Monthly Archives: February 2015

Crumpets

Crumpets © Sue Todd 2015.

Crumpets © Sue Todd 2015.

I can remember vividly sitting round an open fire on a cold winters day with my grandmother toasting crumpets for tea.  She had an old hexagonal sewing table which she used to move in front of the fire, cover with a table-cloth and set out cups and saucers, plates, jam and cakes and we used to enjoy a lovely tea by the fire, toasting the crumpets over the coals with a toasting fork.  Dripping with real butter (in the days before margarine came along and ruined things for a while) and topped with home-made jam full of fruit and flavour.  I used to love going there after school and would often ‘skip’ the bus home to go there instead and then be collected later.

Crumpets are always associated with the Victorian era, but according to Wikipedia they may date back to the Anglo-Saxons when John Wycliffe mentioned ‘crompid cake’ in 1382.

The ones you buy in packets are a far cry from ‘real’ crumpets, you just have to look at the ingredients on the packet and the sell-by date that tells you they are packed with  preservatives.

They are actually quite easy to make and fun.  If you make a batch they can always go in the freezer and come out as you need them, either pulling them from the freezer before bed so they are ready next day or defrosting them in the microwave.  Defrosting food or heating coffee I’ve forgotten about are the only things I use the microwave for, oh, and if the AGA is off it may see some use – but generally only to reheat something from the freezer.

Crumpets Cooking on the AGA. © Sue Todd 2015

Crumpets Cooking on the AGA. © Sue Todd 2015

You’ll need crumpet rings for this and either a griddle or a very shallow heavy based pan that you can access easily.  I have a very old griddle given to me by my Nan many years ago, but we were lucky enough to be given a brand new AGA one for Christmas which I just want to use, use and use again.

Crumpet – Ingredients:

  • 175g/6oz strong white flour,
  • 175g/60z plain flour,
  • 14g instant yeast
  • 1 tsp caster sugar,
  • 350ml/12fl oz milk,
  • 150-200ml/5-7fl oz warm water,
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda,
  • 1 tsp salt,
  • sunflower oil for cooking

Crumpets – Method:

Put the flours and yeast into a bowl and mix well.

Warm the milk and dissolve the sugar in it.  Add this into the flour/yeast mixture in your bowl and beat it until it forms a smooth batter.  Alternatively use an electric hand whisk to achieve the same effect.  Your batter will have to be really smooth if you want it to produce the customary holes in your crumpets.

Pop a cloth over the bowl and leave it for between 20 minutes to an hour.  The batter needs to rise and then start to fall again.

Mix the bicarbonate of soda and the salt into the warm water and then beat this into your batter a bit at a time.  You need to keep adding it until you get a liquid the consistency of  double cream.  Cover this once again and leave it for a further 20 minutes.

Crumpets © Sue Todd 2015.

Crumpets © Sue Todd 2015.

Next heat a griddle on a medium heat.  If you don’t have a griddle then a heavy based shallow pan will do just as well.  Grease the insides of your crumpet rings and add <<<< to the griddle to melt.  Pop the rings on the griddle.

Drop a couple of dessert spoonfuls of batter into each ring.  Bubbles will begin to rise, appear at the surface and set, this will take around four to five minutes.  Flip them over carefully to cook the other side, leave them to cook for about 2-3 minutes.  Lift off carefully and remove from the rings.  Repeat until you’ve used up the mixture, either keeping these ones warm until you’ve finished if you intend to eat them straight away or pop them on a cooling tray for later.

Either eat when ready or toast later and serve with lashings of butter!

Home-made crumpets with smoked salmon and poached egg.© Sue Todd 2015.

Home-made crumpets with smoked salmon and poached egg.© Sue Todd 2015.

Crumpets: Serving Suggestions:

  • Delightful for a high tea with jam,
  • Good for a snack with pâté,
  • Great for breakfast with poached eggs and bacon,
  • Delicious with smoked salmon and poached eggs,
  • Scrummy with cream cheese and smoked salmon,
  • or as part of a full English Breakfast in place of toast.

 

Pancake Day

Blackberry Compote, pancakes and crispy bacon.

Blackberry Compote, pancakes and crispy bacon. © Sue Todd 2014

Do you call it Pancake Day or Shrove Tuesday?

Personally we like pancakes all year round, after all what’s not to like?  As a child though I never got them very often and come Shrove Tuesday, they tended to be served up with Golden Syrup or lashings of sugar and some lemon juice.  I wasn’t keen on the golden syrup then and there’s no way on earth I could eat it on pancakes now, way too sweet.

Some ideas for your pancakes:

Crêpes Suzette

Crêpes Suzette © Sue Todd 2015.

Crêpes Suzette © Sue Todd 2015.

While we have pancakes often (some of us more than others in this house), we generally have them with fresh fruit, but thinking about the blog and with Pancake day looming fast we decided to push the boat out, put a lot more effort in and have Crêpes Suzette for a change.  It was a real treat, especially mid afternoon on a ‘work’ day!

There is a lot more work, and a whole heap of extra dishes, but luckily I got to shoot photographs and eat pancakes while Gary, bless him, prepped the kitchen, completed the cooking, made coffee and then cleared the dishes.  I can really recommend Crêpes Suzette as a real cheer up item for a yucky, gloomy late winter’s day, it add’s a real glow in more ways than one!

We do tend to go for pancakes with real substance to them in preference to more delicate crêpe like entities, so you may get more pancakes from your mix than we do from ours.

Pancake day falls mid citrus season, so if you’re feeling the need to get your citrus fix, then crêpes suzette fits right in this month and it does make a lovely change once in a while, so if not for pancake day, then maybe for another special occasion or treat? Continue reading

Grain-free, Gluten-free Pancakes

Gluten-free, grain-free pancakes © Sue Todd 2015.

Gluten-free, grain-free pancakes © Sue Todd 2015.

While you can make pancakes with gluten-free flour that’s not a great deal of help if you’re trying to avoid grains altogether.  This recipe uses coconut and almond flours to replace the grain and is wonderful for sweet pancakes, served with fresh fruit and maple syrup.

I thought I’d posted this months ago, doh!  It wasn’t until I went to link another article to this I realised the error of my ways! Continue reading

Pancakes – or Crêpes

 

Cooking pancakes. © Sue Todd 2015.

Cooking pancakes. © Sue Todd 2015.

When it comes to pancakes I don’t think too much of a good thing is possible.  I love them.  They make the most wonderful breakfast as a special treat when there’s a bit more time to spare, they work with savoury fillings and of course there’s always dessert.  It’s one of the few sweet things I’m always ready for.

Of course most people assume that pancakes means wheat flour.  It doesn’t have too.  There are gluten-free flours that you can use instead but there are also a growing number of alternative recipes too and we have a couple of them here now, such as banana pancakes and  versions made with coconut and almond flours, so if this recipe isn’t for you, then look at one of the others.

Weighing Flour for Pancakes. © Sue Todd 2015

Weighing Flour for Pancakes. © Sue Todd 2015

Continue reading

Rum and Pomegranate Jelly with ice-cream.

Pomegranate and Rum Jelly with Ice-cream - makes a great Valentines day dessert. © Sue Todd 2015

Pomegranate and Rum Jelly with Ice-cream – makes a great Valentines day dessert. © Sue Todd 2015

Okay so I’m running late for Valentines day.  I don’t ‘love’ the commercialism of this I have to say, but that’s the same with all events of the year including Christmas.  However Rum and Pomegranate Jelly has it all going on, whether you make it for Valentine’s Day or just for a special romantic treat,  It’s rather lovely and it looks like you’ve spent hours in the kitchen even if you haven’t – cause you did it yesterday!

But true to form this isn’t hard – I don’t do hard, complicated or intricate.  But I like real.  I like easy and I like good.  This is a recipe I came across in 2011 in Delicious magazine.  They’d made it in a loaf tin which I thought lacked imagination (sorry Delicious).  It wasn’t until I stumbled on some heart-shaped moulds that I finally thought – “I’m making this”.

I made it for some very good friends coming for dinner (our born at the same time babies are now 28 and 23 respectively, so we’ve been friends a very long time now) and it went down very well.  It’s more complex than I’d normally do but also easy because it’s done in advance so there’s no flustering about it.  And it is also very pretty.

Scatter some dried rose-petals on the table, add some candles and a bottle of bubbles and you have a very romantic dessert.

The recipe claims to serve 8, this time around I made 4 little heart-shaped servings and two much larger jelly moulds with this amount.  I’m thinking that’s more than 8!!  If you’re after a simple dessert and not much on the leftovers front, I’d half the quantities.

Ingredients: for the Rum Jelly

  • 4 leaves of gelatine,
  • 240 ml water,
  • 75 g vanilla sugar (or caster sugar),
  • 75 ml white rum,
  • 2 tbsp stem ginger syrup (from a jar),
  • 45 ml of sparkling water,
  • Seeds from half a pomegranate, plus extra to serve

Ingredients: for the Pomegranate Jelly

  • 11 leaves of gelatine,
  • 750 ml pomegranate juice,
  • 4 tbsp lime juice,
  • 150 g vanilla sugar (or caster sugar)

Method for: Rum Jelly

Rum Jelly © Sue Todd 2015

Rum Jelly © Sue Todd 2015

First of all get a bowl of cold water and soak your gelatine leaves for 5 minutes.

This gives you just enough time for you to heat through 240 ml of water and the sugar in a pan, stirring it from time to time until the sugar melts.  Take the pan from the heat once the sugar has melted.

Lift the gelatine from the water, squeezing it gently to remove the extra water.  Add the gelatine to the sugar and water mixture in your pan and stir it all up, until the gelatine has dissolved.  Set to one side in a jug to cool.

Once it has cooled, add the white rum, ginger syrup and sparkling water stirring to mix up thoroughly.

Now pour it into your moulds to set.  If you are doing this for a romantic evening or Valentines day you may have more than you need.  If so put some in pretty moulds for your romantic meal (I used heart shapes) and put the rest in a bowl or mould for another day.  Sprinkle your pomegranate seeds over the jelly and chill until the jelly sets.  This will take a couple of hours.

Method for: Pomegranate Jelly

Pomegranate & Rum Jelly  © Sue Todd 2015

Pomegranate & Rum Jelly © Sue Todd 2015

Once your Rum Jelly has set, its time for the next stage, making your Pomegranate Jelly.

Soak your gelatine leaves in cold water for five minutes.

While you are doing this, heat the pomegranate juice in a pan with the sugar until it dissolves.

Squeeze the water out of your gelatine leaves before adding them to the pomegranate juice, stirring until the gelatine leaves dissolve.

Pour the mixture into a jug, set aside to cool and stir in your lime juice.

Next pour this over the set rum jelly and then chill for at least 3 to 4 hours or overnight until its set properly.

To serve your Pomegranate and white rum ice-cream:

Pomegranate and Rum Jelly. © Sue Todd 2015

Pomegranate and Rum Jelly. © Sue Todd 2015

Remove your jelly from its mould(s) by dipping the mould into hot water briefly and then turning it out to a plate.  The jelly may not come out just as you’d like, so beware.  Scatter with pomegranate seeds if you wish, along with shavings of chocolate and serve with homemade vanilla ice-cream, although it tastes great and work well just as it is.

 

Somerset Apple Cake

Somerset Apple Cake © Sue Todd 2015

Somerset Apple Cake © Sue Todd 2015

This Somerset Apple Cake is my “go to” comfort cake.  It’s not hard to make, and is soft, scrumptious and mouth-wateringly good whether you have it straight from the oven with cream or have it cold later.  I’ve been known to eat this for breakfast with a hot cup of coffee, it makes a lovely decadent start to the day.  However if you’re after a ‘pretty, knock-em dead sort of looking cake, this isn’t the way to go, this won’t provide your heart’s desire.  This Apple Cake is a rustic, wholesome fill you up and make you feel good cake.

This recipe is adapted from an old recipe in my very old, battered and much used copy of Farmhouse Kitchen.  I’d forgotten about the TV show that went with this series of books, until I went to look the book up on Amazon.  It featured on daytime TV from Yorkshire Television along with other favourites like Watch With Mother.  Whatever happened to good day time TV?  Now we have Jeremy Kyle??  Perhaps I’m getting old?  I know what I’d prefer to see and it’s not Jeremy!

Somerset Apple Cake and Cream, © Sue Todd 2015.

Somerset Apple Cake and Cream, © Sue Todd 2015.

However I digress.  Back to Apple Cake.  The original recipe uses candied peel, white flour and insists on Bramleys.  Bramleys do work really well in this recipe it I have to admit, but I’ve also used whatever apples I have to hand and it’s always come out okay, though sometimes it does need a bit longer in the oven, and even then it can sink a little in the middle. Though in this case it adds to the rustic charm and the gooey centre is just lovely.   My version uses wholemeal flour, vanilla sugar, and some extra vanilla (you can’t get too much of a good thing after all), while omitting the dried peel.  The original also used a sprinkling of granulated sugar on the top.  I don’t have any of that in my kitchen, so its my vanilla sugar that I use here, plain unrefined castor sugar will do just as well though if you have no vanilla sugar.

I know I already explained this, but It’s not a pretty, decorative cake, it’s a wholly functional, rib sticking autumn/winter goodness on a plate kind of cake. Actually I think this one works anytime and it’s totally scrummy comfort food at any time of day or night, hot or cold.

Ingredients for Apple Cake:

  • 3oz butter,
  • 6oz vanilla sugar, or unrefined castor sugar,
  • grated rind from one orange,
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence,
  • 8oz wholemeal self-raising flour,  (you can use white flour)
  • 1 lb apples (Bramley if you have them, or other cookers, but I use whatever I have), peeled,  cored and cut up into cubes,
  • 2 eggs, beaten,
  • 2 tablespoons milk,
  • approx 1 tbsp vanilla sugar for the topping
Somerset Apple Cake © Sue Todd 2015.

Somerset Apple Cake © Sue Todd 2015.

Method – to make Apple Cake:

If you are using a conventional oven, pre-heat to 350F/Gas 4.

Grease and line a 9 inch cake tin.

Cream the butter, sugar and orange rind together beating until the mixture is light and creamy in colour.

Mix 1 tablespoon of your self-raising flour in with the chopped apples in a bowl. Generally I have pieces of apple that are about 1-2cm in size, Gary chopped the apple for this one, so its a good bit bigger, still yummy though.

Now add the eggs and milk into the bowl with the creamed butter, sugar and orange rind mixture.

Add the rest of the flour and the apples to the mixture now and mix it up well.

Once its all combined, transfer the mixture to your prepared cake tin, smooth over with a palette knife and sprinkle a tablespoon of vanilla sugar over the top.

It will need 40 to 50 minutes in the oven and indeed depending on the sogginess (is that even a word?) of the apples it may need a bit longer. Test it with a metal skewer, it does tend to be a moist cake anyway with those hunks of apple in it,  but you will want to ensure its cooked through.  Having said that I don’t mind it a wee bit soggy in the centre, especially when its warm from the oven.

I use the baking oven of the AGA.  If it starts to brown too much, pop a cold tray in above it, just to stop it from browning too much.

To Serve:

Somerset Apple Cake © Sue Todd 2015.

Somerset Apple Cake © Sue Todd 2015.

I don’t think there is a time of day or year that isn’t appropriate for apple cake.  This apple cake is just delicious, you can eat it as it is, but its lovely with cream, ice-cream or even custard.  It makes a great dessert, its fab with morning coffee in the garden in summer, with afternoon tea by a roaring log fire in winter, or in large hunks for a picnic, and, as I mentioned earlier it’s also nice for breakfast or as a late night snack (I’m guilty on both counts!).  Enjoy!

Vanilla Sugar

Vanilla Sugar © 2015 Sue Todd.

Vanilla Sugar © 2015 Sue Todd.

For the great baking nation that it is, England doesn’t make enough of vanilla sugar.  I just adore the smell of it and use it all the time for cakes, crumbles, ice cream and deserts.

We have a large jar of vanilla sugar in the larder cupboard in our kitchen, which we simply top up as we use it. The smell is just divine, it evokes child hood memories of standing on a chair in the kitchen to help my mum make cake, licking the bowl out afterwards.  I remember when our children came along and the joy of baking with them being turned to dismay when I realised I’d have to hand the bowl over to someone else to clean out, even if it was my offspring!  Bad mother!

You can either buy vanilla sugar in the supermarket at vast expense for a ‘tiny’ amount OR you can make your own vanilla sugar by simply infusing sugar with the scent and taste of vanilla from vanilla pods.  Buying it ready done is to my mind a waste of money and would make regular use prohibitive. Continue reading