C is for Cookie

If you have been following Buttered Crumbs on Facebook you will know that I currently have a thing about biscuits with things in. It started with those extra small chocolate mini eggs, they struck me as a great alternative to chocolate chips or smarties in a nice chunky cookie.

minieggsA friend commented that they looked like sugared almonds, well why not use sugared almonds? Using a dough very similar to the choc egg cookies, I added 100g of crushed sugared almonds, chilled the dough, then shaped it into a cylinder, chilled it again and sliced it into rounds.bash almondalmond cookieDelicious, what else can be baked in a cookie? Parma Violets?raw violetviolet biccyOh yes! So presumably Swizzel’s Fizzers would work too and Refreshers, hmm what else? Anyone got a suggestion?

Parma Violet Cookies

2½ oz  (75g) small Parma violet sweeties

4oz (120g) softened butter

4oz (120g) caster sugar

1 egg yolk

3 tbsp violet syrup (optional)

8oz (240g) plain flour

Put the sweets in a freezer bag and bash into chunks with a rolling pin. Pre heat the oven to 180°c and grease a couple of baking trays.

Using an electric whisk blend the butter and sugar till fluffy. Mix in the egg yolk and violet syrup ( you can buy several varieties on Amazon.co.uk) Sift in the flour.

Mix in the flour as best you can with a wooden spoon. Stir in the crushed sweets. Using your hands, squidge the mixture together to make a soft dough. If you didn’t use any syrup you may need to add a splash of milk to help things along.

Roll out the dough on a floured surface and cut out shapes with a biscuit cutter. Bake for around 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool on a wire rack.

 

The Parma violet is a Mediterranean violet, first seen in Italy in the 16th century and known for their wonderful scent.

 

 

Sweets for my sweet

Buttered Crumbs has been married for twenty years now, which these day’s is a very long time indeed. Normally I demand a large box of expensive chocolates. Last summer we went to the Festival of chocolate in Oxford, it was a lot of fun, we sampled lots of treats, attended an informative talk on chocolate tasting and got free canvas tote bags (yay freebies!) BUT, many of the super expensive,boutique and fancy chocolates were just a bit dull! Expensive and fancy ought to taste extra good right?

Small boy was greatly inspired and added Chocolatier to his list of future careers (along with artist, author, playwright, games developer and youtube sensation) We made basic truffles at home using supermarket “discount brand” chocolate, and do you know what? They were really good, seriously you could not taste the difference between those and the truffles that retail at £8.00 per 100g, the only difference was that ours looked like a monkey had made them.

Moving on; I decided at the last minute to make a home made sweet selection for everyone, presented in decorative boxes from T K Maxx. I even printed some little information cards like you get in a real selection box. They seemed to be well received. Coconut ice was the simplest to make, truffles are easy but messy. Turkish delight takes a lot of organization skills and strong arms, also it’s hard to stop it going weirdly lumpy.

chocboxThe sea salt caramel truffles were to die for, every bit as good as the ones I’ve been buying from a certain luxury chocolate maker. I hate making caramel though, it always takes a few attempts to get it right, I’m going to work on the recipe a bit to see if there is an easier way to do it, if there is, I will let you know.

On the whole, making sweeties was easier than I thought it might be, you do need a sugar thermometer for the best results.

Who are you calling chicken?

Poultry day today, though there is a scarcity of information on the internet as to why, or who started it. Once an expensive treat, chicken is now the second most widely consumed meat after pork. Rather than trotting out my favourite chicken or egg recipe, I would like us to spare a thought for these often mistreated animals.

High demand for cheap meat and eggs means intensive farming, centered on profits not animal welfare. A quick search on the internet will reveal the horrific conditions they have to put up with. I implore you to buy free range eggs and meat wherever possible, or if money is tight to at least buy British, as our welfare standards are much higher than some of the countries we import meat from.

Thankfully battery cages have now been banned in the E.U and replaced with “enriched cages” which allow a little natural behaviour, though quite frankly I don’t think they’re much better. After 12-18 months of intensive egg laying the birds are culled. There are charities such as The British Hen Welfare Trust who do their best to collect and re house as many of these hens as possible and give them a happy retirement. http://www.bhwt.org.uk/

Chickens are beautiful and engaging creatures, I always say that there is nothing as happy as a happy chicken and seeing a sickly, ragged and scared bird blossom into a fluffy, friendly (and still productive) bundle of joy, is a wonderful thing to experience. If you have some basic experience of chicken keeping, I highly recommend adopting a small flock of ex-cage hens.hero dustThis is Hero on the day we got her, being dusted for mites. You can see how ragged her feathers are and how most of her neck feathers are worn off from sticking her head through the bars of the cage. What you can’t see is how badly her beak was damaged. All cage hens have the tip of their beak cut off to stop them pecking each other (it seems to make sense but is widely believed to cause long term pain and suffering to the bird) They took way too much off Hero’s beak making it difficult for her to eat. She changed from the scrawny thing you see here to a plump and sociable creature who loved to follow us around pecking our shoes. She led a full and happy life and I was there to make her as comfortable as possible in her last moments.moriatyMoriarty was in a similar state, see how enlarged her comb is from living in over heated conditions, all the feathers on her back were missing and her poor little red pecked botty with its tuft of feathers, looked just like a shuttlecock! She’s still very timid, though Meg, who we got at the same time, is as bold as they come. They all have different personalities and are a delight to watch as instinct kicks in and they learn how to behave naturally for the first time in their lives!

No one would accept a cat or dog being kept in a small cage unable to move around, groom themselves, eat and drink normally, get a bit of privacy or be unable to escape bullying, so remember all of the animals who spend their entire lives suffering so we can eat meat or are euthanized as soon as they are past their prime.

Marmalade

Making preserves is very satisfying and with the resurgence of interest in making your own, it’s now really easy to source the equipment.

  • Instead of using clingfilm and waxed discs get a pack of standard screw top jam jar lids, which will fit most bought or re used jars.
  • You can make one or two jars of something in an averagely large saucepan but if you want to make a large batch with some to store and/or give away you will need a proper preserving pan. You may think your big pan is plenty big enough but jams, jellies and syrups can boil over very quickly, it’s a nightmare to clean up and sugary liquids are incredibly hot, even a small splash can give you a nasty burn.
  • It’s worth investing in a wide mouthed funnel to help fill the jars.
  • Shop around for a book on the subject, one with detailed directions and step by step instructions. My favourite is a vintage book Mrs Beeton’s Jams and Preserves edited by Maggie Black (and absolutely nothing to do with Mrs Beeton) published in 1974. I have other books but always end up going back to this one.
  • Sterilize jars by putting them through a dish washer cycle. Or by washing in hot soapy water, then putting them in a deep baking tray with a couple of inches of water in it, place them in the oven at 120°c for 15 minutes.
  • The riper the fruit the less pectin it will contain (pectin is what makes jam and marmalade set) If you think the fruit is on the ripe side or you seem to be having trouble reaching the setting point, add half a bottle of liquid pectin (Certo is a good brand) at the end of the cooking time.

I pepped up some blood orange marmalade by replacing most of the water with home made white currant wine, but you could use port, whiskey, gin, champagne, vermouth, whatever would suit the fruit you are using. I’m thinking of a sloe and gin jelly for later in the year.

Prepare the fruit
Prepare the fruit
peel cook
Cook the peel with pith, seeds and offcuts in a muslin bag
jam jars
Sterilize the jars
marm scum
Boil till setting point is reached and skim off the scum
Ladle into hot jars and put a lid on.
Ladle into hot jars and put a lid on.

jam book

 

Cake-Of-The-Month: Oranges and Lemons…

…Say the bells of St Clements, as the old nursery rhyme goes. Citrus fruits are so refreshing that it’s hard to remember that they are winter, not summer fruits and are now going out of season. It might be hard to tell if your out of season lemon is a bit more sour than usual, but you may have noticed that the oranges in the fruit basket aren’t quite as sweet and juicy as they have been. The last lot I bought were so eye puckeringly tart as to be uneatable, so farewell clementines till next winter!

But rather than putting them straight in the compost, use them for cooking. Pop one up a (roasting) chicken’s bum. Make a Cumberland sauce for lamb, or make this utterly delicious cake. Moist sponge flavoured with orange, oozing with cream and lemon curd and topped with a crunchy orange drizzle…excuse me I think it’s time for elevenses!

st clem slice

St Clements Cake

for the cake:

2 small or 1 medium orange

4oz (120g) butter

6oz (180g) caster sugar

2 eggs

4oz (120g) Self raising flour

4oz (120g) ground almonds

1tsp bicarbonate of soda

150ml double/whipping cream or half a tub of clotted cream/marscapone

half a jar of lemon curd (homemade for preference, otherwise go for a good quality store bought brand, the more expensive the curd the more likely it is to taste of lemons, cheap versions are just yellow goop)

for the orange drizzle

the juice from 2 small or 1 medium orange

3oz (90g) granulated sugar

Put the oranges in a small saucepan, cover with water and bring to the boil. Simmer for ten minutes, then drain and leave to cool. Pre-heat the oven to 170°c. Grease and line two sandwich cake tins. When the oranges have been cooling for about fifteen mins, cut them in half and remove any pips. Put the rest of the oranges, skin, pith and all into a blender and puree.

Beat together the butter and sugar until fluffy, beat in the eggs one at a time. Sift in a little of the flour, mix it in, then add the orange puree (the bit of flour stops the orange juice from curdling the mixture) Sift in the rest of the flour with the soda and the almonds and stir till combined. Divide the cake mix between the prepared tins and bake for around fifteen minutes, until the cakes are golden brown and a skewer poked in the middle comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tin for five mins.

Make the orange drizzle by combining the orange juice and sugar. It will look a bit sludgy which is what you want. Poke the cakes all over with a skewer, take them out of the tins and put on a wire cooling rack. Pour the drizzle equally over the cakes, spreading it around with the back of a spoon. Leave to cool completely.

To assemble the cake, spread whipped or clotted cream over the base, top with the lemon curd (if its too thick you will have to spread the curd first, then the cream) Pop the other cake on top and you’re done. See if anyone can guess how you got the sponge to taste so orangey.

Both St Clement’s Eastcheap and St Clement Danes, churches in London, claim to be the one in the rhyme.

“Here comes a candle to light you to bed and here comes a chopper to chop off your head”

Best before when??

Today is the “day” for napping/crabmeat/get over it/Barbie/panic/staplers/false teeth. If anybody wants me I’ll be in bed eating a crab sandwich, getting over my childhood Barbie fixation while panicking about stapling with someones false teeth by mistake (it could happen, think about it)

I like spring cleaning. I like it so much that I can’t hold it in and have to start in January, which is just as well as I tire easily and take the rest of the year to finish it off!

Anyway, it’s a good opportunity to clear out all the odds and ends that have accumulated over the year (or two) and all the packets of obscure stuff you meant to use but never did. Best before dates are there mainly as a guide line so most things will be fine to eat, though if anything smells funny or has a fur coat  chuck it! Be wary of nuts that are way out of date, as the oils they contain go rancid, also flour and other powdery or cereal based ingredients which attract mites and weevils (however clean you think your cupboards are) give the bag a shake and see if anything wiggles!

I found an unopened box of dessicated coconut and endless nearly-empty bags of dried fruit, nuts and seeds. I was also reminded of why you should ALWAYS line the tray with baking paper when making macaroons: when they are still hot they WILL crumble if you try to get them off your usually- non- stick tray. If they cool down THEY WILL STICK! Much easier to leave them on baking paper and peel them off when cool.

stuck to tray

To use up various dried fruits:

Fruity Oaty Slices

9 oz (280g) or thereabouts of mixed dried fruit. Figs, apricots, dates, prunes and so on all work well.

Up to  8 floz (250ml) water

zest of one lemon and juice of half a lemon

6 oz (180g) rolled oats

6 oz (180g) brown or white flour

5 oz (150g) butter

3 oz (90g) brown sugar

Pre heat the oven to 160°c. Grease and line a 9 inch square cake tin or tray.

Roughly chop the dried fruit, removing any tough stalks or stones. Put in a sauce pan with half of the water, the lemon zest and juice and bring to the boil. Turn the heat down and simmer gently till the fruit is pulpy. Depending on what fruit you are using and how old it is you may need to add more water. Keep an eye on the process and stir frequently or it will burn. When the fruit is cooked, mash with a fork or use a hand blender to turn it into a rough paste. Leave to cool.

Mix the oats, flour and sugar in a large bowl. Melt the butter and combine with the oat mixture. Press half of the oat mixture into the bottom of the cake tin. Spread the fruit paste evenly over and then top with the rest of the oat mix, pressing down gently. Bake for 20 to 30 mins, until the top is starting to brown. Leave to cool in the tin, on a wire rack. Cut into 8 to 16 pieces depending on how hungry you are, enjoy with a glass of cold milk!

Based on a recipe in the Cranks recipe book

 

Final Food Fantasy

Biting winds, sleet, rain and hail are harsh reminders that winter is not over yet. On a day like this you need extra comforting comfort food, something rich and slow cooked. Preferably with a sticky chocolatey pudding for afters. The stuff of life style magazine fantasy, where the slow cooked lamb is safely in the Aga while you and your similarly attractive and wellington clad friends leave the comfort of the wood burning stove in your stone built cottage in an historic market town, to go for a bracing walk in the country. On the way back you stop at a charming pub to sample the excellent local ales and ciders. Arriving back at the cottage with cold cheeks but warm bellies, it’s time to put the finishing touches to the meal. Someone opens a bottle of wine and to a background of soft music the evening flows by in laughter and amusing conversation…..

What do I get eh? Trusting my tiny and unpredictable electric oven to do the job and hoping the “vintage” gas fire will keep the living room warm, I dash out through deepest suburbia on the school run. Stopping at the local Co-Op for some peas and carrots. The meal time conversation is centered on Minecraft and other video games, no wine, no music, but at least there is laughter and good food.

Slow cooked Lamb

This works best with a whole leg but a half leg or shoulder would be just fine, but will take less time to cook.

Brown the meat all over in a large casserole dish. Pour over 300ml of white wine 300ml of stock (vegetable, beef or chicken would all work). Surround with whole carrots, the peeled cloves of a bulb of garlic and 2-4 onions, peeled and halved. Cook on a low heat, 120°c or equivalent, for up to seven hours. Reduce the juices in a saucepan by about a third, add a splash of sherry and a spoonful of redcurrant jelly, season to taste. Serve the meat in chunks, with the vegetables and some roast or mashed potatoes.

If you don’t have a casserole dish large enough for a whole leg, use a large roasting tray and give it a tin foil hat, which has the added benefit of stopping mind reading aliens from knowing what you are having for dinner.

based on a recipe in the book: BBC GoodFood Slow-cooking recipes

 

Monte Carlo Potatoes or bust!

Time to share another vintage recipe, this time from the Constance Spry Cookery Book by Constance Spry and Rosemary Hume, first published in 1956.

Ms Spry (1886-1960) was a well known society florist before the outbreak of world war II. During the war, drawing on previous experience as a teacher of cookery and sewing she wrote Come Into The Garden, Cook which contained fairly radical advice for the time.

“Here we are in the middle of the war, rationed and restricted as never before, with economy and belt tightening the order of the day, and yet I want to cry out about the food.

It would be safe enough if I meant to paint a dim picture, to accentuate difficulties, to concentrate on leftovers and the best use of roots.But I don’t mean to do that at all; I want to emphasize that we have better ingredients than almost any other country and that we frequently treat them abominably”

It was unashamedly aimed at upper middle class women who were, probably for the first time, going into the kitchen and having to cook. She hoped that cooking would become an enjoyable and fashionable hobby for these women and that the enjoyment of good food would spread down the social classes from there….

After the war, with her friend Rosemary Hume, she opened Winkfield a domestic science school ( where coronation chicken was invented for the coronation of Elizabeth II) Where she was able to return to her love of flowers and spent many years cultivating antique roses.

The Constance Spry Cookery Book is a fantastic collection of recipes and I would put it on the list of essential books for anyone with a passion for good food. It’s still in print but I have an eye catching bright pink copy from 1967.

Monte Carlo potatoes are a deliciously savoury supper dish but they took a lot more work than I expected, make sure it’s not your turn to wash up!

Monte Carlo Potatoes    serves 4

4 large (but not supersized) baking potatoes

2 fillets of white fish (I used river cobbler which was half the price of cod or haddock and isn’t as powerfully “fishy” as pollock can be, it’s very much like a white trout)

2 sweetcorn cobs or a 300g tin of sweetcorn

1 onion or a couple of shallots

200ml milk and extra for poaching

1tsp mustard

1 tbsp plain flour

a slice of bread whizzed into crumbs

hard cheese such as cheddar

lots of butter

olive oil

salt and pepper

Two and a half hours before you want to eat, wash the potatoes and put them in the oven to bake. Wrapping them in foil is unnecessary and please, please don’t microwave them, it makes them tasteless and tough.

After one and a half hours have passed, lightly season the fish with salt and pepper and poach gently in milk until cooked. Set aside.

Chop the onion or shallots finely and fry in about 25g of butter and a tsp of olive oil, until translucent. Slice the kernels off the corn cobs and add to the pan, season with a pinch of salt and fry until everything is lightly browned. Set aside.

Make a white sauce by melting 15g of butter in a saucepan and adding the flour to make a roux. Let it cook for a minute, stirring all the time. Off the heat gradually add the 200ml of milk. Return to the heat and stir continually until the sauce has thickened. Add a tsp of mustard, wholegrain would be best but most other mustards would work just fine. Set aside.

The potatoes should be done by now, take them out of the oven, cut each one in half and scoop the middle into a bowl, leaving the skins intact. Mash the potato in the bowl with a large knob of butter and a splash of milk, until smooth. Set aside.

Put the empty potato skins on a baking tray and divide the sweetcorn mix between them. Flake the fish and divide it up between the skins. Top each filled skin with some mustard sauce. Now divide the mashed potato equally between the skins. Sprinkle with the breadcrumbs and some grated cheese and return to the oven until the tops have browned. Phew!

Constance designed the flower arrangements for the Queens coronation in 1953

David Austin’s first commercially available rose was named after her.