Butternut squash and ginger soup

It was one of those days when you throw it all together, concocting a recipe from what you have. Butternut squash, chives from the garden, ginger cut into strips. A bit of salt and pepper and a teaspoon of cumin. That was about it and surprisingly it worked! I’ve altered the recipe to add in some lemongrass and vegetable stock instead of water.

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1 ripe butternut squash, cubed

large handful of fresh chives, chopped

500 ml vegetable stock

small piece ginger in strips

small amount of lemongrass, diced

1 tsp ground cumin

1. Soften the butternut squash in a Le Creuset type dish with the chopped chives for 10 minutes or so. Season with black pepper.

2. Add 500ml vegetable stock and bring to the boil before covering. Add the ginger, the cumin and some diced lemongrass.

3. Simmer for about 20 minutes or more until the squash is tender.

4. Blend with a hand blender.

5. Serve with yoghurt and more chopped chives.

Enjoy!

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Organic wholegrain spelt bread

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I just made some organic spelt bread. I’ve officially become a lightweight and now use easy bake yeast. It’s so easy – you add it into the flour instead of having to activate it in warm water like dried yeast.  I shouldn’t think fresh yeast is hard to use either – and either Sainsbury’s or Tesco’s told me they give it to customers free of charge. Other than that (I bought it once years ago) it was only something like 25p.

It’s incredibly easy this recipe, from the back of the Dove’s farm packet, and spelt is more easily tolerated by some than ordinary wheat four. I halved the quantities and put it straight onto a greased baking sheet. I left to rise for over an hour.

Set the oven to 200C

Ingredients

500g wholegrain spelt flour

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp quick yeast

1 tbs honey

400 ml warm water

1 tbs olive oil

Method

1. In a large bowl mix together the flour, salt and yeast.

2. Dissolve the honey in the water and roughly mix into the flour.

3. White the dough is still craggy add the oil and mix well.

4. Knead or work the dough for a few minutes then divide between two 500g loaf tines.

5. Cover and leave to rise for 25 minutes in a warm place.

6. Bake in the oven for 45 minutes, turning down to 180 for the final 15 minutes.

7. Sprinkle with white flour.

Delicious with unsalted butter and organic honey! I had mine as a tuna sandwich and mon fils with Comté and caramelised onion chutney.

Nigella’s crepes

I’ve not been completely happy with either the Nigel Slater recipe for pancakes nor Delia’s. So today I tried Nigella’s and was pleased.

I substituted some of the milk for soda water (or use sparkling mineral water), added a few drops vanilla extract, pinch of salt and 1 tbs icing sugar. I reduced the butter a little.

IMG_2224150g plain flour

1 large egg

Few drops vanilla essence

1 tbs icing sugar

Pinch salt

250 ml milk

75 ml sparkling water.

25g melted butter plus more for frying

Sieve the flour, make a well and add the egg and a little of the milk. Incorporate the vanilla essence, salt and icing sugar.  Gradually beat in the milk and then the water.

Cook the pancakes on a high heat turning once. Remember to get the pan really hot, drop the mixture from above into the middle and swirl around quickly.  Delia’s advice on the right technique remains helpful in this respect.

Serve with golden syrup and cream, lemon and sugar, jam or for the French ‘au naturel’ way – simply sprinkled with granulated sugar.

Fat free lemon drizzle cake

So the baking continues and my husband said this was the best lemon cake he’d ever had!

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I used the recipe on the packet of the Doves Farm Organic wholemeal self-raising flour which I used in the cake.  However, I have altered it slightly – I used a loaf tin, not two sandwich tins, I cut out the zest as my son seems to react to it (he has food allergies) and I did not use lemon marmalade but instead a drizzle.

So this cake had wholemeal flour and no butter and it tasted great! It was important to whisk the egg whites well, though, and fold in carefully.  I created a lemon drizzle by mixing lemon juice with caster sugar and pricked the cake all over with a fork, poured this over and left the cake in the tin until cold. Delicious!

Ingredients

3 eggs

4 oz caster sugar

4 oz wholemeal SR flour

2 lemons, juice only

Drizzle

75g caster sugar

1 lemon, juice only

Method

1) Separate the eggs and beat the egg yolks together with the sugar until thick and creamy. Beat in the flour.

2) In a separate bowl whisk the egg whites until stiff, then fold them into the yolk mixture with a metal spoon. Do this carefully, you don’t want to lose much air!

3) Transfer to a loaf tin and bake for 30 minutes at 180 (turning to 160 if starts to brown).

4) While the cake is warm, prick all over with a fork. Then pour over the drizzle and leave in the tin until cold.

Vanilla cupcakes

I’ve recently become obsessed with cupcakes – using a standard sponge recipe with 2 tsp best quality vanilla essence added.

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Ingredients

8 oz organic white flour

8 oz caster sugar

8 oz unsalted butter

4 eggs

3 tsp baking powder

2 tsp vanilla essence

2 tbs milk

Method

1) Cream butter and sugar.

2) Add eggs gradually.

3) Fold in flour, add vanilla essence and baking powder

4) Add milk.

Put into 18 cup cake cases and bake in an oven 180C for 15 minutes (keep an eye and use your judgement of baking sponges because I can’t remember how long I gave these – I have a glass door and can see how they are going!) When cool decorate with vanilla buttercream and cake decorations. (You can also experiment with putting jam in a syringe into the top of the cake before putting the icing on).

Anglo-Indian curry

I couldn’t work out why this curry which I made on Thursday tasted so Anglo-Indian. Was it the lack of tomatoes (I put some but not enough?) Was it throwing yoghurt in at the end and eating with a commercial mango chutney? Certainly when I finished it off the next day with chapatti I added potato to it and I cooked peas as an accompaniment with kalonji, haldi, chilli powder and salt. Peas always make me feel it’s an Anglo-Indian meal especially mixed with rice.  Anyway eventually I worked it out – the first stage was rushed so that onions were not cooked enough resulting in a pleasant and comforting concoction which was half way between a curry and a casserole. The fresh ginger, however, would appear in the odd mouthful arguing against its Anglo-Indian nature.

Usually I take it as a compliment when people say this curry  – the way I make it – tastes like a quintessential Bengali curry. Anyhow, it is a classic North Indian dish, made according to the recipe. And I recommend it as such.

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I’ll add on the recipe tomorrow. Sleep well!

Treacle Pudding

My husband’s friends were coming over and so I made this baked treacle sponge pudding to follow our steak and ale pie. I’ve replaced the one I did this time last year with this one which I adapted from the BBC recipe.  I will let you in to a secret, it tastes fantastic the next day so make ahead! Otherwise you might still taste the lemon.

Baked Treacle Pudding (serves 6)

150g golden syrup

50g black treacle or blackstrap molasses

50g clear honey

1/8 teaspoon ground ginger

1/8 tsp cinnamon

zest 1 lemon plus juice half a lemon

200g softened butter, plus extra to grease

100g caster or light muscovado sugar

50g dark muscovado sugar

3 eggs, beaten

200g plain wholemeal flour

2 tsp baking powder

5 tbs wholemeal breadcrumbs

5 tbs milk

Method

  1. Heat oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4. Mix the syrup, black treacle and honey, lemon zest, juice and breadcrumbs and spread over the base of a 1.5 litre baking dish.
  2. Beat the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy, then beat in the eggs, one by one. Stir in the flour, baking powder, ginger, cinnamon and milk and dollop over the syrup. Bake for 35-40 mins until golden and risen, and a skewer poked into the sponge comes out clean-ish. Serve with custard or cream.

Toffee Apples

On the (book) shelf

On the (book) shelf

So Thursday found me making toffee apples for the school fête on the Friday. I planned on 100 but ended up making 40 which was just as well as I only sold 20 though the people who did buy them said they were delicious!  Toffee apples do keep for 1-2 days (wrap in cellophane and leave in a cool, dry place) so can be made the night before they are required and are a healthy sweet treat provided you brush your teeth well!

The failed trial batch

The failed trial batch

Some of the first ones I did crystallised but I kept those back and I managed to deal with the problem.

I used a recipe I found on The Pink Whisk because the previous one I’d tried did not explain how to stop the sugar crystallising.  I’ve copied the recipe here, shortening and altering the instructions a little based on my own experience so refer to the original if you would rather follow that.

You need:

8 small apples (use sharp ones if you can)

wooden lolly sticks

300g caster sugar

75ml water

1 tbsp golden syrup

20g butter, diced

1tsp malt vinegar

* The sciencey bit – the vinegar provides acidity which helps the sugar boil correctly without burning and to allow the toffee to form the correct crystalline structure, the butter is for a really lovely toffee taste and the golden syrup to stop the sugar crystallising.

Instructions

Apples being dewaxed

Apples being dewaxed

1) Place your apples in a large bowl and cover with boiling water.  Allow them to stand for a couple of minutes. This removes the waxy coating that some apples are given, if it’s not removed the toffee might not stick!  Drain the water and remove the stalks and dry the apples well.

2) Insert a wooden lolly stick into the top of each and push them through the apple. The sticks should not come out the other end but should be far enough in to hold them securely.

3) In a medium sized pan place the caster sugar and water. Heat it gently until the sugar dissolves and the syrup turns clear. DO NOT RUSH this stage and DO NOT STIR. Add a drop of vinegar if you feel things are not progressing very fast.

Melting the sugar

Melting the sugar

4) When the sugar is fully dissolved, add the diced butter, vinegar and golden syrup and continue to heat until the mixture boils. (* The sciencey bit – the vinegar provides acidity which helps the sugar boil correctly without burning and to allow the toffee to form the correct crystalline structure, the butter is for a really lovely toffee taste and the golden syrup to stop the sugar crystallising.)

Boiling toffee

Boiling toffee

5) Now you want to boil the syrup until it reaches 140c. This will take about 10 minutes. Take the toffee off at the ‘hard crack’ stage. You will know you have reached this by dropping a small bit of toffee into a bowl of cold water. If it has reached the correct temperature it will form a hard ball of toffee in the water which when felt between your fingertips is hard all the way through. Start testing from 6-7 minutes.

6) When the toffee is at the correct temperature remove it from the heat and tilting the pan to one side hold an apple by the wooden stick dip it deftly into  the toffee and swirl it around to coat. Lift it above the pan and swirl to allow the excess toffee to come away. You must work quickly but confidently. Do not rush as sugar burns can be nasty.

Sealed and ready

Sealed and ready

7) Set the apple onto the baking sheet to set and continue to work your way through the apples until they’re all coated. Leave to cool and then wrap in cellophane bags.

Halloumi Kebabs

One good thing about kebabs is that you can prepare them during the day and someone else in the family can barbecue them.

I used green, red and yellow peppers, halloumi cheese and onions. I cut them into chuncks and drizzled with thyme and olive oil.

And they were done! The halloumi barbecues beautifully and keeps its shape.

Gooseberry Puree

We have a lone gooseberry bush in the garden and the gooseberries are all ready at once. If you are like me, you might not have time to use them there and then.

So you can freeze them and use later.

Or you can make them into a puree and then freeze half of that too.

Weigh the gooseberries and divide by 7 to get the right amount of sugar. e.g. For 500g gooseberries, use 70g sugar.

Gooseberries, topped and tailed
Caster sugar (1/7th of the weight of the gooseberries)

Put the gooseberries in a pan with a tablespoon of water and sugar (if using defrosted gooseberries, don’t add any water). Cook over a medium-low heat, stirring to help the sugar dissolve, until the gooseberries are soft and just a few of them have burst. This should take only  minutes. Puree with a handblender, cool and then use or freeze.

So, what to do with the puree? You can swirl into greek yoghurt, use as a sauce for barbecued mackerel or make Hugh Fernley Whittingstall’s Gooseberry and Ginger Biscuit Layer.