Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Chestnut maple snowflakes


For quite a while I  have been wanting to experiment with chestnut flour, I think this stems from a holiday memory in idyllic Tuscany, when we stayed in a house over looking a chestnut grove and in it was the cutest rustic drying house. I was fascinated with the gnarly trees, the nuts and the recipes they were used in, chestnut flour is used in Italy to make pasta, pancakes and cakes amongst other things.

Chestnut flour is naturally gluten free and is something you will need to seek out if you want to bake with it as its not routinely stocked in most health food shops, this is possibly due to a shortish shelf life but you can obtain it easily by mail order and most shops will happily order it in for you. If you are baking for a coeliac ensure the flour is truly gluten free.

Chestnuts are synonymous with the festive season so I decided to come up with a biscuit recipe which uses this lovely flour, combining it with maple syrup to give a lovely smoky earthy flavour and use my lovely snowflake cutters to give a seasonal twist to this bake. 

This recipe makes about 12 to 15 cookies, depending on the size of the cutters you use. These would make a lovely gift wrapped in cellophane and lovely festive ribbon or a parchment package. Don't expect a crunchy biscuit these are more tender, the snowflakes aren't overtly sweet either.



What you need

  • 12 tbsp chestnut flour (I used Shipton Mill) and little extra for rolling out purposes
  • 3 tbsp melted coconut oil
  • 3 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 egg 
  • Icing sugar for sprinkling purposes
What you do
  • Mix all the ingredients in a food processor
  • Tip out on to a floured piece of baking parchment, roll out to just a little thinner than a pound coin and using a cutter to cut out the snowflakes.
  • Place on a baking tray (I use a silicon sheet to ensure they don't stick) 
  • Bake in a pre heated oven at 180c for 10 -15 minutes until just turning golden
  • Cool on wire rack, they firm up more on cooling
  • Sprinkle with icing sugar or ice with glace icing if you like.
  • Store in a tin

This month we are linking up with Treat Petite created by Cakeyboi and hosted this month by The Baking Explorer, the theme this month being Christmas. 

                                                             

                                                              

We are also linking up to Family Foodies hosted by Bangers n Mash and Eat your Veg, the theme being festive foodie traditions, as these snowflakes are liable to become a new tradition in this household as they are delicious and ideal to baked as a gift particularly for adults.

                                      festive family foodies

And lastly December's Teat time treats hosted by Karen over at Lavender and Lovage and Jane at Hedgecombers. This months theme is Glitter, sprinkles, candles and shiny stuff, this bake I think qualifies as it has lots of sprinkled icing sugar and the staging includes candles.

                                         December Tea Time Treats: Glitter, Sprinkles, Candles and Shiny Stuff!

                                                                Tea Time Treats Lavender and Lovage


Sunday, 14 December 2014

Vonshef Premium Halogen Cooker - a review


The Vonshef Premium Halogen Oven has landed in our kitchen for review, available direct from Domu or alternatively Amazon  using this link.

The Vonshef represents very good value for money if  you are in the market for a halogen oven for the miserly sum of £34.99 (slightly less if you go for another colour than white) you can purchase a 12 litre (family sized) oven which comes complete with all the accessories you need, plus a stripey oven glove and handy Hamlyn 200 Halogen oven recipe book. This is sized oven is ample to cook a roast chicken and roasties for a family of 4.

Initially I was a bit sceptical of the claims that the oven would be new favourite thing but I must say after cooking a roast dinner in the oven, I think I am smitten. The oven is a little large for my family size and I am struggling to find worktop space but  I love the oven and the speed it cooks food especially meats, its also very handy for reheating food as the oven does not have to be preheated. I am still learning the best ways to cook various dishes but if you want a quick, healthy way to cook halogen ovens are for you.


The oven is easily controlled with the control knobs and once you work out the way the oven cooks then any recipe you can cook in a traditional oven can be cooked in a halogen oven. The washing up is also easy as all parts except the lid can washed in the sink or dishwasher and the lid itself just needs a good wipe and I have found so far that there isn't as much mess as normal as you cook with less fat than you normally would.

I am looking forward to trying baking in the oven, the roast beef was excellent beautifully browned but still juicy and moist, the roast potatoes crispy and tasty, given the level of interest in the oven at the recent cake club a few of my friends will also be splashing out on an oven soon too.



The oven was kindly provided free of charge for review purposes by Designer Habitat, I was not compelled to write a positive review, all views and opinions are my own.

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Seasoned Pioneers


Recently those lovely people at Seasoned Pioneers kindly sent us a selection of their spices and also a pack of their new range "Knead the Seed" seed mixes. Seasoned Pioneers are a family firm based on the Wirral and their spice collection is extensive and second to none.

All their spices are packaged in light proof resealable pouches which are great for ensuring that your chosen spice has a maximum shelf life and is still fragrant and flavourful when you next come to use it after opening. Seasoned Pioneers stock a wide range of individual spices and spice mixes some of which are very difficult to obtain.

I'm in good company when it come to reviewing their products as their very informative product booklet is stuffed full of complements from the likes of Delia, Nigel Slater and Nick Nairns to name just a few. I can see why as the spice mixtures are very flavourful, reasonably be price and the unique packaging seals in the flavour, plus they stock some of the more innovative spices and spice mixes.

The website is very informative and can be found here and is a great place to start if you need to restock your spice rack and also if you wish to purchase a more novel gift, I for one would be very happy to find one of their gift boxes or seasoning selections under the Christmas tree.

You can find the recipe to the cake I made with the Quatre Epice spice mix here. I have also used the 8 seed mixture in a flatbread recipe and was very happy with the resultant bread which I served with a spicy fish curry.

Seasoned Pioneers can also be found on Facebook and Twitter as well.

Monday, 8 December 2014

Chocolate orange quatre epices cake for Seasoned Pioneers

Who doesn't love a chocolate cake but ever one to ring the changes what about a spiced chocolate cake. Recently Seasoned Pioneers sent across a selection of their spices and intriguingly one of the packs was of their version of quatre epices.



You  may have heard of five spice (Chinese in origin) but Quatre epice was more unfamiliar to me, Quatre epices is a spice mix originating from France and the near middle east, a blend of pepper, cloves, nutmeg and ginger, hence the four spice name. Used in sweet and savoury dishes its a versatile addition to the spice rack, I thought I would use the blend in a chocolate cake to provide some "Christmassy" spicing yet with an adult twist as the pepper in the spice blend provides a warm heat to the palate.

I have made this cake a couple of times now and it was very popular with visitors, christmassy yet not overly sweet and with a nice spicy edge, nice served with Hot chocolate.

What you need
  • 1/2 cup of Quality vegetable margarine
  • 1 cup of light brown sugar
  • Zest of 1 large orange
  • 2 eggs - free range 
  • 1 1/3 cups of plain flour
  • 2 tbsp cocoa - organic if possible (I find it has a much better flavour)
  • 2 tsp Seasoned pioneers Quatre Epices spice blend
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/2 tsp of bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2 cup of yogurt
  • 1 tbsp skimmed milk
What you do
  • Preheat your oven to 180C and oil spray and flour an 8" square cake tin
  • Sieve the flour, cocoa, salt, quatre epice, bicarbonate of soda and baking powder on to a plate
  • Cream the butter, sugar and zest in a stand mixer until light and fluffy, add the rest of the ingredients including the flour and beat quickly until you a smooth fluffy mixture
  • Spread the cake mixture into the prepared tin
  • Bake for 30 -35 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean
  • Cool in the tin and leave on a wire rack until fully cool
  • To remove from the tin, loosen around the edge with a palette knife and invert sharply the cake should slide easily out of the tin.
  • Place on a serving plate and decorate accordingly
  • You may wish to slice the cake horizontally and fill with ganache or cream if the mood so takes you.

So if you fancy making something a little different for a festive celebration this is the cake for you.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Roasted aubergine and tomato soup



We have another super easy soup recipe for you, this time using a bargain aubergine (eggplant for our American friends) unusually made in the oven, this recipe is based on a Hugh Fernley Whittingstall recipe.  Its frugal and very very tasty and the soup has a lovely comforting flavour, great for a cold winters day.

What you need
  • 1 aubergine (chopped into chunky pieces)
  • Olive oil or rapeseed oil
  • 1 heaped tsp vegetable stock powder ( I use Essential Cuisine)
  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
  • Couple of cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • Water
  • Salt and pepper
  • Fresh thyme or basil leaves to garnish
What you do
  • Preheat your oven to 180c
  • Place the chopped pieces of aubergine in a roasting dish and toss with a little oil
  • Roast for 20 minutes or so until the aubergine is soft and starting to colour a little
  • Add the contents of the tin of tomatoes to the dish, plus the garlic and thyme to the dish
  • Also add 1 tin of warm water and your vegetable stock cube / powder to the roasting pan
  • Return the roasting pan to the oven for another 20 minutes
  • Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly, then blitz with a hand blender or in a liquidiser or food processor until you achieve your desired consistency
  • Place the soup in a saucepan and warm gently until piping hot, taste for seasoning.
This dish would also make a perfect starter to any festive celebrations as its a no worry, no hassle and could be made a head and stored in the fridge. Vegan, gluten free and very healthy its a great contrast to the rich festive fare, but its equally suited to make at any time of year.

Monday, 1 December 2014

Oaty Date slices



These oaty date slices are perfect with a brew after returning from the frantic streets packed with Christmas shoppers, it a satisfying bake and fairly healthy due to the wholesome filling and the fact that it contains oats. Once baked it keeps well in an airtight tin and ideal served as part of a packed lunch or as suggested with tea or coffee.

What you need
  • 200g plain flour
  • 200g rolled oats
  • 75g granulated sugar
  • 150g melted butter or vegetable margarine (if you wish to make vegan)
  • 250g stoned dates, roughly chopped
  • 100ml apple juice
  • Generous splash of lemon juice
What you do
  • Oil spray an oblong tin approx 4" by 10" 
  • Pre heat the oven to 180c
  • Mix the oats, flour, sugar and melted butter in a large bowl to make a soft crumbly dough, if needed add a few drops of water to help bind
  • Press half of the oat /flour mixture into the prepared tin
  • To make the filling , cook the chopped dates in the apple juice and lemon juice in a small pan until you have a sticky soft filling
  • Allow the filling to cool slightly then spread the filling on the base
  • Top off the filling with the rest of the dough, press down firmly
  • Bake for 25-30 minutes
  • Remove from the oven when slightly golden and cool fully in the tin before cutting into generous slices.



Sunday, 30 November 2014

December 2014 Craig Hughes - Crossmoor Honey

This months featured foodie is aparist Craig Hughes of Crossmoor Honey based in Elswick Lancashire.

Craig and some suitably festive friends
Craig Hughes is a beekeeper with over 30 years experience of keeping bees and 30 years of bee stings and is also a qualified and classically trained chef with many years in the industry.Craig is multi talented and also is a qualified lawyer specialising in European and Islamic law. It was after his brush with cancer that he changed his lifestyle and returned to beekeeping full time.

He is ambitious, desiring 4000 active hives in the next 5 years, is driven by quality and service but retains a common touch. He is gentle with his bees, trying not to move them too much, and considers his livestock as an extension of himself and promotes animal welfare and safety.

Craig has also featured on local radio  and been featured featured in Lancashire Life Magazine and the Farmers Guardian (www.farmersguardian.com) amongst other publications. He has also recently written a book, Urban Beekeeping.

He lives in his beloved Lancashire, and is a keen promoter of local food and is often food selling his honey and associated products at many of the local farmers markets. His products are used in many fine eating establishments across the county. 

As is usual Craig has kindly answered our now familiar questions

·         What is your favourite cookery or food book or publication ?
 Cookery for ten year old's, my first cookery book

·         What sentence sums up Lancashire Food to you ?
 Comforting, warm,tasty artisan food

·         If you weren’t doing what you do now, what would you like to be ?
Rescuing animals treated badly by mankind

·         Which piece of kit could you not do without ?
My ipad

·         Who would join you at your ultimate dinner party and why?
 Joni Mitchell, T.S. Elliot, W.H.Auden Nikolai Copernicus, Eamon Develeria, Salladin.

·         What advice would you give to your younger self?
 Never be a bully, never be bullied.

·         Describe your style in three words
Country, mainly green.

·         What was your latest foodie gadget purchase ?
 Kitchenaid mixer glass bowl

·         What is your greatest achievement to date ?
 Living with a ghost


  • Tell us a secret about yourself ? may be something we wouldn’t expect !
  • I once considered buying a citrus plantation in Swaziland

        

    Tuesday, 25 November 2014

    Golden Italian Christmas Cake

    This year I fancied making a Christmas Cake with a difference, in previous years I have tried a chocolate fruit cake (very good Nigella recipe), a boil and bake fruit and mincemeat cakes as well as the more traditional style. As I love Italian food I thought I would make a cake with Italian flavours, think Amaretto, panettone et al. It became a golden cake as I manged to purchase some golden raisins, this fired my imagination to create a golden fruit cake.

    On Stir up Sunday I made this cake alongside a tweet up with the National Trust and lots of other cakey bakey people. As you can see from the picture the cake is lighter in colour than a normal Christmas fruit cake, I will now store the cake for a couple of weeks, lovingly feeding it with Amaretto until its time to decorate. My plans this year are for a naked Christmas cake, filled with Golden Marzipan and topped off with more Golden marzipan and fondant with some simple decorations.

    What you need
    • 300g Golden Raisins 
    • 300g Sultanas
    • 100g dried figs (chopped and any hard stalks removed)
    • 100g apricots (chopped)
    • 150ml Amaretto
    • Zest of 1 large orange
    • 125g butter (softened) or baking margarine if you want diary free
    • 200g Light brown sugar
    • 2 eggs - free range
    • 200g Self raising flour
    • 75g Honey
    • 2 tsp mixed spices
    • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
    • 1 tsp vanilla paste
    • 130g candied orange peel - chopped (buy quality)
    • 1/2 tsp Aroma Panettone Essential Oil (Bakery Bits)
    I used an 8" double lined round loose bottomed cake tin, I also wrapped the outside with more greaseproof paper (you could use card, brown paper or even newspaper also), tied with string.

                                           
    What you do 
    • Place all the dried fruit and orange zest in a large bowl with the amaretto to soak overnight (if you forget you can microwave for a few minutes and allow to cool), covered with clingfilm.
                                       
    • Preheat the oven to 130c fan / 150c normal and prepare your tin
    • In a stand mixer blend the butter and sugar until light an fluffy
    • Gradually add the eggs, essential oil and vanilla to the mixer, if in danger of curdling add some of the flour
    • Next whisk in the honey and then sieve in the flour and spices
    • Fold the flour and dried fruit into the mixture until thoroughly mixed, spoon into the prepared tin.
    • Smooth the top and place in the oven
    • Bake for 2 hrs 30 minutes to 3 hrs 15 mins until a skewer inserted comes out clean. Mine took about 3 hours in a fan oven
    • Leave to cool in the tin on a wire rack, remove from tin whilst still a little warm. Store when cold double wrapped in parchment and clingfilm.
    • Remember to feed by pricking the cake lightly and spooning over more amaretto.
    I plan another post when its time to decorate, so make sure you follow us for an update in a few weeks.




    Monday, 24 November 2014

    The Mill - St Catherines Park.

    I am so excited to tell you about a new venue in my local area, The Mill at St Catherine's Park opened on Monday 24th November 2014 to the general public.



    This amazing building and its surroundings have been 10 years in the making for the dedicated staff and volunteers of St Catherine's Hospice. The building is home to a fabulous cafe, plus meeting and therapy space, but more importantly its also a hub for information and wellbeing for families faced with life shortening illnesses.






    St Catherine's does such important work in my local community and The Mill enhances their provision as it enables the hospice to invite the local community to share St Catherine's Park in a more holistic sense and provide neutral space for the community to share.

    We were privileged to be invited to view the beautiful building, the impressive facilities and to taste some of the exciting local dishes on the menu. The two storey building has the cafe/lounge area downstairs and has three multi purpose meeting/therapy rooms upstairs, the whole venue is of course fully accessible for all.

    Outside the building is situated in St Catherine's Park which is being developed sensitively to create a beautiful woodland and wetland area for all to enjoy.

    The Mill is run as a social enterprise with all profits going to St Catherine's Hospice Care, the Commercial Catering team have been recruited specifically to run the Cafe at the mill and the menu demonstrates the passion of the team in the local sourcing and the creative dishes featured. We should also not forget the volunteers as well who are an important part of the team at the Mill providing advice, guidance and support or assisting in the cafe.



    Local Suppliers include
    • Leagrams of Chipping (Cheese)
    • Mrs Kirkhams of Goosnargh (Cheese)
    • Butlers of Inglewhite (Cheese)
    • Ribble Farm Fayre of Longridge (Fruit, veg and fresh produce)
    • Oncore, Preston (General Grocery)
    • Ewood Foods, Accrington (Grocery)
    • Meadowfield Foods, Bamber Bridge (Grocery)
    • Brendan Andertons of Longridge (Butcher)
    • Morris Bakery of Coppull (Bread)
    • C&G Neves of Fleetwood (Fish)
    • Holme Farm of penwortham (Eggs and Milk)
    • Fiddlers, Rufford (Lancashire Crisps)
    • Moo 2 you, Samlesbury (Ice Cream)
    • Exchange Coffee, Clitheroe (Coffee and Teas)
    An impressive list I think you will agree, so please pay them a visit whilst in the area. The team is also planning afternoon teas and themed seasonal menus plus they will be organising the catering for many of the fund raising events held in St Catherine's Park for the hospice.





    The canapes served at the launch were miniatures of the dishes on the menu and very tasty they were too, the cakes looked and tasted amazing as you can see from the pictures.

    Check out their website, facebook and twitter pages for more information and more pictures of the venue and the food.

    The team are waiting to welcome you.........

    Saturday, 22 November 2014

    Ultimate Cafe - Preston - passionate about good food



    A couple of days ago we were lucky enough to be treated to lunch at The Ultimate Cafe at Preston, this independently owned cafe (The Interesting Eating Company) is situated within the Ultimate Outdoors at the Deepdale Retail Park in Preston.

    This unassuming cafe is the sister to a Cafe in Liverpool both of which are passionate about serving good food. The Deepdale cafe is spacious and decorated in a faux log cabin meets contemporary chic manner but the emphasis is definitely on the food. Pushchairs are welcomed and the little ones have their own menu so there is something for all the family.

    We were pleased to note that time and trouble had been taken in sourcing some local produce and producers for the menu, Nichola (one of the co directors) explained that the bread is baked specially for them and they buy their sausages from an independent butcher. A wide range of drinks and beverages are available and takeaway is also available.



    The menu is varied and features an all day breakfast and the in house speciality pancakes which you can find here and the menu also has plenty of choices for those who need gluten free.

    After the browsing the menu whilst sampling the lovely coffee we plumped for a sausage sandwich , chicken broth soup with dumplings and a roasted vegetable pancake (GF) all to share.




    The stand out dish for us was the soup, with an intense chicken flavour yet light. The sausage sandwich was tasty, the sausages juicy and the bread crusty and man enough to stand up to the filling. The Gluten free pancake was good and the vegetable filling tasty, all more than adequate for a cafe menu.




    By this stage we were getting quite full so we decided to share a dessert, tempted by the great selection of cakes and treats on display we eventually chose the fruit meringue, made on the premises like most of the cakes (except the gluten free).


    The Ultimate cafe is well worth a visit particularly when you are in the area and is a great choice whilst shopping rather than the other chain eateries on the retail park, situated on the first floor of Ultimate Outdoors its easy to find (and there is a lift), the prices seem reasonable for the product on offer and the team really want you to have a good experience whilst dining with them.



    Our lunch was provided free of charge for review purposes, all views and opinions are our own.

    Sunday, 16 November 2014

    Winter Warmers at The Cowshed, Buckshaw Village for South Lancashire Clandestine Cake Club

     

    Yeah, cake club for our 25th meeting (wow that's a lot of cake !) of the South Lancashire Clandestine Cake club we paid a visit to COWSHED on Buckshaw Village, we had a supper turnout of bakers having 13 cakes in total all to our seasonal Winter Warmers theme.

    Quite a few of the bakes featured interesting spice combinations and the bakers excelled themselves with their fantastic decorations. Travelling from far and wide we enjoyed ourselves on a wintry blustery afternoon in this funky coffee shop in the heart of the newly created village.


    You can find the Cowshed on Barnes Wallis Way (of Bouncing Bomb fame) just behind the Tesco, there is parking just outside the door and lots more in the area. The coffee shop is open 7 days a week and late on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. The coffee is amazing and the decor is great and suitably cow themed.


    On to the cakes, what a wonderful selection including several which where gluten free and two amazing "Bonfire cakes".

    Spice Raisin bundt cake by Helen F

    Chili chocolate olive oil cake by Katherine

    Lemsip cake by Caroline (Honey & Lemon)

    Sticky Toffee cake by Carla

    Bonfire cake by Helen B

    Spice Coconut cake by Kate

    Apple and Cinnamon loaf by Ange


    b
    Date Bundt Cake by Kate G

    Plum cake with warm mulled wine syrup by Sarah


    Bonfire Cake by Amanda

    Also not photographed individually was a Ginger and Coconut cake (sorry Helen R) this is the large white cake with the Christmas Trees in the large picture and also my Ginger Zinger Cake which you can see here.

    Internal shot of the Bonfire Cake by Amanda showing layers


    If you are in the area the Cowshed is definitely worth a visit.
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