Lola and Finn's Mum

Lola and Finn's Mum

Saturday, 29 December 2012

A twist on my personal Christmas treat - Poached and Smoked Salmon Pâté with Bagel Toasts

My little foodie Christmas present to me is smoked salmon, cream cheese with lashings of black pepper on a toasted bagel. I never eat it at any other time, only Christmas, and as such has retained its special quality because of the infrequency with which I eat it. However, this Christmas out of necessity I put a twist on my plans by making it into a paté to share with family for a Christmas buffet. What's more, I had all the ingredients, save the dill, so I didn't have to spend any more time than really necessary in the supermarket doing the 'Christmas shop' which every year is a real low point; I can think of better things to be doing than fighting with my fellow (wo)man over the last tube of Pringles, etc...
This recipe is from the January 2013 issue of Good Food. I very rarely buy any cooking magazines as I know it is a slippery slope to ultimately having a room full of them, but I had a coupon, so I allowed myself this indulgence. Thank goodness for the website which means I can have the recipes without the storage problem!
My adaptions for this were few. I decided to cook the salmon not by poaching but by wrapping the fillets loosely in foil with some seasoning and a couple of slices of lemon. In addition, when mixing the cream cheese and salmon together I seasoned, adding plenty of black pepper, as I love it so much with salmon and cream cheese. This is a personal thing. I also squeezed the juice from the lemons that I roasted into the mixture as I like the tang of acidity along with the rich oiliness of the salmon. Yum.
Poached and Smoked Salmon Pâté with Bagel Toasts from BBC GoodFood
Ingredients (to fill a small (650g) loaf tin):
olive oil for greasing and brushing
small bunch dill , chopped, a few fronds left whole
2 x 120g packs smoked salmon trimmings
2 x 170g packs steamed or poached salmon fillets, flaked into chunks
2 x 200g tubs light cream cheese
4 spring onions, finely chopped
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 lemon (see my adaptation above)
pack 10 mini bagels, split
Prepare the salmon fillets by either poaching or steaming them, or else, roast in foil with seasoning and lemon, as I did.
Grease and line a loaf or terrine tin (about 650g) with cling film - if you only have a standard 900g tin it will still be fine, just a bit flatter. Arrange the whole dill fronds and a few nice slivers of the smoked salmon on the bottom (this will be the top of the terrine so you want it to look quite neat).
In a food processor, pulse half the cooked salmon fillets, half the remaining smoked salmon trimmings and the cream cheese with some seasoning. Don't overmix as you want it to have a bit of texture.
 Fold in half the dill, all the spring onions and the rest of the poached and smoked salmon so that you have some nice flakes of fish running through the pâté. Scrape into the tin, smooth the surface and chill for at least 2 hrs or up to 2 days in advance. (I made mine the day before I served it).
To serve, heat oven to 200C/180C fan/ gas 6. Arrange the bagel halves in a single layer on a baking tray and brush each one with some oil. Sprinkle on a little of the dill and some sea salt, then bake for about 10-12 mins, until crisp and light golden. (If the oven is full, these can be done earlier and served at room temp.)
Turn the terrine tin upside down and use the cling film to remove it. Unwrap and serve on a platter with the bagel toasts.

Saturday, 22 December 2012

A speedy roast! Martha Stewart's Pork Tenderloin with Honeyed Butter

I am writing this at the time of year where you might be sick of eating meat; Christmas can turn into a bit of a meat marathon with all those roast dinners and the general prolonged faffing about that goes along with them, and if you are anything like me then there comes a time somewhere around 27th December where you are crying out for a cheeseboard, but before you banish any more meat out of your mind, here is an unfaffy, speedily quick way of rustling up a pretty gorgeous meal courtesy of Martha Stewart who is the subject of this month's Cook Like A Star  bloghop.

The bloghop is hosted by Zoe at Bake for Happy Kids, Baby Sumo from Eat your heart out and Riceball from Riceball Eats. If you have the time, visit there for many more Martha Stewart treats!
It has been the case for a long time that pork in this country at least can be quite dry and flavourless, due to this country's obsession with intensive farming methods. This meat lends itself to be being basted and roasted in this way and the quick cooking process leaves the meat caramelised and flavourful on the outside, and moist on the inside. I must say however that the seven minutes cooking time in the oven was a little too short when I cooked this - it ended up being more like 15. I can only think that either I have an inefficient oven or else Martha Stewart's pig of choice is rather small. Anyway, it's worth mentioning. I pierced the loin with a knife part way through to check the juices and it needed a little more and whilst I know you can serve pork a little pink, I do think a good vet would have got this little piggy back to market. So, it got double the time and in my mind didn't suffer for it because it had been well seared in the pan on top of the hob beforehand, so it was still moist and juicy in the middle.
I served this with fondant potatoes and petit pois. And it was good. Very good!
Pork Tenderloin with Honeyed Butter, adapted from the Martha Stewart website
4 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons honey
1 1/2 pounds pork tenderloin, trimmed of silver skin ( ...mine was a more like a lb of pork, about 600g)
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1/4 cup water
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
In a Dutch oven or ovenproof skillet, heat butter and honey over medium heat, stirring to melt butter.
Season pork with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and place in pan.
Cook until underside is lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Turn pork, and cook until other side is browned, about 5 minutes more. Lower the heat if the honey begins to burn.
Put pan in the oven, and roast until pork is just cooked through, 7 to 10 minutes. (Though it may take longer; see preamble!) Transfer pork to a plate.
Add water to the pan, and stir over medium heat to scrape up all the browned bits. Add any accumulated pork juices from the plate, and simmer until sauce is reduced to about 1/2 cup.
Slice pork on the diagonal, and serve drizzled with sauce.
I am submitting this as part of the 'Cook Like A Star' bloghop. Visit some of the other wonderful Martha Stewart dishes below!

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

A meal designed for the depths of Winter - Braised Chicken with Onion and Bacon

Much as I like to try all kinds of different recipes and experience foods of different cultures, there is something soothing about the familiar and seeing as it is so cold outside just now, the idea of unpretentious, comforting food really appeals. You know the stuff I mean, simple ingredients, cooked with a bit of care and (if you're me) accompanied by mashed potato. I had this recipe in mind for a while, it having first caught my attention when the weather was rather warmer and it just wasn't the right time. The time is most definitely now.
I remember watching 'Great British Menu', the first series, heavily pregnant with Lola (though this isn't a crucial detail as it happens, unless she just made me more hungry than usual) and I remember this chef competing to cook for the Queen. The name? Bryn Williams. He associated himself with a place I know extremely well and am very fond of (North Wales) and because of that connection he stuck in my mind. It was therefore inevitable (and my being a bit of a cookbook magpie) that as soon as he released a cookbook that I would just have to buy it. I had no other option. And, so I did. And what a good move it was, because it contains the recipes I love - honest, simple, mouthwatering, and like touchstones linking you back to the food of your childhood, or your home. It resonated with me.
I have cooked several recipes from this book with success, and this is the latest. I wanted to take familiar ingredients (and at that, ingredients which weren't too pricey) and create something to warm your bones, and the recipe for braised chicken with bacon and onion fitted the bill.
Organic or free range chicken is pricey; it's true. That is why when we have chicken I usually buy thighs which allow me to buy good quality chicken (that tastes of chicken) at a price that I can afford. Unfortunately, some of us here are not keen on bones and at least with the braising of this recipe it is easy enough to take the meat from the bones if you want to. It doesn't look as pretty, but there you go.
This is a recipe for legs, so plenty of wonderful tasting meat for a reasonable cost. Then there is the red wine, but, you know, you put in what you need and you slosh some into a glass. Cook's perks, if you ask me.
So, if you're cold, and want something to warm you up a little, here is one recipe you could try:
Braised Chicken Legs with Bacon and Onion, taken from 'Bryn's Kitchen' by Bryn Williams.
My adaptions in red
Serves Lola, Finn, Mum and Dad plus one other
4 large chicken leg portions, cut in half with the thigh and drumstick separate
A pinch of  salt and pepper
3 tbsp vegetable oil, plus extra for seasoning
16 Baby onions, peeled ( I didn't have any so used shallots)
50 g  smoked bacon,cubed, or lardons
100 g small button mushrooms (I used chestnut mushrooms, quartered)
2 sprigs of thyme
250 ml red wine
750 ml chicken Stock
Preheat the oven to 160ºC/325ºF/gas mark 3.
Season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper.
 Heat a heavy flameproof casserole over a medium heat. Pour in the vegetable oil and, once it is hot, seal the chicken pieces by turning them over once or twice in the casserole, until golden brown all over. Remove from the casserole and set aside.
Reduce the heat, add the baby onions and cook, stirring gently, for 4–6 minutes, until they start to colour.
Add the bacon, mushrooms and thyme, and cook for a further 5 minutes. Add the red wine, allow it to bubble, and reduce the liquid by half.
Reintroduce the chicken to the dish and pour over some of the chicken stock to cover three-quarters of the way up – some of the skin should stay clear of the liquid to brown.
Place in the oven for 40 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through. Test the pieces with a skewer – the juices will run clear when the chicken is cooked.
If the sauce seems a little thin, remove the chicken and set it aside. Bring the sauce to the boil and let it reduce until it has a thicker consistency. (I did need to do this - I reduced it for about 10 minutes) Check for seasoning. Then pop the chicken back in the sauce to keep warm.
To serve, place each drumstick and thigh piece on a plate and surround with the sauce. And, if you're me, a mountain of mashed potato! Then dig in!

Friday, 7 December 2012

By Recommendation - Martha Stewart's Brilliant Banana Bread

This was the recipe I meant to blog for 'Cooking Like A Star' before I had my head turned by the idea of Martha Stewart vanilla cupcakes, but how nice it is to take part in this blog hop twice, so here it is, a highly recommended recipe for banana bread which I must say, is really, really lovely.
I asked my dear friends over at the Barefoot Contessa forum for a recommendation for a Martha Stewart recipe, knowing that I was wanting to take part in this month's hop. Well, they're mostly American after all, and they're going to have forgotten more stuff about Martha Stewart than I actually know, so when a great majority of the Contessas suggested this recipe, I knew that it was a winner. Once I had some distinctly icky looking bananas in the fruit bowl (my perfect eating banana is canary yellow, medium sized, good curve, not one speck of black on the skin - anything else is icky in my book) I set to work.
This is a very easy, satisfying recipe to make, and the result is a lovely moist, sweet, nutty loaf that is made for a cup of tea and a sit down. And maybe you could add a good book to that arrangement. It was also enjoyed by Lola and Finn (and Phill), so it's highly likely that this will become one for my ever increasing repertoire of things to rustle up from what's lying around in the cupboard and the fruit bowl.
Cook Like A Star is a blog hop which I like to take part in. It is run by Zoe at Bake for Happy Kids, plus Baby Sumo at Eat Your Heart Out and Riceball at Riceball Eats. I find some blog hops very scary and far too regimental for someone as ill disciplined and louche as myself, but this is an occasional commitment, and a wonderful opportunity to try recipes you ordinarily might not do so. I love taking part.
I hope that you will visit some of the other wonderful recipes on the hop and maybe even visit Martha Stewart's website for much more cooking and baking inspiration. And maybe you might try this recipe...
Banana (and Walnut) Loaf, taken from
 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan
 2 cups all-purpose flour
 2 teaspoons baking powder
 3/4 teaspoon salt
 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
 1 1/4 cups sugar
 3 large eggs
 3 cups mashed medium very ripe bananas (about 6)
 1 cup chopped toasted walnuts (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-by-5-by-3-inch (2-quart) loaf pan; set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda; set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
With mixer on low speed, add flour mixture in three additions, alternating with two additions of banana; mix until just combined. Stir in walnuts, if desired, by hand.
Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake until a toothpick inserted in centre comes out with only a few moist crumbs attached, 60 to 70 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes in pan, then turn out of pan and let cool completely on a wire rack.
If your loaf looks brown on top before the inside is done cooking, tent it loosely with aluminium foil (so the top is protected yet steam can escape) for the remainder of the cooking time.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Cooking like a star for Finn's Christmas Fair. Martha Stewart's Vanilla Cupcakes with a Christmas Twist

Because I am disorganised (and a little distracted by tough stuff at the moment) it took 'til Wednesday for me to realise that instead of helping Finn with his 'Busy Bee Book' this week I was on 'Baking for the Christmas Fair' duty instead. Panic. My week was already busy without added cupcake chaos but I would have felt a bit of a fraud if I had popped out to buy half a dozen when I am apparently someone who likes cooking and baking. And to be honest, the mixing of batter, the swirling of frosting and the shaping of holly berries was more therapeutic than I had imagined. Sometimes things happen for a reason, or so I am led to believe.
I had a mind to bake a la Martha Stewart as I was determined to take part in the December blog hop of Cook Like A Star which is hosted by Zoe over at Bake For Happy Kids. After asking some good friends I cooked a couple of Martha Stewart recipes in preparation and then as I discovered that I had cupcakes to create in short time, I decided that another chance to cook a Martha Stewart recipe. So, seeing as it's 1st December, I am blogging this in an attempt to get myself a little Christmas spirit.
The cupcake and frosting recipes are both from the Martha Stewart website, but the holly decoration is my own. I had a little green and red sugarpaste left over from my adventures with Angry Birds so with a craft knife and a steady hand I cut out some leaves and shaped some berries. Not difficult.
Anyway, these cupcakes provoked some very flattering comments at the school gate, and it was nice to be complimented, especially since these are not onerously difficult to make. I hope you will give these a try!
Vanilla Cupcakes with Basic Vanilla Buttercream
Makes 24 (though I made 18 big ones!)
For the cakes:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature (1 1/2 sticks)
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups milk
And for the vanilla buttercream:
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
6 to 8 cups confectioners' sugar
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
And the holly decoration:
A little red sugarpaste
About 50g green sugarpaste


Heat oven to 350 degrees.
Line cupcake pan with paper liners; set aside.
In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.
In another mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes.
Add eggs one at a time, mixing until incorporated and scraping down sides of bowl, beat in vanilla.
Add flour mixture and milk alternately, beginning and ending with flour. Scrape the sides and bottom of bowl to assure the batter is thoroughly mixed.
Divide batter evenly among liners, filling papers about 2/3 full.
Slightly domed! I just sliced the tops off to flatten them off!
Bake on the centre rack of the oven until tops spring back to touch, about 20 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter until smooth and creamy, 2 to 3 minutes.
With mixer on low speed, add 6 cups sugar, milk, and vanilla; mix until light and fluffy. If necessary, gradually add remaining 2 cups sugar to reach desired consistency.
Using a piping bag with a star nozzle, pipe a swirl onto the top of the cooled cupcakes.
Roll out the green sugarpaste onto a surface floured with icing sugar. Using a knife, cut out a holly leaf (or use a cookie cutter). Mark out the veins on the leaf and place them carefully onto the cupcake.
Finn - offering valauble cake decorating advice and all round moral support
Take the red sugarpaste and roll into tiny red balls. Place at the bottom of the holly leaves to create the holly sprig.
Please take the opportunity to visit the blog posts below, all of which contain some amazing Martha Stewart recipes!


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