Cinnamon Buns

Sweet, squidgy, fragrant with spice – what’s not to love about a cinnamon bun?  As yet I haven’t met anyone who doesn’t weaken at the knees with the mention of a CB.  My children adore them and regularly make urgent requests for me to bake some.  There is no great secret to making these, bread flour rather than plain gives that fluffy soft dough which is then wrapped around a buttery, sugary cinnamon filling.   The final flourish of icing completes the picture and makes them pretty much perfection in our book.

So, whilst these are super easy to make remember to allow a bit of time.  Like other recipes using yeast it requires a couple of rises.  I give myself about a 4 hour time frame (which includes cooling them if you are going to ice them) but there isn’t more than about 30 minutes of hands on time.  Just letting you know in case you want to get them ready for the end of school….

Cinnamon Buns

I find a stand mixer easiest for this as it is quite a soft dough.

450g strong white bread flour

7g yeast

7g salt

60g soft brown sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

225ml milk, warmed to just blood temperature

1 egg beaten

75g soft butter, cubed

For the filling –

100g soft butter

80g soft brown sugar

2 heaped teaspoons cinnamon

200g Icing sugar

Put the flour, yeast, salt, 60g sugar and cinnamon into the bowl of your stand mixer.   Once mixing add the warm milk and beaten egg followed by the 75g soft butter, a bit at a time until it comes together then let this mix for 5 minutes.  Leave to rise for an hour in a warm, draught free place.   Roll the dough out on a floured surface until approximately the size of a tea towel then spread with the 100g soft butter.  Mix the 80g soft brown sugar and 2 teaspoons cinnamon together and then sprinkle this evenly over the butter.  Roll up from one of the long sides and then cut into even pieces about 2cm thick.  Depending on the length of your roll you’ll get about 12-16.  Place these cut side down and well spaced on a large baking sheet and leave to rise again for another hour.  Just before the time is up preheat the oven to 190 and then bake for 25-30 minutes until puffed up and golden.  Leave to cool.   Sift the icing sugar into a bowl and mix with just enough water to get the consistency you are happy with before trickling it over the buns either neatly and artistically or rather more erratically as I have done in the photograph above.

 

Summer holidays (help is at hand….)

 

The chaos that is the summer holidays is upon me.  As usual I find myself being cook, driver, entertainments manager and all round major-domo.  On the whole I relish this and particularly enjoy having my children at home (most of the time….) but efficiency which is not my foremost characteristic always needs cranking up.  Unexpected and sometimes many mouths to feed is a frequent situation and it is at these times that I fall back on much used, reliable recipes.  Ones I can do without any panic and which I know will go down a storm.   Here then is a collection of such recipes that I will be turning to again and again.  Need a quick cake – no problem, my ginger one always goes down well.   Need a contribution for a picnic, easy – no-one ever turns down this focaccia and something for lunch, well look no further…..

This Ginger Cake (July 2013)  is super easy, you probably have most of the ingredients in your cupboard and is so good it never hangs around for long.

I don’t think there is a picnic that I haven’t taken this Focaccia (May 2014) to.  It also goes down well cut into little squares and served with drinks before lunch or dinner.  Really easy and you can make the dough the night before and leave in the fridge ready to finish off in the morning if that suits.  Once the wild garlic is over I often just sprinkle with crunchy sea salt or make use another herb to make the sauce.

 

Whilst I adore a good old green salad (January 2014) and eat one several times a week, there are times when you need something a little more substantial and with a bit more going on.  My Christmas salad (December 2013) gets endless outings and is the number one choice to go in soft white bap with pulled pork.  The Roasted Vegetables with Pomegranate Molasses (July 2014) dressing is another go-to and often gets wheeled out with barbecues.

 

Puddings too feature a lot in my summer menus, all that fabulous fruit and also the time to spend around the table with just one more course…. Maybe a Pannacotta with Blackcurrants or any other fresh berry sauce (July 2014) and how about a Lemon and Lime ice cream (May 2014).  Oh and don’t forget that Elderflower and Apple Jelly I posted last month, the last word in easy and delicious.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, enjoy the holidays and I hope you try some of the recipes here, just trawl through the summer months of previous years and you will find the recipes that keep me sane.

 

 

Elderflower and Apple Jelly

I feel jelly has been a fairly regular presence throughout my life.  From children’s parties that frankly weren’t a party if there wasn’t jelly along with the Midget Gems and cocktail sausages (although ideally not in the same mouthful…) to the somewhat more sophisticated Prosecco or Pimms jellies around now.    Although the jelly itself hasn’t really changed over the years I now eat it with a spoon rather than applying it directly to my face as I may have done…

Funny how something so simple still draws the oohs and aahs when brought to the table and goes down equally well with children and grown ups.   Quick to make, cheap and easily zhuzzed up with summer fruits this is real a star to have up your sleeve for entertaining as the warm weather arrives particularly as it has to be made ahead to time.

I often try new flavour ideas for jelly – it is after all simply a liquid and the requisite amount of gelatine – and this is our current favourite.  I’ve made this twice over half term and both times have been left with an empty plate.   On the first occasion I served it with rhubarb fool, rhubarb and elderflower being extremely good friends;  the second time with a few strawberries on top which had macerated for half an hour in a spoonful of sugar (as in the pictures here).

When the weather really warms up you can dispense with the gelatine and pour the apple/elderflower mix direct into ice lollies moulds for super refreshing ice pops.

Elderflower and Apple Jelly

I choose to use apple juice and add elderflower cordial as that way I get the balance of flavour I like but you could probably use a combined apple and elderflower juice if you prefer.  There is a recipe for elderflower cordial here, (June 2016).

850 ml apple juice (the one I buy comes in 1 litre bottles so I just drink 150ml)

150ml elderflower cordial

Juice of half a lemon

11 sheets of gelatine (I use Costa and it always works a treat)

Put approximately 300ml of apple juice in a pan and heat gently but don’t let it boil.  Put the rest into a jug and mix with the elderflower cordial.  Meanwhile soak the gelatine in a bowl of cold water.  When the apple juice is hot add the squeezed out gelatine, mix well until it has melted then add to the cold apple and elderflower, stir and pour into a 1 litre jelly mould.  Let it cool then put in the fridge until set, overnight is best.  Sit the mould in hot water for a minute or two and then turn out. Serves 6 easily or more with something else alongside.

 

A little housekeeping….

 

Hello – a little housekeeping message from me – you may be aware that on May 25th 2018  new Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) are coming into force so I need to check that you still wish to receive recipes and chat from me (I hope so!).  If you wish to keep them coming then do nothing otherwise use the unsubscribe button below.

Thank you, Anna x

PS As there isn’t a recipe here I’m giving you a photograph of a delicious cake instead, its my Beetroot and Carrot cake (February 2016) why not make one today?

Chicken with Harissa, Potatoes and Broccolini

A few of you may recognise this as one of my earliest recipes on these pages.  So long ago in fact that it doesn’t even have a photograph.  Although I cook my recipes over and over again this is the first time I’ve duplicated one here.  The reason being I  felt it lacked fanfare originally and is such a reliable and delicious lunch or supper that I thought it deserved a shout out, as they say.  Also and somewhat inevitably, I have tinkered with it adding potatoes to the original to make it a complete one pan meal.

It is this sort of dish that I find an absolute Godsend on weekdays when I’m frazzled and need to think of (yet another) family supper that is quick, easy, undemanding, not too expensive and above all delicious – clean plates after all are what we want to see.  This ticks all those boxes, cooked in one pan which you can bring to the table, incorporates potatoes, meat and veg along with a super easy spice addition by way of the harissa. I refer you here to a comment I made about the original which still stands – “Crisp skinned chicken sliding off the bone in a spicy red jacket with crunchy greens to give verdant vigour!”

Chicken with Harissa and Broccolini

If you like things a little spicier feel free to add more harissa and if you want it a little saucier, add a glug of white wine with the final teaspoon of harissa.

1 tablespoon olive oil

8 chicken thighs, bone in and skin on

8 waxy potatoes, halved

5 teaspoons harissa paste

1 pack tenderstem broccolini

Chopped parsley (optional)

Preheat the oven to 190.  Put the potatoes and oil in a large baking pan and turn to coat.  Put half a teaspoon of harissa under the skin of each thigh and squidge a bit to spread.  Put the chicken in with the potatoes, season and roast 30 minutes.  Towards the end of this cooking time blanch the broccolini in boiling water for 1 minute and drain.  Remove the chicken from the oven, stir the last teaspoon of harissa into the cooking juices and then fit the broccoli in and around the chicken and potatoes (put some of the chicken on the potatoes if that helps).  Return to the oven for 10 minutes.  Season, sprinkle with parsley if you like and serve, this is enough for 2 adults and 2 children but you can multiply it at will.

Meringues with Rhubarb and Ginger Cream

I adore rhubarb – its sprightly pinkness brings cheer to the sometimes dreary late winter and early spring table.  When there isn’t much in the way of home grown fruit around, robust rhubarb persists in growing regardless of the cold, its brave stalks standing proud whatever the weather.  Technically of course rhubarb is a vegetable and can be used in savoury applications but this recipe is unashamedly a pud, sweet and lip smacking.

Meringues with their crisp carapace and yielding chewy middles topped with poached rhubarb scented with a hint of orange and finished off with billowing clouds of whipped cream studded with preserved ginger.  Properly good.  I make this pudding a lot when rhubarb is around – it is a dream of a make ahead and as such I couldn’t recommend it more highly for entertaining.  The meringues can be made days if not weeks ahead as long as they are stored in an airtight container.  The rhubarb can be cooked a couple of days in advance and kept in the fridge and the cream whipped with the ginger a couple of hours before you need it.  You could omit the ginger if it is not your thing and add some vanilla to the cream instead.   Finally, baked plums are also delicious when rhubarb is not around and go very well with the ginger.

Meringues with rhubarb and ginger cream

Ideally I prefer to roast rhubarb but in this case your oven is busy with the meringues so I’ve given a stovetop method.  If you have done the meringues ahead of time or have two ovens heat the other to 190 and put the rhubarb in a shallow dish with the sugar, orange zest and juice and bake for 15 minutes (see photograph below).

2 egg whites

100g caster sugar

Drop of oil

400g rhubarb, chopped into short pieces

40g caster sugar

1 orange, zest and juice (remember to zest before you juice!)

300ml double cream

1 globe and 1 tablespoon syrup preserved ginger, finely chopped

Preheat the oven to 140 and very lightly brush a parchment lined baking sheet with oil.  Whisk the egg whites until stiff (like shaving foam) then add the sugar spoonful by spoonful until satiny.  Divide into four blobs on the parchment and fashion into rough nests.  Put in the oven, turn down to 120 and leave for 2 hours.  They should be spot on but if they are still a tiny bit soft leave in the turned off oven until its cool and they are dry.  Meanwhile cook the rhubarb very gently in a pan with the sugar, orange zest and juice until the sugar is dissolved and the rhubarb soft but hasn’t fallen apart.  When you are ready to serve whip the cream with the ginger syrup until just holding its shape then fold through the chopped ginger.  Put a meringue of a plate, pile on the rhubarb followed by the cream.  If you are keen on ginger you can trickle a little more ginger syrup over or grate some orange zest over for prettiness.  Serves 4.

 

Quick and Easy Flatbreads

Could this be the most useful recipe ever?  These flatbreads certainly have the power to transform and are quite delicious.  I am not a huge fan of those frisbee like flatbreads or tortillas available in most shops.  Flimmy flammy in texture, always rather chewy and disappointing – definitely the single reason I never buy filled wraps.  If you are lucky enough to live near a Middle Eastern shop you will probably be able to lay your hands on top notch authentic flatbreads which are an absolute treat.  Failing that, make these – they are utterly delicious, soft and pliable, completely moreish – perfect to step in when you may need a pita, wrap or bread roll.

Fajitas in these flatbreads are sensational, try Camp Fajitas, (July 2016) or the Lamb Meatballs (October 2012).  Wrap one around a sausage with slow cooked onions or Firecracker Red Cabbage (November 2013) for a Bonfire night treat.  If I want to serve these alongside a curry, say the Prawn Curry (November 2012) I will add a scattering of nigella/black onion seeds when rolling out for that naan bread vibe.  Use them to dip into hummus or any other dips, Cannellini Bean, Parsley and Lemon dip, (April 2015) or with leftover chilli to fashion an unconventional burrito.  If serving them simply torn to go with a stew or dips then roll in whatever you like, finely chopped rosemary or thyme, a sprinkle of oregano, chilli flakes or cumin seeds…. Customise them at your will.

I have tried many, many different recipes for flatbreads and still love those made with a yeast risen dough but these are the ones to turn to in a hurry.  I always have yogurt in the fridge and flour in the cupboard – these are super quick, just the mixing of a few ingredients, rolling out and cooking in a hot pan.  Life changing.

Quick and Easy Flatbreads

As you can imagine these are at their best when just cooked – this shouldn’t be a problem as they are so good they often don’t make it to the table in our house.  If you want to make ahead I recommend you mix the dough whenever it suits and then wrap in clingfilm until you are ready to cook the flatbreads.  I often put the dough together in  the morning when I have 5 spare minutes ready to whip up the flatbreads later in the day but it will happily sit in the fridge for day if that suits you better.  I’ve used most kinds of yogurt and they all work, earlier this week I used a mix of both Greek and natural because I wanted to finish one pot before I opened the other and the flatbreads were perfect.  You may need a drop more yogurt or a sprinkle more flour sometimes as flours can behave differently but 200/200 is usually right.  I can’t recommend them highly enough!

200g self-raising flour

Large pinch of fine salt

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 tablespoon olive oil, plus a little extra for brushing the flatbreads for cooking

200g yogurt, any kind will do, I’ve used both Greek and regular natural yogurt or even a mix (see introduction).

Sea salt (optional)

Mix the flour, salt, baking powder, oil and yogurt to a dough.  Form into a ball, flatten and divide into 6 (or 4 if you want larger flatbreads).  Roll these out on a floured surface until the size of a side plate (now is the time to add any flavourings such as nigella seeds – see introduction).  Heat a frying pan over a medium heat, brush one side of the flatbread and put it oiled side down in the pan, cook for a few minutes until turning golden then brush the uppermost side with oil and turn to cook that side.  This whole process with take a matter of minutes.  Repeat with the remaining dough.  Sprinkle with a little salt when warm but I warn you this makes them irresistable….  Makes 6.

 

 

Savoy Cabbage with Pancetta and Creme Fraiche

 

When I was working in the City I had a supper that I enjoyed with almost obsessive regularity.  There are two reasons for this.  Firstly as I got up at 5.30am to get to work, there were no slow braises for me in the evening and secondly it had to be easy to shop for.  These days I think nothing of a wander around the shops, market and farmstall seeing what is in season and looks good.  Those days I was a single gal enjoying London and perusing the supermarket shelves at a weekend was just not happening.  A savoy cabbage which cuts neatly into 4;  those little duo packs of pancetta that have the perfect amount in each half, a large pot of creme fraiche and a good bunch of parsley were all I needed.  So you see, a short and snappy shopping list and I was set for a weeks worth of suppers.

Did I mind having the same thing every night?  No, not only for all the reasons above but mainly because it is so exceptionally delicious.  This dish has come back into play because adding a little bacon/pancetta, chorizo or similar often helps with my brassica phobic daughter and this is no exception.  Whilst she is still of course aware there is cabbage lurking in this dish, its inherent bitter edge is offset by the creme fraiche, salty savoury pancetta and the generous hit of parsley.

You can serve this with a stew (we had it yesterday with a pot roast of local silverside – heaven), it is perfect with a roast chicken and also works an absolute treat  with a piece of white fish.  Or do what I did all those years ago, enjoy it in solitary splendour (the cabbage that is, not you) it is a highly satisfying one pot supper.

Savoy Cabbage with Pancetta and Creme Fraiche

You can of course use smoky bacon, it is a matter of history that I use those little packs of pancetta although I have on occasion used a piece of pancetta when I can get hold of it.  The nutmeg adds a delicious note of its own making this taste rather like Carbonara with cabbage as my son described it.

65g (or thereabouts) chopped pancetta or bacon

1 teaspoon olive oil

1/2 small (or quarter of a large) savoy cabbage, chopped

1 tablespoon creme fraiche

1/2 small pack parsley, chopped

A little grated nutmeg

Salt and pepper

Heat the oil in a pan with the pancetta and cook done but not quite crispy.  Add the chopped cabbage and give it a good stir and let it begin to wilt.  Put a tablespoon of water into the pan, stir and put a lid on for 2 minutes.  Remove the lid, give it a good stir getting any bits of pancetta off the bottom, add the creme fraiche and a grating of nutmeg and black pepper.  You may need a little salt but taste it first as pancetta is salty.  Finally stir in the parsley and serve.  This is enough for 1 or two as a side but, clearly, easily doubled or tripled.

 

 

Yorkshire Puddings

I am very keen that the recipes I post here are useful to you.   They are usually quick and certainly easy, delicious and hopefully ones you will make a mental note to cook again and again.  At the same time I am a little wary of offering up recipes you may have made a million times or, worse, telling Granny how to suck eggs…..  This had presented me with something of a dilemma.  There are, of course,  recipes that I have struggled with but after much repetition, tinkering, trial and error I feel I’ve cracked – the question is has anyone else struggled with these so called classics and would you want said recipes?

What persuaded me to feature this Yorkshire Pudding recipe today is that I have a friend who struggles with them.  There are two reasons why this shouldn’t be the case, firstly she is an excellent baker, which after all is what you are doing here and secondly, she is from Yorkshire.  Both these reasons mean she should be able to whip up a batch of Yorkies without breaking a sweat and yet she tells me they continue to give her gip.

So here are they are, the Yorkshire puds I make.  I have tried many different recipes and styles to finally arrive at these.  I’ve used a blender for the batter and also mixed by hand.  The batter has been rested overnight in the fridge and also used immediately.  I’ve tried self raising and plain flour, honestly I’ve done my homework.   This is what works for me and I hope will work for you (and especially you Hayley).

Yorkshire Puddings

I usually give this batter about 20 minutes to rest, mainly because I need to find the muffin tin I cook them in, put the oil in, heat it etc.

200g plain flour

3 large eggs

300ml milk

1/2 teaspoon salt

Sunflower/vegetable oil

Preheat your oven to 210 and make sure a rack is in the top third.  Put the flour and salt into a bowl and whisk in the eggs one at a time followed by the milk a little at a time beating as you go.  If there are any lumps give it a really good whisk and this should get rid of them.  I now pour the batter into a jug as it is so much easier to then pour it into the muffin tin.  Put the oil into a 12 hole muffin tin, you need enough to cover the base of  each hole and put this into the oven to heat up for about 5 minutes.  Extremely carefully remove the tin from the oven and pour the batter into each hole.  Return to the oven and cook for 20-25 minutes.  Check after 15 as you may need to move the shelf down to the middle of the oven if they are browning too quickly.  This obviously makes 12 but its up to you how many it serves, we (as a family of 4) happily have 2 or 3 each…

 

Christmas

Christmas is such a fun yet hectic time and it is all to easy to get overwhelmed with to-do lists (I know this all too well!).  I have tried to help myself over the years by getting a few things made ahead and stashed away in the freezer and would refer you to some of the tips in my November 2013 post.   I’ve been a bit slow to follow my own advice this year but my Christmas day potatoes are par boiled and waiting for us in the icy depths of the freezer shortly to be followed by some Cheese Gougeres (November 2016) and Cheese Sables (December 2013) which are so handy to be able to whip out and serve with drinks along with the Spiced Cherries in Bacon (November 2013) you see in the picture above.

It wouldn’t be Christmas without a Buche de Noel (December 2014) and I do find it difficult to deviate from my Tiramisu version which we usually have for lunch on Christmas Eve – light yet rich enough to be a treat, creamy and boozy – it is delicious and, I promise, so easy.

A Chocolate Peppermint Tart would definitely not go amiss (December 2014) or perhaps a Chocolate Pudding Cake (December 2012) which you could make today and freeze if that makes life easier for you.

It is not just puddings around here and we won’t go more than a couple of days without a crunchy, fresh salad gracing the May table – two favourites at this time of the year are, appropriately enough my Christmas Salad (September 2013) – an absolute winner with cold meats or cheese, crunchy and full of flavour.  My other can’t-do-without salad right now is Celeriac Remoulade (January 2016) – this funny looking vegetable is pretty underrated but this salad is a knock out.

Finally, it wouldn’t be Christmas without mincemeat making an appearance and I find these Oaty Mincemeat Shortbreads (December 2015) the most delicious and easiest version of mince pies. A matter of minutes to rustle up a tray of them and they usually take about the same length of time to disappear.

I feel I’ve neglected these pages over the last few months due to a lot of building work and decorating going on.  I intend to be back in full force with an array of delicious, everyday family food to excite you with.  Happy Christmas and here’s to a fabulous New Year.