Tag Archives: Aga cooking

Candied peel

Candied peel

I have been slicing oranges into segments into a pretty bowl, sprinkling them with sugar and the juice of another orange or a clementine and leaving them to marinate for a few hours in the fridge. My eldest then tucks into them for breakfast or after school. I have been throwing the peel into the bin; neither the chickens or the compost likes it. It occurred to me that I should candy it. After all, it is nearly Christmas and there is something very Christmassy about candied peel.

This recipe is very easy to do on the Aga as you can leave the syrup and peel to simmer away in the simmering oven and then dry out the peel in the warming oven or on the top of the warming plate. You don’t need an Aga to give it a go though. A warm airing cupboard or shelf near a fire or radiator will have the same effect.

There is something very satisfying about candying your own peel. It does take a while, and it is a bit of faff, especially when you can buy it. But still, I think it’s worth giving it a go just for the smug glow you get when you look at your jar of candied peel and think to yourself ‘I did that’.  I am going to dip some of the glistening strands into molten dark chocolate for a treat for Mr OC and me, and maybe the children (if I tell them about it). But that’s another day in the not too distant future. Today I am just going to enjoy looking at the jar and enjoy my smug glow.

I used Debora’s recipe as a guide, I didn’t slice it as beautifully though and used only orange peel rather than a mixture of citrus. Four orange rinds needed about half the sugar and half the water Debora gives in her recipe, so 450g of sugar and 600ml water.  At the point when the peel was soft in the syrup I let it cool in the pan and then placed the pieces into a tin, lined with baking paper. I didn’t dredge it with extra sugar.  I put the tin into the warming oven of the Aga and left it there for about four hours, took it out and left it overnight on the warming plate of the Aga. It was beautifully dry in the morning and ready for the jar.

I plan to use the remaining few tablespoons of orange flavoured sugar syrup to glaze an orange flavoured cake.

Thanks must be given to Debora for all the inspiration she has given me over the past couple of years in both her blog and her book.

Venison and pickled walnut stew

pickled walnuts

Pickled walnuts

I haven’t posted a picture of the stew here because the photo I took, in these darkening evenings, just did not do the stew any justice. When I made these pickled walnuts I imagined I would be enjoying them with cold cuts and cheese. I have now tried them with cheese and I can report they are OK. Actually, they are hard to describe. They don’t taste particularly walnuty. They taste like something that has been pickled. When I was eating them with cheese, a friend that was with us at the time suggested putting them in a beef stew.  That sounded like a fine idea. Now that I have tried the stew I can report that they do add a lovely sweet tang to the gravy. They are, however, still a bit weird to eat. The exterior of the walnut has a grainy texture and the interior is soft. It’s just a  bit odd. I do think though that I will be putting them in more stews if only so that they can infuse the gravy and I will be chopping them up a little smaller next time, quartering instead of halving.

It doesn’t need to be venison in this stew, you can use beef with equally good effect. I spotted the venison at the butchers and fancied a change.

This stew serves 3 adults generously.

450-500g venison or stewing/ braising beef, diced
1 large onion, chopped  small
4 carrots, peeled and chopped into large chunks
2 celery sticks (if you have them), chopped finely
300 ml beef stock
200ml Guinness or stout
6-8 pickled walnuts, quartered
100g cooked chestnuts (I use vacuum packed for ease)
1 bay leaf
3-4 sprigs thyme
pepper and salt

Method

Pour a couple of tablespoons of oil ( or use beef dripping) into a large saucepan. Place over a medium-high heat and brown the meat in batches. You want the meat to get a good caramelisation so try not to move the meat around too much, just turn once. Remove the meat to a plate. Add the onion, carrots and the celery, if using, to the pan. Reduce the heat to medium and cook for a few minutes until the onions have become translucent and taken on a little colour. Return the meat to the pan, along with any juices on the plate. Add the stock and the stout and stir well to lift any of the lovely caramel bits on the bottom of the pan. Add the walnuts, chestnuts, bay leaf, thyme and season with salt and pepper.

Place the saucepan into the simmering oven of the Aga or put the stew into a slow cooker and cook gently for a minimum of three hours.

 

Cardamom and almond steamed pudding

cardamom and almond steamed pudding

 

A steamed pudding rounds off a sunday roast better than most puddings I find. My girls both love a syrup sponge. Yesterday I thought I would fancy it up a bit. The addition of freshly ground cardamom adds a delicious scent and the crunch of lightly toasted almonds adds bite to the squidgy, teeth-achingly sweet syrupy sponge. I did make a mistake though. I didn’t make custard to go with it. Last time I made custard after sunday lunch I curdled the eggs trying to cook it too quickly. It’s easier to get a pot of cream out of the fridge. But this pudding deserves custard and I shouldn’t have shied away from it. I won’t next time.

This recipe is inspired by one in Hilaire Walden’s Glorious Puddings, and the title of this book says it all. I have made a few changes to make it my own.

50g flaked almonds
2 tbsp golden syrup
175g softened butter
175g caster sugar
4 green cardamom pods, seeds removed and bashed to a powder
3 eggs
100g self-raising flour
100g ground almonds

Method
Place the flaked almonds in a dry pan and place over a medium heat until they are lightly toasted. Pour onto a plate and set aside until you are ready to serve the pudding.

Grease a 1½ pint capacity heatproof bowl with a little butter. Take a teaspoon of ground almonds and tip into the bowl and swirl around until it gives a light coating all over. Tip out any excess. Spoon the golden syrup into the bottom of the bowl and set aside.

Fill a large saucepan half-full with water and place a small plate or trivet at the bottom. Bring to the boil.

Beat the butter, sugar and ground cardamom together until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs  one at a time and beat well between additions. Fold in the flour and the ground almonds until well combined. Spoon carefully into the bowl over the syrup. Level the top carefully. Cover with a pleated piece of greaseproof paper and tie with string. Place carefully into the pan of boiling water and cover with a tight-fitting lid. This needs to steam for 45 minutes until a skewer comes out clean. I place the pan into the simmering oven of my Aga once it is boiling. I tend to leave it longer than 45 minutes. Yesterday it sat in the pan in the simmering oven for about two hours while I made and ate dinner with no harm coming to it.

Carefully remove the paper, remembering that steam will rush out, place a deep serving dish on top of the bowl and carefully turn it over. The pudding should just slip out, sometimes making a satisfying sucking noise as it does so.  Sprinkle the almonds over the top and serve with custard.

Cherry pie

cherry pie

I have mentioned before my generous friend with a wonderful garden. This week he has dropped off several baskets of freshly picked goodies, including cherries and green walnuts. I am very excited about the walnuts as I have wanted to pickle walnuts for a long while and there will be a post about this coming soon. But first the cherries. Here they are in all their glory.

cherries in bowl

Aren’t they beautiful? I love the blushing appearance and they are deliciously sweet. I decided to make a cherry pie with a third of them and the rest have been used to make one of my favourite drinks, cherry brandy, which will make its own post soon.

I have never made a cherry pie with fresh cherries before as it is unusual to have a bounty of cherries in England. You really do need to have access to a tree, either yours or a friend’s, and you need to get in there before the wildlife does. To buy cherries from the supermarket for a pie would seem like the ultimate extravagance as the price can be astounding. Many a time the girls have convinced me to pick up a bag of cherries, for me then to nearly have heart failure when the price appears on the scales. So it felt like a very special treat indeed to be serving this pie for sunday dessert.

500g cherries, stoned
50g vanilla sugar (or ordinary sugar if you don’t have any vanilla flavoured)
1 dessertspoon cornflour

200g plain flour
2 tbsp icing sugar
100g butter
2 egg yolks
1 -2 tbsp cold water

Milk to glaze

Method

I macerated the cherries with the sugar and cornflour for about an hour, whilst the pastry was made and chilled but I don’t really think it is necessary. Mix them together well in a bowl.

Make the pastry by mixing together the flour and the icing sugar and rubbing in the butter using your fingertips until it resembles breadcrumbs. Add the egg yolks and start to bring together into a dough, adding the water if necessary. You can do it all in a food processor too for ease. Shape the pastry into a flattened disc and wrap in clingfilm and chill for at least 30 minutes in the fridge.

Once chilled, remove the clingfilm from the pastry and cut into two pieces one slightly larger than the other. Roll the larger piece to fit your pie dish and press into the sides. Pour in the cherry mixture, spreading to an even layer. Brush a little milk around the rim of the dish. Roll out the smaller piece to fit the top of the dish and seal well around the edges. Brush all over with a little milk and cook in a preheated oven at 200°c, gas mark 6, or on the floor of the roasting oven of the Aga for 25- 30 minutes until the pastry is golden brown.

Serve warm with cream or custard, but it’s good cold the next day too.

Shortbread fruit slice

shortbread fruit slice 2

This is another fruity variation on a traditional treat. I didn’t plan this succession of posts in this way. We have a friend who makes the most delicious fruit slice. We have asked her for the recipe but she does that quick change of subject thing that suggests that it is a closely guarded family secret. So, each time she cooks us a batch I try my best to work out how she does it. I haven’t cracked it yet. Both my girls love Mrs C’s fruit slice and devour it as soon as it arrives. So, the experiments will have to continue until I crack it.

I think Mrs C’s is a pastry rather than a shortbread but it’s a pastry quite like no other. I tried my own version with a quick flaky pastry but it wasn’t the same. In fact it was nowhere near. Then I tried this, just in case. I knew it wouldn’t be the same as Mrs C’s but it is pretty good. So, if you don’t have the benchmark of Mrs C’s fruit slice to stand up to you could be very satisfied with these. They take the shortbread just one step further in the decadence stakes. They travel well so make good picnic or fete treats and with the summer holidays just around the corner we are hoping that there will be plenty of opportunities for picnics, and in the open air, rather than in the car.

For the shortbread base and topping
425 g (15 0z) plain flour
150g (5oz) caster sugar
275g (10oz) butter

For the fruit filling
150g (5oz) mixed dried fruit (raisins, currants, glace cherries, mixed peel etc)
25g (1oz) soft light brown sugar
juice of 1 orange

Method

Preheat the oven to 160°c, gas mark 3, or place a rack on the bottom rung of the baking oven of the Aga. Grease a 26cm square tin.

To make the fruit filling, pour the orange juice into a small saucepan and add the sugar and fruit. Bring to a very gentle simmer and cook for 5 minutes, until the fruit has plumped up. Take off the heat and allow to cool.

To make the shortbread, place the flour, sugar and cubed butter into a food processor and pulse until it begins to come together. If you don’t have a food processor then place the flour in a large bowl, stir in the sugar and using your fingertips rub in the cubed butter, until it begins to make pea sized pieces.

Spread half of the shortbread mixture in the bottom of the tin and press down well with the back of a spoon. Spread the fruit evenly over and cover with the remaining shortbread dough. Press down well with the spoon. Prick all over with a fork. Place in the centre of the oven and cook for 25-30 minutes until lightly golden. Sprinkle with caster sugar and cut into squares. Leave to cool completely in the tin.

Mincemeat bars

Mincemeat, like dogs, shouldn’t be just for Christmas. My mum makes mincemeat every year and some years I do too. Whenever mum passes me a jar I hurry to make mince pies and three batches have been made so far this year. Well, one morning this week I was practising my usual habit of perusing a recipe book whilst eating my early morning breakfast (everyone, pets included, knows better than to request my attention at this point in the morning) and came across Delia Smith’s Wholefood Mincemeat Slices in her Christmas book. These seemed to me a very good idea indeed. I have used butter instead of margarine, wholegrain spelt flour instead of wholemeal and added a sprinkling of flaked almonds and very delicious and moreish they are too. Delia, as always, has come up trumps.

150g butter, cubed
75g dark brown sugar
225g wholemeal spelt flour (or you could use wholemeal ordinary flour, but spelt is especially delicious)
100g rolled oats
250g mincemeat
flaked almonds

Method

You will need a 28 x18 cm shallow pan, either buttered well or lined with silicone. I use my half Aga roasting tin and line it with Aga silicone liner.

Place the butter and sugar in a large pan and heat over a medium heat until the butter is melted. Pour the flour and oats into the pan and mix well.

Spread half the mixture over the bottom of the prepared tin and press down well. Spoon over the mincemeat and spread as evenly as possible. Cover with the remaining oat mixture and press down well with the back of a spoon or your knuckles. Sprinkle over flaked almonds.

Place in a preheated over at 180°c, or the baking oven of the Aga for 18-20 minutes until golden brown. As soon as it comes out of the oven cut into twelve slices but leave it to cool completely in the tin. When completely cool remove from the tin and enjoy.

Talking about dogs not being just for Christmas, here is the new addition in our house.

We are currently fostering her from the RSPCA whilst she settles into family life, but we plan to adopt her and keep her for many, many Christmases. And, in spite of me saying everyone knows not to disturb me during early morning breakfast and recipe perusing, Maggie gets special dispensation.

Roasted pumpkin seeds

We have had so many pumpkins in the garden this year. They have trailed themselves across paths, down walls (with the pumpkins hanging on for dear life) and jostled for space with the other veg (they have won, hands down). We have grown pumpkins for several years, but I have always  scooped the seeds out and chucked them into the chicken pot*.  What was I thinking? Roasted pumpkin seeds are delicious. The transformation is startling. If you are tempted to try a seed part of the way through cooking, when you think they might be done, you will be bitterly disappointed and think that I have gone mad telling you to make these. But if you wait until they caramelise then you will understand. Something happens in their chemistry that makes you think you added crushed chilli when you weren’t concentrating properly. Be warned, these little bites are addictive and you will find yourself cooking with pumpkin just so you can eat the roasted seeds.

This weekend, when every one will be scooping out their Halloween pumpkins, is the perfect time to enjoy these. By the way, when did we move on from scooping out swedes?

I don’t bother washing the seeds as I think bits of pumpkin flesh hanging on to them add a lot to their flavour. I scrape them out, remove most of the flesh, lay onto a lightly oiled baking tray so that they are in a single layer and sprinkle with a little more oil and sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Place into a preheated oven at 140°c, gas mark 1 or the simmering oven of the Aga and cook for about 30-40 minutes. Keep an eye on them as the ones at the edge of the tray may start to burn and will need stirring into the middle. When they have a good caramel brown colour all over they are ready. Leave to cool a little and then dig in.

*I probably should explain that we have a pot that sits by the side of our sink and any veg scraps get thrown into it for our brood of hungry chickens. They are now missing out on pumpkin seeds. Poor, poor chickens.