Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Maple Oat Citrus Bars

My ten year old discovered a version of these in the cookbook "Pretty Delicious" by Candice Kumai.  I have played around with her recipe and come up with a version, while perhaps not quite as healthy, absolutely scrumptious. Among other changes, I've added a cream cheese/maple icing and all sorts of lovely things such as citrus zest and golden sultanas (which I adore). I've left out the walnuts as my children don't like them, but if you do - add 1/2 cup.  You can still feel quite virtuous eating these knowing the oats are doing you good, in fact they have been eaten for breakfast on more than one occasion.  Even though I get a few complaints that there are no chocolate chips (although I don't really see why there couldn't be) these bars don't stick around too long. 

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
Pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg
Zest of an orange
Juice of 1/2 an orange
Zest of a lemon

4 oz unsalted butter
1/3 cup of sucanat (or regular white sugar)
3 eggs
1 cup of maple syrup
1 tablespoon of vanilla extract
1/4 golden sultanas tossed in a tablespoon of flour
1/2 cup of oats

2 oz unsalted butter (soft)
4 oz of cream cheese
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1 tablespoon of maple syrup
1 1/2 cups of confectioner's sugar

Heat the oven to 350F

If possible bring the butter and eggs to room temperature.

Cream the butter and the sucanat (or white sugar) with the orange and lemon zests until light and fluffy. 

Add the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the bowl after each addition.

Measure the flour, oats, salt, baking soda, cinnamon and nutmeg into a bowl.

Measure the maple syrup, orange juice and vanilla extract into a measuring jug.

Add half the flour mixture and gently combine, add the syrup mixture and combine and finish with the rest of the flour mixture.  Don't over beat.

Pour into a greased tin (I used 9 x 9) lined with parchment paper.

Place into the oven and bake for approx 40-50 minutes - or until slightly risen, cooked through and golden.

Remove from the oven and let cool completely.

To make the frosting beat all ingredients together until smooth.  You may need to add a little more syrup if too stiff or a little more confectioner's sugar if too runny.

Frost the top of the cake and then slice into bars.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Sea Bass with a Roasted Tomato and Pepper Herb Sauce

This is my party dish, but like almost everything I cook, it's dead easy.  What's more you can prepare this in stages, which for my lifestyle is essential.  I seem to have 1 hour windows available in my day between acting as chauffeur ferrying my children to and fro to their endless summertime activities.  How I long for the day when I will have the gift of an entire morning devoted to pottering around the kitchen, without having to referee a fight about who's wearing who's shirt or my cellphone ringing informing me I forgot to pick someone up.

My culinary heroine Ina Garten says roasting brings out the flavors of food and I agree. I used to make this with cherry tomatoes in the pan and it was lovely, but roasting them and adding a few other ingredients really does make it special.  Make the sauce in advance then you only have to and cope with the fish at the last minute.


Sea Bass fillets 
Olive oil
2 tablespoons of unsalted butter
salt and pepper
1 lemon, juice and zest

For the sauce

1 onion
1 red pepper
1 orange pepper
2-4 large tomatoes cut in half (horizontally)
2-3 cloves of garlic (in their skins)
salt and pepper
Juice of 1 lemon
Fresh oregano

Heat the oven to 425F

Place all the ingredients in a large roasting pan.  Pour over the olive oil, season with salt and pepper and squeeze over the juice of a lemon.  Mix to combine and place in the oven for 45 minutes to an hour. 

Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes or so.

Squeeze the garlic out of it's skin (discard skin) and place in a food processor with the other ingredients and blitz until you have a smooth sauce.

This can be kept in the fridge until later or used immediately.

Pat the fish dry and season with salt and pepper and sprinkle over a little lemon zest.

Heat the butter in a non-stick pan until bubbling.

Place the fish in the bubbling butter at a medium-high temperature and cook for 2 minutes or until golden, flip the fish over and cook for a further 2 minutes.  Add the lemon juice and spoon the foaming butter and juice over the fish as it cooks. 

If your fillets are thick and are not cooked through, remove the pan to the oven for approx 5-10 minutes. 

To serve, place a couple of tablespoons of sauce on a plate, place a fillet of fish on top and sprinkle over some chopped oregano (or your favorite fresh herb) and a slice of lemon.

This is lovely with a nice chilled glass of Pinot!

Friday, June 24, 2011

A Healthy Makeover for Peach and Blueberry Mini Crumbles

I absolutely LOVE crumbles, firstly because I don't have to make a pie crust and secondly because of all the fruit.  This summer combination is a favorite.  As much as I love crumbles I wanted to update my recipe to a healthier but still delicious version.  First of all I substituted agave nectar for the sugar in the filling then I used wholegrain spelt flour with a just a shake of all purpose flour and amped up the oats in the topping.  Believe me this is still delicious - and the beauty of it is that now you can eat it for breakfast! 

I thought minis would be fun and they delighted my little one who recently told me she didn't like "big food".  Of course almost any fruit combination works, rhubarb and strawberry is gorgeous, pear and raspberry and of course the British favorite of blackberry and apple.  I was very lazy and didn't peel the peaches and it didn't even cross my mind to blanch them - I didn't have the time or patience for that last night, but do go ahead if you would like.

You can of course use all purpose flour in place of the spelt if you prefer and regular white sugar instead of the agave nectar and sucanat.  If you don't want to go the mini route use an 11 inch pie dish.

For the filling;

6-9 peaches, pitted, stoned and peeled (if you like)
8 -10 oz of blueberries
1 tablespoon of vanilla extract
zest and juice of a lemon
1 tablespoon of cornstarch
1 tablespoon of agave syrup

For the topping;

1 cup of wholegrain spelt flour
1/4 cups of all purpose flour
1 cup of oats
1/4 cup of sucanat sugar
6 oz of unsalted butter (melted and cooled)
pinch of salt

Heat the oven to 375F

Place the peaches, blueberries and the rest of the filling ingredients in a large bowl and gently toss.  Set aside.

To make the topping, mix the flours, oats, salt and sugar together.  Melt the butter (in the microwave) and let cool.  Pour the butter over the dry ingredients and stir to combine.

Fill the ramekins (or one big pie dish) with the fruit mixture and add the topping.

Place on a baking sheet and put in the oven to bake for approx 30 minutes for the ramekins and approx 50 for a large crumble.  When the top is golden and the juices are bubbling over the side the crumbles are ready. 

Remove from the oven and let sit for 10-20 minutes before serving.

Try serving with Greek vanilla yogurt.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Pasta with Swiss Chard, Lemon and Pine Nuts

This is my favorite pasta dish.  Two years ago we were fortunate enough to visit Rome.  Of course I fell in love with just about everything Italian - who doesn't when they're in Rome?  I ate pasta, pasta, pasta, because this was the place to learn.  I didn't really have a deep understanding of pasta because I didn't grow up with it.  After Rome, everything was different.  For a start I realized how to cook it - not overdone and limp like you so often find and not just with the obligatory jar of tomato sauce.  We had eaten pasta with squid, lamb, beef, chicken, vegetables of all sorts, with incredible sauces and just tossed in the most delectable olive oil.  So now when I cook pasta - I think of Rome and do my best to recreate the dishes we loved.

1, 16oz box of Orecchiette (or your favorite pasta)
Olive oil
1 onion, thinly sliced
a shake of red pepper flakes
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
Zest and juice of 2 lemons
A splash of white wine
3/4 cup of toasted pine nuts
1/2 cup of golden sultanas
Salt and pepper
1 bunch of Swiss Chard (cut into thin ribbons)
Parmesan cheese

Heat the water for the pasta in a large pot.

In a large saute pan heat the olive oil and add the finely chopped onion. Sprinkle the salt over the onion to prevent it from burning. Slowly saute for about 8-10 minutes until just caramelized.  Add the garlic, pepper flakes, sultanas, lemon zest and juice.  Continue to cook for a few minutes.

Add a splash of white wine and let bubble away. Add the ribbons of Swiss Chard and cook for 2-3 minutes.

Meanwhile toast the pine nuts and set aside.

Cook the pasta according to the package directions.  Drain and pour into a large bowl.  Add the pine nuts and add the Swiss chard mixture.  Toss. Squeeze the juice of one more lemon over the pasta, check seasonings and and sprinkle over the Parmesan.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Cheese and Tomato Quiche

Making pastry reminds me of England.  We lived on quiches in the summer when I grew up.  My mother and grandmother always had a "pastry morning" one day a week when they would cook up pies, quiches and all sorts of lovely tarts - and they didn't use a food processor like me.  I've come to enjoy pastry making, savory or sweet, but it took a while. The pastry I've come to rely on as foolproof is from the cookbook "Breakfast, Lunch, Tea" by Rose Carrarini, a wonderful cookbook which I highly recommend.

The fillings to a quiche can be endless, I use whatever vegetables, herbs and cheese I happen to have in the fridge and add it to a basic creamy filling. 

Quiche, recipe adapted from Breakfast, Lunch, Tea by Rose Carrarini.

For the pastry;
2 1/2 cups of all purpose flour
1 cup of white wholewheat flour
Pinch of salt
8 oz of butter, cut into cubes
1 egg yolk
Up to 1 cup of cold water
A sprig of rosemary, minced

For the filling:
1 cup of cream
1 cup of milk
4 eggs
salt and pepper
1 cup of ricotta cheese, strained of excess liquid
6  oz of grated cheddar cheese
1 onion, thinly sliced
3-4 tomatoes
A good handful of fresh herbs, finely chopped
A sprinkle of Parmesan cheese

Heat the oven to 350F

To make the pastry, combine the flour, salt and chopped rosemary in the bowl of a food processor.  Pulse a few times until combined.

Add the cubes of butter and pulse until you have the texture of coarse breadcrumbs.

Beat together the egg yolk and the water and add gradually while the processor is running until the dough just comes together, you may not need all the liquid.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and bring together with a light knead.

Wrap in plastic wrap and place in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.  I have left it overnight and it works fine the next day.

To make the filling, slice the onion and saute in olive oil with a sprinkling of salt.  Cook on low for about 15-20 minutes until just about caramelized.  Remove from heat and let cool.

Mix together the eggs, cream, milk, ricotta cheese, cheddar cheese, salt and pepper.

Slice the tomatoes into thin discs.

Roll out the pastry and line a pie dish.  I used an 11 inch dish.

Scatter the onions over the base, lay the tomato discs over and then pour the rest of the filling ingredients over the onions.  Add a few more very finely chopped herbs over the top and a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese.

Place the dish on a baking sheet and place in the oven for at least 1 hour - you may need an hour and a quarter, until the quiche is slightly risen, golden and set.

Remove from the oven and let cool for a couple of hours.  This quiche tastes even better the next day.  A great lunch with a side salad.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Summer Swordfish

I finally knew the commitment to learn to cook for my family had paid off when I was wheeling my then 3 year old around the supermarket. She pointed to the fish counter and shrieked "I want SWORDFISH!"  Can you imagine - I was so impressed with this boisterous tot that I snapped up the available fish immediately.  Sadly I can't truthfully confess that all my children were so readily converted to the treasures of the sea.  My thirteen year old still refuses to consume any morsel of fish, however the rest of the clan positively lap this up and I must say it's one of my favorites too.

As with most dishes I attempt this is quick and easy, unless you have a rather brain dead moment - as I did last night when I was preparing it.   Normally, in more lucid moments, I sear this in a pan, then add the wine and other ingredients and gently simmer until cooked.  For some completely unexplained reason, after I had seared the fish, I removed it to a plate - then (horror of horrors) I put the pan to soak in warm, soapy water!! - How on earth did I think I was going to make the sauce?  Not to worry, I piled it all into a baking dish and baked it for 15 minutes and it was lovely.

Heat the oven to 350F


Swordfish steaks
olive oil
salt and pepper
handful of fresh herbs (I used oregano)
2-3 lemons
1 1/2 cups of white wine
2 tablespoons of butter
1 tablespoon of capers

In a large pan heat the olive oil.

Pat the swordfish steaks dry with a paper towel and season with salt and pepper and some finely chopped herbs.

When the oil is hot add the steaks and sear for 3 minutes.

Turn over and sear for another 3 minutes.

Remove from the pan and transfer to an ovenproof baking dish. Add the white wine, zest and juice of 2 lemons, 1 tablespoon of capers and a tablespoon or so of chopped herbs.  Cover with aluminium foil and place in the oven for 15 minutes.

Remove from the oven and check that the fish is just cooked through.  Transfer the fish to a platter.  Place the baking dish over the stove top on  a low heat, simmer for a few minutes.  Add the butter and swirl gently until dissolved.

Pour the juices over the fish, squeeze the juice of another lemon over the top and sprinkle a few more herbs.

This is most popular with buttered green beans and some crusty bread.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Strawberry Lemon Celebration Cake

This time of the year is just jam packed full of celebrations.  We've had Birthdays, Confirmations, Graduations and Father's Day is just around the corner.  All these celebrations demand desserts - at least for my family which has a very strong sweet tooth. 

When I think of summer desserts I tend to lean towards berries and lemon. Just the idea seems to make the sun come out.  I have a great fondness for strawberries, I must say the British strawberries are just out of this world!  I can't have a strawberry at this time of year without thinking of Wimbledon and the Queen!

I thought I would put it all together and make a lemon cake oozing with icing and covered in berries - this was the result.  You would think by now my family would have learnt the rules of food blogging - only eat AFTER the picture has been taken - but no - by the time I found my camera there was only one piece left.

Here's what you'll need for a slice of summer,

8 oz unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups of sugar (I used Sucanat to produce a golden color)
Zest of a lemon
3 eggs
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
3 eggs
2 1/2 cups of all purpose flour
1 1/2 generous teaspoons of baking powder
3/4 cup of buttermilk
Juice of a lemon

3 tablespoons of butter (at room temperature)
1 1/2 cups of confectioner's sugar
1-2 tablespoons of milk
Dash of vanilla extract
Pinch of salt


8 oz of heavy cream
4 -5 oz of lemon curd (store bought is fine!)

Heat the oven to 350F

Grease 2,  8 inch cake pans

It really does make a difference to the cake if you let the butter and eggs come to room temperature before you start.

Cream the butter and the sugar together until really light and fluffy.   You can't over beat this and longer is better.  Add the lemon zest and continue to beat.

Add the eggs, one at a time, scraping down between each addition.

Mix together the flour and baking powder.

Add half the flour and baking powder to the egg mixture and gently combine.  Slowly add the buttermilk and lemon juice.
Add the remainder of the flour.  Don't over beat, just fold in to combine.

Pour into the cake pans and put in the oven.  Start checking the cakes after 25 minutes.  They should be risen and golden and spring back when you touch them.

When cooked, remove from the oven and let cool for 10-15 minutes.  Remove from the pans and place on a baking rack to cool thoroughly.

Meanwhile make the frosting.  Combine all the ingredients in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat until smooth.  It's important to have your butter at room temperature otherwise you will be left with small lumps of butter in your frosting - not nice!

You may need to add a little more confectioner's sugar - or a little more milk - just check as you go along - yum.


Beat the heavy cream until fairly stiff
Fold in the lemon curd gently until combined - that's it!

When you're satisfied with the  consistency of the frosting and the cakes are cool, frost the cakes and sprinkle berries all over.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Pan Seared Sweetcorn Salad

This salad is one of my favorites, it's sweet because of the corn but what I really love is the very slight North African vibe from the cumin.  I backpacked in Africa during my gap year (which now seems a HUNDRED years ago) and the smell and taste of cumin takes me back to the sights and sounds of the Medina's of Marrakesh where they would sell enormous sack loads of every conceivable spice.

Back to modern day reality.

It does involve a certain amount of chopping.  I'm afraid I'm not one of those people who say this sort of mindless activity is soothing.  I run out of patience with mindless activity very quickly but I can just about manage a cucumber and a couple of tomatoes.  If you feel the need to "beef" this salad up a bit, add some chunks of good quality feta cheese, it's lovely with this.

Here's what you will need to close your eyes and imagine you're romaing the Medina's of Morocco.

1, 15 oz can of black beans
4 vine tomatoes seeds taken out and chopped
1 English cucumber, chopped
4 ears of corn
A large handful of fresh basil
1/2 red onion, very finely sliced (optional)
2 tablespoons of unsalted butter
1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon of red wine vinegar
Juice and zest of a lime
1 heaped teaspoon of cumin
salt and pepper
6 tablespoons of olive oil

Husk the corn and slice the kernels off down the side of each cob. 

Heat the butter in a large pan and when it's sizzling add the corn kernels.  Saute until tender.  Remove from pan and place in a large bowl.

Chop the cucumber and slice the red onion very finely and  add to the corn.

Chop and seed the tomatoes and add to the corn and cucumbers.

Drain and rinse the can of black beans and add to the corn mixture.

To make the dressing combine the mustard, lime juice and zest, vinegar, salt and pepper and olive oil and whisk until combined.

Pour the dressing over the corn and vegetables and gently stir together.  Add a very generous handful of torn basil leaves and check seasonings.  One more spritz of lime juice and the tiniest sprinkle of Maldon sea salt will add an extra special something.

If you're lucky enough leftovers the next day are lovely.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Chicken Francese

Albeit a reluctant carnivore, there are times when I feel the need to sink my teeth into a piece of meat.  After all these salads I've been eating recently, I'm craving meat.  Lurking in the back of my fridge I found a couple of packages of the the dullest meat imaginable - boneless, skinless chicken breasts.  I groaned - did I have time to shoot out to the market and track down a standing rib roast? No, I only had 45 minutes to get supper on the table.  Despite some effort on my part I'm not a great one for menu planning.

There was half a bottle of white wine in the fridge, chicken stock, lemons and a garden full of herbs - that should do it.  I decided on Chicken Francese and in 45 minutes or so there was even a smile on the face of a surly teenager.

6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
3 lemons
a handful of very finely chopped herbs (I used thyme)
1 cup of all purpose flour
salt and pepper
2 eggs (beaten)
olive oil and a tablespoon of butter
1 1/2 cups of white wine
2 cups of chicken stock
2 further tablespoons of butter

On a large plate mix together the flour, salt and pepper and very finely chopped herbs.

On a second plate lightly beat the two eggs

If you would like your chicken pieces thin, place them between two sheets of plastic wrap and give them a good whack with a rolling pin until you have the desired thickness.  I skipped this part as I was after a good chunk of meat.

Dip the chicken pieces in the egg and then place them in the flour mixture.

Heat the olive oil and a tablespoon of butter until sizzling.  Place the chicken in the pan and brown on each side on a medium heat.  This will take about 10 minutes or so.

Remove the chicken to a warm plate, pour the wine, broth and juice of the lemons into the pan.  Bring to the boil, turn down to a simmer.  Return the chicken to the pan, cover and leave until the chicken is thoroughly cooked through, about another 5 - 10 minutes.

Remove the chicken to a serving platter, add two more tablespoons of butter and swirl until melted. Pour the sauce over the chicken and garnish with more herbs and lemon slices.

Serve with some good bread to sop up the juices.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Comforting Berry Pancakes for Finals Week

It's the weekend before two weeks of finals for my older girls.  There's no going out, no TV and computer, no endless hours chatting on the phone - it's STUDY, STUDY, STUDY!!  Do I sound like a Tiger Mother? Really I'm more like a Puppy Dog Mother, I'm about as nonthreatening as the family guinea pig - actually less - he bites, I don't. 

There's always a few frayed nerves during finals and I find a little TLC goes a long way.  Comfort food is essential at such a time.  I do incorporate a good deal of protein - however at a particularly tense period a plate of warm, fluffy pancakes dripping with syrup seemed just the ticket.

They take no time to whip up, if you're fortunate enough to have a griddle do use it, otherwise a non stick frying pan is fine.

Here's what you'll need for a little comfort in your house;

2 cups all purpose flour (if you are looking for a healthier option, I often use 1 cup of white wholewheat flour and 1 cup of all purpose)
1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder
Pinch of salt
3 tablespoon of sugar (I use Sucanat)
1 cup of buttermilk
1 tablespoon of lemon juice
Zest of a lemon
3 eggs
1 tablespoon of vanilla
1 cup of blueberries
A handful of strawberries, blueberries and fresh mint for garnish.

Mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, lemon zest and salt in a large bowl. 

Mix together the buttermilk, eggs and vanilla extract and lemon juice.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and combine gently.  Don't over mix as the pancakes will become tough.

Heat a tablespoon of butter on your griddle or pan until really not.  Spoon out tablespoons of the mixture.  Add a couple of blueberries to the top of each pancake.

When the bottom of the pancake is firm, gently flip over and brown the other side.  Make sure the cakes are cooked all the way through.

Remove to a serving plate and decorate with more berries and sprigs of fresh mint.  Serve with lashings of maple syrup.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Potato Salad with all the Trimmings!

One day when I was boiling some new potatoes for dinner I had some extra  vinaigrette I had made for a salad, I added it to the potatoes instead of using butter - and loved it.  This salad grew from there.

With the temperatures soaring into the 100's I'm always looking for cooling salads, but also something substantial that will keep us going  throughout the day. This is a popular dish around my house, I usually make quite a large amount so I can nibble on it for lunch the next day. 

The ingredients list here is really more of a suggestion, there are so many lovely alternatives to put in.  The base is really the potatoes and dressing, then it's up to you.  Sometimes I add some good quality canned tuna, or feta cheese, or asparagus. I used fennel today - I love the flavor and find it refreshing on a very hot day. Use what you love. 

1 1/2lbs of small new potatoes (red or white or a mixture)
1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
1 large handful of cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
3 sticks of celery finely chopped
1 large handful of green beans, cut in quarters
a scattering of black olives
2 tablespoons of capers
A couple of handfuls of fresh herbs (I used mint in this)
Zest of a lemon

For the dressing:
2 tablespoons of Dijon mustard (countryside or original)
1 tablespoon of lemon juice
1 tablespoon of white wine vinegar (or your favorite vinegar)
salt and pepper
6 tablespoons of good quality extra virgin olive oil

Put the water on to boil for the potatoes.  While you are waiting chop the celery and tomatoes, slice the fennel and place in a large bowl.  Add the olives, capers and a handful of herbs and lemon zest.

To make the vinaigrette place the ingredients in a jar with a lid and shake until combined.

When the potatoes are almost cooked add the beans to the pan and cook until crisp. Don't overcook the potatoes or beans. Drain, add to the bowl with the rest of the ingredients.  Pour over the dressing and gently mix together.  Check seasoning and add another handful of freshly chopped herbs and a final squeeze of lemon. 

Serve immediately or later at room temperature.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Lavender Lemon Scones

There's nothing like a good cup of tea.  Add to that a delicious scone with strawberry jam and cream, a nice sunny day and a moment or two of peace and quiet and I am a VERY happy mummy.  Of course all these variables don't come together very often, so when they do I take full advantage. 

I've been meaning to make scones for a while now, when I was in England in April I found a dear little jar of culinary Cotswold lavender.

Apparently one has to be quite careful cooking with lavender. Moderation is the key otherwise you'll find you're eating something that reminds you of a large bar of Provencial soap.  I was careful, I only added a teaspoon (I think I would have been safe with a tablespoon) and I added lemon zest to give my scones a little extra zing. 

My mother and grandmother were awfully good at scones and they never used anything like buttermilk - or lavender come to that. I don't know what the secret was but I have to say these came very close!

3 1/2 cups of all purpose flour
2 1/2 tablespoon of baking powder
1/4 cup of sugar (I used Sucanat here - I like the rich flavor)
pinch of salt

1-2 teaspoons of dried culinary lavender
zest of a lemon
8 oz of butter (cut into chunks)
1 1/4 cups of buttermilk
2 eggs
1 tablespoon of milk to glaze the top of the scones

Heat the oven to 400F

Measure the flour, salt, sugar and zest into the bowl of a food processor.  Pulse a few times to combine.

Add the butter and pulse until you have the consistency of breadcrumbs.

Mix the buttermilk and eggs together and slowly add with the processor running.  Process until JUST combined - don't over do this.

Dump the mixture out onto a floured surface and gently bring everything together.

Roll out to a thickness of 1 - 1 1/2 inches.  Cut into the desired shaped and place onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silpat mat.

Gently wash the tops with the extra tablespoon of milk and place in the oven for 15-20 minutes.

Remove from the oven and leave to cool on a baking rack.

When the scones are cool and your pot of tea has brewed, find your best cup and saucer.  Split the scone and fill it with jam and cream, butter and honey or whatever takes your fancy.  Find a quiet spot and let the cares of the day float away.

Monday, June 6, 2011

A Very Special Salmon

We had a busy weekend, it was my thirteen year old's Confirmation.  We were delighted, it was wonderful, it also meant 16 family and friends for lunch, which of course is delightful too but they have to be fed!  This is where the salmon came in.  Wow! this was not just any salmon - there's a story here. 

I had just about given up finding a WHOLE salmon, there are fillets galore, but a whole salmon is a different thing altogether. There were just NO whole salmons to be found.   On the off chance I tried a place I have never tried before and OHHHHH, you should have seen the fish.  I wish I had had my camera.  The owner was unloading crates of ice packed WHOLE salmon!  He truimphally lifted up the most beautiful fish I had ever seen, it positively glistened! it was NINE pounds! I fell in love and then he told me the price.  I had promised myself that as I grow older I will become more of a risk taker, so I took out a second mortgage and bought the fantastic vertebrate.   I wasn't too sure how I was going to handle this fish - but I knew it was a treasure.

It was wrapped in brown paper and then unceremoniously thrown into a black plastic bin liner.  I handed over the money, tossed the bin liner over my shoulder and hauled my catch into the car.  I felt as it I had rowed out into the Hudson River and single handedly caught my fish (although I don't think there is a salmon to be found in the Hudson River). 

When I arrived home and took it out of it's wrapping my Jack Russell Terrier was beside herself - there's just something about raw salmon.  This beauty had been painstakingly butterflied and deboned with nail clippers!  It was all systems GO.  I stuffed this baby with lemons, a TON of fresh herbs and seasoned it with salt and pepper. Then I trussed it and baked it for about an hour and said a prayer.

It was SO obliging, it came out of the oven perfectly cooked.  It took HOURS to cool. When it did I gently removed the skin, transferred it to a lovely fish plate, sliced about a million disks of cucumber and decorated to my heart's content. 

The fish did me proud, especially considering I really didn't have a clue about dealing with anything that size and not a flake was left.  We had a great day even though I was counting on leftovers!

Heat the oven to 425F

1, 9 lb salmon!
4 lemons
handfuls of fresh herbs such as dill and oregano
salt and pepper

That's it!!

Stuff the fish with the lemons and herbs and season with salt and pepper.

Tie it up with kitchen twine and place in the oven for approximately 1 hour or until cooked through.

Remove from oven and allow to cool completely.  Gently take off the skin, transfer to a serving platter and decorate with cucumber disks.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Blueberry Pie

The other day I found myself in Trader Joe's face to face with the most lovely looking, overflowing cartons of blueberries.  Every year I vow I will make pie after pie, but never really get around to it.  As  blueberry pie is a HUGE favorite in our house it seemed like a good idea to stock up. 

I don't know what it is about pies but I always seem to end up making crumbles or crisps instead, thinking it's such a hassle to make the pastry, but really it's not.  This took no longer than a crumble and was demolished by the motley crew almost immediately - in my book this means success. 

I used a recipe for the pastry out of one of my favorite cookery books, Breakfast Lunch Tea by Rose Carrarini.  I did cut down on the sugar a little but this recipe is a winner as it is VERY forgiving.  You don't have to worry about keeping everything ice cold and letting it rest in the fridge for 30 minutes or anything like that.  You just whizz it up in the food processor, knock it into shape and that's that.  It doesn't mind at all.  From now on it's the only pastry I'm using.

It's usually a good idea to let your pie "set up" for a while when it comes out of the oven, the filling will become a little firmer.  This was not to be with my pie. It was set upon immediately with the result of a rather "juicy" picture.

Here's how I made the family favorite;

32oz blueberries
Zest and juice of a lemon
1 tablespoon of vanilla extract
1 1/2 tablespoons of cornstarch
1 tablespoon of sugar

3 1/2 cups of all purpose flour
pinch of salt
1/3 cup sugar
12 oz butter (cut into cubes)
1 egg
2 egg yolks
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

1 egg, beaten for egg wash

Heat the oven to 350F

Put the flour, salt, sugar and butter in a food processor and process until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs.

Dump the mixture into a LARGE bowl and make a well in the center. 

Beat the egg, yolks and vanilla extract together and pour into the well.  Using your hands or metal spoon mix the dry ingredients into the wet.  When incorporated dump out onto a floured surface.

Shape into a ball and then cut in half. One half for the bottom of the pie and the other for the top.  Roll out and line the pie dish. Paint the edge of the pie with egg wash.  Fill with the blueberries and any juice, then roll out the other half and place on top.  Crimp the edges and egg wash the top.  Make a couple of slits on the top to allow the steam to escape while cooking.

Bake for about 1 to 1 1/4 hours until golden on top.  The juices maybe bubbling through the top. 

Try to let the pie rest to firm up before serving - good luck!