Monday, 24 September 2012

Tomato and Lancashire Cheese risotto - recipe for British Cheese week

A lovely supper recipe for you to try, and now that the seasons are changing so rapidly comfort food is in order and its on our supper case you are not aware this week is British Cheese Week. Although I love lots of different cheeses I do love British ones and in Lancashire, where I live, we have some 'belters' (that's Lancashire speak meaning 'jolly good').

Slowly does it when making this risotto, but its so worth a bit of patience and care...this is an inexpensive recipe you can mostly make from what you have in your cupboards and fridge.

Take care to use tomatoes packed with flavour and the creamiest Lancashire cheese you can find and this dish will smother you in tasty comfort on a cold wet night.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Traditional Damson Preserves - with Vivien Lloyd

No dear readers I haven't taken up gardening, or taken up with Monty Don either, but I have been lucky enough to spend some of last weekend in Somerset as the guest of Vivien Lloyd and her husband in their lovely farmhouse just outside Bath in Somerset. These are photographs (above) of their wonderful gardens, vegetables and fruit trees.

You might have been lucky enough to see Vivien Lloyd last night on the One Show teaching Mike Dilger how to make jam for an upcoming competition? The results of this challenge, which is to get a few of the shows presenters entering different competitions, will be revealed on Friday evenings show. You can watch last nights show where Vivien teaches Mike Dilger how to make a raspberry and apple jam in her kitchen here on BBC iplayer.

Vivien is an experienced WI (Women's Institute) judge and regularly judges at shows and events all over the country, she has over 25 years experience of making preserves and really has exceptional knowledge about traditional preserving techniques and recipes. She is an author of books and e books on preserving, has won the national marmalade awards in 2008 and has even had a jar of her marmalade given to the queen this year.

I was lucky enough to spend a day with Vivien last week at her home in Somerset, along with Karen and Charlotte, we were guests and had been invited along to improve our preserving knowledge and get an insight into Vivien's passion for traditional preserving. We spent a lovely day making damson, ginger and cardamom chutney, damson and apple jelly and damson cheese; the fresh produce we used was grown in Vivien's wonderful orchards garden by her husband (a very keen and knowledgeable chilli grower too).

It was a really informative day for me, I learned such a lot on how to make preserves the right way (I'm self taught otherwise) and it taught me an enormous amount about how to improve the preserves I make at home. I'm generally a marmalade and chutney person and have never made jam at home before ever! I had picked up a few tips from Viv's First Preserves book as I have a copy, but seeing her make these preserves for real added so much more to my knowledge.

Lunch (made by Vivien)

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Choosing recipe books - views and reviews

For this post I'm going to do something a bit different in that I am going to review three recipe books from one publisher to show the range of books that are out there to buy, and to give a few clues about why you might want to think more carefully when choosing a recipe book to buy for yourself or as a gift.

I often see people buying recipe or what they call 'cookery books' in supermarkets or at work sometimes (from one of those book suppliers that leave books in offices, you know the type of thing), and quite often they are buying books for themselves or as gifts for friends or family. I have often wanted to stop people to ask them...
Why are you buying that particular book?
Who is it for?
Can you/they cook?
What is your/there level of skill in the kitchen?
Can you/they bake? How well?
What kind of cooking or baking do you/they like to do?
Do you/they like fish? (if its a fish related book)
Are you/they meat eaters? (if its a vegetarian inspired book)
Fair enough, you/they may watch that particular baking/cooking/foraging/make it in 3 minutes from 2 ingredients/green fingered inspired cookery programme on TV, but is that the extent of their interest in that cook or particular programme?

At this stage I must admit I can see peoples eyes glazing over...its not the questions that are stumping them its the fact a) they don't know the answers and b) they had never thought to think of the significance of those questions to choosing a recipe book.

So here is my top tip...and its a very simple one...think before you buy...think about the person you are buying the book for (even if that person happens to be you) and give some consideration to the things you or they might usually cook or bake...and the things you or they would like to learn to cook or bake...Think about what your or they like to eat and the level of skill in the kitchen.

When choosing a book, don't just skim the pictures and think wow! Don't get me wrong I love a nicely illustrated recipe book and it really pulls me in and can entice me to try a recipe. But one of the best (selling) and much coveted baking books of last year, had just a handful of pictures in it and it was an amazing book, that adorns the shelves of most if not all 'esteemed and well respected' food bloggers and home cooks. Pictures don't always make a good recipe book, though granted they do draw you in, and capture your imagination.

Here are three short reviews of books I have been kindly sent (over a period of several months I might add) to review by one particular publisher...Quadrille Publishing and MY views on what they contain, what I like about them and who I think they may suit...

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

The Great British Bake Off - Stationery Range review

Do you love stationery? Love the Great British Bake Off? Then you will fall in love with this...a range of paper products with a twee floral, British country show style in florals and pinks and pale greens...a joint project by Love Productions (who make the Great British Bake Off show for TV) and Quadrille Publishing.

The stationery range is available to buy online here. Prices are quoted to start from £5 for the pretty cupcake cases in pink florals and moss green and go up to £12.99 for the recipe folder. PLEASE NOTE the Quadrille site links to Amazon where the range is cheaper than the prices stated in this post.

Its a lovely range and would make a lovely gift for fans of the programme. This is not a very cheap range but the quality is very good, I liked everything in the range and the colours and styling appealed to my tastes, my absolute favourites are the recipe folder (which is so much more than a recipe folder) and the cupcake stand, (comes flat and is assembled in 30 seconds, ideal for suing and then storing).

Here is the range...photographs taken by yours truly, and please note that prices quoted are from Quadrilles site as of the date of this post...

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Fresh Fruit & Cream Genoise Sponge Cake - recipe

If you are lucky you can just get one of these gorgeous cakes on the table before the end of the British strawberry season. You need an occasion for a cake like this, and I made this for our Clandestine Cake Club meeting recently. Its made from layers of genoise sponge, which  is quite plain in flavour and can tend to be dryer than other sponges (its egg based not butter based) so much luscious cream and fruit is needed for this kind of cake.

The sponge is made by whisking the eggs and sugar over a ban marie, then plain flour is folded in, much patience is required at the folding stage to make this cake. This recipe is from Eric Lanlard originally and is available on the Baking Mad website.
8 free range eggs
250g Silver Spoon British caster sugar
50g unsalted butter melted
250g plain white sifted flour
To finish the cake:
750ml double cream
2 punnets strawberries
1 large punnet blueberries
3 tbsp Elderflower presse
Silver Spoon British Icing sugar to dust

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Peach and Granola Breakfast Muffins - recipe

We were sent some Jordan's Crunchy Oat Granola (breakfast cereal) and some cereal bars  to try recently; in this household cereal means one thing to us...cakes...and in any form! So cakes in the form of muffins were duly made.

This is a smashing recipe (adapted from one of Eric Lanlards on the Baking Mad website) to make now the kids are back at school; make these the night before (they don't take long at all) slap one of these in their little palms as they are rushing out the door with one shoe and sock on...and hey presto! A delicious breakfast on the go...and you know you've fed them well with something fresh, delicious and homemade to start the day.
100g Jordans Crunchy Oat Fruit and Nut Granola
225g Wholemeal plain flour
100ml Crossmoor Honey (any honey will do, this one is local to me and pretty darn good)
1tbsp Poppyseeds
1tsp cinnamon
1tsp nutmeg
2 tsp baking powder
2 free range eggs
100g melted unsalted butter
175ml milk
2 ripe fresh peaches chopped and de-stoned
Granola for sprinkling
Icing sugar to dust
1. Pre- heat the oven to 180C fan, and grease a 12 hole muffin tray. Mix the dry ingredients together in a large bowl.
2. In a jug mix together all the wet ingredients. Chop the peaches. Add the jug of wet ingredients into the bowl with the dried ones and add the peaches, mix together until combined but fold in gently and do NOT over mix.
3. Using a large ice cream scoop place a scoopful of the batter in each muffin section in the greased tray. Sprinkle the top of each muffin with some of the granola.
4. Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes.
5. Remove and put on a wire rack to cool, dust with icing sugar.

Now you wouldn't turn your nose up at one of these lovelies for brekkie would you now?