March Sampler


Saturday, 31 March 2012

How the year does gallop by.
 March over already, Easter just next weekend, kids on holiday for two weeks, time to stock up on chocolate and gin.

Cook's Notes


Friday, 30 March 2012

An idle google search for 'cookery notebooks' turned up a nice surprise - 
The List Writer's cookery notebooks. It threw me for a minute because they looked so like my own diaries. Except much neater.

I use my diaries not only to keep track of appointments, holidays and most importantly which bin week it is (black, green or brown), but also to record meal ideas for the week and any baking I plan to do. These notes are very rough indeed. In fact I rarely stick to my plans, but they are a useful source of inspiration when I am stuck for a meal and I often flick through them to see what we ate (or at least what I was thinking of eating) in previous months.

You may remember this post about my recipe book. Much as I love my Moleskine recipe journal it has a disadvantage. It is divided into categories of equal length and I have found that two sections have been filled up and others have not been used at all. The two full-up sections are unsurprisingly baking and puddings. In my defence I must point out that these are things I need recipes for. I don't really follow recipes for main courses preferring a bit of culinary ad lib, but when baking you need to get quantities, temperatures and baking times right.

 I've been wondering what the best system for storing recipes would be and have been inspired by Alicia's beautifully written recipe cards and also Diana's gorgeous recipe box. An unbound system does seem to be the answer. I feel a trip to stationery store coming on.

So I have a place in which to record meal plans and a place in which to store recipes, but these days I find I need something else as well. I need a place in which to record ideas for recipes. I found this-

It is perfect.
Bought from Down to Earth.
The first thing I wrote in it was an idea I had for using up a lot of loaf ends that had accumulated in my bread bin. Migas is a Spanish peasant dish of fried breadcrumbs. I loosely followed a method described in European Peasant Cookery by Elisabeth Luard. I'm not claiming authenticity, family pleasing grub is my main aim. This did the trick. 

Spanish style breadcrumbs with chorizo, peas and peppers -like hash made with bread instead of potatoes.

A Golden Cake for March


Thursday, 29 March 2012

I went to the farm shop this morning for local honey, cream and beef. I bypassed the local (Pershore) asparagus, which seems extraordinarily early and astronomically expensive at £9.30 a kilo. I'll wait until later in the season when the price will hopefully have come down.
Beside the homemade cakes and jams I found these.

Goose eggs at £1.10 each.
I decided to make a weight-of an-egg cake to celebrate this glorious golden March weather we have been experiencing in the UK.

Weight-of-an-egg cake is an old recipe for a simple sponge and the ideal thing to bake with goose eggs as you don't have to guess how many hens' eggs it is equivalent to.
You can of course just as easily make it with hens' eggs if you want.

Simply weigh your egg or eggs and then weigh out the same weight of butter, caster sugar and self-raising flour. My egg weighed 7 oz.
Add a pinch of salt if you are using unsalted butter.

Make sure your butter is soft before creaming it until light and fluffy with the sugar.
Then add your egg. Do this gradually and add a spoonful of the flour as you go if you are worried about curdling. I don't worry about curdling and pour my egg in all at once.
As you can see from my picture a goose egg has a large bright, bright yellow yolk.
Beat the eggs with the butter and sugar mixture well.
Next fold in the flour.
I also added the zest of a lemon but a teaspoon of vanilla extract would be good too.
Your mixture needs to be a 'soft dropping' consistency. This means it falls gently off the spoon. If it slides off at once then it is too runny; if it stays on the spoon it is too thick. In the case of too-thickness you can add a little liquid -milk or water or, as I did here lemon juice. In the case of too runnyness I wouldn't add more flour, I'd bake it anyway, it will still taste nice.

Bake in a 22cm cake tin* greased and base-lined for 40 -45 mins at 180°c (160°c fan oven).

I made some glacĂ© icing with 6 oz of icing sugar and the juice of a lemon. I coloured it with a dab of 'daffodil' colouring paste and finished it off with some primroses which strangely turned out to be precisely the same shade of yellow as the icing.

The interior of the cake was much yellower.
Goose eggs make very yellow cakes indeed.
The children thought I'd put colouring in the cake until I showed them the eggshell.

This post is going to be the first in a series of Cake of the Month posts. I'm hoping to come up with a new cake recipe each month.

* Note you may not need such a big tin if you have less mixture. Or you may need a bigger tin, or two tins if you have more mixture. You may also need to adjust baking times.

Cherry Blossom


Sunday, 25 March 2012

Same as last year and the year before I'm afraid.
But how could I resist such a good photo op?

Hang Spring Cleaning


Friday, 23 March 2012

Today has been the perfect day for a spring clean.
But, like Mole, I say 'hang spring cleaning'.
Instead I have been enjoying my flowers, doing jigsaws, eating muffins (see below) and anticipating opening a bottle later.

 This is a cinnamon-pecan swirl muffin.
 A recipe which needs a little tweaking before I post it. I was too generous with the butter in the cinnamon filling and they oozed rather.

But in a good way.

Have a lovely spring weekend, and if you are in the UK don't forget to put your clocks forward one hour tomorrow night.

Blossom by Blossom


Wednesday, 21 March 2012

'Blossom by blossom the spring begins'
-Algernon Charles Swinburne, from Atalanta in Calydon

 The cherry tree
poised to blossom.

 Forsythia already blossoming.

Spring is well and truly here.
I am enjoying the longer days, the birdsong and line-dried washing.
What about you?

Sugar Rush


Sunday, 18 March 2012

There has been far too much sugar around here this weekend. 
Yesterday Katie was 12.
There was a chocolate cake with chocolates.
There was a jigsaw showing sweets and chocolates from the 80s .
And there were; two giant bars of Cadbury Dairy milk, a large Aero bar, a Toblerone, a huge bar of Galaxy, a box of Maltesers, a tube of Rolos , a big bag of chocolate buttons, and that was just for starters.

And today is Mothering Sunday which means just one thing; chocolate for breakfast.

Katie and I will be spending the rest of the weekend lying down.

Easy Flatbreads


Wednesday, 14 March 2012

We have been eating these flatbreads with our curries and spicy stews a lot recently. I think I prefer them to rice now. The dough is quick, easy and cheap to make. They cook really quickly although you have to do one at a time. All you need is flour, oil and water, and a little salt. You also need a non-stick frying pan. If you don't have one I suggest frying the breads in a little oil or butter.

To make about 14 breads each bout 15cm in diameter you need;
400g plain flour 
You can use wholemeal if you like or do as I did and substitute some of the white flour for wholemeal. I used 100 g wholemeal and 300g white.
4 tablespoons of oil
½ -1 teaspoon of salt -to taste
200 ml water

Mix it all together to make a dough and give it a quick knead on a work top so that it is smooth and pliable.
Now is a good time to heat up your frying pan. Set it to a medium heat and get on with the rolling. Pull off table-tennis sized lumps of dough, roll into a ball, flour the surface and roll out into thin discs about 15 cm in diameter. You can of course make them any size you like. It matters not one jot if they are not perfect circles.

Put a circle of dough on your frying pan and leave for a minute while you roll the next bread. You can roll out more than one bread but you will need to keep them on a floured cloth while they wait to be cooked or they will stick to the work top. I found it easiest never to have more than one bread waiting.

As you can see from the picture the bread will puff and bubble up in the pan. It does this very quickly -probably 30 secs to a 1 minute, if it doesn't then your heat is too low. Flip the bread over and you should see scorched patches, this is what you want. Cook the other side for another 30 secs or so.

I like to press it down and watch it inflate. I really enjoy cooking them, as I do pancakes and other griddle cakes. I love to watch the raw batters and doughs transform into something cooked and delicious.

In order to keep them soft and pliable you must wrap them in a cloth as soon as they are cooked.

Fantastic with curries, dals and hummus. If you keep them wrapped leftovers can be rolled around a favourite sandwich filling and popped in the lunchbox, or they could be used as a quick pizza base, or to make a toasted cheese sandwich quesadilla-style. They're also nice spread with jam and butter.

Weekend Leftovers


Monday, 12 March 2012

Wasn't the weather lovely yesterday? At least it was in Worcester. Katie celebrated by going completely over the top and wearing a t-shirt, shorts and flip flops all day. 

The little lane about 100 yards from our house has been the focus of some twitching activity over the last few days. A yellow-browed warbler has been spotted. It's been there for a while apparently, and as I walk down that lane every day I feel sure I must have seen it without knowing what it was.
The twitchers are very happy to chat about the rare visitor. They come from Siberia  -warbler not twitchers, the twitchers seem to be mostly from Birmingham- and sometimes overwinter here.
The twitchers have been hanging around for three days now and I'm wondering whether to start offering tea and cakes.

I made a steak pie for supper on Saturday. The filling was just a simple beef stew and the pastry was this recipe. It's my favourite pastry, so easy and so deliciously rich and buttery. I was glad to find I'd made too much. There wasn't enough to make another pie, and there was some drying grated cheese in the fridge so I made these easy peasy cheese twists.

I rolled the pastry out, brushed it with a beaten egg, sprinkled grated cheese on top, cut it into strips about 3cm wide and twisted them by holding both ends and, well, twisting.
I placed them on a baking sheet and baked in a hot oven for 15 minutes. They made a very well-received after school snack.

For the men I made mash to go with their pie, but I overestimated their appetite so there was a bowl of leftover mash to use up.
Fishcakes are a good way to use up mash. 
This is a beautiful Craster kipper which cost me about £1.30. They are easy to prepare, you just put them in a dish and pour boiling water over them and leave for about 15 minutes to heat through, this is called jugging because it used to be done in a tall earthenware jug. You don't really need to do this if you are making them into cakes but the skins are easier to remove if they have been jugged. 

I mashed up the kipper flesh with some spring onions, an egg, a squirt of lemon juice and the mash.

I shaped the mixture into cakes, dipped them in beaten egg and then breadcrumbs. Then I fried them on both sides until crisp and golden. 

The children are not keen on kippers so they had one of my favourite easy suppers.
Potato wedges which have had pieces of bacon scattered over ten minutes before the end of their cooking time, and some grated cheese added a few minutes later. 
You could use bits of chorizo, salami or sausage instead of bacon.
Ketchup must be served with this.

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