Everything Soup and Soda Bread

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Yesterday’s lunch- this weather definitely calls for winter food and this is a really easy and delicious meal. You can put anything in the soup– any old root vegetables that are looking a bit tired (I used parsnip and sweet potato) and I actually added some leftover cooked broccoli at the end too. Equally, you can use any kind of lentil, pea, pulse or bean.

Soda bread has always been a favourite of mine and I was extremely lucky when a very lovely friend brought me back two kilos of special Odlums flour from Ireland, so mine is the genuine article, but you can use 200g wholemeal flour and add 50g wheatgerm for a similar effect. I’ve never used buttermilk because it’s quite hard to find, but milk and lemon juice work just as well.

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Soup

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1 – 1 ½ onion, chopped finely

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp butter

Chopped chorizo

2 pints stock (chicken, vegetable, beef – your call)

Peeled and chopped root vegetables (carrots, parsnips, sweet potato, turnips…)

2 cups lentils, split peas and/or yellow peas, rinsed

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Start to fry up the onion in the oil and butter, then add the chorizo and cook for a few minutes before adding the stock and then the vegetables

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and then the peas/lentils. Cover and cook on a medium-low heat for 40-50 mins, stirring occasionally.

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Soda Bread

200g plain flour

250g coarse wholemeal flour

1 tsp salt

1 ½ tsp baking soda

About 350ml buttermilk (or plain yoghurt, or milk with 2 tbs lemon juice stirred in and left for 10mins)

Preheat the oven to 220C. Combine the flours, baking soda and salt.

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Add the liquid bit by bit, using a blunt knife or your hands to combine to a rough dough.

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Turn out onto a floured baking tray, shape into a round about 3-4cm thick and dust with flour and score with a cross.

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Bake for 30-35 mins, or until the base sounds hollow when tapped.

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Coconut Lime Bread

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Having returned from the wilds of, erm, Cambridge, to half a kitchen and a lot of mud, I’ve got a feeling this loaf won’t be a one-off Easter baking experience…Prepare for the onslaught.

I adapted this recipe from one on Smitten Kitchen, adding a bit of lime to jazz things up a bit. I was then a bit dubious as I was making it as to whether cinnamon and lime really go together, but I was quite surprised to find the result was very pleasing indeed. SK browned the butter, but I can’t be having with these new-fangled techniques, so mine is just melted, but feel free to follow  her…

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140g desiccated coconut

Juice of 4 limes

2 eggs

295 ml milk

1 tsp vanilla extract

315g plain flour

¼ tsp salt

2 tsp baking powder

1 rounded tsp ground cinnamon

130g granulated sugar

85g melted butter

Combine the lime juice and coconut in a bowl and set aside.

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Preheat oven to 175C. Whisk together eggs, milk and vanilla.

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In another bowl, sift together flour, salt, baking powder and cinnamon. Add sugar and coconut-lime mixture, and stir to mix. Make a well in the centre, and pour in egg mixture, then stir wet and dry ingredients together until just combined. Add butter, and stir until just smooth — be careful not to overmix. Pour into a lined loaf tin

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and bake at 175C for 50-60 mins or until a knife comes out clean.

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Lemon Snow-bet

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photo 1So what could be better than a bit of homemade sorbet? Instant homemade sorbet, that’s what. And what’s more, it doesn’t even involve a freezer (which at this moment I in fact deprived of). Partly inspired by a Guardian article, partly by a friend’s chance passing comment on facebook I just felt the urge to be terribly creative. SO here’s an ad hoc recipe for those (quite rare) occasions when you have no sorbet on a snowy day, can’t be bothered to run to the shops and really quite fancy some.

Obviously these amounts depend entirely on how much sorbet you’re after, how sweet or not you like it etc. Remember though that snow has a lot of air in it so once it’s had warm honey and lemon juice put through it and melted a bit it’s a lot less by volume. Also, the reason I used honey is I have no sugar but I imagine that would work just as well.

A couple of mugfuls of fresh snow

2 tspn honey, warmed slightly to make it runnier

2 tbsp lemon juice

It’s really appallingly easy. Drizzle the honey and lemon juice through the snow, give it a good bit of stirring through and eat immediately.

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On another note, today marks the one year anniversary of the blog. Extremely pleasing…

Amaretto Chocolate Torte

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This is one I’ve had waiting to go up on the blog for a while. I like it because it allows me to indulge in my love for all things amaretto. Amaretto interestingly isn’t necessarily made with almonds but sometimes they use apricot stones instead which I find intriguing. Either way, I’m a big fan of almonds and amaretto. It’s the beating of the egg whites that gives the rise so make sure they’re well beaten and when adding them to the chocolate, do so very gently in order not to burst the air bubbles. This is based on a Gordon Ramsay recipe.

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350g chopped dark chocolate

8 tbsp Amaretto liqueur

50g finely crushed amaretti biscuits

4 eggs, separated

150g caster sugar

Cocoa powder for dusting

Preheat the oven to 180C. Line a 20cm cake tin.Melt the chocolate gently over a double boiler.

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While that’s going on, warm up the Amaretto so that when it’s added to the chocolate it won’t seize. Once the chocolate is melted, slowly pour in the warmed Amaretto and stir it through. Leave to cool a little so the eggs won’t cook when you add them. Whisk the yolks together until light.

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Add them to the chocolate along with the amaretti biscuits. Beat the egg whites til thick and soft and then add the sugar a little at a time to make a meringue.

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Gently fold the meringue into the chocolate mixture.

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Pour  the mixture into the tin.

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Bake for 30-35 mins and then turn the oven off and let the torte cool in there for at least an hour. Wait til it’s completely cold before turning it out of the tin.

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Dust with cocoa powder.

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Stem Ginger Cookies

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After a considerable break, the blog is up and rolling again, for the Christmas holidays anyway, so here’s something to get you going…

350g self-raising flour

1 tbs ground ginger

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

200g caster sugar

115g butter

85g golden syrup

1 egg, lightly beaten

4 pieces stem ginger, drained and finely chopped

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Sift the dry ingredients together. Melt the butter and syrup together over a low heat and allow to cool briefly.

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Then mix with the dry ingredients along with the egg and stem ginger. Roll the combined mixture into walnut-sized balls

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and bake them, well-spaced out on the trays, at 170C for 15-20 mins.

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Brownies (sort of)

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After an inexcusably long gap, the Lunchbox Files has resurrected itself (in a manner of speaking). The kitchens here at uni being somewhat limited (kettle, fridge, microwave ‘oven’), cooking has been curtailed…up til Thursday, when it seemed a good plan to make chocolate brownies using the convection oven setting on the microwave. This went swimmingly except that we didn’t have a tray so cooked the brownies in two batches in a pyrex bowl, so the top and bottom cooked (after a very long time) but the middle stayed liquid. However, by this point it was getting late, so we whipped them out and managed to eat half between 3 ½ people and fed the rest to some slightly nonplussed people in Q staircase. The recipe I got from the excellent student blog, yumyumformytum (whose student kitchen, it must be said, is a lot more extensive than mine), and I’ve given a normal recipe for those of you lucky enough to have properly equipped kitchens.

180g butter, diced

150g dark chocolate, chopped

4 eggs

250g caster sugar

1tsp vanilla essence

100g plain flour

25g cocoa powder

Optional: 50g finely chopped chocolate (milk, white or dark – your choice) or chocolate chips. Or chopped nuts, dried fruit, raspberries, anything really

Melt the butter and chopped chocolate over a bain marie. Or if using a microwave like us, melt the butter to the point that it’s liquid (but doesn’t explode through the microwave, necessitating a move to a different kitchen with a clean microwave), then stir the chocolate in and let the heat of the butter melt it.

Beat the eggs and sugar together with the vanilla.

Combine with the butter-chocolate mixture and then the flour and cocoa powder. Stir in whatever optional extras you may be using. Pour into an appropriate baking vessel (preferably greased and lined too). Bake at 180C for 20 mins (or a lot longer if you’re not using an oven). Cut into slices once cooled and feed to slightly surprised friends at midnight.

Yes, spoons were the optimum eating implement

Cajun Sweetcorn and Squash Salad

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This is a great autumnal salad, with a bit of heat from the spices and making use of the last of the sweetcorn, which is sweetest at the end of summer. The spice mix makes more than you’ll need, but you can keep it in a jar for the next time, or for scattering over roasting vegetables of other tasty things.

Cajun Spice Mix

2 tspn salt

2 tspn garlic powder

2 ½ tspn paprika

1 tspn ground black pepper

1 tspn cayenne pepper

1 ¼ tspn dried oregano

Shake all these spices together in a jar, and you have a Cajun spice mix.

Dressing

Juice of half a lemon

1 tbsp clear honey

1 tbsp olive oil

½ tbsp balsamic vinegar

Combine all the ingredients by shaking together in a jar or beating vigourously with a fork. Pour over salad just before serving.

Salad

1 butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and cut into 2 cm cubes

50g pumpkin seeds

50g sunflower seeds

4 corn on the cobs

1 tbsp olive oil

Zest of 1 lemon

Juice of half a lemon

2 tbsp olive oil

2 tbsp Cajun spice mix (see above)

Rocket salad

Halved cherry tomatoes

Half a bunch of parsley, snipped

Toss the butternut squash in a roasting tin with the seeds and 1 tbsp olive oil and roast in a preheated oven at 180C for 30 mins.

In a small bowl, combine the lemon zest, juice, olive oil and spice mix.

Then brush this over the corn and place under a preheated grill for 15 mins.

Allow to cool slightly before using a sharp knife to cut the corn kernels off the cob.

Combine the corn, squash and seeds with the salad, parsley and tomatoes, pour over the dressing and serve immediately.

Peanut Butter Cookies

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As a big fan of peanut butter, it’s really a bit surprising that I’ve never tried making these before, but the aberration now having been rectified, I’ll be making them again. The original recipes suggested using chocolate chips, but I decided to put  cocoa powder into a third of the mixture instead to see what would happen and in fact thought the chocolate ones were the nicest, so here you can choose to add it if you wish (or you could go for the original chocolate chips). Unfortunately my peanuts got a little over-toasted, so watch them like a hawk.

190g plain flour

¾ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

110g butter, softened

200g crunchy peanut butter

125g caster sugar

175g light brown sugar

1 egg, at room temperature

1 tablespoon milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

A handful of toasted peanuts

2 tbsp cocoa powder (optional)

 

Combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. In a large bowl, beat the butter and the peanut butter together until pale and fluffy.

Add the sugars and beat until smooth. Add the egg and mix well. Add the milk, vanilla and the flour mixture (and the cocoa powder, if using) and beat thoroughly.

Stir in the peanuts.

Roll into balls, place spaced out on lined trays and flatten slightly.

Bake in a preheated oven at 180C for 10-12 minutes. Do not overbake.

Sesame Seed Bagels

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After months of plucking up the courage to try making bagels I finally took the plunge and was surprised to find them unexpectedly straightforward to make. I was partly encourged by the bagels made on a recent episode of The Great British Bake-Off, which you can see here, and partly by the thought of my upcoming holiday to New York in a couple of weeks.

Obviously you can put anything on top of the bagels; I just happened to have sesame seeds in the house. Poppy seeds, minced fried onion or garlic all go well. And you can also put things in the dough to flavour the bagels like dried fruit, chilli or spices; be inventive!

Dough

500g strong white flour

1½ tsp salt

1 tbsp runny honey

1 tbsp olive oil

1 x 7g sachet instant yeast

240ml tepid water

1 egg, beaten

1 tsp vegemite (or marmite)

Topping

1 tspn brown sugar

1 lightly beaten egg for glazing

100g toasted sesame seeds

Put all the dough ingredients into a large mixing bowl and mix to a stiff dough. Turn out onto a floured worktop and knead for 10 minutes, or until smooth and elastic. Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces (about 75g each), roll each one into a neat ball, and put on a floured board, cover with oiled cling film and set aside to prove for 25 minutes, or until the dough has doubled in size.

When the dough has doubled in size, make a hole in the centre of each ball using your thumb, stretching the hole quite large with your fingers so it doesn’t reseal.

Cover the bagels and set aside for about another 35 minutes, to prove a second time. Preheat the oven to 230C and spread the sesame seeds out on a plate. Bring a large saucepan of water up to the boil and dissolve the brown sugar in it. Drop the bagels in to poach in batches (3 per go was about right for me, bearing in mind that they increase in size considerably in the water) for 1½ minutes per side (the longer they poach, the chewier the crusts are in the end).

Scoop the bagels out with a slotted spoon and put on a cooling rack to dry slightly. Glaze the bagels with beaten egg and dip one side of each bagel into the plate of sesame seeds.

Line two baking trays with parchment paper and grease with oil. Place the poached bagels on the baking trays with room in between and bake in the preheated oven. After 10 minutes, swap the trays round in the oven (so that the bagels that were at the top are now at the bottom and vice versa) and bake for a further eight minutes.

Chocolate Afghan Biscuits

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These are a classic New Zealand favourite, with cornflakes giving an extra crunch. I have absolutely no idea why they’re called afghans, if you were wondering…

Biscuits

200g butter, softened

125g sugar

150g plain flour

3 tbsp cocoa

2 cups cornflakes

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Sift flour and cocoa and stir into the creamed mixture.

Gently fold in the cornflakes. Spoon small balls of mixture onto a lined oven tray and flatten slightly.

Bake at 180C for 15 mins. Cool completely before icing.

Icing

150g sifted icing sugar

½ tspn butter, melted

2 tbspns boiling water, approx.

1 tbsp cocoa

Walnut halves, to decorate

Sift icing sugar and cocoa together, add the butter and stir in, gradually adding the water til you reach a good consistency.

Spoon onto the cooled biscuits and top with a walnut half.

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