I bought some semolina flour a few weeks ago when I saw a bag on offer in the supermarket. I originally bought it because I had read a few recipes which used it in combination with plain flour but the bag remained unopened until recently when I started using it instead of cornmeal to coat loaves or when rolling out pizzas.
Once I had opened it I intended to try a semolina pudding. I can't remember when I last ate this but back in primary school it was occasionally offered as a hot pudding with tinned prunes.
I started looking up recipes then found that a friend of ours had beaten me to it and had already blogged about it.
Since my 'new thing' is microwave porridge (more of that later) I tried making semolina in the microwave. I took 2 cups of milk, whisked in ⅓ cup of semolina, a couple of tablespoons of sugar and a splash of vanilla essence. I cooked it at full power for about 5 minutes, stirring regularly. I stirred in a tablespoon of jam to give a marbled effect. Since this makes quite a lot, there's no way I could eat that quantity all at once so I ate some while it was still hot then put the rest in a tub to set.
Getting back to the microwave porridge, since I don't like having to stand in front of the microwave making sure something doesn't boil over, I have started cooking the porridge on medium for 6 minutes. At this setting I can go away and do something else and it will cook on its own, without needing stirring.
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My final recipe for the year, and a proper Christmassy recipe, was for marzipan topped mince pies. All of the ingredients were left over from other recipes so we had shortcrust pastry from a dessert which Emma made shortly before Christmas and we had the fruit and marzipan leftover from the stollen.
I took the boozy mixed fruit and added some dried cranberries and ground almonds to make a slightly more substantial mincemeat style filling. We blind-baked the pastry bases for a few minutes before adding a spoon of fruit. This went back in the oven for a few more minutes before a disk of marzipan was placed over each pie. The pies went back in the oven for another minute or so until the marzipan had softened and formed a seal around the edge of the pies.
The only real problem with the pies was that they were a bit small. Our pastry cutter was slightly too small and when the pastry shrank back during the blind-baking, we ended up with small disks instead of pie cases. This meant we needed a marzipan dome over the fruit, more marzipan and less pastry is not a problem for me.
Earlier this year I bought the Hairy Bikers' baking book, and this is another of their recipes. This week's recipe was described as a coffee cake in the European tradition (a cake to go with coffee, not a cake containing coffee).
I scaled their recipe down slightly to fit our baking tin but otherwise followed the book closely. I didn't want the cardamom flavour to be too overpowering so I used slightly less than they did.
It was an easy cake to make and turned out well. There are a few more recipes in the book which I want to try next, half of them cakes, the other half savoury.
Every now and again I catch a programme on the Food Network. A couple of months ago I caught an episode of Baking with Anna Olson where she did upside down cakes. One of the recipes was Lemon Berry Saucing Cake. I decided to wait until the fruit in the garden was ripe before I gave it a go. I have managed to collect wild strawberries, blackcurrants, raspberries, red gooseberries and blackberries.
The dessert was surprisingly easy to make. I started by making a fairly runny batter which consisted of half a cup of sugar, 3 tablespoons of plain flour, a pinch of salt, 1 egg yolk and 2/3 of a cup of semi-skimmed milk.
I took the egg white and whisked it until it started to form peaks. The white was actually quite runny, suggesting the egg was quite old, even though they were only bought a few days ago and still had 10 days until the 'Best Before' date.
I managed to find 4 mis-matched ramekin dishes which I buttered and coated with sugar. I put a layer of berries in the bottom of each, using different combinations of the ones I mentioned above.
These were the only 2 matching ramekins. The puddings were baked at gas mark 4 for 35 minutes. The ramekins were in a bain marie to help them cook evenly.
I was surprised at how well the puddings turned out. The one pictured here had mixed fruit in. The one I ate was mainly gooseberry with some blackcurrant and strawberry. The balance of sharp and sweet flavours was about right and the pudding had a good cakey texture with a good layer of sauce on top.
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I haven't had much time to do any really adventurous or new cooking but I did a couple of quick desserts this week. The first was a simple scone recipe. This was made by mixing the flour, sugar and butter in a food processor then stirring in the milk. I used a variety of our shaped cutters, including duck and dinosaur.
The second was a custard tart. These were supposed to separate into a pastry style base and a custarty top during cooking but they ended up more like sweet yorkshire puddings. They tasted good but weren't really what I was expecting. This might have been because I used a yorkshire pudding tin, which was fairly shallow, instead of a deeper pie tin.
This week's recipe was an attempt to do something with the diced butternut squash I had in the freezer.
The filling was based on a recipe from Good Food magazine but I made half the quantities and made 4 individual pies instead of one large one. I also used a regular shortcrust pastry base instead of a sweet pastry.
I have never tasted a 'genuine' pumpkin pie so I don't have anything to compare mine to. The filling had a slightly 'custardy' texture and the flavour was mainly a combination of squash and cinnamon. I'm not sure if I would make them again but I think I'd be interested in tasting a more authentic one.
We made two new recipes today. The first was carrot cake. Emma's aunt recently gave us some apples from the tree in her garden. I ate most of them and we decided to bake something with the rest. Emma had read about using apple sauce as a replacement for vegetable oil in recipes. Last night I chopped the apples and simmered in half an inch of water until they had started to break down. I then liquidized the apples to make a smooth sauce.
We usually follow Delia Smith's recipe so I used that as the basis but replaced the oil with an equal volume of the apple sauce. I also reduced the amount of sugar from 6oz to 4oz. Delia's recipe suggests baking for 35--40 minutes but we found that it needed closer to 50 minutes.
This evening I make tuna and chickpea burgers, based on a recipe from the BBC Good Food magazine. I used leeks instead of onions and parsley instead of coriander but apart from that I followed the recipe fairly closely. The cooked burgers had a fairly soft texture but they tasted good.
Emma made this cheesecake today. The recipe came with some money-off vouchers for Oreos so we decided to make the recipe using the genuine article instead of a cheaper substitute biscuit.
A couple of weeks ago I made a German Friendship Cake which was used a sweet yeast based starter. After making the cake I gave a portion of the starter to my mum so she could have a go at making it, and kept the rest of the starter going by repeating the feeding and stirring process.
I had read somewhere that the starter can be used to make pancakes. Since today is Good Friday, and the end of Lent, I thought it would be a good time to have a go at making them, so that Lent started and ended with pancakes.
I poured a few tablespoons of the starter into a hot oiled frying pan and cooked for a minute or so on each side. The pancakes started to bubble nicely and looked quite promising while they were cooking. The end result wasn't quite as good as I was expecting, they were still a bit doughy in the middle. I added a bit more milk to the mixture and gave it a second attempt.
The plain pancakes were a bit sweet but they went well with a bit of lemon juice. I didn't get the cooking time or temperature sorted properly since each pancake was still a bit soft in the middle. It was an interesting experiment but I will stick to the traditional pancake batter in future.
Last year I bought a pack of seeds from Garden Organic at Ryton. It was described as 'Edible Leaves, Roots and Shoots' and contained a collection of wild plants which are commonly described as weeds but which are edible. I planted the seeds in a tub in the garden and last year I made some crispy seaweed from some of the leaves, and managed to save some Wild Mustard seeds from one of the plants which grew.
I left the plants over the winter but yesterday I decided to dig them up so I could reuse the tub for a more productive crop this year. I found two large roots:
This plant turned out to be Wild Carrot. I washed the root and had a chew on a small piece. It was very tough and fibrous but did have a slight carrot taste.
It took a bit longer to identify this but I managed to work out that it was Common Mallow. This is a relative of the Marsh Mallow, which gave its name to the soft and fluffy sweet. It is possible to boil the roots to extract a gelatinous substance which could possibly be used to make a version of the original marshmallow so today I decided to give it a go.
I peeled and chopped the root then simmered it in a small amount of water. I then whisked the slightly gloopy water with some caster sugar, vanilla essence and pink food colouring. The mixture was a bit runny and kept splashing everywhere so I cheated by whisking in some cornflour and returning it to the pan.
The end result was a soft sweet tasting jelly which did not resemble an actual marshmallow sweet at all.
It is the monthly cake day in work tomorrow. Normally it is held on the last friday of the month but it's been moved to coincide with Comic Relief day and the cakes are going to be sold for charity.
Since I like lemon drizzle cake I decided to have a go at making an Orange Drizzle Cake, based on the recipe in the Daily Mail. I followed the recipe fairly closely and only made a couple of small changes: I used granulated sugar instead of the caster and icing sugar and I reduced the amount of sugar used in the syrup because my oranges weren't very juicy.
I made one full-sized cake for tomorrow and two small 'samplers' in bun cases for us to try tonight. The cake turned out well - definitely a recipe I'd recommend.
This afternoon we had a go at making profiteroles. The choux pastry recipe came from a home baking book and wasn't as difficult as we expected. One thing we did learn is that the profiteroles rise better if we cook them one tray at a time instead of putting two trays in the oven and swapping them over.
Profiterole stuffed with cream cheese
A traditional profiterole with cream filling and chocolate sauce poured over the top.
The profiterole ring, fresh from the oven.
The profiterole ring after adding the cream and chocolate.
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Since it is Christmas, there has been a lot of unhealthy (but very tasty) foods being eaten. We made (and ate) 3 different desserts, which I will describe here, and not a single Christmas Pudding in sight.
For breakfast on Christmas Day, we had waffles with fresh cream and ganache. This was accompanied by the traditional bucks fizz, only we made a red bucks fizz using sparkling rose and an orange and raspberry juice.
The next two desserts were larger which we shared when we went to visit friends and family.
Pear Syllabub. The pears were peeled and sliced and poached in a sweet dessert wine. The cake was a simple microwave sponge cake. The syllabub itself was creme fraiche, double cream, icing sugar, the wine from the poached pears, and the juice and zest of 1 lemon, all beaten together. We layered the sponge, pears and cream mixture in a bowl and put it in the fridge overnight.
The roulade recipe was from the Daily Mail 'Weekend' magazine but was similar to a recipe on Delia's website.
We have had a couple of goes at making fudge, following this recipe. Since we don't have a sugar thermometer, we have been using the 'soft ball' test, where you drop a small amount of the hot mixture into a bowl of water and check whether you get a soft ball of fudge (meaning it's ready), or a soft squishy mess (meaning it needs to cook for a bit longer).
We tried a few variations, adding maple syrup or ground+crystallised ginger. We might invest in a proper thermometer eventually but the recipe works well without one.
This recipe was based on another from Channel 4 which contained turkish delight. As usual we adjusted the recipe according to what we had in our kitchen.
Yesterday I roasted 500g of sweet potatoes for around 1 hour at gas mark 5, until the insides had gone soft and the skins had gone crispy. I scraped the insides out of the skins and put them in a tub in the fridge until we were ready to start the recipe.
The new ingredients were as follows:
500g sweet potato
15 quail eggs (equivalent to 3 medium eggs)
140g light brown sugar
60g dark muscavado sugar
175g dark chocolate
25g ground almonds and 75g ground peanuts
2 tablespoons millet flour
70g fat reduced cocoa powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tbsp vanilla extract
no turkish delight
The method was the same as the channel 4 version but we stirred the mixture instead of folding in the ingredients because the mixture was a bit too dry to start with.