• 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.

  • Forest Warrior – taking Bake to a new venue

    I apologise for being a bit quiet of late – I have been very busy on the baking front.  A week or so ago (the last weekend in April) we catered at Forest Warrior, an OCR in the Forest of Dean.  We usually compete in the event, but this time we were fortunate enough to be given a catering opportunity at the event.

    Not long before the event, the organiser contacted us to say that their main caterer was no longer able to cater for the event and asked whether we would be able to increase our catering commitment at the event.  After a great deal of consideration, as well as considering doing the event with another local food provider, we committed to providing bakes on the Saturday and pizzas and bakes on the Sunday.  We did advise the organiser however that we were a small outfit and were unable to mass cater for the event.

    After an early morning shift (5.30am to 10.30am) I set about baking for Saturday.  With my mis en place and recipes at the ready (my chef-tutor at Ashburton Cookery School would have been pleased) I started with vegan cookies.  Before lunch, I had made a double batch of vegan cookies, two gastro trays of flapjacks and started the nutella and lemon crumble slices.  Replete with a rather large lunch in my belly, I set about completing the two bakes I started before lunch.  Obviously distracted by my break, I made a fundamental error in my lemon crumble slice, which I only discovered much later.  Unaware of my error, I proceeded to complete the rest of my bakes: an apricot and coconut slice, a batch of brownies and a Mars bar slice.

    Having drizzled one of the flapjacks with chocolate and blasted it in the fridge for half an hour or so, so that the chocolate could set, I set about cutting up my bakes into the appropriate size for selling while my husband Jo went into Swindon to pick up reinforcements in the form of Josh and Chiara (our eldest son and his girlfriend), our happy help for the weekend.

    It didn’t take long to realise the mistake had made when making the lemon crumble slice.  Firstly, the slice did not come out of the gastro tray as easily as it should have.  Secondly, when looking at the texture of the slice after the first cut, I realised that the shortbread base was not cooked – not under-cooked, but almost ‘raw’.  Perplexed, I took a look at the recipe again and realised to my horror that it was a recipe that required me to bake the base first before I added the topping and crumble before a second bake.  I could have sworn that I had read the recipe, but clearly I had not.  There was nothing else that I could do but throw the whole bake in the bin.  As per the Law of the Sod, it was the most expensive bake of the day.  With a knot in my stomach, I proceeded to cut up the rest of the bakes and consider what I could bake as a replacement for my failed lemon crumble slice.  Despite knowing that I would need to do another bake, I decided to have a quick meal of a Sourdough Revolution pizza with my family.  After a break and hopefully not distracted this time, I settled on making a batch of blondies as a replacement for the lemon crumble slice.  I found the recipe below on www.sugarspunrun.com.  I doubled the recipe to make enough for the gastro tray.

    Ingredients

    • 226g  unsalted butter melted
    • 250g light brown sugar
    • 2 large eggs + 1 egg yolk room temperature
    • 2 tsp vanilla extract
    • 285g cups plain flour
    • 2 tsp cornflour 
    • 1/2 tsp baking powder
    • 1 tsp salt
    • 115g white chocolate chips
    • 130g macadamia nuts

    Method

    • Preheat oven to 175 degrees Celsius and grease and line a 33 x 23 cm baking tray with baking paper.
    • Combine the melted butter and sugar in a large bowl and stir well.
    • Add eggs, egg yolk, and vanilla extract and stir until completely combined. Set aside.
    • In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, cornflour, baking powder, and salt.
    • Gradually stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until completely combined.
    • Fold in the white chocolate chips and macadamia nuts.
    • Spread the blondie batter into the prepared baking tray and transfer to the oven.
    • Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean or with a few crumbs on it.
    • Allow to cool before cutting.

    Satisfied that the blondies turned out okay, we all turned in for the night.  Jo, Josh and Chiara left early Saturday morning for the event to sell the bakes while I set about preparing pizza dough for 80 pizzas, tomato sauce, caramelised onions, mozzarella and cheddar cheese.  Although they all came home happy with their experience at the event, sales were not particularly good – the nature of the event (running rather than obstacle) and the poor weather (cold and windy) meant that people did not really hang around at the venue after the event.

    On Sunday, we returned (this time with me en tow) to the event not only to sell bakes, but this time pizzas as well.  It was a slow start.  At one point, I wondered if we would sell a single pizza.  One of our early customers, a young lad, heartened me a bit.  He not only bought one pizza, but came back for a second.  I shouldn’t have been concerned as when lunch time hit (and a number of people returned from their waves) things went a bit crazy and it was very difficult to keep up with demand – both on the bake and pizza front, but especially on the pizza front.  At one time we had about a half hour wait for pizzas – much longer than I would have ideally liked.  Most importantly, the feedback on the bakes and pizzas was very positive.  One of the volunteers came up to us before completing the volunteers’ wave to check whether we would still be making pizzas when the volunteer wave finished – we had made a pizza for the volunteers earlier and she had liked it so much that she wanted more.

    The event wound up late afternoon and we set about the arduous task of taking down the awning and packing everything away.  With all of the competitors finished for the day, I had a go on some of the obstacles near the finish line.  We had hoped to do the last wave of the day but with things as hectic as they were at the stall it had not been possible.  Having a go on a few of the obstacles was the next best thing.

    Exhausted from three days of cooking (I had baked for another event on the Thursday) we made our weary way home.  There was still no rest for the wicked when we got home as we still had to do the clean up.  We did the best we could with the energy we had left and then celebrated our hard work with a glass or two of red wine, knowing that another busy week at work awaited us.

    Although we would definitely consider the event a success, it was a lot of hard work with little financial return.  Would we do it again?  Yes we would.  In fact we have been invited back the Sunday after next to do it all again but on a smaller scale.  We have also been invited to cater for another event on the back of Forest Warrior – someone who saw us at the event has asked us to cater at an event they are holding in July.  We are hopeful that it will go ahead.  Watch this space.

  • Life is what you bake of it – vegan baking

    As I mentioned in my previous post, I have been focusing on vegan baking recently.   Although I have baked a couple of vegan bakes in the past (an apple and rhubarb cake and chocolate and hazelnut cookies when I was the prep chef at Lynwood & Co) I was keen to explore vegan baking further.  Firstly, as part of my 52 week challenge, I wanted to explore a different type of baking.  Secondly, as veganism is on the increase, I wanted to be able to offer my current and future customers a range of vegan bakes.

    I started by making a chocolate sheet cake using a recipe from www.domesticgothness.com.   The first step was to make a ganache so that it could cool down in the fridge while the cake was being made.  I have made traditional ganache many times, both at Ashburton Cookery School and since I left the School, but I have never made a ganache with coconut oil.  It worked very well.  The only thing I would do differently next time is cool it for shorter as I had to work the ganache quite a bit to get it into a spreadable form to ice the cake.

    The chocolate sheet cake was a simple bake.  A simple recipe of mixing the dry ingredients in one bowl and the wet ingredients in another and then whisking in the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until smooth.  It is important not to over mix the batter as this with develop the gluten in the flour and make the cake tough.

    A possible unusual element of the bake was the use of cider vinegar, something I haven’t really used in cake baking in the past.  I was aware that cider vinegar is widely used in vegan baking, so it wasn’t a surprise that it popped up as one of the ingredients.   Info: cider vinegar is used for its leavening and flavour enhancing properties.

    The end result was a delicious-tasting, light chocolate cake with a lovely texture.  The coconut milk ganache added a decadence to the bake and the eating.  I have included the recipe below in case you wish to give it a try.  Happy baking!

    Chocolate sheet cake

    Ingredients

    Ganache

    • 200g dairy free dark chocolate
    • 100g dairy free milk chocolate
    • 250ml full fat coconut milk

     Cake

    •  480 ml unsweetened almond milk (or other plant milk)
    • 2tsp cider vinegar
    • 250g caster sugar
    • 100g light brown soft sugar
    • 200ml sunflower oil
    • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
    • 300g plain flour
    • 100g cocoa powder
    • 1 tsp baking powder
    • 1 ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
    • ½ tsp salt

    Method

    •  Start by making the ganache. Chop the chocolate finely and place in a heat-proof bowl. Heat the coconut milk until it is just coming up to the boil.
    • Pour the hot milk over the chocolate and set aside for two minutes then stir until melted and smooth. Cover the bowl and place in the fridge to set for about 2 hours while you make the cake.
    • Preheat the oven to 180C and grease and line a 23 x 33cm rectangular cake tin.
    • Whisk together the almond milk, vinegar, caster sugar, brown sugar, sunflower oil and vanilla extract in a bowl.
    • In a large bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt.
    • Gradually whisk the wet ingredients into the dry until smooth.
    • Pour the batter into the prepared tin and spread level.  Bake for 25-35 minutes until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
    • Leave the cake to cool in the tin.  Once cool, carefully flip it out onto a wire rack.
    • When the ganache is thick and spreadable, spread the ganache over the top of the cake and top with chocolate curls.  If the ganache is too runny when checked, return it to the fridge/freezer until it is firm.  If it is too thick, warm it over a pan of hot water until it has softened.
    • The cake will keep for up to five days in an airtight container at room temperature.  If it is warm, place the cake in the fridge so that the ganache doesn’t become too soft.

    Like many people, I am partial to a lemon cake.  So when considering baking vegan cakes, I knew I had to include a lemon cake in my repertoire.   I came across a recipe for an iced lemon cake on www.allrecipes.co.uk.  As with the chocolate cake, the cake was a simple one.  Mixing wet ingredients into sifted dry ingredients.  The iced lemon cake was even easier to make than the chocolate cake as the icing was simply, sieved icing sugar mixed with lemon juice to the right consistency.  Despite the simplicity of the bake, the recipe (see below) yielded another delicious, well-textured cake.

    Iced lemon cake

    Ingredients

    • 275g self raising flour
    • 200g caster sugar
    • 1 tsp baking powder
    • 1 lemon, juiced and zested
    • 100ml vegetable oil
    • 200ml cold water
    • 150g icing sugar

    Method

    • Preheat oven to 180 C. Grease and line a loaf tin.
    • Add the sieved flour, sugar, baking powder and lemon zest to a large bowl. Mix the juice of half a lemon, oil and water. Add to the bowl and stir mixture until thoroughly combined.
    • Pour into the tin and bake until a skewer comes out clean, approximately 30 minutes.  Remove from the tin after 10 minutes and leave to completely cool before adding the icing.
    • To make the icing, sieve the icing sugar into a bowl and mix in enough of the remaining lemon juice until it is thick enough to pour over the cake.  Avoid adding too much juice into the mixture or the icing will run down the sides and form a puddle at the base.

    My final vegan cake as part of my foray into vegan baking, was a vegan ginger cake with orange and almond from www.littlesugarsnaps.com.

    Vegan ginger cake with orange and almond

    Ingredients

    For the Cake

    • 75g caster sugar
    • 75g dark brown sugar
    • 175g plain flour
    • 50g ground almonds
    • 1 tsp Baking powder
    • ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
    • ¼ tsp Salt
    • 4 tsp ground ginger
    • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
    • ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
    • 60 ml rapeseed (canola) oil
    • 120 ml almond milk
    • 100 ml orange juice (freshly squeezed)
    • ¾ tsp almond extract
    • ¾ tsp vanilla extract
    • 2 tbsp syrup from a jar of stem ginger
    • Zest from 2 oranges

     Icing

    •  160 icing sugar
    • 25 ml orange juice

     Topping

    • Flaked almonds
    • Crystalised ginger (chopped fine)

    Method

    Cake

    •  Preheat oven to 170C and grease & line a loaf tin with baking parchment.
    • Firstly, remove lumps from the brown sugar.
    • Measure all dry ingredients into a bowl (sugars, flour, ground almonds, baking powder, baking soda, spices and salt). Stir to combine.
    • Measure all wet ingredients (oil, milk, juice, extracts, syrup) in a bowl or jug.  Whisk with a whisk until blended. Add the orange zest.
    • Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and beat together with the whisk until just combined.
    • Pour the cake batter into the loaf tin and bake for 50-60 minutes.  After 50 minutes test with a skewer – if it comes out clean the cake is cooked. If not, return to the oven and bake for a few more minutes before testing again.
    • Once baked, set aside to cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then remove from the tin and baking paper and let cool completely on a cooling rack.

    Finishing

    • Mix the icing sugar with 3 tsp of orange juice until smooth.  Add more orange juice, bit by bit, until you obtain the correct consistency (dropping).
    • Spoon the icing over the cake and spread it with a palette knife to cover the top – it drip down the sides.
    • Sprinkle finely chopped crystallised ginger and almond flakes across the top of the cake.
    • Leave to set slightly before serving.
    • Store in an airtight container for 2-3 days.
  • How to swap this for that to make it vegan

    As I mentioned in my previous post, I have been dabbling a bit in vegan baking of late.  I guess it was triggered by veganuary, albeit I did explore vegan baking a bit when I was the prep chef at Lynwood & Co.  Although I will write about my recent vegan bakes shortly, I thought that I would share the fundamentals of vegan baking with you.

    As you will be aware, the principal of veganism is that no animal-derived ingredients are used or consumed.  This means that when ‘baking vegan’ certain traditional baking ingredients e.g. eggs, milk, butter, honey etc. need to be replaced with non animal-derived ingredients.

    With so many non-dairy milks on the market, replacing milk in baking is pretty straight-forward.  Common varieties are soya, almond, oat, rice and coconut.  It is best to use a unsweetened variety of non-dairy milk when substituting for milk as adding a sweetened non-dairy milk, without adjusting the sugar in the recipe is likely to affect the overall sweetness of the bake.  Hazelnut milk and chocolate soya milk can also be used when baking chocolate cakes, albeit that the sugar in the recipe will need to be reduced.

    Quite a few recipes call for buttermilk.  For a simple buttermilk replacement, add 1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar per 250ml of soya milk.  Stir with a fork, and leave to curdle for a few minutes before using.

    As with milk, replacing oil and fat in vegan recipes is also quite straight forward.  The role of oil and fat in baking is three-fold: (1) bind ingredients together; (2) add moisture and (3) provide depth of flavour.

    A range of oils can be used in vegan baking.  A commonly used oil is rapeseed oil as it is light in flavour, as well as can withstand high temperatures.   Coconut oil, is also good for baking, albeit that it has a more distinctive flavour than rapeseed oil.  As coconut oil is solid at room temperature but liquid when melted, it is quite versatile i.e. it can be used to replace a solid or liquid fat.

    Although vegan margarine is more processed than the likes of coconut oil, it does have a role to play in vegan baking.  Vegan margarine is most suitable for bakes which require the ‘taste’ that the vegan margarine offers e.g.  cookies.

    If you are thinking of replacing butter with oil, for half a cup of butter (110g) use third a cup of oil.

    Again, replacing honey in vegan baking is relatively straightforward.  There are a variety of alternative sweeteners to honey e.g maple syrup, agave nectar.  You can also use sweeteners such as rice and date syrup, albeit that date syrup has a stronger flavour and is darker in colour so is only suitable for some bakes e.g. flapjacks or bakes containing dates.   Sugar beet, granulated sugar, labelled suitable for vegans is also a suitable for vegan baking.

    Although at first sight it might appear that eggs are more difficult to replace than other ingredients, there are in fact a number of egg substitutes.  As www.onegreenplanet.org suggest ‘Why did it ever come about that eggs got used in a cake in the first place? Well who knows, especially when there are so many cheaper-to-use and just-as-effective options out there – as war-time housewives discovered when eggs were rationed and in short supply.’

    That being said, eggs or egg substitutes have an important role to play in baking.  They are used to bind, help retain moisture, create the crumb texture, lift, thicken and add colour and flavour.  Common egg substitutes and their uses include:

    • Apple sauce (3-4 tbsp unsweetened apple sauce): brownies, muffins and cakes
    • Chia seeds (1 tbsp of ground chia seeds with 3 tbsp of water, allowed to sit for 5-10 minutes until thickened – mix with fork before adding to other ingredients): cookies
    • Mashed banana (half a banana): brownies, muffins and cakes
    • Ground flaxseed mixed with water (1 tbsp of ground flaxseeds with 3 tbsp of water): good for muffins, breads and cookies
    • Silken tofu (3-4 tbsp of silken tofu processed in blender until smooth): brownies, custard pies and thick cakes
    • Soy yoghurt (3-4 tbsp)
    • Starches (2 tbsp arrowroot, cornstarch, potato starch with 3 tbsp water): breads and cakes
    • Vegan buttermilk (soya milk mixed with apple cider vinegar): for bakes requiring buttermilk
    • Mashed vegetables (3-4 tbsp mashed potato, sweet potato, canned pumpkin, canned squash): savoury breads and muffins.
    • Vinegar and baking soda (1 tsp baking soda with 1 tbsp of white or apple cider vinegar): cakes and quick breads.

    (Sources: www.veganuary.com and www.onegreenplanet.org)

    And for something a little different,  aquafaba (brine from chick peas) meringues:

    •  90ml  aquafaba (liquid from a can of chickpeas)
    • ¼  tsp Cream of Tartar
    • 100g white sugar
    • ½ tsp vanilla extract

    Method

    • Place the chickpea liquid and cream of tartar into the bowl of an electric mixer.
    • Start at slow speed and whip until foamy.
    • Gradually increase the speed until white and glossy and stiff peaks start to form.
    • Add the sugar in slowly while whipping at fast speed.
    • Add in the vanilla.
    • Keep whipping until glossy stiff peaks form.
    • Preheat your oven to 121°C.
    • Line a baking tray with parchment paper.
    • Pipe the meringue mix into cookie shapes onto the parchment lined tray.
    • Place the meringues into the oven and bake for 45 minutes.  After 45 minutes, switch off the oven but DON’T OPEN IT.  Leave the oven off, but don’t open it for one hour.
    • Remove the meringues from the oven after the combined cooking time.
    • When cool place in an airtight container and store them in the fridge.

    (Source: www.lovingitvegan.com)

    Although I have talked about vegan substitutes in traditional recipes, there are many vegan recipes on the Internet, which don’t require any substitution at all.

  • Viennese biscuits

    My third challenge saw me make Vienesse biscuits.  I have to admit that I really did not feel like doing my third challenge, as on Friday last week we had to let our beloved dog, Montague, go after a period of ill health.  Montague was effectively my third son and I am lost without him.  He has been my constant companion for almost 14 years – he has been there for me when my sons left home to go to university and when my husband regularly goes away on business trips.

    I have spent the last week sort of avoiding being at home.  In fact as I write this blog post, I am sitting in Vera’s Kitchen in Lechlade having a lunch of parsnip and apple sauce with artisan bread.  This is something I rarely do on my own, but having completed an early shift at work, I didn’t fancy spending the rest of the day at home on my own.  That being said, I have a lot I could and should do.  I should be putting together a price list for supplying a range of cakes and savoury bakes for an event in June/July; updating my costing sheets; trying out a range of new vegan bakes etc.

    Anyway, back to my 3rd challenge.  On the way back from a belated Christmas get-together with my husband’s side of the family in Devon last weekend (we delayed going down until the Saturday because of Montague), I realised that I needed to complete my 3rd challenge before the week was up.  Less than enthused, I decided that the bakes in the list that I drafted in 12 months, 52 weeks, 52 pastries were a little too complicated for someone whose mind was elsewhere, so I looked for something that classified as patisserie, but was relatively easy to make.  Or so I thought ….

    I settled on Viennese biscuits from BBC Good Food.  All was going relatively well until it came to piping the biscuits.  I had forgotten how tough it was to pipe Viennese biscuit dough until I started trying to pipe them.  We had made Viennese biscuits once on my Diploma in Professional Patisserie at Ashburton Cookery School and I recall most of us having difficulty piping neat shapes.  In this attempt, I initially put too much dough in the piping bag and couldn’t budge it through the nozzle despite using a large star nozzle.  Not surprisingly my first piping bag burst.  I reduced the amount of biscuit dough in the piping bag and tried again.  After bursting a second bag, I eventually got the piping right.   Not perfect but right.  I should possibly mention that the recipe (which I have written below) called for softened butter.  As this was a last minute bake (early evening on Sunday), I didn’t take the butter out of the fridge earlier enough to soften before making the biscuit dough.  Hence the dough was harder than it should have been, despite beating the butter with the icing sugar, as per the recipe.

    Rather than making Viennese sandwich biscuits as described in the recipe, I decided to pipe the biscuit dough into a range of shapes as I wanted both variety, as well as an opportunity to practice my piping skills.  I tried:

    • swirls with glace Morello cherries and blanched almonds in the centre
    • fingers dipped in dark chocolate; and
    • plain and chocolate-dipped double ‘S-shapes’

    I have to say that despite the piping difficulties, the end result was the lightest, butteriest, delicious, melt-in-the-mouth biscuits.  Too good, not to share.

    Ingredients

    • 200g slightly salted butter, softened
    • 50g icing sugar
    • 2 tsp vanilla extract
    • 200g plain flour
    • 2 tsp cornflour
    • ½ tsp baking powder

    Method

    • Heat oven to 160C fan and line a baking tray/s with baking parchment.  Put the butter and icing sugar in a large bowl and beat with an electric hand whisk for about 5 mins until pale and fluffy.  Add the vanilla extract and beat again until fully incorporated.
    • Sift in the flour, cornflour and baking powder, and fold into the mixture using a spatula until combined (the dough should have a tacky consistency).  Spoon the dough into a piping bag fitted with a large star-shaped nozzle. It is easier to pipe in small batches.
    • Pipe circles, double S-shapes and fingers onto the baking sheet/s making sure that there is a 3cm space between each biscuit.  Place a single blanched almond or glace morello cherries in the centre of the circles.
    • Bake for 10-12 mins, swapping the trays (if using more than one tray) over halfway through the cooking time so the biscuits are evenly baked, until pale golden and cooked through.  Leave to cool on the baking tray/s for a few minutes, then transfer to cooling rack/s.
    • While the biscuits are cooling, melt the chocolate in a metal bowl over a pan of boiling water (the water should not touch the bottom of the bowl) .  When melted, dip both ends of the fingers and the edge of the length of the double S-shaped biscuits in chocolate.  Place dipped biscuits on cooling rack/s for the chocolate to harden.

    (Source: BBC Good Food)