9 December 2012

Little Treats: Salted Millionaire's Shortbread

Millionaire's shortbread has always been one of my favorite treats. In the summer, I had a go at making a batch for a picnic. I used condensed milk for the caramel -you can buy it already caramelized or you can pierce the top of the tin and leave it in a saucepan of simmering water for a couple of hours. That was delicious, but I wanted to have a go at using my own caramel this time around.
In theory, millionaire's shortbread is simple, but each stage requires your judgement as to when it is ready. You need a little time, as you need to allow time for everything to cool and set.

  • For the shortbread:
  • 150g butter at room temperature.
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 180g plain flour
  • 55g rice flour
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • Pinch of salt (unless using salted butter)
  • For the caramel:
  • 150g sugar
  • 150ml double cream
  • 1 tsp course sea salt 

  • 120g chocolate, milk or dark

Firstly make the shortbread. Preheat the oven to gas mark 3, 170'C. Grease and line a rectangular baking tin.
Cream the butter and sugar together with an electric beater or mixer until light and fluffy. Sift over the flours baking powder and salt, and combine until the mix resembles breadcrumbs. Press the  mix into the tin using the back of a spoon and smooth over. If the butter is too cold, the mix may seem dry and not come together so well.
Bake for 40-45 minutes. You don't want any colour on the shortbread, so keep an eye on it. Mark out and score where you want to cut your shortbread pieces and leave to cool on a wire rack.

As the shortbread cools, make the caramel. Sprinkle a thin layer of sugar onto a heavy-based saucepan over a medium heat. As the sugar starts to melt, sprinkle over another layer of sugar. Continue to gradually add more sugar. NEVER stir the caramel as it will crystallize a be spoilt. Swirl the sugar a little in the pan instead if needed. After all the sugar has melted, keep heating and swirling until almost coca-cola coloured. Now pour in the cream and salt, being careful as the sugar may spit. Heat until 108'C or until the caramel coats the back of a spoon, and transfer to a bowl to cool.
When the caramel is no longer runny, carefully spoon it over the shortbread (if it is too runny, you will loose most of the caramel and end up with a very sticky biscuit...). Again, leave to cool completely.

Now break up all the chocolate into a bowl. Even if you're not a fan of dark chocolate, try to use a little as the chocolate will set slightly harder, which contrasts really well against the soft, gooey caramel. Heat the bowl of chocolate over a pan of simmering water until melted.
 Immediately remove from the heat, and pour or spoon over the set caramel and shortbread. Leave it to set at room temperature if you can, as the chocolate will look dull and soft if chilled in the fridge. Feel free to use your artistic license with drizzled white chocolate, chopped nuts, salt or whatever you fancy.
 Enjoy x

8 December 2012

Making the Mince Pies...

It wouldn't be Christmas without mince pies would it? Every year, we reach for the faded print contained in my Mother's old Cordon Bleu folder, and get a big bowl of mincemeat made. It sits there all through December, lasting us through several batches of mince pies, not to mention numerous stolen spoonfuls of bliss when I think nobody is watching....

The mincemeat will last for weeks, improving and maturing over time.

  •  225g (8 oz) apples, peeled, cored and chopped
  • 225g (8 oz) raisins
  • 225g (8 oz) currants
  • 115g (4 oz) sultanas
  • 170g (6 oz) green grapes, peeled and quatered
  • Zest and juice of one lemon
  • 170g (6 oz) brown sugar
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • 40g (1.5 oz) butter, melted
  • 1 small glass of sherry, brandy or other liqueur

Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl, and keep covered with clingfilm in a cool place until needed.

Mince Pies (using sweet shortcrust pastry)
  • 255g (9 oz) plain flour
  • 115g (4 oz) cold butter or lard if you're feeling really traditional
  • 1 egg
  • 1 dstsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp water
  • Mincemeat
Using you fingertips, rub the flour and butter together (You can use a food processor or mixer, but it is really easy to overwork the gluten in the flour, so make sure that you use a pulse setting). Shake the bowl at intervals to bring any lumps of butter to the surface. Keep rubbing until the mixture iresembles breadcrumbs.
 Tip: If you have time beforehand, chill the butter in the freezer and grate it to make rubbing in the butter easier.

In a separate jug, whisk the egg and add in sugar and water. Make a well in the dry ingredients, and gradually pour in the egg mix and mix using a palette knife. Chill the pastry in the fridge for 15 minutes.

Grease a 12 hole bun tin and flour a surface and rolling pin. Preheat the oven to gas mark 5, 190'C.
Roll out the pastry, turning it a quarter to stop it from sticking to the surface. Use two different sized pastry cutters for the pastry and cut out enough to make cases and lids for each pie. Fill each with a teaspoon of mincemeat and top with one of the smaller pastry disks. Glaze with a little milk and pierce the top of each pie.
Bake for around 12-15 minutes, until golden and puffy. Allow to cool for 10 minutes on a rack, and dust with icing sugar before storing or serving.

29 November 2012

Festive Zesty Panettone Bread and Butter Pudding

Last week we bought  a loaf of panettone which we didn't have time to eat before it started to go a little stale. Good news for me, as it gave me an excuse to make my favorite bread and butter pudding, which is the ultimate comfort dessert.
What makes it stand out from other bread and butter puddings is the rich fruitiness that the sweet Italian Christmas bread brings -the one we picked tasted as if the fruits had been doused in brandy, which was really, gorgeously decadent.
What is good about bread and butter puddings is that you can adapt the recipe to what ingredients you have, and the pudding never tastes second rate. I often just use semi-skimmed milk to replace the whole milk and double cream. Another nice flavour combination would be brioche with white chocolate melted into the sauce.

I first got the idea for this recipe from Delia Smith, and have been adapting it ever since. The addition of marmalade is lovely and Christmassy, especially when using a pot of my Father's homemade marmalade!

  • Marmalade
  • 1 medium panettone loaf or 8 thick slices of good, farmhouse white bread
  • 50g butter, softened
  • 275ml milk (ideally whole)
  • 60ml double cream
  • 3 large eggs
  • 75g light brown sugar
  • Zest of an orange
Preheat the oven to 180'C, gas mark 4.
Slice the panettone into thick slices. Butter each of the slices and spread marmalade onto half of these. Sandwich the slices with marmalade together with the buttered slices.
Spread another layer of butter onto the top of each pair and arrange in a greased oven dish.Whisk together the milk, cream, eggs and sugar together and pour over the bread.
 Sprinkle over the zest and sugar right before placing in the oven for 35-40 minutes until golden and puffy.
Serve with evaporated milk, cream, or creme fraiche, and get ready to fight for seconds!

17 November 2012

Christmas Cake Time!

Last weekend I decided it was time to get the Christmas cake made. The high moisture content from the boozy fruits stops the cake from going stale, and consequently it benefits from a month or two worth of maturing, fed with regular doses of brandy.

We tend to make two small cakes, or one cut in half, as our family is divided by who likes icing or not (me: love almond paste and icing; my parents, not so much). Below, I have used the photos from my un-iced, fruit glazed cake, using half the quantities listed, with a slightly shorter cooking time.

I used Delia Smith's classic recipe; it is virtually fool-proof (proved by my first attempt at this recipe, where I misread the recipe, mixed everything together at once and consequently curdled the eggs. I've written the correct recipe below, of course).

This recipe is such a classic; it doesn't need altering, although I switched the mixed peel for fresh lemon and orange zest, purely because I am not a massive fan of bought peel. To bring the overall weight back up, I added extra glace cherries, which I love.

Tip: Read through before starting -this recipe takes up a lot of time!

Delia's Classic Christmas Cake
  • 450g currants
  • 175g sultanas
  • 175g raisins
  • 50g glace cherries, rinsed and finely chopped.
  • 50g mixed peel
  • 3 tbsp brandy

  • 225g plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt (omit if using salted butter)
  • 1/4 grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 mixed spice (includes cloves and cinnamon)
  • 225g butter
  • 225g soft brown sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 50g almonds
  • 1 dessertspoon black treacle
  • grated zest of one orange and one lemon
  • If glazing: Around 110g of fruit and nuts, such as glace cherries, chopped almonds and walnuts.
Mix all the dried fruit (currants, sultanas, raisins, cherries, peel/zest) together and stir in the brandy. Cover with a tea-towel, and  leave for 12 hours.
The next day, preheat the oven to just gas mark 1/140 C. Sift the flour, salt and spices together at least once, lifting the sieve high to aerate the flour. This is a cake that can become pretty heavy, so getting as much air into the mix as possible will bring a lighter texture to the cake.
In a separate clean, large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar together until pale, light and fluffy. Beat the eggs in a smaller bowl or jug, and add slowly to the butter and sugar a spoonful at a time. If added too fast, the eggs may curdle, creating a heavier, but no less delicious, cake.
When the egg has been beaten in, gently fold in the flour, using a spatula or pallet knife NOT a wooden spoon, which is too thick and will crush out any trapped air.
Now fold in the dried fruit, which should have absorbed all the brandy, chopped almonds, treacle and zest. Carefully spoon out the mix into a greased and lined square or round tin, smoothing over with the back of a spoon or spatula.
If decorating with fruit and nuts, decorating in any pattern you like. Cover the cake in a double-layer of grease proof paper, with a small slit in the middle to let steam out. This protects the top of the cake from the long cooking period.
Bake on the lowest shelf, checking after 4 1/2 hours, although it may take up to an hour longer. The cake should feel firm, and an inserted skewer should come out clean. Leave to cool fon a rack or 30 minutes before removing from the tin and allowing to cool completely. Finish by poking with a skewer and 'feeding' with a tablespoon of brandy.
Wrap in greaseproof paper and foil and store in a cool place, feeding occasionally.

13 November 2012

Singleton's Sweet Potato Soup

Due to a training afternoon or a parents evening, school finished at one to day *happy face* so I got to go home early. I spent half an hour walking around town handing out C.V's with cover letter specific to the shop/cafe because it seems pretty much impossible at the moment to get a part time job. Just recently, I read that on average, every basic-skilled, part time job has about 64 people fighting over it with glossy resumes and glowing references.

When I got back around at about 2:45, I was absolutely starving, but I had pre-planned my lunch, so I got going:

Singleton's Sweet Potato Soup -Serves 1
  • Butter 
  • 1 small onion or shallot
  • 1 small/medium sweet potato
  • 2-3 baby potatoes
  • 1/2 tsp dried coriander
  • 500ml of vegetable stock
  • 100ml milk
  • Salt and pepper
  • To serve: sour cream/ natural yogurt
 Chop up the onion. Melt a little butter in a saucepan over a medium-high heat, and pop in one piece of onion. When it starts to sizzle, the butter is hot enough, so bung in the rest of the onion, cover, and saute gently until soft.
Chop the sweet and baby potatoes in to small chunks, and pour 300ml of the stock over the onions. I use Boullion as the powder means you don't have to waste a whole stock cube when making meals for one.
Add the chopped sweet and baby potatoes and coriander and bring to the boil. Add the extra stock if it looks like the soup will be thick. Simmer until the vegetables are tender. I was really hungry, so I chopped everything really fine so it all cooked quicker!
Once the potatoes are tender, remove from heat, and blitz with a food processor until smooth (don't worry about the odd chunk of potato as this adds flavour. If it seems thick, add a little more of the stock again. Season, and stir in the milk. Decant into a bowl and drizzle the cream or yogurt over the top.

9 November 2012

Restaurant Review: Florio's Pizzeria

Although we are celebrating my Father's birthday with lunch out in York tomorrow, it felt wrong not to do something on the day itself, so we traveled to Florio's Pizzeria and Restaurant in Malton for a relaxed dinner. The Italian restaurant, recommended to me by an old friend, is decorated in the style of a fantastic Art Deco diner, full of chrome and mirrors, with the interesting feature of an open kitchen. We arrived fairly early, at 6:30, but as a family friendly restaurant, there were already several diners eating, with a good flow of people entering and leaving the whole evening.
We all opted for pasta; I ordered a classic carbonara (spaghetti served in a cream and egg sauce with bacon), my father, maccheroni all'Arrabbiata (pepperoni and ham in a spicy tomato sauce) while my mother made the best choice with an Americana, a simple spaghetti dish smothered in tomato sauce with white wine and bacon, that was perfectly balanced in flavour. The staff offered parmesan and pepper and were very friendly and efficient; and a quick glance over at the pizzas served on the next table looked very promising.

The food was amazingly well cooked for the price -similar, or even a little less than your average meal at Pizza Express -and also offers a pizza takeaway service. This isn't fine dining -but is perfect, comfort food for a relaxing meal out, and I'll certainly be taking friends here in the future.

8 November 2012

Birthday Baking

So, my Father has been dreading today, as it is his birthday. He used some of his annual leave to take the day off, but not before his colleagues found out and redecorated his desk yesterday with banners and balloons. It also meant that I spent the afternoon fulfilling the ritual of baking a birthday cake. I had a little difficulty on the recipe as it was so hard to find a flavour that hadn’t been done before; both coffee and walnut cake, and carrot cake have been all but banned for my Dad’s autumnal birthday by my Mother because they’ve been used so often. Chocolate cake, or anything that requires lots of icing are too sweet and rich for Dad’s tastes too.

So I found myself, straight out of school without any recipes in the middle of Waitrose. I’d of liked to have baked a honey and nut cake, or Nigella’s Autumnal Birthday Cake, but due to the copious amounts of honey and maple syrup required in each cake respectively, I’d have found myself creating a very expensive bit of baking for just three people.
In the end, I went for a lemon and pistachio cake, which is possibly a little summery on hindsight, but it will make a light change to all the richer wintery food. 

At first I adapted a cupcake recipe that I’d written down, but it turned out rather stodgy, so I have listed my lemon sponge, which is a lovely, light cake. If you have time, beat the whites and the yolks of the eggs separately, but lightly, to bring more air into the mix. Avoid over-beating once the flour is added or the cake will become heavy.

Lemon and Pistachio Cake
  • 225g (8 oz) butter, softened
  • 225g (8 oz) caster sugar
  • Zest 2 lemons
  • 1-2 tsp lemon curd 
  • 4 large free-range/organic eggs
  • 225g (8 oz) S.R flour (OR: 200g flour with 25g cornflour)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tbsp chopped pistachios
  • For the filling: either 4 tbsp lemon curd;
  • OR: lemon butter cream: 125g (8oz) butter, softened; 400g (14oz) icing sugar; juice of one lemon
  • Optional: another tbsp chopped pistachios

  • Basic lemon icing: juice of 1/2 lemon mixed with 100-150g icing sugar.
Firstly preheat the oven to 180 C, Gas mark 4.
Cream the butter and sugar together until pale in colour and fluffy. Add the lemon zest and lemon curd with one egg (or a little of the beaten white and yolk mix) at a time. Mix in a spoonful of flour between each egg addition to stabilize the egg so that the mix doesn't curdle.
Gently fold in the rest of the flour, the baking powder and the chopped pistachios. The mix should have a fairly soft dropping consistency; if it seems a little thick, fold in a tablespoon or two of milk.

 Pour evenly into two greased and lined cake tins. I brushed a little melted butter over my tins, and the cakes came out without any effort. Smooth out a little with a spatula, but avoid being over-zealous to keep the cake light and airy. Bake for around 25 minutes.
 After baking, allow the cakes to cool. If using lemon curd as a filling, warm the curd slightly in the microwave to loosen it before drizzling over the base sponge. Sprinkle over the chopped pistachios.
If using the lemon butter cream, beat together the butter in a bowl until creamy and fluffy. Gradually tip in the icing sugar, beating for a good 5 minutes to make it really light. Add in the lemon juice, continuing to beat the butter cream.
 For the topping whisk the lemon juice and icing together, using a non electric whisk -less mess! Add the icing slowly until you've got a thick liquid. Pour over the cake, and scatter over the pistachios.

4 November 2012

Banana Hazelnut Loaf Cake

Mmm! Cornish sea salt how I love thee! When we were staying in Cadgwith Cove in Cornwall this summer we picked up a pot of salt and pepper from The Cornish Sea Salt Company, and had to keep on buying from them. They also supply a smoked salt which I used for my scrambled eggs for lunch:
 Yum!. Smoked salt and a good bit 'o pepper in scrambled eggs with a toasted bagel. It made such a difference to my lunch; pure heaven.

Anyway, after that, I decided to use up a couple of bananas so ripe that only my Father would eat them. I based the recipe on the Hummingbird Bakery's with a couple of tweaks to the flavour.

  • 250g soft light brown sugar* -or 270g if you're not using the syrup
  • 2 eggs
  • 200g bananas (about 2-3 medium), peeled and mashed
  • 2 tbsp hazelnut syrup
  • 285g plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1-2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • 140g butter, melted
*if you don't have brown sugar, add a teaspoon of black treacle as you weigh out the sugar. Black treacle is the product of refining sugar into the white form, so you're just adding back that lovely butterscotch-y flavour.

Preheat the oven to 170 C, gas 3. Grease and line a loaf or cake tin.

Put the sugar and eggs into a bowl and beat until well mixed. Then beat in the mashed bananas, followed by the syrup if using.
 Add the flour, baking powder, bicarb and spices into the mixture (slowly!). Mix well, making sure that there are no 'pockets' of the flour mixture. Pour over the melted butter, and give the mixture another good whisk.
 Pour the mixture into a tin -ideally a loaf tin, but ours is in a box somewhere, so I used a large, loose-bottomed cake tin.
 The recipe recommends a baking time of one hour, but as my tin was quite deep, I turned down the temperature slightly, and baked for a good half hour longer. It's easy enough to tell if the cake is ready, as you just need to insert a skewer and check that it comes out clean. This is a rich cake, so it may look as if it is a little damp, but don't worry. If the top is starting to get crispy, cover in foil.
 When the cake is ready, leave for ten minutes or so before removing from the tin (but do feel free to just stand by the counter, breathing in that delicious smell!). This cake also goes really well with a little evaporated milk drizzled over.

2 November 2012

Back South

This last week I traveled back down to my Grandma's where I used to live. I came to see off my cousin Jeffrey, who is emigrating to America, where he was born. He was supposed to leave Monday, but then a little thing called hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast and airways went to standstill. At present, the plan is for him to leave tomorrow, assuming the weather conditions become a little less hostile -even so, he will be without electricity for a few days.

On the 26th, Jeffrey and I went to see Skyfall, which was incredible. I'm under strict instruction not to slip any spoilers, but I will say this about one scene: Home Alone. With guns.

I spent the first half of this week catching up with friends. I met Miriam all the way from Devon for lunch, and decamped along with my girls Sophie and Katie to a girl's night in at Lauren's, who is just about the coolest person you'll every meet. Watching the Hunger Games at Lauren's had me totally inspired to get active in a different way; I may not be able to practice weaponry and fire dodging at stunt school, but I can try kick-boxing or climbing. My issue with exercise is being engaged. I love the endorphin-filled rush of a good sports session, but much of the time I get bored. Aside from the odd handful of fitness-inspired weeks, I find doing lengths at a pool, or going for runs dull. Maybe I need a new route or a running partner, but I can't get motivated. I love dance classes, so I'm gearing myself to have a go at Zumba, but anything that will get me using my body has to be good.

Like an idiot, I continually forgot to take my camera out without me over the week, and as much as I like instagram, ipod-quality  photos aren't really blog worthy. However, this did mean that my Grandmother's neighbour's adorable puppy got my full photographic attention:
Albert, a name so old fashioned that it is cute, is a Jug, a cross between a Jack Russel and a Pug, and he is just the littlest ball of energy. He's so tiny that in the colder weather he needs to wear a little jumper or coat, which is beyond sweet.

I only ate dinner at my Grandmother's a couple of times. There was just the two of us, and my challenge was to find two different uses for a packet of pork meatballs. I cut each meatball in half for both recipes:

Meal One: Last of the summer vegetables pasta  -serves two
1 onion, chopped
1/2 packet meatballs
2 carrots, pealed and chopped
1 medium courgette, chopped
1 pepper, chopped
1 jar pasta sauce -homemade or from a shop.
100-200g pasta such as penne, depending on how hungry you are -this is pretty filling; I didn't need much

1. Cook the onion in a frying pan over a medium high heat with a little olive oil for a couple of minutes. Add the pork balls and brown then for a few minutes.
2. If you have any red wine pour in a small glass at this point. Tip in the pasta sauce and the chopped vegetables and bring to a boil. Leave to simmer.
3. While the sauce is simmering, add the pasta to a large pan of salted boiling water, and cook according to packet instructions. Try to get it 'al dente' so that there is just a little bit of a bite to it when you eat it.
4. Season, add some parmesan cheese if you fancy. Dish up and enjoy!

Meal Two: Pork stew with apple -serves two
1 onion, roughly chopped
1/2 packet meatballs
2 carrots, peeled and cut into large chunks
2 sticks celery, chopped
2 small apples, peeled and cored
Couple of spigs of thyme
300ml chicken stock
New potatoes

1. Preheat the oven to 200 C/gas mark 6. Lightly grease a casserole dish
2.  Put all the meatballs vegetables and apples into the dish. Season with salt, pepper and the thyme. Pour over boiling chicken stock.
3. Chop the potatoes if they're a little large and lay them on the top of the casserole. Cover and cook in the oven for 50 minutes.

I like to make use of the oven and serve up some baked plums for pudding:

Cut four plums in half and remove the stones and place in a small baking tray. Warm a tablespoon or so of honey. If you have any flavoured syrups, brandy or rum, add a little to the honey and pour over the plums. Sprinkle over a pinch of brown sugar, and bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes.
Serve with marscapone cream: to do it properly, you add double cream and whisked eggs whites, but I substituted this for 2 tablespoons of low fat Greek yogurt stirred into 4 tablespoons of marscapone. Sweeten with a little icing sugar. Delish!

21 October 2012

Bake-Off and Flapjacks

Last week saw the final of The Great British Bake Off, leaving my Tuesday nights with a fondant fancy-sized hole after 10 full weeks of sugary pleasure. In the final -the first ever to feature only men -the challenges set the bar so high that in one challenge neither John, James nor Brenden could quite pull off culinary perfection. Surprisingly, this nigh-impossible task was actually to create something seemly innocent: the little fondant fancies of the 'exceedingly good' origin.

The final challenge took the contestants right back to week one -cakes. The cakes had to be chiffon though, which are cakes that use oil over butter, and only beaten egg whites as a raising agent. The theme was about "your" 2012; Brendan made a love-heart shaped caked, flavored with almond to show a family reunion, John made a heaven and hell cake, with an uber-glossy chocolate ganache topping to represent the highs and lows of his year; and James went all out with five cakes to represent the coming together of the countries of the United Kingdom in the Jubilee and Olympic year.

I was so happy when John won; as he was the contestant who wanted to travel to Paris and study Patisserie. Unbelievably, both John and James were in the middle of their university exams and Finals-for Law and Medicine respectively -throughout the later stages of the competition, and both came out with amazing grades.

In the aftermath, I'm not worried about the Bake-Off gap in my week, as I am currently being bombarded with foodie programs, including, I believe, Mary Berry's new show next week. Meanwhile though, I've been baking up some flapjacks as a thank you to my Dad for buying me some lovely new wellies at the weekend. All our existing wellies have various holes and seem splits in them; perfectly adequate for walks; not so good for wading through rivers in the name of Geography A Level next week.

I based my recipe on The River Cottage's Family Cookbook. Flapjacks are one of the easiest recipes to adapt to what you have or what you fancy, and mine turned out like this:

Zest of a lemon or/and orange
50g (2 tbsp) golden syrup
175g butter
150g sugar, ideally soft brown
200g of oats (cheaper is better here, as expensive jumbo oats will make a very crumbly flapjack)
70g raisins
30g chopped dried apricots
100g chopped nuts -I used a mixed bag of almonds walnuts and peanuts and some pumpkin seeds that I had left from roasting a pumpkin earlier on in the week.

Optional -150g chocolate, for melting over the top.

I also added a handful of plain granola for added crunch, and I replaced around 5g of the sugar for a slosh of hazelnut syrup -the type you buy to add into coffee. Gorgeous!

Preheat the oven to gas 3/160'C. Grease and line a tin with butter or a spay of oil, and some greaseproof paper.
Add the zest of the orange and lemon to a large saucepan. Dollop on the golden syrup, using a warm or oiled spoon to help it off. Add the butter and sugar, and melt over a low heat, stirring occasionally, until everything is mixed, dissolved and melted, adding any hazelnut syrup if using. Remove from the heat.
In a large bowl, combine the oats, fruit and nuts, before adding to the saucepan and giving it a really good mix.
Spread evenly onto the tin, making sure that the edges have plenty of flapjack mix -and don't forget to save yourself a little mouthful, as this warm, syrupy mix is heavenly.
Bake in the middle of the oven for 30-35 minutes, until it's golden and making your kitchen smell delicious. Leave to cool on a rack or board for ten minutes so that it can hold it's shape as you lift it out using the parchment. After that, carefully mark out where you are going to cut your flapjacks into squares.
While my flapjacks were cooling, I decided to add some melted chocolate. I don't usually do this, but sometimes you just fancy an extra treat. I heated around 150g of milk chocolate over a bain marie until melted. Then, taking individual squares of the cooling, but still warm, flapjack, I spooned on the chocolate diagonally, so that half of the flapjack was dipped in a cheeky layer of bliss. Leave to cool at room temperature, to help the chocolate to cool slowly in order to get a shiny, tempered, finish.

16 October 2012

What's in my World

Before I launch into recipes and madness, I thought I'd share a little of what is inspiring me in the kitchen right now.This year I've acquired a few new recipe books, most recently Ching's Fast Food by Ching-He Ling.

Taking a bit of a step away from the more traditional English foods, I've been trying out stir fry's. Admittedly, this is a little tricky with no woks availble for the present, nor is the electric oven that I've got to get to grips with until February. This book is great however; at the beginning is a list of essential South-East Asian ingredients, so you know what is worthwhile on stocking up on, the recipes are easy to understand and read, even at the fast pace that stir frying dictates.

My other favorite, which I have mentioned in previous blog posts is Rachel Khoo's The Little Paris Kitchen. Darlings, I want to BE Rachel Khoo. I want to fly away to Paris and spend Summer training at Le Cordon Bleu, and create petit dinner parties in my apartment. The sections are refreshing; based on picnic foods, entertaining and everyday snack and meals rather than the traditional starters-mains-desserts. The recipes vary in difficulty, so it's a great book for building up confidence.

As for the T.V.... well I've mentioned the Bake-off, which sprinkles even the most technically difficult and stressful bakes with bunting and nostalgia. Compared to the high-octane pace of Masterchef, another program that I love, watching the GBBO is pure pleasure. Baking is something all of us have grown up with, from punching out biscuit shapes at home, to creating the first batch of fairy cakes at school, and in true British style the Bake-off had tuned into this, with an extra dose of cute and kitsch.

On more glamorous side, Lorraine Pascal and Nigella Lawson have oozing kitchen goddess appeal with dinner party-worthy creations. Lorraine Pascal's Cooking Made Easy has brought a girly touch to entertaining, with every half hour episode featuring at least one sweet treat... possibly dangerous considering my sweet tooth... On the savory side of things, I can certainly recommend Lorraine's sweet and sour pork balls, which I made for my family as the eventual buyers of our old house came for a viewing.
Nigella on the other hand, has been presenting me with far too many pasta dishes to dream about. I love Nigella's old-school presentation style. It's not always for everyday cooking, but whenever Nigellissima is on, I can't but help toss my hair and flirt with an imaginary camera, and dream of becoming the next Nigella.

I've also started on Nigel Slater's Dish of the Day, which is the opposite style to Nigella's. The food is simple, with adaptable ingredients, and loose directions to suit everyday cooking. There's something really homely about Nigel's cooking, and it never fails to have my mouth watering...

That's it for my inspiration round up; but now my marinated chicken tikka requires some attention, a little rice, and salad. Chio xx

15 October 2012

Welcome Back: the Reboot

I haven't written in a while, partly because I've been wrapped up in moving 250 miles north and settling into sixth form, and also because I have been reconsidering my blog's direction.

Over the Summer and particularly the last few weeks I've come to realised how much I enjoy cooking. Without fail, each week I've tuned into the Great British Bake-off, spent Monday evenings cosied up with Lorraine Pascal and then Nigella in their respective half hour slots of culinary indulgence. Anyone who follows me on instagram (@EleanorMay_C) will have seen my numerous snaps of my experiments, although God knows now I am suffering from the off-puttingly poor lighting in our temporary kitchen.

So my plan is, along with continuing to post up some of my usual musings, to focus on the heavenly world of food -what I've cooked, eaten, seen and experienced. I've got a lot of dishes saved from Summer to share, so with a bit of luck I'll be able to keep you all entertained.

Until then... enjoy! xx

14 August 2012

...And it all ends

Well that was a stunner of a couple of weeks. I've seen Team GB pull in the most medals in over 100 years; cheered on the fastest people on land and water in the planet; covered my eyes at death-defying acts and in all, like 80% of you, have been very proud to be British.
On Friday, I headed down to Weymouth to watch both the men's and women's 470 medal race. The weather was utterly gorgeous, if a little light of breeze, and everyone was walking around with a huge smile on their faces. I'm not too sure if it was the 'oh-my-god-we-actually-got-tickets' atmosphere or the sun, but the crowd sure were basking in it. I was really impressed with the efficiency and cheery attitude of the many volunteers who made the event run so smoothly.
As we settled down on the slope of the Nothe -which currently has several Ben Ainslie related names such as Ben's Nevis, Ben's Bum and Big Ben - I couldn't help but feel smug as the screens showed a tour of the Weymouth Sailing Academy Center, where I went for race training in April.(Cue lots of of talk on "oh yes I've been there. Yes the training hall is rather large isn't it?")
Despite the light wind conditions, the two main races were exciting, helped by the coverage on the screens, and by our use of binoculars. In both events Team GB won a silver. As the men's team, sailed by Luke Patience and Stuart Bithell, crossed the line, they celebrated in typical British style by capsizing the boat and lighting a flare. The two golds were secured by the Australians for the men's, and by the New Zealand team in the women's. 

I managed to *just* snap a photo of the two British teams passing each other inbetween the races. The women's boat was sailed by the lovely duo, Saskia Clarke and Hannah Mills.
Aside from a slight mishap where I realised that I was wearing a t-shirt saying "Paris Je t'aime", I managed to keep myself looking pretty patriotic, right down to the nails...
Oh, and I also managed to get sunburnt. But that's because I am a pale person not used to sun, haha!

And then that was it. With a final medal sweep during the weekend, the London 2012 Olympic Games... ended. The closing ceremony was incredible; it had to be without the support of an anticipated nation. It celebrated 50 years of British music, all linked together with a subtle theme of Shakespeare's The Tempest. From digitally reconstructed musical legends to real life performers being transported in, the show sparkled. But as I watched I had to hold back tears as I screamed "Don't hand the flag over! Don't extinguish that torch!!" 
Truly though, I am proud to be British. Putting the seemingly pointless two-week gap aside, I am now looking forward to the Paralympics (why aren't the two events shown together??) and I hope that Channel 4's coverage will be as good as BBC's has been.
But until then... Good evening Mr. Bond. This has been the Queen.

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