Monthly Archives: April 2009

Sweet Chilli Jam

This weekend started off quite busy with me making a batch of Tiger rolls and Guernsey Gâche. The Gâche, a butter laden fruit bread, was delicious, but I feel it needs a bit of tweaking until I post the recipe.

The rest of the weekend has been spent trying to recover from a nasty cold and preparing for a new term of Cookery Club (CC). CC has gone from strength to strength. This term 50% of the children old enough to come, applied to join my club. However due to funding and space I’m only able to offer places to 2/3 of these children, meaning I had to disappoint some kids but I have already got the funding to run it again in the new school year. One thing that has totally shocked me is how many boys applied. From last terms 4 boys taking part it has ballooned to 24 boys applying with a significant proportion of those being aged 9+. I don’t have a clue how I managed to influence so many boys to get into cooking, but I’m very proud. I try to bring a bit of fun science into my CC and we don’t make Fairy Cakes (I call them muffins!) so I think this may have had had an impact.

As well as my cooking in the kitchen Hubby has also been busy making salami and Sweet Chilli Jam. The salami is being made with some of the Middle White pig a friend gave us back in February and it is also a chance for Hubby to play with the KitchenAid gadget I gave him for Christmas, a food grinder. I have to admit I’m not a big fan of the offaly smell due to the ox runners, but once they are out hanging in the meat safe in the outhouse the smell soon goes.

This particular recipe for Sweet Chilli Jam was concocted by Hubby and his friend (a fellow foodie) while on a work jaunt to Manchester. Hubby not one to use recipes. Kind of a bung it in a see type of bloke, so this recipe is a guestimation of quantities. It turned out to be the perfect dipping consistency. Not as thick as a traditional jam, but not as thin as a sauce. If you wanted it thicker it would just be a case of adding more pectin.

Sweet Chilli Jam
makes about 5 jars (that should keep us going for a few months!)

15 chillis, finely chopped
350ml cider vinegar
900g jam sugar with pectin
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

1) Mix together all the ingredients together in a pan. Simmer for 20-30 min until you get the desired consistency. Transfer to a sterilised jar.

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Cooking up camping grub

I can’t believe it’s been 12 days since I last wrote. I didn’t get the job, but I have been offered freelance with them which I will do in the school holidays. It should hopefully open some doors for me and make them realise they should have taken me on as a full-time afterall! For the last week of my half-term we spent a few days camping in Edale…then recovering from walking the Edale Horseshoe along with some of the Pennine Way. We had planned to do Derwent Edge, but unfortunately the weather wasn’t suitable. Climb when thunderstorms are predicted? um no thanks!

When camping I don’t find the planning of food easy. We’re quite hardcore when it comes to camping and try and keep it as lightweight as possible. For cooking we only use a Trangia stove and use meths for fuel. The food needs to be easy to prepare & transport, ideally a 1 pot dish and also packed with slow releasing energy so we can manage the walking & climbing we do. In addition it has to keep fresh without the aid of a fridge. I also don’t want to have to take a multitude of ingredients as often you can’t park next to the tent.

Apart from the one evening where we cheated and went to the The Old Nag’s Head for dinner (they do very good plates of food for walkers) every other meal was eaten at camp.

Breakfast

When camping we want a breakfast that is filling and will keep us going until lunch.

Mornflake Lyle’s Golden Syrup Porridge
is one of the best breakfasts we have found. The main reason for this is that oats are packed with energy, it’s warming and as the golden syrup is included we don’t have to remember to pack sugar. We often eat a banana too for vitamins and as one of our 5-a day. We get around the milk problem by using small cartons of UHT. Not really what we would drink at home, but while camping with limited facilities it’s all we can viably use. Bacon butties for breakfast are tempting, but the washing up of a greasy burnt pan puts us off!

Lunch

Lunch is usually eaten on a walk so it needs to require no cooking, won’t get squished too easily (or tastes ok squished!), relatively light and energy laden. Lunch usually consists of some cheese, preserved meat (like salami) and tortillas wraps. Tortillas are better than traditional bread as it keep well and doesn’t matter if they get squashed between the hydration bladder and emergency blanket. We also take some cereal bars. If I haven’t got around to making my energy bars I find Eat Natural bars a good alternative, my favourite being the cranberry & macadamia bar.

Snacks

Snacks are essential when hiking to keep energy levels up. One of the most popular hillside snacks is Kendal Mint Cake. Considering it is essentially a big block of peppermint sugar it is great for a burst of energy, but at the same time has a habit of giving me a sugar high that can send me a bit hypo. We usually keep Kendal Mint Cake for emergency rations so for a quick sugar burst on the hillside we eat good old Jelly Babies. There is something comforting and refreshing about a few Jelly Babies that keeps us going to the end of the walk or till the next stop.

This time I also made a malt loaf. A delicious fruity cake that lasts for days and doesn’t get squashed easily. However a whole cake can be quite heavy so we left it at camp so it was a treat for us to have with a well earned cup of tea when we got back.

Dinner

As you know, I’m not one to buy ready made food. I very much enjoy the whole process of making something from scratch however when camping this is when my two loves collide. Until I own a dehydrator or food-safe vacuum machine I think I will sometimes cheat as I really struggled to find a dish to make from scratch that ticks all of the boxes. One example of a dish I found in one of my “camping cookery” books was a stew that required 2 hours of gentle simmering. 1) how much fuel would that use?! 2) After a long day trekking the last thing I want to do is wait 2 hours for food.

A few months back in one of our walking magazines gave a very favourable review to a brand called Look What We Found so decided to give it ago. Previous camping trips we have tried dehydrated brands of food, of which, to put it politely, are horrible. We were interested in trying a brand that just needed heating up, but also used natural ingredients. It took some tracking down, but we eventually found some in Sainsburys. On the second night we ate their Chilli Con Carne and I was very impressed. It tasted just as good as my chilli and had a nice warming kick. We ate it with a portion of rice. It also had the added bonus of not giving me terrible indigestion like other processed meals go.

And how do we eat all of this food? With a trusty
spork & Orikaso dinner set. I’m not sure if the Orikaso company exists any more, which is a shame as their products are good and they featured on Dragons Den. The dinner set is lightweight and packs flat which is a huge advantage for us.

Camping & Hiking is such a huge passion for us and I try not to let my love fo food get in the way, but sometimes it can be difficult!

Mini Egg Tiffin

I can’t believe how fast this week has gone. I’m already half the way through my Easter hols. It’s now Good Friday and our Easter tree has been up for about a week. I was first introduced to Easter trees 20 years ago in Germany and decided I wanted one in our house this year. Traditionally you are meant to have some branches in buds, but apart from hacking away at nextdoor’s plants I decided to use some decorative branches we already had in the house. I picked up the decorations at a garden centre. It’s added a nice bit of colour to the lounge.

I’ve done quite a bit of Easter baking recently; primarily Simnel Cupcakes and Mini Egg Tiffin for work. I’ve made the tiffin 3 times in the last few week. First was for my work mates, second for Hubby’s workmates (who consequently threatened to hold Hubby to ransom until I made them some more!) and then I decided I couldn’t let Hubby & I go without. As I have quite a few other things on my plate at the moment it had to be a quick Easter cake…plus Mini Eggs are my weakness. Forget creme eggs, far too sickly sweet for me, I love mini eggs.

The word tiffin originates from the British India meaning a light meal coming from the old English tiffing as in to take a little drink or sip. Oop North it also relates to a refrigerator cake.

This cake is based on my Malteser cake and the basic recipe can be easily adapted to add different fillings. It’s really easy for kids to make, so much so we’ll be making a similar cake in Cookery Club, and can be prepared in 5 minutes. Julia @ A Slice of Cherry Pie is hosting her Easter Cake Bake again this year and I’ve submitted my Mini Egg Tiffin.

Mini Egg Tiffin
Fills 1 x 1lb tin

85g butter
2 tbsp golden syrup
2 tbsp cocoa
170g digestives, crushed (I usually blitz them in a food processor)
170g mini eggs, lightly crushed
30g mini eggs, left whole

1) Gently melt butter and golden syrup in large pan. Stir in cocoa, digestives and crushed mini eggs.

2) Line a 1lb loaf tin with cling film. Press mixture into tin then press the whole mini eggs into the top. Refrigerate until set.

Time for tea

I’m not ashamed to admit it, I don’t do earl grey, chamomile or any of the fruity tea bags. To me chamomile smells of a rabbit hutch and fruity tea never tastes as good as it smells. I’m more of a PG tips/Tetley type of woman with a splash of milk and no sugar; or if I’m feeling a bit fancy, a cup of refreshing rooibos. Saying that I do have a pack of blooming flower tea waiting to be immersed, but they look so pretty I don’t want to use them.

There is something therapeutic about the humble cuppa. A cup of tea can solve a multitude of problems. Last year when floodwaters were lapping at the doors along the row of cottages all of us neighbors still managed to drink tea…made on next door’s gas BBQ. We weren’t going to let a torrent of murky water stop the important institution that is tea.

I only really started to drink tea since I started work in education. Not only is it a refreshment it’s also has a social element. If you drink tea you belong to the hot drinker clique. It also has a role of warming me up. School is cold at the best of time, to put it frank I’m nesh. No matter how busy the day is we will always make time for a cuppa, even if we have to decant it into a spill proof cup to take into class.

I’ll be drinking a lot of tea over the next week as I’ve been offered an interview for the amazing job I applied for a few weeks back. I’ve got to do a presentation for my chosen lesson subject along with preparing resources so I may go quiet, yet again, for a week. There are some implications if I’m offered the post, but I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.

Well, back to the interview prep with a cuppa and Tunnocks caramel log for fuel.

Focaccia

Back in February I made focaccia, to accompany Snow day soup, successfully for the first time. Then later on in February I attended a course with Dan Stevens & Aiden Chapman at River Cottage to learn the art of bread making. Between Hubby & I we made so much bread on the course, which was stashed in the freezer, it is only now I’ve really been able to put the skills I learnt at River Cottage into practice. One of the biggest things I learnt on the course was that I was relying on my mixer to do all the work and not kneading the dough for long enough.

While down at River Cottage we popped to The Town Mill, Lyme Regis, a water-powered flour mill. There we were able to purchase some wholemeal flour that had been ground of the premises using the old grinding stones. The organic grain for grinding came from Tamarisk Farm

I’ve been waiting for us to finish our bread stash so I could try out this flour. I wasn’t brave enough to make a loaf with 100% wholemeal so to make the focaccia I used 3/4 strong bread flour and 1/4 of this Town Mill flour. Like usual the the foccacia baked really well and the Town Mill flour certainly gave depth to the flavour.

Another ingredient I’ve also discovered recently is Maldon’s flakey Sea Salt. I’d seen it before in shops, but couldn’t see how and expensive salt could be so significantly different to ‘normal’ salt. Back in the new year while eating at friends she had used it on her cooking, then I suddenly understood why it is so good. I now use it on focaccia and a few other things. You only need a small amount of it so it lasts a long time.

Like all bread baking I do I’ll be submitting this to the wonderful & inspiring yeastspotting.

Focaccia
Makes 1 large foccacia
From River Cottage – Bread

500g strong white bread flour
5g fast action yeast
10g fine salt
325ml warm water (mix 100ml boiling water with 225ml of cold water)
1 tbsp olive oil
rosemary
flaky sea salt

1) Mix together the flour, yeast, salt and water. Once the ingredients are combined add the olive oil. Knead for around 10 min until the dough is smooth and silky. At the stage, if using a mixer, the bowl should be clean of dough.

2) Shape the dough into a round and leave to rise in a covered and greased bowl until it has nearly doubled in size.

3) Tip the dough out and work in a rough rectangle shape then place in an oiled baking tray. Cover and allow to rise for 20 min.

4) Preheat the oven to 250oc (or as high as it will go). When the bread has had its half hour rise prod it with your fingers to get the cratered texture, drizzle generously with olive oil then sprinkle with salt & rosemary.

5) Bake for 10 min then bake for a further 10min at 200oc. Leave to cool on a wire rack for around 10 min before serving.

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