Buxom Barmaids

autumn

Shop-bought puff pastry is one of those miraculous inventions that turns the near impossible (or at the very least the thoroughly time consuming) into what can only be described as idiot-proof. As easy as pie. Or, as the case may be, as easy as a tart, which is pretty much just a pie lying on it’s back… which is kind of appropriate.

This is so easy that you don’t even need to actually like your guests in order to muster up the energy to make it for them. It is, however, so beautiful and dramatic when you turn it over that you’ll insure that your guests end up liking you. So don’t bother if you don’t want them coming back for seconds.

RECIPE:

  • 3 firm pears
  • 3 apples
  • 100g butter
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 3 cardamom pods (or 1tsp ground)
  • 1 large cinnamon stick (or 1tsp ground)
  • 5 cloves
  • 2tbsp brandy
  • 500g block puff-pastry

Peel and halve the pears and carefully cut out the cores. Do the same for the apples but cut them into quarters. If the fruit seems to be very juicy, leave them in the fridge to dry out for a few hours (you can also leave them in overnight, slightly sprinkled in lemon juice to stop them going too brown).

Put the sugar, butter and spices in an oven-proof frying pan (about 20cm) and cook over a high heat constantly stirring and shaking the pan. The butter and sugar should melt together and then begin to separate and turn a dark toffee colour. Be careful with it, caramel is ridiculously hot. No Seriously.

UntitledPut the apples and pears in the pan and toss them into the sauce. Cook them for around 10-12mins. Don’t worry, they won’t burn. Splash in the brandy and let it flambe. Flambe is, in my opinion, a much camper way of saying please be careful, this could take off your eyebrows. Take the pan off the heat and leave it to cool for a few minutes.

moreblog 024

Meanwhile, heat your oven to 200’C. Roll out the block of puff pastry to the thickness of a £1 coin. For people down under a pound is much the same thing as a dollar only thicker and it feels much more like real money (think 2 dollar coins stuck together). Using a plate for a template, cut a circle in the pastry, it should be slightly larger than the pan you are using. Press the edges with your fingers to thin it out a little.

When the pears have cooled you can pluck out the cinnamon sticks, cloves and cardamom pods. Some people like to leave them in to be artsy but really, have you ever accidentally bitten into a cardamom pod? Not good my friends, not good. Arrange the fruit in the pan, cut side up. I went for a sort of flower arrangement with the apple slices around the edge.

moreblog 030Put the puff pastry disk on top of the fruit and tuck the edges around the sides nice and snugly. Pierce the pastry with a fork and then put the pan in the oven for 15mins. If there is a lot of juice bubbling around the edges then drain a little of it off at this stage and then put it back in the over for another 15mins, reducing the heat to 180’C. The pastry should be golden brown.

Take it out of the oven and leave the tart to stand for 10mins (this allows the caramel to set slightly). Then put your serving plate on top of the pan and carefully, carefully flip it over.

Voil-fucking-a!

moreblog 038It’s beautiful! Like a firstborn, or a sunset, or a unicorn! Glossy like the flaxen hair of a medieval wench! As plumptious as the bosom of a barmaid! More sexually enticing than warm apple pie! And other stuff…

moreblog 039This tart tastes sinfully and unforgivably good. Sweet and spicy and sticky and juicy and all things that are even remotely good. The only thing that makes it better is ice-cream. Eat it straight away. Not that you could manage not to…

autumnfoot

The Trials and Tribulations of Man-Flu

curried sp soup

So the boyfriend woke up this morning sniffly and complaining and brutally aware of his own tenuous mortality. I really should have seen it coming this last week. All the symptoms were there: scrumpled tissues apparently self-generating in random places about his person, walking around the house in dressing-gown and slippers looking confused and hard-done by and generally acting like an old man who’s forgotten where he’s put his trousers. I should have known. Man Flu has descended.

Once again there is only one answer: Soup. On a day like today a knife and a fork is evidently out of the question. In fact, even the most basic forms of cutlery and crockery are ill-advisable in the face of chronic man flu. I intend to give this to him in a mug alone and then leave him in bed gently groaning to himself.

This recipe is a tribute to the many lunch-dates me and my friend used to have in Scotland in a little coffee place that did the best soup and sandwich combos in the world. It seems rather fitting on a day like today where the temperature would be better suited to Aberdeen than Australia. But not to worry – this soup is as thick and comfortable as a woolly jumper and a cuddle.

RECIPE: (serves 2)

  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, chopped
  • 1 large sweet potato (about 400g), roughly diced
  • 1 red chilli, chopped
  • 1tbsp curry powder
  • 1tsp turmeric
  • 1tsp ground coriander
  • squirt of lemon juice
  • olive oil
  • 500ml hot vegetable stock
  • fresh coriander (optional)

Heat the oil in a saucepan and add the onions, garlic and chilli and sweat on a medium heat for about 5 minutes. Add the spices and mix until it smells totally luscious and the onions are nice and soft.

Add the sweet potato and stir until it is coated in all of that yumminess and then add the vegetable stock. Bring to the boil and leave it to bubble away for about 10 minutes, or until the sweet potato has gone all smooshy. Add a squirt of lemon juice and take off the heat.

Pour it carefully into a food processor and mush it all up, put it back in the saucepan and add pepper to taste. This makes a fabulously thick soup. If you like your soup a little thinner and more catwalk-model-y OR if your boyfriend is so ill that even vigorous swallowing is beyond him then you can add a teensy bit more water (and provide him with a straw).

100_0548

Garnish with some fresh coriander for that restaurant-y, impress your friends-y look. I promise you it is so yummy and creamy and satisfying that it can cure almost any ailment. Obviously apart from man flu, which is widely accepted to be terminal.

footer

I am the (angry) Soup Dragon

header soup

So it just so happens that Good Friday was promptly followed by Bad Saturday.

For those of you who don’t already know, I currently share my life with these guys:

20140415_142717

Llamas. They are the most fantastic, individual, crazy creatures you’ll ever meet. Unfortunately, like most sentient beings, this doesn’t stop them from sometimes being utter dickheads. Today, they managed to break into the next door paddock and are now merrily chewing through the tree-leaves like there is no tomorrow and looking infuriatingly happy with themselves. The boyfriend is at work but managed to give me the oh-so-helpful advice of “Just Do Your Best”. What is that even supposed to mean?! It doesn’t help that llamas are pretty smart. You can’t just run at them, waving your arms and yelling – they just look at you as if to say “you look like a right prick, mate” and carry on.

So here it is, after many failed attempts of llama-baiting, llama-pleading and llama-blackmailing, my solution: Soup. There can only be one answer to a day like today and this is it. It’s easy, fast and tastes amazing, even if you are seasoning it with salty tears of disappointment and frustration.

RECIPE: (serves 2)

  • 2tbsps olive oil
  • 1 clove of garlic, chopped
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 medium potato, diced
  • 1 fresh chilli, finely chopped
  • 300g sweetcorn, frozen
  • 500ml hot vegetable stock
  • 270ml light coconut milk
  • 1tsp cumin
  • 1tsp ground coriander
  • 1tsp garam masala
  • Juice 1/2 lemon

Heat the oil in a saucepan on a medium heat and add the onion, garlic, potato and chilli, stirring constantly for about 5 mins or until the onion has softened. Add the spices and carry on stirring for another minute until it is really fragrant.

Add the vegetable stock and bring to the boil until the potatoes are soft. Then add the sweetcorn and allow to simmer gently for about 5 minutes.

Take it off the heat and allow it to cool for a couple of minutes before putting it in a food processor and whizzing until smooth. Pour it back into the saucepan and add the coconut milk and lemon juice – it’s best to do this while the soup is off the heat because coconut milk is prone to splitting. Your soup will still taste good but it will look like sick which many people find vaguely off-putting for some reason.

Put it back on a gentle heat and add a couple of handfuls of frozen sweetcorn for texture and some salt and pepper to taste.

This soup has the added benefit of being both gluten and lactose free and, as I just made it up, at least today hasn’t been a total dead loss.

blugh 050

There you have it. Pure comfort in a bowl. Now if you’ll excuse me I have some llamas to rescue.

P.S. If you are gluten intolerant, please check that your veg stock and your spices are GF friendly 🙂

footersoup

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’.

100_0479

 

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.

100_0488

 

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.

100_0497

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?

footerbunny

Nuclear Carrot Warfare

 

carrot new

So this recipe is officially dedicated to this guy:

uncle_monty_sm__21161.1359021068.1280.1280

 

Beware! This, the first in the epic quest to find the ultimate veggie burger, is absolute carrot-mania. Not for the carrot-phobic nor even for the carrot-mildly-apprehensive among you. These burgers are for the carrot fanatics. The carrot die-hards. The Uncle Montys. And yet, surprisingly, straight people can still eat them.

 RECIPE:

  • 2tbsp Olive Oil
  • 4 Spring Onions, Chopped
  • 2 Cloves Garlic, Chopped
  • 1 tsp Grated Fresh Ginger
  • 8 Medium Carrots, Grated
  • 1tsp Turmeric
  • 1tsp Coriander Ground
  • Handful Fresh Coriander
  • 1/2tsp Crushed Chillies
  • 2 Egg Whites
  • 2tsps Peanut Butter
  • Juice 1/2 Lime
  • 1/4 Cup Breadcrumbs

Ok, beware, this recipe is a little messy. Box-grating 8 carrots is, for me, the vegetarian equivalent to nuclear warfare. I guess it didn’t help that when I put some bread in the food processor to make the breadcrumbs I forgot to put the top back on… but that is just a guaranteed me-ism. When I am in the kitchen, I WILL make a mess. On the plus side, in my book, anything with peanut butter in it instantly has the potential for greatness…

Heat 1tbsp of oil in a frying pan and fry the spring onions, garlic and ginger over a low heat for 2 mins. Add the carrots and the spices and season, turn up the heat and stir for 5 mins. Transfer to a bowl and let it cool for a few minutes. This step is essential, unless you want scrambled egg whites spunking up your otherwise delicious burger.

Whisk the egg whites with the peanut butter (if this step involves some minor finger licking, don’t be ashamed – embrace it!) and lime and fold into the carrot mixture, add the breadcrumbs. Shape into 5-6 burgers and pop in the fridge overnight.

The next day preheat the oven to 180’C. Heat the remaining oil in a pan and fry the burgers until they are browned on each side.

Transfer to a baking dish and cook in the oven for 10-15mins.

As I mentioned before, this shit is ORANGE. Carrot-lovers unite. The original recipe said that this should make 4 burgers: this is a lie. Either the chef was tripping and wanted a burger that would make him feel like a little, tiny pixie or he just had a real hunger that day. The burgers were humongous. If I was making it again, I would probably go for six, because the smaller they are the better they cook and hold together. But still, they were yummy! They had a really nice heat to them from the spice and they were super moist but still crispy on the outside. I served them on Soda Bread Buns (recipe to follow), with mango chutney, cheese and some salad-y bits.

burger 014

It’s a total beast!

VERDICT: This is definitely not the world’s perfect veggie burger. It’s really yummy, but in all honesty… it just feels too healthy! You don’t get that satisfying, disgusting, slightly guilty feeling that a true self-respecting burger should provide. The texture is a little too crumbly, and all in all it’s just SO carrot-y… It’s just too stereotypically vegetarian for me, a healthy, orange mush. Sorry Monty.

VERDICT (OF THE CARNIVOROUS BOYFRIEND): Mmmm (I think he finds anything that requires dislocation of the jaw to eat enjoyable) bloody good on the whole but could be firmer, needs a bit more seasoning. We can do better!

footer