Welsh rarebit

IMG_5737

Savoury cheesy beery sauce on toast, that is my delicious experience with Welsh Rarebit to date.  And my, this lovely little cheese-on-toast treat  is scrumptious.

Has anyone else ever read the Grimble books by Clement Freud?  Grimble was my first encounter with Welsh Rarebit. The exact details escape me but I know our young protagonist Grimble experiments with this dish when left to contend with household management while his parents vacation in Peru.

Fortunately I was in the business of making midwinter Christmas fare, not catering for myself in the absence of parental guidance.  Ever since Grimble, I have been fascinated by the notion of Welsh Rarebit, not in the least part because of its name.  History is divided on whether ‘Rarebit’ was once ‘rabbit.’  Indeed, no rabbit is involved in this dish, although if you add an egg, you can call it a buck rabbit.

IMG_5739

There were no eggs or buck rabbits involved in this rendition, for which we used Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall‘s Welsh Rarebit recipe with a few alterations.  This is really quite simple to make, and despite its sloppy brown appearance, it is truly tasty  I heartily recommend for warming, comforting deliciousness when you need some heating up.

Ingredients:

  • 50g flour
  • 50g butter
  • 250ml strong beer warmed
  • 250g strong cheddar grated
  • 2tsp English mustard
  • 1-2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • black pepper
  • 4 large slices granary

Method:

Melt the butter and whisk in the flour to make a roux sauce.  Slowly add the warmed beer, whisking and stirring as you go to make a smooth, beery sauce.  At this point, add the cheese and stir it in as it melts.  Add the mustard, Worcestershire sauce (to taste – I found one tablespoon plenty, although the recipe calls for two) and the brown sugar.  Season with black pepper.

IMG_5735

Toast the bread.  Top with the beer and cheese mixture and place under a hot grill until it is browned and bubbling.  Serve immediately.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edmond’s Apple Pie

 

IMG_5761

Hurrah, apples are in season again!  This means I can continue my alphabetical journey through New Zealand’s kitchen bible, the Edmonds Cook Book, where I am still languishing somewhat in the apple section of the A recipes.

I’m not going to lie, the idea of making an apple pie did give me a little bit of a start.  It’s the making-pastry-from-scratch thing, you see.  As a teenager I would blithely tackle this task, and successfully so.  A couple of pastry let-downs (or stuck-downs, more accurately) as a young adult, and my confidence was dented.

IMG_5804

The apples we are instructed to use for this pie are Granny Smiths.  Mouth-puckeringly tart, they are not my first choice for eating alone but they are lovely in this pie.  And they have a rather awesome history; cultivated by chance by one Maria Ann (Granny) Smith from a seedling on her property in Tasmania in 1868.

To make this pie you will need:

  • 200g sweet shortcrust pastry
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • Filling: 2-4 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and cut into thin slices.
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 25g butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons plain flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

Heat the oven to 200 degrees celsius.

IMG_5769

I started with the pastry, referring to Edmond’s Sweet Shortcrust Pastry recipe.  This requires sifting 1 cup plain flour into a bowl and then cutting in 75 grams of butter with a knife, until the mixture looks like fine breadcrumbs.  To this, still following instructions, I stirred in 1/4 cup of sugar, an egg yolk and 1 tablespoon water, then mixed to a stiff dough and chilled for half an hour.

I used this time to get the filling ready – it’s really very simple, the apples, 1/2 cup of sugar, butter, flour and ground cloves are all mixed together.

IMG_5786

And now, the pastry (cue deep breath in!).  Roll the pastry out so that it is slightly larger than the pie dish you are using.  The goal is to line the dish sides and top the pie with pastry.  So, you need to cut two long strips for the pie sides.  As depicted, this went pretty well.

IMG_5780

Removing the pastry for the topping from the bench was slightly less successful, hence some strategically placed whipped cream in the photos.  Press the pastry strips around the pie dish sides.  Spoon the apple filling into the dish and then top with the rest of the pastry, trimming the sides.  Brush with water and sprinkle with sugar.

IMG_5796

Bake the pie for 25 minutes.  If the apples are not quite done after this time, turn the oven down to 180 degrees celsius and bake until the apples are tender.  For me, this took and extra five minutes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chocolate & beetroot brownies

IMG_5146

I know, I know, vegetables and chocolate.  My reflex reaction is ‘blurgh’ too.  But bear with me, these brownies are good, contain lots of dark chocolate and are a handy way to use up beetroot if you find yourself needing to do so.

Not that I often have spare beetroot about the place.  I love the stuff, in line with my enthusiasm for pretty much all vegetables.  The humble beetroot is a member of the Amaranthaceae family and related, would you believe, to chard.  Our modern-day beets descend from the sea beet of the Mediterranean.  Our little beet has an ancient and distinguished history.  Remains of beets have been discovered in illustrious and ancient places, including the third dynasty pyramid Saqqara and the Neolithic site Aartswoud in the Netherlands.

IMG_5113

So naturally we people of the 21st century have found that mashing up beetroot and baking it with chocolate is a delicious, modern usage.  The best tip I can give you about this recipe, as warned in the excellent original from BBC, is to wear gloves and ideally an apron when peeling the beets.  Beetroot has a brilliant red juice, which is a stunning, attractive colour, but will make it look as though you killed someone and it takes some time to scrub off.

You will need:

  •  3-4 medium-sized beetroot
  • 100g unsalted butter and a little extra for the tin; I have done a dairy-free version too, and used 100g dairy-free olive oil spread
  • 200g dark chocolate, chopped
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 100g plain flour
  • 25g cocoa powder
  • Icing sugar for sprinkling over

Set the oven to 180 degrees celsius.  Butter then line a 20 x 30cm tin.

Cover up with rubber gloves and an apron then peel the beetroot and cut it into chunks.  I find it helps to do this bit in the sink, so that you are not left with a pink kitchen.

Place the beetroot in a large microwave-proof bowl and cover with water.  Cover the top of the bowl with cling film, pierce the cling film with a few holes and microwave on high for 12 minutes.

Drain the beetroot then place back in the bowl with the butter, chocolate and vanilla extract.  Use a hand-held, bladed blender to mulch into as liquid-y a mix as you can manage.  You can also do this bit in an electric mixer, although I find my hand-held one works fine as the beetroot is soft and its warmth melts the chocolate.

Crack the eggs into another large bowl and add the caster sugar.  Beat until foamy and pale, about two minutes with an electric beater.  Gently fold in the beetroot mix, then sift in the flour and cocoa.  Mix in the flour and cocoa gently with a metal spoon.  It will be quite pink!

IMG_5132

Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 25 minutes, until the top is all risen.  Cool completely in the tin and once cooled, dust with icing sugar.

This is sweet and chocolatey and honestly, not a hint of beetroot.  It has a very pretty pinkish tinge, not unlike a red velvet cake.

IMG_5156

 

 

Sage and cheddar biscuits or, what to do with sage?

IMG_4854

What to do with sage? Make buttery, cheesy sage and cheddar biscuits?  Yes please.

I’ve found myself with a reasonably plentiful supply of fresh sage, which is a new thing.  I have always managed to grow parsley and been left perplexed at how to use the stuff up, but my previous sage attempts have all turned into sad little heaps.

It seems I’m not the only person to pose this question. The lovely Chocolate and Zucchini blog has very helpfully compiled a list of suggestions.  Those of you who have read some of my other cheese-laced ramblings can probably imagine that sage and cheddar biscuits were a stand-out.

IMG_4817

Mmm, cheddar.  Do you know what I love most about cheddar?  It’s those delightful little crunchy bits amongst the dense, savoury cheese.  And recently, I was fascinated to learn  from this wonderful cheese blog, Fromage Homage, that they have a special name….calcium lactate crystals.

IMG_4831

These little biscuits are adapted from this recipe.  They provide a lot of bang for their buck, being so very simple to make but looking most classy served up as a home-made nibble to accompany drinks.  I need to provide you with a warning: they are incredibly buttery.  So much so that you need to have at least two.

Here’s how to make your very own:

Ingredients:

  • 125 grams butter, chilled and diced
  • 125 grams Cheddar  cheese, grated
  • 125 grams flour
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
  • Ground black pepper

Preheat your oven to 200 degrees celsius and line two baking trays.

Combine the butter, cheese, flour, sage and pepper in a bowl.  Mix until it forms a ball (I find it easiest to use my hands for this).

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and roll out to 0.5 cm thickness.  Use a cutter to make into rounds, treating it like a cookie doll by rolling up the offcuts and cutting out more biscuits.

Bake in the oven for 12-15 minutes until crisp and golden.  Cool for one minute and then transfer to a baking rack.

Makes 16 biscuits.
IMG_4842IMG_4849

Welsh cakes for St David’s Day

IMG_4791

I always loved visiting Wales when I lived in the UK, and what’s not to love?  Beautiful countryside, that lovely lilting accent and, most importantly, Welsh cakes.

To the uninitiated, these little morsels may present like just another baked good.  I promise you, they are so much more.  Sugary and dotted with currants, they are gently browned like fat little pancakes on a hot bake tone, which in other words is a whacking great slab of cast iron heated on top of the oven elements.

IMG_4787

The secret to the toothsomeness of Welsh cakes lies not just in the sugar, butter and dried fruit, but in the addition of lard.  Yes, I too felt a little ill when informed of this fact.   But please believe me, it adds a little something wonderful without any taste of fat, leaving the finished product just ever so slightly crisp on the outside, in contrast to the fluffy sweetness inside.

I was very privileged this past weekend to receive one-on-one tuition from a genuine Welsh person, my lovely friend Suze.  Not only did she share her bakestone with me, but also her Nan’s welsh cake recipe.  Very kindly, Suze also hunted out the required lard, seemingly impossible to find outside of a butchers, which arrived in a slightly piggy-scented white tub.

IMG_4764

To learn how to make Welsh cakes a la Suze’s nan, read on…

Ingredients:

  • 225g plain flour
  • 85g caster sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • Pinch salt
  • 50g butter and 50g lard, cut into small pieces
  • 50g currants
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • Splash of milk

Tip the flour, baking powder and pinch of salt into a bowl

Add the butter and lard and rub in with your fingers until the mixture looks like fine breadcrumbs.

Mix in the currants, then add the egg and work in together with your hands until you have a soft dough.  If it looks a little dry, add the splash of milk.

Lightly flour your bench top.  At this point, put your bake stone (or heavy-based pan; I am reliably informed it will work just as well) over a moderate heat.

IMG_4769

Roll out the dough to the thickness of your little finger (as demonstrated!).  Use a 8cm cookie cutter to make the cakes.

Add a spot of lard to the bake stone and, once melted, cook the cakes in batches.  They take about 3 minutes each side to become golden brown, crisp and cooked through – you can observe the colour changing as it cooks through along the side of the Welsh cake.

IMG_4784

Sprinkle with caster sugar once cooked.  I cannot emphasis enough how delicious they are served all fresh and warm with a good cup of tea.   Dydd Gwyl Dewi hapus!

 

Lemon and chipotle coleslaw

IMG_4333

What a handsome red cabbage!  Or at least, that was my first thought when gifted some of the cabbage overflow from my parents’ bountiful garden.  And don’t you agree?

And my second thought was coleslaw.

IMG_4351

Coleslaw, or slaw, has made quite the resurgence of late, I believe as part of the Americana food trend. It’s a welcome resurgence as far as I’m concerned; I have always loved coleslaw.   In my 1980’s suburban New Zealand childhood all coleslaw came with a generous slathering of mayonnaise and I loved every inch of it, particularly leftover coleslaw sandwiches  (there was little competition with my sisters for this lunchbox item).

Coleslaw’s history begins in Holland as ‘koolsla’, a cabbage salad.  It came to New York with the flood of Dutch immigrants who grew cabbages around the Hudson River.  Cabbage appears to be the only consistent ingredient of coleslaw over the years, with many variations now common.

IMG_4314

And mine is one of these.  I don’t think it’s particularly traditional to have chipotle with your coleslaw, but it gives it a nice heat and makes it a good accompaniment for barbecued meat and corn cobs. A word about the chipotle – I used this lovely Orcona smoked chipotle from the sunny Hawke’s Bay superb flavour and my is it hot!  I find a only need a pinch in this recipe, but it may vary with your chipotle and palate.

You will need:

  • One red cabbage, finely sliced
  • One grated carrot
  • Juice of one lemon
  • 2 tablespoons peanut oil
  • 1/2 – 1 teaspoon of chipotle flakes
  • 2 tablespoons chopped coriander
  • 2 tablespoons chopped mint

In a large bowl, whisk the lemon juice and peanut oil together.  Add the chipotle flakes, coriander and mint and mix in.

Put the cabbage and carrot on top of the dressing in the bowl and toss the vegetables in the dressing.

Serve immediately.

IMG_4368

 

 

 

A belated Christmas cake

IMG_4234

The busy run-up to Christmas is paved with good intentions, namely my intention to publish this post.  So forgive me for missing the boat a little with this one.  I think we can still consider this timely though, as many of us will have tin-foiled lumps of Christmas cake waiting for a cup of tea.

I would never try to better my go-to Christmas cake recipe – Nigella Lawson’s chocolate fruit cake.  I have made her cake for a least five years and partly what makes it so great is that it’s another of my favourite one-pot recipes.  You don’t need to make it weeks in advance as all of the delicious fruity, boozy, buttery ingredients are gently boiled together to mellow and release their flavours.  Not only does this make it scrumptious, it will also make your house smell amazing.

IMG_4193

So without further ado, here are the ingredients and method below. It’s a long list of ingredients I know, but worth it!  My only little tweak is the brazil nuts, which make the cake feel all hearty and wholesome and slightly good for you.  I also used brandy in my most recent version instead of coffee liqueur, but both are equally good and cointreau’s not bad either.

For Nigella Lawson’s chocolate fruit cake you will need:

  • 3 cups pitted prunes
  • 1 ¾ cups raisins
  • 1 cup currants
  • 50g candied peel
  • 175g soft unsalted butter
  • 1 cup brown or muscovado sugar
  •  cup honey
  • ½ cup tia maria or other coffee liqueur (or brandy or cointreau!)
  • 2 – 3 oranges (juice and zest)
  • 1 teaspoon mixed spice
  • ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 3 large eggs (beaten)
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ¾ cup almond meal
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • And if you’re like me, 1 cup brazil nuts

Put the fruit, butter, sugar, honey, booze, orange juice and zest, mixed spice and the cocoa in a big saucepan over a medium heat and bring it to the boil, stirring.  Simmer for 10  minutes and remove from the heat, letting it stand for 30 minutes.

IMG_4196

Meanwhile, warm your oven to 150 degrees celsius and get your cake tin ready.  You are going to line it so the baking paper towers up beyond the sides of the tin and your finished, prepared tin looks like it has an extra top layer of baking paper.

This may seem a lot of faff but I promise it’s worth it as without it, the top of the cake can be burned and tough.  There are more explicit instructions here.  In short, I find it works for me if I grease the whole tin liberally to start.  I cut out a circle of baking paper for the base and two long strips which circle around half of each side, and then plaster it all on, the side pieces first and then the base circle.  This is not the best picture, but I’m including it to give an idea of the finished product if that’s helpful and, like me, the idea of origami makes you balk a little.

IMG_4203

Add the eggs and all dry ingredients to the cooled butter mix and stir gently to combine.  Pour the mix into the prepared cake tin and bake for 1 and 3/4 to 2 hours, until the top is firm but shiny and a skewer inserted into the middle has a little gooey mixture clinging to it.

Cool in the tin.  It keeps for ages wrapped in a layer of baking paper encased in tin foiled. It’s not at all bad with a little nip of something!  And of course, it goes well with tea.

Keep safe and happy this Christmas season, wherever you are in the world.

IMG_4205