Recipe: Homage to Manchester Tart

jammy coconut thumbprintsAs a child I loved Manchester Tart, the combination of sticky sweet jam, pastry and the exotic coconut on top  was hard to resist and I always had second helpings.

These biscuits were developed to satisfy my craving for this school day favourite and Mr T has already requested a second batch be baked this weekend, so join me in the kitchen, set aside 20 minutes and pop a tray of these in the oven. Best of all, they’re gluten free and dairy free so I can indulge my sweet tooth and remember all those delicious, stodgy school dinners.

You’ll find the recipe here

If you’re looking for a modern take on the traditional Manchester Tart, there is agreat recipe on the Great British Chefs website.

Friday Bake: Choc Chip Cookies

plate of cookiesThis simple recipe meets all my requirements in a cookie. They’re crunchy on the outside, but still slightly soft and chewy in the centre.

Using orange flavoured chocolate drops adds an element of surprise to the unwary; it’s never a bad thing to elicit an “ooh” over the tea pot!

Of course, they’re gluten and dairy free too – but that’s an aside – first and most importantly they taste great. If you need a quick recipe to make with your little ones, these are ideal. From start to finish, you can have a batch on the kitchen table within half an hour.

You’ll probably have most of the ingredients in your store cupboard. Do look out for the Beyond Dark chocolate drops, they are great quality. The taste is delicious and they hold their shape well for baking which is very important in a choc chip cookie.

This recipe makes 12, just enough to nibble a couple while still warm from the oven and then serve to friends with a pot of tea!

You can find the recipe here. Along with a few rather “under par” photos taken on my phone!! Believe me when I say my baking is far superior to my photgraphy skills!

Recipe: Salads with a Twist

I love beetroot, jewel colours, tiny globes of sweet flavour which brighten up winter mealtimes. Yet, for most people, mention beetroot and their first thought is the vinegar steeped slices bought from the supermarket. If you can get hold of fresh beetroot it’s truly delicious, easy to cook, versatile and very good for you. You can even eat the tiny young leaves in a salad.

LOWRESthenaturalvegmen_3143Earlier this week, I picked up a bunch of tiny, overwintered beetroot from the Veg Men (I wrote about them here). I decided to make a salad for lunch, using up a few left overs from the fridge, added some slivers of Gabriel Blue (a ewe’s milk cheese) bought from my favourite Cockermouth deli last weekend and a few slices of baked beetroot. Looking for a bit of added “crunch” I made some candied nuts as a gluten free alternative to croutons. Here’s how you can recreate your own version. Mix and match your flavours to suit what you have. Think of it as a twist on the classic goats cheese salad you find on so many restaurant menus and experiment.

sliced beetrootThe Basics

150g of mixed salad leaves (either home grown or find a local producer)

100g candied walnuts or pecans (see below for instructions)

75g goats cheese (I used a blue ewe’s milk because that’s what I had – and I didn’t weigh it – a small handful should suffice) chopped into small cubes.

3 or 4 small baked beetroot (see below for instructions)

A simple dressing made with 3 tablespoons  walnut oil and 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar

Method

Whisk together the oil and vinegar to make the dressing. Shred the salad leaves, slice the beetroot and combine all the ingredients in a large salad bowl. Leave to stand for a few minutes for the flavours to develop beofre serving.cheese and walnut salad

Candied Nuts

The ideal nut for this salad would be walnuts -  the eagle eyed among you will spot I used pecans – that’s what I had in the cupboard! To be honest, that’s what I’d use again, the flavour of cooked pecans worked really well with the blue cheese.

1 tablespoon of dark muscovado sugar

3 tablespoons of water

100g nuts

Mix the sugar and water in a saucepan and heat until the sugar has dissolved, add the nuts and stir until well covered in the syrup.

Pour onto a baking tray lined with silicone paper or baking parchment and cook at gas mark 6 for about 5-7 minutes. Start checking after five minutes, you want the nuts cooked, but not burnt. Leave to cool. The nuts can be stored in an airtight jar for about a week. They make a great snack too.

As a variation you could substitute maple syrup for the sugar, add a little ground ginger, plenty of sea salt and perhaps even a little paprika. Combine with a small bag of mixed nuts and make the perfect gluten free nibble to serve with drinks. These may take a little longer to cook, in my oven I give them 10 minues.

Baked Beetroot

Wash the beetroot, but don’t scrub. It’s important not to break the skin or the colour will “bleed”. Trim off the leaves, leaving about 1cm of stalk and  then trim the roots. Place in a shallow baking dish and add a little water (as a general rule I add a tablespoon for each beetroot). Cover with foil and bake at gas mark 2 for about an hour. The baking time depends on the size of your beetroots, “golf ball” size take about an hour, larger ones will take longer).

Once cooked, leave to cool before trimming the stalks and roots. You can then peel them if you wish and add them to salads, make a delicious dip or make a puree.

Veg Men salad

When I was a little girl, a “salad” meant a slice of lettuce, tomato, cucumber and if we were really pushing the boat out, slices of hard boiled egg. This would be smothered in Heinz salad dressing. Today, we eat some kind of salad almost every day. Even if you only have  a small plot or a window ledge, it’s easy enought o grow a few salad leaves. Even during the winter you’d be surprised what will grow.

Event: Sweet Mandarin Book Launch

Sweet Mandarin front cover hi resThis Saturday sees the launch event for Sweet Mandarin Cookbook at Waterstones, Manchester.

Helen and Lisa Tse  (the genius team behind one of my favourite Manchester restaurants) will be signing copies of their new book at Waterstones, Deansgate on Saturday 25 January,  from 2pm until 4pm. The twins will also be on hand to share their tips and tricks for cooking authentic Oriental cuisine as well as their experiences as successful businesswomen. My review copy arrived yesterday and I’ll be testing out some of the recipes shortly and will write a full review then.
But, if you can get yourself into Manchester on Saturday this is definitely one book launch not to be missed.

Book details:

Sweet Mandarin by Helen and Lisa Tse, published by Kyle Books, priced £18.99 on 24th January 2014. Photography: Gareth Morgans.

Recipe: Almond Biscuits

plate of amarettiFew of us can resist a biscuit, and after a morning hard at work in the garden (boy, it’s chilly out there) I came in to make a nice cuppa and indulge in a biscuit, but sadly the tin was empty. It seems I have been neglecting the baking this week!

If you need a quick biscuit fix, these definitely fit the bill and they fall into the category of “store cupboard standby” as I always have the ingredients to hand. You can have a batch ready to serve within half an hour of switching on the oven, which is just what I needed today.

I am reluctant to call them Amaretti, the ones I’ve eaten in Italy have a more bitter almond taste to them, At best, these are a soft, chewy version similar to the soft Amaretti Morbidi you sometimes find in Italian restaurants. Crisp and brown on the outside they hold up well to a quick dunk. They are also great to serve with ice cream or as the basis for a trifle.

You can find the recipe here. Best of all they’re naturally gluten and dairy free and low in fat so please most people.

This Week: At Home

august 23rd 2013This has been a week about the home. Harvesting vegetables, fighting to get to the ripening raspberries before the birds feast upon the glossy, red fruits (I don’t have the heart or the money to net them) . I’ve also been harvesting the nasturtium seeds ready for pickling (see below ).  I love nasturtiums,  they add splashes of bright colour around the vegetable patch and the leaves, flowers and seeds are delicious in salads. We also pickle the seeds, which you can use just like capers. I originally began to grow nasturtiums as a way of luring the butterflies away from laying their eggs on the kale and cabbages a few years back. This has proved very successful, but as you can see from the picture above, the cabbage whites are feasting on the juicy green leaves of  a few cabbage plants this year. I don’t feel I should complain though, we have loved watching the butterflies this year. The garden seems full of them and we’ve spotted at least 10 different varieties.

Baking a home coming cake for teen was a joy, it’s been too long since I baked a “proper” cake and the simple beating of butter and eggs calmed me down as I prepared all the paperwork for the dreaded tax return. On the subject of baking, I’ve added a book to my ever growing wish list, and I’m really hoping Mr T will take the hint and add this to my birthday gifts. “Small Plates, Sweet Treats”, written by Aran Goyoaga, the creator of the beautiful Cannellevanille blog, is bursting with natural, tasty gluten free foods. I’ve been living gluten free since last November, when tests revealed a sensitivity to some of my favourite foods. It’s been hard to find decent, creative recipes and discovering this blog was a revelation. Of course, it helps that the styling and photography are just superb. Do pay a visit, but be prepared to lose yourself for hours!

The return of the Great British Bake Off was a wonderful highlight to tv viewing (and such a “chore”  to watch it again with the teen on Wednesday as she missed the first episode). Thirteen lovely contestants, all struggling to work under the pressure of tv cameras, filming direction and in strange kitchens. There is no way you’d persuade me to put myself through such torture!

The hooks and needles have been busy, with a couple of rather lovely knitting projects posted off to lovely editors. Look out for the Christmas issues of let’s Get Crafting, Craftseller and next month’s Homemade with Love, which all feature my work. Personally, I can’t wait for the new issue of Inside Crochet. The September issue is an “homage” to the Granny Square, which I am intrigued to see in print. You’ll also find a new design from me, which I really enjoyed pulling together. I am so lucky to work with some of the best editors in the business and to see my work styled and photographed beautifully makes all the pattern writing headaches worthwhile. I added two new patterns to Ravelry this week. The hearts are proving very popular and the the  hedgehogs have been appearing in a few places (including at knit group today – how happy that made me). I’m also working on a collection of patterns for Christmas (sneaky peek above, which hints at the colour scheme I’ve chosen for this year, a twist on the traditional red and green).

I have a huge pile of books by my bedside at the moment, I’m loving “Knit Nordic”. Don’t forget there’s still time to enter the giveaway, just leave a comment here or on facebook, or tweet me  a link to your favourite example of a toilet roll cover and I’ll add you to the draw. My favourite so far has to be a crochet Fez, I’m almost tempted to make one myself!

Here in the Uk, we’ve a Bank Holiday weekend to look forward to, this is a great excuse to catch up on some gardening and to pile up the cushions on the sofa for some “me knitting”. I’m hoping to finsh the Teen’s “Owls” jumper and start a pair of socks from Rachel Coopeys Knitted Sock Society. Published by Quail Books, this is a joy. Beautifully photographed and featuring Rowan’s new Fine Art sock yarn, this is just the most inspiring knitting book I’ve come across in a long time (and before you think I’m raving over a free review copy – rest assured – I paid for this one  all by myself).

pickled nasturtiums

Now, back to those pickled nasturtiums, I first came across a recipe for these in the River Cottage Preserves book and was delighted with the results. My recipe has tweaked the original a bit, but the basic idea is still the same.

Method:

Pick the seeds while they’re still green, rinse and then soak overnight in a brine solution (I use a tablespoon of salt to every 100 ml of water).

Drain and dry the seeds and pack into small jars, leaving 1-2 cm at the top.  I add a handful of peppercorns and some tiny sage leaves from a bush in the garden, then fill the jars with cider vinegar. Put the jars somewhere cool and dark for a month or so before you eat them.

*Do make sure to sterilise your jars first and use vinegar proof lids.

Happy Making!

T x

 

Midweek Baking: Storecupboard Favourites

Goats Cheese and Pesto Palmiers

These storecupboard palmiers sound very grand, but they’re quick and make me feel very lazy, just the thing for a spot of mid week baking. My family love them and have been known to hover, waiting impatiently for the kitchen timer to “ping” before squabbling over them, arguing over who will get the biggest or crispest. The teen has been making these since she was four years old and is a big fan of our Christmas version made with tomato puree and cheddar. In fact this is a very child friendly recipe and it’s very forgiving, as who really cares if the pesto is spread in a wonky fashion or an over enthusiastic cook is too generous with the cheese?

You will need:

1 ready rolled puff pastry sheet, a jar of pesto, 100g of hard goats cheese.*

Preheat the oven to gas 6 (or the equivalent for your cooker), it needs to be hot. Grease a  baking tray. Unwrap the pastry, unscrew the jar and grate the cheese.

Here comes the hard part – spread the pesto over the pastry, sprinkle on the cheese and roll up like a swiss roll, cut into rings (about the thickness of a finger will do). If you like you can brush them with a beaten egg before baking for about 20 minutes. They should be browned and bubbling when they’re done and the timing will vary.

Tidy up, stand back and wait for the compliments!

*If you’re feeling particularly virtuous, use home made rough puff pastry and your own pesto – but don’t beat yourself up if you sometimes resort to storecupboard standbys, we all need a few recipes like this up our sleeve and shouldn’t be ashamed to admit to them!

Recipe: Parsnip and Coconut Soup

image

You might think this would be a strange combination, but it works. Using up the leftovers before we make our pre christmas visit to family, I found a bag of parsnips looking rather sorry for themselves. I fried 2 finely chopped onions, a clove of garlic and a small piece of fresh ginger until golden. Then I added chopped parsnips, a teaspoon of garam masala and poured on cold water to cover. The soup was left to simmer until the parsnips were soft. To finish, I added the remains of a pot of fresh coriander leaves and blended until smooth. Finally the soup was returned to the pan and I added half a can of coconut milk left over from last night’s thai chicken. Season to taste and serve warm with crusty bread. Now I need to find a use for some rather wrinkly carrots….

Home Baking: Chicken Plate Pie

When I showed my friend Michelle  The Simple Things magazine, I knew she wouldn’t be able to resist it.  So, when she texted so say she’d made the Chicken Pot Pie “…and it was delicious…”, I was determined to give it a go.

The only problem is,  if I served this to Mr T I was sure we’d have the “pie lie” discussion (a “pie lie” is  a perfectly acceptable thing – often served in pubs – it’s casserole with a disc of puff pastry on top . Often delicious but for an old fashioned Northerner like Mr T, there has to be a crisp pastry base or he feels cheated).

So, here’s my version. Just the same filling as The Simple Things version but served as a plate pie, with fluffy baked potatoes and fresh veg.

It was delicious and we’ll have it again.

Chicken Plate Pie

For the pastry

125g butter and 75 g lard

250g plain flour

pinch of salt

cold water to bind

Yes, I know lard isn’t fashionable, but it does make the best, crispest, tastiest pastry and it is worth the effort

For the filling

You’ll to dash out and buy the mag for that bit!

Method

Make the pastry, by hand or in a food processor. What do you mean you don’t know how to make pastry? It’s the easiest thing in the world. Find a video on youtube,  check out Delia, or better still get a friend to show you! Roll half the pastry out on a floured board and place on a floured plate. Place a dish on top and cut around the dish to form the pastry base. Top with the filling. Roll out the rest of the pastry, cut to size and top the pie. make a couple of slits to let out the steam and brush with beaten egg  to give a crisp, brown topping. bake in the oven.

I bake mine at gas mark 5 for 35 minutes, but every oven is different. It should be golden and crisp on the top.

Serve hot and enjoy.

Comfort Food

Until Easter this year I’d never cooked a rice pudding.  We were staying with friends and the lady of the house asked me to make a rice pud to serve up with Sunday lunch. No presure! Luckily she has a well stocked shelf of cookery books and together with the instructions on the back of the packet, I put this together and it  has now become  Mr T’s favourite Sunday teatime treat. The original was from Delia’s How to Cook but I failed to copy it down, so I had to cobble this together on our return. I think Delia had it from an old Eliza Acton recipe.

Using the quantities on the back of the rice pudding packet, simply warm the milk in a pan, add the rice and allow to come to simmer for 10 mins, add sugar to taste and a knob of butter. Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly.  Add 2 beaten eggs and pour into a shallow oven proof dish. Top with grated nutmeg (or for a different flavour, stir in 1 tablespoon  vanilla paste with the milk and skip the nutmeg). Bake as directed on the packet, but it will need a few mins less than the packet says. Start checking after 40 mins and  if needed turn the heat down low. We like ours with home made jam and there are never leftovers!

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