Friday, 29 August 2014

Sticky Toffee Pudding

This was a recipe that was given to me by someone on my and it is great. Ever since I have had the recipe I make it every Christmas and it is my Mother in Laws favourite.

It is so light and moist, and without the sauce almost healthy :)

175g (6oz) dates stoned and chopped
300 ml (10fl oz) water
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
50g (2oz) unsalted butter
175g (6oz) caster sugar
2 eggs beaten
175g (6 oz) self-raising flour
1 teaspoon vanilla essence

300 ml (10 fl oz) double cream
59g (2oz) Demerara sugar
2 teaspoons black treacle

Pre-heat the oven to 180C/350F/gas 4 and grease a 2 lb loaf tin or line it - it was also suggested in the recipe that is work on a 28 x 18cm (11 x 7 inch) baking tin.  I only line mine with a strip the length of the tin, and leave a bit so that I can pull it out.  But the liners are good too, This picture is quite old and I must have used a liner then :)

Boil the dates in the water for about 5 mins until soft (does not take long), I did these in a bowl in the microwave, mash them with a fork then add the bicarbonate of soda. Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy (I normally start this whilst the dates are boiling), then add the eggs and beat well. Mix in the dates mixture, flour and vanilla essence then pour into the prepared tin. You don’t need to wait until the dates cool down. The mixture looks quite runny but don’t worry. Cook in a pre-heated oven for about 30-40 mins depending on size of tin, until just firm to the touch, it was more like 40 mins for me.

The actual cake will serve around 8 I reckon and the sauce 4 to 5 - as you can see we added a blob of clotted cream on ours, but we also like vanilla ice cream as well :)

It freezes really well and keeps moist for a long time. I just re heat it in the microwave. It is a nice cake on its own and is low in fat! If you intend to serve 8 you will need to double the quantity of sauce.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Savoury Turnovers

We have tomatoes and courgettes for sale on the market at the moment, and they should be available for quite a few weeks now - here is a simple idea to use them.

Roll out a pack of puff pastry (half at a time might be easier), and cut into 12 squares in total.

Chop an onion - red would be good and fry it gently, then add some courgette - diced or sliced which ever you prefer. Put this mixture from corner to corner, and add some diced feta and some sliced tiny toms - make sure it looks attractive at the ends, add some seasoning and herbs.  Fold over the two corners, and seal with milk or egg. I brushed with milk - or for a shinier finish brush with beaten egg.

Cook them for about 15 mins in a fairly hot oven, I always guess these type of things but sure the pastry pack will give guidance.

Friday, 15 August 2014

Hitchin Lavender

We popped over to Hitchin Lavender last week, it is about 20 minutes drive from Ampthill, and easy to find, the village of Ickleford is lovely to drive through also.

The Farm is a working farm with a huge field of lavender that looks magnificent as it goes up a slope. The smell and the sound of the bees was fantastic.  You walk along rows of lavender cutting as you go as they provide a bag and scissors for you to trim the sides of the plants to your hearts content.

We also had a leisurely lunch there, they offer a selection of sandwiches and paninis and also quiche and salad which is what we chose.  They were very busy so unfortunately some of the quiches had gone - but second choice was just as good and service quick.  They also had cakes - but didn't partake :)

Along with the lavender they have planted a field of sunflowers that you could pick for 50p each - this was a challenge in itself with the supplied scissors ...but worth it, my 3 sunflowers looked great and soon perked up having had stems cut and put in loads of water.

Having spent all that time in the field getting quite hot we sat and had a homemade lavender ice cream afterwards, apparently also made in Hitchin, but cannot recall the name!

There is plenty of space to sit and have a picnic and lots of families were enjoying the sunshine and lavender.

Here they are - light was fading and they had were loads better an hours or so later:

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Runner Beans

Runner bean season is upon us now, and we will be having some locally grown on the market over the next few weeks.  Sadly we do not have as many as years ago due to members moving if you have a glut you know where to sell them, you don't always have to be selling items to join...check out our join us post.  We also have french beans - just as an aside.

I have childhood memories of my parents with a load of runner beans that they had grown on the allotment, and no freezer  - yes really - we didn't have a freezer...they only became affordable and popular in the late 60s early 70s - I think we had one before other people as we had so many vegetables that needed freezing! see it tells you all about it here: :) .

I remember us all in the kitchen with a bean slicer at the kitchen table, piling them into glass sweet jars - you know the type that sweetshops have boiled sweets and salting them as a way to preserve them.  I have just found a link here to prove that I wasn't going crazy...
and then delving a little bit further it seems as though some people recommend this way of preserving over freezing - here is a youtube video and HFW-forum.

I personally remember them tasting quite salty, but that may not be accurate - I was a bit fussy as a child!  And I am pretty sure that my parents added more salt to cooking than I have ever done, and maybe they didn't rinse them enough?

So back to the bean slicer you fed in the beans and turned the handle a bit like a was clamped to the table.  I have searched around and it was a bit like this one - ours used to have a little gadget on the top that you slid the beans along to 'string' them, no most of the varieties are stringless anyway.  I wonder if my parents still have it?

We do have a modern hand held one - no where near as quick, and not so much fun as we all had turning the handle.