Tag Archives: breakfast

Spiced prunes

This week is National Breakfast Week and by pure chance I was going to tell you about these prunes anyway. I have to eat within ten minutes of waking up or I am horrible. That means that I need something easy to eat. A year or two ago that would have been a bowl of cereal. But now I find that they taste either of cardboard or sugar. I have made my own muesli for the past year or so. This is simply a mix of oats, nuts and whatever dried fruit I have in the cupboard, eaten with milk or greek yoghurt. I sometimes make granola too. But I needed a change. The idea of stewed prunes just appealed to me. I am not sure why, as the very words ‘stewed prunes’ has connotations attached to it that you don’t really want to think about first thing in the morning. That, perhaps, is why I chose to title this post ‘spiced prunes’; that sounds so much more appealing and exotic and doesn’t conjure up grandmas quite so easily.

These are easy to make, taste delicious and you make a big batch and it will keep in the fridge for a week or so, no trouble at all. I eat them with a big dollop of yoghurt stirred in. I forgot to buy some prunes this week and now I have run out and I am missing them. So, now, against all the odds and the “who’d have thought it”s, I am a confirmed stewed (aka spiced) prune eater. Give them a try and you will be too.

You can ring the changes with whatever spices you fancy. I like star anise, cinnamon and ginger but cardamom is good too. Try whatever appeals to you. It doesn’t need any sugar as the prunes are naturally sweet. I have tried adding a slice of lemon or a slice of orange but the stringency didn’t appeal to me. Give it a go though if you think you might like it.

250g ready-to-eat prunes (this amount lasts me a week of breakfasts, just for me)
water
your choice of spice, I use one star anise, half a cinnamon stick and a teaspoonful of finely chopped fresh ginger

Method
Put the prunes in a saucepan, add enough water to cover and with about 1cm of extra water. Add the spices. Place over a medium heat and bring to a simmer. Turn the heat down a little and simmer for about 10 minutes until the water is syrupy. Take off the heat. Put into a bowl, once they are cool cover with clingfilm and place in the fridge and eat whenever you feel like it.

Honestly, they are really delicious and probably very good for you.

 

Croissants and pain au chocolat

I have wanted to make croissants for ages but it seemed like it might be too much mither. Well, last night I decided to take the bull by the horns and just give it a go. It was quite a bit of work, but actually not as much as I was expecting and the results are more than worth the effort.  You just need to do a bit of preparation the night before, leave the dough to rest in the fridge and then finish off in the morning.

In fact I was quite excited this morning about it all and I was really pleased when they turned out to taste just as good as I hoped. I made some croissants and some pain au chocolat – what a treat!

I used Rachel Allen’s recipe from her book Bake (ISBN 13 978 0 00 725970 0) which if I could have found a link online I would have just pointed you in that direction as I am dreading writing all this down, but here goes. (Bake is well worth seeking out, I have used it a lot since I bought it and Rachel Allen’s recipes always work).

I got some early morning help from my two girls this morning so they appear in some of the pictures.

Makes 18 croissants

275ml milk
25g sugar
1 sachet of easy bake fast acting yeast
450g Strong white bread flour
275g salted butter, softened (but not too soft)

For the egg wash:
1 egg beaten with 1 tsp milk

If you want to make pain au chocolat you will need a dessert spoonful of chopped chocolate for each pain au chocolat that you wish to make. I made 12 croissants and 6 pain au chocolat.

If you want them for breakfast then I suggest you start the night before with the following steps.

Heat the milk until warm. Rachel Allen suggests rubbing in 50g of the butter into the flour but I just put it into the warm milk so that it half melted.  Place the flour, sugar and yeast in a large bowl. Add the milk and butter and bring the mixture into a soft dough.  I used my KitchenAid freestanding mixer with the dough hook attached and mixed it for 5 minutes.  If you haven’t got a freestanding mixer then this doughy is sticky and you will need lightly floured hands to knead it by hand for ten minutes until it is soft and elastic. Make it into a ball and place back in the bowl.  Cover with a large plastic bag or clean tea towel.  Rachel Allen suggests putting it in the fridge for two hours but I just left it in a cool place in the kitchen.

After two hours, place the remaining butter between two large sheets of clingfilm and, using a rolling pin, beat and roll it until it is about 8mm thick and measures roughly 10cm x 20cm.

Take the dough out of the bowl and place onto a lightly floured surface and roll it into a rectangle measuring 20 x 40 cm. Place the butter onto one half of the pastry.

Fold the other side of the pastry over onto the butter.

Roll the dough out until it again measures about 20 x 40cm.  Fold one third over, then fold that over and then fold again. Cover the dough with the large plastic bag and place in the fridge to rest for 30 minutes.

Take the dough out of the fridge and place it with the open ends facing towards you. Roll out the pastry again to a similar size as before, then fold in three again.  Place the dough back into the bag and put in the fridge overnight.

In the morning it will look something like this, having begun to rise:

So the next morning, take the dough and roll out again into a rectangle and then fold over three times again.

Roll out the pastry until it is about ½ cm thick and measures about 35cm x 55cm.  This takes quite a bit of effort as the dough is cold.

Now I wanted to make some pain au chocolat and some croissants, so I sliced off one third of the dough and then cut this into six pieces.  On each piece I placed a spoonful of chopped good quality chocolate and then rolled up firmly like a swiss roll.

For the croissants I cut the remaining dough in half lengthways and then into thirds widthways and then each rectangle into a triangle. This resulted in 12 triangles.  Starting from the widest edge roll the pastry tightly, then tuck the tip underneath and shape into a crescent shape.

Place on a baking sheet (you will need two) leaving space for them to rise and brush gently with egg wash.

Leave to rise in a warm place for 30-40 minutes.  I put mine on top of two tea cloths on the warming plate of my Aga.

When they have risen, brush gently with egg wash again and then place in a preheated oven at 220°c, gas mark 7, or the roasting oven of the Aga for 10 minutes and then turn the oven down to 180°c, gas mark 4, or move them to the baking oven of the Aga for another 10 minutes until golden brown all over.  Place them on a wire rack to cool just a little.  They are best eaten warm, with lashings of butter and jam (or lemon curd, or marmalade) on the croissants.

Aga Marmalade

I adore marmalade.  I really enjoy the bitterness of the orange peel in contrast with the sweet jam.  In fact, I just had to get up to make some toast so that I could have some marmalade because writing about it made my mouth water.  Well, between you and me, I made two pieces and spread the other one with lemon curd. I think it is a well established fact that I am greedy, and now there are crumbs on the laptop.

This is the time of year for making marmalade as it needs to be made from Seville oranges and these are only available from markets in January and early February. The Seville orange is incredibly bitter and not at all one that you want to eat freshly peeled. But when mixed with a ton of sugar they make one of the best things that can be spread on toast. The lady who runs my local market tells me every year of the tale of the woman who was naughtily mixing her bag of oranges between the normal and the Seville.  The Seville is usually a bit dearer and this lady thought she was going to get herself a good deal. The market owner thought it appropriate that she let her get on with it and have fun at home playing orange roulette.

Seville oranges freeze very well, so buy them when you see them and put them in the freezer for making marmalade throughout the year.  In fact, I used frozen for this recipe as I mentioned to my mum that I was off to get some Sevilles and she still had some in her freezer from last year so I used those up. Use them from frozen.

I used Mary Berry’s recipe from The Aga Book. In this recipe she recommends that you simmer fresh fruit for 2 hours and frozen fruit overnight.  This makes me feel better as I missed that instruction and was planning to simmer them for two hours but fell asleep watching telly and went straight to bed having forgotten all about my oranges. You see, things always work out in the end.

This recipe made loads, about 10 jars, so unless you have friends and family who are marmalade fiends too you may want to halve the recipe. You will find another marmalade recipe of mine here.

1½kg (3lb) Seville oranges
Juice of 2 lemons
3 kg (6lb) sugar
2 litres (4 pints) water

Method

Put the whole oranges in the Aga preserving pan and squeeze in the lemon juice. Cover with the water and bring to the boil.  Once boiling, place the pan carefully in the simmering oven and leave to simmer until the oranges are tender (2 hours or so for fresh fruit, overnight for frozen). Remove the oranges and leave to cool. Once cool enough to handle cut them in half and scoop out all the pulp and pips and place these back into the water.  Bring to the boil and boil for 6 minutes.  Strain this liquid into a large bowl through a sieve and, using a spoon, force the pulp through the sieve.  It is this pulp which contains the pectin that will set the marmalade. Pour the liquid back into the preserving pan.

Cut the peel of the oranges as thinly or as thickly as you like your shreds to be and add these to the liquid, along with the sugar.  Bring the whole lot up to a rolling boil and boil until setting point is reached.  You can test for this with a sugar thermometer (105°c) or have a cold saucer ready and when a little is allowed to cool on this saucer it should wrinkle when pushed with your finger.

Allow the marmalade to cool a little (this will help with the distribution of peel through the jar rather than it all sitting at the top) and then pour into sterilised jars.

To sterilise your jars, wash in warm soapy water and rinse with hot water, then place on a baking tray in the simmering oven for twenty minutes.

May 2014: I have been requested to link to Aga Living as this is a recipe from Mary Berry’s Aga Book.

Cinnamon waffles

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. )
200ml milk
2 eggs

Method

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.

They freeze very well.

Waffles

A while back I was reading Nancy’s wonderful blog Good Food Matters and she was saying about the memories created by a waffle maker (check out the post, it really is lovely), now my own daughter had asked me about waffles that very week, asking me what they tasted like and whether  I could make her one.  I don’t own a waffle maker, and it is nigh on impossible to make a waffle without an iron.  My parents asked me what I would like for Christmas, so I asked for a waffle maker.  It was delivered to my door in October – a lovely early Christmas present.

Since then I have been experimenting with different recipes.  Some with whipped egg white, some without, some with buttermilk, some with plain milk. Anyway, I have found that whipping the egg whites does make the waffle a bit lighter, but it also requires another bowl and a bit more work. Buttermilk does add a lovely back note, but it means you have to make sure you have buttermilk in the house.  For these reasons here is the recipe I now use most often.

I haven’t stopped experimenting though and I intend to try yeast waffles soon, and chocolate waffles and buckwheat waffles (like Nancy’s).  I made potato waffles the other week, which were good but not perfect and so require a bit more experimentation before they appear here.

The waffle maker will not be a gadget that sits at the back of our cupboard any time soon and hopefully one day I will be able to write a post like Nancy’s.

200g plain flour
3 tbsp granulated sugar
½ tbsp baking powder
200ml milk
squeeze of lemon juice
60g melted butter
½ tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs

Method

Put the flour, sugar and baking powder in a bowl.  Measure the milk and add the squeeze of lemon juice. Pour the milk, melted butter, vanilla extract and eggs into the flour mixture and whisk well until combined.

Heat the waffle maker or iron according to the manufacturer’s instructions and pour in the mixture and cook until well browned.

Eat warm with butter and maple syrup, or chocolate spread, or jam, or marmalade or anything else that you fancy.

They can also be frozen and warmed through by placing in a toaster or back into the waffle iron.

PS I forgot to say, but if you are looking for further waffle inspiration then check out Mangocheek’s wonderful suggestions for something a bit beyond the basic waffle.

Pikelets

We always used to have a pikelet when I was a child, it seems though from the Wikipedia entry that pikelet is a term specific to the West Midlands.  Well, this makes me very proud.

A pikelet is a flatter crumpet, or a crumpet made without a crumpet ring. Those of us from the West Midlands know not to mess about when messing about is not needed.

The important thing is not to let your pan get too hot.  You want it just on a medium heat and keep it that way, turning down the heat when necessary. That way the bottom won’t get burned whilst the middle gets cooked.  Don’t turn it until is pretty much cooked and that way you get the maximum burst air bubbles which means maximum butter absorption. I helped the bubble bursting with the tines of a fork, gently probing the top of the bubbles.

This mixture makes about 26 pikelets.  You can eat some straight from the pan, the rest can be frozen for a speedy breakfast later in the week.  Just place back on a hot pan or in the toaster until warmed through.

500g strong bread flour
5g dried fast action yeast
2 tsp salt
350ml warm milk
350ml warm water

Method

Put the flour, yeast and salt into a bowl and mix well.  Add the warm water and milk and whisk until well combined.  Cover the bowl with cling film and set aside for about an hour until bubbling (it may take longer if the kitchen is cool).

Spoon ladlefuls onto a pan that is medium-hot.  Leave until the mixture is cooked all the way through.  You will see when this happens that the tops become a little drier than before.  Whilst they are cooking you can help burst the bubbles gently with a fork for maximum holes.  Turn the pikelet over and cook for a minute or so more.

Spread generously with butter and eat warm from the pan.


Staffordshire Oatcakes

I have lived in the very beautiful county of Shropshire for much of my life apart from time spent in Cardiff for Uni and a brief sortie down to Margate and Broadstairs for work.  Now, Shropshire is right next door to Staffordshire but I have never before had a Staffordshire Oatcake.  Either this proves once and for all that I am a bumpkin or it shows how very regional, or local, food can be.   So I thought last weekend should be the weekend to change all that.

Recently, I have made a concerted effort to make at least one of the week-end breakfasts something a little bit special. Week-ends are even more precious now that my eldest has started school and we seem to see so much less of her.   As a result I have been experimenting with yeast – the girls normally bawl me out of bed around 6 am so I have plenty of time to get something prepared and then leave it to sit around for an hour or so and still get something on the breakfast table at about 8.30 am. I have made English muffins and crumpets so far (the crumpets need a bit more practice I think, hence not having blogged about them yet). The oatcakes though were a real success and I am regretting not having tried them much earlier in life.  They are much more substantial than a pancake with a really good wheaty flavour.  A friend tells me they are good with cheese melted on the top and I think that they would be really good as part of a Full English but on Sunday we had them with sweet toppings; maple syrup, lemon curd and marmalade ( as I had made marmalade on Saturday) and they were very good indeed.  I think the Staffordshire Oatcake is destined to be a regular feature of the week-end breakfast in our house from now on and my husband has requested that I make extra so that he can fill them for his lunch at work.

The batter makes 10 large oatcakes. I didn’t have any oatmeal in the house so I blitzed some porridge oats in my food processor for a few seconds to achieve a similar texture.

225g oatmeal (or porridge oats blitzed in a food processor)
225g wholemeal flour
1 tsp salt
1 sachet (7g) fast-action yeast
1 tsp sugar
450ml milk
450ml water

Method

Warm the water and milk gently until hand-hot.

Measure the dry ingredients into a large bowl and mix well.  Add the warm milk and water, mix well to combine.  To me it looked like it was going to be far too much liquid, but the oatmeal and flour soon absorb it so it really isn’t.

Cover the bowl with a cloth and leave in a warm place for an hour or so.  You will see that bubbles start to appear and froth.

Heat a large heavy based pan over a high heat and if your pan isn’t well seasoned brush with a smear of oil or butter and wipe off excess with a piece of kitchen towel.  When the pan is really hot, pour a ladleful of batter onto the pan, tipping the pan gently to make sure the mixture disperses into a good circle. Leave to cook for about two minutes until bubbles start to appear at the top and the mixture is beginning to cook on the top.  Flip the oatcake over using a fish slice and cook for a further minute until nicely browned on both sides. Keep this oatcake warm whilst you cook the rest of the batter in this way.

Serve warm with the savoury or sweet topping of your choice.

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