Sunday, 29 May 2016

Perfecting Sourdough by Jane Mason giveaway E: 20 June 2016

"Never enough cook books" is my motto. One might call it unreasonable, having a look at my shelves groaning under the weight of the cook books in several languages, but any enthusiastic cook and cook book collector will understand me (I hope). Earlier this week I have reviewed an excellent cook book on bread- see my review of Perfecting Sourdough. This book was written by Jane Mason, founder of Virtuous Bread.
It is an "ultimate companion for those wanting to master the art of baking with starters and wild yeast".

The book includes recipes for two starters - rye and wheat.
There are forty two recipes in total including basic breads (for example, ciabatta and French bread) and some truly fancy ones (Jasmine Tea buns sound particularly enticing, so does an Austrian Christmas bread).
I like that there are pages of possible problems and solutions, I find them very useful.
I baked a savoury gingerbread with molasses, following the recipe from the book, and it was a delicious bread.

bread baking book

Lovely people from ApplePress have offered a copy of this excellent cook book as a giveaway prize for my blog readers.
One lucky blog reader will win a copy of Perfecting Sourdough.

The giveaway is open to the UK residents only.
Once the Rafflecopter picks the winner, I will contact them regarding address details, if they do not reply within 28 day, the prize will be allocated to another person.
Please don't forget to leave a comment, as it is the only mandatory step, I will make sure the winner selected by Rafflecopter has complied with T&Cs.
The prize will be dispatched by ApplePress.

The giveaway will close on 20 June 2016 (at midnight)

Good luck!

  a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck!

Saturday, 28 May 2016

John Whaite's Spiced Lamb Pasties


Pasties are traditionally associated with Cornwall. A freshly baked pasty is a delicious pastry, typically made with meat and vegetables, like beef, swede or turnip and onion. I'm not the biggest fan of turnips.
Turnips always bring back memories of my student days. In the Soviet times most 1-year-students spent up to a month on collective farms, just before the studies started in early October, helping with the harvest. We were digging turnips intended as an animal feed, but as we spent many hours outdoors, we were all quite hungry and often munched on the raw turnips, peeling the skin off with a knife.
Recently celebrity chef John Whaite has come up with a lamb pasty recipe for Stork's Sunday Bakes service. This service is a social media service designed to help people bake on the nation's favourite baking day - Sunday.
Stork and John Whaite have created a series of videos for Bake with Stork Youtube channel, check it out for useful baking tips and inspiration.
I loved the sound of lamb pasties - scroll down my post to watch the video on how to make them.

These delicious pasties are filled with minced lamb, grated sweet potato (hurrah! no turnips in sight!), peas and cheese as well as spices. The shortcrust pastry is made with Stork rather than traditional butter.
I have slightly adapted the recipe. I added twice the amount of grated sweet potato (and have a little bit of filling left because of that, but I put it in the freezer and will have it one day for lunch as a topping for a baked potato).
I also used a Cheddar cheese rather than feta, because I bought a lovely local Cheddar on the farmers' market and wanted to use it.
And I cooked pasties with fresh peas.
My crimping technique is pants second-rate. I'm much better at crimping pirozhki (Russian mini pies), but then they are usually smaller in size, so much easier to work with.

However, the filling was absolutely delicious. I baked four biggish pasties. They might not look like celebrity chef's creations but they were tasty.
If you plan to bake them, the full list of ingredients and instructions on how to cook the pasties can be found under the video on Youtube (click on Youtube symbol to move from this post to the video).
These pasties would be a lovely addition to a picnic or even the upcoming Patron's Lunch.

Do you love pasties? What is your favourite filling?

Disclosure: I received a £20 Sainsbury's voucher to buy the products to test the recipe. All opinions are mine.

Photo diary: week 21, 366

May is almost over, and we're having a week of holidays. Our garden is turning into a jungle again. I can't catch up with the destruction of all the weeds. Once you manage to clear one area, they reappear in the other part of the garden. sigh... My purple tulips are still blooming, though I guess in a few days time it will be all over for them. 

We have two very old apple trees in the garden. The trunk of one is rather gnarled and has a mini-well in which the rain water stays after the rain. It is a mini-watering hole for birds.

I baked a savoury gingerbread from Perfecting Sourdough book by Jane Mason. It is an interesting sourdough bake with molasses and spices.

On Wednesday Eddie's school celebrated May Day on the Church Green with lots of music, dancing around the May poles. The day before and the day after were hot, but by Sod's law Wednesday happened to be chilly and downcast. At least it didn't rain. A lot of kids were wearing short sleeved clothes, and Eddie had just a shirt and trousers on, no jumper or anything to keep him warm (he did have a jumper in his school bag). I was freezing by the end of the performance, even in my coat. Kids seemed to be happy though. Here is Eddie, blowing kisses my way.

This red poppy is one of a few on the way to school, such a strong colour.

After taking Eddie to school on Friday I wandered around the little farmers' market in the main square. I bought a jar of Cotswolds honey, spring onions, beets with leaves, fab tiger tomatoes, farmhouse butter and a block of cheddar (plus fresh peas but forgot to put them out for the photo). The spring onions are so tasty, they are almost sweet, nothing like the supermarket varieties.

Yesterday I baked pasties with minced lamb, sweet potato, peas and cheese. Had one for lunch today. It is a lovely combination of flavours.

Thursday, 26 May 2016

Gingerbread from Perfecting Sourdough by Jane Mason

bread, baking

I love sourdough bread and buy it often enough. Making my own sourdough always felt rather daunting.
Perfecting Sourdough by Jane Mason which has been published by Apple Press (£14.99 for a hardback)  earlier this month has inspired me to try making my own sourdough starter and bake a bread. And I'm so glad I did it.

bread making book

The book includes recipes for two starters - rye and wheat.
There are forty two recipes in total including basic breads (for example, ciabatta and French bread) and some truly fancy ones (Jasmine Tea buns sound particularly enticing, so does an Austrian Christmas bread).
I like that there are pages of possible problems and solutions, I find them very useful.
Most recipes come with a full page photo, plus you will find technique tips and photos so that you know what the end result is). The photos are very appetising.

It's a fantastic source of sourdough bread and pastries' recipes. I have bookmarked quite a few of the recipes and now that I have successfully baked my very first sourdough bread, I'm enthusiastic about trying more recipes. As I've been reading a lot of novels about the prairie and the American pioneers in the last year, I'd love to try my hand at making a Flax Prairie bread and Yukon flapjacks.

After perusing the book, I have decided to bake a gingerbread. It is the most unusual recipe, as it is not a sweet gingerbread, but savoury.
The instructions on making a wheat sourdough starter were precise and clear. I followed the recipe exactly as suggested by Jane Mason, mixing 50g of white wheat flour with 50ml every day, leaving it covered in the container, then adding more flour and water every day until on the 5th day I had a nice bubbly starter. Gosh, the smell was truly punchy and sour.
I used some of the starter for my gingerbread, and put the remaining starter in the fridge to leave until the next time I decide to bake some bread.
I think both bread-making novices and experienced bakers alike will find recipes and ideas for bread-baking inspiration in this beautiful cook book.
This book is a lovely addition to my cook book collection, and will make a super gift to anyone interested in baking or cooking in general.

sourdough bread, baking

Gingerbread (recipe reproduced with permission from the publisher)
65g wheat sourdough starter
345g white wheat or spelt flour
65g water
100g butter, melted and cooled to room temperature, plus extra for greasing
60g molasses
100g milk
pinch of salt
1 egg
1tsp ground cinnamon
1tsp ground ginger
3/4tsp baking powder

Day 1:
1. Measure the sourdough starter into a large bowl and return any remaining starter to the fridge.
2. Add 65g flour and all the water. Stir and cover with cling film, and leave on the counter for around 8 hours.

Day 2:
3. In a large mixing bowl, whisk the butter, molasses, milk, salt and egg together. Add to the refreshed sourdough and mix well. In a separate bowl, sift together the remaining flour, spices and baking powder. Sift or whisk to eliminate any lumps but don't overmix. The batter is thick, but if it's too thick you can slacken it with a drop of milk.
4.Scrape the batter into a 20x20 cm greased baking tin. Cover the tin with a shower cap (or cling film) and leave to rest for 3 hours.
5. Preheat the oven to 200C. place the loaf in the oven and bake for 40 minutes. Insert a knife into the centre of a loaf: if it comes out clean, it is done; if not, bake for a further 5-10 minutes.
6. Remove the loaf from the tin and leave to cool on a wire rack.

sourdough bread, baking

Our verdict: we liked the savoury gingerbread, even my fussy eaters ate it with gusto. Eddie asked for a bread, butter and jam sandwich.
I found the shape a bit odd for a bread, perhaps a more traditional loaf tin would be better. Also for me there was not enough ginger. I would expect a gingerbread to be more gingery, so if I bake it next time, I will use the double amount of ground ginger and maybe a bit of ground cloves too.

sourdough bread, baking

Disclosure: I received the book for the purposes of reviewing. All opinions are mine.

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Jim-Jams Spreads (review + giveaway E: 15 June 2016)

Chocolate hazelnut spreads are a popular choice for breakfast and pancakes, but do you know their sugar content? Award-winning food producer Kevin Bath has created JimJams after realising that 57 cubes of sugar went into his kids' favourite Nutella. That's an incredible amount of sugar. Makes you scratch your head in disbelief and dismay, doesn't it?!
Kevin, a father of two, has started a range of delicious spreads which contain 83% less sugar. And his produce is taking the supermarkets and health food shops by storm.

"People should be educated on the facts about sugar and clearer labelling is needed", said Kevin. "There's no point beating anyone over the head, but we do need to know more about what we're eating. For example, how much sugar is actually safe to have a day? If a product has 35g of sugar, what does it actually mean? people need to be better educated".

JimJams was the first brand to be certified by Sugarwise, and health campaigners hope that clearer food labelling will help cut the confusion for consumers and support the fight against the growing problem of obesity and sugar-related conditions such as tooth decay and type-2 diabetes (though of course sugar is not the only culprit. My Mum for example doesn't eat any sweet treats, is not overweight and is very active for her age, yet she was recently diagnosed with type-2 diabetes).

I have first come across JimJams when a jar of hazelnut chocolate spread was delivered inside a selection of Degustabox goodies. It was absolutely delicious, and we've all enjoyed it. Chocolate and hazelnut is a classic combination of flavours. Some of the best world chocolates contain these two ingredients, just think of gianduiotti.
My favourite way of eating the chocolate spread is to add it to a warm croissant. Total bliss!

I also used this spread as an ingredient for baking - see my recipe for Chocolate oat cookies.

I make a batch of strawberry jam every summer, but I also buy branded jams often enough.
JimJams Strawberry Jam is full of flavour and is made with reduced sugar. That's another top contender for a croissant's filling. It is a scrumptious jam, which could also be a perfect ingredient for many bakes and cakes, for example, a Victoria sponge.

If you haven't tried delightful spreads from JimaJams, I have a super giveaway prize for one of my lucky blog readers. One winner will receive six jars of JimJams Hazelnut Chocolate Spread.
To be in with a chance of winning, please fill in the Rafflecopter gadget.

The giveaway is open to the UK residents only.
Once the Rafflecopter picks the winner, I will contact them regarding address details, if they do not reply within 28 day, the prize will be allocated to another person.
Please don't forget to leave a comment, as it is the only mandatory step, I will make sure the winner selected by Rafflecopter has complied with T&Cs.
The prize will be dispatched by JimJams.

The giveaway will close on 15 June 2016 (at midnight)

Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: I received two jars of JimJams spreads for the purposes of testing and reviewing. All opinions are mine.

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Chocolate oat cookies

The smell of freshly baked cookies is rather special. You can't top that. As Eddie has been unwell in the last couple of days, I thought I'd bake some cookies to cheer us all up. I often bake chocolate chip oat cookies, but wanted to try using a chocolate hazelnut spread this time.

Chocolate oat cookies (makes 2 dozen)
60g margarine (I used Flora Light)
60g caster sugar
100g chocolate hazelnut spread (I used Jim Jams)
160g plain flour
65g oats
1 medium egg

Cream the margarine with sugar and chocolate hazelnut spread in a mixing bowl. Add the flour, oats and the beaten egg, mix well, forming the dough. Knead lightly on a slightly floured surface, roll out to 6mm thickness, cut out the biscuits with cookie cutters, place them on the trays lined with parchment paper and bake for about 15 minutes until golden at 180C. Don't overcook, they are still very soft when you take them out.

In this recipe I used a chocolate hazelnut spread from JimJams. It is made without sugar so it is lower in calories than the standard chocolate spread. It tastes delicious, for example, spread inside a hot freshly baked croissant.
If you cannot find it, use a standard Nutella-type spread, but it will be higher in calories.

These cookies are lovely with a cup of tea or coffee.

Photo diary: week 20, 366

Looking at the photos taken in the last week, it's mainly of our garden and food. This thyme grows just by the path in the garden, and smells lovely.

Yellow poppies are scattered around the garden, looking cheerful and jolly.

It was a rainy day, we ran to school as fast as we could.

Wednesday was a mix of rainy and sunny weather. This busy bee was diligently moving from flower to flower, collecting pollen.

A few months ago our lovely neighbours across the road moved to their new house. They downsized and didn't have enough room for all their plants, thus I have become an owner of several orchids. None of them were in bloom at that time, and I didn't know which colour they were supposed to be. One of them later produced pink blooms, and a few days ago I was delighted to see this pale beauty. It looks like a watercolour painting, so pretty.

On Thursday I tried to tackle some garden jobs. Now the big green wheelie bin is completely full.

On Friday Eddie arrived home with bright red cheeks. When I checked his body, he's also got a rash. I know that the scarlet fever has been doing rounds in his school. On Saturday he wasn't paler or better feeling, so I called 111 to ask advice, as I wasn't sure if it was indeed the scarlet fever or slapped cheek. I was advised to take him to be seen by the doctor at Minor injuries unit. The doctor said it was a viral infection, and to do nothing unless he's got high temperature or was feeling worse.
As of today (Sunday) he's still very red in the face, so I think tomorrow we might go to the GP.
Here he is, looking sorry for himself, watching Ben and Holly on Netflix.

TheBoyandMe's 366 Linky

Saturday, 21 May 2016

A day and a half in Brighton

At Sealife, Brighton

Earlier this month our Sash went on a residential trip to Bristol with his class. Days before his trip I have suffered with a bad sleep and anxiety of the kind which keeps your stomach tied up in knots.
We decided rather than staying at home and me getting more agitated and anxious, to have a mini-break in Brighton, especially that the child psychiatrists' team who work with Sasha's special needs school, thought it might be a good idea to give Eddie our full uninterrupted attention.
We asked Eddie whether he would prefer to go to London or Brighton, and he picked Brighton because of the sea. We looked up a few hotels by the seaside online, and have chosen to stay in Jurys Inn Waterfront. We wanted to be as close to the sea as possible, and Federico has stayed there before. Outside it is a bit on the ugly side, a modern building that you might see anywhere in the world, i.e. practical but not beautiful.

Jurys Inn Waterfront (in the middle)

But you can't beat the location - the Brighton Pier is just minutes away, and it is at a walking distance from the railway station.

As it was Eddie's first stay in a hotel, he was super excited. He loved everything about it, and couldn't contain his excitement, jumping around in the foyer. He was beaming so happily when we were registering, that they kindly offered him an activity pack as a gift. The fact that they had bowls of rock sweets for guests and visitors has totally conquered his heart.
It was already pretty late when we went out for dinner.
And again, it was Eddie's decision. He liked the sound of Donatello's, thinking it is named after his favourite ninja turtle.

Perhaps because it was a Tuesday night, Donatello's wasn't packed full, if anything, half of the tables were unoccupied. I sipped a glass of Bellini, my tipple of choice whenever I happen to go out.

At Donatello's
While my Italian men opted for a pizza, I've set my mind on a seafood risotto dish. It was not bad, but nothing exceptional, and it gave me a terrible heartburn later in the night. The guys enjoyed their pizza though.

At Donatello's

Someone was too excited to go to bed that night, doing the somersaults on our bed. There were two double beds in the family room, plenty of space, and they were pretty comfy too.

Our first morning in Brighton was cheerful and sunny. The sea was calling. We had a room with a view after all, and Eddie loved it.

We arranged to meet with a friend who came along with his younger daughter, and we had breakfast together at Cafe Coho in Ship St. Their pastries and cakes' selection was pretty impressive.

Just in case you missed those gorgeous cakes in the back, here is the close-up. We actually didn't have any cakes for brekkie. I fancied a bagel with smoked salmon, Eddie had a babyccino with marshmallows.

We wanted to do all the simple touristy things, and after breakfast walked to the Royal Pavilion. It is colourful and exotic, but extremely kitsch as well. We didn't do a guided tour, and whizzed through maybe in twenty minutes. It is a true icon of Brighton, which gives an interesting glimpse of the extravagant and debauched life of playboy Prince George.
The pleasure costs over £30 for three of us, which I think is overpriced. I loved the Great Kitchen the best, but alas, you are not allowed to take photos inside.

Eddie was eager to go to the sea, so off we went.

We had a long walk on the Brighton Pier, and of course, he wanted to pose in all the photo frames. I'm not a spoil-sport, and joined him, so we had a giggle together.

Lunch was the classic fish and chips. You must have fish and chips on the Pier, right?! I was all for eating them straight from the paper, but my "aristocrat" of a husband took us to the cafe Palm Court on the pier.
It was sunny but fresh, we found a shady corner, and placed an order.

Fishcakes, fish and chips in Palm Court, Brighton Pier
Children's meal included an ice cream, and someone tucked in with such enthusiasm, that the ice cream ended on his nose.

Though it was a sunny afternoon, it was still pretty fresh. Eddie braved the waves barefoot and had great fun, running and jumping on the beach.
The Sealife Brigthon is much smaller than the London Aquarium. I used a voucher found on the cereal bars for a free entry for a grown-up. We walked slowly, admiring the colourful fish and sea creatures.

Spending an arm and a leg on all the eating out and attractions, I convinced my guys to get some sandwiches and sushi in the supermarket for dinner. We did wander around the centre, looking at all the little shops.

The next morning we came across the Edgar's Water van, and Eddie happily posed next to it.

We couldn't decide where to have breakfast, as Eddie wanted pancakes. We came across The Pancake Place, but the prices for a pancake started at £9, and sorry, but that's just a daytime robbery. How much does it really cost to cook pancakes? Having checked the menu at Bella Italia, we were pleased to find out they do children's Happy Face pancake at a much more reasonable price.

pancake, Happy Face

In Bella Italia
Having packed our bags, we left them with a friendly porter at the hotel who gave a ride to Eddie on a luggage trolley. And off we went to say Good bye to the sea.

We were lucky with the weather on our mini-break. It was all about Eddie and giving him our full undivided attention, and he basked in it.

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall