Lindisfarne and Pilgrims Coffee Cake


On our recent visit to Northumberland we visited the Holy Island of Lindisfarne. It is a tidal island that is accessed by a paved causeway, which is covered by the North Sea twice every 24 hours (so check tide times before you visit). It is one of the most important centres of early English Christianity when Irish monks settled there in AD635.

The Northumbrian King Oswald summoned an Irish monk named Aidan from Iona – the island monastery off the south west coast of now Scotland – to be bishop of his kingdom. He granted Aidan and his companions the island of Lindisfarne on which to found a monastery.

In the AD670’s a monk named Cuthbert joined the monastery at Lindisfarne and later became the greatest monk-bishop, and the most important saint in northern England in the Middle Ages.

Cuthbert also spent time on the even more remote island of Inner Farne just off the coast from Bamburgh. We visited the priory, which is now run by English National Heritage and definitely worth exploring, along with the fascinating exhibition which is included in the ticket. We combined our adventures on Lindisfarne with a stunning walk of the coast line of the whole island – around a 5 mile circular walk. We use Pathfinder walk books which I really recommend.

At the end of the walk, before we headed into the Priory, we chanced upon a rather inviting coffee house called ‘Pilgrims Coffee and Roastery’. I highly recommend you make a detour here to purchase a bag of their coffee beans (great gifts) as well as a cup of coffee and some excellent cakes and savoury eats. Their ‘Espresso Cake’ was so good that I thought I would share it with you here.

They have a cookbook, which you can buy with all their recipes in – you can purchase that here.

 

Pilgrim’s Coffee Cake

adapted from the Pilgrim’s Coffee and Roastery Cookbook

Serves 12

250ml espresso

250g salted butter

50g cocoa powder

400g caster sugar

150ml sour cream

2 eggs

1 tbsp vanilla extract

300g plain flour

200g chopped walnuts

2.5 tsp bicarbonate of soda

For the icing

60g unsalted butter

120g sifted icing sugar

2 tbsp espresso

 

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees (they state 160 degrees if using fan, but I found it needed to be hotter for my fan oven)
  2. Line a 20cmx30cm tray with greaseproof paper
  3. In a large bowl whisk together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy
  4. Mix in the espresso, cocoa, sugar, sour cream, eggs, vanilla, flour, bicarbonate of soda and walnuts to a loose batter.
  5. Pour the cake mixture into the prepared tray.
  6. Bake for 30-40 minutes until risen and dark brown – I found I needed to do it for a little more than 40 minutes.
  7. Allow to cool on a baking tray and remove the greaseproof paper when cooled slightly.

Icing


8. In another bowl whip together the butter and icing until light and fluffy.

9. Fold in the espresso until smooth.

10. Spread over the cooled coffee cake. Decorate with a few extra walnuts.

 

Note: It’s probably me, but I found the icing did not work when I used the amounts in their recipe – 250g unsalted butter, 250g icing sugar and 120ml espresso so I redid the icing to the amounts above and it worked. I tend to prefer less than more when it comes to icing anyway as I don’t have a particularly sweet tooth. Let me know what works for you.

 

 

 


Rhubarb and Custard Slice – Competition to win ‘Afternoon Tea at Bramble Cafe’ cookbook by Mat Follas

Spring is in the air, well at least for the moment it is. Sunny skies make all the difference and you can notably see everyone feeling that extra bit cheery. Polo-neck jumpers can be cast aside and thick winter coats can be put away, for a while at least. With longer days and flowers beginning to make an appearance, the thought of doing some spring baking is rather attractive.

‘Images from Afternoon Tea at Bramble Cafe by Mat Follas. Photographs by Steve Painter. Published by Ryland Peters & Small.’

Enter Mat Follas – masterchef UK winner way back in 2009 – new book ‘Afternoon Tea at Bramble Cafe’. I can almost smell the delicate scents from the sweetpeas on the front cover and that cheesecake screams ‘summer’ to me. Mat, his wife Amanda and their business partner Kate, opened Bramble Cafe & Deli in Poundbury in Dorset in 2016 and this book is a collection of all the lovely recipes that they showcase in the cafe.

‘Images from Afternoon Tea at Bramble Cafe by Mat Follas. Photographs by Steve Painter. Published by Ryland Peters & Small.’

Sweet and savoury are both included ranging from the classics, such as the ‘Victoria Sandwich Cake’, to fancy dainties and patisseries, such as the ‘Salted Caramel Tartlets’. He includes some wonderful sounding jams, jellies and marmalades – strawberry and elderflower jam, as well as some alcoholic and non-alcoholic tipples.

‘Images from Afternoon Tea at Bramble Cafe by Mat Follas. Photographs by Steve Painter. Published by Ryland Peters & Small.’

I decided to make the ‘Rhubarb and Custard Slice’, which is a take on a classic custard slice or mille-feuille. It also reminded me of my ultimate favourite cake ‘Pasteis de Nata’ also known as ‘Portguese custard tart’. It was super easy to prepare and makes a great dessert or tea-time fancy. The only slight alternation I’ll make next time is that I will oven bake the puff pastry for a little longer and lightly brush whisked egg allowing it to bronze more. Other than that it tasted great and the custard was very similar tasting to the Portuguese custard tart. Rhubarb is so pretty, and tastes fabulous that the combination of the custard and rhubarb brought back many childhood memories for me.

If you would like to win a copy of this book head on over to my instagram page and look for this photo above which will provide all the details. It’s very straightforward so have a go at winning a copy.  UK residents only I’m afraid. For those asking, the beautiful plates above I have collected over the last few years from Anthropologie, which always stock such gorgeous things.

Rhubarb & Custard Slice

recipe from ‘Afternoon Tea at Bramble Cafe’ by Mat Follas

150g puff pastry (bought)

1 egg, whisked

300g fresh rhubarb, trimmed and cut into 2cm length pieces

vegetable oil, to coat,

50g Demerara sugar

200ml milk

100ml double/heavy cream

2 eggs

2 egg yolks

50g plain/all-purpose flour

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

100g caster sugar

non-stick 30x20cm/12×8 inch brownie pan, light oil and lined with baking parchment

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees centigrade (35o Fahrenheit) Gas 4.
  2. Roll out the pastry to 3mm thickness and trim to fit the base of the brownie pan.
  3. Using a fork prick holes over the base to stop the pastry rising too much. Use the whisked egg to brush the pastry to help it get a beautiful bronzed colour.
  4. Bake in a preheated oven for 12 minutes or until it is golden brown. If it has puffed up it will shrink when you allow it to cool out of the oven.
  5. Meanwhile trim and cut the rhubarb into evenly-sized pieces, about 2cm/2/4 inch in length. Toss them with a little vegetable oil and then the Demerara sugar. Spread them out on a lined baking sheet and bake in the oven for 10-12 minutes, until they are just softened and cooked through.
  6. In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat the milk and cream on a low heat, stirring gently until simmering, then immediately take off the heat.
  7. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, egg yolks, flour, vanilla and caster sugar to form a paste.
  8. Pour the hot milk and cream mixture into the mixing bowl, whisking constantly to combine into a think custard.
  9. Now return the custard to the saucepan and on a low heat whisk the custard over the heat until it has thickened and holding soft peaks. It is really important to have it on a low heat so it does not burn!
  10. Pour the thick custard over the pastry base and smooth it to make level.
  11. Place the rhubarb pieces on top of the custard – they should be half submerged.
  12. Refrigerate for at least and hour before cutting into 10 with a bread knife.
I was very kindly sent a copy of this beautiful cookbook. All views and opinions are my own.

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Homemade Spiced Granola

With all the snow we have been having recently (it’s since melted sadly) I’ve been doing some serious hibernating indoors, which ultimately means a lot of cooking and baking. When it’s cold and snowing outside, I find that there is nothing better than cooking inside in the warm, something delicious to warm the belly.

I’ve been making a range of new exciting curries, soups (my roasted sweet potato and garlic is a winner so will post it up in another post!) and then I decided to make a large batch of homemade granola. You can get as creative as you wish, it really comes down to how you like to eat granola.  My husband dislikes coconut flakes (I rather like them) so I purposely omitted them here. That’s love.  My sis is not particularly into dried fruit so if I were to make her some I would omit them. I am a nut and seed fiend so have included quite a few but you can choose just one or two varieties that you like or need using up.

I also rather like to add a little spice so I have added some turmeric, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg powder. It’s not overpowering but just gives the granola that extra boost of deliciousness. I have also used maple syrup and this brand I particularly LOVE (Holland & Barrett have a deal on at the moment: buy 2 and get one half price), but you can use honey or agave if that’s what you have to hand.

Personally I don’t drown my granola in maple syrup. By all means you can and it will become more crunchy but I find the amount below works well and the granola is crisp without all being stuck together. (The photos above are pre-baking) 1kg is a lot but I thought that it made sense to do a large batch and then store it in sealed jars. They work really well as gifts – just tie a wooden spoon to your kilner jar and it makes a very thoughtful gift and everyone loves granola after all.

 

Homemade Spiced Granola

Makes 1kg which will last a while

200ml maple syrup

1 tsp cinnamon powder

1/4 (quarter) tsp turmeric powder

1tsp ginger powder

1 tsp nutmeg powder

2 tbsp coconut oil

1kg jumbo oats

170g hazelnuts

100g brazil nuts

100g pecan

20g sunflower and/or pumpkin seeds

200g berry mix (dried cranberries, blueberries, golden berries, raisins)

 

  1. Preheat a fan oven to 150 degrees.
  2. In a small bowl mix the maple syrup, cinnamon, turmeric, nutmeg and ginger powders with the coconut oil. Place to one side.
  3. Line a large baking tray with parchment.
  4. In a large bowl place the jumbo oats, nuts and seeds NOT THE DRIED BERRIES and stir so that they are well mixed in.
  5. Add the maple syrup mix to the oats and stir together. If you find they need a bit more maple syrup then by all means add a little more but I find this is enough for mine.
  6. Place evenly on your large baking tray and oven bake for 1 hour. Every 15 minutes you need to turn them around so that they are baked on all sides.
  7. Once they are baked mix in the berry mix and you’re done.

 

 

 

 

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Homemade Naan Bread, The Black Forest and The Knights Templar

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Soft pillowy naan bread dunked into a bowl of dal has got to be THE ultimate comfort food. As those who have been reading my blog for sometime will know, whenever I return from holiday the first thing I cook is some dal. It’s quick, easy and you can determine the amount of fresh chilli that you put in it. There are so many dals you can make, but I often opt for  – red split lentil dal. You can add whatever vegetable you have to hand – tomatoes, peas, carrots – but I would advise not adding more than 2 max.img_4536-3

I had spent a week in the glorious Black Forest in the south west corner of Germany. Wifi is hit and miss – hence the lack of a blog post last week, apologies – so it allows you to unwind properly and relax in this beautiful part of the country. img_4524-3

 

The top of the hills were covered in snow, but down in the valleys the pastures were green, which gave us the option of walks in the meadows and through the forests or skiing at higher altitudes.

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We were blessed with clear blue skies and warming winter sun. A stunning combination.

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Whilst our days were spent out and about in the fresh air, our evenings were spent sitting by the roaring fires eating the local produce of venison, wild boar, cheese, breads, wine, an interesting salad leaf that can only be found in the Black Forest around February (name escapes me, but it was a cross between rocket and watercress) and Black Forest gateaux – naturally.

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We drove from London, staying over for a couple of nights in Strasbourg on the way, admiring it’s impressive cathedral and quaint streets. In many ways in reminded me of Bruges or nearby Colmar – definitely worth a detour if you haven’t been.

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Strasbourg is easy to explore on foot and has a number of museums and art galleries in close proximity. A boat trip on the waterways is also a must and helps you get your bearings.

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To break up our homeward journey we stayed in Laon, in the region of Picardy. If medieval history is of interest to you then this place is an absolute must. We stayed in one of the old canon’s houses (there were  84 canons at one time living in Laon – it was the largest chapter in France in the 12th and 13th centuries) up in the attic with a view of the cathedral. Our airbnb host was a charming and well travelled French man who was keen to show us his eleventh century frescos and ruins in his cellar. The cellar stretched under the whole of his house and when we had seen what we thought was the extent of it, he revealed another doorway with steps leading further down to another level. We proceeded to explore this level and then found further steps leading to another level. It was a cavern within a cavern within a cavern.  It was without doubt the most incredibly historical cellar we have ever been in and an archaeologist/historians dream. Over the ages new floors were simply added – we could make out the old stables on one level. Apparently there are many passageways linking up the canon’s houses surrounding the cathedral. I imagine many of them are filled in or perhaps not yet discovered by their occupants living many metres above.

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The Knights Templar spent much time both in Laon and the surrounding area. They built this magnificent church (above) modelled on the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem in 1140. Unfortunately we only managed to spend a few minutes here before we were ushered out as it was closing time, so the museum that stands beside it will have to wait for a future visit.

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The Cathedral itself is worth a visit and in fact it was what initially drew us to this hill top city a couple of years ago, as we could see it’s towers from miles away. Laon is only 80 miles north east of Paris and only a couple of hours from Calais so  it’s a good place to stopover before catching the Euro tunnel home.

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Anyway enough of my travels and back to the matter at hand….naan bread. Believe it or not they are really easy to cook yourself. Making the dough is pretty straight forward and then you need to let it rest, in a warm part of your house, for 1-2 hours to let it increase in size.

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Then it is simply a case of rolling out the naan into small, thin, oval shapes. You can add nigella (black onion seeds) or sesame seeds on the top or keep them plain. Sometimes I like to add a couple of teaspoons of garlic paste to make garlic naan. You can be as inventive as you like in all honesty.

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I tend to cook mine in a frying pan – do not add any oil – but you can also cook them under the grill if you prefer, but be watchful as they bronze quickly.

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It takes no more than a minute or so to cook them and then I add some melted butter on top. Equally if you prefer you can add some melted ghee or even milk.

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My girls (and husband) love them both with a meal or an after school snack. Serve them warm and eat straight away. A wonderful treat and perfect for chilly February weather.

 

Homemade Naan Bread

makes around 9-10 naan bread

400g plain flour

2 tbsp rapeseed oil

5g dried yeast

1 tsp salt

1 tsp sugar

1 tsp baking powder

1 egg beaten

100g full fat plain yoghurt

100ml warm full fat milk

1 tbsp butter, melted

 optional: nigella/sesame seeds/fresh coriander as a topping

If you want to make garlic naan add a couple of tsp of garlic paste at the beginning and mix into the dough.

  1. In a large mixing bowl add the flour and then make a hole in the centre and pour in the oil, dried yeast, salt, sugar, baking powder and beaten egg.
  2. Mix gently using your hands and once it has become quite crumbly add the yoghurt and then continue to mix together.
  3. Now gradually add in the warm milk until all the mixture comes together.
  4. Remove from the bowl and place a little plain flour on a cold surface.
  5. Kneed the dough for 5 minutes until it become soft and pliable.
  6. Return to the bowl and cover with cling film and leave in a warm room for over an hour so that it can increase in size.
  7. When it is ready, split the dough into even balls and begin to roll them out thinly in oval shapes.  You may need a sprinkling of extra flour at this stage to prevent it from sticking to the surface. Pierce gently with a fork. If adding nigella/sesame seeds lay a few on the top and gently roll them into the top of the naan.
  8. Heat a non-stick frying pan. When it is properly hot add a naan bread and leave for around 20 seconds before turning over and leaving for a further 20 seconds. Turn once more for a few more seconds – or longer if it is not bronzing sufficiently.
  9. Remove from the pan and add a little melted butter to the top. Keep under a warm tea towel whilst you work on the remaining naan. As the naan’s I make are quite small I can often manage two in a pan at a time.

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Double Ginger Cake

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I am not a big baker. I leave that to the precision experts like my father. My kind of cooking tends to gravitate to more savoury, spiced and packed with flavour. That said I do like an uncomplicated sweet recipe or in this case a double ginger cake. I don’t have a kitchen aid or anything fancy, instead when I bake a cake I like to do everything in a bowl, ideally by hand or a hand whisk if necessary. I was browsing through Nigel Slater’s ‘The Kitchen Diaries’ the other day – great book if you haven’t got a copy, otherwise one for the christmas list – and his double ginger cake stood out for three reasons. One it was ginger – I love ginger, two – it looked quick and easy to make and three – it did not require any specialist equipment.

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My father’s belated birthday family lunch was the ideal excuse to try out Nigel’s recipe. After a long lingering lunch, cooked by my mother – parsnip soup for starters (above), followed by roast pork with fennel, finished off with blackberry and apple crumble, we donned winter coats and wellies and headed for the woods for a walk at dusk.

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Upon returning the feasting continued with my ginger cake (and a coffee cake that the birthday boy had made himself – just in case no one else had made him a cake) and tea. It got the thumbs up all round. The sponge was moist and deliciously gingery and as there was no sight of icing, it was not too saccharine sweet.

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Double Ginger Cake

Adapted from Nigel Slater’s Double Ginger Cake from ‘The Kitchen Diaries’ 

Serves 10+

250g self-raising flour

1 level tsp bicarbonate of soda

2 tsp ground ginger powder

halt a tsp cinnamon powder

pinch of salt

200g golden syrup

2 tbsp syrup from the stem ginger jar

125g unsalted butter

3 lumps (about 53g) stem ginger in syrup, finely diced

2 tbsp sultanas (optional)

125g dark muscovado sugar

2 eggs

240ml milk

I used a 25cmx25cm tin (Nigel used one slightly smaller). I also think it would work well in a loaf tin.

  1. Line the tin with baking parchment and place to one side.
  2. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.
  3. Sift the flour, ginger powder, cinnamon, bicarbonate of soda and salt into a large bowl and place to one side.
  4. In a pan heat the golden and ginger syrup along with the butter, keeping it on a low heat.
  5. Add the finely diced ginger, sultanas (if using) and sugar to the pan. Stir allowing the sugar to dissolve completely for a couple of minutes before gently pouring it into the bowl with the flour and stirring all together so that the flour has been absorbed into the hot syrupy butter.
  6. In a small bowl break the eggs and using a fork gently beat them. Add to the milk before adding that into the bowl with the mixture.
  7. Pour into the lined baking tin and place in the oven for 35 minutes. You want to be able to able to insert a skewer and for it to come out clean.

Leave in the tin to cool completely, unless you are wanting to eat immediately that is. You can wrap it in foil and eat over the next few days – Nigel mentions allowing it to mature for a day or two will enhance the flavour further. Thankfully there are leftovers so I will be having a square every day for the next few days.

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Parmesan, Chive and Truffle Madeleines and a Paris Snapshot

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Despite Paris being so close to London – three hours on the Eurostar – we had never been with big A and little Z. Mr B and I had been on numerous occasions in the past both for work and pleasure, but we were long overdue a visit with all the family. Good friends had recently moved there – well to the pretty town of Versailles to be exact, so the decision to visit was very easy.

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We decided to show our girls (aged 10 and 6) a snapshot of Paris so that they could soak up the atmosphere and see some of the sights; the most famous of all being the Eiffel Tower. I had always admired it from afar but never ventured to the top. A flurry of light snow began to fall, despite the pretty blossom making an appearance, and we climbed (well Mr B and big A did – Little Z and I took the lift) right to the top. The view was spectacular, despite it being rather overcast. As we made our way down in the lift we were told that we could get out on the first floor if we wanted the ice rink – pretty impressive I thought to have a rink actually on the tower.

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After a stroll around the Louvre we made our way to a charming and very buzzy French restaurant called Bistrot Victoires on 6 rue Vrillère – about a 10 minute walk from the Louvre. Here you can indulge in traditional gallic fare accompanied by a bottle of red wine and some great tasting baguette to munch on whilst you wait for your food. The restaurant is famous for its steak frites that comes with burning thyme on top. IMG_9210

The smell, pomp and visual spectacle of it all is very memorable so I would urge you to order it if you go. We had a portion each and I must say I think it was the most tasty I have ever had.

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Here is a close up to make you hungry!

I rather loved their old till, which looks so much grander than the hand held card reading device that they use to day. Old and new sitting side by side. IMG_9240

We walked off our lunch with a visit to the wonderful Musee D’Orsay which is housed in the former Gare D’Orsay, a Beaux-Arts railway station built between 1898 and 1900. A must if it’s your first time to Paris, and slightly more manageable than the Louvre in as far as size. Thursday nights are late opening so a nice thing to do before heading out to dinner perhaps.

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The following day we headed back into Paris – a very short 20 minute journey on the RER. I rather loved the old school look of this carriage that looked like it was a travelling library carriage  – how very civilised.

There is nothing quite like a crepe to kick start your day. The girls were thrilled with their nutella ones whilst Mr B and I went for the ham and cheese.

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Bellies full we headed to the spectacular French gothic cathedral of Notre Dame, which stood in all it’s glory in the cold, crisp February sunlight. The girls were familiar with this building owing to the fact that they have watched the  Disney movie ‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame’ more times than I care to remember. We walked off breakfast within its walls, marvelling at its grandeur and beauty.

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An absolute must if you are visiting Paris is Sainte-Chapelle, which is literally a stones throw away from Notre Dame. It was built by King Louis IX of France to house his collection of passion relics, including the Christ’s Crown of Thorns. You need to climb up the winding narrow staircase but once you’ve reached the top you will be rewarded with one of the most extensive 13th-century stained glass collection anywhere in the world. It is utterly breathtaking, especially when the sun is shining and reflecting through all the coloured glass in all it’s brilliance.

Another pit stop for food was required so we headed to A La Biche Au Bois on Avenue Ledru-Rollin, which offers hearty, honest French food away from the typical tourist trap restaurants.

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The staff at this restaurant were both jovial and charming and coupled with the fact that the food was great, it makes it a restaurant worth seeking out, and indeed booking as it gets packed.

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After all good lunches a walk is required so we sauntered over to my favourite and indeed oldest square in the whole of Paris…..Place de Vosges. After ambling around the square we decided to head north to Sacre Coeur in bohemian Montmartre. The sun was shining so we felt it was worth the effort to head there so we could admire the view of Paris and Sacre Coeur.

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The next few days we spent time relaxing in Versailles with our friends and visiting the famous Palace and grounds of the Versailles Palace. IMG_9337

If you ever find yourself in Versailles for the evening and want to splash out, the bar at the Trianon Palace Versailles is worth a visit as they serve delicious cocktails, but then again at €22 you would expect them to be pretty outstanding. If you are in town and want something more hip and low key on ambiance and price then I can recommend La Conserverie   a bar in the 2nd arrondissement. From the outside you probably wouldn’t notice it, but don’t be put off. For the brave who venture in you’ll find elegant, longing surroundings with a relaxed vibe. Needing a bite to eat then head to Restaurant Victor 101 bis, rue Lauriston in the 16th district of Paris. It has an old school French vibe, dishing up all the French classic with style and panache. IMG_2336

Back in Blighty I decided to continue with the French theme by rustling up some little french fancies known as ‘madeleines’. Small, bite size and wonderfully moist in the centre and a little crispy on the outside. They are best eaten straight from the oven. Deliciously warm. They often come in sweet flavours but work equally well savoury. I naturally gravitated towards making them savoury, although I think next time I will try cardamom ones. You can play around with the fillings by adding pancetta, sun-dried tomatoes, sage, rosemary or whatever takes your fancy.

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They take a matter of minutes to whisk together and then another 12-14 minute to cook in the oven. A perfect tea time treat.

Parmesan, Chive and Truffle Madeleines

2 eggs

50g parmesan, finely grated

100g plain flour, sifted

1/2 tsp baking powder

40ml truffle oil

3 tbsp butter, melted

2 tbsp chives, finely chopped

1 tsp salt

freshly ground black pepper

2 tbsp milk

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees (if using fan or 200 if not).
  2. First blend the cheese and eggs using an electric whisk if you can (or by hand if you haven’t).
  3. Then add the flour, baking powder, salt and pepper.
  4. Now add the truffle oil, melted butter and chives.
  5. Finally add the milk and whisk so that it is smooth but still quite firm.
  6. Lightly grease the madeleine tray and add a heaped teaspoon of mixture to each compartment. Smooth the top where possible.
  7. Place in the oven for 12-14 minutes, or until bronzed on top. Use a tooth pick to see if it is done – it should come out nice and clean.

Eat immediately if possible whilst they are still warm with a cup of tea.

Note: instead of truffle oil you can use extra-virgin olive oil, chilli oil, basil oil. Experiment and see which you like. 

Paris Restaurants and Bars:

Bistrot Victoires – 6 rue Vrillère (R)

A La Biche Au Bois – 45 Avenue Ledru-Rollin (R)

Restaurant Victor – 101 bis, rue Lauriston (R)

Trianon Palace Versailles – 1 Boulevard de la Reine, Versailles (B)

La Conserverie Bar – 37 Rue du Sentier (B)

It was simply by chance that two of the restaurants I visited had part of my name in the title ;o)!

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Chilli, Feta and Spring Onion Cornbread

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Cornbread is not commonly known about, or eaten for that matter, here in the UK and yet it is the most wonderfully moreish and perfect little bread that works so well with a soup or salad or as a savoury alternative to scones with jam and clotted cream at tea time – not that I eat scones and jam with clotted cream every tea time……only on special occasions!

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My eldest is often famished after a day at school followed by clubs so naturally likes to have a little snack before supper and this bread is a big hit – even with the chilli in. The bread allows you to be creative and put whatever little filling takes your fancy. I like to use feta as it has the perfect saltiness to go with the chilli and the spring onion adds an additional layer of flavour, which I love. Equally courgette and ricotta or caramelised onion and goats cheese would also work really well. Do you have a favourite combination? I would love to hear so please leave a message in the comments section below for us all to see.

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I use Greek yoghurt and milk in my cornbread but you can also use buttermilk, try them both out and see which you prefer. For this recipe I used one egg this time, but if I use small eggs then I often pop in two. As for chilli, jalapeno works well or you can use a milder/hotter one or even dried chilli flakes. Have a go, experiment and let me know what you think. It’s perfect with my Mexican tortilla soup.

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Chilli, Feta and Spring Onion Cornbread

Dry ingredients

160g fine cornmeal (polenta)

60g plain flour

1 tsp sweet smoked paprika

2 tsp baking powder

pinch of salt

1 red chilli (or 2 if you want that extra kick)

75g crumbled feta

1 spring onion, finely chopped

Wet ingredients

125ml Greek yoghurt

125ml milk

juice of half a lime

1 large egg (or 2 small eggs)

2 tbsp olive oil

1. Pre heat the oven to 180 degrees c.

2. Grease some baking parchment and place in your loaf tin. Mine is 24x14cm. By all means use a smaller tin – your loaf will just have more depth, which is good. Without baking parchment you may find your loaf is harder to remove from the tin after baking.

3. Mix all your dry ingredients together in one bowl.

4. Place all your wet ingredients together in another bowl/jug and then add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients. Fold in gently with a wooden spoon.

5. Pour into your tin and level off with a spatula. Place in the oven for 25 minutes, or until it is golden and firm to touch on the top.

6. Remove from the oven and allow to stand for at least 5 minutes before taking the bread out of the tin and removing the baking parchment.

 Serve warm or toasted with Mexican tortilla soup


Bagel Mania

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As far as blog posts are concerned this post is definitely up there on the memorable stakes. Yes, it’s a labour of love, but I can assure you the wait and effort is more than worth it. In fact we all agreed that we had never tasted bagels so fresh and tasty, this was, of course, because they had just come out of the oven and we had toiled hard to make them ourselves.

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We’d headed out of London for the weekend to dog sit for my parents who live in the rolling Sussex countryside. I thought that bagel making would provide the perfect morning’s entertainment, with the results making a truly satisfying lunch.

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Big A and Little Z had their own bowls to make the dough and whilst a little flour, salt and yeast found itself out of the bowl, the majority made its way into the dough itself!

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Honey is added to the vegetable oil then poured into the dough mixture.

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Really getting involved in the dough-making is so rewarding, as Little Z found out.


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Big A had a natural ability at kneading the dough for ten whole minutes.

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Once the dough had been given a good work out we combined Little Z and Big A’s dough and created one large ball. Rub a little vegetable oil around a large bowl and all over the dough, and place inside the bowl. You need to cover the bowl tightly with cling film and leave it somewhere warm – but not hot for 2 hours. The airing cupboard  provided the perfect place.

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By the time we returned the cling film had created a huge dome like structure over the bowl and the dough had doubled in size.

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We decided to cover our bagels with either chilli flakes, black poppy seeds or sesame seeds, but you could also cover them in black onion seeds, grated cheese, cinnamon sugar or whatever takes your fancy.

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The best way to shape your bagel is to roll it into a ball and then to use the end of a wooden spoon and push through the centre. Once it has reached through the dough, keep the handle on the surface and wriggle it around until a hole is created to the size that you want the hole to be. You can also shape it further with your hands. When the desired shape is reached place to one side for ten minutes so as to let the dough relax into shape.

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Now this part is really unusual, but doing it will allow your bagel to have that wonderful soft sponginess in the dough, once it is baked. Don’t skip it, even if you think you’ve read the instructions wrongly…..because you haven’t, you do actually need to BOIL the bagels briefly for one and a half minutes each side by placing them in a saucepan of boiling water and black treacle, (I know sounds crazy right?) that is simmering away.

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After the brief dunk in boiling treacle water and a thorough drain, place the bagels on lightly oiled baking trays that are sprinkled lightly with polenta – this is to stop the bagels sticking to the tray. Brush a beaten egg gently over all the bagels and then decide on your choice of topping and sprinkle over the bagels, pressing down gently so that the toppings stay in place.

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Freshly baked straight out of the oven. At this point, our stomachs were rumbling and we were ready to dive into our lunch.

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More choices…..what filling to place in our bagels. We opted mainly for either:

* Grilled bacon, soft cows cheese or cream cheese, rocket and a spoonful of my chipotles sauce.

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* Smoked salmon, cream cheese, avocado and rocket with a splash of lemon juice.

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Other than Little Z we all had two (a little piggy I know but oooh they were soooo good!) and the remainder we ate the following day for breakfast.

After such a good feast we decided to don our country coats and wellies and head out with Tessie the dog for a good old long walk across the fields and through the woods. A perfect day to spend a Saturday.

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Tessie loves to dive into hollow trees!!

Homemade Bagels

makes 14

adapted from Rachel Allen:Bake!

675g strong white bread flour

3 tsp salt

10.5g fast-acting yeast

375ml warm water

3 tbsp honey

2 tbsp vegetable oil

3 tbsp black treacle/molasses

polenta, for sprinkling

1 egg, beaten

toppings of your choice (chilli flakes, sesame seeds, black poppy seeds)

1. Sift the four, salt and yeast into a large bowl and create a well in the centre.

2. Place the warm water, honey and oil into a measuring jug and pour the liquid in in stages, using your hands to begin to make the dough. This stage is rather messy and sticky so take your time not too add too much liquid at once.

3. Once all the flour has come together to form a dough, transfer to a flat surface and sprinkle a little extra flour and then knead the dough for a good ten minutes. I tend to push the dough away with one hand and then fold the dough towards me and then turn it slightly before repeating the process. You’ll be able to pick up a good pace.

4. Lightly oil a large bowl and pour a little oil in your hands and smooth it on the dough, which you have made into a ball. Place the dough in the bowl and cover tightly with cling film. Place in a warm (but not hot hot) place for around 2 hours – the airing cupboard worked perfectly – when the dough will have doubled in size.

5. Place 6 pints of water into a large deep pan and bring to the boil. Add the black treacle and stir in throughly. Once it has come to the boil, let the treacle water simmer gently on a low heat.

6. Preheat an oven to 220 degrees centigrade (425F).

7. Meanwhile, once the treacle water is heating up, take the dough out of the bowl and place on a surface sprinkled with a little flour and knead it briefly before breaking it off into small balls for you to then make into individual bagels. The best way I found to make the bagel is to place the end of a wooden spoon into the centre of the ball, which you have flattened slightly. When it pierces through the bottom of the dough, give the wooden spoon a good twist around so that a larger hole is formed. You can then reshape slightly with your hands. Place to one side until you have used up all the dough. More hands make light work at this stage!! You will need to leave the bagels to stand for 10 minutes before moving onto the next stage, however, by the time you have finished shaping your last bagel the first few you made will be ready to be boiled.

8. Place no more than 4 bagels into the boiled simmering black treacle water and turn over after 90 seconds and leave for another 90 seconds. Then drain thoroughly and place on lightly oiled baking trays that have a sprinkling of polenta on them.

9. Brush each bagel lightly with whisked egg and then cover with your choice of topping.

10. Place in the oven for 15 minutes, by which stage they will be bronzed and ready to eat. If you would like a more bronzed bagel then turn the bagel over for a few more minutes extra cooking, although I don’t think that you’ll need it.

Eat whilst still warm for the perfect bagel.

Filling ideas:

* smoked salmon and cream cheese *goats cheese and red onion *salt beef, mustard and gherkin *bacon, soft cows milk cheese, chipotle sauce and rocket * cheddar and chutney *tuna, tomatoes and capers

What’s your favourite topping and filling? Would love to hear.