Monday, 30 December 2013

Turkey, Ham and Veg Baked Risotto - Leftovers!

I couldn't let 2014 begin without posting about at least one Christmas leftovers recipe and seeing as nobody would listen to me if I tried to prolong the arrival of the new year just to fit in more recipes I thought I had best get on with it. We normally have the majority of the cold meats on sandwiches or reheated in gravy with some veg and mash but I really wanted to experiment. I've mentioned before that my mum is a traditionalist and even more so with savoury things so I have to go very carefully when I try an experimental dinner. For a couple of years I've wanted to try a turkey and ham lasagne but there was no chance this year. I didn't think it was a good idea to do anything too rich either with an overly cheesy sauce so that put to rest the gratin  plans. On the way back from sales shopping (thorough disappointment) I tentatively asked Mum if rice would be acceptable for dinner and having received a cautious affirmative, I give you Leftovers Risotto!

Don't ask me why I thought these pictures were any good. By the time I realised it was too late to take more so please take my word for it that this is delicious. And my dad's word. He finished off Mum's after licking his own dish. Licking the dish with his eyes I mean. None of that is allowed at our table. Unless my brother Christopher is here for dinner and Mum turns her back for half a second. The joys of family.

Flavoursome without being heavy. Filling yet healthy. And it creates space in the fridge when there are the last remnants of meat in tubs and on plates. You don't have to use turkey and ham, sprouts and carrots. Use whatever meat and veg you want rid off. The crumbly looking topping is crushed goats cheese biscuits that Mum got in a hamper from her boss that wouldn't have been used otherwise. I thought they were an ideal finish but crushed crisp or stale breadcrumbs would be good too. The veg could be leftover cooked stuff as well but we never have leftover veg because Mum only ever does just enough. Go with what you want and how many people you are serving as well as hunger levels. This was for three - a normalish (me) person, one who likes risottos occasionally (Mum) and a continually hungry father. Enjoy!

I was very kindly reminded by Elizabeth from Elizabeths's Kitchen Diary, the host this month of the No Waste Food Challenge, that this would be a perfect entry which was pretty silly of me to forget seeing as I love the challenge and seeing how people get creative to reduce waste. Kate from Turquoise Lemons is the creator of the challenge - both are brilliant blogs.

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Turkey, Ham and Veg Baked Risotto
A little effort dinner to use up meat and veg leftovers while maintaining all the flavour.
  • 1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
  • 15 sprouts, dirty leaves removed then quartered
  • ground black pepper
  • ground nutmeg
  • parsley
  • 100g rice, long grain or risotto
  • leftover cooked ham, shredded
  • leftover cooked turkey, shredded
  • One pint veg stock
  • 1 tsp mustard
  • 1 scoop Philadelphia
  • spray oil, for frying
1. Heat a frying pan while the oven heats to 200 C/180 C fan. Spray with a little oil then add the onions. Start tio soften then add the carrots and sprouts. Add pepper, nutmeg and parsley to taste then stir together and leave, covered until the onon has softened a little longer.2. Transfer the veg to a large oven-proof dish and mix in the meat. Add the stock, stir together carefully and over with a lid or with foil. Bake in the oven for 30-40 mins, adding more stock if it is all absorbed before the rice is cooked.3. For the final 10-15 mins, uncover the risotto, stir in the Philadelphia and mustard and sprinkle over the crushed biscuits or crisps. Return to the oven until the topping is well browned and the rice is cooked. Serve sprinkled with a little cheese if wished.

Sunday, 29 December 2013

Biscuit Barrel December 13 Round Up

Another challenge and another year draws to a close but as far as blogging goes I think it has been a pretty good year. Even this month which is busy for any baker you have still all rallied round and shared a host of wonderful recipes with me and your fellow Biscuit Barrel challengers. The theme for this month was 'Quick an Easy' to allow you all to showcase recipes that you could slip in amongst all the other things demanding your time when you still wanted something yummy to eat. So here goes. Enjoy.

I got in there pretty quick with my Aero Bubbles Cookies this month. It was based on a recipe I'd been wanting to try for ages so I was so pleased when they were successful. Ok, so I was supposed to be working when I made them but the taste of them soon made up for that! Fresh, minty, chewy and chocolatey it was a recipe that required little effort for fantastic results. It is defintley one to adapt to other fillings.

Rebecca from BakeNQuilt made these Peppermint Bark Shortbread Bars - a classic biscuit base is used hot from the oven to melt peppermint bark chocolate on top then sprinkled with crushed candy canes. This really got me because it is so simple an idea but incredibly effective. I can imagine it being popular with children and adults alike as well as being infinitely adaptable, limited only by what you feel like melting on top of the base. Mmmmm.

You might be wondering how muffins can fit into a challenge called the Biscuit Barrel but I'm one for encouraging stretching (or breaking) of rules so I'm mightily pleased that Ros from The More Than Occasional Baker submitted these Double Chocolate, Hazelnut and Cherry Muffins. The title alone contains three of my top ingredients addn then you look at the picture and see how pretty and jewel-like the cherries look sitting on top. Ros has demonstrated how something good can come out of a spur of the moment idea and also how quick muffins are to whip up when you fancy a little something. 

Tracey from Dilsy Does... made me go slightly misty eyed with cuteness when I saw her Christmas Tree Biscuits. An easy basic vanilla biscuit dough cut into star shapes, layered and glue with white chocolate, Tracey provides a tutorial for anyone needing any encouragement. Next year, these are a must for me and if I can find an excuse to make somehting similar with different shapes then I know where I'm heading - shimmer spray included!

Ros from The More Than Occasional Baker is back again with these Xmas Vanilla Cookies, demonstrating how effective baking moulds can be. I'm not surprised Ros wants to use this pan every year now and it has made me really, really want one. I fully agree that some simple writing icing gives the perfect decoration to finish though if you were really in a hurry, the pan takes all the hard work out of the bake for you and provides enough detail for these to be decorative without anything else. I have a feeling I'll be going on a baking shopping spree soon.

Ros has certainly been a busy bee this month but I'm glad because it certainly benefits anyone readingt this post or her blog. These Christmas Tree Gingerbread Cookies have a hidden surprise which spills out when you break into them - mini M&M's! Ginger and chocolate goes so well together and to get a bite of gingerbread cookie followed by the wonderful crispy crunch of the hidden sweeties would be perfect. Ros thinks she has been cheeky entering these into a quick an easy theme but I say they are perfectly acceptable and if you pop over to her blog, there are step by step photos to help you along. 

Choclette from Chocolate Log Blog says she might be fed up with shortbread soon after the amount she has been making lately so just in case let's be thankful for these Christmas Shortbread Biscuits. It's easy to see why Choclette has been making adaptations galore - so many flavours to pair perfectly with the rich buttry base. I've never been a fan of caramom before but these are changing mmy mind. 

Ros is back again now, this time with these Christmas Cornflake Wreaths. My nephews haven't visited with their parents this Christmas season (yet!) but if they had I would've made these with them. I don't know what it is about melted marshmallows (or chocolate) and cereal but the combination is divine so there is a slight chance not much of the mixture would've made it into the wreaths anyway. Now I know what to do with the festive sprinkles I have left over!

I have a special place in my heart for brownies after the success I have had with them so Charlene from Food Glorious Food was onto a winner right from the off when she entered her Xmas Brownies. Glace cherries and brazil nuts add the festive element for her and those pictures made my tummy grumble in a not very ladylike fashion. Who cares though when look at these?!

Kate from The Gluten Free Alchemist is up now with her Almond and Cherry Biscuit Trees. Kate admits to have been completely rushed off her feet this month but has still managed to find time to make soom pretty decorated biscuits with one of the flavours she associates with Christmas - almonds. I'm a big fan of almonds in cakes so I've no idea why I rarely use them in biscuits. These have made me question that and will hopefully soon be rectified. Kate also gives the option of two types of cherries for two different textures. 

Finally, but absolutely lot least Alexandra from The Lass In The Apron is sharing her Dash-Away Bars. Slightly similar to rocky road but baked, these contain chocolate, fruit, nuts, crushed biscuits and the glory that is condensed milk. Whenever we open a tin to make Millionaire's Shortbread, my mother and I have to um, test it, so I know these will be gorgeous. It says it all when it takes less time to mix something up than it does to get the ingredients out of the cupboard yet produce something so good.  

That's it for now but I'll be back soon with another challenge. The last few months since I've started up the Biscuit Barrel have been so much fun that's I can't wait to see where it goes in 2014. For now, Happy New Year everyone!

Friday, 27 December 2013

Mini Pecan and Cherry Christmas Puddings

Did everyone have a good Christmas? I hope so. It was very quiet and relaxed in our house. One brother was working on Boxing Day and didn't want to have to travel back on Christmas Day so didn't come and the other and my sister-in-law and nephews stayed in Wales. So yes, verrrrrry quiet. We still had a lovely time though.

I know I should have given you this recipe before the big day but I didn't have enough hours to get everything done. Plus, who says I shouldn't write about Christmas puddings after December 25th?! I did warn you I would be stretching out the Christmas recipes. Today feels like a writing day though, at the very least for one short post so I'm telling you about these puddings. Sort of.

These aren't made from your traditional pudding recipe. It was last year that I cam eup with the recipe but I cannot for the life of me remember which one I adapted it from. I loaded it with cherries and pecans for my mum and rum for my dad. Spiced rum, because why not. It's quite difficult to know what to say when you don't actually like Christmas pudding yourself. You will have to take my parents' word for it. Both of them really enjoyed the one they shared between them - Dad wanted a whole one but Mum made him share so she could have a taste but still have room for roulade later. What I do know from my own experience is that they are really fun to make and so incredibly simple that it is a wonder that the shops manage to sell any. All the making involves is stirring everything into well-soaked fruit. Heavily soaked in spiced rum. Let's not forget the rum.

If there was ever a Christmas pudding for Jack Sparrow this would be it. 

I use a pressure cooker to cook these then reheat in the microwave. Pressure cookers are amazing. I think everyone should have one. There may have even been one lecture where the teacher mentioned them and I embarrassed myself by getting slightly excited over them. It speeds up cooking times so much but if you don't have one then regular steaming will work fine.
Mum has just come in to ask what I'm doing, sat on my bedroom floor with the laptop. I told her I was writing about puddings and that I wanted to try a teaspoonful just so I know what my own cooking tastes like and she repeated that it was nice. Very, very nice. And that she has been fancying it again so if I wanted to get a picture when it was aflame.....

I will hold her to that. Though maybe I'l pour more rum on for lighting this time so it will burn longer and give me chanceto get a good photo. Hey, I'm an undergrad chemist. We like doing things we shouldn't.

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Mini Pecan and Cherry Christmas Puddings
Mini versions of a not so classic Christmas pudding. Packed with pecans and juicy cherries and heavily laced with spiced rum.
  • 25g raisins
  • 100g glace cherries, halved
  • 75g pecans, roughly broken
  • At least 4 tbsp spiced rum
  • 25g ground almonds
  • 1 generous tsp mixed spice
  • 25g plain flour
  • 55g breadcrumbs
  • 55g dark soft brown sugar
  • Zest of half an orange or one clementine
  • 1 generous tbsp black treacle
  • 1 large egg
  • 30g suet, veg or traditional
1. At least a few days before you want to cook the puddings, stir together the cherries, raisins and rum in a bowl. Cover with clingfilm and leave until ready to make the puddings, giving it a mix/more rum as desired.2. When ready to cook, butter 4 small ramekins well, add a cricle of greaseproof to the bottom of each and prepare the greaseproof paper coverings i.e. a triple layer, big enough to cover the ramekins tops with a pleat in the centre (see the picture). Cut 4 pieces of string too. Place the trivet in the bottom of the pressure cooker. 3. Place the rest of the ingredients in a largish bowl and add the soaked fruit. Mix together well and divide between the ramekins. There should be roughly 150g in each one. If you make them bigger/smaller, the cooking times will need to be altered. Tie the greaseproof over the ramekins and place in the pressure cooker. If they don't all fit in one layer it is fine to stack them. Pour in 0.75-1 litre of water and fix the pressure cooker lid in place.4. Bring the pressure cooker to steaming, reduce the hob temp to half and steam for 10 mins. Increase the temp to full again, bring to high pressure, reduce the temp to half again and cook for 50 mins. Release the pressure by removing the pan fro the heat and allowing to calm before removing the lid. Take the pudding out of the pan with care and allow to cool before covering with a layer of fresh greaseproof and a layer of foil. Store in a cool place but not the fridge.5. When ready to serve, remove the wrappings, run a knife around the edge of the ramekin, turn out on to a plate and heat for 1-2 mins in the microwave. Add rum, cream, sauce, ice-cream as desired.

There are a number of baking challenges I could enter this into this month but for once I'm keeping it simple. Now is the time for chilling so go enjoy yourselves and have fun. Speak soon!

Monday, 23 December 2013

Chocolate (Christmas) Fruit Cake (Gluten Free)

As I sit here typing this I'm thinking of all the good things that have happened this weekend and keep smiling to myself. I finished for uni/placement for two weeks on Friday, got home Friday evening and have been having a pretty good time since then. Saturday Mum and I got up early to go to town shopping and I wore as many things as possible that I can't wear in the lab. I had on the charm bracelet Mum passed onto me when I was a child, my heeled boots not caring whether I was crippled or not by the time we finished and I put my hair up in that messy style that requires half a can of hairspray. Ok, the last one is slight paranoia. I doubt anyone is really going to wave a lit bunsen burner around near my hair but I'd rather not take any chances. I'm quite attached to it you see.

When we got back I made the Chrismtmas cake which I swear works beautifully doing it this late to those who are aghast at me not having made it weeks ago. The eveing involved Ferrero Rocher, Strictly and a really good book then on Sunday I started marzipanning the cake and the decorations which if they work, will look really good. If not, then it is going to have to be a Christmas wreath sort of thing but we'll see. I'm hopeful. The post will have to be written shamefully late after Christmas but then I'll be one of those people who keep those going who are having Christmas withdrawal symptoms. Amongst all this prep work, cleaning up and other busy things getting ready for Christmas I had one of those moments where it suddenly hit me just how much I love baking and cooking. It made it feel all the more special. Does anyone else know the sort of feeling I mean? You can go for weeks or months enjoying something, telling other people about it (hello fellow bloggers and readers!) then out of the blue you get that warm fuzzy glow inside where you realise just how much it means to you. I had that yesterday. I can't describe it any better. It's just good.

So this cake. It might be the start of a new tradition - to make two Christmas cakes each year, one traditional and one alternative. As far as alternatives go this couldn't really get any better. My housemate and I had a big Christmas dinner last Monday and this was our pudding. I've wanted to do a chocolate fruit cake for a while now but couldn't really warrant a full blown, takes-five-hours-to-cook Christmas cake. It doesn't matter because this is better. I adaped a Nigella recipe and I'm not even sorry for it. If I tried to do it again and actually follow the recipe my housemate might try and kill me. I don't think she has been this pleased with something I've made since these Chocolate Mousse Brownies and I failed at getting her to stop telling everyone about it. She even shared a bit of it with a few people and there wasn't one bad word of feedback. This slightly embarrasses me but makes me mega pleased at the same time. I had some of my share left at the end of the week so took it home to give to my parents and they thought it was delicious too. This coming from my mother who prefers the tradtional. My only sadness is that I left my camera with the slightly better pictures in my uni house so I can't do it justice. I promise to update the post when I get back.

I still haven't given you a proper description. Imagine an oh-so-moist squidgy chocolately chocolate cake with an almpst brownie like centre. Then throw in some Terrys ornage chinks and some marmalade for orange flavour and gorgeous stickiness. Remember the plump sultanas and large quantities of succulent glace cherries and apricots. Now round it off with the best white chocolate fudge icing you will ever make, chopped Terrys orange and the all essential Cadburys wishes in the centre. It took one bite to have sounds of 'ohhhh man' to be coming from my housemate's end of the table.

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Chocolate Fruit Cake
Moist, squidgy chocolate cake packed with marmalade for stickiness, chocolate orange, apricots, cherries and sultanas and topped with a thick disc of white chocolate fudge icing.
For the cake:
  • 175g glace cherries, halved
  • 175g apricot, chopped
  • 250g sultanas
  • 175g butter
  • 175g dark soft brown sugar
  • 90ml ish honey
  • 2-3 tsp coffee granules dissolved in 175ml milk
  • 100g Terrys chocolate orange, chopped
  • 2 generous scoops marmalade
  • Zest/juice of 1 clementine
  • Generous 0.5 tsp cinnamon
  • Generous 0.5 tsp nutmeg
  • 2 very generous tbsp cocoa powder
  • 3 large free range eggs, beaten
  • 175g plain flour (gluten flour)
  • 75g ground almonds
  • 0.5 tsp baking powder (gluten free)
  • 0.5 tsp bicarbonate
  • 1 tsp xanthan gum
For the fudge icing:
  • 50g granulated sugar
  • 50ml milk
  • 75g white chocolate, chopped
  • 25g softened butter
1. Put the fruit, butter, sugar, honey, coffee milk, marmalade, juice/zest, mixed spice and cocoa into a large saucepan and heat until the butter has melted. Bring to a bentle boil while stirring then simmer for ten mins. Remove from the heat and leave for 30 to 60 mins. Meanwhile, grease and line a 9 inch circular tin.2. Set the oven to 150 C/130 C fan. Once the mixture is cool enough to not scramble the eggs, mix in the remaining cake ingredients in turn and pour the mixture into the tin. 3. Bake in the preheated oven for 1.75 to 2.5 hours, depending on your oven, lowering the temperature as necessary. When the cake is ready, a cake tester inserted into the centre should come out with a few bits on like a brownie. Cool fully on a wire rack before removing from the tin.4. For the fudge icing, over a low heat dissolve the sugar in the milk in a small saucepan. Bring to the boil and simmer for a few mins. Remove from the heat and beat in the chocolate, followed by the butter. Beat for a couple of mins then either use as it is or leave to cool and thicken before spreading on the cake and decorating.
I've already entered Ros (The More Than Occasional Baker and this months host) and Caroline's (Caroline Makes) Alphabakes challenge but I want to enter again with this bake. The letter this month is 'X' which means both the Christmas theme and the xanthan gum I used because this is gluten free make it count. 

The festive them of this cake also makes it suitable for a few other challenges so go have a look. They are:

Calendar Cakes hosted this month by Rachel from Dollybakes, alternating with Laura from Laura Loves Cakes. The theme is 'Jingle Bell Rock'. A fun cake for a fun theme I reckon!
Four Seasons Food hosted this month by Anneli from Delicieux, alternating with Louisa from Eat Your Veg. The theme this month is 'Party Food' and for me a party is just a gathering without cake. 

Finally, is Nayna's Let's Cook Christmas Party Food. This cake worked perfectly as the crowning glory (if I am allowed to say that about my own baking!) of our Christmas meal so I think it fits. Go over to her blog Simply Food and have a look round. 

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Chocolate Whisky Bundt Cake

What with one thing and another, this post has been sat in limbo for over a week now despite me being mightily pleased with it. I was going to start it off with a rant and say how making the cake made me relax but the rant is best left aside now. Instead, I'm going to jump right in there and say this cake was pretty damn good. You know one of those where you fancy playing about with an idea not knowing whether it will work or not then you taste it and eat the rest of the piece with a massive grin on your face because it worked? Well, this was one of those cakes.
After the success of these Chocolate Whisky Cakes with Ganache Topping I wanted to try using the recipe again but in a big cake. It took me ages to bake with whisky again, the first real chance I got being when I made these Whisky and Chocolate Raisin Blondies. They were good, no doubt about it but I wanted to improve on them. The next batch were terrible which put me off blondies slightly so when I saw the theme for this months We Should Cocoa, hosted by Choclette from Chocolate Log Blog, was alcohol I knew I had to get whisky in there but I certainly wasn't going to risk another blondie failure. Nope, I was going to use it as an excuse to make a big cake, which I don't often get to do and what's more, I was going to Christen my ring mould which I bought instead of an angel food cake tin. It isn't really a bundt tin but that is what I'm calling the cake. So there. 

Moist, soft, springy sponge drizzled with whisky fresh from the oven. Rich, chocolate fudge icing kicking with whisky slathered on top and finished with sprinkles. I am being taught the virtues of sprinkles.  

Before I leave you with the recipe which I urge you to try, I've just got to share the We Should Cocoa challenge with you properly. The theme of the month is alcohol and there are plenty of other gorgeous recipes on Choclette's Chocolate Log Blog so go have a nosey round. You won't be disappointed. 

(P.S. If you have been baking any biscuits or cookies that are quick and easy to tide you over until the festive period thenyou might like to enter my own baking challenge - the Biscuit Barrel. Rules aren't strict - anything that fits into a biscuit container is eligible!)

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Chocolate Whisky Bundt Cake
A soft, moist all-in-one chocolate cake soaked in whisky and topped with the best chocolate fudge whisky icing around. This makes a big cake so if you only have a small bundt tin, don't overfill it and make cupcakes instead.
For the cake:
  • 10oz caster sugar
  • 6oz soft tub margarine
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 6oz natural yoghurt
  • 8oz self raising flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2oz cocoa
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 6 tbsp whisky`
For the fudge icing:
  • 2 fl.oz milk
  • 2oz granulated sugar
  • 3oz dark chocolate, chopped
  • 1oz softened butter
  • 2 or 3 tbsp whisky
1. Set the oven to 180 C/160 C fan. Grease your bundt tin well and dust with cocoa powder.2. Place all the ingredients into a large bowl and mix with an electric mixer until just well combined. Don't keep mixing past this.3. Spoon the cake mixture into the tin and level off. Bake in the pre-heated oven for 1hr 15 mins, checking afte 1 hr to see if a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. If it needs longer, lower the temperature and continue as required. 4. When ready, set on a wire rack and carefully trim away any domed cake as necessary to leave a level surface. Use a skewer to poke holes (carefully) in it and brush over a few tbsp whisky as desired. Leave to cool fully in the tin.5. Once cooled, turn out onto a plate or wire rack and make the icing. 6. In a pan over a low heat, dissolve the sugar in the milk then simmer for a few mins. emove from the heat and whisk in the chocolate, followed by the butter then the whisky. Continue beating for a few mins then leave to thicken. Spread onto the cake and decorate as you wish.

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Brown Sugar Shortbread - Guest Post

This is one of those posts that I can barely write for excitement. The reason? I'm going to tell you all about my first ever guest post!!! I never thought I'd get to write a guest post. It's a massive honour having my witterings published on somebody elses blog and to make it even better, it is part of a fantastic project - the 2013 Cookie Advent Calendar run by Stephanie over at Kitchen Frolic. I met Steph through Twitter when Stuart from Cakeyboi suggested me after Stephanie put out a call for recommendations for bloggers to take part in this years calendar. I was really touched that Stuart thought of me in that moment and it just goes to show how supportive the blogging network is.

The Advent Calendar is in its second year now and each day throughout December Stephanie reveals a new recipe by a different person. The standard of recipes so far has been awesome which has made me a little nervous that my Brown Sugar Shortbread will be up to scratch. Nevertheless, it was really fun to spend time thinking what to make then getting in the kitchen to give it a go, and of course I had to taste test it first! Well, as you can see from the size of that cup and saucer I really like drinking tea and what better accompaniment to tea than biscuits?!

I could spend another half dozen paragraphs or so telling you all the virtues of these biscuits but I'm going to be good and leave it here for now. Instead, pop over to Kitchen Frolic to see the full post and don't forget to say hi. Thanks again to Stuart for recommending me and Steph for having me on her wonderful blog.

Saturday, 14 December 2013

The Vanilla Diaries Week 3

This is just a quick post to let you all know how my vanilla extract is coming along. I had intended to give you an end of week 2 update but really there wasn't a massive change so I left it until now. Everymorning when I make breakfast I have to resist the urge to take the bottle out and give it a good shake because it isn't really necessary to do it that often now but I still want to. I've been wondering if I can get away with just a four week extraction rather than the full six so I can start it before Christmas but I know I shouldn't really. I'm used to two and four hour extractions in the lab so this is a bit different for me. I don't think it has changed all that much but that is to be expected at this stage. A little darker maybe? I'm not sure. All I do know for certain is that I cannot wait to give it a trial run!

You can read my excitement over starting this here for Week 0 and here for Week 1.

Monday, 9 December 2013

Parsnip, Carrot and Swede Soup and an Ozeri Review

Back in October (which seems such a long time ago now) I was lucky enough to be sent a frying pan to review by the lovely people at Moderna Housewares. It was such fun to make up that giant cookie recipe but this time I thought I'd go with something I've made before and already love - Parsnip Carrot and Swede Soup. This Ozeri electirc pepper grinder gave me the perfect excuse to make this soup again because I put quite a lot of corriander in it and having bought some seeds at the weekend at the BBC Good Food Show, I wanted to try them out as an alternative to the leaf I put in last time. I spoke to the lady at the spice stall who mentioned that seeds are normally put in curries but as my regular readers will know, I don't tend to stick to what is normally done, or the recipe for that matter. Hence why I wanted to try grinding other spices in a pepper mill!
The Ozeri Soft Touch Electric Pepper Grinder is really easy to use. I've never been one to put salt and pepper on my dinner before and the giant novelty one my Grandad proudly brings out each time we visit for dinner is too monstrous for me but this one is a good size without being dinky. It feels comfortable to hold, has a ceramic mechanism and you can adjust to grinding size from fine to coarse. I tried out some peppercorns in it first for my soup and they ground perfectly, then I tried the corriander seeds. I found that it did work, but they were crushed more than ground - perfect for an aromatic warming curry but I wanted something finer for my soup so I saved the crushed seeds and used corriander leaf instead. 

The soup was lovely - it is one of my favourites. The sweet yet savoury flavours of the main ingredients complement each other perfectly and make this really comforting. I think the corriander adds to the warming effect too because it is so aromatic and the tomato puree I throw in there adds a gorgeous tang. The first time I made this soup I used chicken stock but this time I tried something abit unusual. I made cider pulled pork last weekend and didn't want to throw away the cider that was left so I saved it and skimmed off the pork fat once it had chilled. Hey presto - cider pork stock! Of course, this made the soup taste different from the last time but everyone was really intrigued who saw me eating it at uni for lunch. They are getting used to my food experiments now!
  So the Ozeri pepper grinder. Here's what I thought overall.

What I particularly liked:
  • The sleek design - It isn't bulky or garish for a kitchen item and it fits nicely in your hand. The power button is ergonomically placed and there is no strain to press it.
  • The transparent compartment - It is good to be able to see how much material you have left before you need to top up. No chance of missing out on seasonings this way, unless you forget to buy more once you get low that is!
  • The adjustable grinding size - this is my favourite feature because you can change it depending on what you are milling and what the end purpose is. You don't want massive great chunks of salt all over your dinner but then making powder from cloves or dried chillis wouldn't be too useful either.

What I thought could be better:
  • The colour - yes, black is discreet but I like a choice of colours and I've mentioned before that my favourite colour is red. Hey, it's just my opinion and I'm firmly in the camp that if something works just as well in a prettier design then there is nothing wrong with choosing the prettier option.
  • The batteries - it seems a bit unfair to have to buy the batteries separately. If you are really excited to be trying out your new purchase and didn't realise it didn't come with the necessary four AA batteries you'd have to scrabble round to find some like I did or else be gutted that you had to wait to get to the shops again.
  • The locking mechanism - this works fine and it is easy but it could be marked a little clearer on the side is all I'm saying. Or maybe that's just me?

Overall this is a good product and yes, I'd recommend it. Now here's that recipe for a perfect warming winter soup!

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Parsnip, Carrot and Swede Soup
A warming wintery root veg soup packed full of goodness but so easy to make. Add more fluid depnding on how thick you like soups.
  • 2 parsnips, mediumq
  • 2 carrots, medium
  • Half a swede
  • A good squeeze tomato puree
  • 1 tsp garlic puree
  • A good splash worcestershire sauce
  • Ground pepper, to taste
  • Corriander leaf (or ground), to taste
  • 1.5 pints chicken/veg stock or leftover cooking cider
  • 1 large onion
1. If using a pressure cooker, peel and chop the veg and put everything in the pan. Seal on the lid, bring to high pressure of a high heat, time five mins and reduce heat by half. Once done, cool under running water to remove pressure, blend and serve.2. If using a saucepan, peel and chop the veg. Soften in a little olive or sunflower oil then add the rest of the ingredients. 3. Bring to the boil then reduce the heat and simmer for 20ish mins until everything is soft, stirring every so often. Remove from the heat, cool a little and blend. Add more fluid if desired.

As always, all opinions are my own. I wouldn't have it any other way.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Christmas Aero Bubbles Cookies

There is a story that goes with these cookies but if I tell the whole thing then this post will not finish until Christmas. In short, I went to the BBC Good Food show on Saturday. FINALLY. I've been wanting to go for the last couple of years but couldn't persuade my mum to go with me. This year I still didn't have anyone to go with but I didn't want it to be yet another year when I regretted not going so I took myself off and had a brilliant, if very exhausting time. I also came back very stuffed. I tried nowhere near everything that was being offered as samples but even what I did try was a lot. I didn't buy anywhere near as much as I expected to but then I did fall in love with a knife. A very professional very expensive knife. Maybe I'll succumb and buy it next time. Much like I succumbed to making these cookies.

After being out all day on Saturday (and I mean all day - I was sprinting for the train at 6:45am and didn't get back until 9pm thanks to rugby, footbal and Christmas markets meaning train problems and replacement bus services from Manchester) I wasn't planning on baking anything on Sunday morning because I thought I really ought to get on with some uni work. But then I really, really wanted to bake some biscuits and seeing as the last lot I made were a complete failure I had an even bigger hankering to bake. It needed to be something quick though. And easy. If I was going to take yet more time out from working then I should reduced the faffing about I needed to do. I had trouble deciding which recipe to make as I didn't want to do the gingers or hobnobs my mum suggested but I eventually settled on these based from Sally's Baking Addiction. Except, of course, I didn't follow the recipe. Hahahaha no.

A while ago I bought some Aero bubbles thinking they would go well in a cupcake. By some miracle they were still there on Sunday so I thought I'd give them their chance in these cookies instead. I've never made a mint flavoured cookie before so it would be interesting. Plus, it gave me an excuse to open the bag of bubbles and eat one or ten or more. I didn't itend to eat that many but they were so nice so in the end only about 85g of the 113g bag went into the cookies. But it was all good because despite there being dangerously less chocolate than stated in the recipe, the structure of the bubbles meant there was plenty in the cookies. I was so pleased with how they turned out. Slightly crisp on the outside, deliciously soft and chewy on the inside with pockets of refreshing minty chocolate dispersed throughout. These are a winner and the next time I make them (there will definitely be a next time) the only change I'd make is to add some mint extract to boost the flavour but I didn't have any this time. I'd like to try them with broken up Twilights too.

So much for a learning to keep posts short because of uni work. I need to tell you of the baking challenegs I'm sharing these with this month. First, is my own Biscuit Barrel challenge. This month the theme is quick an easy - these cookies were both. I was completely relaxed while making them and they are so good they are being considered for my long postponed Chocolate Chip Cookie journey. 

This month, the letter for AlphaBakes is X and our host this month, Ros from The More Than Occasional Baker, has said that X-Mas is perfectly acceptable as an entry. Joint host Caroline from Caroline Makes also agrees and even though I couldn't bare to put X-Mas in the title because I'm a bit of a stickler for things like that, hopefully my cheating entry will be accepted. Plus, these cookies are a perfect way to use up any leftover X-Mas chocolate when the time comes, if there is such a thing! 

Next is Treat Petite, this month hosted by Stuart from Cakeyboi but hosted on alternative months by Kat from Baking Explorer. This month the theme is 'Happy Holidays'. For as long as I can remember, my brothers and I have always associated mint Aero with Christmas so these cookies remind me of Christmas and those conversations when we demanded the stock of Christmas sweets feature mini Aero bars.

For the same reason, I'm also sharing these cookies with Calendar Cakes - this month hosted by Rachel from Dollybakes but also hosted on alternative months by Laura from Laura Loves Cakes. I know it is a bit of a tenuous link to Christmas so it is with a little trepidation that I enter them into the 'Jingle Bell Rock' theme but the Aero bubbles are green which is a festive colour!

Last but not least is Tea Time Treats from Karen of Lavender and Lovage and this month hosted by co-founder Kate of What Kate Baked. Sadly, this month is Kate's last for hosting the challenge but to go out in style she has chosen the theme of 'Festive Foodie Gifts'. For anyone who doesn't bake themselves, I think these cookies would be the perfect gift around Christmas, packaged in a pretty box or tied up with a ribbon in a cellophane bag. The mint makes these a touch lighter than all the other rich foods around at this time so might make a welcome change. 


print recipe

Christmas Aero Bubbles Cookies
A perfect, chewy cookie with crisp edges and a refreshing mint flavour from the Aero bubbles spread throughout.
  • 114g softened butter
  • 150g dark soft brown sugar
  • 100g granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 yolk
  • 1 peppermint extract
  • 0.75 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 285g plain flour
  • 85g-113g (depending on how many you eat) Aero mint bubbles
1. Set the oven to 180 C.160 C fan. Line three baking sheets with baking paper or a silicon mat, or line one tray nad bake in batches like I did.2. Use an electric whisk to beat the butter until creamy then beat in the sugars. Mix for a minute until very well blended then beat in the egg, yolk and mint extract for another 60-90 seconds.3. Sift together the dry ingredients, except the bubbles, and mix into the wet ingredients in two batches. Mix for 30-60 seconds with each addition. Chop the bubbles up and fold into the dough by hand.4. Form into balls (mine weighed 35g each) and place 9 on each baking sheet, flattening each slightly. Bake in the preheated oven for 12-13 mins, turning the trays at the half way point. They will still be very soft but once done, leave on the tray for a few mins then remove to a wire rack to cool fully or eat at will.

Original recipe credit to Sally's Baking Addiction