Tuesday 30 March 2010

LEX - Found Purse


Many thanks for commenting on The Cabbage Patch blog about my lost purse. It does, in fact, belong to mum.
Please get in touch on

Many thanks in advance!

Merlotti x

Sunday 28 March 2010

Kringel – Fresh from the Oven March Challenge.



This month’s Fresh From the Oven baking challenge was hosted by Jo from Jo's Kitchen. It was also my first submission, although, I admit it, I left it rather late to begin. Hence the fact I’m writing this part of my post pre-baking! I’m a little daunted, if I’m honest, and although I really do want to be a better baker, I don’t seem to have time (a poor excuse I know). So, having fretted about it all month after the initial excitement, here I am, the Saturday before I’m meant to submit my post on the Sunday, still fresh yeast-less. Having tweeted Jules, (Butcher, Baker), with this problem, she admitted having used fast-action instead, so there’s still hope for me! She was even so kind as to send me the conversions, so here they are, just in case you, or me, ever need them!

10g fresh = 5g dried = 3g fast action yeast

Writing this, I’m actually beginning to revive some of my initial excitement. Having never heard of ‘Kringel’ (an Estonian sweet or savoury bread) before I quickly searched various recipes and ideas, to find out a little more about what I should be baking and what the final results should look like! Jo found her recipe from the Hairy Biker's programme, Mum's Know Best, so, not being great at following recipes, but knowing this is essential when baking, I stuck to it like glue! Especially having located my fresh yeast in a little independent Colchester bakery.

  • 40g fresh yeast
  • 1tbsp sugar
  • 250ml milk, lukewarm
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 50g butter, melted
  • 600-700g flour

    Mix the yeast and sugar, then add the milk and stir. Add the eggs, then flour, then butter. I used 600g plain flour and certainly didn’t need any more as the dough was quite dry, but became more moist as I kneaded. I let it rest for just over half an hour and it had risen beautifully after that time.


    Ensure the oven is heated to 200 degrees c.

    Knock the air our of the dough then roll out to a thickness of about 1cm. First, spread softened butter evenly all over, then sprinkle generously with raisins, then sugar. I felt that the butter helped keep the dough moist and stopped it from being too crumply once cooked.



    SDC11886Next was to roll it up ‘like a swiss roll’ but I failed to understand the next instruction, but think I got it right. What I did was turn the swiss roll vertically, then slice from the bottom to the top, but leave it joined at the top.









    It was the word ‘plait’ that confused me as I couldn’t understand how to plait with only two strands, so I twisted instead! Twist the two pieces around each other, then form the long, twisted sausage into a capital B shape. I then glazed with the leftover egg white. Pop into the oven for 20-25 minutes until browned and crisp on top.




    While it’s cooking, melt 150g dark chocolate with 75g butter over a bowl of hot water. Drizzle this over the bread once cooled slightly from the oven. I over did this part, enjoying rather too much the chocolate patterns I was making, but I think I just stopped in time from covering the whole lot!



    I couldn’t believe it, and certainly couldn’t wait to taste it so made a cup of tea and broke off a large, warm part for breakfast, well, lunch by the time I’d finished it all! Soft and fluffy in the middle with a crispy, crunchy outside, covered in sweet chocolate! You could do this as a savoury bread to serve with dinner, and sprinkle cheese (Cheddar) inside instead of raisins and sugar, popping some on the top to bubble in the oven. I’d also add a little salt to the dough mix too.

    So it goes to prove, if you actually follow the recipe, they usually work. I think the fresh yeast also helped a lot! Hopefully I’ve included all the requested information in this post, my first Fresh from the Oven offering, and I look forward to many more baking attempts! As does the OH who stated that the bread was ‘amazing’! High praise indeed!

    Don’t forget to look at the round-up of all our efforts later this month!

  • Friday 26 March 2010

    A Simple Supper – lamb chops, new potatoes and green beans.



    After several nights of stews, meat with sauce and a bit of whatever’s left over, I thought we’d go for something quick and simple, but most of all, tasty: Lamb Chops, new potatoes and green beans.

    The chops were seasoned and sprinkled with herbs, then fried (I know, it’s much more unhealthy than grilling them, but far more tasty!), the new potatoes boiled with salt, pepper and chopped garlic, and the green beans popped into the microwave for steaming with a little water and yet more chopped garlic. After browning the chops on both sides and leaving til the middle was still pink, I stood them up at the edge of the pan to crispen up the tastiest part – the fatty edges! To serve, I simple added some butter and mint sauce to the pan after draining the potatoes and spooned it over the lot.

    Of course, the best way of eating them is with your fingers!


    Sunday 21 March 2010

    Beer Battered Fish and Chips, fresh from Aldeburgh



    A perfect weekend away with the girls in Norfolk, a trip to Aldeburgh on the way home to pick up some ‘caught that morning’ fish, then home to the OH to combine it with beer batter and home-cooked chips with mushy peas. And despite the batter not sticking that well to the fish, any tips on how to correct this greatly received, it was delicious!










    I couldn’t find a Jamie recipe in my books, but when I looked through ‘The River Cottage Year’, there, in March, was a beer-batter recipe with ideas for mush peas and tartare sauce as well. I used cod as it looked lovely in the sheds on the beach, and my only other change was to flour the fish before coating in the batter, and yes, I know this may be the reason the batter didn’t stick!


    Batter Recipe – to serve 4-6 (although I halved the recipe and it made enough to coat at least 3 large pieces of fish!)

    Sift 200g plain flour with salt and pepper in a bowl and combine with 2 tbs. olive oil.

    Beat in 250ml good beer – leave to rest.

    Meanwhile, cut your fillets of white fish and coat in salt, leaving for 15 minutes.

    Wash the salt off with cold water after this time and pat dry. Season with pepper and leave to sit.

    Heat a good depth of oil in a heavy-based pan and heat until a cube of bread goes a golden brown in 2-3 minutes.

    If the batter needs loosening, add another splash of beer, then whisk 2 egg whites to the soft peak stage and carefully fold them into the batter mixture.

    Coat the fish in the mixture and fry each piece individually for 4-5 minutes.

    Place onto kitchen paper to ‘dry’ then pop into a warm oven until the other pieces are ready!


    Peel and ‘chip’ your potatoes, I used Maris Piper, then rinse several times in cold water.

    Drain and dry on kitchen paper.

    Ensure the oil is hot, as above, and carefully tip your potatoes in.

    Leave on hot for a few seconds, then lower the heat until the potatoes are cooked through.

    Turn the heat up again to brown.

    Remove chips onto kitchen paper to remove grease and season.

    Mushy Peas – the quick version!

    I used frozen garden peas and simply boiled them for a few minutes until squishy.

    When cooked, pop them in a blender with a knob of butter, some of the cooking liquid and seasoning.

    Blitz until smooth with a spoonful of mint sauce if you fancy it!



    You can watch Hugh’s version below, and looking at it, his batter also ‘explodes’ when it hits the fat!

    When all the above is ready, serve with buttered bread, ketchup and a dollop of tartare sauce. This was the perfect meal to end my weekend, and especially to congratulate my OH on completing his half marathon today whilst I was away doing absolutely no exercise whatsoever! Unless a walk along the beach counts?

    Tuesday 16 March 2010

    And The Winner Is…

    This is the post that I’ve heard on the grapevine is the most anticipated yet: the winner of our Come Dine with Us sessions! If you’ve been following along the way, you’ll know that four friends have each hosted an evening, cooking a three-course dinner for our friends, and then voted on each others’ evenings! Food was, of course, top priority, but we also counted hosting skills, entertainment and ‘extras’! If I had to split these votes, I’d say the best evening would be a combination of Stacy’s hosting skills, which included buying matching trays especially for the occasion, Jemma’s ‘extras’, (After Eights, A plastic ring, etc!) and Donna’s entertainment, Guess the Person! The food I’d choose again would be Donna’s starter of asparagus, Stacy’s Stroganoff main and Jemma’s rich and creamy Lime Cheesecake for dessert. Can I add in Donna’s cheese-plate at the end of the meal, especially on behalf of Stacy?!

    I’ll blog each individual menu with recipes later, but feel free to have a look back and create your own version – each was really delicious and I’d highly recommend them. We’re such different cooks, yet all the meals were very good, the evenings even better! Some of us stick firmly to a recipe, while others have never cooked three courses for anyone other than our OH and family before. Some were nervous beforehand, others worried about where everyone would sit. We’re such a very different lot, with common values (this sounds a bit like our school ‘mission’!, so I’ll stop there I think!), the main one being our love of food, eating and friendships!

    Kate had kindly collated each week’s score for us and also devised a certificate, so the results were revealed on our Best of the Best night last Monday, held at Donna’s as we chose her main course! We each took one of the courses from our own evening: We had Mini Toad in the Hole amuse-bouche followed by Smoked Mackerel pate from me; Trout with Horseradish Crème Fraiche from Donna; and TWO puddings, Sticky Toffee Pudding from Stacy and Jemma’s Cheesecake. It was really lovely all mucking in, preparing, washing up and luckily, Donna’s kitchen is the perfect size for doing all that!

    Between puddings, the winner was announced, after a little trouble reading the certificate, as Kate had, very thoughtfully, printed it from bottom to top so we could unravel each person step by step.

    In Fourth place, with 23.5 points is…              Jemma

    In joint Second place, with 24 points are…     Donna and Stacy

    In First place, with 27 points is…                   Merlotti


    Hurrah! And so endeth our meals. Well, not quite! We’re all in agreement that we should really continue, but that it would be less stressful and more fun if we all brought a course, and, needless to say, didn’t score. So, the new rota has been drawn-up and the first of the collaborations begins two weeks on Monday. Can’t wait girls!

    Monday 8 March 2010

    Sticky Banana and Date Cake


    An easy cake you can use for afternoon tea, as a pudding, or make into a muffin for a snack! I baked mine in a loaf tin so we could slice it up and have it with a cup of tea. There was, however, some cake mixture left, so I piled it into two deep cake cases and baked those too; they came out like perfect muffins. The original recipe is for puddings baked in dariole moulds, and also includes a runny chocolate ganache in the middle of each one that turns gooey in the oven. Since I wasn’t cooking mine for dessert, I left this out.


    I took the idea from last weekend’s ‘Something for the Weekend’, and it’s another Simon Rimmer recipe: Sticky Banana Pudding.

    The mixture is a basic cake mix, see my plain sponge, with one less egg. The extra moisture needed is more than made up for with the four mashed bananas and 175g dates, cooked down first with water and a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda. I also added a little more flour as the mixture was very sloppy, and the cake in the tin needed another 25 minutes cooking time. As a cake, it is very sticky and squishy, but this is what would be expected in a pudding, as it was originally created to be! That didn’t stop us from eating them straight from the oven, trying not to burn our fingers as we pushed bite after bite into our mouths!


    Friday 5 March 2010

    A Belgian Lunch: Salmon Quiche and Camembert, Apple and Onion Tartines



    We found this little place, of which I’ll try to find the name of in the next few days, on the corner off the square opposite the European Parliament buildings in Brussels. It’s a brilliant little cafe with tasty, good quality home-made food. The OH had a salmon quiche while I opted for Camembert, Apple and caramelised onion Tartines: little ‘things’ on toast! A less expensive meal, for once, in Belgium, and absolutely delicious at that. A real little find, and scrummy treat for lunch. 


    I’d make this recipe for my lunch but do it slightly differently. I felt that the amount of cheese didn’t balance the amount of stewed apple. If it were my recipe, I’d spread a thin layer of caramelised onion chutney on top of toasted bread, then add a layer of thinly slice fresh pear rather than apple, with the skin on, and place lots of Camembert on top before grilling to brown the cheese. Mmmm...crispy and fresh with a creamy topping. Yum!

    Tuesday 2 March 2010

    Tea Smoked Salmon or Trout …


    I’m going to blog as I go along with this one! The main method of making today’s dinner is by smoking the fish, something which I’ve never done before and am quite excited about! It also serves to fulfil one of the ‘20 Great Foods You Aren’t Eating, according to The Times’ posts I promised a few weeks ago as I shall be using Green Tea to smoke the salmon.

    I found a very simple recipe from Waitrose, which I shall be following in order to undertake the smoking, and I shall take their serving suggestion of crème fraiche and chilli jam, but I already have my own jam so shall use that instead. I’m also going to cook some new potatoes and spinach on which to serve the fish as this is dinner, our main meal, rather than a light lunch. The OH has also just gone to Swimming for Triathlon training and will be starving by the time he returns, so something more substantial is required.

    SDC11761SDC11762OK, to start I’ve prepared everything: the sugars and tea is mixed nad sitting on a foil layer in the bottom of the wok (I’m using an electric wok as it’s the only one I’ve got with a lid, so my fingers are crossed that it works as well); New potatoes are in the pan ready to boil and crush; the spinach is sitting on top in a colander so it can gently steam; chilli jam and crème fraiche are out, ready for dolloping! Now all I need to do is wait until 5 to 8 to put the potatoes on. …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

    Wok is on, along with potatoes, although don’t think that lifting the lid to see if there’s smoke will help the process!


    Because it’s an electric wok, the heat didn’t get going as quickly as the recipe said, so I ended up leaving them for about 35 minutes. (Of course, it could also have been something to do with peeping in several times out of curiosity!) The potatoes, I boiled then crushed with butter, salt and pepper. The spinach I steamed over the potatoes, and served it all with a dollop of crème fraiche and sweet chilli jam, as per the original recipe.


    And as for the flavour? Well, I was expecting not to be able to taste anything, but the flavour of the tea really came through. Smoky and delicate, with the fish shining through. And so easy: equal quantities of sugar and tea leaves, left to smoke without interruption…well, nearly!

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