Thursday, 18 September 2014

Time to be in the kitchen...Cornish Pasty

Pastry week this week on GBBO and hearing that the technical bake was savoury parcels, there's only one recipe choice for this Cornish lass - PROPER Cornish Pasties.

Despite coming originally from Dorset, my Gran embraced the Cornish Pasty and made it her own legendary treat. The men would get a pasty that could only fit into a large roasting tin diagonally, more oblong than semi circle, it would be maneuvered into the tin for baking, using 2 large spatulas and a prayer. when it came to eating it would be cut in half to be able to fit on a plate...each and every mouthful of it would be finished. As children we would get a mini version - 2 pasties to the roasting tray! The crust would always be saved until last, to be dunked in non-traditionally tomato ketchup.

All too often in baking we look to add new ingredients, put our own twist on a recipe, make it our own. But a Cornish Pasty is set in stone - to add or remove anything would make it only a humble pasty - still tasty, but not quite right. This recipe is taken from The Cornish Pasty Association

Take the time with your pastry, it needs structure to be able to hold it's place and you will not be able to roll and shape it if you miss out the rest period. I use a side plate to make six 6" pasties with a small crimp - you could make 4 larger pasties using a dinner plate as your template.

Ingredients

For the pastry;
500g strong bread flour
120g lard
25g cake margarine or spread (not pure butter)
5g salt
175g cold water 

For the filling;
400g good quality beef skirt or chuck steak, cut into small peices. If you can't get hold of skirt of chuck, look for a good quality cut with no fat or gristle that doesn't need slow cooking.
400g firm, waxy potato such as Maris Piper or Wilja
250g swede
200g onion
salt & pepper

Combine the flour and salt with the chopped lard & fat and rub together to form breadcrumbs. Add the water and using a food mixer beat until the pastry combines and becomes elastic. This will take longer than normal shortcrust pastry, I mixed mine for 4 minutes. Bring together in a ball, wrap in clingfilm and leave in the fridge for 3 hours.

Chop your potato and swede into thin small 1 cm squares and finely dice your onion. Put all three in a bowl, add a generous mix of salt and pepper and mix well.

After the 3 hours rest time roll out the pastry to about a 5mm thickness. Using a plate as your template cut out circles and set to one side.

Preheat your oven to 200C Gas Mark 6.

Put a layer of vegetable mix into the centre of a pastry circle, leaving a 2" outer edge of pastry. Add a layer of beef, add some extra salt & pepper and top with another layer of vegetables. You can really pile on the filling, it will shrink during cooking and you will be left with air pockets.

Bring the edges of the pastry, press lightly to seal and crimp around the outer edge. It's really difficult to explain crimping. Basically you want to bring a small section of edging over itself, secure by pressing down, then repeat. There are lots of videos on You Tube, here's one I found; 



Finish your pasties with an egg or milk wash as place onto baking parchment, or a non stick sheet and bake for 50-60 minutes, or until golden in colour. Leave to cool for 5 minutes and carefully lift to check the underside. If you have slightly soggy bottoms, turn the pasty over and finish off for a further 10 minutes. Don't worry the pastry will be hard enough to keep it's shape will you have this extra bake time.

Eat fresh from the oven or allow to cool, wrap in grease proof paper and eat cold, preferably outside, on a windswept beach. 




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Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Time to be in the Kitchen...Pea & Watercress Soup


After a summer of salads, left over BBQ chicken and cold puddings I'm starting to crave the autumn meals - casseroles, hearty soups and a good roast dinner. Such a shame then that we seem to be in the midst of an Indian Summer in the UK with temperatures of 20c most days!

This soup is delicate enough for a summer menu but hits the spot when you want a warming bowl of comfort. Equally tasty hot or cold this recipe will satisfy 6 people as a starter, 4 as a light supper served with bread.

Ingredients

3 spring onions finely chopped
2 cloves garlic finely chopped
25g butter
400g fresh shelled peas (or good quality frozen peas)
250g watercress roughly chopped
100g parsley, stalks removed and roughly chopped
1lt hot water or vegetable stock
100g double cream or creme fraiche
Salt & pepper to taste

To garnish

6 rashers of pancetta bacon 
Croutons

Using a large saucepan sweat the spring onions and garlic in the butter over a low heat for about 2 minute until the butter has melted & the garlic has softened but not coloured.

Add the peas to the pan and give it a quick stir to mix the onions and garlic into the peas. Add the chopped watercress and water or stock. Increase the temperature to a boil then put the lid on and leave to simmer for 5 minutes until the peas have cooked through and are bright green. Take off from the heat, add the parsley and leave to cool for 5 minutes.

While the soup is cooling dry fry your pancetta until golden brown (this will take less than 30 seconds on each side). Place onto kitchen roll to soak up the excess fat and leave to harden. Once cool enough to handle roughly chop the bacon up to small-ish pieces.  

When the soup has cooled slightly use a hand held blender to combine the ingredients. Stir through a few times to make sure all the peas are blended. If the consistency is too thick add a little more water. Stir in your cream or creme fraiche and season to taste.

Once you are ready to serve, gently warm the soup through, ladle into your bowls and add a handful of croutons, with some bacon crumbs added on top. I also added some small cubes (5mm x 5mm) of peeled & chopped Granny Smith apple to the bottom of the bowl to add a little sweetness to counter balance the saltiness of the bacon.

Glass of ice cold Sauvignon Blanc is entirely compulsory!


Tuesday, 16 September 2014

PicStick review and discount

What does your fridge look like? If it's anything like mine is a mis-match of different bits of paper, pictures, and magnets (even without our own children!)

 
Last week though I was able to start a fridge revolution! I was invited to create my own photo magnets using PicStick. For only £9.50 you can choose 9 images to be made into glossy magnets, each 5cm by 6.5cm. These then get posted out FREE OF CHARGE to anywhere in the world...yep ANYWHERE! Once you receive them you simply snap them apart and fix them to any metal surface - fridge, washing machine, radiator...
 
 
The uploading of the photos was straightforward, even to me. You create your account, or log in with Facebook and upload photos from your computer, tablet, phone and Facebook account. Once you upload your photo they will remain in your account so you can use them again and again without reloading them into your selection. Then just drag your chosen 9 photos into the grid.
 
Don't panic when they appear distorted - they are uploaded onto your account as a square image, but appear correct in the grid. You have the option to crop and rotate images to allow for both landscape and portrait images.
 
Finally you provide payment details and delivery is made in 1-2 days for UK, 3-5 days EU, 5-10 days for the rest of the world.
 
The images as clear and pretty true to screen image, although I did think one or two were slightly duller. They were easy to separate and are made of quality materials so will endure little hands moving them constantly!
 
All your previous grids are saved under your account so you can re-order the same grid and ship to a different address, such a time saver at Christmas time I would think!
 


I think these are definitely worth the £9.50 cost, these make a great idea for Christmas & birthday presents and would be a lovely way to remember holidays and special occasions - maybe even wedding favours?
 
And the best thing for you lovely readers is that until the 11th October you can get 25% off each order. That means each grid will only cost £7.13 including Worldwide shipping. Just head over to the PicStick website, use TIME25 on checking out and your discount will be processed. You can use the code more than once, so now could be the time to start your Christmas shopping!!
 
I received a complimentary 9 photo fridge magnet set for the purposes of this review and have been entered into a prize draw based on discount code use, however all words and opinions remain my own.
Family Fever


 




 



 

Friday, 12 September 2014

Time to be in the kitchen...Panettone

This week's Great British Bake Off theme was European Bakes, with lot of layer cakes and yeast cakes.

My cooking inspiration, my Gran, never made it to Europe. In fact she only flew once in her life-all the way to Canada, so as you can imagine European cakes were few and far between in my early childhood. That was until we were introduced to my step-mum and her mother "Nonnina". Nonnina was Italian and despite living in Yorkshire for 50 years she had (to us anyway) still a strong Italian accent.

She was a painter and her terraced cottage was filled with piles of magazines that she kept, knitted toys that she made and her art. Her studio was in the basement, down a rickety set of stairs and opened up into the most beautiful garden that she would sit in, feeding the birds little crumbs of her cake and toast.

At Christmas time we would always be given a traditional Panettone, wrapped in cellophane and in a square box. The smell was a heady mix of vanilla, candied peel and a hint of alcohol. It was as light as a sponge, really airy and would be served in a big slice with a cup of tea.

The traditional way of making Panettone is a slow triple-prove method that gives the dough the best chance to form it's characteristic bubbles, keeping enough structure to hold the fruit in place. It should be cooled upside down, suspended on skewers to encourage the domed top to hold and harden, as well as keeping the internal structure stretched and airy until it has cooled completely.

That recipe is a recipe for a lazy, rainy weekend when time and patience allows.

The recipe that I used was still a lengthy process, with an 8 hour proving time in the fridge, but was an all in one method, using dried yeast. After starting the mix first thing in the morning, it was ready to bake after dinner. This is a good recipe to get started with, it gives the exact taste I remember, if not quite the texture. You will need a mixer for this recipe, the dough is a sticky one and needs plenty of mixing to get everything incorporated and stretched.

Italian Panettone - Adapted from The BBC Food Paul Hollywood recipe

Ingredients:

500g strong white flour
7g salt
2 x 7g sachets of instant yeast
50g caster sugar
140ml warm milk
5 free range eggs & 1 egg yolk at room temperature (keep the white for egg wash)
250g unsalted butter, softened and cut into small pieces
250g dried fruit soaked for 15 minutes in 3 tbs rum
zest of 1 orange & 1 lemon
generous pinch of nutmeg
1.5 tsp of vanilla paste (or seeds from 2 vanilla pods)

Put the flour, salt, yeast, sugar, milk & eggs into the bowl of a free standing mixer with a dough hook attachment.

Mix slowly for 2 minutes, then increase to a medium speed and mix for a further 6-8 minutes until you have a smooth dough.

Gradually add the softened butter and mix for a further 5-8 minutes. Scrape the sides of the bowl periodically to make sure all the butter gets combined into the mix. This will make a very soft dough.

Mix in the fruit, zest and vanilla until it is all incorporated.

Cover the bowl with clingfilm and place in the fridge for at least 8 hours and the dough is firm enough for you to shape it.

Prepare your cake tin (I used an 8" fixed base tin) by lining the base and sides with double thickness baking parchment so that the paper is approx 5cm above the top of your tin.

Remove the dough from the fridge, knock back the dough, shape it into a ball and put into your tin.

Leave to prove for 2-3 hours until the dough just starts to dome over the top of your tin (not the top of the paper collar). 

Preheat your oven to 180C/Gas 4.

Brush the top with your egg white wash and bake for 25 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 150C/Gas 2 and bake for a further 35 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Mine should have had a further 10 minutes to cook as the dough in the centre wasn't completely cooked.

Remove the panettone from the tin immediately and allow to cool. Be careful removing it as the cake will be very soft at this point and can easily dent if you knock the side (opps!). Once completely cooled remove the paper collar and serve.


So it has the height and the taste of the panettone, but not quite the texture. It may have been because I took it out of the oven a little too soon and that this one slow prove method will always produce a denser texture. The only way to find out is by trying the traditional 3 prove recipe next and compare...all I need now is a rainy, no plans weekend, 4 skewers and a bucket to rest my cake over!


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Thursday, 11 September 2014

Time to be in the Kitchen: Traditional Lasagne

We invited one of Sion's new colleagues to have dinner with us last night, after hearing how he is working away from home and eats in the same restaurant every night when he is away.
Being away from your family is hard enough, but missing out on home cooked meals and conversation makes it even harder. 

Knowing I would be limited on time to prepare and cook meant that there was really only one dish to do - lasagne. The beauty of this meal is that you can prepare the meat ragu the day before, or make a double quantity, cool completely, then freeze in portions of your choice to use at your convenience. These quantities will make a 6 portion lasagne, if serving with salad & bread (4 if you are all adults and hungry!)

Ingredients:

For the meat ragu - 
2 tbs cooking oil
4 rashers of smoked streaky bacon
2 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
1 medium onion (finely chopped)
2 sticks of celery
400g minced beef
400g minced pork (or use 800g of minced beef, or vegetarian alternative)
1 large red pepper
2 tbs tomato puree
500g carton of tomato passata (alternatively 1 tin chopped tomatoes)
200ml red wine
1 beef stock cube or liquid stock portion (I used a Knorr stock pot)
1 fresh bouquet garni (made using sage, rosemary, thyme, parsley & bay leaves)
Salt & pepper to taste

For the white sauce - 
1 1/2 pints whole milk
1/2 onion, peeled but not chopped
pinch nutmeg
2 bay leaves
50g butter
50g plain flour

To construct - 
Fresh or dried lasagne pasta sheets
grated mature cheese
black pepper

Start by frying the bacon, garlic, onion & celery over a medium heat until the bacon has started to colour and the onions are soft & golden in colour.

Add your minced meat and cook through, stiring occasionally to break up any larger chunks of mince. While the meat is cooking, make up your bouquet garni using string or the stalk of some parsley. If this is too fiddly, you can always finely chop all the leaves of the herbs except for the bay leaves and add straight to the pot.


Add all other ingredients and mix thoroughly, put the lid on and simmer on a low heat for at least 30 minutes. It is at this point that you can pour yourself some of the red wine and catch up on one of your recorded programmes. Should anyone ask you for something, tell them to wait - you're cooking dinner after all!


If after 30 minutes your sauce is still quite runny, leave the lid off and cook for a little longer until the ragu is nice and thickened. Taste and add more salt & pepper if necessary. Remove the bouquet garni or bay leaves of you chopped your herbs instead.

Preheat your oven to 175C.

To make the white sauce put the milk, onion, nutmeg and bay leaves into a large sauce pan and bring to the boil. As soon as it starts boiling take off the heat and using a slotted spoon remove the bay leaves & onion.

In a separate pan gentle melt the butter then add the flour. Mix together with a whisk and continue to stir for 2 minutes. This is to "cook out" the flour and should make your sauce nice and creamy tasting. Add a ladleful of the flavoured milk and stir vigorously. This will turn into a lumpy mess - DO NOT PANIC! Keep adding the milk gradually and whisking until all the milk is added. By this point you should have a creamy sauce. If you still notice lumps, take it off the heat and whisk it with a hand whisk for one minute. Put it back on the heat and gently stir it until it has thickened to a porridge type consistancy. If you spoon some onto a plate you want it loose enough to start spreading, but still able to hold it's shape.

Taking an ovenproof dish start with a layer of ragu, then lasagne sheet ( to make it a little healthier, I sneak a layer of wilted spinach in between the ragu & lasagne too). Repeat until all the ragu has been used. Make sure the final layer is pasta then top with your white sauce. Finish with a generous sprinkling of grated cheese and black pepper.

Bake for 40 minutes or until golden. Serve with bread & green salad and giggle as you watch people eat without letting it cool down first!


What's your go-to mid week meal? Let me know if there's a recipe you want to see.


Linking up to Lavender & Lovage's September Theme of Mediterranean 

Cooking with Herbs Lavender and Lovage