Thursday, July 24, 2014

Blackcurrant White Chocolate Cheesecake Ice-Cream

You would never put a dish with that name on a menu, far too long and clumsy to say, but that is quite simply what it is, so lets not be bothered with a name.

This last week I have been reluctant to do much cooking, or at least any cooking that involves heat, but this recipe was all about chilling and very welcome too. Even when it has clouded over here in North Devon it has remained hot and humid, and not at all conducive to standing any where near a hot stove or oven. How helpful then that the July 'We Should Cocoa' challenge, this month hosted by Elizabeth's Kitchen Diary, has the theme chocolate ice cream & toppings.

Because I have been eating and drinking rather too much of late I have tried to make this a low fat ice-cream. So the cream cheese I used was a low fat version and I swapped greek yoghurt for the cream. The recipe was loosely based on this cream-cheese ice-cream from the Epicurious Recipe site. I also needed to sneak some chocolate in so instead of the sugar I used white chocolate. I also added some vanilla and lemon zest and of course blackcurrants and shortbread crumbs to complete the 'cheesecake'. This recipe does not produce the silkiest of ice-creams but it is not too sweet, not too rich and with the sharpness of the black currants really quite refreshing.

300g low fat cream cheese
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
grated zest of half a lemon
1tsp vanilla extract
100g greek yoghurt
200 g milk
125g white chocolate'
icing/powdered sugar 'to taste'

100g ripe blackcurrants washed and lightly crushed, do add more if you want a more fruity ice-cream.
100g shortbread biscuits coarsely 'crumbled' (I used a bought 'all butter' biscuit)

  1. Blend together the cream cheese, lemon juice, lemon zest, vanilla and yoghurt until very smooth.
  2. Gently melt the white chocolate in the milk stirring until completed melted and smooth.
  3. Allow the milk mixture to cool until no longer hot then whisk in to the cream cheese mixture.
  4. Taste for sweetness and add powdered sugar to sweeten further if needed. Much will depend on your own taste and the brand of white chocolate used.
  5. If you have an ice-cream maker now freeze the ice-cream base according to the instructions. If not pour the mixture into a shallow plastic bowl and place in your freezer giving the cream mixture a good whisk every 30 minutes until nearly set.
  6. Once nearly set, quickly stir in the crush fresh blackcurrants and return to the freezer until ready to serve.
  7. If your shortbread was a little pale or soft I would gently toast the coarse shortbread crumbles under a grill until they are a light gold brown, then allow to cool completely before using. You want a crisp texture and toasty flavour to contrast with the soft ice-cream.
  8. To serve, place generous scoops of the ice-cream into glass sundae dishes and sprinkle a portion of shortbread crumbles on top.
  9. Enjoy in the sunshine!
This recipe is being submitted to the July 2014 We Should Cocoa Challenge run by Choclette of Chocolate Log Blog and this month hosted by Elizabeth's Kitchen Diary, do pop over to Elizabeth's blog page to see all the other Chocolate Ice-Cream and toppings submissions.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Barnstaple Real Food Market

I was delighted to hear earlier this year that North Devon was about to get a new monthly food market to be held in Barnstaple's rather grand pannier market on the second Sunday of the month; and I eagerly went along to the first one in June. We arrived early before the crowds, and it was really nice to have time to talk to some of the stall holders before they became too busy to stop and chat. I loved the way the space had been used to place tables down the middle for anyone to stop, sit, drink and enjoy whatever they had bought.
The market ran through until mid afternoon and with hot food as well as the usual market produce for sale it was a perfect place to shop for a picnic and just enjoy it all on the spot. As we had arrived soon after opening so our picnic was breakfast, courtesy of some amazing brownies from The Green Brownie and great coffee from Ivan's Coffee
I was rather taken with Ivan's setup and in particular the use of old band kit;
And what a neat trick for using fairy lights!
The coffee was very good too.

There were plenty of stalls to choose from and we came away with a nice loaf of bread from The Red Dog Bakery
Some freshly picked crab that tasted so sweet and fresh.
Local cheese and the so hard to find raw milk.

So the market is back on Sunday 13th July with an even bigger line up of local producers. For up to date information take a look at the market's  Facebook  page or follow them on Twitter.

The traders due to attend the next market are: Olde Forge Fish, Yetland Farm, Monty's Caribbean Kitchen, Garden Jars, Calaca Loca, Stephano's Home Made Foods, Caprine Capers, Ivans Coffee, French Kitchen, Quiet Waters/Loud Flavours, Ashridge Dairy, SeaDog, Wessex Pantry, Wood Smoked, Jakes Bakes, Bampton Game, Barton Farm, Copperhill Chocolates, Evergreen Farm, Laurel Farm Herbs, Western Morning News, The Little Pantry, Middle Campscott Farm, Bobs Eggs, Devon Caterers, Wheelwright Kitchen, KT's Kitchen, American Hotdogs, Bulldog Fish Farm, John's of Instow, The Green Brownie, Big Pot Kitchen, Glampig, Red Dog Bakery, Cranfield's Foods, West Kidland Farm, Boom Kitchen, Posh Kebabs, Norsworthy Goats Cheese.

Barnstaple Real Food

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Cumin Crackers for The Spice Trail Challenge

When Vanesther of Bangers and Mash blog announced that the next spice in the Spice Trail Challenge was cumin my first thoughts were to try out a recipe that paired chocolate and cumin. I did initially make a batch of chocolate and cumin fudge but it was just 'ok', not special in any way, so I had another think and decided to make some cumin crackers. These were much more successful at showcasing the gorgeous aroma of cumin and they pair very well with cheese or simply as a savoury snack.

The recipe was inspired by one I found on the BBC food website from John Whaite (Great British Bake Off contestant) for asian spice crackers. This recipe has a number of spices as well as cumin and quite a lot of salt so I decided to tinker with it to bring the cumin center stage and cut back on the salt. I also tried a blend of two flours using a small amount of coarse semolina flour for texture but plain flour is fine too.
10g whole cumin seed
4g freshly ground black pepper
4g / 1 level tsp of a good vegetable stock powder such as Marigold reduced salt bouillon
6g / 1 level tsp sea salt
1 half tsp sugar or neutral flavoured honey
70g butter
1tsp sesame oil
30g course semolina flour*
270g italian OO flour*  
extra flour for rolling out dough

*or just 300g in total of plain white flour 

Pre heat the oven to 200C Gas 7

Line 2-3 baking sheets with parchment paper

  • Lightly toast the whole cumin seeds in a dry frying pan and then coarsely grind in a pestle & mortar or spice grinder.
  • Weigh the flours into a bowl and stir in the cumin, black pepper, stock powder, salt, sugar/honey.
  • Rub the butter and sesame oil into the flour mixture until you have a fine crumb texture.
  • Add approx 80-90ml of cold water gradually to the bowl to bring the dough together into a firm ball. You want a cohesive but not sticky ball of dough. 
  • Knead lightly until the dough is smooth.

  • Cover the dough and rest for 30 minutes or more to 'relax' the dough. Unless the kitchen is quite warm I will just leave the dough on the counter and cover with the bowl, saves wasting cling film.
Rolling & Shaping
Now roll the dough out thinly, if you have a pasta rolling machine that you get on with you may find that quite useful for getting an even, thin dough. I prefer to use a rolling pin as I get tangled up with my pasta roller. After getting the dough quite thin I then swap to my 'cracker' rolling pin which I found in a TK Max shop many years ago. This gives a nice texture to the crackers.
Otherwise you may have a pastry docker or simply use a fork to prick holes over the dough which helps them bake evenly and without bubbling up.

If you are hot on presentation you might want to use a cookie cutter to stamp out your crackers or if you are unfussed and perhaps a bit lazy like myself you will just cut them out with a blade/dough scraper into whatever rectangular size you like.


Place the cracker pieces onto the lined baking sheets. They can be positioned quite close as the dough will not spread.

Bake in the pre heated oven for 8-10 minutes until an even golden brown. You may need to turn the trays around half way through each bake to get an even colour on the crackers. Keep an eye on them as the dough can turn dark brown very quickly.

Transfer the baked crackers to a cooling rack.

Once cool, store in an air tight container to keep crisp.

The crackers are very good with cheese, as a scoop for an avocado dip or as a nibble with drinks.

I am submitting this recipe to the June 2014 Spice Trail Challenge, where you will find all the other Cumin recipes submitted to Vanesther's blog challenge.

spice trail badge square

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Avgolemono Soup with Pastina from 'Cold Pasta' by James McNair

Well it is nearly summer and perhaps there will come a point when hot food seems a bad idea which I think was why I bought this book many years ago, but perhaps I was more tempted by the £1.99 price tag, who knows. What I do know is the book along with a few other 'bargains' has languished on my bookshelf and rarely been opened and never used.

Enter Dom's Random Recipe Challenge #39 for May to go grab yourself any of your unused, unloved cookbooks and give them one last chance before the spring clean has them out the house for good. I had a few in my pile, including a fair number of charity fund raisers (Challenge Anneka was in there, never used as well as the Food Aid cookbook) but this James McNair title won and my recipe was the 'Avgolemono Soup with Pastina'. According to the recipe this traditional Greek soup would normally be served hot, but I liked it cold so cold is fine by me.
I had most of the ingredients but no tiny pasta shapes in the cupboard so I just broke up some very think spaghetti into as short lengths as I could by hand. I have scaled the recipe back to use just 1 egg as the full recipe states it will serve 10-12 as a first course and I just needed to feed myself.

2 cups home made chicken stock
one third cup tiny pasta shapes
1 egg
2 tbs fresh lemon juice
salt, pepper
lemon slices and parsley to garnish

  1. heat the chicken stock to a boil and cook the pasta until very al dente.
  2. beat the egg in a bowl until frothy and then beat in the lemon juice.
  3. slowly drizzle one third of the hot stock onto the egg mixture whisking constantly
  4. add the egg mixture back to the pan with the pasta and heat (stirring constantly) but do not boil, just cooking until lightly thickened.
  5. season to taste, and then cool and chill until needed.
  6. to serve stir the soup to distribute the pasta and pour into bowls.
  7. garnish with sliced lemon and parsley if desired.
I did not have any parsley but the buckler sorrel was looking fresh and tender so I picked a few of those highly citrus leaves and garnished with those. I think this would be a perfect soup to soothe a summer cold.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Vanilla Spiced Fig Relish from 'Mes Aigres-Doux, Terrines et Pates' by Christine Ferber

Christine Ferber is a highly acclaimed french jam maker, her jams are sold in the shops of  the legendary pastry chef  Pierre Herme so I think she must be rather above average. I have never purchased any of her preserves but I have three of her paperback recipe books and I am completely wedded to her apricot confiture that combines fresh and dried apricots along with white wine and vanilla. It is delicious, and I have made it several times. It was the first recipe that came to mind when I started thinking about what I might make for this month's Spice Trail Challenge, organised by Vanesther of Bangers and Mash. The spice for this month is vanilla and is being guest hosted by Solange Berchemin of Pebble Soup. There are so many delicious possibilities, but I wanted to try something new. Knowing how common vanilla is in both the sweet and savoury preserves from Christine Ferber I started to look through the 'relishes' section of this book for inspiration and finally settled on a relish made with figs.
   Now I must confess to cheating on the ingredients as the recipe called for fresh figs and not just any figs but Bourjasotte Noires figs, which when I looked them up do not appear any different to the black figs found in many supermarkets but regardless I did not have any, so I used dried. I soaked them for several hours in the wine included in the recipe to try and soften them up as much as possible, but the final relish is of course different in texture and balance but really not too bad, and the vanilla really does stand out and complement the flavours.
The recipe stated the relish should be stored for two to three weeks in the fridge before using so I made it at the beginning of May and finally tried in the last week. The author recommends it goes well with liver pate, parma style ham, a cured beef similar to bresaola and a french cheese Saint-Felicien.  I tried mine with some Spanish cured ham and manchego cheese:
And also some cold roast chicken and sliced chorizo:
I think the relish was too powerful for chicken but it stood up to both the chorizo and the cured ham and manchego cheese very well.

I will give you the recipe as I made it, with dried figs:

25 semi dried figs
240 ml white wine vinegar
430 ml Gewurztraminer wine
110g granulated sugar
220g flower honey
20 black peppercorns
3 vanilla pods

  1. Rinse the figs and dry carefully with a cloth or paper towels.
  2. Remove the stems and cut the figs into quarters.
  3. Soak the dried figs in the wine overnight and drain off and reserve the wine the next day.
  4. In a non reactive saucepan bring the vinegar, strained wine, sugar, honey, black pepper and vanilla pods to a boil.
  5. Continue to boil gently and skim any foam from the surface until the liquid is reduced by half and has formed a light syrup.
  6. Add the figs to the pan and simmer gently for 15 minutes.
  7. Pour the relish into a large kilner jar and store in the fridge for 2-3 weeks before serving.
  8. Continue to store in the fridge.

Should my fig plant ever produce a bumper crop I may try the fresh fruit version!

Sunday, May 25, 2014

We Should Cocoa Challenge: Bake a Chocolate Cake For £1

This month Choclette has set a tough We Should Cocoa challenge with the brief to make a chocolate cake for £1. The challenge underlined just how difficult it is to incorporate anything fancy into your diet when living on a very tight budget. The much more sobering and harrowing challenge faced by so many experiencing extreme food poverty had been given world wide coverage earlier in the month by the Live Below The Line fund raiser. The many people who took part raised 5.5 million pounds by volunteering to live off just £1 a day for all of their food and drink needs for 5 days, and asking for sponsorship to do so. The money raised is going to help anti-poverty organisations across the world. Reading the blog diaries of others taking part made it painfully clear how difficult it was to balance the need for adequate calories with good nutrition. 
My £1 Chocolate Cake, well almost, I went 2p over budget.
So how easy is it to bake a budget chocolate cake worth the money spent on the ingredients and good enough to lift your spirits?  Quite a few bloggers have come up with £1 cakes and it has been fun to see what everyone has chosen to do. I went 2p over budget so points off for that!

This is a pretty basic chocolate cake with a few sacrifices of food ethics to fit the budget. To be clear the £1 budget did not include the cost of energy for the oven, or for all the hot water needed to wash up afterwards, just the ingredients. My cake before icing weighed in at 500g so a reasonable size for a small group of family or folks, should you be sharing.

The recipe I started from was a very old one I had used as a teenager from 'Mrs Beeton's Favorite Cakes & Breads', published in 1972 by Concorde Books and my copy is now falling apart.  I was thrilled when my aunt gave it to me for my birthday, if I remember correctly it was the first cookbook I owned and I have always loved baking.
 The recipe title in the book is Cocoa Cake (Economical Chocolate Cake) and as with many sponge cake recipes from the seventies it calls for margarine. I prefer not to use margarine but butter was beyond the budget so I swapped sunflower oil for the margarine and was relieved it did not spoil the texture of the cake. Further changes were needed to keep close to the budget so I used less egg and cancelled the vanilla extract. My icing was made with a 100g bar of supermarket economy plain chocolate (30p) which had very little cocoa solids in, and the water ganache I made with it was rather dull. My wish to have an iced cake was possibly a bad call. The 30p taken up by the chocolate bar could have been put to better use with some vanilla and the full amount of egg. I costed my eggs at the supermarket budget price, but I keep hens and ducks so I used what I had at home.

 I love this style of recipe layout; books were crammed with recipes whereas now you get very few in relation to the size of the book.

The cake I costed was a half batch of this recipe but I made the full batch and produced the 500g cake and a dozen cup cakes. The original recipe calls for two 9" inch layer pans which you sandwich together with a frosting.

Ingredients adjusted for budget
115g sunflower oil (originally margarine)
340g granulated sugar
2 eggs (originally 3)
0.5 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
140ml milk
85g cocoa powder dissolved in 70ml hot water**
200g plain flour
0.5tsp baking powder
1tsp vanilla extract (omitted)

** I have never been able to get the cocoa powder 'dissolved' in 70ml of water so I also add in half the milk, pre warmed, to get the coca powder paste needed.

Oven 180C
Two  9" layer pans greased and floured or lined (I used a 17cm deep square tin).

  1. Beat together the sunflower oil, sugar and eggs in a large mixing bowl until paler in colour and thick and creamy, a hand mixer helps.
  2. Blend the cocoa 'paste' into the egg mixture.
  3. Sift the flour, salt and baking powder together.
  4. Dissolve the baking soda in the remaining milk.
  5. Add the dry ingredients to the creamed mixture alternately with the milk and soda.
  6. Add the vanilla if using.
  7. The batter will be quite thin. Pour this into the two 9" layer pans that have been greased and floured or lined with parchment.
  8. Bake the cake layers for approx 35 minutes, cakes will spring back when pressed once fully baked.
  9. Cool the baked layers on a wire rack.
  10. Frost as desired. (Water ganache with cheap chocolate NOT recommended!)

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Real Bread Maker Week 2014;

So I am a little late getting this post in for the Real Bread Maker Week which finished yesterday, 16th May, but I did at least bake my bread during the week and all these special days and weeks are mostly a bit frivolous though I do hope the bread maker week encourages more folks to try baking their own bread or seeking out a specialist baker.  For more information about the campaign for real bread take a look at the website here: National real breadmaker week

So instead of trying to tackle something challenging I have chosen to show you a really simple bread roll recipe that is well suited to having hot baked rolls for breakfast on a weekend with minimum fuss and mess.

The recipe comes from Swedish blogger Annes food and I have made it three or four times now. The idea is to mix up a fairly wet dough the night before, leave it to rise in a cool environment overnight and then a quick shape and minimum proof before popping into a hot oven for about 15 minutes. You really can have have bread rolls out of the oven within an hour of getting up and just as wonderful a gorgeous aroma of baking bread to start the day.
The recipe title is Cold Rise Breakfast Bread and it was posted a few years ago but is one that I go back to as it is a really simple no knead easy weekend bread roll recipe. If you are tempted please click over to Anne's blog for the recipe which is set out really clearly. I only had quite soft/low gluten spelt flour to hand when I made these and I really think they come out better with some strong bread flour in the mix. The rolls were a little damp and less 'springy' than when I have made them with higher gluten flour but hot bread from the oven is a real treat even when not perfect so do have a go.
The dough is a very basic mix of flour, salt, yeast and water. No fat, egg or flavourings and because the dough is quite a wet (high hydration) mix it is easy to just bring together in the bowl with no kneading. So the night before you weight out, mix up and then leave to grow.
I was taught to cover dough with a tea towel but that never seemed to benefit the dough much so now I use a bin liner. The dough is left overnight but if like me you get hit by insomnia you might find yourself up in the wee hours taking a peek.
In the morning the oven is turned on and the bread is turned out of the bowl and shaped into a long rectangle.
A dough scraper is very useful here for handling the wet dough.

 The dough is divided into rolls which are then transferred to a baking sheet and sprinkled with seeds of your choice, or not if you want them totally plain.
I like seeds, so mine had a mixture of sunflower, sesame and linseed on them. The oven should be thoroughly heated before the rolls are put in, so wait a little if you think it is not up to temperature. If the dough has lost a lot of air while you were shaping it you might want to leave the rolls for a further short proof. Try to handle the dough as lightly and minimally as possible while you are shaping.

So into the oven and the magic begins.
I like quite a  deep coloured crust on rustic style breads so I left mine in the oven 5 minutes longer than stated in the recipe. So here they are all baked up and smelling rather good.
Wait a short but polite time before tearing into them for a hearty breakfast.
  Now if any sort of yeast cookery fills you with trepidation you might want to try making a soda bread for your easy weekend bread fix. Not the same as a yeasted loaf, but when freshly baked and slathered with butter really not a bad second choice, and there are many ways to add flavourings to liven them up. The loaf below is an Apple and Raisin Soda bread , the recipe for which I found on the web site of great British Bake Off contender Brendan (brendanbakes). The loaf also has caraway seed in it which I was hesitant to add but it really did work. If in any doubt you might want to leave this out as the caraway flavour is quite strong.

The method for soda bread is just like that for scones and if you do not have buttermilk and the recipe calls for it I would use half milk and half yogurt. The loaf is best eaten the same day but does make quite good toast too, if you have any left the next day.

 Here is the baked loaf.
I like to bake whole loaves inside a cast iron pot as it really does seem to improve the crust colour and texture. The first stage of baking is done with the pot lid on and then it is removed for the final stage when the crust colour really develops. This methods worked well on the soda bread too.
The photo of the cut loaf gives you an idea of how thin the crust is. 

I would allow a soda bread a little longer to cool than the bread rolls above so a little more patience required here but freshly baked this makes a very easy.

I honestly think both of these recipes produce bread that is far better than much of what is on offer at my local supermarkets and the ingredients are far more nutritious too and I love the smell of freshly baked bread.