Archive for June, 2012

Cherry Blueberry Mini Pies #Baketogether

Unbelievably July 4th is almost upon us.  I often have a family barbecue to celebrate, I love having it, I put up my “stars and stripes” decorations and I just love planning my menu. This year for one reason or another I’m not having my barbecue, a decision I regret but the year has gone by so fast I just wasn’t organised enough. Another decision I regretted was not taking part in this months baketogether, this months recipe is Very Berry Mini Pies and it marks the one year anniversary of baketogether!  However as my husband is not the biggest sweet pie fan and I can’t be trusted not to eat all the pie (and it shows!) I decided not to take part.  I may seem to be jumping from one subject to another but they end up connected!

I got to thinking how it was almost July 4th and I often make a pie of some kind and the baketogether recipe is for mini pies, maybe I could make the recipe “mini”  by halving it.  That was it, the idea was planted and I had to quickly make these pies before I changed my mind and before June ended, along with the challenge!  The next decision was how to change the recipe for baketogether,  I never can decide what pie is my favourite, its between cherry, peach or blueberry.  For these mini pies I decided on using both cherries and blueberries, which are both plentiful right now. It would be kind of a red, white (the pastry) and blue pie!

The results were great! I really like the cherry blueberry combination, I used vanilla sugar and topped the pies with pastry stars as I was short on time, also stars seemed July 4th appropriate.

Cherry Blueberry Mini Pies ( adapted from Abby Dodge )

makes 6-7 muffin tin sized pies

For the dough – use Abby’s recipe here 

For the filling

  • 200 grams cherries, pitted
  • 150 grams blueberries
  • 45 grams caster sugar, vanilla sugar if you have some if not use 1/4 tsp Vanilla essence
  • 1tbsp plain flour
  • pinch of salt
  1. Preheat oven to 190 C,  375 F, Gas 5 and lightly grease a muffin tin.
  2. Make the dough following Abbys instructions save some of the dough to roll out and cut 12-14 star shapes for the pie tops.
  3. To make the filling mix the flour, sugar and salt together in a bowl.
  4. Add half the fruit and using a fork stir into the floured sugar mix, crushing the fruit lightly as you mix.
  5. Add the remaining fruit and vanilla if using, mix well.
  6. Having lined the muffin tin with the pastry rounds spoon the filling mixture evenly into each pastry lined muffin cup.
  7. Top each mini pie with 2 stars, brush with milk and sprinkle with sugar.
  8. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the pastry looks golden and the pie filling is bubbling hot.
  9. Remove from the oven and run a knife around each pie to loosen from tin, after 20 minutes carefully remove the pies and cool on a cooling rack.


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Chive Blossom Vinegar

A few weeks ago I wrote a post about foraging and mentioned that for the first time I had used chive flowers.  I’ve grown chives for years so I’m not sure why I haven’t used the flowers before. I am in fact guilty of not remembering to use the chives very much either.  As well as the chives I am currently growing oregano, thyme and sorrel, I forget to use them all! Getting around to remembering and using my herbs is something I’m trying to be better at.  Around the same time as the foraging post I saw this post about making chive blossom vinegar by Marisa on her blog Food in Jars. With my chive flowers in bloom at the time I made it immediately and its been brewing in the cupboard since. There may still be enough chive flowers left for you to have a try, it’s really quick and easy. I will be using the vinegar I made on summer salads.

Coincidentally this project is perfect for the Urban farming challenge I’ve been taking part in this year, the challenge for June is all about botanicals, a new subject for me, I did mean to be more adventurous with the botanical theme and try to make my own lotion or balm, watch this space!

When making the Chive Blossom Vinegar as Marisa says it’s so easy you don’t need a recipe. Not knowing how I would like it I only made a small jar, using white wine vinegar. The result is surprisingly pretty, the purple hue from the blossoms colour the vinegar a lovely shade of pink and leave a surprisingly strong onion flavour, for those in the UK the taste is reminiscent of pickled onion vinegar although milder than that.  Heres what I did.

Chive Blossom Vinegar (inspired from Food in Jars)

  • I half filled a 1 lb jam jar with freshly picked blossoms.
  • Rinse the blossoms and dry, in a salad spinner if you have one.
  • Put the blossoms back in the jar and fill with vinegar, I used white wine vinegar.
  • Seal jar and store in a dark place for up to 2 weeks, after this time strain the vinegar and store in your chosen jar/bottle.

The finished vinegar, isn’t it pretty?

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Honey and Peanut bars #rivercottagerocks

My friend Charlotte is hosting a blog event this month called River Cottage Rocks on her blog Charlotte’s Kitchen Diary. To participate you simply make a recipe from one of the River Cottage books, following a theme, the theme this month was Baking Bliss. Baking is one of my favourite themes for any occasion so of course I wanted to participate! With the hope that summer will arrive here some time soon and the hope of fitting into my summer clothes I have a self-imposed a ban on cakes at the moment, not so good when taking part in a baking themed blogging event! Silly me! While perusing the many River Cottage recipes I came across these Honey and Peanut booster bars from the River Cottage Every Day book. Packed with oats, dried fruit, honey and peanut butter a more healthy than cake option I thought and even better I had all of the ingredients in my cupboard, I love it when a plan comes together!

The were incredibly simple to put together, melting some of the ingredients in a pan then adding the rest. When making them I thought there was a lot of sugar considering there is also honey in the recipe but I followed the recipe including raisins as my dried fruit as that’s all I had. With peanut butter already in the recipe I didn’t see it necessary to add more calories by way of nuts or seeds. I love granola and granola bars but the fat and calorie content often have me leaving these items well alone, sometimes you are better off just having the cake you were avoiding! Where the sugar was concerned I wish I had listened to my gut, these bars are incredibly sweet, I would recommend using at least 50 grams less sugar. There is also an option to use banana rather than peanut butter which I think I will try. Despite the sweetness they were very tasty and so easy to make. If you made the version with banana rather than peanut butter and avoided including any other nuts they would make a good kids school snack.

Honey and Peanut Booster Bars from River Cottage Everyday.

I didn’t change the recipe and just added raisins.

I would recommend adding less sugar

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Chocolate Chip cookies

I’ve had an itch to make chocolate chip cookies. Since doing October unprocessed and giving up all processed food for the month of October 2 years ago and again last year I have been left with a compulsive need to read all food package labels! Packaged cookies are one of the things that I no longer buy because unless you buy shortbread the ingredients list can be incomprehensibly long. It means I rarely have cookies, which from a girth point of view is no bad thing but sometimes you just want a cookie. The other day was one of those days, I wanted to make cookies. I love this recipe from Jennifer Perillo. I started weighing out the ingredients when horrors, I realised I didn’t have a lot of the necessary ingredients! I didn’t have plain flour, I always have plain flour! I also didn’t have enough chocolate chips or molasses or much caster sugar, my cupboard was quite bare! Not making the cookies was not an option so I scoured the cupboard, made a few substitutions and came up with these cookies, which are pretty good even if I do say so myself! Jennifer’s recommendation is to chill the cookie dough overnight and when making the cookies using her recipe I have done that and they were delicious but this time I was Miss impatient so only chilled my dough for 30 minutes in the freezer, they still tasted really good!

Spelt is a grain similar to wheat but contains more fibre than wheat flour and apparently spelt is more easily digested than wheat it also has lower gluten levels. I’ve been happily replacing wheat flour with spelt flour recently and all the recipes I’ve tried have turned out well with the spelt replacement.

I’m not saying that these cookies are good for you, of course it would be a healthier option to eat a salad but if you want cookies, using as I did, the spelt flour, unrefined sugars, organic eggs and butter is about as guilt free as making cookies is going to get!

Chocolate Chip Cookies (inspired by this recipe)

  • 285 grams spelt flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 115 grams unsalted butter
  • 115 grams caster sugar (I use unrefined)
  • 115 grams light muscodavo sugar
  • 1 tbsp golden syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 2 large eggs
  • 85 grams dark chocolate chips
  • 85 grams white chocolate chips
  1. Preheat oven to 175 C, 350 F, Gas mark 4.
  2. Put the dry ingredients  (flour, baking soda and salt) into a bowl, whisk together.
  3. Blend together the butter, both sugars golden syrup and vanilla until fluffy. I use my mixer.
  4. Add the eggs, one at a time beating with each addition.
  5. Add the flour mixture and mix until just combined.
  6. Add the chocolate chips. If like me, you have been using a mixer you must now mix  in the chips by hand to avoid breaking the chips up.
  7. Dump the dough onto cling film, flatten it so it forms a disk shape and wrap well.
  8. Chill in the freezer for 3o minutes. Or if you have more time and patience chill overnight in the  fridge, (I will try this next time).
  9. Line baking or cookie tray with baking paper.
  10. Remove dough from freezer and make balls of dough, about 2 inches, place on the prepared baking trays. Keep the balls a good distance apart from each other as they will spread while cooking. My cookie sheet isn’t so big so I had to repeat this when the sheet cooled down from the first baking.
  11. Bake for 15 minutes, remove from oven and after a few minutes put the cookies onto a cooling rack. (This is actually my favourite time to eat them!)
  12. These cookies are delicious warm but equally good cold, they keep well in a Tupperware or tin.

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New Urban Farm Challenge: Dandelion Salad (yes you did read that correctly!)

I am taking part in this years Urban Farm challenge, the challenge for May was foraging. Living in a city this is not a regular activity for me. I’ve picked wild blackberries but that’s about the extent of my foraging experience. The challenge here was to try dandelions, they are free and plentiful after all and I hear they are good for you. I must admit to dragging my heels on this challenge, nothing has ever made me want to try a dandelion! Cooking dandelions seems even less appealing to me so I decided to use the leaves in a salad. Lucky for me I have one rogue dandelion plant in my garden so I didn’t have to go far to forage! I tried to pick the smallest leaves as they are meant to be the least bitter. While in the garden I also picked some sorrel that I have growing and decided to use a chives flower in my salad, another first for me, I tend to just use the leaves of the chives and leave the flowers. By an amazing stroke of luck I also found some wild garlic growing next to the dandelion so that went into the salad as well! I added some mixed lettuce leaves and dressed it simply with olive oil and salt as I wanted to really taste the ingredients. There is no recipe here as it really was just picking leaves, scattering some chives petals and dressing lightly.

My verdict? Well I loved using the flower from the chives, amazing how strong the taste of onion was in those tiny purple tips. The wild garlic was wonderful, I wonder how long that has been growing under my nose? As for the dandelions, well I tried but they really were bitter and grassy! It was fun to take part and I wish Id had time to forage further, there were more foraging challenges but May escaped me and here we are already in June!

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Jubilee Victoria Sponge

It’s the Jubilee weekend! I have had all year to plan what to make but in typical Jayne style I left it until the last-minute!  The rest of my life is fairly organised, I’m a lover of lists but for some reason when it comes to cooking I’m more relaxed and often do things at the last-minute, quickly flicking through one of my cookery books minutes before going to the supermarket looking for something new to try. If you come to dinner at my house you will most likely be served a meal that I have never made before! For the Jubilee weekend I wanted to make a cake, something traditional, something with a royal tone. I decide to make a Victoria sponge, strangely a cake that I don’t make all that often, I do like it, it’s just often overlooked while I’m trying other recipes, so many cakes so little time! The Victoria sponge is indeed named after Queen Victoria and was apparently created by her lady in waiting, the Duchess of Bedford, who is also said to have started the English afternoon tea tradition. It seemed fitting then that I celebrated the Diamond Jubilee with a cake that was originally made for a Queen!

This recipe is the one used by my friend Pearl, she makes a wonderful Victoria sponge, her cake rises so well and is wonderfully light. Where Victoria sponge is concerned I think the recipe is pretty standard. Traditionally the filling was just jam but I wanted something a little more fancy so added cream, decadence seemed the order of the day!

Victoria Sponge

  • 200 grams Caster sugar
  • 200 grams Unsalted butter, softened
  • 4 Eggs at room temperature
  • 1 tsp Vanilla essence
  • 200 grams Self Raising flour
  • 1.5 tsp Baking powder
  • 2 tbsp Milk

For the filling

  • 4 tbsp Jam, I used jumbleberry but any berry jam would be nice.
  • 300 ml Double (heavy) Cream, whipped. Careful not to over whip as I did!

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C, 350 F, Gas mark 4. Grease and line 2 8 inch round baking tins.

  1. Cream together the sugar and butter until fluffy, I use a stand mixer but a wooden spoon and elbow grease works just fine!
  2. Add an egg, mix to incorporate, repeat with another egg mix and repeat until all the eggs are used.
  3. Stir the vanilla.
  4. Add half of the flour, mix in gently add the rest and mix in gently, do not over stir at this point.
  5. Gently stir in the milk.
  6. Divide the mixture between the prepared cake tins.
  7. Bake for 20-25 minutes.
  8. Allow cakes to cool in their tins then carefully remove. Remove baking paper.
  9. Spread the jam onto one sponge half, followed by the cream. Sandwich the cakes together a sprinkle with icing sugar.

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