Summer Puddini

It will come as no surprise to any of you that I adore Nigella Lawson. From the mad cap running about after small kids in Nigella Bites right up to, well, anything, quite frankly.

I first knew of her when I asked why my friend kept her nail varnishes in the fridge.  "Oh, Nigella said to do so. It works!"

Her Christmas shows always make me want to throw fairy lights over absolutely everything and call it done. When I saw her make Puddini - mini Christmas pudding bonbons - I knew I had to make them too. I did, and became hooked.

Over the years I have changed up the recipe to make a Spring version, and now a Summer version.

Spring was Madeira cake, marmalade, white chocolate, apricot brandy, chopped glacé pear, orange and lemon extracts and a milk chocolate covering.

Summer was what I made today. I used to adore a chocolate bar when I was a child called Cabana. Tender and moist coconut filling, cherry pieces, a layer of soft caramel on the top and all covered in milk chocolate. Bounty was NOTHING compared to them, especially now.
I had that in my brain when I made these.

125 grams best-quality white chocolate (finely chopped)
PLUS 75g for swathing purposes
350 grams shop bought coconut cake
60 millilitres coconut rum
2 tablespoons golden syrup
1 tsp coconut or vanilla extract
2 tbs coconut milk powder
4 tbs coconut flour if the mix is a bit liquid (not all shop bought cakes are created equal)
10-15 chopped glace cherries
1/2 cup butterscotch chips (optional)

Gently melt the white chocolate. White can catch fast, so watch out.

Smoosh the cake in a bowl - icing, filling and all - and pour in the melted chocolate, syrup and rum.

Mix in the cherries and butterscotch chips if using, and then the coconut milk powder.

If the texture seems too loose to roll into balls add in coconut flour 1 tablespoon at a time.

Once the whole is a stiffish paste, cover it and pop it in the fridge to set up. It makes them easier to roll.

Once set up, roll them into balls and place them on a baking tray.  What size ball is up to you!

Melt the second lot of white chocolate, and pour a spoon over each ball. Don't use it all up though, if you want to decorate further. My chocolate skills consist of 'blob it all on and see what happens' so just go for it.

I held a few spoonfuls back, and mixed in 1/8 tsp beetroot powder* to colour it a light pink, then drizzled that over the tray of confections.

A tiny touch of desiccated coconut went on, and a piece of cherry in a fit of whimsy.

Behold, a trayful of delicious whimsy!

*I knew that the powder wouldn't cause the chocolate to seize, whereas a liquid food colouring might.


Caponata Fritters

I saw Sabrina Ghayour's Halloumi and Carrot balls in Bazaar, but had no carrots. Or dill. I did have halloumi, but I needed that for something else. Then I remembered an aubergine that needed using, so I switched from the island of Cyprus to the island of Sicily.

Caponata is a vegetable stew, sweet and sour in flavour, and pretty addictive. There are as many recipes for it as there are cooks in Sicily, so this was my take on a mini version. It must have aubergines, and tomatoes, and onion, but after that people have their own ideas. I'd have added in almonds, too, had I managed to find them!

Basic mix
1 medium aubergine, finely diced
2 spring onions, minced
6 baby plum tomatoes, or 1 large tomato, finely diced
1/2 cup sultanas
10 green olives, chopped
1 stick celery plus leaves, minced (you can leave this out if you hate it and use 1/2 tsp celery salt)
4 tbs red wine vinegar
1 tbs balsamic

100g ricotta, pressed or hung to get any moisture out
zest of 1 lemon
1 tsp dried mint
5 -6 large basil leaves, chopped
1/2 tsp pul biber or chilli flakes
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 egg
4 tbs plain flour
olive oil for frying (NOT extra virgin)

Cut the aubergine into slices, lengthways, then cut each slice into strips.

Dice each strip, and pop them into a bowl.

Drizzle with olive oil and mix well, making sure every little cube has oil, then sprinkle in 1 tsp salt and mix well again.

Take a large dry frying pan, and tip in the aubergine.

Cook on a medium heat until they start to brown and soften. No rubbery bits please!

Put the spring onion in, cook for another 5 minutes just to take the rawness out, then add in the diced tomatoes, celery, sultanas, olives and vinegar.

Mix everything in well, and cook on a low heat until any liquid has mostly evaporated.

Take off the heat and pop it all back into the aubergine bowl.

Crumble in the ricotta, add the mint, basil, pul biber and lemon zest.

In goes the one egg, and the 4 tbs flour.

Mix everything really well together, until it holds a shape when you form a rounded spoonful. If it doesn't hold, add a teaspoon of flour and try again.

Fill a heavy, deep pan with oil, to a depth of 5cm.

Let the aubergine mix sit, covered, while you heat the oil.

Once a smidge of batter sizzles when you drop it in, start frying the fritters. (Taste the fried bit at this state, just to see if you want to add more salt.)

Drop a rounded dessertspoonful at a time gently into the oil, no more than 5 or you will cool the oil too much, and then them sit, agitating the oil every so often so they don't stick. Don't panic if little bits drift off, those are crunchy treats!

Let the fritters get quite dark, then turn them over.

Once dark gold all over, drain them on a double layer of paper towel.

I fried off some basil leaves too, but if you do that, stand well back, as they splutter.

Serve hot, with whatever dip you like. Yes, I'm a ketchup girl, but sweet chili sauce would be nice, or just thick balsamic.


Spiced Chicken, Bacon and Chutney Paté

I love a good paté. From the small glass jars of chicken or beef paste available in every supermarket to the first course servings of velvety parfait in restaurants. Seeing as I love it so, I was pondering why I'd never made it. A Sainsbury substitution fixed that.

Suddenly I had 400g of chicken livers to deal with, not the 800g of lamb liver I'd ordered. I like chicken livers, especially Portuguese style stuffed into a soft roll, but Husband is not a fan of the texture, so I needed to find something else to do with them. Paté happened.
I found a reliable recipe online and then played with it. I didn't want super smooth, and I didn't want it to have purely livers in it either. I found smoked bacon in the fridge, and some dark and spicy green tomato and bramley apple chutney I'd made when we had a freezer clear out. Something about the buttery onion/bay smell made me want to add allspice, so that went in too.

Cooking commenced.

125g butter (and a bit extra to coat the top if desired)
1 large onion (white), chopped
6 slices of smoked streaky bacon, chopped
2 bay leaves
4 allspice berries, crushed to a fine powder
1/4 tsp smoked paprika
1 – 2 cloves garlic, crushed
400g free-range chicken livers
2 bay leaves
20ml apricot brandy
4 heaped dessertspoons of apple chutney (any dark fruity chutney will work)

Melt the butter in a large pan, and add the bay leaves and the onions. Cook them on a medium heat, and then after 5 minutes add in the bacon. Cook that mix until the bacon is properly opaque, then mix in the garlic, smoked paprika and the allspice and let that all cook gently together until the garlic and onions are soft.

Add your chicken livers, turn the heat up briefly to get a good sear on the livers, then add in the brandy and simmer til the livers are almost cooked through.

If there's excess liquid, don't panic.  Drain that off and set aside for later.

Pop the liver/onion mixture into a food processor, add in the chutney, and pulse. Of course you can make this as smooth as you want, but I wanted it slightly chunky.

If there's juices left, pop them back in the pan, and reduce furiously until syrupy and thickened then add them to the food processor mixture too.

Now taste it. Add in salt if you want it (personally I think livers need a decent amount of it), black pepper, more allspice if you want. You could even add in finely diced apples at this point. Give it another couple of pulses.

When it's at the texture you want, decant into jars or bowls.
Melt around 2 ounces of butter to pour onto the tops of the paté so that it's sealed in. I added a bay leaf to the top because I could.

Pop in the fridge so the butter can set hard, then serve with toast or crackers, whatever you want!


Meat Free Moshari Kokkinisto / Pastitsada

I'd made something called Moshari Kokkinisto - reddened beef - with the remains of the seitan left over from the doner experiment. I had a pretty large chunk of it left so I twisted it, pulled it and broke it into pieces. It takes some doing, as it's pretty elastic! Bear in mind that these will swell, soften and expand once you get them into the sauce so don't worry if you think you might have made them too small. Then off to the big casserole dish we went.

Extra virgin olive oil - a good 5 tbs
1 tsp cinnamon
1 quantity of seitan 'doner meat' (see previous blog post)

Gently fry the seitan pieces in the oil, and sprinkle in the cinnamon. Do this on a low heat, you want them to take on the cinnamon flavour, not crisp them up.

Cook for about 5 minutes, then set them and the oil aside

Once more to the pot!

Extra virgin olive oil - a good 5 tbs at least DO NOT SKIMP it's part of the richness and there's no meat fat
1 large onion, red or white, up to you
3 fat cloves garlic, chopped
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 small cinnamon stick
1/2 tsp cumin
2 whole cloves OR 1/4 tsp ground clove
1 tsp. cayenne pepper if you want
1/8 fresh nutmeg, grated
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1-1/2 cups red wine
2 tins chopped tomatoes
1 tin water
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt

Slice the onion into rough half rings, and pop it into the pan on a high heat initially, while you get the onion coated in oil, then add the garlic and turn the heat down to low.
Sweat the onions and garlic until they are translucent, anywhere between 10 and 20 minutes, depending on the onion.
Add in the cinnamon, cumin, clove, cayenne, nutmeg, red wine vinegar, wine, tomatoes, water, sugar and tomato puree.
Pop in the seitan, mix everything together really well, then cover and let it simmer for a good hour. You want all those flavours to mingle, and get right into the seitan.
For the next hour, pop it in the oven on around 150C and let it bake for 30 minutes, then take the lid off for 15 minutes, to make the sauce more rich.

It should end up looking like this:

I admit, I ate a fair amount of that straight up, just as it was. It's very filling, and you honestly don't need much!

The next night, I decided pasta was going to happen. Inspired by a dish called pastitsada from Corfu - essentially spiced chicken and pasta - I added some more extra virgin olive oil to the pot, snipped the seitan into much smaller pieces with scissors to make it easier to eat, added in another spoon of tomato paste and another 1/2 cup of wine, then let it simmer for another 30 minutes.

I then boiled some bucatini - or what ever pasta you like - until it still had a bit of bite, then transferred the pasta into the casserole dish using tongs. Any pasta water that gets in? Don't worry, the starch will thicken the sauce a bit.

Let the pasta cook in the sauce, soaking it all up.

Serve in fairly small portions as it's pretty much carbs + carbs, and eat topped with your cheese of choice.

I'd made a version of vegan parmesan* to try, and it worked very well with the rich sauce.

3/4 cup roasted hazelnuts
4 tbs nutritional yeast
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp garlic salt
Pulse in a food processor until you've got fine crumbs. You have to pulse as other wise the nuts warm, and the oils turn the lot into nut paste. Very tasty paste though!

*It's not parmesan, we all know that, but it is really tasty with this dish.


Hail Seitan, Destroyer of, er, bread.

I admit, I am late to this homemade seitan thing because a) I'm not a vegetarian and b) lots of restaurants out there have been doing it better, for longer but as my tooth works are ongoing, I needed a protein with no surprises.

I'm not a fan of doner meat, not because of the ears/noses/toes nonsense, but because on occasion there's a wee bone chip and OW MY TOOTH, but I do like the flavours, so I thought I'd put those into a setain dough and see how it turned out.

Rather well, it seems! I admit, a stand mixer with a dough hook is an amazing aid to making this stuff, as the more you knead it, the more texture it has, so if you make it by hand, then beat seven shades of wotsit out of it.

1 1/2 cups vital wheat gluten
1/2 cup chickpea flour
2 tbs nutritional yeast (Holland and Barrett sell it)
1 tsp salt

The seasonings
2 generous tsp ground cumin
1 tsp dried mint
1 tsp baharat
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder

The liquid
1 cup boiling water
2 tbs Marmite dissolved in said water
1 tsp smoked salt* or smoked paprika stirred in to the water
1 tbs maple syrup

The other liquid
1 large pan full of simmering water

Put the dry ingredients and spices into the stand mixer. Twirl it around a bit, mixing it all up. I know it sounds like a lot of salt in here, but the dough needs it.

Slowly add the stock while the machine is going ON LOW and it will come together.

Up the speed a little and let it go for about 5 minutes or so.

When it starts to gather around the dough hook, turn it down to low and run it for another few minutes to give the gluten an extra stretching.

Grab your lump of dough, and manhandle it into a vague sausage, twisting it a bit like a rope.

Wrap tightly in foil, like a fat silver Christmas cracker, and lower gently into the simmering water.

Leave it to simmer, covered, for an hour then take it out and let it cool enough to handle.

Slice it thinly, and quickly warm it in a pan with a decent amount of olive oil to get that juiciness into it. If the heat is too high, the thinner slices will crisp up, but hey, if you want crispy, go for it!

Stuff it into a warm pitta bread with tahini, salad, whatever you like. I did tahini, chili jam and fresh lemon juice with some sliced white, as that was all I had, and that was gorgeous.

*This is the smoked salt I used. It is strong, very woodsy, but gives a proper punch of umami when dissolved in the stock. Brilliant company, too, by the way.


Cypriot Inspired Bread Pudding

Last time I made bread pudding, amongst the wave of Good Old British nostalgia that overtakes me every time I make it, there was a small voice whispering to me as I stirred the milk into the chunks of bread.
"Maybe this would work with other flavours. Maybe this would work with tahini. Thought about rose yet?"

I'm used to this voice, it's there a lot. Usually when I'm cooking one thing, concentrating on that night's dinner, it wanders up, nonchalantly commenting on how next time I could always add...and so it goes. Welcome to the food world inside my head.

I tried to ignore it but these things never go away. The only way to stop the record stuck on repeat is to make the thing and get it over with. It's hard to explain to people this compulsion to make a recipe that's in my head, but that's what it is. Better to just make it, bring it into being, and give my brain a bit of peace until the next time.

So. Tahini bread pudding. I wanted it to have Cypriot flavours, so plain old bloomer loaf would not do. Turkish oval fingerprint bread however, that worked. It's the bread we get in Cyprus to have for breakfasts, and we love it.

The soaking liquid. Sheep milk? Goat? No. Almond. Cypriots do love their almonds.

Next up, tahini. I laid in an extra supply as I wasn't sure how much I'd need. Not all tahinis are created equal. The one I found was beautifully creamy, but still pretty vehement in its sesameness.

Brown sugar and oodles of cinnamon just had to go with the tahini. Echoes of the swirled tahinopita my father used to bring home from the Greek bakery on a Sunday afternoon, which I'd eat slowly from the outer ring inwards until reaching the extra cinnamony part right in the middle. That's the very best bit.

Orange blossom water, and rose water. Yep, definitely needed those. Sultanas, without question because they are in a traditional bread pudding, and I love them.  Sliced almonds, those went in as well.

Dried rose petals for a more musky hint, to add to the bright flash of rose water.

I put in 1 tbs grape molasses just to darken the colour a bit, but that's totally optional.

Off I went.

1/2 a loaf of Turkish bread, roughly 300g cut into very small pieces
Approx 1 pint/570ml almond milk to soak the bread though you may need less - judge it as you go
1 cup/ 350g sultanas
1/2 cup/55g sliced almonds
1/3 cup/75g demerara sugar
3 tbs cinnamon
1 cup/250ml tahini + warm water to thin if needed
1 tsp rose water
1 tsp orange blossom water or orange extract or zest of 1 orange
3 tbs dried rose petals
3 tbs olive oil
2 medium eggs

Garnish for the top
Ground pistachios
Slivered almonds
Demerara sugar
Crystallised rose pieces

Put all the bread pieces in a large bowl.

Pour over the almond milk, turning the bread over to moisten it all. There must be no pieces left dry.

Let that sit and soak for 15 minutes, then stir it again to make sure all the pieces are soggy.

Add in the sultanas, sliced almonds, demerara sugar, cinnamon, tahini, rose water, orange blossom water (or orange extract or zest of 1 orange) and the dried rose petals.

Mix it all well, cover and leave to sit for a few hours, or even overnight.

After it has sat, mix it all again, adjust your cinnamon if you want (as in MORE OF IT which is the usual cry in this house).

Stir in 2 beaten eggs, and the olive oil, then pour into a solid greased square tin.  DO NOT USE A LOOSE BOTTOMED ONE. I always panic that it looks too runny, and then it's always fine.

Sprinkle the top with more sugar, rose pieces, ground pistachios, almonds, whatever you wish.

Bake at 170C for 45 minutes, or until slightly puffed and set.


Old Fashioned Bread Pudding

Last weekend I baked some bread, ate two slices, and then promptly forgot about it. It was wrapped, and out of sight, which is probably the best way for me to lose track of things. Thankfully I found it again before it went furry, but it was a lot more dense than it had been, and dry too.

That means...BREAD PUDDING.

Not bread and butter pudding, no. This is a different animal. Bread pudding as I've always known it is a great big bowl of spiced, fruited and sugared bread, all smooshed and squished together with milk until it's one homogenous mass, and then baked until it becomes a slab of darkly sweet perfection. A brilliant and thrifty way to use up stale or old bread and probably a cheap way to fill the kids up when they got in from school. I adore it, and am quite protective of it. (I've long felt that Bread and Butter Pudding was a bit of an imposter, the smaller, more delicate sister of the big, comforting and homely eldest.)

I set to with gusto, and more than a little excitement.

Oven 170C fan
1 x solid base cake tin - do not use a loose bottomed one

700g of stale white bread, cubed
Milk - whole, please, no skimmed or semi skimmed here
1/2 cup / 115g sugar (I used golden caster but use what you have)
2 1/2 tbs mixed spice
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
2 handfuls of sultanas
2 medium eggs
50g butter, melted

Put all the bread into a large bowl. Pour over the milk until it's just under the top of the bread.
Leave it to soak, but stir and smoosh it every so often.
When all the milk has been soaked up, and the bread is all broken down, add the sugar, spices, fruit and eggs.
Brush your cake tin with some of the melted butter, then add the rest to the bread mixture.
Stir it all again, add more spice if you want, then pour the lot into the cake tin.
Bake it for 40 minutes, or until set.
Sprinkle demerara and caster sugar on top and leave to cool, then cut into slabs.

You can change this up, add what you like. Glace cherries, or candied peel, more spices, different bread, different sugars. It's your dessert after all.

Nigella Lawson says it should have suet in it. I've not tried that, but I'm willing to give it a go!


Hallloumi & Mint snacks

Greek (Orthodox) Easter came and went this year, and more or less passed me by. When you're the only Cypriot around for miles (that I know of, anyway) there doesn't seem to be a lot of point in doing much about it. If we had an Orthodox church near, I'd probably go, but we don't, and it's a very long way to North London.

Cypriots usually make tons and tons of Easter pastries, ready to break the lenten fast. It's a team effort, as there are so many made. I have made them myself a few times, but it is pretty slavish work, and this year I did not have the energy. I made lots of buttery, orange scented koulourakia biscuits, roasted some lamb, and called it done.

I still wanted that flaouna filling taste though. Mine is made from a memory of my Auntie Helen's ones, so I don't know if they are authentic or not, but the taste is as near to what I can recall. It has been a very long time since I ate hers!

So I was wondering what to do with the stock of halloumi and mint I'd laid in, just in case I found the inspiration to make the Easter pies. The inspiration never showed itself, but I still had the cheese. (Face it, I've always got the cheese.) I also had a small seeded loaf that needed using, and I recalled making bread cases for something else, and liking them quite a lot.

Bank Holiday Monday afternoon came along, and off I went.

1 x food processor or you can just grate the cheeses by hand

1 x 400g medium sliced seeded loaf - you need as many slices as will fit your bun tray
olive oil
1 250g block halloumi cut into large chunks
200g mature cheddar cut into large chunks
about a cup of fresh mint leaves
2 tsp dried mint
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup sultanas
2 medium eggs

Cut the crusts off the bread, and roll each edgeless slice out until it's very flat
Oil the bun tray very well.
Brush each bread slice with olive oil, DO NOT STINT, and press into the tray hollows, making sure each slice goes all the way to the bottom. (my bun tray was quite shallow)
Bake at 170C fan until crisp and slightly golden.
Blitz the cheeses for a few goes, then add in the mints.
Blitz again.
Add in the sultanas, cinnamon and the eggs, blitz until they form a cohesive but lumpy paste.
Put a decent spoonful of the filling into each bread case, then bake at 170 again until puffed and golden brown.
I like these best lukewarm, but it's up to you!


Breakfast Bran Muffins

I admit, I do love a good bran muffin. But not the dry, cardboardy ones that used be sold as healthy. No, I want them to be flavourful, and tender, as well as full of good things.
The original recipe for these is from Kellogg, but I wanted to make it vegan, and also to add a bit more depth, so I put in more spices, and used lovely coconut milk.

Allegedly, thanks to the two full cups of All-Bran® cereal per recipe, each of these muffins offers 14% of your fiber DRV. There, aren't you glad about that?

Ingredients (yes, it's in cups. Sorry.)

1 1/4 cups self raising flour
1/4 cup of golden caster sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups Kellogg's® All-Bran® Original cereal
1 1/2 cups coconut milk (feel free to add in a little more if the mix is too thick)
3 tbs aquafaba
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 heaped tbs molasses or black treacle
1 tsp mixed spice or Spice Sanctuary Sweet Delight spice mix
Handful of sultanas

Stir together the flour, sugar, and salt. Set aside.

In large mixing bowl, combine KELLOGG'S ALL-BRAN cereal and coconut milk. Let stand about 2 minutes or until cereal softens. Keep mixing it to coat all the cereal.

Add the aquafaba, oil, molasses, spice mix and vanilla. Mix in really well. Smoosh it all about and mash it.

Stir in a handful of sultanas.

Add the flour mixture, stirring only until just combined. If it's too thick, add in a little more coconut milk.

Portion evenly into twelve 2 1/2-inch muffin pan cups coated with cooking spray or use paper cases. I use a cookie scoop as it's easier.

Bake at 400° F/170C fan for about 20 minutes or until golden brown.

These go REALLY WELL with cheese. Just saying. 


Tahini and Chocolate Condensed Milk Cake

This is based on an Indonesian Kek Lapis recipe, layer upon layer of pillowy condensed milk cake batter, with each layer grilled before the next is added. I loved the sound of the batter, but I didn't have the time, or the back muscles, to do that, so the idea of turning it into a zebra or marble cake was hatched. One dark layer, one light.

I wanted to use tahini in the lighter coloured batter, as it is one of my favourite flavours, and that is also a natural partner with dark chocolate, so lots of cocoa powder went into the other batter. Yes, it can all get a bit messy, but man, licking the (very large) bowl is pretty essential with this one.

All ingredients must be at room temperature

1 x 9.5" x 9.5" x 2.5" square tin, well lined with non stick baking parchment. Leave enough hanging over the edges so you can lift the cake out with it.

Oven temp of 180C fan

You will also need a very large bowl, a medium bowl,  and either a stand mixer, a good electric hand whisk or serious forearms.

10 medium eggs, room temperature (Yes, 10)
16oz/454g of room temperature margarine for baking or very soft butter (yes, good baking margarine is fine here)
Half a can (200g) of sweetened condensed milk
200g light Cypressa tahini
1 cup of golden caster sugar
2 cups of plain flour (plus a few extra tablespoons if the batter curdles)

Light Layer
2 teaspoons of vanilla
1 tsp cinnamon extract

Dark Layer
5 teaspoons sifted cocoa
2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
1 tsp coffee extract
1 tsp rose extract

Bowl 1:
Put all the eggs in first and whisk until fluffy. Then add the flour and sugar. Whisk on high speed until everything is fluffy and billowy.

Bowl 2:
Beat the margarine, condensed milk and tahini together until well mixed, light and creamy. Try not to eat this with a spoon.

Pour the contents of Bowl 2 into Bowl 1, and then whisk the whole lot on high speed until it is all combined, light and creamy. It will expand somewhat.

Take out half the mixture and put it into a clean bowl or large jug. Add in the cocoa, coffee, vanilla and rose extracts to this bowl. Fold them all in really well with a spatula.

To the lighter mix, add the cinnamon and vanilla extracts.

Take a ladle of dark mix and pour in into the centre of the lined tin.

Then pour a ladle of light on top of that.

Repeat until all the mixes are used up.

Swirl a pattern into the top with a skewer if you wish.

Bake for 45-50 minutes, then test with a toothpick to see if the middle is done.

If not, put it back in for 10 minutes and check again.

If you think the top is getting too dark, pop a piece of foil on it.

Leave the whole cake to cool in the pan before lifting it out.

Cut into thin slices when cool.


No Knead Slow Cooker Bread

Totally inspired by Bakingqueen74, who has been baking in her slow cooker since forever, and then reminded, poked and prodded into actually giving it a go by the colourful bread recipes that Bootstrapcook has been posting. 

I love the no knead method, and I can stir it all together and just leave it to do its thing, so I went with that. This used up the flours I had hanging around. I am tempted to do a rye version too, and a cinnamon and raisin.

1 x 3.5 litre slow cooker, lined with enough non stick baking parchment that the edges poke out (helps to form a handle to lift the bread out)
2 cups strong bread flour, white or wholemeal
2 cups plain flour
2 tbs olive oil
1.5 tsp salt
1 7g sachet of yeast
2-2.5 cups tap hot water (if it’s too dry, add the half cup of water a bit at a time.)
100g juicy black olives, de-stoned and roughly chopped
1-2 tbs finely chopped coriander leaves (non essential)
1-2 tbs crispy onions (non essential)

Put the flour in a large bowl.
Put the yeast on one side, and the salt on another side of the flour.
Pour in the 2 cups of water, and the oil.
Mix really well with a spoon, or a spatula, or a dinner knife, or your hands if you want, until all the flour has gone, and the olive pieces are all mixed through.
Cover with cling film and leave to rise. Mine took about an hour or so in a warm kitchen.

Once it's doubled in size, line your slow cooker with non stick baking parchment, and put on high to preheat.

Tip the dough out onto a floured surface. It might be pourable, it might be a less sticky dough, but whatever it is, DO NOT PANIC. It will still bread.

I use an old bank card as a dough scraper, and work and fold the flour into the dough, until it comes together into a smooth ball or oval shape, depending on your slow cooker shape. Oil your hands if you like, as that will also stop the dough sticking too much to you. You can even use two old bank or store cards, if you really don’t want to touch the dough.

Pop the ball of dough into the slow cooker. Leave it on high, and put the lid on.
Set a timer for 1 hour and 30 minutes.
When the timer goes off, gently lift the bread out using oven gloves, and turn it over to cook the other side for another 30 minutes.

I put the whole loaf into a 200C oven for 10 minutes to get a golden colour on it too, but you don’t have to.  It is a very tender, soft loaf, and quite addictive.


No Knead Cider Bread

No knead bread is an addiction. That you can go from gloop to bread in 2 hours (at its fastest) is just such a wonder to me. I love recipes that you can change up, fiddle around with, and they still work.
I found a shallot in the fridge that needed using, the tail end of a bag of bread flour, and a bottle of cider that was just out of date.

Oven temp of 200CF

4.5 cups of strong white bread flour (that's what was left in the bag)
2 - 2.5 cups of cider (more if needed)
1 heaped tsp sea salt
1 7g sachet of instant yeast
1 large banana shallot, sliced into fine half rings
1/4 - 1/2 tsp sweet smoked paprika
olive oil

Peel and slice the shallot.
Put around 2 tbs olive oil into a frying pan, add the paprika and then the shallots. Mix well.
Turn the heat on, and gently fry until the edges, then the whole pieces start to darken, and the shallots are cooked through. You want them all cooked with a few crispy bits, but not burnt.
Set the pan aside to cool.

Put the flour in a large bowl.
Put the yeast one one side, and the salt on another side of the flour.
Pour in the cider.
Add the cooled shallots.
Mix really well with a spoon, or a spatula, or your hands if you want, until all the flour has gone, and the shallot pieces are all mixed through.
Cover with cling film and leave to rise. Mine took about an hour or so in a warm kitchen.
Once it's doubled in size, tip it out onto a floured surface. It might be pourable, it might be a less sticky dough, but whatever it is, DO NOT PANIC.
I use an old bank card as a dough scraper, and work and fold the flour into the dough, until it comes together into a smooth ball shape. Oil your hands if you like, as that will also stop the dough sticking too much to you.
For this loaf I popped it into a small, round cake tin with high side, that I'd lined with non stick foil.
Leave that to rise for another half hour, then put it into the oven.
Set a timer for 35 minutes.
At 30 minutes, take the loaf out of the tin and return it to the oven shelf to crisp up. Feel free to turn the oven down a bit to, say, 180, so nothing burns.

Family Fish Pie

I'm calling it a family fish pie because this amount will easily serve 4-6. It's worth making a big batch, and then freezing it in individual portions, ready for a late night home from work or two. We’d inherited a freezer full, as someone’s Pa had accidentally ordered 12 packs, instead of 1…

4 large fillets of smoked haddock OR any firm white fish fillet you like.
Enough milk to cover the haddock (around 1.5 pints/850ml) (I think non dairy, goat or lactose free milk will be ok here too)
1 shallot, peeled but left whole
1/4 tsp allspice or 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1 bayleaf if you have one – optional
1 small pack cooked prawns
1/2 cup/125g frozen peas
1.5 kg Maris Piper potatoes
56g/2 ounces butter, divided
28g/1 oz plain flour
sea salt
Extra butter
Olive oil
4 hard boiled eggs, cooled and shelled

Cut each fillet in half crossways so that they fit in your pan.
Pour over the milk, pop in the shallot, bayleaf and the spice. The fish needs to be covered. DO NOT ADD SALT.
Bring to the boil, simmer on low  for 15 minutes, then leave to cool in the milk.
Drain, KEEP THE LIQUID in a jug, and set both aside.

Bechamel Sauce – just use the same pot you cooked the fish in
1 oz/28g butter or margarine or dairy free spread
1 oz/28g flour
The poaching liquor – probably about half of it, but judge as you go
Melt the butter on a low heat. Whisk in the flour, and cook it on the same low heat for a couple of minutes.
Slowly add in the poaching liquid, whisking all the time. It should gradually thicken.
You want it to get to a thickness that will coat the fish and the peas, not swamp it too much.
When it’s as thick as good custard, gently mix in the fish, prawns and peas. If it’s too thick at this point you can mix in more of the poaching liquid.
Pop all the fish mix into an ovenproof dish, making sure you get all the sauce out of the pan.
Cut the eggs in half, and arrange over the fish, pressing them down.
Rinse the sauce pan out with hot water and…

Add the peeled potato chunks to your rinsed pot, add water to cover, a good tsp sea salt, and bring to the boil.
When tender,  drain, mash well with 1 oz butter/marg/spread and a good pinch of sea salt. Taste, and add more if you think it needs it. Black pepper can be added if you like it.
If the potatoes will not smooth out enough, or are too dry, add in some of the poaching milk, 1 x tbs at a time. It needs to be smooth enough to dollop and spread evenly across the fish.
Spread the mashed potato over the top and flatten it if you can.
Use the rounded end of a butter knife or spatula to depress half moons into the mash, all the way across.
Lightly drizzle olive oil all over the top. The mash will absorb it, don’t worry.
Stand your dish on a baking tray in case of overbubble, and bake in a `180C oven for about an hour, or until the potato goes golden.
Take it out, dot with butter/spread and sprinkle very lightly with sea salt flakes.
Bake again until burnished and slightly puffed up.