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.