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Saturday, 2 August 2014

Scrumptious summer shortbread

I have been asked by Nielsen-Massey to use some of their flavours and extracts. Vanilla is easy, it goes in lots of things and always tastes amazing. I love vanilla extract, but really don't like the cheap stuff I don't think it's even made fom vanilla. I vaguely recall reading somewhere that it comes from some kind of tree bark. So, splash out on the nice stuff, you won't need to use much so it will last a long time.
Something I've not used in my baking before is lemon flavouring. So I tried to get a bit creative and came up with a Lemon and Lavender shortbread.  Both perfect summer flavours. 

Ingredients:
250g unsalted softened butter
100g caster sugar
1/2 tsp lemon flavouring
250g plain flour
100g cornflour
1/2tsp salt

Method:

Blitz the sugar, lemon flavouring, lavender and butter together in a food processor until creamy. Add the flour, cornflour and salt. Pulse the food processor until the mix beignets to come together in clumps and turn out onto a floured surface.
Bring together fully into a ball being careful not to over work the dough as that will prevent the end biscuit being 'short' and crumbly.
Roll the dough out to a 25cm circle, use a cake tin or plate as a guide and trim around to get a neat edge.
Use two fingers to crimp the edge. 
Using a fork mark out 8 even slices in the dough.
Place on a tray and put in the fridge for 30 mins.
Transfer the tray to a pre heated oven to 189c/160 fan/ gas 4. Bake for around 25 minutes or until golden brown and cooked through.
Leave the shortbread to cool completely on the tray, then using a sharp knife divide into peticoat tails along the lines marked out by the fork prior to baking. 

The lemon gives a lovely citrus refreshing flavour with a slight aftertaste and scent of the lavender. Enjoy with a cup of tea in the garden.



Banana bread - a healthy(ish) option

I've deliberately not been baking much recently. As for various reasons that I won't go into I have put on around 7lb over the past year, and I'm struggling to get it back off.
So when I found myself with 8 bananas that had been delivered on my online shop a bit squished and bruised I needed to try to find a healthy(ish) way of using them rather than waste them. I didn't just eat them as I hate bruises and brown bits on my bananas. 
I turned to the tried and tested banana bread. It's the easiest way I know of using up past their best bananas. 
I tweaked the recipe a bit to keep it as saintly as I could, well actually it could be better as I could have used honey in place of sugar but I didn't have enough in the cupboard to do that.

I used 0% fat Greek yogurt in place of half of the butter. I don't believe it's possible to completely replace the butter as baking is a bit of a science and needs certain properties to be present for the right chemical reactions and therefore the right results. Which is one reason I don't use sweetener when I bake, I don't think it works as a proper substitute for sugar and the end result is in adequate. Also, I don't skimp on my Greek yogurt, I don't like Greek syle yogurt, it's watery and doesn't taste anywhere near as good. The only time I use Greek style is when making curry. This recipe uses a very small amount, so you might think it's a waste to spend on it, but Greek yogurt and honey with fruit is a delicious snack/breakfast/dessert.

This is a recipe that you could have the kids helping with, so perfect for rainy days. With the added benefit of knowing that the snack they will be eating won't be full of additives and things you can't pronounce.

Ingredients:
285g/10oz self raising flour
1/2tsp salt
1/2tsp bicarbonate of soda
55g butter (I used flora ex light)
55g 0% fat Greek yogurt
170g/6oz caster sugar
2 eggs
4 bananas mashed
1 tsp vanilla extract (Nielsen Massey is the best)
85ml/3fl oz of buttermilk or milk with a dash of lemon juice added to it.

Method:

Sift together the flour, salt and bicarb. Set to one side.
Then cream together the sugar, butter and yogurt until light and fluffy. 
Add the bananas, eggs, milk and vanilla extract to the sugar and butter mixture. Stir until everything is incorporated. Don't go too mad with this part though as the banana needs to stay a bit lumpy (the way I like it anyway). 
Fold the wet ingredients into the dry, just until the flour cannot be seen anymore. Over doing it at this stage will stretch the gluten in the flour resulting in a dense chewy cake. 
Pour the batter into a greased and lined 400g loaf tin. 
Bake in a pre-heated oven at 180c/160 fan/gas 4 for around an hour, or until well risen and golden brown.
Allow to cool in the tin for 5 minutes then transfer to a wire rack until cooled completely.

Littlest baker likes hers served with some peanut butter spread on it as a treat.



Saturday, 26 April 2014

A little something to finish off the festivities

In December I was asked to sample a cheese and wine combination from Aldi.
Aldi have paired up with Master of Wine Sarah Jane Evans to create some lovely cheese and wine combos which complement each other and are perfect for finishing off a meal. 

I was sent the Specially selected Cheeder with garlic and herbs, matched with The exquisite collection Limoux Chardonnay.



The cheddar had a lovely strong taste which held up well to the crisp acidity of the Chardonnay.  

The cheese went well on my Christmas cheese board along with the usual Stilton and Bree etc... The Chardonnay a welcome addition to the after dinner drinks and cheeses. 

Aldi are proving that there is no need to go to the bigger named supermarkets for your entertaining needs. In the current economic climate and particularly when we're all watching the pennies around Christmas and New Year I really don't see you you would pay more for something when you can get something of the same quality for less. 
               
   




Time to be daring...

 
I was asked by Knorr to sample some of their new flavour pots in my food. I have noticed them on the supermarket shelves and been tempted to buy them so thought I'd give it a go.
 
Having recently discovering pinterest I thought I'd have a quick look on there for recipes using some store cupboard ingredients that I could possibly adapt. What I came up with is something that I'd have never normally either tried or attempted to make, but I was really surprised (so too was hubby!) by what I came up with and will definitely make it again.
 
I'd never normally attempt a curry mainly because the list of ingredients for a curry is usually daunting, with so many different spices to be included, many of which I've not heard of or simply don't want to but to then have them taking up space in my kitchen for the next year!
 
That's where the Knorr Curry pot was so good to have, it has a combination of 13 spices such as cumin, cardamom and cloves. No more having to work out just the right measurement of spices to get the right heat or flavour combination. It has a good 'kick' to it but as I've learnt over the years this can be toned down to suit your tastes by clever use of yogurt/ cream.
 
This meal is a fantastic mid-week meal that can be thrown together in 15 minutes using store cupboard and fridge basics. It is all gluten free (including the flavour pot).
 
Here's my take on a Chickpea Dahl - Beginner baking style (with some help from Knorr)
 

Ingredients:

400g can of chickpeas
1Knorr curry flavour pot
1 Red Onion
250g carton passata
400g can Light Coconut cream/milk
Curly Kale
 
Finely dice the onion and  fry in a heavy based pan on a med/low heat using low cal cooking spray. Fry until soft, then add the passata, and curry pot.
mix together until the curry pot has been well incorporated, next add the chickpeas and coconut cream.
Simmer for 5 mins then around 3-4 minutes before serving add the curly kale and cook until the kale is wilted.
 
 
Served with steamed curly kale and a salmon fillet.