Monday, 1 January 2018

Poached pears

We have lovely friends who often invite us over for Persian/Iranian food on New Year's Day.  I always bring desert.  This year, things are a bit hectic, so I made the one desert I used to make when I was first living on my own: my mother's poached pears. Pretty much any pears are good in this, but juicy flavourful ones will always be best. It doesn't matter what they look like though, so choose them by smell, not appearance.

Combine 200gr granulated sugar and 500 ml water in a medium sized saucepan and bring to the boil.


1-2inc piece of cinnamon stick
3-5 whole cloves
2-3 1 inch strips of orange and/or lemon peel.


3-6 peeled, quartered and cored pears.

Poach for 15 minutes or until soft.

Serve slightly warm.

Saturday, 23 December 2017

Easy Eggnog

Blogging this one so that we don't forget!  Fabulous stuff. 

Recipe from: 

    • large eggs
    • cup 
      granulated sugar
    • cups 
      whole milk
    • cup 
      heavy cream
    • 1/2 to 1 cup 
      bourbon (or other booze - whisky, rum, brandy etc)
    • Freshly grated nutmeg, for serving

    Separate the eggs and beat yolks with sugar until light and creamy.  Blend in milk, cream and alcohol.  Mix well.  Let rest in fridge (overnight if possible).  

    When serving, beat whites until soft peaks form, then fold into eggnog.  Dust with nutmeg. 

    That's it. 

    Saturday, 16 December 2017

    Nanaimo Bars

    When I was little,  my parents' friends would exchange baked goods on Christmas Eve. We all loved the Dutch butter cake we used to get with almonds on top, but each of us had favourites from the plate of mixed cookies that another colleague's wife made.  Two in particular we have tried to recreate for our grown-up Christmasses -- butter tarts and nanaimo bars - both Canadian classics.

    Here's our favourite version of Nanaimo bars - based on a recipe in Annie Bell's Baking Bible.

    Biscuit Base
    150g/5.3oz/ 2/3 cup softened unsalted melted butter
    100g/3.5oz digestive biscuits  broken into pieces  or 1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
    60g/2oz walnut pieces (a generous half cup)
    40g/1.4oz / 1/3 cup good quality cocoa powder, sifted
    100g/3.5oz / 1/2 cupgolden caster sugar
    80g/2.8oz / 7/8 cup desiccated unsweetened coconut
    2 large eggs, beaten

    Custard Cream
    100g/3.5oz/ 1/2 cup  softened unsalted butter
    2 tbsp custard powder (or a little more if you like them extra custardy as advocated here)
    ½ tsp vanilla extract
    250g/8.8oz / 2 cups icing/confectioners sugar
    2 tbsp milk  (or Tia Maria/Kahlua for a flavoured version)

    Chocolate topping
    150g/5.3oz dark chocolate at least 70%
    25g/1oz 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
    4 Tablespoons black coffee or coffee liqueur (tia maria or kahlua)

    To assemble: 
    Preheat the oven to 180°C (356°F). Butter or line a 23cm square x 4cm deep cake tin or brownie tin (or equivalent traybake tin, for example, 25cm x 20cm).

    Whiz the digestives and the walnuts to crumbs in a food processor. Add the cocoa and sugar and whiz again, then transfer the mixture to a large bowl.
    Mix in the coconut. Stir in the melted butter, then add the beaten eggs, stirring until combined. Bake in the pre-heated oven for 15 minutes, then remove from the oven and leave to cool. Don't overbake!

    For the filling, beat the butter in a large bowl for about a minute until pale and fluffy.  
    Mix in the custard powder and the vanilla, and then the icing sugar.  Mix in the milk or kahlua in until smooth and creamy, like a stiff buttercream frosting.  Spread on the cooled base, and chill. 

    For the top layer, break up the chocolate and gently melt it with the butter  and coffee or liqueur in a double boiler or in a bowl set over a pan containing a little simmering water.   If the chocolate separates, beat briskly with a tablespoon or two of cold water until it comes together again.  
    Remove from heat and leave to chill slightly, then smooth the chocolate mixture over the custard cream. 
    Chill, cut into small pieces and serve. 

    Monday, 6 February 2017

    OATMEAL RAISIN COOKIES (Nathan’s recipe)

    Lots of variations possible. Chocolate chips and/or chopped walnuts in addition to raisins is a favourite. I'm particularly fond of white chocolate chips, chopped apricots and flaked coconut.


    3/4 Cup Butter, softened

    3/4 Cup Brown Sugar, lightly packed

    ½ Cup Granulated Sugar

    1 Egg

    2 Tbsp water

    2 tsp Vanilla

    3/4 Cup flour (white or whole wheat)

    3/4 tsp Soda

    1 tsp Cinnamon

    1 ½ Cups raisins

    3 Cups Oats


    Cream butter, sugars, egg, water, vanilla

    Combine flour, soda, cinnamon; stir in to creamed mixture

    Stir in Oats and Raisins

    Drop spoonfuls; leave unpressed for chewy

    Bake 12/15 minutes at 350 F (177 C)

    Makes 30 cookies

    Sunday, 22 January 2017

    Slow-cooker baked beans for cyclists

    Follow these steps for easy, tasty baked beans:

    Soak 250gr small haricot beans in cold water overnight.   In the morning, drain the beans, and add fresh cold water.  Boil rapidly for an hour or so on the stove top. 

    Turn on slow-cooker and add:

    1 chopped medium onion
    1 small smoked ham hock (optional - add a spoonful of vegetable oil instead)
    1-2 tsp ground mustard
    1-2 tsp ground ginger
    1-2 tsp ground cloves

    1-2 Tbs dark brown Muscovado sugar 
    a dollop of treacle 
    1Tbs tomato paste/puree or ketchup 

    Add beans.  Cover with water. 

    Go for a long bike ride. 

    Come home.  Remove skin and bone from ham hock.  Add chopped hotdogs (optional). 

    Serve with mash. 

    Monday, 2 January 2017

    A la recherche des recettes perdues...*

    I thought I'd lost my recipe for madeleines. I found one, and made it, but it wasn't the same (and some things in the recipe are just wrong!). Then I found the one I've used before, which I particularly like for the method, as much as the ingredients.  Will blog my version here to avoid future crises...

    113 grams butter
    130 grams all-purpose flour
    1/2 teaspoon baking powder (not totally sure this is needed...)
    3 large eggs, at room temperature
    130 grams golden caster sugar
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract

    Melt the butter (I use the microwave).

    Mix flour and baking powder in a small bowl.  

    Beat eggs and sugar with electric beaters in a bigger bowl until light-coloured and fluffy.   Add vanilla.

    Mix some of the batter with the melted butter.  

    Then FOLD some of the the flour mixture and some of the butter/batter mixture into the main batter mixture, alternating 2 or 3 times until it's all combined. 

    Then cover and chill the batter for 1 hour or overnight. See how thick and bubbly it is? 

    Butter and flour madeleine tins (ideally 2x12 larger tins).  Chill in fridge. 

    Pre-heat oven to 190C 

    Use two spoons to scoop batter into tins.

    Bake 8-10 minutes, or until firm to touch and golden-coloured.

    Gently turn out of pan (you may need a palette knife or firm spatula), then dust with icing sugar.

    Eat immediately, while still warm. 

    *Blogpost title credits to my Uncle Stuart.

    Saturday, 27 August 2016

    Fool me once...

    Some of you will be familiar with 'fool' as a pudding (dessert), but you have probably never tried Partridgeberry (lingonberry) Fool, which I have to declare as the best I have yet tried.  

    A rough - very rough - recipe follows.   

    If you have access to partridgeberries (coming into season soon), I encourage you to experiment: 

    2 cups/500 ml (or so) berries - partridgeberries or black-currants.  Cook in a saucepan with a tablespoon or two of water and a reasonable amount of sugar (maybe about half the amount of berries if they're quite tart,  a bit less for black-currants). 

    Cook until soft, then press the pulp through a seive and refrigerate.  Whip 250ml cream until soft peaks.  Then fold in plain yogurt - about half as much by volume as the cream.  Then fold in the chilled puree.  Pour into serving dishes and chill. 

    Yum.  Easy to make. and pretty too.

    If my proportions aren't quite right, then I apologise, but honestly, it's hard to go wrong with simple, tasty ingredients.  I didn't measure either of mine, and both turned out very tasty.