Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Christmas Leftover Toasties

-Slices of Bath Soft cheese
-Pomegranate seeds
-Finished with rocket leaves
On homemade foccacia

-Layer of celeriac mash
-Roasted sprouts and shallots
-Slices of cheddar
-English mustard
On white sourdough

Both lightly brushed with sunflower oil and toasted over a low heat for 5 -10 minutes each side. Fine dining it is not, but who can refuse a cheese toastie??

Monday, December 19, 2011

Celeriac Gratin

Celeriac has to be my favourite winter vegetable. This dish, although delicious by itself, would also make a great side dish on Christmas Day.

Serves 2 as a main or 4 as a side dish


-1 small celeriac root, peeled
-200ml double cream
-100ml milk
-1 garlic clove
-1 bay leaf
-Salt, pepper, freshly grated nutmeg

1. Preheat oven to 200C. Chop the celeriac into 2mm slices.  Heat the milk and the cream in a pan with the bay leaf, salt, pepper, nutmeg, and garlic. Tip in the celeriac slices and stir. Simmer for 10 minutes.
2. Grease an ovenproof dish and pour in the contents of the pan. Transfer to the oven and bake for 20 minutes or until browned.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Christmas Spice Cakes

 We got our Christmas tree today so I am getting into the Christmas spirit now :-)

Makes 15 -20 small cakes

-45g runny honey
-45g treacle 
-90g golden syrup
-90g brown sugar
-180ml milk
-200g self raising flour
-1/2 tsp baking powder
-1 tsp ground allspice 
-1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
-1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
-65g butter, softened
-1 large egg, beaten 
To serve: 75g sugar, 1 tsp ground cinnamon

1. Preheat the oven to 180C and grease some cake tins (muffin tins for example or here I used heart shaped ones). 
2. Dissolve the brown sugar, golden syrup, treacle and honey in the milk in a saucepan over a medium heat. Leave to cool slightly.
3. Mix the flour, baking powder and spices together in a large bowl. Beat with the softened butter.
4. Add the sugar/ milk mixture in batches, mixing well after each addition. Add the beaten egg and combine.
5. Spoon the mixture into the moulds and bake for 20 -25 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into one of the cakes comes out clean.
6. Meanwhile mix the sugar and cinnamon together in a large bowl. Place a few of the cakes into this sugar mixture as soon as they are removed from the oven. Spoon over the sugar then place on a wire rack to cool. Repeat with the rest of the cakes. 

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Butternut Squash, Feta, and Sundried Tomato Polenta Cake

... because cake doesn't always have to be sweet! This cake is easy to make and very versatile, I used butternut squash, sundried tomatoes and cheese but you can experiment and use olives, other vegetables, herbs, etc.

Great served with salad or served with drinks as an aperitif.


-150g cooked butternut squash (I halved a squash, roasted it and scooped the flesh out once cooled)
-100g polenta
-150g self raising flour
-50g quark, soft cheese or yoghurt
-100g feta or Cheshire cheese, very roughly chopped
-75ml milk
-3 eggs, beaten
-30g melted butter
-10 sundried tomatoes (in oil), chopped
-1tsp tomato purée
-1tsp baking powder
-Small handful sunflower seeds, toasted
-A few gratings of cheddar
Salt, pepper to taste
Sunflower oil for greasing

1. Preheat oven to 180C and grease a non-stick loaf tin (2lb).
2. Purée the butternut squash in a food processor or mash with a fork.
3. Mix the flour, polenta, and baking powder together in a mixing bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients (saving half the sunflower seeds and grated cheddar for the topping) and mix just until well combined. Season.
4. Tip the mix into the greased loaf tin and sprinkle over the sunflower seeds and grated cheddar. Bake for 35 - 45 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.

Can be served hot or cold.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

'Sisu': Finnish Rye Bread

This is my favourite bread at the moment, I got the recipe from a bread course but it is a traditional Finnish loaf. 'Sisu' translates as guts and perseverance, which is surprising really. After having spent two days making Panettone last weekend, this loaf is incredibly simple to make in comparison! And as it uses rye flour which is naturally low in gluten, it does not require any kneading. Just mix, prove and bake.

It is quite a dense bread but is delicious topped with cheese and gherkins, smorgasbord style. 


Makes one large loaf or two smaller ones


-150g light rye flour
-350g dark rye flour
-300g sourdough starter (see step 1.)
-1 tbsp treacle
-10g caraway seeds
-15g fine salt
-350g luke warm water
-Sunflower oil for greasing

1. A day before you wish to bake, take 100g of your starter and mix with 200G rye flour (light or dark) and 100g water. Cover and leave to ferment overnight.
2. The day you wish to bake, mix all of the ingredients together. You will get a cement like dough. Grease a 400g loaf tin with sunflower oil (for one large loaf) or two for two smaller loaves. 
The mix

3. Wet your hands then form the dough into a smooth shape and drop into the tin(s). Sprinkle with some rye flour and caraway seeds. Cover and leave in a warm place to prove for 3 - 4 hours. When the surface has cracked it is ready to bake.
Ready to go in the oven

4. Heat oven to 250C and bake for 40 minutes for two loaves or up to an hour for one large loaf. Reduce the heat to 200C after 10 minutes. When cooked, remove from the tin and cool completely on a wire rack.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Roasted Pumpkin with Chickpeas in Spiced Coconut Sauce

I have long suspected that there is much more to Indian food than the dishes we find on the menu in most of the Indian restaurants in the U.K.. The menus always follow the same format and seem to offer the same thing. Maybe I haven't been going to the right restaurants! 

I was delighted to find this gem of a book at a book-sale at work: 'Tasting India' by Christine Manfield. 

Christine is an Australian chef and has travelled extensively in India. It is a beautiful book with stunning photos of Indian landscapes contrasted against those of busy city life. What I like most is it is divided into regions and each chapter has an introduction to the region, it's history and their particular style of cooking. The book has over 250 recipes and many of them are vegetarian. Not a korma or vindaloo to be found.

This is my recipe inspired by this book. It involves a lot of grinding / puréeing so a mini chopper or good pestle and mortar is needed!

Roasted Pumpkin with Chickpeas in Spiced Coconut Sauce

Serves 4


-1 small pumpkin or butternut squash, skin and seeds removed
-1 tin chickpeas
-1 onion, peeled and chopped
-1 red chilli, chopped 
-3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
-3 cm chunk of ginger, peeled
-1 small tin chopped tomatoes (230g)
-1 tin coconut milk (400ml)
-Small handful unsalted peanuts
-1 tsp soy sauce
-1 tsp toasted sesame oil (optional)
-Sunflower oil for roasting/ frying

Spice mix:
-1 tsp coriander seeds
-1/2 tsp cardamom seeds
-1 star anise
-1/2 tsp peppercorns
-1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 250C. Chop the pumpkin into 2cm x 2cm cubes and spread out on a baking tray. Drizzle over some oil and coat the pieces. Roast until tender - about 20 -30 minutes.
2. Meanwhile put the onion, ginger, garlic and chilli into a food processor and pulse to a rough purée (I did this in a mini chopper, I found I needed a larger quantity for the blades to engage so I doubled the quantity and froze the rest for next time). 
3. In a spice grinder or good pestle and mortar grind the coriander and cardamom seeds, star anise and peppercorns. Mix with the ground cinnamon. If you prefer you can use some garam masala instead of this spice mix.
4. Heat 1 tbsp of sunflower oil in a large sauce pan and gently fry the onion/garlic/ginger/chilli purée for 2 - 3 minutes. Add the spice mix and cook for a further minute or two.
5. Add the coconut milk, tinned tomatoes, soy sauce, and toasted sesame oil to the pan and simmer for 5 - 10 minutes or until slightly thickened.
6. Meanwhile, toast the peanuts in a dry pan until browned. Place them in a plastic bag then use a rolling pin to bash them into small pieces. You could use a pestle and mortar if you have a good one.
7. Drain the chickpeas and add these, the roasted pumpkin and the ground peanuts to the sauce. Simmer for 5 minutes and season to taste.

Serve with rice. This curry is best left overnight in the fridge for the flavours to really develop, then reheated the next day.

Monday, November 28, 2011


This month's 'Fresh from the Oven' challenge is Panettone, hosted by Sarah of Maison Cupcake. Traditionally Panettone is naturally leavened, i.e. it uses a starter/culture instead of dried/ instant yeast to make the bread rise. So I decided to make it to this recipe which seemed to authentic and quite easy to follow. It involves bulking up a sourdough starter for 5 days prior to making the Panettone. I have to say I didn't choose the most straight-forward recipe, in addition to the 5 days needed to get the starter ready it then needs 12 hours for the 'first dough' to ferment and 12 hours for the 'final dough' to rise. However I am a great believer in 'Slow food' so I was prepared to give it a go, although I was slightly nervous about it as I had never made Panettone before! I was pleased with the results, I got 3 small breads and they do taste authentic even if the look a little, er, rustic. The two nicest ones will be gifts and I am keeping the mushroom looking one as a taster :-)

Cooking notes:
-The recipe calls for diastatic malt powder, I have never seen this before so took a gamble and used 1tsp barley malt - it seemed to work!
-I used sultanas and soaked them in rum and cointreau for 12 hours (whilst the first dough was fermenting)
-I didn't bother buying proper Panettone moulds, I lined large tinned tomato tins with greaseproof paper which worked well. 
-I was going to attempt to hang the breads upside down to cool as recommended in the recipe, but when I got mine out of the oven they looked a bit too fragile to undergo this treatment. I laid them down on a wire rack to cool and removed them from their tins after 15 minutes.

The dough after 12 hours rising

The glaze and sugar dusting

Before going in the oven

The mushroom shaped one!

Saturday, November 26, 2011


Last Christmas I was given a French Patisserie course in Paris as a present (best present ever!) - and last weekend we finally got to go! It was an afternoon course so we spent the rest of the weekend being tourists and wandering round Paris (mainly walking in and out of bakeries and bistros). Paris brings together all that is great about French food culture. I loved seeing all the independent bistros and wine bars, and the range of produce available on every corner. It is definitely a foodie city. One of the highlights for me was having lunch at Rose Bakery, I have their recipe book and have always wanted to go- it didn't disappoint, the food was delicious and mostly vegetarian.

Here are some photos of our foodie weekend:


Rose Bakery

We had lunch here, they serve quiches, salads, mini pizzas other fresh deli type food. It is mostly vegetarian and organic. Unfortunately I didn't get to try their cakes afterwards as we had to rush off as we had booked to go up to the top of the Eiffel Tower.

My lunch

Chalet Savoyard

We had dinner here one night, I had an individual fondue savoyarde (why not?) which came not only with an enormous basket of crusty bread cubes, but also with a bowl of potatoes! Much too much for any normal appetite but I had a good try.

My fondue

We visited quite a few of the bakeries who came in the top ten 'Meilleures Baguettes de Paris 2011'. I was very disappointed to find the bakery who won the competition was shut! We tried the bread from some of the others however, and they were all very good as was to be expected! Many of these boulangeries were along the same road - Rue des Abbesses. I wish I lived in this neighbourhood- I would never tire of eating their bread. Why do we get stuck with Greggs over here??


This boulanger won 'Best Baguette in Paris 2011'- closed at weekends :-( 

My Patisserie course

In just over 3 hours we made all this:
-Early grey madeleines
-Millefeuille (puff pastry already made and chilled)
-Rhum baba
-Chocolate fondants
-Chocolate crème brulées

Making puff pastry

Making Crème Patissiere

Ganache lined ramekins for Creme Brulée
Moulds for Rum Baba
Fondants au chocolat
Infusing butter with earl grey - for Madeleines

My Millefeuille