Friday, 25 February 2011

Beef Rustica Soup - A Meal in a Bowl

When it's cold and dark outside, there is nothing better to fill up an empty tummy than a good bowl of soup. This is the sort that is a meal in itself - almost verging on a casserole !

Wholesome and hearty - yet full of goodness. I just want to grab a big bowl of the stuff and give it a hug...

This recipe is entirely my own. I originally made it several years ago from some meat in the freezer and storecupboard supplies. Over time, I've fiddled with it a little. I often vary the addition of herbs and sometimes add some chilli if I fancy a kick.

Essentially - it has not changed. I make it every few weeks and a big pot goes a long way. I've written it in my recipe book incase one day in years to come Oliver want's it and I'm not around. That's the thing about recipe books. Handwritten ones that is. I think our souls live in recipe books. Recipes from my mum, grandmother and great grandmother. There is love in recipe books. Feelings. Passion.... and MEMORIES.

When my grandmother passed away a few years ado, I was asked if there was anything I would like to keep. I've got some baking tins and her handwritten recipe book - though most of the pages are not attached. My Gran's writing is in there along with the recipes of things she used to regularly bake. My Gran baked - I don't really remember her trying lots of new recipe dishes, but she did bake a bit and the old recipes were the favourites.

When she left us, her recipe book had been in the drawer in the kitchen - the spine broken and covers all taped together in tatters. A new recipe book was with it. Totally empty and mine to fill. I've transferred the recipes I remember my Gran using into the new book and been adding favourites of my own. This may only be a soup - but it's MY soup, my way and will hopefully one day carry memories of it's own and a happy home.

I love to serve it on a winter weekend evening with some homemade crusty bread . If time does not allow substitute for some fresh rolls from the bakery (as in photo).

BEEF RUSTICA - Sarah-Jane Nash

I cook this in an electric pressure cooker. If you don't have a pressure cooker, cooking time will be much much longer.

500g braising / casserole steak
2 medium onions, diced
3 cloves of garlic - finely chopped / pressed
2 tins tomatoes (preferably plum tomatoes)
tablespoon dried oregano
5 beef stock cubes
100g double concentrate tomato puree
4 beef stock cubes
cup of pasta shells
1500ml of water
2 tablespoons of cornflour.

If your braising steak is already diced into 1" cubes, cut each of these into 3 pieces. I like nice big chunks of meat through this soup. Very roughly chop the plum tomatoes whilst still in the can and add these (complete with juice) into the pressure cooker

 Put all ingredients except the cornflour and pasta into the pressure cooker. I don't brown the meat for this at all.

Bring to pressure and cook for 30minutes. Release steam. Give it a stir and add pasta shells. Check seasoning and add some salt / pepper as required

Mix the cornflour with a little water and add this to the pot, mixing in. Bring back to pressure for another 5 minutes.

That's it. Simple, Hot, Tasty, Cheap, Filling.

Will easily serve 6 hungry people !

Baking with Biscuiteers - Cute Kitty Cookies

Pretty sugar cookies covered in vibrantly coloured royal icing have littered the likes of Foodbuzz for the last couple of weeks.

I've LONGED to be able to make them - but never believed I could. All the talk of "flooding icing" and outlining had me in shivers.

Then, I picked up a stunning hard backed book in Waitrose by Biscuiteers and decided maybe it was time to be brave ! Oliver picked a couple of cookie cutters and we got to work and made the chocolate cookie dough recipe from the book.

Making iced sugar cookies is a long process, but I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed skiddling around in the kitchen last Sunday afternoon / evening. The icing went much further than I expected it to and quite a bit was left over. By Monday morning when Oliver came down stairs, I had quite a collection of little black pussy cat biscuits waiting to show him. make hand crafted iced cookies which can be sent as gifts - so much more novel that a conventional box of chocolates. After succeeding with the cat biscuits, I've gathered myself a little collection of cookie cutters and plan to make my mother-in-law a "garden" set for her birthday in a couple of months. I've bought a tulip, watering can, bird, daisy, ladybird, caterpillar and a few other cutters.

Looking forward to practising. Look out for the book. There are a few recipes in it - but loads of photos and ideas with instuctions how to ice. Super rainy day project....

Sarah-Jane Nash - silicone bakeware specialists, UK based - shipping worldwide

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Doughballs with Mozzarella and Garlic Butter (for dunking)

These were oh SO good. Terribly fast and a super way to use up some left overs !

Last weekend I made pizza. When I make pizzas, I generally make up a bread dough mix for a 500g loaf and then divide this into portions. Each loaf mix makes approx 4 pizzas or 2 great big ones for sharing.

We had one big pizza last weekend and after the first rise, I bagged the remaining half the dough in a ziploc bag and shoved it in the fridge. It seems to survive in there for up to a week no probem. I can then either pull it out and shape for more pizzas or a few fresh rolls. As it has already had a prove, the second prove is fairly quick as long as your kitchen is warm !

This time, I used half the dough in the fridge (1/4 of a batch) to make these little dough balls. Basically, they're just micro rolls !

Pinch off little balls of dough. Press a small piece of mozzarella (if desired) into the middle of the dough. I wanted final size to be around the size of a ping pong ball - so they only want to be tiny... about half that size before they prove.

Dip the dough balls quickly in some milk or water and them roll them in semolina. I hate that stuff for puddings (bleurgh) but it gives a lovely texture to the outside of breads.

Place them spaced apart on a baking tray. My kitchen was cold as the heating was not on, so I put them on the circular tray for my halogen oven cooker and loosely covered in cling film. The halogen oven is fab as it heats up in lightening fast time with no preheat required. It also uses jsut 1/3 of the power of my conventional fan oven !

Then I popped them into the halogen oven to prove with the heat set half way between off and thaw for approx 30 mins until doubled in size.

Once proved, remove the cling film and pop into a preheated oven at 180deg for approx 5 mins until JUST starting to colour. Alternatively, just remove cling film and turn the halogen oven on for about 7 > 8 mins with no preheat at 180deg C.

Serve alongside some melted garlic butter for dunking.... or drizzle the garlic butter over the top and allow to soak in.

Basic Bread Recipe

500g strong white bread flour
1 tsp salt
1 sachet quick action yeast (same stuff they use for breadmakers)
1 tablespoon sugar
approx 300ml of luke warm water

combine ingredients and then knead until gluten develops and it becomes silky. Put aside in a warm, draught free place to rise until doubled in size.

Knock back. Either then put it into a 2lb loaf tin or mould (if you prefer not to make it free form) and leave for a second prove - or divide up for pizzas etc.

I don't bother second proving for pizzas. I just roll it and use it.

Any left overs, pop in a ziploc bag in the fridge where it will keep for a week.

Dough balls like these make a lovely side dish and any left overs are ideal for tiny tiny micro rolls for toddlers like mine !

Monday, 14 February 2011

Whisky Orange Marmalade

It's been some years since I last made marmalade and home made is SO many times better than shop bought. Seville oranges are coming to the end of their short season now - so get your hands on some quickly if you get the chance.

I actually made this a couple of weeks ago, late one evening. I had not managed to get hold of any seville oranges, but the normal ones are superb anyway at the moment - so I just used those.

Normally, white granulated sugar is used in marmalade. Sometimes, if you want a really dark and strong marmalade - a big spoonful of black treacle will be added to the pot.

In a moment of genius, I decided to use light brown soft sugar instead of regular white granulated. It adds soft caramel tones to the marmalade. It makes the marmalade taste is really smooth and it's full of flavour but not bitter.

900g oranges
2 lemons
1kg sugar
1.7litres of water
150ml Scotch whisky

How you prepare your oranges may vary. I chose to squeeze the juice out of mine into the pot with the water, scrape out the pith and seeds and suspend these in the pot in a muslin bag. I left the lemons whole and finely sliced my orange peel. Boil for approx 2 hours until the orange peel and lemons are softened.

After that - I decided it was a total waste to chuck the lemons away ! Instead, I cut them open and squeezed out the juice. It's much easier to remove the pith and also to slice the peel up AFTER they've been boiled first - so next time, I'd boil the fruit more.

Discard pith / seeds and add sugar and whisky. Boil until temperature reaches setting point on a sugar themometer. Remove from heat. Allow to cool for 5 mins before bottling into warm sterilised jars.

I sterilise my jars in my halogen oven cooker. It will generally take about 8 jars at a time. With no preheat and only using 1/3 of the power of my conventional fan oven, it's quick and energy saving.

Ok ok.... you want to know what REALLY happened ???

Well - Oliver had been a little poorly, so I had not been out with him that day to feed the ponies. When my husband came home, the oranges in water were boiling away nicely. I asked him to keep a check on it whilst I went to go and feed the animals.

By the time I got back,  he'd forgotten about the pot on the cooker ..... The oranges / lemons were close to having boiled dry ! The kitchen was full of steam with the amount of water that had boiled off.

I added some more water to the pot... not really knowing how much it needed along with the whisky but guessed it would need to boil a bit longer thna normal with the sugar in to reach setting point..

I brought a bag of sugar from the cupboard to add to the pot and on the way fell over a toy fire engine that had appeared by magic. The sugar was all over the floor and not fit for use. After a clean up, I discovered that the only sugar left in the cupboard was light brown soft. That's how it got to be in my marmalade. A lucky emergency ingredient that made a wonderful addition and amazing substitue !

Sometimes things don't go smoothly....

Sarah-Jane Nash - silicone bakeware moulds cookshop and online store.

Monday, 7 February 2011

Will You Be My Valentine ? Vanilla Cupcakes...

Oh - I had such good fun making these !

This little bear was my first ever attempt at making a sugarpaste character. I recently discovered Astral's blog and followed her excellent tutorial to make this little sugar paste bear.

I used a fair bit of Wilton ivory gel paste to colour the fondant for the body, as I didn't have any brown shades - but it still came out quite well with the limited gel paste colours I have. I'll need to expand my collection of gel pastes now, as I think I'll do some more playing with sugarpaste now I know I can achieve decent looking results !

I think they looked fab though in our new zebra print cupcake cases which I've been dying to try out for a while. We've even got these same liners in mini muffin size.

The cakes were a Magnolia bakery recipe from another of Astral's tutorials along with the buttercream. I did double up on homemade vanilla extract so it really punched a good vanilla hit. These really were lovely and moist and the buttercream was ace.

Oliver couldn't wait to get hold of the teddy bear cake and really hassled me as I attempted to take the photos. He's been talking about it every day since I made these on Monday !

Astral's tutorial for the cupcakes is here - I've posted the recipe below

Vanilla cupcakes

113g butter (soft - room temperature)
1 cup caster sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp good vanilla extract
3/4 cup plain flour
1/2 rounded cup of self raising flour
1/2 cup of milk

Cream butter and sugar until white and pale. Beat in egg.

Mix in 1/2 sifted flours followed by 1/2 the milk. Repeat with remaining flour and milk.

Bake for approx 20 minutes at 170deg C, or maybe a bit less time if using a silicone bakeare muffin mould as I do.

Frost with your favourite frosting and then decorate !

Vanilla frosting shown here was 125g salted butter, 4 cups sifted icing sugar, 2 tsp vanilla extract, 1/4 cup of milk. Add some more icing sugar if desired consistency is not thick enough (mine shown here was perfect first time)

Been practising piping my swirls and rather pleased with the results. :grins:

These are the new red hearts and swirls papers . Aren't they pretty ?

I've been trying to upload a little video of Oliver's attempts to scoff the teddy bear cupcake, but it keeps failing for some reason. Sorry !

Sarah-Jane Nash - - the silicone bakeware moulds specialists. February 2011

Rainy Day - Hollow & Chocolate Mallow Eggs

This is a lovely project to do with children on the run up to Easter.....

We've been making a silicone bakeware mould for quite some time now to make small chocolate eggs, cakes or even soaps which you can see here. They finish about 50% larger than a standard hens egg. Absolutely awesome to make as a chocolate shell and fill with homemade fondant or caramel. Just big enough to make as a small hollow egg and fill with jelly beans, smarties or similar.

Well - you wanted one a bit bigger. Not massive, just bigger enough to make a hollow chocolate shell to house a smaller chocolate egg, chocolate bunny or simply decorate and wrap in cellophane.

This photo shows the size difference between the two moulds quite well. The bigger one is around twice the volume of the smaller one..

On a rainy January weekend, Oliver and I had a play with these. I wish I'd taken some chocolate face photos - but alas, my camera battery went flat at a really inappropriate time.

First of all, we I coated the inside of the moulds with molten chocolate, letting each layer dry and then repeating until all the cells had about 3 coats.

These are the bigger sized eggs, coated and waiting to fully harden.

I'm glad I was not paying too much attention to how much chocolate Oliver managed to consume that afternoon. I think I'd be horrified if I actually knew !

Then, I made the marshmallow for the middle of the smaller eggs.

James Martin's marshmallow recipe has never let me down and results in fluffy light mallowy pillows of gorgeousness. I normally flavour it with rosewater instead of vanilla and just simply cut into squares and roll in cornflour and icing sugar mix. However, it seemed like a good idea to try using this as a filling for some chocolate eggs.

As normal, it worked and set beautifully. In my opinion, these needed a little bit of something else. Next time, I'd put a big dollop of homemade strawberry / raspberry jam in the middle or perhaps some gooey caramel.

Marshmallows - James Martin

9 sheets sheets leaf gelatine
450 g sugar
1 tbsp liquid glucose
200 ml water
2 large egg whites
2 tsp vanilla extract (or try rosewater !)

icing sugar

Lightly oil one of these silicone multi-purpose trays unless you plan to make filled eggs with your marshmallow.

Soak the gelatine sheets in 140mls of cold water and set aside.

Put the sugar, glucose and water into a heavy base saucepan and boil until the temperature reaches 127deg C on a sugar thermometer. Slide in the gelatine sheets in water and stir to dissolve.

Immediately remove from the heat and transfer into a metal jug or another empty saucepan.

Whip the egg whites into soft peaks and then start pouring in the hot syrup whilst still whisking. You really need a stnad mixer where possible with this. I totally burnt out my last hand mixer making a previous batch of marshmallow as I managed to bung up the vents with mallow whilst whisking !

Don't panic over adding syrup too quickly, jusst keep the beaters going flat out for about 10 > 15 mins. It WILL thicken up and get really fluffy. I thought I wrecked my last attempt as I poured the whole lot of the hot syrup in to the eggs in one go after forgetting to decant first into another pan. The stuff was red hot and although it went pancake flat to start with, it whipped up to scratch no problem.

You know your mallow is ready when the mallow from the beaters starts setting as it runs back to the bowl. Mine was spoonable at this point - but was standing up from the bowl to the beaters on it's own

Spoon into the chocolate shells (I think we made about 20 eggs - including 12 large ones !) from this batch of mallow. Once it's set, cover with some more chocolate.

The small egg mould is a super size for filling with mallow / caramel etc. The large one works far better to hide smaller eggs or sweets inside or simply leave hollow. You could fill them with mallow. I dropped a load into nursery the next day with Oliver. There weren't any complaints and none came home again, but they were on the  verge of requiring a knife and fork (if you know what I mean !!)

Small sized egg in blue checked mug, large size egg in the bunny mug.

Sarah-Jane Nash, - silicone bakeware, Feb 2010