Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Pumpkin bites

I'm going to be honest with you. Until recently, I wasn't sure what you could really do with pumpkins, aside from pumpkin soup, pumpkin pie, and the obligatory Halloween carved pumpkin. But I have been shown the light - no pun intended. There are over 15 different types of pumpkins, each with their own unique taste.
You have the sweeter varieties such as sugar pumpkins, small orange pumpkins best for puréeing and mashing, as well as the more salty/savoury ones, such as Japanese pumpkins which are dark green speckled with orange, and perfect for stir-frying.

When I made this recipe, I used the a small, orange "golden nugget" pumpkin, one of the most common types of pumpkin.

one small pumpkin
coarse sea salt
olive oil
sugar (optional)

Preheat the oven to 240C.
Deseed the pumpkin and cut into slices with thickness of around 1 cm.
Line a baking tray with tinfoil and place the pupkin slices.
Sprinkle the pumpkins with the salt.
Sprinkle the pumpkins with freshly ground nutmeg and cinnamon.
Drizzle the oil over the pumpkin slices, and pop in the oven for around 25 minutes.
When the pumpkin is soft to the touch it is ready to come out.

These are perfect warm with a dollop of soured cream, or cold, when you get a chewy, toffee-like texture.
If you are using sugar, sprinkle demerara sugar on the pumpkins during the last 10 minutes of cooking.

Pumpkin soup and seeded honey bread

Roasted pumpkin #1

Pumpkin soup

one large pumpkin
olive oil
juice of half an orange
boiled potato (if you want the soup to go further)
light brown sugar
pepper - to season
orange juice
salt - to season
soured cream, to serve

Preheat the oven to 200C.
Cut a pumpkin in half and deseed. Set aside the seeds for the bread
Deeply score the pumpkin.
Sprinkle the cinnamon and sugar over the pumpkin, then generously season with pepper and salt.
Drizzle the pumpkin with olive oil.
Bake in the oven until the pumpkin flesh is soft - this should take about 30-40 minutes.
Roasted pumpkin #2
Scoop out the pumpkin flesh, and blend with the orange juice, and potato if using. To thin the soup, you can add water, or preferably stock for extra flavour.
Serve with a dollop of soured cream.
Probably best to keep an eye on the soup when heating...
With a dollop (or two) or soured cream

For me, bread has always been one of those foods where the only quantities used are "a handful of this", "a dash of that", and "whatever looks right". Alternatively, start off with 50g flour per serving.

white or wholemeal flour, for a heartier loaf use rye flour
a teaspoon of yeast / 7g sachet
seeds, you can use the pumpkin seeds from earlier, along with sunflower seeds and sesame seeds
olive oil
warm water

Mix together the flour and the seeds.
Stir the yeast into an espresso-sized cup of warm water. It's important to add this to the mixture as soon as possible, because the yeast immediately reacts with the water, and is at its peak to work with the flour.
Pour the yeast water into the flour until you have a dough begins to come together.
Add oil to the dough-ish mixture until you have an only slightly sticky dough.
Flatten the mixture, and add the honey. I used about three teaspoons worth.
Fold the dough into an envelope shape, so all the honey is in the middle. Like a card if we're going to continue with the envelope metaphor.
Work the dough, and add more flour if it becomes to sticky.
Put in a lightly floured bowl, and cover with cling film.
Leave to rest in a warm place until the dough has doubled. This is usually about one hour.
Once the mixture has risen, work it... Knock the air out of the dough.
Then leave to rise again for an hour.
Preheat the oven to 220C.
Place the dough into a lightly oiled tin, or freeform on a baking tray.
Brush the dough with milk or beaten egg (for gloss) and sprinkle with salt.
Put in the oven.
After 20 minutes on 220C, turn the heat down to 180C. Cooking the bread for a short time on a high heat allows a crust to form, but if it is too high for too long the top of the bread will be burnt whilst the inside will be underbaked.
The bread should take about a further 40 minutes to cook. The bread is cooked if you hear a hollow sound when knocking the base.

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Mini Carrot Cakes

Everybody loves Raymond? Everybody loves carrot cake. These gems are light and dairy-free (discounting the topping) and healthy enough to be a gym snack. Well, not quite. But nearly.

Fresh from the oven
The cakes were lining two by two hurrah, hurrah
one and a half medium-sized carrots, peeled and grated
caster sugar
rapeseed oil
olive oil
raisins (soaked overnight in whisky)
orange zest
orange juice
plain flour
baking powder
cream cheese
unsalted butter, softened (optional)
icing sugar
orange zest

One half with filling, the other half not...

Mix together the oil, sugar, flour and baking powder.
Once fully combined, add the orange juice, zest and raisins.
Fold in the grated carrots.
Pour into a greased baking tins, and cook at 180C for 35 minutes, or until a skewer can be inserted cleanly.
When baked, leave to cool in their tins for 5-10 minutes, then turn onto a wire rack to cool completely.
When the cakes get to room temperature, cut them in half using a serrated knife.

For the topping, if you're using butter, cream it with the sugar first, then add the orange zest and cream cheese.
If not using butter, gently fold the sugar and orange zest into the cream cheese.
Fill the cakes with the topping when they completely cool down - you don't want the icing to melt!
Serve with a cup of tea.

All together now...say cheese!

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Apple bread and butter pudding

Bread and butter pudding
Let be honest, bread and butter pudding is a pretty great thing. It's warming, has custard and is ridiculously versatile - what's not to like? From substituting bread for croissants or brioche, flavouring the custard with coffee or chocolate and adding juicy liquor-soaked raisins, there's something for everyone. So for autumn, why not use up the glut of apples you bought for £1.50? This buttery, fruity recipe is meltingly delicious and perfect for those chilly autumn afternoons.

Buttered bread

bread* - I used rosemary and potato bread
butter, room temperature
2 egg yolks
150 ml double cream
100ml milk - you're using double cream and butter, so you might as well have full-fat**
100g sugar
2 apples, cored, peeled and evenly sliced
a big handful of raisins
dried apple, diced
more double cream, to taste
*it's best to use bread which is a couple of days old because it holds it shape hence not becoming soggy. As the Berry says, you don't want a soggy bottom...
**it's important to build up fat to insulate for the winter

The first layer
Soak the raisins overnight in the cognac. Before using, pat the raisins dry to get rid of excess moisture, and set the rest of the cognac aside for later.
Spread the sliced bread generously with butter. Unless you're dairy intolerant, there are no reasons why you should compromise and use margarine.

Jam-packed full of raisins
In a buttered and sugared tin**, layer the buttered bread with thickly sliced apples and raisins, similar to a dauphinoise. Repeat this until your baking tin is about three quarters full.
Beat the egg yolks with the sugar until your mixture has doubled in volume and become paler.

Heat the cream in a saucepan until it begins to bubble.
When the cream begins bubbling, take it off the heat and add the milk to it.
Once it has cooled down a bit, strain into the yolk/sugar mixture, whisking the whole time.◇◇

Sprinkling with sugar gives a brilliant toffee taste when cooked
When your baking tin is stuffed to the brim, liberally pour over with your custard.
Place in a preheated oven on 200C and bake for fifty-five minutes. When you take the pudding out, it should have puffed up and become golden and firm.
For the sauce, use the ratio of 1 part cognac to 2 parts cream.
In a medium-sized saucepan over a medium heat, reduce the cognac until you have a thick glaze.
Add dried the dried apple and double cream to your reduced alcohol and on a low heat, let it cook for half a minute, and take off the heat.

I would suggest that you don't put raisins on top, because they will catc,. And burn.

Sprinkle the pudding with caster sugar and scorch with a blowtorch or grill for a crème brûlée touch.

Serve with lashings of sauce and a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream.

**Butter the tin as you would normally, then sprinkle sugar over. Shake out excess sugar so you have a fine sprinkling on all sides. This helps to caramelise the pudding, and adds to the toffee-apple taste.
◇◇ If your custard becomes scrambled eggs die to the cream being too hot or not whisking enough, strain the mixture through a sieve.


Thursday, 10 October 2013

Pimms Cake

For those of you who don't want to believe that summer is pretty much over, use your last drops of pimms to get yourself back into the summer 2013 mood.

Cake #1

PIMMS CAKE420g self-raising flour
400g sugar (I used a mixture of demerara and soft brown sugar)
two teaspoons of baking powder
120g unsalted butter, softened
200ml milk
strawberries, hulled and quartered
3 shots of Pimms

CREAM CHEEDE ICING250g cream cheese
40g unsalted butter, room temperature
350g icing sugar
one grapefruit, zest and juice

Cake #2
Preheat the oven to 200C.
Butter two cake tins, and line the bases (this is necessary because the syrawberries will stick).
Arrange the strawberries throughout the tins.
Mix all the dry ingredients together with the butter. When you get a crumble-like mixture, add the milk whilst continually beating.
When you have a batter, add the Pimms and completely stir.
Pour the cake mixture over the strawberries.
Put in the oven and turn the temperature down to 170C.
Check the cakes after 35 minutes, and as a general guide, take them out of the oven after 50 minutes.
Leave the cakes in their tins for 10 minutes, and then turn out to cool on a wire rack.

Cream the butter, sugar and grapefruit zest.
Add the grapefruit juice to the butter cream, and then the cream cheese.
Thoroughly mix, but be aware that too much mixing results in a flat liquid.
If your icing becomes too liquidy, you can add icing sugar of corn flour, but you don't want an icing which is too sweet or bland.

Autumn and Camus

I know, I know, I'm a terrible blogger. I haven't written for ages and, well, the blog's just a bit empty. There is a perfectly acceptable reason to my lack of posts; it's autumn! Autumn, you may cry, is one of those seasons where it doesn't quite know what it wants to do. Not quite winter, but definitely not summer- a bit like spring. Well, it definitely does know what it wants to do. It wants the leaves to become so crisp they crackle as you walk, it wants the wind to be brisk enough that you can wear gloves but not need a scarf. It wants you to start looking forward to the snow*.

Anyway, think of all the lovely produce in season...monkfish, pumpkins, game, apples, beetroots, wild mushrooms, celeriac, chestnuts. This season I will upload a tasty recipe using each one of these ingredients. Don't worry, it won't be all soups and crumbles- though you can't go wrong with either.

On other matters, this Camus' quote perfectly sums up my fridge at the moment.
'There was nothing but cheese'- Albert Camus

*If you're a Londoner, then it's the snow that comes in April.