Monday, 25 July 2011

Chocolate bread and butter pudding

A friend asked me recently if I had ever done Delia's chocolate bread and butter pudding. I have done several different takes on bread and butter pudding (many with chocolate) and since my husband doesn't like raisins this one looked good since it is just using a chocolate custard.

You need about 10 pieces of bread with the crusts cut off cut into quarters.

Then put 75g butter, 425ml whipping cream, 150g dark chocolate broken into small pieces, 4 tbsp irish cream (original recipe uses rum but I prefer this with chocolate- you can leave it out or put in the juice of 2 oranges and zest of 1 orange to give a nice orange twist), 110g caster sugar and a pinch of cinnamon in a bowl over a pan of simmering water.

Warm over a low heat until sugar dissolves and the butter and chocolate melts. 

Take off the heat and give everything a good mix.In a separate bowl whisk up 4 eggs.

And then add the chocolate mix to this and stir it altogether. Get a shallow baking dish and butter all over. Then cover the base with a layer of about a third of the chocolate custard.

Then top with a layer of the bread triangles.

Then pour half the remaining custard over the bread and press it down so it is all covered.

Then top with the remaining bread and cover this with the rest of the chocolate custard.

Press it all down well so that it is all soaked in the custard. Cover with clingfilm and preferably leave in the fridge for 1-2 days.

When you are ready to cook it preheat the oven to 180 degrees C and bake for about 30 minutes until the top is crunchy but the inside still gooey.

Allow to cool slightly before serving. Serve with ice-cream, custard or pouring cream.

Can be eaten cold so is something that can work well with summer outside eating.

Til soon....

Blackberry crumble

With the warmer spring and lots of later rain the blackberries are out earlier this year and there are bumper crops spouting up in hedgerows that are perfect for a crumble.

You can change this to soft fruit to taste. Blackberries work well with apple in a crumble as well though this time I just did blackberries since we had so many!

Begin by washing the 450g blackberries and removing any stalks. Put in a pie dish and sprinkle over 2 tbsp caster sugar.

In a bowl put 225g plain flour and 75g butter and rub the butter into the flour very gently so that the mix resembles bread crumbs.

Then add in 100g brown sugar (you can add more or less to taste) to this and gently mix in.

Spread this over the fruit and gently push it down.

Bake for about 35 minutes at 180 degrees C until the topping has slightly browned and is crunchy.

Serve with creme fraiche, custard or ice cream.

This was demolished by 4 kids and 3 adults in about 5 minutes! Going to make a different one later this week with apples and rolled oat topping so will post that up after I've done it.

Til soon.....

Thursday, 21 July 2011

New potato, broad bean and pea salad

This is a useful dish- great as an accompaniment to a meal but also easy to have with a BBQ or picnic since it can be had cold.

Begin by putting about 200g frozen peas into a bowl.

Cover with boiling water, wait a minute or so and then drain. You do not need to cook frozen peas. If you have time you can just leave them to defrost rather than using the hot water to defrost them.

Put about 300g frozen broad beans into a pan and cover with boiling water and simmer for about 3 minutes.

Then drain and run under cold water to quickly cool them down and stop them from cooking any more.

Then remove the outer shells from the broad beans and put the shelled beans and peas into a dish.

Cook about 1kg of new potatoes- chop up any big ones so they are all the same sort of time. Cook until they are just tender so that they keep their shape.

Add these to the beans and peas.

In a clean jar with screw top put 4 tbps olive oil and 1 tbsp white wine vinegar. Add to this 1 tsp wholegrain mustard, 1 tsp dijon mustard, a pinch of sugar and some seasoning.

Screw on the top tightly and shake well to combine.

Pour this over the warm potatoes, beans and peas and mix gently to coat everything.

Serve immediately while the potatoes are still warm. Really delicious.

Til soon....

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Slow roast orange, lemon, thyme and garlic chicken

This dish sums up everything I love about family cooking. It is incredibly simple and yet tastes amazing and most of the effort is done by the oven which just slowly cooks it over several hours. It also doesn't need to be rescued from the oven as soon as the time is up which gives you time if timings for eating get thrown (which is often the way when you have children especially when you are entertaining!)

You can either use a large whole chicken and cut it into pieces or you can buy chicken pieces. I prefer using brown meat for this dish (thighs, wings, drumsticks) since they seem to remain more tender so I tend to just buy pieces. For 4 adults and 4 children I use about 1.8kg of chicken (bone in) (and this all tends to go) but just adapt it to how many you are feeding and how hungry they all are.

Begin by preheating the oven to 160 degrees C. Don't be tempted to put it higher and cook the dish for less time since it just will not work as well. This is a SLLLLLOOOOWWWW cooked meal!

Get a large roasting tray and lay all the chicken pieces in the tray skin-side up. Take a whole bulb of garlic and break it into cloves (smash it on a surface and then they just separate) and add this to the chicken with their skin still on. Take one lemon and one orange, wash under warm water to remove any coating and chop into chunks (skin and all) and then add this to the dish (you can use just lemons though this can be quite sharp or just oranges or even increase the amount of both you use to taste). Scatter over a bunch of thyme and then add 3 tbsp olive oil and about 300ml white wine (you can use apple juice instead if you prefer).

Give everything a good mix and then spread it evently across the tray keeping the chicken skin side up. Give everything a good season.

Wrap really tightly in foil (shiny side facing inwards) and put this in the oven.

Then just leave it for 2 hours. The smell is just amazing!

After two hours remove the foil, give everything a quick baste. Raise the oven heat to 200 degrees C and return the chicken to the oven. It will now all crisp up and some of the oranges and lemons will start to caramelise. Cook for about 35 minutes.

Once everything is nicely browned you can serve immediately or it will rest quite happily in the oven (turn it off and leave the door open so it is just warm).

Serve with potatoes and seasonal vegetables. Everything should be served- including the herbs and oranges, lemon and garlic which will all have slow cooked. Also make sure everyone gets some of the gorgeous juices.

Really really delicious and appeals to kids and adults alike. It is also really lovely once it is cold and can be served with picnics and BBQs.

Til soon....

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Strawberry frozen yoghurt

Even though we are having a fairly unreliable summer, icecream and summer holidays really do go hand in hand. I've never succumbed to an ice-cream machine since I don't like my work surface to be cluttered with gadgets and I have to therefore choose which gadgets I really need and which I can do without and for now the ice cream maker has fallen into this later category (added to which it would be far too dangerous for the waistline to have a machine I think!)

My girls love icecream but I do like giving them healthier versions of treats - and it's even better if they don't realise! This recipe uses plain yoghurt as the base so is much healthier than the custard based versions that use full fat milk/cream, eggs and sugar.

It does require you to plan it a bit in advance so that you can allow time for freezing and processing a few times but otherwise it is very simple.

To begin you make your strawberry jam. You basically need a third less sugar to strawberries. So if you have 300g strawberries you need 200g sugar. You can adapt this to your taste- if you like it sweeter use equal amounts of sugar and strawberries. If you want to cut down on the sugar then you can use less.

Take the stalks off the strawberries and cut them in half and put them in a pan with the sugar.

Put on a medium heat and allow the sugar to dissolve and the strawberries to soften.

Simmer gently for 10 minutes stirring occasionally. The strawberry jam will thicken during this time and the smell truly is amazing (and look at that colour)!

At this stage you want to pour it into a plastic container and allow it to cool.

This jam can be used now on fresh toast or is delicious drizzled over pancakes. If you are wanting to make the frozen yoghurt you want to try and avoid eating it all now!

To this jam you now add plain yoghurt (fat free is fine as well as greek or normal plain - and if you can do homemade even better!) The better the quality of yoghurt the nicer the flavour obviously. Again the proportions depend on your own tastes. I would normally say that you need at least the same amount of yoghurt to jam otherwise it is more like a sorbet- I tend to use about double the amount of yoghurt. I had about 250ml jam and added 500ml  plain yoghurt. Then blitz with a hand processor (or put it all in a food processor).

You can pass it through a seive at this point if you want the seeds removed but I like to leave them in. Then place it in a plastic sealable container and put in the freezer.

Leave for a couple of hours and remove when it is just set.

Mash it all together again with a fork to break down the ice crystals that are forming. This is really important since this is what makes the difference to how creamy it is. This is the main reason for having an icecream maker since it stirs it to stop the crystals forming.

Smooth it back down and put it back in the freezer for another couple of hours. When it has set again, remove from the freezer and put it all back in a food processor to break it down again and then pour back into the container and put it back in the freezer. The more times you can repeat this process the smoother your frozen yoghurt will be.

That's it! When ready to serve remove from the freezer for 10 minutes before you need it to soften slightly.

Serve as you would icecream- today it was in cones!

My girls (and husband) couldn't tell the difference to normal good quality icecream and loved how fresh it tasted (you really can taste the strawberries!) Still a treat but not quite so naughty and contains a good dose of fruit. As always you can adapt to taste- other soft fruits can be done in the same way. Needless to say that this batch didn't last long!

Til soon...

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Weekend treat- pancakes

We all love pancakes in my family and they are so easy to whip up and you can have them sweet or savoury. These are the more American version which are thick and rise (rather than using plain flour) rather than the thinner crepes.

In a bowl put a cup of self-raising flour, a cup of milk, 2 eggs, a tsp baking powder and 2 tbsp melted butter. Whisk everything together. If you are only having sweet pancakes you can add a couple tbsp honey. What also works well is added one peeled and grated apple or pear which adds some natural sweetness (if you children don't eat much fruit this is another way to sneak some into their diet). You can also add raisins or sultanas to this mix (I usually have to avoid this since my husband hates them and I can't be bothered to do two batches).

Lightly oil a frying pan and put over a high heat until smoking and then reduce the heat to medium. Get a large serving spoon and drop spoonfuls of the mix onto the pan.

Allow to cook for a couple of minutes until the surface is covered in little bubbles which means that they are ready to flip. Flip them over with a spatula and then cook for a minute or so on the other side.

Remove to a plate lined with kitchen paper. Top with another sheet and repeat frying them until all the batter is used (about 12 saucer size pancakes can be made with this mix).

Top with whatever you want- cheese, sliced meats, maple syrup, jam, cream, chopped fruit, chocolate, ice cream, honey, sugar and lemon. This is a fun treat to do with children since they can get involved with making the batter and then choosing their own toppings (children love to eat their own creations!)

Til soon....

Fish pie

Had a request for a fish pie that doesn't use any difficult ingredients to source. This fish pie recipe is my girls' favourite and is quite easy to prepare and freezes well.

I use a mixed fish base (salmon/cod/pollock/haddock) but if you have a preference you can just use one fish. Whatever you use you need about 450g of fish.

Put it in a saucepan and add a few bay leaves and about 10 peppercorns.

Cover with 500ml milk.

Bring to simmering point and allow to summer for about 5 minutes.

Take off the heat and pour into a seive over a bowl.

Put the cooking liquid back into the saucepan and add 50g butter and 50g flour.

Bring up to simmering point whisking all the time while the sauce thickens.

Take off the heat and add in 50g grated cheddar and a good grating of nutmeg.

Stir until the cheese is all melted.

Pour in a cup of frozen petit pois.

You don't need to pre-cook them since they will cook in the heat of the sauce. Remove the peppercorns and bay leaves from the cooked fish and flake this into the cheese sauce together with a tsp lemon juice and stir everything together after seasoning to taste.

While you are doing all this cook about 600g white potatoes in boiling salted water until soft.

Then drain and add in 2 tbsp milk and 50g butter and mash until smooth. Pour the fish sauce into a greased baking dish and top with the mashed potato.

I usually divide this amount into one dish to be eaten then and then the remainder I freeze in smaller portions to be used at different times.

Some I keep just as sauce and use as a pasta topping. Others I top with potato so I have ready made fish pie.

Finally top the dish with grated cheddar or parmesan.

If you are cooking this straight away it will all still be warm and so you can just put it under a hot grill to crisp up the top and melt the cheese. If you are keeping the prepared dish in the fridge before cooking (or wanting to cook one of the defrosted portions that you had frozen) then you need to cook it at 180 degrees C for about 35 minutes until it is golden and bubbly.

But the inside is still lovely and creamy.

This is the basis of a lovely fish pie and you can adapt it to your tastes. You can change the type of fish you use or also add in seafood if you want to add a bit of a twist. You can also add in a couple of chopped boiled eggs at the same time as the frozen peas. Some chopped parsley added to the cheese sauce also is a nice combination. And you can add in half a cup of single cream to make a real rich sauce. As always just experiment until you find a combination to suit your's and your family's tastes.

Til soon...