Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Oat & Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies

I think this recipe is the fastest read to bake ratio on the blog yet. Joy the Baker blogged this lovely recipe on Thursday and I was in the kitchen making them on Sunday. I think I would have been quicker had my car not broken down on Friday (I'll save moaning about that for my Twitter account!).

I've been searching out the Peanut Butter Co. peanut butter for a while. They are based in New York and make natural peanut butter without all the scary preservatives and palm oil that most producers use (even brands made in the UK which doesn't use as much palm oil as the States).
Sainsbury's stocks the smooth peanut butter, they have lots of different flavours (cinnamon raisin swirl! dark chocolate dreams!) so I am hoping they get more popular here and start stocking more.

These cookies are so great, I always have success making oaty cookies and these were no exception. They have tons of flavour, lots of crunch from hazelnuts and that amazing peanut butter filling. I used a touch less sugar in both the cookie mixture (2/3 cup) and added icing sugar to taste, I don't like cookies too sweet as I like to taste the rest of the ingredients.

I made up the whole batch of dough according to the recipe, but only baked half, I saved the rest and froze them in little balls in the freezer - ready for future cookie cravings! I do this a lot with cookies as we can't eat such big batches ourselves, and it is nice having cookie dough in the freezer. I made half the icing for my half batch of cookies.

Oatmeal & Peanut Butter filled Sandwich Cookies
From Joy The Baker, makes about 24 cookies.
100g / 4oz unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup of brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups of porridge oats
1 cup of plain flour
1 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
few grinds of black pepper (Mr doesn't like nutmeg so I gave this a go and it worked!)
1/2 cup of chopped hazelnuts

Peanut Butter Filling (this is the whole batch, half if you are freezer stashing your dough!)
3 tablespoons of butter, softened
1/2 cup of good quality smooth peanut butter
1 cup of icing sugar
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
3/4 tablespoons of milk

Preheat the oven to gas mark 4 / 180c.

Cream the butter and sugar in a large bowl or mixer, add in the egg and mix to combine, add in the vanilla extract and combine.

Mix the oats, flour, baking powder, salt and spices in a separate bowl. Then adding a bit at a time fold in the dry ingredients with the butter mixture. Be careful not to overmix. When it is all incorporated stir in the nuts.

Prepare a flat baking sheet by lining it with baking parchment. Scoop out teaspoon size bits of dough, roll into a ball and place on the sheet 1.5 inches apart. Bake for 10 minutes for soft chewy cookies and 13 minutes for crispier cookies. Bake in batches if you don't have room.

For the filling:
Put the butter, peanut butter and vanilla in a bowl and cream together. Add the icing sugar in batches. I added in half first and mixed, tasted for sweetness and added more to taste. To get a creamier icing that is spreadable add in splashes of milk to the icing.

When the cookies are cool enough (leave in the tray for 5 minutes and then cool on a wire rack for 10 - 15 minutes) spread the icing over each underside of the cookie and then sandwich. Place in mouth. Place another one in your mouth. Make a cup of tea and dunk that cookie in it!

I'm really quite smug that I have another 12 cookies to be in my freezer.

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Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Rhubarb & Banana Muffins - dairy free

I'm pretty sure all banana cake recipes come about because of a bunch of bananas slowly going off in your fruit bowl, that is the only reason I've ever made a banana cake anyway. These muffins were born out of a bunch of unripe bananas, a lot of rhubarb and a desire to have something vaguely healthy to grab for breakfast.

I had no eggs in and no butter in so I experimented and created these muffins which are happily very yummy and also vegan too!

Rhubarb & Banana Muffins
makes 12 muffins

4 very ripe bananas
1/3 cup of flavourless oil (groundnut, sunflower)
3/4 cup of caster sugar
pinch salt
1 tsp of vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups of self raising flour
3 sticks of rhubarb, chopped into small pieces
extra sugar for sprinkling
oats for sprinkling - optional

Preheat your oven to 190c / gas mark 5.

Mash your bananas in a large bowl and then add in your sugar, oil, salt and vanilla. Mix together. Then sift in your flour and fold in, try not to work the mixture too much otherwise the muffins will be tough and dry.

Prepare your muffin tin with cases. Put about a tablespoon of the mixture into each case and then put a couple of pieces of the rhubarb on top of that. Sprinkle with a little sugar. Top with more mixture, fill right to the top. Put another piece or two or rhubarb on the top of each cake, sprinkle with some more sugar and then some oats.

Bake for 12 - 15 minutes until cooked through and golden brown.

I would say these are vaguely healthy enough to be ok to eat for breakfast, I think they'd be lovely with yoghurt.

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Sunday, 15 April 2012

Slow Cooked Chipotle and Ancho Pork

These days my diet is mostly vegetarian, but every now and again I do get cravings of the carnivorous variety that just won't go away. This slow cooked pork is fragrant with cumin and coriander with some gentle heat from chipotles in adobo and powdered ancho chilli, brought together by a thick tomato and onion based sauce. I made various sides to go with this - onions pickled in vinegar, guacamole, grated cheese and also black beans to please the vegetarian in our household - and then piled it on to little tacos.

A word about tacos and tortillas here. I find the majority of tortilla wraps just awful, they are kind of plasticky and don't really taste of anything at all, proper Mexican tortillas they ain't. If you can pick up some better quality tortillas or have time to make your own then everything will taste all the better. I've been using the square wraps Warburtons bought out recently, they are more bready and less plasticky and just taste a bit more real. For the tacos I just used a cookie cutter to make little rounds.

Slow Cooked Chipotle & Ancho Pork
based on a recipe from Food 52, with different chillies.
serves 2  (or one greedy person with leftovers)

1 tsp of cumin seeds
1 tsp of coriander seeds
350g of pork shoulder, cubed
1/2 onion, diced
1/2 red chilli, diced
2 cloves of garlic
about 1 inch piece of dried ancho chilli, finely chopped or blitzed in a food processor
1/2 chipotle in adobo plus a bit of adobo sauce
2 tsp of dried oregano
1/2 can of peeled plum tomatoes
1 pint chicken or vegetable stock
oil for frying
fresh coriander

Heat up a large casserole dish on the hob. Toast the cumin and coriander seeds for a few minutes, keep them moving so they don't burn. Transfer to a pestle and mortar and crush the seeds. Heat some groundnut or sunflower oil in the dish and brown the pork on all sides, do this in batches if it doesn't fit. Season the pork whilst it is browning. Put the pork in a bowl and set aside.

Fry the onions next til softened, then add in the chilli and garlic and fry for a minute. Add in your ground spices, dried oregano, ancho and chipotle in adobo. Then add your pork back in and stir everything together, fry for a minute before adding your tomatoes and stock along with salt and pepper. The meat needs to be totally covered with stock, top up with boiling water if it isn't.

Bring to the boil, then cover and reduce to the lowest temperature. Bubble away for at least 2 hours, maximum about 4. When the meat is falling apart and tender it is ready to eat.

Remove the pork from the sauce. Blend up the sauce to help thicken it and then turn the heat up high to reduce the sauce, it should take about 5-10 minutes. Once it is nice and thick add in some fresh coriander and shred the pork and mix into the sauce. I removed the fat when I added the pork back in, I don't like the texture of it when it is cooked like this, and once the pork has slow cooked the fat has done its job to help add flavour to the meat.

Get all your sides ready whilst the sauce is thickening and then pile onto tacos and go!
I'll be having the rest of this pork tomorrow in a burrito and I can't wait.

More and more little delis and farm shops are stocking interesting dried chillies now, and you can find chipotles in adobo in a few places too (Cambridge people - the Cheese Shop sells them). If not you can find all of them at Mex Grocer, including proper tortillas.

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Thursday, 12 April 2012

Gujarati Recipe Series - Essential Spices

Any good Indian cook will have a 'dabba' (tin) of spices essential for making pretty much any curry from their region. My Mum gave me this tin when I moved out of home to go to university - unfortunately I wasn't a very good cook then (to put it kindly) so it didn't get used until years later when I got interested in cooking.

These are the spices that are used most often, there are also some others which you'll find in other tins - things like a few cloves, asafodeita, dried chillies, ground cumin instead of cumin seed. Black mustard seeds are one of my favourite ingredients and I use it in things other than Indian cooking, they are quite different to yellow mustard seeds, if your supermarket doesn't have them try your local Asian grocer or health food shop.

If you want to buy your own tin you can also find them in Asian grocers or have a snoop on ebay, there are lots on there! Once you've got all your spices, remember to replenish them every few months otherwise they tend to go stale and lose their punch.

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Monday, 9 April 2012

Pesto Pull Apart Bread

This Pesto Pull Apart Bread is a real crowd pleaser, I think tearing big chunks of freshly baked bread slathered in pesto is just about anyones favourite thing to do. I took this bread along to The Secluded Tea Party Unbirthday this weekend as part of the pot luck spread, along with some sundried tomato palmiers (more on that soon). It looks kind of awesome, all big and gnarly on the table and tastes even more awesome.

This bread takes time time to make but if you are confident enough making a normal bread dough then you'll be fine here. It is quite a nice bank holiday activity, something you potter in and out of the kitchen at regular intervals to do the necessary stages.

I've seen this as a sweet filling before too, filled with cinnamon sugar, and also in other savoury ways - sun dried tomato, cheddar & mustard. 

Pesto Pull Apart Bread
based on the recipe from Miss Igs

For the dough
1 cup of warm water
1 packet (7g) of fast action yeast
2 tablespoons of olive oil
2 cups of strong white bread flour
2 tablespoon of sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg

For the pesto
Large handful of fresh basil
2 cloves of garlic
1/4 cup of toasted pine nuts (toasted in a dry pan)
approx 1/8 cup of grated parmesan or hard cheese
extra virgin olive oil

Mix together the warm water, yeast and oil in a large bowl. Leave for 5 minutes til the yeast starts to bubble.
Then add the bread flour, sugar and salt to the yeast mixture. Mix well with a wooden spoon (or a mixer if you have one, I have one on my wish list!) until all incorporated in to a dough, add the egg in and mix to incorporate again. Your dough might be a bit wet here so add in some more flour to form into more of a kneadable dough. Knead lightly in the bowl for just a couple of minutes. You'll not need to worry so much about kneading if you are using a mixer with a dough hook.

Cover the bowl with a tea towel and leave in a warm, dry place for at least an hour to prove. It should double in size.
You need to make your pesto now. Just blitz all the ingredients in a food processor or mini blender. Add some oil to begin with and then add more as you need to loosen the mixture.

After proving knock back the dough, flour a board well and roll out thinly in a rough rounded square. Spread the pesto over the dough.

Cut the dough into 4 long strips. Then pile the strips on top of each other, then cut into little square stacks. Then stack the little squares into a oiled and floured loaf tin. Leave to prove for another 30-40 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 170c / gas mark 3. When it is proved bake in the oven for 30 - 35 minutes until golden brown and cooked through. Keep an eye on it in case it starts to brown too much, you may need to turn your oven down, mine went quite brown in the end.

Remove from the tin about 5 minutes after it has come out of the oven. Cool on a wire rack. Tear into it when it is still slightly warm / as long as you can bear without eating it.

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Friday, 6 April 2012

Recent Eating

I was looking at my blog last night and realised how neglected it has been recently, poor blog. I've been busy with my new job (which is great) and making jewellery but I have still been cooking some nice things. I'm pretty good at snapping pics on my phone and putting them on Instagram, which has been about all the blogging I've been doing lately. Here are some of my favourite things from the last month.

Glazed sesame chicken, thai green butternut squash curry and fluffy basmati rice. 
This chicken is SO good, it didn't think it would cook in time and worried it would burn, but it was great. The skin was like fried chicken, ridiculously good. Chicken recipe courtesy of Jamie Oliver 

Bubble and squeak cakes with roasted fennel and squash warm salad. 
My first go at trying roasted fennel, I always thought the aniseed would be too overpowering but it is just right, adapted from River Cottage Veg, I missed out the spelt to keep it simple, the flavours were still there and it all worked together really well.
The bubble and squeak cakes were some leftover mash, shredded cabbage, an egg, garlic, lots of parsley and seasoning, fried til crispy on both sides.

Clandestine Cake Club! 
I was so pleased to make the latest cake club meeting at La Tasca in Cambridge. Lyn, the founder of Clandestine Cake, was our guest of honour, it was lovely to meet the lady who started it all off. There are now over 60 clubs in the UK and across the world, find your club here. I baked a rhubarb victoria sponge (unpictured, it tasted good but was pretty unphotogenic!). I love going to cake club, I always come back brimming with ideas and high off a sugar rush. 

Some other things that didn't make it on to my photo album but are definitely worth trying:

Crispy Baked Onion Rings - I made these twice in one week. Enough said!

Creamy Avocado Pasta - Avocado is one of my favourite things to eat, this pasta dish is super quick and I found I didn't even need to add parmesan, which is a first.

Crispy Tofu Strips - I am slowly learning to like Tofu, I think it works well in a handful of dishes. Silken tofu is normally my favourite, this is a great way of using firm flavoured tofu (I used basil, but you can also get smoked) in a healthy way.

Teacake in Shepreth - My new favourite tea room / cafe. And it happens to be 2 minutes away from my office. Win win.

Carrot Fries - almost guilt free chips. Almost.

Ta Da! A new blog post. That wasn't so hard :)

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