Thursday, 17 December 2009

Dolcelatte and Parma Ham Gougeres

Oh baby its cold outside, so the idea of steaming hot cheese puffs is even more enticing than normal. The snow is falling thick and fast, the temperature is plummeting and warming food is definitely the order of the (very chilly) day. The best part is, they freeze well so I can make a huge batch and keep some to serve during the party season. These are usually made with gruyere but I wanted something just a little deeper in flavour and chunkier in texture. Using a stronger blue cheese, a gorgonzola or roquefort gives a great result but if you do, I wouldn't bother with the ham as the delicate flavour is overpowered.

Dolcelatte and Parma Ham Gougeres
250 ml whole milk
125g butter
salt and pepper
100g plain flour
3 large eggs
100g dolcelatte (or other mild blue cheese), crumbled
50g Parma Ham

Heat the oven to 220C/Gas 7.
Heat the milk, butter and a few grindings of salt and pepper in a saucepan until the butter has melted. Add the flour and whisk until the mixture starts to come away from the sides of the pan. Remove from the heat and add the eggs and cheese. Beat until smooth and shiny. Snip the Parma ham into little shreds and stir through the batter.
Using two teaspoons, place dollops of the batter onto a baking tray and bake in the hot oven for around 10 minutes until light and golden.
Serve immediately or allow to cool and freeze.

Cranberry Sauce with Shiraz

I am getting my Christmas groove back. All the tricky chores are almost finished and only the lovely things remain. Christmas crafts with the boys, present wrapping, parties, menu planning and the nicer side of cooking. For me the fun starts when school stops. We'll be making home made biscuits to hang on the tree, canapes for parties, sauces, treats and fripperies.

First off, cranberry sauce. I love when the shops start getting their Christmas sandwiches in: turkey, cranberry sauce and stuffing or brie and cranberry, and I love to make fresh cranberry sauce (the store-bought versions are so often more like overly-sweet jam than the requisite light fruity sauce) to see us through the post-christmas week of turkey, ham and cheese suppers. I've added a little bit of hot spice and limey zestiness to the usual flavours to cut through the sweetness of the cranberries. This is gorgeous served with baked camembert at a party and (obviously) perfect served with turkey or a hot spiced ham at Christmas lunch.

Cranberry Sauce with Shiraz
Juice and zest of 1 orange
Juice and zest of 1 lime
85g caster sugar
150ml shiraz or other fruity red wine
200g fresh cranberries
1/4 tsp allspice
1 hot red chilli

Dissolve the sugar in a pan with the red wine, orange juice and zest, and lime juice and zest.
Stir in the cranberries, whole chilli and allspice.
Cook uncovered for 10 minutes until the cranberries have all popped and softened and the juices are thickened. Remove the chilli before serving. Serve warm or cold.

Monday, 14 December 2009

Visions of Sugar Plums

Poetic sweeties. I love these these tiny, (almost fat free), traditional christmas bites filled with dried fruit, aromatic spices, orange juice and nuts. One of my favourite Christmas stories is Clement Clark Moore's "The Night Before Christmas" where "visions of sugarplums danced in their heads."

The exact nature of sugar plums seems to change depending on which historian you read but these seem to be one of the more recent incarnations of this particular tradition. This recipe is based on a Saveur recipe from a few years ago but I've found similar all over the web; some containing chocolate, others a different blend of fruit and nuts so play around with the contents as much as you like. They would be lovely with the sharpness of dried cranberries added.

Sugar Plums
50g toasted slivered almonds
100g honey
(preferably orange blossom)
Juice and zest of one orange
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1⁄2 tsp allspice
1⁄2 tsp nutmeg
100g finely chopped dried apricots
100g finely chopped dried dates
100g icing sugar
Combine honey, orange zest and juice cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg in a medium mixing bowl. Add almonds, apricots, and dates and mix well.
Roll the mixture into little balls. Roll balls in icing sugar, then refrigerate in single layers between sheets of greaseproof paper in airtight containers. They will keep for a week or two but they will absorb the icing sugar so it is worth rolling them once again just before serving.
Serve with coffee or port.

Cranberry and Tangerine Scones

I have been neglectful of my Christmas cooking duties. December has been lost to one cold or sore throat after another and suddenly we have less than two weeks to go and nothing has been done!

So as of today I have to get cracking, every day I have something planned. Like a Martha Stewart monthly calendar, I have listed all the food, drink and
entertaining jobs needing done and assigned days and hours to the tasks. So christmas morning scones are today's task. These would freeze well to be heated up on the day - but unfortunately there are none left so expect I will  make them fresh on the day. It is the season for citrus fruit and I particularly love the taste of sweet tangerines but oranges, clemantines or even fresh juice out of a carton would give a similar end product.

Cranberry and Tangerine Scones
100g (4oz) fresh cranberries, chopped
1 tbsp caster sugar

350g (12oz) self-raising flour
100g (4oz) caster sugar
85g (3oz) cold unsalted butter
100 ml yogurt
50ml whole milk
1 egg
Juice and zest of 2 tangerines (or around  50ml orange juice) 

Preheat the oven to 200C/Gas 6.
Toss the chopped cranberries with the 1tbsp of caster sugar and set aside.
Mix together the flour and sugar in a bowl. Rub the butter in with your fingertips until it resembles breadcrumbs. Try to be as light-fingered as possible and handle the mixture as little as possible- this will keep the scones light and airy as they bake. Add the cranberries to the dry mixture.
Stir together the yogurt, milk, egg and the juice and zest of the tangerines. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix gently to form a soft dough.
Roll the dough out to 3cm/1inch thickness and cut out rounds with a cutter, I like these to be dainty and delicate, around 3cm in diameter. Collect the trimmings together, re-roll and cut out more rounds.
Place on a baking sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes until golden.

These are lovely topped with a tangerine and icing sugar glaze and served with morning coffee but I find this to be a little too sweet for breakfast. 

These scones can be prepared the night before for a quick breakfast. Leave the dry ingredients and fruit mixed together in one bowl, set the jug of ready mixed wet ingredients in the fridge overnight and in the morning, they can be mixed together, rolled out and baked.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Hot Spinach and Parmesan Dip

Served bubbling hot or at room temperature with crusty bread or crudites, this is one of those stand-by storecupboard American recipes that are rarely found in British kitchens but made at the drop of a hat in American ones.

It is really quickly thrown together (quick canapes for unexpected guests are extra useful at this time of year). I always keep those balls of frozen spinach in the freezer so am only ever 10 minutes away from this hot full-flavoured dish. Adapted from a recipe at, it is high on my emergency list of party food.

Spinach and Parmesan Dip
4 balls of frozen spinach
(approx 150g frozen weight) 
1 packet onion soup mix
1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup natural yogurt       (or soured cream)
50g Parmesan Cheese

Defrost the spinach then blitz  in a blender with the soup mix, mayonnaise and yogurt. To serve cold, pour into a bowl and serve just as it is, (it really is that simple).

If you want to serve the dip hot, pour into an oven proof serving dish, top with grated parmesan cheese and place into the oven (180C) and warm for 10 minutes then serve with crusty bread or fresh vegetables.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Banana Flapjacks

Snacks to give you energy during a long winter run, snacks for school playtime or after school snack, snacks to stop you snacking everytime you sit down during the day - just can't get enough easy snack recipes.

I am trying (in vain) to get into a "my body is a temple" vibe but can't stop snacking so I thought I would try to create a snack I didn't feel guilty about. They are very gorgeous and  morish - just what you don't need from a wee snack - one is never enough but I guess you can't win them all.

Don't be put off by the long fruit and seeds list - you can substitute the same weight of any dried fruit and nut/seed combination. I just used what I had in the house but raisins and peanuts would be great too.  

Banana Flapjacks
100g butter
4 tbsp maple syrup
150g porridge oats
2 bananas  

50g dried cranberries
50g dates, chopped
25g pumpkin seeds
25g sunflower seeds
25g sesame seeds

25g flaxseeds
A sprinkling of poppy seeds

Preheat the oven to 180°C/ gas mark 4. Line a 20cm square baking tin with greaseproof paper.
Melt the butter and syrup together in a heavy based pan.
Take off the heat and add the rest of the ingredients to the pan and mix well.
Pour the mixture into the baking tray and bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown on top. The flapjacks will furm up as they cool. Cut them into squares and store in an airtight tin. 

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Roast Pepper and Tomato Soup with Feta and Basil

..... and more soup. The wind is howling a gale, the rain is biting, you know the kind that stings when it touches your skin,.I can't see the hills for thick, black clouds and I have been soaked and frozen three times today already. I am miserable, its only the beginning of winter, we have months of this ahead of us and already I think it is time to break out some of the produce I preserved over the summer.
I've got jars of roasted red peppers and garlic olive oil waiting to liven up winter greens and all too ubiquitous root vegetables. There is also a windowbox full of basil, so today I just want to taste the sunshine.

Roast Red Pepper and Tomato Soup with feta and basil
1kg tomatoes
2 tsp sugar 
2 tbsp olive oil 
3 roasted red peppers (or 1 jar of roast pepper antipasti)
1 red onion
1litre vegetable stock
Black pepper
200g Feta cheese, crumbled
1 generous bunch of basil
4 cloves garlic
100ml olive oil

Half the tomatoes and sprinkle with sugar and a drizzle of olive oil then roast in a hot oven (180C) for 20 minutes until they start to colour. Roasting winter tomatoes in the oven with a little sugar will help enrich their flavour.
Gently saute the 4 cloves of garlic in the 100ml olive oil to infuse the oil with spiky garlicky flavour. 
Remove the garlic and pour all but 2 tbsp of the oil into a bowl. 
In the remaining oil, saute the onion till soft. Add the peppers, tomatoes and stock. Cook gently for 30 minutes. Season to taste with black pepper, you should not need salt as the feta is very salty.
Blitz in a blender till smooth. 
Serve topped with a little crumbled feta cheese, a good glug of the remaining garlic oil and a handful of basil leaves.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Cheddar and Apple Soup with Curried Apple Croutons

Definitely a bit of a soupy month in our house. It seems like I've made a pot of soup every two days for weeks. I'm starting to feel like my Granny who used to have a pot of soup cooking on the stove most of the winter, she would keep adding things when it got low and it would take on a new character each time but a litttle bit like a bread starter, it would always have a little of the flavour of its earlier incarnations left in the bottom of the pot!

This I made with stock left over from last night's roast chicken (although it is a rich soup so would be good with vegetable stock instead) so it is a new concoction altogether.What it will taste like by next week however, I can't tell you.

Apple Cheddar Soup with Curried Apple Croutons
1 onion, finely chopped
2 large cloves of garlic, minced
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
3 baking potatoes
2 cooking apples
1 litre chicken stock
200g strong cheddar
Black pepper or freshly grated nutmeg

Melt the butter and olive oil together and fry the onion and garlic gently until soft. Do not allow to colour. Peel and chop the potatoes and apples and add to the pan. Cook for a few minutes to soften slightly before adding the chicken stock. Simmer on a low heat for 20-30 minutes until the potatoes and apples are soft. Grate the cheese and sprinkle over the soup, it will melt to a creamy richness. Keep a little back to garnish with - those stretchy strands of cheese melt beautifully on the spoon. Season to taste - this soup doesn't need much salt but comes to life with either lots of black pepper or a grating of nutmeg.

for the croutons
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
1 apple
2 slices of day old bread
2 tsp hot curry powder
Chop the apple and bread into small cubes.
Heat the olive oil and butter together in a heavy bottomed pan. Fry the apple and bread gently until they start to colour, add the curry powder and cook together for a couple of minutes until crispy and aromatic. Sprinkle over the soup just before serving.

Friday, 20 November 2009

Tattie Scones

Usually made with leftovers from Sunday lunch, tattie scones are my favourite comforting and immediate afterschool snack. My boys can wolf down 10 of these a piece and look for more! So definitely an occasional treat, not a particularly healthy snack. Almost every country in the world has some kind of potato pancake, our tattie scones are made with mash worked together with flour and baking powder until the dough is firm enough to roll and cut out shapes from, then lightly fried on a griddle pan, it is simple, hot fast food like granny used to make.

I've spent all week playing with it, we've eaten spinach and feta flavour - lovely and salty; leek, ham and cheddar - horribly morish; grated courgette and dunsyre blue cheese -they'll make gorgeous christmas canapes ; and my absolute favourite breakfast tattie scone so far has to be crispy bacon and roast onion. Make these plain and serve them lip-blisteringly hot straight from the pan with a little butter melted over, or abandon tradition, throw in all the extras and have a full breakfast on a plate.

Tattie Scones  
with bacon and roast onion
2 large potatoes, cooked and mashed with a knob of butter (approx 1oz)
approx 4oz flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 slices of bacon, grilled till crisp and crumbled
1 onion, chopped
25g butter for frying

Heat the oven to 180C. Put the onion in a roasting tin (this is easier if you are using leftovers - just plan ahead and roast an onion with your meal the previous night) with a drizzle of oil and roast till golden and caramel coloured. Add the onion and bacon bits to the mash then stir 2oz of the flour with the baking powder and salt. Keep adding flour until the mixture holds together and loses its stickiness. Roll out the dough and cut 6cm rounds with a cookie cutter.
Heat a frying pan or griddle pan till hot, rub with a scant half teaspoon of butter then fry the potato scones 2-3 minutes till golden on both sides.

Tattie Scones with grated courgette and Dunsyre Blue cheese
1 courgette
2 large potatoes, cooked and mashed with a knob of butter
100g flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
50g strong blue cheese, cut into small cubes
25g butter for frying

Grate the courgette finely then put the fine shavings into a teatowel and squeeze all the moisture out.
Mix the mashed potatoes with the flour, salt, baking powder, courgette and cheese. Gently knead the mixture together to make a soft dough. Roll out the dough and cut 6cm rounds with a cookie cutter. Cook as above.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Scots Manna

I had breakfast last week in one of those little vans that make gorgeous flavoured porridge to take-away at Edinburgh Farmers Market. They sell porridge oats with apples, sultanas and spices or with berries and white chocolate,with cream, sugar and even plain and simple with just salt.

Where I grew up, porridge came with salt and milk... very traditional and very frugal, even sprinkling it with demerara sugar feels like sacrilege, so enriching it with cream, fruit and shrapnel of crumbly sweets seemed like a step too far....until I tried it.  So I wanted to try recreating their tablet, raspberry and fresh cream flavour at home - it might even make a new christmas morning breakfast.

The tricky part here is the tablet, a sort of firm, crumbly Scottish version of fudge. It will melt your teeth; you will not be able to stop eating it; you will make new friends if you give it away; you will melt their teeth and they will love you for it. You may be able to track this down - bizarrely it is often found in Butchers shops - but I've included a recipe just in case you've lost your grannys!

Scots Manna or Tablet and Raspberry Oatmeal
100g porridge oats
500ml milk
1 punnet of raspberries (or blackberries - whatever is in season)
50ml single cream
Tablet to crumble over the top (recipe below)

Put the oats and milk into a saucepan and bring to the boil. Turn the heat down and simmer for 4-6 minutes until thick and creamy. Stir half the cream into the oatmeal and pour the mixture into two bowls. Toss a generous handful of raspberries over the top, drizzle with a little more cream and crumble a couple of squares of tablet over the top. Heart-stoppingly wonderful.

120g butter plus a little to grease the tin 
900g sugar
120ml milk
1 small tin (397g) condensed milk 
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Grease a swiss roll tin with butter.
Heat the sugar, butter and milk slowly in a heavy based saucepan till all the sugar dissolves.
Add the condensed milk and bring to the boil.
Turn the heat down and simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring constantly to stop it sticking. 
Allow it to become thick and gloopy and a caramel colour.
Test a little teaspoonful in a saucer of cold water, when it rolls into a soft ball, the tablet can be taken off the heat (a sugar thermometer should read 115C). 
Add the vanilla extract and stir well. 
Allow to cool a little then beat for 5 minutes with a wooden spoon till a little grainy. 
Pour into the greased tin. Cut into small squares before the tablet is fully set.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Cider Cheese Bread

Its truly winter now. The colours are muted, leaves are off the trees, sparkling spiders webs decorate the decking. I'm trying to remember all the flavours of warmer weather and looking at a shelf packed with preserves, jellies, chutneys, ketchups and jams made from the glut of produce in the summer makes me want to bake something that will show them at their best.

This dough is quick and easy to make as it only proves once (like pizza dough), it is gently aromatic and bubbles beautifully in the oven. You could use apple juice instead of cider, the flavour will still come through.

It might be good with a goat cheese, or a melting tagleggio but here I've used an Isle of Mull Cheddar, my kids favourite. On the side, maybe a tomato salsa, an apple and chilli jelly, or a hot, full flavoured, chilli chutney (like McQuade's Habanero Chutney- unfortunately not yet available on this side of the Atlantic!) would be the perfect accompaniment.

Cider Cheese Bread
Bread dough:
375g bread flour
1 tsp salt
2x 7g sachets of dried yeast
2tsp mustard powder
175ml dry cider
100ml hot water

1 clove of garlic
25g butter
25g flour
100 ml cider
200g strong cheddar cheese, grated
2 tsp dijon mustard

Sift the flour into a large bowl, stir in the salt, mustard powder and yeast. Make a well in the centre.
Mix the cider and hot water together and pour into the well. Mix together with your hands until the mixture comes together then knead for around 3minutes until it forms a smooth ball.
Leave in a warm place till risen to twice its size (around 1 hour)
Meanwhile, cut the garlic in half and rub the clove all round a small saucepan. Next melt butter in the pan, stir in the flour and cook slowly on a low heat until blended well together. Whisk in the cider to make a smooth thick sauce then add the cheese and mustard and stir until everything is melded together.
When the dough is risen, press out to a thin oval shape (around 1cm thick)  and top with the cheesy cider mixture. Bake in an oven 200C for around 12-15 minutes until the bread is light and risen and the cheese and cider is melting and golden. (you could also make smaller rolls - just be careful of the baking time)
Serve with hot soup and spicy chutney.

Monday, 9 November 2009

Minestrone d'Inverno

Soup is the most comforting of my winter staples. It is always warming, often frugal, and incredibly easy and quick to make. And it uses up all those weird and lesser known vegetables found in the best farm shops at this time of year - celeriac, rainbow chard, unusual members of the cabbage family, cavalo nero, curly kale - you know the ones I mean.

Summer minestrone might be filled with fresh borlotti beans, green beans, courgettes and fresh tomatoes. Winter minestrone makes the most of the few vegetables still growing or stored from summer; potatoes, tomatoes and carrots and takes its iron from winter greens like chard, spinach or cabbage. Although it is an Italian recipe by birth, I think it could hail from any country that finds itself relying on cabbage in the colder months!

Minestrone d'Inverno
2 onions, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
4 sticks celery, chopped
(keep the celery leaves if there are any to throw in)
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tins tomatoes
2 tins borlotti (or cannellini)beans
A parmesan cheese rind (if you have one)
1 head savoy cabbage (or other greens) chopped finely
1 litre stock or water
100g small pasta or spaghetti broken into little bits
1 bunch parsley
Salt and Pepper
freshly shaved parmesan to garnish

Heat the olive oil and saute the onions, carrots and celery and stir until softened. Add the tomatoes, beans and cheese rind - this gives the soup a beautiful slightly grainy texture. Cook for a further few minutes until combined. Add the shredded cabbage and pour in the water or stock. Bring to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes. Add the pasta, most of the parsley and season liberally. Simmer for a further 10 minutes until the pasta is cooked through.  You may have to add more water if the beans and pasta have absorbed too much but this is a soup so thick, its almost a vegetable stew. Serve with lots of crusty bread and top with a little chopped parsley and a generous helping of shaved parmesan.
This soup is also beautiful with a spoonful of pesto stirred in just as its served.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Sticky Toffee Banana Bread

This is one of those recipes that makes me feel like a good mother.
It makes a lovely after school treat or breakfast bread on the weekend (served with fresh banana and yogurt - not toffee sauce!)  It takes minutes to throw together, fills the house with a fug of spicy steam and stays moist and densely rich for days.
Banana bread is a health conscious treat filled with goodness; bananas, dates and nuts, and then just when you are feeling exceedingly virtuous, you can drizzle caramel sauce all over the top and turn it from a banana bread to a sticky toffee dessert. 

Sticky Toffee Banana Bread
150g dried dates, chopped
175g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp salt
125g butter
100g sugar
3 tbsp golden syrup
2 eggs, beaten
2 large ripe bananas, mashed
50g walnuts, chopped (optional)

Preheat the oven to 160C.
Cover the dates with boiling water in a bowl, add the baking soda and set aside for 30 minutes to soften, then mash or blitz in a food processor till smooth.
Sieve the flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl together.
Melt the butter in a small pan and beat in the sugar and golden syrup. Add the bananas and the eggs and finally the dates and walnuts (if using).
Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir well to ensure the flour is mixed in fully.
Pour into a loaf tin and bake for around 1 hr, poke with a skewer to check for doneness. (it will come out clean if the cake is baked through)
This cake can be eaten warm or cold with butter and a large cup of coffee....
but if you want an unbelievable treat....
drizzle with

Hot Toffee Sauce
100ml double cream
50g butter
50g dark brown sugar
Heat everything together slowly in a heavy bottomed saucepan.
Drizzle over the banana and date bread and serve with cream.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Celery Soup with Parmesan and Frizzled Parma Ham

I am planning the perfect Bonfire night. On Saturday we'll head out to the village green for a bonfire, fireworks display, toasted marshmallows and mulled wine. However if the weather doesn't take a turn for the better, we will be soaked through and freezing when we get home, so will need thick soup to warm the night and some kind of hot finger food to warm our bones (I'm still working on the perfect outdoor hot finger food.)

This one is my kids' second favourite soup in the world ever! What a recommendation. A swift, very easy, rich and comforting soup that is just perfect for the sort of 20 minute dinners I seem to specialise in these days. This weekend we'll be drinking this out of mugs on Guy Fawkes Night. I am not normally a huge fan of celery but the flavour is delicate, the soup creamy and light and the saltiness of the parmesan and parma ham give it body and an unexpected elegance.

Creamed Celery Soup with Parmesan and Frizzled Parma Ham 
1 onion, chopped finely
3 tbsp olive oil
1 head celery, chopped
2 large potatoes, peeled and roughly chopped
1 pint ham stock
50 g Parmesan cheese
6 slices Parma ham

Fry the onion in 2 tbsp of olive oil until soft, do not allow it to colour. Add the celery and gently fry to soften. Add the potatoes and stock. Bring to the boil and simmer for 20 - 30 mins until all the vegetables are soft.
In a blender, whizz the soup until smooth.
Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a frying pan until hot then quickly fry the slices of parma ham until crispy (this will take 30secs - 1min)then drain on kitchen paper then crumble. 
Serve the soup topped with parmesan cheese shavings and crispy ham.

Monday, 26 October 2009

Tangerine and Dark Chocolate Biscotti

The PTA bake sale always arrives when you are least prepared. Throwing together a batch of cupcakes is no bother usually but I think is not necessarily what grown-ups want with their morning coffee.

I love biscotti but not the usual almond breakfast biscuit; give me stem ginger and white chocolate or cranberry and pistachio to dunk in a frothy latte.

These aromatic biscotti are an easy bake sale biscuit, but work even better as a christmas gift: wrapped in cellophane and tied with gold ribbon, they make a great token during the holidays to take to neighbours and open house parties and keep well for a week or two in a sealed tin.

Tangerine and Dark Chocolate Biscotti
350g Plain Flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/4 tsp salt
2 eggs
200g sugar
Juice and zest of 3 tangerines
2 tbsp candied orange peel
2 tsp orange flower water (optional)
100g dark chocolate chunks
(or good dark chocolate chopped up,
Green and Blacks Maya Gold is particularly good)

Sift the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate and salt into a large bowl.                                                       
In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar and tangerine juice and zest.                             
Add the orange flower water if you are using, it is not strictly necessary but adds a beautiful light orangy depth.
Add the wet ingredients into the dry along with the chocolate chunks and candied peel. Stir until the dough comes together and loses its stickiness.
Form into two long, wide logs (approx 10cm x 30cm) on a baking tray and bake in the oven for around 30 mins until risen and golden.
Allow to cool a little then cut into 2cm wide slices.
Put these back on the baking tray and bake again for 10-15 mins till golden and crispy.

Cullen Skink

My camera is not working.... but I wanted to post this anyway. The wind is howling a gale outside, the rain lashing against the windows and I have a huge list of things to do but can't be bothered so am staying home to make soup. It is time, finally, to lay aside the hot weather food of summer months and embrace winter flavours, I need to make food to warm our bones and comfort us as we pack away the holiday clothes and break out the thermal underwear.

This truly Scottish concoction is not just a soup, more of a stew, a bit like an American chowder, rich dense and warming - perfect for a day like this. Although my version is not entirely authentic, it is exactly what I crave today. Hot garlic, potatoes and cream all flavoured with salty smoky haddock.

The village we live inis a good drive to the nearest fishmonger so we rely on a couple of salt soaked vans travelling through each week to provide us with our fish course. This week its the smoked haddock I can smell as I walk through the village square.

Cullen Skink
500g smoked haddock fillets (undyed if possible)
500ml milk
25g butter
2 leeks, white only finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely minced
500g potatoes, peeled and chopped into 5mm dice
Salt and Pepper
Double Cream to finish

Put the smoked haddock fillets in a pan with 200ml milk. Add a little water to cover the fish if necessary. Boil for 6-8 mins depending on the thickness of the fish, until the fish is just cooked. Remove the fish (reserve the liquid) and flake into chunks.

Add the potatoes to the reserved milk. Boil for 10-15 mins until the potatoes are soft. remove the pan from the heat and mash the potatoes into the liquid until thick, smooth and creamy.

Melt the butter in a large pan and saute the leeks and garlic until they are meltingly soft. Do not allow them to colour, this soup should be a pallid creamy shade, no speckles of green or brown.

Combine the potato mixture and cooked fish in one pan with the leeks and add the remaining 300ml milk. Season well with lots of pepper (white if you have it). Smoked haddock can be very salty so taste before you add salt - you may not need any.

Warm through at a low heat for a few minutes then serve with a swirl of double cream on top some buttered soda or country bread on the side.

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Chick Pea, Chorizo and Chard Tortilla

Dense, robustly spiced, and full to the very brim of the frying pan with flavour. This tortilla is not a particularly authentic regional dish but is a home-made amalgam of various Spanish and Moorish dishes with flavours that meld so beautifully I can just about imagine a version being served up in a back street tapas bar.

This is part of my Friday night repertoire. Friday is my favourite night to gather, the whole weekend is ahead of us and catching up with friends makes it feel like a holiday weekend, somehow much longer than the paltry saturday/sunday version. However on a friday night, finding time to do some after work shopping before swimming lessons with the kids makes it challenge to fit in cooking. Simple, fast, flavourful food has to be the order of the day.
This tortilla is full of bold flavours, strong smoky paprika and sweet peppers are held together by iron rich chard. I used the rainbow chard I have still growing rampantly in my garden, but you could substitute with swiss chard or spinach (or do without it altogether but just a few strands of greenery snaking through the dish gives it a fresher flavour and colour).

The nutty bite of chickpeas rolled around in the orange oil oozing from the chorizo give the dish a substantial feel, making it good for a full meal not a just side dish. However, tonight it will be served as tapas, along with some serrano ham, maybe some lemon and chilli mushrooms or olives and good crusty bread, it gives me lots of time to finish off a main course or throw together a dessert with no pressure from hungry visitors.

Chick Pea, Chorizo and Chard Tortilla
1 small onion
2 cloves garlic
Olive oil
1 roasted red pepper(I got mine in a deli)
1/2 tin chick peas
1/4 loop of chorizo
1 tsp smoked paprika
2 big handfuls of rainbow chard, roughly chopped
4-5 eggs, beaten

Finely chop the onion and garlic and saute in a frying pan in a good glug of olive oil until soft and fragrant.
Dice the red pepper and chorizo into chick pea sized chunks and add to the pan with the chick peas and paprika.
Saute everything together until the orangy paprika oils run from the chorizo.
Add the chard and keep stirring until it wilts and everything starts to meld together in the pan.
Add the eggs and stir gently to incorporate the eggs into the whole mixture, then allow to set over a medium heat.
Preheat the grill then slide the whole pan under the grill to set the top of the tortilla, it will only take a minute or two to become light gold and puffy.
Remove from the grill, gently loosen from the edge of the frying pan with a knife then place a large plate over the pan and invert the tortilla onto it. Then place another plate on top and invert once again so the glossy grilled top of the tortilla is on view. Sprinkle with a little sea salt.
Allow to cool slightly before slicing into canape sized cubes or wedges.
Serve hot or room temperature as a tapas or with a salad.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Pickled Beetroot or Beet Stains Everywhere

Isn't it gorgeous. All home-grown, home pickled and patiently waiting to be served on a gray and cloudy autumnal day with some cheese, crusty bread and an apple. A quality ploughmans lunch.

This year I grew pink chioggia beetroot, pale and stripy like a tea towel as they come out the ground, turning a rosy sunset shade as they pickle in the jar.

Larger beets could be sliced thinly but I already cooked all mine or made them into soups and salads so only undersized babies remain in the soil. These I quartered, baked then pickled in spiced vinegar. Roasting the beetroot in the oven instead of the more common boiling allows it to retain its sweetness and rich colour.

They taste sweet and spicy after just one week but should really be left at least a month before opening.

Pickled Beetroot
1 kg fresh raw beetroot
1l white vinegar
4  heaped tbsp granulated sugar
1 stick cinnamon
1 tangerine
1 tsp cloves
2 tsp black peppercorns

Wash the beets, taking care not to pierce the skin while you handle them. Wrap them in tinfoil and bake in the oven until tender.(Baby beetroots took around 30 minutes, larger ones longer). Allow to cool then peel and quarter or slice thinly. (Next time I might try chopping larger ones into little batons, they might be easier to eat than big slices)
Put the vinegar into a saucepan, add the sugar, cinnamon and peppercorns. Stud the tangerine with cloves and float in the vinegar. Bring almost to the boil and turn off the heat to allow the spice flavours to permeate the vinegar. Put the beetroot into sterilised jars then cover with the hot spiced vinegar. Seal and leave for at least a month. (If you can bear to)

Baked Camembert

The days are getting shorter, the clocks will soon change and the sunshine more often than not fades to the chill of an autumn evening. Twice this week I've woken up to frost in the grass and ice on my car windscreen.

In this weather, I want to close all the windows, lay a roaring fire, listen to the wind whirl out on the deck and curl up with a good book and a plate of something low in effort and high in comfort value. Hot burbling cheese, crunchy nuts and not too much faffing around to throw together. Quite perfect.

This is not so much of a recipe, more of a suggestion:
Baked Camembert with Cranberries and Hazelnuts
1 whole camembert (the type that comes in a wooden box)
1 handful of dried cranberries
1 handful of chopped hazelnuts
Around 2oz dark muscovado sugar

Remove the camembert from its box and wrapper. Slice a thin layer of rind off the top of the cheese and replace the cheese in its box.
Scatter the cranberries and hazelnuts on top of the cheese and sprinkle sugar over the whole lot.
Bake in the oven for around 15 minutes at 180C until glazed and bubbling.
Serve with chunks of baguette or wedges of pita bread, boiled baby new potatoes, steamed asparagus or home made oatcakes.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Sweet Potato Muffins

This one's for my good friend Charlie - the loveliest muffins, with (very) hidden health benefits. Hey, any way we can find to fit some vegetables into the diet of a reluctant veg eater - we'll take it!

These muffins look a little austere, no unwelcome fruit poking out, no glaze or crunchy topping to cause concern but they are both rich and moist and strangely light and fluffy too.

The aroma of cloves, ginger and cinnamon and a whole new sugary sweet thickness permeate the whole house as I cook these - the fifth batch in less than a week, even the neighbours are starting to comment as they pass the house.

I've tested more pumpkin muffins than I care to admit to lately but I really wanted to find a version that was a wee bit more do-able all year round, as the Scottish pumpkin season is, not unexpectedly,very short so until alternative inspiration strikes - sweet potatoes it is.

I've have tried the same recipe with pumpkin (seasonally delicious), butternut squash (as you would expect - sweet and buttery) and I think a batch with carrot are definitely worth a try (cooked and mashed as with the sweet potato so as not to alarm any pre-school vegetable phobics in our midst whose antennae would pop up at first sight of a small orange strand). If the low sugar/more healthy label is not a priority - a demerara sugar and cinnamon streusal dusting on top just before baking gives a fabulous tooth-tingling crunch.

Sweet Potato Muffins
250g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp mixed spice
110g sugar
1 egg
100 ml milk
1 tbsp honey (orange blossom works especially well)
90ml vegetable oil
2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled, boiled and mashed
optional : 3tbsp demerara sugar plus 2 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 200C.
In a bowl, sift together all dry ingredients - flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, spices and sugar.
In a jug, whisk together egg, milk,  honey, oil and mashed sweet potatoes.
Pour the wet ingredients into the dry. Stir gently until just combined.
Spoon into muffin cases - this should fill around 10 muffin cases or 16-18 cupcake cases.
Bake for 15-20 mins depending on size and remove when golden on top and springy to the touch.
If you want to live dangerously - mix sugar and cinnamon together and sprinkle on top of muffins just before baking.

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Warming the House

A gorgeous night, the unveiling of our friends' new house-extension, interiors worthy of Home and Garden, lovely people in fullest socialising mode, the drinks were flowing freely and the hosts asked me to cook... and I love to cook party food.
I agonised over Mediterranen vs Asian, hot vs cold, one bite vs fork and plate and how to get all my current favourites on one plate at the same time.... at the end of deliberations, the menu was:
  • Smoked salmon on rye with curried egg salad
  • Indian spiced scones with plum and black pepper chutney
  • Lemon and thyme chicken skewers with satay sauce
  • Spinach dip with dukkah dippers
  • Blue cheese shortbread with honey and figs
  • Tandoori prawns on mini poppadoms
  • Mini cranachan for dessert
With such fantastic hosts, and stunning setting, any food would stand out, but my fave on saturday was the mini cranachan. I found these little shot glasses and spoons and I want to use them for every meal we have. Mini gazpacho before lunch, mini beef stew as an after school snack, mini trifle, they are going to get so much use! If you make these with any little shot glasses, follow the sizes below - otherwise, double the recipe and make full sized desserts for 6 grown ups.

Mini Cranachan (makes around 18 - for full size - just double the recipe)
1 punnet of raspberries
1 tub of double cream
2 tbsp honey
2 tbsp good whisky
1 tbsp icing sugar
2oz porridge oats
2oz light muscovado sugar

In the bottom of each glass, place one or two raspberries.
Whisk the cream until it starts to hold its shape then whisk in the honey, whisky and icing sugar till light and airy.
In a dry pan, roast the oats and sugar together, do not leave this alone or it will burn, keep stirring it around the pan until the oats and sugar have melded into a lovely toffee colour and toasted crunchy texture.
Top the raspberries with the cream concoction then sprinkle with crunchy oatmeal.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Apple Jelly

Doesn't it look like melted down jewels a jar? I love the colours of preserves, my shelves are struggling to hold up the glass jars of different hues, orangy amber mango chutney, tawny plum jam, turmeric yellow apple chutney, ruby red tomato ketchup and today's wee project, apple jelly with the most beautifully jewel-like clarity.

My friend (and vegetable guru) Keith allowed me to scrump a bag of apples while I was raiding his plum tree last week (check out the plum ketchup recipe) and instead of peeling and freezing them - for winter apple pies -  as I do when I have too many apples, I wanted to produce a preserve to give us a little bit of summer warmth deep into our gloomy borders winter.

The kids love apple jelly on bread for packed lunch, (as much because they helped pick the apples as for the flavour.) I like it on the side of roast pork and the apple and chilli jelly makes a gorgeous crostini appetiser atop a sliver of  goat cheese.

I added a plum, no good reason, I just had one in my fruit bowl that needed used and I thought I would throw it in to see what happened. I don't think it affected the flavour at all but ....the colour oh my god..... the colour is divine. So cidery in aroma, appley in flavour and clear with an ochre tint in colour, the loveliest apple jelly, thanks Keith.

Apple Jelly
2kg apples, quartered, stalks and leaves removed, seeds and cores left
1.2l water
900g sugar

 Put all the fruit in a saucepan with the measured water. Bring to the boil and turn down the heat to a simmer. Cook until the fruit is soft and breaking up, around 20mins. Remove from the heat.
Pour everything into a jelly bag (or muslin cloth tied to each leg of a stool with a bowl underneath to gather the nectar as it drips down) and leave to drip overnight. DO NOT SQUEEZE!!! the jelly will lose its clarity if you do.

The next day, put the apple juices and sugar into a large pan and bring to the boil. Keep stirring until the sugar dissolves. Boil rapidly without stirring for 10-15 mins until you reach setting point ( 105 degrees apparently but I drop a spoonful of jelly onto a cold saucer, allow to cool then push with my finger - if the jam crinkles then it is ready to be taken off the heat). Pour into warm sterililsed jars, seal and label. Use within one year.
(For Apple and Chilli Jelly - stir in 2 finely chopped red chillis for the last few minutes of boiling, they set beautifully suspended in the jelly)

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Dukkah Dippers

Crispy, crunchy, aromatic and deeply savory, these middle eastern spiced pitta bread dippers turn any regular dip into a stunning centerpiece.

Dukkah is a traditional blend of nuts and spices usually served along with olive oil as a dry roasted dip for breadsticks. The recipes vary from country to country and from street vendor to street vendor and every home has its own blend with its own personality dependant on the preferences of its family.... it might feature pistachios, almonds or more commonly, hazlenuts, it will be spiced with black or white pepper and salt, sesame seeds (black or white), cumin, coriander, even occasionally fennel seeds.

The pitta bread can be cut into all sorts of shapes, long narrow strips, delicate triangles or chunky wedges, as long as they are big enough and wide enough to scoop dollops of dip. I love these served with paprika dusted hummus, but they are great with tzatziki or tomato salsa and leftover dukkah makes a beautiful crust for salmon.

Dukkah Dippers
4 pitta breads
2 tbsp olive oil

for the dukkah:
3 tbsp hazelnuts 
3 tbsp pistachio nuts 
2 tbsp sesame seeds
2 tsp coriander seeds 
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp sea salt 
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oven to 180C.  
Dry roast the spices and nuts in a frying pan for a few minutes until they start to turn a light brown colour and release their aroma. Do not leave them alone for even a second as they burn very easily. Allow to cool a little then roughly chop the nuts and spices, I like to crush them in a pestle and mortar to get a mixture of fine crumbs and chunky nutty bits . 
Cut the pitta breads into small triangles. Lay out on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with the spice mixture and drizzle with olive oil.  
Bake in the oven for 10- 12 minutes till fragrant and golden. Again watch them carefully, you want a light golden colour and a crisp texture not blackened bread and bitter spices.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Beetroot Coleslaw

I love American cookbooks. I spend too many late night hours online searching for the latest cook books or reading the freshest, most vibrant new food writing in blogs from Texas, San Francisco and New York. What I love most about American food writers is how they do the littlest things so very differently than we do here in Britain.

During this week's (very) short spell of Indian summer weather, we broke out the barbecue one last time. In Scotland when we have a long barbecue summer, its easy to find the time to experiment with grilled leg of lamb in Indian spices and yogurt, paella on the griddle and whole baked fish. This year however, when we've only managed a scant few barbies - all I want is burgers, sausages, potato salad and coleslaw.

Once you eat this beetroot coleslaw, you'll never go back to the pallid traditional version. In America, confident cooks mess around with their food far more than we do here in Britain. They don't make plain or fruit scones, they have maple syrup and oatmeal, or dried strawberry and vanilla. Coleslaw isn't cabbage and carrot in mayonnaise, its could be made with celeriac, fennel, apple, horseradish, any crackling and crunchy food you can imagine will make it into a coleslaw somewhere. They don't stop at mayonnaise, instead jazzing it up with cider vinegar dressing, or sour cream, perhaps throwing in some golden raisins or chillis, curry powder or nuts.

Of the variations constantly being tried out in my kitchen, (in summer: to complement the usual grilled chicken and chargrilled burgers, in winter: to liven up our Scottish seasonal staples- root vegetables) the best and my favourite so far is this glossy barbie pink almost childish concoction.

Beetroot Coleslaw
1/2 head white cabbage
1/2 red onion
2 large carrots
3 small beetroot
4 tbsp mayonnaise
1 small packet salted peanuts, chopped roughly

Grate the cabbage, carrot, onion and beetroot on a coarse grater.
Toss with mayonnaise.
The whole dish of coleslaw will turn a lurid but strangely appealing pink colour.
Scatter chopped peanuts over the top for seasoning and crunch.

Monday, 21 September 2009

The most beautiful salad I've had all summer

I went to my gorgeous niece's very fabulous wedding in a stunning castle in Scotland last month. A 14th century castle backdrop, historic graveyards, glorious scenery, imposing views and unexpectedly good food, all in one day. 

Despite the wonderful produce available at this time of year, we're not known in Scotland (at any time of year) for our love of healthy, light, seasonal food - a Glasgow salad being slang for a bag of chips - yet here, I unexpectedly found myself in front of the prettiest plate of salad I've seen in a long time.

This is not so much a recipe really, more of an attempt to recreate a memory and distill the flavours of late summer into one dish by throwing together the most aromatic, fresh, ripe ingredients I could find.

Watermelon and Feta Salad with pumkin seed and olive dressing
2 big handfuls of rocket
1 extra ripe galia melon
1 small sweet watermelon
2 blocks of feta cheese (around 400g)
100g packet of pumpkin seeds
100g black olives, chopped finely
4 tbsp olive oil

Scatter the rocket over a large (preferably white) platter. Chop both  melons into equally sized cubes and scatter artfully on top. Crumble the feta over the top. Stand back and enjoy just how lovely the colours look against together. Then toast the pumpkin seeds in a dry pan till they are just turning golden brown, allow to cool then throw on top of the salad.
Mix the olive oil with the chopped olives and drizzle over the whole salad. 

Thursday, 10 September 2009

A Glut of Plums

Can you really have too much of a good thing? I raided my friend's plum tree a few weeks ago to throw together some plum jam, then had some left over and made plum chutney, then put a few in the freezer to brighten up a gloomy fruitless winter breakfast and made a giant plum and apple crumble to last the weekend.

Still finding myself with a bagfull of plums and a need to try something new, I thought I'd try a plum ketchup. Similar to tomato ketchup but fruitier, cooking up a batch of dripping-ripe sweet plums creates a smooth, sweet and tangy dipping sauce that can be used as a dip for tortilla chips, a rich sauce to serve with duck and pancakes or a sticky side for hot and spicy chicken wings.

It might take a while to persuade the kids to use it instead of the more traditional tomato ketchup with chips but I think I might work on it.


Plum Ketchup
1 kilo plums, stones removed and halved
1 red onion cut into chunks
3 large cloves of garlic
10cm of ginger, grated
250ml cider vinegar
400g dark muscovado sugar
1 cinnamon stick
4 cloves
1/2 tsp chilli flakes

In a blender, blend the plums, onion, garlic ginger and vinegar together.
Put into a pan with the sugar and spices and stir to dissolve the sugar.
Heat the mixture till it comes to the boil then turn the heat right down and simmer for 30-45 minutes till thick.
Either bottle as you would jam, or keep in the fridge for up to a week.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Indian Spiced Wedges with chilli, lime and black pepper raita

I love potatoes, and usually the more butter and cream I can cook them with the better. Obviously my Irish genes start to dominate whenever I start to think about side dishes as rice, pasta and cornmeal hardly ever rear their heads without a bit of prodding. I especially love when potatoes can take centre stage, like in a spanish tortilla, a pommes dauphinoise or here in this chilli hot party dish.
Potato wedges of some sort have become an absolute staple in my house for parties. Whether we are having a children's party, sleepover, cocktail party or seasonal get together, potatoes in at least one form, if not two or three are a must. These go down a storm because its easy to spice them up for the grown-ups and serve them straight for the kids.

These can be made with little potatoes. look fabulous with red skinned potatoes but I think are best with big maris piper baking potatoes, sliced into chunky wedges, baked crispy and aromatic on the outside and to a cloud-like fluffiness on the inside.

Indian Spiced Wedges with chilli, lime and black pepper raita

4 baking potatoes, each cut lengthways into 12 wedges
4tbsp olive oil
2 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp coriander
1/2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp sea salt
200ml natural yogurt
2 limes
1 hot red chilli
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 220C/Gas 7

First prepare the raita. Chop the chilli finely then juice and zest the limes. Mix the yogurt with the lime juice and zest and chilli and add 1 tablespoon of freshly ground black pepper. Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding a little salt and more pepper if you like it with more bite.

Toss the potatoes with the spices and olive oil to coat well.
Spread out on a baking tray skin side down and bake for 25 - 30 minutes.
Serve with the lime and black pepper raita dip.

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Garden Soup

There is nothing like an unseasonably cold and rainy day (think 11 degrees and torrential rain in September) to make me hanker after a steaming pot of soup. It was too wet to venture out to the shop so I got soggy wet digging the last of the summer vegetables fresh out of the garden, jewel-like rainbow chard, fragrant young garlic, and every size and shape of carrots.

I've been thrilled in my first year of growing produce by my garden's ability to nurture real food. I'd love to take the credit myself but I really don't think I've been as involved in the process as I'd like to pretend. This deeply flavoured forest green, iron and vitamin hit should rival the copious variety of supplements I'm taking to ward off winter colds. It has an intrinsic healthiness to leave you feeling sated and smug and the added bonus is that children seem to like it too.
As with all home made soup, you don't have to stick religiously to the recipe, this soup can be made from any assortment of fresh vegetables, whatever you have in your vegetable plot or can find in the farmers market. Spinach can replace chard, sweet potatoes can substitute for carrots, peas for beans, leeks for shallots etc.

Garden Fresh Soup with herby marscapone swirl
25g butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 shallots (or 1 onion), finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 large potatoes, peeled and diced
2 medium carrots, diced
1 large handful of spinach
1 large handful of rainbow chard
200g fresh peas or broad beans(frozen would be fine)
1litre of chicken (or vegetable stock)
Salt and pepper to taste

for the marscapone swirl:
50g marscapone cheese
1tbsp finely chopped chives
1tbsp finely chopped parsley
1tbsl finely chopped oregano
salt and freshly ground pepper

First prepare the herbed marscapone. Add the chopped herbs to your marscapone cheese and beat together with a wooden spoon. Set aside to come to room temperature.

Heat the butter and olive oil togeher and add the finely chopped shallots.
Sweat over a low heat for a few minutes then add the garlic and diced potatoes.
Sweat for a further 2 minutes stirring constantly to stop the potatoes from sticking.
Finally add the rest of the vegetables and saute for a further 2 minutes.
Pour the stock into the pan and bring to the boil.
Turn the heat down low and simmer gently for 15-20 minutes.
Allow to cool a little and liquidise.
Check seasoning then serve topped with a swirl of herbed marscapone.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

The Perfect Oatcake

Its been a long time coming, my writing regularly in these pages. I've been an intermittant passer-by to the blog these past two years but I have now built up a huge list of recipes and ideas I want to explore and I finally have the time to devote to the cooking, growing, gathering and scrounging required - so here goes!

Have you ever eaten the perfect oatcake? Was it crumbly or firm? Coarse or fine textured? Fife cut (i.e. chunky triangles) or dainty and round? Was it rich and buttery or flaky with lard? Oatcakes are full of soluble fibre and provide a prolonged energy releaes so they are good for you in every possible way. As I try to reduce my bread intake (I love love love bread) oatcakes have become my new love.

I've baked a heap of oatcakes, used every possible kind of oatmeal, I've tried adding bran, fruit and blends of spices. I like my oatcakes with a bit of texture so have sworn off the fine oatmeal that is almost the texture of flour, but can't quite get my teeth round the coarser grainy texture of pinhead oatmeal (although it makes a good chunky textured biscuit to serve with soft cheese and chutney.)

In the interests of research, I've tried oatcakes dipped in chunky soup, served them with fresh cheeses and popped them in my pocket as an energy snack before a run and I think I can finally lay down my tastebuds and settle on one final recipe - for now anyway.

The Perfect Oatcake
50g (2oz) medium oatmeal
50g (2oz) wholemeal flour
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
a pinch of salt
25g (1oz) lard (melted)
5tbsp boiling water
1tbsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped
1tbsp sea salt

Preheat oven to 180C. Mix all the dry ingredients together. Pour in the lard and boiling water then stir till the mixture forms a ball. Roll out till 5mm thick and cut circles with a 4cm cutter. Lay on a baking sheet. Mix together the rosemary and sea salt.
Sprinkle the tops with the rosemary and salt mixture.
Bake for 8-10 mins until the biscuits are just starting to turn golden brown.

Eat with homemade soup, pate or strong cheese.