Category Archives: The Ordinary Cook

Coffee and walnut biscuits

Coffee and walnut biscuits

These are a tasty treat to have with a cup of tea or coffee. They are deliciously short with the winning combination of coffee and walnut.  I have made some for us today and the remaining dough has been put in the fridge to be baked fresh on the morning for tomorrow’s bread course.

Makes about 25 biscuits

250g softened unsalted butter
55g muscovado sugar
55g caster sugar
2 tsp instant espresso powder
50g walnuts, finely chopped
100g wholemeal spelt or wholemeal flour
150g plain flour

Method
Grease two baking trays with butter, preheat your oven to 180°c, gas mark 4 or use the baking oven of your Aga.
Cream the butter, until soft. Add the two sugars and beat until fluffy. Add the espresso powder, walnuts and the flours and continue to beat until all is combined. Take a piece of dough about the size of a walnut and shape into a ball, flatten slightly, place on the greased tray. Use the prongs of a fork to press each biscuit down a little.

Bake the biscuits for 10-12 minutes until golden and firm. Leave to rest on the tray for a few minutes, then place on a wire rack to cool.

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Merry Christmas and a very happy 2017

Just a very quick message between present unwrapping at Ordinary Cook Towers to wish all of my readers and friends a very merry Christmas and all the very best for a happy and healthy 2017. I appreciate all of your support and kind comments that you make here and I am always pleased to hear that someone has made and enjoyed one of my recipes.

I will shortly be raising a glass of cheer to all of you,

With love, Kath xx

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Caramel Waffles

Stroopwafel

I hadn’t tried a stroopwafel until a few years ago. A new Co-op opened up and they had them on their biscuit shelf. Just as we had become addicted they withdrew from their shelves. We found them at Asda shortly after, so all was well.

Then, whilst perusing Aldi’s specials the other day (I go in there specifically to cut down our shopping bill and then get drawn in by their specials – clever old Aldi), I saw that they had cone waffle makers. I couldn’t resist. So now that I have made several batches of ice cream cones over the past few weeks I thought it was time to try to make my very own stroopwafel.

You can go and buy a packet of stroopwafels from your local supermarket or deli, but there is something very rewarding about making your own, even if you just do it once.

The recipe for the waffle can be used to make cones or wafers for ice cream.

For the waffle:
Makes about 10 large waffles

3 eggs
150g caster sugar
140g self-raising flour (or plain flour with 1 tsp baking powder added)
110g butter, melted and cooled
1 tsp vanilla extract

Method
Beat together the eggs in a large bowl and add the sugar. Beat until smooth. Add the sifted flour, butter and vanilla extract and stir together until smooth and the mixture just drops off the spoon when lifted.

Heat the waffle maker and when it’s ready drop a tablespoonful of the waffle mixture onto the hot surface and cook for a minute or so until golden brown. Take off the waffle pan and place onto a piece of kitchen towel for a minute and then onto a wire rack.

For the caramel sauce:
45g soft brown sugar
30g caster sugar
150g golden syrup
30g butter
125ml double cream

Method
Place the sugars, syrup and butter into a pan and melt over a medium heat. Boil for 5 minutes. Stir in the cream. Take off the heat and leave to cool. I popped mine in the fridge to harden up a little.

Use the caramel sauce to sandwich two waffles together. Slice into triangles. Enjoy with a good cup of coffee.

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Veg Patch Kitchen’s new kitchen

Further to my last post. Here is the finished kitchen.

Veg Patch Kitchen

P1130711

I have some time now for experimenting with the oven and the space before the first classes in July. It’s very exciting and I absolutely love having this space in our garden. To think that for all these years it has been a shed filled with junk when it could have been this.

I am really looking forward to welcoming people to our classes. I just need to keep the eponymous veg patch tidy!

Kath x

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Veg Patch Kitchen

I have been neglecting this poor blog. Not because I want to, but because life has been busy. My cookery school, Veg Patch Kitchen, has overtaken my time and energy. I am really pleased with its progress in its first eighteen months. We have had lots of successful and well received bread making classes at my sister’s house in South Shropshire, at a village hall local to me here in Ironbridge, at Shropshire Hills Discovery Centre in Craven Arms and at Acton Scott Historic Working Farm. I have also run a few classes, on a voluntary basis, for a brilliant local project Let’s Grow Telford.

I absolutely love teaching people the pleasure of making your own bread. It’s wonderful to get an email from someone that has attended a class giving me an update on their bread making adventures and telling me how bread making has become an important part of their routine.

Last month we decided to take the plunge and make better use of our outbuilding. This particular outbuilding was piled high with plant pots, tools, furniture that we neither wanted but couldn’t bring ourselves to get rid of and general junk. Being natural hoarders it was easier to add something to the growing pile in the shed than make the decision to take something to the tip. So we braced ourselves, Mr OC and I, and emptied it completely. Most of the stuff made it to the tip. Some of it made it into the adjoining garage. Enter our garage at your peril! If the chiminea doesn’t get you, the old bench will.

The plan is to make this former dead space into a kitchen that we can use for the cookery courses. Having it on the doorstep will make it so much easier to run more courses and to still be here for the girls.

My Dad has been working all hours and like a trojan to help me with the electrics, the plumbing, putting kitchen units together, etc, etc. He is a very talented man my Dad and can pretty much turn his hand to anything.

Everything is rolling along very quickly and hopefully the classes can start to run from here very soon. I am very much looking forward to welcoming people to Veg Patch Kitchen headquarters. Although, the garden and in particular the eponymous veg patch needs some attention first. If you come, can you promise not to look too closely at the weeds?  Oh, the irony.

This is all happening because of this blog. If I hadn’t started The Ordinary Cook back in 2009 then I wouldn’t have developed my passion for bread, and it would never have occurred to me that I could pass on my knowledge and skills to other people. I am very grateful that The Ordinary Cook has created a new path and a new adventure. It’s funny how life takes its twists and turns and offers you opportunities that you would never have expected. If you had told me, back in 2009, that in 2016 I would have my own business running a cookery school I would have looked at you askance and backed gently away. Back then I was working in economic development, helping other people to achieve their dreams of growing their small business.

Once the kitchen is complete and the courses are up and running, I hope to find time to come back here with new recipes, but for now, please be patient with me. I will be back, but not just yet.

Kath x

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Hotel Chocolat treats for Christmas

I have been holding off from using the word until at least November. I am the sort that starts to think about Christmas about mid November-ish. But I think about chocolate most of the time. Hotel Chocolat kindly sent me a selection of the gorgeous treats that they have available this Christmas. To be honest when I was asked which chocolate I would like to try I couldn’t make up my mind. My youngest had no such problem. Straight away she asked if we could try the marzipan and the mint selections. She is very different from me in many ways, as all children should be, but we have the exact same taste in chocolate. Here is what arrived in a beautifully presented gift bag.

Hotel Chocolat

The youngest dived straight in and she and I both agree that it would be hard to choose between the marzipan or the mint if we had to. The little solid Santas would also be lovely to find tucked under the tree come Christmas morning.

Hotel Chocolat

Which would you choose?

Disclosure: I was sent these items free of charge for the purposes of review. All opinions are my own and honest. 

 

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Baked bean and ham pie

Branston bean and ham pie

Autumn is most definitely upon us, the nights and mornings are chillier, the gloves have been dug out from the back of the drawer and the lawn is more leaves than grass. It’s time for dinner to be warm and comforting once more. One of the comfort foods we always turn to in this house is baked beans so I was thrilled when Branston asked me to develop a recipe around their beans.

Branston baked beans

Branston launched their baked beans 10 years ago this month and they have been rated by the Good Housekeeping Institute as the best tasting beans of all the leading brands and in taste tests 4 out of 5 people prefer the taste of Branston’s beans. This might be something to do with Branston putting more tomatoes into their sauce.

This pie makes a substantial family meal, with the beans as the star. The beans’ tomato sauce means that there is no need to make a gravy. I served it with a swede and sweet potato mash that was perfect to soak up the juices, but really all you need is the pie.

Branston beans and ham pie

If you would like the pie to be even more substantial you can crack a couple of eggs onto the filling before you put the pastry on top. I made it with the eggs when Granny came round for tea, but didn’t for last night’s tea as my eldest is away with school for the week and my youngest turns her nose up at eggs. The pie was well received both times with second helpings being devoured eagerly. Even Granny, who said she wasn’t keen on beans before she dug in, ate every last mouthful! A ringing endorsement, I’d say.

For the pastry
250g plain flour
125g cold butter, cut into cubes
7-8 tbsp cold water

For the filling
1 carrot, finely diced
1 stick of celery, finely diced
1 onion finely diced
350g cooked ham, diced (or you can use bacon rashers, cut into small pieces, or bacon lardons, just fry them with the vegetables)
1 x 410g tin Branston baked beans
½ tsp oregano
pepper to taste

1 egg and a splash of milk for egg wash

Method

Preheat the oven to 200°c, gas mark 6, or use the floor of the roasting oven of the Aga.

Make the pastry by placing the flour into a large bowl and adding the cubes of butter. Rub in using your fingertips until the butter is evenly distributed. Pour most of the water in (you might not need all of it) and draw a knife through the pastry until it starts to come together. If you need more water add it gradually.  Bring the dough together into a ball using your hands and wrap in clingfilm and place in the fridge for twenty minutes to chill. You can also make the pastry in a food processor by whizzing the flour and butter together briefly and then add most of the water and whizz until it all just starts to come together.

For the filling, sauté the carrot, celery and onion (and bacon if you are using that instead of ham) in a large frying pan with a tablespoon of oil until the vegetables are soft. This will take about ten minutes over a gentle heat. Take off the heat and leave to cool. Once cool, add the ham, the oregano, a touch of pepper and the baked beans and mix well.

Cut one-third of the pastry off the ball and put to one side. Roll the larger piece on a lightly floured work surface to the size of your pie dish. My pie dish in the photo above measures 20cm. Then line the pie dish with the pastry. Pour in the filling. If you want to add a few eggs then crack them on top of the filling at this point.

Lightly beat the egg for the egg wash in a small bowl or cup and add a splash of milk. Using a pastry brush, brush a little egg wash around the edge of the pastry where the lid will sit to help with the seal. Roll out the smaller piece of pastry  on a lightly floured work surface to fit. Place on top of the dish and, using your thumbs, press all along the edge to make a good seal.  Using a sharp knife  poke two holes in the top of the pie to let the steam escape and trim the excess pastry from the edge of the pie. If there is enough trimmings, re-roll and cut out a few leaves to decorate the top. Place these on top of the pie and brush the entire surface of the pie with the egg wash. Place in the centre of the oven or on the floor of the roasting oven of the Aga and cook for 25-30 minutes until the pastry is golden and the filling is piping hot. Leave to stand for a few minutes before serving.

#LoveBranstonBeans

Disclosure: I was commissioned to develop this recipe for Branston Baked Beans. All the opinions are my own and are honest. 

 

 

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Harvest Bread

On Sunday we had a little trip out to Acton Scott Historic Farm. It’s a wonderful place, not least because the Bailiff’s Cottage has the traditional bread oven still in place and still in use. They were having their harvest festival on Sunday and using the oven to bake their harvest loaves. I was very excited to talk to the Bailiff about his use of faggots to get the oven up to temperature and to find out that you can cook up to 18 loaves in the capacious oven.  Whilst I was in heaven talking to the Bailiff about his oven, our 11 year old was doing what 11 year old’s do best; muttering under her breath wondering how her mother could possibly find any of this interesting. One day, she will understand. The nearly 9 year old though still has a year or so before the proper disdain for her mother’s interests sets in, so she was quite interested. On Monday she asked me to make a dough the following day so that she could make a harvest loaf when she got home. I was more than happy to oblige. I have always been a bit put off from making one as they look like you might need an artistic eye and patience, neither of which describe me. But in we ploughed.

It took us about an hour and a half to put together. I was ridiculously pleased with the result of our work and kept taking pictures and telling the youngest how brilliant it was.

For the instructions on how to a make the harvest loaf take a look at Daniel’s brilliant blog Bread, Cakes and Ale. He has made one too and has given detailed instructions as to its construction. Even if you don’t want to make the loaf pop over to his blog anyway for a good read.

And here is a picture of the loaf I was so proud of.

Harvest Loaf

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Lemon, poppy seed and almond cake

Lemon and poppy seed cake

I am baking this for tomorrow’s bread making evening class. I have been meaning to make a poppy-seed cake for ages and just not got round to it. I love the way the tiny black dots glisten amongst the soft cake. Poppy seeds always make me smile to myself. The first time I put a bread roll  adorned with poppy seeds in front of my eldest, she just stared at it for a long time. I wondered what she was thinking so I asked her if she was ok. “What are these mummy?” she asked pointing to the top of the roll. “Poppy seeds, darling”, “Oh, I thought they were beetles”.  I promise that no beetles were harmed in the making of this cake.

If you don’t want to use ground almonds then just use 175g of flour instead. You need four lemons for this cake. Don’t be fooled by it saying three lemons  in the first section. But if you only have three lemons in the house then no harm will come to the cake if you just use the zest of 2 lemons in the cake itself.

For the cake

175g softened butter
175g caster sugar
3 eggs
Zest of 3 lemons
Juice of 1 lemon
125g self-raising flour
50g ground almonds
2 tbsp poppy seeds

For the syrup

Juice of 2 lemons
Zest of 1 lemon
50g granulated sugar
50g icing sugar
1 generous teaspoon poppy seeds

Method
Grease or line a 2lb loaf tin. Preheat the oven to 180°c, gas mark 4 or bake in the middle of the baking oven of the Aga.

Beat together the butter and the caster sugar until fluffy and lighter in colour. I find that if I use an electric whisk to get things started and then go in with my hand like a claw I get a much fluffier mixture. The heat of your hands makes the difference. Add the eggs one at a time and beat thoroughly between additions. Add the lemon zest, juice, flour, ground almonds and poppy seeds and fold in with a large spoon until evenly combined. Spoon the mixture evenly into the tin and bake in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes until the cake is golden and a skewer comes out clean.

Whilst the cake is baking, mix together the ingredients for the syrup.

As soon as the cake comes out of the oven use a skewer to pierce all over and deeply into the cake. Spoon the syrup evenly over the cake. Leave to cool completely in the tin.

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Six years of discoveries

WordPress tells me that it has been six years since I wrote my very first post on these pages. I am very grateful for this blog for lots of reasons.

I set up this food blog for lots of reasons too. It was at a time when I had to make a decision about my future and that of my children. I was working in a job which I loved and which consumed a lot of my day. It was one of those brilliant jobs that really only comes along once in a while. I worked from home most of time, thanks to this marvellous thing called the internet. I was passionate about the project that I worked for – I had spent five years writing a PhD about it. I got to travel and speak to policy makers and at conferences. I loved it. But I also loved my girls who were three and five years old at the time. I had worked through both pregnancies, taking only a couple of weeks off for each birth and getting back to it as soon as I could. I was freelance and self-employed. I needed to work and I enjoyed my job. My employer was very accommodating, understanding and kind. One memorable occasion saw me sitting in an ante-room listening to a meeting in the next room feeding my three-week old and shouting my responses to the discussion happening next door; then taking my three-week old to change her nappy and lifting her up, to have her throw up the entire feed down my blouse. Thankfully the bag I had with me was the one which we had taken to hospital and it still had one of my husband’s t-shirts in there. What was I thinking? Five years on from this messy meeting and six years ago this month there came an opportunity to reassess what I was doing. Did I continue with my career? Or did I take a break and spend more time with the girls? After much hand wringing and into the night discussions we decided I should take a career break. It has been a decision that I have wrangled with ever since.

I have loved every minute of being with the girls, taking them to and picking them up from school, being there for every holiday. But, my oh my, I have felt guilty about not being at work, not earning money and not using that PhD that I sweated over for five long years.

I set up the blog to keep my hand in, teach myself new skills and to share my love of cooking and baking. It has delivered on all of those fronts and more. It has, more than once, saved my mental health by giving me something to focus on; to work towards. It has introduced me to new friends in the UK and abroad. Our friendships may be virtual but they are no less important for that. Each positive comment sends a buzz through my brain. The thought that someone out there baking that cake or making that jam with the process and the result making them happy makes me very happy.  The blog has made me push myself with my cooking skills and knowledge.  I have become a more imaginative and skilled cook.  I have certainly acquired quite a library of non-virtual books, as my heaving shelves can testify. I have become obsessed with bread making and the science of it all; it appeals to the researcher who loves to read in me. And perhaps most importantly of all, this blog has set me on a new career path and one that I am equally, if not more passionate about than the last – teaching others to bake and cook, both through this blog and by setting up Veg Patch Kitchen. I hope that this blog pushes me as much in the next six years as it has in the first six.

A big thank you to everyone that reads or has read this blog, and to those that have commented, over the last six years, you have been my saviours.

Kath x

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