Flapjacks

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IMG_20150217_205229[1] 27/02/2015

Here is a recipe for the simple, honest flapjack. There are tons of variations out there for healthy, this free, that free blah blah blah but these are good old fashioned sweet and sticky flapjacks. My only advice would be to double up the batch and bake in a 9×13 tin as they will not hang around.

Ingredients:

  • 3oz margarine
  • 2 tablespoons golden syrup
  • 3oz muscovado sugar
  • A pinch of salt (optional)
  • 5oz porridge oats

Method:

  1. Lightly foil and grease a 7inch square tin.
  2. Put margarine and syrup in a saucepan. Heat gently until margarine has melted. Remove from heat.
  3. Stir in sugar and salt if using to dissolve and add rolled oats. Mix well.
  4. Spread mixture evenly into the prepared tin.
  5. Bake in the centre of an oven preheated to 180C for 20 minutes.
  6. Remove from the oven. Leave to cool in the tin for 5 minutes.
  7. Cut into 4×4 strips. Leave in the tin until cold then break into bars.

Flapjacks improve with keeping. Store in an airtight tin for up to 4 weeks.

Variations:

  1. Add 2 rounded teaspoons grated orange zest and 2oz sultanas to the mixture at the end of stage 3. (I made this variation in the flapjacks pictured)
  2. Top flapjack mixture with 4oz halved glace cherries before baking.
  3. Replace 1oz of the rolled oats with 1 oz desiccated coconut.

Bakewell Flapjacks

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IMG_20150226_111909[1] 26/02/2015

So it’s a rainy day and by rain, I don’t just mean rain, I mean RAIN. Good, I’m glad you now understand from my beautifully descriptive language. So I’m stuck inside, the housework is done, Better Call Saul is all caught up on and I’m sat around looking for something to do so the obvious solution is… Bake! But what to bake? Cake? Tart? Bars? I know –she thinks to herself (lightbulb moment) – I’ll do it all! This bakewell flapjack recipe combines all the almondy flavour and jammy goodness of a bakewell tart with the gooey, buttery crumble of oaty flapjacks.

Ingredients:

  • 150g butter plus extra for greasing
  • 50g soft light brown sugar
  • 4 tbsp golden syrup
  • 200g rolled oats
  • 50g ground almonds
  • A pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • 3 tbsp raspberry jam
  • Handful of flaked almonds

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 190C and generously line and grease a 7” square tin with foil and butter. Gently melt the butter, sugar and golden syrup in a saucepan over a medium heat.
  2. Once all melted, remove from the heat and add the oats, ground almonds, almond extract and salt and mix until fully combined. Spoon half of the flapjack into the tin and gently flatten to cover the surface. Place the jam in a small bowl, mix to loosen up and spread all over the flapjack base – leaving a frame around the edge.                    IMG_20150226_112113[1]
  3. Spoon the rest of the flapjack on top and gently spread out so that it covers all of the jam. Sprinkle over the flaked almonds and place in the oven.
  4. Bake for 15 – 20 minutes, or until the edges start to go golden brown. Leave to cool completely in the tin, then carefully cut into slices (as they will still be quite moist). These will keep in an air tight container for a few days, and are perfect with a hot cuppa. In my opinion, they taste better after a couple of days – if they survive that long.

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Roasted Garlic Ciabatta Bread

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IMG_20150217_144818[1] 18/02/2015

(Makes 2 loaves)

A whole head of garlic is used in this recipe which may sound a little excessive but when roasted, the garlic becomes sweet and sticky and imparts a subtle flavour throughout the loaves.

Ciabatta is typically a lot looser than regular bread dough making it trickier to work with but resist the temptation to add more flour when kneading as the wetter dough is what gives the characteristic airy structure to the finished loaf.

An overnight starter is also made here. The slow fermentation process produces a sour, alcoholic aroma almost like rotting apples. While this does not sound appealing at all, this bitter note adds so much flavour to the bread.

Ingredients:

OVERNIGHT STARTER

  • 120 ml tepid water
  • ½ tsp Active Dry Yeast
  • 90g strong white bread flour

BREAD

  • 1 head garlic
  • 325 ml tepid water
  • 1 tsp Active Dry Yeast
  • Starter (from above)
  • 480g strong white bread flour
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sugar

Instructions:

To make the starter:

  1. Dissolve the yeast in the water. Add the bread flour and whisk to make a wet dough. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for at least 8 hours and up to 15 hours. The next day the starter should be soupy with a bubbly surface.

To make the bread:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Wrap the garlic in foil and bake for about 30 minutes until fragrant. Let cool, then slip garlic cloves out of their skins and roughly chop.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, dissolve the yeast in the water. Add all of the starter and use a dough whisk or spatula to break it up into the water. It doesn’t have to completely dissolve into the water.
  3. Add the bread flour, salt, sugar, and chopped garlic. Knead the dough with the mixer on medium speed for about 12-15 minutes. At first the dough will be very wet, but eventually it will thicken and clear the sides of the bowl, and turn glossy and smooth. (I have included instructions here for a stand mixer as the dough is very wet and not easily workable by hand but if, like me, you do not own a fancy mixer then you can beat the mix together with a large metal spoon for the same amount of time in a large mixing bowl. This does require some serious elbow grease but achieves the same results… plus a workout!)
  4. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until tripled, about 90 minutes.
  5. With generously floured hands, scoop the dough out of the bowl onto a well floured surface. Divide the dough in two. Working very gently, and re-flouring your hands as necessary, shape dough into oblong loaves and place each on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper.
  6. Let rise uncovered, until doubled, about 45 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 240°C.
  7. Bake until golden brown and the base sounds hollow when tapped, 20-25 minutes. Let cool slightly and serve warm or at room temperature. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.

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If you like really crusty bread, as I do, Just before baking fill a deep tray with boiling water and place it at the bottom of your oven. Then put your bread in the oven on the middle shelf. This will create a steamy environment that develops an intensely tasty and chewy, crunchy crust while maintaining a springy, light interior. Mmmmmmmm

Creamy Garlic Spinach & Mushroom Pancakes

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IMG_20150217_144542[1]  17/02/2014

Happy Pancake Day!

I love pancakes and have been very excited about the approach of today – perhaps more than appropriate. I have so many fond memories of pancakes as a kid. My granddad used to make damson or blackberry vinegar from his garden hedgerow and we would pour lashings over steamy fresh pancakes and sugar. My mum would scoop my hair back with elastic bands as I licked the remaining sauce right from the plate

I have always been a sweet girl when it comes to pancakes; Nutella, syrup, orange, lemon, sugar etc

My good friend Menelens a.k.a. Helen…

xmas…first mentioned that she had savoury pancakes to me a couple of years ago and I remember looking at her like a mad woman. She recommended a spinach and ricotta filling which I soon shafted the idea of for my beloved sweet toppings but I thought that, this year, I’d see what the fuss was about and she wasn’t wrong. Here is my version of a savoury filled pancake.

Savoury pancakes

(Makes 2)

Ingredients:

For the batter:

  • 1 egg
  • 2 heaped Tbsp plain flour (not those rubbish measuring spoons, a proper tablespoon)
  • Milk
  • 1 Tbsp rapeseed oil

For the filling:

  • 6 chestnut mushrooms
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 100g spinach
  • 40g garlic and herb soft cheese
  • Freshly cracked black pepper
  • A pinch of cayenne
  • Parmesan, for topping

Method:

To make the pancake batter:

  1. Crack the egg into a mixing bowl, add the flour and a splash of milk then stir with a tablespoon until a really thick ‘gloop’ is formed. Add a little milk at a time and beat well between each addition to remove any lumps of flour. Once the lumps have gone, add enough milk to create a loose, pourable batter that is not too runny. Allow it to sit for 30 minutes.
  2. When ready to cook, heat a frying pan over medium heat. Add the oil and spread it around the pan. Pour half of the batter into the pan and turn the pan to spread the batter around the base surface.
  3. Let the batter cook for a couple of minutes until the top of the pancake appears opaque and the edges begin to curl slightly. Using a spatula, flip the pancake over to cook the other side for a couple of minutes.
  4. Remove the pancake to a plate and repeat the process with the remaining batter.

To make the filling:

  1. Roughly chop the mushrooms. Add them to the frying pan you just cooked the pancakes in and fry for a minute or two until beginning to brown and soften slightly.
  2. Add the chopped garlic and spinach to the pan and cover with a lid or baking tray so the steam can build up and wilt the spinach. Just before the spinach is completely wilted, crumble in the garlic and herb soft cheese (I used Boursin) and stir to incorporate. Season with cracked black pepper and cayenne and remove from the heat.

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To assemble:

  1. Spoon half of the mushroom mix into the centre of a pancake. Fold the pancake up as if it were a burrito and place seam side down on a plate. Repeat with the remaining pancake and filling.
  2. Grate parmesan cheese over the top of the pancakes and grill under a moderate grill for a couple of minutes or until the cheese has melted. I think brie would be a great cheese to melt over the top here but I didn’t have any. Parmesan was very tasty though. Carefully remove the plate and tuck in! Serve with a fresh side salad if you like.

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Chocolate Caramel Flapjacks

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IMG_20150208_210952[1] 11/02/2015

Gooey caramel, rich chocolate and buttery flapjack – A real indulgent treat!

Ingredients:

  • 200g soft brown sugar
  • 200g butter, plus extra for greasing
  • 2 tbsp golden syrup
  • 350g whole oats
  • A pinch of salt
  • 397g can caramel or homemade caramel (see my recipe for millionnaire’s shortbread)
  • 200g plain chocolate
  • 1 tbsp unflavoured oil, like sunflower or vegetable

Method:

  1. Heat oven to 150C. Place the sugar, butter and golden syrup together in a saucepan and gently heat until the butter has melted, stirring occasionally. Take the saucepan off the heat and stir in the oats with a pinch of salt, mixing thoroughly. Pour the mixture into a foil lined and lightly greased 22cm square tin, pressing it out evenly using the back of a wooden spoon. Bake in the centre of the oven for 40 minutes.
  2. Allow the mixture to cool in the tin then evenly spread over the caramel. There can be discrepancies between the thickness of caramel from cans. I prefer to make homemade caramel as I can control the thickness of the finished product but on this occasion, I had a tin of caramel that needed using so tinned it was.
  3. Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pan of barely simmering water, then stir in the oil and pour over the chilled caramel flapjack base. Let the chocolate set then cut into squares. Setting chocolate on top of something squidgy can make it difficult to cut and the addition of the oil softens the chocolate slightly to allow for ease of cutting.

If you are using tinned caramel, the more you stir it, the runnier it will become. If you need to thicken it, add it to a pan and bring to a boil for a few minutes. Add cornflour mixed with a very small volume of milk if it needs thickening further. Allow it to cool completely in the fridge and it should thicken up. It is then ready to add to the flapjack base.

Spaghetti Carbonara

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IMG_20150204_212538[1] 08/02/2015

This recipe would probably have Italian mothers turning in their graves as it is certainly not authentic with the addition of such items as peas and mushrooms but the sauce is smooth and velvetty as a good carbonara should be. Note that no lashings of cream or copious amounts of butter are used at all as the flavour and texture come from the salty, smoky, crisp bacon and fresh herbs combined by the silky sauce.

I just added what needed using in the fridge for a quick, tasty, healthy meal. This recipe serves 2.

Ingredients:

  • 4 smoked bacon rashers
  • 50g parmesan
  • 2 eggs
  • 150g spaghetti, linguine or tagliatelle
  • 2 plump garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 100g mushrooms, roughly chopped
  • A few sprigs of fresh thyme
  • A handful of chopped parsley
  • ½ mug of frozen peas, cooked
  • salt and freshly grated black pepper

Method:

  1. Put a large saucepan of water on to boil. Beat the eggs in a medium bowl, season with a little freshly grated black pepper and finely grate the cheese. Mix the cheese and eggs together and set aside.
  2. Add 1 tsp salt to the boiling water, add the chosen pasta and when the water comes back to the boil, cook at a constant simmer, for 10 minutes or until al dente (just cooked).
  3. While the spaghetti is cooking, place the bacon rashers in a cold pan and place the pan over a medium-high heat. As the pan heats up, the fat will render from the bacon. Turn the bacon over to cook both sides until crispy then remove from the pan. Chop the bacon into chunks and set aside. In the same pan you cooked the bacon in, add the mushrooms to the bacon fat along with the garlic and thyme and fry until the mushrooms soften and cook. Add the chopped bacon back to the pan.
  4. Keep the heat under the bacon and mushrooms on low. When the pasta is ready lift it from the water with a pasta fork or tongs and put it in the frying pan with the bacon. Don’t worry if a little water drops in the pan as well (you want this to happen) and don’t throw the rest of the pasta water away yet.
  5. Take the pan of pasta and bacon off the heat. Now quickly pour in the eggs and cheese and, using the tongs or a long fork, lift up the spaghetti so it mixes easily with the egg mixture, which thickens but doesn’t scramble, and everything is coated. Add extra pasta cooking water to keep it saucy (several tablespoons should do it). You don’t want it wet, just moist. Season with a little salt, if needed.
  6. Serve immediately with a little sprinkling of extra parmesan cheese, a grating of black pepper and the parsley. I also added some frozen peas that I boiled for a couple of minutes to add a few more veg to the mix. If the dish does get a little dry before serving, splash in some more hot pasta water and the glossy sauciness will be revived.

Tip: Don’t add the egg mixture to the saucepan before removing it from the heat and allowing to cool slightly or the eggs will scramble. Do not be afraid to add plenty of pasta water either as the pasta will finish cooking and suck up the moisture to create a lovely sauce. Just keep the contents of the pan moving so the egg does not catch then serve immediately and enjoy!