Tag Archives: food

Cheat’s Cheese Danish

20140223_162709When I was in New York in September, I got a taste for cheese Danish pastries. I love cream cheese in everything, so in a crumbly pastry wasn’t a difficult sell but when I got back to the UK I couldn’t find them anywhere. Necessity being the mother of invention, I found some recipes online and with a bit of experimentation I can now share with you my easy peasy cheat’s cream cheese Danish recipe which doesn’t require a few hours rolling out butter and flour.

You will need:

220g full fat Philadelphia cream cheese

50g icing sugar

2 egg yolks

Zest of 1 lemon

2 tablespoons ricotta cheese

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

2 sheets of just roll puff pastry

Raspberry seedless jam (optional)

 

What to do:

1)      Take the pastry out of the fridge and pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius.

2)      Cream together the cream cheese and icing sugar until smooth, then stir through the egg yolk, lemon zest, vanilla and ricotta.

3)      Roll out the pastry sheet and cut into your preferred shape. Just Roll puff pastry can be cut into six even squares per sheet, or you can use a circle biscuit cutter to cut out circles of a similar size.

4)      Spoon the cream cheese mix onto the pastry, about two tablespoons per piece. If you like, add 1-2 teaspoons of raspberry jam to each one. It’s delicious.

5)      If you’re using squares, bring two opposite corners together, add a dab of beaten egg and pinch hard to seal.

6)      Paint the bare pastry with a little milk or egg to give it a brown glaze in the oven, then pop in and bake for 15-20 mins until pastry is puffed up and golden.

 

This makes an easy but impressive looking breakfast or a delicious alternative to biscuits with a good book and a cup of coffee or tea.

Seville Orange Marmalade (complete with literary influences…)

Seville orange marmaladeOranges are not the only fruit, unless you’re making marmalade in which case, sorry Jeanette, but they pretty much are. I know that you can technically add tangerine, ginger, grapefruit and whatnot, but for me, the Seville orange reigns supreme because of its distinctive, tangy marmalade taste, though not before sugar has been added. I don’t know if you’ve ever accidentally eaten a  bit of Seville orange thinking it was something other than a bitter cooking orange, but if you have you’ll understand the quote from Much Ado About Nothing:

The count is neither sad, nor sick, nor merry, nor
well; but civil count, civil as an orange, and
something of that jealous complexion.

If you want to make your own marmalade, and eat your sandwiches as Paddington Bear, intended, it’s pretty easy following this handy how to make marmalade guide from the BBC. Geeky literary quotes about Seville oranges and marmalade on the label are optional, but great fun.

With enough tea…

… maybe I could rule the world…hmmm.

I’m currently suffering with a kidney infection (massively ouch) so am browsing for presents to reward myself with if I make it to the end of January and I came across this:

icon

It sums me up entirely. I run on tea. I should order it to put on my desk at work.
icon

Quote me on that… books, tea and biscuits

CS Lewis book and biscuit tea

Image based on original by Jamie Morrow

C.S. Lewis is often quoted as saying, “You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.” I’m sure this is a feeling many of his readers share. Though I would have to adapt it to include books, tea and biscuits. So include something about not being able to find a packet of jammy dodgers big enough and that will make the famous quote Siobhan specific.

 

4 Bread Recipes you won’t see on The Great British Bake Off…

So, on Tuesday night we lost Lucy from The Great British Bake Off because her showstopper bread wasn’t zany or imaginative enough (though personally I liked the sound of her heritage apple sourdough starter, anyone know how to start one of those off?). Even the more “creative” ideas like the Paul the Octopus Tribute Loaf were frowned upon for lacking originality in the actual make-up of the loaf. To help any would-be bakers avoid making such white bread faux-pas in future series, I’ve come up with some suggestions for loaves inspired by stuff I’ve read in books and, while I can’t promise they’ll taste all that great, I can promise that Paul and Mary will never have seen the like of it.

The Metaphysical Muffin

Right up Ruby’s street as a Philosophy student, the key to a good metaphysical loaf is to assemble your most fundamental particles. To some, this may mean flour, water and yeast but you have four hours to consider whether these are the most fundamental particles that you could assemble or could they be reduced even further to a sort of universal matter? When this is done, arrange the particles in a breadwise fashion. Or don’t. Because really, what is the difference between the components of bread and the loaf itself? To extend this concept for a show stopper, you should exemplify the Lumpl and Goliath problem by serving a lump of dough, half a loaf and a soggy mush where you’ve tried to turn the other half of the loaf back into dough. You could even claim the half-baked loaf was your contingent-cy plan.

Jack and The Giant’s Bone-crusher Bloomer

The competition is hotting up in the Great British Bake Off Kitchen and you can’t count on talent alone to carry you through to the next round. What kind of idiot steps into the tent without a decent game plan? This loaf takes a little extra planning, but with a little effort, you can eliminate your closest rival from the competition. Fee, fie, foe, fum; I won’t bore you with the details, but you’re going to have to spend quite a bit of time with a pestle and mortar grinding their bones to flour. Now, something to consider here is that flour made from human bones is lacking in gluten, so you may have to adjust your other ingredients accordingly and knead extra hard to ensure that the bread proves properly. Even then, Hollywood is bound to complain of issues with your crumb structure but it’ll be worth it to watch Mary Berry’s queasy face as she brings out the conciliatory, “But it has a lovely flavour.”

Squirrel Nutkin’s Soda Bread Surprise

Soda bread is a nice, versatile recipe which you can add a number of ingredients to, making it an ideal medium to experiment with a bread version of the “magic in the middle” surprise that seems to be very in vogue with cakes in the bake-off. Dip some nuts in sleeping powder, and lay them out in the grounds of the Bake Off tent until you have caught that pesky squirrel who seems intent upon stealing the limelight from the bakers with his collection of nuts. Do the necessaries (we’ve all seen Master Chef) and lightly spatchcook his carcass to ensure that your final loaf has an even bake before kneading him into the final loaf and using his tail as an embellishment. That’ll teach the fluffy little b*****d to try upstaging you.

 Dr Gonzo’s Herby Breadsticks

Sure to add some snap and crackle to your day, Dr Gonzo’s cannabis and mescaline infused breadsticks, are not strictly speaking legal… well, they’re not legal at all in fact, though yummy mummies on the show and viewing at home may be relieved to hear that they are derived from entirely natural sources. But try telling that to the judges as they rampage through the tent, running from the anthropomorphized squirrels or hiding borrow style in a contestant’s lovingly constructed matchbox prop. Be it a custodial sentence or total anarchy, one way or another, this recipe will stop the show.

 

Scones with Apricot and Mango Jam

Scone with Apricot and Mango Jam and Clotted Cream

Scone with Apricot and Mango Jam and Clotted Cream

I had a very productive weekend in the kitchen and the result was these tiny scones (I don’t think I can class them as petits four so I might coin the term microcakes) which I am currently serving up with apricot and mango jam. The only bit that I didn’t make was the clotted cream. Watch out dairy cows of Oxford.

Both were astoundingly simple (I’ve yet to see why people make jam sound difficult) and were easy to knock up in an afternoon.

Jam

Apricot and Mango JAM

Apricot and Mango Jam

I’m not sure whether this should be called a jam or a conserve, since no one seems to be able to give a definitive version of what constitutes what, so I will keep calling it jam. I got the recipe from Simone’s Kitchen, who described it as sunshine in a jar. That it is. Simone’s looks much prettier than mine, but mine tastes great. Weirdly the recipe seems to have vanished from Simone’s blog since the weekend, but I used her recipe and will give it as follows.

  • 320g of apricots, skin on, stones removed (I cut mine into quarters but you could go smaller)
  • 200g peeled mango
  • 350g conserving sugar
  • Juice of 1 lemon

Stir the apricot and mango together in a pan with the sugar to coat evenly, then begin to sweat over a low heat with the lemon juice. Once the juices start flowing, turn up to a simmering boil for 15 mins (you need to get it hot enough to gel) and then test the consistency on the back of a cold plate. You can use a sugar thermometer, but I don’t have one and the cold plate method has always worked fine.

Scones

Easier than pie.

  •  225g self-raising flour
  • 50g salted butter chopped into cubes
  • 25g caster sugar
  • 125 ml butter milk
  • 4 tbsp milk

Preheat the oven to 200C (non-fan ovens need to be a little hotter). Rub the flour and butter together until there are no lumps of butter left and the mixture looks like crumbs, stir in the sugar then combine the dry mixture with a roughly whisked mixture of the liquids to make a sticky-ish soft dough. Roll out on a floured work top (it will stick otherwise) and use a frilly edged cutter to cut out the scones. I used a really small cutter and it produced really cute mini scones. Pop on a baking tray and cook for 10-15 mins until slightly golden.

Quote me on that… tea

Image adapted from original by Constanza

Image adapted from original by Constanza under Creative Commons license

 

I love this quotation from The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery. The full quotation reads

”When tea becomes ritual, it takes its place at the heart of our ability to see greatness in small things. Where is beauty to be found? In great things that, like everything else, are doomed to die, or in small things that aspire to nothing, yet know how to set a jewel of infinity in a single moment?”

Infinity in a single moment, there you have it. Books, tea and biscuits are all very well for every day use, but we’re talking about the grand occasion here. What better reason to get out your best china and have a ritualized afternoon tea on a sunny Saturday? Clotted cream scones, cucumber sandwiches and all.

 

Pimm’s Drizzle Cake

This Pimm’s Drizzle cake is the perfect treat to serve at a picnic or barbecue on a sunny day. It just smells of summer and looks absolutely beautiful.

 Pimms Drizzle Cake

Ingredients

225g unsalted butter
200g caster sugar
4 eggs
225g self-raising flour, sifted
zest and freshly squeezed juice of 1 orange
zest and freshly squeezed juice of 1 lemon
Handful of mint, finely chopped
150ml Pimm’s no1
Strawberries, lemon and mint to decorate.

 

Method

1)      Preheat your oven to 160 ºC  for a fan oven,  180ºC or gas mark 4 for standard ovens.

2)      Cream together butter and sugar until smooth and pale, then whisk in the eggs one at a time.

3)      Fold in the flour until smooth then stir in zest, chopped mint and 50ml of Pimm’s.

4)      Put into loaf tin and bake for about 50 mins.

Mix the juice of the orange and lemon with the 100mils of Pimm’s you have left and when cake is baked, prick it over the top and slowly pour the juice on while it is still hot allowing it to soak in.

Allow to cool, decorate and eat.

Reading Glasses

Reading GlassesI dream of having eyesight good enough to forget my glasses, but really liked this idea that I saw when we went for Sunday dinner in a local pub called The Greyhound recently. Patrons who forget their reading glasses can borrow a pair from the bowl to allow them to enjoy their book/paper while they enjoy their drink or wait for their meal. Perfect!

Welsh Cakes for St Dwynwen’s Day

Sweet treats for your cariad?

Sweet treats for your cariad?

It’s Dydd Santes Dwyenwen/St Dwynwen’s Day tomorrow (a bit like a Welsh Valentine’s Day) so how better to show some love than by baking someone some Welsh cakes, or pice ar y maen. It’s a traditional recipe which couldn’t be easier to make but which always goes down a treat in my house. I’ve made some to take into work with me tomorrow- along with a ginger cake which I just fancied trying out- because we’re holding a joint celebration with Burns’ Night.

To make Welsh cakes you need a heavy, flat griddle (I use one which belonged to my great-grandmother) though a bakestone will do the same job. The you also need the following ingredients:

225g self-raising flour

110g butter (some go half butter and half lard but I save my lard for birds)

85g caster sugar

A handful of raisins (more or less according to taste)

1 medium egg

Milk

Extra butter for greasing

In a mixing bowl, rub together the flour and fat until you have something that looks like crumbs with no lumps of fat showing then stir in the sugar and raisins. Beat your egg then mix it with the dry ingredients to form dough. At this stage, my dough isn’t usually doughy enough, so I add in a tiny bit of milk at a time until I can bind it into a dough that I can roll and work with.

Roll your dough out on a floured surface until it’s about half a centimetre thick and then cut circles out using a cutter. Welsh cakes normally have a frilly edge and though I normally use a cutter which is about  4inches in diameter, this time I will be using one which is 3 1/16th inch (sorry, I can’t type fractions!) because you can make extra cakes that way which is good if you have lots of people eating them and you only have one egg left! Made with a normal sized cutter this recipe makes about 8 cakes.

When your dough is made and your cakes are cut, grease your griddle and fry each cake for two or three minutes on each side until they are golden brown, though they taste fine if they go a little darker.

I like my cakes pretty much straight off the griddle with a cup of tea while they are still hot and buttery, but they will last a few days in an airtight tin. In university, my housemate’s Mamgu made us enough to fill a 5kg cake tin and we lived off those for weeks. They got a little stale but they were fine washed down with tea!