Tag Archives: Aga cooking

Marinated peppers

marinated peppers

I am sharing these here as they are a staple of the lunch that I provide at my bread making courses. They are always a hit and I have been asked for the recipe more times than I can count. So here it is.  This is a simplified version (and in my opinion tastier) of one I have posted before. It’s very simple and can be jazzed up with a sprinkling of herbs, or capers, or sun dried tomatoes, depending on your mood. Try the peppers in the simple version first though and play around later.

I make them the day before I need them to give them time for the flavours to mingle, (but you could just eat them straight away if necessary), and they are good to eat for a few days, so they are handy to have in the fridge. I like the colours of the different peppers but if you prefer red peppers to green peppers feel free to make them with the colour that you prefer.

1 red pepper
1 yellow pepper
1 green pepper
salt & pepper
half a lemon
Extra virgin olive oil

Method
Preheat your oven to 220°c, gas mark 7, or use the floor of the roasting oven of the Aga. Line a baking tray with foil (not absolutely necessary but makes cleaning easier). Place the peppers on the tray (or if using an Aga just spread the foil directly on the floor of the roasting oven) and roast them, turning every ten minutes until they get nicely charred on all sides. This can take 30-40 minutes.  Once charred place them into a bowl large enough to hold them all and cover immediately with cling film.  Leave them to steam and get cool enough to handle. The steam helps the skin be easily peeled off.  Once cool enough to handle, peel away the skins, whilst holding the peppers over a bowl to catch the juices.  Remove the core and the seeds and rip the pepper flesh into strips. Place into a serving dish and pour over all the juices.  Season with salt and pepper.  Squeeze half a lemon over the top and be generous with the olive oil.

 

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.

 

Blood Orange Sorbet

We went to London for a few days during half term last week. The reason for the visit was because it was Chinese New Year and my youngest had requested that instead of our usual trip to Birmingham we went to see all the festivities in London. I messed up though as I booked it early to get a good deal on the hotel and trains. I booked it before the Chinese New Year festivities were published. There was I thinking that as CNY was on a Thursday this year things might be happening on the Thursday. Things weren’t happening on the Thursday, they were happening on the Sunday when we would be back in Shropshire. Oh well, lesson learned.

We still had a great time and we walked up and down Chinatown several times so that the youngest at least felt that she had soaked up something of the atmosphere. We did the British Museum to look at Ancient Greek items and the mummies. The mummified cat they have there is a mixture of amazing and horrid. Always a good mixture for things in a museum case I think. We did a couple of the more famous and older patisseries, our friend Tony bought me a cup from Patisserie Valerie which is much treasured. The other patisserie was perhaps the most disappointed by a cake shop that I have ever been. The cakes were delicious, the surroundings were grim. I am not sure when the Environmental Team were last in there but I am presuming it wasn’t recently.

One of the most exciting things about London is that you can buy anything, and what I most wanted was blood oranges. I remember my mum buying blood oranges in Shropshire when we were little but they are rarer than hen’s teeth in the county these days. If any one knows a secret source can they let me in on the secret.

So five blood oranges were duly carted home, amongst the huge bags of M&Ms the girls had managed to persuade me were a good idea in M&M World, and the small but treasured box of Turkish Delight from Fortnum and Mason.

The girls were horrified by the idea of blood oranges, reminding me how I had been the same when I was young, until I tasted one. History repeated itself. The girls loved this sorbet, sweet and refreshing as it is, and that colour could not easily be beaten surely.

Blood orange sorbet

It is very easy to make. Squeeze and measure the juice. Measure a quarter of that amount of caster sugar (so 200ml of juice needs 50g of caster sugar).Put the sugar in a pan and add enough of the juice to cover the sugar. Place the pan on a gentle heat until the sugar is dissolved. Leave to cool and then add the sugary juice to the rest of the juice. Pour into a freezer safe container and freeze. Stir up with a fork and freeze again. Then enjoy every sweet  mouthful.

The peel of the blood orange is so beautiful that I couldn’t throw it away so I candied it. I then promptly forgot the peel in the simmering oven of the Aga for a full 24 hours. Turns out it was a delicious mistake to make. The peel is sticky and moist with all of that sugary water evaporated down to a sweet, sweet sludge.

blood orangesblood oranges

Singing Hinny

I was kindly sent a Kitzini silicone baking mat to review and I have been giving it a thorough test over the last couple of weeks. I started with a jammy dodger recipe, but the recipe needs more tweaking before it’s ready to share with you. They spread too much and needed to be a bit more substantial to be jammy dodgers that I would be proud to tell you about.  I made some buckwheat and almond cookies that are really good and will be shared at some point in the near future.

Jammy dodgers about to go in the oven

Jammy dodgers about to go in the oven

Buckwheat and almond cookies

Buckwheat and almond cookies

I have been impressed with the Kitzini mat. It has even heat distribution and is easy to clean, much easier than a buttered tray. Any spills wipe off very easily. The mats are oven, microwave and freezer safe and can also be used as pastry mats. They are available  at Amazon and are currently on sale.

I also made a Singing Hinny which worked really well with the mat on the simmering plate of the Aga. I have made a Singing Hinny a few times directly on the simmering plate and it works fine, but using the Kitzini mat did mean that it didn’t need turning as often to prevent the bottom scorching.

Singing Hinny

Singing Hinny dough with the underside cooking on the Aga

The Singing Hinny gets its name from the singing noise it makes when it hits the heat of the griddle. I sadly, have yet to experience a hinny singing to me yet. Maybe, one day.

The Singing Hinny is delicious served warm, sliced into wedges, split and buttered. Jam is optional but good.

Singing Hinny

Singing Hinny cooking on the Aga

This is supposed to cut into 8 wedges but Mr OC and I can eat it all in one sitting.

225g self-raising flour
½ tsp salt
50g butter (lard is more traditional but I don’t often have it in the fridge)
50g caster sugar
75g raisins or currants depending on what you have in the cupboard
1 egg
6 tbsp milk

Method

I make mine in a food processor which makes it very quick and easy. Put the flour, salt and butter into the processor and whizz together briefly. Add the sugar and whizz again. Add the egg and milk and whizz, then add the dried fruit and whizz very briefly. It should now be easy to bring together into a ball using your hands.

If you don’t have a food processor, rub the butter into the flour using the tips of your fingers. When it resembles breadcrumbs stir in the sugar and salt. Add the dried fruit, egg and milk and work gently together with a spoon or your hand until it forms a ball.

Place onto a lightly floured work surface and flatten to a disc using your hand. You can cook it on the simmering plate of the Aga or in a heavy based pan over a low-medium heat. Turn after about 8-10 minutes when it should be well browned. Cook for another 8-10 minutes. Leave to cool for a minute or two on a wire rack and then cut into wedges, split horizontally and spread with butter.

I was sent two silicone mats by Kitzini for review purposes. I received no other payment and any opinions expressed are honest and my own. 

Christmas cooking

It is my youngest daughter’s eighth birthday tomorrow, the party was held at the weekend and everything is ready for tomorrow. This, then, for me, means I can begin to think about Christmas. I can’t contemplate it before her birthday preparations are out of way. Thank goodness she wasn’t born closer to Christmas. What this also means is that I have been doing this blog for more than five years now. This was bought home to me when I printed off the chocolate birthday cake recipe for my mum to make for her and looked at the photo of the cake that my youngest had decorated for her Dad when she was three.

This made me think about just how many recipes I have posted on here over that time. It has become my own personal cookbook and I hope that it has the same purpose for others too.  In my planning for the holidays I started to look back on the recipes that are favourites and also found some that I really enjoyed when I made them but haven’t returned to since. It occurred to me that a round-up of the recipes I will be revisiting or would like to, but probably won’t have the time when it comes to it, would be useful for me and perhaps for a few of you too.

I do love all the cooking that comes with the Christmas holidays. The girls have two weeks off from school which means that we can have proper breakfasts, rather than a bowl of cereal or a piece of toast. So we will be enjoying pancakes, waffles, pikelets or Staffordshire Oatcakes as well as the occasional Full English.

The Aga baked ham will be cooked for Christmas Eve dinner and for tucking into afterwards too. Whenever there is a ham in the house Fidget pie is made, because I love it so much. When I made Fidget pie last week, I used white wine instead of cider and reduced it to a syrup before I added the cream and it was delicious. My recipes are always evolving.

My mum makes enough mincemeat for all of us, but if you do need a recipe the one I made with pecans was really tasty. Mince pies are very popular in this house, in fact I have promised to make some today. My eldest likes them slightly burned. I like to oblige, sometimes because I have forgotten put the timer on. The curse of the Aga.  Then when we are bored of them, mincemeat bars might make an appearance or that Norfolk Scone I have promised myself.

My mum will also be cooking the turkey, but she will be doing it this way because it’s tried and tested and delicious. Mushroom and chestnut wellington makes a very good alternative to the turkey.

Stollen might make an appearance, because I make marzipan at Christmas, not for the cake (mum makes those) but because we love it. Marzipan chocolates will be the result and I should really make my ginger and marzipan cake again because that was very, very good.

Christmas pudding is my absolute favourite, but if you want something different then my Cardamom and almond steamed pudding or my Whisky and honey cheesecake go down very well. Chocolate truffles, whether chilli or cherry flavoured will be on the table at some point and I might find time to make candied peel again.

Just writing this post has lifted me into the festive spirit so I am off to make mince pies and some lemon curd ready for the pikelets and oatcakes. Be assured that whilst I make these I will be half watching a movie on one of the Christmas channels. I started doing that back in November. Don’t judge me too harshly.

Norfolk Scone

Norfolk scone

One of my favourite things to do is to  look through the cookbook section of our local charity shop. I don’t know why, but this particular shop seems to receive some very good cookbook donations. I always come out with one or two new books for my ever-growing collection. One of my most recent acquisitions was Cakes, Pastries and Bread by Jennie Reekie, first published in 1977. It’s a wonderful book full of the staples that you want to cook again and again. The recipe that really caught my eye was the Norfolk Scone. This filled scone is a cross between a  scone and an eccles cake, and, quite frankly, that appeals to me on so many levels. My mother-in-law had come for lunch and I offered to make her some scones to take home with her. I remembered the Norfolk Scone and thought I would give it a whirl. It was a great success. The crumbly scone contrasts beautifully with the rich, sweet, sticky filling. Next time, I am going to make it with mincemeat as the filling, because, well you know, it’s that time of year and I want to try it.

For the scone:
400g self-raising flour
1 scant tsp salt
100g unsalted butter
1 egg, beaten lightly
200ml milk

For the filling and topping:
25g softened butter
100g currants
100g demerara sugar
½ tsp grated nutmeg or mixed spice
Milk for brushing the top of the scone

Method

Preheat the oven to 200°c, 400°f, Gas Mark 6 or use the Aga roasting oven with the grid shelf on the floor of the oven. Grease and flour a baking sheet that will fit a 20cm circle easily.

I used my food processor to whizz together the flour, salt and butter until it resembled fine breadcrumbs. Then added the egg and milk and whizzed again briefly until the dough just begins to come together. Empty the dough onto a lightly floured worktop and knead briefly to a soft dough.

If you don’t have a food processor you can rub the butter into the flour and salt mixture using your fingertips. Then add the egg and milk and using your hand like a claw mix to a soft dough.

 

The key to a light scone is minimal handling. Split the dough in half and roll out one half quickly to a circle of about 20cm. Spread the softened butter over the circle. Mix together the currants, all but 1 tbsp of sugar and spice and sprinkle over the scone. Roll out the other half to the same size and place on top of the currant mixture. Brush with milk and sprinkle with the remaining sugar. Place in the oven and bake for 35-40 minutes until golden on top and well risen. Leave to cool for ten minutes then serve warm with a cup of tea.

Norfolk scone

Grape cake

grape cake

There has been a bumper crop of grapes at my niece’s house this year. There have been lots of grapes in previous years. But this year with the warm weather these grapes are really delicious. They are small and unfortunately seeded, but for outdoor grown English grapes they are very, very good.

bowl of grapes

Until I picked up a copy of Jamie Oliver’s Jamie’s Italy from the local charity shop I had no idea that grape cake was a thing. He also recommends freezing grapes and enjoying them frozen as a dessert with a bit of chocolate – my goodness, frozen grapes are delicious. So quite a few bunches have been frozen and then a couple of bunches made their way into this cake. The cake is really good. It’s a shame these grapes have seeds. I didn’t remove the seeds prior to including the grapes in the cake batter and they do ruin the texture of the cake a little. But with these grapes being so small, taking the seeds out would have been a long-winded process.

I have altered Jamie’s recipe. Well, I can’t help myself from tinkering. So this is my recipe for grape cake. Blueberries, raspberries or apple (chopped up small) would be a good alternative to grapes if you don’t have any handy. I had a bit of dessert wine left over that needed using up so I included it in this cake. If you don’t have any to hand then just use more milk in its place, so 150ml milk rather than the 75ml. This is a lovely moist cake and I will be trying it with other fruit too.

4 eggs
250g caster sugar
150g unsalted butter, melted
150g extra virgin olive oil
75ml sweet wine (or you could use milk if you don’t have any sweet wine)
75ml milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
zest of 1 lemon
400g plain flour
1½ tsp baking powder
600g grapes, or blueberries, or raspberries or apple chopped into small dice

Method

Preheat the oven to 180°c, 350°f, gas mark 4 or use the middle shelf of the Aga’s baking oven. Grease and line a 23cm cake tin.

Beat the eggs and the sugar together in a large bowl using an electric mixer until thick and moussey and the whisk leaves a trail. Pour in the cooled butter, olive oil, wine, milk, lemon zest  and vanilla extract and beat again until combined. Sift in the flour and baking powder and fold in gently. Add three-quarters of the grapes and stir in gently. Pour the mixture into the cake tin and place into the oven. Bake for 15 minutes then remove from the oven and place the remaining grapes on top of the cake. Push them gently into the batter. Place back in the oven and cook for another 30-40 minutes until the cake feels firm when you press a finger on top. Leave the cake to cool in the tin for ten minutes and then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

sliced grape cake