Monday, 28 September 2009

Fresh from the oven - Stuffed buns

This months Fresh from the oven challenge was hosted by Ria from Ria's Collections. She picked a family favorite Stuffed Bun recipe for this month's challenge. It is basically a bun stuffed with a Spicy Indian Chicken filling (or a vegetarian filling if you prefer).

I'd seen a recipe for stuffed buns before that I liked the look of but this is the first time I've baked anything like this myself. I liked the idea though of the buns being a complete snack, bread buns filled with a delicious, spicy chicken mixture.

So how did I get on -
The dough was wetter than I am used to and I had to add some extra flour. I'm afraid I cheated a bit and didn't knead by hand for 10 minutes but used my KitchenAid. I also found that my dough didn't rise very much, after an hour and a half and very little rising I decided to carry on regardless with the rest of the recipe. Consequently I only managed to make 5 buns (should have made 12!), never the less the bread still tasted soft when finished. They are very quick to bake so keep an eye on them in the oven. The filling in these buns was delicious and as for the bread it's self I found it too sweet but my boyfriend loved it!

Stuffed Bun
Yields 12 buns

For the dough:

Dry yeast-1 tbsp
Warm water-2tbsp
Milk-1/2 cup
Salt to taste
Oil-1/2 cup
All purpose flour-2 cups
Sugar-1/4 cup
Egg-1, beaten
Egg white-1,for egg wash
White sesame seeds for sprinkling
  • Dissolve the yeast in warm water with 1/2tbsp sugar and 1/2 tbsp of all purpose flour. Leave aside for 10 minutes.
  • Boil the milk and allow to cool down till it is warm to touch. Add sugar, oil and salt.
  • Mix well with a wooden spoon till the sugar dissolves and add 1 cup flour and mix to a smooth paste.
  • Add the beaten egg, yeast and mix.Add the remaining flour and mix well till it forms a smooth dough.
  • Knead well for 10 mins.[We knead it using our hands]
  • Let it rest till it doubles in volume.
  • Punch down the dough lightly using your palm and divide them equally.
  • Flatten them into small discs and fill them with 1 tbsp of the filling. Re-shape them into a ball.Sprinkle the top with sesame seeds.
  • Let it prove for another 20 mins.
  • Bake them in a pre-heated oven at 200 degrees for 10 mins. When it starts to brown, give them an egg wash using 1 slightly beaten egg white.
Spicy Indian chicken filling

Boneless chicken-200g, boiled and shredded
Onions-4 big, finely chopped
Ginger garlic paste-1 tbsp
Chilli powder-1/2 -1tbsp [depending on your spice level]
Coriander powder-1/2 tbsp
Salt to taste
Oil-3 tbsp

  • Heat oil, add the ginger garlic paste and saute till it gives out a nice aroma.
  • Add the onions. Saute them till soft and transparent.
  • Reduce the heat and add the powders and mix well for 2 mins.
  • Add the shredded chicken and mix well.
  • Keep it off the fire and let it cool.
  • Use it for filling the dough.

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Sunday, 27 September 2009

Daring Bakers - Vols-au-Vents

The September 2009 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Steph of A Whisk and a Spoon. She chose the French treat, Vols-au-Vent based on the Puff Pastry recipe by Michel Richard from the cookbook Baking With Julia by Dorie Greenspan.
When I first read this months challenge my first though was of the mushroom Vols-au-Vents of the 80's, from parties when I was a growing up. I'm also not a huge fan pastry so to say I wasn't as excited about this challenge as say the Bakewell tart or Dobos Torta would be an understatement. Then my second thought was that making puff pastry is supposed to be a challenge (which is why I joined the daring bakers after all) and something I should try making myself at least one so I decided to participate.

The main point of the challenge was the homemade puff pastry. Puff pastry is in the ‘laminated dough” family, along with Danish dough and croissant dough. (In fact, if you participated in the Danish Braid challenge back in June 2008, then you already know the general procedure for working with laminated dough.) A laminated dough consists of a large block of butter (called the “beurrage”) that is enclosed in dough (called the “détrempe”). This dough/butter packet is called a “paton,” and is rolled and folded repeatedly (a process known as “turning”) to create the crisp, flaky, parallel layers you see when baked. Unlike Danish or croissant however, puff pastry dough contains no yeast in the détrempe, and relies solely aeration to achieve its high rise. The turning process creates hundreds of layers of butter and dough, with air trapped between each one. In the hot oven, water in the dough and the melting butter creates steam, which expands in the trapped air pockets, forcing the pastry to rise.

Making the puff pastry wasn't as hard as I thought (although mine didn't rise very much so I clearly haven't mastered the technique), it was more time consuming than anything else. I struggled all month to think up an interesting filling for my Vols-au-Vent's. In the end I saw some rhubarb tarts on Nigel Slater's simple suppers and decided to make them with some of the pastry I made and simply fill the Vols-au-Vent's with roasted rhubarb. Although the pastry didn't rise all that much (it probably doubled in height) it did have plenty of layers to it. I'd never roasted rhubarb before but I liked the way it maintained the pinkness and tasted delicious.

The verdict -
  • Did I enjoy the challenge? - yes
  • Would I have made puff pastry myself if wasn't for this challenge? - probably not
  • Would I make this recipe again? - again probably not, I'm not a big fan of pastry so I couldn't see me making my own puff pastry again.
My Rhubarb tart -

I have copied the recipe below for anyone who would like to have a go at puff pastry. I would strongly recommend you watch the Julia Child video mention below if you do want to have a go as it demonstrates all the folding, turning etc.

Michel Richard’s Puff Pastry Dough

From: Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan
Yield: 2-1/2 pounds dough

There is a wonderful on-line video from the PBS show “Baking with Julia” that accompanies the book. In it, Michel Richard and Julia Child demonstrate making puff pastry dough (although they go on to use it in other applications). They do seem to give slightly different ingredient measurements verbally than the ones in the book…I listed the recipe as it appears printed in the book.

2-1/2 cups (12.2 oz/ 354 g) unbleached all-purpose flour
1-1/4 cups (5.0 oz/ 142 g) cake flour
1 tbsp. salt (you can cut this by half for a less salty dough or for sweet preparations)
1-1/4 cups (10 fl oz/ 300 ml) ice water
1 pound (16 oz/ 454 g) very cold unsalted butter

plus extra flour for dusting work surface

Mixing the Dough:

Check the capacity of your food processor before you start. If it cannot hold the full quantity of ingredients, make the dough into two batches and combine them.

Put the all-purpose flour, cake flour, and salt in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade and pulse a couple of times just to mix. Add the water all at once, pulsing until the dough forms a ball on the blade. The dough will be very moist and pliable and will hold together when squeezed between your fingers. (Actually, it will feel like Play-Doh.)

Remove the dough from the machine, form it into a ball, with a small sharp knife, slash the top in a tic-tac-toe pattern. Wrap the dough in a damp towel and refrigerate for about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, place the butter between 2 sheets of plastic wrap and beat it with a rolling pin until it flattens into a square that's about 1" thick. Take care that the butter remains cool and firm: if it has softened or become oily, chill it before continuing.

Incorporating the Butter:

Unwrap the dough and place it on a work surface dusted with all-purpose flour (A cool piece of marble is the ideal surface for puff pastry) with your rolling pin (preferably a French rolling pin without handles), press on the dough to flatten it and then roll it into a 10" square. Keep the top and bottom of the dough well floured to prevent sticking and lift the dough and move it around frequently. Starting from the center of the square, roll out over each corner to create a thick center pad with "ears," or flaps.

Place the cold butter in the middle of the dough and fold the ears over the butter, stretching them as needed so that they overlap slightly and encase the butter completely. (If you have to stretch the dough, stretch it from all over; don't just pull the ends) you should now have a package that is 8" square.

To make great puff pastry, it is important to keep the dough cold at all times. There are specified times for chilling the dough, but if your room is warm, or you work slowly, or you find that for no particular reason the butter starts to ooze out of the pastry, cover the dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate it . You can stop at any point in the process and continue at your convenience or when the dough is properly chilled.

Making the Turns:

Gently but firmly press the rolling pin against the top and bottom edges of the square (this will help keep it square). Then, keeping the work surface and the top of the dough well floured to prevent sticking, roll the dough into a rectangle that is three times as long as the square you started with, about 24" (don't worry about the width of the rectangle: if you get the 24", everything else will work itself out.) With this first roll, it is particularly important that the butter be rolled evenly along the length and width of the rectangle; check when you start rolling that the butter is moving along well, and roll a bit harder or more evenly, if necessary, to get a smooth, even dough-butter sandwich (use your arm-strength!).

With a pastry brush, brush off the excess flour from the top of the dough, and fold the rectangle up from the bottom and down from the top in thirds, like a business letter, brushing off the excess flour. You have completed one turn.

Rotate the dough so that the closed fold is to your left, like the spine of a book. Repeat the rolling and folding process, rolling the dough to a length of 24" and then folding it in thirds. This is the second turn.

Chilling the Dough:

If the dough is still cool and no butter is oozing out, you can give the dough another two turns now. If the condition of the dough is iffy, wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for at least 30 minutes. Each time you refrigerate the dough, mark the number of turns you've completed by indenting the dough with your fingertips. It is best to refrigerate the dough for 30 to 60 minutes between each set of two turns.

The total number of turns needed is six. If you prefer, you can give the dough just four turns now, chill it overnight, and do the last two turns the next day. Puff pastry is extremely flexible in this regard. However, no matter how you arrange your schedule, you should plan to chill the dough for at least an hour before cutting or shaping it.

Forming and Baking the Vols-au-Vent

Yield: 1/3 of the puff pastry recipe below will yield about 8-10 1.5” vols-au-vent or 4 4” vols-au-vent

In addition to the equipment listed above, you will need:
-well-chilled puff pastry dough (recipe below)
-egg wash (1 egg or yolk beaten with a small amount of water)
-your filling of choice

  • Line a baking sheet with parchment and set aside.
  • Using a knife or metal bench scraper, divided your chilled puff pastry dough into three equal pieces. Work with one piece of the dough, and leave the rest wrapped and chilled. (If you are looking to make more vols-au-vent than the yield stated above, you can roll and cut the remaining two pieces of dough as well…if not, then leave refrigerated for the time being or prepare it for longer-term freezer storage. See the “Tips” section below for more storage info.)
  • On a lightly floured surface, roll the piece of dough into a rectangle about 1/8 to 1/4-inch (3-6 mm) thick. Transfer it to the baking sheet and refrigerate for about 10 minutes before proceeding with the cutting.
  • (This assumes you will be using round cutters, but if you do not have them, it is possible to cut square vols-au-vents using a sharp chef’s knife.) For smaller, hors d'oeuvre sized vols-au-vent, use a 1.5” round cutter to cut out 8-10 circles. For larger sized vols-au-vent, fit for a main course or dessert, use a 4” cutter to cut out about 4 circles. Make clean, sharp cuts and try not to twist your cutters back and forth or drag your knife through the dough. Half of these rounds will be for the bases, and the other half will be for the sides. (Save any scrap by stacking—not wadding up—the pieces…they can be re-rolled and used if you need extra dough. If you do need to re-roll scrap to get enough disks, be sure to use any rounds cut from it for the bases, not the ring-shaped sides.)
  • Using a ¾-inch cutter for small vols-au-vent, or a 2- to 2.5-inch round cutter for large, cut centers from half of the rounds to make rings. These rings will become the sides of the vols-au-vent, while the solid disks will be the bottoms. You can either save the center cut-outs to bake off as little “caps” for you vols-au-vent, or put them in the scrap pile.
  • Dock the solid bottom rounds with a fork (prick them lightly, making sure not to go all the way through the pastry) and lightly brush them with egg wash. Place the rings directly on top of the bottom rounds and very lightly press them to adhere. Brush the top rings lightly with egg wash, trying not to drip any down the sides (which may inhibit rise). If you are using the little “caps,” dock and egg wash them as well.
  • Refrigerate the assembled vols-au-vent on the lined baking sheet while you pre-heat the oven to 400ºF (200ºC). (You could also cover and refrigerate them for a few hours at this point.)
  • Once the oven is heated, remove the sheet from the refrigerator and place a silicon baking mat (preferred because of its weight) or another sheet of parchment over top of the shells. This will help them rise evenly. Bake the shells until they have risen and begin to brown, about 10-15 minutes depending on their size. Reduce the oven temperature to 350ºF (180ºC), and remove the silicon mat or parchment sheet from the top of the vols-au-vent. If the centers have risen up inside the vols-au-vent, you can gently press them down. Continue baking (with no sheet on top) until the layers are golden, about 15-20 minutes more. (If you are baking the center “caps” they will likely be finished well ahead of the shells, so keep an eye on them and remove them from the oven when browned.)
  • Remove to a rack to cool. Cool to room temperature for cold fillings or to warm for hot fillings.
  • Fill and serve.

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Saturday, 19 September 2009

Last days of summer....

Last Saturday, on a gloriously sunny day, myself, my boyfriend, his sister and her boyfriend spent a day on a canal boat. We couldn't have asked for a better day, the weather really made it. We had great fun learning to drive the canal boat and enjoying the weather as we slowly cruised through the Cheshire countryside.The day before I prepared a range of goodies to enjoy throughout the day. I made a bottle of lemonade, baked a Bakewell tart, some mini pizza wheels and prepared a couscous salad. There was also a banana bread loaf and half a dozen or so blueberry muffins in the freezer so they were packed too.

The pesto couscous salad is something I came up with last summer and has been a regular summer lunch since then. Its really simple to prepare but very tasty to eat. Perfect for picnics, lunch boxes for work or just to enjoy as a quick weekend lunch. The quantities are quiet vague as it depends which flavours you prefer and can be adjusted accordingly. Sometimes I add a handful of pine nuts &/or some fresh basil leaves at the end. The recipe is at the end.
I also decided to try out an idea I remember seeing a magazine sometime back. The basic idea was to make a pizza, roll it up and then cut into slices and bake in the oven. The result is perfect picnic finger food. Delicious hot or cold.Pesto couscous salad
serves 2

100g couscous
Chicken or vegetable stock, hot
1-2tsp pesto
handful of feta cheese, cubed
5-6 sun-dried tomatoes, diced
handful of olives, halved

  • Pour the hot stock over the couscous until the couscous is just covered, cover the bowl and leave for 5 minutes or until the couscous has soaked up all the moisture. Fluff up the couscous with a folk.
  • Add the pesto and stir through well.
  • Add the other ingredients and mix well.
  • Serve while still warm or once cooled.
Mini pizza wheels
Makes approximately 20

For the dough
500g strong white bread flour
5g fast action yeast
10g salt
300ml warm water
1 tbsp olive oil
For the topping
4 tbsp passata or pizza sauce
1 ball of mozzarella
Topping of your choice
1 tsp dried oregano

  • Mix together all the ingredients for the dough. Knead either by hand or with a mixer for 10 min until smooth and silky. Shape into a round and leave to rise in a covered bowl for 1-2 hours, or until it has doubled in size.
  • Knock the dough back. Knead again very briefly. Divide the dough in two. Use a rolling pin to roll each piece out on a lightly floured work surface into a rectangle which is about 1cm thick.
  • Spoon on 2tbsp pizza sauce onto each rectangle. Add the toppings of your choice (I did one with a couple of slices of torn up parma ham and one with olives and sun dried tomatoes), grate or tear the mozzarella over the two pizzas and finally sprinkle over the dried oregano.
  • Have the pizza so the longest edge is in front of you and then carefully roll it up like a Swiss roll.
  • Cut the roll into 2 cm thick slices and place on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Leave a good few cm around each one as the dough will rise slightly.
  • Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes at 200C.

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Thursday, 17 September 2009

Cook book review - Easy tasty Italian - Laura Santtini

Another great Italian cook book! I know I have only just reviewed Antonio Carluccio's simple cooking but what can I say I love cook books and I love Italian food. However this cook book is completely different to Antonio Carluccio's so there is room on my bookshelf and in my kitchen for both! This book is completely different to any cook book (Italian or otherwise) I have browsed through before. Its very unique in style and a little bit quirky too. This book claims that after reading this book your cooking will never be the same again! Quite a big statement perhaps but I suspect it maybe true. I've read my fair share of Italian cook books but I can definitely say I have learnt a thing or two already from this book (which has only been in my possession a couple of days). It's much more than a collection of recipes, this book aims to teach you how to create flavour bombs that make even simple food sensational.

The secret - umami. This is the fifth taste, discovered by the Japanese in 1908 but only recently accepted by Western scientists. Umami means deliciousness and refers to intensely savoury tastes. Laura has christened umami in the Italian kitchen 'u-mamma!'. Classic umami flavours in the Italian larder include tomatoes, Parmesan, white truffles and balsamic vinegar to name just a few. Reading this chapter on umami helped me understand why dishes as simple as Antonio Carluccio's cart driver spaghetti can taste so delicious (porcini mushrooms are another Italian umami flavour) and why the soffritto base (onions, carrot and celery) are such a key component of Italian cooking.

As well as the umami larder, there are details of the typical Italian larder (a comprehensive list of typical ingredients like beans and pulses, pastas, cheeses and seasonings) and of the alchemic larder. This alchemic larder suggests adding edible metals, dried flowers, nuts and seeds and many other ingredients designed to add magic to dishes.

The next chapter has basic recipes and procedures to prepare flavour bombs, "using ingredients as a writer uses words and an artist uses paints". These include flavoured mayonnaise's, pestos, flavoured butters and pastes as well as marinades. There are serving suggestions for each flavour enhancer. For example she suggests adding chilli, chocolate, wine paste to rich stews, marinading red meat in red u-mamma! marinade, serving sweet and sour carrots with honey & thyme as a side dish or stirring a spoonful of basic basil pesto in to minestrone soup.

The second section of the book contains the main recipes which are divided in to 4 sections Air 'I am raw', Water 'I was cooked', Fire 'I was burned' and Earth 'I am tasty'. Each chapter describes different techniques used in Italian cooking and has a selection of recipes with suggestions for variations and which taste bombs can be added.

Air uses only raw ingredients. So this chapter covers antipasti, carpaccio, ceviche & tartare and dips. Recipes include wild mushroom trifolata, crab salad with pomegranate and mint, tuna and orange carpaccio and aubergine and lavender dip.

Water covers the techniques of boiling, absorption and reduction (risottos), poaching and bagno-maria (gentle cooking in water that is merely hot). There are recipes for sweet potato soup which can be enhanced in several ways including the addition of the flavour bomb of tomato, pepper, orange and cinnamon paste. Pasta is of course included with notes on cooking pasta, making pasta sauces and recipes for the top 10 classic pasta sauces of all time. Risotto is also included, teaching the basic method and lots of tasty ways to transform the basic recipe. Other recipes include sea bass santini and u-mamma! meatloaf.
Fire covers grilling, frying and hob stews with a step by step guide to good grilling, suggestions for rubs and seasoning and recipes including a delicious looking lamb chops with u-mamma! grapes and no-fuss roasted sea bream.

Earth is all about creating delicious food through slow cooking including tender and moist looking rib of beef al barolo and leg-over lamb. There are also recipes for the top 10 Italian vegetable dishes and 12 quick and easy desserts.

This book is bursting with delicious looking and sounding recipes but more than I believe that Laura Santtini is right when she says it can transform your life in the kitchen. I already feel inspired to not only try some of the recipes in the book but also to try out the pastes and butters etc in dishes I already cook to give them the u-mamma! deliciousness they deserve.

Its not out in the shops until the 2nd October but I would recommend to anyone who enjoys cooking Italian food even if you thought you had all the Italian cookbooks you needed.

Thank you to Quadrille publishing for sending me this great book to review and tell you all about.

Further information:
Easy tasty Italian - Laura Santtini
Published by Quadrille publishing 2nd October 2009
Hardback, full colour photography, 192 pages
ISBN 978 184400 755 4

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Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Cookbook review -- Antonio Carluccio's simple cooking

I'm sure any regular readers of this blog will be well aware I am a huge fan of Italian cooking, so it will come as no surprise that I love the latest cook book by Antonio Carluccio. In this book Antonio Carluccio is pulling together all the 'secrets' he has learned from over 50 years of professional experience. In his introduction to the book he describes his love of Italian food and the principles of using the best ingredients possible, cooking them simply and not letting anything go to waste. These principles are evident through out the book. Most recipe contains ideas on how to make them more special or how to use up left overs. All the recipes are simple, usually no more than a page each including the a brief introduction to each dish, an ingredients lists, the method and any variations and tips.

The book has chapters on starters and salads, soups, pasta, gnocchi, polenta and rice, meat, fish, vegetables and deserts. Each chapter has a brief introduction and the recipes then follow, most of them illustrated with stunning photos. Extra information is also provided on cooking pasta, polenta and rice and there is also a good section on pasta sauces and the best type of pasta to pair with them.

Beetroot salad with mint is simplicity at its best and looks stunning and delicious. Pasta and bean soup, cep and cannellini bean veloute and simple fish soup are just a few of the soups that I look forward to cooking this autumn/winter. All the pasta recipes look stunningly simple, as do the risottos. Neapolitan beef olive stew, chicken baked with rosemary and garlic and tiramisu all look delicious and simple.

I tried my first recipe from the book one night last week after work - Cart-driver's spaghetti. It was incredibly simple and quick to cook and tasted fantastic. It's a simple pasta dish of tomatoes, tinned tuna and dried porcini. As I was cooking the recipe I wondered if it would be tasty as there were no herbs etc in it but I needn't of worried as it was delicious (my review of Easy tasty Italian coming up tomorrow will explain how a dish this simple can taste so much better than expected). UK readers may have seen Antonio Carluccio cook this recipe last night on Market kitchen where you will have seen just how simple it is to prepare. Great as a simple, week night supper and the recipe is included at the end of this post.

This book is a great, simple cook book for those new to cooking with an interest in Italian cuisine. It is also good for any Italian cooking enthusiasts (like myself) will also appreciate the simplicity of all the dishes and Antonio Carluccio's fantastic knowledge and passion for Italian food and cooking.

Cart-driver spaghetti
Serves 2

200g spaghetti
salt and pepper

1 small onion, peeled and finely sliced
4 tbsp olive oil
2 ripe tomatoes, finely chopped
25g dried porcini (ceps), rehydrated and finely sliced
100g canned tuna in oil, drained

For the sauce, fry the onion in a pan with the olive oil until soft, about 5-6 minutes, then add the tomatoes and fry for 15 minutes. Add the sliced porcini and some of the liquid, along with the tuna and some salt and pepper to taste.

Cook the pasta in plenty of boiling salted water until al dente, about 5-6 minutes. Drain, mix with the sauce and serve immediately.

Thanks to Quadrille publishing for sending me this book to review.

Further information:
Antonio Carluccio's Simple cooking
Published by
Quadrille publishing in 2009.
Hardback, full colour photographs, 176 pages.
ISBN 978 184400 734 9
Price £20
Available to buy now.

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Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Banana muffins

Do you have two blackened bananas sitting in your fruit bowls just crying out to be turned into banana bread? Yes, then this is the post for you.
Every year in the UK we throw out 6.7 million tonnes of food, most of which could have been eaten. 40% of this is fresh fruit and vegetables (and bananas are in the top 5 fruit and veg we throw away). These facts are just a few of the facts on Love food, hate waste campaign website. The website is jam packed with ideas and tips for reducing waste and saving money as well as lots of great recipes for using up leftovers.

I've blogged in the past about some of the ways I reduce waste which as a nice side effect also saves money. For example making the most of a chicken, meal planning and using this as a basis for a shopping list and freezing leftovers. There are also a growing number of cook books on the market about making the most of the food we buy. The basic principle most of these book encourage is buying the best quality food you can afford and making sure you get the best out of it and don't waste any. One such book is The new English Kitchen by Rose Prince which is full of tips and recipes to help you get the most of the food you buy. It covers everything from baking your own bread, making your own stock, cooking with cheaper cuts of meat and the principle of making food in to more than one meal. Another similar book is The thrifty cookbook 476 ways to eat well with leftovers by Kate Colquhoun. These two books aren't full of mouth watering colour photographs of the recipes but instead they are packed full of great advice and recipe ideas and the authors passion for food and making the most of it are evident.

The other day I had a very sad looking fruit bowl, a couple of blackened bananas and a few apples that had seen better days. So I decided to turn the bananas in to banana bread and the apples combined with a few cooking apples I stewed and turned in to a crumble. For the crumble topping I used a mixture of the left over topping (stored in the freezer) from making the blueberry muffins, porridge oats and broken up pecan nuts. The crumble was delicious served with some natural yogurt. The banana muffins were also very tasty and a great nutritious treat to add to our lunch boxes. Kate gives a basic banana cake recipe in her book and lists a few variations. I like mine with mixed spice and chopped nuts to give it plenty of flavour and the nuts give a bit of texture. I have made it as a loaf and as muffins and I love both. Two delicious treats from one neglected fruit bowl.

Banana cake
The thrifty cookbook

2 bananas, past there best, the blacker the better. Mashed with a fork.
1 egg
130g Self raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
55g very soft butter
100g caster sugar

1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
1 tsp mixed spice

  • Preheat the oven to 180C/gas 4. Line a small loaf tin, about 22x12cm. Lining with parchment paper to make the cake easier to remove.
  • Put all the ingredients in a bowl, mix together and combine well with a fork. Depending on how mushy the bananas are, you might need to add a dessertspoon of warm water or milk to give the mixture a thick dropping consistency.
  • Put the whole lot in the loaf tin and bake for 35-40 minutes. If the cake gets too brown on top, you might need to cover it with a piece of foil for the last 5 minutes or so.
  • When a fine metal skewer or piece of raw spaghetti poked into the centre comes out clean the cake is done. Let it cool in the tin for 5 minutes, then run a knife around the edges to loosen them and turn the cake out on to a wire rack to cool.
  • Alternatively, you could spoon the mixture into a muffin tray lined with paper cases, in which case reduce the cooking time to 15-20 minutes.

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Sunday, 6 September 2009

Cookbook review - The ultimate student cookbook - Fiona Beckett

This is the forth student cookbook by Fiona Beckett following on from the Beyond bake beans series. This forth book is a compilation of the most popular recipes from the three previous books along with some new recipes by three student cooks. The students are Signe Johansen, Guy Million and James Ramsden who are all university students with a keen interset in cooking. They all have their own food blogs and are regular contributors on the beyond bake bean website and facebook page. As well as contributing their own recipes to the book they have added really useful comments and tips throughout the whole book. There is even a foreword by Heston Blumenthal.
The book starts off with some really useful information on basic kitchen kit, store cupboard ingredients, shopping on a budget, healthy eating and drinking and food hygiene and safety. The book then moves on to its collection of over 200 recipes. They are divided into 4 chapters; quick and easy recipes for 1 or 2, cheap and tasty meals for 3 or 4, flashy show-off recipes and yummy puds, cakes and cocktails. Through out the book there are lots of mouthwatering pictures of the recipes and lots of tips. Tips at the end of the recipes from the three students include useful advice such as money saving tips, ideas for left overs and extra tips on how to do certain steps of the recipe. Many of the recipes also have a handy list of variations you can try so you'll never be stuck for inspiration.

The recipes cover the basics such as the perfect mash potato, how to cook rice and pasta, as well as many delicious sounding recipes for everything from chilli con carne, homemade kebabs, curries and pasta sauces to delicious desserts like strawberry pavlova and chocolate mousse. All in all this is a very comprehensive collection of student recipes with lots of great tips and advice. And even better it is great value for money too.

Further information:
The ultimate student cookbook - Fiona Beckett with student cooks Signe Johansen, Guy Million and James Ramsden.
Published by Absolute Press in 2009.
Hardback, full colour illustrations, 288 pages.
ISBN 9781906650070
Price £10
Available to buy now.

Thanks to Absolute Press for sending me a review copy of this book.

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Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Cook book review - The Jewish princess guide to fabulosity

You might be thinking this doesn't sound like a recipe book and you'd be right. It's sold as a guide to being fabulous for all princesses but it does have a collection of delicious recipes in every section. I don't think this book is purely aimed at Jewish women either. The vast majority of the tips and articles relate to any woman, whatever her religion.I have to be honest this is not a book I would normally pick up in a book shop. I've never really read/bought any of these books that claim to be lifestyle guides for modern day women. However I'd heard good things about The Jewish princess cook books and knew this book also contained recipes so I volunteered to review the book. In the spirit of reviewing the book fairly I didn't just read the recipes but also the guides and hints and tips.

The book is beautifully illustrated throughout in full colour and the authors style is fun and witty. There are chapters on fabulous families, shopping, travel, dating and self maintenance to name just a few of the chapters. Each chapter also has 5 recipes at the end of each chapter that some how relate to the chapter. For example the chapter on dating has recipes entitled "a fabulous dinner for two". Recipes include chocolate fudge cake (which sounds divine), mousaka and roast maple duck. I tried out miso lime salmon at the weekend which was simple to make and flavourful.

In my opinion, if you like the lifestyle guide style of book you can't go far wrong with this book. It is feminine, witty and beautifully illustrated and as an add bonus there are some simple, delicious recipes included.

Further information:
The Jewish princess guide to fabulosity, Tracy Fine & Georgie Tarn
Published by Quadrille publishing in 2009.
Hardback, full colour illustrations, 192 pages.
ISBN 13 978 184400754 7
Price £12.99
Available to buy now.

Thanks to Quadrille publishing for sending me a review copy of this book.

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