Monday, 28 November 2011

A Treat for St. Andrews Day - Tablet (and Ginger Tablet)

I must apologise profusely for my failure to blog for the last couple of weeks.  A combination of preparing for a day back at work hosting two colleagues from our Nigerian partner company; a house  move; two trips to casualty (accident and emergency) with the children (all is well), and my birthday, made finding any time to blog pretty much impossible!
I did manage to talk at length with my lovely new Nigerian colleagues about food, largely as they found what was on offer here in Aberdeen and at our Hereford HQ, very bland!  I have convinced them to send me some traditional Nigerian recipes that don’t involve the use of a goat head. Also on the work front, my friend and colleague John has also deployed out to Iraq where he is working with another friend Alan, who was my host in Lebanon a few years back – I have been pestering them for some authentic recipes and hoping they bring me back some wee gems!
I got a great haul of cook books and food-related goodies for my birthday.  Among my absolute favourite pressies were the Chocolate Workshop voucher from my wonderful husband, a fabulous vintage cookbook from 1933 from my mum, and two amazing cake stands from my best bud Bexy, which are just crying out for some cakes to be made – watch this space...

My fabulous birthday pressie from my mum

Despite all that has been going on, we are all getting very excited about Christmas.  You can imagine that my two and four year olds are more that mildly hyper about the forthcoming festivities.  I am hosting Christmas Dinner this year for both my family and my husband’s – we’ll certainly have a house full but I have always wanted to do this and am feeling decidedly grown up!  I have also been inspired by all the Thanksgiving recipes posted by Blogging friends in the US, some of which I will definitely be trying on the big day.
Before the delights of Christmas Dinner, my girls and I will be making a lot of our own Christmas pressies.  This is, in part, an economy drive (I am on maternity pay after all) and also an effort to keep the girls entertained and spending fun time with mummy before I go back to work at the end of January.
This week’s recipe is for one such gift (if you don’t eat it all before you get it wrapped) and a specific request from my good friend Karen, who by looking at her lovely figure, you’d never know she has a massive weakness for this amazingly delicious Scottish treat known as Tablet.  Please note that this is not one for making with the children as recipes with boiling sugar rarely are.  I can also advise that even a small amount, if for example, pinched by a slightly naughty two year old, is like providing said child with rocket fuel – a massive sugar high and not advised!
Tablet has a long history in Scotland, it’s neither a toffee nor fudge, but has a unique texture that is completely irresistible.   The recipe I give here is that of my husband’s Granny Forbes (the photo is from her wartime handwritten recipe book).  I did, however, make this with a twist for my dad this past weekend, adding some finely grated stem ginger in syrup and must admit to being delighted with the result.

Granny Forbes Recipe Book

2lbs (900g) Caster Sugar
2 oz (55g) Butter or Margarine
200ml Condensed Milk
200ml Milk
(If you are making Ginger Tablet, you will also need to grate 4-5 balls of stem ginger in syrup, and one teaspoon of the delicious syrup from the jar).
Grease a 20cm x 25cm rectangular tin. Put the Sugar, Milk and Butter in a large saucepan.  Bring very slowly to the boil ensuring and add the condensed milk. Allow to come to the boil once again, and watch carefully for around 20 minutes (or until the colour turns darker), you can stir it during this time.
Remove from the heat and beat vigorously in reverse (original instructions) until it thickens and the residue on the side of the pan looks grainy. 
Pour into the greased tin and allow to set before marking into bars or squares.
(If you’re making Ginger Tablet, add the ginger syrup with the condensed milk but don’t add the grated ginger until you have removed it from the heat, just before you beat it).

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Lentil Soup with Pumpkin & Cheese Scones

I was really excited when Toni at the wonderful Boulder Locavore  blog suggested that I add a recipe to her special Thanksgiving recipe link even though we don’t celebrate this particular holiday here in Scotland. Despite not participating in the Thanksgiving festivities, I am certainly thankful for all the wonderful recipes being posted and I’ll definitely be trying some of them out soon.   Indeed, as I will be cooking Christmas dinner for 10 adults and my three children, I have been looking for inspiration and thanks to Toni, have definitely found some here!
Lentil Soup is a traditional Scottish soup and a family favourite.  It is a useful one for this time of year; warming and delicious, and the ham hough used in the recipe can easily be substituted with some left over roast ham.  The pumpkin and Cheese scones are a relatively new creation – following some experimental pumpkin baking - but are a perfect accompaniment to the soup.  They are also seasonal and lend themselves nicely to the lentil soup for a tasty winter lunch.
Firstly, the soup...
Lentil Soup
3 Large Carrots
1 Onion
Ham Hough (700g)
200g Red Lentils
1.5 ltr Chicken Stock
1 Tablespoon Oil (olive or vegetable)

In a large pan heat the oil and lightly brown the outside of the Ham hough. 
Dice the carrots and onion (I leave these quite chunky as I blend the soup at the end, however, you can chop them smaller if you wish to have a chunkier soup)
Add the veggies to the pan with the ham and sauté.  Add the lentils and heat through for a couple of minutes. 
Add the stock and a good grinding of black pepper.  Don’t add salt until the end as the ham will probably impart all the salt you will need.
Bring to the boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer for approximately 1 ½ hours.
Leave to cool before removing the ham.  You can remove the ham from the bone and add it to the soup (either before or after blending) or use it for something else (I made a risotto!)
I blend the soup, I prefer it this way and my little girls won’t eat it with identifiable chunks of veggies visible, but when I was growing up, my mum always mashed her lentil soup rather than blending.
Garnish with some crispy bacon, pumpkin seed oil or a splash of cream.

Serve with...

Pumpkin & Cheese Scones

450g Plain Flour
3 Teaspoons Baking Powder
Pinch of Salt
2 eggs lightly beaten
110g Margarine or Butter
Handful of Mature Scottish Cheddar
3 Tablespoons pureed pumpkin (approx 350g pumpkin flesh cooked, drained and pureed)
25ml Milk
Squeeze of Lemon Juice
Preheat your oven to 220 oC (200 oC fan).  Grease or line a large baking tray.
Sieve the flour, baking powder and salt into a large bowl.  Add the margarine and rub together until like rough breadcrumbs.
Stir in the beaten egg and cheese.  
In a small bowl add the squeeze of lemon juice to the milk - it will thicken and sour.  Add this to the ingredients in the large bowl. 
Add the pumpkin one tablespoon at a time and mix in but don’t over mix.  The dough will be quite sticky.
Turn the mixture out onto a floured surface and dust with flour.  Flatten down with your hand as it will be too sticky to roll.  It should be about 1 and a quarter inches thick. Cut out the scones, I use a 3 5/8 “ cutter
This makes 6-7 big scones – a scone has to be big!

Place on a greased baking tray (spaced quite widely apart) and bake for 10-12 minutes.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Recipe Swap: Sticky Maple Muffins & Maple Syrup Cake

Well it is that time again...Vintage Recipe Swap!  This month marks the first birthday of this excellent adventure in cooking, and although this is only my third month of participating, I feel part of something exciting and am delighted to have met so many lovely and inspirational cooks from all over the world.
So, Happy Birthday to the Vintage Recipe Swap and many thanks to Christianna for coordinating this monthly endeavour!  Please visit Christianna’s Blog here.
I am always nervous about revealing my contribution and curious as to what take everyone else will have on the same original recipe.  This month, as the recipe is for cake, I am even more eager than ever to see what my fellow swappers have created.

So to this months swap – Maple Syrup Cake!
I couldn’t decide what to do with this and actually got a wee bit carried away, and, with the assistance of my eldest daughter, Elsa had a little celebratory tea party to mark the first anniversary of the swap with both cake, and muffins!
The first is a maplely twist on my mums amazing sticky toffee pudding (the recipe for which, I’ll post soon!)

Sticky Maple Muffins (With Maple Buttercream)
240g Chopped Dates
150ml Water
110g Butter or Margarine
110g Caster Sugar
280g Self Raising Flour
1 Teaspoon Bicarbonate of Soda
1 ½ Teaspoons Baking Powder
2 Eggs
260g Maple Syrup
½ Teaspoon Salt
½ Teaspoon Cinnamon
For the icing (and plenty of it):
700g Icing Sugar
175g butter or margarine
5 Tablespoons Maple Syrup
16 Pecan kernels to top
Preheat your oven to 180 oC (160 oC Fan) and place the muffin cases into your muffin tin (this recipe makes around 16 muffins).
In a small pan, cover the dates with the water and bring to the boil.  Simmer for 5 or so minutes before removing from the heat and stirring in the Bicarbonate of Soda.  Leave to the side.
In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar and then add the eggs one at a time.   Beat in the maple syrup and once combined, sieve in the Flour, Baking Powder, Salt and Cinnamon.
Then add the date mixture and stir in well.
Divide the mixture between the muffin cases and bake in the oven for around 20 minutes.  Allow to cool before icing.
For the Maple Buttercream Icing...  Put the icing sugar in a food processor and pulse, this will remove any lumps. Then simply add the butter and maple syrup and blitz until fully combined and looking smooth and tasty!  I think because of the inclusion of the syrup, this icing is slightly more difficult to work with than regular buttercream and the results may not be as pretty, but this stuff is extremely delicious and works very well with the sticky muffin base.

Maple Syrup Cake (With Fluffy Maple Topping)

I actually decided to make this cake after finding the recipe for the topping, so while I can take credit for the cake, the topping comes courtesy of Jim Fobel’s Old Fashioned Baking Book. 
The cake is very simple and is not dissimilar to the original recipe for this months’ swap and doesn’t require to be iced. In fact, I think it would be nice dotted with some pecans or walnuts and a drizzle of maple syrup, however, I just had to make Mr. Fobel’s “Fluffy Maple Frosting”.
Here goes...
425g Plain Flour
1 Teaspoon Baking Powder
½ Teaspoon Bicarbonate of Soda
Pinch of Salt
½ Teaspoon of Cinnamon
¼ Teaspoon of freshly grated Nutmeg
4 Tablespoons of Milk
425g Maple Syrup
3 Eggs
Fluffy Maple Frosting:
130g Maple Syrup
110g Granulated Sugar
2 Egg Whites
Pinch of Salt
Handful of walnut halves
Grease a 23 cm cake tin and preheat your oven to 170 oC (150 oC Fan).
Sieve the flour, spices, salt, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda into a large mixing bowl.
In a pan, gently melt the butter and maple syrup together and remove from the heat.  Beat the eggs and add them, together with the milk to the syrup mixture.
Gradually add the dry ingredients to the wet ones and beat to remove any lumps.
Pour into the prepared tin and bake for approximately one hour.  Leave to cool before icing.
For the Fluffy Maple Frosting -
Sit a glass bowl atop about an inch of boiling water and beat all the ingredients together with an electric hand mixer for around 6  minutes or until stiff peaks are formed.  Remove the bowl from the pan and beat for a further minute.  Use the frosting immediately to decorate your cake.

Anna - pinching muffins!

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