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Christmas Confectionery Cavalcade!

9 Jan

Some days at work are better than others…

A few weeks ago, I was informed by my manager that I would be taking the Eurostar to Brussels for the day, for a Conference. As I have never been on the Eurostar before, I was delighted at the prospect, and spent the preceding week before the trip, bouncing around the office like a kid at Christmas.

I have visited Brussels briefly, once before, when my lovely friend Charlotte and I were stranded there overnight after a disastrous Belgian music festival. We were tired and had tents and sleeping bags to carry, so had been in no mood for sightseeing – perhaps this trip would give me a chance to see the city in a different light!

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My excitement slightly wore off when I discovered how much of a flying visit my time in Brussels was going to be – we would have around an hour an a half to sightsee, and the rest of the time would be spent in meetings. Oh well, ninety minutes was better than nothing! I certainly didn’t waste my time, and used it to visit Brussels Old Town. The two things that the city is famed for (besides sprouts, of course) are chocolate and waffles, so I thought it was only right and proper that I sampled as many of these tasty treats as I could in the time I had.

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Delectable liqueur truffles and chocolate-covered cakes, biscuits and waffles…

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…adorable solid chocolate characters and exquisite fudges and caramels…

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….every imaginable chocolate-based spread, sauce and dip. I was in heaven!

Although my trip was short, my chocolate tasting inspired me to have a go at making some confectionery as gifts for Christmas this year. My creations may not be quite as classy as those I tried in the artisan confectionery boutiques of Brussels, but it’s the thought that counts!

I had been lucky enough to receive a book on making confectionery from my brother and sister-in-law for my birthday – Sweets Made Simple by Hope & Greenwood. Some of their recipes looked so mouthwatering that I nearly ate the pages! I decided to give some of their truffle and fudge recipes a try.

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Firstly, I tried making delicious, refreshing Gin and Lime truffles. The recipe was really easy to follow, and recommended chilling the mix, and then rolling into small balls and coating in cocoa powder. However, I found that the mix was a little too soft, so I opted to coat the balls of truffle mix in milk chocolate to make the truffles a bit more stable. This obviously involved melting large quantities of chocolate in a bain marie, and generally making a chocolatey mess. It’s a tough job, but someone’s gotta go it! to decorate the truffles, I finely grated a small amount of lime zest, and used it to garnish the top of each truffle before the chocolate set.

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After the success of the gin and lime treats, I attempted a second truffle recipe from the book. I tried the recipe for white chocolate and limoncello truffles, which I thought would be perfect as my brother Alex and his new wife Kate brought me some limoncello back from their honeymoon in Italy earlier in the year.

Again, I found the ganache a little too soft, so I painted tempered white chocolate into a confectionery mould, and painstakingly filled each chocolate cup and left it to cool, before sealing with a layer of white chocolate and popping out of the silicon tray.

The finished result was glossy, pyramid-shaped truffles, with a pleasing snap as you bit through the chocolate, to reveal a creamy, citrusy centre. Divine. Painting the moulds took a fair bit of time, but the finished confection was certainly worth it.

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For my last sweet treat, I decided to make a non-boozy option, for a change. A recipe in the Hope and Greenwood book had caught my eye – Black Forest Fudge. Well, with dark and white chocolate and the addition of morello cherries, what’s not to love?

It was my first time at making fudge, and I’m pleased to say, the result was really successful. I followed the instructions very carefully, using a sugar thermometer to remove the fudge mix from the boil when it hit 113 degrees exactly. I then combined the grated chocolate, poured into a silicon case, and liberally topped with halved morello cherries.

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I found that the first attempt was absolutely delicious, but a little too crumbly. However, on successive batches I got better at mixing the chocolate through thoroughly, easing the melted mix into the corners of the tray before it sets, and using a hot knife to cut the squares more neatly.

Ever reluctant to waste anything I have produced, I collected up the crumbs from the crumbly fudge and refrigerated them – perhaps I could use these as an ice cream topping, or better yet, maybe they could be churned into an ice cream of their own? I will make a note to try this as the weather warms up!

In sucessive batches, I also increased the quantity of cherries, as they were simply too delicious. My favourite thing about the fudge is that it’s sweet and creamy, but not too sickly – once you’ve had one square, it’s hard to resist another! So, next time you see me and I’ve gained a stone, blame the fudge.

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To complete the repertoire of Christmas edible treats, I bottled up some sloe gin (reprised from last year’s success) and also baked a few more batches of the Swedish sugar and spice cookies. Never let it be said that I would let friends and family go hungry (or sober) at Christmastime.

 

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Souvenir Makes No. 3: Scandi Snacks

12 Dec

Regular readers will know about the recent goal I set myself, to only buy holiday souvenirs that I can use to make lovely things. No more fibre optic Eiffel Towers or Kiss-Me-Quick hats from Blackpool!

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I picked up these fab cookie cutters during the Stockholm leg of my Scandinavian roadtrip back in October, as they were perfect reminders of Sweden – they depict Moomintroll, Little My and Snufkin* from the Moomin stories, and the ubiquitous Dala horse. Ever since returning home, I have been eager to get baking!

I used BJ Reeve’s recipe from AllRecipes.com for Sugar and Spice Cookies. I have copied the recipe below, but if you do try it, please remember to post your feedback on the AllRecipes page so that BJReeve can see it!

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour               1/2 cup softened butter

1 cup packed brown sugar                  1 egg

1/2 tsp vanilla extract                         1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp ground cinnamon                     1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

pinch of ground cloves

1. Mix the flour, the baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves together in a bowl. I also added half a teaspoon of ground ginger at this point, as I love the taste!

2. Cream the butter and brown sugar together with an electric mixer in a large bowl until smooth; beat the egg and vanilla extract into the butter mixture. Add the flour mixture in small amount to the butter mixture, beating each addition until blended. Add any colouring you wish to use at this stage. I ended up mixing up two batches, one in the classic red for the Dala horses, and one plain for the Moomins.

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3. Form the dough into a ball, wrap with plastic wrap, and refrigerate at least 1 hour or up to 3 days.

4. Preheat an oven to 175 degrees . Grease baking sheets (or use greaseproof paper if you have any).

5. Roll the dough out on a floured work surface with a rolling pin to about 1/8-inch thickness. Cut with 2-inch cookie cutters. Arrange the cut cookies onto the prepared baking sheets, ensuring there is enough space for the dough to spread.

At this stage, I found it worked well to chill the shapes again for 20 mins, as it helped them to maintain their shape during cooking. I also found that you had to be really careful when easing the dough out of the cookie cutter, in order to protect the dough shape. A butter knife came in handy for loosening the edges.

6. Finally, bake in the preheated oven until the edges begin to brown, 10 to 12 minutes. Allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheet for 1 minute before removing to a wire rack to cool completely. The aroma of the spices will fill your kitchen and you will be tested to the limits of your patience as you wait for them to cool before icing.

Once the cookies were completely cooled, it was time to get on with the fun and messy task of icing them.

Dala horses are traditionally seen with blue and white saddles, alhough you can see them in a wide variety of shades. I decided to keep it simple with just two colours. As you can see, my icing leaves much to be desired, but I think I am slowly (very slowly) improving. Once the icing had set, I used a cocktail stick to punch a hole in the surface, for added decoration.

I would have loved to decorate my Moomins with cheeky expressions and different outfits on, but I didn’t trust my icing skills, to be honest! I’m quite a novice baker and so I decided to keep them simple with just a light touch of white icing piped around the edge.

I took a batch of the cookies with me to Kat’s wedding crafternoon a few weeks ago. They went like hotcakes! They have a lovely, mildly spiced flavour, and the icing added sweetness.

I made such a lot of dough, that I was able to freeze up some more cookie shapes for baking at a later time! As long as the dough is well wrapped up in clingfilm or in airtight bags, it should last for a few months. This means that I should be able to take freshly baked cookies with me when I next visit my family. Hopefully my icing skills will improve with time.

*PS, anyone who wants to know the names of each of the Moomin characters need look no further than here . I have never known their real names until now!

Autumn Foraging with Mummymau

3 Oct

Sometimes, all you need is a beautiful, English Autumn day, and some quality time with your Mum.

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I was able to spend a delightful and well-deserved weekend down in Odiham with my Mum and her husband, David in the first week of September, during which we partook of a little foraging. Confession time – I’ve never foraged before! As an absolute novice, Mum kept an eye on me throughout the afternoon, to ensure I wasn’t going to poison anybody.

 

The Hampshire countryside is bursting with delicious berries, nuts and fruits, ripe for the taking.

In the space of a few hours, we were able to collect:

Hazelnuts!

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We found that little clusters of hazelnuts tended to be huddled beneath the leaves, hidden from view. I’ve read on a number of sites that it’s best to leave the nuts until they are ripe. However, the squirrels tend to be closer to the action, and snaffle all the good ones long before the foragers get a chance. We picked the nuts in their husks, and left them to dry out in a cool, dark place. After a day or so, the nuts began easily falling out of their leafy husks, and slowly began to darken in colour.

 

We began with nearly 1kg of nuts in husks, and after de-husking them, we were left with nearer 400g. After that, we removed any nuts which had visible holes or damage to their shells, and then left the rest to mature in a cool, dark place once again. From reading other sites, I’m guessing this will take 4-6 weeks., so I’ll give you an update then!

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The hedgerows were utterly awash with delicious blackberries. There were so many to choose from that we were able to be discerning with our selection. We did our best to only pick the berries which were just ripening. These were easy to spot, as blackberries are bright red before ripening, so the black berries nearest to these were the most recently ripe ones.

 

We collected a whole bunch, most of which are being stored in my freezer right now whilst I decide what to do with them. A few made their way into my mum’s signature apple crumble that evening, which was made with apples from the lovely old apple tree in her garden, and a hint of orange zest. Delish!

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Now, I’ll be honest with you, we couldn’t be sure when we saw these what they were – we took copious pictures and took them home to research online. We came to the final conclusion that they were sloes. The leaves were oval, with a serrated edge; the berries themselves were black, with a purple-blue bloom, and they were just larger than blueberries. The flesh of sloes is very sharp-flavoured, and really they shouldn’t be picked until after the first frost of the season. However, if you pick them before this date, you can recreate the effect by putting them in the freezer overnight.

The obvious use for sloes is, of course, sloe gin. I used Sipsmith’s advice on making sloe gin, so I didn’t add sugar at the outset. I will add sugar syrup to taste at the end of the process. I pricked the washed, defrosted sloes and added them to two sterilised bottles, before topping up with gin. I have to admit that I scrimped a little on the choice of gin, and just chose one that was on offer, but I guess I’ll only discover the results of the experiment in a few months time when it’s ready. I’ll keep you posted.

… we even found Hops!

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I’ve never seen hops before, and I was amazed by their delicate beauty. Across the hedgerow, we spotted fine, curling vines of these dainty green lanterns. We didn’t have any use for them so we left them to grow.

IMG_1074It was a thoroughly excellent day :)

The Prince of Pizzas

12 Aug

I happened to bring home another, as yet unmentioned souvenir from Hamburg. A recipe! Unfortunately, this is not a recipe for Deutsche cuisine, but for Italian, by way of the USA.

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I met a variety of wonderful people during my travels, one of who, was an American student studying in Leipzig. His name was Dillan Prince, and he was using a few days off to tour Germany and see the sights. Dillan was staying in my dorm in Hamburg, and during an evening in the bar of the hostel, he mentioned that he worked in the kitchens of a pizza restaurant during the weekend, to fund his studies. This inevitably progressed into an in-depth conversation regarding favourite toppings (personally, anything with pine nuts), types of bases, and whether it’s ok to eat cold pizza for breakfast (it is, imho).

Dillan said that at the restaurant in which he works, There is a shredded chicken, bacon and spinach pizza, which to me sounded absolutely to die for. The pizza includes 2 different kinds of cheeses, but he also said that when he is making it for himself, his secret trick is to crumble boursin onto it just before sliding into the oven.

I have never heard of putting a soft, spreadable cheese like boursin onto a pizza, and I couldn’t quite work out how it would taste on a pizza. Of course, I would definitely have to try this when I returned to old Blighty.

Unfortunately, on the day that I corralled all of the ingredients together, I could not find spinach! Undeterred, I continued with my cooking. If it turned out to be a taste sensation, I’d pick up spinach for next time.

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The Prince of Pizzas

Ingredients

2 pizza bases – handmade or shop bought (mine were bought)

tomato pizza sauce, again handmade or shop bought (I reduced down a home-made, meatless pasta sauce until it was the consistency and texture that I required)

125g mozzarella, thinly sliced

75g hard white cheese, thinly sliced, of your choosing – Dillan recommended fontina I think, but I couldn’t pick it up in my local supermarket, sadly.

1 chicken breast

100g chopped pancetta or bacon

30g pine nuts, toasted – I couldn’t hope to complete this dish without adding my favourite ingredient!

50g boursin (I used the black pepper variety, although others are available)

olive oil and seasonings

Directions

1) In order to prepare the shredded chicken, I seasoned a chicken breast with salt and pepper, wrapped it in foil and baked it in the oven at 190C for 30 mins. Once the breast had been removed from the oven, I left it covered for at least 10 minutes, to make sure the meat stayed moist.

2)I fried off the chopped pancetta over a low heat in one pan, whilst also lightly toasting the pine nuts in a second pan. Once both of these ingredients were cooked, I set them to one side.

3) Once the chicken had cooled, I shredded it between two dining forks. I was then ready to start assembling my pizzas!

4) I applied a generous spoonful of the tomato sauce to each base and spread it evenly across the pizza. I was worried that the edges might dry out too quickly, so I lightly brushed them with olive oil. I then layered up my pizza, starting with the mozzarella and hard cheese, then the chicken, then the pancetta, then the pine nuts.

5) Just before putting the pizzas into the oven, I used a teaspoon to drop little chunks of boursin liberally across the top of the pizza. I then placed the completed works of art in the centre of the oven at 200C for 9 minutes.

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The results were utterly divine. The boursin melted and browned slightly on the top, whilst also melting through the layers to mix with the other cheeses below. Shredding the chicken was a good touch too, it virtually melted in the mouth! I shall definitely be making this one again, and I may well add spinach leaves, although I don’t want to meddle with such a good-tasting pizza too much.

Thanks for the tip Dillan!

Ziti-ish

13 Jul

Cookery time in Carlymau’s kitchen!

May I just preface this post with an acknowledgement: This is my take on the classic Italian dish, Baked Ziti, and I know that ‘ziti’ refers to the little pasta tubes used in the traditional recipe. My recipe used fusili, but I thought that if I called it ‘Fusili’, the name wouldn’t say much about what the dish is like, other than the pasta used in it. If you follow a mac and cheese recipe, but substitute penne, for example, do you still call it mac and cheese? Or, if you make a lasagne, but substitute the lasagne sheets for thinly sliced aubergine or courgette, is it still a lasagne? If anyone can come up with a better name for it, I’d love to hear it!

Anyway, I saw a recipe online for ziti, which I hadn’t heard of before, and to me it sounded a bit like a jumbled-up lasagne, but with different pasta. I do love a good lasagne, so I thought I would try it out! However, what’s the fun of cooking without a little experimentation?

The principles of baked ziti are simple – a layer of meaty ragu, followed by a layer of pasta, then a layer of cheesy creaminess, and repeat, before smothering with cheese and throwing in the oven.

Ingredients

8 beef meatballs

300 g fusili

1 carton (350g) passata

1 tin (400g) chopped tomatoes

1 tub (125g) creme fraiche

50g parmesan, plus another 10g for decoration

125g mozzarella

1 white onion

2 cloves garlic

1 red chilli

Splash of white wine

1 yellow pepper

8 small mushrooms

italian herbs, rosemary, salt and pepper

Serves 4 at least

1) For the ragu, I sizzled a finely-chopped onion in a pan with a  little bit of salted butter, before adding 2 cloves of garlic, crushed, and 1 finely chopped, deseeded chilli.I browned the onion, and then deglazed the pan with a generous glug of white wine. I then added a carton of passata and one tin of chopped tomatoes, with a shake of italian mixed herbs, a shake of rosemary and some black pepper. I then lowered the heat and let the sauce bubble away for half an hour.

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2) As mentioned above, usually a ziti has meat in the sauce, I suppose rather like when making Spaghetti Bolognese. However, I had some meatballs in (shop bought, I’m afraid) which I thought would give a twist to the dish. I quartered the meatballs so that I was left with 32 small chunks, and then rolled them in my palms until they had become mini meatballs. I then cooked them in a frying pan with a splash of olive oil for around 15 mins, until they were cooked through. I then set them to one side for building the dish later on.
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3) A traditional baked ziti might use ricotta for the cheesy layer. However, I only had a tub of creme fraiche in at the time, so I mixed it with grated parmesan and some seasoning. Again, I set it to one side for building the dish later. I also chopped up the fresh mozzarella and set to one side.

4) I boiled the fusili in a pan with salted water. The cooking instructions recommended 12 minutes. However, I only cooked the pasta for 9 minutes, as it would continue to cook once added to the finished dish.

5) Once the sauce had been simmering for half an hour, I roughly chopped one yellow pepper and quartered a handful of mushrooms. I lightly toasted them in the pan I had used for the meatballs for around 5 minutes, and then added them to the sauce, cooking for another 10 minutes and then taking off the heat.

8)And onto the building! I began with a layer of tomato sauce. This was followed by a sprinkling meatballs, and then a layer of the cooked pasta. I then spread a layer of parmesan mix, and sprinkled mozzarella on top. I repeated this sequence, ending with pasta, tomato sauce and the remaining mozzarella. I also grated the remainder of the parmesan on top, which will turn deliciously golden brown in the oven.

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I think it goes without saying that the quantity I made would easily feed me for a week! Therefore, as well as my portion for dinner, I layered up a number of foil trays, to freeze for later. I popped my dinner portion into the oven, and then started on the mountain of washing up I had produced.

 

I left the other portions to cool before freezing, but I had a minor mishap when transferring the final portion from one worktop to another in my little kitchen. As I lifted it, the foil twisted and around half of the contents fell back into the saucepan! I managed to reassemble it, although it wasn’t aesthetically impressive. If ziti is a jumbled-up lasagne, then this is a jumbled-up ziti!

By the time I had finished cleaning up, it was time for my dish to come out of the oven. The meatballs were juicy, the mozzarella left long, gooey strings of cheese through every mouthful, and the yellow pepper and mushrooms gave additional texture. One word: delish!

 

 

Luscious Liqueurs – Freshly Filtered!

9 May

My experimental nut liqueurs are finally ready for use! Just in time for the gorgeous sunny bank holiday too, what a treat.

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After dutifully agitating the bottles every day for a month (well, it ended up being nearer 5 and a half weeks, but this should just allow the flavour to mature a bit more), I was ready to filter them. Remembering from last time that this takes forever, I decided to stage the filtering this time, so that I didn’t lose my patience!

Once the nuts have been sieved out, I ended up with a thick, opaque mixture that looked like this. I put the nuts to one side as they are fantastic to use in a variety of desserts and confections!Most of the tutorials I have read recommend filtering with coffee filters, but at this stage the liquid is still so full of hazelnut fragments that it is virtually impossible. This time I found some fine material to pass the liquid through a few times first, to eliminate a lot of the residue.Then, to save time of the filtering, I sat 3 or 4 coffee filters in a colander, so I could be filtering at a faster rate.

A word of warning: filtering takes absolutely AGES. It might take up to 3 or 4 hours for all the liquid to pass through the filters, especially nearer the start when there are still a lot of nut fibres in the mix. This obviously speeds up as the liquid becomes purer. Most of the tutorials recommend filtering the liquid at least 4 times, but really it’s all down to taste – you’ll know when it’s ready.

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My finished hazelnut and almond liqueurs! The almond was a bit of a last-minute experiment but I’m really happy with it – in fact I am partaking of a little of it whilst writing this post! (hic)

I seem to have been luckier in the final quantities this time, which I think must have something to do with the changes I made to the filtering. As you might be able to see from the pictures, I began with 2.1 litres of vodka and was left with around 1.9 litres after removing the alcohol-infused nuts. After filtering 4 times, I’ve ended up with around 1.75 litres of finished liqueur, which is much more than the first time I tried this!

I think one of the differences in ending up with a larger output has something to do with how finely you chop the nuts before adding them to the bottles. The finer you chop the nuts, the less liqueur you seem to be left with, as the filtering has to remove more. Having said that, it’s a balancing act, as of course the liqueur only takes its flavour from the nuts, so you want there to be a high surface-area to liquid ratio. One way to affect this balance is also to leave the liqueur for longer than the alloted time, however I would guess that there will be a limit to this, where a longer time infusing has less effect, or perhaps begins to detriment the flavour – if anyone has experimented with this, I’d be interested to hear from you!

In the meantime, if you want me I’ll be chilling on the balcony in the sun with a good book and a glass of hazelnut liqueur with ice :)

PS I have decanted the nuts (almonds and hazelnuts) into sealed containers and popped them in the fridge….I feel a confectionery project coming on!  DSCN1476

Citrus Surprise Cupcakes.

18 Apr

I had a go at making LJEBurms’ fabulous Citrus Surprise cupcakes this week, to rave reviews in my office. Naturally, I took all the credit, but for those of you out there in blogland, I thought I would pass on the fantastic recipe and direct you to a great blog. Pictures of my attempts are below!

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Can I call myself a domestic goddess after knocking up some vanilla cupcakes without an outing to the shops?…If so, I promise to wear the title with pride after throwing together these bad-boys on a whim:

After investing the time in making a couple of Key Lime Pies earlier in the week I had some left over home-made lime and lemon curd, which I have been indulging in at every opportunity – breakfast, lunch and tea!  In a moment of adventure I decided to put a curd surprise in vanilla cupcakes to spread the zesty-love. The zesty-love was well received and the whole batch (delivered to 5 mouths around Manchester) failed to last more than 24 hours!

1. I used a Hummingbird recipe and for once followed it to the letter (well, almost).

2. Once cooked and fully cooled I cut a well into each cupcake and added a generous teaspoon of curd before replacing the removed sponge (as you can see…

View original post 224 more words

MummyMau makes Soup

2 Apr
My wonderful mother sent me a soup recipe to try. It was delish, so I decided to share it with you!
Personally, I’ve been looking for a good tomato soup recipe for ages, as most of the ones I have seen need a few kilos of ripe tomatoes, which can be pretty expensive. This one uses chopped tomatoes, and can be made in really small batches, which is ideal when you live on your own.
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Elaine’s Odiham Kitchen Tomato Soup 
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
1 Carrot, 1 Onion and 1 Stick of celery, all chopped
1 Clove of garlic
Butter (olive oil can also be used)
Boiling water
Teaspoon of sugar
Basil leaves
Optional:  Cream/milk/fromage frais/mascarpone  for consistency and taste after blending
Step 1: Melt a knob of butter into pan to melt on low heat, and then add the carrot, onion garlic and celery to the pan. Let the veggies gently sweat for 20 minutes to release the natural sugars.
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Step 2: After 20 mins, all you have to do is add the chopped tomatoes including the juice, the sugar, and enough boiling water to just cover the vegetables and stir.
Step 3: Simmer until the carrots feel soft when pierced with a fork (mine were almost at this stage already)
Step 4: Liquidise and check for seasoning, add a handful of basil leaves and optional cream/milk/fromage frais or mascarpone (a spoonful should be enough, the more you add the richer it will taste)
Et voila! luxurious, comforting tomato and basil soup at your service! Mum also told me that this particular soup improves greatly if left for 24 hours in the fridge before eating – I made it the night before my friend was expected to visit, which took all of the hassle out of cooking for guests. The review was a big ‘thumbs up’ and second helpings!

Experimental Nut Liqueurs

21 Mar

Before Christmas, I found a fantastic recipe for making hazelnut liqueur at home. I adore hazelnut liqueur, it’s my favourite drink. The only brand I am aware of is called Frangelico, but it’s really difficult to find in this country (or in the North at any rate) so it made sense to try making some myself.  If you’ve never tried it, with a few ice cubes and a dash of Coke, you haven’t lived. Seriously, it’s like drinking Ferrero Rocher. I’m salivating just thinking about it.

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The liqueur I made was like nectar from Heaven. It was bliss. I took a few bottles home for friends over Christmas, and very quickly it was all gone. There was also a rather fraught situation where a half litre bottle of liqueur decided to get a little too cozy with my brand-new Kindle. Panicking and flapping ensued. The Kindle survived, and smelled tantalisingly of sweet, roasted hazelnuts for weeks.

To make the liqueur, I needed 2 litres of high-quality vodka as a base. I used Absolut, which can be quite pricy, so I made a mental note to buy it whenever it was next on sale, to rustle up another batch. And this was the week!

The whole process takes over a month, as you have to let the mix ferment for at least 30 days before beginning to filter it. Therefore, there was no time to lose. I was so excited to make some more, that I got cracking on heating the bottles and the vodka before looking for the recipe online. Only to discover…..I couldn’t find the recipe anywhere! NOOO!! If I do find the real recipe, I promise to post it here, as it really is delicious.

I could vaguely remember the general ingredients and process, so I gamely soldiered on.

Ingredients

2 litres Absolut vodka

1 litre caster sugar (the original recipe was US and therefore measured everything in cups. I think the recipe was 1 part sugar to 2 parts vodka, so I poured the sugar into a jug up to the 1 litre mark)

2 vanilla pods

2 tablespoons vanilla essence

500g whole hazelnuts.

1. I spread all the hazelnuts out on a baking tray and toasted at 160C for 5-10 minutes. This loosens the skins and helps them release the flavour. After they are nicely toasted, I poured all the hazelnuts into a clean tea towel and wrapped them up to let them steam for a minute or two, and then shook the tea towel and bashed it around a bit, so that a decent proportion of the skins are removed. You don’t need to remove all of the skins as they will add to the luxurious, caramel colour of the liqueur. Once I’d done this, I then needed to chop them up a bit. I tried blitzing them in the processor, but it didn’t cut them evenly to I resorted to the lo-fi method of simply roughly chopping them with a knife.

 

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2. I heated the 2 litres of vodka and 1 litre of caster sugar up in a pan until the sugar was dissolved. I also thoroughly cleaned a few bottles, rinsed out the suds and placed them in the oven to sterilise, prior to bottling. I didn’t have enough of the proper preserving, Kilner bottles, so I used the old Absolut bottles too.

3. When it was all ready, I poured the chopped, toasted hazelnuts into the hot bottles, added a chopped up vanilla pod to each bottle, and then filled it up with the sugary vodka mix. This is all easier said than done, as the bottles are really hot and it’s a bit tricky to get the nuts in there without either burning yourself or scattering hot nuts all over your kitchen. Expect a mess!

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…and this is where it all started to go a bit wrong. You see, I realise that 2 litres of vodka, plus all the other ingredients, will take up more than 2 litres of space. Therefore, I prepared 3 bottles, to take into account the hazelnuts. However, I forgot that the sugar will be taking up more space too. Therefore, after using up all of the nuts and all of the bottles, I was left with a remaining half litre of hot, sugary vodka. Well, it’s not like I was going to allow it to go to waste!

4. I found a half pack of whole almonds in the cupboard, which I quickly threw onto a baking tray and started toasting. When they were done, I chopped them as before and funnelled them into another, hastily prepared hot bottle, and then topped it up with the leftover vodka mix. Hopefully this will turn out ok!

5. As previously mentioned, some of the bottles were not specific preserving bottles. In order to ensure that the old vodka bottles were fully sealed, I placed a small amount of cling film over the neck before tightly closing the lid. As the bottles cool, the cling film will help cause a vacuum, which will preserve the liquid.

So the bottles are done! Now I’ve got to shake them every day for a month, to allow the flavours to percolate gently before filtering. I can’t wait to try the contents!

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Has anyone else had success with making nut liqueurs? I’d love to try walnut or pecan, or maybe a nut combination?

Power Boost Flapjacks

13 Feb

I’ve been a bit under the weather recently and feeling quite sorry for myself. As a result, I’ve resorted to cooking and eating healthy but comforting meals and treats.

Today I made power boost flapjacks. Nutritious and delicious!DSCN1030

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