The Overly Developed Imagination of the Only Child

bluemushSo, to herald my recent departure from unemployment, pajamas, self loathing and day time television is a recipe 100% guaranteed to warm the cockles of your heart. If hearts have cockles, which I happen to highly doubt. For one thing, this recipe is a slight adaptation from one on the BBC good food website. For those who don’t know me very well BBC good food is to me what cute, captioned pictures of anthropomorphic cats are to most people. The internet equivalent of a sanctuary; a safe, unbreachable, harmonious haven.

RECIPE:

  • 4 portobello mushrooms
  • 4tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large clove garlic, chopped
  • 400g baby spinach
  • frozen puff pastry (block or sheets) defrosted
  • 140g stilton (or other blue cheese) sliced
  • 1 egg, beaten

Preheat your oven to 200’C.

Put the oil in a frying pan and let it heat. Sizzle the mushrooms for a few minutes each side, just until they begin to darken and soften up a little. Put them to the side.

Turn the heat low and using the same frying pan and oil, add the chopped garlic and let it cook for a few seconds. Toasty, golden garlic may be delicious but burnt garlic tastes like the innermost circles of hell. Add the spinach and stir it until it’s wilted to about a millionth of it’s former size. Season the spinach and garlic with salt and pepper and pop it in a sieve to drain. You can use the back of a spoon as a squishing device to speed the process along a little. You want to squeeze out as much liquid as possible or the pastry will be soggy. Which is, as we know, completely unacceptable.

MaryBerryRoll out your pastry (about a £1 thickness) on a lightly floured surface. Using a bowl or plate that is much bigger than the mushrooms as a template cut out 8 circles from the pastry for the tops and bottoms.

On 4 pastry discs, spoon a quarter of the spinach mix, a couple of slices of cheese and add the mushroom (smooth side up) and top with a little more cheese until it kind of looks like a little pixie house (I was an only child, alright? Drop it.) Repeat this for the other 3 mushrooms.

100_1154Brush some beaten egg around the edge of the mushrooms and drape the 4 remaining pastry discs over the top. Use your fingers to press the edges of the pastry together. The bottom disc will be much wider than the top so I like to fold it over in a pretty sort of star pattern. This also seems to seal the pastry better, making the cheese much less likely to leak out of the sides.

100_1165You can also use the left over pastry to make some highly unnecessary but pretty decorations. Glaze the tops with a generous amount of egg and pop them in the oven for around 40mins or until they are very puffed up and golden-brown.

100_1172How sweet are they? Little golden parcels of deliciousness. The blue-cheese tanginess is so good with the meatiness of the mushrooms. They have the added benefit of looking kind of posh as well, so dinner party it up! Impress your in-laws. Or just foil your friends into bringing round copious bottles of wine. It’s a win-win either way!

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Breakfast has Risen!

hot x buns

I must confess that I am a Hot-Cross-Bun-Baking virgin. I have always lacked both the patience (and the virtue) to give credit to anything that will take 3 whole attempts to rise. Anyway, I was amazed to discover that Hot Cross Buns are actually pretty damn easy and oh-so-utterly scrumptious at the same time, especially toasted and dripping (virtuously ofcourse) in butter.

I was also shocked and appalled to realise how few of you actually like Hot Cross Buns! I reckon this is for the most part because shop bought ones both look and taste as though you have taken a slice of Hovis in your hand, squished it into a ball and added some raisins. About as appetising as chewing on someone’s abandoned sofa that’s been left out in the rain to gather mildew. Don’t. Even. Bother.

This recipe is a mash-up of both Paul Hollywood’s and Nigella’s. I had the pretty bright idea that, as their mixed DNA would undoubtedly make epic babies, um… surely their Hot Cross Bun recipes would do the same…?

RECIPE:

  • 300ml milk
  • 6 cardamom pods
  • 6 cloves
  • 50g butter
  • 500g strong bread flour
  • 1tsp salt
  • 75g caster sugar
  • 1tbsp vegetable oil (or other flavourless)
  • 7g sachet fast-action yeast
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 75g raisins
  • 50g dried cranberries
  • zest 1 orange
  • 1 apple, peeled, cored and chopped finely
  • 1tsp cinnamon
  • 75g plain flour (for the cross)
  • 2tbsp apricot jam (for the glaze)

Bring the milk gently to the boil with the cardamom pods and the cloves. The smell of this ALONE should be enough to leave your whole house feeling religious. Add the butter and leave it to cool to hand temperature. In a bowl, mix the flour, salt, sugar and yeast and make a well in the center. Pour into this the melted butter and milk and recreate all those happy school science memories involving volcanoes. Add the egg and mix together well with a wooden spoon. Then you’re going to need to get your hands dirty and squish it all together until you have a soft, sticky dough.

Tip it onto a floured worktop and give it a good knead for about five minutes, always keeping in mind the helpful phrase about the devil and idle hands. After that put it in an lightly oiled bowl and cover (but don’t wrap) with oiled clingfilm. Leave to rise for 1 hour. Time to get prayin’ while your dough gets a risin’.

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I wish I had taken a ‘before’ shot because this is definitely the bigger, meaner older brother to what I initially put in the bowl. I swear this guy is a mutant in comparison.

While it’s still in the bowl tip in the cranberries, raisins, apples, zest and cinammon and squidge it all about so the fruit is evenly distributed. Put the cling film over again and leave it to rise for another hour.

Separate the dough into about 15 pieces and roll them each into a ball. Pop them on a baking tray (or 2) lined with baking paper with enough room between them for them to grow and leave them (I know, I know) covered with clingfilm or a clean tea towel for another hour. Remember, patience is a virtue!

Now comes the fun bit! Heat the oven to 200’C. Mix the plain flour with water about a tbsp at a time until you get a thick batter. Pour it into a little zip-lock bag (or piping bag if you have one) cut a little snip out of one corner and use this to squeeze crosses onto your little beauties.

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Put them in the oven for about 15-20 mins until they are golden-brown and irresistible looking.

Heat the apricot jam in a saucepan until it’s lovely and melt-y and then brush it all over your buns and leave them to cool.

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Look at them! They’re practically glowing! It’s like what you keep telling your pregnant friends except in this case it’s actually true! Tell me that these aren’t completely delicious. Guaranteed to make a convert of even the most hardened Hot Cross Bun hater.

Happy Easter everybody! Cook like… Bunnies?

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