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Saturday, 26 December 2015

'Tis the Season to be Jolly Jam



This Christmas, I wanted to make some edible gifts to give to family and friends as well as some shop bought ones.

Jam!! I love jam, and it is so satisfying to make yourself! I didn't want to follow a recipe, so I took a gamble with some random ingredients I had. 

With no idea whether it would work or not I threw together the following:

630g Fresh Cranberries
250g raspberries 
2 plums (chopped)
300g (my homemade) cinnamon infused sugar
100g (my homemade) vanilla infused sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
A squeeze of lemon juice

You can make the jam in a saucepan bringing the ingredients to the boil and then simmering. I used my bread maker as it has a jam function, which gave me extra time to wrap presents! 

It turned out really well! It's lovely not too sweet jam that tastes and smells like Christmas.  

Merry Christmas!

Friday, 23 October 2015

Steak Pho (Vietnamese Noodle Soup)

It's been a while since I last sat at my laptop and wrote an entry, I have cooked and baked countless things since my last entry and I am not sure where I should start. 

Seeing as though it is a chilly autumn day today, after much deliberation I thought I'd start with a hearty and warming Vietnamese Pho I made a couple of months back. It is a delicious and simple meal to make.


Ingredients:

1 and a half onions, chopped
Large thumb of ginger, chopped
2 pints of beef stock
2 tsp coconut oil
1 sirloin steak

3 whole cloves
2 tsp whole coriander seeds
1 cinnamon stick

Salt and Pepper
1 tbsp fish sauce

1 and a half tbsp soy sauce

4 carrots, chopped
The juice of 1 lime and extra wedges of lime

Half a bag of bean sprouts
Coriander, roughly chopped
Rice noodles

The chopped onions go into a saucepan pan with the chopped ginger and the coconut oil until onions are translucent. 

Add the spices, salt and pepper to the pan along with the chopped carrots. Pour over the stock, add the fish sauce and soy sauce and simmer for about 25 minutes. 


Put the steak in the freezer (someone once told me when making stir fry or soups with steak, putting the steak in the freezer for about 10-20 minutes can help you slice the steak into much thinner slices), and it really works. Once removed from the freezer, slice the beef into very thin slices. Place the thinly sliced raw beef in a bowl and put in the fridge until you are ready to serve the soup. 


Cook the rice noodles for about 4 minutes and drain. 

Pour the boiling hot broth over the top of the raw beef (this will cook it). Add the noodles and then add some bean sprouts and chopped coriander on top, drizzle lime juice and add a wedge to your bowl to top up. You can add soy sauce to taste.

Such a delicious Pho! I served it with some prawn crackers, great for dunking into the tasty broth.










Sunday, 9 August 2015

Whipped Yogurt and Raspberry Profiteroles (and Choux Buns)

Until recently, the closest I had ever come to making 'choux' was gesturing at pigeons to go away and stop trying to attack my (small) bird feeder. Now that the new season of 'Bake Off' is upon us, I decided that it was about time to give it a try. I couldn't be that difficult right?...

I tried a couple of different recipes and ended up slightly adapting one. Now the 'making' the pastry part was a piece of cake (pardon the pun), I am pretty sure I jinxed myself by saying that exact thing to myself. I piped the pastry onto a baking sheet as eclairs and baked them at 200 degrees for 20 minutes. To look at they looked perfect; golden and brown, puffed up and steaming... But on closer inspection there was a quite, let's say fundamentally structural problem... They had stuck to the paper!  Trying to prise them off, resulted in the bottoms of the eclairs remaining on the paper, and my having sort of troughs to fill with cream. They tasted okay, but they were not eclairs.

I was not going to be defeated especially but a delicious treat which shares it's name with 'footwear'! I was determined to succeed. I tried a couple of other recipes which ended in similar disasters, even when I had greased the paper... I was beginning to ask myself the same sort of questions as serial daters... Is it me? What's wrong with me? Eventually, after a well thought out tweak of two recipes combined I tried again. This time I thought that I would try profiteroles and choux buns to break the curse.

This time, my little puffed up balls were a success. Light, brown and puffed up.... And the icing on the bun (again pardon the pun) was that they peeled off the paper... I don't think I've been as excited to see a bottom!


Choux Pastry:

215ml cold water
85g butter
100g strong white flour (having tried both regular flour and bread flour, the latter worked better)
2 tsp caster sugar (I used my home infused vanilla sugar)
3 eggs
a pinch of salt

Melt the butter in the water in a pan, then add the dry ingredients and stir until coming away from the edges of the pan. Add the 3 beaten eggs, I hand whisked it altogether (I found it gave greater satisfaction).





The Filling:
(I wanted to do something a little different to the classic cream filling, and something slightly healthier... So I thought I would make a whipped raspberry yogurt)

200ml low fat Greek yogurt
300ml double cream
50g raspberries
2 tbsp icing sugar
(Whip until nice and thick)


The Glaze:

80g raspberries
2 tbsp of water
150g icing sugar


The way I know that they were a success where, that after I had assembled them, it only took a few minutes for 3 buns to be demolished. They were light and tasty, the yogurt filling did not feel like a guilty pleasure as cream often does, but pleasurable it still was!

Whipped Yogurt and Raspberry Profiteroles

Whipped Yogurt and Raspberry Choux Buns

Apple Based Green Juice

I thought my juicer would be a novelty that would wear off... However I am still itching to make juices... I am even doing special trips to Lidl, just for fruit and veg to juice!!

Yesterday I made a truly delicious and refreshing concoction perfect for the hot weekend weather! 

5 apples
3 sticks of celery
2/3 of a cucumber
The base of a romaine lettuce
6 mint leaves
1/2 a lime


At 108 calories a glass, it's guilt free treat on a hot summers' day!





Monday, 27 July 2015

Three-Tiered Daisy Cake

I recently made my first ever three-tiered cake for a bridal shower of a friend/colleague of mine.

Firstly I made a large batch of victoria sponge mixture (enough to make a large, medium and small 2 layer cakes.) I then baked the cakes in batches and left them to cool on a wire rack. Whilst they were cooling I whipped 500ml of double cream and layered the cakes together with strawberry jam and whipped cream between each layer. When the structure of the cake was assembled, I thought it looked pretty messy… Luckily, icing hides a multitude of sins.


I didn’t actually have a plan of how exactly I wanted to decorate the cake, I only had instructions from the organiser of the bridal shower that it would be great if it fitted into the DAISY theme of the party. I used fondant icing: white, green and yellow. It was going to be pretty simple, a white cake with small daisies… But one thing led to another… And I ended up with a massive daisy top layer and more daisies and leaves on the remaining layers.



It turned out pretty well (despite its wackiness), especially as it was my first ever three-tiered cake.


And apparently it tasted pretty good too... 
The proof is always in the eating!





Friday, 5 June 2015

Hedgehog Bread Rolls

Isn't it so much more fun to eat fun food? The way something looks, and something having a cute or fun element, makes it taste better in my humble opinion. I decided a while ago to bring some fun to the age old staple of British food: THE BREAD ROLL...

I have made ordinary bread rolls using the ordinary ingredients: bread flour, water, yeast, salt sugar and butter.. But when shaping the rolls I turned them into little hedgehogs. With a pair of scissors I snipped incisions all along half of the roll in rows and then used seeds for the eyes and nose.

The were incredibly cute and tasted amazing!


You can try my Christmas variation also.. Reindeer Bread rolls which had cut out pieces of pitta bread for antlers and currants for eyes and noses: 


 
Bring some fun into your bread baking.. Try baking an animal roll, it's very satisfying!

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Black Olive Focaccia

If you have a bread maker, making focaccia bread is the simplest bake ever.

300g bread flour
1tbsp olive oil 
170ml water
1tsp salt
1/2 tsp yeast

Put your bread maker on a pizza setting. When the dough is ready place into a brownie tin and spread it out. Dimple the dough all over with your fingers. Prove for 30 mins in a 40• oven. 

Once nearly doubled in size, season with salt, pepper, chopped olives and olive oil.



Bake in a 190• oven for 25 mins!


Slice and enjoy when warm.

Saturday, 16 May 2015

No One Mourns the Wicked (except in cake form)...

Wicked Cake

It was recently my friend (and work wife) Sophie's birthday. We have many things in common, one of these being a love of musicals, and an even bigger love of WICKED! So naturally, when I was considering what type of cake to bake her, I decided a Wicked showstopper type cake would be perfect.

Now, I really had no clue how it was going to turn out as I didn't really draw up any plans, I just winged it. I baked a chocolate cake in two parts, cementing them together with Nutella on Wednesday evening after school. It was definitely going to be a two day process as I was being pretty ambitious with what I wanted to produce.

On Thursday evening I embarked on the icing. I used various colours of fondant icing, moulding it all together to make the shapes of the two main characters, and some writing icing and edible glitter to decorate further. I spent 2.5 hours decorating the cake (which did't make me popular with my other half for leaving him that long!) :P


When I had finished the cake, I was actually astounded that it had turned out better than I could have ever imagined. I had gotten so lost in the process, almost in a creative trance, that when I saw it finished, I was amazed (not meaning to toot my own trumpet!)



I was so worried that it would be damaged on the journey to school. I kept checking on it, and being overly careful.


In the end, Sophie loved it! It was a shame to cut into it... But had to be done! Nom..

Monday, 4 May 2015

The Ultimate Iced Coffee

I saw something online the other day which really interested me, now that we are slowly creeping towards summer, I thought I would try it.

Now anyone who knows me, will know all too well that I am an absolute coffee fiend!! So imagine my delight when I found a way of making a delicious, cold and not at all watery iced coffee. 

All you need are these 3 things:
1. A way of making an Americano coffee or filter coffee (filter coffee machine, stove top coffee maker or cafetière!) 
2. An ice cube tray.
3. A freezer.

Make your coffee and wait for it to cool a little. Pour the coffee into the ice cube tray and place the tray into the freezer.


After leaving it for a few hours or overnight the coffee ice cubes will be frozen solid.

Place a few coffee cubes in a glass and pour milk over them until the glass is full.


Give the drink a stir with a straw and enjoy. The greatest thing about this iced coffee is that it will not become watery but more gain a more intense coffee taste.



Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Green Smoothie with Avocado

Last year I bought a juicer and have been exploring lots of different fruit and vegetable combos in juices! I threw together some ingredients and made a super tasty green smoothie! 

The ingredients were are follows:
6 apples,
A whole large cucumber,
4 sticks of celery
A chunk of ginger.

Once these had been blitzed through my juicer I added the juice to my blender,  popped in a sliced avocado and blended until smooth.

I served it on ice! It was lovely and refreshing, and the avocado gave it a creamy and comfort element.

It made 4 servings.

 


Monday, 13 April 2015

White Chocolate and Raspberry Blondies and More...

My first post in a couple of months...


I have very much neglected this blog of late. Although I have been baking more than ever (due to the fact that it is the Easter holidays), I have not sat down long enough to put hands to keyboard.

A couple of Saturdays ago, my good friend was hosting an evening of food and games at her flat (around the corner from me). I did not want to go empty handed and only had just over an hour before I had to be there. I first of all decided to make a batch of white chocolate blondies (with raspberries). This was my first time making them, and luckily I always have the ingredients needed to make/bake any cake or sweet thing.

I first broke 250g of white chocolate into small pieces which I placed in a pan, along with 100g of butter, and 50g of honey. I heated these ingredients on a low heat, stirring occasionally until they were mixed and smooth.

Meanwhile I sieved 200g of plain flour into my mixing bowl and added half a teaspoon of baking powder, 200g of vanilla infused caster sugar (which I infuse myself) and finally I broke in 4 duck eggs (which make any cakes so much tastier). I then mixed the ingredients in my mixer until combined. Once the gorgeous white chocolate and honey mixture had cooled slightly, I folded it into the mixture in the mixing bowl.

After I had poured the mixture into a brownie tin, I sprinkled a handful of raspberries over it and placed in my preheated oven at 180 degrees for about 20 minutes.


-They were divine, if I do say so myself. My friends seemed to have agreed, as they polished them all off without a problem and with lots of praise. I will definitely be making them again, (maybe tomorrow) :)

After I had popped the blondies in the oven, and I was in the swing of baking (IN THE ZONE)... I decided to make cupcakes also (vanilla and raspberry cupcakes, and chocolate and peanut butter cupcakes.)

230g self raising flour,
2 tsp baking powder,
130g golden caster sugar,
100g vanilla infused caster sugar,
4 duck eggs...

Once the above ingredients were mixed together, I split the mixture across two bowls. In one bowl I added 1 tsp of vanilla extract and in the other I added 40g of cocoa powder and 2 tablespoons of crunchy peanut butter.

I spooned the two mixtures into separate cupcake cases and baked for 20 minutes. Meanwhile I mixed 130g of softened butter with 260g of icing sugar and a tablespoon of milk to make the buttercream icing. Again, I split the icing between two bowls and added raspberry conserve to one and 20g cocoa powder and 2 tablespoons of peanut butter to the other. Once the cupcakes were cooled (which I sped up due to time constraints, by putting them in the fridge for 10 minutes.) I piped on the icing and added a raspberry on top of the vanilla ones for decoration.

-They were also very yummy... And were also eaten with positive feedback. 

I finally had 25 minutes left and thought I'd quickly whip up something savoury to take too... I made some tiropitakia (Greek mini cheese pies). These were super quick to make as I used bought, pre-rolled puff pastry which I cut into small discs. The way I make the filling is as follows:
1 egg, beaten
1 halloumi cheese
150g cheddar cheese
2 tsp dried mint.

After I mixed together the ingredients, I then spooned it into the centre of each of the pastry discs. I then folded the discs in half, scored them on the curved edge with a fork and brushed with egg. I then baked for 10 minutes (until golden brown.


-The tiropitakia were very tasty and so easy to make.



All of the above.. Made in 1hr 20mins.

Nearly all gone... Yum....

After re-fuelling on a delicious meal and other bits and bobs cooked by my hostess friend and other friends who attended and my sweet treats, we were ready for some serious playing of the name game. My team won... Just saying! ;)


Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Banana and Coconut Bread and Butter Pudding

Last week I decided to make a twist on a British classic pudding. I was doing my weekly shop in Waitrose and saw a recipe card they had (they often have recipe cards for you to take) it was for this exact recipe. Now, I very rarely stick to a recipe exactly and sometimes do not use them at all, however this time I thought I would follow it by the book (or the card in this case). 



I am ever so glad I did, it was delicious. It had an exotic naughtiness, that a regular bread and butter pudding lacks, but with the same comfort food element of the regular British classic. I would highly recommend this recipe for any occasion.


Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Baklava

This Valentine's weekend we went to stay with friends outside London. As part of the Valentine's double date meal, I was supposed to make a dessert. After much deliberation and some insistence from my other half (who loves it) I decided to go back to my roots (Greek/Cypriot) and make a baklava. 

I started off by chopping 3 types of nut: walnuts, almonds and pistachios. I then layered a few sheets of filo pastry, brushing each layer with butter. 

To make the filling I put sugar, lemon juice and honey on the stove in a pan until the sugar was dissolved. I then added the chopped nuts, some cinnamon and some lemon rind. After mixing these ingredients together the pastry was ready to fill. After I had filled the pastry I layered another few sheets of filo pastry brushed with butter. I then cut the baklava into pieces and baked for 35/40 minutes until golden brown.



Meanwhile, I had to make the syrup, as the baklava ideally has to soak over night in the syrup for it to release some truly delicious flavours. I filled a pan with honey, water, rose water and  sugar. I boiled for a few minutes and then brought down the heat to simmer and allow the syrup to thicken slightly.


Once the syrup had cooled slightly, I poured it over the baklava and sprinkled some extra chopped pistachio nuts on top.

The next day, after leaving it over night to soak, the baklava was sweet and tasty. The perfect treat with a cup of tea after a big meal. My Yiayia (grandmother) would have been very proud.



Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Quick and Easy Bacon and Chickpea Casserole

This is a senario we all know too well. Picture this: A weekday evening after a long day at work, no time or energy to cook a full on meal, however you would like something tasty and balanced. 

Well, that was me today. What to eat? Feeling hungry but too tired to cook! In the fridge I had 6 rashers of unsmoked bacon from the butcher and in the cupboard I had a tin of waitrose chickpeas and a tin of chopped tomatoes. I decided a quick casserole utilising the ingredients I already have would be the answer to my dinner quandary. 

I chopped an onion and lightly fried it and then added all of the bacon cut up into small pieces. I then added the chickpeas, a vegetable stock cube, salt, pepper a good dash of paprika, the chopped tomatoes and half a cup of water. I put the lid on the pan and let it simmer for 10 minutes. I chopped some carrots and a stick of celery and added these into the pan. After another 5 minutes in the pan (so that the vegetables still have a crunch to them) the casserole is ready to eat. I served mine with some rice. Deelish and so quick and easy after a long day of teaching (and it doesn't cut too much into my evening marking time).