Monthly Archives: September 2014

Cauliflower Crust Pizza

Cauliflower Crust Pizza © Sue Todd 2014

Cauliflower Crust Pizza © Sue Todd 2014

I’ve loved this since I stumbled across a recipe for it at  RecipeGirl.com(http://www.recipegirl.com/2012/01/16/cauliflower-crust-hawaiian-pizza/).  It sounds odd and if you don’t like cauliflower then you’ll be forgiven for assuming it has must be dire.  My sons refuse to believe it could be edible, but I can assure you it is wonderful and well worth trying, the resulting base is so far away from being like the stewed tasteless cauliflower I remember from my school days.  Actually thinking back to school meals I’m always surprised I ever came round to food at all, everything always seemed so gross.

Anyway back to the pizza.  The finished thing looks like pizza and tastes wonderful, while it doesn’t taste like a bread base it is really good and it doesn’t taste like you’d imagine it would either!  You don’t feel stuffed when you’ve finished eating but you are nicely satisfied.  The only thing you can’t do with it is pick it up in your hands to munch it like you would a normal bread based pizza, you’ll need to eat this one with a knife and fork.  The first time we made it Gary grated the cauliflower by hand, this takes forever and can be painful, I’d recommend using a food processor if you have one. For the crust I’ve so far used cheddar and mozzarella and they both work really well.  I think the crust could work well as the base for a gluten-free quiche that is quite delightful without leaving you feeling overly stuffed afterwards.  I’ve not tried this out yet but I think I will soon so that may figure on the blog shortly.

Ingredients: For the crust:

  • 2 cups shredded cauliflower
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup grated cheese
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried minced garlic (or fresh garlic)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Topping:

This is really down to personal choice, so far we’ve enjoyed ham and pineapple, salami with mozzarella and olives, all on top of a nice home-made tomato sauce.

Method:

Start with your cauliflower and chop it up into individual florets.  Then either grate it (I don’t recommend this route) or pulse it in a food processor until it’s in tiny pieces and looks a bit like rice.  You want small grains of cauliflower though and not a puree, a puree won’t work so well.

Put your processed cauliflower into a microwave safe bowl and microwave it for 8 minutes.  I hate using the microwave at all but this works so … I go with what it says to do.

Let the cauliflower grains cool and then mix up well with the other crust ingredients.

Grease an oven tray or pizza stone and shape the crust mixture into a round flattening it out carefully, so it has a traditional pizza shape to it.  Brush the top gently with olive oil.

Pop your pizza into the baking oven of the AGA for about 15 minutes.  I think this equates to about 450 degrees in a conventional oven.  If you’ve oiled the top it should begin to brown nicely.

At this point its time to add your topping of choice, before topping with cheese and putting it back in the oven to finish off for approximately five minutes.  Enjoy with salad and a nice glass of wine!

We find this makes one large pizza which we often don’t finish in one sitting.  With plenty of salad it could do four people, or two very hungry ones.

Home-made Burgers

We’ve had a spate of burger making recently.  I can’t remember the last time we bought an actual burger, it would be some considerable time ago and lately the only ones we’ve bought are the venison ones our local butcher makes on the premises.   Burgers are one of our few ‘fast foods’ not that any of our food is very fast really.  We both believe in food being enjoyed and savoured and that includes the making time too, so I’d guess we’re more in the ‘slow food’ bracket.

Ideally we’d start from scratch with beef and put it through the mincer to get minced beef, because we prefer to know exactly what is going in to our food.  But if you want to use ready bought mince then do so.

We used oats in this recipe instead of breadcrumbs to help bring the burger together, however, a handful of seeds such as pumpkin and/or sunflower seeds blitzed in the food processor to break them down slightly could work just as well and give you a grain free burger.

Ingredients

  • 500gm of lean minced steak,
  • 2 finely chopped shallots,
  • 1 egg,
  • Small pinch of thyme,
  • Pinch of Rosemary,
  • Salt and black pepper to taste,
  • Chilli flakes, as required to taste,
  • handful of rolled oats,
  • smaller handful of ground almonds,
  • Olive oil to fry,

Method:

Mix everything together in a large bowl and then divide into two, four or even six burgers, depending on how hungry or how big you like your burgers.

If you have a mincer,  you can whack the whole lot through a mincer  after mixing it together.  This will improve the consistency of the burger but it’s not essential.

Now either fry in olive oil until cooked, or alternatively pop them on a baking oven and stick them in a hot oven.  We’d use the roasting oven on the AGA, not entirely sure what this is for a conventional oven but somewhere around 240/475 or Gas 8.

To serve:

  • muffins/breadbuns/portobello mushrooms – to serve up the burger in
  • suggestions as given below for three slightly different stacks.

Serve with home made chips and a big napkin because you’re going to get messy.  To produce a primal/paleo version omit the  muffins for serving and use portobello mushrooms instead. The mushroom version is lovely and next time we have them that way I’ll take a photograph.

Variations:

Stack 1

  • Toasted English Muffin,
  • Mayonnaise,
  • Little Gem Lettuce,
  • Burger
  • More Little Gem Lettuce
  • Home Made Plum Chutney

 

Stack 1 - Home made Burger © Gary Todd 2014

Stack 1 – Home made Burger © Gary Todd 2014

Stack 2

  • Toasted English Muffin
  • Mayonnaise,
  • Slice of Air dried Beef,
  • Pommery whole grain mustard,
  • Little Gem Lettuce,
  • Burger,
  • Caramelised red peppers, red onion and mushrooms,
  • Fresh Plum Tomato
  • Mayonnaise,
  • Toasted English Muffin
Home-made Burger: Stack 2 © Gary Todd 2014

Home-made Burger: Stack 2 © Gary Todd 2014

Stack 3.

  • Toasted English Muffin,
  • Mayonnaise,
  • Slice of Air dried Beef,
  • Pommery whole grain mustard,
  • Little Gem Lettuce,
  • Burger,
  • Caramelised red peppers, red onion and mushrooms,
  • Rasher of locally smoked Bacon,
  • Mayonnaise,
  • Toasted English Muffin
Home-made Burger - Stack 3 © Gary Todd 2014

Home-made Burger – Stack 3 © Gary Todd 2014

Sugar Free Sweet Treats

Sugar free, grain & gluten free, sweet treats © Sue Todd 2014

Sugar free, grain & gluten free sweet treats © Sue Todd 2014

These are really easy to make, have no added sugar whatsoever and taste fantastic.  Wholesome, good for you and delicious, what more can you ask.  The other wonderful thing about this recipe is that you can just swap ingredients out depending on what you have, for instance while I’ve used cherries, apricots, apple and pecans, you could just as easily use dates or any other dried fruit and walnuts, hazelnuts or almonds, just make sure you have the same quantities of dried fruits or nuts and it works.

If you want to omit nuts for nut allergy just replace the nuts with the same quantity of extra dried fruit, and use more coconut oil in place of the peanut butter.

This would be good to make with children but do be careful with the food processing though. They’d also make a nice gift.

Ingredients:

  • 50g dried cherries (could be sour cherries or glace cherries both will work),
  • 50g dried apricots (ready to eat),
  • 25g dried apple,
  • 25g pecans,
  • 1 tsp coconut oil,
  • 2 tsp peanut butter,
  • up to 50g desiccated coconut to coat the treats

Method:

Put your chosen dried fruits/nuts into a food processor and pulse until finely chopped.  You don’t want  a purée, but you do want it to be slightly on the sticky side.

Tip the chopped fruits and nuts into a bowl, add the peanut butter and coconut oil and mix with a spoon or your hands.  Children will enjoy mixing this up with their hands.

Shape the mix into small balls.  The number you will get will depend on the size you go for.  With my first batch I only got about 8, which didn’t seem many but they were larger than the average walnut.  With the next batch I got a good deal more.

Then roll your treats in the coconut to coat them.

Store in an airtight container, if you can keep them!  And that’s the challenge, they are wonderfully moreish.

Sweet Treats © Sue Todd 2014

Sweet Treats © Sue Todd 2014

Variations: 

  • You could use sesame seeds instead of the coconut to coat these.
  • Pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds could replace the nuts.
  • Add grated orange rind to give some extra flavour – this is really nice

Every Day Bread

Everyday Bread - Gary's loaf from earlier this week © Sue Todd 2014

Everyday Bread – Gary’s loaf from earlier this week © Sue Todd 2014

I’ve made this bread so often now I think I could make it in my sleep.  It is really dependable, reasonably fast to make and good to eat. I always use fresh yeast if I can get it.  No idea why, I just like it better and it’s how I learnt to bake bread many years ago now.

I’ve not tried this recipe in a bread maker, mine retired to the garage when I finally got an AGA, and it’s not seen the light of day since.  It is possible to make this every day and I certainly have, though because I’m cutting back on wheat at the moment I’m not baking it quite so often.

This recipe is my standard go to especially if I’m in a hurry, it’s very forgiving and you can use whatever flour you have to hand, I’ve even used a mixture of left over bits of flour.  All you have to do is adjust the amount of water slightly.  Wholemeal flour generally needs a drop more than white flour.

The amounts quoted will make a loaf like the one above or about a dozen bread buns as shown below.

Ingredients:

  • 500g flour – you need plain flour but use whatever you like, wholemeal, white, a mixture, a bit of rye, just be prepared to adjust the water to get the right consistency,
  • 1 tablespoon of honey,
  • 2 tablespoons oil,
  • 1 teaspoon salt,
  • 300 ml warm water – the water should be just warm, not hot,
  • 14g fresh yeast or 7g dried yeast

Method:

Put the flour into your mixing bowl or mixer, add the yeast, the salt, the honey and the olive oil. If like me, you are using a stand mixer, turn the mixer to a low speed (Kitchen Aid 2) – you don’t want to go any faster than this as the mixer won’t be able to cope.  Otherwise mix the ingredients in your bowl with a spoon. As the ingredients are mixed together slowly add the warm water until the consistency is right.  You want to achieve a firm dough that seems elastic  with a smooth consistency which is neither too dry nor too moist.

At this point, either leave the mixer to knead your dough for 8 to 10 minutes or knead it yourself after turning it out on a floured board.  Before I got my Kitchen Aid I used a marble slab for this as its nice and cool for the dough and easy to clean afterwards.

Once you’ve kneaded your bread, it needs to go into a large oiled bowl.  I tend to oil the Kitchen Aid mixing bowl and return the dough to it unless I’m planning on using the mixer again straight away – it saves washing up!

Cover the bowl with a clean tea towel or some cling film and put in a warm place to rise.  The tea towel is the greener option.  I like to put mine on the warm plate of the AGA as it rises the bread really quickly.  How long this will take really depends on how warm it is.  On the AGA it can take as little as 30-40 minutes.

Grease your tin at this point.  You can use a proper loaf tin, a flat tin and make a large round loaf or a large flat tin and produce bread buns.  It’s useful to get this ready before the next stage though.

Once your dough has doubled in size it’s time to knock it back. Again just a floured board and some gentle kneading.  Then shape it how you want it, ready for a loaf tin, into one large flattish loaf, a cob, buns whatever.  Pop the dough into the prepared tin and leave to rise again covering it with your towel again.

Every Day Bread - Wholemeal buns © Sue Todd 2014

Every Day Bread – Wholemeal buns © Sue Todd 2014

Once the dough has risen generally doubling in size again, its time to put it in the oven to bake.  I use the baking oven in the AGA and it takes about 20 minutes.  If I’m making bread buns I check them after 15 minutes and then again at short intervals  until done.

When done the bread should tip out cleanly and if you tap on the base it should sound hollow.  Put the bread to cool on a cooling rack and leave to cool before eating, though that is tricky, certainly in our house!

There’s little nicer than a big stew, some soup or even just cheese with a fresh loaf of bread and a glass of wine.

Autumn

Like it or not Autumn appears to have arrived with some vengeance.  Saturday was such a lovely day, and now feels so far away as we’ve had fog almost consistently since.  I don’t mind a bit of fog, I love the mysterious air it gives, but days on end of it, is a different matter. Today it’s another grey foggy start with a decided chill in the air, indeed the fog has increased since I sat down to write.  There are plenty of leaves under foot as the colours all change and the first frost can’t be far away.  It makes me think of log fires, huge meaty casseroles and warm filling puddings.  Autumn for me is all about comfort foods and lots of them.

I’d been looking forward to a lovely harvest from our new garden but that hasn’t quite been the case.  We have plums which are going to give us some lovely plum chutney later today, we have apples and blackberries.  The potatoes were delicious but are all eaten. Oh and we have rose hip syrup which we have yet to sample.  Now that sounds like a rice pudding is needed, doesn’t it?

I’m looking forward to an evening by the fireside soon where we sit and plan out the garden for next year.  There’s plenty of tidying up to do, pruning and clearing gutters before the winter sets in.  Pruning will be a whole new world of adventure.  We’ve room for more vegetable beds, and the two little poly tunnels we have, but, we need to get inventive to keep the wildlife from eating it all again next year.  So any suggestions on what to grow or how to protect our little garden are welcome.

So despite the small harvest there is plenty to do and so we’ll be sharing a host of things shortly from the rose hip syrup through to venison stews and chutneys.  I’m also going to be drying some fruit in the AGA for some little sweet treats I have in mind. Then I guess we’ll be at the end of September and that big ‘Christmas’ word will come into play and all the preparations for that! Sorry I’ll try not to mention that word again for a while yet.

Not sure what the weather is like where you are today, but if you are in thick fog like us then the picture below taken just at the weekend is a tad more cheery than the view outdoors, I thought we all deserved a bit less gloom.

Autumn harvest of fruits from the garden © Sue Todd 2014

Autumn harvest of fruits from the garden © Sue Todd 2014

Lavender Focaccia

Lavender and Garlic topped Focaccia © Sue Todd 2014

Lavender and Garlic topped Focaccia © Sue Todd 2014

You may be able to see a bit of theme here, between Lavender and Focaccia what with Lavender Macaroons and Blackberry Focaccia having already made it to the blog.  I was determined this summer to make good use of our Lavender and I’m trying to build myself up to going grain free again, so I need to get bread out of my system, though I love it so much that will be tricky.

I was searching for Lavender recipes when I came across one for lavender focaccia and thought it had to be tried.   This is my interpretation of the recipe from What’s Cooking America :  http://whatscookingamerica.net/Bread/LavenderFocaccia.htm with English measurements and a few little changes.

Not being one for eating flowers I was a bit dubious about this one.  This was my first attempt at cooking with lavender and to be honest I wasn’t sure what to expect, however, it made for a wonderful surprise and its a bread I’ll be making again and again.  We ate it for lunch with Gary’s shin of beef with fennel and Chianti and it was a perfect match.

Lavender Focaccia served with shin of beef © Sue

Lavender Focaccia served with shin of beef © Sue Todd 2014

 

Ingredients:

  • 1tbsp honey,
  • 300ml of warm water
  • 7g dried yeast or 15g of fresh yeast
  • 500g strong white bread flour
  • 2tsp salt
  • 100 ml olive oil
  • 1tbsp dried lavender
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1tbsp of salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper

Method – For the Bread:

You can mix and knead the ingredients by hand if you wish, but I like to use my Kitchen Aid, it does a far better job of that first round than I do.

Add the flour to your mixing bowl, followed by the salt, honey, and olive oil. Switch the Kitchen Aid to a low speed like 2, and begin to add the water.  If you are doing this by hand, make a well in the centre of your bowl before starting to add water.  Keep mixing and adding water until it forms a dough.  I find that depending on the flour you sometimes need a bit less or a bit more water, just keep an eye on it and aim for a nice soft dough that comes away from the bowl cleanly.

At this point either leave your stand mixer to knead the dough for about 10 minutes OR tip the dough out on to your work surface and knead by hand.  If the dough sticks to your hands add more flour, a little at a time.  With the stand mixer if the mix is too dry add a little more water, if its too wet then add a little more flour.  The dough should be really smooth.

Once you’ve finished kneading the dough needs to go into an oiled bowl to rise. This is the point where I juggle the dough in one hand while oiling the mixing bowl with the other so as to re-use the mixing bowl and save washing up.   Shape the dough into a smooth round and pop it into the oiled bowl.   If you are using a mixer you can manage this shaping in your hands without needing to clean up the work surface later.  Cover the bowl with a clean tea towel and pop the bowl in a warm place for the dough to rise.  You can use cling film but it doesn’t feel very eco-friendly to do that somehow, because it’s not like you are going to wash and re-use it, unlike the towel.  The back of the AGA plate is ideal.

Leave to rise until doubled in size.  Time here will vary depending on how warm it is and if your yeast is good or getting old.  If you use dried yeast and have had it some time it may not work as well.  While its rising lightly oil a large baking sheet ready for your loaf.

A conventional oven will need to be preheated to 400F/200C or Gas Mark 6.  With the AGA it wants to go in the baking oven of the four oven version.  I can’t advise on the two oven AGA as the only one I’ve ever had the misfortune to use didn’t work often or well – through no fault of AGA I hasten to add, I managed to cook very little in that one.

Once your dough has doubled in size, lightly flour your work surface and knock the dough back gently before rolling it into a large rectangle.  Transfer the dough  gently to the oiled baking sheet, cover with a clean tea towel and let rise approximately 30 to 45 minutes or until it doubles in size once again.

Method for the Lavender Garlic Topping:

You can make this topping while your dough is rising.  Chop your lavender finely and mix it in a bowl with the garlic and the remaining olive oil, then set it to one side while you wait for the bread to rise.

Once your bread has risen for the second time, make little dimples in the dough with your fingers, then brush the topping all over the surface of the bread and into the dimples you’ve just made.  Finish it off by sprinkling coarse salt and pepper on top.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until golden brown. The bread should be firm. Remove from oven and transfer to wire rack to cool, before eating. Enjoy!  If you try it I’d be interested to hear what you think.

Pine Needle Vinegar

Pine Needle Vinegar © Sue Todd 2014

Pine Needle Vinegar © Sue Todd 2014

Yes, you did read that correctly.  While I was looking around online a few days ago I stumbled somehow over the subject of Pine Needle Vinegar – I can’t for the life of me remember what it was, that I was actually looking for, in all likelihood it was forgotten after reading about this.

According to various web resources, Pine Needle Vinegar is as good as if not better than Balsamic Vinegar.  Since we  love Balsamic Vinegar, it doesn’t funnily enough appear to come down in price, and there’s an entire wood of pine needles just behind the house it seemed rather stupid not to try it out, so yesterday I did just that.

It is very easy to do, my only issue was the lack of cider apple or white wine vinegar that we seem to have, another thing to add to the shopping list.   It’s meant to work with either one, but we only had a small amount of cider apple vinegar or I’d have made a bit of both.

Ingredients:

  • Pine needles
  • Cider apple or White Wine Vinegar

Method:

Exact quantities are not given and you’ll understand why in a moment.  First of all gather your pine needles.  Gary brought me in twigs, which we washed and dried (probably not necessary but ….) and then you simply pull the needles off and pop them into a Kilner jar or something similar.  Whatever you use remember that vinegar isn’t too fond of metal tops.  Pack them in loosely.

Heat a quantity of vinegar to boiling point and leave to cool.  It may be an idea to measure how much you need to fill your jar before you start filling it – I didn’t bother as my vinegar supply was pretty limited anyways and I wasn’t expecting to have any leftover.

Once the vinegar has cooled pour it over your pine needles and seal.  That’s it!  Leave for six weeks in a darkened cupboard, then use as you would Balsamic Vinegar.

Since this is my first time of making it I’ve no idea what it will be like, but I’ll update this post in six weeks time to let you know.  However its fast, easy and very cheap compared to nice Balsamic so it has to be worth trying.

 

Beef Stroganoff cooked outdoors on a Finnish Stove.

Beef Stroganoff cooked outdoors on a Finnish Stove © Sue Todd 2014

Beef Stroganoff cooked outdoors on a Finnish Stove © Sue Todd 2014

It was a beautiful day yesterday, and as the evening approached we were thinking it would be really nice to eat outdoors given that the nights are beginning to draw in.  Sorry to remind you of that!
However the gas bottle for our BBQ is with ‘son the younger’, who ‘borrowed’ it earlier in the summer, which meant cooking might be somewhat problematic.   However Gary had already had some thoughts about this and is plotting ahead for a whole new section of our garden for next year, so he suggested we had a go at cooking on a Finnish Stove.
What’s a Finnish Stove you ask?  Well I didn’t know before hand either.  It’s a wonderful way of cooking outdoors when you don’t have a stove, but want to use a pan.  You basically cut a log into segments and standing them up stuff the inside gaps with small bits of wood and dry grass, set a match and away it goes.  Your pan simply sits on the top and it gets very hot indeed. Obviously health and safety needs some consideration and you need to give some thought on where exactly you have your fire, you don’t want to set a vast expanse of woodland on fire for instance!  Ours was nicely contained in a brick surround so it couldn’t fall over either, which is worth thinking about.
It’s a lovely way to spend an evening and once we’d eaten the fire carried on, doing a grand job of keeping the midges away and we sat out until it was dark watching the fog roll into the valley below.
Finnish Stove in the garden © Sue Todd 2014

Finnish Stove (also known as Swedish Candle or Rocket Fire) in the garden © Sue Todd 2014

Beef Stroganoff cooked outdoors on a Finnish Stove © Sue Todd 2014

Beef Stroganoff cooked outdoors on a Finnish Stove © Sue Todd 2014

Ingredients:

  • 500g lean beef or this would work really well with venison,
  • 250ml of cream,
  • 1 glass of white wine,
  • 1 heaped tsp of French Mustard/ Pommery,
  • Half an onion finely chopped,
  • 1 clove of garlic crushed,
  • 2 good sized mushrooms sliced,
  • 1tbsp olive oil
  • 1 knob of butter

Method:

Put your pan on the heat, add the olive oil and butter and melt the butter.
Fry off the onion and garlic  without letting them brown and remove from the pan.
Now add the beef to the pan and sear until it is brown all over.
Return the onions and garlic to the pan and de-glaze the pan with the glass of wine.
Next add the cream and mustard and stir well before adding the mushrooms.
Simmer until you are happy with the consistency of the sauce and the beef is nicely cooked.
Serve with french bread and more glasses of wine.
Beef Stroganoff ready to eat, cooked outdoors on a Finnish Stove © Sue Todd 2014

Beef Stroganoff ready to eat, cooked outdoors on a Finnish Stove © Sue Todd 2014

Blackberry Focaccia Bread and Butter Pudding.

Blackberry Focaccia Bread and Butter Pudding served with cream © Sue Todd 2014

Blackberry Focaccia Bread and Butter Pudding served with cream © Sue Todd 2014

What can I say?  It had to happen.  There was left over blackberry focaccia which it would have been criminal to waste and I had the ‘4 o’clock’ munchies coming over me, so I persuaded Gary to make me some bread and butter pudding with the left overs.  I’ve actually just polished off the final bit of that for breakfast!
Servings: ? That will depend on how much left over blackberry focaccia you have and how much of a portion you manage to limit yourself too.  I think we got about 8 servings from ours, though I may have had rather more of those 8 servings than anyone else!

Ingredients:

  • Left over blackberry focaccia,
  • unsalted butter,
  • 2 eggs,
  • milk
  • castor sugar (or better still vanilla sugar)

Method:

Slice the left over blackberry focaccia and butter generously, ideally with unsalted butter.
Lay in a flat, well buttered square dish overlapping each slice, butter side up.
Mix together two eggs and a good splash of milk.  Add a small handful of Vanilla sugar
or caster sugar and a splash of Vanilla Extract to the milk and eggs, whisking it together well.
Pour over the top of the blackberry focaccia and place in the baking oven of the Aga until its golden and yummy,  about 30-40 mins. Serve warm with cream.
Blackberry Focaccia Bread and Butter Pudding © Sue Todd 2014

Blackberry Focaccia Bread and Butter Pudding © Sue Todd 2014