Category Archives: Fruit

Hot Not Cross Buns

Happy Easter everybody! Yesterday I made the traditional Easter treat: hot cross buns. I left the cross off. Secular Buns.
There is simply nothing more satisfying than making a tray of buns. I’m not so good at bread or cakes but buns, buns I can do. Straight out of the oven they are soft, spiced, covered with a sticky spicy glaze and in their neat little rows. Nothing quite like a bun. I’m about to have one (or two) for my breakfast…

This recipe is from Elizabeth David (the same book listed here with my post about Chelsea Buns). It’s lovely. I’m writing this quickly so you can all have a bash at them today or tomorrow… go on. You won’t regret it. Just remember to leave at least 4 hours. Both rising times are about 2 hours so if you want buns at tea time, start at 11ish… you’ve got an hour now to go and find the ingredients.

Hot Cross Buns

450-500g strong plain flour (I used the full amount. It will vary according to the flour you use, your local climate, just follow your fingers. I’ll describe how mine was as closely as I can)

30g fresh yeast (or dried equivalent)

125g currants

1 tablespoon salt (since first publishing this post my trusty recipe testers have queried this large sounding amount… I used Maldon sea salt flakes, a flat tablespoons worth. If you are using finely milled salt you should reduce this by half to avoid a savoury bun)

280ml milk, warmed to blood heat (put about 30ml aside. You might not need it all)

60g soft light brown sugar

60g butter

2 teaspoons mixed spice

2 eggs

Glaze:

25ml water

25g caster sugar

1/2 teaspoon mixed spice

First cream your yeast. Use a little of the warmed milk from the 25oml to activate the yeast. Just pour it over and wait for it to go creamy or if you’re using dried, foamy.

While the yeast is creaming combine (in a warm bowl if you can manage it) the 450g flour, sugar salt and spice. Mix it together with your hands and make a well in the centre. If you need the further 50g flour, you’ll add it later.

Add your butter to the warmed milk so it completely softens. Now add the 2 eggs, beaten (I didn’t do this and it was hard to properly break them up once they were added to the flour)

Pour the yeast into the flour and then add the milk, eggs and butter.

Bring the dough together with a wooden spoon. It will be very sticky! Make sure to combine all the ingredients. This is not a dough you can really lift or touch easily. I used a spoon the whole time as it was just to sticky to handle.
Now add the currants and fold them through the dough thoroughly.

I used the full quantity of flour at this point as my dough wasn’t coming together properly but rather sticking in strands to the spoon and the side of the bowl. You want it to hold together. Look at this picture to see what it was like in the end after the remainder of the flour was added:

It’s still sticky, but happily sits together.

Now it needs to prove. Cover your bowl in cling film and put it in a very warm place. Elizabeth David recommends steam to help it along (not sure where you’d find this) and Dan Lepard even suggests a very low oven to kick start the process. Spices make yeast lazy so it’s not quick. Mine took around 2 hours to double in a very warm room wrapped in a tea towel next to the radiator.

Prepare your bun tin. Grease a large baking sheet and then coat it with flour. Tap the edges of the tin to fully and evenly distribute the flour all over it. You don’t want your buns to stick… you want to get them out quick so you can stuff them in your mouth!

Once the dough is double it’s size very generously dust a surface and your hands with flour. Sprinkle more flour onto the dough as you pull it away from the edges of the bowl. It won’t really want to come out but show it who’s boss.

Drop the dough onto your floury surface, flour your hands again and knead it briefly to bring it together. It feels so lovely at this point and it smells delicious.

Now divide your dough into 16. Elizabeth David says it makes 24.. but I don’t know how. I use a very sharp knife (which I also coat in flour) to slice the dough into equal sized pieces.

Shape your pieces into rounds. I improvised at this point, you just want a tight little ball.

This is where you would normally make the cross cut in the top, which is the traditional way to treat these buns. If you do this, they will not rise high but spread. If your dough is too soft and sticky they may not do much of either. If you’d rather do a pastry cross use Dan Lepard’s recipe here. In fact, his whole recipe looks pretty nice, I might try it next time…

Line the buns up in your bun tin evenly spaced apart and now it’s time for prove number 2. Lightly oil some cling film and place it over the buns. Leave them in your warm place again and let them double again

When they have risen, pre heat the oven to gas 5/6 and cook for 15-20 minutes.

While they are cooking heat the glaze ingredients in a pan and boil until it becomes syrupy.

When you get the buns out of the oven brush them with the glaze and lift gently onto a cooling rack.

Some of them will have stuck together in satisfying little lines and you’ll have to prize them apart and get your fingers all sticky to split them open and spread them with butter. An absolutely wonderful indulgence. I highly recommend you take the time to make these as there really is nothing better than buns.

*****

Phil, I made these buns for your birthday but now you are ill. Get well soon and I’ll make them for you another year!

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Filed under Baking, Bread, Breakfast, Cake, Fruit, Recipes

Date Munchies

A mid morning snack for you all…

This is an adapted recipe from a great old cook book The Dairy Book of Family Cookery. You can still get it on amazon but that’s nowhere near as exciting as how you would originally buy it: you’d order it from your Milk Man and he would deliver it with your milk in the morning. How fantastic is that?!
The book’s only downfall is that every recipe contains rather inflated quantities of dairy product so some of them (as my sister found out with the recipe for walnut bread – 2 whole pots of creme fraiche) do not really work. The munchie recipe is one of the book’s great successes. It’s also worth it for the amazing 70’s pictures… That said, the Dairy Book series (yes there are more than just this one) do have excellent staple recipes for things like white sauce, cakes and biscuits. They have updated the books as recently as this year, but an oldie is a goodie, especially when the photographs are this good…

What is that in the front?! Meat doused with cream probably, with a cream sauce on the side and a creamy soup to start all washed down with a creamy syllabub (with a cream garnish)

In this book is the recipe for Date Munchies,  my sister’s favourite treat when we were little. I am not sure what they were called in the book, but I’m pretty sure my mum made up the brilliant name we give them now.

The original Date Munchies are a simple flapjack with a sticky date centre.  Admittedly they can’t really be improved upon but I thought I’d use them as a jumping off point for my version that should really be called Date and Nut and Fig Munchie Crumblies.

This quantity makes 24 bar shaped munchies. They freeze very well so I made this amount and froze half for impromptu tea time treats. If you don’t have a freezer just halve the recipe unless you have an army of children or very hungry friends close to hand.
I used a 30cm x 20cm tin. You could go a bit  smaller than this but I wouldn’t go bigger.

(The New) Date Munchies

500g dried dates and figs de-stoned and diced (it’s up to you how many of each you use but remember dates are stickier than figs so hold together better, I use about 2/3 dates and 1/3 figs)

1 tbsp caster sugar

125ml water

zest of 1 lemon

140g oats

220g flour

200g light brown sugar

1/2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp cinnamon

85g walnuts, chopped

40g flaked almonds, toasted (to toast put flaked almonds in a baking tray and pop in the oven while it’s pre-heating for about 5 mins. Keep an eye on them!)

340g butter, melted

Pre heat the oven to 160 degrees or gas 3 1/2

Grease and line your 30x20cm tin

In a saucepan, add the dates/figs, caster sugar, water and lemon zest. Bring to the boil and boil for 3 minutes stirring all the time. When the time is up the mixture should be rich and jammy. Set it aside and leave it to cool.

In a large bowl mix the oats, flour baking soda, brown sugar and cinnamon. Stir to combine, then add the nuts and melted butter. Mix thoroughly, it will be pretty crumbly but don’t worry, it just makes it more ‘fun’ (read ‘messy’) when you eat them.

Now press half the mixture down onto the base of your tin and cover with the date and fig mixture. You will not be able to spread it due to the crumbly nature of the base, so put teaspoon sized dollops on at regular intervals and just squash slightly. Now sprinkle over the rest of the crumbly mixture and press it down firmly. This will squish the fruit middle even more and make it even.

Now put it in the oven for 30-35 minutes. It is ready when the top is browned.

Leave them to cool slightly in the tin and then slide them out onto a cooling rack.  Slice them into bars while they are still warm.

Perfect with a cup of tea. Me and my sister (she is the true measure of whether a date munchie is up to scratch) ate them on a coach, with a thermos of tea. Much fun. And they passed the test!

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Filed under Baking, Biscuits, Cake, Fruit, Pudding, Recipes

Almond Milk Jelly

Here’s another recipe from my Supper Club Feast. I’m releasing them slowly, in drips, to keep you on your toes.

This is not necessarily a winter pudding, it will make a lovely light desert for spring (now that it has arrived) and is a perfect way to use the last of the pomegranates that are still just in season.

Jelly had always been on the agenda for the Supper Club and was, I think, the first decision I made. It was decorative, light, wobbly and unusual. The one I made was a lovely delicate creature, flavoured with almond essence and only slightly sweetened. It actually surprised me just how easy it was. Now it seems, the jelly possibilities are endless.

Sadly I have no picture for this. The one I took looked like some massive sea anemone which was so far from the elegant truth.

I served it with pomegranate seeds and pears poached in red wine and mulling spices.

Almond Milk Jelly

500 ml (17 fl oz) organic whole milk

2 tsp powdered gelatine

2 tbsp caster sugar

1 tsp pure almond extract

Seeds from 1 pomegranate

First test your jelly receptacle(s). Make sure the amount of milk fits, you don’t want to be caught short with jelly as it does start to set quite quickly especially as it hits the side of the mould.

Now add the gelatine to 150ml of the milk and leave it to soak for 5 minutes.

Warm the remainder of the milk, caster sugar and almond essence in a pan. It needs to be below boiling point, not very hot but not only luke warm either … When it has reached this very approximate temperature slowly mix it into the gelatine infused milk and whisk to make sure there are no lumps. If you get lumps, put it back on a low heat and whisk like mad until they have dissolved.

Now pour it into your prepared mould (or moulds) and refrigerate until it has set (at least a couple of hours)

TIP: To remove your jelly, find a bowl larger than your mould and put a small amount of of boiling water in the bottom. Lower your jelly (open side UP) into the water making sure the water doesn’t rise too high and spill over into your jelly. Leave it for about 5 seconds then remove the mould from the water, put a plate on the open top, flip the plate and the jelly will slide out. It’s pretty robust so don’t worry that it might slide into a disappointing puddle.

Serve it with the pomegranate seeds scattered over or around. The combination of milky, delicate jelly and the sweet pop of the seeds is truly lovely.

Alternatively you could put the seeds into the mould at the start and pour the jelly over so they become suspended in a wobbly jelly force field.

TIP: To remove seeds from a pomegranate cut it in half, take a large bowl and a wooden spoon and smack the un-cut side of the pomegranate hard with the spoon over the bowl and the seeds will fly out at a most satisfying speed!

OK… here’s the sea anemone…

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Filed under Catering, Christmas, Fruit, Kitchen Tips, Pudding, Quick, Recipes, Supper Club

Chicory, Apple and Walnut Salad with Blue Cheese Dressing

We invited some dear friends over for Chinese new year so to make sure we had  room for the evening’s 3 courses we had salad for lunch. We are currently experimenting with an organic vegetable and fruit delivery service so when we opened it up and found 3 gorgeous heads of chicory and some red apples I jumped at the chance to crunch my way through a tasty winter salad.

 

Chicory salad with Blue Cheese Dressing

Serves 2 for lunch or 4 as a starter or side

3-4 heads of chicory (depending on size, ours were quite little)

1 red skinned apple

3 tbsp walnuts, pine nuts or mixed seeds (walnuts would be best but I didn’t have any so substituted with seeds and pine nuts)

2-4 rashers of streaky bacon or pancetta

Dressing

50g blue cheese (I used some stilton left over from making a broccoli and stilton soup, but gorgonzola would be gorgeous)

2 tsp yoghurt

1 tbsp white wine vinegar

1 tbsp lemon juice

2 tbsp olive oil

1/2 tsp wholegrain mustard

salt and pepper

 

First make the dressing, chicory and apples discolour very quickly so you want to be able to chuck it all together at the last minute.

In a whizzer or just in a bowl break the cheese up into small pieces with your hands, now add the rest of the dressing ingredients and pulse or mash with a fork until combined but still has a nice texture

Fry your bacon on the hob without any oil until it is very crisp, then cut into small pieces.

At the same time toast your nuts/seeds either in the oven or on the hob stirring all the time to avoid burning for about 2 minutes

Now cut the end off the chicory and gently separate all the leaves

Cut the apple into quarters, slice out the core and slice very thinly

Toss leaves and apple slices together, sprinkle with seeds/nuts and bacon and dollop (it doesn’t pour!) the dressing over the top

 

 

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Filed under Cheese, Fruit, Lunch, Quick, Recipes, Starter, vegetables

A Festive Feast for 20 guests

So I have finally completed the Supper Club menu. It was a long and arduous task which involved waking up every morning with recipes stampeding through my head and worries about how to get enough serving dishes and a balanced yet crazy menu. All is now calm as the menu is set, the guests are booked and now all I have to do is cook, shop and plan (my 3 favourite things)


So here it is, the great unveiling of the Festive Feast Menu

***

Monday 19th December, 7:30pm

Peckham Hotel, 137-139 Copeland Road, SE15 3SN

***


Warm Spiced Cider with Cloves and Cinnamon

Rechewys Close and Fryez (Tudor Mince Pies)

.

Pork Pies

Pearl Barley and Beetroot Salads

Brandied Mushroom and Chestnut Pate

.

Pheasants Braised with Madeira

Glazed Carrots

Savoy Cabbage

Jerusalem Artichokes

Stuffed Pumpkins (for the vegetarians)

.

Almond Milk Jelly with Pomegranates and Grapefruit Syrup

Poached Pears

Almond Stuffed Chocolate Dipped Prunes

.

Port

Cheshire Cheese

If THAT doesn’t give everyone gout I don’t know what will.

I can’t wait to see you all there!

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Filed under Baking, Cheese, chocolate, Christmas, Drinks, Fruit, Meat, Pudding, Pulses, Recipes, Supper, vegetables, Vegetarian

A Long Overdue Quince Update

So here is the LONG overdue quince update. The sad news is… they all died! I had heard on the grapevine (and in many online quince tips) that the quince is a hardy creature, capable of being left alone for up to 2 weeks without spoiling. All lies. I kept mine for about a week and a half, bought a big shiny new Kilner jar to make a start on pickling the quinces to serve with ham, and when I had washed, scrubbed, dried and then started peeling, the rotten secret was revealed… Brown specks are OK within a quince, but mine were pretty much all brown inside, and the lovely fragrant smell had all but disappeared. The flesh should be firm and yellow inside with the texture of an apple, a few brown spots are OK but not the mass of brown I discovered. However, I did learn something…. Quinces are easy to peel. Every blog and recipe I looked into warned me off the daunting task, it’s just like peeling a thick skinned apple, takes a little more time, but a regular peeler is fine. Another thing I realised is that they are really dense, they are difficult to slice so make sure your knife is really sharp. All the other discoveries are going to have to wait until next year….

I thought I’d share the misery with you so you can be prepared… and so will I.

So the picture below is the before and after picture when washing. Quinces have a soft fluffy outer down that you have to scrub off, I put all mine in the sink and used a clean sourer to gently wipe the fluff off into the water.


The pictures below here are what you DO and DON”T want. The quince on the left has a few brown specks, all of them looked like this when I first picked them, some more than others and some very pure yellow. I didn’t notice that the majority had suddenly developed a kind of quince acne until I’d washed and started peeling. The one on the right, is an over-ripe dull brown on the inside quince. It was terribly depressing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As you can see, the brown spot had taken over the majority of my beautiful quinces so I’ll just have to hold out for next year. It’s such a shame as I was looking forward to Membrillo, pickled quince, quince chutney, quince pie, roasted quince with cream and vanilla, quince jam, quince upside-down cake, quince pickle, quinces on quinces on quinces…………… *sigh*

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Filed under Fruit, Kitchen Tips, Preserving, Pudding, Recipes

Autumnal Eats

When Autumn kicks in, I relish the chillier side of life (until the clocks change that is)… sunny afternoons in the park, the incredible slanting light, comfort food and comforting blankets, winter boots, the frosty mulchy smells … and porridge for breakfast! And squashes!

As I mentioned before there are some healthier options for breakfast but nothing beats the first bowl of real porridge in Autumn when the air has taken on a biting chill and the sun is low in the sky. I like mine in many ways, although my absolute top favourite is with cream and muscovado sugar. This is reserved as a treat though so on a regular day I like berries. As a frugal gal I buy these frozen (or even better, pick and freeze fresh during the summer thanks to a blackberry bush in a friends garden) so they are always available. Blueberries are the best, if you add them in the last few minutes of cooking time so they get to the edge of bursting, or raspberries warmed up into a hot squidgy softness. Or any other fruit in fact: dried fruit added near the beginning such as a couple of chopped prunes or raisins that will plump up and add a lovely bite, mashed bananas give the whole thing a gorgeous sweetness, apple puree swirled into the top, sliced figs, stewed plums, the possibilities are delicious.

I use 1 cup of oats to 2 cups of liquid (milk or water is your preference) heat slowly until your porridge has a creamy consistency

Read this excellent article on ‘perfect’ porridge. There are so many options out there…

Of course, to make it that extra little bit special.. add the cream and muscovado anyway…

The other treat, is squashes. Mainly because it’s great to say but also because of the wondrous butternut.

They are such a brilliant staple at this time of year. One butternut squash can be used for multiple meals throughout the week; half roasted and eaten as a side dish, the other half pureed and added to risotto… This week we had 1/2 in a soup and half in my latest invention, a lasagne. We are eating a lot of vegetarian food at the moment and in Autumn it feels easier than ever to make a meal feel meaty because of the glorious squash..squash squash squash squash

Butternut Squash Lasagne

I use a 30cm x 25cm lasagna tray for this so yours may be taller or flatter depending on the size of your dish. I never normally weigh or measure lasagne ingredients, it’s a great one to just ‘chuck everything in’.  Below is an exact recipe, here is my very rough version: I always use 2 tins of tomatoes for the red sauce and a pint of milk for the white!

12 sheets of dry lasagne

1/2 large butternut squash

500g spinach

fresh nutmeg

Tomato Sauce

2 onions chopped finely

olive oil

3 large flat mushrooms or 2 courgettes diced

4 cloves of garlic chopped

2 tins of chopped tomatoes

pinch of brown sugar

pinch of powdered mustard

salt and pepper

White Sauce

35g plain flour

40g butter

1 pint of milk

1/4 tsp mustard powder or 1/2 tsp wholegrain mustard

4 tbsp grated parmesan…

and another 4sbp for the top

salt and pepper

Serves 6

Preheat the oven to gas 4/180 degrees

First peel and chop your butternut squash into 1cm cubes. Drizzle with olive oil , season lightly, toss to coat and place in the oven for 30 minutes, turn every so often until evenly cooked.

Wash your spinach and put in a pan over a low heat until wilted. Drain off any excess liquid grate in lots of nutmeg and roughly chop.

Now make the tomato sauce:

Heat a generous splash of olive oil in your largest pan. add onions and cook with the lid on on a low heat until soft.

Add the courgettes/mushrooms and colour lightly

Add the garlic and stir to release it’s fragrance, add both tins of chopped tomatoes, the sugar and mustard.

Leave this to cook and reduce while you make the white sauce:

Heat butter in a pan, when melted and foaming add the flour and sitr until you have formed a roux (a butter and flour paste) stir the paste on a very low heat for 1 minute (this makes sure the flour is cooked and you don’t end up witha  floury tasting sauce)

Slowly incorporate the milk a little at a time, stirring constantly to prevent lumps. If you get lumps don’t worry, just get a whisk and whisk like mad. (For classic sauce tips look to the woman who knows) the sauce will slowly thicken, keep the heat low and when it coats the back of a spoon turn the heat off season and add the mustard and cheese.

By this time your squash should be cooked and your tomato sauce should have reduced.

Spoon a little sauce onto the bottom of the pan (this stops the pasta from sticking

Put 3 sheets of  lasagne on top in an even layer, then a 1/2 of the tomato sauce, then 3 more sheets of pasta. Now add the spinach in a layer and the butternut squash on top of that, 3 more sheets of pasta on top then the remaining tomato sauce, now the final 3 sheets of pasta. Top this with the white sauce then sprinkle over the parmesan cheese.

Bake in the oven for 35-50 minutes until the top is brown and bubbling.
You could serve this with a truly autumnal coleslaw made with red cabbage and apples or some sauteed pointed green cabbage….

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Filed under Breakfast, Fruit, Recipes, Supper, vegetables