Tastes of Tennessee

In October we went to Nashville, Tennessee on another adventure. We went to explore the real America and that’s exactly what we found!

So many highlights I can’t tell you everything. Here are just a few…. Ryman Auditorium and Grand Ole Opry, the famous Studio B recording studio, Country Music Hall of Fame, pancakes with bacon and maple syrup, meatloaf, bbq pork ribs, beef brisket, pulled pork, biscuits and gravy, grits, stromboli, pecan pie, bourbon and Samuel Adams, Southern fried chicken and chicken fried steak. Yep that sums it all up nicely!

It was a city that smelt of barbeque meats and music was everywhere. They even pumped music onto the pavements while you waited to cross the street. In the suburbs little wooden houses had porches and rocking chairs just like the Waltons and everything was decorated for Halloween.

If you don’t know what chicken fried steak is it is a steak tenderised with a meat hammer, floured and deep fried like southern fried chicken. If you see a picture you’d want to order it immediately!

American pancakes with maple syrup

Back home I was inspired to find an American pancake recipe. I tried 2 methods, one with buttermilk and one without. I preferred the buttermilk pancakes as they had a lighter texture a bit like a crumpet. I served mine  with crispy bacon and authentic Canadian maple syrup drizzled on top.

Here is the recipe for the buttermilk pancakes.  150g self-raising flour, 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon, 1 tablespoon caster sugar, 2 eggs lightly beaten, 310ml buttermilk (or however much you need to make a thick batter). Mix together ingredients and spoon onto a hot dry frying pan. Once bubbles start to appear on top and the bottom is golden brown flip them over the cook the other side. Serve stacked high with crispy bacon and drizzled with maple syrup. This beats lemon juice and sugar everytime!

Summer memories in the depths of winter

Well Well, it’s 2013 already. The time hasn’t gone too quickly I’ve just packed at lot more in to the last 6 months than I expected. I’ve been super busy at work, travelling, baking, plus lots of eating, shopping and spending money. It’s been fun and frantic and so something had to give, unfortunately it was my blog which was dropped. But never mind, the internet lives on and my blog is still here. I’ve been snapping my successful dishes and I have lots of news from my travels. So where do I start….. All the way back to July.

We went to Cyprus on holiday and had an amazing time, the weather was superb. Cyprus has a very rich history spanning across the Romans, Greeks, English and Turkish invaders. You can see influences from all over the Mediterranean, North Africa, Turkey and Arab countries.

beef stifado attempt 2

We sampled some incredible dishes. Our favourites were beef stifado, lamb kleftiko and homemade pitta with garlic butter. When we came home I recreated a beef stifado and it was stupendous. Since the summer I have made this four or five times. It’s a dish that can be enjoyed all year round, especially when chilly weather sets in. If you like full flavours I urge you to try this. It’s lovely with rice and veg or potatoes.

The base of the recipe comes from Good Food beef-stifado but I substituted vegetable stock cube once for a beef one and didn’t have any shallots once so I softened a large chopped onion instead. It always works out perfectly.

There’s something fishy going on….

Nothing cheers me up quite like a new cookery book, I have quite a few already but there is always room on the shelf for another one..or two. My latest addition is What’s for dinner? by Fay Ripley. I couldn’t wait to add post it notes across all the best looking recipes and get started. First up was trout puff parcel.  I’m always looking for new ways to cook fish and this one looked extra special.

This recipe looked really impressive I thought it must be tricky to pull together but it really wasn’t and you should give this a try.  As Gino D’Acampo would say “Minimum effort, maximum impact”.

Trout in puff pastry parcelI say recipe it reads more like assembly instructions from Ikea.

1) Gather the following ingredients, a small bag of spinach, pack of ready made puff pastry, trout or salmon fillets, jar of pesto and an unwaxed lemon.

2) Wilt the spinach is a warm pan. Remove excess water and set aside.

3) Unroll pastry and cut in portions, for 2 people I  cut a 375g pack of pastry into 2, froze half and rolled out the remainder into a long rectangle.  You may chose to use more or less. Transfer rectangles onto a lined baking tray.

4) Lay the wilted spinach onto the short length of the pastry rectangle. Leave a 2cm edge and fill up to the middle of the rectangle length. Continue reading

Simple bakes for stressful days Part 2: Biscuits

Cookie!

Cookie! (Photo credit: Hoser Dude)

The biscuit is a British favourite, sweet or savoury we consume an unbelievable volume each year.

I’ve just been informed that Costa Coffee shops are currently selling GIANT versions of British favourites such as the classic Custard Creams, Bourbons and Ginger Crunch. Get down as soon as you can and check them out before they disappear!

Homemade biscuits are now a rarity as home bakers prefer investing time in cakes and breads instead of the humble biscuit. This is a shame because the smell of homemade biscuits and cookies can lift any mood and be a real treat. American housewives, we are led to believe from tv, rustle up batches of freshly baked choc chip cookies on a daily basis.  This may account for their waistlines but does conjure a lovely image of family life to my mind.

I decided to try a few varieties and see how they compare the mighty Fox’s and McVities!

I’m sorry to say that although they were much fun to make, tasty and crunchy as you would expect they didn’t have the same moreish factor of shop bought biscuits. I intend to continue my endeavours but in the meantime please see my offerings below and try them out if you fancy.

Zebra double chocolate biscuitsZebra Biscuits, from The Great British Bake Off by Linda Collister. These delicate biscuits are made of two batches of cookie dough, one combined with dark chocolate and the other with white chocolate. After dividing the mixture, rolling them out  between cling film then sandwiching the layers together, it resulted in a layered biscuit which was very crisp and buttery, unfortunately they were not very  chocolatey which was a shame.

Next up was Anzac biscuits this is a classic recipe from Australia and New Zealand Anzac biscuitsproducing an oaty biscuit quite like a flapjack but with a little grated coconut to make it nutty too.

These biscuits were lovely to make and were whipped up in a flash. I ran out of coconut though and topped up the recipe with some chopped nuts. They were still great but will try them again soon.

Choc chip and pecan cookies

Finally is a classic Choc chip cookie. The results were amazing, slightly soft in the middle they were everything you want them to be and more.

Only trouble is I can’t find the exact recipe I used for this batch so I’ll be sure to add to this blog once I find it. In the meantime I thought you’d appreciate the picture. There are many cookie recipes available across the internet, for me the key ingredients were the light soft brown sugar which created  the chewy toffee quality and the use of good quality dark chocolate shavings instead of shop bought chocolate chips. I’ll keep you posted when I find it….somewhere….

Cappuccino cake for the perfect charity coffee morning

Cappucino cake

Cappucino cake for the perfect charity coffee morning

When a friend asks you to bake a cake for a charity coffee morning you are flattered. “Of course” I replied, “I can rustle up a cake for you, no problem”. Then I started to think about what to bake and almost drowned myself in recipe books.

After considerable thinking I plumped for a cappuccino cake. Surely every one at a coffee morning liked coffee right? So here it is and I thought it was actually rather good. A very simple coffee cake with a luxurious coffee icing. The cake was made in under an hour one evening and iced before I left for work the next day.

The recipe came from 2 different sources but worked well together. I’d recommend making one cake, slicing in half and sandwiching with coffee icing if this was for a more formal afternoon tea or event but it was nice enough as one cake.

I must also add that I was trying to appeal to as many as possible to raise money for charity so you may wish to ramp up the flavour by adding more coffee to both the cake and the icing. You could add pecans or walnuts for a tasty crunch. Either way enjoy with your favourite hot coffee.

Sift 225g self-raising flour, 1tsp baking powder, 1tsp cocoa powder into a bowl. Add 225g softened butter, 225g caster sugar, 4 beaten eggs and 3 tbsp instant coffee dissolved in 2 tbsp of boiling water (or espresso shots if you prefer). Beat well with an electric whisk until smooth. Pour into a square cake tin and tap to level mixture. Bake for 35-40 minutes at 180 degree Celsius until firm. Leave to cool before icing.

I used a very simple coffee icing recipe. Simply mix 115g of softened unsalted butter with 1tbsp of strong black coffee and 1/2 tsp vanilla extract until very soft. Sieve 200g of icing sugar a little at a time into the mixture. Beat together until smooth and creamy. Smooth over cooled cake with a palette knife. Remove from cake tin and cut into generous squares.

Yum! Both recipes were from my Marks & Spencer Baking Bible.

Simple bakes for stressful days Part 1: Cheesy scones

It’s May already and I’m feeling stressed out. I haven’t spent as much time in the kitchen as I would have liked and it shows. No lovely photos to publish and nothing spectacular to tell unfortunately. Just some very quick and simple bakes to calm the nerves and put a smile on my face.  The weather has been awful and rainy days lead to comfort foods. Cheese and onion scones and 3 types of biscuits… so here goes.

This cheese scone recipe came from Good Food magazine March 2012 courtesy of Jo Wheatley champion of the BBC British Bake off 2012. Who we actually saw at the Good Food Show Spring at Bluewater in Kent in April! Jo was a rightful winner of the show in my opinion, one of the most consistent  bakers of the competition and such a lovely lady. Very pleased to hear her stories at the Good Food Show.

This cheesy scone recipe includes a nice hint of onion with the addition of the chutney. I added a bit more cheese on top than the recipe called for. Next time I’ll keep the mixture much thicker and cut smaller rounds but apart from that they were amazing! I think they look as good on my cooling tray as they do on the link below so I’m pleased. Irresistible straight from the oven but probably nicer cool if you can wait. Lovely spread with butter and sprinkled with ground black pepper. Almost as good as Marks and Spencer cheese scones from their in-store cafe which are a favourite of mine.

Here is the link enjoy! bbcgoodfood.com/cheese-and-onion-chutney-scones

Cheese and onion scones

Easter has hatched chocolate eggs, hot cross buns, family time and rainy days!

So that was Easter, 2012 is certainly moving fast, before we know it Summer will be over and we’ll be rejoicing the start of the Olympics in London (or not of course). Before all that let’s reflect on the lovely holiday that is Easter. The best bits are the bonus Bank Holidays, treasured surprise days off work when even if it does rain it doesn’t matter because it’s still better than the office.

Chocolate eggs, Easter has become synonymous with Cadbury’s whether we like it or not. I think we should make the most of Cadbury’s and eat as much of the stuff as we can with fond memories before Kraft ruin it all and turn it into chocolate flavoured nonsense. Stock up on Daily Milk, Caramel bunnies and creme eggs before they disappear until October (what’s that all about?).

Easter is a chance to meet up with family and enjoy seeing everyone outside the stress of Christmas. Minimal build up to Easter, minimal shopping, maximum enjoyment, what’s not to love?

And finally…. the hot cross bun. I haven’t heard a single person this Easter recommend another brand of Hot cross buns over Marks and Spencer, people are raving about them. M&S seemed to have made this the most popular variety with a choice of subtle differences, luxury packaging and multipack offers to compete with the major supermarkets. Let’s hope they don’t disappear too soon because I’d love to buy some more. Mainly because my homemade attempt at hot cross buns was quite poor! The recipe I used was from the front cover of Good Food magazine for April 2012. Paul Hollywood’s recipe in fact. What could go wrong I hear you say! Well to start with the cooking time said 30 minutes plus proving time, in fact it took 4 hours, within the recipe Paul adds “then leave for an hour” here there and everywhere. On top of that the dough was quite tough and took quite a lot of effort to mix the fruit mixture evenly. I pulled a muscle in my hand doing this so beware. I cooked at the correct temperature and for the correct time which meant the buns were cooked throughout but the tops looked quite crusty and dark brown. For this reason I apologise that the picture is a little dark. They tasted nice and got better on the 2nd day but the really chewy cross was a let down. I would have added more cinnamon and or mixed spice too because I like them really rich and spicy. But to be honest I won’t be making them again and I strongly advise you stuck to M&S ones this year and the next! For completeness here is the link to Paul Hollywood’s recipe if you find yourself at a loose end one weekend with nothing better to do! Sorry Paul I did try! http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/2066661/hot-cross-buns

Hot Cross Buns

Farm Market Brighton

Lunchtimes are a great chance to explore your local area wherever you find yourself! You can find some really interesting dishes and local food hereos.
Thursday was a great excuse to start the Easter weekend early and we found a lovely farm market and food stall in the heart of Brighton’s north laines. Yesterday’s specials were a dark rich beef curry and a light coconut chicken curry. Served with rice, a naan, lentil dahl, sag and bombay aloo. Amazing and all for £5.90. Definitely worth a visit!
Farm Market Brighton North Laines

For me it’s all about the cherry on the cake!

Apart from cheating in the kitchen I’ve rediscovered some old favourites.

Spiced apple cake

Bacon onion & mushroom quiche

Chilli con carne

Jambalaya

Trying to recreate an old favourite comes with some pressure especially if you’ve invited friends round and need to impress. Luckily this time my quiche turned out alright, in fact better than last time, phew! I added a handful of grated cheese which seemed to help it set quicker and was more quiche than warm tart. I really enjoyed that. Top tip for you there ;-)

Cherry Bakewell

 

Trawling through my extensive recipe collection I found 3 bakewell recipes that just had to be tested. I don’t think I’ll be craving another for quite a while now though!

So my favourite and the recipe I go back to again and again has to be the Good Housekeeping version from this cookbook. 1001+recipes for every occasion. No flour for the frangipane filling only eggs, sugar, butter and ground almonds & essence. Makes for a moist tasty filling which I think is perfect.

cherry bakewell tart

A new version to try was the British Book of Baking by Linda Collister to accompany the BBC series in 2010. This version has a little self raising flour added to ground almonds, eggs etc. It produces more a cake texture which I found to be really quite dry in comparison to the first version. So much so I decided to top mine with some white icing made with a few more drops of almond essence to make it a little special. Not my favourite although the sweet pastry recipe turned out well!

cherry bakewell cupcakesFinally the one with the twist, cherry bakewell cupcakes. The recipe came from the The Great British Bake Off from the 2011 BBC series. These were the best of the bake off during the TV programme. Apart from completely missing out Mary Berry’s top tip to wash and thoroughly dry the glace cherries before adding them the recipe turned out perfectly. Perfect for a night in with the girls just in case they change their minds about dessert :-)

Based on my vast experience in making these here are my top tips for the perfect bakewell.

1) Blind bake your pastry, sweet dessert pastry works well as does a nice pastry with an egg and a small amount of caster sugar from  Linda Collister.

2) Must have a good raspberry jam, it must be raspberry and in my opinion one with seeds is the best. Save the seedless for children and making jam doughnuts.

3) A few more drops of almond essence. In my opinion again I like to add more than the recipe states, you want a good strong almond flavour to come through otherwise it can be quite bland. The batter should be lovely and yellow and almond-y before you pour into the pastry shell. I also like to add some to my icing for an extra twist. Yum!