Category Archives: breakfast

Spiced prunes

This week is National Breakfast Week and by pure chance I was going to tell you about these prunes anyway. I have to eat within ten minutes of waking up or I am horrible. That means that I need something easy to eat. A year or two ago that would have been a bowl of cereal. But now I find that they taste either of cardboard or sugar. I have made my own muesli for the past year or so. This is simply a mix of oats, nuts and whatever dried fruit I have in the cupboard, eaten with milk or greek yoghurt. I sometimes make granola too. But I needed a change. The idea of stewed prunes just appealed to me. I am not sure why, as the very words ‘stewed prunes’ has connotations attached to it that you don’t really want to think about first thing in the morning. That, perhaps, is why I chose to title this post ‘spiced prunes’; that sounds so much more appealing and exotic and doesn’t conjure up grandmas quite so easily.

These are easy to make, taste delicious and you make a big batch and it will keep in the fridge for a week or so, no trouble at all. I eat them with a big dollop of yoghurt stirred in. I forgot to buy some prunes this week and now I have run out and I am missing them. So, now, against all the odds and the “who’d have thought it”s, I am a confirmed stewed (aka spiced) prune eater. Give them a try and you will be too.

You can ring the changes with whatever spices you fancy. I like star anise, cinnamon and ginger but cardamom is good too. Try whatever appeals to you. It doesn’t need any sugar as the prunes are naturally sweet. I have tried adding a slice of lemon or a slice of orange but the stringency didn’t appeal to me. Give it a go though if you think you might like it.

250g ready-to-eat prunes (this amount lasts me a week of breakfasts, just for me)
water
your choice of spice, I use one star anise, half a cinnamon stick and a teaspoonful of finely chopped fresh ginger

Method
Put the prunes in a saucepan, add enough water to cover and with about 1cm of extra water. Add the spices. Place over a medium heat and bring to a simmer. Turn the heat down a little and simmer for about 10 minutes until the water is syrupy. Take off the heat. Put into a bowl, once they are cool cover with clingfilm and place in the fridge and eat whenever you feel like it.

Honestly, they are really delicious and probably very good for you.

 

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Winberry muffins

winberry muffins

 

If you go down the woods today…..

Or, indeed walk up a large hill, then you may well be in for a surprise. No bears having picnics (I hope) but bushes of these delicious little bursts of purpley goodness. My lovely friend and I try to take a walk each week. It’s always a great walk whatever the weather. We put the world to rights in an hour and a half. At the top of the hill you are always rewarded with a wonderful 360° view, whether that is cloud shrouded fields, or crops withering under a heat haze. But at this time of the year you are also rewarded with winberry bushes. There is a mass of them, covered in these tiny berries. They are time-consuming to pick and this is made slightly more difficult, but also more hilarious, by my friend’s dog cavorting through the bushes, stopping to hoover some of the berries up with his front teeth. You don’t get many in fifteen minutes of picking (unless you are a dog), but you get enough for a couple of batches of these muffins. So, well worth the purple stained fingers.

winberries

 

The winberry is a cousin of the blueberry but much smaller. It is known by lots of other names – bilberry, whortleberry, blaeberry, windberry, whinberry etc etc. They grow on nutrient poor acidic soil and my friend and I were discussing how amazing it is that on this windswept hill, which spends a fair amount of time under low slung cloud and takes the worst of the winter weather these little bushes thrive and produce these delicious fruits.

Please remember that if the land on which the winberry grows has an owner then you should ask their permission before foraging. Take only a few, leaving plenty for the birds and mammals which rely on them. Most importantly, make sure you know for certain that it is a winberry bush and not something poisonous.

Makes 12 mini muffins (fairy cake size) or 6 muffins.

150g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
25g caster sugar
1 egg
80g butter
200ml milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
80-100g winberries (or less if you haven’t managed to pick that many)

Method

When making muffins, lightness is key, so sift the flour and baking powder and don’t overmix.

Sift together the flour and the baking powder into a large bowl. Stir in the sugar gently. Make a well in the centre.

Melt the butter and add to the beaten egg, the milk and the vanilla extract in a jug.

Pour the liquid into the flour and mix very briefly. Add the winberries and mix just enough to distribute them.You should still have some lumps of flour.

Spoon into muffin cases in a patty tin. I used cupcake sized cases to make mini muffins and made 12 rather than 6 large ones.

Place in a preheated oven at 200°c, gas mark 6 for 15-20 minutes. I took them out of the oven five minutes before they were ready and sprinkled demerara sugar on their tops and continued to cook until the muffins were golden brown. This gives them a slightly crunchy top.

half eaten winberry muffin

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Croissants and pain au chocolat

I have wanted to make croissants for ages but it seemed like it might be too much mither. Well, last night I decided to take the bull by the horns and just give it a go. It was quite a bit of work, but actually not as much as I was expecting and the results are more than worth the effort.  You just need to do a bit of preparation the night before, leave the dough to rest in the fridge and then finish off in the morning.

In fact I was quite excited this morning about it all and I was really pleased when they turned out to taste just as good as I hoped. I made some croissants and some pain au chocolat – what a treat!

I used Rachel Allen’s recipe from her book Bake (ISBN 13 978 0 00 725970 0) which if I could have found a link online I would have just pointed you in that direction as I am dreading writing all this down, but here goes. (Bake is well worth seeking out, I have used it a lot since I bought it and Rachel Allen’s recipes always work).

I got some early morning help from my two girls this morning so they appear in some of the pictures.

Makes 18 croissants

275ml milk
25g sugar
1 sachet of easy bake fast acting yeast
450g Strong white bread flour
275g salted butter, softened (but not too soft)

For the egg wash:
1 egg beaten with 1 tsp milk

If you want to make pain au chocolat you will need a dessert spoonful of chopped chocolate for each pain au chocolat that you wish to make. I made 12 croissants and 6 pain au chocolat.

If you want them for breakfast then I suggest you start the night before with the following steps.

Heat the milk until warm. Rachel Allen suggests rubbing in 50g of the butter into the flour but I just put it into the warm milk so that it half melted.  Place the flour, sugar and yeast in a large bowl. Add the milk and butter and bring the mixture into a soft dough.  I used my KitchenAid freestanding mixer with the dough hook attached and mixed it for 5 minutes.  If you haven’t got a freestanding mixer then this doughy is sticky and you will need lightly floured hands to knead it by hand for ten minutes until it is soft and elastic. Make it into a ball and place back in the bowl.  Cover with a large plastic bag or clean tea towel.  Rachel Allen suggests putting it in the fridge for two hours but I just left it in a cool place in the kitchen.

After two hours, place the remaining butter between two large sheets of clingfilm and, using a rolling pin, beat and roll it until it is about 8mm thick and measures roughly 10cm x 20cm.

Take the dough out of the bowl and place onto a lightly floured surface and roll it into a rectangle measuring 20 x 40 cm. Place the butter onto one half of the pastry.

Fold the other side of the pastry over onto the butter.

Roll the dough out until it again measures about 20 x 40cm.  Fold one third over, then fold that over and then fold again. Cover the dough with the large plastic bag and place in the fridge to rest for 30 minutes.

Take the dough out of the fridge and place it with the open ends facing towards you. Roll out the pastry again to a similar size as before, then fold in three again.  Place the dough back into the bag and put in the fridge overnight.

In the morning it will look something like this, having begun to rise:

So the next morning, take the dough and roll out again into a rectangle and then fold over three times again.

Roll out the pastry until it is about ½ cm thick and measures about 35cm x 55cm.  This takes quite a bit of effort as the dough is cold.

Now I wanted to make some pain au chocolat and some croissants, so I sliced off one third of the dough and then cut this into six pieces.  On each piece I placed a spoonful of chopped good quality chocolate and then rolled up firmly like a swiss roll.

For the croissants I cut the remaining dough in half lengthways and then into thirds widthways and then each rectangle into a triangle. This resulted in 12 triangles.  Starting from the widest edge roll the pastry tightly, then tuck the tip underneath and shape into a crescent shape.

Place on a baking sheet (you will need two) leaving space for them to rise and brush gently with egg wash.

Leave to rise in a warm place for 30-40 minutes.  I put mine on top of two tea cloths on the warming plate of my Aga.

When they have risen, brush gently with egg wash again and then place in a preheated oven at 220°c, gas mark 7, or the roasting oven of the Aga for 10 minutes and then turn the oven down to 180°c, gas mark 4, or move them to the baking oven of the Aga for another 10 minutes until golden brown all over.  Place them on a wire rack to cool just a little.  They are best eaten warm, with lashings of butter and jam (or lemon curd, or marmalade) on the croissants.

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Aga Marmalade

I adore marmalade.  I really enjoy the bitterness of the orange peel in contrast with the sweet jam.  In fact, I just had to get up to make some toast so that I could have some marmalade because writing about it made my mouth water.  Well, between you and me, I made two pieces and spread the other one with lemon curd. I think it is a well established fact that I am greedy, and now there are crumbs on the laptop.

This is the time of year for making marmalade as it needs to be made from Seville oranges and these are only available from markets in January and early February. The Seville orange is incredibly bitter and not at all one that you want to eat freshly peeled. But when mixed with a ton of sugar they make one of the best things that can be spread on toast. The lady who runs my local market tells me every year of the tale of the woman who was naughtily mixing her bag of oranges between the normal and the Seville.  The Seville is usually a bit dearer and this lady thought she was going to get herself a good deal. The market owner thought it appropriate that she let her get on with it and have fun at home playing orange roulette.

Seville oranges freeze very well, so buy them when you see them and put them in the freezer for making marmalade throughout the year.  In fact, I used frozen for this recipe as I mentioned to my mum that I was off to get some Sevilles and she still had some in her freezer from last year so I used those up. Use them from frozen.

I used Mary Berry’s recipe from The Aga Book. In this recipe she recommends that you simmer fresh fruit for 2 hours and frozen fruit overnight.  This makes me feel better as I missed that instruction and was planning to simmer them for two hours but fell asleep watching telly and went straight to bed having forgotten all about my oranges. You see, things always work out in the end.

This recipe made loads, about 10 jars, so unless you have friends and family who are marmalade fiends too you may want to halve the recipe. You will find another marmalade recipe of mine here.

1½kg (3lb) Seville oranges
Juice of 2 lemons
3 kg (6lb) sugar
2 litres (4 pints) water

Method

Put the whole oranges in the Aga preserving pan and squeeze in the lemon juice. Cover with the water and bring to the boil.  Once boiling, place the pan carefully in the simmering oven and leave to simmer until the oranges are tender (2 hours or so for fresh fruit, overnight for frozen). Remove the oranges and leave to cool. Once cool enough to handle cut them in half and scoop out all the pulp and pips and place these back into the water.  Bring to the boil and boil for 6 minutes.  Strain this liquid into a large bowl through a sieve and, using a spoon, force the pulp through the sieve.  It is this pulp which contains the pectin that will set the marmalade. Pour the liquid back into the preserving pan.

Cut the peel of the oranges as thinly or as thickly as you like your shreds to be and add these to the liquid, along with the sugar.  Bring the whole lot up to a rolling boil and boil until setting point is reached.  You can test for this with a sugar thermometer (105°c) or have a cold saucer ready and when a little is allowed to cool on this saucer it should wrinkle when pushed with your finger.

Allow the marmalade to cool a little (this will help with the distribution of peel through the jar rather than it all sitting at the top) and then pour into sterilised jars.

To sterilise your jars, wash in warm soapy water and rinse with hot water, then place on a baking tray in the simmering oven for twenty minutes.

May 2014: I have been requested to link to Aga Living as this is a recipe from Mary Berry’s Aga Book.

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Cinnamon waffles

I warned you that there would be more waffle recipes, so here is waffle recipe number two.

These were for Sunday’s breakfast and I thought I would ring the changes by making them with cinnamon.  They were very popular and Mr OC thought they tasted of cinnamon doughnuts and that can only be a good thing.  They are light, fluffy, sweet and spicy and when they are liberally spread with butter and maple syrup they are very good indeed.

Makes 8 waffles

25g light soft brown sugar
300g plain white flour
1 tbsp baking powder
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 ½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp salt
100g unsalted butter, melted
170g greek yoghurt (at the moment Total yoghurt comes in 170g pots, so if you have a 150g pot just add a bit more milk. )
200ml milk
2 eggs

Method

Make sure the sugar has no lumps and put this into a large bowl, add the rest of the dry ingredients and mix well. Add the melted butter, yoghurt, milk and eggs and beat the mixture until well combined and lump-free. Leave to stand whilst the waffle maker heats and then cook as directed by the manufacturer’s instructions.  Spread with butter and drizzle with maple syrup and eat immediately.

They freeze very well.

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Breakfast rolls

We have been lucky this year and had a whole two weeks together as a family over Christmas.  It has gone really quick though and we haven’t done as much as we would have liked with our time together.  My cold knocked me out of action for the first week, so a lot of film watching tucked up on the sofa went on and then this week the weather has been fairly miserable. We have managed a few days out.  But I have tried to make a few special breakfasts, we have had pancakes, waffles, oatcakes and yesterday I filled these breakfast rolls with sausages and fried onions.  Is there a better breakfast than that?

These rolls are easy to make and beat supermarket bread hands down.

500g strong white bread flour
2 tsp fine sea salt
7g fast action yeast
1 tsp sugar
150ml warm milk
150ml warm water

Method

Place flour, yeast and sugar in a large bowl mix well, then add salt.  Mix again.  Add warm milk and water (I add just boiled water to the cold milk and this makes it hand hot, which is just about right).  Using a claw action with one hand bring the dough together.  It should be slightly sticky. Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface for ten minutes until soft and elastic.  Alternatively if you have a free-standing mixer with a dough hook you can put all of the ingredients in and mix on a slow speed for about seven minutes.

Form the dough into a ball and place in a clean bowl.  Cover with a large plastic bag (I use a bin bag) and leave to rise for about 1 ½ hours.  It should double in size.  Using your fingertips gently prod the air out of the dough, turn it onto the work surface and cut into six equal pieces.  Shape each piece into a sausage shape and place onto a well floured baking tray, leaving plenty of room for it double in size again.  Sprinkle each roll lightly with flour.  Cover again with the plastic bag, making a tent shape to leave room for the rolls to rise and leave for about twenty minutes.  After this time they should have risen to just under double their size.

Place the rolls onto a preheated baking sheet into a preheated oven at 200°c, gas mark 6, or directly onto the floor of the roasting oven of the Aga and bake for twenty minutes until golden brown (check after fifteen minutes and if necessary turn the oven down to 180°c, gas mark 4, or move them to the baking oven of the Aga to cook for the last five minutes).  The rolls will sound hollow when tapped.  Leave to cool on a wire rack.

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Waffles

A while back I was reading Nancy’s wonderful blog Good Food Matters and she was saying about the memories created by a waffle maker (check out the post, it really is lovely), now my own daughter had asked me about waffles that very week, asking me what they tasted like and whether  I could make her one.  I don’t own a waffle maker, and it is nigh on impossible to make a waffle without an iron.  My parents asked me what I would like for Christmas, so I asked for a waffle maker.  It was delivered to my door in October – a lovely early Christmas present.

Since then I have been experimenting with different recipes.  Some with whipped egg white, some without, some with buttermilk, some with plain milk. Anyway, I have found that whipping the egg whites does make the waffle a bit lighter, but it also requires another bowl and a bit more work. Buttermilk does add a lovely back note, but it means you have to make sure you have buttermilk in the house.  For these reasons here is the recipe I now use most often.

I haven’t stopped experimenting though and I intend to try yeast waffles soon, and chocolate waffles and buckwheat waffles (like Nancy’s).  I made potato waffles the other week, which were good but not perfect and so require a bit more experimentation before they appear here.

The waffle maker will not be a gadget that sits at the back of our cupboard any time soon and hopefully one day I will be able to write a post like Nancy’s.

200g plain flour
3 tbsp granulated sugar
½ tbsp baking powder
200ml milk
squeeze of lemon juice
60g melted butter
½ tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs

Method

Put the flour, sugar and baking powder in a bowl.  Measure the milk and add the squeeze of lemon juice. Pour the milk, melted butter, vanilla extract and eggs into the flour mixture and whisk well until combined.

Heat the waffle maker or iron according to the manufacturer’s instructions and pour in the mixture and cook until well browned.

Eat warm with butter and maple syrup, or chocolate spread, or jam, or marmalade or anything else that you fancy.

They can also be frozen and warmed through by placing in a toaster or back into the waffle iron.

PS I forgot to say, but if you are looking for further waffle inspiration then check out Mangocheek’s wonderful suggestions for something a bit beyond the basic waffle.

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