I finally got around to “Decking the Halls” over the weekend although – I’m not going to lie – I could have happily gone another couple of weeks. Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas; I love buying presents, I love wrapping presents and I’ll scream along to Mariah’s “All I Want for Christmas” when it comes on the radio just like everyone else (although, when it comes to Christmas tunes, I’m all about Mele Kalikimaka)… But the decorations? Ugh, they bust my baubles. I get excited to dig the boxes out of the garage, sure, and I love putting the tree up and seeing all the new tree decorations Sunny and I have collected over the past year from our adventures away (this year we added a Puffin and a Manatee)… but then I get annoyed that there’s suddenly more clutter to contend with and to clean (needles, grrrrr), and I’m definitely one of those people who can’t wait to sweep it all away and box it up come January. I just can’t wait to reclaim my space, y’know?
God, what a Grinch!
But, Christmas Food? Oh, that is one tradition I’m happy to clutter my kitchen with, my friend. And if there’s one thing I do like about Christmas Decorations is that they do get me in the Christmas Food Mood. It took us a good couple of hours to get the decorations up on Saturday (which was two hours too long, in my opinion) – but on Sunday, I spent at least double that time happily baking away in the kitchen and whipping up these Saffron and Cinnamon Knots. They’re kind of a mix between traditional Swedish Kanelbullar and the St Lucia Saffron Buns that are traditionally eaten on the 13th of December (this Friday!). An enriched, sweet dough in a lovely shade of gold, with a sweet cinnamon filling twisted through the middle. So delicious, so moreish and perfect for scoffing in front of the tree. 🙂
Saffron and Cinnamon Knots
For the dough:
420g strong white flour
25g dried active yeast
0.25g saffron (half a tube)
pinch of salt
50g caster sugar
75g soft butter
For the filling:
1 tbsp cinnamon
90g soft butter
50g caster sugar
1 beaten egg
25g caster sugar
1 tbsp hot water
First things first, wake up your yeast. Gently heat the milk until it’s lukewarm, then stir in the yeast until it dissolves. The milk should turn a slightly off shade of beige and you might see some bubbles form.Next stir in the threads of saffron, watching the milk change from beige to gold.
In a separate bowl, cream together the butter and sugar, and then pour in your yeast mix. Gradually sift in the flour, until you’re left with a slightly wet dough.
Lightly grease your hands, then turn the dough out onto a clean work surface. I don’t like to add flour (it can change the consistency of the dough) so it’ll be a sticky couple of minutes of kneading, but stick with it (ha ha) and soon the dough will come together. After about 10 minutes of tough kneading your should have a soft, elastic dough.
Pop the dough in a lightly greased bowl, then leave it somewhere warm for about 45 minutes. While you’re waiting, mix together the filling.
After 45 minutes, the dough should have doubled in size. Knock it back and then roll it out into a rectangle roughly 1cm thick. Spread the filling, and then fold both long sides into the middle – one on top of the other. Gently roll the dough back into a rectangle shape, and then – using a pizza cutter – slice it in half, and then into long strips.
To make the knot shape, twist each strip into a spiral, wrap it once around your fingers and then pull one end through. Place each knot onto a lined baking tray and leave to rise a little for 20 minutes. Wash each one with the beaten egg.
Crank your oven up to 250°C and bake the knots for 8 minutes. Once they’re cooked, transfer them onto a wire rack, glaze them with the sugar gaze (caster sugar and hot water) and sprinkle with flaked almonds. 🙂
One of those ‘throw it all in and let it sit’ kinda recipes – hallelujah!
I think I’m going to remember 2019 as the year that I officially fell in love with vegetarian cooking. I mean, don’t get me wrong; I’m still most definitely a meat eater (you’d have a tough time getting me to ditch hot dogs and bacon baps, and you’ll never EVER convince me that Jackfruit is a solid alternative to pulled pork – nope!), but this year I kind of moved away from throwing meat into my weekly meals just for the sake of it. Last year, there were a lot of go-to recipes on my weekly meal plan that I just automatically cooked with meat – just because that was what I’d always done. Curries, Stir Fries, Casseroles, Burrito Bowls – meals I was eating at least once or twice a week – all came with diced chicken as a standard; previously it just wouldn’t have felt like a whole meal if I’d decided to skip the meat. But honestly? There have been meal times over the past year where I’ve chewed on the realisation that – actually – the meat didn’t bring anything special or add anything to the dish. It was just… there. Gradually, I found myself becoming more and more interested in the fresh greens and vegetables I’d thrown into the dish instead, and the textures and flavours that they brought to the game.
These days I’m shopping down the meat aisle less, cooking it only when it’s going to be the main ingredient and star of the show, and reworking all those old recipes that I would have just mindlessly chucked meat into, into new and improved, ultimate veggie versions! Like this Ultimate Veggie Chilli – or Chilli No Carne! You know me, I love Mexican Food – and chilli is just one of those things I tend to cook every couple of weeks. It’s an easy, throw everything into one pot and stir kind of dish, perfect for meal prep, and – if you make enough of it – it’ll keep you fed throughout the week (or month, if you freeze it). Plus, the longer you let it sit, the tastier it becomes! This ultimate edition is packed with cauliflower, adzuki beans, mushrooms, red peppers and tomatoes – and comes packed with plenty of flavour thanks to a few unusual ingredients – including a shot of whiskey… 😉
Ultimate Veggie Chilli
Plenty for two, Perfect for four
1 tbsp vegetable oil
125g cherry tomatoes
400ml can of tinned tomatoes
1 onion, diced
1 red pepper, diced
1 large carrot, diced
150g chestnut mushrooms
1 can of adzuki beans
2 tsp garlic paste
2 tsp chipotle chilli paste
3 tbsp barbecue sauce
100ml fresh, black coffee
1 tbsp ancho chilli flakes
2 tbsp ground cumin
2 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp onion granules
25ml shot of bourbon whiskey
pinch of salt and pepper to season
chopped coriander or scallions to serve
This recipe would work brilliantly in a slow cooker – if so, just throw in all the ingredients, turn the slow cooker on and walk away (lucky you) – but a great big pot on the hob will work just as well. To start things off, get your pot nice and hot, and then add the oil, chipotle chilli paste and garlic paste. Throw in the diced onion and sweat it off.
Next, add the cherry tomatoes, carrot, red pepper, cauliflower, mushrooms and beans. Pour in the chopped tomatoes and stir to combine.
Time to add some flavour. Add the cumin, onion granules, paprika and ancho chilli flakes, then stir.
The next couple of ingredients are a little bit controversial, but are going to bring a whole lot of depth and flavour. Pour in the fresh coffee, barbecue sauce and whiskey.
Stir to combine, then turn down the heat, throw on a lid and leave to simmer for about an hour (make sure you check on it and keep it moving, or it’ll stick to the bottom and burn!).
Once cooked, season with salt and pepper, and serve with fresh coriander and/or some sliced scallions.Eat it with rice, hot sauce, avocado, sour cream, on toast or with some cheesy nachos – the choice is yours!
I think I’ve mentioned this before, but I somehow ended up marrying a man who hates soup. I know! I mean, I love soup in all forms and all its glory. From chicken noodle to ramen to country vegetable, you’ll be hard pressed to find a week this time of year where I don’t whip up a bowl and slurp away to my heart’s content. I love it because it’s warming, I love it because it’s easy (…and – I’m just throwing it out there – it kind of helps that it usually comes with a hulking chunk of crusty bread). But according to Sunny, it’s not food, it’s (get this…)SUSTENANCE. Apparently it’s boring. It’s bland. It’s… bleughhh (whatever that means). You get the point.
So I kind of made it my mission this Autumn to find a soup that he will eat, so that I can eat more of the stuff (win-win, right?). And I think I’ve found it! We’re both big fans of Mexican Food, it’s our weekly jam; Burrito Bowls, Quesadillas, Chilli con no Carne (Quorn Mince, yo; it’s brilliant) are foods we can definitely agree on. He loves the beans and the smoky chipotle heat, I love the tomato and pepper based sauces and – let’s be honest – all the cheese. So I thought, why not throw all that (minus the cheese) into soup form? And that’s exactly what I did. Roasted tomatoes and peppers, chipotle chilli paste and coconut milk make up the stew, while the added onions, borlotti beans and butter beans bring in a little texture. It doesn’t look like much, but it’s absolutely delicious (and vegan friendly) – and best of all? The hubs totally agrees. Boo-ya. 😉
Creamy Mexican Red Pepper and Bean Stew
So good you’ll want seconds…
1 red romano pepper, chopped
250g mixed baby tomatoes, sliced
1 white onion, diced
1 can of butter beans
1 can of borlotti beans
good glug of olive oil
2 tbsp chipotle chilli paste
1 tsp garlic paste
1 tbsp smoked paprika
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp chilli flakes
1tsp barbecue sauce(oh yes…)
1 can of coconut milk
salt and pepper to taste
sour cream to serve
fresh coriander to garnish
Set your oven to 180C. Throw the chopped red pepper and sliced tomatoes into an oven proof dish with 1 tbsp of the chipotle chilli paste, season with black pepper and then roast for 30 minutes.
Pop a deep cooking pot on the hob on a medium heat with some oil. Fry up the garlic paste and 1 tbsp of the chipotle chilli paste with the diced onion – until translucent.
Pour in the roasted pepper and tomatoes, then add the paprika, coriander and barbecue sauce. Stir until well-combined. Pour in the butter and borlotti beans, and then the coconut milk and water. Stir well to combine.
Crank up the heat and allow the stew to boil. Pop on a lid, turn the head down and allow the stew to simmer for about 20 minutes – stirring occasionally.
Season, then serve with fresh sour cream and chopped, fresh coriander. Yum!
You can watch a video of me making this soup over on IGTV. Have a lovely week everyone – keep warm! 🙂
Happy Friday! And Happy Birthday to my (not so little) brother, who’s turning 31 tomorrow (…and then it’s my birthday on Sunday, but I’m not going to mention how old I’ll be turning… yeesh). He’s a big fan of the chocolate brownie in all it’s glory and so naturally, I had to bake him some to celebrate. Trouble is, until recently I was yet to find my holy grail brownie recipe. You know, one that’s both basic and brilliant enough to pull out of your sleeve when you need it most (you know, “bring a cake” coffee mornings, bake sales, Wednesdays…) – one that doesn’t require any fancy ingredients, just the stuff that you’ve got stashed in your kitchen cupboard. Slightly crisp around the edges, but deliciously gooey in the middle. Perfecto.
A couple of weeks ago, Sunny came back from work with a rough print out of a chocolate brownie recipe that been pinging around the office via email which claimed to make the best ever brownies. I mean, you can trawl the internet for hours searching through millions of recipes claiming to make the best ever brownies, or sift through cook books – but, the truth is, I’m far more likely to pay attention to recipes on scraps of paper that are passed from person to person. Those kind of recipes are gold dust. And so, I gave it a go one Sunday and by ‘eck, they’re good. And adaptable – which is exactly the kind of basic and brilliant recipe I love. One that I can fiddle around with to my heart’s content; throw in any filling or flavours I fancy, and top with whatever I like – which on this occasion was plenty of extra chocolate, toasted marshmallows, honeycomb and some birthday sprinkles. 🙂
Super chocolaty, and with aaaaaall the trimmings.
200g milk dark chocolate
140g plain flour
100g caster sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 tbsp baking powder
50g chocolate chips
Honeycomb pieces (I found mine in Tesco)
First off, turn on your oven and set it to 180°C, and grease and line a deep baking tin.
Break up your chocolate and pop it into a microwavable mixing bowl, along with the butter. Melt them together in the microwave for about a minute and a half. Stir to combine, and then leave to cool for a couple of minutes.
In another bowl, whisk together the eggs and caster sugar. Slowly pour the egg mix into the melted butter and chocolate mix, stirring as you go.
Sift together the flour and baking powder, and then add to the rest of the mix – stirring until everything is smooth and mixed together.
Pour the mix into the tin, and then bake in the oven for 25 minutes. When it comes out, it should have slight cracks around the edge and might have a bit of a wobble in the middle (…am I describing myself here?) – that’s fine, it’s cooked – it just needs a couple of hours in the tin to cool and set.
Sprinkle with chocolate chips, honeycomb, marshmallow and sprinkles – using a blowtorch to singe the marshmallows.
Store it in a tin, and NOT in the fridge.
Have a great weekend everyone – and happy birthday to my baby brother! 🙂
A moist but structured white sponge cake, and the creamiest buttercream you’ll ever make…
Full disclosure; today’s post was supposed to be a recipe for some very Bonfire Night appropriate Smores Brownies(*sigh* they were going to be so good! If you’re looking for some Bonfire Bakes then check out this post…). But, the truth is that Mercury Retrograde found me, and last weekend everything mysteriously went a bit Pete Tong. Now, I’m not really someone who really believes in all that astrology stuff (although, when NASA announced that all the star signs were off and that I was actually a Libra instead of a Scorpio, I was understandably outraged), but on Friday it was like some cosmic switch got flicked and everything suddenly and inexplicably went tits up. I just felt a bit off and then I started making these really stupid mistakes all over the place. I managed to cut my finger and split my nail whilst grating a carrot of all things, my steam mop – out of nowhere – gave up the ghost just when I desperately needed to use it (muddy paw prints, everywhere!), I gave my lounge wall a bruising Glasgow Kiss when I bent over to pick something up, and I even managed to cock up not one, but two very simple bakes when I made a really stupid mathematical error in dividing down quantities. Ugh! What the hell had happened?Desperate to find something to blame my sudden inability to count and to function as a normal human being on, I rolled my eyes as I actually googled the words “Is Mercury in Retrograde?”, and ended up feeling a bit freaked out when – surprise! – it was. It had literally shifted on Thursday night. Spooky, no?
Anyway, thankfully one bake did work out this weekend – and that was Sunny’s birthday cake (on the second attempt…). My husband turned a ripe old age over the weekend, and I always make him a birthday cake (even when he protests), but this year I didn’t really have the time or the ingredients to pull anything particularly fancy out of the bag. So, instead, I pulled out my tried, tested and true recipe for plain old white cake with buttercream frosting. Yes, it’s basic – but sometimes that’s exactly what you need when making a birthday cake. You want a sponge that’s moist and easy to bake, but still has structure to it so you can slice it and stack it and mold it into whatever shape you need it to take. You want a simple but delicious flavour that’s going to suit everyone, and isn’t going to be too sweet once you’ve decorated it. And as for the buttercream, it needs to be thick, it needs to be creamy, it needs to hold its shape and it needs to be sweet – but not sickly. And this is the recipe I reach for when I need a cake that’s all of the above. Basic, but banging. And reliable! …Except for when Mercury moves into Retrograde, apparently… *eye roll*
Basic (but banging) Birthday Cake with Buttercream Icing
Tried, Tested and True, and your Brand New Birthday Go-To…
175g softened, salted butter
100g caster sugar
3 large eggs, beaten
225g self raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
For the Buttercream
250g softened, salted butter
500g icing sugar
100ml double cream
*This should make enough to both sandwich and cover the cake.Make sure you use salted butter – that’s very important!
Set your oven to 180°C and grease a deep, loose-bottomed cake tin (I like to use one with a 15cm diameter for a doorstop slice, without the excess).
In a mixing bowl, cream together your butter and sugar until you get lovely, whipped and creamy mix – the more elbow grease (or electricity if you’re using an electric mixer!) you put in at this stage, the fluffier your cake is going to be.
Pour in the beaten eggs – gradually mixing everything together – then sift in half of the flour.
Next mix in the buttermilk, and then follow it with the last of the flour and finally the baking powder to make a smooth batter.
Bake the cake for about 40 minutes, or until an inserted skewer comes out clean. Leave to cool.
Once the cake has cooled, slice it in half as evenly as you can. Sandwich with a layer of raspberry jam and buttercream, then cover with a smooth, even layer of buttercream – building it up gradually.Decorate with rainbow sprinkles. 🙂