The Humble Flapjack

IMG_1757So it’s 9.30am I wander into the kitchen for some breakfast. Check the bread bin…empty. Look for cereal…none. Try the fridge…some ravioli and spring onions but no eggs nor anything remotely breakfasty. Damn. I’m hungry.

Some porridge oats catch my eye. Bleugh, I hate porridge. It’s something about the gloopy texture that really puts me off….

Flapjacks on the other hand… Yummy!

But do I have the ingredients?! An almost frantic search of the cupboards uncovers half a bottle of golden syrup and 3 almost empty packets of various types of sugar as well as some seeds, dried fruit and chopped hazelnuts. Goodness this might even turn out to be a little bit healthy!

Twenty-five minutes later and I’m eating the most delicious, warm, crumbly flapjack.
Best breakfast in a long time!

IMG_1768Flapjacks
Makes 12

  • 75g sugar (I used light brown and granulated but it works best with golden caster sugar)
  • 75g golden syrup
  • 100g butter
  • 225g oats or 175g of oats plus a 50g mix of seeds, dried fruit, nuts etc

Preheat the oven to 180C.
Melt the butter, sugar and syrup over a low heat until all is melted and the mixture is well combined, looking like a dark caramel sauce.
Take off the heat and add the oats (and seeds etc if using). Mix well until everything is coated in the “sauce”.
Line a 15x20cm baking tin with baking paper and add the mixture. Smooth it into an even layer. The mixture should be about 3-5cm deep*. Bake in the middle of the oven for approximately 15-20 minutes or until the top is looking golden brown all over.
Remove from the oven and wait 5 minutes before cutting into squares. Leave to cool completely in the tin or if you haven’t had any breakfast yet eat while they’re still warm for a delicious crumbly mess!
*Note: If the mixture is shallower, then the cooking time is best reduced by 5 minutes and the flapjacks checked regularly thereafter to avoid ending up with a flapjack similar to rock candy. I speak from experience.

IMG_1761

Ever tried Flapjacks for breakfast?

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New Year, New Ideas: Spelt Bread Recipe

IMG_1532Hope everyone has had a great start to the New Year!

I’ve spent the past week contemplating my options on what I could do this year. I’m becoming increasingly frustrated with university and would really like to leave, but I have resolved to stay and get it over and done with. Only got a year and a half left now after all. I would also love to get back to cooking. There were so many distractions last year that I felt quite unmotivated to get into the kitchen and create something new. It’s a shame because cooking is something I really enjoy but having to squeeze it in between work and uni makes it into a chore that I could do without.
Last year I made a sort of bucket list of recipes that I really wanted to try. At the time I was thinking that ideally I would like to cross everything off within the next few years. However, looking over it recently I decided that I would use it as a tool to motivate me back into the kitchen and in turn back into the blogosphere. There are over 50 recipes on the list, from simple things such as mayonnaise and jam to the more complex beef wellington and soufflé. I want to make one recipe a week and cross off everything on the list by the end of this year. Hopefully, it will not only give me motivation but also make me a better cook.
Today is the end of the first week of 2013 and so between studying the actions of noradrenaline on ADHD, I popped into the kitchen and picked the first recipe to cross off my list: Spelt Bread.

Spelt flour is a variety of wheat that has been used since medieval times.  I sort of made up the recipe based on a number of sources to work out the common ingredients and their quantities, honey and milk seemed to make a richer more luxurious loaf so I definitely wanted those. I was worried about the bread being too dense so I used a combination of strong white and spelt flour to lighten things up. I saw a lot of TV chefs using spelt describe the flavour as more intense and nutty than regular white bread.  It turned out exactly as delicious as it sounds.

Spelt Bread
This recipe uses quite a bit of liquid which makes the dough sticky and reasonably difficult to handle. It is worth it though as it will allow for a more open texture.

  • 250g Strong White Bread Flour
  • 250g Spelt Flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp Easy Bake Yeast
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 4/5 tbsp Mixed Seeds (such as Sesame, Pumpkin, Linseed, Poppy Seed)
  • 200ml Warm Water
  • 175ml Warm Milk
  • 3-4 tsp Honey
  • 1 tbsp Olive Oil

Mix the flours, seeds and yeast together then mix in the salt.
Next, mix together the oil, milk and water and dissolve the honey in the mix.
Make a well in the centre of the flour and pour in half of the liquid. Mix until craggy but fairly dry looking and then gradually mix in the remaining liquid while stirring. (You may not need all the liquid. The mixture should be sticky but not sloppy, and definitely not dry else the crumb will be very tight.)
Mix with the kneading attachment on a machine for about 5 minutes (or with oiled hands for about 10 minutes), until the dough is elastic and slightly springy. Mine wasn’t as springy at this stage as white dough usually is but this is the first time I’ve ever made this bread so not sure if that’s how it’s meant to be. Turned out fine though!
Turn the dough out onto a sheet of oiled baking paper, shape into a rough ball and cover with oiled clingfilm. Leave in a warm kitchen for about an hour or until doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 220C and put in a large pot with a lid to cook the bread in.
When you are ready to cook the bread you should be able to just lift the sides of the baking paper and gently drop it into the hot cooking pot. Then cook with the lid on for 20 minutes, removing the lid for the last 5-10 minutes of cooking.
The bread will sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.

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Enjoy this wonderful bread with a hearty bowl of soup, perfect to warm you up on a cold winter day. Got any food on your to-do this year? Let me know in the comments!

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2012 in review

So I’ve been quiet for the second half of 2012 and Uni is mainly to blame. Still I’m pleased with how I did. My New Years Resolution is to squeeze in a few more posts for 2013!
Happy New Year!

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 2,000 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 3 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Harry Potter Cake!

Well hello strangers,
I’ve been off the blogging scene lately and for that all I can do is apologize. But here is my next post. Unfortunately, it is brief because I didn’t take step by step pictures and it isn’t my recipe, though I will provide links a plenty :)

My friend turned 21 recently and in true all-grown-up style threw a Harry Potter themed party! I volunteered to do the cake, thinking I would just make the little models gradually at perhaps one a week so I could balance it with uni work. Of course that plan didn’t pan out and I ended up doing it all the day before but there you go. I’m quite proud of it as it’s the first time I’ve used modelling icing and it’s also the first proper birthday cake I’ve made for someone.

The icing was just the usual modelling icing you can buy in the shop. It stayed soft which proved annoying as it meant the models were easily damaged but it also made it easy to make last minute changes.
I used this recipe for the  Victoria Sponge cake itself.
And this recipe for white chocolate buttercream icing (very, very yummy)
I used the icing to both sandwich and cover the cake, I also put white and milk choc chips in the middle for a nice texture.
Then I mixed grated milk chocolate with cocoa powder and coated the cake to make it look more like the Forbidden Forest floor (Use the back of a spoon for the sides).

The cake! I used indoor sparklers for the wands. Notice Voldermort’s cape burning on the candles!


 

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Blueberry and Pecan Muffins

I love making blueberry muffins. Mainly because they taste wonderful and are a great breakfast to go. But also as I can kid myself that they’re healthy because of the fruit….despite all the sugar and oil x).

A good muffin recipe can be hard to come buy. I’ve found that sometimes they’re too cakey and other times too heavy. Sometimes there’s not enough fruit or the muffin lacks a contrasting texture to the jammy fruit. I try and combat this last issue by adding chopped pecans, the nutty flavour goes really well with the blueberries.

The best part of any muffin is the crusty top. I add a sprinkle of sugar as well as some more pecans to make it extra crunchy and indulgent. I also try to make it a little more wholesome by reducing the sugar I put in the batter and by using wholemeal flour. The texture is still light and you can feel a bit less guilty.

Blueberry and Pecan Muffins, Makes 12

  • 120g Pecans (80g for inside, 30g on top)
  • 175g Plain Flour
  • 50g Wholemeal Flour
  • 2 tsp Baking Powder
  • 1/2 tsp Bicarbonate Soda
  • 130g Caster Sugar
  • 175g Blueberries (100g inside, 75g for on top)
  • 125ml Vegetable Oil
  • 125ml Buttermilk/Runny Yogurt/Milk with 1 tbsp Lemon Juice
  • 1 Egg
  • 30g Demerara Sugar (for the topping)

First grab the pecans and chop or crush them into smaller chunks.

Next put all the dry ingredients (sugar, flours, bicarbonate soda and baking powder) into a bowl with 100g blueberries and  80g pecan pieces.

Add the egg and oil to the buttermilk/yogurt/ lemon juice and milk mixture and whisk thoroughly. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ones. (Avoid splashing your camera lense with milky egg mixture :S).
Fold the mixture together taking care not to over mix as this will toughen the muffin, but also be sure that there is no dry flour remaining.

Dollop the batter evenly into the muffin cases and top with the remaining blueberries.

Next, mix the brown sugar with the pecans and scatter over the top each muffin.

Cook in the middle of the oven for 15-20 minutes at 200C, until they are a deep golden brown. A cake tester should come out reasonably clean.

These are best enjoyed warm and they get past their best after about 2 days. I tend to freeze them (for up to 2 months) and put them in the oven to defrost and warm through as I want them.

What’s your favourite muffin recipe?

Posted in Dessert, Light Dishes | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Bacon, Leek and Potato Soup

Well apologies for my absence in the blogosphere. Things have been a bit hectic here. My partner and I are in the process of signing the papers on a new flat and it’s been a nightmare trying to get guarantors and communicate with the awful credit checking agency. I mean honestly I wonder if they just get bored and fail people because they cannot be bothered doing their job. It certainly seems that way.

Then of course university is getting busy again. After spending the past few weeks in pleasantly ignoring the amount of work I knew I had due, it has been a mad dash to get through everything with enough time spare to start revision for my wonderful exams. Ah, the life of a student, ‘so easy’ they say.

In between revision and coursework I have to find time to get the house in tip top condition to be inspected by our landlord before we move out, it’s going to be tricky.

Needless to say I’ve been a little stressed.

And what do I do when I’m stressed? Where do I turn to wash away the worries and bring back a feeling of calm?

To the kitchen of course!

Soup to me is like a big hug in a bowl. It’s warm and comforting, flavourful and inviting.

So here we are. My recipe for Bacon, Leek and Potato Soup.

  • 6 rashers of Smoky Bacon
  • One medium to large sized Red Onion
  • 50g Butter
  • 3 cloves of Garlic
  • 2 thick or 3 thin Leeks, chopped
  • 4-5 medium sized floury Potatoes, quartered (I leave the skins on)
  • Parmesan Rind (Adds an extra savoury dimension to the soup)
  • 2 Bay Leaves
  • 1 tbsp Mixed Herbs
  • 1.2 litres of Chicken Stock

Start by dicing the bacon and onion and gently fry in the butter and olive oil. I like to make sure the bits of fat on the bacon are rendered down or crisp so that I don’t get chewy fat in my soup.

Next, finely dice or mince the garlic and add it to the pan.

 

 

 

 

 

Tumble in the leeks and potatoes followed by the rest of the ingredients. There should be enough liquid to cover the potatoes so add some hot water if you need more.

Bring to the boil and simmer for at least 30 minutes. The soup is good to go as soon as the potatoes are cooked but like so many things this soup gets better with time. I usually have it simmering away for an hour or so. Just before serving remove the parmesan rind and season with salt and a generous grind of fresh black pepper.

Because I’m lazy I just mash this with a potato masher before serving. The starch from the potatoes helps to thicken the soup and so you end up with a consistency that is not too smooth and not to lumpy. Though if you would like to serve this cold as vichyssoise I would suggest leaving out the bacon and blitzing the soup until totally smooth. You can add the cooked bacon after, though I’m not sure it would work as well in a cold soup.

My perfect de-stressor. What do you do to unwind?

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Easter: Chocolate Raisin Cornflake Cakes

Easter is almost here so I thought I would show you my Easter cornflake cakes. I’m sure many people will have fond memories of making Chocolate Easter nests and I wanted to show you a little twist which I think adds a fruity dimension. The inspiration for these comes from Cadbury’s Clusters which are so moreish and delicious. These are essentially the same but in a cake form with little eggs on top. They’re just as moreish and didn’t last very long in our house.

I hardly think anyone needs a recipe for these because they’re so simple and the left overs are easily used up for other things. I didn’t measure my ingredients but the rough measurements look a bit like this:

200-250g milk chocolate
a square or two of dark chocolate (not essential but makes them less sickly in my opinion)
1 tablespoon of Butter
100g Cornflakes
75g Raisins
Pack of Mini Eggs

Basically just melt the chocolate and butter then combine with the cornflakes and raisins until you have the desired proportion of chocolate to raisins and cornflakes. Then put the mixture into cupcake cases and decorate with mini eggs. Allow to set in the fridge for at least ten minutes.

Happy Easter!

Posted in Chocolate, Dessert | Tagged , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Versatile Blogger and Inspiring Blogger award

 

 

 

 

 

Wow! I feel so honoured to be nominated for not just one award but two by the same person. I must say a huge thank you to the wonderful Tasha (great name by the way :D) over at foodashion.com who was kind enough to nominate me for both the Versatile Blogger and Inspiring Blogger awards! Tasha is a vegetarian and so, for me, it’s a good source of recipes when I need a tasty vegetarian meal. Check out the recipe for the Perfect Portabello Mushroom Sandwich, it’s so delicious!

Now comes the hard part. I have to share seven things about myself. So here goes.

  1. I don’t like seafood. It’s something about the fishy taste and mostly the look of it that puts me off. I can eat meaty types of fish like salmon and haddock but anything that tastes a bit fishy is off the menu for me.
  2. I eat chocolate fingers by biting off each end then sucking up hot chocolate using the finger like a straw. If you like dunking biscuits you must try this!
  3. I have a recipe addiction. I honestly think it may be becoming a problem. If I’m not stumbling through food blogs then I’m re-reading my well thumbed cookbooks and food magazines. I sometimes buy a new cookbook twice a month. We’re running out of space on the bookshelf!
  4. Beer is my alcohol of choice though I barely ever drink. I like wine and other drinks sometimes but I love the savoury taste of a good beer.
  5. I study Psychology but I can’t read your mind you wouldn’t believe how many people ask :P
  6. The farthest I’ve travelled is Paris. It was for a school trip and my friends and I blew bubbles off the top of the Eiffel Tower :)
  7. I want to open a café in the highlands some day.

Ok so I’m changing the rules a little bit. I’m going to nominate 5 bloggers for both of these awards as I feel they deserve both as well. In no particular order these are the 5 blogs I think deserve both these awards

Versatile blogger and Inspiring blogger award

Bish’s Dishes -Some excellent recipes as well as food and tales from her travels

Just a Smidgen -Beautiful recipes, pictures and writing

A Frog at Large – I love this blog, her posts are always thoughtful and amusing

The Smart Cookie Cook – Wonderful recipes and pictures as well as a few videos. This is a great site for when you’re stuck for ideas on what to have but you know you want something indulgent and yummy!

Mama’s Gotta Bake – Great pictures and recipes. Check her recipe for Chocolate Brioche Loaf. I’m off to make some now!

The Basic Rules

  1. Thank the person that nominated you
  2. Share 7 things about yourself
  3. Choose your nominees (at least 5). (It’s up to you whether you wish to give both awards or just one or the other)
  4. Comment on your nominees blogs to let them know they’ve been nominated

Once again thank you to Tasha at Foodashion.com :)

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No Knead Bread

I feel like this recipe is a bit of a rite of passage as a food blogger. It’s one of those recipes that keeps popping up via StumbleUpon. Everyone seems to have their own opinions on it and so I decided it was time I gave it a go too.

Out of all the things I make, bread is probably what I make most frequently. I love the process and the magic of turning such simple ingredients into a satisfying loaf of bread. I especially love cutting into it while it is still warm then slathering a piece in butter, devouring and savouring every crumb. I often have to stop myself eating the whole loaf at once as it is so moreish. But enough about my bread addiction.

One of the reasons I’ve avoided this recipe is because I was convinced that the long rise time would cause the bread to taste very yeasty and this is not a characteristic I like my bread to have. However, I realised the other day that the basic recipe for no knead bread requires only a quarter of a teaspoon of yeast. A usual bread recipe includes about a teaspoon and a half of yeast so I figured that this reduction would lessen the chance of getting a yeasty loaf.

This is such an easy bread to make and it’s great if you like seeing the process of the yeast working its magic. However, I do have to say that though its probably a more fun recipe for making bread the taste was lacking a little and next time I make it I will be tempted to add a little sugar and butter to add a bit of the richness that this bread was lacking.

The basic recipe that I used can be found here. I did change the method a little so I’ll post that along with the pictures below.

Just before I get to those.
While I was snapping the bread pictures I had the back door open for a bit more light and noticed this little guy tugging at a bit of fluff to take back to his nest. He was finding it pretty hard and even sat down to get better leverage. I didn’t even know blue tits could sit like this!

Blue Tit

Having a wee sit down

Okay, now onto the bread!

Begin by putting the flour into a bowl with the yeast on one side and the salt on the other. Mix these in separately then mix the whole lot together. This will stop the yeast coming into direct contact with the salt which could kill the yeast.

 

 

Next, make a well in the centre and pour in the water.

 

 

 

Take a wooden spoon and mix the flour and water to the consistency of a ‘shaggy mess’. This is the technical term. There shouldn’t be any dry flour in the bowl but you don’t need to worry about shaping it into a bowl or the fact that it’s very wet. It’s supposed to be.

Now cover with cling film and leave for 12-20 hours. I left mine for 18 hours.

The next day you should be greeted by something that looks like this.

 

 

 

Tip the dough out onto a very well floured surface and have more flour on standby. (The recipe I was following suggests using wet hands to balance out the extra flour but I found this too messy, so I switched back to just flouring my hands and used a scraper so I didn’t have to touch the dough too much.) Fold the edges into the middle and then turn the whole ball over and continue to tuck the dough under so you get a nice taut surface on top.
Try as I might, I couldn’t get as taut a surface as I would usually be happy with but it didn’t seem to matter.

As I didn’t have a tea towel that was appropriate for leaving my dough to rest in I just left it on my pastry mat with a tea towel over the top. This seemed to work fine. I left it for 2 hours. During the last 30 minutes of this time put your baking vessel into the oven to warm up. The temperature should be 230C. You need something that is oven safe to 230C and has a lid. I greased mine because I was paranoid about the bread sticking.

Turn out your dough into the pot (remembering that it will be very hot). The tucked in parts of the dough should now be facing up and this will make a nice pattern on top of the bread. Replace the lid and bake for 20-30 minutes (mine only needed 20). Then take off the lid and bake for another 15-20 minutes. This is to ensure a nice crispy crust.

 

The finished bread. It should be deep golden brown all over and sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.

This bread is extremely photogenic and it sounds just as beautiful, crackling as it cools.

I would definitely urge anyone to give this a go because it’s really fun to make. However I think I’ll add a tablespoon of butter and teaspoon of sugar next time and see if that takes the flavour to the next level.

Posted in Breads | Tagged , , , , , | 22 Comments

Pancake Day!

So tomorrow is Shrove Tuesday or as it’s more commonly referred to- Pancake Day. The origin of Shrove Tuesday is that it’s the day all the perishable, rich foodstuffs such as eggs, milk, fat and sugar are used up before lent begins.

I love pancakes. They’re yummy, quick and you can experiment with all kinds of different toppings. It’s a shame we only really make them once a year but then again maybe that’s what keeps them special and interesting.

I should probably mention that my idea of Pancakes are actually what many people would call Crêpes. These are thin, flat and reasonably large unlike their smaller slightly risen American cousins. But I grew up calling this version a pancake and habits like that are hard to break.

Here’s my Pancake recipe followed by a few of my favourite toppings.

Pancakes
Makes 9

  • 100g Plain Flour
  • Pinch of Salt (or a teaspoon of Sugar though I find that this can cause the pancake to burn more easily)
  • 1 Egg
  • 320ml Warm Milk (not to be hot enough to cook the egg)
  • 1 tbsp melted Butter

Sift the Flour and Salt into a bowl. Make a well in the centre.

Add the Egg and half the Milk into the centre and beat until a smooth batter is formed.

Gradually add the rest of the Milk and stir in the melted Butter.

Melt a tiny bit of butter in a large frying pan. If you use too much butter the pancake will be soggy.

Heat the pan until it just begins to smoke and add a small ladle (about 3-4 tablespoons) of batter. Swirl the pan to coat  evenly and turn the heat down to medium low.

Cook the pancake until it moves freely from the bottom of the pan. Lift the edge with a spatula to check if it has begun to brown, if so flip it over, if not leave it for another minute, perhaps increasing the heat a little.
[I recently read that if you can flip the pancake in the air then this means it's tough so I am quite proud to be a spatula flipper!]

Check the other side after a couple of minutes and remove to a plate once it has cooked. Repeat this process with the rest of the batter.

Now comes the fun bit- Fill and top your pancakes!

These are some of my favourites:

Lemon and Sugar

A classic and probably my favourite. I like it best with brown sugar rather than white.

Filled with Cream and Berries, topped with a Raspberry Sauce. Yum!

Not only does this taste amazing but it is so easy to present. This would have been a rather good Valentines dessert now I come to think about it!

Nutella and toasted Hazelnuts

A shamefully recent discovery. I feel like I’ve missed out on many years of this delicious combination. Smooth Nutella and crunchy nuts, all wrapped up in a pancake, delicious!

Got any favourite toppings you wanna share?

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