• Lockdown Larder: Fish and other savoury cakes

    Although I am an almost vegetarian, every so often, I really fancy a fish cake..  My go to recipe is a recipe in Dale Pinnock’s  “Anxiety and Depression” cookbook for Tuna Sweet Potato Fish Cakes.  This is a very simple, but very tasty recipe.  The following recipe, is a slight variation on Dale Pinnock’s recipe.

    Tuna Sweet Potato Fish Cakes (serves 2)

    Ingredients

    •  2 medium  baked sweet potatoes
    • 150g canned tuna
    • 2  tsp chopped coriander or parsley leaves
    • 1 small red onion, finely chopped (I blanch my onion first to produce a milder taste)
    • 1/2 tsp English or Dijon mustard
    • 1 egg, lightly beaten
    • 1-2 tsp olive oil

    Method

    • Mash the baked sweet potatoes in a bowl.  Add the tuna, coriander/parsley, onion, mustard and egg.  Mix well.
    • Shape into cakes and gently fry in the olive oil until golden brown on each side.
    • Serve with a poached egg on top and a side salad.

    It’s a long story, but we currently have my Mum staying with us.  The other day she mentioned her love of tinned salmon (something I haven’t eaten for ages).  So, like a good daughter, I decided to incorporate it into something tasty.  I came across the following recipe from John West.  Again, with a few tweaks, here it is.

    Salmon Fish Cakes (serves 4)

    Ingredients

    Fish cakes

    • 170g can John West Pink or Red Salmon, drained
    • 150g mashed baked potato, chilled
    • 1tsp chopped dill or parsley
    • Zest of ½ lemon
    • Tbsp mayonnaise

    Coating

    • 1 egg, beaten with a splash of milk
    • 2tbps plain flour
    • 50g fine breadcrumbs (I used crush panko bread crumbs)
    • 2 tbsp mayonnaise

    Tartar Sauce

    • Juice of 1 lemon
    • 1 tsp chopped caper
    • 2 gherkins finely chopped
    • ½ tsp chopped dill or parsley

    Method

    • Preheat the oven to 190 degrees Celsius.  In a large mixing bowl mash the baked potato without its skin.  Add the drained pink or red salmon, dill/parsley, mayonnaise and lemon zest.  Season with a little salt and black pepper and mix well.
    • Divide the mix into 4 balls and shape into a fishcake.  Leave to cool in the fridge for 15 minutes.  Meanwhile place the egg; flour and breadcrumbs into 3 separate bowls.
    • Dust your fishcakes in flour until completely coated.  Then dip into the egg and roll in breadcrumbs.  Repeat with the remaining fishcakes.
    • Add 2 tsp of sunflower oil to a non-stick frying pan and gently cook the fishcakes until golden on both sides, place onto an oven tray and place into the oven to warm through, for about 10 minutes.
    • Make the tartar sauce, by mixing all the ingredients together in a bowl.  Serve your fishcakes with a spoonful of tartar sauce, a poached egg and a side salad.

    My final recipe is for those who don’t like fish but like a ‘fish’ cake of sorts.  I was looking for something to use up turnips and parsnips in and came across this recipe on BBC Good Food by John Torode for bubble and Squeak croquettes – I made cakes instead.  The original recipe included 8 rashers of streaky bacon, chopped, but I omitted these and added a bit of smokey paprika instead for the smokey flavour.

    Ingredients

    • 50g butter
    • 200g onion, sliced
    • ½ large cabbage, shredded
    • 500g leftover roast or boiled potato or roast/boil your own, mashed
    • 200g leftover or freshly roasted turnips, parsnips, carrots (or any vegetables really), roughly chopped, then mashed
    • 2 eggs, beaten
    • 200g plain flour, well seasoned, plus a little extra for shaping
    • 200g fresh white breadcrumb
    • 2 eggs, beaten with a pinch of salt and a little water
    • Sunflower or vegetable oil, for frying

    Method

    • Melt the butter in a pan, then fry the onions for 10 minutes until the onions are soft.  Add the cabbage to the pan with a good grinding of black pepper.  Stir well, then add a splash of water and cook, covered, for 5 minutes more until tender.
    • Tip the potatoes and cooked vegetables into the pan, then mash really well.  Mix in the eggs, then season to taste.  Turn onto a floured surface and shape into cakes.
    • Dust your cakes in flour until completely coated.  Then dip into the egg and roll in breadcrumbs.  Repeat with the remaining cakes.
    • Put onto a tray and chill for at least 1 hour.
    • Heat oven to 170C fan.  Heat a 5mm depth of oil in a large frying pan; then, once a crumb turns golden within a few seconds, shallow-fry the cakes in batches for 2 minutes each side, turning carefully.  Drain on kitchen paper and transfer to a baking sheet lined with baking paper.  Bake for 15 minutes.

    Guess what, I served them with a poached egg and some harissa onions, peppers and mushrooms.

    Happy cooking.

  • Lockdown Larder: Jams

    Many moons ago, I picked up a book from Lakeland, entitled “Preserves”, with every intention of exploring the world of jam making.  I even bought a number of small jam jars for this purpose.  I had a vision of becoming a jam making domestic goddess, who would present lovely jars of homemade jam to family and friends for Christmas and other key holidays.  Like with so many things, I didn’t make the time  to make the jam as intended.  My book sat on the shelf, collecting dust while my jam jars remained forgotten in a box somewhere.

    While lockdown has been difficult for a number of reasons, it has also given me the time to do things which I have not made the time for in the past.  While having time has helped me get into jam making, I have to given credit to Lynwood & Co in this regard too.  With the generous fruit boxes, I have been purchasing from Lynwood & Co on a one to two week basis, I have had an abundance of fruit to use in my baking and jam making.  To be honest, what started as a way of using up excess fruit has now become a bit of a passion on mine.  I can’t say I have perfected the art of jam making, but I am learning as I go.  I have learnt that relying on my thermometer to get to 105 degrees Celsius is not necessarily reliable to get setting point and that the frozen plate/fridge test is possibly better for checking this.

    So far, I have made the following jams:

    • Apple and Pear
    • Grape Jelly (I have not included the recipe here, as the end result was a little on the thin side and as I am not sure whether this is down to the recipe or my jam-making skills, I felt that it was best not to included the recipe here), as if you ar
    • Rhubarb and Ginger
    • Marmalade
    • Pear and Ginger

    I should mention, that a couple of essential purchases made during lockdown, have included a six-pack of Kilner jars (all currently in use) and some food grade muslin.  Maybe, I shouldn’t have said essential as I could have made do with empty jam jars and the ones I bought from Lakeland way back when (in retrospect, a little on the small side for general jam making – okay for a small gift) and you can use a clean drying up cloth instead of muslin, but all I can say is that these purchases have been very helpful indeed.

    Now, without further ado, let me share the recipes that I have used with you are reading this  post, this is most probably what you are here for.

    Apple and Pear (Tales from a Well-Stocked Larder)

    Ingredients

    • 1 kg of prepared pears and apples (peel, core, then dice pears and grate apples)
    • Juice of 1 lemon
    • Small amounts of water
    • 1 kg of sugar

    Method

    • Simmer pears, apples and lemon juice until soft (about 30 min).  Add water if it becomes too dry.
    • Add sugar and stir to dissolve.
    • Simmer until setting point is reached (approximately 20 – 30 minutes of 105 degrees Celsius)
    • Transfer to sterilised jars, ensuring any chunks of fruit are well-distributed.  Seal, label and store.
    • The jam lasts approximately one year in sealed sterilised containers.
    • Transfer to the fridge once opened.

    Marmalade (Source: Nigel Slater in The Guardian)

    Ingredients

    • 12 Seville oranges ( I used regular oranges, which made a very flavoursome marmalade)
    • 2 lemons
    • 1.25kg unrefined golden granulated sugar

    Method

    • Using a small, particularly sharp kitchen knife, score four lines down each fruit from top to bottom, as if you were cutting the fruit into quarters. Let the knife cut through the peel but without piercing the fruit.
    • Cut each quarter of peel into fine shreds (or thicker slices if you like a chunkier texture). Squeeze each of the peeled oranges and lemons into a jug, removing and reserving all the pulp and pips.
    • Make the juice up to 4 litres with cold water, pouring it into the bowl with the shredded peel. You may need more than one bowl here.  Tie the reserved pith, squeezed-out orange and lemon pulp and the pips in muslin bag and push into the peel and juice.  Set aside in a cold place and leave overnight.
    • The next day, tip the juice and shredded peel into a large stainless steel or enamelled pan (or a preserving pan for those lucky enough to have one) and push the muslin bag down under the juice. Bring to the boil then lower the heat so that the liquid continues to simmer merrily. It is ready when the peel is totally soft and translucent. This can take anything from 40 minutes to a good hour-and-a-half, depending purely on how thick you have cut your peel.
    • Once the fruit is ready, lift out the muslin bag and leave it in a bowl until it is cool enough to handle. Add the sugar to the peel and juice and turn up the heat, bringing the marmalade to a rolling boil.  Squeeze every last bit of juice from the reserved muslin bag into the pan.  Skim off any froth that rises to the surface. (If you don’t your preserve will be cloudy.)  Leave at a fast boil for 15 minutes.  Remove a tablespoon of the preserve, put it on a plate, and pop it into the fridge for a few minutes.  If a thick skin forms on the surface of the refrigerated marmalade, then it is ready and you can switch the pan off.  If the tester is still liquid, then let the marmalade boil for longer.  Test every 10 to 15 minutes.  Some mixtures can take up to 50 minutes to reach setting consistency.
    • Ladle into the sterilised pots and seal immediately.

    I made a half batch of the recipe and it yielded just over two Kilner Jars of marmalade. with a little to spare

    Pear and Ginger Jam (Domestic Gothess)

    Ingredients

    • 400g (prepared weight) peeled and cored pears chopped into small dice
    • 150 g (prepared weight) peeled and cored cooking apple very finely minced
    • Finely grated zest and juice of 1 small lemon
    • 1 tbsp grated fresh ginger
    • 100 ml water
    • 400g granulated sugar
    • 2 balls stem ginger finely chopped

    Method

    • Place a couple of saucers into the freezer and sterilise your jars.
    • Place the pears, apples, lemon zest and juice, ginger and water into a deep, heavy bottomed saucepan. Bring up to a simmer and simmer gently for about 15 minutes, until the fruit is tender.
    • Stir in the sugar and stem ginger and heat gently until the sugar has completely dissolved.
    • Turn up the heat and cook at a rapid boil for about 10 minutes, or until it reaches 105 degrees Celsius; stir regularly to prevent it from catching on the bottom.
    • Remove from the heat and place a teaspoonful of the jam on one of the cold saucers; pop it in the fridge for a minute then push at it with a finger, if the surface of the jam wrinkles then it is ready; if not then return the pan to a rapid boil for another five minutes then remove from the heat and check again.
    • Allow the jam to cool for 5-10 minutes, then ladle it into hot sterilised jars, seal and allow to cool. Once opened keep refrigerated

    Rhubarb and Ginger Jam (Source: BBC Good Food)

    Ingredients

    • 1kg rhubarb, trimmed weight
    • 1kg jam sugar (which has added pectin)
    • Zest and juice 1 lemon
    • 50g stem or crystallised ginger, finely chopped
    • 4cm piece ginger, peeled

    Method

    • Wash the rhubarb under cold running water and slice into 2cm pieces. Tip into a large ceramic or plastic bowl and add the jam sugar, lemon zest and juice, and chnd opped stem ginger. Finely grate the peeled ginger directly over the rhubarb.
    •   Stir the mixture thoroughly, cover loosely with cling film and leave to one side for about 2 hours to allow the sugar to dissolve into the rhubarb juices. You may need to stir the mixture occasionally to encourage this process along.
    • Pop a few saucers in the freezer. Scoop the fruit and all the sugary juices into a preserving pan and set over a medium heat.  Stir until the sugar has completely dissolved, and bring to the boil.  Continue to cook at a fairly swift pace until the rhubarb is really tender and the conserve has reached setting point – this should take about 10-15 mins.
    • To test for a set, drop ½ tsp of the jam onto a cold saucer, leave it for 30 secs, then gently push it with the tip of your finger. If the jam wrinkles the setting point has been reached. If not, continue to cook for a further couple of minutes and test again.
    • Remove the pan from the heat and leave to one side for 2-3 mins before pouring into sterilised jars. Seal immediately and label with the date once completely cold.

    To sterilise jars, I heat the oven to 150 degrees Celsius.  Wash the jars in warm soapy water and then rinse them thoroughly before placing them in heated oven for 15 minutes.  I then turn off the oven, but leave the jars in the oven until I need them.

    I have enjoyed making jam so much during lockdown that if I ever got the opportunity to do so for a living (or part thereof), I would jump at the opportunity.

    What next, you might ask.  Well, as we speak, I have the recipe for an overnight three-citrus processor marmalade open in from of me (from my “Preserve” book.  As soon as a Kilner jar becomes available, I will be making this.  Lets hope my grapefruits, lemons and oranges will still be okay by then.  Who am I kidding, the way we are devouring jam and marmalade on sourdough toast for breakfast, a Kilner jar will be free in a blink of an eye.

     Happy preserving!

  • Lockdown larder: South African bakes

    I don’t often reminisce about my childhood in Cape Town, South Africa.  It has been many years since I left – I have just realised that next month it will be 30 years.   I was just about to say that I can’t remember why I started thinking about the bakes of my childhood, but then I remembered that I have recently joined The Lekker Old Days Facebook page, which harks back to the good old days in South Africa.  They often post pictures of sweets and biscuits and enquire whether we can remember anything that far back.  It’s a bit of harmless nostalgia, but it does give rise to a few oohs and aahs of remembrance.  Anyway, someone in the group posted a recipe for Romany Creams and I decided to give the recipe a go.

    The recipe is as follows:

    Ingredients

    • 500g butter (room temperature)
    • 200g caster sugar
    • 25g icing sugar
    • ¼ cup oil
    • 1 egg
    • 1 tbsp vanilla essence
    • 480g plain flour
    • 1 tsp baking powder
    • 125g of cocoa powder
    • 2 cups desiccated coconut
    • 450g plain chocolate, melted in a bowl in a microwave for 2 minutes or over a Bain Marie

    Method

    • Beat the butter, oil, icing sugar and caster sugar together in the bowl of an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 3 to 4 minutes.
    • Add the egg and the vanilla essence and mix for a minute.
    • Add all the dry ingredients and mix by hand to form a soft dough.
    • Cling wrap and chill in the fridge for 20 minutes.
    • Preheat the oven to 170 degrees Celsius.
    • Roll out dough on a well-floured surface and ensure that your rolling pin is floured as well.
    • Take a fork and run it lightly over dough, scraping to form the rugged look.
    • Cut out shapes with a cookie cutter and place on a greased or non-stick baking tray.
    • Bake for 12 to 15 minutes.
    • When cooled, turn the biscuits upside down, so if you baked 50 biscuits, only turn around 25 biscuits.
    • Allow the melted chocolate to cool down for 10 to 15 minutes.
    • Spoon the chocolate on top of the biscuits and wait for the chocolate to half set a bit before lightly placing the top biscuit. Press gently.
    • Allow the chocolate to set and pack away in an air tight container.

    I made half the recipe.  This was more than enough for two of us for a week.

    Although the Romany Cream were absolutely delicious, it reminded me of another favourite biscuit of mine growing up, the Choc Crust.  It was inevitably therefore that these were next on my list.

    Choc Crust Biscuits (Source: Cape Malay Cooking with Fatima Sydow)

    Ingredients

    • 150 grams of soft butter
    • 1 large egg
    • 100g caster sugar
    • 180g muscovado sugar
    • 1 tsp of vanilla essence
    • Pinch of salt
    • 1 tbsp fine ginger or freshly grated ginger
    • 2 tbsp golden syrup
    • 330g plain flour
    • ¼ cup of oil
    • 1 tsp baking powder
    • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
    • 1 cup of desiccated coconut
    • 1 large slab of chocolate melted to fill in between the biscuits

    Method

    • Cream the butter and sugar together.
    • Add the egg, vanilla, ginger, salt, oil and golden syrup and mix until combined.
    • Add the rest of the ingredients and mix until a soft dough is formed.
    • Place in cling wrap and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.
    • Roll out your dough on a floured surface, scrape with a fork lightly up and down to create the rugged look and with a round or oval cookie cutter cut out shapes (not too large as the dough spreads).
    • Take a butter knife and make a 5mm wide rectangle hole in centre of cookie.
    • Transfer to tray lined with baking paper and bake in a preheated oven at 180 degrees Celsius for 10-12 minutes or until its golden brown. Remove and cool.
    • Melt the chocolate and spread with a butter knife some melted chocolate on to the base of biscuit and join this side with another biscuit
    • Store in an airtight container

    You would have thought that I might have stopped at this point, but I didn’t.  The choc crusts made me think of nutty crust biscuits, so thank to a recipe from Halaal Recipes, I made these as well.  The recipe is as follows:

    Nutty Crust Biscuits

    • 250g butter
    • 135g brown sugar
    • 1 cup oats (grind it a bit and roast in the oven for 5 minutes)
    • 1 cup coconut
    • 1 tbsp oil
    • 1 level tsp bicarbonate of soda
    • 2 tbsp golden syrup
    • 2 tbsp boiling water
    • 240g to 360g flour (or enough to make a soft dough – I used about 300g)

    Method

    • Cream butter and sugar till light and fluffy
    • Add the roasted oats and coconut and mix well
    • Add golden syrup to the boiling water with the bicarbonate of soda and mix and then add to the butter mixture
    • Add the tbsp of oil and mix
    • Add enough flour to make a soft dough
    • Separate dough into 3 portions and make into logs and refrigerate for 30 minutes
    • Slice with the back of a knife and place on a baking sheet with enough space in between
    • Bake 180 degrees Celsius for 12-15 minutes
    • Switch off the oven and leave the biscuits to dry out a bit
    • Store in an air tight container

    I have one more South African biscuit type bake that I would like to do.  A very simple crunchie (flapjack).  Watch this space.

    Happy Baking!

  • Lockdown Larder: Tarts

    I love a savoury tart.  I love a sweet one too,but this post is about savoury tarts.  Just as soups are a good way to use up vegetables, so too are tarts (or quiches).  I have made three tarts/quiches during lockdown:

    • Leek
    • Leek and mushroom
    • Parsnip and leek

    Have you spotted the common denominator?  Yes, the good old leek.  I know there are many things you can do with a leek, but sauteeing them off in some butter or oil and then placing them in a tart creates a great tasting tart.

    I am not a huge fan of tarts/quiches containing cream at the best of times so with lockdown and the absence of cream in my fridge, I went on the hunt for a non-cream containing quiche filling.  I came across a very versatile recipe from the House of Yumm, entitled “How to make a quiche (using any filling of your choice)”.  This has now become my staple quiche recipe.

    Ingredients

    • 1 portion shortcrust pastry (I made my first quiche using a simple BBC Good Food recipe for short-crust pastry but now use Jamie Oliver’s recipe as it makes for a flakier pastry – see recipe below)
    • 5 eggs
    • 1 ¼ cup of milk of choice (I only had skimmed milk, which worked very well, so use whatever milk you prefer or have to hand)
    • ¼ tsp salt
    • ¼ tsp pepper
    • Fillings of choice (e.g. sautéed leeks, leeks and mushrooms with added cheese)

    Method

    • Preheat oven to 170 degrees Celsius. Roll the shortcrust pastry out and fit into 23cm pie dish. Trim any excess crust.
    • Line the inside of the shortcrust pastry with baking paper and fill with baking beans – make sure that they are up against the sides of the pie crust.  Bake the crust for 15-20 minutes. Remove the baking beans and then bake for another 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. The crust should be golden in colour.
    • Prepare the egg mixture by adding the eggs to a bowl. Add the milk. Add the salt and pepper.
    • Mix with a whisk or hand mixer to ensure the egg and milk mixture is completely mixed.
    • Spread the desired fillings on the bottom of the pie crust. Pour the egg mixture on top. Bake at 170 degrees for about 30-40 minutes or until the quiche filling is set with a slight wobble in the middle.
    • Allow to cool for about 20 minutes to room temperature.  The quiche can be served warm, cold, or room temperature.

    Short Crust Pasty (Source: Jamie Oliver)

    Ingredients

    • 250g plain flour
    • 125g cold butter
    • Pinch of salt
    • 100ml cold water

    Method

    • Tip the flour into a bowl with a pinch of salt, then chop and rub in the butter.
    • Make a well in the middle, slowly pour in 100ml of cold water, then mix, pat and bring it together.
    • Wrap in clingfilm and chill in the fridge for 1 hour.

    Parsnip and Onion Tart (Source: Waitrose and Partners)

    Ingredients

    • 1 portion shortcrust pastry
    • 3 onions or 3 leeks, sliced
    • 500g parsnips, peeled and quartered lengthways
    • 3 large eggs
    • 300ml milk
    • 100g mature cheddar cheese, grated

    Method

    • Preheat the oven to 190°C.
    • Prepare and blind bake a pastry base as above.
    • Heat the 25g butter in a non-stick frying pan and add the onions/leeks and season. Cook over a gentle heat for 10 minutes, until golden and caramelised. Meanwhile, cook the parsnips in boiling water for 7-10 minutes or until tender. Drain well and tip into a bowl. Mash until smooth.
    • Beat together the eggs and milk. Stir in half the cheese, the onions/leeks and parsnips. Season. Pour the mix into the tin and scatter over the remaining cheese. Bake for 25-30 minutes, till just set in the middle. Remove from the tin and serve warm.

    Happy cooking.

  • Lockdown Larder: Salads

    It’s quite interesting looking back at my Instagram posts as there is a real absence of any salad posts.  You might ask, “why would a pastry chef post photos of salad?”.  You would be right in questioning this, but at the same time, if you have looked at my Instagram posts during lockdown, you will notice that the nature of the posts have changed somewhat.  This is not to say that there aren’t a fair number of baking posts, but there are also a number of non-baking posts as well.

    The main reason I have not posted salad posts, despite the warm weather in April,  is that my Lynwood & Co vegetable box has had a distinct lack of salad ingredients.  This is not to say that I haven’t had the odd lettuce, cucumber or tomato, but certainly in the last few boxes there has been a lack of salad ingredients.  You will be glad to hear that the absence of such ingredients has not deterred me.  I have, in fact, made a couple of delicious salads which I share with you below; salads which will be made time and time again in the future as for Jo an my taste buds, they are simply scrumptious.  I did make a third salad, using a new recipe, during lockdown, a cauliflower salad, but this hasn’t made the cut as compared to the other two salads, it was just not up to scratch.

    The first salad mentioned, is the last one I made, a roasted butternut squash and feta salad from Framed Cooks.  I have adjusted the oven and cooking times slightly, but if you prefer you can go with the suggested temperature of 225/230 degrees Celsius and a cooking time of 45 minutes.  For me, this would have ended up with rather scorched butternut squash.   While I had feta and pistachios in my fridge and cupboard, respectively, I am sure that the salad would work equally as well with goat’s cheese and toasted pine nuts.

    Roasted Butternut Squash and Feta Salad (Source: Framed Cooks)

    Ingredients

    • 1 large butternut squash, peeled and cut into 2cm chunks
    • 2 tbsp olive oil
    • Juice from ½ lemon
    • 1 tbsp honey
    • ½ cup crumbled feta cheese
    • ½ cup shelled roasted pistachios
    • Handful of lamb’s lettuce or pea shoots

    Method

    • Preheat oven to 200 degrees Celsius.
    • Put the butternut squash into a mixing bowl and add the olive oil along with a pinch of salt and pepper.  Toss. Transfer the butternut squash to a non-stick baking dish in a single layer and roast until tender, about 30 minutes (check by piercing with a paring knife or fork – it should go in easily).
    • Once cooked toss the butternut squash with the lemon juice and honey.
    • Place the lamb’s lettuce or pea shoots in a serving bowl. Top with the roasted butternut squash, feta and roasted pistachios.

    The other salad, I made, is aptly called “favourite broccoli salad” by Cookie & Kate, as this has become one of Jo’s and my favourite salads, so much so that I have made it twice in recent weeks.  The recipe is as follows:

    Favourite Broccoli Salad (Source: Cookie & Kate)

    Ingredients

    Salad

    • 1 medium size broccoli, broken into florets and then thinly sliced and then roughly chopped
    • ½ cup raw sunflower seeds, toasted
    • ½ cup finely chopped red onion
    • ½ cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
    • ⅓ cup dried cranberries

    Honey mustard dressing

    • ⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil
    • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
    • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
    • 1 tbsp honey
    • 1 medium clove garlic, pressed or minced
    • ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt

    Method

    • Toast the sunflower seeds.  Pour the sunflower seeds into a medium skillet over medium heat. Cook, stirring frequently, until the seeds are turning golden on the sides, about 5 minutes. Pour the toasted seeds into a large serving bowl.
    • Add the chopped broccoli, onion, cheese and cranberries to the serving bowl. Set aside.
    • In a small bowl, combine all of the dressing ingredients (olive oil, vinegar, mustard, honey, garlic and salt). Whisk until the mixture is well blended.
    • Pour the dressing over the salad and stir until all of the broccoli is lightly coated in the dressing. The flavours develop better if you leave the salad for a while before serving.
    • Leftovers will keep well for 3 to 4 days in the fridge, covered.

    I am not sure if there is anything else I can add to this post, other than to say, give these a try.  I am sure you will love them.  If I try any other salads, which I feel are worth sharing, I will add them to this post.

  • Lockdown Larder: Soups

    My foray into cooking during lockdown started with soup making.  On the weekend of the 14th March 2020, when there were signs that things were getting more serious on the Covid-19 front, my husband and I cancelled a family get together which we had already purchased all the ingredients for.  We took the decision to cancel the event as 4 of the guests were over the age of 70 and 2 had COPD.   It was not that our elderly relatives asked for the event to be cancelled, but we felt that given the circumstances it would be the most sensible thing to do.

    Anyway, the first soup I made, was a warm cucumber and courgette soup.  It wouldn’t have been my natural choice of soup, but I had excess courgettes, cucumbers, celery and spring onions to use up.  Although I say that cucumber soup was not my natural choice, I have had it once before, when my husband and I climbed Kilimanjaro a few years ago.  It was one of the meals that was gratefully received after a long day hiking.

    Unfortunately, I can’t find the recipe I used for the soup as I have Googled so many recipes since I made the soup that I can’t find the recipe in my search history.  Suffice is to say that I used the spring onions instead of onions, added in a couple or three of celery sticks and chopped up two cucumbers and two courgettes.  I sauteed these off  in some oil in a large saucepan for  a few minutes and then added stock, seasoning and a bay leaf or two.  When the vegetables were cooked through I blended the soup until smooth and then served it warm with a dollop of natural yoghurt.   As with many of my soup meals, I accompanied the soup with a slice or two of Sourdough bread from Sourdough Revolution.

    As mentioned before, not long into lockdown, it was beginning to become clear that my online Ocado food orders were going to dry up, so I subscribed to the Lynwood & Co vegetable and fruit boxes.  In the first week, my vegetable box contained two rather large heads of broccoli, so I decided that broccoli soup may be in order.  After my online search for broccoli soup recipes, I settled on the trusty BBC Good Food site and the following, very easy, recipe:

    Ingredients

    Method

    • Heat the oil in a saucepan and fry the garlic for 1-2 minutes
    • Pour the vegetable stock into the pan and add the broccoli florets
    • Bring to the boil and reduce the heat and simmer gently for 10-12 minutes, until the broccoli is tender
    • Season with salt and pepper, then transfer to a liquidiser. Blend until smooth.
    • Ladle the soup into serving bowls and drizzle with cream to serve (if you have any).

    The recipe was so easy that I made it twice in one week.

    My last order (of two) from Ocado substituted my requested two punnets of mushrooms with two, rather large, family packs of mushrooms.  As there are only two humans in our household (and one fur baby), two family packs of mushrooms were clearly going to be too much for us.  The simplest way of using up excess vegetables is, of course, making soup, so I made a rather large batch of mushroom soup, using another recipe from the trusted BBC Good Food website:

    Ingredients

    • 90g butter
    • 2 medium onions, roughly chopped
    • 1 garlic clove, crushed
    • 500g mushrooms, finely chopped (chestnut or button mushrooms work well)
    • 2 tbsp plain flour
    • 1 litre hot vegetable stock
    • 1 bay leaf
    • 4 tbsp single cream (if you have any or use natural yoghurt instead)
    • small handful parsley, roughly chopped, to serve (optional)

    Method

    • Heat the butter in a large saucepan and cook the onions and garlic until soft but not browned, about 8-10 minutes.
    • Add the mushrooms and cook over a high heat for another 3 mins until softened. Sprinkle over the flour and stir to combine. Pour in the vegetable stock, bring the mixture to the boil, then add the bay leaf and simmer for another 10 minutes.
    • Remove and discard the bay leaf, then remove the mushroom mixture from the heat and blitz using a hand blender/liquidiser until smooth. Gently reheat the soup and stir through the cream/yoghurt. Scatter over the parsley, if you like, and serve.

    After my Ocado orders dried up and my Lynwood & Co vegetable and fruit boxes became a regular thing, my challenge was not, not having enough fruit and vegetables, but rather having too many.   Not only having too many, but also not of the variety I would normally choose.  I am not a huge root vegetable fan, except at Christmas, so the next two boxes presented me with an additional challenge in that they contained parsnips, turnips and celeriac.

    Not wanting to be defeated, I made a creamy parsnip and turnip soup using a Mindful Living Network Recipe, followed by a celeriac soup using a recipe from Delicious Every Day.

    Creamy Parsnip and Turnip Soup

    Ingredients

    • 3-4 mid-sized turnips
    • 2 medium parsnips
    • 1.5 cups of water
    • 2 tsp of garlic powder
    • 1 tsp vegetable bouillon
    • 1 tbsp of olive oil
    • Sea salt and pepper to taste
    • 1/4 cup of white wine vinegar

    Method

    • Rinse the turnips
    • Peel the skin and dice the turnips and parsnips into small chunks
    • Bring 1.5 cups of water to a boil in a cooking pot
    • Add vegetable stock, garlic powder and sea salt into the water
    • Add the turnips and parsnips into the mixture
    • Half way through the cooking process (20 minutes, or until the turnips and parsnips are semi-tender), add the white wine vinegar
    • Once the turnips and parsnips are soft, remove from the stove top and add pepper to taste
    • Blend the mixture until a smooth puree
    • For a less creamy consistency, add a little more hot water

    Celeriac Soup

    Ingredients

    • 2 tbsp of olive oil
    • 1 celeriac peeled and cut into cubes
    • 1 large potato peeled and cut into cubes
    • 1 leek trimmed, washed and roughly sliced
    • 1 onion peeled and roughly chopped
    • 1 clove garlic sliced
    • 4 cups vegetable stock
    • Salt and pepper to taste
    • Leaves of a handful of parsley washed and roughly chopped

    Method

    • Place a large pot over a medium low heat and add the olive oil.  Add the celeriac, leek, potato, garlic and onion, and season with salt and pepper.  Gently sweat the vegetables until the celeriac starts to soften, around 10 minutes.
    • Add the vegetable stock and bring the soup up to a boil before reducing to a simmer.  Simmer for 20 minutes or until the celeriac is completely tender.  Add the parsley and use an immersion blender to puree until smooth, or alternatively blend in batches in a blender.  Return to the heat and check the seasoning and adjust as necessary.
    • Serve with a drizzle of olive oil or a dollop of yoghurt or sour cream.

    Okay, I am now a bit souped out now.  I hope this gives you some food for thought, if you like me, have spare vegetables to use up.  Maybe not the best recipes going into Summer, but hopefully useful at some point in the future.

  • The Lockdown Larder: The Essentials

    When I was growing up, my maternal grandmother, Constance, had a large dresser in the corridor near her kitchen, where she stored tin upon tin of food.  I am not sure how long there had been in there or how often she replenished them (i.e. if they were still in date), but the cupboard was always full.

    I never asked my grandmother about the cupboard, but my mother told me that my grandmother always kept a well stocked cupboard as she had lived through the second world war with three young daughters, as well as post war rationing, and never wanted to be in a situation again where she didn’t have enough food to feed her family.

    Although I have never lived through a war or rationing and until recently never really considered the possibility that food may be difficult to come by, I have always had a well-stocked dry store cupboard.  The fact that I am also a Pastry Chef and have a lot of baking ingredients, has also meant that I started the lockdown period is a relatively good state.  Sorry, I should have also mentioned that I have a very well-stocked herb and spice cupboard (much to the annoyance of my husband, who is constantly trying to keep them in some order – he has been know to alphabetise them on more than one occasion) and a range of vinegar, oils  etc.

    On another subject, a while back, long before the lockdown, I bought a book called “The Art of the Larder” by Claire Thomson with the strap line “Good food from your store cupboard, every day”.  While her book is very informative and has an array of wonderful recipes, the larder basics she suggests, go beyond what I will be suggesting here.   i guess the main difference is that her book was written at a time when access to the supermarkets was easy and there was no constraint on the food stuffs that could be bought.

    With the above in mind and without any further delay, the following is a suggested list of larder essentials.  I am likely to add to this list as the lockdown continues.

    • Dried pasta  (my favourites are penne or rigatoni, spaghetti and macaroni)
    • Noodles (wheat or rice)
    • Couscous
    • Tinned beans (my favourites are cannellini, red kidney, black beans and chickpeas)
    • Ready cooked lentils (green lentils and puy lentils)
    • Dried pulses (split peas and red lentils)
    • Rice (of your choice)
    • Porridge oats
    • Flour (plain, self-raising, spelt, rye, 00, strong white bread, gram, corn, wholegrain/brown)
    • Semolina and polenta
    • UHT milk (cow’s, almond, oat, soya)
    • Tinned milk (evaporated, condensed and coconut)
    • Sugar (caster, white, dark brown, light brown, icing, jam)
    • Honey, maple syrup, treacle, malt extract, syrup
    • Peanut butter and/or other nut butter
    • Chocolate (milk and dark)
    • Cocoa powder
    • Desiccated coconut
    • Spices (salt (coarse and fine), peppercorns, ground cinnamon, ground ginger, ground nutmeg, ground cumin, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, fennel seeds, garlic salt, celery salt, rose harissa, sumac, turmeric, paprika,  curry powder, Garam Masala, chilli powder and chilli flakes)
    • Herbs (dried oregano, basil, rosemary, thyme, mixed herbs)
    • Vanilla essence and vanilla paste
    • Baking soda and baking powder
    • Easy bake yeast
    • Seeds (poppy, sunflower, sesame, pumpkin)
    • Nuts (raw cashew nuts and peanuts, hazelnuts, walnuts, pecan, almonds (whole, ground and flaked), pistachio
    • Dried fruit (raisins, sultanas, figs, dates. cranberries)
    • Oil (olive, coconut, sunflower or vegetable oil)
    • Vinegar (malt, white distilled, white wine, red wine, sherry, cider and balsamic)
    • Other larder essentials (tomatoes, sweetcorn, passata, tomato puree, olives (black and green), tuna, anchovies, vegetable bouillon, mustard (English, Dijon, Wholegrain), capers, stem ginger)

    In addition to ambient larder goods, there are also a few staple fridge and freezer ingredients that you will need:

    • Milk
    • Cheese (cheddar, halloumi, feta, mozzarella, parmesan)
    • Butter
    • Plain yoghurt
    • Eggs
    • Filo pastry
    • Puff pastry

    Okay, having written this list of ‘essentials’, I am a bit embarrassed to consider them essentials, so I may need to refer to the above as the things that I have accumulated over some time and which you will need should you wish to cook the recipes I will be posting.

  • Time flies when you are having fun

    They say that time flies when you are having fun, so I must have been having fun as it is a long time since I last wrote and I didn’t realise how long it had been until I checked.

    To be honest, having fun is not exactly the truth, as I have had a few challenges over the last few months since I last wrote.  My main challenge has been my health.  The last few months have seen me have visits to a consultant on a number of occasions, a CTI, a MRI and the threat of another operation, which was averted at the 11th hour as the blockage in my colon sorted itself out prior to the need for further surgery.  On the back of the threat of further surgery, I had to cancel the event baking that I had planned for December.  Cancelling catering for the events was the last thing that I wanted to do, but I had to change my priorities given the threat of surgery.  Despite being given the all clear by the consultant on the surgery front, the 2nd week in December saw my stomach take a turn for the worse again, so much so that I managed all but two hours at our Christmas party at the Swan in Bibury on 13 December.  I managed to go into work for the last week before the Christmas break, but I was very glad when the Christmas break finally came.

    My well-being improved over the Christmas break.  Having our youngest son home and preparing for the family Christmas meal at home focused my mind on other things.   The Christmas meal was a success and I thoroughly enjoyed making the starters and desserts.  The starter was Mary Berry’s blue cheese and fig, filo tarts and cranberry sauce and goat’s cheese, filo tarts with fresh thyme.  The desserts were mixed berry pavlova, Christmas brownies and spiced orange tart.

    The time since Christmas has been a whirlwind.  I was just about to start the event catering season, when Covid-19 stuck and all events I was going to cater for have been cancelled for the foreseeable future.  As the Company I work for is an event business, our annual event has been cancelled and the majority of staff have been furloughed.  After a period of time working from home, I was furloughed as of yesterday.  While this gives me time to do other things, I do miss having structure to my day and interacting with other people.

    That being said, my period of home working and social distancing has certainly been getting my creative juices going again.  Being told to stay at home, except to go out for essentials, has meant that we are being much more cautious with what we are buying and we are using everything up that we have in our fridge and cupboards.  There is far less waste and far more tasty meals in our house at the moment.  Although I was fortunate to sign up to Ocado for home delivery, before you could no longer become a customer, we only had two deliveries before we were no longer able to secure home deliveries as they are now prioritising the most vulnerable people (and quite rightfully so).  I am just so grateful for Lynwood & Co, a local cafe (the cafe I used to work for) who are now doing home deliveries of vegetable and fruit boxes and other goodies i.e. bread, milk, eggs, coffee, muesli, butter etc.  The eggs, butter, milk etc. are from other local producers so we are very happy to be supporting our local cafe and other local producers during this time.  Not only are we being provided with great produce, which means our trips to the supermarket are being reduced, but I am being kept on my toes when it comes to menu planning and meals.  Google and my cookbooks haven’t been as busy as they have in the last few weeks as I have been scouring them for new and exciting recipes to use up my array of fresh fruit and vegetables.

    This flurry of activity in my kitchen made me think about my blog, my rather neglected blog, and I have decided to write a blog within a blog.  The title of the blog going forward, well as long as we are told to stay at home and are under lock down, will be called the Lockdown Larder.   I will share with you the recipes of what I have cooked to date, as well as the recipes for the meals I cook going forward.  I will give you some ideas about essential equipment and ingredients which are helpful to have when you can’t replenish your fridge or freezer on a regular basis.  I will also talk about some of the substitutes that I have used, which I have found useful along the way, when I haven’t had the ingredients I needed.

    Before I start posting pictures of food, I wanted to share a picture of Izzy, who is now 10 months old.  As both before and during the Covid-19 outbreak, she has been my constant companion.  She is very different to Montague, but has become a wonderful new addition to the the family.

  • Izzy, a new arrival

    Last time I posted, I promised to write about my recent baking activities.  Some time has passed since I made my promise – almost four months.  As you would have gathered, I have had a busy four months.

    We have almost completed the renovation of our new home.  We have a lot of bits and piece to complete, but we are around 90% there.

    We moved into our new house in August, a little prematurely as on our holiday up to the Lake District in August to celebrate my Birthday with my family and to compete in a couple of races (cancelled because of the weather and other unforeseen circumstances), we acquired a little Labrador puppy, which we named Izzy.

    Bored on the journey up to the Lake District, I searched to see whether there were any Labrador puppies ready to go to new homes.  Lo and behold, I found a breeder with a litter of 11 Labrador puppies and made the dangerous decision to message him to ask him if he had any dogs left.  To cut a long story short, despite going to find a boy Labrador, we took home a little girl as she was the one that came up to me when we went to view the puppies.  The boys were not remotely interested in us – they were tucked up in their bed, tired after a meal.  I always said that I would take home the puppy who chose me rather than the other way around.  Anyway, with a new puppy in tow, we decided to move into our new home prematurely so that we could house train her in one house rather than in two.  The move to our new house is significant for a number of reasons, most significant I guess is that it has changed my priorities quite a bit, but more of that later.

    My new job has gone from strength to strength.  I have been made permanent and have been promoted to a management position.  I am thoroughly enjoying my new job, but like with everything, there are potential downsides to every good decision.  The demands on me in my new job have increased at the same time as my baking business expanded.  Over the last few months, my baking business went from strength to strength and I ended up baking for four customers on a regular basis, as well as doing event baking.  I thoroughly enjoyed the experience, as well as baking for a lovely range of customers.  The feedback I was given was great and my bakes were being well received.  Unfortunately however, on the back of everything: new house, new job and increased demands on me re: baking, my health has taken a hit again and I had to make a very difficult decision a few weeks ago to stop baking for my regular customers.  I have not given up baking, but have decided to re-orientate my business towards event baking and one off bakes.  I think this will help me get the balance right between my demanding day job and baking and hopefully get my health back on track.

    Despite my recent difficult decision, we had a good summer of catering for a range of events.  Mainly sporting events (obstacle course races, running events and gym competitions) and the Coln Fun Day in August.   I also did a lot of catering for one of my regular customers who put on regular events over the summer period.  One weekend I had to supply enough cake to feed around 300 guests.  Baking over four days left me quite exhausted but also with a great sense of achievement of catering for that many people on my own.

    As they say, every cloud has a silver lining – although I am upset at having to give up baking for my regular customers, not baking the same range of cakes on a weekly basis will hopefully allow me to experiment more on the baking front again.  This is something that has fallen by the wayside over the last few months as after I developed my repertoire for my regular customers (see below a list of my regular bakes), these bakes became my go to bakes every week.  Event catering and one off baking gives me a bit more scope to play around with my offer.

    • Carrot and ginger loaf cake
    • Carrot cake
    • Double chocolate loaf cake
    • Victoria sponge
    • Coffee and walnut cake
    • Lemon drizzle cake
    • Lemon loaf cake
    • Flapjacks – regular, fruit and chocolate drizzled
    • Millionaire slice
    • Brownies
    • Giant chocolate chip cookies

    Okay, listing these makes me realise that over a period of a few months, I did in fact try out a few things.  This is not even the full list – I have baked a range of other biscuits, slices and cakes for my other customers as well.

    Oh yes, back to my change of priorities.  After losing our first dog, Montague to illness in January this year, and with the acquisition of our little girl puppy, I have decided that being a ‘Mum’ to a puppy is more important than other things.  I have not given up on my dream of making people happy through my baking, but in the short term at least, my priority is ensuring that Izzy feels as much loved and part of the family as Montague did.

  • If the plan doesn’t work, change the plan but never the goal

    I have been meaning to write this post for a while, but I have been so busy with my new job and baking for various customers and events that I have not had an opportunity to do so.  Speaking about my new job, this is the main reason that I am writing this post.

    A while back, in March to be exact, it became quite clear that despite some intimations that the place that I was working would stock my bakes in their cafe, that this was no longer part of their plan.  I had taken the job for two main reasons: (1) to gain experience in a cafe, especially using a coffee machine and (2) to bake for the cafe/shop.  While I certainly had an opportunity to gain experience in the cafe and ‘front of house’ experience, after a year hoping that the offer in the cafe would be extended (with my cakes being part of that extension) I reluctantly decided to hand in my notice – the plan no longer worked so I decided to change the plan, not my goal.  I say reluctantly, as despite the plan no longer working, there were many aspects of the job that I liked, most importantly, the lovely customers who frequented the shop on a regular and not so regular basis.

    Another thing recently changed in our life, which meant that I needed to rethink things as well.  After renting in various locations over the last few years (Aberdeenshire, Devonshire and Gloucestershire) we decided to put in an offer on a house.  The Friday before last, we became the proud owners of our fifth house. (not fifth house at the same time, but fifth house ever owned).

    We have bought a semi-detached house in Lechlade, a market town in The Cotswolds.  It is not as picturesque as Coln St Aldwyns, where we currently rent, but it is close to the river Thames for running and paddle-boarding  and has a wonderful array of cafes, eateries and other amenities.  Everything you want in a short distance.

    As the new house is a ‘do it upper’, I really needed to find a job which allowed me to contribute to the household coffers more.  So after almost three years out of my previous career (first studying for my Diploma in Professional Patisserie and then working in the catering industry), I have returned to Human Resources on a 6.5 month contract focusing on Learning and Development.  I have been able to negotiate a 4 day a week contract, which means that I have Friday as my baking day.  This enables me to bake for my regular customers and cater for weekend events.

    So far, so good.  I am enjoying being back in a office environment and using my brain in a different way again.  The only downside (if you can call it that) is that I am now super busy and am finding difficult to fit everything I need and want to do in a day.  Okay, this is not quite true, I could find time to do everything (if I didn’t settle down to watch Netflix or terrestrial television of an evening) but by the time I get home and have something to eat, I can’t seem to be motivated to do anything too hectic.  I don’t think my evening inertia has been helped by the fact that the weather has been so poorly of late.  Okay, this sounds like a lot of excuses when written down in black and white, so I am going to make a mental note to self to get off the sofa and be more productive of an evening.  Netflix will have to wait, but I won’t be giving up my weekly date with Rob Lowe now that his new show, Wild Bill, is airing on ITV on a Wednesday.  He has been one of my firm favourites since I saw him in St Elmo’s Fire all those years ago and it is very good to see him back on our screens – well for me anyway.

    Speaking of not being inert, I am just about to do a self-imposed morning HIIT session to get myself going before a day behind a desk, but I will write again soon as although this post has focused on what has been happening in my personal life, a lot has also been happening on the baking front too.  But more of that later.