Pumpkin soup

pumpkin

So, last night was Halloween. We had bought pumpkins to carve and this one missed out on its moment in the scary  limelight.  Isn’t it beautiful? What a gorgeous blue grey it is. Then inside it looks like this:

pumpkin flesh

The contrast between the blue and orange is amazing. The skin is very tough. I got my knife stuck several times. With it being Halloween, pumpkin soup seemed appropriate. The photo is terrible, because now the clocks have gone back we have a dark house at tea time, but the colour and texture of this soup was amazing too, dark, unctuous and velvety.

Pumpkin soup

As you can see, I served it with chopped crispy bacon and roasted pumpkin seeds.  With the carving of the other pumpkins we have been eating a lot of roasted seeds lately. Butternut squash seeds are delicious roasted like this too. This soup doesn’t need adornment though, it is lovely on its own.

Pumpkins make an awful lot of soup.  I only used half of this pumpkin and it made enough for about eight helpings. Thank goodness for freezers. The rest of the pumpkin will be steamed and pureed and frozen. I plan to try making a pumpkin bread.

½ pumpkin
1 onion, diced
1 apple, cored and chopped
½ tsp turmeric
1 tsp curry powder
salt
pepper
water to cover

Method
Pour a couple of tablespoons of oil into  a large saucepan and add the onion and cook until translucent. Peel and dice the pumpkin and add to the pan, cook for a few minutes. Add the apple and stir. Add the turmeric and the curry powder and stir well and cook for a few minutes. Add enough water to cover the pumpkin generously and then season with salt and pepper.  Simmer for about twenty minutes until the pumpkin is tender when you insert a knife.

Blend, process or sieve the soup until smooth. Taste for seasoning and serve.

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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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Elderflower scented Belgian buns

Elderflower Belgian buns

I am testing the ovens in my new kitchen before classes commence and these were my test subjects. As I walk towards my chickens in their pen I have been struck with the delicious scent of the elderflowers growing on the tree there this last week. The smell is difficult to describe but it almost fizzes in the air, it reminds me of the Refresher sweets that I used to enjoy as a child. It is so wonderful but also fleeting, in the next week or so, the fragile blossoms will be on the floor and the berries will start to form. I decided I must use them before they are gone. I was making these buns and so thought I could add the scent to the icing. It is subtle and was missed by most of my family, in their greed to eat the bun, but I knew it was there and enjoyed it very much. You can, of course, make these buns without the elderflower syrup, but if you can, then do.

The dough for these buns is made with my enriched dough standard recipe that I use for most of my sweet buns – iced fingers, chelsea buns, hot cross buns etc. It’s adaptable, so go ahead and have a play around adding flavourings and ingredients to suit you.

For the buns:

300g strong white flour
250g plain white flour
50g white sugar
5g easy bake yeast or 10g fresh yeast mixed with a little of the water
10g fine sea salt
150ml warm milk
150ml warm water
50g softened butter
1 egg
50g mixed dried fruit or use just currants
20g softened butter

Place the flours, sugar, yeast and salt (keeping the yeast and salt separate) in a large bowl. Add the milk, water, butter and egg (you may not need all the water so hold some back) and mix with your hands or with an electric dough hook until you have a soft, slightly sticky dough. Knead for about ten minutes until smooth and elastic. Shape into a ball and place in the bowl and cover with clingfilm or a large plastic bag. Leave to rise for about two hours. The time needed will depend on the warmth of your kitchen.

Tip your dough onto a lightly floured surface and roll into a rectangle that is 2-3 cm thick. Spread the softened butter into the rectangle and sprinkle over the dried fruit.
Belgian buns Roll up from the long end, like a swiss roll and cut into 10 even slices. Place these onto a buttered baking tray. Cover with oiled clingfilm or a large plastic bag and leave to rise for another thirty minutes or so.

Preheat your oven to 180°c and bake your risen buns in the centre of the oven for 20-25 minutes until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.

Whilst the buns are cooking make the elderflower syrup. It’s very easy and you will have some left over for drinking as a cordial or adding to a glass of bubbly, should the mood strike you.

Pick 5-6 elderflower heads carefully, You want to preserve as much of the pollen as you can as this is where the wonderful scent is contained. Check for insects and bird poo (those blinking pigeons!).

Measure 200g sugar and 200g (or ml) of water into a saucepan and place on a medium heat. Stir until the sugar has dissolved and then allow to simmer for a few minutes. Add your elderflower heads and take off the heat. Allow to infuse for twenty minutes and then strain the syrup through muslin, a clean tea towel or kitchen paper sitting in a colander and into a bowl. Allow to cool.

Measure 200g icing sugar and add a tablespoon of the elderflower sugar syrup. Stir and if needed add a little more sugar syrup until you get a good consistency. Spread this onto your cool buns in a more artful way than I can manage.

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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 Easter treats

Easter is almost upon us and in this house that means an Easter Egg hunt on Easter Sunday. I  (cough) The Easter Bunny writes a load of clues and hides them round the garden, each clue having a little pile of eggs next to it. The girls love it, although the eldest might feel a bit old for it this year. However, the Easter Bunny stands for none of this “I am too old now” malarkey.

It was a great treat, then, when I received a gorgeously presented package in the post from Hotel Chocolat.

Hotel Chocolat gift bag

Especially when hiding inside were their Dozen Quail Egglets. These are very tempting bite sized (if you have a big mouth like me) chocolate eggs. Two each of Salted Caramel, Peanut Butter, Raspberry Supermilk, Hazelnut Praline, Strawberries & Cream and Mousse au Chocolate.

I admit to having snaffled most of them all by myself, well, the girls will have enough chocolate eggs next Sunday. All of the chocolate eggs are as delicious as the next. My favourite though is probably the peanut butter flavoured. I am a sucker for anything that has peanut butter in it.

Hotel Chocolat has a fantastic range of Easter goodies available and they come in such lovely gift bags that whoever you buy for will feel very spoilt indeed.

NB: This post is a review of an item sent to me for free for review purposes by Hotel Chocolat. All opinions are my own and are honest.

 

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Coffee cake

coffee cake

This is a cake that I make a lot, but for some reason, not known even to me, I have never posted it here. Sometimes I add 50-100g walnuts to make it into a coffee and walnut cake. Either way, it’s a firm favourite in this household. I have a bread making class this evening and this is the cake that we will be sharing in between kneading and shaping loaves. Then if there is any left the girls will demolish the rest.

The cake follows the rules of the Victoria Sandwich, in that you weigh your eggs and then use that weight for your other ingredients. So today my 4 eggs weighed 220g, so I used 220g butter, 220g sugar (I went with half caster and half light brown sugar), 220g plain flour with 1 tsp baking powder (or for convenience use self-raising flour and then there is no need for baking powder) and a scant cup of strong espresso. You can, of course use instant coffee dissolved into hot water to make a strong coffee solution, or coffee essence.

4 eggs (weigh them in their shells and use that weight for your flour and sugar too)
Softened (room temperature) butter (same weight as your eggs)
Sugar (I used half caster sugar and half light brown, my eggs weighed 220g today so I used 110g of each sugar)
Plain flour (same weight as your eggs)
1 tsp baking powder
Scant cup of strong espresso or instant coffee dissolved in 2 tbsp of water (cooled)

Method
Preheat your oven to 180°c, gas mark 6 or use the centre of the baking oven in a four oven Aga. Grease and line 2 sandwich tins.

Weigh your eggs in their shells and use that weight for your butter, sugar and flour.

Whisk your butter in a large bowl or free-standing mixer until soft and fluffy. Add the sugars and beat well until the mixture is soft and fluffy. This always takes longer than you think it will so be patient and give it time. Add the eggs, one at a time and beat well between each addition. If the mixture starts to curdle add a spoonful of flour to the mix and it will come together again. Add the espresso and beat well. Sift in the flour and baking powder and fold in using a large metal spoon carefully but thoroughly. Divide the mixture between the two sandwich pans and spread gently to the edges of the tins. Place in the centre of the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes until the cake has started to shrink away from the sides of the tin and it feels springy when you lightly touch the top with the tip of your finger. Leave to settle in the tin for a couple of minutes and then turn out onto a wire rack to cool.

Sandwich the two cakes together with a coffee butter cream.

Coffee buttercream
100g softened (room temperature) butter
200g icing sugar
2 tbsp strong espresso (cooled)

Method
Beat the butter until soft, add the icing sugar and beat gently until combined and then whisk until fluffy, add the coffee and beat until well combined. Use half the mixture to spread on the bottom of one of the cakes. Lay the other cake on top and use the other half of the buttercream on top of the cake. Decorate with chocolate coffee beans or your choice of nuts.

Coffee cake

A cheeky slice for quality control purposes.

 

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