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A Merry Christmas with Mince Pies

24 Dec Mince Pies

Mince Pies

Just a quick hello before I go out to the post office, supermarket, Moroccan shop, forest for more cones and make more of these mince pies. The list is actually a lot longer than that but I am out of bed before 10 am (unheard of) and am not going to get stressed about anything today. I have promised myself. And breathe…

Mince Pies

This is my recipe for mince pies and I have to say that, in my opinion, they beat any shop bought ones by a mile. They are better because: number one they contain Amaretto almond liqueur and anything tastes better with Amaretto in it. They also contain chopped toasted almonds for a bit of crunch, dried cranberries, mandarin zest and, the special ingredient, crystallised ginger. Make these and you’ll never go back to shop bought I promise. Even if you have an ever-increasing list of things to do….

Mince Pie

In the pictures and the recipe below I have used shop bought puff pastry but I have also made a lovely batch with this spelt flour pastry recipe adding a teaspoon of mixed spice to the flour. If you don’t have all the different dried fruits you can just  use the more traditional, raisins and sultanas.

Marvelous Mince Pies Recipe

Makes 12- 16 pies, vegetarian

  • 1 pack frozen puff pastry (defrosted)
  • 4 Tbsp molasses/miel de cana/maple syrup
  • 75 ml sweet sherry or port
  • 250 g moscatel raisins
  • 50 g dried figs
  • 50 g dried apricots, chopped
  • 50 g medjool dates without stones
  • 50 gr dried cranberries
  • 50 g crystallised ginger, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp mixed spice
  • 1 mandarin, zest first & then juice
  • about 50ml Amaretto (or Cointreau is nice)you may need to add more
  • a few drops of almond extract
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • about 100 -150 gr chopped toasted almonds, roughly chopped
  • olive oil for brushing
  • icing sugar for dusting

In a large pan, dissolve the molasses/miel de cana in the sherry over a gentle heat. Then add the dried fruits, crystallised ginger, spices, zest and  juice of the mandarin and the Amaretto. Bring to a simmer and cook gently for about 15 minutes until all of the liquid has been absorbed stirring occasionally. You may need to add more amaretto if it is absorbed quickly.

Add the almond & vanilla extracts, honey and the nuts. Stir well to combine everything and leave the mixture to cool in a bowl.

When the mixture is cool (very important or the pastry won’t work), preheat the oven to 200 degrees and oil & flour your muffin tins.

Roll out your first piece of puff pastry to a thickness of 2mm (leave the other piece in the fridge). Cut out 6 circles of about 9 or 10 cm diameter and 6 tops of about 7 cm diameter, you may have to re roll the pastry and may get a few more than 6 if you do. Push the larger circles into the muffin tins and fill each pastry case with a dessertspoonful of the mixture. Brush the edges of the pastry base with a little oil and then top with the smaller circles. Push the edges together to seal.

Make a little slit in the top of each with a sharp knife and brush with a little olive oil (or egg wash) and bake for about 15 minutes, until the tops are golden brown and puffy. Keep an eye on them they cook quickly. Leave to cool for a few minutes then take them out of the tin. Leave the tin to cool down completely before rolling out your next batch.

Dust with icing sugar just before serving. You can serve hot, warm or room temperature with cream, ice cream or a glass of Amaretto on the side….

MInce Pies

Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays! Felices Fiestas!

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Wholemeal Spelt Flour Soda Bread Recipe

12 Dec Spelt Flour Soda Bread

Spelt Flour Soda Bread

First of all I am sorry for my lack of posts recently. It’s not that I don’t have anything to share with you it’s that I haven’t had the time. I have been busy writing, testing and perfecting recipes for my cookery workshops. I have one this Saturday which is a Festive Vegetarian Middle Eastern Menu, some of the recipes from which I will share with you soon.

Spelt Flour Soda Bread

We have also just finalised the timetable of workshops for the first three months of 2013. As well as my Vegetarian Mezze Course (the next one being on Sun. 20th Jan 10-2 pm) and my  Healthy Baking Workshop savoury and sweet (the next one is on Sun 3rd Feb 10-2pm), I have also introduced two new ones.

The first new workshop is the second in the series of Healthy Baking courses; Healthy Baking with Chocolate . The first of which is being held on Sat. 2nd March 5 – 9pm.

Splel Flour Soda Bread

The second new workshop I have introduced is called Soups of the World. The first one is on Sat. 26th Jan 5 – 9pm. After all the Christmas excess everyone’s thoughts turn towards lighter and healthier food (and bodies!)

Soups are one of my favourite things to make and eat especially in winter. In this workshop you will learn how to make your own veg stock then we embark on a culinary journey through Thailand, Turkey, Italy & France taking some of the most exciting flavour combinations in the world and converting them into delicious soups, some classics and some more unusual.

Thai Squash Wonton Soup

an aromatic Thai style broth with floating delicate wontons filled with sweet roasted squash, herbs & spices

Turkish Ezogelin Corbasi

a hearty red lentil soup with rice & bulgur flavoured with fresh mint and sumac (with a tragic love story behind it)

Italian Winter Minestrone

the classic “big one” a rustic bowl of goodness topped with a delicious homemade basil pesto

French Onion Soup

deep, dark & sweet caramelised onions with a touch of sherry topped with toasted melting Gruyère croutons

Wholemeal Spelt Flour Soda Bread

So what do you need to go with all those soups? Bread of course.

Some of you who have been following this blog for a while may already know about my irrational fear of yeast. I can’t make it work properly, ever. Whether it is my well-known impatience, hot hands or even the altitude (We live up a mountain and apparently that can affect the “rise”) I don’t know. And I don’t care anymore because I have found the “get out” that is this soda bread.

Made with soda (obvs) instead of yeast, you have no waiting, no kneading and no disappointment. It’s just dry ingredients, wet ingredients, mix and bake. Hooray.

Wholemeal Spelt Flour Soda Bread

Wholemeal Spelt Flour Soda Bread Recipe

Makes 1 small loaf, vegan, wheat-free. Adapted from The Healthy Chef

  • 250 g wholemeal spelt flour
  • 25 g (4 Tbsp) flax meal (ground flax seeds) if not add 25 g more flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate soda (or baking soda)
  • 220 ml (1 cup) oat milk (or soy/rice/almond)
  • 1/2 Tbsp honey (or molasses/miel de cana/agave syrup)
  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • sunflower seeds/flax seeds/sesame seeds for topping
Preheat the oven to 180C and line a baking tray with baking paper.
Mix the flour, flaxmeal, salt and soda in one bowl. In another bowl, whisk the honey, olive oil, lemon juice and milk until well combined.
Pour the wet ingredients over the dry and mix it all together with your fingers or a whisk. It should be quite sticky like a scone dough. Bring it together and tip it out onto a floured surface and form into a round or oval loaf shape.
Transfer to the lined baking sheet, cut a small cross in the top of the bread with a sharp knife, brush with a little extra milk and scatter over your seeds.
Bake for about 25 minutes then lower the heat to 160C and bake for another 10-15 minutes until browned and cooked.
Cool for at least 10 minutes. It slices better if it is completely cool.
Spelt Soda Bread
This is a lovely, soft and quite crumbly nutty bread that is also gorgeous toasted. If you want to try a fruitier version which is brilliant for breakfast try my Flax Seed Raisin & Date Breakfast Loaf too.
Enjoy!!
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Gingerbread Parkin with Vanilla Apple Sauce

9 Nov Parkin & Vanilla Apple Sauce

The Washer Up has been going on about how wonderful Parkin is for ever. It’s a northern thing you see. As in, from the north of England, specifically the north-west. Yorkshire and Lancashire if you want to be precise. And they will want it to be precise. I am sure there will be comments about its origin and claims that it is definitely from Yorkshire or undenialbly from Lancashire.  I’m a soft southerner so I couldn’t give a “monkey’s” as they say down south.

So when I saw this recipe for it on one of my favourite food blogs, Kellie’s Food to Glow, this week I was desperate to give it a try. It’s traditionally served on Bonfire night – November 5th, which also happens to be our friend, Jeannes birthday. There was my excuse, as if I needed one. It was enough just to see the smile on his face. Honestly.

The Vanilla Apple Sauce that Kellie serves it with is genius. It’s like a vegan custard, a thick vanilla-y custardy apple sauce that we served warm with the hot slices of gingerbread parkin. And a sneaky scoop of vanilla ice cream if you must know. Well it was a birthday dessert.

Parkin is traditionally served cold and spread with a little butter according to The Washer Up. Whichever way it is delicious but you have to leave it wrapped up to mature for at least 3 days before you eat it.  So be patient and organised for a change because the stickiness you get is really worth the wait.

I deviated from Kellie’s recipe slightly by using half coconut oil (not very northern at all!) and half dairy-free margarine because I didn’t have enough margarine. I also used half honey because I didn’t have enough golden syrup and used wholemeal spelt flour instead of plain. It’s a wonder that I managed get anywhere near the original really but this is obviously a very forgiving recipe. No complaints from this end!!

Gingerbread Parkin Recipe

Enough for a 10″ loaf tin or an 8″ square baking tin. Adapted from Food to Glow

  • 100 g butter or dairy free margarine (I used 50g coconut oil/50g marg)
  • 100 g black treacle/molasses/miel de cana
  • 200 g golden syrup/agave syrup (I used 100g syrup/100g honey)
  • 75 g palm sugar/dark brown sugar
  • 200 g flour sieved with 2 1/4 tsp baking powder & 1/4 tsp salt (I used wholemeal spelt flour)
  • 100 g medium oatmeal (I blended my normal oats to finer powder)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp ground ginger
  • 1 1/2 tsp mixed spice
  • 10 pieces/cubes crystallised ginger, finely chopped
  • 2 eggs
  • 6 Tbsp oat milk (or other milk)

Preheat the oven to 140C. Oil and completely line your baking/loaf tin with baking paper.

In a large heavy pan, melt the butter (or replacements), treacle, syrup and sugar over a low-ish  heat, stirring occasionally until the sugar has dissolved.

Mix all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl, make a well in the centre and pour in the melted buttery syrup, stirring together well. Beat together the eggs and milk and pour this in too. Fold all of this through until well incorporated and pour the whole lot into your lined tin.

Bake for 90 minutes until a deep golden brown and a skewer inserted comes out clean. Then leave it to cool in the tin on a wire rack.

When cool, wrap it up in its baking parchment, then in two layers of foil and leave it in a cool dry place for at least 3 days but up to a week.

Good luck with that, I managed 2 1/2 days but it really does get better and stickier and more moist the longer you leave it wrapped up so don’t eat it straight away. It won’t be the same!!

Vanilla Apple Sauce Recipe

Vegan, gluten-free.

  • 500 g apples, peeled, cored and roughly chopped
  • 100 ml water
  • 4 tbsp agave syrup or honey
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp butter/margarine

Put the apples, water, syrup/honey and vanilla in a pan and cook gently for about 15 mins until the apples are soft then stir in the butter. You can use it as it is, if you like it chunky. Mash it up a bit more or blend it to give it a smoother creamier consistency. Taste and add more honey, vanilla or a squeeze of lemon juice to tart it up a bit. Serve it warm, or room temperature, with a slice of the parkin.

Have a Lovely Weekend!!

Fresh Fig and Almond Fumble

2 Oct Fig Fumble

A fumble, just in case you were wondering or being smutty, is a cross between a fool and a crumble. The best bits of two classic British desserts brought together to create something beautiful and simple to make. It is extremely versatile too. You can basically use whichever fruits are in season. Strawberries, apples, plums, mangoes, pears, rhubarb, gooseberries, you get the idea.

A fool is traditionally made with a fruit puree or compote stirred (or marbled) through whipped cream. I used goat’s yoghurt instead of cream, the sourness is fantastic with the sweet sticky fig compote. You could use Greek yoghurt or a mixture of yoghurt and whipped cream if you like.

My crumble is made with olive oil and honey rather than butter and sugar so it is all round a really healthy dessert. The crumble  is given extra flavour and crunch by adding flaked and ground almonds to the mix. I chose almonds because I saw  families picking their almonds at the same time as picking their figs today and the figs at the market looked beautiful.

I made a compote with the figs just by cooking them with some honey and a bit of water until it resembled runny jam. I left it to cool while I made the crumble mix. You just spread out all of the crumbly lumps on a baking sheet and cook it until it is browning. When it’s cool you can store it in an airtight container and use it to top ice creams, stewed fruit, yoghurt and anything else you think could do with a sweet crunch. This recipe makes more than you need so you should have some left over, unless you keep picking at it of course.

Fig & Almond Fumble Recipe

Makes 2, vegetarian. No butter, no sugar, no cream. Adapted form Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall

  • 200 g soft ripe figs, roughly chopped
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp water

Put the figs, honey and water in a sauce pan, bring to a  boil then lower the heat to medium and simmer until it resembles a jammy compote. About 3-5 minutes. Leave to cool.

  • 3 tbsp ground almonds
  • 6 tbsp wholemeal spelt flour (or any flour)
  • 3 tbsp oats
  • 3 tbsp flaked almonds
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • a pinch of salt
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 tbsp honey

Preheat the oven to 180C and line a baking sheet with parchment. Mix all the dry ingredients together in a bowl. Using a fork,  mix in the olive oil and honey the using your fingers make it resemble crumble. You should make lots of  clumpy crumble lumps. Spread the crumble out in one layer on the baking sheet and bake for 10-15 minutes but keep an eye on it incase it burns. It depends how big your clumps are as to how long it will take. It should be nicely browned. Now leave it to cool.

  • 2 pots or 250ml goat’s/Greek yoghurt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • about 4 large tbsp fig compote in each serving
  • a large handful of crumble mix for each

When the compote and crumble mix have cooled, mix the yoghurt and vanilla in a bowl and swirl through the compote. Taste it and add some honey if you think it needs it but remember the crumble is going on top.

Pour into serving dishes and top with a generous handful of crumble mix. You may have to crumble it more if you have large clumps.

Enjoy!!

Individual Strawberry and Amaretto Trifles with Toasted Flaked Almonds and Crushed Amaretti Biscuits

26 Jun MIni Strawberry Amaretto Trifles

You can make a big one if you like but these are cute, don’t you think? I made a big version (in fact it was huge) for a Jubilee party at our friend, Jeanne’s house. There were about 14 people going so I made the most enormous trifle and an apricot frangipane tart aswell. Well you wouldn’t want to run out of desserts would you? 

Jeanne knows how to throw a party, she has a fine selection of a cushions in a pink Jubilee style and she always makes the best drinks. Champagne with strawberries and a big jug of Pimms filled with fresh fruit, cucumber and mint. How to choose? One of each obviously.

Even after a gorgeous buffet prepared by Jeanne everyone managed to polish off one or (in some cases) two desserts. It’s difficult to get a good picture of a trifle as you can see from my attempt below, it’s like a big sloppy delicious mess really. I was pleased with the glaze on my apricot tart though.

So, solely for your benefit you understand, I had to make some of these pretty little individual trifles that would photograph better.

Just a few tips; the recipe below is just an outline, it obviously depends on the size of you dish, glass or bowl as to how much of everything you need. The fruit can be replaced with whatever is in season or looks nice in the market, as can the booze, just try to match it with the fruit. You may have to do a few taste tests first before you get the right combination!

Oh and don’t go too mad with the amount you put in, apparently it is possible to have too much alcohol in a trifle. Mine was a little on the strong side but there are worse things in life and I didn’t hear anyone complaining.

Individual Strawberry & Amaretto Trifles

  • mini sponge cakes (or trifle sponges)
  • strawberry jam
  • amaretto
  • fresh strawberries
  • icing sugar
  • creme patissiere (or thick custard) see my recipe  That amount was enough for 4 or 5 individual trifles . I added a splosh of amaretto to it instead of the orange blossom water.
  • double cream (for whipping)
  • vanilla extract
  • caster sugar
  • mascarpone
  • flaked almonds (toasted in a dry pan)
  • amaretti biscuits

Spread the jam on each of the sponges and sandwich them together to form a single layer covering the bottom of your dish, glass or bowl. Try one. Jam sponge is lovely, how long has it been?

Poke holes all over the sponges with a wooden skewer and slowly drizzle over the Amaretto letting it soak in. Don’t go too mad. Leave it for about 10 minutes to soak in properly.

Hull and half or quarter some strawberries and arrange them evenly on top of the sponge. Blend about the same amount of strawberries and a tablespoon or two of icing sugar to a smooth coulis/sauce and pour it over the strawberries.

Cover with a layer of cooled creme patissiere (or thick custard). Whip some cream with the same amount of mascarpone, a little vanilla extract and a few tablespoons of caster sugar to soft peaks. Spread this evenly over the custard layer.

Refrigerate until ready to serve and then top with a layer of toasted flaked almonds and crumble over some Amaretti biscuits.

Enjoy!!

Things That Made Me Smile Today

Rufus posing on his favourite sofa. Very handsome he looks too!!

15 on Orange Blossom and Strawberry Custard Slices

22 May Strawberry Custard Slice

Following on from yesterday’s post about inspiration and where I get my ideas from, this recipe illustrates perfectly the combination of factors that come together to create something nice to eat. Because that is what we are talking about here. Food that you (and I) want to eat. And you want to eat these, I can tell. You’re dribbling.

Strawberries are at the peak of their season here at the moment, so they are cheap and bursting with flavour. Well these ones are anyway, so they need to star in a recipe.

Every morning for the past month or so I have been running with the dog surrounded by the intoxicating scent of orange blossom. I know, I’m lucky. It is such a beautiful smell that hits you as soon as you walk out of the front door. Well I do live in Andalucia. Anyway the past couple of days it has been noticeable in its absence. We are coming to the end of the orange blossom season and I realised that I haven’t used its aromatic orange blossom water in a recipe this year.

On our last day in Cape Town we went for Sunday lunch at the 15 on Orange Hotel. Every Sunday they have a buffet lunch for 265 Rand that includes endless bubbly. Yes, endless bubbly. Are you mad? Have you met my Dad? And me come to that if you’re talking about bubbly. It’s not cheap stuff either, we really enjoyed quite a few glasses of the Graham Beck Brut Rose.

The hotel is elegant, modern, luxury designer chic . An enormous Murano glass chandelier with a staircase inside leading to a private lounge dominates the luxurious bar area. The lighting is actually really impressive throughout the hotel.

Now when you talk about buffets in hotels what springs to my mind is elbowing your way around a table filled with wilting salad, crusty under the lights sandwiches, dried up slices of meat hidden by a slimy gravy and suspect piles of defrosted prawns. Not my thing, at all. This couldn’t be more different. The restaurant is bright, modern and in no way does it smell of boiled meat.

The standard of the food is unbelievable. It’s the best looking buffet I’ve ever seen.  Beautiful feta salads, mozzarella & tomato Caprese with basil pesto, roasted vegetable terrine, beetroot tian, a cheese selection with chutneys. That’s just the veggie starters by the way. For main course I had an excellent Eggplant Parmigiana but it was the desserts that impressed me the most.

The selection was mind-blowing. Chocolate cherry tortes, blueberries & cream violet syrup shots, cape gooseberry madeleines.

A cake stand full of chewy meringues, chocolate or caramel & cinnamon, white chocolate sacher torte, and enormous pink marshmallows. The keep bringing out new things too. It’s amazing.

It is seriously worth coming here just for the desserts and bubbly. You want to try them all because they look so good. They are all quite dainty so you don’t feel like such a pig for eating more than one. I had the cinnamon caramel meringue, the chocolate cherry torte and one of these strawberry custard slices.

So when I got home and strawberries came into season here, I started badgering them for the recipe. And here it is. The only thing did differently was add some orange blossom water to my custard. I cut my puff pastry into fairly small rectangles 3 x 9 cm so they are quite ladylike and afternoon tea-ish. You can make yours bigger if you like.

Strawberry & Orange Blossom Custard Slice

Makes 30 -36 3 x 9cm slices. Adapted from the 15 on Orange recipe

Remember to defrost the puff pastry in the fridge overnight before you need it.

Prep time: 15 mins Cooking Time: 10-15 mins Assembly time: 15 mins

  • 1 block/roll puff pastry (defrosted in the fridge overnight)
  • about 500 gr fresh strawberries
  • 2 or 3 tbsp clear seedless fruit jam/jelly for glazing (I used apricot)
  • 1 or 2 tbsp water

For the Creme Patissiere (custard or pastry cream)

  • 200 ml milk
  • 55 gr sugar
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 25 gr cornflour/cornstarch
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1+1/2 tsp orange blossom water (or to taste)
  • 1 or 2 tbsp milk to finish

Preheat the oven to 190 C and line a baking sheet with baking paper.

On a floured board, roll out the pastry to a large rectangle about 2 mm thick and trim the edges so they are straight. My rectangle was 27 x 36 cm so I cut it into 36 mini rectangles 3 x 9 cm. (9 columns 4 rows). But you can cut them whatever size you like.  Put them on the lined baking sheet, dock them well with a fork (this stops them rising too much) and put them in the freezer for 5 minutes.

Bake  for 10 to 15 minutes until puffed, golden and cooked all the way through. Some will rise a bit wonky or too much but you can ignore those there’s still loads left. Leave to cool on a wire rack. Meanwhile make the creme patissiere.

Carefully bring the milk to the boil with the vanilla extract and orange blossom water, then turn it off before it boils properly.

Meanwhile whisk the yolks with the sieved cornflour and sugar to a smooth paste. Add a splash of the hot milk to the egg mixture and whisk to loosen. Add this back into the pan on a medium high heat and whisk continuously until it starts to thicken. Remove from the heat when it is thick and taste it. If it still tastes of flour or needs loosening up add a splash of milk, return to heat and whisk it in. When it is ready cover the top of the custard directly with cling film to stop a skin forming.

Hull the strawberries by pulling out the green stalks and removing the stalk area with a small knife. Thinly slice them from top to bottom.

To assemble: pipe  or spoon a small amount of creme patissiere along the pastry rectangles from front to back. Then top with three (or more if bigger rectangles) slices of strawberry, start at the back and position the pointy end up.

To glaze: heat the jam/jelly in a small pan with the water until it is a liquid. Brush the glaze over the positioned strawberries.

You will now realise that you have quite a few custard slices. Obviously you will have to eat a few just to see how they taste but beware, they are addictive. My suggestion is to do what I did and donate them to friends (thanks Rhian & Jeanne) because they will love them and so will their husbands.

And you won’t end up the size of a house and blame it all on me. Hopefully.

For more information about 15 on Orange Hotel and their menus visit their website here.

Fig, Date and Hazelnut Cardamom Spelt Scones

2 May Fig Spelt Scone

The Washer Up demanded scones yesterday. Yes, actually demanded I make scones. He pouted and said “I want scones” in a little boy stamping feet type way. Very strange behaviour indeed.

I obliged but decided I would try to veganize the recipe as he would only eat one and then I would be left staring at the rest, trying not to eat them. Veganizing scones is a little bit strange, I know. The whole point of scones is that they are buttery, and stuffed with cream and jam. These are a little bit different. They have roots in moorish Andalucia rather than a Devonshire tea room. That’s my excuse anyway.

I went to the weekly market in Alhaurin last Thursday with my friend Caroline. She told me about the amazing Frutos Secos stand there. They sell all sorts of dried fruits, nuts, seeds and herbs for reasonable prices. I wanted to get some dried figs for this pizza and needed some more pine nuts for our weekly favourite, this recipe.  I couldn’t resist taking a picture of these beautiful fresh garlic on the veg stall next door too.

I bought, figs, dates, hazelnuts, pine nuts, and Moscatel raisins. They also sell this lovely local fig bread/cake (below left) that we used to serve at the restaurant with the  chicken liver pate.

You can see where I am going with this now can’t you. I had some figs left over from the pizza recipe as well as the dates and hazelnuts. Cardamom seemed to go well with all those flavours but it could have just as easily been cinnamon. The Moscatel raisins would have been nice too.

A lot of the vegan scone recipes I looked at used olive oil or a butter replacement. I would definitely like to try it with olive oil next time, maybe in a savoury version of the scone with some fresh rosemary but I wanted this to be sweet. I went with coconut oil as my choice of fat as it has a slightly sweet coconut flavour and a buttery texture when it’s cold out of the jar. I wanted to see how it behaved in baking too. It turned out really well. You don’t miss the butter at all.

Fig, Date & Hazelnut Cardamom Spelt Scones

Makes 6 (easily doubled), vegan, wheat-free

Prep time: 10 mins Cooking time 15-20 mins

  • 220 gr wholemeal spelt flour (or any flour)
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  •  1/4 tsp salt
  •  1 tsp ground cardamom (or cinnamon)
  • 4 tbsp cold coconut oil (or very cold butter/ replacement, diced or olive oil)
  • about 75 g-100 gr dried figs & dates roughly chopped
  • 30 gr hazelnuts, roughly chopped
  • the zest of half an orange
  • 1 tbsp honey or agave syrup
  • 115 ml oat milk (or other milk)
  • 1/2 tsp cider vinegar

Preheat oven to 200 C and line a baking tray with parchment.

In a large bowl, mix together the flour, salt, cardamom and baking powder. Rub the coconut oil/butter into the flour with your fingertips until it resembles crumble mix. Then stir through the dried fruit, nuts and orange zest.

In a small bowl whisk together the honey, oat milk and cider vinegar and add this to the flour bowl. Stir together until just combined and clumps start to form, don’t over work  it or the scones will be tough.  Bring this together with your hands to make a ball.

Flour your worksurface and tip the dough out. Using you hands, pat this into a disc about 2 or 3 cm thick. Cut out circles using a floured cutter and place gently on the baking sheet. Do not push down or flatten. You will have to remould the excess dough into a 2-3 cm thick disc a few times to cut out all the scones.

If you like you can gently brush the tops with some oat milk and a sprinkling of sugar. Bake in the centre of the oven for about 15-18  minutes until golden brown and cooked all the way through.

Leave to cool slightly then serve warm or at room temperature with some butter/replacement.

These would be nice with my Arabian Fig Jam too, if only we hadn’t eaten it all. Roll on summer and the glut of fresh figs, I can’t believe I don’t have any jam!

Grandad’s Pickled Red Cabbage

5 Apr small-3

It was my granddad’s birthday on Tuesday, he was 93. I phoned him to wish him a happy birthday and also to persuade him to give me this recipe. After the success of his amazing Pickled Onion recipe that I posted in the Summer I have been trying to get him to write this one down too. They really are the best pickled onions in the world. If you haven’t tried them yet, what are you waiting for?

I have been running past these red cabbages every day with the dog thinking “I have to get that recipe”.

Then I got a huge red cabbage in my organic veg box this week and I knew it was time.

Grandad uses pickling spices that come in a muslin bag from the supermarket. You hang them in the vinegar while it is boiling to infuse it with the spices. They don’t sell pickling spices in the supermarkets here so I googled it to find out what they were.

There are different combinations but the main ingredients are bay leaves, cardamom, allspice, coriander, mustard seeds, cinnamon, black peppercorns and cloves. I didn’t have any muslin and all the shops are shut for Jueves Santo (Holy Thursday) so I just threw the whole lot into the vinegar. Hopefully it will turn out the same but I won’t know for a month. That’s how long you have to leave it before eating.

Grandad’s Pickled Red Cabbage Recipe

Makes 1 big jar, vegan, gluten-free

You have to salt the cabbage overnight before continuing

  • 1 small red cabbage (I used 1/2 a big one)
  • salt
  • 1 or 2 bags of pickling spices or I used: 2 bay leaves, 1 cinnamon stick, 2 cardamom pods, 1/2 tsp mustard seeds, 1/2 tsp coriander seeds, 1/2 tsp allspice berries, 1/2 tsp black peppercorns, 4 or 5 cloves
  • 500 – 750 ml malt vinegar (or I used a mixture of malt vinegar, sherry vinegar and cider vinegar)

Tear off the outer leaves of the cabbage and any that look a bit tired. Remove the core and slice the cabbage into 1/4 inch slices. Lay them out on a large ceramic plate and salt very generously. Leave overnight.

…In the morning my grandad recommends trying some of the salty cabbage and, he says you’ll wonder why you are pickling it…

Rinse the salt off and dry the cabbage. Put the vinegar and pickling spices in a pan and bring to the boil. Lower the heat slightly and cook for 10 minutes. Now you can remove the muslin bag of spices if you have one.

Pour about half of the hot vinegar into a sterilised jar then add most of the cabbage. Fill up the jar with the rest of the vinegar and any more cabbage that will fit in. Make sure the cabbage is covered with vinegar then seal the jar and store in a cool dry place for about a month before opening.

 I’ll let you know in a month how it is…….if I can wait that long!!

Thanks Grandad, Happy Birthday, Happy Easter and I’ll see you soon!!

Lots of Love

Chocolate and Lavender Easter Cupcakes

3 Apr Easter Chocolate Cupcake

Lavender is the colour of the moment. Everywhere I look when we are out walking the dog I see wild lavender growing out of rocks.

Or the beautiful wisteria that has decided to bloom all at once. Just in time for Easter.

I wanted to make something sweet for Easter and that for me that means chocolate. I had an idea in my head of chocolate cupcakes with chocolate frosting, sprinkled with crumbled up Flake (to look like a nest) and little mini eggs inside the nest.

The thing is that tidy, delicate and uniform is not my forte. Also, if it doesn’t work the first time, it’s never going to happen. So when my first attempt at a mini egg chocolate flake nest looked like a six year old had been let loose in the chocolate cupboard, I actually considered inventing some children and blaming them.

Already bored of the chocolate nest idea I started playing around with the icing and some of the lavender I had picked that morning. It turns out that the lavender ones looked the best, so I spent the next few minutes picking out all of the lavender coloured mini eggs. I don’t know what happened to the other colours, must of been those pesky kids again…

These cupcakes are actually vegan and made with spelt flour. The frosting is also vegan, made with an olive oil spread instead of butter which is why it is a bit softer than proper buttercream icing. As I didn’t know beforehand that I was making lavender chocolate cupcakes I didn’t add any lavender to the cake mix. I have added it into the recipe below but it is up to you whether you do or not.

Chocolate Lavender Easter Cupcakes

Makes 10-12, vegan (without toppings), wheat-free. Adapted fron Oh She Glows

Prep time: 10 mins Cooking time: 25 mins

  • 1 cup oat milk (or any non dairy milk)
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup sugar (raw cane if possible)
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups spelt (or wholemeal) flour
  • 1/3 cup pure cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1-2 tsp dried edible lavender (optional)

Preheat the oven to 170 C and line a cupcake tin with cupcake liners.

In a large bowl, beat together the  milk, vinegar, sugar, oil and vanilla with an electric whisk/mixer for a minute ot two.

Sieve the dry ingredients (except the lavender) into the wet and stir well to get rid of any lumps. Then stir through the lavender.

Transfer the mix to a jug and pour it into the cupcake liners about two thirds to three quarters full for each. Bake for about 25 minutes until the top springs back slowly when pressed with a finger. Transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely before adding the frosting.

Vegan Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

  • 6 tbsp olive oil spread (or equivalent)
  • 3/4 cup pure cocoa powder
  • 2+2/3 cups icing sugar
  • 1/3 cup oat milk (or other non dairy milk)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Cream the spread and vanilla together with an electric whisk until light and fluffy. Add 2 tbsp of the milk and whisk again.

Alternate adding the sugar, cocoa and milk a bit at a time until it is all mixed. Scrape down the sides of the bowl to get all of it combined well.

Store in the fridge until ready to use. Don’t start icing until the cupcakes are completely cool. Use a palette knife or piping bag to ice the cakes and decorate as you wish.

If it stops raining long enough I should be able to get about and photograph some of the spectacular processions and plays that take place here for Semana Santa. I remember saying the same thing last year and there was a huge electrical storm which blew up my modem and motherboard as well as cancelling all the processions and the crucifixion.

So, fingers crossed!

Happy Easter everyone!!

Babel Roasted Artichoke Goat’s Cheese Tart, Rocket Pesto, Raisin Puree

29 Mar Roasted Artichoke Tart

We have found a new organic veg supplier, which is really cool. In this weeks box we had some beautiful young artichokes and a bunch of fat peppery rocket leaves (as well as other stuff obviously).  Artichokes are stunning looking thistle-type vegetables and it always seems such a shame to rip all their leaves off and throw them away. I did it though, using this tutorial.

To be honest preparing an artichoke is a complete faff. Such a lot of work for little return. Is that controversial?

That’s why they sell them already prepped and cooked in delis or in jars in supermarkets. So, if you are impatient (like me) or they are not in season where you are, save yourself some time and buy them. Use the whole vegetable as a table decoration instead with some lavender maybe, or even some fat rocket leaves as an alternative bouquet….

The artichokes reminded me of the delicious tart we had at Babel restaurant at Babylonstoren. The pastry was the amazingly crumbly and I managed to get the recipe from the Chef Simone. This tart came with the best chips in the world that I have recreated too. I will share the recipe in my next post.

I have already written about our day at Babylonstoren in another post . They have a huge farm on site that supplies the restaurant with fresh fruit and vegetables. There is also a beautiful greenhouse that houses the more exotic plants where you can sit and enjoy a fresh from the garden herb tea.

The interior of the restaurant is effortlessly chic.

Even the menus are gorgeous.

Their version of the tart came with tamarillo (a cross between a tomato and a passionfruit), onion marmalade and pesto. I made a rocket and walnut pesto with the gorgeous rocket and a sweet raisin puree to cut through the sourness of the goat’s cheese. After preparing the artichoke hearts I roasted them with olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic and fresh thyme to enhance their delicate flavour.

You could also buy the tart cases if you are short of time but this pastry recipe is definitely worth the effort.

Roasted Artichoke & Goat’s Cheese Tart

Makes 4 x 10 cm tarts, Vegetarian. Adapted from the Babel Restaurant recipe

For the pastry:

Prep time: 35 mins (including resting)  Cooking time: 15 mins

  • 100 g  chilled butter, cubed
  • 125 spelt flour (or plain)
  • 65 ml sour cream/creme fraiche
  • a pinch of salt

Pulse the cubed butter, flour and salt in a food processor until it resembles crumble mix. Add the sour cream and pulse again until it just comes together. Do not over mix. Wrap in cling film and leave in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

For the filling:

Prep time: 40 mins (if using fresh artichokes) Cooking time: 15-25 mins

  • 3 young artichoke hearts, quartered (to prepare artichokes read this)
  • olive oil
  • salt & black pepper
  • a sprig of fresh thyme, leaves removed & chopped
  • 4 small garlic cloves unpeeled
  • 150 gr soft goat’s cheese
  • 75 ml sour cream/creme fraiche
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • fresh thyme, rosemary leaves, very finely chopped
  • pinch salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 180C and toss the uncooked artichoke hearts (you can leave this part out of you have bought cooked artichoke hearts) with the olive oil, salt, pepper, thyme and the whole unpeeled garlic cloves. Roast for 20-30 minutes until slightly browned.

Whisk together the goat’s cheese, sour cream, herbs, egg, salt & pepper until combined.

Butter and flour your tart tins. Quarter the pastry and roll out each piece between two bits of floured cling film to about 3mm thick. Lift the pastry and carefully push it into the tin, do not stretch it, until fairly even. Trim off the excess with a sharp knife. Put in the fridge while you do the rest.

Prick the bases all over with a fork, cover with a square of greaseproof paper and fill with baking beans or any dried beans.  Bake at 180c for about 10 minutes then remove the paper and beads and cook for a further 5 minutes.

Pour in the cheese, but not to the top, then add in the artichoke hearts and peeled roasted garlic cloves so the filling now reaches the top and bake for 15 -25 minutes, until puffed and golden.

 Rocket & Walnut Pesto

serves 4, vegan, gluten free

  • a bunch of fresh rocket leaves
  • about 100 gr walnuts (toast them in the oven for 4 minutes) then chop
  • olive oil
  • salt & pepper
  • a squeeze lemon/orange juice
  • a pinch of sugar

Put all the ingredients except the oil in a measuring jug (or food processor) and start to puree with a stick blender drizzling in the oil until you get a nice consistency. Taste and adjust seasoning.

 

 

For the Raisin Puree:

serves 4, vegan, gluten-free

  • about 100 gr raisins
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • 1 tsp balsamic/sherry vinegar
  • 1 tsp miel de cana (molasses)

Put the raisins and sugar in a small saucepan and just cover with water. Bring to the boil and simmer for 4-5 minutes. Reserving some of the liquid blend the raisins with the rest of the ingredients and a splash of the cooking water if necessary to a smooth puree. Taste for sweetness.

Serve the tart hot or warm with the rocket pesto, raisin puree and some fresh rocket leaves if you like. The perfect accompaniment though would have to be these chunky chips.

Crispy on the outside, soft and fluffy in the middle, sprinkled with sea salt, cracked pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice. Perfect.

I’ll give you the recipe in my next post, I promise….

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