stressful.  Last night I cooked the test batch in the top oven at gas mark 5 for 25 minutes.  Perfect.  Today I tried to cook them in the same place for the same time at the same temperature and, well, you can see the picture.  That’s somewhat more than a golden brown!  They’ve been like this all week, utterly unreliable.  Luckily they’re insured so we’re having someone come out to fix them, thank god!

I have to say, however, even thought the recipe was rubbish and the dough a nightmare to work with and in no way were these what I was trying to cook they turned out the be rather tasty.  I’d never ever make them again but considering I have 3 baking trays worth I’m not too upset.  Not that I’m posting the recipe here though, I’d never do something that evil to you all!

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Jam Tarts

Today has not been a good day.  I have to blame sleep deprivation.  Every time I set foot inside a kitchen I managed to mess up.  It started with a visit to my Gran where I made drinks for us.  It’s pretty simple.  Gran takes decaff with one sugar and milk, mum takes regular coffee black and I take tea with 3 sweeteners and milk (I used to have sugar until I realised how much sugar I was drinking!).  So what did I manage to do?  Well, first I forgot the milk in gran’s so I took it back to the kitchen and added milk.  When we were all getting to the bottom of our cups it turned out that I’d somehow managed to switch the drinks so that mum had sugar, Gran had milk and neither of them had the right coffee! 

I came home and decided that a little baking was in order so a quick poll was conducted and tollhouse cookies where the winner.  Given the rest of the day’s kitchen mishaps they actually turned out well.  Since I had the oven on I decided to use up half a block of pastry that had been in the fridge for a few weeks while I still could on Jam Tarts.  Jam Tarts are my nemesis.  How hard should it be?  It’s jam and pastry.  Just 2 things! 

The first time I made jam tarts I over filled them but this time I learnt from that and put half as much jam in as I hoped to have at the end.  Then I put them in the oven.  Thus far all was going well, the pastry was still workable and I was learning from my mistakes… until I discovered that the oven was still on Gas Mark 4 from the cookies and that was why the pastry was decidedly pale looking even though the jam on the top tray had already boiled over everywhere.  I hoiked that tray out, turned the oven up and hoped.  I suppose I should be greatful for the fact that one tray came out looking half decent at least?

The good, the bad and the downright ugly.

The good, the bad and the downright ugly.

I think that I made better jam tarts when I was five!  However, even though they look awful they still tasted good.  I feel that jam tarts will be a learning curve for me.  Next time I’ll try to have them in the middle of the oven at a temperature somewhere in between 4 and 7 and see how that goes.  The simple things always seem to elude me.  I was serving 3 course meals for 8 before I could boil a decent egg! 

 By this point having abandonned the tarts to their fate it was time for dinner’s pot roast to be going in the oven.  Luckily I had nothing to do with the prep for dinner tonight, however I did put it in the oven… still at Gas Mark 7.  Oopsie.  Luckily it hadn’t boiled dry so nothing the quick addition of more wine couldn’t fix. 

The final blow came, however when I picked up the oven glove only to find that the end had been singed off.  That’s right, I had escalated to setting fire to things!  I have no idea when I did this, luckily those gloves were relatively inflamable and just smouldered.  That’s when I called it a night and left the kitchen!

I usually have good kitchen karma so a day like this comes as a real knock back.  I hope my less culinarily enclined friends will forgive me for bemoaning what is a normal set of circumstances for them but every time I turned around in a kitchen today it felt like something else had gone wrong.  Some days it really is best to just stay out of the kitchen and stay in bed!

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Handy Household Hints

         Use lemon juice and salt to clean brass and copper. Ifyou cut a lemon into quarters you can dip it in salt and use it to scrub the thing you’re cleaning. Just give it a good rinse and buff with a clean cloth.

         Use biological washing powder or liquid to clean off baked on food. Just put a cap full of biological washing powder in a large pan and put the thing that has the food on it in this. Boil it for a few hours and the food will soften and you’ll be able to scrub it of in hot soapy water easily. Better yet leave it in the pan overnight. 

         Use vinegar and water to clean your windows. Just put a splash of vinegar in to a bucket of warm water and use old newspaper dipped in this to clean your glass. 

         Use vinegar or cola to get rid of rust on baking tins. Soak the tin in vinegar or cola overnight then use a tooth brush to scrub the rust away. Wash in hot soapy water then dry in the oven on a low heat. Then brush oil over the tin before storing it. 

         Use vinegar to get blueberry juice out of clothes. Cover the stain with vinegar and then pour boiling water through the cloth it’ll take the stain with it. Then wash as normal. 

         Use vinegar as a fabric softener. Simply use in place of fabric softener in your washer if you have sensitive skin. 

         Use bicarbonate of soda to freshen carpets. Sprinkle over the carpet, leave for a few minutes and then vacuum away. 

         Use bicarbonate of soda to clean sinks. Spread it over the area to be cleaned, leave for a few minutes and then wash away. 

         Use bicarbonate of soda and vinegar to clean drains. Mix together, tip down the plug, then rinse. 

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When good cakes go bad…

This is my mother’s birthday cake.  It looks great, doesn’t it?  Well, the cake itself was a disaster!!! I had had the great idea of trying to make a new cake recipe that looked good the night before her birthday after she had gone to bed.  To begin with it looked like it was going well and then in the final five minutes of cooking the cake collapsed in the middle. 

So what to do? 

I had already decided how it was going to be filled and iced so I had a load of butter cream and ganache on hand.  I filled the cake with almost all of the butter cream in the centre and very little around the edge.  All very well and good but the centre of the cake was still about half the thickness of the edges.  In comes the ganache. I pooled it in the centre and then lightly spread it round the edges so that the whole cake looked as though it was all the same depth.  Then I placed the crystalized flowers to disguise the slight dip in the middle et voila!!  A beautiful birthday cake!!

(The only problem here was that the combination of the cake and the filling was so rich you could only eat one slice before entering a sugar coma!!)

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