Tag Archives: ginger

Blondie

23 Jan

The first record I bought was Abba’s Arrival. The second was Blondie’s Parallel Lines. I was a little in love with Debbie Harry. Weren’t we all?

Blondie has stood the test of time. But these days Blondie is less of an aural treat and more of an oral one for me. I have at last discovered the Blondie (as opposed to the Brownie). It’s a squishy tray bake, like a chocolate brownie, but with a caramelly buttery flavour, almost like butterscotch. And of course the regular blondie can be pimped up, by adding all manner of bling. In this recipe I’ve added dark choc chips, brazil nuts, ginger and dried sour cherries. And they rock.

Pimped up blondies

  • 100g butter, melted
  • 150g dark muscovado sugar, bashed to get rid of all the lumps (or use a soft brown or light muscovado sugar)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 140g plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp bicarb of soda
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • pinch of salt
  • 50g crystallised ginger, chopped into wee nibs
  • 50g dark chocolate, chopped into wee nibs
  • a handful of brazil nuts, chopped
  • a handful of dried sour cherries (or cranberries)

Grease and line an 8″ square baking tray. Pre-heat oven to GM5.

  1. Mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, ginger and salt. Leave to one side.
  2. In another bowl, whisk together the sugar and melted butter – this is easiest with an electric beater. Don’t worry if it’s still a bit bumpy and grainy.
  3. Add the egg and vanilla and keep beating – it’ll change colour to a much lighter tan and will become fluffy and almost moussy.
  4. With a large metal spoon stir the flour mix into the buttery mix. Fold it in, without beating, or you will lose the lightness of the mix.
  5. Add the ginger, nuts, chocolate and cherries (or whatever you are pimping the mix with) and stir through.
  6. The mix will be relatively thick. Spoon it onto the baking tray, and spread it out.
  7. Bake for about 25 minutes, until the blondies are smelling too good to leave for a minute more, and they look golden brown.
  8. Remove from oven and cool for about 20 mins before removing from tray and cutting into slices.

Perfect with an afternoon coffee. A proper real strong coffee.

Other ways to pimp your blondies:

  • Add smarties or M n Ms
  • Add any dried fruit
  • Try salted nuts if you enjoy that sweet-salt hit
  • Gobs of peanut butter stirred through once the mix is in the tray
  • Coconut
  • Chopped up mint toffees
  • Oh, just raid your cupboard, or the sweetie drawer (what you don’t have a sweetie drawer?) and see what inspires you

The best cranberry sauce

30 Dec

Cranberry sauce. It’s one of those things that just happens at Christmas. With turkey. And stuffing and all those other bits. It pretty much gets lost in amongst all that other stuff, doesn’t it? And if you bought the sauce from a jar, then that might be just as well. In fact, why did you bother? Was it overly sweet and not terribly tasty? Well, make a decision now that next year you’ll make your own. It really couldn’t be simpler. This sauce recipe is unashamedly inspired by a delicious recipe for Cranberry and Orange Preserve from Thane Prince. I’d made the preserve a week or so before Christmas, and then prettied up all the jars and given them away as presents (except for one, so I’ll have the tastiest yoghurt for breakfast). The Best Cranberry Sauce

  • A bag of fresh cranberries (or go to the freezer and find that bag you froze you last year)… probably around 300g, or thereabouts. Don’t be too precious about exact weights or quantities in this recipe
  • A large orange (or hey, a couple of small ones)
  • Crabbie’s Green Ginger Wine (other makes are available)… if you don’t have any sitting forlornly at the back of your drinks cupboard, then what is wrong with you? Have you never been out for a long cold walk in the winter and been revitalised by a whisky mac on your return? OK, if you have none, buy some soon and you’ll have it for next year, and substitute with some syrup from a jar of crystallised ginger. Have none of that either? Just leave it out, it’ll be fine.
  • Some sugar
  1. Put the cranberries in a heavy-based pan, with a wee slosh of water. And start to warm them on a gentle heat
  2. Pare the skin from the orange with a vegetable peeler and pop in the pan with the cranberries
  3. Juice the orange, and add it to the pan too
  4. Slosh in a splash or two of Crabbie’s Green Ginger
  5. Bring to a gentle boil, adding more water if it seems too dry
  6. After 5-10 minutes (depending how gentle your boil is) the fruit will all have softened a bit. Now add the sugar, probably a tablespoon or two, depending how sweet you like your sauce
  7. Stir the sugar in so it dissolves – you’ll see the sauce change texture to a lovely glossy consistency as the sugar all dissolves into the liquid.
  8. Keep warm till you need it

This was delicious with the traditional Christmas roast, and all the trimmings, and would be equally tasty with almost any roast meat. Its tanginess will cut through any excess of fat that there might be, with roasted potatoes, and roasted veg and all that meat. And any leftovers will be perfect stirred into yoghurt, or made into a festive Eton Mess with meringue and cream. Or warmed on a plain sponge pudding. Or as the jam in a Victoria Sponge, with a sweetened mascarpone cream as well. I’d give you pictures of the sauce in its lovely Christmas-Day-Only silver sauceboats, but I was having too much fun cooking and eating to take any pictures on Christmas Day – sorry.

If you want to see other recipes you’ll find them all listed here. There’s even one for Cranberry Muffins, if you’ve still got some cranberries lurking in the bottom of your fridge. Or if, like me, you can’t resist buying them when they’re in season.

Apple chutney

5 Nov

Several years ago a friend off-loaded bags of apples on me. I put them in everything, but the favourite by far was the Apple Chutney from Judith Wills’ brilliant New Home Larder. It’s now my go-to chutney recipe and I think I’ve made it every year since. It’s a long long time since I had Branston Pickle, but I think this chutney might be similar to it, with a deep, dark colour and prefect balance of sharp and sweet.

Apple chutney

Apple chutney

Apple Chutney

  • 1.5kg apples
  • 750g onions
  • 1l malt vinegar
  • 500g sultanas
  • 1kg soft brown sugar
  • 1 dsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  •  1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tsp dry English mustard
  1. Pour the vinegar into a large heavy based pan
  2. Peel and core the apples, cut them into chunks and pop them into the pan with the vinegar.
  3. Peel and chop the onions and add them into the pan too.
  4. Bring the apple, onion, vinegar mix to the boil and simmer for an hour.
  5. Add the remaining ingredients and stir thoroughly to dissolve the sugar – it will go runny and glossy.
  6. Bring back to the boil and simmer again for around 30 mins, stirring from time to time to prevent it burning and sticking tot he bottom of the pan.
  7. Pour into sterilised jars and cover with wax discs, then teh lids when cool.
  8. Store in a cool, dark place. Eat with cheese. Or cold meat.

You can adapt this recipe by adding some fresh or crystallised ginger, using different spices, or adding some chilli, but I think it’s pretty near perfect and doesn’t need any messing about.

If you want to see other recipes you’ll find them all listed here.

 

 

Rhubarb marmalade

30 Apr
Rhubarb marmalade

Rhubarb marmalade

I love my local farm shop. Let me give it a shout out.. it’s at Overton Farm in the Clyde Valley. Given the choice between spending a wee bit more per item at the farm shop, or spending a whole lot more in total (because I go off-list and end up buying things I don’t really need at the supermarket) I now always choose the farm shop. This means I more regularly run out of stuff like dry cat food, or domestos, but that’s ok. We have a car, and most things can wait till the weekend.

The farmshop isn’t exclusively local, so year round it’s possible to get those things that were seasonal treats in my childhood – peppers, mangoes, and even pears. But I like seasonal, and I have an urge to put things in jars when they are in season. Some time soon I am going to write a list of all the things I have in jars, so that I’m more likely to use them… they live in a drawer in a filing cabinet in a cupboard under the stairs. Yup, not really in an obvious place so I see a jar of, say spiced damsons, and think ‘that will go perfectly with the smoked mackerel I’ve just bought impulsively at the supermarket because we needed dishwasher tabs’. In fact I might just do that later this afternoon – I have the day off, and had planned to garden, but it’s grizzly grey weather and I’m something of a fairweather gardener, shaming though it is to admit that.

Anyway, back to seasonal and local and all that jazz. My seasonal treat at the farmshop on Saturday was a big bunch of rhubarb. I LOVE rhubarb; it’s that tart sharpness that just zings for me.

Thane Prince is one of my go to writers for any sort of a preserve. She currently can be seen in the BBC’s Great Allotment Challenge programme, but honestly I wouldn’t recommend that as your first experience of her. Watching someone, anyone, spooning out 10 globs of chutney from a jar and then tasting it, and diluting ten lots of cordial in water and sipping it is not my idea of good TV, no matter how lovely she may be, or how erudite her comments and criticisms are. Please BBC, try harder.

But of course she has a lovely recipe for Rhubarb Marmalade, with or without ginger. And that is what I settled on. Fortuitously I had just the right quantities of everything: rhubarb, sugar, oranges, pectin. And ginger. Why would I make it without ginger?

Rhubarb marmalade

From Thane Prince’s Jellies, Jams and Chutneys.

  • 1kg rhubarb, washed and cut into even 1cm wee chunks
  • 800g sugar
  • 2 large oranges
  • 125g liquid pectin
  • about 3cm fresh root ginger, grated. You do have a ginger grater don’t you?
  1. Get prepared. Put a large plate into the fridge, so you can check for a set when the time comes
  2. Clean your jars in hot water, and pop them in a low oven to sterilise them
  3. Zest your oranges, and then juice them
  4. Put the rhubarb, sugar, orange zest and juice into a heavy non-reactive pot. Bring the mixture slowly to the boil and then simmer over a low heat for 5-8 minutes. The rhubarb should be soft and the sugar dissolved.
  5. Turn off the heat for a minute. Add the pectin. Stir gently so it’s all mixed in and then turn the heat back up. Bring to a good boil and cook for a further 2 minutes before testing if it’s set. At this stage my marmalade was still incredibly runny and it took a further 25 minutes before it started looking properly jammy and was anything near a set. And then of course it went just too far and my marmalade is just slightly more solid than I would like – I like it still squelchy.
  6. Once the marmalade has reached setting point, ladle it into the hot sterilised jars, seal and label.

You do know how to test for a set don’t you? I wouldn’t recommend using a sugar thermometer for this recipe – when my marmalade had reached setting point it was still far off the ‘jam’ stage on my thermometer, which is no doubt to do with the levels of pectin in the mix. Anyway, I test for a set by dropping a wee gob of the hot marmalade onto a cold plate (yes, that one you put in the fridge right at the beginning); leave it a wee second or two, and then push it with your finger. If it wrinkles it’s ready (or even over-ready); if it is just liquid and runs back into a puddle it needs more boiling.

So, why would anyone spend their Sunday afternoon making Rhubarb Marmalade? Easy… just try it, still warm on hot buttered toast. You will forget that anything else exists, and you’ll wish that you could do this every afternoon, and if you’re feeling special match it with a wee glass of fizz. My accompaniment was a perfect cup of Earl Grey tea, out of a fine china tea cup. Deliciousness.

 

Aside

Another chocolatey cakey thingie

6 Oct

Inspiration comes from many places.

Today it came from a special offer at my local supermarket: they were selling off nearly out-of-date buttermilk so I popped a carton into my trolley. I’d thought they would become scones, or perhaps muffins.

And several years ago that is probably exactly what would have happened. But thanks to the fabulous eatyourbooks website I can type in an ingredient and find all the recipes in all my cookbooks which use that ingredient. Yes, isn’t that amazing? Isn’t technology just genius.

So then it became a toss-up between Chocolate Spice Gingerbread, from Green & Black’s Chocolate Recipes Unwrapped or Sticky Chocolate Loaf from Ottolenghi. In the end the Chocolate Spice Gingerbread won, if only because I found that cookbook first. That gingerbread is ridiculously easy to make, and there was enough buttermilk left over to make Darina Allan’s White Soda Scones too. Now, how easy are they? Just flour, salt, bicarb of soda and some buttermilk all mixed lightly together and then cut out into scone shapes. They puff up beautifully, but have more of a bready texture than a light scone texture, which is fine once you know that’s what to expect.

The chocolate gingerbread led me to another recipe which had to be tried: Lemon Drizzle Choc Chunk Cake, combining the sharpness of the lemon with the depth of bitter dark chocolate. Possibly a bit like those Thorntons lemon chocolates which I absolutely love.  I think it’ll work. We’ll find out in about an hour.

And, having bought a couple of punnets of damsons again yesterday I’d intended to make Damson Cheese. And then came across Sweet Pickled Damsons. I love the combination of sweet and sharp, so the pickling vinegar has been spiced and is now cooling down; the damsons have been picked over to make sure all the goopy ones are discarded and we’ll finish them off and pop them in jars later.

Would it be rude not to give you the chocolate spiced gingerbread recipe? I think so. It smells divine, and I suspect will keep well, if given the chance, which seems unlikely.

Chocolate Spiced Gingerbread

Adapted from Green & Black’s Chocolate Recipes Unwrapped, which was a Christmas gift from my brother and his family Christmas 2006 (according to the inscription inside, I don’t have that good a memory!).

Grease and line a deep 7″ square cake tin. Or a round one. I used a bigger round one, so ended up with a shallower cake shaped gingerbread. Just as tasty though.

Preheat your oven to 160C / 325F / GM3.

  • 125g / 4oz unsalted butter
  • 100g dark chocolate, broken into pieces (feel free to use a chilli chocolate, or Maya Gold with orange – I just used plain)
  • 75g / 3oz dark muscovado sugar
  • 4 TBsp treacle
  • 150ml / 1/4 pint buttermilk
  • 125g / 4oz ready-to-eat prunes
  • 175g / 6oz plain flour
  • 1 tsp bicarb of soda
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  1. Cut the butter into chunks and pop it into a heavy based pan.
  2. Add the chocolate, sugar, treacle and buttermilk
  3. Heat gently until the ingredients have melted and then set aside to cool slightly
  4. Snip the prunes into small pieces – scissors are the easiest way to do this
  5. Sift the flour, bicarb of soda, ginger and cinnamon into a large bowl (this is the bowl you will use to make the batter, so make sure it’s big enough to take all the ingredients)
  6. Pour the chocolate mixture into the bowl and beat thoroughly with a wooden spoon
  7. Add the beaten egg, and beat again
  8. Fold in the prunes
  9. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and level the surface of the mixture
  10. Bake for around 50 minutes
  11. Remove from the oven and leave to cook in the tin for about 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely
  12. Wrap in greaseproof paper and keep in an airtight tin.

It’ll be even better tomorrow. Or even the next day, and unlike many cakes will keep for a week if you haven’t eaten it all.

This would be perfect for a bonfire party. Or with hot chocolate in front of the fire after a vigorous, rigorous walk, kicking Autumn leaves.

I suspect it can take some messing about with the flavours too – perhaps add a wee hint of ground cloves, or star anise or cardamom? And why not some nuggets of crystallised ginger for a wee extra kick? If you were being fancy you could probably cut it into wee bite-sized pieces and drizzle lemon icing on them for sweet canapes or as part of an afternoon tea.

Talking of drizzling lemon, I’m off to make that lemon drizzle cake with chocolate chunks in it now.

The ginger grater

13 Jan
My ginger grater

My ginger grater

My ginger grater might be one of my favourite gadgets. Is it even a gadget? It is such a simple piece of equipment, and one I don’t think I have seen anywhere else.

As a child I loved being in the kitchen with my mother, and I remember this item sitting on the bottom of one of the shelves, never used. I’ve always known it was the ginger grater, but don’t recall it ever being used to grate ginger until I took ownership of it and grated some for myself. In the 60s and 70s we did have a piece of root ginger in the cupboard, but it must have been several years old and it was dry and old and wizened, nothing which could be grated on a piece of moulded glass.

My mother is regularly de-cluttering these days, in a way that I can only dream of (I seem to be continuing to do the polar opposite of de-cluttering, can I call it nesting? or just hoarding?) and on a recent visit back home she was delighted when I expressed interest in taking this item off her hands.

I won’t pretend that I use it often, but when I need a ginger grater, nothing else will do. An ordinary grater just doesn’t work in the same way. This well designed item ensures that you keep every last bit of the essence of the ginger root, the juice, but that the rough fibrous bits are left behind. And there is little chance you’ll end up with blood from grated knuckles in your ginger, as the grating bit isn’t that sharp. It’s just perfect for extracting the most gingeriness out of a piece of ginger.

Rhubarb chutney

8 Jun

So, it’s been a bit of a rubbish year for the rhubarb harvest this year I’ve heard. Something to do with late frosts, which decimated some of my early sowings too.

However, I saw some British rhubarb in the shop the other day and couldn’t resist. But since I’m trying to eat less pudding and G doesn’t really like rhubarb anyway, it clearly wasn’t a well thought through purchase. I thought about a rhubarb tart, rhubarb crumble, a rhubarb cake, or just stewed rhubarb. Surely we would call that a compote these days? I love the astringent sharpness you get with rhubarb … perhaps the answer was to just stew some with some honey and vanilla and then have it with plain yoghurt. I’m a bit addicted to plain yoghurt (preferably greek style, fat free) and think I might have to try my hand again at making my own yoghurt. Mum used to do it when I was wee, but I suspect that it was helped by the fact we always had the rayburn on, so it had a good warm place to ferment. Ah well, that will be next week’s mission.

Anyway, after all that deliberating, I decided that rhubarb chutney was today’s cooking challenge. Not much of a challenge really, chutney is an easy peasy thing to make. The tricky bit is getting the mix of spices and flavours right – so only make a wee bit the first time you make a recipe, so you can try it for flavour and then tweak the next batch.

Rhubarb chutney

  • 1 onion, chopped finely
  • 1cm ginger, chopped finely
  • 150g soft brown sugar
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 100ml white wine vinegar, or elderflower vinegar if you have any
  • 1/2 tsp Maldon sea salt
  • 1″ cinnamon stick
  • a couple of star anise
  • 500g rhubarb, chopped into fairly thin slices
  1. Put the star anise and cinnamon stick into a spice cage if you have one. Alternatively, put them in a wee square of muslin tied up with string. Or you could just chuck the whole spices into the pan, if you don’t mind having bits in your final product.
  2. Place all the ingredients, except the rhubarb in a heavy duty pan and bring to the boil. Boil on a rolling boil for 5 minutes.
  3. Add the rhubarb to the pan and bring to the boil again. Turn down, and simmer for about 15 minutes when the chutney should be slightly thickened.
  4. Pour into sterilised jars while still hot. Use a 500ml jar, or a 340ml jar plus one of those wee pesto jars. But make sure they have been properly sterilised before you pour the chutney in, or it won’t keep properly.
  5. Remember to label the jar – I’d say it should keep for 12 months, but should be eaten within 8 weeks of opening and kept in a fridge, or other cool place once opened.

My verdict is that it is slightly too sweet on first tasting, but the flavours will develop and it will taste better in a week or two. I hope.

As ever it will be delicious with a good farmhouse cheddar but will probably also be good with cold pork, or with mackerel.

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