1/23/2015

The Great British Bake Off Technical Challenge: Scones

Ready, get set.....BAKE! Yes, I´m back with another Great British Bake Off technical challenge! I have also recently seen that GBBO will be back soon for anothe Great British Comic Relief Bake Off and also that it won an award for Best Skills Challenge Award at the National Television Awards so it couldn´t be a more appropriate time for another technical challenge. As you can see, I am not baking the technical challenges in any kind of order but rather by what takes my fancy. Now, it´s high time to bake one of the steely-eyed judge´s challenges...yes, it could only be Paul Hollywood´s scones!

I am in a baking group and we often take turns to meet in one another´s houses and bring our bakes to share while we have a chat and this month it was my turn to host it. The perfect opportunity to try out this challenge and introduce them to another typical British delicacy! Perfect! What I didn´t realise before I made the scones is that they don´t keep very well and only last around 2 days (I kept mine in an airtight tin and covered them with clingfilm) as I made them the day before my vistors were due. However, I´d advise freezing them before cooking and then taking them out of the freezer to defrost as and when required.

I didn´t find the scone recipe to be so problematic as I followed the recipe to a tee. I mixed the ingredients together very gently as indicated in the recipe and tried to handle the dough as little as possible. One of my doubts was whether I needed to add all the milk as the recipe says you might not need all of it but I think the best thing to do is follow your instinct which is what I did, so because I thought the dough seemed wet enough I didn´t add all of the milk. Another doubt I had was about the cooking time as all ovens vary and I put the fan on, and I hardly ever use the fan when baking. The recipe says to bake for 15 mins but as I had the fan on I wasn´t sure if this meant it would take less time,which it did...it only seemed to take around 10 mins. However, when I opened a trial scone, when I pressed down on it,it seemed a bit doughy so back in the oven they all went for a few extra minutes.The worst thing was I couldn´t cut into anymore to check if they were done!

I was very pleased with how my first scones ever turned out with this recipe....they were light and fluffy....and very moreish! I served them with plenty of butter, raspberry jam and whipped cream and they went down a treat with my baking group! They would have been even better with clotted cream!!!

1/14/2015

Cooking Spain Region by Region: Aragón: Aragon-style Meatballs( Albóndigas al queso Aragon)

We´re already two weeks into January and probably most of us have already broken our New Year´s resolutions and let´s face it, it´s probably not going to get any easier. Not with these meatballs hanging around anyway so why don´t you give them a try...you know you want to.....!

I´ve decided to cook an extra main dish recipe from each region so instead of only 2 main dishes, there will be three main dishes and two dessert recipes as there is so much variety of regional dishes. I´m sure I´ve already told you that lamb is one of my favourite meats so these meatballs were screaming out to be made. For some reason, lamb mince is hard to find in Spain...it isn´t sold in supermarkets in those plastic trays....and even in the butcher´s, you don´t see ready-minced lamb...you have to ask the butcher to mince some lamb for you. I chose to get very young lamb(cordero lechal) as it was smaller, otherwise I´d have had to ask him to mince a whole leg and it would have been pretty expensive. It´s also impossible to find Aragon cheese where I live and I have no idea what it´s supposed to taste like so I substituted it for Manchego cheese (semicured). The recipe is adapted from the book Cocina Aragonesa and is supposed to be for 4..I made slightly less and still had quite a lot of leftovers so I think you could halve the recipe and still have enough to feed 2-3 people!

Ingredients(for 3-4 people)
550g lamb mince
85g Aragon cheese(or you can substitute this for another Spanish cheese such as Manchego)
1/2 large onion
1 clove of garlic
1 egg
2 slices of bread
2 tbsp plain flour
1 small glass of milk
1 tbsp olive oil
1/4 tsp dried mint (you could cut down on this amount if you prefer a subtler taste)
1/2 tsp dried oregano
pinch of salt
pinch of pepper

Method
1.Soak the bread in the milk and then drain excess milk, break up the bread and mix with the meat.
2, Peel and finely chop the onion (I think next time I will try grating them so they are even smaller) and add to the mince along with the egg, the dried herbs and the salt and pepper and mix till combined.
3. Peel the garlic clove and place in a mortar with a pinch of salt and then grind with the pestle and then add to the meat mixture.
3, Cut the cheese into cubes and form walnut-sized balls with the meat mixture,enclosing the cheese cubes.
4. Heat the olive oil and coat the meatballs in flour and then fry the meatballs in the oil until golden brown and cooked through.
5.Drain on kitchen paper and serve while still hot.

1/01/2015

Cooking England County by County: Berkshire: Berkshire Bacon Pudding

First of all, I´d like to wish all my followers/fellow bloggers and anyone who happens to be reading this at this very moment a Happy New Year! Those of you are recovering post-hangover might not be able to stomach anything just now but trust me the following dish from Berkshire is great to eat on a cold winter´s day!Those of you who have made the resolution to lose weight,look away now! I made this a couple of weeks or a month before Christmas fortunately.

Berkshire Bacon Pudding is basically a savoury roly-poly, which consists mainly of suet pastry (this was my first attempt at suet pastry and I´m quite pleased with how it turned out!)For those who don´t know what suet is, suet is raw lamb or beef fat,from around the kidneys and loins. Ewww! Are you still with me? It really doesn´t taste as bad as it sounds and you can also buy a vegetarian version if the thought of animal suet makes you cringe. However, it can be difficult to find in other countries,such as Spain, unless you can find a specialist British food shop.I don´t really know what you could substitute for it though!The filling contains few ingredients just bacon, onions, sage (I used my own home-grown sage from my garden!) and little more. Although a little stodgy, this has a lovely taste to it despite having so few ingredients but sometimes less is more so they say!

I used the following recipe for Berkshire Bacon Pudding,which is supposed to be for 2 people, however as it is quite filling and I think you could make half the recipe and still end up with a meal for two otherwise it could be a bit of a wedge!He,he,he! Also as you have to steam the pudding, it´s good to have a muslin cloth to steam it in but as I couldn´t find one,I wrapped it in tin foil. If you decide to use tin foil, take care to wrap the pudding up very well otherwise water can leek into the pudding and it doesn´t cook properly and ends up a little bit soggy(this happened to me a little as you can see in the photo below) Do try it though because it does taste much nicer than it actually looks!

12/05/2014

The Great British Bake Off Technical Challenge: Sachertorte


It´s been awhile since I did a Great British Bake Off technical challenge so it was about high time I did do one and with my husband´s Saint´s day and my birthday looming up, it was the perfect excuse to make this Sachertorte, particularly as my husband is somewhat of a chocoholic!

I have made a Sachertorte once before to a German recipe I´ve got so I wasn´t too fazed with this particular technical challenge as it is much easier than it actually appears. The thing I dreaded the most was piping the word Sacher across the cake as my piping skills are somewhat lacking to say the least!

Mary Berry´s Sachertorte recipe is easy to follow and results in a delicious and professional looking cake,which is lovely and moist.The cake is fairly straightforward to make. Things you have to watch out for is overmixing the flour,I think I did this but I´m not sure how as when I cut into the cake it had various air bubbles in the sponge which has never happened to me before with any cake.Also,the recipe tells you to whisk the egg whites till stiff but not dry so I was a little uncertain as to what this meant and whether I whipped the egg whites to the correct stiffness!

I practiced piping the word "Sacher" a couple of times onto greaseproof baking paper but a plastic wallet would be ideal too before finally piping it onto the cake when I was happy with it. As you can see, it´s not 100% perfect but I was quite pleased with the end result as it´s ain´t half bad for an amateur baker like myself!

11/20/2014

Cooking England County By County: Berkshire: Poor Knights Of Windsor


Before coming to Spain, I´d never tried French toast or Eggy bread or the Spanish equivalent torrijas, but once I tried torrijas there was no going back and they are now a firm favourite of mine. So when to my surprise, I discovered that there was a British version that was typical in the Berkshire region, I couldn´t wait to try it. The British version goes by the name of the Poor Knights Of Windsor. Pardon? Poor Knights of Windsor? What´s that? I ´d never heard of it before either!!

The origins of this dish are a bit unclear but apparently many similar dishes are referred to as"poor knights" throughout Northern Europe. It is also thought that it could refer to the "Poor Knights", who were military gentlemen who were financially ruined by having to ransom themselves after the battle of Crecy, and were given pensions and lodgings in Windsor Castle by Edward III.Whatever its origins, Poor Knights of Windsor is a tasty yet simple dish that does not disappoint, and which is great for a weekend breakfast treat.

I used the following recipe from the lovely Lavender & Lovage blog which is well worth visiting. The only thing I would note is that I used normal bread and it got quite soggy after dipping it in the milk mixture and egg and was very difficult to turn over without it breaking so I would reccommend using thickly sliced bread or baguette style bread to prevent this from happening. Jammy, eggy fried bread with a slightly boozy touch to it and a sprinkling of sugar and cinnamon...bring it on! What more do you want? I love discovering all these regional British dishes that I´d never heard of or tried before!

11/08/2014

Cooking Spain Region By Region: Aragon: Aragon style Lamb Chops/Chuletas de Cordero a la Mañica

My daughter has just fallen asleep and I am feeling far too tired to write this so am sitting here staring at a blank screen...searching for some inspiration.

I love lamb and I´d even go so far as to say that it´s one of my favourite meats along with duck, and lamb dishes feature quite frequently in Aragon gastronomy so when I saw this dish, I just had to make it. I often order lamb chops at restaurants but I´ve never had lamb chops cooked this way before and it is a tasty way of preparing them for a change but I have to admit I actually prefer them the traditional way even if they are plainer as you can taste the meat a lot more.I served it with sauteed potatoes and carrots. This recipe is taken from the book Nuestra Cocina: Aragon

Ingredients (for 4 people)

1kg lamb chops
6 tomatoes
2 eggs
2 -3 cloves of garlic,minced
1 cup of  ready- made breadcrumbs
olive oil
salt

Method:

1. Remove skin from the tomatoes and grate them.
2. Place the lamb chops in a bowl with a little olive oil and the minced garlic for at least 30 minutes.
3. Beat the eggs and coat the lamb chops first with egg and then with breadcrumbs till they are well covered,then fry in sufficient oil till they are a golden brown colour.Remove and keep warm.
4.Fry the grated tomato in the same oil after it has been strained and serve the breaded lamb chops with the fried tomato.

I hope you enjoy it!


10/21/2014

Cooking England County By County: Berkshire: Brown Windsor Soup


I had to put this off for awhile over the hot summer months as I really didn´t fancy making hot soup,let alone eating it but as it´s beginning to get colder, I thought it was about time and got all prepared with all the ingredients...only for it to warm up again!

Finding cream sherry seemed to be quite a task...I looked in at least four supermarkets and were asking all my friends where I could buy crema de jerez(I didn´t know what the Spanish translation for cream sherry was, so translated it literally!) They hadn´t heard of it before. Eventually I came across it in LeClerc amongst the sherries and it actually had Cream printed on the label(see right hand corner so you know what you´re looking for if ever you need cream sherry in a recipe when you´re in Spain!)

The origins of Brown Windsor soup is unclear but I had never heard of it or tried it before looking into British regional recipes.
I´m not really much of a soup person but I quite liked this soup although it wasn´t much of a hit with the rest of the family. However, it is tasty with a bit of bread to soak it up and great for warming you up on a cold winter´s day. I used the following recipe,taken from The Independent and didn´t make any changes, just cut down slightly on the amount of beef stock used but hopefully you are starting to discover that British food is much more varied and tastier than it first appears!
 
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