Monday, 30 September 2013

Apricot Couronne - Great British Bake Off Blog Hop

You may have noticed that I like baking bread. My trusty Morphy Richards bread maker has been going strong for many years now and although I rarely use it to actually bake bread, it's really useful for making and proving dough for pizza bases, flat-breads, sweet breads (not sweetbreads!) and even the odd loaf or two!

I really enjoyed watching last week's Great British Bake Off, as I find it amazing that someone who can produce the perfect macaron can't necessarily bake a loaf of bread!
I loved the look of the apricot couronne, and after last year's attempt at an 8 stand plaited loaf, I though the couronne was worth a try!

I more or less followed the original Paul Hollywood recipe, but decided to tweak the filling by halving the quantities of butter, sugar and flour and swapping the orange zest for lemon (I didn't have an orange!). For the topping, I omitted the apricot jam and flaked almonds (more ingredients I didn't have) and mixed the icing sugar with lemon juice instead. 

My top tip, is to cover your work surface/board with clingfilm, before dusting with flour, as it seems to help stop the dough from sticking, when rolling it out.

My electric fan oven seems to cook more quickly than it should , so I cooked the couronne for 10 minutes at 190C and then reduced the heat to 180C and cooked for a further 10 minutes.

The couronne really wasn't too tricky to make and tasted fabulous. I think Paul and Mary would have been quite impressed!

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Friday, 20 September 2013

Spicy Spinach and Chickpea Burgers (Vegan)

This recipe was inspired by one for Broad Bean Burgers from Yotam Ottolenghi's Plenty. I didn't have all the ingredients needed, so it morphed into these vegan veggie burgers, which taste something like a cross between a spicy bean burger and a falafel!
The use of leftover risotto instead of potato, worked well as a binder and negated the need for egg.
  • 200g/8oz spinach, washed
  • 1 tin of chickpeas/garbanzo beans, drained
  • 1 cup of cooked risotto rice (about 50g/2oz uncooked weight)
  • 1½ cups of fresh bread crumbs
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 tsp chopped chilli (add more or less to taste)
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • ½ tsp each of ground fennel seeds, cumin, cinnamon and turmeric
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh coriander or parsley leaves
Cook and drain the spinach (I microwave it, with no added water for 3-4 minutes on high) and set aside to cool. Once cool enough to handle, squeeze out as much liquid as possible, using your hands. Blot dry on kitchen roll.

Put all of the ingredients, except the rice and breadcrumbs, into a food processor and blend briefly, leaving some chunks of chickpea for texture. 
Stir in the rice and add just enough breadcrumbs to form a dough-like consistency.
Chill for 30 minutes or so.
Divide into 8 and shape into burgers, squeezing the mixture together in your hands (or use a burger press like I did!) 
Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a large frying pan and cook 4 burgers at a time for 4-5 minutes each side - on a medium heat. Repeat with the other 4 burgers.

Serve in pittas or bread rolls with salad and a dollop of your favourite burger sauce!

Not suitable for freezing. 

Alternatives - Divide mixture into 16 and roll into balls, to make into falafels or polpettes.
Vary the herbs and spices for different flavoured burgers eg: Italian: fresh basil, chilli and garlic, Greek: fresh mint or dill and parsley, chilli and garlic, Indian: garam masala, ginger, chilli, garlic etc.

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Saturday, 14 September 2013

Chocolate Bread (Vegan)

This indulgent chocolate loaf is great for a weekend breakfast treat. I've previously made this recipe with eggs and milk, so I thought I'd have a go at a vegan version. Just a word of warning...due to the high sugar content, if you toast this bread, make sure you do so on a low setting, unless you want a burnt offering!
  • 2¾ cup white bread flour
  • ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 cup dairy-free milk
  • 1 tbsp dairy-free spread or vegetable oil
  • 4 tbsp soft brown sugar
  • 1 sachet of fast action dried yeast
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp ground cinnamon (optional)
  • 100g/4oz dairy-free chocolate, chopped into chunks
If using a bread maker, put in all ingredients (except the chocolate) and set on the dough setting. 

If making by hand, place the dry ingredients (except the chocolate) in a large bowl. 
Mix in the spread/oil.
Slowly knead in the milk until you have a soft, but not sticky dough. Cover the bowl and leave to prove for 1 hour in a warm place.

Once proved, flatten the dough and knead in the chocolate chunks. 
Place in a well greased loaf tin. Prove for a further 30 minutes.

Bake in a pre-heated oven at 190C/180C Fan/Gas 5/375F for 25-30 minutes. Turn out and cool on a wire rack.

Alternative: Add ½ cup of dried raisins, chopped dried dates or cherries, along with the chocolate.

Suitable for freezing.
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Monday, 9 September 2013

Bread Pudding (Vegan)

This is a vegan and virtually fat-free version of my mum's traditional bread pudding (if you haven't eaten bread pudding before, it's more of a fruit cake than a pudding and tastes nothing like bread and butter pudding!)
This tastes almost identical to the original, but does tend to go stale a little quicker, so it's best eaten within 2 days of making. It's very cheap to make and is a good way to use up leftover stale bread.

Makes 12-16 pieces 
  • 250g/10oz stale bread (a couple of days old)
  • 75g/3oz soft brown sugar
  • 275ml/½ pt cold water or dairy-free milk
  • 2 tsp Orgran egg replacer or similar binder (corn flour would probably work)
  • 100g/4oz dried fruit
  • ½ tsp mixed spice plus ½ tsp ground cinnamon (or more, to taste)
  • 2 tsp Demerara sugar to sprinkle
Break the bread into small pieces and place in a large bowl.
Add the cold water/milk and mix well.
Allow to soak for at least ½ an hour.
Mix the bread with the rest of the ingredients (except the demerara sugar).
Pour into a greased square baking tin.
Cook at 180C/170 Fan/gas 4/350F for about 1 hour, until golden brown and firm to the touch.
Sprinkle with the demerara sugar while warm. 
Allow to cool in the tin for at least 10 minutes, before cutting into squares. 
Serve warm or cold.

Suitable for freezing.

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Friday, 6 September 2013

Solfest Music Festival - a review

We almost bought tickets for Solfest last year, but the horrendous weather put us off. I’m so glad we went this year though, as the sun shined most of the weekend, with just a few scattered showers on the Friday. This made it our first mud-free festival for three years!

Solfest is a small, family-friendly festival held on Tarnside Farm near Aspatria in Cumbria over the August bank holiday weekend.The location is stunning, if somewhat hard to find (signage from the main roads approaching the festival would be beneficial, for those of us who don’t know the area!).

The great thing about Solfest, is that you can actually camp right next to your car, so you don’t need to lug your tent, camping equipment and kids, for what seems likes miles until you can find a space to pitch your tent! We arrived on the Friday afternoon, when most of the prime spots had been snapped up, so I would recommend either arriving on the Thursday (for an extra £15 per car) or early on Friday.
The festival campsite is split into different areas (noisy - right near the main arena toward the dance tent, family - near the main arena but away from the dance tent, quiet- the furthest away from the main arena, but much flatter and near to the live-in vehicles field).

We opted for the family field which was mainly sloping; this meant that we all found we slid down our airbeds at night! Although we camped away from the noisy camping field, we could still hear the rather loud bass coming from the dance tent, until around 4am each morning! There were portaloos and water taps dotted around the campsite and a few showers were available at a cost of £3.00. I was impressed with the cleanliness of the portaloos, but the loo roll and hand sanitiser did tend to run out during the day, so make sure you take your own!

Barbecues and campfires are permitted on the campsite and many families seemed to go back for a barbecue in the evenings. You can also take your own food and drink into the arena (no glass bottles). If you don’t want to self-cater though, there were plenty of reasonably-priced food stalls (lots of vegetarian options available) and the bar prices weren't bad either.

My kids, being 12 and 14, were happy to sit and watch the bands with us, but as the whole festival area was enclosed, we were more than happy for them to wander off on their own to the different stages or to get something to eat or drink. We did have a wander through the kids’ area though, and thought it looked great; there were all sorts of FREE facilities and activities to keep babies and children of all ages occupied, including a massive wooden climbing frame and sandpit, bouncy castles, face painting, baby chill-out tent, craft and music activities, live entertainment, circus skills and even a ‘youth club’ for teens to hang out in with a pool table, table football etc. 

Solfest is the only festival I've been to, where they haven’t announced the running order in advance. Apparently this is to encourage people to come for the whole festival and not just for their favourite band/s, but I can’t really see the point of this as you have to buy a weekend ticket anyway!

Although it's small, we were surprised at the variety of music on offer on the two outdoor stages, bar stage, dance tent and 3 other smaller, covered stages. There was a good mixture of bands, with Maximo Park, Flogging Molly and The Afro Celt Sound System headlining the main stage. We particularly enjoyed seeing our old favourites Oysterband and discovering Dehli2 Dublin, (Asian/Irish fusion!) who really got the crowd going and seemed very happy to go down so well at the festival.

There was plenty of room to sit and watch the bands, or to get up and dance, depending on your mood. Strangely, the smaller Dry Stone stage (featuring more folk-based bands) often pulled a bigger crowd than the Main Stage acts; the Sunday ceilidh proving to be particularly popular.

We found Solfest to be one of the friendliest and most laid-back festivals we've been to (and we've been to quite a few!). We had a fantastic time and would happily go again next year, weather permitting!

Read my full review over at Festival Kidz.
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