Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Easy Peasy Simple Fruit Crumble

A bit like my attempts at bread, I’ve never been able to get crumble right. It’s often too heavy, too lumpy, too thick, and even when I’ve cooked the topping separately, it still hasn’t been particularly nice. This year, however, I seem to have cracked it! I think there seem to have been three key things that have come together to enable this:

1 – the right quantities of ingredients

2 – not overworking the flour

3 - not putting the topping on until ready to cook

So, with these three things in mind, you can begin to bake.


Choose which fruits you like – I always find pear and berries are a winning combination but usually use whatever’s to hand. This time I used a cooking apple, ripe eating pears, plums and raspberries.

If the fruit is hard, such as the apple and pear, cut into chunks, sprinkle with brown sugar and pour over a little water before steaming in the microwave, or a pan, for a few minutes until starting to soften. Combine all the fruit in an ovenproof dish.

While the fruit is softening, make the crumble topping:

120g plain flour,

60g butter

60g soft brown sugar

Handful of plain porridge oats

Rub the flour, butter and sugar together until it resembles crumbs, but try to keep a light touch to this using just your finger tips. And DON’T do it for too long! Once combined, add and stir in the handful of oats.

Check the amount of liquid in the fruit – if there’s too much, tip a little out, but ensure you reserve some or the crumble will be dry and cloggy.

Just before cooking, tip the topping over the fruit mixture and even out.

Pop into a high oven, about 180 degrees c, for between 30 and 40 minutes, or until the topping is beginning to brown and the juices are bubbling through.

I know many people prefer custard with crumble, but I love a large pouring of double cream.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Hearty Beef Stew with Dumplings

Beef stew has to be a classic dish across Europe in one form or another. Be it Boeuf Bourgignon or the Romanian Tocata de Vita, it’s one of our favourites, and as it’s so easy to make with virtually anything you have to hand, can be a staple throughout the colder months. I find it especially useful when trying to use up those leftover veggies hanging around at the back of the fridge!

I already have a Beef in Beer / Guinness recipe on the blog, and a child-friendly beef stew version using the sweeter vegetables, such as carrots, and fruit, but this on is a heartier recipe, particularly when served with dumplings.

Feel free to use whatever needs using up: This week, I had two Gem Squashes (a real pain in the neck to peel, for future reference) and a delicious portion of braising beef. I always use the slow cooker as I can brown everything the night before, then simply turn on in the morning. I also always place the cooker on the ceramic hob (turned off, obviously!)…just in case.


Cheat: buy ready chopped beef and veg and use premade stock.

Ingredients: onions, squash, carrots, beef, red wine, stock, marmite, redcurrant jelly.


Begin by frying off the chopped onions, then as they’re beginning to soften, add the rest of your vegetables, chopped into good sized chunks. Squash and purple carrots went into our pot.

Once beginning to colour, remove. Add a little more oil and pop the chopped beef in with a large handful of plain flour. Fry off until browned and remove from the pan.

Pour a large glass of red wine into the pan to deglaze and bubble until reduced by half. When done, add beef stock and a dollop of both marmite and redcurrant jelly. Season.

Throw everything into the slow cooker, leave over night for the flavours to infuse, then turn onto low in the morning. You could also put this into the oven at about 120 for 6/7 hours. Well, until the beef is falling apart.

About an hour from the end of cooking, check the thickness…if you need to add another handful of flour to thicken, mix some in a little pot first with a ladle of the beef sauce before adding to the stew itself. Then leave the lid off on high for half an hour.

Make up some quick and easy Jamie Dumplings – 250g self raising flour, pinch of salt, 125g unsalted butter and 100ml cold water. I always add chopped parsley and rosemary. Bring ingredients together until they form a ball then split into smaller balls. Don’t overwork the mixture or they’ll end up stodgy. Sit them on top of the stew, pop the lid back on and leave until fluffy.

Serve with stir-fried green veg for a splash of colour.

Once you’ve done the prep. for this meal, it cooks itself.


Monday, 13 October 2014

Simple Tear & Share Bread Rolls

Bread had never been my strong point. My husband and I usually attempt to eat a small portion of the experiment, then the rest is left to wither and die in the bread bin. Hard, heavy, soggy … you name it, I’ve had that bread disaster. So I was amazed when these tear and share rolls actually worked! The first time, they weren’t cooked for quite long enough, but after a little trial and error, 25 minutes is the perfect time in my oven.


I’ve tried numerous recipes for bread, but haven’t seemed to succeed, really succeed, with any. My best attempts were my flowerpot loaves. But after a visit to Dun Elm, I picked up a Mason Cash flower shaped bread mould and there was a recipe on the back, so, with nothing to lose, I tried it out…and it worked! And it was really, really easy, but you do have to plan your next few hours around the bread as it’s most delicious when still warm from the oven!


  • 500g strong white bread flour
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 7g sachet fast action yeast
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil plus extra for drizzling
  • 350ml warm water
  • Method:

    Oil or butter your bread form. You can simply use a round cake tin for this.

    Heat oven to 220 degrees celcius, 200 for a fan oven.

    Add the salt and yeast to the flour, one either side of the bowl.

    Make a well in the centre and add the oil, then most of the water.

    Stir until mainly combined then tip out onto a well floured surface. If it’s too crumbly, add the rest of the water. It should become less sticky and more stretchy within a minute of kneading, but if not, add a bit more flour.

    Knead, stretch, throw, etc. for ten minutes until elastic and shiny.

    Oil a bowl and pop in – cover with Clingfilm or a bag and leave somewhere warmish to prove for an hour.

    Once proved, tip out and gently roll into a long sausage. Split into seven equal sized pieces. At this stage, you can add any other flavourings, for example, sea salt and chopped rosemary, or olives and sundried tomatoes.

    Roll each piece into a ball – I stretch mine and make each into a spiral – then place in the tin or mould with one in the centre.

    Re-cover and leave for twenty minutes.

    Pop gently into the oven for 25 minutes and you’re done!


    Why not serve with this carrot, chilli and cashew nut soup?

    Tuesday, 7 October 2014

    Basil Gnudi

    For those watching Jamie’s new ‘Comfort Food’ programme, this is an older variation of one of the more recent episodes, where he combined ricotta and sage. This basil version is equally delicious, but I would advise you to use the ingredients stated, rather than try to improvise by swapping semolina flour for whatever you have in the cupboard, for example, polenta, although it does work ok – ish!

    The recipe, originally from Jamie Magazine, is easy to follow, despite being a little messy in parts.



    • 2 large bunches of basil, leaves picked

    • 250 g fresh ricotta

    • 125 g parmesan, finely grated

    • 2 large free-range eggs

    • 1 free-range egg yolk

    • 75 g plain flour, plus a little extra

    • Semolina flour, for dusting

    • 15 g butter

    • 1 unwaxed lemon

    • 30 g grated pecorino, to serve


    Pop a pan on low heat, add 2/3 of the basil leaves and a splash of water…leave until wilted. Leave to cool then squeeze out the excess water.

    Put the leaves in a blender. Blitz with 75g of the ricotta. Transfer it to a large bowl and add the remaining ricotta, the parmesan and eggs. Whisk well until light and airy.

    Fold the flour into the ricotta mixture. It needs to be soft and moist but add more flour if it’s too sticky!

    Sprinkle a 5mm layer of semolina flour over a baking tray, and fill a piping bag with the ricotta mixture, cutting a 1.5cm opening. I use a freezer bag and cut off the corner! Pip strips down the tray leaving a small gap between each.


    Once piped, sprinkle a thick layer of semolina flour over the top, cut into 2–3cm pieces, cover with Clingfilm and chill overnight.


    Before cooking the next day, remove from the fridge and leave to come up to room temperature.

    Melt the butter in a pan over a low heat and add most of the leftover basil leaves. When the butter starts to bubble and the leaves have crisped up remove from the heat. I burnt the butter at this stage so be careful. If you do, start again – trust me, its unrescuable!. Finely grate in the zest of the lemon and season well. Set aside.

    Lower the gnudi into a large pan of salted, boiling water with a slotted spoon. Once they float to the surface, they're cooked – this should take about 1 minute. I left mine a little longer.

    Remove them with a slotted spoon, toss them in the lemon butter and serve with grated pecorino and the rest of the basil leaves on top.


    It’s well worth the effort and phaff for a change and to try something new. It’s also a child-friendly recipe for letting those little ones help out, with lots of mixing and stirring!

    Friday, 3 October 2014

    Carrot, Chilli & Cashew Soup

    Every week, nearly without fail, the carrots arrive in one form or another in the veg box…but what to do with so many? Well, since I also had a chicken carcass, I decided soup was the best option.


    There was an interesting idea over at Abel and Cole in involving cashew nuts which sounded different from the usual soup ones. You can find the recipe here, but it’s generally very simple. It involves roasting carrots, grinding cashews till they resemble cashew-butter and adding stock and chilli powder (and/or flakes) to your taste and desired thickness. With a squeeze of lime and handful of fresh mint, this really is tasty. It also freezes well, making it perfect for those lazy Autumn Sunday evenings when you can’t be bothered to cook!


    Monday, 29 September 2014

    Beetroot & Carrot Burger on Goat’s Cheese Mushroom

    005We’ve recently signed up to Abel & Cole’s veg. boxes as a way to kick start a bit of healthy eating, ensure we have all the fruit and vegetables we should and, more importantly, so that I don’t have to traipse around the supermarket once a week! So Wednesday is always an exciting day for me as I also choose some top quality meat from them too and attempt to plan our meals. The question arises, though, what on earth do I make with it all? It seems too nice to just use a plain old veg. so I’ve been looking up some new ideas. One of the nicer ones I found was a Riverford recipe (probably A & C’s largest rival, but if I’m using the veg. surely no-one will mind?!) to use up my carrots and beetroot.


    You can find the recipe via the link above but it’s a case of grating raw beetroot and carrot, mixing it with egg, oatmeal, dill, parsley and grated onions, leaving to chill, shaping, then pan frying until brown. Meanwhile, season a large mushroom. Put the burgers on one tray, the mushrooms on another and bake for 20 mins. I added a slice of goats’ cheese to the mushrooms too! Wilt some spinach, build a tower with everything and you’re done. It’s quite messy at the beginning (I suggest using a processor to do all the grating!) but really tasty, and incredibly healthy too, especially if you don’t add the cheese!


    Thursday, 10 April 2014

    Carrot and Feta Keftedes

    It’s an earlier than usual post this week as I’m heading off on a Glamping Hen Weekend tomorrow, and have made some Mini Tiffin Bites and these Carrot and Feta Keftedes to share around the campfire while we’re there!


    This recipe was featured on last week’s Sunday Brunch and I thought I’d give it a try, not only to take away with us, but to share as an aperitif at home. I deep fried in a wok, rather than shallow fried, and served with a sweet chilli jam. The trick to a good flavour is to roast the carrots first, and, as usual, I found it easiest to add amounts to your taste. As long as the final mixture is sticky but not sloppy, they’ll turn out fine.


    • 350g carrots, roasted then grated
    • 2 tbsp olive oil
    • 1 small brown onion, grated
    • 150g feta, crumbled
    • 50g fresh breadcrumbs
    • 1 tsp cinnamon
    • 2 tsp dried mint
    • 50g parmesan or Kefalotyri cheese, grated (I used a little mature Cheddar instead)
    • 10g flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
    • 1 egg, beaten
    • Plain flour, to dust
    • Olive oil, to fry


    Clean, top and tail then roast the carrots until nearly cooked through, with some salt and pepper.

    When cooled, I used a food processor to then grate the carrots and onions but you can do this by hand. Simply combine all the ingredients well, then chill for about an hour.

    Form into little balls, dust in flour then fry until golden brown.

    Serve with sweet chilli dip.


    Hope you enjoy them as much as we have.

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