Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Stanage Edge – Peak District

Over last weekends bank holiday my parents came up for a visit and we decided to go and explore a bit of the Peak District. I hadn’t been back to it since leaving uni, but I loved my weekends wandering the countryside so much, that I was eager to return.

We went to Stanage Edge, which to me has some of the scenic and breathtaking rock formations in the peaks. Huge boulders and chunks of rock scattered all the way along a huge stretch of the peaks, overhanging the edge of the cliffs. The photos don’t do it justice.

Once we’d clambered up to the top, the views and surroundings were just as good as I remembered. The dark jagged rocks are just so striking and the sense of openness and space is just wonderful. You can look around and not see anyone else for miles, except of course for the odd obligatory sheep.

It was rather a stormy day and while we were up there we kept hearing thunder rumbling in the distance and when we started seeing the lightening heading towards us we decided it was time to scurry back down to the car. We only just made it to. Looking back we could actually see the rain approaching, which made it all the more thrilling!

I’m hoping to find a group or a willing friend to come fell walking with me, as I can’t resist the lure of going and exploring some more!

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Spiced Carrot Fritters

I was going to call these pancakes, but that conjures up images of sweet carrot cake style pancakes, whereas these are savoury, so fritters they are!

At the weekends I love doing a little stovetop cooking to create a whole assortment of tasty pancakes/fritters, both sweet and savoury. I find it adds a little interest and luxury in place of the usual weekday cereal or sandwiches - depending on when I eat them. Sweet pancakes are usually a weekend breakfast treat, whereas savoury ones tend to be more of a lunch time thing. There is just something so satisfying about eating a warm, slightly crisp on the outside and fluffy on the inside, pancake.

I tend to go with whatever I fancy or have leftover in the fridge. Half an overripe banana or an open can of sweetcorn. I love how you can jazz them up with different spices, chocolate chips or some finely chopped chili. There are so many different styles you can create with just a batter and a saucepan, thick American style pancakes, thin delicate crepes, veggie fritters or more substantial griddle style scones - delicious served with cheese or jams (sorry I tend to get rather carried away with thinking about all the possibilities!)

For the latest batch, it was a half eaten tub of houmous that depicted today would be a fritter day. Carrots and houmous are one of life’s perfect pairings, but I’ve been eating carrots dipped in houmous all week and wanted to jazz things up a bit. Hence these spicy carrot fritters, served with harissa spiced houmous were created.

The grated carrot retained a little texture, and kept the fritters quite moist. The spices in the batter were quite subtle, while the houmous added a wonderful creaminess and occasional fiery kick from the harissa, depending on whether I got a big blob of it or not. I love the process of cutting a bite and dipping it into your ‘sauce’ of choice. It feels much more fun and involved than just taking a bite of a sandwich or a spoonful of cereal. Each bite is given attention and savoured. These tasty fritters fulfilled my weekend craving and went well with some leftover roasted tomatoes I had from last night’s dinner.

Does anyone else have any foodie weekend traditions or treats?

Spiced Carrot Fritters
1 large carrot
3 tbsp teff flour
1 tbsp brown rice flour
1 spring onion
1 egg
100ml milk
½ tsp gluten free baking powder
¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda
¼ tsp ground cumin
¼ tsp dried oregano
¼ tsp chipotle or normal chili powder
½ tbsp oil for frying

To serve
½ tsp harissa paste
Salad and/or roasted veg

Grate the carrot and finely slice the spring onion. Add to a small bowl along with the spices, flours and raising agents. Mix together to coat the carrot in the flour and spices.
Beat in the egg, followed by enough milk to make a thick batter. It should be thin enough to spread slightly in the pan, but thick enough to retain its shape when spooned out.
Heat a little oil in a large frying pan and place a plate into the oven to warm slightly.
When the oil is hot, spoon tablespoons of the batter into the pan and allow the fritters to cook until the batter looks set around the edge, about 1 minute.
Flip the fritters over and cook for a further 30-50 seconds, before removing from the pan and placing on kitchen paper. Transfer them to the warm plate in the oven while you use the leftover batter to make more fritters.
When ready to serve, place a generous blob of houmous onto the plate and swirl through a little of the spicy harissa paste.
Serve with salad and/or leftover roasted veg.
Makes around 6 small fritters. Serve one for a main meal or 2 as a starter

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Blueberry & Nectarine Yoghurt Cake

I love this time of year, when the fruit is in season, ripe and ready to be picked. It’s soft, sweet, juicy and actually has some flavour! I’ve been getting my fruit from the local market in Sheffield. It’s great as they usually have some of what’s in season. They always have bananas, apples and oranges, but things like peaches, plums and berries change with the seasons. Buying from markets not only offers variety but is usually a lot cheaper than supermarkets. On my first weekend here I picked up 10 huge plums for only £1 – yes 10! Some were a little over ripe and others a bit battered but it’s a natural product and once the squished ones are baked/stewed and munched with my morning cereal, no one would know the difference.

Last weekend I came away with bags of nectarines and a little box of blueberries and was determined to use some of them in a cake. During the week I’d also picked up a huge pot of natural yoghurt and so decided to make a yoghurt cake. I’ve not made these very often, but on the few occasions I have they have always produced lovely moist cakes. As dry cakes can be a bit of a problem when baking gluten free, I’m annoyed at myself for not thinking of it sooner, especially as it produced such a wonderfully moist cake. Oh well, at least I know now!

Almonds always go so well with fruity flavours so I added some in place of some of the flour in the recipe. It probably helped make the cake extra moist and tasty too. I decided to mix the blueberries into the cake batter itself and then fan out slices of nectarine on top. This worked well as the blueberries remained hidden inside the cake, trapping in their juices, while the slices of nectarine roasted in the oven and become wonderfully sticky and intense in flavour, helped by the light scattering of brown sugar added just before baking.

The texture of the cake was great. The outside was a rich golden brown, firm and slightly chewy, while the middle crumb stayed pale and creamy with a fabulous soft and tender texture. The yoghurt adds a milky freshness and helps keep it tasting light. I loved how the bursting blueberries really stood out against the pale creamy crumb.

Recently I’ve realised I’ve gone off cakes with mounds of frosting. They are fine for birthdays, but for everyday I find them a bit too sweet. A thin glaze or a dark chocolate ganache is much more appealing. I particularly love cakes like this. They need no embellishment at all, as the fruit and yoghurt cake itself are the stars of the show.

P.S. Hurrah for The Great British Bake Off starting again. I love this programme! There is no unnecessary shouting or dramatics and it’s truly about people who love to bake. It always makes me want to dash off to the kitchen and bake whenever I sit down to watch it, plotting what I’d do in their shoes. Now they just need to make a gluten free version….

Blueberry & Nectarine Yoghurt Cake
150g gluten free plain flour (I used Doves Farm)
50g ground almonds
100g butter
150g caster sugar
3 eggs
200g full fat plain natural yoghurt
100g blueberries
1 nectarine
2 tsp gluten free baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract

Nutty Sprinkle

1½ tbsp light soft brown sugar
20g blanched almonds


Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease a deep 8inch springform tin and line the base with baking paper.
Using an electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
Add the eggs on at a time, beating well between each one. Add the vanilla and yoghurt and beat again to combine. Don’t worry if it looks a little curdled at this stage.
Add the blueberries and fold them into the batter using a spatula.
Sift over the flour and baking powder, add the ground almonds and fold together, turning the bowl as you go until just combined.
Spread the batter into the tin and even out the top.
Cut the nectarine in half, remove the stone and slice into 5mm thick slices. Arrange the slices in a fan formation around the edge of the cake and place a few in the centre.
Roughly chop the almonds and scatter over the surface of the cake, followed by the brown sugar.
Bake in the oven for around 50-60 minutes, until a deep golden brown colour on top and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. It will be wet if you hit a blueberry!
Allow to cool in the tin for 15 minutes before removing from the in and allowing to cool completely before serving. Store in an airtight container.
Can also be sliced and frozen on day of baking.
Makes 1 x 8inch cake

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Gluten Free Waffles

Hello! I finally have the internet and can get back to baking and blogging once more. I haven’t been able to check anyone’s blogs for weeks and so goodness knows what tasty treats I’ve missed out on. Thank you to everyone for all your good luck wishes regarding my new job and moving to Sheffield. I’m pleased to say it’s all going well and I feel very settled. Here’s a quick snap shot of my ‘new’ kitchen.

Back in April I was given a Belgian waffle maker for my birthday. I love playing around with kitchen gadgets and adore waffles so it was the perfect gift. I hadn’t had a waffle for several years and certainly not since going GF, so I was very excited to try it out. I greased the machine, mixed up a batter (without a recipe – opps!) and spooned it onto the waffle iron. When it smelt ready I went to open the lid only to discover that the batter had welded itself to both the top and bottom plates, meaning I had to forcibly pull the iron open, breaking the waffle in half. Not only that, but the batter refused to come away from the plates and I spent the next 40 minutes trying to scrape the crispy burnt on mess off the machine. Feeling disheartened I put the machine away, where it stayed untouched for several months. I’m sure we’ve all had similar experiences with various kitchen gadgets!

However, my desire for waffles never went away and when Annie submitted her gluten free waffle recipe for my Go Gluten Free event a few weeks back, I was determined to give them another go. I followed Annie’s recipe, only making a slight adjustment by using oil instead of melted butter, as I had read this would give a crispier finish to the waffles. With my fingers crossed I tried again and …success! Delicious, light and fluffy waffles that didn’t stick to the iron. Hurrah!

The first weekend after I started my new job I decided to celebrate with some waffles for lunch. The great thing about waffles is that they are so versatile. The flavour of the batter itself or the toppings you pile on top can be sweet or savoury. I decided to go the whole hog and have one of each.

First up was the savoury waffle. Sliced sautéed mushrooms with a little thyme and garlic, topped with some grated smoked Applewood cheese and a pinch or two of smoked paprika. I love this combination, as the smoky sweetness from the cheese and paprika goes really well with the earthy mushrooms. Definitely some savoury umami flavours going on. It also tastes fab on toast if you don’t want to bother making waffles.

For the sweet dessert waffle I spread some cream cheese over the waffle itself and then topped it with some hot, lightly cooked plums and a drizzle of honey. This was very tasty too, although on this occasion I preferred the savoury mushroom waffle. I know that’s almost unheard of for me, but the combination of smoky, woodsy flavours are just perfect together.

I love how the square indents in the waffle result in both thin and crispy and thick and fluffy waffle in each bite. The little squares are also perfect for capturing the juices and toppings you choose to pile on top. However you choose to top or flavour your waffles, you have to agree they’re Waffly Versatile! Hehe.

Gluten Free Waffles
200g gluten free plain flour (I used Doves Farm)
2 eggs
40ml sunflower or rapeseed oil
150ml milk
1 tsp gluten free baking powder
Pinch salt

Spray or lightly brush your waffles iron with a light coating of oil and heat to your usual setting.
Place the flour, salt and baking powder into a bowl.
Measure the oil and milk into a jug. Add the eggs to the milk and whisk together to combine.
Pour the egg/milk mixture over the dry ingredients and mix together using a spatula or fork to create a batter, about the consistency of double cream. A few little lumps are fine.
Place a ladleful of batter into your waffle iron and cook until lightly golden brown.
Eat and enjoy with the sweet or savoury toppings of your choice.
Makes approximately 6 waffles

Recipe can be halved, doubled etc if required. Just go by how many eggs you’re using.
If only making sweet waffles, you could add 1tbsp caster sugar to the batter, but I don’t feel it needs it.