Monthly Archives: November 2014

Famous Last Words

Well my last post was all about normal service being resumed shortly.  Of course I hadn’t bargained on my dearly beloved going headfirst over a wall and breaking his leg in three places!  With perfect hindsight I obviously should not have tempted fate.  We will be back, after all he’s going to have plenty of time with his feet up from now till Christmas!  However he’s not going to be bringing in any pheasants any time soon!

Lack of post!

Apologies for the lack of posts recently.  One of us knocked ourselves out, so the other had to go one better and gash their head open.  That was followed by contracting a tummy bug.  Having looked after said husband (the one with the head gash) well, I was repaid by him giving me his germs,  (not terribly gallant in my humble opinion!) so we’ve both been laid very low.  Food wasn’t something to even think about far less make or photograph.  I’ve had to avoid social media too as mine is full of food and photographs (a great deal of which are food photographs).  Happily we seem to be improving today and normal service will begin again shortly.

Easy to make Chicken Chasseur.

Chicken chasseur with roast potatoes and kale. © Sue Todd 2014

Chicken chasseur with roast potatoes and kale. © Sue Todd 2014

When the nights are drawing in and its cold and dark outside, chicken chasseur is a wonderful dish to warm you through.  We’ve started to use the wood burner in our dining room and we enjoyed this in front of a roaring fire – real comfort food for the soul.  Gary produced some lovely roast potatoes and fresh kale to go with it.

Chicken casseroles of any sort are always welcome in our house.  This one cooked in red wine with shallots, garlic and mushrooms is now exception.  I can feel a pheasant chasseur in the offing, made with this same recipe shortly.  Just got to wait for Gary to bring me a few pheasants in.   Continue reading

Rich and Creamy Rice Pudding

Rich and Creamy Rice Pudding with Rosehip Syrup. © Sue Todd 2014.

Rich and Creamy Rice Pudding with Rosehip Syrup. © Sue Todd 2014.

A traditional English pudding so I guess it had to be included in English Country Cooking really, right?

Rice Pudding was one of the first things we cooked at school in Home Economics.  I used to hate those lessons, I wonder how many children were put off cooking entirely by them?  And how many grew to love cooking as a result? Continue reading

Dried Apples – Apple Crisps

Dried Apple.  © Sue Todd 2014

Dried Apple. © Sue Todd 2014

Reading online about drying foods using a fancy dehydrator had got me hankering after a bit of retail therapy, but then I remembered ……. that now we’ve moved I have an AGA that actually works! As opposed to a monstrous hybrid which didn’t.  Dried Fruit ahoy!

If like us you’ve a lovely bumper crop of apples,  you may also have plenty of storage space and plans to use them all up?  We’ve not got masses of storage space so we’re looking to use a good amount in chutney, cakes, freezing some etc.  I then thought back to the Healthy Treats I made earlier in the year and thought about massing a nice supply of dried apple to pad these out with.  Continue reading

Blueberry, Lime and Coconut Ice-Cream

Blueberry, Lime and Coconut Ice-cream. © Sue Todd 2014.

Blueberry, Lime and Coconut Ice-cream. © Sue Todd 2014.

This is my favourite ice-cream in the world.  I don’t have a sweet tooth, but this is luscious, sweet, but not overly so, rich, but not too rich and the lime gives it a lovely refreshing kick.  The lime really clears your palate, so this is something that you can tuck into with relish after a big meal.

Best of all it’s not difficult to make and you can make it in advance which is even better, because if its to serve guests then you get more time to enjoy their company – which is what entertaining is all about after all.

My instructions are for use with an ice-cream make that does the churning and the chilling for you, if yours is different or if you do the churning by hand then you may need to alter the way you work to suit.

Ingredients:

  • 2 limes,
  • 140g home-made vanilla sugar (castor sugar will do if you don’t have vanilla),
  • 125g blueberries,
  • 250ml carton coconut cream,
  • 234ml double cream,
  • Extra blueberries for serving,

Method:

Take just one of the limes and grate the zest from it finely.  Once you have that, squeeze the juice from both the limes.

Put the juice and zest into a small pan with the sugar and heat through until the sugar has dissolved.  At this point add the blueberries and simmer them for around 2 minutes until the skins start to split and they soften nicely.

Transfer this blueberry/sugar mixture into a bowl and stir in the coconut cream.  If you’ve stored the coconut cream  in a cool place (mine was in a rather cold larder) this make take some time if its set into one hard lump.  Next time I’ll endeavour to remember to get the coconut cream from the larder well in advance so that its softer.  Once the two are nicely combined, leave to cool.  I stick mine on a granite shelf in the larder which is always cool and cover it with a clean tea towel.

Once the mixture has cooled, measure out your cream and tip the blueberry mixture into it, mixing it well, with a whisk.  Now transfer to your ice-cream maker and set it to churn for between 40-60 minutes.

How long this takes will depend on where your ice-cream maker is situated.  When mine was in the kitchen it used to take a full hour to churn, after we moved here, it took about the same time mid-summer in the larder, now, we’re moving into colder times it doesn’t take as long, so keep an eye on it.

Once the ice-cream maker is finished, transfer the ice-cream to a freezer proof dish, label and stick in the freezer until you need it.

Blueberry, Lime and Coconut  Ice-cream. © Sue Todd 2014.

Blueberry, Lime and Coconut Ice-cream. © Sue Todd 2014.

To Serve:

If you are making it well in advance you may need to remove it 10 minutes before serving to ensure you can dish it up easily. I’ve ruined a couple of ice-cream scoops that way! Serve with extra blueberries scattered over the top and if you happen to have some biscotti biscuits to hand, they go very well with it too.

Rosehip syrup

Rose Hip Syrup, bottled and ready to enjoy. © Sue Todd 2014

Rosehip Syrup, bottled and ready to enjoy. © Sue Todd 2014

We’ve had great fun making rosehip syrup this year.  Actually Gary may argue that he didn’t enjoy the picking process at all, but I assured him that it was a case of ‘no pain, no gain’, before i went off to pick blackberries instead.  I’d recommend the use of protective gloves, they really don’t want you to pick them.

Since I mentioned it people have asked me over on the English Country Cooking Facebook page what you use it for.  That was when I realised how little used and known this gem has become over the years.  There’s a list of ways to use Rosehip syrup at the bottom of this post and as we experiment I’ll keep adding to the list.

I remember being given it on rice pudding at school; one of few fond school memories I can tell you.

Some background information on Rose hips.

Rosehip syrup is extremely rich in Vitamin C, possibly one of the richest plant sources of it, with a reputation for keeping colds at bay.

Are you old enough to remember being given a teaspoon of rosehip syrup every day?  It was a regular thing in households across England, at one time.  It became popular in war-time Britain, when fresh fruit was in short supply, but fell out of favour with protests about what the sweetness was doing to children’s teeth.  It is sweet but as long as dummies aren’t being dipped in it, it’s probably less harmful than sweets and its good for you.

You can still buy it, I see, having had a quick look on the interwebs.  You won’t find it on the shelves at the supermarket though, you’d need to go to a health food store or buy online.

But beware because commercially made rosehip syrup is often fortified with lab-made vitamin C because of what is destroyed in the processing.  So proof, if it was needed, that home-made has the edge on mass-produced anything, and while it takes a bit of effort, and pain in the picking of them, its well worth it.  We’ve just got the one bottle this year, but next year we’ll be making loads of this.

Ingredients:

  • 1 KG rosehips,
  • 1.25ltrs water,
  • Approx 500g castor sugar,

Method:

You will need a couple of bottles which have vinegar-proof lids or stoppers for this, the fruit acids don’t mix well with metal.   Wash them well in hot soapy water, rinse and then sterilise them for use by putting them on a tray in the oven on a low heat to dry out and heat through.  I use the simmering oven on the AGA, on a conventional oven you’d be looking at a temperature of around 120C/240F/Gas 1-2.

Rose Hips, topped and tailed.  © Sue Todd 2014.

Rosehips, topped and tailed. © Sue Todd 2014.

Top and tail the rosehips.  Give them a good wash, then put them into a food processor or blender and blitz.  This is best done in batches.  Alternatively you could mince them. Put the resulting mush into a large stainless steel saucepan  and add the water.

Bring the water to boiling point, then turn the heat down (on the AGA switch to the left hand plate) and allow the rosehips to simmer for about 15 minutes.

For the next step you’ll need either a double layer of muslin or we used a jelly bag for straining the pulp.  You need to support this over a large bowl in order to strain the liquid.  The idea is to catch all the irritant hairs, which believe me you really don’t want in there.  We used an upturned stool to support the jelly bag over a large bowl, very Heath Robinson, but it worked a treat.

Rose Hips Cooking. © Sue Todd 2014.

Rosehips Cooking. © Sue Todd 2014.

Let the mushy pulp drain for a good while, at least half an hour, to get as much rose hip juice as possible.

Tip the mush out into your compost bin before washing the muslin or jelly bag out and repeating the straining process one more time.

Next you need to carefully measure the juice with a measuring jug into a large saucepan.  For every 500ml of liquid you have, you need to add 325g sugar.

Put the pan on a low heat and stir until the sugar has completely dissolved.  Now bring it to the boil and boil for 3 minutes.  If any scum forms, skim it off with a slatted spoon.

Take your, now sterilised, bottles from the oven and decant the syrup into the bottles and seal immediately.

When the bottle have cooled you can label them.

Your rosehip syrup is now made and ready for use.  You’ll need to use it up within four months, so it is a good idea to make a note of the date on the labels, and once it’s opened do be sure to keep it in fridge.

Serving Suggestions for Rosehip Syrup:

Some ideas for using your rosehip syrup:

  • Use as a cordial diluted with five parts water,
  • Use as an alternative to maple syrup on pancakes or waffles,
  • Add a couple of teaspoons to rice puddings or porridge,
  • Add to porridge before adding some grated apple or berries for a lovely breakfast,
  • Use in cocktails – a spoonful in the bottom of a glass of champagne is delightful,
  • Pour over ice cream for a lovely desert or,
  • Add to ice cream in the last stages of making for a rose hip ripple ice-cream (just thought of that while writing this – looks like I’m making more ice-cream now doesn’t it!)
  • Use to sweeten plain yoghurt – giving a nice dose of vitamin C as you do so
Rose Hip Syrup and Champagne Cocktail. © Sue Todd 2014.

Rose Hip Syrup and Champagne Cocktail. © Sue Todd 2014.

And if you can’t use if all up in four weeks of opening, pour into an ice cube tray and freeze – then its easy to take out and use.

Actually, the more I think about it, adding rose hip ice cubes to glasses of champagne or wine sounds like a really nice idea!

Gluten-free, Wheat-free Fruity Biscotti Biscuits

Biscotti Biscuits, gluten free, wheat free.  © Sue Todd 2014

Biscotti Biscuits, gluten-free, wheat-free, lovely home-made gift idea for Christmas. © Sue Todd 2014.

I love biscotti biscuits, they are great with coffee or ice-cream and this is a lovely time of year in late autumn to make them and experiment with them ready for Christmas.  While I have a number of recipes about for these, none of them were gluten and wheat free and that was what I was after.  So it was time to experiment, I had a ‘how hard can it be?’ moment, and luckily I think they worked well, they’ve certainly disappeared quickly.

This grain-free version is a little softer than biscotti normally are, but then my teeth were quite thankful for that.  I’ve followed a few different biscotti recipes in the past and some like to use mixed spice but I tend to avoid this as I’m allergic to cinnamon.  I’ve also found that you can quite safely mix and match the fruit and nuts according to what you have in the cupboard.  I rarely have the exact ingredients needed and so have gotten used to swapping ingredients out.  These biscotti seemed to go down very well and I’ll definitely be making them again.

Not only are these great for serving with ice cream or coffee, they also make great presents wrapped up in cellophane or presented in pretty boxes.

Ingredients:

  • 175g Almond flour,
  • 175g Coconut flour,
  • 2 tsp gluten-free, wheat-free, baking powder,
  • 250g vanilla sugar, use golden caster sugar if you don’t have vanilla sugar,
  • 3 eggs, beaten,
  • Grated zest of 1 orange,
  • 85g raisins,
  • 85g dried cherries, I used a mixture of dried sour cherries and natural glace cherries, as this was what I had to hand,
  • 50g almonds,
  • 50g hazelnuts, you could use pistachio nuts but I didn’t’ have any
  • Sesame flour for flouring a board.

Method:

If you are using a conventional oven, preheat it to 180C/350F/gas4.

Line 2 baking sheets or one AGA cold tray with greaseproof paper.  This is great as you don’t have to grease the trays at all and I always find that rather tedious.

Put the flours, baking powder and sugar in a large bowl and mix well before adding the orange zest and eggs.  Mix now until the mixture begins to come together in lumps.  At this point it gets messy as you really need your hands in there to start pulling it all together.

It may feel that it can’t possibly come together and you may be tempted to add some liquid – DON”T!  Just keep kneading and it will come together, it just sometimes takes a while.

Once there are no floury patches left, add the fruit and nuts and mix well so that the fruit and nuts are distributed evenly through the mixture.  This mixture is and remains quite sticky.

Turn it out now onto a floured board, you could use more almond or coconut flour but I chose to use a little bit of sesame flour, adding a little more structure to the mix and making it a little less sweet.  Not having a hugely sweet tooth, this was, for me, a good move.

Anyway once the mixture is on your floured board, divide it into four equal portions.  Roll each portion out with your hands into a sausage shape about 30cm long.  Place 2 on each of the smaller trays or you’ll find all four will sit on one large AGA cold tray.  I use these for baking all the time and just love how much you can get on them in one go.

Pop these in the oven, use the baking oven of the AGA, and leave to cook for around 25-30 minutes.  You want the dough to have risen, spread out somewhat and feel firm to the touch.  It also must still be quite pale in appearance, it gets cooked again so don’t look to get it golden brown at this stage.  This was mine just below, still pale:

Gluten free, wheat free, fruity biscotti © Sue Todd 2014

Gluten free, wheat free, fruity biscotti © Sue Todd 2014

Remove the trays from the oven once the dough is ready and transfer the four biscotti portions to a cooling rack to cool – this can be done quickly and easily by lifting the parchment off the tray and onto the cooling rack, thought you need to do it gently.  Leave them to cool for a few minutes until the are cool enough to touch.

At this point if you are using a conventional oven turn it down to 140C/275F/Gas 1.  I’ve not tried those settings, these are gleaned from other’s biscotti recipes.  I keep going with the baking oven of the AGA for mine.

Once the portions have cooled, you need to take a bread knife and carefully cut the portions into 1cm diagonal slices.  You need to be quite gentle in doing this as the mixture is more delicate than normal biscotti, and it crumbles into pieces easily otherwise.  Lay the slices flat out onto the baking trays.  I just re-used the same parchment paper.  It can become a bit of an artform trying to fit them all on but they generally fit.

Bake them for a about a further 15 minutes now, I think mine took a little while longer.  You want them to be dry and golden in colour at this point.  Having a memory like a sieve these days I tend to set a timer, otherwise I can find my hard work has been turned to charcoal in the AGA – there’s no smell until you open the oven door!

Once baked sufficiently, remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool.  Because these are not made with wheat flour and don’t have anything added to help hold them together they are prone to be rather more delicate and crumbly than conventional biscotti, so you’ll need to handle them carefully.  Again I found it far faster and easier to carefully tug the greaseproof paper off the AGA tray and onto the cooking rack so that they all moved in one fell swoop.

Leave them to cool and then pack away in an airtight container.  They should keep for a week or two quite happily.  Again biscotti made with wheat flour will, I know, keep for about a month, but these ones haven’t hung around that long so I can’t state the same for these as yet.

Gluten free, Wheat free, Fruity Biscotti Biscuits. © Sue Todd 2014.

Gluten free, Wheat free, Fruity Biscotti Biscuits. © Sue Todd 2014.

Variations:

Vary the fruit and nuts used, I think dried cranberries would work quite well and be very seasonal.  Also try lemon instead of orange.  If you want a christmassy version you could add 2 teaspoons of mixed spice or cinnamon.

Also most people use blanched almonds, I just throw ordinary ones in to mine.  They all eat just the same.