Wednesday, 19 November 2008

New beginnings...


There appears to have been a rather large absence between my last post and this one.

Summer happened.

And then the beginning of my third year happened.

Needless to say, it's been rather hectic, and not all good, but now it's better, and I hope to get back into this food blogging lark. I've been cooking some lovely roasts and winter warming food recently, so I'm looking forward to posting about those. I've also just made my Christmas Cake (my first one!!) so expect a post about that soon.

I have also moved into a new house, with a LOVELY kitchen. It is a kitchen I love to cook in :) I shall take some photos soon so that my wonderful kitchen can be seen. It's so much better than the kitchen at my previous house, which was the size of a large cupboard and had no work space.
But for now, here's a VERY overdue post for the Daring Bakers - June's Danish Braid challenge. I really enjoyed this challenge, and was excited to make the dough - the combination of flavours just sounded amazing! The making of the dough went very smoothly, and I didn't have any problems at all. I made two fillings: homemade cherry jam and chocolate pastry cream in one, and raspberry jam (out of a jar, I didn't have the time to make another jammy thing) and sweetened cream cheese. I loved both fillings, but B (thinking back) preferred the cherry and chocolate one (by a small margin) He keeps pestering me to make them again, so I think he enjoyed them!

Please excuse the photos - they were taken with B's camera phone as my camera was having a hissy fit at the time...


The recipe:

Makes 2-1/2 pounds dough

For the dough (Detrempe)
1 ounce fresh yeast or 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1/2 cup whole milk
1/3 cup sugar
Zest of 1 orange, finely grated
3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 vanilla bean, split and scraped
2 large eggs, chilled
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
3-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt

For the butter block (Beurrage)
1/2 pound (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour

Combine yeast and milk in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix on low speed. Slowly add sugar, orange zest, cardamom, vanilla extract, vanilla seeds, eggs, and orange juice. Mix well. Change to the dough hook and add the salt with the flour, 1 cup at a time, increasing speed to medium as the flour is incorporated. Knead the dough for about 5 minutes, or until smooth. You may need to add a little more flour if it is sticky. Transfer dough to a lightly floured baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Without a standing mixer: Combine yeast and milk in a bowl with a hand mixer on low speed or a whisk. Add sugar, orange zest, cardamom, vanilla extract, vanilla seeds, eggs, and orange juice and mix well. Sift flour and salt on your working surface and make a fountain. Make sure that the “walls” of your fountain are thick and even. Pour the liquid in the middle of the fountain. With your fingertips, mix the liquid and the flour starting from the middle of the fountain, slowly working towards the edges. When the ingredients have been incorporated start kneading the dough with the heel of your hands until it becomes smooth and easy to work with, around 5 to 7 minutes. You might need to add more flour if the dough is sticky.

1. Combine butter and flour in the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and beat on medium speed for 1 minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and the paddle and then beat for 1 minute more, or until smooth and lump free. Set aside at room temperature.
2. After the detrempe has chilled 30 minutes, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Roll the dough into a rectangle approximately 18 x 13 inches and ¼ inch thick. The dough may be sticky, so keep dusting it lightly with flour. Spread the butter evenly over the center and right thirds of the dough. Fold the left edge of the detrempe to the right, covering half of the butter. Fold the right third of the rectangle over the center third. The first turn has now been completed. Mark the dough by poking it with your finger to keep track of your turns, or use a sticky and keep a tally. Place the dough on a baking sheet, wrap it in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
3. Place the dough lengthwise on a floured work surface. The open ends should be to your right and left. Roll the dough into another approximately 13 x 18 inch, ¼-inch-thick rectangle. Again, fold the left third of the rectangle over the center third and the right third over the center third. No additional butter will be added as it is already in the dough. The second turn has now been completed. Refrigerate the dough for 30 minutes.
4. Roll out, turn, and refrigerate the dough two more times, for a total of four single turns. Make sure you are keeping track of your turns. Refrigerate the dough after the final turn for at least 5 hours or overnight. The Danish dough is now ready to be used. If you will not be using the dough within 24 hours, freeze it. To do this, roll the dough out to about 1 inch in thickness, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and freeze. Defrost the dough slowly in the refrigerator for easiest handling. Danish dough will keep in the freezer for up to 1 month.

Makes enough for 2 large braids

1 recipe Danish Dough (see below)
2 cups apple filling, jam, or preserves (see below)

For the egg wash: 1 large egg, plus 1 large egg yolk

1. Line a baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper. On a lightly floured surface, roll the Danish Dough into a 15 x 20-inch rectangle, ¼ inch thick. If the dough seems elastic and shrinks back when rolled, let it rest for a few minutes, then roll again. Place the dough on the baking sheet.
2. Along one long side of the pastry make parallel, 5-inch-long cuts with a knife or rolling pastry wheel, each about 1 inch apart. Repeat on the opposite side, making sure to line up the cuts with those you’ve already made.
3. Spoon the filling you’ve chosen to fill your braid down the center of the rectangle. Starting with the top and bottom “flaps”, fold the top flap down over the filling to cover. Next, fold the bottom “flap” up to cover filling. This helps keep the braid neat and helps to hold in the filling. Now begin folding the cut side strips of dough over the filling, alternating first left, then right, left, right, until finished. Trim any excess dough and tuck in the ends.

Egg Wash
Whisk together the whole egg and yolk in a bowl and with a pastry brush, lightly coat the braid.

Proofing and Baking
1. Spray cooking oil (Pam…) onto a piece of plastic wrap, and place over the braid. Proof at room temperature or, if possible, in a controlled 90 degree F environment for about 2 hours, or until doubled in volume and light to the touch.
2. Near the end of proofing, preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Position a rack in the center of the oven.
3. Bake for 10 minutes, then rotate the pan so that the side of the braid previously in the back of the oven is now in the front. Lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees F, and bake about 15-20 minutes more, or until golden brown. Cool and serve the braid either still warm from the oven or at room temperature. The cooled braid can be wrapped airtight and stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 days, or freeze for 1 month.

Monday, 21 July 2008

Apologies for my continued absence...Dad is doing better, and is now back in our local hospital, and I have successfully moved house, but I still don't have internet access there! Once I get internet access you can expect a flurry of posts!

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Sorry for my absence from this four walls of blogdom. I keep looking at the blog on my Speed Dial thinking "I must update that..." but I never quite do. I haven't really been cooking or eating healthily for the last few weeks because my Dad has now been in hospital for three weeks. Thankfully the diagnosis wasn't as serious as it could have been, but Mum and Dad are in for a long recovery period, and I am up here, far away from the two of them. I will be going home on Monday to see Dad and look after Mum a bit, but as ever I can't stay for long - I have a job up here, things to study, houses to move...

I did make a cake yesterday - the first cake I have ever decorated! Look out for that post in the next few days!

Sunday, 1 June 2008

Double posting - British Asparagus

It's not often I post twice in one day, but I felt bad for neglecting my blog for the past week or so, and also I had a bit of a cooking spree today. I had this urge to cook - you've seen the baking results, and here is what materialised for dinner. We had some British Asparagus sitting waiting to be used, and I was craving a risotto. Dad always used to make either a risotto or a curry whenever we had a roast chicken. When I was younger, I certainly preferred risotto, and when I got the chance to make it for the first time a few years ago, I jumped at the chance. My first risotto was a Broad Bean and Lemon Zest, and it was pretty good, for a first attempt. Now, it's been a while since I roasted a whole chicken (I think it must have been the epic Christmas dinner I cooked in our small kitchen...) so this risotto uses ham, but would be lovely without, I'm sure.

Now I'm craving a curry. B will be revising hard at his house over the next few days, so I spy another curry making opportunity in the next few days!

Asparagus and Ham Risotto
Makes 2 large portions

200g risotto rice
1 litre vegetable or chicken stock
Bunch of asparagus
1 courgette
1 onion
1 clove garlic
100g ham, chopped
4tbsp grated parmesan, plus extra to sprinkle on top

1. Place the stock in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Add the asparagus and cook for 3-4 minutes. Remove the asparagus and put into cold water. Chop the tips from the asparagus and set aside. Chop the stalks into small pieces.
2. Finely chop the onion, courgette and garlic.
3. Heat oil/frylight in a large saucepan and add the onion, garlic, courgette and asparagus pieces. Fry off for around 10 minutes
4. Add the risotto rice and stir until the rice is coated with the oil.
5. Add the stock, one ladle at a time, stirring frequently. Once all the stock is absorbed by the rice, add the next ladle until all the stock has been used. The rice should now be al dente - soft, but with bite.
6. Add the asparagus tips and ham. Stir through and heat for a few minutes. Stir through the 4tbsp parmesan. Season to taste.
7. Serve, topped with more parmesan.



Muffin time!



I love muffin time. I love making muffins, full stop. It's a pity that they are sitting there, staring and me, and I'm having to be good and not eat them. I did sneak a few crumbs, just to test that they were cooked, and were good, of course. However, they were passed over to my chief taster - the ever willing boyfriend, B who declared both muffins to be amazing.

He has some evil exams coming up next week, so these muffins are for him to cheer him up, and hopefully give him good luck in his exams. Good luck, B, I'm sure you'll be amazing!

This month sees my first Daring Bakers challenge. I cannot wait to try it out and get involved in Daring Bakers - it seems like such fun!

Chocolate Cheesecake Muffins
Makes 12 Muffins
From (here)


Cheesecake mixture:
250g cream cheese (e.g Philadelphia) at room temperature
60g castor sugar
1 egg

Chocolate Mixture:

180g butter
150g caster sugar
3 eggs
3 tbsp cocoa powder
120g self raising flour
1 tbsp baking powder


1. Preheat oven to 150°C

2. Get your muffin pan and cases ready

3. Make the Cheesecake mixture: beat the cream cheese and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg and beat until well mixed in. Set the mixture aside whilst you make the chocolate mix.

4. Make the chocolate mix: beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time until well incorporated. Sieve the dry ingredients together and fold into the egg mixture.

5. Start by placing half the chocolate mixture in the muffin cases. Then cover with all of the cheesecake mixture.Cover with the remaining chocolate mixture. Gently spread the chocolate mix so that it covers the cheesecake. Using a toothpick or skewer make some swirls through the muffin.

6. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the skewer comes out clean. Cool completely. Can be chilled in the fridge before serving, but are lovely before if you can’t resist!

Banana Cinnamon Muffins
Makes 12 Muffins
From (here)


125g butter, diced
75g caster sugar
100g soft brown sugar
2 eggs
200g self raising flour
1 tsp cinnamon, ground
75ml milk
2 tbsp maple syrup
3 bananas, peeled and mashed (add lemon juice to prevent browning)


1. Preheat oven to 190°C

2. Place the butter and sugar in a bowl and beat until creamy. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing until well combined.

3. Sift the flour and cinnamon together. Gradually add the flour and milk to the butter mixture, alternating between the tow until well combined. Add and mix in the maple syrup.

4. Fold in the mashed bananas and combine well

5. Spoon the mix into the muffin cases.

6. Cook in the oven for 20 minutes, or until a sweker inserted into the centre of the muffin comes out clean.

7. Cool on a cooling rack. Serve warm, or cool. Can be stored in the fridge, but are best eaten on the day.

 Yummy Muffin goodness!

Monday, 12 May 2008

Salad for Summer

It's been a hot few days here in York - the sun has been blazing down, the birds have been singing, there are hardly any clouds.

And it's really really really hot.

I do like the summer, really I do. I just don't particularly like wearing summer clothes. That's a lie, actually. I do enjoy wearing summer clothes - I just don't own any. It all makes summer rather sweaty, and red.

Summer does mean longer days, and so today B told me we would be going on a walk once his lectures were over. It was lovely strolling along the footpath (once we'd found it) in the sunlight, and we made it all the way out to the ring road. And all the way back again, via the supermarket to buy salad. In this weather, I'm not eating much else.

The salad was sold out, apart from one lonely bag of spinach, and a pack of stir fry vegetables.

Thankfully, I had a lovely fresh bunch of aspargus waiting for me at home, so I created this:

Goats Cheese, Puy Lentil and Asparagus Salad
Serves 2 (or 4 as a starter)

113g/4oz puy lentils
85g/3oz goats cheese
Bunch of aspargus (however much you want)
Handful of sundried tomatoes
1 tsp white wine vinegar
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
3 tsp sunflower oil

1. Drain, rince and cook the puy lentils according to the packet instruction.

2. Meanwhile, mix the vinegars, oil and lemon together. Season to taste.

3. Rehydrate your sundried tomatoes, if necessary, and chop into small pieces.

4. Dice the goats cheese

5. As the lentils near the end of their cooking time, boil the asparagus for around 3-4 minutes, until just tender. Drain the lentils and refresh under cold water. Drain the asparagus as well.

6. Return the lentils to the pan, and add a little of the dressing. Mix this through the lentils along with the sundried tomatoes. Spoon onto your plates.

7. Toss the asparagus in the remaining dresssing, and arrange on the plate. Top with the diced goats cheese, and drizzle any remaining dressing over the plate.

I've never tried puy lentils, and I haven't eaten asparagus in a long time. I was very pleased with both ingredients, and this is a salad I shall be making and adapting further in the future! It was light and fresh, but still filling - perfect for lazy summer evenings.

Saturday, 10 May 2008

Curry, just not so much in a hurry.

My boyfriend is out of town for the weekend. He's off on some Scout leader weekend in Lancashire, skilling and chilling. This means trying to ride a unicycle and juggle apparently. I'm just continually scared he's going to seriously hurt himself on the thing. I have a fear of falling off bikes, and my paranoia extends to my fear of my boy falling off a unicycle. When you've had three fairly serious bike accidents, all involving your head hitting the ground with some force, it's time to wonder if you get back on that bike again.

I usually do. In fact, I bike more than ever.

Which raises the question of whether all those head bumps (I own 5 head x-rays) have done something questionable to my sanity.

Due to my boyfriend wobbling around somewhere on one wheel, this meant I was free to cook curry this evening! I was delighted - curry is perfect on a Slimming World diet, and with B hating it so much, it was the perfect opportunity for a first food post!

Now I'm a poor student, who's boyfriend doesn't eat curry, but thankfully I still have a pretty large cupboard full of spices at my disposal. I don't know where I'd be without my herbs and spices. I have a whole cupboard full - and they're all mine. None of my other housemates use herbs and spices when cooking - I don't get this. How? I didn't have some of the things called for in this recipe, like root ginger, and fresh coriander, but I improvised.

The thing is with Slimming World recipes...sometimes they don't look as good as the real thing, even if they are damn tasty.

Chicken Korma
Slimming World - Family Favourites Recipe Card

Serves 4
Free on Original, 3 syns on Green (Chicken as a HE)


4 chicken breasts
250g very low fat natural yoghurt                           
2 tsp turmeric
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 large onions, sliced
426ml/3/4 pint chicken stock
3 cardamom pods
1 2.5/1 inch cinnamon stick
4 black peppercorns
4 cloves
1 tsp coriander seeds, crushed
1 tbsp root ginger
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp chilli powder
Salt and pepper
Coriander leaves, to garnish.

1. Slice the chicken and place in a bowl together with the yoghurt, turmuric and garlic. Leave to marinate for at least 4 hours (or overnight)

2. Put the onion and chicken stock in a saucepan. Cover, and boil for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat, uncover the pan and cook gently for 20 minutes until the onion is tender, golden and syrupy. (Ok, here, I had to keep checking on the pan, because all my stock boiled away and it all went very dark and sticky...)

3. Add all the spices to the pan, cook for 3-4 more minutes. Add the chicken and yoghurt marinade. Cover the pan and simmer very gently for 45 minutes, until the chicken is cooked. (This is where it started looking odd - the yoghurt, unsurprisingly, curdled. I wish I had a gas hob, I really do.)

4. Season to taste and serve with boiled rice.

My photography has a long way to go, I know. I'm more used to landscape photos than food. It's only through practise that we improve, you I hope you will bear with me as I develop my photography, and attempt to find some good lighting in this house...

Friday, 9 May 2008

It's not food, but hey, it's a post.

I haven't miraculously done any blog-worthy cookery in the last 15 minutes or so, but I will fulfill my promise of posting a "before" picture. This was taken over the Easter holidays, in Keswick (The Lake District) where I spent a lovely 2 weeks with my boyfriend. As you can see, rainy days are well catered for in Keswick...

Hopefully, before too long, I will be able to post a slimmer version.

You might as well have a couple more photos, for acquantaince's sake, but I'll try and make them at least slightly food or drink related...

So, it was my 21st birthday party, and someone gave me an absinthe shot, which probably wasn't the wisest of plans, considering how many cocktails I had already had. I couldn't down it. I think I even gave some of it away. Oh alcohol, how you taunt me.

I went to the USA over Easter as well. It's the first time I've been over the pond (well, other than going to Chile, but that's South America so..) I went with my boyfriend and his mum to visit his brother, who was working as a ski instructor at Loon Mountain, Lincoln, New Hampshire. This was taken at The Common Man Inn, and it was incredibly yummy, and incredibly filling. I swear, I could not move after our three course meal. I could hardly even walk back to the apartment. Anyway, if you're ever in the New Hampshire area, I guess I'd recommend The Common Man - delicious, and friendly service!

I admit it, I'm a crazy mad chorus girl who spends her spare time singing Gilbert and Sullivan oprettas. This was Ruddigore, our latest show. Our next show will be The Mikado, in February 2009.

Oh, and it's done - I have joined the Daring Bakers.

A welcome once more.

Ok, so, starting this in January, like many of my ideas and projects, didn't actually materialise. This time though, I am determined.

I am joining the Daring Bakers blogroll to inspire me to post (although I doubt this will be helpful to my diet, it will certainly keep my boyfriend and my housemates happy...)

I am also going to start posting more in general! Hurrah!

Well, a little about me perhaps to get you going. I'm Jackie, I'm 21 (dear Lord, that makes me feel old...) and I'm currently a second year university student at the University of York in England. I have a wonderful, caring boyfriend of, oh.. 9 and a half months, and he loves to eat my food. Except curries. He won't eat curries. Or gravy. I tried. And failed. On the plus side, he now eats onions, peppers and a whole host of new vegetables.

I still have a tempestuous relationship with food, and I'm still trying to lose weight. I go every week to a Slimming World meeting, and although I'm not going to try and shove Slimming World down anyone's throat, it is a wonderful programme, and a lot of the recipes here will be Slimming World compatible (and notated with syn values and healthy extras!)

If you're lucky, you might get some before and after photos. Currently, you'll just be getting the before, but charting my progress should be fun!

I love to eat pizza, pasta and potatoes, and rice - I'm a girl in love with carbs! I love my meat too, even though a lot of the food I eat is vegetarian. The boyfriend and I went vegetarian for Lent, and a habit of eating less meat has stuck. I'll cook anything once. Even twice. Or just continuously.

I need quick healthy food that keeps my brain in gear for studying dull books every day and for leaping out of the door for rehearsals and work. Once I get a job again.

I love South American food (in fact, food from anywhere is alright in my book) and hope to champion the little known food of my adoptive second country, Chile :)

That's probably enough about me. Look out for some posts coming your way in the near future! 

Tuesday, 8 January 2008

A welcome to food blogging

I've spent many enjoyable months reading food blogs and salivating over all the glorious food contained within, and so I thought it was time to get in on the act. Food is very important to me, and I have a somewhat tempestuous relationship with the stuff - I'm currently trying to lose weight, so you can expect to find a number of healthy recipes and food here (although there's bound to be some treats as well.) I enjoy eating out whenever I can (it's not always easy on a student budget) and trying new food - well, I can't resist. I haven't ever really created many recipes before - but this is something that I want to get into and I hope that this blog will be an incentive to that.

Well, I'd best get on with cooking tonight's dinner,