Quince paste – made from your quince jelly leftovers Wednesday, Mar 30 2011 

Once you have spent a day admiring your cleverness in conjuring red jelly from a plain old fruit – consider the leftovers.

Take the pile of chopped-up cooked quince, drained of all its cooking water (that is now jelly) and blend or liquidise.  Pass this through a sieve.  This is easily done with the back of a ladle and really takes no time at all.

Weigh the resulting puree.

quince puree for quince paste

Add three quarters of the weight in sugar, and heat in a saucepan.  At this stage, it will be an unappetising colour (but surprisingly tasty!).

Bring to the boil.  This will be a violent spitting, gurgling affair that covers your worktop with splashes of puree.  This appears to be unavoidable, however many times I make this.  So I just accept the mess and give everything a good clean afterwards.

quince puree for quince paste cooking

Stir every few minutes to prevent it sticking.  You don’t need it on a high heat, only enough to keep it spitting!  And be patient.  This may take a couple of hours.

Over time, the colour will darken to that of apples that have browned.  And then, at some point that will escape you, you will find yourself stirring a rose-coloured viscous paste, and you’ll know it’s ready.  The moment of transformation from fawn to pink evades me every time.  It still strikes me as miraculous!

quince puree for quince paste cooking almost done

You can see the colour deepening to a toffee brown.  Be careful that it doesn’t catch on the bottom of the pan – keep the heat lower rather than higher.  You can’t hurry this one.

Once it starts pulling away from the sides of the pan, and takes on a rosy hue, dollop it (it’ll be too thick to pour) into a tin lined with baking paper.

quince paste home made

It’ll take a day or so to cool.  Some recipes recommend that you then dry it.  I don’t really find this necessary.  It’ll keep forever!  It doesn’t go off.  However – it is delicious fodder for ants, mice and so on – so ensure you store it somewhere safe!

Over time, the red colour deepens:

quince paste home made

Friends will be queueing for gifts of this delicious treat.  Serve with hard cheeses (Manchego, Wensleydale, Cheddar).

One final note – the earlier in the Quince season you make this (that is NOW in the southern hemisphere) the more pectin the fruit has, and  the better the result will be…

Bread and butter pudding (with no muffin top for you) Friday, Mar 11 2011 

I love a good bread and butter pudding.  Warm, custardy, and melt in the mouth yet all crispy on top….

low fat bread and butter pudding

These can be deliciously comforting in colder weather.  Or even after a stressful day.  But you don’t need to make it with loads of butter and fat.

excellent warm healthy bread and butter pudding

Preheat the oven to 175C

Ingredients (for 4-6, depending how greedy you are!)

6 slices of white bread (I have tried using brown or wholegrain and it just isn’t worth it – it doesn’t taste like dessert)

20g butter, melted

500ml skim milk

2 eggs

raisins (or marmalade, or chocolate chips (not low fat) for a change)

Caster sugar.

Grease a dish well.  I actually use a wide pie dish as I think the crunchy top is the best bit and I like to have a large surface area.  If you prefer the underneath, use a deep dish and more layers.

low fat healthy recipe bread butter pudding

Place a layer of bread on the bottom of the dish, playing with it like a jigsaw to cover the area.  Sprinkle with raisins.  Keep layering until you reach the top.  Brush the top with the melted butter.

Mix the sugar, the eggs and the milk together well and pour over.  leave it to stand for 10-15 minutes so that the eggy milk is absorbed into the bread.

Sprinkle the top lavishly with sugar.

Bake for 30-45 minutes, or until it looks done.

Scoff!!

bread and butter pudding

The old favourites are still great aren’t they?

healthy bread and butter pudding

Fabulously finger-lickingly fantastic fudge…. Wednesday, Feb 23 2011 

chocolate and walnut fudge

If you are trying to lose the last of the Christmas pounds, do not read this post.  If your dentist is stern, turn away.

But if, like me, you can’t resist a sugary home-made treat, read on.  This has got to be the best fudge ever.  And it makes a wonderful gift.  Far nicer than a box of chocolates…

making homemade fudge vanilla

Ingredients:

250g sugar

20-30g butter

100-125ml cream or evaporated skim milk (as a pretence at healthiness)

Pinch of salt

This will make a small amount – enough for a gift, but not enough to send you diabetic with sugar consumption.  You can increase quantities easily and I have made four times this amount on occasion.  Just ensure that you use a LARGE saucepan.  You want the pan about a quarter full. 

I did attempt to make massive quantities for a village fete once, and filled large saucepans with the mixture.  Worse, I was cooking on an Aga (that is permanently heated), and when the mixture came to the boil, it overflowed in a nightmarish imitation of the Sorcerers Apprentice.  The heat of the boiling fudge and the Aga rendered it all too dangerous to approach and I stood by, agog, as the lake of boiling sugar flooded over the stove, across the floor, coating everything with a thick oozing layer that carbonated on the stove, and left sticky patches for months on the floor.

Anyway.  That was years ago… 

Put the ingredients in an appropriately sized saucepan, and dissolve over a low to medium heat.  Make sure the sugar is dissolved before you turn the heat up.  Once dissolved, bring to the boil (see photo above) stirring to prevent it catching on the base of the pan.

Stir and boil for about 5-10 minutes until it reaches soft ball.  I don’t use a thermometer.  I use a glass of cold water (fridge cold, not tap cold) and I drop a droplet of the mixture into the glass.  When it forms a little ball that you can squidge in your fingers, it’s ready.

chocolate fudge making

Remove the pan from the heat and add flavouring.  This time I used:

30g dark chocolate, and some walnuts.

Instead you could use a teaspoon of vanilla, or raisins.  Orange zest is lovely with the chocolate too.

Do not add a lot of liquid (like brandy) – no more than a teaspoon or you’ll end up with fudge sauce.  (although that wouldn’t be a complete tragedy)

Now you must beat the fudge with a spoon:

homemade chocolate fudge

It’s important to cool it a little this way, as then it crystallizes beautifully and gives you that lovely fudgy texture.  However, it will reach crystallisation point quite fast – especially if you have added chocolate and walnuts, so you may only have about 30 seconds of beating.  Make sure it is thickening, and test a tiny bit at the edges of the pan to see if it is turning from a caramel sauce consistency, to a thicker, textured one.  It will feel a bit ‘crunchy’ or grainy.

Then pour it as fast as you can into a tin lined with paper.  It will set as you pour!

It’ll be amazingly hot still, so leave it to cool before cutting into squares.

chocolate walnut fudge homemade

(you can see that this quantity makes enough to cover a loaf tin).

Then call your friends to help you eat it!

Seduce your Valentine with sensational smoked salmon Wednesday, Feb 2 2011 

smoked salmon ricotta pancake valentine meal

Before I get into this today, I have to have a moan.  It is SO hot here.  It stinks.  Over 40C yesterday and not much cooler last night.  We don’t have air-conditioning (it costs the earth in too many ways) and I’m hot and tired!  We are in for a week of this (the hottest week on record for Sydney).

If you’re reading this from the depths of winter in the Northern hemisphere… how I envy you today!

Anyway – back to Valentine’s Day…. This dish looks SO fancy and so difficult and complex.  But it isn’t (sshhh).  This is the kind of thing I’d like produced on Valentine’s Day: romantic (smoked salmon and champagne is always romantic!), not too heavy (don’t want to feel too full just in case there  are ‘afters’), but very special.

I’ve looked at this recipe for years and never done it as it looked way too time consuming.  Turns out it’s about as difficult as making a sandwich.  So if you’re game…? here’s how….

smoked salmon ricotta pancake valentine meal slice

First you need to make a stack of crepes (pancakes).  Small ones are better – they are easier to manage, and make a neat little stack. You only really need 5 pancakes.  If you have your own recipe, fine… but this is the one I used:

100g Wholemeal flour

250ml milk (I used lite milk)

2 eggs

Beat the eggs into the milk and then add gradually to the flour until you have a smooth thick liquid.  If it gets lumpy, whisk it with an electric whisk.  I add a pinch of salt too as I’m a total salt addict.  Then you leave the batter to stand for 30 minutes.

At least, you’re supposed to.  I never have the patience to do this.  Does it really make that much difference?  Does anyone know?

Then you heat a frying pan over a medium heat and once it’s hot, add a tiny bit of butter, pour a half ladle of batter in and tilt the pan until the batter runs all over the base and covers it.  You’re aiming for a thin covering.  Cook it until it’s done on one side, turn it and cook the other.  Repeat until all the batter is used up.  Each pancake will only take a minute or so to cook on each side.

smoked salmon ricotta pancake valentine meal slice tomato salsa

Then mix the filling.  You’ll need about 400g of ricotta or cream cheese.  I beat mine with some lemon zest to add some flavour.  You could add capers and dill.

To assemble, place a pancake on a plate, spread over the ricotta (being careful not to tear the pancake), top with smoked salmon.  Then add another pancake and repeat.  I suggest about four layers.  This uses about 250g of smoked salmon.

smoked salmon ricotta pancake valentine meal slice tomato salsa

I served it with a tomato salsa for colour and some acidic contrast to the richness of the smoked salmon.  It’s actually a pretty healthy meal!  But looks and tastes wonderful.

For Valentines Day, serve with French Champagne, red roses and lots of diamonds. 

smoked salmon ricotta pancake valentine meal slice tomato recipe

Salmorejo: the most delicous soup/dip Sunday, Dec 5 2010 

Salmorejo gazpacho soup

Because I enjoy salad, for years I was told that I would ‘love Gazpacho’ – which was described to me as liquidised salad.  To be frank, this put me off it for about two decades.  I can’t think of anything worse than blended lettuce and salad. 

But….when I was in Spain last summer I became addicted to their local speciality: Salmorejo.

This is a version of Gazpacho (which admittedly I now do like – OK OK, everyone was right!), a chilled soup, although it’s very thick and almost like a dip.  Salmorejo doesn’t have cucumber and peppers in.  It relies solely on tomato for flavour, along with olive oil and vinegar.

It is thick, creamy, tasty and satisfying.  The delicate flavour caresses your mouth, with hints of garlic, olives and tomatoey sweetness.  It is unbelievably good.

Salmorejo soup

What makes it even more fun is how it is served.  Sometimes it has wonderful jamon (Spanish ham) scattered on it.  But my favourite was a restaurant in Ronda which served it the way I have imitated….

Salmorejo tomato soup gazpacho

It is studded with hard-boiled egg, tuna, grilled red peppers, basil leaves and little crackers.   The addition of all of this makes it into a meal.

Or is it art??!!

Ingredients (serves 4)

8-9 large tomatoes

3 tablespoons excellent olive oil (I used Spanish extra virgin)

1-2 tablespoons excellent vinegar (I used caramelised red wine vinegar)

1 teaspoon sale

2 teaspoons brown sugar

1 clove of garlic

About 100g of  a crusty white loaf, crust removed.

chilled tomato soup

The fiddly bit is peeling and seeding the tomatoes.  It seems like a hassle, but it makes all the difference in the world.  To peel them, slash the skins with a knife and pour boiling water from the kettle over them in a bowl.  After 15 seconds take out the tomatoes and the skins will slip off.

Then cut them in half around the middle and gouge out the seeds with your fingers, and cut out the hard green little core.  Keep the seeds and juice you remove, as you can sieve and reduce them slowly on a low heat to make the most fantastic tomato concentrate (good for stews, burgers etc).  Also – the crusts you remove make good breadcrumbs or bird food (even when cooking I try not to waste things).

Then place all the ingredients in a blender and blend. 

Adjust to taste (you may need more or less sugar depending on how ripe your tomatoes are – likewise vinegar).

It should be really thick – more like a dip than a soup.

Chill for 1-2 hours before serving.

gazpacho salmorejo cordobes

Deliciously scrumptious low fat muffins! Monday, Nov 22 2010 

I really enjoy baking and I love eating cakes and biscuits fresh from the oven.  However, I also enjoy fitting into my jeans, so I often play around with recipes to reduce fat content without losing flavour.

These muffins are just divine!  They taste so good that you won’t believe they are healthy.  I just had to share them with you. 

delicious low fat apple allbran muffins

Firstly preheat the oven to 175C.

Ingredients (for 6 muffins)

1 cup Kelloggs Allbran

0.5 cup skim milk

o.5 cups wholemeal self raising flour

0.3 cups brown sugar

0.5 teaspoons salt

0.5 teaspoons cinnamon

0.5 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda

0.3 cups of raisins

One large apple, grated

One egg

1 tablespoon oil (optional -but helps the muffins stay fresh)

Mix the Allbran with the milk and leave to soak for a few minutes, while you grate the apple and get everything else together.

Then just mix all the ingredients together.  You could replace the raisins with cranberries if you prefer, or with nuts – although these would not be low fat if they had nuts in.

The oil is optional – if you are being really strict about low fat then skip it.  I’m not so strict, and it does help the muffins last more than a day (fat free cakes generally don’t keep – they go stale or mouldy very fast!).

Then bake in muffin tins (I line mine with little paper cases as it’s just easier) for about 20 minutes.

Delicious apple bran muffins

Allow to cool a little before eating.  If you can.  We actually just ploughed straight in – they were so good!

Low fat muffin

Can’t you almost taste it?

Apple allbran healthy muffin recipe

How to: Make your own Micro Green Salad Wednesday, Nov 10 2010 

A few weeks ago I had an incredible salad while on business in New Zealand, consisting of microgreens.

These are a new and trendy (and utterly delicious) alternative to boring old lettuce.  Basically, they are little seedlings, harvested once the first set of leaves begins to grow.  Just the thing to grow on your window sill….

Soaking seeds for micro greens

First of all I soaked the seeds overnight in water.  This helps them germinate quickly and easily.

Then I lined a couple of trays with newspaper, which I wetted.  I covered this with about 3cm of potting mix.  I scattered the seeds on top and the put another 0.5cm of potting mix on top.

Easy!

Micro greens for a salad

I put them on a sunny windowsill, and made sure every day they were moist.  And in a few days they had sprouted!  That’s beetroot below, and cabbage in the photo above.

Beetroot microgreens

It took another couple of weeks before the actual leaves appeared.  You don’t want to harvest them when they first sprout as those are the seedling leaves.  You wait until the first pair of real leaves appear (as in my photos) and then you snip them off with scissors and scoff them!

Micro green salad

They are all beautiful and young and tiny and tender.  Delicious little leaves that melt in your mouth.  Clearly they are organic!  (I don’t spray pesticides in my kitchen, and I’m guessing you don’t in yours).

Just toss them in a little dressing and enjoy.  I used extra virgin olive oil, and a caramelised red wine vinegar.

Microgreen salad organic

They are unbelievably sweet, tender and tasty.  Like the salad version of candy floss!  Of course you can buy them – but where’s the fun in that?

Organic microgreen salad

This is such a great project to share with children.

Orange ideas Wednesday, Sep 22 2010 

It may surprise you to know that I don’t spend ALL my time renovating and redecorating houses – I’m also a keen cook.  And I couldn’t resist posting about this particular recipe as it is so in the spirit of my blog (and most of my life) – no waste.  And it is delicious.

If you have three oranges, you can make your own candied orange peel (great for desserts, cakes, nibbles and coating in chocolate) and scrumptious orange sorbet, without throwing away a thing.

Candied Orange Peel

(I was going to do this as a before and after – with the three whole oranges first…)

Anyway – juice the three oranges and keep the juice in the fridge while you do the peel.  Cut each half of orange peel (remaining flesh intact – that makes it really juicy to eat once it’s been candied) into about three wedges and put in a saucepan with cold water.  Bring to the boil, boil for ten minutes and drain.  Repeat twice, so that you end up boiling them three times, each with fresh cold water, each time for ten minutes.  This removes the bitterness from the peel.

Then weigh the drained peel, and add the same weight in caster sugar.  Put back into the saucepan and stir until the sugar is dissolved and cook, stirring occasionally for an hour or a bit more.  It’s done when the peel starts to go translucent.  You can’t really go wrong.

Drain on a rack (reserving the sugar syrup you drain off) for a day or so and then cut into strips and roll in caster sugar.

doesn't cost the earth candied orange peel

Yum!! This can be put into cakes, biscuits and desserts.  It is delicious eaten as is.  And is superlative when half of each baton is dipped in dark chocolate.

These make perfect gifts.  And as three oranges have made so much my friends shall certainly be benefitting.  Anyone keen for some?

Orange Sorbet

The sugar syrup you drained off – mix with the orange juice in the fridge and stick it in the freezer (yup – it’s as hard as that).  The next day, it will be quite frozen, so cut it into chunks and put it in a blender and blend until smooth.  I like to add a bit of Cointreau or Grand Marnier here – both to enhance the flavour and because the alcohol ensures that it won’t freeze solid.

There you have a zero fat dessert with ingredients of only oranges and sugar – no additives.  And no waste.  You could also make it more creamy at the blending stage by adding a little cream, or coconut cream (if you’re lactose intolerant or fancied a coconut taste). 

 Recycled Oranges

Would you like more recipes now and then?  Would you like some candied orange peel??

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