14.12.14

Bobble Hat Biscuits

I've been busy this weekend making presents; biscuits today and biscotti next week. We've put the tree up, filled up with firewood and are stocked with candles but it is isn't until the kitchen smells sufficiently festive that Christmas really begins for me. 

Gingerbread dough has a certain satisfaction both in taste and texture. I love the way it can be moulded and shaped into whatever you feel like, your imagination being almost the only limitation.

I chose mittens and bobble hats because they were on my mind. I bagged them up, tied them with ribbon and am going to deliver them this week before they have a chance to soften. 



Bobble Hat Biscuits 

280g plain flour
1 heaped tsp ground ginger
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
110g unsalted butter, softened
110g granulated sugar
1 large egg
85g black treacle
 For the Icing 
225g icing sugar 
1 medium, free range egg white 

Sift the flour, ginger, and bicarbonate of soda into a mixing bowl and set aside.

In a separate bowl, beat the butter and sugar using, an electric mixer, until light and fluffy. Add the egg. Pour in the treacle and continue beating until combined and smooth.

Gradually fold in the flour mixture to form a dough (don’t worry if it’s a little sticky to start with). Once the dough starts to come together, knead with your hands for 1-2 minutes, until smooth and combined, ensuring there is no flour left in the bowl. Wrap the dough in cling film and chill for at least hours, or overnight.

 Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface to a depth of 6-7mm deep. Place the template over the dough and, working quickly before the dough gets too warm, cut around the template. Place each head on a lined baking tray and chill in the fridge for 20 minutes. 

 Preheat the oven to 180C, fan 160C, gas 4.

Once the oven is hot, bake the biscuits for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven. Allow to cool on a wire rack. 

For the icing, put the egg white into a small bowl and sift over the icing sugar, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon to prevent lumps forming. Spoon the mixture into a piping bag fitted with a small nozzle (3or4mm) or spoon into a plastic freezer bag and cut a tiny corner away to serve as a piping bag. Decorate your hats as you see fit! 




4.12.14

Star Anise, Plum and Vanilla Porridge

There is a turning point in the year when I crave a hot bowl of porridge far more than fresh fruit or ice cold milk.

Everyone has their preferences for porridge, some like it gloopy, some like it solid, some enjoy embellishments and others simply, 'just as'. I'd opt for gloopy with more sweet additions than is really necessary and served hot, steaming hot. 

Star Anise, Plum and Vanilla Porridge

3 cups of water 
1 cup rolled oats 
A pinch of salt 
800g ripe plums
1 vanilla pod, halved and seeds scrapped 
3 star anise 
3 tbsp runny 

1/ Preheat the oven to 190C, gas mark 5 
2/ Place the washed plums, halved and stoned in an ovenproof dish, nestle in the star anise and vanilla and pour over the honey. Muddle as best you can. 
3/ Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the fruit is tender. 
4/ Meanwhile pour the three cups of water in a small saucepan and place over a moderate heat. Tip in the oats and add the pinch of salt. Continue to serve until the porridge has bubbled for 5 minutes  or so. Spoon into pre warmed bowls (Completely necessary I think). Serve topped with the poached plums. 










27.11.14

Kale, Farro & Leek Broth


It's been so cold today, even Jasper didn't complain at having to wear a woolly jumper.

 We went to the shops and picked up a huge bag of kale and I was  reminded that cheap food can be both beautiful and nourishing. Kale is everywhere at the moment so buy some while the taste is at it's best.

I've pared the kale with farro; a nutty, unassuming sort of grain which is the perfect 'filler' in a winter soup like this one. The farro  is cooked in chicken stock for slightly more punchy flavour but of course you could switch to vegetable and make the soup tee-total vegetarian. Make a big batch and keep it on hand for the week, for moment's that hunger catches you unaware. 






Kale, Farro & Leek Broth

Makes 6 or 8 bowlfuls

Prep Time – 15 minutes
Cook Time - 50 minutes

INGREDIENTS
2 tbsp olive oil
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced
2 medium leeks, finely sliced
3 springs of thyme
100g farro (or pearl barley)
2 litres of hot chicken stock
200g curly kale, stemmed, washed thoroughly and roughly chopped
2 tbsp flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
 For the bread 
1 loaf of rye bread 
50g salted butter, softened
a bunch of rosemary 
4 large garlic cloves, smashed 

DIRECTIONS
1/ Heat the olive oil in a big, deep saucepan. Add the leeks and garlic and cook over a medium heat for 2-3 minutes until the leeks have begun to turn translucent, but don’t allow them to colour.
2/ Add the springs of thyme and season well. Cover and continue to cook on very low heat for 10 minutes until the leeks have wilted, stirring occasionally to stop anything catching on the bottom of the pan. Stir the pearl barley into the pot and pour over the hot chicken stock. Simmer gently for 40-50 minutes until the faro is tender.
3/ Stir through the kale and allow to boil for the last 6-8 minutes. Top up with a little hpt stock if you think it’s needed. Its lovely for the kale to retain some of its crunch and vibrant green so don’t cook it for longer than needed.
4/ Meanwhile, to make the bread simply soften the butter with the crushed garlic. Slice the bread, but being careful not to cut the slices all the way through. Spread the garlic butter into each slice and stuff with a rosemary sprig. Cook in a hot oven for 10-12 minutes. 
5/ Ladle into bowls and serve your soup with parsley bobbing in it and a good wedge or rosemary & garlic bread.


16.11.14

Rose & Raspberry Marshmallows


I made marshmallows! Easier than I expected and produced a certain satisfaction that is only accompanied with a baking success. This is a dry run, I think bagged up beautifully and given away as Christmas presents may just be on the cards. 


RASPBERRY AND ROSE MARSHMALLOWS

INGREDIENTS
16 leaves Dr Oetker select leaf gelatin (2 packs)
100g Raspberry Jam
2 tbsp Chambord
A little vegetable oil for brushing
400g white granulated sugar
200g Dr Oetker liquid glucose
½ tsp rose water
FOR DUSTING
75g cornflour
75g icing sugar

1/ First, soak the gelatin leaves. Measure 180ml cold water into a shallow bowl. Add 14 of the gelatin sheets, one by one, to the water, fully immersing each leaf. Leave to soak for 10 minutes.
2/ In a small, separate bowl soak the remaining 2 gelatin leaves in 2 tbsp Chambord and set aside for 10 minutes.
3/ Line a 20cm x 30cm x 3cm tin with cling film to cover the whole surface. Use a pastry brush to lightly oil the cling flim. Set aside.
4/ Heat the soaked gelatin and water in a small pan over a low heat until dissolved and set aside for a few minutes.
5/ Put the granulated sugar, 125g of the glucose syrup and 3 tbsp water into a very clean, medium, heavy-based saucepan and bring to the boil, stirring occasionally with a metal spoon. Heat for approximately 4-5 minutes, until a sugar thermometer shows 112°C, then pour the mixture into large mixing bowl. Working quickly, add the remaining 75g glucose and mix on a low speed with electric whiskers.
6/ Whisking all the time, add the melted gelatin and liquid and rose water, then increase the speed to medium. Once the consistency of the mixture thickens, increase the mixer speed to maximum for a further 10-12 minutes until the mixture is thick enough to hold its shape on a whisk – it should have quadrupled in size and become marshmallow like in its appearance. The bowl will be almost cool to the touch.
7/ Meanwhile heat the raspberry jam in a small saucepan over a medium heat. Once it has melted, remove from the heat and allow to cool for a minute before stirring in the gelatin and Chambord mix. Stir until the gelatin has dissolved.
8/ Tip the marshmallow mixture into the prepared tin. Working quickly, pour the warm raspberry mixture over the surface allowing the mixture to create a lovely swirled effect. Leave the marshmallow to set at room temperature for 4-6 hours or overnight.
9/ Sift the cornflour and icing sugar into a bowl together. Cut the marshmallows with a hot knife and drop into the bowl, one piece at a time, allowing each piece to be coated in the cornflour mix.



4.11.14

Cake for a friend


A friend has a had an exhausting couple of months and kept smiling all the way through. I'm seeing her today so decided to bring cake. That always helps, no? 



Koya Udon


Some things are worth waiting for. Koya has been on my radar for months. The reviews of this beautiful Japanese, the fresh udon and that fact that it lies in the heart of Soho with all of London's energy seeping through the restaurant door were pointers enough.

We had to wait 30 minutes in the dusk for a table, far from frustrating, it was a lovely moment of chatting with friends and catching up on busy days. The waiters, all wearing a collarless linen shirts, showed us to the table and waited, generously, for us to make any sort of decision on food. 

My companions both had the lightest tempera I've ever tasted. I opted for udon, of course I did.  My noodles sat, swimming in delicate broth with smoked mackerel providing the protein. We drank sparkling water and sipped on miso soup. They didn't do desserts. It was virtuous heaven. 

The bill, not a scary figure, wasn't rushed upon us despite the queue outside. I discovered an old friend sitting on table for two by the door, waiting for her date. We left, into the warm November night and vowed to go back and enjoy another evening on Koya. 

www.koya.co.uk




22.10.14

Pumpkin Pie


Winter coats, collecting kindling and home made soup have all been indulgences this week. Hurricanes rather than heat waves are occupying the front pages, seasons have changed and we have finally crossed the line into Autumn. I can't say I'm disappointed always having been a blustery walk kind of girl rather than all beach and bikini's.

Pumpkins and squash are prettying up shop windows, supermarkets & coffee shops and the colour orange dominates.They are so cheap at the moment, pumpkins. So big, so yummy and so cheap!? Don't just see them as a container for your candles but more a canvas to some cooking. Whizzed into soup, roasted in maple or, of course, transformed into the all American pie.

It was an average Tuesday in our house but I made this to make my boys happy. I've written the recipe down for my book so I'll tell you the recipe just as soon as it comes out in print, it's not too long now.