Cheddar Scones

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IMG_20150428_091745[1] 28/04/2015

These are absolutely fantastic served warm from the oven and equally tasty warmed through or toasted the next day.

I used a really tangy, mature cheddar for this recipe – the sort that makes the roof of your mouth tingle when you eat it – and this gives the scones and intense savoury, cheesy taste.

Makes 10-12

Ingredients:

  • 200g self-raising flour, plus a little more for dusting
  • 50g butter, at room temperature
  • 25g porridge oats
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • Pinch of cayenne
  • Pinch of mustard powder
  • 75g grated cheddar, plus extra for topping (optional)
  • 150ml milk

Method:

  1. Heat oven to 200C. Place the flour and baking powder in a large bowl, then rub in the butter. Stir in the oats, cayenne, mustard powder and cheese then the milk – if it feels like it might be dry, add a touch more milk then bring together to make a soft dough.
  2. Lightly dust the surface with a little flour. Roll out the dough no thinner than 2cm. Using a 4cm plain cutter, firmly stamp out the rounds – try not to twist the cutter as this makes the scones rise unevenly. Re-roll the trimmings and stamp out more.
  3. Transfer to a non-stick baking sheet, dust with a little more flour or grated cheese then bake for 12-15 minutes until well risen and golden. Cool on a wire rack before serving on their own or with your favourite toppings. I love them served slightly warm with a bit of salted butter but they are also great with toppings such as avocado, soft cheese, ham, pickle and salad leaves.

Why not try adding cooked, chopped bacon or chorizo to the scone mix for extra flavour. These scones take no time to knock up and go fantastically with a big bowl of soup for a satisfying dinner.

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Oat Crunchies

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IMG_20150424_100927[1] 24/04/2015

This is one of the easiest, most straight forward and quick recipes to whip up but it results in incredible buttery, crunchy, oat goodness!

Ingredients:

  • 100 grams self-raising flour
  • 100 grams porridge oats
  • ½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • A pinch of salt
  • 100 grams butter or margarine
  • 100 grams granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon golden syrup

Method:

  1. Heat the oven to 180C. Grease large baking trays with butter or margarine.
  2. Mix flour, oats, salt and bicarbonate of soda together in a bowl put to one side.
  3. Put margarine or butter, sugar and golden syrup in a saucepan and heat on a low heat until butter and sugar are melted, stir occasionally, take off heat and stir in the oat mix and beat well with a wooden spoon.
  4. Scoop dessertspoons of mixture up and make into ball shapes and place on a greased baking tray when the tray is full slightly flatten the balls out with the back of the dessert spoon.
  5. Cook in the oven for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown. When ready remove from the oven and leave to cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before moving onto a wire rack.
  6. Repeat and do the same until all the mixture has been used up. Serve with a cuppa and any remaining biscuits can be kept in an airtight tin for about a week (if they last that long).

Brooklyn Blackout Cake

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IMG_20150412_042151[1] 15/04/2015

During the blackouts of the Second World War, Ebinger Baking Company in the New York City borough of Brooklyn developed its Blackout cake. This cake was extremely popular in Ebinger bakery and many other bakeries across New York. Unfortunately the bakery closed due to bankruptcy but lucky for you, this fantastic recipe for smooth, velvetty chocolate fudgy, custard cake lives on!

This rich, dark sponge is filled and coated with a thick chocolate custard, then finished with crumbled cake. It is best eaten chilled from the fridge so the custard stays set. In my opinion, this cake improves with keeping. A real must try for chocolate lovers and custard lovers alike.

Ingredients:

For the cake:

  • 140g unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing
  • 100ml vegetable oil
  • 140g buttermilk
  • 100ml coffee, made with 1 tsp espresso powder
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 250g light muscovado sugar
  • 250g plain flour
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 50g cocoa powder

For the custard filling and covering:

  • 250g golden caster sugar
  • 500ml full-fat milk
  • 140g chocolate, 85% cocoa solids, broken into cubes
  • 50g cornflour
  • 2 tsp espresso powder
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract

Method:

1. Make the custard first as it needs to chill. Put all the ingredients, except the vanilla, in a large pan and bring gently to the boil, whisking all the time, until the chocolate has melted and you have a silky, thick custard. It will take 5-7 minutes from cold. Stir in the vanilla and a generous pinch of salt then scrape the custard into a wide, shallow bowl. Cover the surface with cling film, cool then chill for at least 3 hrs or until cold and set.

2. Heat oven to 180C. Grease then line the bases of 2 x 20cm sandwich tins. Melt the butter in a pan, then remove from the heat and beat in the oil, buttermilk, coffee and eggs. In a large bowl, whisk the dry ingredients together plus ¼ tsp salt and squish any resistant lumps of sugar with your fingers. Tip in the wet ingredients and whisk until smooth.

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3. Divide the batter between the prepared tins and bake for 25 minutes or until risen and a skewer inserted into the middle of the cakes comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes then transfer to a rack to cool completely, parchment-side down.

4. Remove the parchment linings from the cakes. If the cakes are domed, trim them flat. Now cut each cake across the middle using a large serrated knife. Put your least successful layer and any trimmings into a processor and pulse it to crumbs. Tip into a large bowl.

5. Sit one layer on a cake plate and spread it with a quarter of the custard. Sandwich the next layer on top, add another quarter of the custard then top with the final layer of cake. Spoon the remaining custard on top of the cake, then spread it around the top and down the sides until smooth. Chill for 15 minutes to firm up the custard again.

6. Hold the cake over the bowl containing the crumbs, then sprinkle and gently press a layer of crumbs all over the cake. Brush any excess from the plate. You’ll have some crumbs left. Chill for 2 hrs, or longer, before serving, and eat it cold. Can be made up to 2 days ahead. The cake gets fudgier and more enticing the longer you leave it. The coffee in the recipe cannot be tasted but really brings out the intense cocoa flavours in the custard and the sponge and the addition of a small pinch of salt in the custard really intensifies the chocolate even further.

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Peanut Butter & Chocolate Flapjacks

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IMG_20150407_080543[1] 07/04/2015

Makes 16 squares

Ingredients:

  • 175g crunchy peanut butter
  • 75g muscovado sugar
  • 6 tbsp golden syrup
  • A pinch of salt
  • 175g porridge oats
  • 150g milk or plain chocolate

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease and line the base of a 20cm square tin with greaseproof paper.
  2. Place the peanut butter, sugar, salt and syrup in a pan and heat gently until smooth. Tip the oats into the pan and stir until well coated. The mixture will be quite stiff
  3. Pack the mixture firmly into the prepared tin and bake for 20-25 mins until just turning brown at the edges. Allow to cool in the tin.
  4. Break the chocolate into squares and place in a bowl over a pan of gently simmering water. Allow to melt, then spread over the cooled flapjacks and allow to set in the fridge. Cut into squares. Eat.

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These flapjacks, as with pretty much all flapjack recipes, are much better after a couple of days of keeping. I don’t know why, they just are. So if you can resist buttery, chunky, peanutty, creamy, chocolatey goodness for just a few days then you’re in for an even greater treat.

Black bean & Garlic Chilli Chicken Chow Mein

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IMG_20150401_210634[1] 06/04/2015

This is a really easy, super quick meal of steamy noodles in a spicy, salty sauce with fresh crunchy veg and a bit of a chilli kick for good measure.

Slicing the chicken super thin not only means it cooks really quickly but the marinade also coats it really well and gives the meat a velvet texture and wonderful savoury flavour.

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 2 sheets of medium egg noodles
  • 2 chicken breasts, sliced very thinly against the grain
  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 Tbsp Shaoxing rice wine
  • 2 tsp cornflour
  • 1 Tbsp groundnut oil
  • ½ red pepper and ½ green pepper, sliced
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • Thumb sized piece of ginger, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 red chilli, sliced
  • 3 Tbsp Black bean garlic sauce (Lee Kum Kee brand)
  • Coriander leaves to serve

Method:

  1. Place the sliced chicken breast into a bowl and mix with the soy sauce, sesame oil, rice wine and cornflour. Leave to marinate for 20 minutes.
  2. Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil, drop the noodles in and cook for 3 minutes or until the noodles are al dente. Drain and add a small drizzle of sesame oil to prevent sticking. Set aside.
  3. Heat a wok until it is very hot then add the groundnut oil. Stir-fry the chicken pieces and marinade for about 5 minutes until lightly browned and just cooked. Remove the meat from the wok and set aside.
  4. Add the peppers and onions to the wok and stir-fry for 3-4 minutes until softened slightly. Add the garlic and chilli and stir for a minute more.
  5. Turn the heat down to medium and return the chicken to the pan along with the black bean garlic sauce. Mix everything together.
  6. Add the noodles to the wok and stir everything really well to combine. Add a splash of water if the sauce seems too thick or dry.
  7. Serve in bowls and sprinkle with coriander to garnish. Eat immediately!

Hot Cross Buns

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IMG_20150401_185619[1] 02/04/2015

Crusty on the outside, soft and fluffy on the inside and delicious! The addition of apples to the dough enhances the taste and lends a lovely, moist texture that tops anything you will find in the shops.

I’m posting this recipe in time for Good Friday as superstition has it that sharing a hot cross bun baked on this day with another is supposed to ensure friendship throughout the coming year, particularly if “Half for you and half for me, between us two shall goodwill be” is said at the time. On top of this, if taken on a sea voyage, hot cross buns are said to protect against shipwreck. If hung in the kitchen, they are said to protect against fires and ensure that all breads turn out perfectly. While I’m not into hanging bits of bread around for an entire year and have no ocean explorations planned, it’s a very nice thought but superstition aside, your house will be filled with Easter spice aromas …and buns!

These are fantastic eaten slightly warm and fresh from the oven or toasted after a couple of days. You can freeze any excess buns and defrost at a later date for an indulgent teatime treat.

Tip: You may not need all of the milk and butter mix in the recipe as bread flours can vary so do not add all the liquid at once.

Makes 16

Ingredients:

For the buns:

  • 300ml full-fat milk
  • 50g butter
  • 500g strong white bread flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 75g caster sugar
  • 1 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 7g sachet fast-action yeast
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 100g sultanas
  • 75g mixed peel
  • Zest of 1 orange
  • 1 apple, peeled, cored and finely chopped
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp mixed spice

For the cross:

  • 75g plain flour, plus extra for dusting

For the glaze:

  • 3 tbsp apricot jam

Method:

  1. Bring the milk to the boil, then remove from the heat and add the butter. Leave to cool until it reaches hand temperature. Put the flour, salt, sugar and yeast into a bowl. Make a well in the centre. Pour in the warm milk and butter mixture then add the egg. Using a wooden spoon, mix well to bring everything together until you have a sticky dough.
  2. Tip on to a lightly floured surface and knead by holding the dough with one hand and stretching it with the palm of the other hand then folding it back on itself. Repeat for 5-10 minutes until smooth and elastic. Put the dough in a lightly oiled bowl. Cover with oiled cling film and leave to rise in a warm place for 2 hours or until doubled in size and a finger pressed into it leaves a dent.
  3. With the dough still in the bowl, tip in the sultanas, mixed peel, orange zest, apple, cinnamon and mixed spice. Knead into the dough, making sure everything is well distributed.
  4. Divide the dough into 16 even pieces. I find it easiest to cut the dough in half, roll each half into a log and divide each log into 8 pieces. Roll each piece into a smooth ball on a lightly floured work surface. Arrange the buns on one or two baking trays lined with parchment, leaving enough space for the dough to expand. Cover (but don’t wrap) with more oiled cling film, or a clean, damp tea towel, then set aside to prove for 60-90 minutes more.
  5. Heat oven to 220C/200C fan. Mix the flour with about 5 tbsp water to make the paste for the cross – add the water 1 tbsp at a time, so you add just enough for a thick paste. Spoon into a piping bag and snip the end off. Pipe a line along each row of buns, then repeat in the other direction to create crosses. Bake for 15-20 minutes on the middle shelf of the oven, until golden brown.
  6. Microwave the apricot jam for a few seconds to melt. While the jam is still warm, brush over the top of the warm buns and then leave to cool.

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Why not try soaking the dried fruit and peel in a couple of tablespoons of brandy before adding to the dough? This will make the fruit plump and luxurious. Or add some dried cranberries or cherries or even chocolate chips. Happy Easter!

Curry Crackers

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IMG_20150331_214749[1] 01/04/2015

Fancy a change from poppadoms? These curry crackers are really easy to make, lightly flavoured with spice and fresh coriander and then baked making them crisp… and healthy!

Ingredients:

  • 2oz plain flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon chilli powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon nigella seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 tablespoon fresh coriander, chopped
  • 2-4 tablespoons water

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C. Sift the flour and salt into a mixing bowl then add the curry powder and chilli powder. Make a well in the centre and add the chopped coriander and water. Gradually incorporate the flour and mix to a firm dough.
  2. Turn the dough on to a lightly floured surface, knead until smooth then leave to rest for 5 minutes.
  3. Cut the dough into 12 evenly sized pieces and knead into small balls. Roll each ball out very thinly to a 10cm/4in round, sprinkling more flour over the dough as necessary to prevent sticking.
  4. Arrange the rounds on two ungreased baking trays then bake for 15 minutes turning over once during cooking. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.