Monday, 6 January 2014

Peanut Butter Cookies

This is based on a template in the +Rachel Cotterill book Design Your Own Cookies which I had the pleasure of proof reading some time ago. I decided on peanut butter because it's a taste I love (I could happily eat it by the spoonful straight out of the jar) and when eating them I could kid myself that I was having a semi-healthy breakfast.

Prepare:        15 minutes
Cook:            20 minutes
Serves:         12 cookies


                     250g     plain flour              
                     135g     muscovado sugar    
                      1/2tsp  baking powder        
                         1       egg
                     125g     butter
                     240g     crunchy peanut butter


Milk saucepan, large mixing bowl, baking trays, tray liners


Melt the butter, and allow to cool to room temperature.

Preheat the oven to 160°C / 320°F / gas mark 3.
Lightly grease or line two baking trays.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, and baking powder.
If necessary, sieve to eliminate any lumps. If the sugar has solidified into a lump warm it in the microwave for around a minute. (I got this tip from Mary Berry on the Bake Off Christmas Special.)

Make a well in the centre of the flour mixture.
Add the egg and melted butter.
Break the egg yolk with a fork and gradually fold in the flour.

Knead the dough with clean hands until no dry patches remain.
Add the peanut butter and knead gently into the dough.

Divide the dough into twelve even-sized pieces.
Roll each piece between your palms to make a ball, then place on the baking tray and press lightly to flatten.
Remember to leave enough space for the cookies to spread in the oven.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the surface begins to turn golden brown.

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Halogen Oven Semi-Wholemeal Loaf

I've posted previously about my problems making bread and in that post said that my next attempt would be using my halogen oven and the recipe book I got with it (The Halogen Oven Cookbook by Norma Miller). This is, approximately, that recipe. I say approximately because I never follow a recipe exactly as written. The following version is the result of a few experiments which were all somewhat more edible than the ones referred to above.

Prepare:         approx 1 day including rising time
Cook:            15 minutes
Serves:         1 350g loaf


150ml             water
    1tsp           clear honey
    1tbs           dry active yeast
175g              strong plain wholemeal flour
  55g              strong white flour
1/2tsp            salt


Heatproof measuring jug, thermometer, kettle, large mixing bowl, flour shaker, loaf tin


Boil the water in the kettle.
Pour the hot water into the jug and add the honey.
When the water has cooled to around 30 to 37C add the yeast and give it a good stir.
Leave the yeast mixture to do its thing for around 10 to 15 minutes until there's a layer of froth around 20mm deep on the top.
Mix the flours and salt in a large bowl.
Stir the water, honey and yeast mixture and add to the bowl mixing thoroughly.
Tip the dough out on to a floured surface and knead it until its elastic.
Place the dough back into the mixing bowl and cover the bowl with clingfilm.
Leave the dough in a fairly warm place until it's doubled in size.
Once the dough has risen remove it from the bowl, lightly knead it into a suitable shape and transfer it to a loaf tin.
Cover the tin with a damp tea towel and leave the dough to rise again for a few hours.
Once the dough has finished rising transfer the tin to the halogen oven and cook it at 200C until the loaf sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom, approximately 15 minutes.

This only makes a small loaf but is sufficient for one person.

Saturday, 19 January 2013

(Mis)Adventures in Bread Making

Over the years I've made numerous attempts to bake my own bread. For some reason these rarely come out quite right.

For example, I tried to make a sourdough loaf last summer (for those of you not familiar with the term 'summer' is when the rain is slightly warmer that it is the rest of the year) and it was so solid that even the birds left it alone. I suspect the problem was largely due to the fact that, no matter how long I left it, the dough just didn't seem to want to rise although the starter gave off plenty of gas so the yeast was presumably alive.

The other day I decided to try a soda bread loaf on the basis that that would be more likely to rise. I chose the version from the New Year edition of Nigel Slater's Simple Suppers as this was supposed to be foolproof. Well, it may have been had I been able to follow the recipe properly. You see, I have this little problem (but enough of my medical history): the thermostat in my cooker doesn't allow the oven to get warmer than 180C which is rather cool for bread making. That being so, I decided to use my halogen oven instead. That presents, if anything, the opposite problem in that if I use the same temperature as in the original recipe things tend to burn. Sure enough, the top of my loaf started getting too dark for my liking so I took it out, turned it over and turned the temperature down 10 degrees or so. This stopped the loaf burning but I ended up with a loaf that was OK on the outside but undercooked in the middle.

For my next attempt I'll use a recipe from the book I got with the halogen oven.

Saturday, 29 December 2012

No! Sushi

I just had my first attempt at making Maki Sushi. Needless to say, I didn't find it anywhere near as easy as this guy. Lets put it this way, if I was on The Generation Game doing it I would certainly not consider it a 'good game' and I doubt that 'the score on the door' would be all that high. Still, the end result is edible, even if one does need a fork and spoon to do so.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Roast Beetroot

Back when I was a child my Dad used to grow quite a bit of beetroot but all Mum ever did with it was pickle it. As this recipe helps to prove it's a much more versatile vegetable than that.

Prepare:            10 mins
Cook:                1 hour
Serves:             4


455g      beetroot, whole unpeeled
10 cl      garlic, unpeeled, squashed
             handful of fresh oregano or marjoram
             salt and pepper
10 tbs    balsamic vinegar
6 tbs     rapeseed oil


Aluminium foil; roasting tray


Heat the oven to 200C.
Tear off 1.5 metres of foil and fold in half to produce a double layer 750mm long.
Place the beets in the middle of the foil with the garlic and herbs.
Season with salt and pepper.
Fold up the foil all round to make a waterproof container and add the vinegar and oil.
Seal and cook for an hour.

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Protein and Cancer

For a while now I've realised that I need to lose weight. Knowing I need to do it and doing it are, however, two separate things. My problem is that I just enjoy food too much, hence starting this blog. Now that I'm between jobs though I've got the time to devote to trying to do something about my weight problem. The latest prod to get me dieting came from this post from Jacqueline's blog. This, in turn, lead me to Michael Moseley's recent 'Horizon' programme. One thing he mentioned struck me as very interesting and that was that a low protein diet can help reduce the incidence of various cancers and other diseases. Naturally, as a good carnivore Michael ignored this titbit but as a committed vegetarian I decided to follow it up, which lead me to this abstract which indicates that reduced protein intake is indeed the way to go. As most vegetarians know, a vegetarian diet is naturally lower in protein than a carnivorous/omnivorous one so getting my protein intake down to the requisite level shouldn't be a problem. According to what I was taught in my nutrition course the relevant proportions are: 55% carbohydrates; 15% protein and 30% fats. All I need to do now is find out the protein, carbohydrate, fat and energy content of everything I eat. It's going to be a bit of a pain working all that out for everything I eat but hopefully it will rapidly become second nature.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Leek and Potato Pie

Checking the list of food in season on the BBC website I was somewhat surprised to discover just how few veggies are in season in March. Two which are are potatoes and leeks which prompted me to try this variation on a vegetarian cottage pie:

Prepare:    30 mins
Cook:        30 mins
Serves:        4


500g      leeks
750g      potatoes
40g        butter
25g        plain flour
300ml   milk
              pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
              freshly ground black pepper
50g       Cheddar cheese, grated
             butter, for greasing


    3 saucepans, greased 1 litre ovenproof dish, baking sheet, colander


    Heat the oven to 190°C (375°F) Gas 5.

    Cook the potatoes in boiling salted water for about 20 - 25 minutes
    or until tender.
    Trim the leeks, discarding most of the dark green part.
    Slice thickly and wash under cold running water until completely clean.
    Cook in boiling salted water for 8-10 minutes or until almost tender.
    Drain thoroughly, reserving the stock.

    While the vegetables are cooking, make the sauce: melt 25g of butter gently in a small
    saucepan,  sprinkle in the flour and stir over low heat for 2 minutes until it forms a
    cheesy roux.
    Remove from the heat and gradually stir in all but 2 tablespoons of the milk, then return
    to the heat and simmer, stirring, until thick and smooth.
    Measure out 150ml of the leek stock; stir gradually into white sauce.
    Bring back to the boil, stirring constantly, then add the nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste.
    Remove the pan from the heat.

    Slice one-third of the potatoes, stir them gently into the leeks and turn into the base of a
   greased 1L ovenproof dish. Pour on the sauce; carefully turn vegetables with a fork, to
   coat thoroughly.

    Add remaining butter and milk to the rest of the potatoes, season with pepper, then mash
   them until smooth. Beat in half the cheese with a wooden spoon. Taste and adjust

    Spread the mashed potato over the vegetables, then sprinkle on the rest of the cheese.
    Stand the dish on a baking sheet and bake in the oven for 20 - 25 minutes, or until the
    topping is golden brown.

   Serve hot.