This isn’t a recipe that calls for exact measurements. Use however many broad beans that you may have, blanch them for two minutes in a pan of boiling water, drain and rinse with cold water. Then put them into a food processor, or a food mill, with as much garlic as you fancy, add a couple of small sprigs of mint and a glug or two of olive oil and whizz or mill into a purée. Taste and add salt and pepper and more oil if you think you need it. It’s delicious on toasted bread; bruschetta style, lovely as a dip for other veg; hummus style, or added to pasta. For the latter I added a splash of cream to loosen it up a bit and I added some slow-fried courgettes into the mix.
I had some left over yesterday and added it as a layer to a moussaka, spreading it over the aubergines. Now I admit this didn’t make for the best colour combination – a sort of murky greeny-brown, but the taste was amazing, lifting the moussaka and giving it a summery zing.
We have been having it a lot, as you can probably tell.
As usual at this time of year we have runner beans coming out of our ears. I am not complaining (yet), they are so tender and delicious. They are lovely lightly boiled and then a pat of butter swirled into the drained beans. They are even better served with bacon, especially if you tip the drained beans into the pan with the bacon fat and the crusty bacon bits before piling high onto your plate. But when you are bored with those combinations then this might be the best way to serve them of all.
I grew dill for the first time this year. I have searched for a pot of it for some time from garden centres, but they just don’t seem to stock it. So a packet of seeds it was, then. To my surprise the seeds germinated and sprung up and have gone from strength to strength. (The surprise being, that I have been sufficiently green fingered as to not kill them, yet). I adore the gentle taste of dill, and I have been sure to grow it well away from my fennel, as Mr OC would never forgive me if I sprinkled fennel all over his beans. They are so similar to look at, but couldn’t taste more different.
This bean salad is very easy to make and can be made in advance to save any last-minute kitchen dashes.
When I make it, I pick as many beans as I think the people around the table will eat. Then when lightly boiled I drain them, briefly swill them under a cold running tap until just warm. Pour them into the serving dish, then douse them in a bath of oil and vinegar, crushed garlic and chopped dill. No measuring takes place and I like it to taste just a little on the sharp side of things, so I add more vinegar than would be acceptable for a recipe book vinaigrette. I urge you to do the same, and taste and adjust as necessary, but if you need measurements I have tried my best below.
To serve 4
Runner beans ( as many as you think people will eat, we are greedy and I would say 3-4 medium sized beans per serving)
2 tbsp good quality extra virgin olive oil
1 dessertspoon of vinegar ( I use the redcurrant vinegar that I made last year, but use whichever you like the most – white wine, balsamic, cider etc)
1 clove garlic, chopped fine with a pinch of sea salt
A good handful of dill, chopped finely (you could use mint with equally satisfying results)
Trim and prepare the runner beans, slicing on the diagonal into bite sized pieces. Bring a pan of water to the boil and carefully tip in the beans. Boil until tender, which won’t take many minutes. I like mine with a bit of bite left in them and if they are going to sit around, the oil and vinegar will soften them further, so be careful not to overcook. Drain them and place the sieve under a cold running tap for a few seconds just to take them down to warm. Tip into the serving bowl. Pour the oil and vinegar over them, add the garlic and the dill. Toss, and season with pepper, and salt if needed. Adjust the oil and vinegar ratio to your own taste.
We have eaten more than our fair share of meat in this household this week so last night I wanted to do something meatless. I have posted onion bhajis before, but last night I didn’t feel like deep-frying. I wanted something a little bit healthier. So I decided to give cooking the bhajis baked in the oven a go and they taste just as good as the deep-fried variety.
I served them with a cauliflower curry, rice and a cucumber and yoghurt dip. Very tasty it all was too, except I might add more spice to the cauliflower next time as a cauli can soak up a lot of flavour. So I will work on that before I post it here.
I used the same batter as last time, but because they were going to be oven baked I sweated the pepper and onion slices before putting them in the batter. Then I could be sure they would be cooked through.
Gram flour is made from ground chickpeas and imparts a delicious nuttiness and a beautiful yellow colour.
1 small red pepper, sliced thinly
1 onion, sliced thinly
1 tsp coriander seed
1 tsp cumin seed
1 heaped tsp crushed chillies
100g gram flour
100ml warm water
salt and pepper
Heat a tablespoon of oil in a pan and sweat the onion and pepper until the onion is translucent and the pepper is tender. They shouldn’t brown. Leave to cool.
Place the coriander and cumin seed in a dry pan and heat over a medium heat for a minute or two until their scent is released. Tip them into a mortar and pestle (or use a bowl and rolling-pin) and grind them finely.
Sieve the gram flour into a bowl and add the coriander, cumin and crushed chillies and stir well. Pour in the warm water and whisk until smooth. Add freshly ground pepper and salt. Leave the batter to rest for 30 minutes.
Put the pepper and onion into the batter and mix well. Place spoonfuls of the mixture onto a greased baking tray and bake in a preheated oven at 180°c, gas mark 4 or the Baking Oven of the Aga for about 15 minutes until golden and crunchy.
I made some of these last night to go with a roast chicken and spiced potatoes. I made the recipe up so it might actually bear no relation to an authentic Peshwari Naan.
350g strong white bread flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp fast action yeast
1 tsp honey
25g softened butter
25g ground almonds
25g flaked almonds
Place the flour, yeast, honey, salt and ground almonds in a large bowl. Cut the butter into cubes and add this. Heat the milk and water until hand hot and pour over the flour mixture. Mix well until it forms a soft dough. Place onto a lightly floured board and knead for about ten minutes until smooth and elastic.
Place the dough back into the bowl, cover with a plastic bin liner and leave to rise in a warm place for about 1 hour. Knock the air out of the dough and divide into four pieces. Roll each piece into an oblong and then scatter with one quarter of the sultanas. Roll up from the longest edge. Seal the joins well using your fingertips and then roll into an oblong again. Scatter with one quarter of the almonds and gently roll these in using the rolling pin.
Cover with a cloth and leave to rise for fifteen minutes.
Preheat the oven to 230°c, gas mark 8 or use the Roasting Oven of the Aga. Place a baking tray in the oven to heat up.
Put the naan onto the hot baking tray sprinkle with a little water and bake for 10 minutes until golden. Serve straight from the oven.
First, I apologise for the poor quality of this photo. It was after Sunday dinner and I was serving nine people a choice of either baked apples or lemon meringue ( or both if you are Mr OC) and they were anxious to dig in. I felt bad delaying them whilst I tried to get a decent shot. So I gave up and took this one. It doesn’t do the pie justice at all. A lemon meringue is a thing of beauty, a crumbly biscuit base, tangy lemon filling and pillowy meringue – heaven.
I always use Mary Berry’s recipe from her The Aga Book (published by Aga Rayburn) as it is completely fail-safe and makes a very good pie indeed. You can make a biscuit base or you can do a sweet pastry base. Both are good but I think biscuit may just have the slight advantage so this is the one I tell you about here. Now, because I always make this in my Aga I am going to concentrate on telling you this method and then tell you how Delia Smith cooks hers so that you can use this information for whatever oven you have.
These instructions are for a 23cm loose base metal flan tin
175g (6oz) digestive biscuits
50g (2oz) butter, softened
Mary Berry adds 45g (1½ oz) demerara sugar but I don’t think this is necessary so I omit it.
For the filling:
2 large or 3 small lemons
40g (1 ½ oz) cornflour
300ml (½ pint) water
3 egg yolks
75g (3oz) caster sugar
For the meringue:
3 egg whites
120g (4½ oz) caster sugar
For the biscuit base, place the biscuits in a food processor and whizz to crumbs. Add the softened butter and whizz again until combined. If you don’t have a food processor, then place the biscuits into a large plastic food bag and bash with a rolling pin (or similarly heavy implement) until crumbs. Place the crumbs into a bowl. Melt the butter and add to the crumbs and mix well.
Place the crumb mixture into the flan dish and press down with the back of a spoon until it covers the base evenly and goes slightly up the sides of the tin. Place the tin onto a baking sheet and place in the roasting oven of the Aga, or into a preheated oven at 200°c, gas mark 6, for 6 minutes until lightly browned. Leave to one side whilst you make the filling.
For the filling:
Pour the water into a pan and bring to the boil. Place the finely grated zest and the juice of the lemons into a bowl and add the cornflour and stir to blend. Pour in the boiling water and mix well, then return the mixture back to the pan and heat until the mixture thickens. Mix the egg yolks and sugar together in a bowl and then add to the cornflour mixture and stir on the heat allowing it to bubble a few times. Take the pan off the heat and allow to cool a little before pouring evenly over the biscuit base.
To make the meringue:
Beat the egg whites until forming stiff peaks and then add the sugar one spoonful at a time beating well after each addition. You should have a thick glossy mixture when finished. Spoon this over the top of the filling making little peaks, which will brown nicely and become crunchy, contrasting with the soft meringue underneath.
For the Aga, place the pie (still on the baking sheet) on the grid shelf positioned on the third set of runners of the roasting oven for 2-3 minutes until gently golden. Transfer to the simmering oven for a further 15 minutes. You can serve it warm or cold, it’s delicious either way.
For an ordinary oven Delia recommends preheating the oven to 150°c, gas mark two and cooking at this temperature for 45 minutes.
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. )
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.
This is a good chocolate cake! I have been meaning to make it since Rachel made it and that was a whole year ago. It had been on my to make list before that as I had looked at it longingly in Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s The River Cottage Year, which believe it or not I have had in my possession for seven years. How time flies, and what a long to make list I must have.
It’s a great cake for this time of year, when chestnuts feature heavily on market shelves and in Christmas cooking. But to be honest it’s a great cake for any time of the year.
It’s easy to make too and can be enjoyed warm for dessert or cold with a cup of tea (or coffee, or a mulled wine).
250g good quality dark chocolate
250g peeled and cooked chestnuts (I use vacuum packed as life is too short)
4 eggs, separated
125g caster sugar
Method Grease and line a 25cm round cake tin.
Melt the chocolate and butter in a pan over a gentle heat. In another pan heat the chestnuts and milk together until it just comes to the boil. Remove from the heat and mash the chestnuts into the milk until smooth.
Whisk the egg yolks and caster sugar together until combined. Pour in the chocolate mixture and the chestnut mixture and whisk together well. I used a balloon whisk to do this.
In a very clean bowl whisk the egg whites until they form stiff peaks and then carefully fold into the chocolate and chestnut mixture. Pour the mixture into the tin and place in a preheated oven at 170°c, gas mark 3, or the baking oven of the Aga for 25-30 minutes, until it is set, but it will still have a little wobble in the centre.
Leave in the tin to cool a little if you are serving warm or leave to cool completely. Sift cocoa powder over the top.
Update 8th December 2020: If you would like to learn to make stollen (an updated recipe to this one) and other delicious Christmas breads you can join me on my online Christmas Breads course.
Well, this is the scene outside:
Poor little birds. The last two days we have had a lot of snow (well, to clarify I am talking about the Midlands region of the UK and we don’t get that much snow normally. So when it snows all day non-stop we like to talk about it. It’s weather and we are English!). This has meant that the roads are a no-go area so it was deemed a baking day. I have had a lump of marzipan (or almond paste) in the fridge since I made the youngest’s birthday cake at the beginning of December and have been meaning to make stollen ever since.
It takes a while to make, and you probably do need to be having a baking day to make this.
100g sultanas 100g raisins 100g currants 100g candied peel, chopped finely 100g ground almonds 50ml rum 1 tsp vanilla extract 2 x 7g sachets of fast acting yeast 225ml warm milk 500g strong white bread flour pinch of salt and pepper 1 tsp coriander seeds, ground finely 6 cardamom pods, husks removed and the seeds ground finely to make ½ tsp ¼ tsp grated nutmeg finely grated zest of 2 lemons 150g butter cubed 100g caster sugar 225g marzipan icing sugar to dust
Place the fruit and the almonds in a bowl and pour over the rum and the vanilla extract. Mix well and then cover the bowl with clingfilm and put to one side whilst you make the dough.
Place the flour, salt, pepper, spices, lemon zest and yeast in a bowl and pour over the warm milk. Mix to form a dough. I found that it made a stiff dough with some of the flour not mixed in but figured that this was ok as you will be adding butter to the dough. Leave the dough to rest for ten minutes. If you have a mixer with a dough hook use this to beat in the butter and the sugar. Then knead the dough for 10 minutes until smooth and elastic. Make it into a ball shape, place back in the bowl and cover with a large plastic bag for about 2 hours until the dough has doubled in size. It was a cold day when I was making mine so it took a bit longer than this to rise to double its size.
Using your fingertips, gently prod the air out of the dough. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured worktop and prod gently into a square. Then roll with a rolling pin until it is about 2.5cm thick. Pour the fruit and almond mixture over the top and then knead the dough until all the fruit is evenly distributed.
Cut the dough in half. Cut the marzipan in half.
Prod one piece of the dough into a square and then use the rolling pin until it measures about 15cm x 20cm. Roll one piece of the marzipan into a sausage that is slightly shorter than the dough and place this in the middle. Roll the dough around the marzipan and press it well to seal the seam. Shape into a log shape and place onto a greased baking sheet. Repeat the same with the other dough and marzipan. Make sure you leave plenty of room between the two loaves on the baking sheet so that they can rise without growing into one another.
Cover the baking tray with the large plastic bag, making a tent shape so that the loaves won’t stick to the plastic as they rise and leave to rise again until they have almost doubled in size.
Remove from their plastic tent and cook in a preheated oven at 200°c or gas mark 6, or the bottom of the roasting oven of the Aga for about 40-45 minutes. If you are cooking in the Aga, check at 25 minutes and if brown, transfer to the baking oven for the rest of the cooking time.
Dust well with icing sugar. Rachel Allen recommends doing this when cool, but I did it as soon as they came out of the oven so some of it glazed a little.
Allow to cool before enjoying and if you can manage it leave it to mature, and then tell me how it tasted.
I have said before how much I love Choclette’s blog about all things chocolate. Well the other week she posted a recipe for Almond Toffee Brownies and they sounded like they may well be the pinnacle of brownies. Today, I felt like making brownies and so I thought I would try her recipe. Except that I can never really follow a recipe without feeling the need to mess about with it a bit. So I haven’t yet discovered whether Choc’s recipe is the pinnacle of brownies, but I am sure it is.
My variation is pretty good, with a sugary crust and very moist brownie underneath. Choclette normally uses duck eggs in her cooking and as my hens lay quite small eggs instead of 3 egg yolks I used 2 egg yolks and 1 whole egg. I cooked my brownies for longer too, I don’t know why this was necessary, maybe it’s my Aga or the different size tin – a mystery to me.
Melt the butter and chocolate together in a bowl suspended over simmering water (make sure the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water). Add the coffee essence.
Whisk together the egg yolk and whole egg with the sugar until fluffy. Fold in the almonds and the chocolate mixture. Pour into a greased 8 inch square tin and bake in a preheated oven at 180°c, gas mark 4 or in the baking oven of the Aga for 20-25 minutes. You want it nicely browned on top but still moist in the centre. Leave to cool in the tin and then cut into squares and enjoy with a cup of tea.
A bit unusual for us this, but this morning I found myself with about half of the Fruit Loaf left. Now, I made this three days ago, so whilst I was happy to have one more slice toasted I feared that the rest might end up as chicken food.
My youngest loves bread pudding, so it seemed the obvious way of getting the rest of the loaf consumed. Sorry chickens!
Actually this is the perfect way to use up this loaf, my normal bread pudding recipe requires dried fruit, mixed spice and the zest of an orange. Well, all of this is already in there, with the marmalade taking the place of the orange zest. So this was easy peasy to put together and tastes really lovely. I did add a little extra mixed spice and some nutmeg because I love aromatic bread pudding.
750 – 800 g (10-12 oz) leftover fruit loaf
50g (2oz) melted butter
300ml (½ pint) milk
½ tsp mixed spice
½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
75g (3 oz) dark brown muscovado sugar
Break the bread into a large bowl. Traditionally you are supposed to remove the crusts but it would be a shame to remove the crust of this loaf as it is so tasty so I didn’t. I just made sure the crusty bits were broken up quite small. Combine the melted butter and the milk and pour over the bread. Give the mixture a good stir and then set aside to soak for 30 minutes.
Beat the egg and add to the bready mixture, along with the spices and sugar and stir well to combine.
Butter a shallow dish, I used my ceramic flan dish with measures 23 cm. Pour the mixture in and level the top. Place in a preheated oven at 180°c, gas mark 4 or the Baking Oven of the Aga for about 1 hour. It may take a little longer, depending on your oven. It should be golden brown and firm to the touch. Allow to cool a little. It’s good warm or cold.
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