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May 20, 2016 / mintcustard

White choc chip and rainbow blondies.

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White chocolate chip rainbow blondies.

In a house where revision is taking over bedroom floors, the dining table and life itself, what seems to be needed on a regular basis is brain food. Yes, we have had fruit. Flapjacks have been consumed. Avocados have donated their flesh to the work boosting cause. However when the going gets really tough, sometimes only chocolate will do. The only chocolate in the cupboard was white, so I decided to make blondies. Blondies with big chunks of white chocolate and to really cheer up the workers I added a scoop of hundreds and thousands.

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Rainbow blondie batter.

I used this white chocolate blondies recipe. I made a couple of tweaks to the recipe. I added only 2/3rds of a cup of white chocolate chunks and 1/3rd of a cup of sprinkles. Added to the batter the hundreds and thousands cook down to leave only their colour behind. Always brings a smile to even the most fed up of faces.

May 16, 2016 / mintcustard

CELIA gluten free beer, a burger and some brisket.

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Gluten gets everywhere. If you are gluten intolerant, then many of life’s pleasures are harder to come by and are often more expensive when you find them.You need to vigilant, reading the backs of packets and asking questions in restaurants.  It appears, from a gluten tolerant perspective, that awareness is gradually being raised and more and more products are slowly coming onto the market. More and more restaurants are trying harder to provide tasty alternatives that are gluten free.

During one evening at Smiths of Smithfield I was introduced to CELIA lager. The brewery’s patented deglutenisation process produces an ELISA tested value of <5 parts per million for a truly light lager.Thanks to the silicone filtration system at their brewery, CELIA is also vegan friendly. CELIA is open fermented for 14 days to give it natural carbonation, which reduces the heaviness present in most other beers. I have to say it would be very easy to down several of these beers without feeling the fizz returning to haunt you! Traditionally batch brewed in the walls of a 14th century castle using local Saaz hops, famous for their clean, spicy aroma – CELIA is also the perfect companion for quality food.

Luckily for me the food on offer from Smiths of Smithfield was a delicious gluten free burger and chips. Even though I am not gluten intolerant I don’t think I could have informed you it was free from gluten unless I had told been myself.

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Gluten free burger and chips from Smiths of Smithfield.

In addition to the CELIA organic lager there is also Celia dark.

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CELIA dark.

“CELIA DARK is densely black with an almost ruby red hue and a distinctive coffee like aroma with slightly nutty and rye bread undertones.  It is thick and chewy on the palate with a big toasted malt character.”

You will know by now that I love to use a wide variety of ingredients in my cooking. Why not use beer? I had a bottle of CELIA dark in the fridge so why not use it in my sunday meal?

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Pulled beef brisket braised in CELIA dark lager

750g flat beef brisket (unroll if rolled)

1 red onion peeled, halved and finely sliced.

2 large carrots,

1 clove of garlic finely chopped

1 bottle CELIA DARK lager

salt, pepper, paprika

olive oil

Large lidded casserole

How to….

  • Preheat the oven to 150c fan or 170c.
  • Add a splash of olive oil to the pan, simply to prevent the meat sticking.
  • Place the unrolled brisket in the bottom of the casserole.
  • Scatter the onion, carrots and garlic around the beef. Season with salt, pepper and paprika.
  • Pour over enough beer to cover 3/4 of the brisket.
  • Cover the casserole with a sheet of foil and then place the lid on the casserole. This helps to stop too much evaporation of the liquor.
  • Bake in the oven for 2 1/2 hours.
  • Rest in the braising juices for 15 minutes. Using two forks shred the meat.
  • Serve with heaps of buttery sweet potato  and potato mash and a pile of squeaky green beans.
  • Oh my goodness, the gravy is amazing too………

All washed down with another bottle of CELIA beer naturally!

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Pulled beef brisket braised in CELIA dark lager.

 

I was invited to the CELIA event at Smiths of Smithfield. I was not paid to attend and was not asked to write a positive blog post or create a recipe. I was give several bottle of beer to take home after the event. All words and photographs are my own, unless in quotation marks.

 

 

May 14, 2016 / mintcustard

Matcha green tea waffles.

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My teen is insistent that matcha tea tastes like “ponds”. I love it. I thought I’d try and do what all parents have been doing for years and sneak a food into a child’s diet by disguising it as something else. Waffles might work well, universally enjoyed and as they are usually a breakfast food might get consumed before the person eating them properly wakes up. The matcha I was sent by Eat clean tea was used in this recipe.

Ingredients

125g plain flour

2 tsp matcha green tea powder

1/2 tsp baking powder

10g caster sugar

240ml milk

1 egg

1 tbsp oil

pinch of salt

How to..

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Matcha green tea batter

  • Sift the flour, salt, matcha green tea and baking powder into a bowl.
  • Stir the sifted mixture. Break in the egg, pour in the milk and oil.
  • Whisk together until just combined. Don’t over beat.
  • The batter can stand for a while if you need it to or can be used straight away
  • Heat your waffle maker or iron.
  • Cook the waffles according to the maker’s instructions.

I served my waffles with a drizzle of maple syrup and fresh strawberries.

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I was sent the matcha green tea by Eat Clean Tea, I was not asked to blog about the product or give a positive review. All photographs my own.

May 13, 2016 / mintcustard

Pesto and tomato swirled loaf.

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Pesto and tomato swirled loaf.

I was inspired recently by a swirled light and dark rye loaf I saw on a US cooking programme. It got me thinking about a swirled loaf I could create using flavours I love. In the past I have made tomato bread and spinach bread but wasn’t sure that was a combination that would work. I didn’t want a dough with “bits” in like olive or seeds. I also wanted some colour. Oh, and flavours that would compliment each other.

Serendipity stepped in. I got the tomato paste out and had to move the pesto jar to find it. Right, that was it, pesto and tomato swirled loaf it is then.

Pesto and tomato swirled loaf.

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tomato bread dough

Tomato dough,

250g strong bread flour

1 tsp salt

1 1/2 tbsp concentrated tomato puree

warm water to top up puree to 170 ml liquid

half a sachet of dried yeast (4g)

1 tsp sugar

Pesto dough,

250g strong bread flour

1 tsp salt

2 tbsp pesto

warm water to top up pesto to 170 ml liquid

half a sachet of dried yeast (4g)

1 tsp sugar

 

two large bowls, two jugs, oil, cling film, baking tray and parchment.

How to….

  • In each jug place either the pesto or the puree. Make up to 170 ml with warm water.
  • Add 4g of yeast to each jug and 1 tsp of sugar. Stir and leave to activate and begin to froth.
  • Place 250g of flour and 1 tsp salt into each bowl. Pour the pesto liquid into one and the tomato liquid into another. Mix well and knead for 10 minutes.
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Pesto added to flour.

  • Oil the bowl, place the dough back in, cover with cling film and leave both doughs for about and hour and a half, until doubled in size.
  • Once risen place on a lightly floured surface and push both doughs out to form rectangles about 6″ by 4″
  • Place one dough on top of the other and roll along the long side to form a swirled dough.
  • Place on a parchment lined tray or in a loaf tin.
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Risen pesto and tomato swirl loaf dough, ready to bake.

  • Leave to rise again for 30 minutes.
  • Preheat the oven to 200c fan or 220c non fan.
  • Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, depending on your oven. The loaf is ready when the base sounds hollow when rapped with your knuckle.
  • Use for sandwiches, as the base for bruschetta or just as a snack. It would make the most amazing croutons too.

I’ve added this to the Bready, Steady, Go! Challenge. The Challenge is run by Baking Queen 74 andUtterly Scrummy Food For Families. Link up any of your own bread challenges too.

May 9, 2016 / mintcustard

Matcha lassi.

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Matcha lassi.

Green is everywhere, smashed onto sourdough, mixed into chocolate mousse and whizzed up into smoothies. But hang on, move over avocados, The next big green thing is matcha. At the London Coffee Festival, despite the festival’s name, matcha was everywhere. I’ve seen matcha in  swiss rolls, macaron, brownies and even added to avocado to raise the bar on guacamole. Whisper it quietly, I believe you can also drink it as a tea! On a recent trip to the USA it appears the same love of matcha is going on over there too.

Matcha starts life in Japan as green tea leaves before being handpicked and stoneground into a fine powder. Matcha is a source of antioxidants  and it is said to boost metabolism, improve skin, fight disease and gives long-lasting energy like coffee (it contains caffeine) but seems to be released in a slower manner.

I was lucky enough to try many matcha drinks at the London Coffee Festival and then saw matcha being ground at a recent visit to Clearspring. When sent some matcha powder to try by Eat Clean Tea, I decided to make a drink that would see me though the warm summer evenings in place of a glass of wine, or endless coffees.

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Lassi is made for the summer, cooling and refreshing, the yogurt takes the flavours of herbs and spices well. It can be served sweet or salty, although this lassi is sweetened, if you prefer to leave out the honey then do.

Matcha lassi makes 1 large glass

100g plain yogurt

200 ml milk

4 small spoons of matcha powder

1/4 tsp vanilla powder (a little vanilla extract if no powder)

1 tsp runny honey

ice

How to ……

  • Place all the ingredients in a blender or if using a whisk or aerolatte, in a jug.
  • Whizz up, whisk up or pulse until well combined and with a little froth.
  • Pour over ice, add a straw

 

May 7, 2016 / mintcustard

Barbecued baby potatoes

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Barbecued baby potatoes

Perhaps you, like me, have memories of cooking baked potatoes wrapped in tin foil in the dying embers of a bonfire. If you got it right the potato was fluffy, hotter than the surface of the sun and kept you warm all evening. Get it wrong and the inside was solid, cold and tasted mostly of firelighters BUT it didn’t matter. The fun was in having the bonfire in the first place. It’s probably the reason why I love barbecues now, well that AND the fact I’m greedy. I’m also keen to keep the washing up to a minimum so try to do as many of the vegetables as I can on the grill too. Which is how I came to cook these baby potatoes in a foil pouch on the BBQ. I have a side burner so could boil them in a pan but I really wanted to create a taste that reflected the direct heat without simply sauteing them. Effectively the potatoes steam, roast and braise at the same time. By varying what you add to the pouch, you can add flavours or skew the cooking method in a particular direction.

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Fresh off the BBQ, still in the foil.

Barbecued baby potatoes – Ingredients

500g baby salad potatoes

1 tbsp oil (you can add butter if you want)

sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Other flavours – lemon juice, white wine, garlic, dill, whatever you like you can add.

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How to….

  • Light the grill.
  • Take a 120 cm piece of foil and fold in half.
  • Fold in half again and crimp the two long sides tightly to form a pocket.
  • Place the potatoes, flavours and oil into the pouch, season and shake.
  • Seal the top edge of the pouch and place on a medium hot grill for 15 to 20 minutes. Use tongs to shake the pouch every 5 minutes or so, ensuring the potatoes steam/ cook evenly rather than catch on just one side.
  • Open the pouch and test a potato with the point of a knife after 15 minutes to see if it is cooked through.
  • Serve with extra butter or cool slightly and stir with spring onions, dill fronds and mayonnaise to make a killer potato salad.
May 6, 2016 / mintcustard

Simple salsa verde, ideal for dipping tortilla chips.

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My first introduction to salsa verde came across the pond. Red salsas, whether cool medium or hot, fresh or out of a jar are very familiar to me but a green salsa surprised me. Sharp with a citrus lime tang and a serious chilli kick, once I’d tried this I had to have it again. Now that has caused a little issue as the main ingredient, Mexican green tomatoes, are hard to source in the UK. However, I found that Whole Foods stocks canned tomatillos, so I now no longer need to travel across the Atlantic to get my fix!

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The recipe is amazingly simple.I’m going to try making salsa verde with green tomatoes later in the year too, just to see if it is possible.

Salsa verde

1 can Mexican green tomatoes (tomatillos) – drained

juice of half a lime

1 green chilli – chopped into chunks (take the seeds out if you want)

good pinch of sea salt.

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How to ….

  • Open and drain the can of tomatillos. Place into a large jug or into the blender.
  • Add in the chilli chunks, lime juice and the salt.
  • Blitz with a stick blender or the food processor until smooth.
  • Open a pack of tortilla chips or drizzle over nachos, fajitas or pulled pork.
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Margarita time!

May 2, 2016 / mintcustard

Crispy oat biscuits.

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A nice cup of tea and a biscuit!

I remember when Hob Nobs first appeared on our shelves in 1985 (I am seriously old). There was a furory, people couldn’t get enough of them. Me? Well I had this recipe of my Mum’s, and they tasted fairly similar. The recipe is very simple, makes enough to fill the biscuit tin for a weekend and can be dunked if you happen to enjoy soggy biscuits with your tea. I made them again at the weekend and suddenly remembered why hob nobs were such a hit with everyone. In deference to my mum I’ve given the imperial measures first!

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Crispy oaty biscuit.

Crispy oat biscuits. (makes 12)

3 oz (75g) porridge oats

3oz (75g) self raising flour

3oz  (75g) butter or marg if you were my mum!

3oz (75g) soft brown sugar

1 tbsp golden syrup

pinch of salt

splash of milk

How to ….

  • Preheat the oven to 180c. Line two baking trays with baking parchment.
  • Melt together the butter, syrup and sugar, over a low heat.
  • In a bowl place the flour, oats and salt. Stir in the melted butter, syrup and sugar. If the mixture is very stiff andd a little milk to make it easier to spoon out.
  • Place 12 spoons of the mixture evenly over the two trays.
  • Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until golden and crisp around the edges. Cool for a minute or two on the tray before placing on a wire rack to cool completely.
  • Keep crisp by placing in a tin or tightly lidded container.
  • Put the kettle on and your feet up!
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Aaahhhhh, that’s better.

May 1, 2016 / mintcustard

Mongolian lamb wraps.

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Mongolian lamb lettuce wrap.

Our very peculiar weather in the UK recently has forced the lighter spring and summer recipes back into the recipe box. It has been freezing, often with a sprinkle of snow or a hammering of hail so warm comforting dishes have been the order of the day.

Last week’s short ribs recipe made me think of other dishes I have had in the past with a similar flavour profile. Also, although the weather was demanding warm comfort food, my body was craving lighter dishes. Mongolian lamb wraps sprang to mind. Similar in seasoning to duck pancakes but wrapped in lettuce leaves.You could use breast of lamb for this but I find this can be a little fatty for me, so a half leg of lamb boned and unrolled it is then.

This dish takes at least 6 hours to prepare but is so worth it. Of that 6 hours only 20 minutes of actual work is required!

Mongolian lamb wraps (makes 9 wraps)

1 half leg of lamb, boned and unrolled (about 750g)

2 cloves of garlic grated or crushed

1 thumb of ginger grated

5 tbsp dark soy sauce

1 tbsp five spice powder

125 ml rice wine vinegar (white wine vinegar will do)

2 tbsp dark soft brown sugar

water

lettuce, spring onions, cucumber and hoisin/plum sauce to serve

covered casserole dish or dish and foil to cover.

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How to….

  • Preheat the oven to 160c.
  • Unroll the lamb leg and place snuggly into a dish. I used an enamel pie dish. You want the meat to be covered with the marinade and the meat will shrink.You need a dish that either has a lid or one you can tightly cover with foil.
  • Mix together all the marinade ingredients except the water.
  • Pour over the lamb and then top up with water until just covered.
  • Place on the lid, or cover with a triple layer of foil. Personally I’d put a layer of foil under the lid of the casserole dish too, just to seal in all the steam.
  • Braise for 3 hours, checking every hour and topping up liquid a little if needed. The meat doesn’t need to covered but you don’t want the meat to dry out at all.
  • Once cooked, the meat should slip apart when gently pressed.If it doesn’t then pop back in the oven for another 30 minutes.
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    Lamb, shredded with my fingers, no need for anything else.

  • Leave to cool completely, this allows you to remove the fat easily and the flavours of the marinade mellows. The meat can stay in this braising liquor for up to 2 days.
  • When ready, heat the oven to 200c. Remove the lamb skin as you want to crisp this up in the oven. Shred the meat, place back into a covered dish and bake for 20 minutes until piping hot. Place the lamb skin on a baking tray and crisp up int he oven for 15 to 20 minutes also.
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    Lamb skin, crisped in the oven, sliced finely to add to the wraps.

  • Serve the shredded lamb, thin slices of the crispy skin, spring onions, hoisin sauce and cucumber with lettuce leaves for wrapping. Pancakes are also something you could serve.
  • Napkins or kitchen roll might be useful too.

 

 

April 30, 2016 / mintcustard

Caramelised onion, tomato and goats cheese tart.

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Caramelised onion, tomato and goats cheese tart.

Yesterday evening I was home alone. On evenings like this I often have poached eggs or perhaps a bowl of pasta. However, having remembered the goats cheese in the fridge I came up with a plan. All those foods that others sometimes turn their noses up at,but I love, were going into a supper dish. A supper dish just for me. Nothing out of the ordinary, but tomatoes with the skins on, onions and goats cheese just aren’t everyone’s favourite around here.

I had some puff pastry in the fridge but shortcrust would do equally well here..

Caramelised onion, tomato and goats cheese tart. Feeds 2 with a salad.

Ingredients

2 red onions – finely sliced

ready made ready rolled puff pastry (half a pack)

half a dozen small tomatoes, sliced. A mix of colours works well.

A small goats cheese cut into pieces.

Pepper to season

1 tsp olive oil

How to ....

  • In a small saucepan pour the olive oil and place over a very low heat. Add in the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, for at least 40 minutes. the onions will become sticky and sweet. If the onions are catching on the pan, add a tablespoon or two of water.
  • Remove from the heat and allow to cool.
  • Preheat the oven to 180c.
  • Take a sandwich tin or a 6″ by 6″ tin and line with parchment.
  • Roll out the puff pastry and place in the tin. Don’t worry about making the edges pretty by trimming them. Leave it rustic. Prick the bottom of the pastry before you bake it.
  • Blind bake the pastry for 10 minutes or until lightly golden.
  • Fill the bottom of the pastry case with the onions. Top with sliced onions and the goats cheese pieces.
  • Season with black pepper and a little dried oregano.
  • Place back in the oven and cook for a further 10 to 15 minutes, until the tomatoes are cooked through and the cheese has melted a little.
  • Allow to cool until luke warm, serve with a salad and a glass of cold white wine.

 

 

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