Caraway and linseed bread

caraway and linseed bread

While I adore caraway in slow-cooked meaty dishes (such as my braised pig cheeks in red wine or my family favourite Bolognese), when I think of caraway I do tend to think of bread. As I said before, one of my earliest memories of caraway is smelling it in a little Jewish bakery in Stamford Hill in North London as a child.

But until this week, I’ve never actually baked my own bread with caraway. To be honest, we’re quite boring with our bread, most of which is made in the breadmaker, carefully timed so that we have a freshly baked loaf awaiting us in the morning. That’s probably the only thing I have in common with David Cameron. Thank goodness.

I am married to a man who loves his gadgets and so it is no surprise we own a breadmaker. It is also no surprise, therefore,that  it is my husband who makes most of our bread in said breadmaker. But on those occasions when I decide I want to make bread, I usually do it the old fashioned way, by hand, in an oven. If I didn’t work almost full-time, I’d probably bake more bread this way. But I do, so I don’t.

My husband prefers his loaves fluffy and white. I like mine brown, seedy and substantial. The children eat whatever’s going, thankfully.

I guess I really should have tried a rye bread for my first experimentation with caraway in breadmaking. But that might have been a step too far for my other half. I’ll work up to that. For my first caraway bread, I decided on a simple wholemeal loaf with a spattering of caraway and linseed. I’m not completely sure why I ended up with this particular combination, but it’s probably got something to do with picking up a big bag of linseed in Holland and Barrett when I actually went in to purchase something entirely different, and needed to use it up somehow. Apparently it is one of the most potent sources of omega 3 fatty acids found in nature and offers a whole host of health benefits besides. I just thought they tasted rather nice.

So here’s my caraway and linseed bread recipe. It’s less of a sandwich or toast bread and more of a satisfying bread and cheese and soup bread, if you know what I mean. But I did find myself creeping into the kitchen late at night and tucking into a slice or two, with nothing more than a generous spread of salted butter. And the scent of caraway transported me right back to that Stamford Hill bakery and heading back home with Dad to finish my Puffin Post competition entries…

caraway and linseed bread

Caraway and linseed bread

250g strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting
250g wholemeal bread flour
7g fast action dried yeast
10g salt
50ml sunflower oil
300ml water
20g caraway seeds
50g linseed

Put the flour, yeast and salt into a large bowl and mix together. Pour in the sunflower oil and water and combine with your hands to form a dough. If it’s too dry, add a drop more water. If it’s too sticky, add a little more flour.

Lightly flour your work surface and knead the dough for around 10 minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic.

Return the dough to the mixing bowl, cover loosely with cling film or a clean tea towel and leave in a warm place for about an hour, until the dough has doubled in size.

Uncover the risen dough and punch it back down. Flour the surface again and knead the dough for a couple of minutes. Gradually knead in the caraway and linseed until evenly dispersed through the dough.

Shape the dough into a round and place on a well-floured baking tray. Cover the dough again with cling film or a tea towel and leave again until it has doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 220°C/gas mark 7.

Bake the bread for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 190°C/gas mark 5 and bake for 20 to 30 minutes until the loaf is browned and sounds hollow when tapped on the base.

When I do it in the Aga, I bake the bread near the top of the top oven for 10 minutes and then move to the bottom of the oven for the remainder of the time.

Leave to cool on a wire rack.

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This caraway and linseed bread is another of my entries for this month’s Spice Trail challenge.

Banana eggy bread

banana eggy bread

Eggy bread (otherwise known as French toast) is a popular lazy day breakfast in the Bangers & Mash house. Actually, pretty much anything to do with eggs is popular here. But eggy bread in particular takes me back to my own childhood, as I have very fond memories of my Mum making this for me, which I’d sprinkle with salt and lots of pepper and eagerly wolf down while it was still piping hot, serving after serving. And so I rather like making it now for my own daughters.

Making eggy bread with mashed banana sandwiches is perfect for anyone with a bit of a sweet tooth, and yes I’m thinking primarily of little ones here. It’s an easy way to get some extra fruit into them too.

banana eggy bread

Banana eggy bread

Serves 4

2 ripe bananas
4 slices of fresh, white bread
4 eggs
2 tablespoons milk
1 tbsp sunflower oil

Peel the bananas and mash roughly with the back of a fork. Spread the mashed banana onto two of the slices of bread, cover with the remaining slices to make sandwiches, and cut each one in half.

Crack the eggs into a shallow dish, add the milk and gently whisk together with a fork. Place the banana sandwiches into the eggy mixture, and turn a few times to allow the bread to soak up egg like a sponge.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan. Carefully lift the eggy sandwiches from the dish, allowing the excess egg to run off, and pop them into the frying pan.

Fry for a couple of minutes on each side, until golden and crispy. Allow the banana to cool a little before eating. For a treat, you might like to serve with a drizzle of honey or maple syrup.

banana eggy bread

As this banana eggy bread is a delicious way to encourage your children to eat more fruit, I am entering it into this month’s Family Foodies. This is a challenge run by Eat Your Veg and Bangers & Mash, and it is my turn to host. January’s theme is Hidden Goodies.

family-foodies

I think it would be also rather nice to serve up this banana eggy bread at tea time, so I am also entering it into January’s Tea Time Treats, hosted by The Hedge Combers and Lavender & Lovage. The theme this months is Eggs.

teatimetreats

Snowflake tear and share iced buns

snowflake Collage

These snowflake iced buns would make a fun teatime centre piece when friends and family are gathered together over Christmas, particularly if there are children in the equation. They are very easy to make as well, and the children will love to get involved in the baking as much as the eating.

Flavoured with cinnamon and lemon and sprinkled with a tiny touch of confectioner’s glitter, the buns are sticky, sweet and wonderfully festive but without the rich heaviness of many of the cakes and puddings around at this time of year. Perfect with a cup of afternoon tea.

snowflake iced buns

This recipe is based on one I found on the Delicious website.

Snowflake tear and share iced buns

250g strong white bread flour
250g plain flour
1 sachet (7g) dried yeast
2 tsp salt
50g soft butter
2 tbsp caster sugar
½ tsp cinnamon
100ml semi-skimmed milk, warmed
1 egg
200ml tepid water
400g icing sugar
3-4 tbsp lemon juice
confectioner’s glitter

Sift the flours into a mixing bowl along with the yeast and salt. Make a well in the middle, and add the soft butter, sugar, cinnamon milk and egg. Bring all the ingredients together using a wooden spoon, adding the tepid water just a little at a time until you have a wet dough.

Dust your work surface with flour, and then knead your dough for a good 10 minutes until smooth and stretchy. Place in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with a clean tea towel. Leave in a warm place for an hour or so, until the dough has roughly doubled in size.

Knock back the dough by giving it a decent punch. Pull off small pieces of dough, approximately palm-sized and roll into the various components of your snowflake shape. You’ll need eight longish buns for the main ‘spokes’ of the snowflake and eight slightly shorter ones for the V-shapes at the end of each spoke. Don’t make them too fat; remember they will rise again. Arrange the buns, almost touching on a lined baking tray. I had extra dough left over, so I made a further six traditional shaped buns and placed these on a separate tray.

Preheat the oven to 200°C / gas mark 6.

Cover the buns with a tea towel and leave in a warm place for another hour to double in size.

Bake in the oven for about 10 minutes until risen and a beautiful golden colour. Carefully lift the snowflake onto a wire rack to cool. Don’t worry though if it does break apart. It’s easy to put it all back together on a plate before icing.

To make the lemon icing, simply sieve the icing sugar into a large bowl and mix in enough lemon juice until you get a thick but slightly runny icing. Using a tablespoon, drizzle a generous amount of icing over each bun and sprinkle over a little confectioner’s glitter for some festive sparkle. Leave for a minute or so to set, then place on a serving plate. And off you go – tear and share!

snowflake iced buns

My Spice Trail challenge for December has cinnamon as its theme, so of course I have to enter these sticky iced buns.

spice trail badge square

The buns are great to bake with and for kids, making them ideal candidates for December’s Family Foodies hosted by Eat Your Veg, where the theme is Kids Christmas.

family-foodiesAnd as the chosen letter is X over at the Alpha Bakes challenge, hosted by The More Than Occasional Baker and Caroline Makes, I think these buns would be a good entry as they are perfect for your Xmas parties.

AlphaBakes Logo

Baking bread with the kids

bread

Why is it that as soon as the school holidays start, the rain comes? Hopefully today’s downpour was just a temporary blimp but it’s always good to have some rainy day activities up your sleeve, just in case.

My children always love a bit of baking. I usually love it too, although I do have to be in just the right mood to cope with the mess that generally ensues. We try not to stick to ‘kiddy’ things like fairy cakes and smiley faced pizzas and I find bread making is a perfect activity for children. There’s the magic in waiting for the dough to rise and the fun of fashioning the bread rolls into just about any shape imaginable from plaits and hearts to hedgehogs, butterflies and caterpillars.

Bread Collage

This is what we ended up doing when my friend Sarah came over for the day with her children Jack and Molly. Not only is it such good fun to make, you then get to tuck into the wonderfully warm bread for your tea, spread thickly with lots of butter and jam. Children always really enjoy eating food they have made themselves, don’t they?

Bread Collage2

Easy bread rolls

Makes enough to feed four hungry children

400g strong white bread flour
1 tsp salt
7g sachet fast action dried yeast
250ml luke warm water
1 tbsp olive oil
Seeds, nuts and dried fruit for decoration
Oil for greasing

Put the flour, salt and dried yeast in a mixing bowl and combine well.

Make a well in the mixture and pour in the water and olive oil. Gradually work the flour into the oil and water to make a soft dough. If the mixture is dry, add a little more water. If it is sticky, add a little more flour.

Sprinkle a little flour onto your work surface. Knead the dough for five to ten minutes by stretching it away from you and then pulling it back into a ball. Keep going until the dough feels elastic and smooth.

Return the dough to the mixing bowl and cover with cling film or a clean tea towel. Leave in a warm place for around an hour until the dough has roughly doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 200°C/Gas Mark 6.

Punch the dough to release the air and divide the dough between your children, and let the creativity begin. My daughter Jessie likes to make little hedgehogs using scissors to clip the spikes and pistachio nuts for eyes. Mia has a thing for caterpillars, placing lots of little balls of dough in a line. It helps to brush the bread with a little oil to keep seeds and nuts in place. Put their creations on a baking tray greased with a little oil.

Bake in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes, depending on size, until they are golden brown. Allow to cool a little on a wire rack before devouring with butter and jam. Delicious!

bread

bread

What do you like to bake with your children?

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Cheat’s ciabatta pizza

Now that I’m working full-time again, the only chance I really have to play around in the kitchen is at the weekends. But then if I spend too much time in the kitchen, I feel bad that I’m not spending enough time with the kids. So wherever possible I try to involve Jessie and Mia in the cooking too.

On Saturday, after spending the afternoon in Bath shopping for new clothes (my girls are growing so blinking fast at the moment!), we rustled up some quick ciabatta bread pizzas for an easy tea. And the girls enjoyed deciding on their own toppings.

PizzaCollage

I’m not really sure whether to call these posh open grilled sandwiches or ciabatta pizzas – I guess they’re somewhere in between. And they don’t really warrant a recipe. I simply spread some passata on sliced ciabatta (you may prefer French bread or even a slice of cottage loaf) before the girls got going with their own special creations. Up for grabs was whatever we found in the fridge; leftover tinned sweetcorn, ham and salami, some chopped wild garlic leaves we’d picked from the hedgerows, black olives, capers and of course lots of mozzarella cheese.

Mia likes to play safe when it comes to food and kept her pizza topping simple. She isn’t a big fan of strong flavours like olive and capers. Despite that, she did go crazy with the wild garlic, and ate it all quite happily.

ciabatta pizza

Jessie, on the other hand, has always been much more adventurous with food, and went for everything on offer. If there had been raw chillies, she’d probably have thrown some of those on there too.

ciabatta pizza

Cheat’s ciabatta pizza

Serves 4 (2 adults, 2 children with leftovers perfect eaten cold for breakfast!)

4 small part-baked ciabatta, sliced widthways
350g passata or crushed tinned tomatoes
3 x 125g mozzarella cheese

And any toppings you fancy – we went for…

cooked ham, roughly chopped
salami, roughly chopped
tinned sweetcorn
pitted black olives
capers
wild garlic leaves, roughly chopped (or any other fresh or dried herb)

Preheat the oven to 200°C/Gas Mark 6.

Smother the ciabatta with passata and decorate with your chosen toppings. Tear the mozzarella and place on top.

Place your ciabatta pizzas on a lightly greased baking tray and pop in the oven (or alternatively under a medium grill) for 10 to 12 minutes, until the bread is lightly toasted and the cheese has melted. Easy as.

ciabatta pizza

As our ciabatta pizzas feature ham, salami, sweetcorn and tomatoes, I’m entering them into this month’s Recipes for Life, a challenge hosted by me and run in conjunction with SWALLOW, an amazing charity supporting adults with learning disabilities. Each month we set three ingredients and challenge bloggers to use these to come up with tasty, healthy and easy to cook dishes that can be made by SWALLOW members in their cookery class and at home. And this month’s three ingredients just happen to be pork, sweetcorn and tomatoes…

recipes for life

If you like this, you might also like to try…

The full English pizza

The full English pizza

Slow roasted tomato and oregano pizza

Slow roasted tomato and oregano pizza

Spaghetti with wild garlic pesto

Spaghetti with wild garlic pesto

Wild garlic risotto

Wild garlic risotto

Let’s do brunch!

During December I’ve very much enjoyed hosting the Breakfast Club for Helen at Fuss Free Flavours.

The theme I set was brunch, and we received a surprisingly diverse and incredibly delicious array of not-quite-breakfast-yet-not-quite-lunch dishes, all equally perfect for this festive season when we’re allowed to roll out of bed just that little bit later than normal.

So without further ado, let’s crack on with the round-up…

Helen from Fuss Free Flavours delivered our first dish with these very timely Turkey, Cranberry & Stilton Christmas Brunch Muffins – an absolutely delicious way to use up those Christmas leftovers, and they don’t even require an egg!

Turkey, cranberry and stilton Christmas muffins from Fuss Free Flavours

Turkey, cranberry and Stilton Christmas muffins from Fuss Free Flavours

Next on the menu is this Beet Greens & Red Pepper Frittata from Eleni at On Top of Spaghetti. It’s easy to prepare, healthy and tasty, and ideal for brunch or perhaps a light lunch with a side salad. What’s more, it’s a great way to use those beet greens that many people don’t even realise you can eat.

Beet green and red pepper frittata from On Top of Spaghetti

Beet green and red pepper frittata from On Top of Spaghetti

As Louisa from Chez Foti says herself, these White Chocolate &  Cranberry Christmas Cookies make for a “wickedly good brunch snack with a cup or two of coffee” and are just the ticket during the festive period when sweet treats are de rigeur, even at breakfast!

White chocolate and cranberry Christmas cookies from Chez Foti

White chocolate and cranberry Christmas cookies from Chez Foti

I can’t believe I’ve never thought of combining beans and cheese on toast with a poached egg myself, but that’s exactly what Laura from Credit Munched has done in her Buck Rarebit. The combination sounds just so ‘right’ and perfect for a lazy brunch.

Buck rarebit from Credit Munched

My turn next and my offering was a simple but tasty Courgette and Mushroom Omelette with Garlic and Parsley. It’s ideal for when you crave a cooked breakfast but don’t want to go to too much effort.

Courgette and mushroom omelette with garlic and parsley from Bangers & Mash

Courgette and mushroom omelette with garlic and parsley from Bangers & Mash

Now while these Swiss Scrambled Eggs, Croissants and Shakes from Fabulicious Food might look designed to be a hangover cure, they’re honestly not. Ren came up with this delicious breakfast-brunch to fill her family with much-needed vitamins and goodness to aid recovery from the winter flu bug. I’m sure they were fighting fit in no time…

Swiss scrambled eggs, croissants and shakes from Fabulicious Food

Swiss scrambled eggs, croissants and shakes from Fabulicious Food

Mushrooms on toast, especially using good homemade bread, has to be a top contender for my favourite brunch dish. And these Mushrooms on Rye Toast from The Garden Deli look simply beautiful, don’t you think?

Mushrooms on rye toast from The Garden Deli

Mushrooms on rye toast from The Garden Deli

Sometimes brunch becomes much more like lunch than it is breakfast. And in times like these, wouldn’t you love a Minestrone Soup like this one from Divine Foods Living to set you up for the day?

Minestrone soup from Divine Foods Living

Minestrone soup from Divine Foods Living

These Nduja Potato Cakes from Foodycat make for a hearty, grown up brunch, especially served with a Bloody Mary. I must admit to having to google nduja – it turns out to be a spicy, spreadable sausage made from pork and is a Calabrian variation of salami.

Nduja potato cakes from Foodycat

Nduja potato cakes from Foodycat

Elizabeth from Elizabeth’s Kitchen describes these Christmas Breakfast Muffins as the best tasting muffins she’s ever made, and I have to say they do look incredibly good from her photos. Made from granola, marmalade, orange juice and apricots, they are the perfect breakfast in a cake.

Christmas breakfast muffins from Elizabeth’s Kitchen

Christmas breakfast muffins from Elizabeth’s Kitchen

It might not look like your usual late breakfast dish, and indeed I did have to persuade Kavey from Kavey Eats to enter her spectacular Speculoos & Mascarpone Pancake Cake into this month’s Breakfast Club, but personally I think this would make a superb, albeit slightly decadent, brunch. I also think I could gladly tuck into this amazing creation at just about any time of day…

Speculoos and mascarpone pancake cake from Kavey Eats

Speculoos and mascarpone pancake cake from Kavey Eats

I adore poppy seeds in any baked goods and they look particularly scrummy in these Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins from Mondomulia, and isn’t the photography simply stunning too? They’re perfect for a festive brunch, but I think they’d be great at any time of year. I might also try baking a batch for my daughters’ lunch boxes in the new year.

Lemon poppy seed muffins from Mondomulia

Lemon poppy seed muffins from Mondomulia

And last, but certainly not least, come these fantastic Brunch Quesadillas from Camilla at Fab Food 4 All. Filled with bacon, mushroom and cheese, these tasty tortillas would make an ideal brunch for New Year’s Day to help sort your head out after that one-too-many-glasses-of-fizz from the night before.

Brunch quesadillas from Fab Food 4 All

Brunch quesadillas from Fab Food 4 All

So there you have it. A particularly fine round-up of brunch recipes, I think you’ll agree. Thanks to Helen at Fuss Free Flavours for inviting me to host December’s Breakfast Club and to all you wonderful bloggers for linking up your yummy recipes.

Basil and garlic focaccia

Whenever I bake bread I always find myself marvelling at just how easy it is to make something that tastes and looks so good for such remarkably little effort.

While it might take a little time and is therefore not the kind of foodstuff I fancy making after a long day at work, baking bread is definitely my idea of a perfect weekend activity. And home-baked bread makes for a perfect weekend lunch, served still slightly warm from the oven with a spread of tasty cheeses, cold meats, olives and salad.

Baking often makes me a little nervous as the end result is usually meant to look neat and tidy. But thankfully bread is different and focaccia in particular should look a little rustic and rough around the edges. Which is obviously another reason why this is my kind of bread.

You can top your focaccia with whatever you fancy really – a light scattering of your favourite herbs, cheese, olives, or maybe someone caramelised onions and sun-dried tomatoes. But here I use my all-time favourite: basil and garlic.

Basil and garlic focaccia

500g strong white bread flour
15g salt
15g sugar
10.5g dried yeast (one and a half 7g sachets)
300ml lukewarm water
Semolina
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
Large bunch of basil, finely chopped
3 tbsp olive oil
Half a lemon
Salt and pepper

Put the flour, salt, sugar and yeast in a large bowl and mix together. Make a well in the middle and pour in the water. Gradually work the dry ingredients into the liquid to form a soft dough. If it’s still a little dry, add a drop more water; if it’s too sticky, add a little more flour.

Flour the work surface and tip out the dough onto it. Knead the dough for five to ten minutes until it is elastic and smooth. Return the dough to the bowl, cover with a clean tea towel and leave to rise in a warm, draught-free place for around an hour, until it has doubled in size.

Remove the dough from the bowl and give it a punch to knock the air out of it. Knead for another minute or so.

Split the dough into half. Roll each half into a rough circular shape about half an inch thick. Place the dough on a baking tray dusted with semolina.

In a small bowl, mix together the chopped basil, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Smear generously over the top of each piece of dough. Then push your fingers deep into the surface of the dough to make those little holes you always see on focaccia, allowing the flavours to get down deep inside the bread. Leave in a warm spot for another 45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 200°C/Gas Mark 6.

When the dough has risen again to just over an inch thick, bake in the oven for about 15 minutes until the top is a beautiful golden colour. Drizzle the bread with a little more olive oil and sprinkle sea salt over the top. Leave to cool slightly but try to eat while still warm if you can.

As my focaccia features lots of lovely fragrant basil, I’m linking up with September’s Herbs on Saturday blog challenge, hosted by Karen at Lavender & Lovage. I’m looking forward to working my way through the delicious looking recipes that have been submitted so far, including Recipe Junkie’s rosemary focaccia!

Destination Barcelona for Tapas

It’s the penultimate stop in my culinary world tour and this week we’re heading to the beautiful Spanish city Barcelona. The Catalan capital is one of the most amazing cities in the world, with its stunning architecture, fantastic restaurants and nightlife, and superb shopping.

I haven’t been back to Barcelona since I was 18, towards the end of a month’s inter-railing with my best friend Ruth after our A-levels, but it remains vivid in my memory. We had thoroughly exhausted ourselves trying to pack as many European cities into our four weeks’ travels as possible and by the time we reached Barcelona in our last week we needed to slow down. Barcelona was the perfect place to put down roots for a little while. While Ruth was ensconced in her first romance, I enjoyed wandering the streets of Barcelona simply breathing in the city.

One day I must return. But for now, I’ll imagine I’m there with my family. And what else would we be eating but tapas?

My sister Lottie lives in Toledo with her boyfriend Jose Luis. His mother Reme is a cook and has worked in a number of restaurants, so Lottie volunteered to ask her for suggestions on typical Catalan tapas for me to try out on my brood. The dishes she recommended I try were Pollo a la Catalana (Catalan style chicken with prunes and apricots) and Habas a la Catalana (broad beans with Jamon Iberica and Morcilla, a Spanish black pudding), both of which were absolutely delicious.

I also added some of my own personal favourites to the menu: Garbanzos con Espinacas (chickpeas with spinach), Albondigas (meatballs in tomato sauce), Gambas al Ajillo (garlic prawns), rosemary almonds, Manchego with Membrillo (quince paste or jelly), all of which were served with olives and bread – quite insanely I decided to go the whole hog and bake my own.

Preparing all the above made for a long, long, hot day in the kitchen. I cleared my husband and kids off for a few hours and cranked the music up loud while I cooked, and although I don’t intend on cooking quite so many dishes for one meal again in a hurry, I really rather enjoyed myself in a crazy kind of way.

So let’s get this recipe show on the road…

Simple Spanish bread rolls

Bread rolls

Makes 4 rolls

500g strong white bread flour
1½tsp salt
½tsp sugar
7g packet fast acting dry yeast
150ml warm water
1 egg, beaten and mixed with a little water

Mix the flour, salt, sugar and yeast in a large bowl. Gradually add the water, combining the ingredients until you get a soft dough. Add a little more water if you find you still have flour left at the bottom of the bowl. Likewise, if the dough is too sticky add a little more flour.

Knead the dough for five to ten minutes, until it is smooth and elastic. Form the dough into a ball and leave in the mixing bowl. Cover with a tea towel and leave to rise in a warm, draft-free place for about an hour.

Preheat oven to 200°C/Gas Mark 6.

When the dough has roughly doubled in size, knead again briefly. Divide into four pieces, form into balls and place on a lightly oiled baking sheet. Allow to rise again for a further 15 minutes.

Bake the rolls for 5 minutes, then remove from the oven and brush the tops with the egg mixture. Return to the oven and bake for another 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow the rolls to cool on a wire rack.

Rosemary almonds

Rosemary almonds

This is a favourite party snack, taken from Leon’s ‘Naturally Fast Food’.

250g whole almonds, with skins
3 sprigs fresh rosemary
25ml olive oil
sea salt

Preheat oven to 170°C/Gas Mark 3.

Spread the almonds on a baking sheet with two of the rosemary sprigs. Remove the leaves from the other sprig and keep to one side.

Toast the almonds in the oven for 5 to 7 minutes, until just beginning to brown.

Toss in the olive oil and salt while still hot. Remove the rosemary sprigs and add the reserved leaves. Return to the oven for 3 more minutes and then serve.

Chickpeas with spinach

Garbanzos con Espinacas (chickpeas with spinach)

2 tbsp olive oil
½ onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, 1 chopped and 1 left whole
1 tomato, peeled and chopped
1tsp paprika
½tsp ground cumin
¼tsp ground cayenne pepper
¼tsp saffron
4 peppercorns
1 x 410g tin chickpeas, liquid reserved
200g frozen spinach
salt

Heat the oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the onion and chopped garlic and fry for a couple of minutes. Add the tomato and cook until slightly reduced. Stir in the paprika, cumin and cayenne.

Using a pestle and mortar, crush the saffron and peppercorns with the remaining clove of garlic. Dissolve the spices in 3 tablespoons of water and add to the pan with the chickpeas and their liquid from the tin, along with the spinach and salt to taste. Cover and simmer over a low heat for 20 minutes, adding more water if it looks a little dry. The mixture should be saucy, but not sloppy. Serve warm.

Spanish meatballs

Albondigas (Spanish meatballs in tomato sauce)

The meatballs I’ve eaten in Spain are normally a little spicier than this recipe but I wanted to keep it mild for my children. Feel free to add some chilli, paprika or cayenne to the recipe.

3-4 cloves garlic
parsley
white wine, just over half a glass
300g pork mince
2 slices stale bread
milk
1 egg (beaten)
salt and pepper
flour
olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
4 tomatoes, roughly chopped

Preheat the oven to 190C/Gas 5.

Crush 2 of the garlic cloves with the parsley and mix with a dash of white wine. Add this mixture to the minced pork in a large bowl and combine well. Leave to stand for half an hour.

Place the bread in a dish and cover with the milk. Leave to soak for a few minutes and then squeeze out most of the milk.

Add the bread, egg, salt and pepper to the mince and knead until all the ingredients are mixed well together. Roll the mince mixture into small balls and roll each one in flour.

Fry in plenty of hot oil until they turn golden brown, drain and place in a casserole dish.

To make the sauce, heat a little oil in a frying pan. Add the onion and remaining clove of garlic and gently fry until golden.

Add the chopped tomatoes and about half a glass of white wine. Bring to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes

Pour the sauce over the meatballs and place in the oven for 20 – 25 minutes. Serve warm.

Catalan style chicken with prunes and apricots

Pollo a la Catalana (Catalan style chicken with prunes and apricots)

handful each of prunes and dried apricots
white wine
olive oil
4 chicken thighs
2 cloves garlic
2 bay leaves
cinnamon stick
2tbsp runny honey
handful of pine nuts
1tbsp corn flour
dash of red wine vinegar
knob of butter

Place the prunes and apricots in a bowl and cover with white wine. Leave to soak overnight.

Preheat the oven to 200C/Gas 6.

In a frying pan heat the oil and brown the chicken thighs. Remove the chicken to a roasting tin, along with the garlic, bay leaves and cinnamon stick. Roast in the oven for 25 minutes until the chicken is cooked through.

While the chicken is roasting, prepare the sauce. Add the honey to the frying pan in which you browned the chicken and heat. Add the fruit, the wine in which they have been soaking and pine nuts.

When the chicken is cooked, remove to a serving plate and keep warm. Place the roasting tin over a medium heat, and stir in the corn flour to absorb the juices. Add a cupful of water and a dash of red wine vinegar to deglaze the tin and stir in the butter. Pour in the fruity sauce, mix together and then pour over the chicken and serve.

Broad beans with Jamon Iberica and black pudding

Habas a la Catalana (broad beans with Jamon Iberica and black pudding)

This is one of the recipes from Reme, my sister Lottie’s boyfriend’s mother. I couldn’t get hold of Morcilla, a Spanish black pudding, so I went with Bury Market black pudding instead!

120g shelled broad beans
3 rashers smoked streaky bacon, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
½ onion, chopped
1 bay leaf
olive oil
bunch fresh mint, chopped
½tsp paprika
glass of white wine
100g Jamon Iberica, chopped
100g Morcilla or black pudding
salt and pepper

Blanch the broad beans in boiling, salted water for a few minutes until tender. Double shell the beans to reveal the beautifully bright green innards. It’s a bit of a palaver I know, but it’s really worth it.

Heat the oil in a pan and fry the bacon, garlic, onion and bay leaf for about 5 minutes. Add the mint and paprika, broad beans, white wine and black pudding. Stir and cook for a few minutes before adding the jamon. Season to taste and serve warm.

Garlic prawns

Gambas al Ajillo (garlic prawns)

I based this dish on a simple recipe I found in ‘Tapas’ by Louise Pickford.

12 raw tiger prawns
2 tbsp olive oil
knob of butter
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tbsp fresh basil, torn
juice of 1 lemon
salt and pepper
aioli (garlic mayonnaise) to serve – again I cheated and bought a jar!

Wash and dry the prawns.

Heat the oil and butter in a frying pan, add the prawns and garlic and fry for 3 to 4 minutes until the prawns are pink.

Remove the pan from the heat, stir in the basil and lemon juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve warm with a dish of aioli for dipping.

Manchego cheese with quince jelly

Manchego and Membrillo

Manchego is a tasty Spanish cheese made from sheep’s milk, which has a natural affinity with quinces. The idea of making my own membrillo really was a step too far, so I cheated and bought a jar of quince jelly instead. If you wanted to make your own, I reckon this recipe looks rather good.

So there you have it. My Barcelona tapas menu. I made way too much food for my family of four, but the leftovers were all gobbled up over the course of the next few days. The Catalan-style chicken in particular was very popular, and I’ll be making this dish again on its own for dinner, served simply with rice and salad.

I’ve almost completed my Around the World in Six Suppers adventure – can you believe the school holidays are nearing their end already? So where will the last dish come from next week? Watch this space to find out!

Destination Northumberland for Stottie Cakes with Ham & Peasepudding

The next leg of our Around the World in Six Suppers summer tour takes us from New York to Newcastle upon Tyne, gateway to the ruggedly beautiful county of Northumberland.

Yes, it’s the second week of the school holidays and for my second dish, inspired by a ‘virtual’ holiday destination, I’ve chosen the simple but oh so tasty stottie cake filled with succulent home-baked ham and good old-fashioned peasepudding.

I lived in the North East of England from the age of five until I was twelve, so many of my early memories are firmly lodged in this part of the world.

Trips to the Roman forts along Hadrian’s Wall, bike rides along the disused railway to Wylam, days spent on the long sandy beaches at Cullercoats and Whitley Bay, boat trips from Seahouses to see the puffins and seals of the Farne Islands, exploring the castles at Alnwick and Bamburgh, listening to the pipers at the Ovington Goose Fair…

It all sounds like a rather idyllic, Enid Blyton style childhood. Admittedly, these were also rather difficult years for my family for a number of reasons, but all in all, my memories of Newcastle and Northumberland are very, very fond ones. And I can’t wait to some day soon take my own family there for a proper holiday so I can properly show it off to them.

While Northumberland might not have an international reputation for its cuisine, one of my most vivid memories as a child is sharing a lovely soft stottie cake with my Mum, generously filled with ham and salty, stodgy peasepudding. And so this is the dish I have made this week to transport us to our second holiday destination.

Stottie Cakes

For those unfamiliar with the stottie I should explain it is not actually a cake. Rather it is a large, round, flattish bread roll, not normally seen outside of the North East. It is quite a heavy, doughy bread but I really like its heavy, chewiness. It is a very satisfying bread and when filled with the traditional ham and peasepudding it makes for a rather substantial meal.

Stottie cakes are easy to bake. I followed this recipe from the Ocado website and have used it again subsequently to bake bread buns for barbecued burgers, achieving perfect buns on both occasions.

My Mum used to buy stottie cakes for us from the butcher in the Grainger Market in the centre of Newcastle. I have no idea if you could get other fillings; ours always came stuffed with ham and peasepudding. Bizarrely I would normally refuse to eat peasepudding. I couldn’t stand the stuff. But in a stottie it was, somehow, transformed.

Home baked ham

There is nothing more delicious than a joint of home cooked ham. What’s more it is so easy to do. I simply took a 1.5kg gammon and soaked in cold water overnight. In the morning I gently brought the joint to a simmer in a large pan of fresh water, covered with a lid and put in the oven (preheated to 160°C/Gas Mark 2) for an hour and a half. You can tell if it’s cooked by sticking in a skewer; if it goes into the meat easily and the juices run clear, then it’s done.

Leave to cool a little and remove any string and skin. You can press the fatty surface of the joint with sugar and mustard powder if you like before baking, but I prefer to smother with a thin layer of sweet chilli sauce. I’m not sure what Geordie purists would make of that but I think it works well. Cover the lean meat with tin foil and place in a roasting tin. Bake in the oven (200°C/Gas Mark 6) for 10 to 20 minutes, until you get a good colour on top.

Peasepudding

For the peasepudding, I turned to this easy recipe from The British Food Trust. You’ll end up with leftovers, which apparently you can fry up, but I still can’t bring myself to eat it any other way except for in a stottie! I can’t wax lyrical about how wonderfully delicious peasepudding is, because I’m afraid it’s not. But it is the perfect slightly salty, slighty herby, stodgy accompaniment for ham, giving you the most amazing sandwich ever.

Now my kids can’t wait to visit Northumberland so they can try an authentic stottie cake. But I think I also sold it to them when I mentioned that the first few Harry Potter films were filmed in Alnwick Castle…

Easter baking: hot cross buns

If you have no daughters, give them to your sons
One a penny, two a penny
Hot cross buns!

As regular readers of Bangers & Mash will know, I have a few insecurities when it comes to baking. Probably because around 50% of my efforts are complete flops. I put it all down to not being taught to bake as a child. But enough of the self-psychoanalysis. I am turning my baking life around. Who cares if a cake doesn’t rise occasionally and what’s a burnt biscuit or two between friends? The more I try, the better I get. Well, that’s the idea anyway.

One of my hands down successes recently has been hot cross buns. When I took these little beauties out of the oven, I can’t tell you how proud I felt. They looked just like proper hot cross buns. And they smelled amazing, simply filling the kitchen with sweet, spicy goodness. It’s going to be difficult bringing myself to eat the shop-bought variety again.

So if I can make these bad boys, anyone can.

What surprised me most wasn’t the fact they were easy to make. They were. But how quick they were to make. Isn’t bread supposed to be complicated? I did the first part before ballet lessons on a Saturday morning (OK there was a  15-minute kneading session, but I found that rather enjoyable), leaving the dough to rise while the girls did ‘good toe, naughty toe’. Then they took another ten minutes work when we got back, plus a little more rising time and then into the oven. You just need to factor in time for rising. They also freeze really well, so great to make in advance and simply whip them out when you need them.

This recipe is by The Fabulous Baker Brothers aka Henry and Tom Herbert, which appeared in the April edition of Delicious magazine. I’d been thinking about trying hot cross buns for a little while and when I saw them on the front cover I took it as a sign. I stuck pretty much to their recipe except I swapped zest for mixed peel, only because I still have a big pot left over from Christmas I’m trying to use up.

We ate some of the buns warm from the oven with butter and cheese for a light lunch, and some the following morning with strawberry jam. The rest went in the freezer for some easy homemade home-baked pleasure whenever I fancy!

Hot cross buns

Makes 16

680g strong white bread flour
2 x 7g sachets fast-action dried yeast
10g salt
100g caster sugar
80g soft butter
15g mixed spice
175ml milk, tepid
175ml water, tepid
1 egg
80g currants
80g sultanas
40g mixed peel

For the cross
100g strong white bread flour
Pinch of salt and sugar
25g butter, melted
125ml water

For the glaze
75ml boiling water
1 tbsp caster sugar
Pinch of mixed spice

Into a big mixing bowl put the flour, yeast, salt, sugar, butter (make sure it’s really soft), mixed spice, milk, water and egg. Stir well (you’ll need to put some effort in here) until  you have a loose dough. Add a little more water if the mixture looks dry.

Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 15 minutes until the dough is smooth. Gently work in the dried fruit and mixed peel. I stretched the dough out flat, scattered on a handful of fruit, folded the dough over and kneaded. And then repeated this until all the fruit was worked in.

Plop your dough back into the big mixing bowl, cover with a tea towel and leave in a warm place for at least 45 minutes until it has doubled in size.

Before...

...and after!

Line a baking tray with good high sides with baking paper. Turn the dough out of the bowl and cut in half using a plastic scraper. Divide each half into half again, then keep repeating until you end up with 16 pieces.

Roll the pieces firmly  in your hands to make pert round shapes. Arrange them in the baking tray in a four by four formation with half an inch between each bun. Cover the tin with a tea towel and leave in a warm place for 30 minutes or so until the buns have doubled again in size.

Preheat the oven to 210ºC/gas mark 6-7.

Combine the dry ingredients for the cross in a bowl and gradually whisk in the melted butter and water until you get a smooth mixture. Pour into a piping bag with a small nozzle. Cross the buns by piping continuous lines across the length and breadth of the tin.

Bake for 15 minutes until golden. While they’re in, make the glaze. Boil the water with the sugar and mixed spice for half a minute, then put to one side. As soon as the buns come out of the oven, brush the tops with the spicy glaze.

 

The Little Loaf is hosting the Fresh from the Oven challenge this month and as the theme this time is hot cross buns I thought I might enter mine. Now, the Little Loaf is an amazing baker so I’m a little nervous with my amateur offering but hopefully she’ll appreciate my enthusiasm!