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School holidays are here and it sure is a welcome break. I love the change of routine, no rushing here, there and everywhere. Having three little ones is busy! Its not so much looking after them as they are so good, its the endless cleaning up! Whew, my time out and relaxation is baking, i love to bake! My mother has always had a vast assortment of homemade baking in the pantry. Funny really, when i was growing up i use to swap my “homemade” biscuits for the bought ones my friends had. How times change and now i love teaching and baking with my children. Not always sure what will be the end products as they love to add an extra spoon of this and that to the mixture without me realising it. Good memories!

BANANA CAKE
125g butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 cup milk
2 large bananas, mashed
2 1/4 cup self raising flour
2 eggs, lightly beaten

Preheat oven 160`C
Prepare tin/s 17cm x2 or 1 large loaf tin, butter base and sides, dust lightly with flour and shake out excess. Line with grease proof paper.

Method
Melt butter and sugar together in a small pot. Remove from heat and add the baking soda. Mix and leave for 5 minutes.
Mix mashed bananas, with milk and egg.
Alternatley add the sifted flour with the melted butter mixture. Mix carefully, stop once you see the flour incorporated. If over mixed then the top of the cake peaks and cracks!
Pour the mix into the prepared tins and bake for 25-30 minutes if making two smaller tins. Bake longer if making one larger cake 30-40 mins. Test with a skewer in centre of cake, if it comes out clean then ready. Cool in tin for 5 minutes, then remove and cool.
Freezer’s very well.

CREAMED SPINACH
500g spinach, washed well and stalks removed
1 onion peeled and cut into thick slices
250 ml full fat milk
1-2 bay leaves
50g butter
25g plain flour
Salt and freshly cracked black pepper
A few gratings of nutmeg

Heat the milk with the onion, and bay leaves and leave to infuse for about 10 minutes.
Drain as much moisture from the spinach as possible. Heat up a fry pan or pot and add the spinach and cook briefly for a couple of minutes. You won’t need any additional liquid as there should be enough water clinging to the spinach leaves. Remove immediately from pan and drain.
Melt the butter and add the flour. Stir well and cook gently for 2 minutes. Pass the milk through a sieve and discard the onion and bay leaves. Gradually add the milk to the butter mixture and stir continuous until all the milk is incorporated. Cook gently for 5 minutes, add a few gratings of nutmeg, sprinkle of salt and a few extra cracks of pepper. Roughly chop the spinach and add to the milk mixture. Mix to combine, taste it may need more seasoning. Serve on its own as a super nutritious bowl of comfort, or excellent accompaniment to pork.

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CRAYFISH – How to cook the perfect Cray?
300 – 400g crayfish
Ideally seawater is best to cook crayfish in as it will give a far superior flavour. But if you are not in the mood to run down to the sea side with a bucket to fetch your water then heavily salted water will be acceptable!

Bring a good size pot of seawater or salted water to the boil. When boiling, carefully plunge your dead crayfish into the water. Boil for 5 minutes only (if larger add another minute or two), remove immediately and plunge into iced or cold water to stop cooking immediately. Only leave the crayfish in the cold water for a couple of minutes as you don’t want to loose any more flavour. Enjoy!

LINGUINE WITH CRAYFISH, OLIVE OIL, CHILLI AND PARSLEY
Serves 4
455g dried or fresh linguine – pasta d’oro
Olive oil
1 large clove garlic, finely chopped
1-2 dried red chillies, crumbled
1 cooked crayfish – Edmonds fish
Drop of Thai fish sauce (optional)
2 lemons
1 good handful of parsley roughly chopped
Salt and cracked black pepper

Remove the flesh from crayfish, and cut into good size chunks.
Cook your linguine in boiling salted water until al dente (firm to the bite).
Meanwhile, get a good size fry pan and add a good glug or two of olive oil, add your garlic, some lemon zest and the chilli flakes. Heat gently as you don’t want the garlic to burn, you are trying to infuse the oil. Add the crayfish and warm through – you do not want to over cook it, be gentle! Add the juice from 1 lemon and a few drops of the fish sauce. Drain the linguine and add immediately to your crayfish, season with freshly cracked pepper and sea salt, scatter over your parsley and toss well to combine. Taste and correct the lemon, or seasoning if needed.
Serve straight away – this does not need parmesan cheese it just needs a lovely crisp green salad and perhaps some market fresh bread to mop up the juices!

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FENNEL – I could make a different dish a day with the many uses of this crunchy, aniseed flavoured bulb. The leaves are feathery light and add a delicious accompaniment to a salad, soup or chopped and scattered over fish. Fennel is the perfect partner with pork and it loves crayfish.

FENNEL MAYONNAISE
serves 8
1 clove of garlic, peeled
1 teaspoon salt
2 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
250 ml extra virgin olive oil
250 ml olive oil or good quality oil
Lemon juice to taste
Salt and pepper
Good handful fresh fennel leaves, roughly chopped

With a little salt, smash the garlic to a paste. Whisk the egg yolks and mustard together (you can use a food processor), in a bowl then slowly start to add the olive oil bit by bit – using two different types of oils will give it a more mellow flavour as pure extra virgin olive oil is a little too strong and peppery. Once you’ve blended in a quarter of the oil, start to add the rest in a more consistent stream. Add the garlic, lemon juice and fennel leaves and season to taste, adding more lemon or salt etc to get the right balance. Really delicious with fish, crayfish or cold roast pork!

POTATO AND FENNEL BAKE
Enough for 6

1kg waxy potatoes
2 large cloves garlic
2-3 fennel bulbs, and leaves of 1
Butter – just enough to butter the baking dish thickly
600ml cream
Good grating of parmesan cheese

Set the oven 160`C
Bring a good size pot of salted water to the boil. Prepare the fennel bulbs by removing the leaves as close to the bulb as possible. Remove any tough outer leaves of the bulb. Cut in half length ways, cut into wedges by cutting through the core of the bulb as this will keep the wedges together. Cook in boiling water for about 3-5 minutes until the fennel is tender. Drain.
Peel the potatoes and cut them into slice about the thickness of a dollar coin. Add them to a bowl with the cooked fennel. Roughly chopped the leaves from 1 fennel bulb and add to the potatoes. Add the cream and season well, with plenty of cracked black pepper. Add a generous amount of grated parmesan and mix to combine. Cut the cloves of garlic in half and rub them round the inside of the oven dish. Smear over the butter generously and add the potatoes and fennel with all the liquid. Pat down a little and scatter over a little more cheese and bake until bubbling and golden – about 1 hour.
Serve along side the crayfish, fish or roast pork!

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RASPBERRY FOOL, AND TOASTED SPONGE
Serves 8
450g fresh or frozen raspberries
175g caster sugar
450 ml cream
Icing sugar for dusting

For the sponge cake
3 medium eggs, at room temperature
90g caster sugar
90g plain flour
40g butter, melted

For the sponge cake, preheat the oven 190`C
Lightly grease a deep, 20cm sandwich cake tin with butter, then line the base with a circle of greaseproof paper and grease once more. Add 1 teaspoon each of caster sugar and flour and shake around the tin to coat the sides. Tap out excess.
Break the eggs into a large heatproof bowl, add the sugar and rest the bowl over a pot of just simmering water, ensuring the water does not touch the bottom of the bowl! Whisk either by hand or an electric whisk until the mixture is very thick and moussey and leaves a trail behind when drizzled over the surface. Lift the bowl of the water and cool slightly. Sift the flour into the bowl and fold through very gently. Fold in the melted butter and pour into the prepared tin and bake for 20 – 25 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Remove from the oven and leave to cool for 5 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack. Leave to cool.
For the raspberry fool, put the fresh or frozen raspberries, with the sugar into a pan cook over a gentle heat for 3-5 minutes or until the berries just burst. Leave to cool, puree ¾ of the fruit and stir back into the remaining berries.
Put the cream into a large serving bowl and whip to soft peaks, gently fold through the raspberries so that the cream and fruits are just combined. Cover and chill.
Preheat the grill or a griddle pan until hot. Cut the sponge into small, thin wedges and lightly toast on each side. Dust with icing sugar and serve with a large, lushes dollop of raspberry fool.

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VENISON BURGERS
2 large burgers

500g minced venison
1 onion, grated and excess liquid removed
1 clove garlic, minced
Handful fresh parsley, chopped roughly
1 teaspoon fresh thyme or rosemary, roughly chopped
Salt and ground black pepper
2 slices stale bread, soaked in water and then squeezed to remove all liquid
1 egg
Oil for cooking

In a good size mixing bowl add the venison, grated onion, garlic, herbs and seasoning. Mix really well with your hands. Add the egg and bread and mix well to combine. It is essential that you have got stuck in so the ingredients are evenly mixed. I always cook a little tester off before moulding the burgers, just to ensure it has the right seasoning. When ready divide the mixture in two and mould into nice fat burgers. Heat up a fry pan or the BBQ until nice and hot. Season the burgers with a little salt and pepper and a light rubbing of oil and place into the pan. Let it cook on one side for 3- 5 minutes, turn carefully and cook on the other for a further 3-5 minutes ( it will depend on the thickness of the burger). Serve in a bread bun with some crunchy lettuce, selection of fillings and some beetroot relish. Or as I often do, instead of the bread bun wrap a big crunchy lettuce leaf around it!

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BEETROOT RELISH
Makes about 3 cups

800g beetroot, peeled and coarsely grated or cut into small chunks
1 red onion, finely chopped
½ cup sugar
1 star anise
1 teaspoon ground allspice
½ cup balsamic vinegar
¼ cup water
1 Tablespoon olive oil
½ teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon pepper

Place all ingredients in a pot. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to a low simmer and cook for 20 minutes. Remove lid and carry on cooking until liquid has all but evaporated and beets are tender and glossy. Stored in the fridge, it will keep for a couple of weeks. Great with game and cold meats.

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ROASTED YAM AND MAPLE SOUP
Serves 6-8

1.5kg yams, washed
75 ml maple syrup
90 ml olive oil
2 onions, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
Pinch cayenne pepper
1 litre vegetable stock (may need more if to thick)
Salt and ground black pepper
Roasted seeds (something to crow about) great scattered on top for a crunchy healthy garnish

Preheat oven 190`C
In a large bowl combine yams, maple syrup and oil. Pour into a roasting tray and cook for about 30 minutes. Give the tray a shake every so often to prevent any yams burning.
Meanwhile in a good size pot add some oil and sweat off the onions and garlic until soft – about 10 minutes.
Once the yams have caramelised add them to the pot and if there is a lot of sticky bits left on the pan, add a little stock and scrap all them into the pot (lots of flavour). Add the remainder stock, pinch of cayenne and season lightly. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
Puree with hand blender or in food processor, return to heat and check flavour. Adjust seasoning if needed. Bring back to the boil and serve.

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ROASTED YAM SALAD

500g yams, washed
1 red onion, finely sliced
Good handful parsley, roughly chopped
Baby spinach leaves, washed and drained
100 ml olive oil
25 ml red wine vinegar
Salt and cracked pepper
100g feta cheese
1 teaspoon sumac
1 teaspoon smoked paprika, or paprika
½ teaspoon cumin seeds
2 Tablespoons something to crow about -roasted seeds

Preheat oven 200`C
Toss the yams with a little oil, spices and seasoning cook until tender and caramelised. Mix the vinegar with the remainder oil, set aside.
Put the spinach leaves, chopped parsley, red onion and crumbled feta into a large bowl. When the yams are ready add to the spinach and drizzle over the dressing. Toss gently and scatter over the roasted seeds. It is best eaten whilst warm!

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BRIOUATES (Moroccan sweet pies)
Makes about 30

225g roasted hazelnuts (Corydon)
100g quince conserve
25g butter (softened)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/3 cup icing sugar
30 ml orange flower water
10 sheets filo pastry
50g melted butter
120ml fragrant honey

Grind the hazelnuts in food processor until coarse crumbs. Add the quince conserve, butter, cinnamon, icing sugar and a little orange flower water. Blitz until the mixture is combined.
Preheat the oven to 180`C
Working quickly as filo pastry becomes brittle very fast if exposed to the air. If necessary cover with a slightly damp cloth, or a piece of glad wrap. Brush a sheet of filo pastry with melted butter and cut into four equal strips. Place a walnut-size piece of hazelnut paste at the bottom of each strip. Fold one corner over the filling to make a triangle and then fold up, in triangles, to make a neat package. Brush again with a little butter. Repeat steps 3 and 4 to make about 30 pastries. Place the pastries on a buttered baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden. You can eat then as they are with perhaps a little dusting of icing sugar. Or as they would do in Morocco immediately submerge in warm good quality honey , and a dash of orange flower water. Transfer to a plate and cool a little before serving. Amazing!!

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