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Saturday, 18 February 2012

Jammy Pancakes

Shrove Tuesday has always been an important family occasion for me. Indeed, I was born on Ash Wednesday and my mum still made my dad and my brother their annual pancakes despite being in labour! Now that's dedication!

This year Shrove Tuesday falls on 21st February so I hope you have your frying pan ready and are well stocked up with lemons! I have to confess that I find it hard to beat the classic lemon and sugar combo on pancakes but there are of course lots of other options. Sliced banana drizzled with honey is good, or an apple cooked with some brown sugar and cinnamon works well too.

A while ago I bought a teeny frying pan from the Lakeland catalogue. It was designed for frying one egg at a time but I use it to make mini pancakes in. These prove particularly popular with my girls. Funny how mini sized things often appeal to children. It also makes them think they had eaten "millions!" of pancakes, when in fact 4 of them is only the same as one large crepe. On these pancakes they spread jam so the small size of the pancake also means they have the opportunity to have a variety of different flavours. Try it, it is fun!

Mini Jammy Pancakes

4 oz (110 g) flour
Pinch of salt
1 egg, beaten
10 fl oz (300 ml) milk

Sieve the flour and salt into a bowl and make a well in the centre. Add the egg and milk gradually and whisk vigorously to make a smooth batter. If possible, leave the mixture to rest for a while (or overnight). Heat a little oil in a small size frying pan or use a medium frying pan and a fried egg ring. Poor a little batter into the pan (or ring) and swirl the pan round to cover the base. Cook on one side until beginning to crisp at the edges then flip and cook again for a minute or two until done. Lay on a plate and smear with a jam of your choosing. Eat immediately.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Jam biscuits for Valentine's Day

They say that the way to a man's heart is through his stomach and there is no better way to a man's stomach than a bit of home baking. So here is a recipe I use for Valentine's Day to reach my husband's heart. Easy to make, tasty to eat and fun to involve the children in making too should you be looking for ways to keep them entertained this half term.

Jam Heart Biscuits

6 oz (175g) plain flour
1 oz (25g) oat bran
4 oz (110g) butter
2 oz (55g) caster sugar
2 tablespoons milk
1 egg, beaten
2-3 oz (55-75g) jam

Mix the flour and oat bran with the butter until it is like breadcrumbs. Stir in the sugar. Add 1 tablespoon of milk then a little at a time until soft dough forms. Preheat the oven to 190°C and grease two baking trays. Roll out pieces of dough and use a heart-shaped cutter to cut out biscuits. Brush each biscuit with egg then cut strips of pastry and form a rim around each biscuit. Brush the biscuit again with egg. Spoon about 1 teaspoon of jam into the centre of each biscuit and roughly spread it to fill the shape. Bake for 15 minutes until golden then cool on a wire rack.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

The Classic Victoria Sandwich Cake

On the Jammy Cow website's page, "101 things to do with jam", making a Victoria Sandwich Cake is number 11. After all, a part from spreading jam on a piece of bread in one form or another, there is little more obvious to do with jam than to make a Victoria sandwich cake.

A Victoria sandwich cake was the first big cake that my daughter made on her own. Two years ago, at the tender age of 7, she had decided she had well and truly cracked fairy cakes and biscuits and wanted to try a bigger challenge so we flicked through her Usborne recipe cards of Yummy Things To Make and Eat and she selected the Victoria Sponge Cake. And off she went, with little more than supervision and oven intervention from me. Not to take anything away from her achievement, it is in fact little more than a very big fairy cake in terms of its recipe so it a simple cake to make that looks more impressive than the effort would suggest. She was rightly very pleased with herself and I think the Victoria Sandwich Cake will always hold a fondness for her.

It was little surprise then that this morning when I asked the girls what cake they would like to help me make she suggested the Victoria Sandwich cake. And why not? It took about 20 minutes to mix, 25 minutes to cook and was sandwiched together after lunch shortly before we went out on a rather chilly walk with amble amounts of butter icing and raspberry jam. The thought of a generous slice of that when we got home spurred us on for the last part of our walk. In we came, casting off coats, hats, gloves and scarfs and within minutes we were cuddled up on the sofa with a slab of cake and a warm drink. Perfect!

Victoria Sandwich Cake

225g (8oz) butter
225g (8oz) caster sugar
4 medium eggs
225g (8oz) self-raising flour
110g (4oz) butter
225g (8oz) icing sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
110g (4oz) raspberry or strawberry jam

Preheat oven to 180°C, gas 4 and grease and line sandwich tins. Place the butter into a large bowl and if it is straight out of the fridge heat it in the microwave for 30 seconds. Add the sugar and cream together. Add the eggs one at a time, stirring in between additions. Sift in the flour and stir well to combine. Spoon equally into the two sandwich tins then bake for 25 minutes until springy to the touch. Leave to cool in the tin for 5 minutes before turning out to cool completely on a wire rack. In the meantime, mix together the butter, icing sugar and vanilla to make the butter icing. Once the cakes are cool, spread one half with the butter icing and one half with the jam then sandwich the two fillings together.

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Random Soups of Kindness

Brr... it's cold out there today. Just been out to deliver the girls to school and am now enjoying the perks of working from home and have wrapped myself up in a blanket to get warm again. I believe it is down to -3°C today. Last year it went down to -13°C here in MK and stayed that way for a fortnight. In that time the pumpkins, squash and potatoes I had in storage in my shed froze and I lost the lot. But, hey, you learn from your mistakes and earlier this week I brought my stores into the garage and tucked them up in an old coat. I have chutney plans for those pumpkin and squash and don't want to lose them.

But what about a more serious loss - what about the thousands of people who die here in the UK each winter due to the cold?

This morning I came across this blog post from "Goddess On A Budget" about this very issue. And her solution: Random Soups of Kindness - to make soup and then to take a bowl to a vulnerable person. What a fabulous idea - the idea itself is heartwarming!

So today I think I shall take some of my stored pumpkin and squashes and cook up a batch of hot, thick soup. And maybe you could do that same.

Pumpkin & Butternut Squash Soup

(serves 3)

1 lb (450g) pumpkin flesh
1 lb (450g) butternut squash flesh
Olive oil
10 fl oz vegetable stock
2 tablespoons tomato puree
4 sage leaves
Salt and pepper

Peel and chop the vegetables then fry them in some olive oil for about 5 minutes in the bottom of a large saucepan. Pour in the stock, add the tomato puree and sage leaves and simmer for 30 minutes until soft. Pour into a food processor and blend until smooth. Return to the pan. Season to taste and bring back to the boil then either serve it hot or pour into warmed jars.

Or, from more basic ingredients - Leek & Potato

Leek & Potato Soup

(serves 4-6)

1 tablespoon oil
2 leeks
1 lb (450g) potatoes
1¾ pints (1 litre) vegetable stock
½ pint (300ml) milk
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Wash and chop the leeks into thin rounds. Wash, peel and cube the potatoes. Heat the oil in a large sauce pan and fry the leeks, stirring constantly to avoid sticking until the leeks are soft but not brown. Add the potatoes and continue to fry for another 2 to 3 minutes. Add the stock and the milk and bring to the boil. Cover the pan and simmer for 30 minutes until the vegetables are soft and the potatoes are breaking down. Blend in a food processor until smooth and season to taste. Serve immediately or pour into warmed jars and seal immediately.