Saturday, March 19, 2011

Mac fundraiser

Took these to work and sold them for a pound each, and sent the 75 quid to the Red Cross, for Japan Tsunami relief.

These are plain almond shells with a chocolate/coconut cream filling. Taste like an Almond Joy bar!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Mango-lime macarons tonight . . .

The shells have lime zest folded in, and the filling is a buttercream with a mango-lime coulis added to it.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Lemon macarons today . . .

And I can finally say that after MUCH trial and error (oh, so much error!) I have got it. I've mastered the macaron.

My first batch ever was fairly good, just through sheer luck. But then each batch was just the throw of the dice -- some good, some bad, some horrible. I was about to give it all up, but there's something addictive about making these thigns. Some of the problems were egg whites beaten too long (far too long in some cases!), or too little, oven too hot, cracks in surface, wrinkled surfaces, and all gooey in the middle even though the tops and sides were perfectly done (that was caused by using three pans underneath, not two -- I thought, 'If two's good, surely three's better!' Not really).

But finally, yesterday and today, I've got the hang of it. I know just how long to beat the whites, I combine the whites and TPT for just the right amount of time (called macaronage -- too little and you don't get 'feet'), I've finally found the perfect oven temperature, and I can even time them perfectly. Oh, and I got the perfect size tip to pipe them out with, and started a collection of gorgeous 'dust' colours (powdered food colours).

Now the fun really begins -- celebrating everything in life with macarons! Oh, the flavours and colours!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

More Macaron Madness

Today's macarons: Standard almond shells with a coffee/vanilla-bean buttercream filling. These ones are fairly large -- probably nearing 2.25" across? Mmmm, all the more to enjoy . . .

Friday, February 25, 2011

I've become a macaron-i-vore!

I'm obsessed, truthfully. They're not only naturally gluten-free, but divine! Can't stop making them or eating them! These were today's -- the blue has a vanilla bean buttercream (okay, non-dairy buttercream), the green has a pink rose-water buttercream, the yellow has an orange flavoured buttercream, and the red has a strawberry buttercream.

I've made the Final 5!

Very exciting -- I got the call telling me that my Italian Deli Sandwich has been made, photographed by professional food photographers, and will be voted on in the next month, with the voting closing on the last day of March (winner announced April 1st!). The prize is a trip to London, tea at the Claridge Hotel, and an overnight there, for two . . . So, as soon as it's up on the website, I'll be sending the link to everyone, and hoping they'll vote for me!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Warm Italian Deli Sandwich

Here's my other idea for the competition -- tell me what you think?

I started with a whole loaf of Genius bread (not sliced) so I could slice off large hearty slabs, brush them with olive oil, and grill them. I then filled the sandwich with greens, warmed Italian meats (two kinds of salami, and a slice of prosciutto), grilled marinated peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, kalamata olives, and some toasted pine-nuts). A quick drizzle of olive oil over the top, a grind or two of pepper, and that was it -- 10 minutes to a warm, filling supper-sandwich. (Realised later a bit of shaved parm might have been the perfect topping for this sandwich? Yes? No? Good as is?)

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Genius Sandwich Contest (Camembert with Cranberry Sauce)

I'm entering the Genius GF Bread sandwich-recipe-contest (the prize is an overnight for two in London, including tea at the Claridge Hotel). But the rules say you can only enter one sandwich, and I can't decide which one. So, I'm going to make a couple, post them here over the next few days, and ask friends to help me choose which would be my best bet for an entry. So, give me a comment, or email me, and tell me what you think of each one, and then maybe you can suggest which one you think I should enter?

For those of you in the UK, have you seen the new Genius adverts on the telly in the evenings? Einstein trying to work, but is distracted by a sandwich on Genius bread. It's the first time I've ever seen ads for anything GF, but with one in every hundred people having coeliac, I'm surprised they haven't advertised other products before. (If you aren't in the UK, or just haven't seen them all, here's the link -- you can watch them on Youtube: Genius Bread TV Adverts . There are something like half a dozen now, I think).

Anyway, here's one sandwich idea -- breaded and deep-fried Camembert with cranberry sauce. (The spoon is one that Genius sent to me, as a promotional item, so I thought I'd fit it into my photos.)


RECIPE: Dip quarter-rounds of Camembert in cornflour (cornstarch in the USA), then into beaten egg, then bread crumbs, then repeat back through all three again, pressing coating firmly into cheese to hold breading in place. Deep-fry as you would anything, turning at about 2 minutes, and removing from fat as soon as any cheese starts to ooze out (definitely by 4 minutes). Drain for a minute or two on paper towels, then slice it across (side-to-side), shifting the top layer a bit to the side, exposing the cheese. Add cranberry sauce, and put cheese into a roll or between two slices of bread. Serve warm.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Apple pie

Made a simple pie today -- just a bottom crust (butter, flour, and ice water -- same crust as I used in the pasties, if you need a recipe),. Tossed the apple slices with sugar and cinnamon, poured them into the crust, dotted it with butter, and baked it (gas mark 5, about 40 minutes, or until golden brown). It's very good.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

I'm getting a wee bit jam-crazy (I think)

I can't stop. I'm like a woman possessed. I'm out buying fruit and glassware and pectin-sugar and paraffin and just can't quit making jams and jellies. And the steady diet of jam-foam-on-bread is starting to nauseate me (but I can't stop that, either!). The house smells sweet and fruity, but the wasps also like the smell and keep coming into the kitchen.

Wednesday night (first day of school) I went blackberry picking after school and brought home a couple kilos of berries, and made jam.

Thursday, got home about 6, so I took a night off from jam (but did ponder my quince shrubs and read up on recipes and ideas).

Friday night, home at 6 again, and picked quince and started the quince jelly, which was finished this morning (2 varieties of that).

And here we are, Saturday . . . Went to market early and bought figs and peaches, and more glassware and paraffin and also finally found a jam funnel (oh, it makes life SO much easier. Keeps the rims perfectly clean, so you get a good seal with the paraffin).

Quince Jelly notes:
I halved my quince last night, covered them with water, simmered them an hour, and set them to strain overnight. Was worried this morning -- the juice didn't seem 'right.' It was milky looking, coated the bowl when I tilted it . . . But I went ahead anyway, and as it boiled with the sugar, it cleared to a gorgeous rose colour, just as it was supposed to. I did 2 kinds -- some plain, then a smaller batch to which I added a few sprigs of fresh mint as I simmered it with the sugar (removed the sprigs before putting into jars). I think it will be nice with meats/lamb/pork. Still have a tree-full of quince with nothing to do with them (quince jelly has its limits, like everything). Might post on FreeCycle.

Black-&-Blue Berry Jam notes:
This was just my own concoction/creation using leftover of both, mixed in equal parts (300 g each of the two berries) and same amount (600 g) of pectin-sugar. Also added the juice of a lemon.

Fig Jam notes:
It's just finished as I type this. Very easy. You de-stem the figs, chop/mash them up (skins and all), add the juice of a lemon to the figs and sugar, then cook on low heat for about an hour. Very Mediterranean. (1 kg of figs to 500 kg pectin sugar.) I'm going to use the remaining bit that didn't fit into a jar, for a dessert tonight, stirring it into some Greek yoghurt.

Peach Jam notes:
I'm in the middle of this as I type this, and it will be the last for a while. The ratio for fruit to sugar varies immensely, depending on the recipes you read -- anything from equal weights of peaches to sugar, to half the weight in sugar. I finally decided to use 1.5 kg peaches and 750 g of pectin-sugar, and the juice of a lemon. To peel the peaches, dip them into boiling water for a minute at most, remove skins and pits, then put the peaches, sugar, and lemon juice into your pot, cooking 45 minutes to an hour (much like the fig jam -- until it passes the cold-plate test).

I'm really really tired. Four batches of jam (actually, 5, with the 2 kinds of quince, which is of course done in 2 separate batches) in one day is a lot. I'm going to get the peach into the jars, get the pics off the camera and attach a few to this post, and go flop for the evening with a DVD I just got (Julie & Julia -- what else but a cooking DVD?). And no more bread-and-foam -- will take a packet of the boeuf bourguignon out of the freeze and have that with a potato. (I don't even want to think about sewing and laundry tomorrow, but alas, both are necessary.)

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Blackberry Jam

A kilo of blackberries, a kilo of jam-sugar, the juice of half a lemon, a couple of tbsps of water, and that's it.

Simmer the berries in the water -- when they begin to break down, add the jam-sugar (or sugar and a packet of pectin, if that's the way yours comes).

From the time that the berries start to produce the pinkish foam, time 4 minutes and test (cold plate method). If not ready, test every minute or two, but don't go too long-- the jam can get too hard.

Fill jars and seal as usual. I'm still adding a couple of tbsps of melted paraffin to the top of the waxed paper disc, because I just can't call it good with just a little scrap of waxed paper. Picture (above) taken as jars are cooling, after paraffin is in place. I'll seal them with the cellophane discs when the jars are cold. Oh, and yes, I got a new brand of jam-pot-covers, and it explained things better than the first packet I got. You have to let the jam cool entirely before adding cellophane covers.)

I got 8 lovely 250 ml glasses of jam out of this (bought Tesco 'mixer' glasses, as I am out of jars).

Monday, August 30, 2010

17. Yellow Plum Jam

Note: Follow just the bold text if you want the short version, without all 'The Rest' -- LOL!

Picked a big pile of yellow plums this weekend, and since the elderberry jam was such a disgusting, revolting disaster (taste-wise), I want to make some successful jam before summer summer break ended. Here we go . . .

After removing darkish spots (for appearance sake) and pits, simmer 1 kg of cut-up plums in 250 ml of water until skins have softened (10-ish minutes).

Add 1 kg of sugar, and bring back to a simmer, stirring as you dissolving the sugar. Continue to cook a further 10-15 minutes.

I had a pretty good idea that since my plums were on the less-ripe side, I wouldn't need pectin, but I added a packet anyway, to be safe. But then, while absent-mindedly stirring and waiting, I was looking over the packages of sugar and pectin and noticed that the 'Jam Sugar' I bought is called that not because it dissolves nicely in jam (that was my guess), but because . . . it has pectin in it already! Okay, so this will really set up well, I guess?

You can tell I don't generally cook with such things, can't you? I grew up in the days of single-item ingredients (none of this self-rising flour, because what do you do when you need 'normal' flour for something, like browning the beef in boeuf bourguignon? I guess you keep two kinds of flour in the house? Because surely, it's too complicated to have only normal flour and then add baking powder to it, right?

I don't even think we have sugar with the pectin already in it, in the U.S. Anyone seen or heard of it?? Like the rest of Europe (and I have witnesses!), mixes and convenience foods are common. In Holland, they take mixes to the next level -- you don't even add eggs and such! It's all in a packet, complete, so you just open it up, pour it into a pan, and bake the cake. Yup. I kid you not. Even America hasn't gone that far (have they?).

Okay, live and learn (regarding the sugar with pectin already in it), and then vow to pay better attention the next time. And don't use any leftover 'jam' sugar in a cake or muffins, or a cup of tea.

So, back to the jam . . . it passed the 'cold-plate-test', and so was put into it's steriilsed jars (after I removed the foam), sealed with paraffin, and lids put on.

There's another huge difference, too, that I just can't trust -- the method here of sealing the jams. They sell these packets of waxed-paper discs, and larger cellophane discs, and rubber bands. When you've got the jam in the jars, you're supposed to put the piece of waxed paper on top of the jam, then wet one of the cellophane discs, put it over the top, add a rubber band, and that's it. The package says that the cellophane will shrink, tighten, and seal. I'll start off with the fact that the circles don't just magically fit every jam jar -- they only come in two sizes, and they large one didn't fit the jars I bought (far too small). So you have this big gap around the edge of the wax paper. And I tried using one on a smaller jar, but it won't lie flat, so you have edges bunched up, not making contact with the jam. Neither method seems like you'd get an effective seal. So I spooned melted paraffin over the top, 1/8" thick, as I learned years back from my Ball Blue Book (canning and preserving), and then sealed my jars, some with lids, and those without, with the cellophane. I think I don't quite dare to leave the cellophane ones on the shelf, though, as I'd hate to lose all that good jam, so I'm going to store them in the back of the fridge.

So, long story not much longer, anyone have any other suggestions for me? Freezer jam, maybe, in little plastic containers? I don't remember how to do that -- do you just sterilise the containers and lids, not use paraffin, then close them up and freeze them?

Oh, this has become a book, hasn't it? Sorry.

Oh, one last thing, which is about jam-making memories of my mother. She was amazing in the house and kitchen, and that included making preserves every summer. I of course have a vivid image in my mind of all those clean, neat beautiful jars lined up across the back of the counter, cooking, and the sweet fruity smell filling the house, but beyond that, the memory of the 'foam.' When the jam finishes cooking, before you put it in jars, you of course have to remove the foam. She always skimmed that off onto a large plate, and let us kids sit at the table with a piece of white bread each, and spoon it onto our bread, and eat it. After all, it's just fruit and sugar, just like the jam. (I hate that recipes I've seen online call it the 'scum!' Scum?!? It's foamy jam. Scum is in your bathtub drain, not in a pot of gorgeous plums and sugar. Please, let's not use that word in our jam-making, okay? There's no 'scum in my kitchen, that much I'll promise you!)

Oh, I guess that wasn't the very last thing . . .

At our house, there were always a few odd little jars, when there wasn't enough jam left to make another full jar. Mom always saved those odd jars, knowing she could use them for putting up the last spoonfuls of whatever she was preserving. I did the same today, as you'll see below, using everything from egg cups to tiny glass chocolate-souffle dishes. I'll pass those along to a few friends -- they're just enough for your morning toast.

Okay, that's enough jam talk . . . I have to get the laundry in, do the ironing, get to Waitrose, and try to re-do some gyros pics (they have disappeared from my camera).

Gyros & Tsatziki

I love Greek food, and haven't had it in so long I can't remember. Since BC (Before Coeliac), really. But now I've found GF pita breads (spelled and pronounced 'pitta' here), and a recipe, and with GF ingredients (spices, etc), I've made some fantastic ones.! Loving having gyros again.

So here are the recipes -- Gyros and tsatziki . . .

For the gyros, I used half lamb, and half beef, and really like how that came out. I made patties (elongated) and put them all in the fridge, then cook them up as I want them.

I did the tsatziki exactly to the recipe, using the 10% Greek yoghurt, and did make it the night before as they suggest. I've been told, though, that you can make it the same day and it's just as good, so if you don't get to it sooner, no worries.

Enjoy . . .

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Baked Pork & Vegetable Spring Rolls

Not much to say here . . . Made to the recipe, and they're very good. Much prefer baking to deep-frying -- just brush with oil. The wrappers are easy enough to find in most ethnic grocery stores -- they're made from rice and tapioca.

Oh, here's the recipe (iFood.TV Baked Pork Spring Rolls Recipe).

(My usual used to be 500 g pork mince, 2 cups shredded cabbage, 2 carrots, 3 cloves garlic, 1 Tbsp fish sauce, 1 tsp chili puree, and oil for brushing the 22 wrappers it fills. This is quite close.)

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Carrot Cake (well, cupcakes) with Cream Cheese Frosting

I followed the recipe (on Joy of Baking) exactly for this (chose pecans over the walnut-option), with the exception of course being Doves Farm flour blend in place of the ordinary flour. For those of you who have never had carrot cake, don't turn up your noses 'til you've tried it -- it's divine. The carrots are finely grated, and it also includes a touch of cinnamon. (Some recipes use raisins as well, but I didn't add any this time -- just wanted to try the recipe once as it was printed. Raisins next time.)

The results, of course, are as good as anything I bake with Doves Farm flour -- stupendous. Light, moist, and fluffy -- none of that grainy, heavy, gummy, gritty, dry texture normally associated with GF baked goods. (No, sadly, they don't pay me to say that. I know that some food bloggers get sponsors, and make lots of money from that aspect, but I don't have much of a following, so I doubt anyone would pay me to say 'Doves Farm flour is the best!' But it is).

Anyway, the cake came out fantastically well, but I was warned that the frosting comes out very runny and soft, and it does, as cream cheese is quite different on this side of the Atlantic (even though I can get Philadelphia brand). The secret here it to make it more of a buttercream / cream cheese frosting, so use equal parts butter and cream cheese, (I used 6 ounces of each) then beat in enough icing sugar to get the right consistency. (Yes, I did use the lemon zest and vanilla the recipe called for.)

Okay, the other soution to our more-watery cream cheese, without aking it a butter-cream fring, is to hang the cream-cheese in a cheese-cloth bag, over a bowl, overnight, in the fridge, to let the watery whey dripout.

Roasted Garlic & Potato Soup

This is a favourite, not just because it's really good on these cold, damp days/evenings, or because it's so nutritious (and fat-free), but as always, how quick and easy it is.

Heat the oven to gas mark 4 (180 C, 350 F). Bake 6 large potatoes for about an hour and a quarter (until done). At the same time, roast 3-6 bulbs of garlic, tightly wrapped in foil, alongside the potatoes.

When both are done, squeeze the garlic out of the skins, and slip the peels off the potatoes. Combine both in the food processor with chicken broth/stock, sea salt, and lots of freshly ground pepper. Use more or less broth depending on how thick or think you like a soup, and serve hot. As mentioned above, it's perfect with a few shavings (or more!) of parmigiano reggiano cheese (or any hard cheese, such as Asiago).

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Roasted fennel, tomatoes, peppers, and onions

Uber-easy. Halve some small tomatoes, quarter the fennel lengthwise (after trimming), slice or chunk-up the peppers and onions, douse it all in olive oil and balsamic vinegar, add sea salt and a few grinds of pepper, and finally, a few sprigs of fresh thyme.

Roast for about an hour at gas mark 5.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Prawn-Mango-Cashew-Cucumber Salad

Today is the halfway point of my self-inflicted 'You really could cook for 18 days before you start using work as an excuse' Challenge. Enjoying it for the most part, but coming up with new things is a bit of effort some days, especially as I still want to keep enjoying summer (I've been weaving baskets this week). I do have tomorrow planned -- fennel, tomatoes, peppers and onions roasted in olive oil and balsamic vinegar . . . Nine more days to go. (Thanks to readers who are sending me ideas!)

Meantime, today's salad is light and fresh tasting. I hope you enjoy it.

Salad: Per serving, put the following into individual bowls: 3-6 oz cooked peeled prawns, diced mango, a handful of snow peas/mange tout (put them into a colander, pour boiling water over them, rinse to cool, then pat dry), chunked-up cucumber, a handful of cashews, sliced scallions/garden onions, and a small handful of fresh of cilantro/coriander.

Dressing: Per serving, shake the following in a jar and pour over the salad(s): 1 Tbsp toasted sesame oil; 1/2 Tbsp each rice vinegar, lime juice and soy sauce; 1/2 tsp each chili paste and freshly grated ginger.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Potato, Beef, & Onion Pasties (serves 2-4, depending on appetite and accompaniments)

This is my first-ever pasty -- eating or making -- as it's a British food and I've had coeliac long before ever moving to this country. So while I don't know for sure how they should taste, I can say that mine smells like the ones at the Cornish Pasty shops, and it tastes wonderful. Use the best ingredients you can (I used organic beef, potatoes, and butter).

Quite simple -- a crust which starts with a layer of boiled sliced potatoes on the bottom, then a beef-onion mixture on top of that, closed with a top crust, and baked 30-40 minutes.

1. Crust: I used 8 oz of flour (of course my Doves Farm blend), 4 oz of butter, and after mixing those into a crumbly mixture with the fingers, add just enough ice-water to make a soft ball of dough (3-5 Tbsp?). You can do individual pasties, one large one, or as I did here, make one large circle, cut it in half, and then fold those in half after filling. I roll my crust between two sheets of grease-proof paper, as it's the easiest way to handle GF dough.

2. Filling: Before you start the beef, pop a large baking potato into the microwave, and cook for about 8 minutes (4 on each side, so it cooks evenly). When it's done and cooled a bit, the skin slips off easily and you can slice it up -- no need for another pot to wash.

Once that's going, in a large skillet, on med-high heat, cook up 8 oz ground beef and one chopped onion (not too finely chopped, but definitely not coarse). When the beef is nearly done, add 1/4 cp. of red wine, a tbsp of tomato ketchup, a grind of pepper, a pinch of salt, a tsp or two of fresh thyme, and half cup of beef stock. Continue cooking, reducing until the liquid is gone, but the beef is still moist.

3. Putting it together: Place potato slices on the bottom of the crust, spoon the beef mixture over that, cover it with the top crust, seal, and brush the top with a beaten egg. Cut slits to allow steam to escape, and bake at gas mark 6 for 30-40 minutes (until well browned).

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Maine Clamcakes (and still 11 days/recipes to go)

Having spent a few days at the coast last week, walking the beach, smelling fried foods and seafood, my brain put all those together and turned it into . . . clamcakes. Like the kind you get at Ken's, or the Clambake, at Pine Point (Maine)? Or a bit further down the coast, in Kennebunk or Kennebunkport . . . there are some great seafood places there that I remember only too well.

So, I decided it was time to see if I could create a reasonable facsimile of Maine clamcakes. I went online and found half a dozen recipes, tried to figure out what the 'average' of those would be, and went to work in the kitchen. I was really happy with the result (but not the mess I had to clean up -- always hate cleaning up after deep-frying).

About the only changes I made were using only egg-whites instead of whole eggs, GF flour blend obviously, and instead of half clam-juice and half milk for the liquid, I used just clam-juice.

Amounts are approximate, as I was testing as I went along and didn't keep track exactly, so if batter is too thick, add more clam juice, and if too thin, obviously add a touch more flour. But here's the pretty-close recipe, which makes six or seven 4" clamcakes:

While vegetable oil for deep-frying is heating (an inch is plenty -- you turn these halfway through cooking), in a large bowl mix 2 egg-whites, 3/4 cp. drained minced clams (or whole baby clams, also tinned), 1/4 cp. of the clam juice from the tin, 1 cp. GF flour blend, 2 tsp. baking powder, and a dash of salt. This needs to be thick enough to barely handle (in other words, not as solid as a hamburger-patty, but so it doesn't fall through your fingers).

Before frying, they need to be coated in cornmeal (yellow or white). I found that the easiest way to do this was to spread a layer of cornmeal on a plate, spoon the clamcake mixture onto the cornmeal, then sprinkle more cornmeal over the cakes, then carefully pick them up and slide them into the hot oil using a slotted metal spatula. You don't want them more than 1/2" thick.

Fry about 3-4 minutes per side, depending on thickness (turn when brown on the bottom). Drain on paper towels, and enjoy with ketchup or tartar sauce.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Salmon, Red Grape, Radish, & Rocket Salad

Couldn't be easier.

For each serving, place 3-4 ounces cooked salmon* (warm or cold) into a small bowl, and add about a tbsp of soy sauce to it. Gently toss to coat, and let stand while you prepare the rest of the salad.

On a bed of greens (you can do just the rocket/arugula or add other greens as well -- I like watercress with the rocket), drizzle about 1 tbsp of olive oil, then season with salt and pepper to taste.

Slice the radishes, and halve the red grapes; place these on the greens. Add the salmon (and any soy sauce remaining in the bowl, drizzle with 1/2 a tbsp of lemon juice, toss lightly, and serve.

* There are several options with the salmon, including the lightly smoked, those encrusted with peppercorns (shown below), or just plain steamed salmon -- any are delicious, depending on preference and what you have on hand.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Amato's salad

The classic is, of course, the sandwich, straight from India Street in Portland, on their very own freshly made bread. Living a million miles away, and having coeliac, means that's not going to happen.

But I do miss them (Real Italian Sandwiches, as they're called), so I like to get all 6 ingredients (ham, provolone, tomatoes, peppers, kalamata olives, and dill pickles) and make either a salad of just that, a sandwich on a GF baguette, or a salad using pasta (today's was using Bob the Builder organic, gluten-free pasta, and I actually added some basil leaves). You toss those ingredients, add olive oil, salt, and pepper (and chopped onions if you prefer -- the Real Italian can be purchased either way) and there you go.

I can almost hear the seagulls on the Western Prom screaming for a bit of bread.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Blueberry muffins

This is a mini-recipe (makes 2 large muffins, or 4 small ones), but can be doubled, or even quadrupled, to serve a crowd (or just a couple of really hungry people). I prefer the large muffins -- one is just right for breakfast. My large 'muffin' cup (it's probably a popover cup, to be honest) measures 9 cm across the top, and 4 cm deep.

All muffins are fast and easy -- if you have everything on hand, you can have them in the oven in 15 minutes.

1. Heat the oven to gas mark 6 (conversion table to the left if you're C or F). For muffins, it does need to be fully hot when the muffins go in (unlike a roast, for example, where if it's not-quite-hot, it will still cook just fine). They need the high heat to rise up quickly and not just sit there in a dense lump, which will cook eventually but yields a very undesirable muffin (trust me on this one -- I've made that mistake). So be sure to heat it well ahead of time.

2. Next, grease your muffin cups (or if you use paper liners, get those ready). I just use a vegetable spray.

3. The dry ingredients go into a large bowl, the wet get mixed in a separate smaller bowl, then they're combined by adding the wet to the dry and stirring for literally just a few seconds (that's the secret to good muffins -- the batter should be slightly lumpy).

Dry: 3/4 c flour blend (I use Doves Farm), 2 tsp baking powder, and 1/4 c sugar.

Wet: 1 egg, 1/3 cp. milk, 2 tsp cider vinegar, and 2 Tbsp vegetable oil.

Now at this point, I'm sure you're wondering if I've forgotten the blueberries. Nope. I'm just . . . rather particular . . . about the berries. I'm the person who always seems to get the short straw with muffins. I get the muffin with three berries in it. I look across the table and see people with so many that there seems to be no muffin to hold their berries together. Ah, the injustice of it all . . . I also think this goes back to my childhood days, and the advert on telly about the Betty Crocker muffin mixes, with 'enough blueberries for 16 delicious berries in every muffin!' Yes, those were the exact words. They are etched into my brain, because I remember thinking, 'Yeah, but someone is going to get 20 and someone else 12! Or 30 and 2! No one will get exactly 16! And me, I'll get the muffin with two berries!' (Note: I'm a middle child, in case you can't tell. We always feel the injustice! :-D)

4. So, after I grease the muffin cups, I put blueberries in the bottom of each cup, add the batter to each cup, then fold the berries into the batter, and bake. No more one-berry-muffins for anyone at my table.

Baking time? Until they're nice and brown on top -- depends on muffin size. For the large ones, 15 minutes, roughly, but I have no idea how accurate my oven is, so just keep an eye on them. When you think they're done, insert a tester, broom straw, or very thin knife into the centre, and if it comes out clean, they're ready to enjoy.

And while this isn't the Betty Crocker Blueberry Muffin commercial, it's still of the same era: Betty Crocker Cake Commercial (youtube).

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Julia Child's Boeuf Bourguignon (and my garlic mashed potatoes)

This was my first time making this, and wow, it takes hours, but it's soooo worth the effort and time. The aroma when it's cooking is unbelievable. And really, it's not hard work, or complicated -- just a long process (especially the first time through). I made enough to freeze the extras for the chilly autumn evenings that will be with us far too soon for my liking. Here's a copy of the recipe. I used my favourite GF flour (Doves Farm) for browning/coating the beef, but otherwise, this dish is naturally GF (of course, check that ingredients like your purchased stock are GF).

I made garlic mashed potatoes to go alongside the 'beef stew', which are very simple. Whilst your spuds are boiling (peeled, cut into chunks), saute 2-3 cloves of garlic (for every large potato) in a tbsp of butter and 1/2 tbsp of olive oil. When the potatoes are done, drain quickly, return to the pot and add either a small amount of cream, milk, or even beef or chicken stock, and the garlic mixture. Toss in a pinch of salt and and a few grinds of pepper, and when hot, whip with electric mixer until smooth.

Short version:

Saute a 6 oz. packet of bacon on low heat. Remove bacon, save fat. Brown 2-3 pounds stew beef in fat, remove beef. Cook 2 sliced raw carrots in fat, along with a large chopped onion. Remove from fat. Add beef, bacon, and vegetables to pot, with 1/2 tsp pepper, 2.5 cups red wine, 2 cps beef stock, fresh thyme (1 tbsp), 2 cloves crushed garlic, and a couple of bay leaves. Simmer on stove for 3-4 hours.

While that simmers, get out a small pot and saute 15-20 peeled shallots and 1 lb mushrooms in butter (or olive oil-sunflower spread), for about 30 minutes. Set aside while beef continues to cook.

When beef is done, sieve the beef and sauce, holding beef in colander and returning liquid to pot, reducing it to about 2 cups. When reduced, add the beef mixture, and the mushrooms and shallots. Simmer 15 minutes, then serve with potatoes.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Shortbread Cream Tart with Berries

This is an old one, originally made a couple of years back, but just the thing on a grey day like today. Original post/recipe here.

Faster-Than-A-Speeding-Bullet Thai Crayfish Salad

I think it could be re-named that.

Or '5-C's' salad (cabbage, carrot, crayfish, cucumbers, and cashews).

Whatever you call it, don't forget the word 'delicious,' because that it certainly is. And the tangy-sweet crunching goes on for seemingly hours and you chomp your way through this salad.

In any quantities, toss together the 5 above ingredients into a bowl. Then stir up the uber-fast dressing (1 tbsp each toasted sesame oil, sugar, and rice vinegar; a clove of crushed garlic; then 1/2 tsp each chili puree and fish sauce), pour it over, toss quickly, and enjoy.

Just thinking that if this were to be an appetiser, you could put smaller portions into little cabbage-leaf 'bowls.'

And now Day 1 is over, and I've only got 17 to go!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Tomorrow it begins

I'm in a slump. And as Dr. Seuss noted in 'Oh! The Places You'll Go!', unslumping yourself isn't easily done.

I haven't even been cooking lately, really. I've put together lots of simple things to eat, but haven't made what I really crave -- good meals, and things from home that I miss.

I've got exactly 18 days left of summer break, and have decided to do some cooking, every day. I've made a list of 18 things I would really enjoy (and things that might even yield some leftovers for the freezer, for nights when I'm too tired to cook). I'll also have some friends in to help me eat things that don't freeze.

So, beginning tomorrow, for the next 18 days, I will make one thing every single day that requires effort, and focus, and will be enjoyed very much, before school starts up and I'm back to the fast, easy meals. Some are old recipes you've seen before, but many will be new. Watch this space, as they say. I've gone online and done my grocery order, which will be delivered tomorrow morning, and with the exception of a few items Sainsbury's doesn't have (which I'll make a quick trip into London for), I should have everything on hand and ready to go.

This makes me think of a sort of Julie & Julia challenge for myself, just on a much smaller scale. So as Julia would say, 'Bon Appetit!'

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Apricot (or strawberry) macaroons

No coconut or anything. Very fast to make.

Heat oven to gas mark 3 (170 C). In a small bowl, stir together 125 g. ground almonds, 100 g caster sugar, and 15 g GF flour blend.

In a large bowl, beat 2 egg whites, 1 tsp (5 ml) vanilla, and 50 g preserves (apricot or strawberry). Beat until just frothy -- a minute (two at most).

Add ground almonds mixture, beat for about 15 seconds, until just mixed (above right photo, adding the almonds-sugar mixture to the egg whites and strawberry preserves).

Drop by small spoonfuls onto parchment/greaseproof paper. Make a small dimple in the centre of each mound, and add 1/2 tsp of preserves (same flavour as the egg-white mixture). Decorate the cookie with flaked almonds, then bake about 15 minutes (until golden brown). Slide paper off onto cool counter-top or table. When cool, remove cookies from paper.

Blueberry-Peach Crisp/Cobbler

This is just an adaptation of my Apple Crisp recipe -- substitute the 5 cups of apples with any combination of fresh blueberries and sliced peaches, toss with the flaked almonds (above), add the rest of the crumbly topping as shown in the original post, and bake.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Superb Cheesecake!

Okay, very easy, and well worth the little bit of effort (it's not like we can just go buy a cheesecake anyway, can we?). I use Betty Crocker's old standby, the 'Company Cheesecake' recipe, with a few tweaks:

Obviously I can't use graham crackers, but my mum suggested using other kinds of GF cookies (she bakes GF for some family members occasionally, and that's what she does). But I don't have the same products as her.


Here in the UK we have a divine buttery little gluten-free biscuit made by the Byron Bay Cookie Company (they're actually made in Australia), called White Chocolate Chunk & Macadamia Nut. So, I crushed up a packet of those until I got a cup and a quarter of crumbs, used the same butter and sugar as the Betty recipe calls for, and made a divine crust.

I then made the standard cheesecake, except before I poured the batter over the baked crust, I stirred in about 1/2 cp. white chocolate chips (and omitted the lemon juice).

Finally, when the cake came out of the oven, I sprinkled 150 g. of grated white chocolate (a brand called Menier), which melted slightly but left an interesting bumpy finish on the top. You could serve as is (as I did) or with a fruity topping.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Fish pie

Oh, I made the most divine one last night. I love fish pie, and wonder why I don't think to make it more often.

If you're not familiar with this dish, it's quite quick and simple to make, and a great way to use up leftover fish from the night before. (If you don't have any leftover fish, just 'nuke' or steam some fresh fish.) It's not really a pie per se, but a potato and fish mixture in a thickened white sauce, with a buttery-breadcrumb topping, broiled to brown it up.

To make it, per serving:

Dice up a small potato into 1/2 to 3/4" pieces, peeled or unpeeled. (If you are like my daughter and don't like peels in food, by all means, peel them. I never peel for mashed potatoes, either, and years back, this would infuriate Darling Daughter so much that she would actually peel them for me. Great way to get some work out of a teenager, by the way -- pretend that you think peels in the mash are the best thing since sliced bread, and they will peel them for you every time, possibly even thinking they're annoying you by forcing you to live without peelings in your spuds, but really helping out without the tiniest nag from you).

Anyway . . . place the potatoes in a covered saucepan in just enough milk (I use soya) to cover them, and bring to a boil, letting the milk reduce (add a little more milk if necessary, though, so nothing scorches). When potatoes are tender, give them a quick coarse mashing by hand, leaving lots of chunks but crushing some as well.

Next, add your bite-sized cooked fish chunks to the pot -- I use about a cup of chunks per serving. I prefer haddock, salmon and prawns, for variety in colour, texture, and taste, but you can use any kinds. Add a bit of butter (or any vegan spread -- I use sunflower) and simmer it until hot.

At this point, add cornstarch and water to thicken it up (2 tsps of cornstarch dissolved in a couple tbsps of water will thicken 1/2 cup of milk, so figure out what you have and do the math). Stir until thick and hot (just a minute or two), then spoon mixture into either one large tureen, or individual ramekins.

Top with very coarse GF breadcrumbs which have been tossed in a bit of melted butter (or spread), sprinkle the top with salt and pepper, and place under broiler until breadcrumbs are browned. Serve piping hot.

Nice any old time of year.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

5-Minute Microwave Fudge

Make this exactly as the recipe says, with NO substitutions, or it won't set. For example, if you use spread/margarine in place of real butter, the recipe will fail. So trust me and follow instructions to the letter! Enjoy!

In a large microwavable bowl, stir together (with a whisk) one 500 g. box of icing sugar and 60 g. of unsweetened cocoa powder. Pour 1/4 cup (60 ml) whole milk over that (don't stir it), then chunk up 125 g. of butter over the top. Don't stir any of it.

Microwave it 3-4 minutes, until the butter is just melted. Remove immediately from microwave. Add 1 tsp (5 ml) vanilla extract and a large handful of chopped nuts (optional), then stir with the whisk until just smooth (a minute or so -- it may look a little bumpy, but that's normal). Immediately pour/spread this into a buttered baking tin (about 8" x 8"), and refrigerate for an hour or two, until it's set.

(Prepared the 3 underlined things ahead of time, because if you wait and do those AFTER you microwave the fudge, the fudge will set up in the meantime.)

Sunday, March 14, 2010

(itch, itch, itch) Spicy Prawns (itch, itch, itch)

Ack. Took my allergy pill, and I'm waiting. Hoping this doesn't worsen to where I can't have prawns any longer.

Anyway, easy recipe. For each serving:

Stir fry (on medium-high heat) half an onion (cut into wedges) and a couple of cloves of crushed garlic in a teaspoon or two of toasted sesame oil until onion is golden but not starting to wilt. Toss in 6-8 oz. of peeled prawns, add 1/2 tsp chili paste, and add a couple of tablespoons of creamed coconut (that solid stuff in the box), and continue to stir on medium-high heat until the prawns are done and the sauce is slightly reduced and thickened, coating the prawns slightly.

There's probably no end of things that could be added to it (veggies? Water chestnuts? Cashews? Rice?).

Serve with benedryl as needed.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Blackberry pie

We picked about a gallon of blackberries yesterday, along the canal, so today I bought a bag of GF flour and made a pie. It was so quick and easy.

Using 2 forks, cut 1/2 cup shortening into 1 3/4 cps GF flour blend (with 1/2 tsp salt). When in tiny particles, add 6 Tbsp ice water, and mix quickly into a ball. Divide the ball into 2 equal parts, and roll each between two sheets of plastic wrap.

For the filling, pour 4-5 cps of blackberries into the bottom crust, then sprinkle 3/4 cup sugar and 4 Tbsp GF flour blend over the berries. Put the top crust on, seal the edges, cut slits, and place on a baking pan (in case it bubbles over).

Bake at gas mark 5 for about 50 minutes, or until crust is brown and filling is starting to bubble.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Katherine Hepburn's Brownie Recipe

Topped with raspberries and chocolate sauce

1/4 cup GF flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup broken or chopped walnuts or pecans
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

1. Melt together the butter and half of the chocolate, and take the saucepan off the heat.
2. Add sugar, eggs and vanilla, and beat the mixture well.
3. Stir in cooa powder, flour, salt, nuts, and the remainder of the chopped chocolate.
4. Bake the brownies in a buttered and floured 8-inch-square pan at 325°F (gas mark 3, or 165 C) for about 40 minutes.

Saturday, July 4, 2009


Wash and pat dry one slab of pork loin ribs, then rub both sides with mixture of 3 Tbsp brown sugar; 1/2 tsp each onion powder, garlic powder, cumin & nutmeg; 1 tsp each chili powder, salt, & black pepper.

Tightly cover roaster (or cover with foil and crimpr tightly), then roast ribs in 1/2 c. apple juice at gas mark 4 (180 C, 350 F) for 2 hours.

Meantime, prepare sauce . . . Combine the following in a pan and simmer: 1/3 c. ketchup; 2-3 Tbsp each honey (or brown sugar) & molasses (treacle), 1 Tbsp cider or white vinegar; 1/4 tsp each onion powder, chili powder & garlic powder; pinch each of allspice, pepper, & cinnamon; a few drops Tabasco (optional).

When ribs have finished in oven, remove from pan (discard liquid), slice apart, brush with sauce. Then either broil or grill for 15 minutes, turning halfway through, or bake at gas mark 7 (220 C, 425 F) for approximately 15 minutes.

Serve with extra sauce for dipping.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

My new cookbook . . .

Now you no longer have to print these out and keep scraps of paper tucked into your recipe file, or dash to the Internet every time you need one of my recipes.

I've put them into a cookbook, and added more that aren't on this site.

It's a hardcover, with dustjacket, printed on premium paper, chock-full of gorgeous colour photographs. I hope you enjoy it as much as I've enjoyed putting it together.

As always, happy cooking.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

It's not summer without iced coffee

I make it quick-but-yummy style with instant organic freeze-dried coffee (decaf). Take a tall glass, add a couple of teaspoons of instant coffee, add 2-3 tsp sugar (or substitute), then pour in a few tbsps of boiling water. Stir a minute or so, until the sugar and coffee are dissolved. Fill about 2/3 of the way up with icy cold water, add a couple of tbsps of cream (or soya cream substitute), stir to mix, then fill to the top with ice.

If you aren't a fan of instant coffee, just make yourself a shot of espresso and replace the instant-and-water bit with that, when it cools a bit. Yes, you do have to wait, but of course it's worth the wait.

And after a day in the garden, it's just the thing to relax with.

(I planted about 100 onions, then staked out and netted the strawberry patch. Birds, zero; me, one. This year they won't be able to eat all my berries. They can still have the wild ones that grow everywhere, but the big ones in the main patch are all mine. There are hundreds on the plants right now, just starting to grow. Can't wait.)

Strawberry-Rhubarb pie(s)

Mini, individual pies . . . or a big pie. I like mini pies.

Either way, for one 9" pie, or a bunch of little ones, you'll need 2 cps cut-up strawberries, 2 cups rhubarb (cut into 1" pieces), a cup of sugar, and 2 Tbsp lemon juice. Stir them, let stand for an hour or so, then turn into the pastry of your choice (I like to make an oil-based pastry and roll it out between sheets of waxed paper).

Bake at about 350, until crust is slightly brown and filling is bubbling.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Oven chips, kicked up a notch

Before I put the oven chips into the oven (I get the organic, low-fat version, but any will do just fine), I give them a good sprinkling of Tabasco sauce, bake as usual, then add salt when they come out of the oven.

Mmmmmm! (And I dip them in Thai sweet chili sauce . . . )

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Meatball Sandwich

Very simple really -- everything store-bought, right down to the organic GF meatballs (found them at Waitrose). Then, a jar of Seeds of Change tomato-basil sauce, a few sprigs of basil from the windowsill, a GF baguette warmed up in the oven, and voila! Lunch in 5 minutes.
(I do often make my own meatballs, which are in truth far superior to Waitrose ones -- the recipe is also on this site.)