Tag Archives: recipe.

Tales from Westwick Episode 1

I’m experimenting with the form and trying out a few you tube videos – little diaries of what we are up to.

 

 

I’d love to know what you think so please check it out and if you feel like it then like and subscribe.

This is episode 1 and episode 2 is going up shortly!

Show Notes:

Book I mention…The Radical Homemaker by Shannon Hayes
Dinosaur jumper pattern – by Linda’s Knitwear Designs
Yarn – Cascade 220
Baby Surprise Jacket by Elizabeth Zimmerman
Yarn (I got the company name wrong in the video, sorry!): Awesome Aran in the Suffragette colour way

Violet Cream Cake – Recipe

I’ve had the idea for this cake for a very long time.
Violet Creams are my Mum’s favourite chocolates.  They have a violet flavoured, fondant, soft centre and have a dark chocolate coating.  They usually come in a box with rose creams and are delicious – they are also very old fashioned, hard to find and expensive.
I have made my own for Mum in the past and one day I must post that recipe too.
But this is about a cake…
IMG_0356
For her last birthday I finally got round to inventing this cake and I figure the internet is the best place to keep it.
First make a chocolate cake.  Although dark chocolate is used in the traditional violet cream I didn’t want that much flavour overpowering the cake.  I went with a very moist chocolate cake which uses cocoa powder and was adapted from Nigella Lawson’s Chocolate Fudge Cake in her Nigella Bites Book.
The cake is then sandwiched together and topped with a decadent purple, violet flavoured, cream cheese frosting and decorated with violet sugar sprinkles and chopped dark chocolate pralines.
This is not an everyday cake, this is a cake for serious celebrations.
Ingredients
For the cake:
400g plain flour
250g caster sugar
100g dark muscovado sugar
50g cocoa powder
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp salt
3 eggs
140 ml of plain yoghurt
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
175g melted butter
125ml flavourless oil (e.g. groundnut)
300ml chilled water
For the icing:
5-20 drops violet flavouring/essence
Purple food colouring
50g butter (at room temp)
300g sifted icing sugar
125g cream cheese (fridge cold)
1 tablespoon of violet flavoured sugar sprinkles
1 tablespoon of chopped dark chocolate pralines
To make the cake.
Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas Mark 4
Grease and line two 20cm round sandwich tins.
Mix the dry cake ingredients (flour, sugars, cocoa, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt) in a large bowl. In a measuring jug mix the eggs, yoghurt and vanilla. In another bowl beat together the melted butter, oil and chilled water. Add the oil mixture to the dry ingredients and start to beat them together, then add the egg mixture and beat until all is blended. Pour the batter into the 2 cake tins in equal amounts.
Bake both tins for 50-55 mins (I use a skewer to test if the cake is ready – put the skewer into the cake and if it comes out clean then the cake is properly cooked.)
Put the cakes (still in their tins) on a cooling rack for 15 mins.  Then turn the cakes out of the tins onto the rack to cool completely.
Make the icing…
[Note: How strong the violet flavour is will be down to your personal preferences.  The flavouring can quickly overpower the icing so add a little at a time and test it as you go.  Please note that after standing overnight the violet flavour will develop and taste more strongly – so go slow on the flavouring!]
Beat the icing sugar and the butter together until well incorporated.  Then add the cream cheese, the purple food dye (according to packet instructions) and 5 drops of the violet flavouring. Beat until incorporated, test the flavour and then add 5 more drops.  Keep tasting and testing until you like the flavour.
Once the cake is cooled assemble like this:
Spread 1/2 the frosting on top of the first cake layer.  Put the second cake layer on top and put the rest of the frosting on top of the second layer. Sprinkle the violet sprinkles and chopped chocolate on top.
Open your mouth very wide and fall face forward on to the cake.

Becky’s Mutton Tagine.

Lamb/Mutton is a tricky meat – it is usually the most ethical option since sheep aren’t farmed intensively in the same way that pigs and poultry are.  However it is the worst culprit when it comes to those pesky carbon emissions which are so bad for climate change. So lamb is definitely a treat in our house and we have it very rarely (even though it is my favourite meat by a mile!).

Becky's mutton tagine

Last year our smallholding friends had a sheep that had bad teeth and wasn’t going to last. It was sent to slaughter and we bought half the meat.

This is definitely mutton and not lamb.  Lamb refers to sheep meat which is only 4-6 months old, Hogget is 1 year old and Mutton is 2 years old. So (full disclosure) the carbon footprint will be even higher since the Mutton has had another 1.5 years of expelling methane into the atmosphere. We eat Lamb and Beef so rarely that we think we can live with the carbon cost (after all this Mutton in the freezer will probably last us well over a year). And we knew that this animal had been treated excellently, raised slowly on pasture and would have died whether we had intervened or not.  The meat is fantastic quality and totally delicious, it was a tricky balancing act but one I’m comfortable with at the moment.

So all of the angsting out of the way…it is with great anticipation I’m looking forward to dinner tonight.

Mutton has a much stronger flavour and the meat is much tougher, requiring long slow cooking rather than the juicy pink tenderness of lamb. Most of our favourite recipes for Mutton and Lamb come from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall (particularly this Merguez Spiced Shoulder – seriously, if you are going to make one lamb recipe in your life, make the Merguez Spiced Shoulder) but tonight I’ve departed from this wisdom and gone for a long slow cooked Mutton Tagine. The long cooking turns the meat from tough and gristly into melting, tender and fall apart.

Check out this interesting article for more of the science on how the tough collagen in the meat turns into tender and rich gelatin.

I’ve cobbled the recipe together from a number of sources and I’ll shortly be ranting about Ras El Hanout spice mix!

Becky’s Mutton Tagine

Ingredients:

300g cubed Mutton

1 Onion diced

3 cloves of Garlic sliced

250g Mushrooms quartered

2 large Carrots cut into large chunks

3 medium potatoes cut into large chunks

handful of dried apricots

tin of tomatoes

2 tsps Ras El Hanout Spice Mix

A pinch of saffron

2 Lamb stock cubes

1 litre boiling water

Method:

Brown the cubes of meat and remove from the pan.  Then cook the onion in the same (now empty) pan until it is translucent.

Meanwhile boil a litre of water and dissolve your stock cubes and saffron.

Then add the mushrooms, garlic and Ras El Hanout, stir for a couple of minutes until the mushrooms are coated in the spice, then add the carrots and potatoes.  Stir again for a couple of minutes then add the lamb stock, tomatoes, apricots and mutton.

Bring to the boil then put in a low oven (130C/ 1/2GM/ 250F) for some hours.  Mine was on for about 5 hours (it probably only needs about 2-3 but I made mine in my lunch break at work!). And tah dah! The five hours did mean that the flavour was incredible, rich and intense.

Serve with couscous, I’ll do another post about how I make perfect fluffy couscous since I can’t find the link right now!

To make this extra Eco Friendly you could make it in a slow cooker.  But personally I think many things which go into a slow cooker come out tasting of brown and this is one of them.  You will get a better flavour doing this on a low heat in the oven, you will cut your emissions and the costs doing it in the slow cooker.

In the future I’d really like to try making a haybox to put it in after the initial boil on the stove.  This would really cut carbon and when I have the time I’ll definitely be trying it out.

It is really sad that Mutton is not a cheap cut and not a meat which is easy to obtain, we are incredibly lucky that we live so close to sources of good quality meat straight from the farm.

Ras El Hanout (or mostly sugar!)

Wow – I almost forgot my rant!  Ras El Hanout Spice mix from Sainsburys.  I stupidly assumed it would just have the spices in I needed.  I know it is better to grind them yourselves but I was in a bit of a hurry and it is non-trival to get ground galangal and dried rose petals at the moment.  I was not expecting the huge amount of sugar and salt it was bulked out with.  Sugar was the second highest ingredient. Bad show!  I can add as much sugar and salt as I like after the fact, but I can’t take it out of a spice mix.

I’ve learned my lesson – home blended mixes all the way from here.

Zero Waste Week: Use it or Lose it

This week has been zero waste week, I’ve been remiss in marking it on the blog but not at all remiss in observing my part of it at home

I think I might even be an Ambassador for ZWW which makes my shame all the greater.  Quick go over there and check out the cool stuff I keep forgetting to blog about!

The view from our local park.

The view from our local park.

I chose to focus on food because whilst I work hard to reduce waste there are always things I could do better and new tips and tricks to try out. This culminated in an ultimate Zero Waste Meal that I am incredibly proud of because almost all the ingredients were grown or made by me!

The meal was Potato and Kale stew and my ingredients looks liked this:

DSC_0776

Shallots (grown by us)

Garlic (grown and preserved by my Dad)

Cavelo Nero (grown by us)

Potatoes (grown by us)

Borlotti Beans (grown by us)

Parma Ham (grown and made by us)

Leftover shredded chicken (remnants of 4 chicken carcasses I used for stock)

2 cubes of chicken stock (made by me, reduced until concentrated and frozen in ice cube trays)

1.2 litres of whey (leftover from cheesemaking I used it to rehydrate the stock cubes)

Smoked Paprika (shop bought)

Olive Oil (shop bought)

The method was pretty simple after that..

Fry the shallots and garlic in the oil until softened and add the potatoes and ham.  Then add the paprika, chicken, whey and stock cubes and simmer for about 20 mins or until the potatoes are done.  Then add the cavelo nero (destalked and roughly chopped) and the beans – cook for another 10 mins.  Voila!

DSC_0779

It was incredibly flavourful and highly nutritious with all the extra protein from the whey and of course that Superfood darling – Kale!

DSC_0780

Growing your own food is really waste saving in so many ways, there is no packaging and no air miles, you only pick exactly what you need so nothing rots in the veg drawer and any trimmings can go on the compost heap to be put back into the soil.

Over the week I’ve been looking out for more food waste saving tips to pop down here:

1. Chillis – my chilli plants failed this year so I’ve had to buy them from the Supermarket.  I always get more than I need in a pack.  So I read online that you can just throw chillis straight in the freezer in a container and when you need them, get them out and use them as if they were fresh.  I have about 4 chillis in the freezer right now!

2. Milk – I over ordered milk recently and ended up with double what I needed.  I froze one of the bottles and use the other to make Paneer Cheese.  I used this blog post and the final recipe in it is for Queso Blanco which (as it turns out) is the same as paneer!  I used some of the whey in the above stew instead of water and the rest I’m freezing in portions for baking.

3. Preserving – as a Gardner with a lot of fruit trees at this time of year I am rushed off my feet trying to preserve the harvest.  Currently I’ve made two plum cakes, 7lbs of Damson Jam and nearly 3 litres of Blackberry Cordial.  There is much more to come this weekend.  There are lots of good jam and chutney recipes online and if you use homegrown or foraged produced they will often cost pennies.  Our 3 litres of Blackberry Cordial cost under a £1. I can’t bear to see blackberries rotting in the hedgerows near to a supermarket where they are being sold at £1.75 for 150g!

4. Pizza Sauce – I love this idea by A Girl Called Jack for making pizza out of leftovers.  I often have a couple of tablespoons of veggie stew, chilli, bolognese leftover and nothing to do with it.  How come I didn’t realise I could use it as pizza sauce!

The Art of Recipe Substitutions: Hummous.

I’ve been writing my use it or lose it posts for some time now – long enough that they have their own page!

When I write a use it or lose it recipe I try hard to come up with something that doesn’t need you to buy a lot of extra ingredients.  To me that defeats the purpose – when I realise I need to use up some yoghurt I don’t want to have to go out shopping and buy lots of new things just to use something else up before it goes off, that is an inefficient use of my time and might lead to more waste.

To me Use it is or Lose it is about making a complete meal or most of a meal, or something you can put in the freezer

But there are times when instead of building a quick store cupboard recipe around a Use It or Lose It item I just substitute something I have that is about to go off for something else.  I want to use up the tiny bit of leftover yoghurt instead of opening a brand new pint of milk.  Once I’ve opened the milk the clock starts running before it goes off, so I want to put that off for as long as possible. And if I don’t the yoghurt up now I’ll probably have to throw it away.

Sometimes we have a guest who is vegan, gluten free, or has a dairy allergy and substitutions need to be made.  It is fairly easy to substitute a part of a meal on a plate swopping out pasta for potatoes if someone is gluten free.  The tough challenge comes when you are substituting an ingredient like eggs, or you have some sour cream about to go off and you are about to make a recipe with a more complicated set of chemical/biological processes like bread.

The key to substituting is understanding the role that the ingredient plays in the recipe and then choosing something (or a combination of things) that will do the same job.

I think there are 5 ingredient roles:

1. Flavour (e.g. garlic, cheese, herbs, spices)

2. Texture (e.g. lentils, potatoes, pasta)

3. Structure (e.g. gluten)

4. Binding agent (e.g. eggs, chia seeds, sometimes just water/milk)

5. Raising agent (e.g. bicarbonate of soda + acid, baking powder, eggs)

(This is a theory in progress, I’m sure I’ll end up changing this list. If you think of anything then let me know!)

I’ll show you how I do it with a very simple case study: Hummous

Hummous – this is a great one for substituting and an easy starting point.  Here is the basic recipe with the ingredients broke down into roles.

A) 1 tin of Chick Peas (Texture, Flavour, structureA)

B) 1 tablespoon of Tahini (Binding and Flavour)

C) 2 tablespoons lemon juice (Flavour)

D) Olive oil to blend until required consistency (Binding, Texture and Flavour)

E) Seasoning to taste (Flavour)

F) Clove of garlic (Flavour)

Put all the above in a food processor and blitz until you get your desired texture.

Here are the ways you can substitute. You can pick almost any combination of these as long as the flavours work together and you use the same  – it might not be true “Hummous”, but it will be a tasty, homemade recipe that will be nutritious and enjoyable and hopefully avoid waste or an extra trip to the shops.

Substitute Hummous

A) Any tinned beans like butter beans, cannellini beans, black beans, kidney beans (not baked beans or anything in a sauce), dried chickpeas or beans (soaked and cooked), defrosted frozen broad beans/peas or cooked fresh broad beans/peas.

B) Any nut or seed butter e.g. peanut butter, almond nut butter etc. Here is my recipe on how to make your own nut butter so you could go a step further and substitute this step just with nuts and oil as long as you make it into nut butter first.

(bonus tip: you won’t have to wash the food processor in between!)

C) Any fruit juice that is a bit sharp (but not orange or grapefruit – that would be too weird a flavour with the garlic) I’ve used pear, apple and pineapple with great results but you could use water in a pinch. (Thanks to Free Our Kids for this tip – everyone loves the apple juice version!)

D) Any oil.  I’ve use Rapeseed with great results.  I also think this is a good place to use up the fancy oils you buy for a recipe that needs 1 tsp and nothing more or the oils you get bought in those posh salad dressing gift sets.  Because of this I’ve tried walnut and hazelnut and they have both been lovely!

E) Pick herbs and spices that go with the juice and beans you have chosen, we have a low salt diet because of R at the moment so instead of salt I’ve used lemon rind and fresh coriander, fresh mint and smoked paprika.

F) this is the garlic bit, you could substitute a garlic flavoured oil at D above, or add garlic chives or even just chives.  But in a worst case scenario leave it out.

Obviously how the above combine will matter. If you make a “hummous” with peanut butter, chick peas water, olive oil and no garlic it will taste completely different than if you use broad beans, lemon and mint.  You do need to develop a sense of which flavours go together and I started to do that by just switching out one ingredient at a time and seeing what worked.

Also use your imagination if you can imagine the combination of garlic and orange tasting pretty unpleasant then it probably will be (at least it will be to you!)

Some of the substitutions might just stick.  Now I make Hummous with almond nut butter and apple juice as standard because everyone prefers it that way here at Westwick.

The Undisputed Champion of using up food and making substitutions is of course the amazing Jack Monroe from A Girl Called Jack.  She is one of my favourite bloggers and has such a great mind for thinking sideways and using ingredients really creatively. Go and check her out!

Use it or Lose it: Cheese

We love cheese – we eat lots of it and lots of different types.  But there often seems to be a little dried out husk in the fridge or even several.  Parmesan and Pecorino are fine, I save the rinds and add them to soups and stews to give extra flavour. But there are so many other delicious cheeses in my life and in my fridge.

Jenga cheese straws

Jenga cheese straws

I originally made these cheese straws for No Plastic July but even as I was making them I realised they were a great way to use up those little hard ends of cheese.

Recipe is here but I have tweaked it as usual.

Cheese Straws

Ingredients

(Recipe says it makes 36 straws.  I got a lot more out of the recipe!)

  • 375g/13oz plain flour

  • 225g/8oz butter, diced

  • 150g/5½oz assorted grated hard cheese (cheddar, double gloucester, wensleydale, cheshire etc.)

  • 50g/1¾oz freshly grated parmesan cheese

  • pinch English Mustard powder

  • small pinch cayenne pepper/paprika

  • 2 free-range eggs, yolks only (beaten)

  • Ice cold water 4-5 tablespoons.

Method

This is essentially a pastry recipe and I am generally very bad at making pastry on account of having hot hands.  So I make all mine in a food processor and the results are always lovely.

Sift the flour and put in the food processor with the butter.  Whizz until it resembles bread crumbs.  If you don’t have a food processor then rub the butter into the flour until it resembles bread crumbs. If you run the mixture through your (clean) fingers for a bit you should be able to feel if the butter is evenly distributed. Add all the other ingredients except the water either to the food processor for a final blitz or just stir into the mixture.

Then add the ice cold water a little bit at a time stirring/blitzing until it comes together in a ball.

Put the ball in a bowl with a plate on top and put it in the fridge for at least 30 mins.

Pre-heat the oven to 190C/375F/Gas Mark 5.

Take the dough out of the fridge and roll out on a floured surface until it is the thickness of a £2 coin (maybe 1/4 inch if you are not British). Then cut into strips the desired length and width of your cheese straw and place on a baking tray with a sheet of greaseproof paper on it.

Brush a little milk on the tops of the straws and then bake for 10-15 mins until they are golden brown on top.

I apologise about the eggs yolks only instruction – I should definitely do a Use it or Lose it Egg Whites edition soon.  Throwing away eggs whites is a guilty secret of mine, I know I could make meringues but do far I haven’t.

Use it or Lose it: Milk

Today’s Use it or Lose it Post is Milk and it has two recipes for the price of one blog post.

I had a 2 litre bottle of Organic milk which was *cough* a couple of days past it’s sell by date.  But I used my nose and it smelled fine so I set about using it up.

Too much milk!

Too much milk!

My big hitter for using up milk is always pancakes because we always have eggs and flour on hand. I use a really simple recipe:

1 mug flour (any kind)

1 mug milk (any kind)

2 medium eggs

I whisked all of them together and then left it to rest for 30 minutes.  Then fry in butter in a frying pan.  I always fry big crepe style pancakes in a huge frying pan and then cut them in half (you cook breakfast faster that way).

My real recipe here though is Rice Pudding.  I was never a fan of rice pudding until I met Eliza Acton’s Rich Rice Pudding (from Delia Smith’s Complete Cookery Course).  This I love, it comes with a creamy, custardly layer on top.

I have tweaked Delia/Eliza’s recipe to make a chocolate/orange version instead of a lemon/nutmeg version.

Ingredients:

110g short grain rice

850ml milk

75g sugar or 125g of chopped apricots soaked in orange juice and then blitzed in the food processor.

50g Butter

3 eggs

Grated rind of 1 orange

3 squares of dark chocolate

Method

Preheat the oven to gas mark 2/300F/150C.

Butter a baking dish.

Put the rice and milk in a saucepan and bring it slowly to simmering point and heat slowly until the rice is almost cooked (Delia says about 10 mins). Add the sugar/orange and apricot mixture the butter, the orange zest, and the chocolate.  Heat slowly and stir until the chocolate is melted throughout the pudding.

Leave it to cool a little.

Whisk the eggs and stir into the pudding.  Then pour the whole mixture into the baking dish and bake in the oven for 30-40 mins.

Chocolately rice pudding goodness

Chocolatey rice pudding goodness

Serve with cream (always – this part of the recipe is not optional!).

I’ve given two recipes here because although the rice pudding is lovely it contains ingredients you might need to buy.  If you are in a Use it or Lose it situation you probably don’t have lots of other ingredient to play around with like in the rice pudding.  I do find it frustrating when I see “leftovers” recipes calling for a bunch of unusual or expensive ingredients.  If I need to use something up in a hurray I won’t have some other weird and wonderful things. Therefore the pancake mix at least is full of simple staple ingredients.

In other news we dug up our first potatoes.  I think you’ll agree we were a bit early.  We’ll be waiting a bit longer for the next lot 🙂

Earlies are a bit too early :(

Earlies are a bit too early 😦

I also harvested all our redcurrants.  I’ll be making some redcurrant pies shortly to swap with my Dad for some redcurrant jelly.  We got 965g out of the fruit bushes.  I had a quick look on line and the best price I could find for fresh redcurrants was £2 for 150g.  My harvest would have cost us £12.86 in the shops!  That will be some lovely pies in the Winter for just the cost of the pasty.