Edible gifts, The Basics

Celery salt

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Flavoured salts are a good way of adding subtle flavours when cooking, particularly if you don’t have any of the fresh ingredient for a dish. They also look better as a condiment than boring plain salt. If you are lucky enough to get a bunch of fresh celery with plenty of leaves then save the nice darker green outer leaves and after rinsing and removing any excess water, in a salad spinner, spread them out on a baking tray and put them in the oven at about 120 degrees C / 250 F for about 10-15 mins until they dehydrate. You can turn off the oven and leave them in there to ensure that they are completely dried out. They will be dry and crisp and you can either crush them in your hands or chop them up roughly with some scissors. Then place them in a mortar and add sea salt, enough to fill a smallish jar, and pound them together. Put the salt in a sealed jar and keep in a dry place. This also makes a nice gift for a foodie friend.

 

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Baking, Edible gifts, Something fruity, Something sweet

Chocolate fruit & nut cake

Something chocolatey for Easter, always love fruit & nut chocolate so I decided to make a cake version with overripe bananas in it too to give it extra flavor and keep it moist. This would be great to make with kids as it’s quick & easy.

So what do you need?

  • 150g softened unsalted butter
  • 100g soft brown sugar
  • 1tsp. vanilla essence
  • 2 free-range eggs
  • 3 overripe bananas
  • 225g plain (all purpose flour)
  • 25g cocoa powder
  • 3tsp baking powder
  • 75g walnuts (or nuts of your choice)
  • 75g raisins
  • 150g chocolate chips
  • 4 tbsp. milk

So what do you do?

Pre-heat your oven to 180 degrees C / 350 F. Put the butter, sugar and vanilla essence in a food processor and blend together, then add the eggs and mix in, next add the bananas and blend everything together. Soft the flour, cocoa powder and baking powder and add this and mix everything together. If your cake mix seems very stiff add some milk Lo loosen it up a bit, I added 4 tbsp. then break up the walnuts a bit and add these, the raisins and 100g of the chocolate chips and stir them in by hand. Grease and line a baking tray mine is 26 cm square and about 3 cm deep. Pour in the cake mixture and spread it out evenly and the sprinkle the remaining choc chips on top and bake for 30 mins. Allow to cool in the tray for at least 5 mins. You can dust the top with cocoa and / or icing sugar. Slice into squares and enjoy. Perfect served with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream and caramel sauce!

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Baking, Edible gifts, Something fruity, Something sweet

Hot cross buns

So Easter is just round the corner, time to make hot cross buns. As with most things there’s a pleasure in making them yourself, but living in Northern Thailand it’s also the only option available! This recipe is based on one by Rachel Allen from her book Bake with a few adaptations. I used uncrystalized (naked) ginger instead of candied peel, which I don’t like, I also soaked my dried fruit in tea too and glazed my buns with honey. This will make 20 buns.

So what do you need?

  • 150g dried fruit (half currants and sultanas)
  • 1/2 cup of strong black tea
  • 50g uncrystalized (naked) ginger
  • 500g strong plain flour
  • 220ml milk
  • 5 tsp  / 2 sachets of fast acting yeast
  • 2 free-range eggs beaten
  • 100g unsalted butter (cubed)
  • pinch salt
  • 100g soft brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 – 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • seeds from 10 cardamom pods
  • 4 tbsp. milk
  • 4 tbsp honey

So what do you do?

Start by soaking the dried fruit in the tea for an hour or two this will make the fruit extra juicy. I used a breadmaker to make my dough, you can do it by hand if you prefer. I warmed the milk and put it in my breadmaker along with the butter, sugar, eggs, salt, 450g of the flour and the dried spices (freshly ground) and the dried yeast and put it on the dough setting. After about 20 mins my breadmaker bleeps and I added the dried fruit (drained of any excess tea) and the naked ginger. If the dough seems too sticky at this point add a little more flour. Once the dough was done I knocked it back on a floured work surface  then formed it into 20 buns and put them on baking trays lined with parchment paper. I left them for 45 mins to rise to about double size. Meanwhile I pre-heated my oven to 220 degrees C / 425 F and made a paste for the crosses from 50g flour and a couple of tbsp. water mix it together to make a dough, like pizza dough.

Once the buns had risen I rolled out the plain dough thinly and cut it into strips to make the crosses with. I then ‘painted’ the top and sides of the buns with milk and placed the crosses on and ‘painted’ them with milk. I put the buns in the oven and after 5 mins turned the temperature down to 200 degrees C / 400 F and cooked them for another 10 minutes or so until golden brown. While they were still hot I glazed them with warm honey using a pastry brush, if you want them extra shiny and sticky give them a second coat. Enjoy warm or toasted with butter.

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Edible gifts, Preserves, Something fruity, Something sweet

Strawberry passion conserve


It’s almost the end of the strawberry season here so it’s time to make the most of them and extend the pleasure a little by making jam. I don’t like overly sweet sugary set jams so I make fruit conserve which is more runny and fruity.

For this batch I used about 2kg of ripe strawberries (hulled and cut in half), the pulp and jive from 1kg of passion fruit and about 800g of sugar. I put everything in a large saucepan and heated up. Bring the fruit mix to the boil cook at a low boil for about an hour, stirring occasionally,  until it about a third of the liquid has evaporated then bring the fruit to a fast boil for 5-10 minutes stirring it to stop it sticking.

While it’s cooking sterilize some jars in boiling water (about 4 or 5 jam jars should be enough). I then put them in a warm oven to dry out. Once the conserve is done allow to cool for about 10 mins in the pan (this helps the fruit distribute itself evenly) and then ladle it into the jars and seal them. If you plan to keep it for a long time it’s a good idea to put a disk of baking parchment on top of the conserve before putting the lid on the jar as this will stop any air getting to the conserve and it will keep longer. Homemade conserve makes a great gift.

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Edible gifts, Preserves

Piccalilli 

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This is pretty easy and great to make when Cauliflower is in season. I’ve adapted this recipe from a great friend who contributed it to a memorial book made for a relative who had died. What a great idea I would love a book of recipes from family and friends to be my memorial.

So what do you need?

  • 2 large cauliflowers (about 1.5 kg of florets)
  • 6 large onions
  • 400g green beans
  • 2 tbsp. crushed sea salt
  • 10 large red chillis (or 2 red peppers)
  • 1.2 litres vinegar about 6 cups (I use a jasmine rice one as it’s easily available here)
  • 3 cups sugar (550-600g)
  • 1 cup (about 120g) plain (all purpose) flour
  • 4-6 tbsp. mustard powder (depending on it’s strength)
  • 2 tbsp. mustard seeds
  • 1 tbsp. turmeric

So what do you do?

Start the night before by rinsing the cauliflowers and then chopping the florets into bite-sized (or smaller) chunks, put these in a large bowl and add the onions and beans also chopped into small pieces. Sprinkle with the sea salt and mix together and leave overnight. The salt will draw out excess water from the vegetables.

The next day drain off any liquid and put the vegetables in a large thick bottomed saucepan and add 1 litre of vinegar. Bring to the boil and simmer for about 20 mins until the cauliflower starts to soften a little, you want it to remain some crunch. Meanwhile chop the chillis or peppers into small pieces and add them to the pan. Then mix all the other (dry) ingredients together in a bowl and add the remaining vinegar (about a cup) and mix into a paste. The mustard I get in Thailand doesn’t seem that hot so I use 6 table spoons I’m sure Colman’s mustard is a lot hotter. Add this to the cauliflower mixture and bring back to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes stirring occasionally. Allow to cool for a while in the pan. Then spoon into sterilized jars. This will make 6 – 8 largish jars of pickle. Like other pickles and chutneys it’s best if you leave it for a couple of weeks for the flavours to mature before eating piccalilli. It keeps well and makes a great gift.

 

 

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Baking, Edible gifts, Snacks

Cheddar & walnut bites

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If I had to choose one snack to serve at a drinks party I think these little taste sensations would be the one. They are so cheesy and delicious with a glass of wine. If you like cheese and you like shortbread biscuits you’ll love these. The mixture can be made in advance and frozen. This recipe is based on one in  the Tartine bakery cookbook and will make about 40 bites.

So what do you need?

  • 225g mature cheddar
  • 60g unsalted butter (softened)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp of wholegrain mustard
  • 70g walnuts
  • 125g plain flour

So what do you do?

Grate the cheese into a mixing bowl and mix in the butter, mustard and salt and stir until it’s well combined. Next crush the walnuts into the mixture they should be in small to medium pieces. Then sift in your flour and mix it in. It will come together into a thick dense dough. Divide this in half and roll each out into a log about 2 1/2 cms in diameter on a floured surface. wrap them in cling film and freeze them until hard (at least an hour). Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C / 400 F then take the logs out of the freezer and cut each log crosswise with a sharp knife into thin discs about 1/2 cm thick. Place these on a baking tray covered in parchment paper and bake for 10 minutes until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack and enjoy. They can be stored in an airtight container for a few days.

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Edible gifts, Preserves, Something fruity, Something sweet

Roselle & apple conserve

This is a great jam for the holiday season with it’s bright colour and festive spices it can be used instead of cranberry sauce with your Christmas meal or served with cheese as well as eaten on toast etc. It also makes a nice gift.
I picked a bucketful of roselles and separated the seed pods from the red calyx (which look like petals). I boiled a couple of bowlfuls of the seedpods in about 1.5 litres of water for 10 minutes. These contain pectin and the water will thicken a little. Then I strained the water into a large pan and added the calyx (about 1.5 kgs) and 5 granny smith apples which I peeled, cored and cut into chunks. I also added 2 sticks of cinnamon 4 or 5 star anise and a tsp of cloves. I brought this to the boil and simmered for about 15 minutes until the fruit softened then I added 1 kg of sugar and continued to boil for another 15 mins until the mixture began to thicken. Then I ladled the conserve into 10 sterilized jam jars which I sealed and labeled.

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