Monday, 21 November 2011

Mushroom and cashew nut roast

I used to make this years ago when I was vegetarian but then I lost the recipe. It was my favourite nut roast because it's moist and full of flavour, plus it's simple to make. I've reconstructed it through guess work and I'm so pleased with the result that I'd like to share it with you. This recipe makes enough for four portions on a full roast dinner. I like to eat it cold with salad or veg as a filling work lunch too.

200g Mushrooms
100g Unsalted cashew nut crushed in a food processor or bashed with a rolling pin whilst still in their bag
1 onion
1 parsnip
80g breadcrumbs
1 tsp yeast extract (such as Marmite) dissolved in 100ml hot water
1 tsp mixed herbs
A little milk and butter (leave out for a vegan version)

Place a shelf in the middle of the oven and heat to 180C/356F/ Gas Mark 4.

Chop the parsnip into small chunks and boil until it's soft then mash it together with a little milk and butter.

Whilst you're waiting for the parsnip to cook, finely chop the mushrooms and onion and fry until soft.

In mixing bowl mix all the ingredients together well. Lightly oil a loaf tin and squish the mixture in. Bake for around 15 to 25 mins until crisp on top. If you want the rest of it to crisp up turn the roast out on to a baking tray and put it back in the oven for a few more minutes.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Easy White Bread

I'd like to share my everyday bread recipe with you. It's easy to make and takes about 2 hours from mixing the ingredients to taking it out of the oven. The recipe is based on various ones that I've tweaked and has a low amount of salt and sugar.

To make one full sized loaf or 10 to 12 baps you'll need:

700g strong white flour (bread flour)
1/2 tbsp salt
1 tsp caster sugar
25g butter (leave out of the fridge to soften for awhile)
1 x 7g sachet of fast action yeast
150ml milk (skimmed, semi-skimmed or whole - any is fine)
300ml warm (not hot!) water

Sift together the flour and salt. Rub in the butter. Mix in the sugar and yeast.

Make a deep well in the centre and pour in the milk and water. Mix together until it's all clinging together but still looks like a bit of a mess.

Lightly flour a work surface and turn the doughy mess out onto it. Knead it for 5 to 10 mins, making sure your work surface is always covered in flour otherwise you'll have bits of bready goo stuck to it. This bit is satisfying and, I think, quite relaxing, as you push and squeeze the dough and it becomes firm, bouncy and smooth. Kneading distributes the yeast and gluten through the dough so it's important to be thorough.

Now oil a large mixing bowl (I use spray oil as it's not messy and gives just a light layer of oil), put your dough into it and cover it with a clean, damp tea towel (recipes tend to say to cover it with oiled cling film but how the hell do you oil cling film?! For me getting it off the roll and over a dish is an achievement). Now leave it somewhere warm to rise for 1 hour. I put the oven on it's lowest setting for 5 mins whilst I'm mixing the dough then turn it off and put the dough in there to rise. If you do this don't use a plastic bowl and make sure the oven's off. Here's the dough before it's first rising:

 And here it is after rising for an hour, doubled in size and spongy:

Lightly flour your work surface again. The dough will be a bit sticky on top so sprinkle a little flour onto it before turning it out onto the work surface and kneading it again, though more lightly this time and for just a couple of minutes. This pushes out all the air that's been caused by the yeast fermenting and gives the yeast access to fresh nutrients to get stuck into. It will smell yeasty and lovely by now.

Shape the dough into rolls or a 'rustic' type loaf on a lightly oiled baking sheet or oil a 900g loaf tin and place the dough in. Cover again with the damp tea towel.

***If you want to freeze any of the dough now's the time to do it (it freezes and defrosts very well). There's only two of us in our house so unless we're having guests I split the dough in two, oil a plastic tub, drop in half the dough and freeze it. To defrost it I take it out of the freezer in the morning, put it in an oiled mixing bowl, cover with a damp tea towel and leave it a room temperature. By late afternoon it's defrosted, then I shape it into rolls or a loaf and continue with the rest of the process as normal.***

A batch of dough divided into half for baking now and half for freezing

Turn on the oven to heat to 220C/gas mark 7/425F and leave the dough to rise for 30 mins. Bake for 10 mins for baps or 30 to 40 mins for a full sized loaf. Relish the irresistible bread smell filling your home. Once cooked put on a wire rack to cool and enjoy knowing that you've got fresh bread with less salt, sugar and rubbish than a shop loaf, that hasn't been wrapped in plastic and has cost a fraction of the price.

A half batch of buns

Friday, 11 November 2011

The Bees Knees

Part of Down To Earth's 'On my mind...' post.

After reading about 'The new complete book of self sufficiancy' by John Seymour on A Journey To A Dream I had to find a copy and, lucky me, my local library happened to have it. It's quite a book, a real 'bible' for people seeking to be more or entirely self sufficient. It's straightforward and written in a down to earth way with a good dash of humour too and I'm finding it thought provoking as well as useful. I showed the book to Mr Crafty Blueberry, we got talking about the section on bees and I found out that he's keen to have a hive, which was a grand discovery. It's now high up on the agenda  for when we own our own house and would be a great addition to our garden as we want to be as productive in fruit and veg as possible, so bees would help with pollination. And can you imagine how good it would feel to have your own harvest of honey to cook with and add to home made soap, not to mention beeswax for candles? I'm continually amazed by the amount of things that can be produced at home. Before reading this book it hadn't occurred to me that we could keep a hive in an average sized garden. There's so much to learn when it comes to making things for yourself, I love all these discoveries and the fact that there's so much to learn.

I'm revelling in the joy of starting a new crochet blanket. This one is Attic24's Granny Stripe in various shades of pink, lilac, grey and navy. So far I've done 3 1/2 stripes and I'm very much enjoying it, it's a simple and satisfying pattern. It's part of the crafty healing process after the failed chunky cardigan (which is still bundled up and hidden from view in a basket - I'm not ready to face it yet, we still have issues).

I got a pretty charity shop bargain today...

...this sparkly candle holder for 50p. It needed a quick wash to get rid of a bit of dust and I think it looks very cosy and festive in it's little nook with my jug and favourite quartz crystals.

Well I'm off to do the laundry, wash the dishes and have some snuggly crochet time on the sofa.

Wishing you a lovely Autumn weekend.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Sweet Treat

I couldn't resist doing a bit of baking this evening so I made some scones and they turned out lovely and light. We ate one each straight out of the oven with butter and ginger and apple jam, oooo they hit the spot.

I keep thinking I should reign in the baking of sweet things a bit (I've, er, put on a bit of a 'Winter coat') but is it really that bad for me compared to the sweet stuff I'd buy if I didn't bake and wanted a treat? At least this way I'm doing something I enjoy and eating food that's free of preservatives and additives and where I can see exactly how much sugar, fat and salt's going in. It's not healthy but I think it must be better to have a home made scone with butter and good quality jam than a chocolate bar or ready made pudding. And this is more fun that nipping round to the shop for something sickly sweet and wrapped in plastic.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Saturday and Brack 'Lite'

I love Saturday mornings as they've become a productive and enjoyable time when I really feel like myself. On Saturdays I wake up without the alarm and, usually at about 9am, make a pot of good coffee and drink it in bed with Mr CB. We have breakfast and chat then he heads off to work for the morning and I roll up my sleeves, open all the windows and do a couple of hours of sweeping, tidying, washing and wiping until the house is looking comfy and clean again after a week of only the small daily chores being done as we both work full time. By the time lunch time comes around he's back from work and I've finished my routine and we're both ready to go out and enjoy the rest of the weekend. 

I often bake on Saturday mornings too, as it fits in well with all the other bits I'm doing, not to mention it makes the house smell great. This morning I've made Brack as my Dad likes fruit cake and I'm visiting him today.  This is my own version and I think of it as Brack 'Lite' as it's not as dense due to having less fruit. I also add cinnamon and nutmeg to it too for a bit of extra oomph. Here's the recipe, enjoy.

Makes about 10 slices

225g sultanas
175g caster sugar
150ml hot tea
1 egg
225g self raising flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
(OR use 1tsp allspice if you don't have cinnamon and nutmeg)

The night before baking mix together the hot tea, sugar and sultanas and leave to soak over night.

Next day grease a 900g loaf tin and line the bottom of it with greased baking parchment. Pre-heat the oven to 160 C/gas mark 3 and place a shelf in the middle of the oven.

Add the egg to the sultana mixture and beat together, then mix in the spices. Sift in half the flour, mix, then sift in the other half and mix again.

Spoon the mixture into the loaf tin and bake for between 1 and 1 1/2 hours, until a skewer or sharp knife pushed into the centre of the cake comes out clean. Let it cool in it's tin for five minutes then turn out onto a cooling rack.