Winter Warming Beef Stew

Winter is almost here and so is the need to fill my freezer with comfort foods. No matter how hard I try, I’m incapable of cooking really for under four, so I’ve embraced this (and my love of Tupperware) and cook for ten with the intention of making freezer meals for myself. A few delicious ideas to which make great meals are pasta sauce, chilli, or beef stew (to name a few). Simply take them out of the freezer the night before and dinner is basically made.

Ive really been craving beef stew to with sourdough bread (I make it roughly every two weeks) or American biscuits. With the drop in temperature, putting on the winter duvet and autumn colours finally here, I took the plunge and decided to make a stew.

Technically what I make falls under the food umbrella of a French bouef bourguignon rather than a beef stew.  What’s the difference between a bourguignon and a stew? In short, wine! Traditional (American) stews use beef broth or tomato sauce as their base, whereas the French use a good wine. Fun fact: Real wine was not available to most American cooks until well into the 20th century. I like to be mix and match and go with what tastes great and mix beef broth, tomato paste and wine in this recipe.

You do need a dutch oven/cast iron pan with lid and patience for this recipe, as it’s a low and slow recipe, which I allow to cook for at least 4-6 hours in the oven. As this stew cooks for so long, your kitchen/house will smell amazing but it takes any beef (cheap or otherwise) and turns into a tender, yummy, fall apart which touched piece of meat. 

stew

In line with the photos, I doubled the beef, carrots, mushrooms, shallots and parsnips for my stew.

Beef Stew

Ingredients:

  • 2lbs/1kg beef stew meat, trimmed to remove fat/grizzle and cut into bite size pieces
  • 1/2 C/125g bacon
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon fresh black pepper
  • 4 carrots chopped
  • 2 cups/200g chopped mushrooms
  • 1 medium onion chopped/3 shallots
  • 2 parsnips
  • 4 cloves garlic minced/ 2 tablespoons garlic puree
  • 4 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 4 cups beef broth
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
  • 2 bay leaves

Method:

  1. In a medium bowl toss beef with the flour and set aside.
  2. Heat a heavy bottom pan on medium high heat. Add half of the vegetable oil and add half the meat. Brown for 3-4 minutes turning the meat halfway through. Remove meat, putting it in you dutch oven and repeat with the rest of the meat.
  3. Add the rest of the oil and add bacon, onions, and garlic, cook for 3-4 minutes or until onions are softened. Once cooked, add into your dutch oven with the browned beef.
  4. Add the red wine to the pot with oil and give it a good stir, scraping off the bottom of the pan, this deglazes the pan and and all the brown bits will give your stew flavour! Let the wine cook down (it’s important to let the wine cook off for a good 4-5 minutes before adding the other liquid, this also cooks off the alcohol). Add in the beef stock, worcestershire sauce, tomato paste, Italian seasoning and salt and pepper. Stir until combined and then pour into your Dutch oven over the beef and onion, garlic, bacon mixture.
  5. Preheat the oven to 320F/160C.
  6. Give everything a good stir in your dutch oven, now add in your vegetables and bay leaves. Give this a stir, be careful, as your pot should be quite full!
  7. Place the pot in the oven at 320F/160C for 4-6 hours.
  8. Every hour or so, give your stew a quick stir. You will see the mixture darken in colour and thicken as it cooks over the hours. Normally around hour 4 (left picture) you can decide how much more time it needs. After 5 hours of cooking, I decided mine was done (middle picture).
  9. Serve with a piece of sourdough bread or biscuits for dipping! (oh and remove the bay leaves before serving, do not eat those)

I popped a portion over to my neighbour, as she and I are quite good to share things with each other and honestly it was super delicious and I wanted to boost a bit about how nice it was! 

Remember to share for with your friends, family or neighbours (or just freeze portions and enjoy this delicious meal all by yourself!)  🙂

Sugar and Spice and all things nice – Jams and Jellys

As the seasons are changing, winter duvet is now on the bed, Ive been feeling unwell and have been craving comfort food.  I’ve recently been spending quality time in my kitchen and thought Id share my recipes with you!

1

Grapes, grapes and more grapes. I have quite an amazing grape vine that gave me approximately 30 kilos of grapes this year. More grapes than I knew what to do with, I was hoping the birds would eat them, when this failed, I realised that I needed to do something with this. The grapes are exceptionally seeded too, which made eating them impossible, as I was constantly having to spit the seeds out, which is not a pleasant look. Initially I made grape juice but it’s amazing how quickly you can go off pure grape juice. I even mixed it with honey rum, (that was an amazing combination) but again, only so much grape juice you can drink. I was then reminded of a true American classic, grape jelly! Goes amazing with peanut butter or as the sweet to a savoury sandwich.

2

Grape Jelly

Ingredients required:

5KGs of Red Grapes

Zest and juice of 1 lemon

1KG of jam sugar per 900grams of grape juice (please note this may differ based on the sugar you are using, I used a very specific jelly sugar)

Method:

  1. You need to clean the grapes. I dumped mine in the sink filled with water, got rid of the bad grapes (and bugs) and put the cleaned grapes in a large heavy bottomed pan with the juice and zest of a lemon. I didn’t bother to mash them or deseed them or really put any effort into beyond taking out the bad grapes (and bugs).
  2. Bring to a boil and simmer for 20 minutes. You should smell the grapes and see the bursting, it’s quite a sweet scent your kitchen will be filled with.
  3. Put a sieve above a large bowl and put the grapes and juice into the sieve. Then gently press the grapes against the sieve. This can be messy (I did slightly cover myself in grape juice) but gives your arms a good work out. (I forgot to take a picture of this stage, sorry!) Now you are left with pure grape juice, once cooled you can either drink it or use it as the jelly base.
  4. You now need to measure out your juice to know how much sugar you should use for it, as its all weight based. I had approximately 4 KGs of juice.
  5. At this stage I start to sterilise my jars, I put them in the oven at 180C for 30 mins, which is roughly about the amount of time to takes for the jelly/jam to cook.
  6. In a large heavy bottomed pot, add in the freshly strained juice and the sugar, mix well. On high heat, bring to a full rolling boil. Stir it constantly and watch it, it will start to form a foam, of which you should remove. The foam has a different texture and colour from your jam/jelly, it is simply fine air bubbles. If you don’t remove it from your jam before processing, you will have the foam on the top of your jelly/jam, taking away from the perfect finish.9
  7. Stir the sugar all at once, bringing it back to a full rolling boil and follow the instructions of your sugar. Mine asks me to boil for X mins, whilst others may require you to use a candy thermometer to get it to a certain temperature.
  8. Its normally at this point that I put the lids in a bowl and cover with boiling water for 5 minutes.
  9. Once you have reached your desired temperature or completed the instructions, remove from heat, skim off any remaining foam and pour into the sterilised hot jars. I ladle the mixture into jars using a jam funnel, it makes life much easier!10
  10. Then firmly put the lids on the jars, I did have a few mishaps. You should hear the lids ‘pop’ as  part of the vacuum effect, which causes the lids to seal on the jars. The ‘pop’ sound indicates that the seal on the lid has closed tightly over the jar. as My sugar instructions tell me to then flip the jars upside down for the jams to set for 12-24 hours. 11
  11. Enjoy on toast, in a sandwich or with something savoury to give the sweet edge.

butter

A few years ago I did a post on Pear Butter, this year I fancied Apple Butter (and threw in 2 pears for fun). There is just something amazing about the way your house will smell over the slow 6 hour cook of Apple Butter, truly its cinnamon and spice and all things nice! Its very homely comforting smell, if a smell could give you a hug, this is the smell! It’s a warm all consuming, everything is right with the world and relax smell, kind of Christmasy too!

Apple butter is a concentrated form of apple sauce created by a long slow cook of apples with vinegar and sugar to a point where the sugar in the apples caramelizes, turning the apple butter a deep brown. The concentration of sugar (and vinegar) gives apple butter a much longer shelf life as a preserve than apple sauce, basically its good for a very long time!

Apple Butter

Ingredients:

  • 2 KGs/4 LBs of good cooking apples (I used a variety of Jonagold, Elstar and 2 pears)
  • 1 cup/250ml apple cider vinegar
  • 2 cups/500ml water
  • Caster Sugar ½C/115g per cup of apple sauce ( mine was just over 4cups, see cooking instructions) I also used 1 cup of brown sugar, you can use normal white sugar or a mix of both brown and white sugar but do not use only brown sugar.
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • Rhind and juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla paste/extract ( I used 1 tsp of each)

Method:

1 Wash and cut the apples into quarters, without peeling or coring them. (Much of the pectin is in the cores and flavor in the peels). Remove any damaged/bruised parts of the apples.1

2 Place the cut up apples into large heavy bottomed pot, add the vinegar, water, lemon juice and lemon rhind, cover, bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer, cook until the fruit is soft, approx. 20-30 minutes. I did give mine a stir a few times.

3 Purée the apples through a food mill/ chinois/sieve over a large bowl to catch the pump. Ladle apple mixture (cooked apples and liquid) into a chinois sieve (or food mill) and using a pestle/wooden spoon force pulp from the chinois into a large bowl below. I used a spatula to occasionally scrape the pulp from the bottom of the sieve into the bowl.

4 Measure out how much apple puree you have. This is vital to the much sugar you will need to add in. For every cup of apple puree you have, you need to add in ½C/115g of sugar. (Mine was 9 cps of puree, so I added in 3.5 cups of white sugar and 1 cup of brown sugar)

5 After you have measured your puree, return it to the heavy bottomed pan, adding in the sugar, salt, spices and vanilla. You can taste and adjust seasonings if required. Stir in all the spices and sugar, you will see the colour change instantly from the spices (and brown sugar if using). 

6  Cook the apple mixture, stirring only occasionally, uncovered on low heat, stirring occasionally to prevent burning. Scrape the bottom of the pot while you stir to make sure a crust does not form on the bottom of the pan.

Cook until thick and smooth (2-6 hours), you will notice the colour darken over time and it become thicker. You will also see the foam form, remove it throughout the cooking process. I go for the low and slow method here, I cook on the smallest ring for the longest possible time. If you are in a rush you can do this is in 2 hours at medium/low heat, if you have the day, go low and slow, its so worth it! A small bit spooned onto a chilled (from the freezer) plate will be thick, not runny.

7 When you have approximately 30 minutes left of cook time,  start to sterilise your jars,  putting them in the oven at 180C/350F for 30 minutes.

8 When you have approximately 5 minutes of cook time left,  put the lids in a bowl and cover with boiling water for 5 minutes to sterilise the lids.

9 Once your cook time is up, using a ladle and jam funnel pour the apple butter into the hot, sterilised jars and seal with the lids. As the jars cool, you should hear the lids “popping” as they seal the jars. (If you plan to store the apple butter un-refrigerated, make sure to follow proper canning procedures, which can be found on Google)

12

My 2Kgs/4lbs of apples/pears made 3 jars of apple butter. 

 

As you can see, Ive been busy making and sharing (much to a few friends delight) jam/jellys and preserves. Im ready for winter with my jams now! Ive also made an updated version of the Comforting Spice Jam and will be updating the recipe in the days to come. 

Remember to share for with your friends, family or neighbours 🙂

Cat Wall – DIY project

I started working on the cat wall last year, approximately 9 months ago. Thanks to self isolation and social distancing, I found myself with more time than I know what to do with. Last week, I also had two days of holiday with my destination as the shed(topia), so no excuse not to finish this lingering project.

5

 

I originally had much bigger plans than what it turned out to be, however, the two other walls I was going to use aren’t suitable to have anything of any substance put into them, so it was scaled back to a one wall feature.

So heres what I bought to make this wall possible

  • 2 Bubble Domes for the bubble seats from Amazon
  • 2 Wall mounted cat beds from Zooplus
  • 8 Wall brackets from Ikea – I used Ekby Valter but is no longer available
  • 4 Shelves from Ikea
  • Wood  and screws – I had some left over from the pond enclosure I made last year
  • Primer, paint, paint brushes and clear acrylic spray paint
  • Wallpaper and glue – I used spray glue but if I had to do it again Id use Mod Podge
  • Wall plugs – extra heavy because I have Maine Coons
  • The small scratching post as a step up to the cat wall for the cats

I actually made 4 shelves but I only needed to use 3

Now the step by step tutorial on making a super awesome cat wall, which to date my cats are still not very impressed with.

 

1

Wall mounted cat beds:

  1. These automatically come with velcro stapled onto it for the cat bed to attach to it, get your pliers out and remove ALL of the staples, this is tedious and I was hoping my circle would be big enough that they would be cut out but sadly no.
  2. Using the Bubble Dome fence attachment bit (technical term and refer to above picture, top left) mark out the size of the circle, inside circumference of the circle and then saw it out. It was a tight squeeze with the saw at the bits where it mounts to the wall. I did drill a few holes first around the circle to fit the saw blade into.
  3. Sand down your rough edges and they will be rough.
  4. Make sure the bubble fits (top middle pic), I did need to make a few adjustments.
  5. Drill the holes as per the fence attachment, which is how you will attach the doom at a later stage. I made the mistake of doing this after I painted it and had further chipping from the wood, which meant more painting.
  6. I then primed the wood and then painted them the different colours. I knew the cat wall shelves were going against a very white wall and wanted them to visually pop, hence my choice in colours. I also fell in love with the wall paper and then found the paint to match it. I did 2 coats of primer and then 3 coats of the colours.

2Brackets:

  1. Prime them, I did 2 coats
  2. Paint them, I did 3 coats.

 

3Shelves

  1. Because my cats are big, they like to be enclosed, ie not fall out when they roll over.  I realised that I needed to create an enclosed shelf, to stop any injuries. I had wood left over from making a pond enclosure from scratch last year and measured it all out, cut it all down to size – 1 front rail and then 2 side pieces per shelf, sanding down all the wood edges.
  2. I then covered the side shelf rails in wall paper. I used spray glue for ease and convenience.
  3. I screwed the front rail into the shelves, so that you wont see the screw when its covered in wall paper and on the wall.
  4. I then covered the shelves with wall paper. I decided to cover the bottom of the shelf, wrapping the paper over the front and having it finish on the inside of the front shelf. People cant see into the shelves, so no need to cover them and I thought the cats might damage the paper with their claws, so just leave it as is.
  5. I glued the bottom of the self first, attached the paper and then glued the front, edge and back of rail, wrapping the paper over the rail, in 2 steps.
  6. I then screwed the side rails to the main shelf.
  7. I then spray painted them with a clear acrylic for extra shine but also to cover any stickiness left over from the glue. I really dont want the cats to stick to the shelves!

4

Creating the cat wall

  1. I measured out my wall to understand what my mid way point was and then measured out the space I wanted between the shelves or vaguely where I wanted the shelves to be – I used a foot between the shelves but given the size of my cats, I could easily gone for 18 inches instead.  To be fair I also did this on paper to see if a visual would help and it did in terms of measurements and knowing the midway point and where I would put all the shelves.
  2. I had a few ideas but I wasn’t really sure how I wanted it on the wall, so rather than making LOTS of holes in the wall, I put it all the floor and measured it out to what it would look like on the wall. I tried a few ideas and sent a few messages to friends for their opinions.
  3. At this point because I was about to drill next to an electrical socket, I did turn off the electric to ensure no accidents!
  4. I then marked on the walls with the shelves where the wall plugs should go (with a level!!) and drilled the holes and inserted the wall plugs. Four hands at this stage would have been incredibly helpful and saved me time but being a single cat lady means I could only use the two that I have and proves that one person can do this project.
  5. Get your level ready and start putting up the shelves. For the domes you will need to remove the dome to get the screws in.

SUCCESS!!! You’ve completed your cat wall, be very very proud of yourself.

6

I really enjoyed this project, I wont lie. It absolutely built my confidence around my DIY skills and ultimately whilst my cats aren’t very impressed with the wall, I most certainly am!

Chocolate Espresso Biscotti

I adore coffee, there are few smells that make me as happy as the smell of coffee. I can understand why people have coffee addictions (myself included) and how the aroma truly makes or breaks ones morning. Luckily, I now live in a country that is equally passionate about coffee, good coffee. When I came across this recipe, I knew it was for me. Biscotti is a twice baked Italian cookie, normally Im very American when it comes to cookies, the softer the better. However, I am prepared to sacrifice my soft cookie preference for a good biscotti.

I’ve started sending home baked treats with my colleagues to give to their partners, sharing is caring and honestly I think its cute and very undutch. One of the partners was so impressed with this ‘cookie’, that he emailed me to thank me and sent me the link to the Dutch version of the Bake Off. Whilst I was flattered, I politely declined. Its always nice when individuals appreciate your baking and being entirely honest, I even impressed myself with this baked treat!

Chocolate Espresso Biscotti

Makes: 30ish 1 inch cookies  Prep time: 10 mins  Cook time: 2 X 30 mins  Total time: 80+ mins

20180902_141144.jpg

Required Ingredients:

  • 2 cups (256g) plain flour
  • ½ cup (50g) cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons instant espresso powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1.5 cup (230g) dark chocolate chopped 
  • 1/2 cup (113g) butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup chocolate coffee beans (or a chocolate covered coffee bean works) with 30ish reserved to decorate with
  • 1/2 cup (100g) white chocolate

Now how to make these delightful espresso twice baked cookies:

1. Pre-heat oven to 300 F (150C), line two baking sheets with greaseproof/parchment paper.
2. In the bowl of your food processor, combine the flour, cocoa powder, espresso powder, salt, baking powder, and 3/4 cup of chopped dark chocolate. Pulse until the chocolate is ground into the flour mixture, set aside.
3. In the bowl, cream the butter and then add in the sugar, mixing until creamed together. Add in the eggs and vanilla, mix until combined.
4. Now stir in the chocolate flour mixture just until combined, use a wooden spoon to ensure that you did not over it. I left quite a bit of flour around the sides, knowing that I still had the chocolate and expresso beans to mix in. Stir in the remaining 3/4 chopped dark chocolate and chocolate espresso beans.
5. On the parchment/greaseproof paper,  divide the dough in half and form two logs, leaving at least a 4 inch gap, be warned, they will spread whilst baking! Shape your logs so that they are smooth, even and vaguely the same shape/size.
6. Bake for 30 minutes, the logs should be firm but not hard. Allow them to cool for at least 15/25 minutes before moving them to a wire rack. I was overly keen and managed to crack mine in half in trying to move it too soon. I left mine to cool for about an hour, as the crack put me off.
20180902_152909.jpg

7. On a cutting board using a serrated knife, cut slices of ½-1 inches (if the slices are overly crumbly, allow the loaf cool a little longer, they will be somewhat crumby). Lay the the slices back on the parchment/greaseproof paper and bake for 30 minutes until the surface of the cookies is dry ( though the chocolate and chocolate espresso beans will be melty).

8. Melt your white chocolate (I was being lazy and opted for the microwave at 30 second blasts until melted) and using a piping bag or freezer bag with the corner cut off, drizzle the white chocolate over your cookies. I then decorated them with chocolate espresso beans I put to the side.
9. Allow the chocolate to ‘harden’ and store in an airtight container.

 

Remember to share with friends and enjoy!

 

Zucchini Bread

Is it a zucchini or a courgette? Its both, in America, its zucchini, in the rest of the world, its a courgette. No matter what you call it, you’ve probably eatten it as a vegetable in a savoury way. I enjoy challenging the pallet and the mind and baking sweet things with zucchini, from breads to brownies. I thought I’d pass the idea by my Dutch colleagues, of ‘what do you think of zucchini bread?’, I then explained it was sweet with a lot of cinnamon. They thought it was a weird idea but that they were willing to sacrifice themselves as my ‘proefkonijns’ (guinea pigs). Luckily everyone has pleasantly surprised, despite pulling faces that suggested they really didn’t want to try it, (un)fortunately I refuse to leave my colleagues desks until they have taken a piece. I’m never really bothered by if they like what I make or not but I insist that they try it. 

I searched various different recipes and came across different ideas that I was able to combine into one. This is a combination of best zucchini bread with a crumb topping.

Zucchini Bread

Makes: 2 loaves  Prep time: 20 mins Bake time: 45-60 mins Total time: 65+ mins

Ingredients:

For the bread:

  • Butter and flour for preparing baking pans
  • 3 cups (384g) plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 3½ cups (500g) grated zucchini, with the excess liquid removed
  • 3 eggs
  • ½ cup (127g) apple sauce (I used pear butter or you could also use apple butter)
  • ½ cup (118ml) vegetable oil
  • 2¼ cups (450g) granulated sugar
  • 4 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup (125g) chopped pecans

For the crumb topping:

  • 1/2 cup (60g) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup (100g) packed light or dark brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup (20g) old fashioned oats
  • 1/4 cup (60g) unsalted butter, melted

Now to make this deliciously sweet bread

1. Grate your zucchini (I used my food processor or rather I realised that my food processor had an attachment, got really excited and then used it) and then using a muslin/cheese cloth or similar cloth and remove/squeeze the excess liquid from the zucchini. Set aside.

2. Make the crumb topping: With a fork, mix the flour, brown sugar, oats, and cinnamon together in a small bowl. Stir in the melted butter. Don’t over-mix; you want crumbles that are flour-y! Set aside.

2. Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Butter and flour two loaf pan or line with parchment paper. Set aside.

3. Make the cake: In a large bowl beat the eggs. One the eggs are completely beat, add in the applesauce/pear butter, oil, sugar and vanilla extract.

4. Sift in the flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder and cinnamon. Stir gently to combine. Gently stir in shredded zucchini and nuts into the batter with a spatula or wooden spoon.

5. Pour half of the batter into each prepared pan. Top each loaf with the crumble topping. Bake for 45 to 60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the centre of the loaf comes out cleanly. If you find that the crumble is burning or looks like its going to burn, cover the loaf pan with aluminium foil.

6. Allow to slightly cool in the pan and remove for cooling on a wire rack. It should be consumed within 3 days.

 

I forgot how much I enjoyed making this recipe years ago and then was reminded that it has autumn flavours in it. Lets be honest, summer is coming to an end and winter is most certainly the way, this is kind of a sweet reminder of whats to come. Sadly my crumble came out drier than I would have liked (I went a bit off piste from the recipe and regretted it before I set the bowl side) but it was still nice and gave the bread a sweet bite.

I absolutely loved that my colleagues kept telling me that every though they could see the green from the zucchini, they couldn’t taste it. Much like pumpkin, zucchini tastes of whatever you season/flavour it with. A few colleagues even took pieces home for their partners to try it. I think it’s funny/great how many husbands I’m now giving Monday treats to!

Remember to share with your friends, family and colleagues 🙂 

Breakfast muffins

I love a muffin! Sweet or savoury, they are filling and can be either a meal or a snack. Muffins aren’t really done here in the Netherlands. You see them occasionally and if you see them, its like super standard (boring) flavours, blueberry or chocolate.

I was thinking of what I could take in to my colleagues that would be filling and healthy, well as healthy as I make anything. I was thinking maybe a carrot cake in a muffin or something similar and came across a recipe for Morning Glory Muffins, naturally I’ve taken it, adjusted it and changed it. Heres my creation, Breakfast Muffins, approved by my Dutch colleagues, who now look forward to Mondays or as they now call it ‘cake day’. I have created Monday monsters, if I fail to bring something in on a Monday, I get looks and ‘What? No cake?!’. I don’t mind but I feel like it goes to show how much I’ve changed my office but I am truly grateful that I am no longer asked if it’s my birthday.

20180721_221246

Breakfast Muffins

Makes: 12 large muffins   Prep time: 30 mins Bake time: 25 mins per batch Total time: 80ish mins

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup (75g) raisins
  • 1/2 cup (120ml) orange juice
  • 2 cups (260g) plain flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup (35g) ground flax (optional)
  • 1/2 cup (64g)  chopped pecans
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup (100g) packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup (85g) honey
  • 1/3 cup (80ml) vegetable or sunflower oil
  • 1/3 cup (60g) pear butter or applesauce
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups (260g) shredded carrots (about 4 large)
  • 1 cup (140g) grated apple (I did 2 apples)

Now to make these delicious muffins:

1. In a saucepan, combine the raisins and orange juice and bring to the boil and allow to boil until the liquid has evaporated, this will take 3-5 minutes. Set to the side.

2. Whilst your raisins are plumping up, grate your apples and carrots. I wont lie, this is time consuming and the least exciting part of making this recipe. If I had been clever I would have used the grating attachment on my food processor, needless to say I didn’t even consider this option.

3. Preheat your oven to 425°F (218°C) and line a 12-count muffin pan with cupcake liners.

4. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs. Add in the brown sugar, honey, oil, pear butter/applesauce and vanilla together until combined.

5. To the wet mixture add in the dry ingredients, flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, salt, flax, and pecans together until just combined. Now add in the raisins, carrots, and apple. Fold everything together gently just until combined and no visible flour remain.

6. Spoon the batter into liners, filling them 3/4 of the way full. Bake for 5 minutes at 425°F  (225°C), keeping the muffins in the oven, reduce the oven temperature to 350°F (177°C). Bake for an additional 18 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. The total time these muffins take in the oven is about 25 minutes. Allow the muffins to cool for 10 minutes in the muffin pan, then transfer to a wire rack to cool until ready to eat.

I doubled the recipe and made 24 delicious cupcakes.

Notes: I used my pear butter because I have it and it added loads of amazing flavour, you can use applesauce but I seriously recommend pear butter for something a bit special.

I hope you enjoy these as much as much as my colleagues did!

Remember to share for with your friends, family or colleagues 🙂

 

Dutch Apple Pie

I originally took this recipe from Dutch Cooking Today and then naturally changed and adapted it into a recipe that works for me. I was gifted this cook book roughly 10 years ago by my Dutch friend and whilst there are some great recipes in it, there are also some that I will never make – ie super picky eater.

Sundays for me are for baking, taking paracetamol and procrastinating. Sundays are the day where I remember that Monday is on the horizon, its time to be an adult and prepare for alarm clock and corporate world that will greet me in less than 16 hours. I normally start the day with baking, allowing myself a few hours in the morning to wake up, take it slow and realise my long list of things I need to do (but most likely won’t).

20180624_122220

As you know, I like to take something baked goods in on Mondays to start the week off on a literal sweet note. Each week I like to bake something new for my colleagues, never repeating recipes where possible. I had a request for apple pie and I did what I do best. I told my colleague ‘no’ in a inappropriate way, even using a hand gesture (he wouldnt recognise me any other way and it goes without saying that Im as sassy in the office as I am outside of the office) and clearly stated that I dont take orders. I then came home and decided to surprise him and make his request. Why being boring when I can be entertaining and surprising instead? I had this super awkward moment at work, I took these pies in to work, colleagues ate them, said how good they were and then proceeded to give me a standing applause. Yeah, just a thank you would have worked and been far less embarrassing. HOWEVER, if I am able to impress my Dutch colleagues with my version of Dutch apple pie, then I feel like Im onto a serious winner! Ive been making this pie for years and its now officially gotten a standing ovation from real Dutchies this week.

I decided to make individual pies rather than a large pie, convenience, easy to eat and easier to take in to work. I doubled the below recipe to make 24 mini pies – yes, I had a LOT of happy colleagues.

Dutch Apple Pie

Makes: 1 large pie or 12 individual pies   Prep time: 20 mins Bake time: 45 mins Total time: 65 mins

Ingredients:

  • 2/3 cup (100g) raisins
  • 1 1/2 cups (350ml) orange juice
  • 2 cups (300g) plain flour
  • 1/2 cup (100g) white sugar
  • 1/4 cup (50g) brown sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 cup butter (chilled)
  • 2lbs (1kg) firm apples
  • 1 tablepsoon custard powder
  • 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon all spice

20180624_124046

Now to make this Dutch approved apple pie

1. In a saucepan, combine the raisins and orange juice and bring to the boil and allow to boil until the liquid has evaporated, this will take 3-5 minutes. Set to the side.

2. In a large bowl combine the flour, sugars and a pinch of salt. Cut in the butter, in chunks and using a pastry knife (or two knives), cut in the butter until it resembles course bread crumbs, add in the all spice and 1 teaspoon of cinnamon and then knead until a firm ball is formed. Alternatively use a food processor (sadly mine was out of action and I did it all by hand which took 5-10 mins).

3. Grease a large 10in pan or a muffin pan with butter. Press the dough 2/3 up your pan.  You should have approximately 1/4 of your dough left. Refrigerate the pan and remaining dough.

4. Preheat the oven to 375F/175C.

5. Peel, core and slice the apples. For mini pies I chopped up the applies so they would cook more quickly. Put them in a bowl and combine with the raisins, custard powder, 2 teaspoons of cinnamon and 2 tablespoons of sugar.

6. Take your pan out of the refrigerator and arrange the apple filling over the dough. I tend to just throw it in and then flatten it with my hand. Try to push any raisins down, as they can burn. Take the remaining dough and crumble it over the top, alternatively you can roll it out and create strips over the top of the pies.

7. Bake for 45 minutes (for individual pies 30 minutes) or until golden brown. Allow to cool in the pan for 15 minutes and allow to cool on a wire rack for mini pies. For mini apple pies, run a knife around the edge of the pan to aid removal from the pan. Keep refrigerated and consume within 3 days.

 

This pie is equally tasty no matter in its large or in a mini version. This is a great recipe if you want to impress friends, treat yourself, or add something special to brunch.

*Note for those who are unable to get Birds Custard Powder, use Jell-O French Vanilla Instant Pudding Mix instead and add in 2 tablespoons of the powdered mix.

Remember to share with friends (or colleagues) and enjoy! 🙂

The ultimate 6 hour pasta sauce

I am one of these unfortunate people who is unable to cook for less than 4-6 people, ever. I almost find it impossible to cook for one or two, I always start out with the best of intentions and then have enough food for 4-6 people. This is ultimately what I love about this recipe, it makes enough to feed 10-12 people, which means I freeze it and multiple dinners are sorted. Being a southerner means I like things that go low and slow and this recipe ticks the box, you cook it low and slow for 6 hours and allow the flavours to develop. Ive been making this recipe for years and its great on cold evenings when you want something hearty and flavourful to beat the cold or a Dutch summers evening when you’re wondering how its cold and yet almost July.

Doing some research for this post, I came across the following definitions for sauces.

  • A marinara sauce is a simple tomato based sauce with no meat.
  • Bolognese sauce is a meat-based sauce originating from Bologna, Italy.
  • Pasta sauce is any sauce that is put on pasta.

I think this recipe/sauce falls under the category of Bolognese but isn’t made in the traditional way.

My nana recently asked for this recipe and my response was ‘Throw stuff in a pan and let simmer for 6 hours’, needless to say this wasn’t the response she wanted. It encouraged me to put create a proper recipe for something thats been in my head for years.

The ultimate 6 hour pasta sauce

Makes: 8-12 portions Prep time: 20-30 mins Cook time: 5-6 hours Total time: 6 hrs 30 mins

20180617_120714

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1lb/500g minced beef
  • 8 small carrots
  • 3 bell peppers (I used red, yellow and green, use different colours as it gives better presentation)
  • 1 large onion
  • 250g/.5lb button mushrooms
  • 250g/.5lb cherry tomatoes
  • 1 X 400g/14oz tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 1 X 68g/2.3oz tin of tomato puree
  • 1 X 500g/17.6oz box of Passata
  • 3 tablespoons tomato ketchup
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 beef bouillon cubes
  • 1 tiny bottle 250ml/1cup red wine
  • 1-2 tablespoons pureed garlic
  • 3 tablespoons mixed herbs/italian seasoning
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Now to make this utterly amazing low and slow sauce:

1. Grate your carrots and chop the rest of your vegetables. The great part of this recipe is if there is another vegetable that you love or have excess of, throw it into this recipe. Ive also used leek and zucchini and they tasted great.

20180617_123607-e1529865474386.jpg

2. In a very large sauce pan, add in your oil olive, grated garlic and chopped onion, sauté until soft, approximately 3-5 minutes.

3. Once your garlic and onions have softened, add in the minced beef and cook until browned, breaking up the beef. Once it has browned, remove all of the excess liquid and fat, I used a strainer (bad photo) but you want to get rid of moisture element.

4. Return the beef, onion and garlic mixture back to the pan and turn the pan on high for approximately a minute.  You will hear it sizzling, this is a good thing. Now add in your wine, this will deglaze the pan, taking all the flavour from the bottom of the pan and putting it in the mixture, stir thoroughly.

20180617_124554

5. Now to start adding in all the stuff that makes it a sauce. Add in tinned tomatoes, passata, tomato puree and herbs, stir well. Add in the tomato ketchup and brown sugar. The brown sugar helps to take away from the acidity of the tomatoes.

6. Now to add in the vegetables, quite literally just chuck them all in and stir.

7. Mix your 2 beef bouillon cubes with 2 cup of boiling water and stir until the cubes have dissolved. Pour this mixture into the sauce, this should basically now fill your pot. (This is the excitement on my face of realising its only 6 hours to go and then the sauce will be done!)

8. Bring your sauce to a rolling boil and then turn it down and allow it to very slowly simmer for 6 hours, stirring it every 30-60 mins. You will see it slowly reducing and I guess its more than half a pan full when its done. It will be between 1/2 to 2/3 of the pan when its simmered down, you want a really thick sauce with not much liquid, you dont want it runny basically. Taste it at this stage (making sure you dont burn your tongue) and add salt and pepper to taste. (Im not going to lie, I was running short on time and only did this one for 5 hours but honestly I could tell a difference, there was a lot of liquid on the plate when I dished it up and it really needed that extra hour)

This can be served with any pasta that you like or just with bread, to dip the bread in (Im also a big fan of this). It freezes really well, allow it to defrost 24 hours before reheating.

Yes, it takes a LOT of time initially, however, it tastes really delicious, your house smells really amazing and makes enough so that you dont have to make it regularly.

Edits: If you dont like wine or chose not to cook with wine, replace the wine with beef stock or beef bouillon. Honestly, the wine gives it a richness that cant be replaced. I hate wine, I dont drink it (it gives me bad headaches almost instantly) but I absolutely would not leave it out of this recipe, thats what a taste difference it makes.  You can also it more tomato rich by doubling the puree, passata and tinned tomatoes if you like, then half the beef bouillon that you use.

Remember to eat on a cold evening to warm yourself up and enjoy! 🙂 

 

Banana Bread

I really love cookbooks, I have two types, the first being the cookbooks that seemed like a good idea at the time to buy but when Im looking for inspiration I never find anything I want to make but they look pretty. The second type is the cook book that I go back to over and over and over again.

20180617_140614

I have one recipe thats absolutely covered in butter, pureed things, possibly egg and everything else in between thats called for in the recipe, which shows how much I adore this recipe and cook book. This is my go to banana bread recipe, which have proven a hit time and again. In the UK its called banana cake, cake it is not but in the US and to me it will always be banana bread. I made it this weekend for my colleagues and all 16 pieces went ridiculously quickly and I didn’t even get a piece! You could even say they went bananas for it (pun completely intended). Several colleagues have now asked for the recipe or rather my version of the recipe, Im really great at taking a base recipe and changing it to suit my taste.

This cake tastes better if you let it sit for 2-3 days, as the flavour develops. It will be very hard to resist temptation, so go on and have a piece but honestly you will be able to taste the difference over the days.

Banana Bread

Makes: 16 small to medium portions   Prep time: 10 mins Bake time: 45-60 mins Total time: 70 mins tops

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup (200g) sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2/3 cup (150g) margarine or butter (butter is always better!)
  • 4 teaspoons buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2-4 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup (50g) brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla flavouring
  • 1 cup mashed over ripe bananas (which is 3 medium sized bananas and you REALLY want them over ripe)
  • 1 1/2 C (192g) self raising flour

20180617_142912.jpg

Now to make this truly amazingly yummy bread

  1. Preheat the over to 350F/180C, grease with butter or line a pan with greaseproof paper. (I used a 10in square silicone pan)
  2. Mash your bananas, I always start off with a fork and then move to a food mixer. Having overly ripe bananas makes this much easier to do with a fork. Once your banana is mashed, add in the cinnamon. Set aside. As you can see from my ingredients photo, I had 2 super ripe bananas but I was short a banana and used a not so ripe one to make up the ingredients.

3. Combine the eggs and margarine and mix until combined. Add in the sugars and bananas (I then added in more cinnamon).

4. Add in half your flour and baking soda, mix until just combined, then add in the buttermilk and mix. Add in the remaining flour until just combined.

20180617_145246.jpg

5. Bake in a greased/lined pan for up to 1 hour, check it with a toothpick that comes out clean. I made a large banana bread for the office and then a small one for a friend who has never had it before (2 birds, 1 stone). The large bread took 45 mins and the small one like 20 mins.

20180617_145859

6. Allow to cool on a wire rack and store in a air tight container for up to 5 days. Seriously remember to allow the bread to sit for a few days for the flavour to develop, its so worth it!

 

Edits: You can add nuts to this, I would go with pecans personally but walnuts also work (I just find them bitter). If you do not have buttermilk, you can make your own, use 3 teaspoons of milk and add in 1 teaspoon of vinegar or lemon juice and allow to sit for 5 minutes.

Remember to share with friends (or colleagues) and enjoy! 🙂

Gluten Free Rum Raisin Carrot Cake

I recently discovered I am married to my job, Ive been doing crazy hours and I have actively started getting into my office for 6:20 each morning. Sometimes you have a realisation and realise its not for fun or giggles and that if I want to be married, it shouldn’t be to the corporate world.  However, this also means that my time is taken up working and not blogging, although I still make time to bake for work each week.

Someone recently asked me why I dont take ‘pretty pictures’ of the food that I make, I laughed. I replied,’ for the same reason that I dont take pretty selfies, I know Im pretty and more importantly I know that my food tastes amazing.’ Theres nothing worse than seeing pretty food and tasting it and it having no flavour or substance. So you get less than pretty pictures and tutorials of food that is tried, tested and tasted and approved not only by me but also by my colleagues who are my guinea pigs or as they tell me in Dutch ‘proefkonijns’, which literally translate into ‘experiment bunnies’. This is what I love about the Dutch language, it doesn’t translate literally very well.

One of my favourite spirits in Rum, we are really good friends (probably too good) and what I like about Rum most is that it doesn’t give me hangovers (for the win!). When I came across this recipe, I knew I wanted to try it and improve it.  There is no rum taste in the cake, as its all cooked out, which actually felt like a let down and honestly I think Id make it alcohol free next time (and just drink the rum instead) and substitute orange juice instead for a more citrus taste.

Gluten Free Rum Raisin Carrot Cake

Makes: 16-20 portions   Prep time: 20-30 mins Bake time: 30-60 mins Total time: 90 mins

Ingredients:

  • 3 tbsp pine nuts
  • 2 (200-250g) medium carrots
  • 1/3C (75g) raisins
  • 1/4 C (60ml) rum (or use orange juice)
  • 3/4C (150g) caster sugar
  • 1/2C (125ml) regular olive oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 C (250g) ground almonds
  • 2 tsps ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ground nutmeg, or to taste
  • ½ lemon, finely grated zest and juice (optional – I left it out, mostly because I didnt have a lemon on hand)

Now to make this yummy gluten free cake:

1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F. Line the base of a 9in round springform cake tin with re-usable non-stick silicone liner or baking parchment and grease the sides with olive oil. I used a silicone pan and made my own life easier 🙂

2. Toast the pine nuts by browning them in a dry frying pan, watch them to ensure that they do not burn. This will take approximately 3-5 minutes. Set aside. (clearly I did a lot more than the 3 tbsps as I was roasting for multiple recipes)

3. Grate the carrots with a coarse grater (sadly my processor is broken but if you have one, use it), then sit them on a double layer of kitchen paper and wrap them kind of wringing them out to soak up excess liquid. Set aside.

4. Place the raisins in a small saucepan with the rum, bring to the boil, then turn down and simmer for 3 minutes.

5. Whisk the sugar and oil until creamily and airily mixed. Add in the vanilla extract and eggs, whisking well, fold in the ground almonds, nutmeg, grated carrots, raisins (with any rum that clings to them) and the lemon zest and juice (which I left out).

6. Pour the mixture into the prepared cake pan and smooth the surface. Sprinkle the toasted pine nuts over the cake (I also threw on some chopped pecans because I had them and well, why not?) and bake it for 30–40 minutes, or until the top is risen and golden and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out sticky but more or less clean.

7. Turn out on a wire rack and allow to cool completely. Cut into slices, store in a air tight container and ideally should be consumed within three (3) days.

20180513_174623.jpg

I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised with this cake. Normally almond meal can be a bit grainy in texture but it wasn’t as bad as I had anticipated. My colleagues really enjoyed it, even though it didnt taste of rum.

Remember to share with friends (or colleagues) and enjoy! 🙂