Zombie gingerbread

Happy Hallowe’en everybody!

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This year I thought I’d share my recipe for gingerbread. Partly because they’re perfect to share at this time of year, or to give out to trick or treaters. Mostly because I have had zombie cookie cutters since I went to the cake and bake show back in March. These biscuits have an absolutely fantastic flavour. Almost makes you want to keep your lights off and pretend you aren’t home on Hallowe’en so you can eat these babies yourself!

To make gingerbread  men of any kind you will need:

350g plain flour

2 tsp ground ginger

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

100g butter

175g soft light brown sugar

1 egg

4 tsp golden syrup

To decorate

Shop bought writing icing (you could make your own Royal icing; but this is easier midweek)

 

Sift your flour, ginger and bicarbonate of soda into a large bowl. Cut your butter into chunks and rub into the dry ingredients in order to form breadcrumbs.

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Stir in your brown sugar.

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In a separate bowl whisk together your golden syrup and your egg until smooth.

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Add the golden syrup and egg mix to your sugar and flour breadcrumb mix. Use your hands to mix everything together into a smooth, soft dough. If your dough is too sticky add more flour; otherwise it will be a nightmare to roll out later.

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Wrap your dough in cling film and chill for about an hour before rolling out.

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Preheat your oven to 190°C. Line your baking tray with greaseproof paper. Flour a hard surface and roll out your dough until it’s around 4mm thick. Use the biscuit cutters of your choice to make gingerbread shapes. If you have no cutter you could always use a knife (not too sharp) to cut out your own shapes.

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Place the gingerbread shapes onto your baking tray with some space between them. When you have run out of dough ball it up and roll it out again until you run out of dough. If you need to, cook your gingerbread in batches. This recipe tends to make rather a lot of biscuits.

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Bake for around 12 minutes or until golden brown.

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When the gingerbread is cool decorate with the writing icing. My housemates A, S and I made a variety of zombie characters including skeletons, a Ninja Turtle and Hulk Hogan.

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I hope you all have a happy Hallowe’en, even if your idea of a good night is avoiding children by pretending not to be home!

 

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Wood pigeon salad

Sometimes I start to think I am becoming a parody of myself. I usually buy several types of meat at once and freeze what I won’t eat that day. This is both a blessing and a curse. I buy things on a whim a lot of the time and then work my meals around it. This coupled with my habit of going to M&S at closing time and checking out the yellow stickered meat means I end up with a freezer filled with various game and other assorted meats. Which is exciting and I don’t end up with chicken 6 nights a week like I did as a student; but it does make for challenging cooking when I don’t really want to think about what to cook.

I did, however, enjoy making this salad. The gamey taste of the pigeon goes incredible well with the chilli sauce while the figs add a beautiful colour and sweet flavour. I was intending on making this with pomegranite – but I couldn’t find a whole one and I begrudge paying £2 for a small pack when I could get 6 figs for that! You can I could mix and match the lettuce base. I used one of those bags with different leaves and grated beetroot in (I know I said previously that I dislike the stuff but I could barely taste it). If you can’t get wood pigeon (or don’t fancy it) you could try this with another type of game, or lamb steak. If you can get wood pigeon, try it. It is stupidly quick and easy to cook.

To make this salad you will need:

1 pack of 4 pigeon breasts

1 large bag of lettuce

2 celery stems

3 figs

1/3 of a cucumber

A splash of balsamic vinegar

Chilli sauce (your favourite kind – although I don’t recommend sweet chilli in this)

Serves 2-3

Wash your lettuce (if needed), chop your celery and cucumber. Quarter your figs. Place in your salad bowl and drizzle with balsamic vinegar. Fry or griddle your pigeon breasts for 2 and a half minutes on each side. Leave to rest for a couple of minutes and then slice and top your salad. Add your chilli sauce and toss your salad.

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Figs are so pretty
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With the yellow chilli sauce
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The finished item

Pigeon is a rich tasting meat that is low in cholesterol. I hope you try this interesting weeknight tea.

Tweet for a table hosted by the Co-operative @Tweet4atable

At the beginning of October the day following the Cosmopolitan blog awards I was lucky enough to get a table at the Co-operative’s Tweet 4 a table. The concept is simple; you tweet @Tweet4atable with the number of people and the time you wish to attend. You get sent a unique code. When your food arrives you have 30 minutes to dine on a free meal made of the Co-operative products. There have been a number of Tweet 4 a Table locations including Manchester, London and Leeds. As I was already in London for the blog awards with my parents I decided to pop down for a spot of lunch. Knowing that my friend Farny is never one to pass on a free meal (or in fact any free food) I invited him to join us.

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You can rely on Farny to make use of props

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Mumsy joining in

Available drinks included raspberry juice (which I opted for after a night of cocktails), cider, elderflower juice and Prosecco.

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For lunch we were served a variety of cooked meats and deli items. My favourite kind of lunch.

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The food was delicious (as I ought to know, I had a summer job working for them). I particularly liked the cured meats and olives. Unfortunately I couldn’t actually finish my portion. However, Farny was on hand to “tidy up” what was left. He also “tidied up” some of my parent’s board too!

I absolutely recommend that if Tweet 4 a table is in your area you check it out. The food is fantastic and really shows off what the Co-op has to offer. The other great thing about the Co-op as a company is that they have always been frontrunner when it comes to ethical trading and sustainability. If you’re concerned about Fair Trade products or animal products being at a high welfare standard the Co-op might just be the supermarket (or local convenience store) for you.

On a less serious note Farny was more than a bit delighted with his free cheesecake vouchers (mum gave him two; the guy has hollow legs!)

You can find out more about Tweet for a table and the latest restaurant pop ups on their Twitter Feed.

Harvest crumble bars (apple and blackberry flapjacks with crumble topping)

The other week Ed and I had a very companionable afternoon picking blackberries in Harrogate. I obviously got my new jumper full of thorns and we both ended up walking home nursing nettle stings.

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Anyway, armed with a large container of frozen blackberries (or brambles as my family calls them) and some beautiful apples very kindly given to me by my mum and FN at work Harvest crumble bars were born. I took these to work earlier and they were very popular. The fruit goes nicely with the flapjack base and the colour and texture of this is simply wonderful. As this recipe uses pretty Autumnal fruit you can adapt it with any berry and apple or pear combination you fancy; you could use frozen fruit in the depths of winter too. In addition it would also work really well with rhubarb.

To make these you will need:

For the flapjack base

250g porridge oats

125g brown sugar

125g butter

3 tbsps golden syrup

For the fruit layer

5 apples (approximately)

Approx 400g berries (I used the blackberries I picked that my mum ended up freezing)

1 tsp vanilla extract

For the crumble topping

60g butter

60g Demerara sugar

75g plain flour

25g porridge oats

 

Preheat the oven to 180°C and grease a large square baking tin. Make a start on your flapjack base by melting your butter and sugar together.

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Add this to your brown sugar and porridge oats. Once this is well mixed add this to your baking tin and make sure it is flattened down evenly across the tin.

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Peel and chop your apples and cut into 1cm pieces. Add to a pan with your sugar, berries and vanilla. Cook on a medium heat until the apple is soft and the fruits have released a good amount of juice. Cool for a few minutes.

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I actually used some crumble topping I had frozen. However you make it by rubbing the butter, flour, sugar and oats together into breadcrumbs like I did in a previous crumble recipe.

Before layering up your flapjacks cook your flapjack layer for 6-8 minutes to prevent it from going too soggy. Remove from the oven. Add the fruit evenly across the flapjack layer.  Sprinkle over the crumble topping so that the fruit is lightly covered.

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Bake this for around 15 minutes until the crumble topping is golden brown.

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My housemate S and I ate one of these each fresh from the oven and I can assure you that they taste equally lovely hot or cold.

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Bon appetit!

Poached apples

I know poached pears are a far more popular dessert but I am championing the poached apple today (possibly due to an absolute glut of apples at my parent’s house). Personally I have never particularly liked the texture of pears so I much prefer apples in their stead.

This is a wonderful, light dessert. Perfect after a big meal when you fancy something sweet. My mum commented to me that it was a good way of getting my brother to eat one of the apples (he isn’t much of a fruit eater). If you don’t want to use anything alcoholic to poach your apples replace the cider with a berry based fruit juice.

To make this dessert you will need:

1 apple per person

1 bottle of cider; (I used mixed berry Rekorderlig)

Fruit juice

1 cinnamon stick (or 1 tsp powdered cinnamon)

3 tsp honey

Greek yogurt (to serve)

 

Peel the apples so that only the stalk remains.

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Place the apples into a saucepan with the cider. While you’re peeling the apples cover each one with a little fruit juice to prevent them from browning. Add the cinnamon and honey to the cider. Simmer the apples on a low heat and prevent the cider from boiling by turning the heat down if necessary. Turn the apples while they’re cooking to make sure they cook evenly.

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Once the flesh of the apples slightly softens the apples are ready to serve. You can adjust the sweetness of the cider sauce by adding more honey if you wish. This should take around 15 minutes. Serve with a little of the cider mixture and the yogurt.

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Slow cooked lamb braised in white wine

This recipe is based on Jarret d’agneau a French braised lamb recipe. I couldn’t actually claim absolute authenticity as I don’t know the exact recipe.

I absolutely adore slow cooked lamb shanks. The lamb comes out so tender it’s almost butter soft. The meat just falls off the bone. This recipe using white wine tastes wonderful and is the perfect comfort food as the weather gets colder and more miserable. The garlic tomato topping is pretty damn good too. I made this recipe for my family and we were all practically licking our plates.

To make this recipe you will need:

3 large lamb shanks

Plain flour

2 onions

3 cloves of garlic

30g butter

1 tbsp vegetable oil

1 large carrot

250ml white wine (approx 1 glass)

200ml chicken stock (approx)

The zest and juice of 1 orange

A good splash of olive oil

3 large vine tomatoes

Salt and pepper

1 sprig of rosemary

Serves 4 hungry people

 

Preheat your slow cooker. Peel and chop your onion and carrot. Dust your lamb shanks in the flour.

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Heat the butter and oil in a pan and brown the lamb on each side. If your lamb won’t all fit in the pan cook in batches. Remove the lamb from the pan and put in the slow cooker.

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Remove all but approx 1 tbsp of the oil from the pan. Add the onion and carrot and 2 cloves of the garlic (crushed) and fry on a gentle heat until soft.

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Add the wine and simmer to reduce the volume of the wine by half.

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Season with the salt and pepper. Add the orange zest and juice. Add this all to the slow cooker.

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Top the lamb/vegetable mixture with the chicken stock. Cover and cook on a low heat for 6-8 hours (or high for 3-4 hours).

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Just before serving crush your rosemary, your remaining garlic and 1tsp olive oil. Finely chop your tomatoes.

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Add this mixture to your tomatoes and drizzle over a bit more oil.

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Remove your lamb from the slow cooker to a serving dish.

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Top with the tomato mixture and serve with some form of potato and vegetables.

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I adore casseroles and stews in Autumn!

Mixed mushroom spring rolls

As I am embracing Autumnal goodies (Fall goodies I suppose for my North American readers) I decided to make these lovely spring rolls using mushrooms from my local farm shop. You can use any mushrooms for these but obviously things like chestnut, portobello or any mixture of mushrooms will work best and offer a variety of flavours and textures. This recipe can stretch to make 6, which happens to be the number of filo pastry sheets in the average packet; but my freezer happened to absolutely decimate the bottom sheet.

To make these spring rolls you will need

1 pack of filo pastry (6 sheets)

Olive oil

1 shallot

2 cloves of garlic

1 cm piece of ginger

250g (approx) wild mushrooms

Basil leaves (I actually used basil infused oil so didn’t include these)

50g melted butter

Salt and pepper

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Finely chop the ginger, garlic, shallot and the mushroom. Lightly fry the ginger, garlic and shallot in the oil until soft.

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Add the mushrooms and fry until tender.

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Season with the basil (if using), the salt and the pepper.

To a sheet of filo pastry add a spoonful of the mushroom mixture. Fold in the edges of the filo pastryl and roll up. 2013-09-22 18.38.19

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Repeat with the remaining sheets of filo pastry. Brush with melted butter and bake for 15 minutes until the spring rolls are golden brown.

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They look better plated up!

Serve with salad as a lunch or evening main meal, or as a starter (if you made them half the size).

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