Category Archives: Food

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.

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.

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!

Cinnamon Swirly Buns

This weekend I have mostly been making cinnamon swirly buns. I’ve had some disasters with making my own bread in the past, but these turned out pretty well, even if I did forget to sprinkle sugar on top after doing the egg glaze. Oops.

To make them you need to warm 175ml of milk until it is warm but not hot (or it will kill the yeast). Put the warm milk in a large mixing bowl and stir in 2 crushed cardamom seeds(which smell amazing), an egg, 1 tsp easy bake yeast, 85g caster sugar, 1tsp salt and 100 grams of soft unsalted butter chopped up. Mix it all up then gradually add in 500g of strong white flour. I added in about 5 tablespoons at a time and it still gave my arms a good work out combining it all, so I dread to think how much you would ache if you added it all at once.

Once the ingredients are all mixed into a dough, put this down on a floured work top and knead for 10 mins until it feels like warm, smooth, stretchy playdough. Don’t worry about overworking it. I always worry because I’m so used to making pastry, but with this you really have to knock it about a bit.

When that’s done and your arms ache, leave it to double in size in a warm place for 2-3 hours, I finished reading The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers while I was waiting. Leave 50g of butter in a warm place too.

About 15 mins before your dough is ready, mash up your now very soft 50g of butter with 2 tsp ground cinnamon and 75g muscavado sugar until you have a smooth paste. Then grab your dough and punch it down to knock some of the air out of it and roll it into a rectangle which is about 55cmx20cm. Try and make it symmetrical as this will help when you roll up. When you’re happy with the shape, spread the mixture evenly all over the top of the dough and, rolling from the long edge, roll it up into a long tight sausage, pinching the edges to seal them.

Slice into buns about 5cm wide, pop on a greased baking tray leaving enough room for expansion, paint with egg and sprinkle with sugar then put back in your warm place for 20mins while your oven preheats to 200c. When they’ve rested for 20 mins, stick them in the oven for 15 mins until golden brown. Wait 5 mins to eat as they will be very hot.

Excellent with a cup of tea.

Tips

  • Use golden caster sugar for a better colour. I used white because I had it in the baking cupboard
  • Put the snail shaped buns loose edge down on the baking tray so gravity helps them keep their shape
  • Eat as many as possible on the day of making. They’re okay the next day but go stale quite quickly because they don’t contain the preservatives of shop bought bread.

Quick, Easy Rocky Road Recipe

I made some Rocky Road/Fridge Cake for work this week (publishing involves a lot of cake) and since people seemed to like it quite a lot I thought I’d share the recipe.

It’s really easy to make, and you can keep it in the fridge for a few days so it’s great If you need to make something in advance. To be honest, it’s pretty much just fat and sugar, so it would probably last a really long time if you could stop yourself eating it.

200g rich tea biscuits

125g butter

3 tablespoons of golden syrup

200g dark chocolate

100g milk chocolate

100g mini marshmallows

  1. Bash up the rich tea biscuits in a clear sandwich bag until you fairly equal parts of biscuit dust (crumbs, I suppose…) and small pieces of biscuit. I use a rolling-pin, which I find quite therapeutic, but if you want to be super bookish then I guess you could smash up the rich tea biscuits with a hard back book. When you have them as you like them, pop them in a big mixing bowl to wait for the wet ingredients.
  2. Melt the butter into a pan over a very low heat, and when it is all liquid (or near enough) add in the golden syrup and stir over the heat until they are melted together. When they are, take the buttery goodness off the heat and add in the chocolate. I like to have it ready broken into squares. I don’t add the chocolate when the pan is on the heat as it can burn and then it will never melt.
  3.  Tip half the chocolate mixture into the biscuits and mix until they are all covered. Then add in the marshmallows and mix some more.
  4.  Squash the mixture firmly into a baking tin so that it’s quite densely packed and when you’re happy with it, pour the other half of the chocolate mix across the top and spread out.
  5.  Pop in the fridge until cold, then enjoy the chocolatey biscuit goodness with a good book and a nice cup of tea.

Healthy Reading Treats

My current alternative to biscuits and tea

So apparently biscuits and English breakfast tea, combined with a sedentary day’s reading, though delicious and enjoyable, don’t make for the healthiest lifestyle. Drat. I’ve been feeling a little lacklustre, so decided to diversify my snack range. Instead of my usual book, biscuit and tea, I’ve been trying a range of caffeine free teas and vitamin filled nibbles.

My current favourite is Pukka’s Detox Tea with aniseed, cardamom, fennel and liquorice root. Unlike most herbal teas which smell great but taste like pond water, the tea has a really nice flavour- a subtle sweetness. Combined with the slightly salty taste of the edamame beans, you’ve got a full snack spectrum there without any pesky crumbs in your book. Result!

Little Paris Kitchen- Oeufs en Cocotte

I bought the Little Paris Kitchen cookbook by Rachel Khoo a few months ago, having watched her series and seriously considered moving to Paris as a result. Fortunately a trip through Charles de Gaulle airport on my way home from Lisbon reminded me of the less charming aspects of Paris before I put down a deposit on a flat in the City of Light. I have never met such rude airport staff.

As I am trying to cut back on my cake intake at the moment, I couldn’t make the Madeleines with the lemon curd and raspberry which would have been much simpler to eat while reading, so made the oeufs en cocotte instead (recipe here). Yummy, but runny, so find something to prop your book on.

Oeuf en Cocotte

Book Famine, White Chocolate and Raspberry Blondie Feast

I had lots of plans for how I would spend the six weeks living alone. One idea was Pilates every other day to sort out the book belly before it became a problem but I ended up making these instead. Exercise has never really been my thing.

Yum, that is all

They are really easy and taste absolutely amazing. I have to take them to work because I’ve already eaten about half.

Ingredients

  • 200g salted butter
  • 300g golden caster sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 200g plain flour
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 150 g raspberries
  • 150g chopped white chocolate

 

Method

  1. Melt the butter over a very low heat to avoid the salt burning, then when it’s all clear, stir in half the white chocolate.
  2. Cream the sugar and the eggs together until they are fluffy, then fold in the chocolate mixture, vanilla extract and the plain flour to make a thick batter.
  3. Pour the batter into a brownie tin then stud with the remaining chocolate and the raspberries.
  4. Bake at gas mark 4/160 Celsius for 40 minutes or until a fork comes out clean.

 

I’m between books at the moment. I finished Knots and Crosses by Ian Rankin yesterday and can’t decide what I should move on to. It’s beginning to worry me. I had to take a magazine on the bus this morning… I don’t know how I’ll cope tomorrow.

 

Sunday Snacks and Swimming

I’ve had a friend visiting this weekend, so didn’t make much progress with my reading though I have excelled myself on the snack front with these icy treats made from pulped strawberries and vanilla yogurt. Simple, healthy and deliciously sweet. Just blend a load of strawberries to a pulp, freeze in silicone mould for half an hour, top with vanilla yogurt and freeze for a few hours more. Voila.

I’ve spent the afternoon at our local outdoor pool swimming off my (book and) biscuit belly. Might even go tomorrow as well if I finish work in time!

Literary Pancakes

Natasha Solomon’s Baumtorte

There are a few foods in this world that I love more than the humble pancake- my preferred version being the crepe and not the Scotch or American styles. I used to spend far too much time cooking them as a teenager, to the point that my Dad asked me whether I was studying the art of pancake making as a form of zen.

In honour of pancake day, one of my favourite days of the year, I’ve been wracking my brain to think of a book which fully extolls the virtues of the humble pancake but I was stumped. Please let me know if you can think of one.

I did however think that the baumtorte in Mr Rosenblum’s List might be perfect for this kind of occasion, I think it is good to have happy rememberances of people, as well as sad ones.

You may remember that I had planned to cook this myself, but sadly I forgot to get the recipe before I passed the bookon to an eager recipient. Never fear! Natasha Solomon herself has come to my rescue with her blog and a recipe in The Times.

My pancake mountain

So until I write my own novel in which pancakes and all things nice are heavily featured, please feast your eyes on my contribution to unhealthy eating. I hope you are enjoying feasting on your own pancakes as well.