Sunday, 30 October 2011

Pumpkin & Apple Bread (with a sticky topping)

This was actually the second recipe I came up with while experimenting with pumpkin over the last week.  I must admit to having never cooked with pumpkin before, aside from soups, but as my little girls have been getting excited about Halloween and they are readily available in the shops at this time of year, I thought why not.  

While pumpkins are obviously the norm these days for making Halloween lanterns, here in Scotland we have traditionally used turnips, known here as “neeps”, to make them.  However, as I was in the mood for baking and didn’t think turnip flavoured cakes would be too tasty, I opted to use this relative newcomer to northern Scottish Halloween festivities – the pumpkin.

300g Wholemeal Flour
100g Soft Dark Brown Sugar
2 Teaspoons Bicarbonate of Soda
1 ½ Teaspoons Cinnamon
½ Teaspoon Grated Nutmeg
¼ Teaspoon Ground Cloves
50ml Ground Nut Oil (or other flavourless oil)
340g Pureed Pumpkin
115g Pureed Apple
2 Eggs
For the topping:
1 Handful of Roasted Pumpkin Seeds*
50g butter
50g caster Sugar
1 Tablespoon of Plain Flour
1Tablespoon of Milk
1 Apple – Cored, Peels, Quartered & Thinly Sliced
Preheat your oven to 180 oC (160 oC Fan) and grease and/or line a 900g/2lb loaf tin.
Add the flour sugar, Bicarbonate of Soda and Spices to a large bowl and mix together. 
In a separate bowl, mix together the pureed fruit, eggs and oil and then add to the dry ingredients – be sure not to over mix.
Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for approximately 55 minutes.
You don’t need to add a topping, but this is very tasty!
In a small pan, melt the butter and gently sauté the apples.  Add the rest of the ingredients and melt together slowly.  Bring to the boil and remove from the heat.
Heat up your grill and simply pour the mixture over the cake (you may want to arrange the apple pieces).  Place the cake under the grill until the topping begins to bubble – remove from the heat and leave to cool.
*I used the method posted the other week by my friend Boulder Locavore from Recipe Swap  - only I added a shake of cinnamon instead of salt, herbs or savoury spices.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Sweet Heat Monthly Chilli Challenge: Zalouk

Well this is my contribution to a monthly challenge, founded by my friend from university and former flatmate, Lyndsey; a most excellent cook (I have first hand experience) and prolific blogger. Check out her blog at:   
This is the inaugural Sweet Heat Monthly Chilli Challenge and I am delighted to be participating and encourage you all to get involved for next month’s event - the challenge for which will be announced on 1st November.

For this month though, the challenge was condiments so my mind immediately leapt to one of my favourite and versatile dips/accompaniments, a North African treat – Zalouk.  It may not be the hottest or aesthetically pleasing of entries to this challenge, but I guarantee it is one of the tastiest and I only wish I could have transmitted the cooking aromas from kitchen this evening.
It may seem that I am being a little lazy as this is something that I have posted previously.  In my defence, it was my second post ever and, trust me, had a limited readership and no picture. It was posted by me while in hospital with my baby boy earlier this year.    So today, I made some Zalouk for both consumption and photographic purposes.  (Yes that is a picture of my husband on a camel in the background!)
While you can read my original post here, here is my recipe for Zalouk – enjoy!
Although having spent some time in the Middle East and North Africa both with work and for pleasure, this is more of a culmination of attempts to recreate flavours experienced both there and in one of my favourite North African restaurants in London.  For those of you from the region, please don’t take offence at my deviation from tradition, but hope you will agree this is a tasty version.
Serve Zalouk warm with pitta as a starter or dip when entertaining – yum.  It is, however, equally good spread on a lamb or beef steak and stuffed in a pitta with some salad as it was this evening!  Totally versatile and delicious.
1 large (or two small) aubergine
3-4 tomatoes
4 cloves garlic
3 tablespoons of parsley
1 medium chilli (deseeded) or 1 teaspoon lazy chilli
1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon cumin
2 teaspoons salt
Pinch of cayenne pepper
60ml olive oil
80 ml water
This is really simple but very tasty! 
Peel and dice the aubergine and peel and deseed the tomatoes (and chilli if using).  Put all the ingredients into a food processor (I use a magimix) and blend together.   Add an extra splash of olive oil to a deep pan and add the blended mixture to the pan.  Simmer the mixture over a medium heat for around half an hour ensuring the pan is covered.  Stir occasionally and season.  Remove the lid and continue to simmer for another 10 minutes until there are no liquids remaining.
I often serve this with warmed pitta as a starter before a main of my lamb and prune tagine – the recipe for which will follow on a later post.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Toffee Apple Millionaires Shortbread

If you read my post last week, you will have noted that I had problems with recipe I was desperate to make as it just sounded sooooo delicious.  So this week, with a few alterations from the original recipe, I’ve done it and yes, it is good! 
Still on our holidays at Granny and Pampa’s, I have had more time to cook because of the extra hands to help out with the wee ones and have had willing Guinea Pigs for the various sweet and savoury recipes which I’ll be posting soon – so keep watching this space!
Unsurprisingly, given the capture of a certain Libyan Colonel this week, work has been on my mind, particularly knowing (with a little jealousy) that this will impact greatly on the work load of my colleagues. With Gadaffi dead it is likely that many of my clients in Aberdeen will be looking at entering or re-entering the Libyan market, which will make for interesting times when I finish my maternity leave at the start of next year!    If you are interested in what is going on in Libya right now, sign up for a free copy of the Weekly Libya Report prepared by my colleagues.
A low point of this week has also been work related, with the difficulty I have experienced sorting out childcare for when I go back!  I really think there should be more help with childcare costs for young working families as there is in other European Countries and in Australia.  It certainly makes it difficult to find that work-life balance!
Rant over and despite the appalling weather and childcare stresses, we’ve been spending lots of time with family and good friends, making teddy bears, and jumping on bouncy castles - and I, at least, have been eating way more than I should be!
It is obviously apple season and when I saw this recipe in the October issue of my favourite foody magazine, Delicious, I was really keen to make it.  Being at Granny’s house in a little village in Lanarkshire, I couldn’t find ground rice in the local shops and nor did Granny have a baking tin of the size detailed in the original recipe.  However, I overcame these obstacles only to be thwarted by the caramel recipe which, most likely through fault of my own rather than the recipe, I could not get right.  To this end, I resorted to a tried and tested family recipe for caramel, which worked a treat!
Toffee Apple Millionaires Shortbread
200g Butter / Margarine (chilled)
250g Plain Flour
50g Caster Sugar
2 Tablespoons Golden Syrup
200ml Condensed Milk
115g Butter / Margarine
115g Caster Sugar
Extra Knob of Butter (for frying apples)
3 Braeburn Apples
150g Dark or Semi-Sweet Chocolate
100g Milk Chocolate Cooking Chocolate
Grease and line a 28cm x 18cm Swiss Roll tin and preheat your oven to 170 oC (150 oC Fan)
Sieve flour into a large bowl or blitz quickly in a food processor.
Chop the butter into small pieces and add to the flour.  You can either rub this in with your fingertips or pulse in a food processor.  Mix in the caster sugar and work until it all comes together.
Press the shortbread dough into the prepared tin and use a tumbler to even out the surface.  Prick all over with a fork and put into the oven.  Bake for five minutes before reducing the temp to 150oC (130 oC fan), and baking for a further 40-45 minutes.  
Remove from the oven and cool before adding the caramel.
To make the caramel add the butter, sugar, condensed milk and syrup to a medium sized saucepan and gently melt together, stirring all the time.  Bring the mixture slowly to the boil and continue to do so for 7 minutes – and don’t forget to keep stirring!
When you have finished making the caramel, peel, core and thinly slice the apple.  In a shallow pan melt a knob of butter and fry the apple until soft and golden.  Add the apple to the caramel and mix through.
When the shortbread base is cold, pour the caramel mixture over the shortbread and spread out evenly.  Put in the fridge to set.
For the topping, you can, obviously use any combination of chocolate you like, but the gram quantity detailed here should adequately cover the tin size I used. For this, simply melt the chocolate in a glass bowl over boiling water.  Set the chocolate aside for a few minutes before pouring over the shortbread and caramel to cover.
Leave to set before cutting into squares or slices. 
Once, cut up, it is best to keep this in the fridge as it is sticky!

Just FYI, and if you are interested in making the original recipe (which can be found on page 106 of Delicious, October 2011) this may be of use...
The original recipe is as above with the following changes:
Use a 20cm x 20cm tin.
Instead of 250g of plain flour, it calls for 200g plain flour and 50g of Ground Rice (or Semolina).
For the caramel, it instructs as follows:
Add 350g Caster Sugar and 200ml water to a sauté pan, dissolve slowly.  Increase the heat and bubble the mixture for 10 minutes until the syrup colours around the edges.  Carefully watch the mixture and occasionally shake the pan (but do not stir).  Once it has turned a dark caramel colour, pour in 260ml of double cream and mix quickly with a wooden spoon.  It also instructs to transfer to a bowl to cool slightly before adding the apples.
Try as I might, I could not get this to work (although I suspect the fault here is mine and not that of the recipe).
Top with 200g or dark chocolate (60% cocoa solids).
Otherwise, the methods as detailed in my version above are the same.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Retro Recipe: Mars Bar Cake

Granny's Recipe Book
Well while we are down at Granny’s for the tattie holidays I thought I might do another retro –recipe (she’ll kill me for calling it that) from her wee hand-written cook book.  This time in celebration of Chocolate Week, another of my husband’s childhood favourites – Mars Bar Cake.
This was actually not my intended recipe for this week, but I’m including it for three reasons...
(i)     It was an easy one to make with Anna when she was bored last weekend. 
(ii)   I had intended to make Toffee Apple Millionaire Shortbread from last month’s Delicious Magazine  (I am planning to blog about recipes from my monthly subscription to force my hand at trying new things).  This didn’t happen.  I began making it on Wednesday night, the same night both my girls kept waking with bad dreams and every time I started making the caramel, one of them would wake up needing a cuddle and settling again, interrupting this process.  By midnight I gave up and went to bed myself. 
(iii) Simply because it is delicious.
It turns out that this holiday is not really a holiday for me, and without nursery and playgroup the girls are getting bored, particularly as the weather has been just awful!  We have, however, been cooking - not least this easy but tasty treat which, as you can see, my little Anna really enjoyed.
Chocolate Face!
Despite my need for rest, we have been having a good week and have even sold our flat (yippee).  My husband got back from Slovenia on Tuesday bringing with him vast quantities of continental chocolate – delicious and very apt given it is chocolate week!  It is fun to spend time with family and friends and we had an amazing day today with some lovely people including one of my best friends in the whole wide world at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh. Before our museum adventure, we went for Pizza - a great success with all the little ones eating their way through three courses!  The Museum has recently been refurbished and is a great place for children – they got to dig for dinosaurs and were very excited at all the amazing exhibits.  We will definitely be back to see all the things we didn’t get to – and it is all free!
2 Mars Bars
85g Margarine
85g Rice Krispies
1 (large) Tablespoon Golden Syrup
250g Chocolate to top (I used a mixture of one third dark chocolate and two thirds cooking chocolate.  You could easily increase this if you wanted an even more chocolaty topping – there was no quantity specified on the original recipe).
(There was no instruction on Granny’s original recipe for the size of tin that should be used for this, so I used a Swiss Roll tin (28 x18cm)).
Grease the baking tin. Gently melt the margarine, Mars Bars and syrup in a large saucepan, add the Krispies and coat thoroughly in the Mars Bar mixture. 
Press the mixture into the tin and leave to cool. 
Melt the chocolate in a bowl over boiling water and spread over the Krispies.  Allow to cool and set properly before cutting into squares or bars.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Tosca Cake

I am salivating as I write this, in memory of this delicious cake that I first made for a family BBQ last weekend (and because I am starving and waiting for my Chinese food to be delivered)!
Anyway, it is the “Tattie” holidays in Aberdeen (so called as it is traditionally when everyone helps with the potato (tattie) harvest in this part of the world).  As I am still on maternity leave and my eldest is off nursery for two weeks, we thought we’d visit Granny and Pampa – some extra hands while my husband is off in Ljubljana interviewing for his current research project.  A fun-filled two weeks planned visiting family and friends a little further south in Scotland, in Lanarkshire.
I have always loved northern European cakes and when I spotted this recipe in my strange (but fabulous) little cookbook, a charity compilation put together by the International Women’s Club of Moscow, it invoked memories of ones eaten as a child.  I just had to make it.   It is really simple, light and absolutely delicious and great as a cake or desert – Mmm!
I believe this cake to be of Swedish origin but attributed to a lady called Mette Iversen of Denmark in the book – thank you Mette, whoever you may be - I will be making this again and again!
125g Caster Sugar
2 Large Eggs
100g Self Raising Flour
1 ½ Teaspoons Baking Powder
Pinch Salt
50g melted Butter or Margarine
100g Softened Butter
125g Lightly Toasted Almonds (I used sliced almonds)
100g Caster Sugar
2 Tablespoons Plain Flour
2 Tablespoons Milk or Cream
Prepare a 20cm (8 inch) round cake tin (I used a deep sandwich tin) & preheat your oven to 160 oC (140oC Fan).
In a roomy bowl beat the eggs until they are thick and pale and then gradually beat in the sugar until it falls in thick ribbons.
Fold in the sifted flour, baking powder and salt. Mix in the melted butter (this should be quite cool). 
Pour the mixture into the prepared cake tin and bake for 30 minutes.
(If you have a double oven put your grill on quite a high heat just prior to the 30 minute mark).
While the cake is baking, prepare the topping by simply adding all the ingredients to a pan, stirring constantly and heating until it just boils – do this just before the cake is ready to take out of the oven.
(If you have a single oven, put the grill on quite a high heat as soon as you remove the cake from the oven)
Remove the cake from the oven and carefully spread the topping over the cake. Put the cake under the grill until nicely brown.  It is important to cool the cake before removing from the tin – 2 hours!
(My brother took what was left home to include in his pack lunch – I think this one will keep well in a tin for a good few days!)

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Recipe Swap: Hot Pink Slaw

We took a last minute decision to take our little ones off for the holiday weekend to rural Perthshire; together with my best friend, her husband and wee girl.  It was great to get away, the girls had a ball running around outside and splashing in puddles while I enjoyed the company of some of my favourite people, cooking and eating – lots.
One of the best parts of the whole weekend was Saturday night, when Becky cooked up steak and chips with meat from her parents’ farm – the best beef ever!   The low point, was finding out that the Rannoch Smoke House in the village near where were staying wasn’t open to the public – boo! 
My little Elsa & her best friend Isla

I also had to pop into work this week to help ahead of a training course; although I am not sure how much help I was given I had to take all three children with me.  A massive thanks has to go to Iona, who deals with all the admin while also manning the reception in my office.  She stoically entertained them with highlighter pens and the photocopier!
Well here it is – my second contribution to the Burwell General Store vintage recipe swap, which this month is entitled “Hot Slaw”.   Again I am apprehensive about posting my wee recipe alongside those of the other participants and their wealth of experience both blogging and cooking!
The original recipe in the book behind this project (All-Day Singin' and Dinner on the Ground) calls for a slaw with a hot dressing (as in temperature). My slaw is cold but with a warming dressing – perfect for autumn; fabulously pink and, I think, delicious!
The original swap recipe
In all honestly, I took this opportunity to use an ingredient I hadn’t used before – or really eaten (except in its pickled form) - but after being served an amazing beetroot accompaniment to smoked salmon at my friend Jill’s wedding in July, I was keen to try it. I am pleased with this one and it seemed to go down well at the family BBQ at my parents this evening too. I must also say that I am looking forward to making this next time we have a roast ham - as I think this will go wonderfully with the cold leftovers.

Hot Pink Slaw

500g Red Cabbage
500g Beetroot
1 Small Onion
60ml Olive Oil
60ml White Wine Vinegar
1tsp Dijon Mustard
1 Tablespoon Caster Sugar
½ Teaspoon Ground Cloves
½ Teaspoon Salt
Black Pepper
Prepare the veggies; topping, tailing and peeling the beetroot; peeling the onion, removing the very centre of the cabbage.  Shred them all and mix together (praise be for the magimix).  (Remember to wear gloves when handling the beetroot as it stains your hands!)
For the dressing, mix together the olive oil, white wine vinegar, mustard, caster sugar and cloves.  Making sure they are well combined pour over the veggies and mix until thoroughly coated.  Sprinkle over the salt and add a good grinding of black pepper – mixing again. 
All done!

My lovely husband & girls playing outside our holiday house - beautiful!


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