Cooking Spain Region by Region: Aragon: Chicken in Tomato & Pepper Sauce: Pollo al Chilindrón

Well, here we are about to start discovering more about the food from the Aragon region of Spain. I have visited some cities of this region quite a long time ago as I worked at a summer camp but I don´t recall trying any local specialities...in fact as I ate at the summer camp, I don´t recall the food being anything special so hopefully this culinary journey will convince me otherwise!!

I decided to kick off Aragon cuisine with a dish known as Pollo al chilindron, or in other words chicken in a tomato and pepper sauce. Yes, as you can see I am fond of chicken as I´ve already featured two chicken dishes when I cooked Andalusia!!! This recipe is actually a Thermomix recipe and is taken from the Imprescindible Thermomix TM 31 recipe booklet but I´m sure it can easily be adapted to cooking it on the oven hob. It is a really simple dish to make especially if you are using the Thermomix and is a really tasty dinner...another dish that will become a regular!The great thing about the Thermomix is you don´t have to be totally exact with the ingredients...I didn´t put the whole amounts given in the following recipe as sometimes I didn´t have enough of an ingredient but it still turns out delicious!

Ingredients (for 4 people)
4 chicken drumsticks (booklet doesn´t specify how many legs but says 1000g)
50g olive oil
3 cloves of garlic(peeled)
150g onion,peeled
150g green pepper, deseeded
150g red pepper,deseeded
50g white wine
50g water
200g tomato sauce
1 chicken stock cube(I used an Oxo one)
a pinch of black pepper
a pinch of nutmeg
250g sliced mushrooms

1.Place the cloves of garlic and oil in the Thermomix jug and chop for 6 seconds at Speed 5, then programme for 3 minutes at Varoma temperature,Speed 1.
2. Add the onion, red & green pepper,white wine and chop for 4 seconds at Speed 5.
3. Programme for 10 minutes at Varoma temperature, Speed 1.
4. Add the chicken drumsticks, the water, the tomato sauce, the stock cube, the black pepper and the nutmeg and cook for 20 minutes at Varoma temperature, stirring to the left(anticlockwise direction), on spoon speed.
5. Finally add the sliced mushrooms and cook for a further 10 minutes at Varoma temperature, anticlockwise direction, spoon speed.
6. Serve with rice, pasta or sauteed potatoes and vegetables and enjoy!


Cooking England County By County:Bedfordshire:Catherine Cakes (Kattern Cakes or Catterning Cakes)

Well, it´s that time of year again...finally even though it seemed like it would never arrive, that time when all teachers breathe a deep sign of relief as now the start of the holidays has begun. However, with the holidays comes the hot weather and baking loses a little of it´s appeal due to the sweltering heat. I, on the other hand, decided to brave the heat and attempt these Catherine Cakes, another Bedfordshire staple, I´ve never heard of or tried before. I didn´t know much about them and even after Googling them, wasn´t much the wiser as I´m not sure if they are meant to be a sweet bread or bread or even if they should be baked as a whole cake or as little buns...I opted for the little buns as I think they are easier to share round and keep as a big slab of cake would probably go stale more quickly. The only other thing I found about these cakes is they are named after Catherine of Aragon and were made for her and they are normally made and eaten on the 25th November, St.Catherine´s Day.

I used the following recipe from Recipewise but as I was unsure what quantity it would make, I only made a quarter of the recipe and also decided  to divide them into small buns. If you follow the recipe sticking to it fairly strictly, they are fairly simple to make, even for inexperienced bread makers such as me. I added slightly too much egg,making the dough a very sticky mess but this was soon corrected by adding a little more flour. The smell of these baking was divine and was soon wafting through the house...it´s worth making these for the smell alone. I have to say that they were pretty tasty too although I was a little disappointed as I expected them to be sweeter and more cakey, a little bit like a scone but they were actually more bready than a scone. They were quite a big hit with my husband and friends though, although I think I´d  have prefered them with a bit of jam and butter! Go on, give them a go and let me know what you think! So that´s all for Bedfordshire although I am sure there are more recipes from this county...the next county we´re heading off to is Berkshire. I wonder what kind of regional recipes we will find there!


The Great British Bake Off Technical Challenge: Banoffee(or Strawboffee) Pie

Well, it´s that time again....time for another Great British Bake Off Technical Challenge and as you have probably noticed I´m not doing these challenges in any particular order other than by what I fancy!!

I´ve only had Banoffee Pie once before which my mother made and I´ve been wanting to make it myself ever since as my mother´s was simply to die for...the only problem is I don´t like bananas. As strawberries were in season at the time I made this, I decided to replace the banana with strawberries, turning the banoffee pie into a strawboffee pie!!

I usually like to try and stick fairly rigidly to the technical challenge recipes but as I already had some frozen homemade shortcrust pastry I decided to use it. This is a great dessert to make if you need something quick or that doesn´t take too long to prepare, you could always make the pastry ahead of time and freeze it or even cheat and use ready-made pastry if you´re short of time. This recipe is Mary Berry´s and is fairly straightforward to follow. The most difficult or challenging part of the recipe is making the shortcrust pastry and making the toffee sauce.

I only made half the amount of the original recipe and up to making the toffee sauce,  didn´t come across any problems.However, I found that the toffee sauce didn´t appear to be setting and eventually put it in the fridge for about half an hour to an hour. It seemed to have firmed up after this time so I put the strawberries on top of the toffee sauce(they didn´t appear to sink,which was definitely a good sign), then whipped up the cream and placed that on top . All appeared to be well however when I cut into the pie, it became clear that the toffee had nowhere near set and it was one, huge runny mess. I liked the taste of the pie although after a couple of mouthfuls, I found it quite sickly so I don´t quite know where I went wrong.I definitely had some issue with the toffee sauce not setting properly but I also wonder if I put too much condensed milk or something, as it was far too sweet. It certainly wasn´t as good as my mum´s version and I will definitely have to play around or practice this dessert as so far I don´t think I´ve managed to fulfil this challenge. Definitely a disappointing result!Let me know if you are also taking part in the Great British Bake Off Technical Challenge and if you´ve had any disasters with the recipes.What would you like the following challenge to be?


Cooking Spain Region by Region: Andalucia: Soplillos: Almond Meringues

Originally, I was only going to publish two main dish recipes and one sweet recipe but in the end I thought what the heck, I love desserts and cake..why not do two. While looking into typical Andalusian dishes, I came across this cake or biscuit, which I fancied making as it like a cross between a meringue and a macaron and it does not disappoint.It´s light and airy texture makes you want to go back for more.

. When I said I was going to make soplillos,people looked at me and said "eh?" as they´d never heard of them before.However, they were very successful...everyone who tried them liked them and it is hard to resist eating more than only one. My daughter, who doesn´t always try all the cakes and desserts I make, even ate 4 in one day! They are also fairly simple and quick to make. So, here goes with the last but not least, final recipe for Andalusia and then it´s on to the next region, Aragon. Any suggestions of what I should make?Anyway onto the recipe, which is adapted from a book called something like La Cocina de Andalucia:

Ingredients (makes about 32-35)
150g ground almonds
200g sugar
3 egg whites
Juice and rind of one lemon
A pinch of vanilla sugar

1. Beat the egg whites while gradually adding the sugar, till it forms stiff peaks or so that when bowl is turned upside down over your head,none falls out.

2.Add the lemon juice and peel, almonds and vanilla sugar and fold them into the meringue carefully, taking care not to knock any of the air out. The mixture will have a very grainy appearance.

3. Line a baking sheet with baking paper and fill a piping bag, fitted with the Wilton 1M nozzle, with the meringue mixture and pipe out evenly sized meringues. Leave enough space between each meringue as they spread in the oven and also don´t pipe them too big as they lose their shape.

4. Place in a preheated oven at 140º C and bake for 25 minutes.

5.Leave to cool..don´t try to take them off the baking paper too soon otherwise they may stick to the paper a little.


Cooking England County By County: Bedfordshire: Bedfordshire Pudding

 I´m on a roll....two blog posts within a short space of each other!! In my quest to prove that English food is varied and tasty and discover new dishes that I´ve never tried or cooked before from my own country, I´ve decided to cook 3 dishes from each county. At the moment we are still in Bedfordshire and this recipe is a dessert, which I think is one of the things we do best.

Again, it´s a dish I´d never heard of before and certainly haven´t tried..in fact I haven´t even seen it before. I couldn´t find much information, only that it might originally have been a religious festival cake, such as Banbury cakes and Shrewsbury biscuits.
Basically, it´s a custard pie or tart with the addition of dried fruits such as raisins and currants. It´s a lovely recipe however it does need tweaking a little as the pastry was a touch overdone for my liking and I will definitely been making it again.Next time I would do the following things....use a different pie dish (the recipe says to use a shallow,rectangular dish but doesn´t specify how big), double the amount of the filling so it´s a bit thicker and either cook the pie at a lower temperature or for a shorter amount of time. Unfortunately it wasn´t such a big hit with my daughter as she would hardly even try it...maybe next time!! Here´s a link to the recipe I used:  Bedfordshire Pudding. This recipe doesn´t state how much shortcrust pastry you need...you could use either homemade (click on the link for my pastry recipe) or ready made shortcrust pastry..I made about 200g but you will definitely have some leftover pastry..you will probably only need about 100-150g. Another note to add is you can leave out the candied or mixed peel like I did, especially if you have trouble finding it where you live or you could just add some grated lemon or orange peel in to substitute the candied peel!

I´ll update this post or add a comment next time I make this commenting on how the alterations to this recipe worked! Hope you enjoy this dish and begin to see that we can cook and our food is varied!!I´d also love to hear about which of these regional dishes you´ve enjoyed the most. Only one more recipe for Bedfordshire to go...what will it be?


Super Simple & Quick Crunchies

 This recipe is great if you don´t have much in the cupboard or have unexpected guests and need to whip something up very quickly as it is so simple and quick to make. It is also ideal to make with older kids because it´s so easy to do. I don´t know the origin of Crunchies so I´m not sure if they are British or from elsewhere...however this particular recipe comes from Delia Smith´s book The Complete Cookery Course and what´s more it only has 3 main ingredients so is pretty economical too! You could always adapt the recipe too and add dried fruits, nuts or coconut...anything you want really.

Ingredients (makes about 12)
110 g porridge oats (or 50g whole or jumbo oats(very difficult to find!) and 60g porridge oats)
75g brown sugar (preferably demerara)
110g butter or margarine

1. Preheat oven to 190ºC(375ºF), Gas Mark 5.
2. Grease a shallow square tin of roughly 28 x 18cm (I´m not sure my tin measures this but it did the job anyway!)I´d also reccommend that you use some baking paper as despite greasing the tin with baking spray, it did stick a little.
3.Place oats and sugar in a bowl and combine.
4.Melt the butter over a low heat so it doesn´t brown, then add to oats and sugar and combine well.
5. Tip mixture into baking tin and press it out evenly using your hands, the back of a spoon or a knife.
6. Bake in the oven for about 15 minutes until a pale golden colour and remove from the oven.
7. Cut into 12 equally sized bars while still warm and then leave to cool and crisp.


The Great British Bake Off Technical Challenge: Victoria Sponge Cake

 It´s back....The Great British Bake Off Technical Challenge and even better, we have another person who´s decided to participate in this challenge...my good friend,Amélie from Amélie Cuisine. We decided to meet up and bake the technical challenges together and to start with opted to do a Victoria Sandwich cake using the very same recipe that the Bake Off contestants had to follow. I hadn´t realised that a Victoria Sponge cake was one of the technical challenges and as I have made Victoria Sponge cakes before, I found it quite an easy technical challenge. Probably the most difficult part is avoiding the cake from rising unevenly when baking, so you have a level cake.
We followed the recipe to the letter, put it at 170º in a fan assisted oven and cooked for the amount of time the recipe stated. We left the cakes outside on the window sill to cool while we made and ate our lunch, brown bag fried chicken (very delicious),chips and vegetables. We had a little trouble getting the cakes out of the tin,despite having greased them, as they stuck a little and one sponge broke a little. We decided to add some fresh fruit to the original recipe to jazz it up and for decoration so we placed some halved starwberries on top of one layer, then piped some whipped cream on top of the strawberries, then placed the top sandwich on. We piped more whipped cream on the top layer, then decorated it with a ring of raspberries then blackberries, another ring of raspberries and halved strawberries,stood upwards, then sieved icing sugar over the berries.You couldn´t even tell that one of the sponges was a little damaged! We were so proud of our Victoria Sponge cake....I think it´s one of my nicest looking cakes so far!! Amélie made the bunting, which is a great touch to add to any cake....I´m definitely going to have to learn how to do that too!!

Finally, we got round to trying it and it was delicious. The sponge was light and spongy, the cream,jam and fresh fruit really complemented it and made for a really delicious cake. It was so good that I even went back for seconds....between the four of us we almost ate the whole lot! It must have been good as my daughter doesn´t always eat or even try cakes etc but she tucked in and ate quite a lot too! It´s my new favourite Victoria Sponge cake recipe...definitely worth giving a go and surprizingly not that difficult to make.Here´s a link to the recipe:Victoria Sandwich. Enjoy!

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