Sunday, 29 May 2011

Lancashire Elderflower delight

I love this time of year when the Elder tree is in flower, from earlier blog posts you can see I have somewhat an obsession with the flowers and what you can do with them. So when I purchased River Cottage Handbook no 7 Hedgerows I was pleased to see another way to use them. Elderflower delight. I just had to have a go, especially as on my last visit to The Red Cat, my favorite restaurant, the team had prepared their own Turkish delight which was served with coffee.

  • 20 Elderflower heads
  • 20g leaf gelatine
  • 700g granulated sugar
  • Juice of 2 lemons
  • 400ml water
  • 130g cornflour
  • 30g icing sugar

Soak the gelatine in a shallow dish of water, meanwhile strip the elderflower heads of the flowers and place in a piece of muslin which you are going to make into a bag tied with string. Take the granulated sugar, lemon juice and 300ml of the water, put in a saucepan and heat gently until all the sugar is dissolved, leave this to cool.

In a bowl mix 100g of the cornflour with the remaining water until smooth, then mix into the cooled lemon sugar syrup. Put the saucepan back on a low heat, add the gelatine sheets, squeezed of any excess water and whisk until throughly dissolved.

Bring back to the boil slowly and simmer for 10 minutes stirring all the time. suspend the muslin bag in the mixture and simmer for a further 15 minutes, squeezing the bag to release the flavours. The mixture will become very sticky and gloopy, keep stirring, when ready cool for 10 mins.

Mix the remaining cornflour and icing sugar in a bowl to create the tossing powder, line a shallow baking tin with baking parchment and dust with a tablespoon of the tossing mixture. Poor in the warm delight, removing the bag. Leave to cool fully and then put in the fridge to firm up until rubbery. Cut up with a knife or scissors into cubes and toss in the tossing mixture.

Very impressive and very delicious. The ideal gift.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Easy Peasy Yoghurt Cake

Thought I would quickly share with you one of my all time favorite recipes, its so easy , it doesn't even involve weighing scales. All the measurements are based on the yoghurt pot that your yoghurt has come from. If you have bought your yoghurt in a large pot just use a tea cup / american cup or similar. It scales perfectly. You just might need more baking tins !

  • Carton of yoghurt, plain , can be 0% fat if you want
  • 1 1/2 cartons of sugar (caster preferably)
  • 1 carton vegetable oil (sunflower I use)
  • 3 cartons self raising flour
  • 2 eggs free range of course
  • Vanilla extract / paste - a drop
Mix all ingredients together until smooth and put in a greased and lined 2lb loaf tin, bake @ 350F, 180 c, Gas mark 4 for approx 1 hour until firm and cooked through, test with a cocktail stick. Leave to cool in tin for 10 minutes and then carefully turnout onto a cooling rack. Best kept for a couple of days wrapped in foil. Freezes beautifully.

A taste of the unexpected

I recently purchased a copy of this book after becoming aware that this was the same chap who did the majority of the food gardening for River Cottage. Mark Diacono of Otter Farm has developed what he calls a “climate change farm” , it run on loose permaculture principles, but more on the basis that he got bored with growing mediocre standard fruit and vegetables and thought he would try something different.

He was inspired by the “mulberry” initially, I agree with Mark, life is too short to be growing vegetables that you can buy cheaply locally , plus these are always the vegetables that are most susceptible to pests and disease because they are grown commercially.

It’s a beautiful book and Mark is very knowledgeable and his enthusiasm comes over well in the book. He also recently featured in the Radio 4 food programme and advocated hosta’s as a vegetable, this meant that myself and Mr B dashed to the garden to try our selection. He tweets and has a blog if you are interested in finding out more.

Inspired by his book we have planted a goji berry and a Japanese wineberry in the garden, so lets see how we go on. I would also like to try a blue honeysuckle as well.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Kitchenaid !

My beloved mixer, after coveting Kitchenaid mixers from a far for a number of years, in February of this year for valentines day my husband purchased a Kitchenaid Classic mixer for me. For the uninitiated the classic is exactly the same as the artisan mixer, other than the bowl supplied is slightly smaller , it only comes in white not the funky colours of the artisan and most importantly is about £100 cheaper !

The mixer is a classic, my favourite local chef (Chris Rawlinson) has a kitchen aid classic , so has Ina Garten (Barefoot Contessa), so it comes well recommended. Its chunky , classic and will last you a lifetime, the design is fab as there are no awkward bits that you can’t clean and the different mixer heads are a breeze to swap over. Everything is metal, no plastic bits, I love love love it :-)

Must also say I bought mine via a family firm in Cumbria and they were fab, customer service wise as these mixers can be hard to get hold of.

Slow Food Wild food forage

Just returned from a "Wild Food Forage" organised by Slow Food Lancashire. What a great day we had , rambling around the beautiful countryside nibbling all sorts. We weren't lucky enough to find any edible funghi on this occasion, but we did find loads of edible greens. Hogweed shoots, cleavers juice, sweet cicely, pignut, ramsons and many others. The walk was led by Jesper, who was very knowledgeable and hosted by Andrew and his family from Corless Mill Farm.

After the rambles we enjoyed an alfresco snack of fresh bread, fabulous bacon from Andrew's pigs, shaggy ink caps (Jesper collected these earlier) and steamed hogweed shoots, all washed down with Andrew's homemade cider. Yum, local food at its best.

Bring on the autumn fungal foray !

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Panna Cotta and honeyed Rhubarb compote

Inspired by a recent re-run on the TV of River Cottage Everyday , I decided to give a Pannacotta a try. Hugh was making this with his son Oscar. I love all Italian food but I had never attempted making this beautiful wobbly dessert, well executed there is nothing to beat a creamy gently trembling dessert.

As the Rhubarb plants in the garden where developing triffid like tendencies, a honeyed Rhubarb compote was in order to accompany this dessert. You can flavour your pannacotta with coffee, chocolate, elderflower and many other delights but I thought vanilla would be fitting for my first attempt.

Firstly to make your compote poach trimmed rhubarb in a little water with local honey added for flavour and sweetness. Once just soft, remove from heat and allow to cool.
For the pannacotta you need

  • 100ml milk ( I used skimmed)
  • 250ml double cream
  • 40g caster sugar
  • Vanilla paste
  • 2 gelatine leaves
  • 150ml plain yoghurt
  • 4 diarold molds / ramekins or similar

Soak the gelatine leaves in cold water for about 5 minutes until soft.Combine the milk, cream and sugar in a pan and bring just to the boil, do not let it bubble. Remove from heat. Add the gelatine leaves to the hot milk / cream mix, ensuring you squeeze out any excess water and stir until dissolved. Now leave the mixture to cool fully, stirring every now and then. Once fully cool add the yoghurt and vanilla paste and stir until combined and the mixture is flecked with vanilla seeds.

Pour / spoon in to your molds and leave to set fully in the fridge, takes at least 4 hours. When you are ready to eat briefly dip the mold in hot water and then invert on your serving plate, drizzle over the Rhubarb compote.

Yum, yum, delicious and with just the right amount of wobble. Some cheaty restaurants put too much gelatine in them and they end up rubbery.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Classic Victoria Sponge

Apologies for not blogging in a while, naughty facebook has been distracting me. Over the next few days I plan to do a number of back catalogue postings.

Victoria Sponge cake is one of my favourite cakes and not the easiest to do well. I love the light but decadent taste sensation that results. However since I was treated to a Kitchen-aid mixer by my lovely husband, I have found that I can whip a cake in minutes. Filled with homemade jam, there is no better cake. My current recipe is taken from the “The Great British Book of Baking”, one of my favourite cook books currently, with the slight tweak that I tend to use a good quality margarine and of course home laid eggs from my hens.The margarine seems to give a lighter result to butter, but if you prefer butter, use that.

The mixture makes 2 cakes for a round sponge sandwich approx 8 inches in diameter

  • 175g softened butter or high quality margarine
  • 175g caster sugar
  • 3 eggs , free range
  • Vanilla extract / paste – approx 1 tsp
  • 175g Self raising flour - sifted
  • 1 scant tbsp milk ( not always required)
  • Jam for filling , whatever flavour your like or have to hand
  • Icing sugar for dusting

Optionally you could fill with cream and / or fruit if you wish to elevate this to even greater heights.

Firstly grease and bake line your cake tins, then pre heat your oven to 180 deg c / 350F / gas 4. Whisk the sugar and margarine / butter, until light and fluffy, this is much easier with a food mixer.Beat in the eggs and vanilla, if it looks like your mixture may split add a little flour to prevent this happening, then add the flour and gently combine. Some bakers recommend folding with a metal spoon, but I don’t seem to have any problems using the mixer to give the mixture its final mix. Add the milk if needed.

Place to mix into the tins, splitting the mixture evenly and spreading out across the tin, trying to leave a slight dimple towards the middle so the mixture will rise evenly.

Bake in your oven for approx 20-30 mins, it all depends on your oven, until golden, well risen and springs back when pressed. Cool in tin for a few mins before removing to a wire rack until cold. Fill your cake with jam and place other cake on top, dust with icing sugar and enjoy with a cup of tea.
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