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Archive for the ‘Picnics-Outdoor Food’ Category

I once bought a jar of caramelised onion chutney at a fayre and promised myself that one day I would hunt out a recipe and make some myself.   It is a really useful addition to the store cupboard: delicious with cheese or cold meat, so especially good around Christmas when there are plenty of cold cuts, but also good stirred into gravy to add extra flavour.  If you like hot dogs then you could substitute this chutney for the fried onions and if you like sausage rolls then why not try the recipe on this site for Sausagemeat Plait substituting Caramelised Red (or White if you prefer) Onion Chutney for the Fennel & Apple Chutney.

Finding nothing particularly useable in my recipe books, I turned to the web and discovered several helpful recipes, in particular one from Tesco called Caramelised Onion Chutney, but I consulted other recipes as well.  One of these Red Onion & Balsamic Chutney, a Lesley Waters recipe on the Good Food Channel site, added orange which I wanted to include in my recipe, having made some onion marmalade (a mixture of seville orange and onions) some years ago. The Tesco recipe used a pinch of chill, but I used Piment d’Espelette as an alternative.  The recipe did not specify the type of onion, so I assume that it should be white ones, however as I had plenty I used red onions instead.  The only comment I would make is that I would have preferred the chutney to be pinkish rather than brown, reflecting the rosy colour of the onions.  The darkening came both from the brown sugar, even though I used light brown, the dark balsamic vinegar and the red wine vinegar.  If I did this again I woudl certainly use white wine vinegar and white balsamic vinegar and possibly white granulated sugar as well.   Ideally this recipe should be kept to mature for 6 – 12 months, according to the Tesco recipe.  I made mine at the start of November so by Christmas it will have matured for almost 2 months: not quite long enough I know but I plan to keep one jar by for next Christmas to see if it really does improve with age.

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Caramelised Red Onion Chutney
(3 x 500g/1lb jars)

3tbsp olive oil
1·5kg/3lb onions – I used red onions
zest & juice of 1 orange
300g/10oz light muscovado sugar (or white granulated to help preserve colour)
200ml/7fl oz red wine vinegar (or white wine vinegar to help preserve colour)
3tbsp balsamic vinegar (or white to help preserve colour)
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1tbsp wholegrain mustard
½tsp salt
large pinch paprika
large pinch crushed chillies or Piment d’Espelette (Espelette pepper)

1.  Peel and thinly slice the onions.  Heat the oil in a large saucepan and using a low heat gently fry them for 10 minutes until they have softened.  They must not brown.

2.  Stir in 3 tbsp sugar.  Turn up the heat and cook the chutney for 3-4 minutes and allow the onions to brown, although if you want to preserve the pink colour of the chutney try not to let them brown very much.  Stir in the rest of the sugar and then add the remaining ingredients.

3.  Simmer the mixture gently for 10-15 minutes.  The liquid should reduce, the mixture thicken and turn a dark caramel colour.  (This instruction comes from the original: using white vinegars and sugar should hopefully preserve the colour a little better although adding the sugar will make it darken a little.)

4.  Wash the jars well and sterilise them.  I usually do this by filling the jars with boiling water and putting the lids in a bowl of boiling water.  I pour away the water just before filling each jar and immediately take the lid from the bowl and screw it on.

5.  Pot while still hot into the pre-prepared sterilised jars. Screw on the lids well and then turn upside down until cool, which helps with the seal, after which they can be labelled.  This can be eaten immediately but also keeps well.

7.  If you can wait that long it is recommended that this chutney is stored for 6 – 12 months before use.

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I have had mixed experiences with making cakes containing fresh fruit.  The first time I made an apple cake it was definitely delicious but the texture and look felt more like a pudding than a cake.  It seemed rather claggy and was great with custard but I did not feel it was particularly presentable for a tea-time treat.  It deteriorated quickly in the cake tin as it was so moist and was just about edible on the second day but definitely past it after that.  I was a little unsure about wanting to repeat the experience, but we have been snowed under with gifts of apples this year.  By all accounts it has been a bumper harvest.  I decided to take a risk using a different recipe and this time the results and especially the texture were very much better.  Actually, this recipe was so popular that I did not have to worry about it lasting as long as day three, however if it had I am sure it would have been edible.

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

You will not be surprised to know that this is yet another recipe from my original paperback copy of Delia Smith’s Book of Cakes, which is well thumbed and in places loose leaf.  (I was looking for the recipe for Caraway Seed Cake, one of my favourites, which will follow another time … but I digress …!)  This page popped open and it sounded lovely – and conveniently there was a small lonely bottle of French cider sitting in the cupboard.  My only argument with the recipe is the instruction for placing slices of apple on the top.  I spent quite some time making an attractive decorative pattern in concentric rings only to find this was completely unnecessary as it was completely obliterated by the topping mixture.  Next time I will either scatter the slices evenly over the top before adding the topping or even try dicing the remaining apple (but into fairly small pieces), before mixing with most of the topping and evenly scattering it over.  It can then be finished off with the remainder of the topping mix and the split almonds certainly add a lovely nutty crunch, although they could be omitted.  As for the cider, we could really taste it in the cake.  I am sure that apple juice would make a good substitute but obviously would not be quite the same.  I served this as a warm dessert accompanied by vanilla ice cream with some cake left over to cut and eat cold later.  If it is going to be served as a pudding you could go the whole hog and serve it with Brandy Sauce, the type some people serve with Christmas pudding!

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Spiced Apple & Cider Cake

For the cake:
50zs/150g margerine or butter
5ozs/150g caster sugar
2 medium eggs, beaten
8ozs/225g plain flour
1tsp baking powder
1tsp grated nutmeg
¼pt/150ml dry cider
3 smallish cooking apples (I used 1lb 40zs/600g)
For the topping:
1oz/25g butter
1oz/25g plain flour
2ozs/50g dark soft brown sugar
2tsp cinnamon
1oz/25g blanched & chopped or split almonds

1.  Preheat the oven to 180oC/350oF/Gas 4.  Line and grease a 8inch/20cm loose bottomed cake tin.

First make the cake:
2.  Cream the butter and sugar together until light, pale and fluffy.

3.  Beat the eggs and add a little at a time, beating well each time a some egg is added.

4.  Sieve the flour, nutmeg and baking powder together.

5.  Fold half of this flour mix into the mixture using a metal spoon.  Add half of the cider.

6.  Fold in the remaining flour mix.  Add the remaining cider.

7.  Peel, core and chop one apple and fold into the cake mixture.

8.  Spoon the cake mixture evenly into the prepared tin, smoothing with the back of a spoon.

Prepare the topping:
9.  Measure the flour, butter, sugar and cinnamon into a bowl and rub together with fingertips until it has a coarse and crumbly texture similar to breadcrumbs.  Add the chopped or split almonds.

10. The remaining apples should be peeled, cored and sliced thinly before arranging the slices, overlapping slightly, on the top of the cake.  This can be done fairly roughly – these will be completely underneath the layer of topping mixture so it is not worth spending a lot of time making a highly decorative pattern with the apple!

11. Scatter the topping mixture evenly on top.

12. Bake in the centre of the pre-heated oven for 1¼-1½hrs or until the cake starts to shrink away from the sides of the tin.

13.  Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes.

14.  Remove carefully and transfer to a wire rack.

15.  Serve warm as a dessert with cream or ice cream. Alternatively cut when cool and serve at tea time.

16.  The liquid in the fruit will make this a moist cake and the moistness will make it start to go mouldy quickly so be aware that it needs to be eaten within a day or so.

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Once we have got across the channel we buy a lovely fresh stick ‘pain’ for our first picnic and then spend time poring over the wonderful offerings on the delicatessen counter.  Which cheese?  Can’t choose: OK let’s get two types …and we mustn’t forget the pâté!  Mostly we buy this from a supermarket but sometimes, if we are in a town, we buy from a Charcuterie or Pork Butcher, where it is likely to be the butcher’s shop own recipe.  Pâté, of course, comes in many different local and regional guises.  My husband loves Pâté Provençale, often slightly spicy with pieces of red and green pepper and there are no prizes for guessing what my duck loving daughter chooses … I’m just happy to try as many different ones as I can!  We all have a bit of a weakness for a good meaty (and garlicky!) French pâté.  The French seem to have a penchant for adding pistachio nuts to cooked meats and pâtés so I was very pleased to come across this recipe which made a very pretty addition to our Christmas afternoon tea (and several subsequent meals) last year.  I have been intending to share it for some time and as there is a French theme this month, here it is at last … and as promised.  Be warned, though, this is not a particularly quick recipe to make as the pressing and cooling takes at least 2 hours in addition to the making and cooking time, but it is worth it.

The recipe comes from one of my Christmas presents (a request!) last year: The French Market by Joanne Harris & Fran Warde.  I already own a copy of the companion book by the same authors: The French Kitchen.  The pâté had favourable comments from our Christmas and New Year visitors but if I was being critical I think it needs a few little tweaks when I make it again, and I will.  Firstly, I felt that the recipe needed a little more seasoning (I was probably being careful so underseasoned) and the addition of garlic for a stronger flavour.  This is down to personal preference and is a comment rather than an instruction: you will have to make up your own mind and alter as you think fit.  I used the exact amount of pistachio nuts but felt it was rather a lot and could be reduced a little next time, perhaps by a quarter or even more.  You can see from the photo just how generous the quantity is.  Other recipes include peppercorns which give a lovely spicy hit in the mouth: the quantity to add would be trial and error of course and certainly not the same in quantity as the pistachios.  I have a tub of mixed coloured peppercorns bought in France – a mixture of black, white, green and pink which I will try sometime.  Another adaptation could be a version of Pâté Provençale, adding chopped mixed peppers and Herbes de Provence.  I chose to make the mixture in two smaller loaf tins, which meant that I needed almost double the number of bacon rashers and then froze one block to extend the use by date, defrosting it overnight before cooking, though I could easily have cooked both and simply frozen one afterwards, perhaps ready sliced.

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

French Style Country Terrine/Pâté (Terrine/Pâté de Campagne)
(Serves 6-8 as a lunch dish – more as part of a buffet)

450g streaky bacon, thinly sliced & rind free (extra for more than one block of pâté)
200g chicken livers, trimmed
500g lean pork, diced
4 shallots, finely diced
or
2 small white onions, finely diced
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped/crushed (optional addition to original recipe)
2 eggs, beaten
bunch of fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
4 sprigs of thyme, just the leaves
or
1tsp dried thyme
2 bay leaves, chopped
Sea salt & ground black pepper
100g pistachio nuts, or less (whole or chopped – reserved some whole to garnish) optional

1. The original recipe specified heating the oven to 160oC/Gas 3.  No Farenheit temperature was given but I think this is about 312oF.

2. Chop the chicken livers and 250g of the bacon and place together in a bowl.

3. Stir in both the chopped and the minced pork, chopped shallots or onion, chopped or crushed garlic, herbs and seasoning. Add most of the pistachio (or other nuts, peppercorns or similar) at this point, reserving a few as a garnish.  Mix well.

4. Line a 22cm x 11cm terrine dish or loaf tin with most of the remaining slices of bacon, reserving a few to go on top once it is filled. Alternatively use two (or more) smaller ovenproof containers, but as mentioned previously you will need extra bacon. The bacon can be gently stretched with a knife so it covers a larger area of the tin and should be laid side by side with no gaps. The pâté will have an attractive striped appearance.

5. Fill the dish(es) or tin(s) with the meat mixture.

6. Fold the ends of the lining bacon over the top of the meat mixture and lay the remaining slices on the top side by side.

7. Bake in the oven for 1½ hours – two separate containers should need slightly less time. Watch the surface and if the meat starts to brown too much, cover with a layer of tin foil, shiny side up to reflect away the heat.

8. Remove and leave to cool for 30 minutes before carefully draining off the collected juices. These can be kept as stock and added to another meat recipe.

9. Place sheet of tin foil and then a snug fitting weight on the top of the terrine or tin for at least 1½ hours in order to compress it. (I used some tins with some heavy bags of salt on top, but use whatever is to hand.)

10. For ease the finished terrine should be turned out while still slightly warm. It can then be eaten immediately or chilled in the refrigerator until ready to slice and serve. Scatter with the remaining pistachios or other nuts, if using, to preserve their crunchiness for as long as possible. (If adding peppercorns you do not need to reserve any.)

11. The book recommends that this will keep for up to 7 days in the refrigerator. If making more than one container or loaf the second one can be wrapped well in tin foil and frozen. It should be thoroughly defrosted (overnight in the refrigerator) before eating.

12. This can also be cut into portions or individual slices to be taken in advance from the freezer and defrosted.

13.  Serve with crusty French style or Wholegrain bread and salad.  Good for buffets and summer picnics and excellent to serve as a starter, especially as it can be made in advance.

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With just a few days to go before our holiday the fresh contents of the fridge were run down to almost zero … but we still had to eat.  Half a dozen tomatoes and some sad looking carrots were all I had left, after which we would be on to frozen and tinned vegetables for the last day or so.  Then I remembered this recipe on a card I had picked up in the supermarket a few weeks before.  It was just the right dish to serve with Marinaded Pork, oven tomato roasted tomatoes and some crusty French bread (flatbread or pittas would have been another option).

The recipe card for Indian Chicken with Carrot & Chickpea Salad came from Tesco supermarkets.  The chicken is pre-marinaded and then simply grilled or fried – something to make on another occasion. The salad was prepared as instructed by the recipe except I halved the quantity of carrot to serve three/four whilst still using a whole can of chick peas.  I would have liked to add more mint but there was not much in my garden – well, I was just about to go away and I do use quite a lot – however the 2-3 sprigs I used was adequate.  I am not sure that this would be enough to serve six unless it was with another vegetable or salad side dish in addition to the rice or bread recommended.  Our verdict on the recipe, however, was a resounding ‘more please’ so I shall be making this again.  At some point I will certainly be trying it with a tikka style chicken recipe as suggested by the original card date.

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Carrot & Chickpea Salad
(Serves 4-6)

1 tsp coriander seeds, crushed
3 medium carrots, coarsely grated
1 x 400g tin chickpeas, rinsed & drained
1 tsp honey
2 tbsp olive oil
½ lemon, juiced
2-3 sprigs mint, chopped
1.  Put the carrots, chickpeas, honey and olive oil together in a bowl.
2.  Heat the coriander seeds in a dry frying pan and toast until they start to release their aroma.
3.  Add the toasted coriander seeds to the bowl.
4. Stir in the lemon juice to taste – less than the specified quantity may be enough.  Add the mint and season to taste.
5.  Serve with grilled or cold meat.  Original recipe was served with spiced chicken. flatbread, mango chutney and Indian beer.

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I did intend to post this on 16th, but have ended up back posting.  It has been a busy week…

“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade”, or so the saying goes…  This presumably means you should make the very best of life’s ‘sour’ situations: but definitely no metaphorical lemons here today! This should really have been a day for writing about ‘bubbly’ (rather than lemonade) as the vicar and I are celebrating 25 years of marriage, but the fizzy stuff is being saved for the celebrations with friends and family in a week or so.  As for lemons, our market has been full of them recently and I absolutely love home made lemonade, with just enough sugar to take away the excessive sourness … and topped up with sparkling rather than still water we can still have fizz – life is sweet!

Lemonade is easy to make and definitely a good recipe for the novice cook: it was one of the first I was taught at Domestic Science in school (DS – definitely before the days of Food Technology).  With the advent of the microwave oven the method has become simpler and I have given both methods below.  Herb, spice or other fruit flavours can be incorporated into the the basic lemon (or orange, or lime, or mixed citrus fruit) syrup.  For a long hot summer, whatever that might be (!), or as a time saver, prepare a larger quantity and keep a ready supply of undiluted blocks of sugared zesty lemon in freeze.  Dissolve, as required, in the correct quantity of water.  Simply strain once defrosted before serving.   It will cool the water as it melts – simple!

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Traditional Style Lemonade

4-6 tbsp granulated sugar (according to personal preference)
(fructose or another sweetener can be substituted)
2 large/3 small lemons – zested & freshly squeezed
1 litre/1¾pints water – still or sparkling.

1.  Using a little detergent wash the lemons to remove waxy coating and rinse well

2.  Put the lemons in a microwave for about 20 seconds on full power.  This burst of heat releases a little extra juice.  I understand a similar effect can be had by apply light pressure with the hand and rolling the lemon backwards and forwards on the work surface, although I have not tried it.

3. Zest the lemons into a microwaveproof bowl, avoiding the white pith which will make the drink bitter. (Use a saucepan for the stovetop method).  Add the squeezed lemon juice and the sugar.

4.  Heat in the microwave, stirring from time to time … alternatively, heat on the stove top, stirring.  Remove from the microwave or heat once the sugar has dissolved. Taste and add more sugar if needed.  This takes around two minutes.

5.  Leave to cool and to allow the zest to fully infuse.

6.  Strain and dilute with still or sparkling water.  Serve over ice decorated with slices of fresh lemon.

7.   If this recipe is doubled – or more –  the portions should be frozen preferably unstrained and definitely undiluted.

Alternatives: (suggested quantities to substitute)
Traditional Style Orangeade – 2 small oranges
Traditional Style Limeade – 3-4 limes
Traditional Style Lemon & Limeade – 1 lemon & 2 limes
Traditional Style Mixed Citrus-ade – 1 orange, 1 lemon, 1 lime
Traditional Style Grapefruit-ade – 1-2 grapefruit (preferably sweet pink variety) – may need extra sugar and water if using two grapefruit

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A few weeks ago I made sweet scones as part of a special afternoon tea for Mum and Dad on Mothering Sunday and they were a great success.  So last weekend on Father’s Day, with Mum and Dad coming to tea again, I decided to make scones again, but this time Savoury ones: with cheese both in the mix and crusted on the top.  It is a lovely flavourful recipe with the strong cheese flavour enhanced by mustard and cayenne pepper giving a spicy bite, the strength of which of course can be adjusted to taste.  They would also be delicious with a little fried onion added to the mix or on top – or both.  These scones are perfect at tea time or in lunch boxes, at Summer picnics or served with a warming Winter soup in place of bread.

As with the sweet scones the source for this recipe was Delia Smith’s recipe Cheese Crusted Scones from the original version of her Book of Cakes. It is a straightforward fairly standard cheese scone recipe and I made it exactly as per the instructions, apart from slightly lessening the spices.  In particular I used less cayenne as the one I have from our local ethnic shop is rather fiery.  I didn’t want to spoil the scones by making them too hot!  The recipe below is a doubled version: somehow the eight smallish scones I made didn’t seem enough.  As with the sweet scones I have added a list of other savoury scones further down this page: recipes from books I own and from cookery sites online that I may well make at some point.  If I do make any and post them on this site I will add a link.

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Cheese Crusted Scones
(Makes 12-16 scones)

12ozs/350g self raising flour
2ozs/60g butter
60zs/170g finely grated strong Cheddar cheese
2 large eggs
4-6tbsp milk (and a little more if needed)
½tsp salt
1tsp English mustard powder (or less if you wish)
2-4 large pinches cayenne pepper
A little extra milk

1.  Preheat the oven to 220oC/425oF/Gas 7 and thoroughly grease a large baking sheet (or two smaller ones).

2.  Sift the flour into a bowl along with the mustard powder, salt and half of the cayenne pepper and mix together.

3.  Rub in the butter with finger tips until well combined.  Mix in most of the grated cheese leaving the remainder (around a generous 2 tbsp) to use later as a topping.

4.  Beat the eggs with 4tbsp milk and add to the dry ingredients.  Mix together to form a soft dough that leaves the bowl clean, adding a little more milk as required if the mixture seems dry.  Try to avoid working the mixture too much as this will make the scones hard.

5.  On a well floured surface, to avoid sticking, gently roll the dough as evenly as possible to a thickness of ¾inch/2cm.  I like to cut savoury scones into square shapes (using rounds for sweet scones) and this can be done with a knife.  If the dough is formed into an oblong shape it can be cut into the required number of equally sized pieces which will avoid it having to be reworked.  Depending on size required, bearing in mind they will rise in the oven, aim for 12-16 pieces.

6.  Brush the tops with a little more milk, sprinkle equally with the reserved cheese and, if you wish, very lightly dush with some more cayenne pepper.

7.  Place evenly spaced on the baking sheets, allowing a little room for rising.  Bake for 12-15 minutes (or a little longer if necessary) until the cheese has started to crust and the scones are browned.  Cool on a wire rack.

8.  Serve warm or cold with or without butter but the scones are best eaten the day they are cooked.  Next day reheating a little is recommended.  Fillings such as ham, tuna, chutney or tomato are also suggested, as is topping with a fried, poached or scrambled egg.

Alternative recipes for savoury scones (untried):
Cheese & Fried onion Scones (see my note above)
Cheese & Sweetcorn Scones – The Omniverous Bear/Good Food
Potato Scones – Delia Smith – Book of Cakes (original version)
Tattie (Potato) Scones – London Eats
Cheese & Marmite Scones – For Forks Sake
Buttermilk Scones with Cheshire Cheese & Chives – Delia Smith online
Feta, Olive & Sun Dried Tomato Scones – Delia Smith online
Savoury Herb Scones – Cook it Simply
Peppadew & Chive Scones – The Complete Cookbook
Cheese & Chive Scones – Lavender & Lovage
Cheese Scones with a Chilli kick –  Searching for Spice
Ham & Cheese Muffins (not quite scones but almost) – Slightly Domesticated Dad

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A Cream Tea is a special treat, much anticipated and usually taken at a leisurely pace when on holiday in the UK.  Some cream teas have stayed long in my memory: a seaview cafe at Lyme Regis in Dorset, the Lee Abbey Tea Cottage in Somerset…   I particularly recall a sunny afternoon birthday Cream Tea we booked for my father taken on board the Pride of Lee, whilst leisurely drifting along the River Lea on the borders of Essex and Hertfordshire. What exactly is a Cream Tea?  Usually it comprises sweet scones with thick cream and strawberry (or another flavour) jam (sometimes butter too – choose all or some) plus tea to drink, apparently the idea could date back as far as the 11th Century.  I knew this was exactly what I wanted to include as part of the Mothering Sunday Afternoon Tea I prepared this year.  The cakes were made in advance, leaving enough time to finish the ‘baguette bite’ sandwiches and make the scones on the Sunday afternoon.

On this occasion I chose to make plain scones, which are actually very slightly sweet, using Delia Smith’s recipe for Devonshire Scones from the original version of her Book of Cakes.  It was a simple fairly standard recipe, as far as I could see, but without the added instructions to egg-wash the top of the scones for a golden brown shiny finish.  I am sure this could be done if wished, but it was an extra job on a busy afternoon I was glad not to have to do (especially as my guests were about to knock on the door).  Scones just have to be made fresh on the day they are eaten: they are not the same the following day. However, a tip from my grandmother, slightly sour milk can be used for scones. This does work, but I usually don’t have time to make them when the milk is off! Speed and a light touch are essential: a heavy handed approach leads to solid scones. Some cooks even recommend that the dough is cut with a knife rather than using cutters.  On this page there is first this basic recipe for a plain scone with just a little sugar for sweetness, but eventually other sweet variations will appear here, including scones with fruit (raisins/sultanas or cherries), treacle scones, for example.  There will eventually be a separate post – Basic Recipe: Savoury Scones for those containing cheese and other savoury ingredients.

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Devonshire Scones
(Makes 10-12 scones)

8ozs/225g self-raising flour, sieved
1½ozs/40g butter, at room temperature
¼pint/150ml milk (slightly soured is fine)
1½level tsp caster sugar
pinch of salt
To serve:
40zs/100ml clotted cream
or
¼pint/150ml whipped double
Jam – usually strawberry, raspberry or blackcurrant

1.  Preheat oven to 220oC/425oF/Gas 7.  Grease a baking tin.

2.  Sieve the flour into a bowl and quickly rub in the butter using fingertips.  Stir in the sugar and the pinch of salt.

3.  Using a knife mix in the milk a little at a time.  When combined gently bring the mixture together with floured hands into a soft dough.  If it is a little dry then add a drop more milk.

4.  Gently shape on a lightly floured surface with lightly floured hands until about ¾-1inch/2cm-2.5cm thick.  There are mixed views over whether using a rolling pin is a good idea: Delia Smith uses a lightly floured one but I was always taught to use my hands.

5.  Cut rounds with a 1½-2inch/4-5cm fluted pastry cutter (but without twisting to avoid misshapen scones).  Once as many as possible have been cut then gently bring the dough together and cut again.  Try to roll out as little as possible to avoid toughening the scones.  Alternatively, the squares can be cut with a sharp knife.

6.  Place the scones on the greased baking tin and dust each with a little flour.  Bake near the top of the oven for 12-15 minutes.  When done the will be risen and golden brown.

7.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool and eat soon – slightly warm is lovely.  Serve spread with butter and/or cream and/or jam – all three if you wish.

Alternative recipes for sweet scones (untried):
Treacle Scones – Delia Smith’s Book of Cakes
Wheatmeal Date Scones – Delia Smith’s Book of Cakes
Scones with dried fruit: sultanas/raisins/cranberries/dates/apricots/figs …
Quick & Easy Fluffy Scones (like the idea of yoghurt in the mix) Normal in London (E17)
Fruited Scones – sozzled (fruit soaked in liqueur) – Good Food Channel
Fresh Strawberry (or other fruit) scones via Arugulove
Lavender Scones – All recipes
Rose Petal Scones (with Rosewater)  – Good Food Channel
Ginger Beer Scones via Dan Lepard: Guardian
Lemonade Scones – Fig Jam & Lime Cordial
Lemonade Scones – Good Food Channel
Oat and Maple Syrup Scones – Smitten Kitchen via Cake, Crumbs and Ccoking
Vanilla Almond scones via Dan Lepard: Guardian
Chocolate Scones via Chocolate Log Blog
Apple Scones via Lavender & Lovage
Cherry Scones – CWS Family Fare
Ginger Scones – CWS Family Fare
Honey Scones – CWS Family Fare

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Sometimes I think it is useful to add simple techniques to this site, especially if they are as versatile as this one for portions of pre-cooked chicken conveniently available for use in recipes or to eat cold.  Some weeks ago I needed to make a batch of Mexican Style Chicken & Pepper Salad large enough to feed 50 people.  It seemed obvious to poach the chicken first, along with onion and herbs for flavour, letting it cool before refrigerating until needed for the recipe.  All I needed was some instructions: I did not feel I wanted to trust guesswork with such a large and expensive quantity.

After some research I found a very clear method for poaching chicken at About.com along with another linked page giving additional information.  The method is for cooking boneless, skinless, chicken breast pieces, a healthy option that does not require oil or fat and relatively low in salt as the amount used is controlled by the cook.  There is no salt in the ingredients list for the recipe below which is simply flavoured by the onion and herbs.  The resulting chicken is full of flavour, soft and juicy.  The meat can then be used in any chicken recipe.  It can be used hot in chicken pies, soups, stews and curries, though if adapting a recipe for uncooked chicken the pre-cooked meat should be added towards the end of the cooking time, providing enough time is given for it to be thoroughly reheated.  It is just as good cold in sandwiches and salads (though unless necessary I would not choose to use meat from frozen batches as the taste is affected, albeit slightly).  Poached chicken can be substituted in any recipe using cold meat leftovers from a Sunday roast or a shop bought pre-cooked chicken.  Poaching liquids can be varied: usually just plain water, the advantage being there are no strong flavours to clash with those in the recipe in which it is used.  The water can also be flavoured, for example with herbs (as with my version below which uses onion and Herbes de Provence), pieces of root ginger or other spices.  Alternatively substitute chicken or vegetable broth, white wine, cider, tomato or other fruit juice, coconut milk or other liquid.   My sister in law uses a similar method pre-cooking belly pork pieces with root ginger to tenderise them, before using them in, Chinese Style Belly Pork & Greens/Broccoli/Bok Choy, a Chinese style stir fried pork dish and I am sure this method could be applied to other meats.

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Basic Recipe: Poached Chicken Breasts
Serves 3-4 people

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 1 pound)
1 medium sized onion, peeled & roughly chopped
2 tsp herbes de Provence or dried mixed herbs
1 bay leaf (optional)
around 1½-2 cups/12-16 fl ozs or ¾pint/450ml water
(enough to cover the meat by at least half inch)

NB: It is important to:

  • use a pan in which the pieces can snugly sit in a single layer;
  • completely cover the meat with the poaching liquid;
  • follow the cooking temperatures and timings;
  • carefully observe the instructions for use and storage once the meat is cooked.

1.  Place chicken breasts in the bottom of a heavy bottomed pot just about large enough for them to fit in one layer.  (Say how much in one layer and size of pot – see info on Mex chick recipe).

2.  Cover the chicken with water or poaching liquid.  The meat should be covered by at least a half inch and up to one inch.  Add the onion and herbs – and bay leaf if using.  (Alternatively root ginger or other spices.)

3.  Bring the liquid to the boil and then lower the heat until it is barely simmering – just an occasional bubble rising to the surface.

4.  Partly cover the pot and simmer very gently for 10 minutes.

5.  Turn off the heat and leave the chicken to finish cooking for 10-15 minutes longer.

6.  Remove the chicken from the cooking liquid and set aside.  Remove and discard the bay leaf if used.   Reserve the cooking liquid for use as stock – either strained or unstrained as the base of a soup.

7.  The meat can either be eaten warm or allowed to cool for a short while before refrigerating for later use.  The pieces can be left whole, sliced, shredded or cut into chunks depending on what you want to use it for.   It is economical to cook a good quantity in one go, which can then be frozen in portions providing it is thoroughly defrosted before use. 

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Inspired by the afternoon tea at Belgique I was treated to some weeks ago by a friend and mentioned previously, I thought I would try something similar for my mother as a Mothering Sunday treat.  Our tea at Belgique came on a tiered cakestand: little filled rolls on the bottom layer, cakes in the middle and chocolate-y nibbles on the top and with individual pots of tea.  (I have a cake stand hidden away somewhere, but was unable to track it down so instead tea was served at table on separate plates – I could have asked mum to bring hers, but it would have spoiled the surprise!)  What did we eat?  I knew that everyone would have had Sunday lunch so I decided not to serve anything too heavy.  I made two types of cake: a Boiled Fruit Cake (recipe to follow) and Whole Orange Cake, baked a batch of Delia Smith’s Devonshire Scones for a cream tea and alongside these cooked some part-baked half size French sticks from the supermarket.  When these were cooled I sliced each stick in half lengthways and added butter, then filled one with mashed tinned salmon and thin cucumber slices (one of mum’s favourites) and the other with sliced roast ham and tomato.  Each stick was cut into six pieces making a dozen large-bite sized ‘sandwiches’ (mini baguette bites) which nestled on a bed of lettuce and was scattered with a little mustard and cress.  For full menu details see further down…

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

A word about Mothering Sunday, which here in the UK we celebrate at a different time to the USA.  Its origins are actually not really about celebrating motherhood.  I am currently reading a very helpful Lent book (spiritual reading for the six and half weeks of Lent: Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday) called Giving it Up by Maggi Dawn.  Today she writes:

‘In 16th-century Britain, the fourth Sunday in Lent was called Refreshment Sunday.  All the Lent rules were relaxed and the church expected people to return to their ‘mother’ church or cathedral for that day’s service.  The day became known as Mothering Sunday, not through association with mothers but because of the journey made to the ‘mother’ church.  In an age when children as young as ten left home to take up work or apprenticeships elsewhere, this was often the only day in the year when whole families would be reunited.  By the 17th-century it had become a public holiday, when servants and apprentices were given the day off so that they could fulfil their duties to the church.  They often stopped to pick flowers along the way and some brought with them a special cake made from fine wheat flour called simila, which has evolved into the simnel cake…  The tradition of keeping Mothering Sunday was strengthened in the 19th-century when those in domestic service were allowed to return to their own communities, as they would not be home for Easter. … Over the past few decades, Mothering Sunday has been recast as Mother’s Day, a move that has grown out of consumerism rather than theology.  Turning Mothering Sunday into Mother’s Day has almost eclipsed the original meaning of the day …’

I do agree with her, but nonetheless it was good to treat my mum – and my dad – and the rest of the family!

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Afternoon Tea for Mothering Sunday

Mini Baguette Bites: Salmon & Cucumber
Mini Baguette Bites: Ham & Tomato
(alternatives: egg mayonnaise & cress, tuna mayonnaise & cucumber – brie & cranberry sauce – cheese & pickle or chutney – cheese & tomato – bacon & tomato relish – avocado & bacon – Mexican Style Chicken & Pepper Salad – Coronation Chicken – mashed avocado & grated carrot …)
Garnish: Lettuce – Mustard & Cress

Cream Tea: Devonshire Scones
with butter, jam (blackcurrant) and whipped double cream

Whole Orange Cake
Boiled Fruit Cake (recipe to follow)
(and some chocolate biscuits …)

Tea to drink

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

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If I want to make a everyday fruit cake, unless it is the very rich type eaten at Christmas, this is the recipe I turn to.  The basic recipe for ‘Knock Up’ Fruit Cake, given to my mother by a friend, can easily be adapted.  This particular cake was made as a double quantity using very large tin (something I often do with this recipe) for a coffee and cake quiz evening at church.  

In this version, as well as dried mixed fruit I used some chopped crystallised ginger.  I felt that the ginger in my cupboard was a little hard, so soaked it in the milk for about 1hr to soften before cutting up and adding to the cake.  The gingery milk, of course, was reserved to add to the cake as in the instructions.  I also replaced the mixed spice with powdered ginger for an extra gingery flavour and as usual topped the cake with a little sugar for added crunch.

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Ginger Fruit Cake

Basic Recipe: Knock Up Fruit Cake plus … 

4ozs/115g chopped crystallised ginger (soak in the 2 fl ozs milk if necessary) 
Make up quantity with dried mixed fruit up to 10ozs/285g.
Replace Mixed Spice with Powdered Ginger

Mix and bake the cake using the basic recipe instructions, weighing the ginger first  (beford soaking) and then making up to 10ozs/285g in weight with mixed dried fruit. Sprinkle over reserved sugar for a crunchy topping.

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