Monthly Archives: July 2012

Raspberry & Oat Bars

Afternoon.  I trust you’re enjoying the sport-avalanche that is the Olympics.  I mostly like the swimming and horse stuff (in the horse world we don’t actually called it ‘equestrian’ – it’s like a dead giveaway that you’re not horsey if you do).  I’m watching a lot of cycling because the boyfriend loves lycra more than any man I thought I’d go out with ever would.  The dog is mostly sleeping through it all, although I have plans to test her speed against Usain Bolt in real-time.

Cooking again from the newly-achieved Ottolenghi cookbook, the recipe this week the neighbour of that cooked last weekend, and somewhat related.  Mr O describes these as ‘more than a snack but less than a proper cake’.  No idea what that means.  Cake is totally a snack.  And a meal.

Raspberry & oat bars, ahoy.

20120729-124331.jpg

Get yourself:-

120g plain flour

1/3 teaspoon baking powder (have only just seen it was 1/3, I totally used 1/2)

100g unsalted butter, diced

60g caster sugar

pinch salt

80g whole rolled oats (mine weren’t whole, but they had been at some point in their life so I figured that’d do)

220g raspberry jam (O suggests homemade, rather foolishly, I used some french stuff I bought)

and for the topping:

70g flaked almonds

70g pecans, roughly chopped (totally forgot to buy these, am moron, so substituted with some dried cranberries, which are obviously EXACTLY the same)

70g hazelnuts, roughly chopped

70g Brazil nuts, also roughly chopped

100g unsalted butter

75g caster sugar

40ml milk (I didn’t measure this, I just gave a generous gush, as it were)

1 tsp vanilla essence (as always, Good Stuff only)

Pre-heat your oven to Gas Mark 3, or about 170C.

20120729-124339.jpg

Grease and line a slice tin.  Ottolenghi says 20cm square, as seems his preference.  This isn’t 20cm square at all.  You’ll note in this photo a rather flash frying pan in the background – a gift from the boyfriend, it’s all a fancy Le Crueset thing which requires the combined strength of four muscle-men to lift and doesn’t fit in our oven or the cupboard.  Looks nice, though.

20120729-124353.jpg

Sift (or whisk) the flour and baking powder, add the sugar and salt and mix through, then add the diced butter and rub it all in using your fingers.  Shouldn’t take too long, will be a pain in the arse to do.  Add the oats and combine, then lightly press (not too much heavy petting here) into the tin and chuck it in the oven for 20 mins or until light brown.

20120729-124401.jpg

Once out of the oven let it cool for 5 mins or so then spread over a thin layer of jam, as shown above.  Jam is good.

20120729-124425.jpg

We found this in our bed this morning.  We think it might be fossilised.

20120729-124433.jpg

Having melted the butter, milk, sugar and vanilla together in a small saucepan till the sugar’s dissolved, carefully pour the hot (and amazingly surprisingly delicious) stuff into the bowl of nuts you’ve collected.  God it tastes good, kind of custardy (according to the boyfriend).  Weird but good.  Eat some but not too much.

Combine.

20120729-124440.jpg

Pack the nut mixture (or nut and cranberry if you’re me and totally messed up as usual) on top of the jam and press it down but again not too mental on the pressure here.  Chuck it back in the oven for 30 mins or so, or until the nuts turn golden brown.

20120729-135715.jpg

Golden brown nuts, my favourite kind.  Much nicer than white and pale ones.

So many wrong places to go here, when talking about nuts.

Let it cool in the tin, then turn out.

20120729-140125.jpg

Slice into whatever shape takes your fancy, once cool.  Eat.

Below was sent to me by my personal trainer, a nice but serious Romanian man of short stature.  He maintains it’s true.  I am not sure but I must be somewhat wondering as I continue to pay him every week to make me cry.

20120729-140158.jpg

Ottolenghi’s Granola Bars

It’s sunny. It’s going to be sunny for several days in a row. Sunny AND warm. It’s a miracle. And at last the good people of Britain can complain about it being too warm rather than too cool.

Everyone’s in a much better mood. I think probably because they no longer have to be embarrassed about the Olypmics maybe having to be cancelled cause London was flooded. Either way I am celebrating the good weather by doing loads of washing which I am then drying OUTSIDE. The luxury.

Today I am making granola bars or, if you’re Aussie, muesli bars. I got one of the Ottolenghi books for my birthday, from the boyfriend’s parents, and thought I’d have a go at it, starting with something I’ve never done before, not really that interested in, but that might marginally be construed as healthy. They’re not, of course, being full of dried fruit, butter and sugar but so far they seem quite delicious.

20120722-161500.jpg

I doubled Ottolenghi’s amounts. It was probably a mistake but I got annoyed that all his measurements were about half of that contained in the packets of ingredients so I just used them all. I now have a lot of muesli bars.

His ingredients and measurements below:-

45g pecans

45g dried apricots, very roughly chopped (wear a wife beater whilst doing this, that’ll help with the rough quotient)

45g dried sour cherries (I used cranberries)

45g pumpkin seeds

30g sesame seeds (I totally forgot to include these)

30g ground almonds

190g rolled oats

1 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

pinch salt (I forgot this, too)

95g unsalted butter

85g honey (I didn’t measure mine, I just gave a really good squeeze and hoped for the best)

95g demarera sugar

20120722-161507.jpg

Put your pecans on an oven tray, having pre-heated your oven to Gas Mark 1 (or 140C) and chuck them in to roast for a very precise 8 minutes. Probably ruin everything if you do it less, or more. Don’t let Mr Ottolenghi down, yeah.

In a jug or bowl of hot water, throw in your apricots and cherries/cranberries.

Take your pecans out and turn the oven up to Gas Mark 4.

20120722-161521.jpg

In a small saucepan melt the butter, sugar and honey over a low heat, bringing it up to a simmer. Ottolenghi says, and I quote, ‘bring to a light simmer. Leave to cook to a light brown colour, watching the whole time so the caramel doesn’t spill over or go too dark’. I didn’t really keep a real close eye on this but I stirred from time to time and it seemed fine. Took about 5 mins, maybe.

20120722-161531.jpg

In a bowl chuck ALL the other ingredients, including your drained apricots/cranberries or cherries or whatever the hell you’ve chosen to use. I don’t think it matters too much what you choose, it’ll be personal taste but if 90% of your ingredients are chocolate then it’s probably not a granola bar anymore. That might not worry you, in which case go mad with it.

20120722-161541.jpg

The melted butter, sugar and honey goes all bubbly and gets a bit bigger, and completely unscientifically this is when I figure it’s ready. Pour it on your dry ingredients and combine really well.

20120722-161549.jpg

Lay it out in a greased and lined slice tin. I think the big O says 20cm square tin but I just used what I had. Press it down with a spoon or spatula or something, quite firmly, like a kind but strict headmistress you fantasise about.

Stick it in the oven for yet another very precise 22 minutes. I wasn’t precise, obviously, due to ShitOven.

20120722-161557.jpg

Let it cool for a few minutes then turn out, let it cool a bit more then slice while it’s warm, then leave to cool entirely. It’s a bit tricky this bit as if you try to slice it too soon it just disintegrates and you’ve basically got sugary breadkfast muesli, but too late and it goes too hard. I can’t help you with timings here, as I’ve not been provided with any. Work it out yourself.

I’m currently setting off the smoke alarm with some lamb I’ve got cooking. There is no smoke but the alarm is lambist – it goes off the minute I bring raw lamb into the house but doesn’t make a peep when I incinerate chicken. The dog is quivering with a low tail. Buck up, dog.

Speaking of dogs, back home in Oz the below dog has headed to dog heaven. She is (oh god, was) a top pup and it’s pretty shitty to hear of her demise. I remember when I bought her (for my uncle) we were told she was a bull terrier. We rain into our vet at the local coffee shop just after having collected her and the vet congratuled us on our new Jack Russell, which was disconverting. Eventually we discovered she was a kelpie/bull terrier cross. Either way, she’s now gone and it really sucks.

20120722-161604.jpg

Quesadilla for Dummies

I’m sick again.  That’s 3 times in 3 months, and actually it’s 2 times in 3 weeks.  My face is unimpressed and my lungs are green, it’s a delicious picture.

Despite all my deep suffering I continue to cook for the family (ie: me and the boyfriend, with scraps for the dogs) and in my fevered moments earlier this afternoon decided to attempt quesadilla even though I’ve never made them before and only eaten the tiny Wahaca versions a couple of times.

Turned out ok, albeit a slightly caucasion version of what I imagine they should be.  Maybe my flu-altered palate wasn’t really getting it but next time I’ll add some lime juice and more chilis.

20120717-201215.jpg

I’ve absolutely no idea what you’re supposed to put in a quesadilla.  I think I’d prefer the corn wraps next time, rather than the wheat ones but the local Co-Op only had wheat so that’s what I bought.
I used:

2 chicken breasts marinated in some taco seasoning and veg oil

roasted peppers from a jar – I imagine you could use fresh that you fry off at the same time as the onion

1 brown onion, fried off gently

1.5 avocados, mushed up with some lemon juice

salsa

jalapenos

spring oniongs

creme fraiche

cheese – cheddar this time

20120717-201223.jpg

Fry off the chicken pieces (you’ve sliced each breast in half and then sliced again quite thinly, yeah?) in batches.  They should only take a couple minutes each side.

20120717-201232.jpg

Slice up your peppers, fry off the onion gently, slice the jalapenos, grate the cheese, mush the avocado, etc etc.  Do all that stuff.  I  didn’t take pics of it all because (i) it’s quite dull and (ii) I’M SICK, REMEMBER?

20120717-201242.jpg

In a frypan about the same size at the wraps, over a low heat, warm about half a teaspoon of veg oil and lay down a wrap.  Moving quite swiftly throw on some cheese, the onions and the chicken.

20120717-201251.jpg

Then add whatever other toppings you’re going to use.  It’ll look something like the above, I suppose, if you use similar stuff to me.

Flop on the top and cook for a few minutes till the cheese has melted.

Flip and cook a couple minutes more.

20120717-201300.jpg

It’ll come out a bit overcooked if you’re me, this thing, but actually amongst all the mush the crispy wrap was quite nice.  Obviously as I can taste nothing and crave only pseudoephedrine, tonight textures were doubley important to me.

They’re big, these things, you’ll be happy with just one.  If you want more than one you’re either a beast, drunk, or fat.  Actually I am all three of those things and still I couldn’t eat a whole one.

20120717-201308.jpg

Top with some salsa and creme fraiche.  And, if you’ve too much avocado, some more avocado.  It’s not scientific.

Eat with a knife and fork.

I’m going to bed now because I look like the below.  I’m having fun swapping tissues from nostril to nostril.

20120717-201316.jpg

Blow-dry Spicy Chicken

Hiya.

This dish is a bastardisation of Jamie Oliver’s 30 minute meals jerk chicken.  A better version, if I do say so myself.  It’s less polarising, a slightly gentler approach to flavour.  Also, as demonstrated by me today, you can prepare it with wet hair and then chuck it in the oven within a timeframe that allows you to blowdry your fringe before it’s lost beyond all redemption.   By the time you’ve wrestled said fringe into submission and the boyfriend has returned with the Saturday papers, the food is ready.

Easy.  We had this for lunch today but with some extra veg it’s probably a nice supper, too.

Heat your oven to gas mark 6-ish, or 220C.  Basically quite a hot oven, please, yeah?

20120714-135509.jpg

You want (for 2):

2 nice chicken breasts – if you can get nice big organic plump ones from your butcher.  You want skin-on

couple of spring onions

1 red chilli

nutmeg

allspice

chicken shake (in the early Average Baker days I told you about this stuff.  I trust you’re pretending it doesn’t exist whilst using it fairly constantly)

garlic (3 cloves)

white wine vinegar

olive oil

seasoning

creme fraiche/sour cream

juice of half a lime

20120714-135517.jpg

Slice your chicken breasts as demonstrated above – kind of in two but not really.

Cover them in olive oil and season well.  Enjoy the sensation of their cold, slippery deathness on your hands.  Oh yes.

Fry skin-side down in a pan over a good heat until the skin starts to crisp.  Give them a couple of minutes over the other side as well.

20120714-135523.jpg

While the chicken is frying you need to blend up the saucy stuff.  In a blender throw the roughly chopped chilli (seeds and all), spring onions, garlic, a good grate of nutmeg and pinch of allspice, a generous spoon of the chicken shake, about 2 dessertspoons of the white wine vinegar and a splosh of olive oil.  I threw in some fresh sage, too, because it’s the only herb I have left that isn’t dead.

Whazz.

20120714-135547.jpg

In a smallish baking dish spoon out the whazzed up saucy stuff.

20120714-135559.jpg

Roll your chicken around in it, making sure you’ve gotten the good bits covered with the good stuff.  Stick it in the oven, the hottest shelf (usually the top) for around 15 minutes or until done.

20120714-135619.jpg

It’ll look like this when done.  You do want a bit of charring, it’s not only flavoursome but it’s also really on trend.

Mix the juice of half a lime with the creme fraiche.

20120714-135629.jpg

We ate ours with some corn.  It was good.

Below is what the dogs are currently suffering after nearly every visit to the park.  The foster dog, Z, hates every second.

If ever someone tries to tell you about the warm and gentle English summers, the appropriate response is to sneeze ‘Bullshit!’.  English summers are mudbaths of fairly constant precipitation and bad moods.

20120714-135641.jpg

Mum’s No-Bake Lemon Slice

So I did do some more cooking.  Or baking.  Or, rather, not-baking.
This is mum’s no-bake lemon slice.  It went only slightly wrong but still tastes really good so have a go if you like, or if you’re in charge of people or children not to be trusted with working an oven.

20120708-130845.jpg

For the base you want:
1/2 cup condensed milk
100gm butter
200gm shortbread biscuits
1 cup dessicated coconut
zest of 2 lemons

and for the lemon icing, you need:
2 cups icing sugar
40g softened butter
Juice 2 lemons

20120708-130852.jpg

Blitz up your shortbread biscuits.  Above is demonstratec a non-blitzed and a blitzed version, for you to compare.

20120708-130858.jpg

This bit involves heat so make sure to do a full health and safety assessment prior, but once all is sorted melt your butter into your condensed milk, over a low heat.

Mix together the biscuits, butter and condensed milk mixture and the coconut, adding in the zested lemon, then press into a slice tin.

I forgot to add the lemon zest so had to kind of spread it over the mix I’d already pressed into the tin.  I am a spoon.

Refrigerate for an hour or so.

20120708-130904.jpg

It’ll look like the above before refrigeration, like a metric truckload of highly buttered heart attack.

20120708-130939.jpg

The current foster dog.  He is currently sleeping off another park visit, and is the subject of much interest from potential adopters.  I might run a raffle.

To make the icing, combine the icing sugar and lemon juice together, along with the softened butter.  I personally found the ratio a bit sweet and runny.  I was right, as you’ll see shortly. Also I put too much icing on the slice itself.  Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that you might want to try with a cup and a half of icing sugar, the butter and lemon juice, and see where that gets you.

20120708-140246.jpg

Pour the icing (or as much as you want to use, I’d recommend not going mega-generous here, which is not like me at all but I’m feeling mean cause it’s Sunday night and we’re past the hour of 417pm or whenever it is when people scientifically start to get moody about Monday arriving) over the slice and refrigerate again.

Leave it as long as you can before slicing.

I put too much icing on and so the below occurred, when slicing.  VERY ANNOYING.

Tastes nice, though.

20120708-173020.jpg

Minimal Effort Cupcakes For Giving Away

Evening.

Am not sure how much cooking I’m going to get done this weekend so am gifting you with a guide to making cupcakes that you don’t/won’t want yourself.   Somehow (I know exactly how, actually) I agreed to make cupcakes for the local primary school’s summer fair, which is tomorrow.  I have no children.  I have no connection with the school.   I know some kids with posh names who go to that school.  The neighbour’s kids.  Good screamers, all.

ANYWAY this is a recipe that actually makes quite tasty cupcakes when it comes to the cake bit and leaves you free to do other stuff with a straightforward approach to icing.  None of that ridiculous 1 part cupcake-24 parts icing crap in my house, oh no.

The recipe makes about 12 or so, so double if you want more.  I did.

20120706-174635.jpg

Ingredients:

110g butter, room temperature

110g caster sugar

2 eggs, lightly beaten

vanilla (the good extract, don’t be cheap)

110g self raising flour

bit of extra milk

20120706-174645.jpg

This is how I get the butter to room temperature.  So obvious.

20120706-174658.jpg

Beat the sugar and butter together till is goes a bit pale.

Add the beaten eggs in stages, and beat well, then add the vanilla too.

It’ll look a bit like sick.  That’s good.  You can add egg-flour-egg-flour if you want to avoid it looking like sick but it really doesn’t matter in this case.

20120706-174711.jpg

Add the flour and mix through with a metal spoon.  Add a couple of tablespoons of milk to get it to what your grandmother would call ‘dropping’ texture – see above.  I caught the mix in the act of actually dropping.  It’s kind of like hummus in gloopiness, a slightly soft hummus.

Eat a large spoonful of it.   God it’s good.  Eat another one.  And, if you don’t feel sick yet, another.

20120706-174736.jpg

These pictures are out of sequence but it’s such an arse to chang them around I’m not going to.

Let the dogs lick the bowl clean.  Yes, dogs.  We’ve another foster.  He’s still a puppy and I am becoming dangerously fond of him.

20120706-174743.jpg

Drop small spoonfuls into patty cases you’ve placed in a muffin tin.  DO NOT OVERFILL.  You don’t actually want a lot of cake, you want the cooked product to finish below the line of the patty case.

I failed in this mission today, mostly, so be careful.

In a moderate oven, about Gas Mark 4 (as usual preheat blah blah blah) for maybe 10 mins.  They take no time at all.

20120706-174751.jpg

Icing.

In a bowl put a nice mountain of icing sugar and drip in cold water, whisking through as you go.  Don’t let it go too runny. It’s icing, not a waterfall.

20120706-174758.jpg

Cause these are for kids and specially for kids I don’t know and won’t have charge of I’ve added some colouring.  RED.  The best.

20120706-174806.jpg

Take your cakes out of the oven.  As you might be able to see in the above picture, I’ve used a wooden tray to push down some rogue high-risers on the second tray.

Let them cool, man.

20120706-174812.jpg

Drizzle over the icing when they’re cool and whilst it’s wet plop on whatever decoration you found at the supermarket.  These are called polka dots.  I’d have called them confetti, but whatever.

Knock on your neighbour’s door to handover.  They won’t be home so go back inside, eat an uniced cake and watch the tennis a bit.  It’s going to be downpours tomorrow anyway, maybe the fair will get cancelled.  Decide you won’t offer to man a stall, as was suggested.  Definitely NO.

Below are the dogs, racing fast.  They’re really good at it.

20120706-174851.jpg

(Leftover Chicken) Soup

Hullo.

I’m having a self-pity weekend.  The boyfriend and literally all my friends (ok not all but all the very regularly seen friends) are away at a fun camping music thingy I have been going to since it started.  I have missed it this year due to Shit Tonsils (no relation to ShitOven) and a run on antibiotics (meaning no boozes).  Also I suppose that camping in the likely cool and damp conditions wouldn’t be wise when feeling a bit crappy.

ANYWAY me and the dog have been hanging out since Friday afternoon.  Boyfriend is due home in a couple of hours so I have done lots of things today I didn’t do yesterday (eg: pick up dog poo, loads of washing, sheet-cleaning, baking of banana bread – to be seen below – general tidying) in anticipation of his return.  Yesterday was kind of sunny here in London so I took advantage to go outside on a long walk with the dog, figuring I might as well feel crappy outside in the sunshine as I already know how it is to feel crappy when on the sofa.

So, I have made soup with some leftover roast chicken.  I haven’t made chicken stock with the carcass, which is probably illegal considering where I live; am sure all the mummies make chicken stock around here but I am not a mummy and I didn’t make stock.  It’s quite nice soup, though of course I’ve now made it, even I can smell it’s nice but in no way do I want to eat it. Amoxycillin (the pencillin I’m taking) makes me well nauseous.  I should really get extra girlfriend points for cooking at all, considering the deathly state I’m in.

Lo, soup!  It’s a bit Italian-y I suppose, but not really.

20120701-131306.jpg

Get:

Leftover chicken ( I shopped in a druggy haze on Friday and bought a chicken I didn’t really want or need, hence the making of the soup)

Garlic

Onion (I used red cause I thought I didn’t have any white ones.  I was wrong.  Use white if you can).

Tin of beans – cannelini or borlotti or anything like that

Tin of chopped tomatoes

Seasoning

Chicken stock – bout 1 litre

Olive Oil

Carrot/Potatoes/any kind of veg you like – some jarred roasted capsicum is nice

Herbs – only one I had alive in the garden was sage.  So I used sage.

20120701-131331.jpg

Chop the carrot into small but not microscopic pieces.  Dice the onion and mince the garlic and gently fry over a low heat, with seasoning and a good glug of olive oil, until the onion goes a bit opaque.  Don’t burn anything.

20120701-131342.jpg

Shred the chicken – you want at least 2 cups.  At this stage the dog will be actively drooling over the kitchen floor.  Enjoy that.

Chop up the potato into bite-sized chunks.  Sort your herbs out.  I roughly chopped the sage, sagely.

20120701-131353.jpg

Add the potato and herb to the pan and raise the heat slightly, and cook for a few minutes.

20120701-131406.jpg

Then add the stock, about 2/3 tin of the beans (no idea what you want to do with the rest.  Chuck them in if you don’t mind a beany soup) and half the tin of tomatoes.  Let it get to simmer.

As demonstrated above there’ll be weird scummy bubbly stuff on top – skim it off.  Taste for seasoning.  Add more seasoning (probably) and I should say here that cracked black pepper is nice in this soup.

20120701-131415.jpg

Add the chicken and cook for a few more mins to heat it through.

Leave it on the stove, uneaten (your boyfriend doesn’t even really like soup, you’ve clearly gone mad, go lie down for a while).  If you do it eat, please finely grate over some nice parmesan and eat with some nice bread.  It’ll be nice.

Stand in the kitchen admiring your loads of washing drying outside.  As an Australian living in the UK I never tire of the rare privilege of drying my washing outside.  Sad days are these.

I’m off to whinge at someone else a while now.

20120701-131423.jpg