Sunday, 9 December 2012

Christmas buns

Bursting with dried cranberries, apricots and cinnamon these buns are a perfect addition to Christmas. Because the dough uses yeast it needs special treatment and time to rise, so these are best for a lazy Saturday or Sunday - you can knead the dough in the morning, nip off for a bit of Christmas shopping or a nice walk (oh, snow would be perfect, but I realise that as London is completely unprepared for it, the whole city would be paralysed!) and come home to a perfectly risen, pillowy soft dough, ready to be rolled, sprinkled with sugar and baked.
To make about 10-12 buns you'll need:
(recipe adapted from here)

1 sachet of dry fast action yeast (7g)
1tsp caster sugar
300 ml milk
40g unsalted butter
1tsp salt
500g strong bread flour

100g dried cranberries
100g dried apricots
2 tbsp marmalade
50g light brown sugar
30g butter, melted
2 tsp cinnamon

50g caster sugar
1-2 tbsp water

170g icing sugar
1 tsp lemon juice
1-2 tbsp water

Start off by making a yeast starter. In a small bowl mix yeast with 1tsp sugar, add 2 tbsp warm milk (make sure the milk is not too hot as it will kill the yeast). Stir in a tbsp of flour and leave in a warm place for 10 minutes until the yeast froths up.
Gently heat the rest of the milk with butter in a small pot and set aside to cool. Mix flour and salt in a large mixing bowl, then add yeast starter, egg and milk + butter. 

Stir with a wooden spoon until all ingredients are combined, then turn onto a floured surface and knead for 10 minutes until you've got a smooth and elastic dough. You can also knead the dough in a mixer with a dough hook (dear Santa, please bring me a Kitchen Aid at some stage. You might even get a bun!). The dough will be quite sticky, so feel free to add 1-2 tbsp of flour.

Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with cling film and leave in a warm place for an hour or until it doubles in size.

Once the dough has doubled transfer it to a lightly floured surface, knock the air out and use a rolling pin to roll it into a large rectangle. 

Now chop the apricots and cranberries and melt butter in a pot. Gently heat the marmalade in a separate pot. Brush the dough with butter, then spread the marmalade over the top and sprinkle the apricots and cranberries. 

Roll the dough into a long sausage and cut 10-12 rolls. Transfer them into a baking tray lined with baking parchment, cover with a clean tea towel and let them rise for half an hour.

Bake for 20-25 minutes in 170 C fan/190 C or until golden.

While the buns are cooling you can make the glaze: simply heat caster sugar with a couple of tablespoons of water until the sugar dissolves, then brush on top of the buns.

To make the frosting mix icing sugar, lemon juice and water - the icing should be quite thick, but easy enough to drizzle over the buns. Ideally you'd wait for the icing to set before eating, but if you can't resist, tuck in (exactly what I did :D

Phew! Done! Enjoy :)

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Easy prawn fried rice

Rice was never something I was particularly excited about and there was one reason behind it: I had no idea how to cook it! A quick browse through Google reveals thousands upon thousands of methods of cooking it, yet I was always intimidated. Maybe, just maybe one rice cooking attempt which had me rinse the Gloopy Sticky Yucky Blob, Formerly Known as Rice in cold water to make it edible had something to do with that. After that shameful incident I just gave up (yes, I'm super patient) and decided that I shall never ever touch the stuff again. I'm not even sure what made me decide to give cooking rice another go, but let me just say I'm ecstatic (yes!) that I tried.
The recipe is from Delia's website: it is simple and works every.single.time. Incredibly proud of my newly acquired skill I decided to make a quick fried rice. The beautiful thing about this recipe is that it's incredibly versitile: I used mushrooms, bacon and prawns, but you can easily use chicken, peas, edameme, carrots, shredded cabbage; the possibilities are endless. I made a variation of this dish for my parents and friends when I was in Poland last week (this trip is my lame excuse for the temporary blogging hiatus) and they loved it. Funnily enough one of my friends confessed he doesn't even like rice only to come back for seconds (and scrape the pan, heheh).

To make 4 normal (or 3 very generous) portions you'll need:

5 rashers of streaky bacon, chopped into small pieces
1 pack (about 250g) mushrooms (I used chestnut mushrooms for their earthy flavour, but white mushrooms are equally good)
1 pack (about 230 g) prawns, frozen or fresh (I used frozen)
1 bunch of spring onions
1-2 garlic cloves
2-3 eggs, whisked
pinch of chilli flakes
soy sauce
sesame oil (optional)
basmati rice
salt, pepper
oil, for frying

Start off by boiling water in the kettle. Now measure your rice: no weighing necessary! Just grab a small tea cup or a measuring jug (I use 1 American cup for 2 people and have leftovers for lunch! The American cup is about 240ml). You don't need to wash or rinse the rice. Put a big pot on the medium heat, add a glug of oil, then add the rice. Stir the rice so that every grain is covered with oil. Gently heat, then add hot water. The only thing to remember is 2 measures of water to 1 measure of rice. Easy peasy.

Once you've added hot water stir the rice to make sure no grains are stuck on the sides of the pot. Add a bit of salt or stock granules. Now cover the pot with the lid, turn the heat to medium-low and set your timer to 15 minutes. That's it. Don't sneak a peak, don't stir, just get on with the sauce. 

Chop spring onions, bacon and mushrooms and mince garlic cloves. 
Fry bacon, garlic and spring onions in a little bit of oil until bacon is crispy. Add mushrooms, chilli flakes, salt and pepper and keep frying. Finally add the prawns. If you're using frozen, there'll be a bit of liquid in the pan; keep frying everything until the water evaporates.

Add a bit of soy sauce at the end.

While your sauce is frying, grab a small frying pan, add a bit of oil and pour in the eggs. Fry them, stirring with a spatula, until you have dry scrambled eggs. Take off the heat and mix in with the rest of the sauce.

When your timer beeps (you're cooking rice, remember? ;) take the pot off the heat, take the lid of and cover the pot with a clean cloth. Leave for 10 minutes. The cloth will absorb all the extra moisture making the rice fluffy.

Once the rice is ready mix it with the sauce, add a bit of sesame oil or more soy sauce and munch away.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Super comforting potato bake

Warning! Don't let the broccoli in this dish fool you. It's rich, indulgent, packed with goodness (cheese! potatoes!) - perfect comfort food. I don't make it often because my thighs cry at the mere thought of the calorific value of this beauty. But every now and then conditions are perfect to make this bake. It's cold and salad just won't cut it. It's gloomy, dark and grey outside, pavements covered with slimy leaves. You just need a big hug. This bake is IT. It's easy to make, but a tad time consuming, so wait until the weekend to make it. 

To make enough for 4 (or 2 gluttons in need of a BIG hug) you'll need:

2 white potatoes (I used Maris Piper)
1 sweet potato
1 onion
4 rashers streaky bacon (smoked or unsmoked)
1 small broccoli
200 g cheddar cheese
about 200 ml cream (I would normally use single, but my local shop only had double - double the calories, gulp!)
a few rosemary leaves, chopped (optional)
dried basil/oregano/Italian herb mix
olive oil
salt and pepper

Start off by chopping the onion, garlic and bacon.

Fry them in the pan until bacon is crisped up and the onions translucent. Take off the heat and put aside.

Cut broccoli into little florets and boil in salted water for about 5 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Get the potatoes ready - wash them and peel the sweet potato. You can leave white potatoes unpeeled. Now slice them all very thinly - the easiest way to do it is by using a mandoline (watch these fingers!)  but if you don't have one you can slice them up with a knife (it will take a bit longer). Grate the cheese.

Preheat the oven to 200 C.

Now get a small heatproof dish and pour a tiny bit of oil on the bottom. Place the first layer of white and sweet potato slices, sprinkle with pepper, basil and chopped oregano (I tend not to use salt as bacon is already quite salty).

Spread half of the bacon and onion mix on top of the potatoes and follow by another layer of potatoes.

Spread the rest of the bacon mix and add another layer of potatoes, followed by drained broccoli.

Add the final layer of potatoes and sprinkle cheese on top.

Now pour cream all over in a thin stream; take your time - you want the cream to go through all the layers of potato.

Bake in the oven for 40-60 minutes until potatoes are soft. The easiest way to check whether the bake is ready is to poke it with a fork.

Slice up and eat! And maybe, just maybe plan to go to the gym the next day. It's all about balance, people :)

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Raspberry ricotta scones

I'm back! After what seemed like weeks of moving, unpacking, cleaning, countless trips to Ikea (why is it that whenever we're moving we always need some more Ikea stuff?) I finally have everything sorted and the Internet connected. Yay!
I first tried these raspberry ricotta scones when I was visiting our friends in Boston. Hi Kaitlyn! We had them for breakfast one day and they were so delicious I knew I'd make them again. If you never made scones before fear not - extremely easy to make they can be whipped up in less than an hour and are a perfect breakfast snack.
I used a slightly adapted recipe from Smitten Kitchen: I changed the flour proportions and added single cream as I didn't have heavy cream in the house. 

To make 12 scones you'll need:

1/2 cup (about 60g) wholegrain or wholewheat flour (I used wholegrain)
1 1/2 cups (180 g) plain white flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1/4 cup (50g) caster sugar
1/2 tsp salt
6 tbsp (85g) unsalted butter, cubed
1 cup (about 150g) fresh raspberries
3/4 cup (190g) ricotta cheese
1/3 cup (80ml) single cream

Start by preheating the oven to 220 C/ 200 C fan.

Mix both flours, salt, baking powder and sugar in a large mixing bowl and add cubed butter.

Rub the butter into the flour mix with your fingers until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs (you can also use a pastry cutter for this; I would have but I'm banned from buying any more kitchen gadgets. Sigh.)
Add raspberries and mix everything together. At this point the mixture will be quite wet and sticky.

Add cream and ricotta and use a spatula to fold everything together.

Transfer the mix to a well floured kitchen counter and flatten into a rectangle.

Cut 12 squares with a knife and transfer the scones onto a baking tray lined with baking parchment.

Bake for 15 minutes until the scones are golden on the edges. Cool on a wire rack and eat with a bit of butter or honey. Truly scrummy.

Friday, 5 October 2012

A short break

Apologies for not posting anything new – I’m right in the middle of moving to a new flat and since coming back from Boston I have been organising, packing, purging the closet. I’m almost ashamed to say I’ve been cooking ye old favourites and simple dinners (baked potato with beans, cheese and bacon, anyone?) and I don’t have much to blog about. And, the horrible news is I won’t have the internet reconnected until the end of this month! Booo!
The plan is to resume normal blogging once we settle in the new flat – I’m thinking doughnuts (I found an amazing recipe on Joy the Baker today), bagels and scones. And hoping that the new oven will be less temperamental than the old beast we’ve had in our old flat!

Friday, 28 September 2012

Banana crumb muffins

This is what happened. I had some spare bananas, a serious craving for something sweet and I found this recipe. After making (and quickly devouring, with the help of husband) one batch I proceeded to make another one. These beauties are too delicious not to be shared. Honestly, they are the best muffins I've ever made and tasted - soft and moist with a sweet crunchy topping. 

I changed a few bits and bobs in the recipe and added flax seed and chopped almonds to the streusel - you can never have too much crunch, can you?

To make a batch of 12 muffins you'll need:

220 g plain white flour(1 1/2 cup)
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3 bananas, mashed
30 g brown sugar (1/4 cup)
90 g white sugar (1/2 cup)
1 egg, beaten
100 g butter, melted (1/3 cup)
1 tsp vanilla essence
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp grated nutmeg

50 g (1/3 cup) brown sugar
2 tbsp flour
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp butter
2 tbsp flax seed
1 tbsp chopped almonds

Pre-heat the oven to 190 C.

Prepare the topping: rub sugar, flour and butter with your fingers until the mix resembles breadcrumbs, stir in the rest of the ingredients. Chill the topping in the fridge until your muffin batter is ready.

In a mixing bowl, mix flour, baking soda, baking powder, spices and salt.

Mash bananas in another bowl and add sugar, vanilla, egg and melted butter. Stir to combine.

Add the flour mix to the wet banana mix and combine with a spatula (try not to overmix).

Spoon the mix into muffin cases, sprinkle the topping and bake for 18-20 minutes.


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