May 3, 2021

PEA AND HAM SOUP

 

Following on from the previous post about soup weather, another soup that I made recently is pea and ham soup.

One of my dad's favourite things to eat is gammon.  If we were to take him for a pub lunch he would mostly have gammon with egg and chips.  At home we usually have a small smoked gammon joint that you simply bake in the oven, roasted in an old fashioned enamel roaster just like Mum used to use for the Sunday roast every week.  (I spotted one of them in a local charity shop in immaculate condition for 75p a while ago and it's been in regular use ever since.)

When the weather turned chilly again we reverted to comfort food and had cauliflower cheese and mash with our gammon joint.  There is a generous amount of meat on these joints and the leftovers can be used in a multitude of ways  - not least of which sliced, in a excellent ham, cheese and pickle sandwich.  The other thing it's good for is soup.  

I cut the gammon into thick slices then small dice.  Most went into the pot and I reserved a few for garnish when the soup was cooked.  The quantity of meat does not need to be precise and you can use more or less any kind of cooked ham.

It was delicious!

Ingredients

About a third (250g) of a small gammon joint, cooked, or a couple of slices of thick ham

350g frozen peas

1 medium potato

1 medium onion

1 vegetable stock pot

Method

Peel and chop the onion and potato. Chop or cut the gammon or ham into small dice.

Tip the peas into the machine, then the chopped potato and onion.  Reserve a few bits of meat for garnish if you like, otherwise add all of it to the machine with the stock pot.

Cover with water to the lower line. Season with pepper (ham is quite salty enough) and cook on smooth.

Add a swirl of cream or crème fraîche and a sprinkle of chopped parsley before scattering the reserved chopped ham on top. Otherwise just dig straight in!

Serves 4 generously.

April 30, 2021

SOUP WEATHER AGAIN - CAULIFLOWER CHEESE SOUP



In the early part of April the weather was lovely and warm for several days.  Lulled into false sense of security we got the bbq out and even had to use the umbrella (the sunshade kind) for a couple of afternoons.  I donned t-shirts and cropped linen trousers, stocked the fridge with Italian rosé wine and looked forward to the kind of spring we had last year during the early part of the lockdown.

Then over one weekend winter returned.  Cold winds, hail and dull, grey skies.  Out came the soup maker again!


Having found that some soups can turn out slightly bland, I've been looking for ways of adding flavour and spotted this product on the supermarket shelves amongst the stock pots and cubes.  I decided to give it a try.  I expect it's very similar to the Maggi seasoning that you get in France. 

This soup is one that was doing the rounds of the soup maker forums and I was dying to have a go.  It uses frozen cauliflower cheese.  I never knew that such a thing existed!  The finished soup was very much like drinking liquid cauliflower cheese, which is hardly surprising!  Delicious!

I put the cauliflower straight from the freezer into the machine and used hot water, although some recipes said just use cold water as normal.  Most said that either way there was no need to defrost the cauliflower.

Ingredients

1 680g bag frozen cauliflower cheese (mine came from Tesco at £2 a bag)

1 small onion

1 small potato

1 full tsp Knorr liquid seasoning

Method

Peel and chop the onion and potato and add to the machine.  Tip the bag of cauliflower on top.  Season with salt and pepper (I added my pepper afterwards).  Add the liquid seasoning, fill to the top line with hot water and cook on smooth.

Serves 4 generously.

April 14, 2021

DATE AND APPLE CAKE

My blog friend Angela mentioned recently that she had made some date and apple galettes for dessert.  That sounded like a heavenly combination to me and one that would probably be good in a cake.


I looked for recipes on the internet but nothing really appealed so I decided to adapt one I've used before.


I used Mary Berry's recipe for her "American apple and apricot cake" which I wrote about here.  The recipe appears in her "Baking Bible" and "100 cakes and bakes".  Instead of the apricots, almond extract and normal caster sugar I used chopped dates, vanilla extract and golden caster sugar, for a more mellow flavour to fit with the dates.  It was an adaptation that really worked.


It's a lovely, moist cake and less like a full-on fruit cake than many of the internet recipes I found.  Date and apple are truly a lovely combination. Great to go with a cup of tea in the afternoon or, of course, served warm for dessert.  Many thanks to Angela for giving me the idea.

Ingredients

250g self raising flour

1 tsp baking powder

225g golden caster sugar

2 eggs

½ tsp vanilla extract

150g butter, melted

225g cooking apples, peeled (I used 1 large Bramley)

100g chopped dates

a splash of milk if needed

25g flaked almonds (optional)

Method

Preheat the oven to 160° C / 140° fan / gas mk 3.  Butter and line the base of a 20cm round springform tin with baking paper.

Put all the ingredients except for the fruit, milk and almonds into a large bowl, mix well to combine then beat for one minute until smooth.  Slice the apples straight into the bowl, add the dates and stir in to combine evenly,  Add the milk if the mixture seems overly stiff.  (Mine did.)

Spoon into the tin and level the top.  Tap on the worktop a few times to settle the mixture and release any air bubbles.  Sprinkle over the flaked almonds if you are using them.

Bake for 1 - 1½ hours until done.  Check after 1 hour but beware of the cake sinking if you open the oven door too soon (mine did and was done in 1¼ hours).  Cool in the tin for a few minutes before releasing the cake carefully.  Run a knife around the edge of the cake before releasing the clip so that the cake won't split.

Cool on a rack and serve cold or slightly warm.

Cuts into 10-12 slices.

April 10, 2021

CELERIAC AND MUSHROOM SOUP


 Never judge a book by its cover or a soup by its colour!

This rather unappealing looking grey bowlful turned out to be a really delicious soup!

It was inspired by a late afternoon trip to our local Tesco.  Actually we set off to go to Waitrose, now that we're allowed to go a little further than local.  Unfortunately, as the Waitrose stores at Ashbourne and Leek have been closed for good, our nearest remaining are all quite a distance away at either Buxton, Sheffield or Newark.  Sheffield is the nearest of those but the journey there is nowhere near as pretty as to the other two.  A trip to the supermarket definitely qualifies as a run out!

We opted for Newark but when we got there found a long line of hapless shoppers queuing up outside with their trolleys.  So we took an executive decision to turn around and come home - but via Tesco because we needed some shopping!  We have suspended our "click and collect" shopping activity in favour of actual shopping for a while, just to see how we get on.  The newfound confidence since having our first vaccination dose.

There were a lot of veg in the reduced bin and I swooped on a huge pack of mushrooms and one of baby leeks.  I already had an unused bulb (is that the right word) of celeriac in the fridge so a recipe began to formulate in my mind.  

One thing I have learned about the soup maker is that you need strong flavours and some of the recipes I normally use seem to produce quite a bland soup.  I have needed a bit more seasoning or herbs added to pep them up and have resorted to using more stock cubes/powder/pots, or, frying some of the ingredients before they go in.  That's no great hardship because if I chop the leeks or onions and put them in the frying pan with some oil to cook while I chop the other ingredients, it takes no longer to prepare than usual and the whole thing is still ready in half an hour or so.  (As it happened I didn't fry the leeks for this one and it was yummy.)

Ingredients

a large chunk of celeriac

a pack of baby leeks (or one large leek)

four very large mushrooms

1 medium potato

1 Tesco garlic and thyme stock pot

1 tablespoon of olive oil

a generous splash of dry sherry

Method

Prepare the veg by washing, peeling and chopping into cubes or slicing, as appropriate.  Prepare enough to fill the soup maker to somewhere between the min and max lines.

Add the stock pot, olive oil and water up to almost the max line and cook on "smooth".

When cooked, stir in the sherry and salt & pepper to taste.

Makes four good servings.

April 6, 2021

GINGER AND COCONUT TARTS

 

This is another variation of one of my favourite Be-Ro book recipes.


They are called in the book "rich coconut tartlets" and are essentially jam tarts with a coconut topping.  My mum used to make them by the dozen most weekends.  The last time I wrote about them I had made a version using quince jelly which you can see here.  In that post I gave a link to the original recipe on the Be-Ro website but, like so many links, it has disappeared!  Fortunately I had given my version of the recipe anyway.

It's so annoying to get all excited about baking something you've seen in a blog, only to find that when you look up the link all you get is "Error 404"!  


Comparing these to the quince ones it looks like there is much more topping.  That's probably down to using a large egg instead of a medium one.  The large free range eggs we now get are huge!!

I love the knobbly, rustic and home made look!

For these tarts I used Sainsbury's ginger preserve, a favourite jam that I like to have on toast.  I've also used the same jam to fill my pear and ginger upside down cake which you can see here.  (Robertson's make a ginger marmalade which would work nicely too.)  I finished each tart with a bit of crystallised ginger, popped on top before baking. 


This week's weather.


They are perfect for the current weather.  As I write this hail is falling and covering the ground like snow.  This day last week we were basking in 20°C and lighting the barbecue, thinking that this lockdown business is not so bad.  Such is the nature of April weather in Derbyshire, especially during the Easter school holidays!   April showers, I suppose!

Last week's weather - prior to the schools breaking up for Easter!!

Ingredients

100g shortcrust pastry - home made using 100g flour or shop bought

a few teaspoons of ginger jam or marmalade

50g soft margarine

50g caster sugar

1 egg, beaten

50g dessicated coconut

12 pieces of crystallised ginger (optional)

Method

Preheat the oven to 180°C / 160° fan / gas mk 4.  Grease a 12 hole patty tin.

Roll out the pastry and cut twelve 3" (7.5cm) circles using a fluted pastry cutter.  Gently press one circle into each hole and put about ½ tsp jam in the centre of each one.  (This doesn't sound much but any more will cause the jam to leak out and boil over when cooked.)

In a small bowl, beat together the margarine and sugar until light and fluffy.  Beat in the egg and the coconut.

Plop about 1 tsp of the coconut mixture on top of the jam in each tart, teeming and ladling until it's all used up and shared out evenly, and push the mixture to the edges of each one to seal in the jam.

Drop a piece of crystallised ginger into the centre of each one.

Bake for about 20 minutes until the coconut mixture is risen and golden.  Cool before serving as the jam will be very hot.

Makes 12 tarts.

March 23, 2021

APPLE BERRY PIE



This pie came about for three reasons, all to do with internet shopping.

We usually have a few berries on our morning flakes or porridge but lately they have not been so good.  Because I have not been into the supermarkets as much and been relying on our internet ordering, items that we would not normally buy have sneaked themselves in under the radar.  So we ended up with raspberries from Morocco and blueberries from Chile.  Both were sour and otherwise lacking in much flavour.  If I had been standing in front of them myself I would not have picked them from the display.

The second reason for making this particular pie was the HUGE Bramley apples.  Only a couple of weeks ago we ordered three Bramleys for our weekly crumble and they were tiny.  This time they were enormous. 


I have found in the past that the imported, out of season fruit, that we should resist buying but can't, is disappointing in flavour until you cook it.  Cooking brings out the flavour and all berries go well with apples in a pudding.  

I also had part of a pack of ready made, ready rolled, shortcrust pastry in the fridge, the third "internet shopping" reason for this pie.  I've found the Tesco one to be my favourite but didn't realise it came in two pack sizes, one being bigger than the other.  Hence about a third of a pack lurking on the top shelf of the fridge in need of using up.

So, I used my quick plum pie recipe to rustle up this apple berry pie.  You can see that recipe here.

I used one of the enormous Bramleys and cooked the slices to soften them before stirring in the unused berries.  A regular two-egg all-in-one sponge topped the fruit and the finished pud was delicious.

I really should make this as an intended pudding, not just one that uses up stuff that needs using up!

The sponge itself would be lovely flavoured with orange or lemon zest, or maybe a Black Forest version, using a chocolate sponge and my tin of cherry pie filling (another rogue internet purchase) would be nice.  As would a pear and almond version using almond essence in the sponge.  I could even ice it with a water icing.   Hmmm....maybe those large packs of pastry could be useful after all.  Or I could, of course, make my own!

Ingredients

1 large or 2 small cooking apples

a handful of blueberries and raspberries

2 tblsp granulated sugar

a pack of ready made, ready rolled shortcrust pastry (brought to room temperature)

4ozs self raising flour

4 ozs caster sugar

4 ozs soft margarine (I used Stork)

2 eggs

(a splash of milk if needed)

Method

Peel and slice the apple into a small saucepan.  Add a splash of water and heat gently until the slices are softened, not quite completely mushy.  Remove from the heat, stir in the berries and granulated sugar and set aside to cool.

Preheat the oven to 180C / 160 fan.  Grease a 20cm round flan dish or deep pie dish.  Line the dish with the pastry, patching as needed, trim and crimp the edges.

To make the sponge topping, put all the ingredients into a bowl and beat well with a wooden spoon or electric mixer until nice and smooth.  Add the milk to loosen it if it's too stiff.

Tip the fruit into the pie dish and spread out evenly with a spoon.  Spoon the sponge mixture on top and level it, making sure there are no gaps.

Bake for 30-40 minutes until the sponge is golden brown and cooked.  

Serve warm or cold, dusted with icing sugar if you like, with cream, ice cream or custard.

Cuts into 8 slices.

March 18, 2021

EGG AND CRESS SANDWICHES


Egg and cress sandwiches on brown bread.

I hadn't had a home made egg sandwich for years until we attended one of the get-togethers in France organised by our friend and fellow blogger Susan.  She had formed an association called Claise Connexion where residents of many nationalities (mostly English and French) from the area around the Claise valley meet up socially every so often.  Everyone is invited to bring either a plate of finger food or something to drink.  You can read about one of the events if you go here.

At these events I have eaten some wonderful home made delicacies, French and English, also Dutch, Australian and American.  For the one I last attended I took a pile of my home made mini sausage rolls which were very popular.  To see the recipe for them go here.  Our friends Tim and Pauline turned up with a big tray of egg and cress sandwiches.  Their hens were laying well and they had lots of gorgeous free range eggs so they rustled up the delicious sandwiches, using French sliced brown bread.  They went down a storm and disappeared fast.  I had completely forgotten how yummy a plain old egg sandwich can be!

Since then I have been periodically buying cartons of egg mayo for sandwiches but they do vary in quality depending on where you buy them.  With a zoom birthday tea party coming up and a glut of eggs in the house I decided to make some myself.  How hard can it be?


To make egg mayo you need hard boiled eggs.  I always prick mine with an egg punch.


I once read somewhere that the eggs are less likely to crack and leak the white into the boiling water if you have them at room temperature and prick the shell at the rounded end to release the air.  This little egg punch produces a nice little pinhole in the egg without risk of breaking it.  You turn it to the "punch" position, push the egg firmly onto the middle and the spring mechanism pushes the disc down leaving the spike sticking up to pierce the egg.  In the locked position the spring is fixed to avoid accidents where you might accidentally prick your finger.  Of course, if you forget to unlock the punch you just smash the egg and yes, I have done that a time or two!  But I have had no cracked boiled eggs where most of the white ends up floating around in the water.
 



Another essential ingredient of egg mayo is obviously the mayo.  I also like a bit of mustard in mine and this brings me to the difference between French and English mayo.  

I always thought that once I'd retired I'd have the time to make my own mayonnaise but the reality is that it's still way down my list of priorities!  So we buy it from the supermarket and have found a difference between the French and English stuff.  Both list "mustard seeds" in the ingredients but, having performed a taste test, I can report that the mustard flavour is much more subtle in the English version and quite noticeable in the French one.  So, if you make your egg mayo with French mayo you may not need to add any mustard at all.




So there we have it, a dish of the most yummy home made egg mayo and the makings of a delicious egg and cress sandwich.

Ingredients

2 large or 3 medium eggs, preferably free range, at room temperature
2 dessert spoons of mayonnaise
½ - 1 tsp Dijon mustard to taste
salt and white pepper
cress, rocket or lamb's lettuce, or other herbs of your choice 
your favourite sliced bread, buttered with your favourite spread

Method

Prick the eggs at the round end and drop gently into boiling water.  Boil for 10 minutes.  As soon as the time is up, drain them and refill the saucepan with cold water to cool the eggs.

When the eggs are more or less cold, shell them and place in a small bowl.  Using either a knife or a fork, chop or mash them until there are very few large lumps of white left.

Add one spoonful of the mayonnaise and mix well.  Add enough extra mayo to get the consistency that you like.  

Add the mustard ½ tsp at a time, mix well and taste.  Season with salt and pepper and taste again.  Spread it as thickly as you like on your bread, season with extra black pepper if you like and add some greenery, something peppery if that's what you like.

Makes enough for three rounds (six slices) of sandwiches.  Keeps for a couple of days in the fridge.