Mocha Cookies (or Spooky Cobweb Cookies)

Mocha Cookies 2

Who wouldn’t like a crisp and soft, deeply chocolatey cookie on a windswept October day?  These are a version of some cookies I have made many times and recently I have taken to adding a little coffee, hence the mocha in the name.  This coffee flavour isn’t hugely predominant (so don’t worry if you think your children might not like it) but there is a hint and as ever, coffee seems to boost the chocolate flavour.   Perfect as a little treat but equally at home with ice cream for pudding.  In all honesty I wouldn’t say no to one of these whatever the situation.

The dough is fairly soft and needs to sit in the fridge for an hour or so before you form the balls.  The advantage of this is you can make it ahead and then only use as much dough as you need, the rest will sit happily in the fridge for several days.

The icing sugar makes a lovely marbled effect when it cooks so if you need something sweet for your little devils this Hallowe’en, make these and call them Spooky Cobweb Cookies.

Mocha Cookies

Mocha Cookies 

1 teaspoon instant coffee dissolved in 2 teaspoons boiling water

60g butter

175g plain chocolate

175g plain flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

2 eggs

140g caster sugar

40g icing sugar

Put the dissolved coffee, butter and chocolate in a bowl over a pan of barely simmering water and allow to melt then mix and set aside to cool a little.  Whisk the eggs and sugar together until pale then add the cooled chocolate mixture followed by the flour, baking powder and a pinch of salt.  Pour the mixture into a bowl and put in the fridge for an hour or so to firm up.  Preheat the oven to 160 and put the icing sugar into a little bowl.  Take teaspoonfuls of the mix and form into little balls, roll them in the icing sugar until well covered and place on a parchment lined baking sheet.  Using the heel of your hand squash the ball, the sides will split a little but this is what you want.   Bake for 12-14 minutes until firm at the edges.  Cool for 5 minutes on the baking sheet before transferring to a cooling rack.  Makes about 30.

Mocha Cookies 3

 

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Pea Soup with Cheese and Chive Scones

Pea Soup and Cheese Scones

I love a bit of thrift, nothing more satisfying than using up bits and pieces that might otherwise find their way into the bin.   So it was with my pea soup here.  We had a baked ham for supper and whilst there wasn’t enough to make another supper for four there was a small chunk left plus the water I cooked it in.  I always intend to use this liquor for some useful purpose but must confess it often sits in the pan on the back of the hob until it has to be thrown away.  Today I was determined however and with the addition of a bag of frozen peas and a couple of spring onions sautéed in butter it has made a delicious soup, just the warming ticket for a breezy day.   You could add a swirl of cream, something I rarely turn down with soup, but here I’ve used a few little bits of the leftover ham.

Wanting to jazz this frugal lunch up a bit, but not wanting to go shopping I decided to make some scones.  There is always flour and cheese around and I happened to have bought some buttermilk the other day to make a cake with.  I split my usual scone recipe between cheese and chive to go with the soup and the other half sweet, sugar topped ones to greet the children with when they get back from school this afternoon.  The left over cheese scones will be filled with the last of the ham for their packed lunches tomorrow.  I hope this doesn’t sound hideously smug but – hurrah, everything used up and stretched further than I had anticipated.  Good stuff.

Pea Soup

This is barely a recipe however,  I sautéed two chopped spring onions in a teaspoonful of butter until soft then added a 400g bag of frozen peas.  I added a litre of the leftover ham poaching liquor and heated until the peas were just cooked.  Whizzed with a hand held blender until smooth and served with some chopped ham.

Buttermilk Scones

I often have a carton of buttermilk in the fridge, it has a great shelf life and works a treat in many bakes or, of course, soda bread (Seedy Soda Bread, April 2013).  The recipe that follows is my usual (sweet) scone one.  As mentioned I split the recipe and added 60g of grated strong cheddar and a small bunch of chopped chives to one half.  To the other I added 40g golden caster sugar.  Both I brushed with milk before baking and sprinkled a little more sugar over the sweet ones.

450g self raising flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

100g cold butter

85g caster sugar

1 carton buttermilk ( they are either 284 or 250ml, if the latter you may need an extra splash of milk)

Preheat the oven to 200.  Sift the flour and salt together and rub the butter into it until it resembles fine breadcrumbs.  Then add the sugar and buttermilk and mix together until it just holds as a dough but don’t handle it more than you have to.  Form into a round and pat or roll out until about one inch thick.  Cut out and put onto a floured baking sheet, brush with milk if you want and scatter over a little extra sugar.  Bake for 12-15 minutes until golden and well risen.

 

 

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Herby Ricotta with Pickled Cucumber

Herby Ricotta 1

Despite a few cool, misty mornings we have been enjoying a bit of an Indian Summer recently, my children were swimming in the sea three times last week (and even I joined them on one occasion…) and there are still shorts and summer dresses being sported in the playground.  We expect (and hope) July and August will be hot for the school holidays but September heralds a return to work so to have fabulous balmy weather always feels like a treat, a bonus, a little extra.

As such I like to eke out the summer feeling with barbeques and eating in the garden whenever possible.  If, however, you’ve had enough of those leafy green salads then try this for your lunch – smooth, creamy herb flecked ricotta which is unbelievably quick and easy to make (yes make yourself!) accompanied by sweet and sour crunchy cucumber.  The latter is a riff on my quick pickled onion and you could of course use that instead.

I like the ricotta spread on slices of baguette, topped with the tangy fresh cucumber slices, a little more substantial than lunches in the height of a hot summer but not yet a headlong dive into the autumnal soups yet to come.

Herby Ricotta 2

Herby Ricotta with Pickled Cucumber

You can use whichever soft herbs you like, I use parsley, chives and dill because that is a combination I love.  The dill along with the pickled cucumber give a bit of Scandanavian vibe and go together perfectly.   The ricotta would also be fabulous on little crispy toasts topped with chopped cucumber as a canapé and of course, prior to the herbing this ricotta is perfect for any other sweet or savoury recipe you have up your sleeve (so much better than supermarket ricotta and I struggle to find fresh around here).

300ml pot single cream (you can use double if that is what you have)

600ml whole milk

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

A handful of chopped herbs of your choice

Put the cream into a pan and fill the empty pot twice with milk and mix this into the cream along with the salt.  Bring to the boil and them remove from the heat and add the vinegar and give it a stir.  You will see the mixture separate, pour into a muslin lined colander and leave to drain for an hour or so until you have a crumbly creamy cheese.  Mix in the herbs and check the seasoning, you may need a little more salt and some pepper.  Heavenly.

Pickled Cucumber

Half a cucumber

1 tablespoon caster sugar

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

Salt

Put the sugar and vinegar into a shallow bowl with a pinch of salt and leave to dissolve. Using a vegetable peeler, take long slices of cucumber avoiding the watery seeds in the middle and add to the bowl.  Leave for at least half an hour, stirring occasionally, for the cucumber to “pickle”.

This amount would serve two for lunch or more along side other dishes.

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Blackberry Crumble Cake and the child who swallowed a fly….

Blackberry Crumble Cake

Once, when blackberry picking as a child, I swallowed a fly.  This moment has stayed with me and returns, annually.  Every year as I reach for that plump, glistening purple berry I remember the slightly panicked feeling that my eight year old self felt on the realisation that that fly had gone into my mouth and was not coming out.  The song about the old lady who swallowed a fly came rushing to mind and I wondered if I would have to follow her lead.  What actually happened was that I was encouraged to eat several more blackberries to help the fly down (remember no one walked around with small handy bottles of water in the early 70′s) and then get on with picking.

I can’t say I was harmed by this event as apart from my yearly recollection I adore blackberries and certainly wasn’t put off them by the experience.  Blackberrying is all part and parcel of autumn and I relish these moments during the year.  I’m an enormous fan of seasonal pursuits such as making marmalade when the Seville oranges are in season, elderflower cordial when those lacy white flowers are abundant and of course sloes to make fabulous heady sole gin with and then stash in a dark cupboard, saving for it for Christmas.

This cake will be ready to enjoy much sooner than sloe gin and is perfect to make with any blackberries you might pick at the weekend.  It won’t matter if any of them are squashed by little hands or in my case, by Tom putting his paw on the bag as we drove home.

Blackberry Crumble Cake 2

Blackberry Crumble Cake

I made this in the summer with blackcurrants and raspberries and it was great, their tangy sharpness a perfect foil to the sweet crumble.  Now though I am using blackberries or plums, you could try apples and pears as well.   This would also work very well as a pudding with custard or cream (ideally followed by another slice for tea).

100g soft butter

100g golden caster sugar

2 eggs

175g self-raising flour

1 level teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 tablespoons milk

Pinch of salt

200g blackberries (around 200g it doesn’t really matter if you have a few more or few less)

For the crumble -

25g butter

75g butter

40g demerara sugar

Preheat the oven to 170 and butter and baseline a 20cm tin.   Cream the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy.  Add the eggs one at a time with a little flour each time then sift in the remaining flour and baking powder, add the vanilla, salt and milk and combine.  Put the mixture into the tin, smooth the surface and scatter over the blackberries.  Melt the butter for the crumble in a small pan mix it with the flour and sugar in a small bowl.  Sprinkle this over the blackberries and bake for 50-60 minutes but check after 40 and if the top is browning too much cover with foil.  Once it is done, leave in the tin for 20 minutes and then remove from the tin and tuck in if you are serving it warm as a pudding or leave to cool completely.  Dust with icing sugar if you want.

Blackberry Crumble Cake 3

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Quick Pickled Onions

Quick Pickled Onions 4

To paraphrase Cilla, I bake a lorra lorra cakes.  Probably about 20 a week of various types, Ginger Cakes, Raspberry and Almond Cakes, the mighty Chocolate Victoria, Lemon Yogurt Cakes, Gluten Free Dairy Free Sugar Free Beetroot and Chocolate, you name it I bake it and that is before we get on to the Flapjacks, Brownies, Cupcakes etc….   What has this got to do with pickled onions?  Well, surrounded by all this sweet, fudgy and sticky confection what I really crave is something savoury and what could fit the bill more fittingly than pickled onions.  Mouth puckering, sharp, crunchy, sour and even a little sweet (can’t help myself).

These are this Summers new best friend.  Yes I know pickled onions are hardly new but these fabulous, Schiaparelli pink, super quick ones are.  We have had them on hamburgers where their tangy crunch was literally the icing on the cake (see, really can’t help myself), with both regular cheese sandwiches and with cheese on toast.  A barbecued butterflied leg of lamb was taken to fabulous new heights with a generous scattering of this pink confetti and chicken and pita kebabs sported these crimson crescents to great effect.

Too effusive?  Honestly I can’t rave enough, they take a couple of minutes to make and will sit happily in the fridge for a couple of days.  I keep mine in a jam jar which is then ready to be taken on a picnic at a moments notice.   I suggest you make some very soon.

Quick Pickled Onions

1 red onion, size of snooker ball

1 tablespoon golden caster sugar

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

Pinch of salt

Put the sugar, vinegar and salt into a shallow bowl and stir to dissolve.  Peel the onion, cut into quarters and slice thinly and add to the bowl and give it all a good stir.  These will be ready to eat within 20 minutes but will just as delicious 2 or 3 days later.

By the way, if you want to sample any of the cakes I mentioned or many other delicious creations be sure to visit Soulshine Cafe in South Street, Bridport, a fabulous, happy and funky place not to be missed.

Quick Pickled Onions 5

 

 

 

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Roast Vegetables with Pomegranate Molasses

Roasted Veg Salad 3

I went into the larder yesterday and a pile of vegetables were gazing balefully at me.  I had bought them for the weekend but we had done other things and my menu plans had gone awry.  As I am going away I knew they needed to be eaten up, there is nothing worse than having to throw something away which was fine one minute and gone off the next.  So, courgettes, peppers, aubergine and onions all jostling for the top spot.  Aubergine curry, a provencal tian, soup – lots of things crossed my mind but it is hot and I wanted a salad.

I used to make a salad like this all the time in the 90′s – I can see myself now, in the kitchen of my flat, Oasis blaring and a vat of Bulgarian Cabernet Sauvignon on stand by.  It was great then and I’ve made derivations of it ever since but I wanted to jazz it up a bit.  I roasted all the vegetables and made a dressing with olive oil and pomegranate molasses.  The fruity tang was just the thing to bring this up to date, both sharp and fruity and along with some crushed garlic made the perfect dressing.  I’m not very keen on couscous, it always seems a bit pappy and, for me anyway, still has a whiff of school semolina about it.  Bulgar wheat however has bite and texture so that is what I used.  Piles of fresh herbs, the mint being one of the few things the fat slugs haven’t scoffed in the garden, and some rocket completed the picture.

If I’d planned this earlier I would have made some labne, strained Greek yogurt which I could have blobbed over the salad but some garlicky regular yogurt was an excellent alternative.  I had forgotten how much I adore this salad, roasted, sweet and slightly charred vegetables, the nutty bulghar, masses of verdant herbs and the lip smacking dressing.  This would go down a storm with barbecued meat or fish but is substantial enough to have for lunch on its own.  Truly a winner, I will be making this all summer and beyond.  Back in couple of weeks!

Roasted Veg Salad

Roasted Vegetables with Bulghar and Pomegranate Molasses

The following vegetables are what I had but use an equivalent amount of whatever you like.  Should I be overwhelmed with courgettes later in the summer (if the slugs don’t eat those too) I will make this with those and perhaps throw in some feta and chives.

2 red peppers

1 aubergine

2 courgettes

3 onions

Olive oil

1 bunch parsley, chopped

1 bunch mint, chopped

2 large handfuls rocket

100g bulghar wheat

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses

1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed

Half a lemon

Preheat the oven to 200.  Chop the vegetables into small and similar size pieces, turn in some olive oil, put onto baking sheets and cook for about 30 minutes turning occasionally until soft and just catching at the edges.  Remove from the oven and leave to cool.  Put the bulghar wheat into a bowl with a pinch of salt and cover with boiling water to about 1cm above, leave to soak for 15 minutes then drain.  Mix the garlic, oil, pomegranate molasses and some salt and pepper to taste.  In a large  bowl, toss the vegetables, bulghar, herbs, rocket and dressing, stir to combine and have taste, a squeeze of lemon will probably be all you need.  Serves 2 on its own or 4 as an accompaniment.

Roasted Veg Salad 2

 

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Vanilla Pannacotta with Blackcurrants

Vanilla pannacotta 2

I have been so lucky with piles of fabulous, fresh local fruit recently.  Blackcurrants, loganberries, strawberries, gooseberries and red currants.  We have had many of the classics such as gooseberry fool and some new ideas such as blackcurrant shortbread cake.  I made redcurrant jelly for the first time, pretty straightforward apart from my slightly Heath Robinson jelly bag of muslin suspended via a wooden spoon over a deep jug – it worked!  Blackcurrant jam and loganberry jam sit in my larder, a comforting site if ever I saw one.

After making the jam I had a few blackcurrants left over, maybe 100g, and this is what came to mind as a way of using them up.   They have such a huge and tangy flavour that only a little is required and I thought this gentle, creamy vanilla pannacotta the perfect way to show off the blackcurrant sauce.  Sweet and fruity, sharp and vanilla – these two flavours work so well together.

I have to admit to having avoided recipes containing gelatine for years.  I remember my mother once spilling a gelatine mixture on the floor and as she was in a rush, quickly put down some newspaper to soak it up.  The result was sheets of newspaper glued firmly to the flagstones which took some elaborate and extensive chipping away to remove.  To be fair this was powdered gelatine and I still rarely use that.  My preferred type is the clear almost glass like sheets which work a treat.   These little puddings are so easy and quick to prepare and always go down a storm.  I’ve finished the blackcurrants but we had the pannacottas again yesterday this time with chopped strawberries macerated in a little sugar until they were deep crimson and juicy – fabulous.

Vanilla Pannacotta with Blackcurrants

200ml whole milk

100ml single cream

100ml Greek yogurt

1/2 teaspoon vanilla paste

60g caster sugar

2 gelatine leaves

100g blackcurrants

20-40g caster sugar

Put the gelatine in a bowl of cold water to soften.  Heat the milk, cream, vanilla and sugar until it just reaches boiling point.  Remove from the heat and add the squeezed out gelatine, whisk well and leave to cool until tepid, stirring occasionally.  Whisk in the yogurt and divide between 4 ramekins or small metal moulds.  Put into the fridge for at least 4 hours to set.  Meanwhile put the blackcurrants into a pan with a splash of water and 20g sugar.  Heat gently until just falling apart and forming a syrupy sauce.  Carefully taste, you may need more sugar, it depends very much on their sweetness.  When you are happy with the balance leave the sauce to cool.  To serve, dip each ramekin briefly into hot water before turning out onto a plate and serve with the blackcurrants.  Serves 4.

Vanilla pannacotta

 

 

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Children’s Cooking Class

Cooking class 2

I had to show you a picture of the girls who came over for a cooking class with me on Saturday.  It was such fun and they all cooked perfectly.  We made a plaited loaf similar to the milk loaf I wrote about last week, some little pasties filled with all sorts of delicious things and triple chocolate muffins.

It was a great morning and the reports came back that all the goodies were scoffed by grateful families before the end of the day.  Looking forward to the next one!

Cooking class 1

 

 

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Milk Loaf, a really good white bread

Milk loaf

When I was a child we would often go to Kings Bakery in Ripon on a Saturday to buy a plaited milk loaf – it was my favourite bread and I loved going to this bakery with its in-one-door, out-the-other door shop.  The loaves were plaited beautifully, far better than I can ever achieve and tasted heavenly.  A slice on its own was delicious enough but spread with good butter thick enough to see your teeth marks in, aah I can still remember the taste.  Milk loaf is not as rich as brioche but is a step up from an ordinary white loaf and so whilst good for everyday still has a whisper of treat about it.  As this loaf was cooling from the oven I did the school run, on our return my children and I went into the garden and ate slice after slice with butter in the dappled sun, proper Famous Five stuff.

Please don’t think it a faff to do, bread is super easy to make and so rewarding, the only consideration is time.  If you want a loaf for lunch make it in the morning, want it for tea then make it right after lunch.  Once you have made the dough there are two risings of about an hour each and then baking for around 30 minutes so you are looking at around a total of 3 hours.  Panic not though, for most of that time the dough looks after itself whilst you do something else.

I love a good wholemeal loaf or chewy sourdough, they all have their place in my kitchen but I think the white loaf has fallen from fashion and been somewhat maligned, avoided.  This is the loaf to bring it back into the fold, fabulous as is and it makes superb toast too.  Have a go at making this, your family will love you for it and probably love making it with you too.

Milk loaf 2

Milk Loaf

I have some 10 to 12 year old girls coming over on Saturday for a cooking class and I though this loaf the perfect place to start.  What a treat to take home at the end of the morning and it gives us time to make plenty of other goodies during the rising times.

500g strong white bread flour

10g dried yeast

10g salt

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon sugar

300ml milk plus a little extra

Warm the milk with the butter until just tepid and the butter melted.  Put the flour, yeast salt and sugar into a large bowl or the bowl of a freestanding mixer.  Add the milk, mix well and then knead for 8-10 minutes until smooth and springy.  Dust the inside of the bowl with some flour, put the ball of dough back in, cover with a tea towel and leave somewhere warm for 1 hour or so when it should be doubled in size.  Then knock the air out of it, knead briefly again and then divide into three and roll these three balls into sausages.  Squidge one set of ends together and plait the loaf then squidge the other ends together.  Put onto a baking tray which you have dusted with flour, cover again and leave for another hour.  Before this second hour is up preheat your oven to 200.  Brush with milk and then bake for 25-35 until golden and the loaf sounds hollow when you tap the bottom.

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Giant Strawberry Mivvi

Stawberry Mivvi

Remember Lyons Maid ice lollies?  The Orange Maid, a belter of orange cordial flavoured ice, lasted ages, always good value.  The Cider Quench which made us giggle and pretend to be drunk.  The Zoom, the Fab and of course the Cornish Strawberry Mivvi.  Treats from childhood years along with those brick like blocks of ice cream the perfect shape to slice and put between oblong wafers or into those funny rectangular cones (is that a geometric impossibility?).

The Strawberry Mivvi in particular required a certain skill to pick off the strawberry ice outer shell leaving a heart of vanilla ice cream to be licked quickly before it melted.  I liked the strawberry layer and I liked the ice cream but it was the combination of the two that makes the Mivvi excel, that British classic Strawberries and Cream – on a stick.

Not content to leave this alone I decided a giant version was required, a Mivvi bombe surprise, a family size spectacular, a Mighty Mivvi if you will.  This strawberry sorbet is one I’ve made many times over the years, the pure fragrance of the berries sings and you can easily dispense with the rest of this recipe and eat it as it is.  I sometimes make vanilla ice cream but on this occasion have used 2 tubs of a good store bought one.

You need to make this a day or so before you want to eat which of course is only a bonus as it sits happily in the freezer until you are ready.  Before you start however, make sure you have a good amount of free space on a freezer shelf, I didn’t take this early precaution and had to do a ridiculous amount of moving and rearranging to accommodate the bowl.  Learn from my mistakes!

Giant Strawberry Mivvi

500g strawberries

150g caster sugar

500ml water

3 tablespoons lemon juice

2 x 500ml tubs good vanilla ice cream

Dissolve the sugar in a little of the 500ml of water over a low heat then cool.  Whizz the strawberries with the lemon juice and then mix with the sugar syrup and remaining water.  Sieve and then freeze in an ice cream maker or put in a tub in the freezer and mix regularly to break down the ice crystals.  Once you have sorbet by either route transfer it to a 2 litre bowl, then take a 1 litre bowl with a layer of cling film on the outside and push it gently into the larger bowl thus squishing the sorbet up the sides – this sounds more complicated than it is.  Put in the freezer for a couple of hours to firm up.  Half an hour before the time is up take your 2 tubs of vanilla ice cream out of the freezer to soften.  Then remove the smaller bowl, and the cling film from the sorbet (you may need to put a little warm water inside the smaller bowl to encourage its release) and then fill up the cavity with the vanilla ice cream, easily done it its softened state.  Put it back into the freezer for at least an hour to firm up until you want it.  Then (conversely) you will need to leave the whole thing out of the freezer for 15-20 minutes before you want to cut it, this too may need sitting in warm water to encourage it to part company with the bowl.  Serves 8, with aplomb.

Stawberry Mivvi 2

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