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2011 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 100,000 times in 2011. If it were an exhibit at the Louvre Museum, it would take about 4 days for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

December ‘Meanderings’ …

December has been busy as usual but we have enjoyed sharing a few new treats with family and friends.  Caramelised Red Onion Chutney is something we will enjoy not just at Christmas but throughout the year, a non-alcoholic Spiced Mulled Apple Punch for non-drinkers to serve alongside an alcoholic version, a ‘naughty but nice’ chocolate treat Sweet & Salty Crunchie Nut Bars and our 2011 Dundee Style Christmas Cake along with my Christmas greetings.  Wishing all my readers near and far, a very happy and peaceful New Year as well.

Recipes this month

Caramelised Red Onion Chutney                 Spiced Mulled Apple Punch
 

Sweet & Salty Crunchie Nut Bars             Dundee Style Christmas Cake
 

All images ©’Meanderings through my Cookbook’
http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com/

——

‘For what we are about to receive…’ January 2012

Coming in January … A delicious festive dessert from our New Year dinner table and then warming recipes to fight the chill of this coldest time of the year in the UK.

Happy Cooking & Eating!

A VERY HAPPY CHRISTMAS TO ALL MY READERS

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

Dundee Style Christmas Cake 2011

Some years ago, instead of our usual marzipan and iced cake, I experimented by making a Dundee Style one with the traditional topping of cherries and nuts.  This year, having already made two marzipanned cakes with one iced as well (the Easter Simnel Cake and our Silver Wedding Anniversary Cake) I decided to make another Dundee Cake.  The basic cake was made using the Special Occasion Rich Fruit Cake recipe which I use for all family celebration cakes.  Before it was baked I selected enough nuts and fruits to put in concentric rings on top, which are added before the cake was baked.  Last time I used just blanched almonds and glace cherries but this time I topped it with circles of walnuts, pecan nuts and blanched almonds interspersed with red and green glace cherries.  When we were in Spain on holiday this year I discovered green cherries in little bottles and was very pleased as I have been searching for them for some years.  They are not quite the same as the red cherries we have in the UK, as the syrup is much lighter, but the flavour was the same.  The ribbon came from Primark and was a bargain at £1 a roll – a perfect match for the colours I had already used for the cake topping.

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

Spiced Mulled Apple Punch

More and more churches are serving their Christmas congregations mulled wine or a non-alcoholic alternative these years after the annual Christmas Carol Service and what could be more welcome on a cold evening.  I have yet to add a recipe for Mulled Wine or an alcohol free alternative here but Amanda, The Vicar’s Wife, makes a non-alcoholic version of Mulled Wine called Spiced Cranapple, a mixture of Cranberry and Apple Juices.  Mulled Cider is a popular alternative to Mulled Wine and last year I came across several recipes for Mulling Apple Juice.  This simple recipe for Spiced Apple Punch, was an immediate hit with my family.

This particular recipe is a variation of the one on the Tesco website, but I have adjusted the ingredients for our taste.  The ingredient quantities listed below are mine, but the original amounts are listed with the original recipe for Spiced Apple Punch.  It is important that whole rather than ground spices are used as the latter would make the juice cloudy, even if it is well strained.  I added some strips of root ginger, halved the quantity of lemon and put in slightly less Star Anise.  Often Cassia Bark is sold in our local ethnic food shops in bags labelled Cinnamon.  Although not the same Cassia is usually less expensive and as it gives a similar flavour and is removed before serving seems a good alternative, however use true Cinnamon if available.   One recipe I found includes honey as a sweetener, but we felt that this recipe is sweet enough already.   The original recipe suggests that for an alcoholic version, replacing half the apple juice with dry cider and adding 2 tbsp apple brandy.  Alternatively I suggest that I tablespoonful (more if you wish) of brandy be added to each glass before pouring over the hot spiced punch.  If you are making a quantity to serve at an event a slow cooker is useful for keeping mulled drinks of any type piping hot.

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

Spiced Mulled Apple Punch
(Serves 4-6, depending on portion size)

1 litre apple juice
2 star anise
2 cloves
3 or 4 thin slices of fresh root ginger, washed but unpeeled
1 crumbled cinnamon stick
or
1 finger length of Cassia Bark, broken into pieces
½ lemon, thinly sliced
1 clementine/satsuma, thinly sliced – alternatively half a sweet orange.
1.  Wash the lemon and satsuma/clementine with a little detergent and rinse well.  On a plate, in order to catch the juices, halve the lemon and thinly slice both it and the clementine/satsuma (or half orange).
2.  Place the apple juice in a large saucepan with the star anise, cloves, ginger slices and cinnamon stick or cassia bark.
3.  Add the slices of lemon and clementine/satsuma/orange.
4.  Gently heat the juice until hot but not boiling, turn off the heat and leave to infuse for at least 10 minutes but longer if possible.  I left it for an hour.
5.  Serve the Spiced Mulled Apple Punch in mugs or heat proof tumblers.

My Dad is a Crunchie fan – he just loves honeycomb – actually you could probably call him a ‘Crunchie nut’ so this is ideal for him!  When I came across this just before last Christmas I just knew I had to make a batch so I could give him some for Christmas (saving some for our family, of course!)  I also made White Christmas Slices and was able to give him and mum mixed box of goodies.  I like the idea of giving handmade presents, sadly its something I rarely have time to do.  This year my mind has been on other things with little time to make those festive extra treats we love: pickles, chutneys, Stollen, Lebkuchen…

I first saw this on the television series accompanying the new (in Christmas 2010) book, Nigella Kitchen by Nigella Lawson.  Such a simple idea and I was able to take down the recipe from the TV.  A shortcut possibility, or for anyone outside the UK who cannot get Crunchie Bars (though they seem to be widely available), would be to use honeycomb, also known as cinder toffee.  I understand this is fairly simple to make and there are various methods online.  Here is just one version: Lets make a crunchie bar (giving first a recipe for honeycomb and then turning it into home made ‘crunchie’ bites) from fellow London based blogger London Eats.  If you use honeycomb rather than Crunchies, then you would need to add more chocolate to account for the missing chocolate covering on the bars.  I found that the finished article was much easier to cut straight from the fridge: once it had started to warm up the portions were not quite so neat and started to crumble.  My one concern was that the finished  article could have looked a little prettier.  I used bars of Sainsbury’s Basics range chocolate, which I understand comes from a very reputable source yet is very resonably priced and was careful not to overheat it.  I am not very experienced with chocolate and I would have liked a smoother finish, however I don’t think this was the fault of the chocolate.  The taste was great.  As an alternative to using lined shallow square or rectangular tins Nigella suggests using disposable foil tins.  I always make sure I rescue these when they come with commercially bought meals, usually desserts or cakes, rather than immediately recycling them.  By the way, don’t worry about using salted peanuts, just shake off any excess salt before use.

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

Sweet & Salty Crunchie Nut Bars

200g milk chocolate (I used Sainsbury’s Basics range)
100g dark/plain chocolate (I used Sainsbury’s Basics range)
100g unsalted butter (I used slightly less than the 125g in the original recipe)
1 x 15ml tbsp golden syrup
250g salted peanuts (I used Sainsbury’s Basics range)
2 x 80g Crunchie bars

1.  Line a tin about 26cm square or a rectangular tin of similar dimensions with tin foil, smoothing out as much as possible.  Alternatively use disposable foil tins (see note above).

2.  Tip the peanuts into a large hole sieve or colander and shake over the sink to remove excess salt. Tip them into a medium sized mixing bowl. Crumble and add the Crunchie bars. Stir to combine.

3.  Gently melt the butter and golden syrup together in a heavy based pan. As it melts break up and add the chocolate bars. Stir until dissolved, but do not allow to boil.

4.  When the mixture in the pan has just melted pour it over the nuts and broken Crunchies and stir together.

5.  Pour into the lined tin or foil tray.  Spread out to the corners and try to flatten it as possible.  A spatula will help with this.

6.  Cover and place in the refrigerator for several hours.  Remove and slice, working quickly before the mixture starts to warm up, which I found made it more difficult to cut accurately. I could be cut it into chunks, wedges or even random shapes.

7.  Store in the fridge until you are ready to give away.  Placed in small decorative boxes and wrapped with cellophane this makes good Christmas gift.  It could also be served as a ‘naughty nibble’ with a cup of coffee!

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.

November ‘Meanderings’ …

North African spicy flavours are ideal at this time of year when the weather is chillier, although I can quite happily enjoy them at any time of year.  There is a lovely spicy soup, Chorba, which is a meal in itself and three simple recipes that are quick to both prepare and cook.  They would be lovely served together at a dinner party.  Click here for all North African Style Recipes on this site.

Recipes this month

Chorba with Ras el-Hanout & Noodles     Fragrant Flash Grilled Figs & Peaches
 
Moroccan Style Marinaded Lamb Steaks                    Orange Couscous
 
Westfield Stratford City & the 2012 Olympic Site

2012 London Olympic Site in the mist from the
top floor of John Lewis, Westfield Stratford City – 11.11.11
(Click picture to see enlarged view)

All images ©’Meanderings through my Cookbook’
http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com/

——

‘For what we are about to receive…’ December 2011

Coming in December some recipes for the Christmas season: Caramelised Red Onion Chutney, delicious served with cold meats or cheese; Sweet & Salty Crunchie Nut Bars, a festive chocolatey treat; non-alcoholic Spiced Mulled Apple Punch and our family Christmas Cake for 2011 using the Special Occasion Rich Fruit Cake Recipe.

Happy Cooking & Eating!

There was a glut of fresh figs on our market during the autumn and I was able to buy a whole tray really inexpensively.  My family could eat a whole tray in one sitting and these were particularly sweet and soft, but I squirrelled a few away so I could try this wonderful sounding dish.  At the same time on the market there were the last of the years peaches and nectarines, a little hard and not easy to ripen, so not especially good for eating, but ideal for cooking which brings out their flavour beautifully.  A good reminder of the last of summer.

My starting point for this recipe came from Forever Summer by Nigella Lawson and had the exotic sounding name: Figs for 1001 Nights.  I gently grilled the fruits in the spiced butter as in the original recipe but using peaches as well as figs.  An alternative would be to pop them briefly in a hot oven, but I would only do this if I already had the oven on to cook something else  – flash grilling is fine.  Nigella used a little rosewater and orange flower water in her basting mixture.  I used the orange flower but although I had the rose water in my cupboard I left it out as my daughter sadly dislikes the traditional rose turkish delight flavour.   I do have a bottle of rose syrup in the cupboard, however, so I used this as a pouring sauce for those of us who do like it.  (As an alternative she used a little honey, which proved equally as good as honey and figs are also a good match.)  Rose syrup is a lovely item to have in the cupboard and is delicious with rhubarb and yoghurt, or poured over ice cream, however it is very sweet so I suggest it is used sparingly at first as it can be quite overpowering.  I have some sachets of vanilla sugar, bought on holiday in France, with one being just about 1 tbsp.  If this is not available then substitute granulated sugar and a very small amount of vanilla extract, one or two drops maximum.

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

Grilled Figs & Peaches
(Serves 6 – 6 figs & 6 peaches/nectarines)

1 fresh fig per person (or 2 smaller ones)
1 fresh peach or nectarine per person
25 g unsalted butter
½tsp ground cinnamon
1 tbsp vanilla sugar
or
1 tbsp granulated sugar & 1 or 2 drops vanilla extract
½tsp orange flower water
To serve:
50 g pistachio nuts, chopped
Crème fraîche
Rose syrup, to drizzle – to taste or honey

1. Preheat the grill on a high heat – alternatively use an oven set to a high heat, at least 200oC/400oF/Gas 6.

2. Carefully cut the figs with a cross shape as if quartering them but do not cut righ through to the bottom and then gently press each fig.  They should look like four petalled flowers.

3.  Cut the peaches or nectarines into halves or quarters, depending on size, removing the stones.

4.  Place the opened figs and peach/nectarine pieces in a snugly fitting single layer in a heatproof dish.

5.  Melt the butter in a small saucepan or in the microwave in a glass microwave proof bowl or jug.  Stir in the cinnamon, sugar and orange flower water until the sugar has dissolved.  If you are using rose water rather than syrup, as in the original recipe, add it at this point (½tsp should be enough).  Stir well and baste the figs and peaches/nectarines.

6.  Place under the hot grill or into the oven for just a few minutes.  The fruit should warm through slightly and the skins should start to blister from the heat.  Beware leaving too long, especially if oven cooked, as the fruit can become over soft and could also burn.

7.  Serve immediately giving each person two figs and one peach or nectarine (either two or four pieces depending on how they have been cut.   Add a generous spoonful of crème fraîche and pour over the brown cooking juices  and a drizzle of rose syrup (if you have not used rose water in the cooking mixture) or honey.  Finally sprinkle over some chopped green pistachio nuts.

Orange Couscous

The addition of orange and mint to the mixture makes this couscous recipe both colourful and refreshingly delicious.  It has a summery look and taste, although it originally appeared in a winter magazine and would be perfect served as part of a summer buffet or BBQ.  It was originally designed to be served with Moroccan Style Marinaded Lamb Steaks which would be perfect cooked outdoors, although I grilled them in the kitchen.  There is already a recipe for the much less sweet Coriander & Chickpea Couscous Salad on this site, using preserved lemon and flavoured with fresh coriander.

The original recipe came from the Jan/Feb 2011 issue of the Tesco free instore magazine and there is also a link to Moroccan Lamb Chops with Couscous online.  The couscous recipe below is my own variation with slightly adjusted quantities and the addition of a tin of chick peas to make it more substantial. The original recipe included halved red peppers which were grilled alongside the meat and then added to the couscous mixture, but I simply used a diced ungrilled red pepper.

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

Orange Couscous
(Serves 4)

3 oranges
250g/8oz couscous
handful mint leaves – reserve a little for final garnish
50g/2oz black olives
1tbsp olive oil
1 red pepper
1 x 400g tin chick peas
150ml/¼ pt boiling water
Salt & freshly ground black pepper

1.   Peel two oranges and remove all of the white pith.  Holding the oranges over a bowl to catch any juice, slice them between the membranes with a sharp knife and carefully divide into segments.  Once the segments have been removed squeeze any remaining juice from the orange membranes before discarding.

2.  Cut the remaining orange in half and squeeze out the juice, adding it to any already collected.

3.  Drain and rinse the chick peas.

4.  Halve, deseed and finely slice the red pepper and cut into small pieces of around 1 inch/2.5cm. Alternatively the pepper can be grilled alongside the meat, as in the original recipe, and then sliced and stirred into the couscous mixture at step 7.

5.  Place the couscous in a heatproof bowl along with the chick peas, red pepper pieces and the olive oil.  Pour over all the orange juice plus the boiling water.

6.  Cover and allow it to stand for 5 minutes, until the couscous has absorbed the liquids.

7.  Chop the mint and gently stir most of it into the couscous along with the orange segments and the black olives.  Be careful not to break up the orange pieces.  Season well to taste.

8.  Serve the meat on a bed of fruity couscous, scattered with a little extra chopped mint.

This simple flavour rub for a lamb steak or chop is full of the summer warmth of North African spices: cumin, paprika and coriander. Perhaps then in November, once the nights start to draw in, it is a good way to bring back Mediterranean holiday flavour memories that are by now receding into the past.  It is almost too simple a recipe to add here but I have been exploring different marinade recipe ideas recently: for pork especially but also for chicken and lamb so wanted to add this as a stand alone item.  The original recipe was for marinaded chop with a delicious minty/fruity couscous but I have divided the recipe into two posts, with the couscous to follow next.  Both recipes stand alone, of course … but they were delicious together.

The recipe comes from a winter (Jan/Feb 2011) issue of the Tesco free instore magazine. In the original the spice rub marinade is simply rubbed onto the meat just prior to cooking, but to get a better depth of flavour it is much better if left throughout the day or overnight.  The recipe is delicious if served with Orange Couscous, its original accompaniment.  I quickly grilled the lamb steak on a George Foreman grill, but it could be grilled conventionally or pan fried as in the original recipe.

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

Moroccan Style Marinaded Lamb Steaks
(Serves 4)

4 thick lamb chops or steaks (alternatively use chicken or pork)
2tbsp olive oil
1tsp ground cumin
large pinch paprika
1tsp ground coriander
Salt & ground black pepper

1.   Wipe the lamb steaks and place in a dish.

2.  Sprinkle over the the spices, add a little salt and pepper and then drizzle over the olive oil.

3.  Gently turn the chops around in the spicy mixture using fingers or a fork then cover and leave the flavours to develop.  Ideally this should be throughout the day or overnight.

4.  Using as much of the spicy marinade as possible, grill the chops or steaks under a preheated hot grill for about four minutes each side, or a little long if preferred, but until the lamb is cooked to your preference.  Alternatively they can be gently pan fried for a similar length of time in a hot frying pan with a little additional olive oil if needed.  A George Foreman grill can also be used.

5. When cooked, the meat can be covered with foil to keep warm while the couscous mixture is being finished.  The meat can either be served in one piece or cut into strips or chunks.

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