Weekend Cooking – Watercress Soup

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. For more information, see the welcome post.

It’s been hot and sunny here all last week, but today it’s been raining on and off all morning. Just the right sort of weather to make watercress soup. This is my favourite soup to make because it’s so easy. The only preparation is peeling and chopping potatoes and onion, briefly sautéing them in oil, then simmering them for about 15 -20 minutes in vegetable stock until cooked. Then add the watercress and simmer very briefly before blitzing the soup with a hand blender in the pan – cooking the watercress like this means it keeps a fresh green colour.

Simmer chopped potatoes and onion in vegetable stock
Add watercress
Bowl of watercress soup

Weekend Cooking – Bread

Bread is one of my favourite foods. I’ve been baking my own bread for about 4 years now, using a breadmaker. I’ve tried making it by hand but all that kneading just defeats me and it is so much easier with a machine. It is very simple – you just put all the ingredients in the bread tin, choose the appropriate setting, press start and leave it to knead, prove and bake. My breadmaker has a little dispenser so you can add nuts, or dried fruit. Or there is a dough setting – doing all the hard work for you – and then you can shape the dough into rolls, baguettes, plaits, croissants or whatever takes your fancy and bake them in the oven.

I vary what I make, sometimes using a packet mix, which does give a very good result. My favourites are Cheese and Onion, Ciabatta and Mixed Grain. Other times I use fast acting dried yeast and the Very Strong White or Wholemeal flour, sometimes making half white and half brown bread. I recently bought a Country Grain flour – with malted wheat flakes, rye flour and malted wheat and barley flour and mixed that with the very strong white flour to make this loaf:

 

For this I used 1 teaspoon of yeast, 250 grams of the Country Grain flour, 225 grams of strong white flour, I½ teaspoons of sugar, 1¼ teaspoons of salt, 25 grams of butter and 340 ml of water and set the breadmaker on the wholemeal setting. It took 5 hours to make and bake. There is a rapid setting as well but I find that  the bread doesn’t rise as much and it takes more yeast.

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs

Weekend Cooking

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs.

As it’s Easter my contribution this week is Simnel Cake. This recipe is from Marguerite Patten’s Everyday Cook Book in Colour, which was first published in 1968. It was the first cookery book I bought and I’ve used it extensively ever since.

The ingredients are the same as a Rich Dundee Cake (fruit cake). You put half the cake mixture into an 8 inch round cake tin, put a layer of marzipan on top of that and then add the remaining cake mixture. Bake for 2 to 2½ hours at 160°C or Gas 3. When cold brush the top with egg white or apricot jam and cover with a round of marzipan. Traditionally this is decorated with eleven marzipan balls, representing the eleven disciples (leaving out Judas), or sugared eggs, or chicks.

Originally Simnel Cake was made for Mothering Sunday, but it has now become an Easter Cake. Nigella Lawson’s beautiful book Feast: Food that Celebrates Life also has a recipe for Simnel Cake and she uses a light fruit cake mixture and after decorating the cake with marzipan she paints it all with egg white and blow-torches it to give it a burnished look. I haven’t tried that.

Weekend Cooking

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs.

This week I’m writing about chocolate – or more precisely Green and Black’s Chocolate Recipes.  On the front cover:

Chocolate makes otherwise normal people melt into strange states of ecstasy. (John West)

Described as the “ultimate chocolate cookbook”, this book is filled with recipes from Chocolate Soup, Swedish Chocolate Coffee Lamb, Chilean Chocolate Sausages to Chocolate Drop Scones, Chocolate Cakes and Biscuits, Mousses and Truffles and many more.

Green and Black’s produce organic chocolate from cacao from the Mayan Indians in Belize. Throughout the book there are photos of not only the recipes, but also of the beans and the people who grow them with information about the growing and cultivation process.

There are chapters such as “Magic”, “Melting”, “Licking the Bowl”, “Mystical”, and “Wicked”. In the “Mystical” chapter there is this recipe called Dark with Coffee. It’s made with:

  • 150g dark chocolate, minimum 60% cocoa solids, broken into pieces
  • 2 tablespoons filter coffee
  • 60g unsalted butter
  • 3 large eggs separated
  • 3 tablespoons castor sugar
  • Cocoa powder

Melt the chocolate with the coffee and butter in a heatproof bowl over a pan of barely simmering water. Remove from heat (let it cool a bit) and stir in in egg yolks until smooth. Whisk egg whites into soft peaks, add sugar and whisk until stiff and glossy. Fold a ladleful into the chocolate and then add the rest of the egg whites carefully retaining as much air as possible until no white spots remain from the meringue.

Spoon into a serving bowl or individual dishes and chill for at least six hours. Dust with cocoa powder before serving.

This will serve  up to six people, or unless you are like my husband, who made this recipe and spooned the mixture into two chocolate cups (but we didn’t eat it all in one go!) – truly a chocolate treat.

Weekend Cooking

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. For more information, see the welcome post.

Salmon and Broccoli Fishcakes, or how to make a mess in the kitchen.

Simply steam the salmon in the microwave with a bay leaf and a little white wine. When cooked, flake into small pieces.

Add some  cooked broccoli florets and cooked mashed potato, salt and pepper, mixed herbs and an egg yolk.

With damp hands form into whatever size cakes you want, coat in flour, dip into beaten egg white and coat in breadcrumbs.

Then fry, turning once, until golden brown and crisp, drain on kitchen paper.

You then have sticky, eggy, breadcrumby hands and a mess in the kitchen as well as delicious fishcakes.

Weekend Cooking – French Cookbooks

Last week for my Weekend Cooking post I wrote about Italian cookbooks, so this week I thought I’d stay on the Continent and write about my French cookbooks. I only have four – two over 20 years old and two more recent. Three are by British food writers and one by a French woman writer.

The first one is Floyd on France – an old book with a photo of a young (well youngish) Keith Floyd on the cover. It was published in 1987 by the BBC based on his BBC 2 series of the same name. Keith Floyd hosted many TV programmes on cooking, combining food and travel. He died last September. This book includes his personal selection of some of his favourite French dishes. They’re French provincial  recipes.

After a description of the “Principal Gastronomic Regions of France” the book follows the standard cookbook formula of recipes of Soups, Vegetables, Fish, Meat etc; recipes such as Shrimp Bisque made with live grey shrimps (I’ll never attempt that!) from Charente, a variety of omelettes, Carp in Wine Sauce from Burgundy,  Jugged Hare with Tiny Dumplings from Alsace, and Nut Tart from Perigord.

I’m going to make his Leek Pie (from Charente) tomorrow.

 (Click on the photo to see the recipe.)

Next The Frenchwoman’s Kitchen by Brigitte Tilleray, published in 1990. The brief biographical details given in the book are that she was born in Normandy and was a journalist before writing books on food. This is a beautiful book, one I love to peruse, admiring the photos of food and of France. It’s arranged by regions with information about the land and the people as well as recipes – such as Escargots Baked in a Wine Sauce from West France, Spicy Pear Pie from Normandy and Chicken with Cepes from The Pyrénéés .

French Leave by John Burton Race is an account of 2002, the year he and his family spent living in a farmhouse in the south-west of France. Another book full of beautiful photos and recipes. John is a two Michelin  star chef, who was once a sous chef at Raymond Blanc’s Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons, before opening his own restaurants. His book follows the seasons from Autumn to Spring, with recipes such as Cauliflower Soup with Truffle Oil, Loin of Veal with Pieds de Mouton and Crepes Suzette.

And last but not least Rick Stein’s French Odyssey. This is the book of Rick’s “journey of gastronique discovery from Padstow to Bordeaux and then on to Marseille”. It’s divided into a diary section and recipe chapters arranged by courses. Rick is one of my favourite TV chefs, and I would love to eat in one of his seafood restaurants in Padstow in Cornwall. There are recipes for classic French dishes such as Vichyssoise, Bouillabaisse, Cassoulet and Tarte Tatin as well as “new takes on traditional ingredients”, such as Fillets of John Dory with Cucumber and Noilly Prat and Prune and Almond Tart with Armagnac.

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Weekend Cooking – Family Recipes

I’ve been watching BBC 1’s series The Hairy Bikers – Mums Know Best, which has made me think about my family’s recipes. I have my Mum’s recipe book. She didn’t really need recipes as much of what she cooked was by instinct. Even though the recipes give quantities in pounds and ounces she didn’t use scales, but measured ingredients by spoonfuls until she thought it was right. In fact she didn’t use recipes much at all – there are no meat or poultry recipes in her book and the only fish recipe is for cooking salmon – which is so brief – – “to cook half and hour to three quarters”. There are jam recipes and one for Green Tomato Chutney.

The majority of the recipes are for cakes and biscuits – Lunch Cake, made with lemon and sultanas, Ginger Cake, various Fruit Cakes, a Swiss Roll – made with dried egg, Chocolate Cake, Date Loaf, Bakewell Tart, Bun Loaf, Malt Loaves, Parkin and an Easter Cake which is rolled out when mixed and baked on a greased oven plate and which I don’t remember her making.

One of my favourites is Parkin, made with medium oatmeal, brown sugar, margarine, lard, flour, syrup or treacle, baking powder, ground ginger, milk and water.

 I loved this!

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