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Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Dish of the Month - April Round Up

April has been rather a mixed month, starting very cold and, while I know it has been warm in the south of England, here in Scotland we have only had  couple of dry sunny days with a high of 14C!
However, in April's Dish of the Month kitchens, there has been much activity and many delicious dishes.

In Elizabeth's Kitchen Aubergine Tarts were on the menu and here is what Elizabeth says about them "The aubergine puree has a gorgeous flavour and texture and when combined with the anchovies, capers and cheese pastry - oh yes, mouth-wateringly nice indeed."

 My own entry is Chicken with olives and lemon from the April chapter of the Kitchen Diaries II a very simple and delicious supper dish.

My friend and co-host of Dish of the Month, Sue at A little bit of Heaven on a Plate made a stunning Parfait of Lemon and Orange. Sue made her own meringues and, because they were homemade, they were nice and mallowy in the centre and crunchy on the outside, adding to the overall loveliness of the finished parfait.

Maggie at Kitchen Delights made 'a Soup of Cauliflower and Cheese',  which is apparently a  soup version of Welsh Rarebit, and it certainly does look good.

The New Mrs P made Nigel's Savoury Apple Crumble which she felt didn't turn out quite as well as she had hoped, but thought that it had potential with a little more care!

 Dom, from Belleau Kitchen, baked a Red Wine Roasted Rhubarb Frangipane tart which inspired me to make a similar tart but I roasted my rhubarb with orange. 

Foodie Quine had an unexpected Twitter interaction with our inspiration, Nigel Slater, who apparently doesn't like his eggs 'au naturel'.  However, he seemed to have forgiven her as she did such a sterling job of making his recipe for Chorizo Potatoes!

Our final dish is a Mackerel, Bacon and New Potato Salad from Nigel's Simple Cooking TV series which is shared with us by Jacqueline at How to be a Gourmand.

Many thanks to all who took part this month.  The May Dish of the Month will be hosted over at A Little Bit of Heaven on a Plate, although I will also be featuring the linky.

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Monday, 29 April 2013

Chilli Pasta, Fennel and Walnut Salad

This month Pasta Please is being hosted by Shaheen at Allotment to Kitchen and the theme is chilli! 

Pasta Please is a blog event whose home is with Jacqueline at Tinned Tomatoes, but it  is often out and about with guest hosts which gives it a new lease of life.

The Chilli theme gave me another opportunity to use my Galloway Chilli Original jam.  This is a very hot chilli jam so you only need a very little to boost up your dishes.

Chilli Pasta, Fennel and Walnut Salad 
Serves 4 for a light lunch

225g good quality pasta, cooked in boiling salted water, drained and cooled in cold water, then drained again.
1 large tomato chopped
2 spring onions, chopped
1/4 cucumber, diced
1/2 fennel bulb, chopped
50g walnut pieces

1 tbsp mayonnaise
3 tbsp natural yogurt
1 tsp chilli jam (or to taste)
1 tsp honey
salt and freshly ground pepper

1. Mix the salad ingredients together in a bowl.
2. Mix the dressing ingredients together and season to taste.
3. Mix the dressing into the pasta and vegetables, cover the bowl and leave for flavours to mingle for about 20 minutes.

I served the salad on lettuce leaves but you can just eat it as it is or serve it with other salads.

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Thursday, 25 April 2013

Rhubarb Frangipane Tart from Belleau Kitchen to Farmersgirl Kitchen

As soon as I saw the Rhubarb Frangipane Tart that Dom had made at Belleau Kitchen as his entry for Dish of the Month (Cooking Nigel Slater recipes) I knew I had to make it.

These are the first stalks of rhubarb I have pulled in my garden.  It was slow to start this year as it's been really cold, but as soon as it started to rain and warmed up slightly, the rhubarb just burst through and now it's gone slightly mad!

Dom poached his rhubarb in red wine, but I decide to do mine in orange juice with the zest of the orange too.

Here is the rhubarb after it had been poached, I slightly under poached it as it has to go back into the oven on top of the frangipane.

I served the tart with Madagasgar Vanilla Icecream and the juices from the poached rhubarb reduced and poured over the tart.

As I bookmarked this recipe from Belleau Kitchen I am entering it for Bookmarked Recipes hosted by Jac at Tinned Tomatoes.

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Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Apricot Tea Bread

I haven't made a tea bread for some time and always find them to be really good value, as they get better after several days wrapped in foil.  Dried apricots are once of my favourite things and as I was looking for an 'A' bake for AlphaBakes AND a bake suitable for a  Village Fair, Fete or Show for the Calendar Cakes challenge,  it was just the excuse I needed to make this loaf.  It certainly turned out well, it's fruity, moisty and chewy, it really doesn't need any butter but you could spread some on if that's your thing.  There wasn't any strong taste from the Whittards WhiteTea with Pomegranate that I used for soaking just an overall fruity flavour.

Apricot Tea Bread

350g/12oz mixture of apricots and mixed dried fruit (you can use all apricots but I wanted to use up some ends of bags of raisins and sultanas)225g/8oz mix of light and dark muscovado sugar
300ml/1/2 pt hot Whittards White Tea with Pomegranate (any tea will do, but I used this as I had just reviewed it.)
275g/10oz self-raising flour
zest of an orange
1 large egg, beaten

1. Put the dried fruit and sugar in a bowl and pour over the hot tea.
2. Leave it overnight to soak up the tea, but I didn't have time, so mine got 2 hours and was still pretty wet.
3. Heat the oven to 150C/130C fan/gas 2
4. Line a 900g/2lb loaf tin with baking parchment or one of those clever loaf tin liners.
5. Add the flour, lemon zest and beaten egg and stir iwth a spoon till mixed through.
6. Bake for 11/4 to 11/2 hrs or until it is well risen, firm to the touch and a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean
7. Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes then turn out onto a wire rack to cool.
Peel of the baking paper or liner and serve sliced with or without butter.

Alphabakes is run by Ros at The more than occasional baker and Caroline at Caroline Makes and  Calendar Cakes is hosted by Rachel at Dolly Bakes and Laura at Laura Loves Cakes.

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Monday, 22 April 2013

The Vegetarian Pantry - a cookbook review

Although I'm not a vegetarian, far from it, I have always enjoyed meatless meals. The Vegetarian Pantry by Chloe Coker and Jane Montgomery aims to teach you how to create stunning dishes using the best of fresh produce and a well stocked kitchen pantry.  I have a number recipes bookmarked already.

Chloe Coker grew up in a vegetarian household and is passionate about encouraging people to cook with and enjoy local, seasonal food. Previously a lawyer in the city, she turned her passion into a profession and retrained as a chef at Leiths School of Food and Wine.
Jane Montgomery had a previous career in advertising but turned her creative flair to her love of food and trained with Chloe at Leiths School of Food and Wine. Since then she has spent time cheffing and cooking for private clients as well as teaching classes. In 2010 Chloe and Jane launched Citycook, a boutique teaching and catering company specialising in bespoke events.

The introduction tells you a bit about Chloe and Jane and their inspiration for writing the book. This is followed by some sound advice on staying healthy as a vegetarian with details of key nutrients required and how to get them in a vegetarian diet. The authors also, helpfully, describe the requirements for a well-stocked vegetarian pantry and how to store your ingredients.

Breakfast and Brunch includes Quick Cornbread, Saffron and Pepper Frittata with roasted garlic aioli, which would make a great lunch or even main meal, as would Herby Chickpea Pancakes with Halloumi and roasted corn and red pepper salsa. For the sweeter toothed breakfaster how about French Toast stuffed with bananas or Honey and Apricot breakfast muffins?

Small Bites is a chapter of snack, starters, tapas or mezze ideal if you like to entertain. Choose from Lemon and Mushroom risotto balls, Vegetable Dumplings with dipping sauce or indulge in Samosas with lemon and garlic dip. There are some great buschetta toppings and one recipe I've particularly bookmarked: Breadcrumbed Halloumi goujons!

Dips, Salsas and Sauces provides some recipes to help your vegetarian dishes along. I liked the look of Sweet Potato hummus with breadsticks, there are four punchy pesos: roasted beetroot pesto, watercress pesto, mushroom and walnut pesto and a ricotta and herb pesto. The three fresh salsas look great too: apple, celery and mint salsa, Carrot, orange and mint salsa and Asian cucumber salsa. The chapter is rounded off with a Spicy Tomato Ketchup and a Sweet Chilli Jam recipe.

Soups and Salads promises us light refreshing summer dishes and warming winter comfort food. There are both hot and cold soups and some interesting salads including Beetroot Quinoa and green bean salad with spicy ginger dressing and shallot crisps, I bookmarked the Winter salad of pearl barley, mushrooms and walnuts as I love the nutty taste of pearl barley. There is also an Italian tear and share bread and a Soda Bread recipe to accompany your soup or salad.

And so we move on to Main Dishes, possibly the most visually appealing is the Carrot and Leek Tarte Tatin with the caramelised vegetables atop a layer of light puff pastry. The Beetroot Risotto is a glorious deep pink and the Individual Baked Cheesecakes with salted honey walnuts are worthy of a special dinner party. I have to say I found this chapter the weakest in the book, there are a number of one-pot dishes which look rather uninspired alongside the delicious ones I have mentioned.

We all love Sweet Treats and there are some real crackers in this chapter. Always on the lookout for rhubarb recipes, I will be trying the Rhubarb, Orange and Vanilla Fool with shortbread cookies. Plum Frangipane Tart with ginger cream also sounds good and, as a sucker for all things almondy, Poached Amaretto Peaches with Amaretti cookie creme fraiche is on my list for the summer. There are few baked sweet treats too including Orange, almond drizzle cake, Chocolate Orange Brownies and Pistachio, white chocolate and Cranberry Biscotti.

Who is it for?
This is a book for an established vegetarian who is looking for some inspiration and new ideas particularly for entertaining. It would also appeal to adventurous non-vegetarians with good cooking skills who would like to try something different.

The book is well laid out with large clear photographs to tempt you to try the recipes. The recipes themselves are well written and easy to follow with symbols indicating where they are suitable for vegans and those recipes which are gluten-free which I thought was an excellent idea.

I felt that the recipes were aimed at summer eating and most of the recipes that are "comfort food" were a little predictable and would already be in the repertoire of most vegetarians. Nor do I think this is the best book for new vegetarians as it features a lot of bits and pieces rather than main meals.

As my featured recipe, I chose to make these Honey and Apricot Breakfast Muffins which are easy to make and incredibly soft, moist and delicious. They also kept very well in an airtight cake tin which is a bonus. 

Honey and Apricot Breakfast Muffins
200g plain flour
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
21/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 tsp mixed spice
50g chopped dried apricots
50g pecan nuts chopped
100g porridge oats
50g sultanas
2 bananas (preferably soft)
2 unpeeled apples, grated
2 eggs
5 tbsp veg oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 tbsp honey
6 tablespoons milk
100g light brown sugar

12 hole muffin tin filled with muffin cases (my mix made about 17-18, but I think it depends on your paper cases and how full you fill them!)

Pre-heat the oven to 180C.
Sift the flour into a mixing bowl.  Add the bicarbonate of soda, baking powder and mixed spice and stir to combine.  Add the dried apricots, pecans and oats to the flour mixture together with the sultanas and set aside.

In a separate bowl, mash the bananas with a fork.  Add the apples, eggs, oil, vanilla extract, honey and milk and stir to combine.  Add the sugar and stir gain.

Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients. Pour int he wet ingredients and gently stir from the centre, gradually drawing in the dry ingredients to make a smooth batter.

Fill the muffin cases two thirds full and top with chopped pecans for added texture.  Bake in the top half of the preheated oven for approximately 30-40 minutes until the muffins are well risen, golden and springy to touch.  Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack then serve with cups of hot coffee. These muffins are best eaten fresh but will keep in an airtight container for 3 or 4 days.

I'm entering these moist, fruity and delicious muffins for Tea Time Treats.  The Tea Time challenge hosted by Karen at Lavender and Lovage and Kate at What Kate Baked.  Kate is hosting this month and the theme is "Fairy Cakes, Cup Cakes and Muffins". 

Fresh and modern recipes for meals without meat
AUTHORS Chloe Coker and Jane Montgomery
PHOTOGRAPHER William Reavell
PRICE £16.99 (hardback)
PUBLICATION 14th February 2013
PUBLISHER Ryland Peters and Small
SPECIFICATIONS 144 pages c. 120 colour photographs
ISBN 978 1 84975 3449

I received The Vegetarian Pantry to review, I was not paid for my review and all opinions are my own.

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Saturday, 20 April 2013

Baking flatbreads for National Bread Week

It's National Bread Week 16 - 22 April, 2013. Bread has been a part of our staple diet for over 5000 years.   It all started in the stone age and has continued to evolve  from unleavened breads through natural 'sourdough' yeasts, brewers yeast breads and now the sourdoughs are coming back into favour again! And I'm sure you will agree there is nothing more inviting than the smell of freshly baked bread. In honour of this celebration of baking bread, I have a couple of flatbreads to share with you.

I received this Mermaid Baking Sheet to help me with my bread baking.  Mermaid is a range of hard anodised aluminium cookware that offers a solution for every culinary need.

Chorizo and Pepper Pizza

250g strong white bread flour
5g salt
5g fast-action dried yeast
2 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for oiling
180ml cool water

I used the bread maker and just put all the ingredients in the machine and set it for dough.  However, if you don't have one you can make it by hand.

Put all the ingredients in a large bowl and add the salt and the yeast keeping them away from each other.  Add the olive oil and 150ml of the water and mix. Add the remaining water a little at a time until you have a smooth, soft dough.

Tip the dough onto an oiled surface and knead for 5-10 minutes until smooth.  Leave to rise until doubled in size.

Meanwhile make your topping:

2 red peppers, cored and sliced
1 yellow pepper, cored and sliced
1 large tomato thickly sliced
1 onion, peeled and sliced
1 chorizo sausage sliced
100g grated cheese
2 tbsp olive oil

Heat the oven to 200C, pour the oil into the Mermaid Deep Sided Handled Roaster  and add the onions, peppers and tomato and coat in the oil, roast for 20 minutes, then add the sliced chorizo and cook for another 5 minutes.  Remove from the oven and cool slightly.

Once risen, roll the pizza dough out and place on the tray add the topping and scatter with a mixture of grated cheddar and parmesan cheese.
Bake for 15-20 minutes until the bread is golden and, risen and the cheese is bubbling.

Serve immediately.

50-50 Spelt Naan Bread

2 tsp fast action dried yeast
300ml milk
200g spelt flour
300g strong white flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
3 tbsp plain yogurt
30g butter, melted

The technique for making the Naan Bread is pretty much the same as making the pizza dough.  If you don't have spelt flour or prefer not to use it, then you can make all white flour Naans, but reduce the milk to 250ml.
The Naan bread rising.
Bake at 220C for 10 to 15 minutes, then remove from the oven and stack the breads on top of each other and voer with a clean, dry cloth to keep the cursts soft and preven them drying out.
Naan bread is brilliant for soaking up all the delicious sauce in a curry or other stews and gravies.

I was a little disappointed that the Naan bread stuck to the baking tray even though I had oiled it.  I will have to try the semolina trick that Paul Hollywood uses to keep the dough from sticking.

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Friday, 19 April 2013

What's on Farmersgirl Kitchen Table?

I don't really have a 'kitchen table' as such, I have a light oak counter/breakfast bar in the kitchen and a big dark oak table in the dining room, you will have seen both in my food photos.  However, what I want to share with you today are some products I've been sent to review over the last couple of weeks.

First up are a couple of new additions to the Elizabeth Shaw premium bar range with the introduction of their Connoisseur Bars - Blackberry and Ginger,  Pear and Almond.  There was a bit of a debate between me and my husband about which of these flavours we liked best.  I enjoyed the Blackberry and Ginger which, I felt, captured the earthy flavour of blackberries although I would have preferred more of a ginger taste.  Brian preferred the Pear and Almond which was big on almonds and had a definite pear taste which I found a little too reminiscent of pear drops, but he disagreed.
 The chocolate is 57% cocoa solids so if you are a 70% type of person you might find it a little mild, however it didn't detract from our enjoyment of the chocolate bars though.


After the chocolate, I think it's time for a nice cup of tea and fortunately Whittards asked me to try some of their Green and White teas.

The Whittards story began in 1886 when Walter Whittard opened his first tea and coffee store on London’s Fleet Street.
His philosophy was to always ‘Buy The Best’, sourcing the highest quality teas and coffees from around the world and blending them to his customers’ specifications.
Today – over 125 years later – they still remain true to Walter’s founding philosophy. From one little shop on Fleet Street they continue to grow, sharing their innovative range and specialist knowledge across their UK stores, overseas and online. They are still the blending and tasting experts, offering you something truly unique.
• Whittartds have 130 varieties of tea, and still blend their own teas and infusions, just as Walter did.
• Whittards are one of the few places that will grind freshly roasted coffee beans to your individual tastes.
• Whittards have over 18 varieties of luxurious hot chocolate, tempting chocolate lovers with everything from White Chocolate and Strawberry to Chilli.
• Whittards believe that preparation and serving are all part of the enjoyment. So they sell specialist china, equipment and glassware alongside their drinks.

This is the delightfully pretty Pomegranate White Leaf Tea, (125g for £6.50) it looks like pot pourri and smells a bit like it too!  I was a bit concerned that the flavour would be too sweet, but it is light, fresh and fruity.  A lovely afternoon tea for a pick me up, I think it would also make a great iced tea for a summer day.

The Organic Green Leaf Tea,  (125g, £6.50) has a smaller leaf, a stronger green tea flavour, but none of the harshness that I find you get with green tea bags.

While we enjoyed both the Pomegranate White Tea and the Organic Green Tea, we really fell in love with the River of Clouds Green Tea  (50g, £6.25) the most expensive one, of course!
This is 'proper' green tea, large leaves with a delicate flavour, a drink to be savoured and enjoyed.  Perfect with food or as a refeshing drink at any time.  If you love green or white tea, this is one you should really try.
We have been drinking our tea without milk since we were poor students with no fridge to keep the milk fresh overnight.  I think that has added to our enjoyment of different teas as you really taste only the tea.  Soft Scottish water is also perfect for making tea, although I think coffee probably benefits from harder water.
We were impressed by the quality of these teas and  will certainly be popping into Whittards again to stock up.

Next up I'd like to tell you about Red Candy  a website dedicated to the celebration of red home furnishings and modern interior accessories.  Whether you use red as a subtle accent, or your love of this passionate colour sees it spread throughout your life, provides for all by stocking the latest, most fantastic and innovative red products & designs from across the world.

With such a large choice of modern red accessories covering collage photo frames, clocks to colanders, mugs to magazine racks, you need not venture any further in your quest to find a complement for your red themed interior, or discover the perfect gift for another that adores this colour.

There are many fun items on the Red Candy website, but I fell in love with this delightful Guzzini Latina resin storage jar with a tight-fitting push on lid (£16.00).  It's designed to sit inside the fridge door, but it won't be seeing the inside of my fridge, it's far too attractive.

The storage jar is perfect for storing anything you want to see, the Pomegranate tea looks great with it's pretty pieces of pink fruit, and the lid keeps it fresh and keeps the fruity smell inside.

Last weekend I used it to store some of the Glamour Cherries featured in my previous blog post, I love the look of the cherries in the jar although they were a nightmare to photograph!

I was rather torn between the clear resin version of the Guzzini Latina  and this all red version (£15.00), which is sold as a coffee jar. Both have the same lovely curvy shape, but in the end I wanted to see what was inside the jar.  I think it may well become a cookie jar, next time I'm making some pretty cookies.

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