Here at Bramble Kitchen we are busy getting ready to welcome our first guests for our Spring Cook Club workshops. All very exciting but we are also planning and plotting for the Autumn when we will be expanding our range of courses including making edible gifts, Christmas baking with a twist, seasonal preserving and pickling and our very popular Cook and Dine sessions. Click here to find out more and call or drop us an email to chat about any of the courses. We look forward to seeing you soon!
I was first introduced to this dish when I tried Ottolenghi’s version in his fantastic book Plenty. Its a North African dish that is traditionally served for breakfast but I love it at any time of the day- and I can promise you it’s especially good as a late night feast or restorative brekkie after a night on the town. Once you’ve tried it you can make it your own by adding whatever takes your fancy or for using up what you have in the fridge or store cupboard. A little crumbled feta on top, a chopped courgette or a few sliced mushrooms added with the peppers, even a bit of sliced cooking chorizo(not traditional I agree, but very good) are all good additions. Feeling the pinch post Christmas this is a paupers supper but with its huge hit of flavour and exuberant colours it doesn’t feel like any kind of penance.
I like to make the sauce in quantity so I can freeze some for when the shakshuka urge creeps up on me. Serve it with good bread or toasted pittas as you will need it for scooping up every last bit of the sauce and runny egg.
Quarter and seed the peppers, then put under a hot grill, skin sides up. Grill until the skins are blackened, then transfer to a food bag and leave until cool enough to handle. Peel off the skins and cut the flesh into thin strips.
Heat the oil in a large wide pan. Add the onions and fry gently for 5 mins until softened. Add the peppers and cook for a couple of minutes more. Stir in the spices and cook briefly.
Tip in the tin of tomatoes, then half fill the tin with water and add to the pan along with the puree, sugar, salt and pepper. Simmer for 5 mins, then add the cherry tomatoes, then cook for 5 mins more.
Make four gaps in the sauce and break an egg into each gap. Cover the pan and cook the eggs for 3-4 mins until cooked to your liking. Scatter with coriander and serve with warm pittas or flat breads.
In these dark drear days of January the answer is pie
I haven’t made puff pastry since college days, too complicated, too specialist,cba(can’t be arsed) but rough puff is a different matter. So easy to make, so satisfying, so silky to the touch. And a pie topped with home made pastry is a thing to celebrate- and we have much to celebrate at the moment. My step-daughter Zoe gave birth to a plumptious baby girl last week (hurrah) and when asked what she needed from us when we next visit top of the list was food, particularly the kind you can eat one-handed as greedy little Martha needs constant feeding.
So a pie it is. Chicken and leek I reckon. The filling can be scooped up with a fork and the pastry, well if you cook it well it will be crisp enough to be hand-held.
Before you start make sure your butter is nice and cold. Best to weigh it first, then return the weighed portion to the fridge for an hour if time allows. Well chilled butter is less at risk of melting during handling which can be a messy business. Once made, the pastry can be used straight away in pretty much any recipe that calls for puff pastry, or wrap it in cling film and it will keep in the fridge for several days or freeze to use later. So get this made and tomorrow I’ll give you the recipe for the pie.
If you would love a hands-on session I still have a place or two available on my pastry making workshop this spring which will also cover choux and sweet shortcrust. http://www.marycadogan.co.uk/workshops/ The sessions will be held in the light and airy kitchen of my cottage kitchen in the heart of Somerset and will be very relaxed and informal There is also a breadmaking workshop if you’ve always wanted to master a good loaf. Both are full morning sessions with lunch and plenty of good things to take home.
Rough puff pastry
150g chilled butter
200g plain flour
2 tsp lemon juice
About 120ml cold water
1 Cut the butter into fingernail sized pieces. Tip the flour into a mixing bowl and add a little salt. Add the butter and use a round ended knife to evenly distribute it through the flour.
2 Add the lemon juice and water and mix with the knife to soft lumpy dough. Add an extra tbsp of water if needed. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and shape into a square.
3 Roll the dough out into an oblong about 36cm x 12 cm. Fold the bottom third up and the top third down to form a square. Seal the edges with a rolling pin, then give the dough a quarter turn and repeat the rolling and folding. Chill for 20 mins.
4 Repeat the rolling and folding twice more(6 times in all), then chill for a further 20 mins.
Your pastry is now ready to use.
Now that our Bramble cottage kitchen is almost finished my thoughts have turned to welcoming fellow cooks here to share my recipes, tips and secrets accumulated over my many years as a food writer and teacher. Over the four years that we ran our Tasting France cookery school in the Charente my favourite moments were when I was able to show guests that kitchen skills that they thought were beyond them were totally within their reach, and could bring enormous pleasure, not just in the sense of achievement they brought but also in sharing the results with others. it could be anything from making a decent loaf of bread to mastering a perfect souffle. Next Spring we will be opening our kitchen and home for a short series of workshops that aim to inspire and offer extra confidence and pleasure in your cooking.
Our Cook and Dine sessions add something extra to the day and will offer you the opportunity to invite a friend or partner to share what we have cooked with a glass of wine or two in our candlelit salon.
For more details, dates and costings visit our workshops page http://www.marycadogan.co.uk/workshops/
We look forward to welcoming you to Bramble Kitchen
Those of you who know me even slightly will know that I love baking. Funnily enough I don’t eat much cake but I just love the process of making one, from the weighing out of the ingredients, the mixing and folding, the amazing alchemy that goes on in the oven as the cake rises and browns, then the finishing it off in a cloud of icing sugar. And of course when friends come over a home made cake is a real treat to share over a cup of tea and plenty of news and gossip. This weekend I am hosting a Macmillan coffee morning, of course to raise money for a worthwhile cause but also as an excuse to bake my heart out. This whole orange and almond cake is a real winner, and has the bonus of being gluten and dairy free so even the pickiest eaters can enjoy a slice. It’s simple to make, stays moist for days and freezes perfectly, even cut into slices. It’s a big cake and will happily double as a dessert with berries and a scoop of cream(preferably clotted, I say!)
Whole orange and almond cake
It really helps if you have a kitchenaid or other tabletop mixer, or failing that a hand held electric whisk as it is crucial to whisk the eggs and sugar until they are thick and light and this will take at least 5 mins, or a bit longer.
Cuts into 12 good slices
3 untreated oranges
3 large free range eggs
300g caster sugar
300g ground almonds
few drops almond extract
1 tsp gluten free baking powder
few drops almond extract
handful flaked almonds
1 Heat the oven to 160C/fan 140C/Gas 3. Oil and line the base of a 22cm round cake tin. Put 2 of the oranges into a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 15 mins, then drain and re-cover with water(this will reduce the bitterness of the oranges). Bring back to the boil and simmer for 30 mins;drain and cool.
2 Coarsely chop the whole oranges, removing the pips. Blitz the whole oranges in a food processor to a fairly fine pulp.
3 Whisk the eggs and 200g of the sugar in a tabletop or handheld electric mixer until the mixture is light, pale and leaves a trail when the whisk blades are lifted.
4 Carefully fold in the orange pulp, the ground almonds and the baking powder, then add the alomnd extract and fold together lightly. The whisk blades are perfect for this job.
5 Pour the mixture into the prepared tin.Scatter over the flaked almonds and bake for about 50mins to 1 hour until the cake is firm to the touch and golden brown. Meanwhile make the syrup.
6 Put the remaining 100g of sugar in a small pan with the juice from the remaining orange. Bring to the boil, stirring, then boil for 2-3 mins until it forms a light syrup. When the cake is cooked pour the syrup evenly over the cake and leave to cool in the tin completely.
7 Take care when turning the cake out of the tin as it is quite fragile. You can dust the edges of the cake with icing sugar for a final flourish.
It’s got to be Norwegian cloud cake. I’ve made it twice now for lunchtime guests and it’s gone down a storm. Not surprising really as the layers of rich sponge baked with meringue and sandwiched with lightly whipped cream and summer fruits is a real crowd pleaser. And anyone who knows my recipes will trust that when I say it is simple to make I am not kidding. The sponge is a bung-it-all-in-a bowl-and-beat one, the meringue, ok the meringue takes a bit of care, but only a little bit, the rest is a cinch. I always make the spongy meringues the day before and sandwich them together a couple of hours ahead of serving to give all the componant parts time to get to know each other. Then you can just get on with having fun with your friends and forget about it till serving time. If you can’t fit all the fruit in the centre just serve it on the side for spooning over. And I know we are told not to be a show off but once in a while it feels good.
Norwegian cloud cake
FOR THE CAKE
100g self raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
100g caster sugar
100g softened butter
4 egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp milk
FOR THE MERINGUE
4 egg whites
100g each caster and icing sugar
2 tbsp flaked almonds
50g white chocolate,optional
FOR THE FILLING
500g summer berries
1 tbsp icing sugar, plus extra for dusting
1 tbsp vodka, optional
300ml double cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 Heat the oven to 180C/fan 160C/Gas 4. Line two baking sheets with baking paper and draw a rectangle on each, 10cm x 22cm. Turn the paper over and fix to the baking sheets with a little butter on each corner.
2 Sift the flour and baking powder into a large bowl, add the remaining cake ingredients and beat for 2-3 mins until light and fluffy. Spread half the mixture evenly over each rectangle.
3 To make the meringue whisk the egg whites in a large bowl until it forms stiff peaks, Continue whisking while added the sugars to make a stiff heavy meringue. Spread half the meringue over each cake mixture, spreading it over the edges to enclose it. Smooth one meringue flat and form swirls and peaks with the other. Sprinkle the almonds over the peaks.
4 Bake the cakes for 30 minutes until the meringue is golden and crisp. Leave to cool on the baking sheets.
5 Break up the chocolate if using and melt in a small bowl over hot water or in the microwave. Drizzle over the almondy meringue Jackson Pollock style.
5 Tip the berries into a bowl, halving or slicing any that are large, and sprinkle with sugar, and vodka if using. Stir well, then leave to macerate until the juices flow, about 1 hour.
6 To assemble the cake whip the cream with the vanilla to stiff peaks. Set a sieve over a bowl and strain the berries, reserving the juices. Invert the flat meringue cake onto a wire rack, peel off the paper and put on a flat plate meringue side down. Spread with cream and then cover with berries. Invert the other cake, peel off the paper and put on the cake meringue side up. Dust with icing sugar and serve cut into thick slices with the reserved juices in a small jug for pouring over.
For the last few weeks we’ve been getting our eggs from a smallholder in the village- and very good they are,too. It’s weird because knowing that the hens are having a good life just a couple of fields away, pecking around, tucking into all sorts of kitchen scraps, gossiping with each other(maybe) and generally enjoying the good life makes the eggs seem much more precious and somehow more real than if I grabbed a dozen from the supermarket shelves. I was going to make a simple omelette last night for supper but then I suddenly remembered a recipe for an oven baked frittata given to me by my neighbour Nicole when we lived in France. She made it for our annual village picnic and passed it down the table for us all to try. And very good it was, too. I have to admit I have messed around with it a bit but it’s no worse for that. I have courgettes and herbs in my garden, cherry tomatoes from the farmers market and I’ve added a few sliced cooked new potatoes because everything’s better with a bit of spud(you can take the girl out of Ireland etc)
This recipe serves 2-3 but if you want to double it go ahead as it’s just as nice the next day and makes perfect picnic food.
Nicole’s picnic frittata
2 small courgettes
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp cornflour
6 eggs, beaten
150ml single cream
75g mature cheddar, grated
3-4 cooked sliced new potatoes
150g cherry tomatoes, quartered
handful fresh summer herbs, such as basil, chives, tarragon, parsley
salt and pepper
1 Heat the oven to 220C/200C fan/gas 7. Line a 20x30cm oblong tin with baking paper. Dice the courgettes and cook in the oil for a few minutes until just softened and starting to colour.
2 Blend the cornflour with a little of the milk in a jug, then add the rest of the milk, the eggs, cream and cheese. Season well with salt and pepper then pour into the tin. Scatter over the potatoes,courgettes, tomatoes and herbs.
3 Bake for 20-25 mins until golden on top and firm to the touch. Cool for 10 mins before cutting into squares, or leave to cool and eat at room temperature.
It’s turned out to be a fantastic year for elderflowers round here and particularly on a sunny day the scent is pretty intoxicating. I reckon everyone round here is busily making elderflower cordial- I know this because every chemist in a 25 miles radius has sold out of citric acid which you need to make the stuff. So I set about making elderflower gin instead. I could wax lyrical about how fantastic it is, how everyone who has tasted it can’t stop at one glass(you know who you are) but what I’d prefer is for you to get out into the countryside before it is too late, gather up a bagful of creamy blooms and make some for yourself. Here’s the recipe which is child’s play to make and ready to drink in a week.
20-30 elderflower heads
1 unwaxed lemon
1 750ml bottle gin(nothing fancy- a supermarket brand will do)
200-250g caster sugar, depending on how sweet you like it
Shake each flower head upside down to release any creatures hiding in the flowers, then put them in a large wide necked jar. Pare the zest from the lemon in wide strips, avoiding the white pith if possible, then add to the jar with the lemon juice, gin and sugar. Put on the lid and give the jar a good shake to dissolve the sugar. Put a sheet of cling film directly on the surface on the liquid to avoid the flowers turning brown(though it doesn’t affect the flavour if you do get a bit of discolouration) Seal the jar and leave in a cool dry place for a week.
Strain the mixture through a sieve lined with muslin then pour into bottles.Your elderflower gin is now ready to drink. Keep a bottle in the fridge or freezer and serve in chilled shot glasses, or for a longer drink top up with fizz or tonic water.