Chilli beef pasta with Savoy cabbage and caraway for the #OrganicUnboxed Challenge

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Like many of my fellow food bloggers, I’ve been taking part in the #OrganicUnboxed challenge this last few weeks. The idea of the challenge is simple. Organic UK is sending bloggers a big mystery box of organic produce to see what easy, every day dishes they might come up with to inspire more people to switch to organic. In my excitement I failed miserably to get a picture of the organic goodies being unboxed. Which is why I’ve brought you a gratuitous shot of our cat Tango in the box instead. Now, hasn’t that brightened your day? Continue reading “Chilli beef pasta with Savoy cabbage and caraway for the #OrganicUnboxed Challenge”

Sloe syrup drizzle cake with caraway seeds

sloe syrup drizzle cake with caraway seeds

Instead of bottling a batch of sloe gin this year with my haul of sloe berries from the blackthorn in our garden, I decided to try something different and created sloe syrup using a recipe from Fuss Free Flavours.

It’s wonderful stuff and extremely versatile. Delicious poured over ice cream or pancakes, it is also perfect as a mixer for cocktails or adding to sparkling wine or champagne, while my daughters like it as a cordial mixed with fizzy water or lemonade.

And it also works a treat in baking, as in this variation on a lemon drizzle cake. I took a recipe for buttermilk loaf cake from the brilliant What To Bake And How To Bake It by Jane Hornby, added a few caraway seeds (I can’t get enough of these in cakes at the moment) and liberally doused the cake, while still warm from the oven, in the sweet, sticky sloe syrup. The end result is simply gorgeous and very, very moreish. Continue reading “Sloe syrup drizzle cake with caraway seeds”

The Spice Trail: your caraway recipes

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We always receive such a diverse array of entries for The Spice Trail, and this month’s caraway challenge has been no exception.

Caraway is certainly one of the less commonly used spices used in our kitchens and this is reflected in the lower number of entries this month. But even so, I have been enormously impressed by all the delicious, and sometimes surprising, caraway dishes entered. Each and everyone is a winner in my eyes, although there can only be one winner – more on that later. For now it’s time to take a look through your caraway recipes…

caraway pretzels

Caraway Pretzels from GoodFoodSeeking

Jacqui from GoodFoodSeeking is working her way through a 1948 Good Housekeeping cookbook she inherited and is blogging as she goes. After seeing pretzels being made in the Great British Bake Off she rather fancied trying some herself and was delighted to come across a recipe in the Good Housekeeping cookbook as a German bake in the ‘world’ chapter. I think they look absolutely wonderful, especially with that sprinkling of caraway seeds on top.

heart shortbread

Dark Chocolate, Sea Salt & Caraway Shortbread Hearts from Tales from the Kitchen Shed

These shortbread hearts from Sarah at Tales from the Kitchen Shed are a perfect Valentine bake and look absolutely divine. I’ve never combined caraway with chocolate but it sounds like a wonderful match and, as I’m a sucker for salty-sweet foods, it’s a recipe I plan to try out very soon.


Kale & Caraway Crisps from Eat Your Veg

Lou from Eat Your Veg brings us these creative Kale and Caraway Crisps next. She says she often sautees kale or other greens as a side dish for Sunday lunch and throws in a generous pinch of caraway at the end. So when Lou was considering how to flavour her first ever batch of kale crisps, caraway was the obvious choice. “By heck they were good,” is Lou’s brilliant response to these surprisingly moreish, healthier-choice crisps.

pumpernickel tuile

Pumpernickel Tuiles from The Lass in the Apron

Although Alexandra from The Lass in the Apron disliked caraway as a youngster, it is one of those flavours that she has grown into over the years. After she graduated from pastry school, Alexandra worked in a German bakery where she  found herself eating lots of the stuff. Alexandra was keen to make something Scandinavian for this month’s Spice Trail and has adapted a havreflarn recipe, a sort of oat tuile, using caraway as well as cocoa and orange.  Don’t they look simply incredible?

spaghetti bolognese

Spaghetti Bolognese from Bangers & Mash

I don’t always include caraway in my Bolognese. In fact every time I make spag bol the ingredients are different, all depending on my mood and what we have in the house. But caraway is a surprisingly good addition, and adds a beautifully intense and slightly sweet flavour to the sauce.

cauliflower cheese pasta bake
Cauliflower Cheese Pasta Bake from Spurs Cook

Martin from Spurs Cook has also used caraway to flavour a pasta dish, this time an ingenious hybrid of two classic comfort foods – pasta bake and cauliflower cheese. Also featuring leeks, red onion, garlic and bacon, I think this could rapidly turn into a family favourite in the Bangers & Mash household.

caraway and linseed bread
Caraway & Linseed Bread Bangers & Mash

I really should have baked rye bread for this month’s challenge, as it is of course the loaf synonymous with caraway, but I’m not sure I’d have persuaded the rest of my brood to eat rye bread just yet. I’ll be working on them. In the meantime, this caraway and linseed bread did go down very well, which is absolutely delicious served with soup or cold cuts and spread thickly with good, salty butter.

polish sausage sauerkraut
Polish Sausage & Sauerkraut Casserole with Beer from Lavender & Lovage

I find it impossible to look at this photograph from Karen at Lavender & Lovage of her Polish Sausage & Sauerkraut Casserole with Beer without drooling. This is my perfect kind of meal and I am just so thrilled Karen entered it into this month’s Spice Trail, as we really couldn’t have a caraway challenge without some sauerkraut in there. She made hers in the slow cooker but I know it will work just as well in my Aga or any conventional oven whacked right down low.

braised pig cheeks with carrot and parsnip mash
Braised Pig Cheeks from Bangers & Mash

Finally, I couldn’t run a caraway challenge without sharing (again) my Braised Pig Cheeks cooked slowly in red wine and vegetables and flavoured of course with caraway. It really is so good and is what I consider to be the ultimate in classy comfort food.

So there you have February’s fantastic recipe round-up. Huge thanks to everyone who entered their recipes; I have been genuinely inspired by your creativity with caraway!

And the winner is…

But who will take the crown as our caraway king or queen? That decision was made by Lara Light-McKelvaney from Bart Ingredients who are providing this month’s prize, a wonderful gift bag containing fabulous Bart’s goodies.

And Lara’s decision? It just had to go to Jacqui Gourlay from GoodFoodSeeking for her brilliant Caraway Pretzels, which Lara says look incredible. Congratulations to Jacqui – a very worthy winner, don’t you agree? A Bart Ingredients gift bag will be on its way to you very soon – enjoy!

bart spices

If you’d like to find out more about Bart Ingredients and shop online, do check out their new Bart Market, where all their products are now available, showcasing an impressive array of spice blends from around the world, spice infusions, individual herbs and spices and other associated cooking products. I feel like a child in a sweet shop whenever I’m on there!

Thanks again to everyone who got involved this month. March’s Spice Trail challenge will be announced very soon…

Braised pig cheeks with carrot and parsnip mash

braised pig cheeks with carrot and parsnip mash

This was one of the first recipes I featured on the blog many moons ago. It’s a rich, deliciously intense dish, in which pig cheeks are slowly braised in red wine, vegetables and caraway until they are so exquisitely tender they fall apart at the touch of a fork, and, if you weren’t upfront with your dinner guests, they would never dream they were eating offal. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve never actually tried tricking anyone into eating pig cheeks before, but it would be rather interesting to see how it worked out. Anyway, I know my lot love this dish and they are generally pretty squeamish about eating ‘funny bits of animal’.

I thought I should enter these pig cheeks into this month’s Spice Trail challenge, which is calling for people’s favourite caraway recipes, as this is undoubtedly one of mine. The plan had been to simply link up my previous recipe post (badly lit photos and all), but then I spotted some pig cheeks on the butcher’s counter – rather unusual as I normally have to put in a special request for them.  So I took that as a sign I had to make the dish again, especially for The Spice Trail. Such a hardship, I ask you. The things I do for this blog.

braised pig cheeks with carrot and parsnip mash

I always serve these braised pig cheeks with some kind of vegetable mash. It just seems to work so well with the rich sauce, and creates the most blissfully comforting of dishes. When I featured it on the blog previously I went for celeriac mash; this time it is carrot and parsnip. It could simply be mashed potato. Your call.

Braised pig cheeks with carrot and parsnip mash

Serves 4-6

6 pig cheeks, trimmed of fat
salt and pepper
flour for dusting
3 tbsp olive oil
2 onions, peeled and chopped
1 leek, washed and cut into 1cm chunks
2 carrots, peeled and cut into 1cm chunks
2 celery sticks, cut into 1cm chunks
2 garlic cloves, sliced
100g tomato puree
½ bottle dry red wine
300ml beef stock, hot
½ tsp black peppercorns
2 tsp caraway seeds
1 bay leaf

For the mash

4 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 large parsnip, peeled and chopped
50g butter
splash of milk
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 140°C/gas 1.

Season the pig cheeks and dust with the flour. Heat 2 tbsp oil in a large ovenproof pan and fry the cheeks until golden brown. Remove from the pan and keep warm on a plate.

Add a little more oil to the pan and add the onions, leeks, celery, carrots and garlic and fry gently until just beginning to brown. Pour in a little of the red wine and the tomato puree. Cook gently to reduce the wine and caramelise the puree. Gradually add the rest of the wine, reducing down each time until you have a lovely rich dark sauce.

Return the cheeks to the pan and pour over enough stock to cover. Add the peppercorns, caraway seeds and bay leaf and bring to a gentle simmer.

Cover with a lid and cook in the oven for four hours. Stir occasionally and add more stock if it begins to dry out.

Towards the end of the cooking time, boil the carrots and parsnip in a pan of salted water for around 10 minutes. Add the butter, milk and a little seasoning, and mash well or puree with a hand blender.

When cooked, remove the cheeks from the pan and keep warm. Pass the sauce through a fine sieve into a clean pan. Bring the sauce to the boil and reduce until it is good and thick. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serve the cheeks on the mash and generously spoon over the sauce. Enjoy!

braised pig cheeks with carrot and parsnip mash

This is my last entry for February’s Spice Trail challenge, which celebrates cooking with caraway.

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And I am also entering this dish into Ren Behan’s Simple and in Season event as both carrot and parsnip are certainly in season right now.


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.

The Spice Trail: cooking with caraway

feb spice challenge

In this month’s Spice Trail, I am calling on fellow food bloggers to get carried away with caraway.

As with most foods, caraway holds nostalgic associations for me. Just one sniff and I’m straight back to North London as a young girl, visiting my Dad during the summer holidays; being taken to a corner shop Jewish bakery somewhere between Tottenham and Stamford Hill, where the whole shop is filled with the distinctive, heady aroma of caraway, and from where we come away with warm bread rolls, rum babas and, my favourite, big fat rum truffle chocolate cakes.

But back to caraway…

If you’re unfamiliar with caraway seeds, here’s what the Leon book of Ingredients & Recipes has to say on the subject:

Indigenous to Europe and Asia Minor, this seed has been long used in Arabic cooking. The plant looks a bit like carrot leaves (same family), with its hollow stalks, and the pre-seed flowers are pinkish. Became popular in Elizabethan England mainly as a sweet snack, sugared and called comfits. The flavour can be most easily discerned in rye bread. Caraway is also big in Jewish food, harissa, apple dishes, sauerkraut and a delicious after dinner stickie drink called kummel (those little seeds are excellent for digestion – just chewing on a few can really take your wind away). One of the oldest cultivated spice plants in Europe, going back to the 13th century. If you don’t have any… go and get some. It’s worth the trip and this spice walks alone.

Caraway is a spice I don’t cook with all that often. But when I do, I wonder why I don’t use it more. That’s why I really can’t wait to see what recipes you come up with this month, as I’d love to cook more with caraway.

Win a Bart Ingredients gift bag

If the honour of being crowned The Spice Trail’s caraway king or queen wasn’t enough of an incentive, this month our winner will also receive a gift bag full of fantastic spices from the good people at Bart Ingredients.

The Bart Ingredients Company has grown over the last 50 years and now sources ingredients from across the globe. Back at the Bart base in Bristol, their culinary experts work with flavours to create herb harmonies and spice symphonies, which add an extra touch of magic to home cooked dishes. By working with suppliers in different corners of the world, they have come to realise that not all ingredients are equal and a myriad of reasons can change the flavour profiles of our favourite spices.

How to enter The Spice Trail

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  • Display the The Spice Trail badge (above and also available here) on your recipe post, and link back to this challenge post.
  • You may enter as many recipe links as you like, so long as they feature this month’s key ingredient, caraway seeds.
  • Send your recipe URL to me at vanesther-at-reescommunications-dot-co-dot-uk, including your own email address and the title of your recipe or post. The closing date this month is Wednesday 26 February 2014.
  • If you tweet your post, please mention #TheSpiceTrail and me @BangerMashChat in your tweet and I’ll retweet each one I see.
  • Feel free to republish old recipe posts, but please add the information about this challenge and The Spice Trail badge.
  • As entries come in, links to these will be added to the bottom of this page.
  • At the end of the month a guest judge will choose a winning recipe and the winner this month will receive a tasty gift box from Bart Ingredients.
  • The winner will be announced in a monthly round-up of all the entries.
  • All entries will be added to The Spice Trail Pinterest Board.

So what caraway dishes will you come up with for this month’s Spice Trail? Any questions, please tweet or email me.

And if you’re wondering where the round-up of January’s Spice Trail challenge is, which saw us cooking with paprika, I’m working on it now and it will be with you very soon. So watch this space!

February’s entries

  1. Caraway Pretzels from GoodFoodSeeking
  2. Dark Chocolate, Sea Salt & Caraway Shortbread Hearts from Tales from the Kitchen Shed
  3. Kale & Caraway Crisps from Eat Your Veg
  4. Pumpernickel Tuiles from The Lass in the Apron
  5. Spaghetti Bolognese from Bangers & Mash
  6. Cauliflower Cheese Pasta Bake from Spurs Cook
  7. Caraway & Linseed Bread Bangers & Mash
  8. Polish Sausage & Sauerkraut Casserole with Beer from Lavender & Lovage
  9. Braised Pig Cheeks with Carrot & Parsnip Mash from Bangers & Mash

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