Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Sticky apply pudding

This is another pudding that you can prepare in advance and just cook when you need it so works well when having friends over. Yes it uses a lot of sugar in the topping but not that much in the sponge mixture and you're not going to eat it every day and to be honest a small piece goes a long way.

Preheat the oven to 210 degrees (fan or 230 degrees non fan). Grease a shallow ovenproof baking dish (approx 11 inches).

Measure 175g self-raising flour, 1 level tbsp baking powder, 50g caster sugar, 50g soft butter, 1 large egg and grated rind of a lemon and 150ml milk or plain yoghurt into a bowl and beat until the mixture is soft and combined. Spread into the prepared dish.

Peel 3-4 apples and slice thinly. Arrange the slices over the mixture and then squeeze the lemon juice over the apples.

Brush the apples then with 50g melted butter then sprinkle over 175g sugar. It can now be covered and stored in the fridge overnight if you have prepared it in advance. Remove it from the fridge an hour before you want to cook it to bring it back to room temperature.

Bake in the pre-heated oven for about 35 minutes until the top has caramelised. Delicious with creme fraiche, ice cream or custard.

You can adapt the fruit to taste- even canned fruit such as apricot halves works well.

Til soon....

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Mini meringues- literally kids play

Thankfully my girls are picking up on my love of cooking and are starting to want to help out when I am in the kitchen. Meringues is one of the things my eldest loves making so promised she could make these today to serve to our friends who were coming for lunch. They are so simple literally my 4 and 6 year old made them with just a little bit of help from me with things like the oven.

Begin with a SPOTLESS bowl and break in 2 eggs. You can use more eggs than this if you are needing more meringues- just increase the sugar accordingly.

Whisk until they are firm but not getting dry which will ruin your final meringues.

 At this point start adding in 80g caster sugar a spoonful (or good shake as below!) at a time and whisk it to combine each addition until it is all included and the meringues are glossy and stiff.

These can then either be piped onto baking sheets or just dollop tablespoons full onto the sheets. Make sure you make an even amount of meringues since you need to pair them up at the end.

Pop them in a cool oven (120 degrees or 100 if a fan) for about one and a quarter hours until they are lightly golden and can be easily picked up off the baking sheet without sticking. When they are ready turn off the oven and open the door and leave them to cool completely in there.

 Meanwhile whisk about 250ml double cream. You can flavour this as you like- some baileys works well for adults but for kids add some toffee saucce (a couple of tablespoons) and whisk this in as well.

Take a meringue and dollop on some cream then sandwich on another meringue. The amount we made produced 6 lovely chewy meringues which all disappeared rather quickly when placed on the table.

As I say childs play- if two little girls can do it anyone can and produce fantastic results. You can adapt it with some soft summer fruits or drizzle with some chocolate.

Til soon....

Steamed syrup pudding

Together with a sunday roast you need a stodgy pudding! This is really simple to make and yet hits the mark on a cold winter afternoon (particularly before a stroll around the park after a large sunday lunch!)

Begin by greasing a 3 pint (approx) plastic pudding bowl. Then get a metal spoon and wipe it with a little oil. Then measure in 3 tbsp golden syrup. The oil means it will just run off the spoon. Add to this the juice of half a lemon.

In a large bowl put 175g soft butter, 175g self-raising flour, 175g caster sugar, 3 large eggs, zest and juice of a lemon, 3 tbsp milk and 1 tbsp black treacle.

Give everything a good stir (or whizz it with a hand held processor) until it is all combined.

Put this into the prepared plastic basin on top of the syrup.

Put on the (buttered) lid and put in a large saucepan.

 Pour in hot water til just below the lid and put a lid on the saucepan and then leave to simmer over a low light for 2 -2.5 hours (if it is a bit longer it doesn't matter). Just make sure that the pan doesn't boil dry- keep topping up with water if necessary.

When ready to serve tip it onto a wide rimmed plate and pour over another 3 tbsp golden syrup. Serve immediately with custard/ cream/ ice cream.

A lovely traditional pudding to end your meal. Although cooking time is a few hours it takes minutes to prepare so is great for entertaining.

Til soon...

Slow cooked lamb with thyme and garlic

I've made this now a couple of times when friends have come for sunday lunch. In the past having a couple over even with kids and our own meant really catering for 4 and a bit extra. Now the kids are growing up we are catering more often for 7, 8 or 9 and that means rethinking what to make for a sunday roast that keeps everyone happy. This meal is great- a bit of preparation the night before and it then literally cooks itself very slowly all night and morning for a perfect sunday lunch.

As with any slow cooker recipe it is best to brown your meat and vegetables before putting everything in the slow cooker since it won't brown in there. You can avoid this stage- it just makes it look better at the end.

Begin my slicing 3-4 onions and separating into rings. Heat a few tbsp of oil in a frying pan and put in the onion rings.

Add a whole bulb of garlic broken into cloves (no need to remove the skins) to the pan and gently fry everything for about 10 minutes.

Once they have started turning a nice golden brown add a good handful of thyme.

Give everything a good stir and then put it into your slow cooker.

Rub the lamb with a marinade made up of 1 tsp of smoked paprika and 2-3 tbsp of oil. Then brown the leg of lamb in the pan. This was just under 2 kg which is more than enough for two families with left overs. You can do half a leg if you are doing a meal for four and again have left overs.
Turn it frequently so that you just colour it all over. You are not actually cooking it at this point- just colouring it.

 Next put this on top of the onions in the slow cooker. And pour over 200ml red wine and 150ml lamb stock. You can adapt this to taste- more or less wine or stock, or just one or the other, or even just water. The cooking process will produce a lot of liquid so you do not need a lot.
 Put the lid on (make sure that it stays shut- the slow cooker only works if the lid has a good seal).
 Next put it onto low and that is pretty much it- leave it now for about 10 hours (yes you read that right!)

If you are wanting to have it for lunch I find the best way is to set it to come on in the middle of the night. I don't have a timer on my slow cooker so I just use a normal timer and set is appropriately. A joint of this size I would set to come on about 2-3am and then it will be ready between 12-1pm.

Then just leave it. Above is about half way through the cooking process but it is hard to see with the lid on. Don't be tempted to keep opening the cooker- each time you do this the pot loses moisture and you need to increase the cooking time by 20 minutes each time you open it. It shouldn't need anything doing to it.

If you don’t have a slow cooker then put the onions at the base of a roasting tray and then put a rack over this to put the meat on. Rub it well with some oil and then pour over the red wine and more stock (about 2 pints) since it will not create as much liquid as the slow cooker would. Pre-heat the oven to about 220 degrees and put in for about 20 minutes then reduce to 160 degrees, cover the lamb with foil and then cook for 3-4 hours.

Unfortunately I keep forgetting to get a picture once I get it out since by this point everyone is hungry biut it will literally be falling off the bone- no need to carve- you just pull it apart with forks as you can see..

The juices in the pan can be collected to make a gravy- sieve into a bowl and spoon off 1 tbsp of the fat that has collected and put it in a pan. Add 1 tbsp of flour to make a roux. Then remove the rest of the fat from the juices and pour the juices into the roux and whisk til smooth. Then add a tbsp of cranberry sauce (this is not needed if you don't like it). 

The onions, garlic and thyme are lovely having been cooked this way and are great served alongside the meat.

About an hour before I am due to serve you can cook some roast potatoes...

 ... and then half an hour before add in some brocolli and cauliflower cheese to the same oven as the potatoes. Carrots also go very well with it.
Put everything on the table and let people help themselves. They will go back for seconds. Really quite easy and the results are fantastic.