Don’t we all deserve to be treated with dignity?

I want to share two things with you today – a short story and an old Gypsy recipe.  Off we trot to Waitrose to have a mooch and of course partake of the free coffee on offer (I’m not sure the 30 mile round trip is worth a free skinny latte but it is FREE!), oh and pick up a free Guardian – ok ok but I’m poor!.

While we were having a drink I noticed a beautiful young woman approach the store with a teapot in hand.  Odd to be carrying a teapot? It turns out she needed some water as their car had broken down.  I couldn’t help notice the sudden hostility towards the woman and the lack of enthusiasm in fulfilled her simple polite request.  It turned out this beautiful young thing who looked like she had stepped out of a supermodel magazine was a young Traveller woman.

It was then I noticed people pointing and muttering about the girls, pointing at their caravan and proceeding to make ‘loud’ sweeping comments about Traveller’s and Gypsy’s.  In the end I had to leave as it was unbearable to hear other humans being, no more or less worthy than any Traveller or Gypsy, being so outrageously cruel.  Is it so in our nature to be so cruel?  Do we want to grow up in a world where any group of people are treated with such open hatred?  I suspect the answer is always, no. The young woman seemed impervious to it, sadly I wondered if this is what she is used to?

Traveller and Gypsy’s have been an integral part of society for over 500 years and up to 300,000 live in Britain today.  The prejudice they live with would not be tolerated by any other ethnic group.  However prejudice against Travellers and Gypsies seems so deep-rooted that people don’t know truth from myth.  Lets celebrate different cultures, not demonise them.

JEAN HOPE’S JOGRAY (Gypsy stew)
courtesy of romanyroad.co.uk

Difficulty – Easy

Ingredients

1 tablespoon Olive oil

Onions – sliced

Potatoes – thinly sliced

Mixed peppers – about 2 large diced cupfuls

1 large or 2 small Courgettes – sliced

Carrots

Tin of tomatoes (with herbs if preferred)

Garlic – optional

Large tablespoon tomato puree

Use chicken breasts or lamb chops – but if using chops
and they are fatty, reduce amount of olive oil

Method

1. Place everything in a saucepan, cover with lid. Use discretion with ingredients depending on how many you are serving.  I have given ingredients for about four people.

2. Cook on a fairly high temperature until ingredients are bubbling, reduce to a medium heat until potatoes are cooked, then simmer on low temperature until ready.

3. Stir from time to time to prevent ingredients sticking  to bottom of pan.

4. Serving suggestions:- Serve with grated cheese, fresh baked rolls or sodabread

Brilliant further reading:

Romany Road – a website sharing memories and reminiscences of Romany Life.
Traveller Times – A superb website with lots of interesting reading and research.  Well worth a look at.

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Chocolate Mint Tiffins

I’m always pushed for time, so I need quick easy recipes that taste yummy. I was experimenting one day not so long ago with the tonne of mint growing in my garden, and came up with mint chocolate tiffin.

Mint leaves.

Mint leaves. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Boy are they nice! If you like mint and chocolate, you will LOVE this little beauty!

 

Difficulty – Very easy

 

Mint Chocolate Tiffin

 

Ingredients

 

200 grams dark chocolate
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon syrup
4 mint kit kats
8 digestive biscuits
2 tablespoons dried fruit
1 tablespoon of fresh garden mint

 

Method 1. Melt the butter, syrup and chocolate in a microwave for 1 min at a time. Then stir. Keep doing this until everything is melted together.

 

2. Blitz up in a food processor the kit kats, digestives and mint until they resemble crumbs.

 

3. Add the crumbs and dried fruit to the chocolate mix and stir really well. Until everything is thoroughly coated in chocolate.

 

4. I spooned the mixture into a garden bug mould but you can spoon it into any tray you have available. Make it about half an inch thick. Flatten with the back of your spoon.

 

5. Optional: You could melt a some white chocolate and cover the top of the tiffin at this stage. I mean, the more chocolate the better … right.

 

6. Chill for at least an hour, then slice and eat.

 

Enjoy! xx

 

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Chocca Mocha Cake

I always have a jar of Camp chicory and coffee essence in the cupboard ready for whisking up a yummy coffee cake but this time I decided to combine both coffee and chocolate.  You can always add a bit more coffee essence to the buttercream and a bit less cocoa, or vice versa, depending on your personal taste but I love the way the coffee takes the edge of the sweetness you usually get from a chocolate cake.  This recipe is an all in one, is super easy and sure to go down a storm!

Claire’s Chocca Mocha Cake

Cake

225 grams slightly softened butter

225 grams caster sugar

200 grams self-raising flour

25 grams sieved cocoa

2 teaspoons of baking powder

4 medium free range eggs

1 tablespoon of camp coffee essence

Syrup

100 grams caster sugar

100 mls water

1 tablespoon of coffee essence

Topping

250 grams soft cheese

500 grams icing sugar

1 tablespoon of the coffee syrup

1 tablespoon of sieved cocoa powder

Method

Cake

1. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees.

2. Mix all your ingredients together with an electric whisk (freestanding or handheld).

3. Only mix together until all the ingredients are combined, about 30 seconds tops.  It is important not to over mix as this will affect the rise.

4. Split the mixture into two greased 8 inch round cake tins and lightly tap the tin on the work surface to bring the bubbles to the top and even out the mixture.

5. Bake for about 35 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.

6. Make your syrup. Put all the ingredients into a saucepan and bring to a simmer.  The syrup is ready when the sugar has dissolved completely. Set to one side.

7. Make your topping.  Mix together the cream cheese, icing sugar, cocoa and coffee syrup until smooth.  This is where you can decide if you would like your cake to have a stronger coffee or a stronger chocolate flavour.  Just add a bit more coffee syrup and a bit less cocoa or vice versa, depending on your personal taste.  You can always make your icing thicker by adding a bit more icing sugar.

8. When your cake is baked and still warm prick all over with a skewer and pour over the remaining syrup.

9. Leave to cool completely and you can leave your icing in the fridge to harder slightly.

10.  Once the cake is cooled, fill and top with your delicious icing and then grate some dark chocolate over the top.

Enjoy with a steaming mug of strong coffee xx

 

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Gluten Free Baking

An increasing number of people are intolerant to gluten or have chosen to remove it from their diets. However by removing gluten you can still enjoy cakes and yummy treats with a few simple tips from Louisa Kiddle who has her very own dedicated gluten-free stall in Loddon farmers market the 4th Saturday of the month. It’s the only dedicated gluten-free stall I have come across – if you know of any more please share them here.

Louisa’s Top Tips

- When using the popular Doves farm flour you will need to use a little more liquid plus a little extra gluten-free baking powder for extra lift.

- Try and incorporate as much air as possible when baking by using a good electric mixer especially when mixing your wet ingredients/eggs.

- I recommend the gluten-free flour that Letheringsett water-mill produce. Bear in mind it is plain/all purpose and you will need to use extra baking powder or bicarbonate.  Have a look at their website for a full list of local stockists.

- I often visit Hethersett Farm Shop for gluten-free flours and raising agents but all the supermarkets are increasingly holding good stocks of gluten-free baking products.

- Look for flour alternative recipes that use ground almonds, coconut and polenta instead of flour. These are delicious!

- When using polenta to bake make sure you soak the dry polenta in the juice for at least 2-3 hours so that it absorbs the moisture completely.

- One of my favourite recipes is chocolate brownies using kidney beans and apple – yes you read that right kidney beans!

Louisa’s Kidney Bean and Vanilla Apple Brownies with Vanilla

Louisa has adapted this recipe from a fantastic website The Coeliac Baker that looks at all things gluten-free

Ingredients

1 can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained

3 medium eggs

40 grams cocoa powder

80 grams caster sugar

20 grams black treacle

1 apple, grated or cut in to small chunks

2 tablespoons of vanilla extract

1 teaspoon gluten-free baking powder

1 tablespoon cold water

80 grams dark chocolate, roughly chopped

Method

1. Preheat your oven to 180°C.

2. Prepare an 18cm (7″) square cake tin by oiling the base and sides and lining the base with greaseproof paper.

3. Put everything except the dark chocolate, into a food processor and blend until smooth.

4. Fold in the chocolate.

5. Pour into your cake tin and bake for 30 to 35 minutes.

Allow to cool completely in the tin and turn out to slice.

Cut into squares and enjoy.

Lemon Drizzle Cake

This is one of my favourite recipes and I sold it on my market to the delight of my gluten intolerant customers and is made with mashed potatoes!

Ingredients

200 gram butter softened slightly

200 grams caster sugar

4 free range eggs

180 grams ground almonds

250 grams mashed potatoes

zest four lemons

2 teaspoon gluten free baking power

Lemon Drizzle

4 tablespoon caster sugar

Juice of 1 large lemon (or two small)

Method

1. Heat your oven to 180C fan.

2. Grease and line a 20 cm deep round cake tin.

3. cream the sugar and butter together until light and fluffy.

4. Gradually add the eggs beating slowly all the while.

5. Fold in the almonds, mashed potato (cold), lemon zest and baking powder.

6. Pour into your prepared tin and bake for 45 minutes or until golden brown and a skewer comes out clean.

7. In it’s tin take a tooth pick and make a few little holes.

8. Mix the sugar and lemon juice for the glaze together and microwave for three minutes or until the sugar has dissolved.

9. Pour over the cake and let it soak in and go cold in the tin.

10. Let the cake go completely cold before you remove it from the tin and eat with some pouring cream or on it’s own with a nice cup of Earl Grey.

Follow me at BakewithClaire

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Norfolk Black Aberdeen Beef Brisket in Cranberry and Red Wine …

Brisket in the beef cut chart.

Brisket in the beef cut chart. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have always thought that meat should be completely thawed before cooking. So when I needed to whiz up a delicious Sunday roast for friends and family I popped to my friends and picked up a delicious Black Aberdeen Angus 1.4kg beef brisket – that was frozen solid.

I panicked for a bit, then did some research – there are a surprisingly large number of time savy (or badly organised) people out there who cook their beef from frozen.

I was dubious and tried it yesterday afraid it would all go horribly wrong.  Well I can safely say – it didn’t.

Brisket is a cut of meat from the breast or lower chest and being a major muscle needs a long slow cook to break it down.  So I would always recommend that a brisket is cooked in the slow cooker for a several hours.  You won’t regret it.

Difficulty - Unbelievably easy

Ingredients

- 1.4kg beef brisket (Aberdeen Angus or otherwise)

- Half a bottle of red Merlot (or like us non drinkers any red wine you have received at Christmas)

- 200ml of beef stock

- Handful of roughly chopped carrots

- 2 tablespoons of cranberry sauce

- Salt and Pepper

Method

1. The night before your guests arrive pop your beef brisket and all the other ingredients into your slow cooker.  In total I gave my beef 14 hours and from a frozen block it had transformed into the most delicious, moist, fall off the fork, beef.  The red wine had given the beef the most delicious deep flavour that was not overpowering but definitely detectable.

You can use the juices and the vegetables to whizz up a lovely gravy.  Saucepan ready, I scooped out all the veg and some of the stock (minus the fat), added more red wine and 2 tablespoons of cornflour made into a paste with some cold water.  Then bubbled it all together and with a hand blender gave it a whizz to bring it all together (I don’t have time to strain things).

Served with tonnes of lovely fresh vegetables and roast potatoes this is one substantial and wonderfully flavorsome dinner.

Note – You can of course do all of this with a thawed piece of meat.

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Norfolk Knobs

I know what you are thinking … ‘crackers’.

Well yes, Norfolk crackers to be precise.  I want to share a lovely little recipe on how to make a very old medieval recipe that is thought to have come over with Danish settlers.  Knobs are a hollow yeast biscuit that has to be twice baked for perfection.  It is called a Knob because they resembled little door knobs – cute.

These Norfolk Knobs are different from the Dorset knobs as they are hollow in the middle and slightly smaller.

Apparently Dr Zechariah Buck, choirmaster at Norwich Cathedral for 60 years from 1817 to 1877, used to lock bad-behaving choir boys in the summer-house at the bottom of his garden in the Upper Close, giving them only water and Hollow Biscuits!  Sounds good to me.

E. Smith’s 1727 “The Compleat Housewife – Or, Accomplished Gentlewoman’s Companion”

“To make Little Hollow Biskets: Beat six eggs very well with a spoonful of rosewater; then put in a pound and two ounces of loaf-sugar beaten and sifted; stir it together till ’tis well mixed in the eggs, then put in as much flour as will make it thick enough to lay out in drops upon sheets of white paper; stir it well together till you are ready to drop it on your paper; then beat a little very fine sugar and put it into a lawn sieve, and sift some on them, the oven must not be too hot, and as soon as they are baked, whilst they are hot, pull off the papers from them, and put them in a sieve, and set them in an oven to dry; keep them in boxes with papers between.”

If anyone still makes Knob Crackers or knows where we can buy them please share.

Lets try a more up to date version.

Norfolk Knob’s

Difficulty – difficult enough

Ingredients

300 grams strong white bread flour

150 grams plain flour

1 tablespoon sugar

2 teaspoon of active dried yeast

100ml cold water

20ml warm water

1/2 teaspoon salt

75 grams lard finely chopped and diced

Method

1. Dissolve 1 teaspoon sugar and the yeast to 100ml of cold water and allow to prove.

2. Combine the flours with salt and sugar.

3. Rub in your lard until it resembles bread crumbs.

4. Add the yeast mixture and mix thoroughly.

5. Make a well in the center of the flour and add half the warm water and stir to combine.

6. Add just enough of the remaining water fr the mixture to combine as a dough.

7. Knead thoroughly on a lightly floured surface and transfer to a bowl lightly greased in sunflower oil to stop it sticking as it rises.

8. Cover with lightly oiled cling film and set aside in a warm place until doubled in size.

9. Now knead the dough and knock the air out of it.

10. Roll out the dough and cut a long rectangle about 1 cm thick.

11. Fold the dough over along the long edge and using a very sharp warm knife lightly greased with sunflower oil, cut into squares about 2 cm square.

12. Take each ball and quickly but gently roll into a ball.

13.  Flatten a little and arrange on a greased baking tray about 5 cm apart to allow for spreading.

14. Cover with a clean cloth and place in a warm place to double in size.

15. Once ready bake in a preheated oven at 190C for 15 minutes.

16. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.

17. Reduce the oven temperature of 130C and pop the knobs back into the oven to completely dry out which will take about 2 hours.

18. Remove and allow to cool completely before eating.

You can eat your knobs as they are or with a fine selection of cheese and chutney, or just spread with butter and homemade jam.

Find out more about Claire on her blog BakewithClaire or follow on twitter @bakewithclaire

For more information on Knob Crackers there are a couple of great websites:

http://www.cooksinfo.com/hollow-biscuits for more history and quotes

http://www.celtnet.org.uk/recipes/miscellaneous/fetch-recipe.php?rid=misc-norfolk-knobs

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Norfolk Bramley Apple Flapjacks

These moist apple flapjacks have been my absolute best seller this week at The Mill and I wish I had have made them sooner!  Everyone seems to love flapjacks and with the added moisture and flavour of Norfolk Bramley apples what could be better!  One of my most popular haunts is the Ashill fruit farm – who sell their own apples and their own apple juice – absolutely delicious and local.

A variation would be to add strawberries and raspberries to the middle as shown here. Anything is possible!

English: Bramley Apple from Nottinghamshire Po...

The Bramley apple is a true English superstar and we should revel in its sharp tarty uniqueness.  Bramley apples originated in Nottinghamshire in 1809 and since then they have become quintessential in our baking.  The Bramley apples higher acid content and lower sugar level is the key to them retaining their flavour in cooking.

In my kitchen I always have umpteen Bramley apples ready to rustle up a pie, an apple crumble cake or some flapjacks.  I really want to get around to making apple jelly – maybe this year I will.

One tip is that if you are peeling and chopping a lot of apples in one go, fill a large bowl with water and the juice of a lemon and this will stop the apples turning brown while you wait to cook with them.

Plus you can make the easiest pudding by coring a large Bramley apples and filling it with dried fruit and syrup, cook for 20 minutes until the apple is soft and walla – one of my absolute childhood favourites (just remember to totally core the apple completely!).

Difficulty – Super easy

Makes about 16 large bars.

Ingredients

600 grams butter
150 grams demerara sugar
240 grams golden syrup about 12 tablespoons (who can measure syrup!)
900 grams of any porridge oats (well I use any)
Pinch of salt
3 large bramley apples

1. Preheat the oven to 190C.  Grease a 40 x 20cm baking tin well (don’t panic about the size, just find a tin or dish it will fit into and not overflow – there is no rise in this recipe).

2.  Melt the sugar, butter, syrup and salt in a saucepan or in the microwave.

3. Stir really well then add the oats and stir until completely coated.

4. Take half the mixture and spread in the bottom of the tin – press down well.

5. Core and peel and slice your apples and spread the apples evenly on the top of the mixture you can sprinkle an optional tablespoon of sugar over the apples if you have a sweeter tooth.

6. Add the rest of the oat mixture on top and cover all of the apples and press down with the back of a spoon.

7. You can now sprinkle another optional tablespoon of Demerara sugar over the top to create a slight crunch when baked.

8. Bake for 40 minutes or until set and golden.  If you prefer more crunchy flapjacks cook them for an extra five minutes at a time until there are how you like them.

9.  Leave to cool completely and then slice and remove from the tin.

These gorgeous flapjacks will last for a good week in an airtight container or happily in the freezer for three months.

Enjoy xx

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