Picnic Loaves

Picnic Loaves
Wotchers!

In my quest to find tasty recipes for you, I often find myself poking round some odd corners of the internet. Recently, this has taken me to some delightful Russian blogs, where I found this week’s deliciousness.

It is for a flavour-filled picnic loaf, or snack loaf, seen on the left above and is one of the speediest mixings I’ve ever found – you can mix and bake this in about an hour. Additionally, many of it’s components are regular storecupboard or fridge dwellers, making it a snip to bake at short notice. I’ve called it a Picnic Loaf because I suspect the Russian title (Snack Cupcake) lost something in the Google-Translation. I’ve also made it a little healthier by substituting the original sour cream for low fat creme fraiche.

The texture is unusual in that it is incredibly light and tender, even with all the added flavourings, and when toasted, the crunchy outsides contrast deliciously with the soft interior of the slice. It is packed with regular protein – diced cheese and sausage – and texture and even more protein is achieved with the addition of cooked kidney beans, which are a real delight to bite into as well as eye-catching with their red skins and pale interiors.

Initially I was just going to post the one recipe, but then realised it would exclude all the non-meat eaters. Then I thought I could crack a joke by saying “Look, it’ a loaf for everyone: there’s sausage for the meat eaters, cheese for the vegetarians and beans for the vegans” but realised that would be in poor (yet still delicious) taste. So I decided to create a second, vegetarian version. Alas, with the dairy and eggs, making it vegan is a stretch too far, but that said, I’m really pleased with what I came up with, because I think it’s actually more delicious than the original.

Inspired by the addition of the kidney beans, and having a tin to hand, I set about creating something chick-pea based. After much metaphorical pencil-chewing, I was really struggling to come up with replacements for the cheese and the sausage, so I gave up that idea entirely and decided to make hummus bread: not to dip into, but a bread that tastes like hummus. With a little parsley for colour and a couple of trials tweaking proportions, it came out better than I had imagined. And toasted – it’s fantastic.

Sausage and Cheese Picnic Loaf

sausage cheese picnic loaf

You don’t need to be heading out on a picnic to make this, my daughter has been enjoying a couple of slices toasted as an after-school snack.

1 x 400g tin kidney beans, drained & rinsed
1 x 200g smoked u-shaped sausage – diced
200g sharp cheese – I used vintage cheddar – diced

3 large eggs
200g low fat creme fraiche
200g mayonnaise
1tsp salt
250g self-raising flour
1tsp bicarbonate of soda

  • Preheat the oven to 180°C, 160°C Fan.
  • Grease a large loaf tin. I used this one (IKEA), to give a squarer slice, but a regular large loaf tin is also fine.
  • Whisk together the eggs, creme fraiche and the mayonnaise.
  • Sift together the salt, flour and bicarbonate of soda, then add to the bowl and stir to combine.
  • Add the cheese, sausage and beans and stir briefly to combine.
  • Pour the mixture into the prepared loaf tin and smooth over the top.
  • Bake for 30 minutes, then turn the tin around and bake for another 20 minutes for a total of 50 minutes.
  • Run a knife around the edges and gently tip the loaf out onto a wire rack to cool. The sides will be browned but not crusty, so handle it carefully whilst hot.

Hummus Loaf

The method is practically the same as the loaf above, but I’ll write it out here as well, to save you from scrolling up and down.

1 x 400g tin chick peas, drained and rinsed.
handful of roughly chopped flatleaf parsley

3 large eggs
100g tahini
50g olive oil
200g reduced fat creme fraiche
50g mayonnaise
1tsp garlic paste
2tbs lemon juice
1 tsp salt
1 rounded tsp ground cumin
250g self-raising flour
1tsp bicarbonate of soda

  • Preheat the oven to 180°C, 160°C Fan.
  • Grease a large loaf tin. I used this one (IKEA), to give a squarer slice, but a regular large loaf tin is also fine.
  • Whisk together the wet ingredients: eggs, tahini, olive oil, creme fraiche, mayonnaise, garlic paste and lemon juice.
  • Sift together the salt, cumin, flour and bicarbonate of soda, then add to the bowl and stir to combine.
  • Add the parsley and chick peas and stir briefly to combine.
  • Pour the mixture into the prepared loaf tin and smooth over the top.
  • Bake for 30 minutes, then turn the tin around and bake for another 20 minutes for a total of 50 minutes.
  • Run a knife around the edges and gently tip the loaf out onto a wire rack to cool. The sides will be browned but not crusty, so handle it carefully whilst hot.

 


Three-Ingredient Treats

Salted Caramel Ice-Cream
Wotchers!

Two treats for you today – each one minimalist on ingredients, maximum on deliciousness.

Much as I love creating challenging showstoppers such as the Seven Veils Cake or the Orange Mousse Cake, sometimes a treat that takes just minutes to prepare can be just as gratifying. I’m convinced that the very brevity of their creation contributes greatly to their enjoyment.

So I have two recipes this week that each require only three ingredients – although you can tweak one of them with additional flavourings if you like.

Salted Caramel Ice-Cream

This is a variation on the world’s easiest ice-cream. Home-made ice-cream is divine but alas for me, my kitchen is tiny, measuring just 2m x 3m. With limited cupboard and counter space, I have a strict rule that everything must be multifunctional in order to earn/retain its place and an ice-cream maker is just not feasible – it’s (relatively) large and it does one job, so it’s 0-for-2 right there.

Consequently, when I discovered the joys of the world’s simplest, no-churn ice-cream several years ago, I was delighted. The original recipe called for a tin of sweetened, condensed milk, a vanilla pod and a pint of double cream. Whisked together to firm peaks, you just spoon it into a plastic box and freeze overnight. It needs no stirring to break down ice crystals and when first frozen is almost unbelievably soft to scoop. It will firm up slightly over subsequent days, but it tastes so good, it is unlikely to last that long.

This variation swaps out the original condensed milk and vanilla for the caramel variation that Carnation have been producing for the past few years, and adds a scant teaspoon of sea salt for an absolutely incredible TASTE SENSATION as Peter Kay might put it.

As incredible and fantastic as this ice-cream is, I do feel obligated to point out that the calorific content of this recipe is 4000 kCal, which is the equivalent of a full two-days of regular food intake. A little of what you fancy does you good, inhaling an entire weekend’s worth of calories in one sitting, not so much. Snack wisely, my friends.

1 x 397g tin Carnation Caramel
600ml double cream
0.5-1tsp sea salt flakes.

  • Open the tin of caramel and stir it well, until it becomes loose and pourable. This will make it easier to mix in with the cream.
  • Pour the double cream into a bowl and whisk until it holds soft peaks.
  • Add the caramel to the cream, stirring it with the whisk to combine.
  • Sprinkle in the salt. I recommend under- rather than over-salting. You can always add more salt to serve, but too much at this stage could ruin the whole batch.
  • Whisk the mixture to stiff peaks.
  • Spoon the mixture into a plastic box, cover and freeze overnight.
  • Serve with a sprinkling of salt if liked.

Carrot Rochers
Carrot Rochers

These delightful snacks are the work of just moments to create and can be enjoyed with whatever quantities of ingredients you have to hand as it is one of my favourite types of recipe – the proportional recipe.

You can tweak the flavour of your rochers with the use of additional flavourings – a little lemon juice/zest, or spices from your favourite carrot cake recipe, or just enjoy them as is. They’re a moist and satisfying treat without being overly sweet. I’ve use finely desiccated coconut I found in the Indian food section of the supermarket. Coarser shredded coconut will give a more rustic texture to the finished rochers.

In terms of storage, I have successfully kept a batch in the fridge for a full two weeks.

Boiled/steamed carrots
An equal weight to the carrots of finely desiccated coconut
Half the weight of carrots in caster sugar.
Lemon zest/juice (optional)
Carrot cake spices (optional)

Desiccated coconut for coating

  • Puree the carrots to a smooth paste with either a stick blender or a liquidiser. The stick blender is very useful if you only have a small quantity of carrots.
  • Add the sugar and stir to dissolve.
  • Add the coconut and any other flavourings/spices and mix thoroughly.
  • The mixture should hold together when pressed. If it seems a little wet, add more coconut.
  • Use a small ice-cream scoop to portion out the mixture, or do it by hand. Roll into smooth balls about the size of a walnut.
  • Toss the balls in more coconut to coat.
  • Lay the finished rochers on a board and cover lightly with cling film.
  • Chill in the fridge for 2 hours to firm up.
  • Store long-term in an airtight container in the fridge.

Confit Potatoes in Chicken Skin

Confit Potatoes in Chicken Skin

Wotchers!

This recipe is ridiculously tasty given the humble simplicity of its ingredients.

It’s also pretty simple to prepare, although I will concede that the making of the potato parcels is, briefly, a little fiddly.

Seasoned potato straws with a little onion stuffed into pockets of chicken skin which, after 40 minutes in the oven, turn into the most luscious, decadent side dish or snack you could wish for. The skin shrinks around the potatoes, both basting them and becoming crispy in the process.

And that’s it.

And since the more I blab on here, the longer you have to wait before trying these, so let’s get started.

Confit Potatoes in Chicken Skin

Quantities are guesstimate only, because everything depends on how much of the ingredients you have. One reasonably-sized potato will make about three finished parcels. Given the choice, I would recommend the skin from chicken thighs, which are a reasonable size and simple, rectangular shape. I’ve also tried this with the skin from chicken drumsticks – they were fine, and the natural cone shape meant only two sticks were needed for each one, but they were rather fiddly.

chicken skin
wooden cocktail sticks
floury potatoes
onion
salt
pepper

  • Use the cocktail sticks to pin the edges of the chicken skin together, leaving one side open to add the filling.
  • Peel the potatoes and cut into matchsticks. Alternatively, use a mandolin. Try and avoid making them too long, as this just makes stuffing them into the chicken skin more of a challenge. Chop with a knife if they look to be too big.
  • Chop the onion finely and add to the potato. The quantity is entirely up to you. If you’re an onion fan, you could add an amount equivalent to the weight of the potatoes. At the other end of the scale you could use a couple of spring onions or even just snip some chives in. I like to use 1 shallot per potato.
  • Season generously with salt and pepper.
  • Stuff the pockets of chicken skin with as much of the potato mixture as you can. Press the filling in firmly, to make a tight parcel. Pin the opening closed with another cocktail stick.
  • Arrange the filled parcels on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with a little salt (optional).
  • Heat the oven to 200°C, 180°C Fan.
  • Bake for 40-45 minutes, until the potato is soft and the skin crisp and golden.
  • Allow to cool for 5 minutes, then remove the cocktail sticks. Top Tip: roll the sticks ‘in situ’ as it were, to  loosen, then slowly draw them out. If you pull on them straight away, they might tear open the parcels, if the skin has roasted itself onto the stick. The parcels will hold together on their own, with the sticks removed, once cooked.
  • Serve as a side dish or snack, with sauce to dip them into, if liked.

Beetroot Rolls

Beetroot Rolls

Wotchers!

I love bread – not that this is some ground-breaking revelation to you all. You only have to look at the huge number of yeast-based recipes on here to see that.

I also love adding stuff to bread. Again, no surprise there – my Ploughman’s Loaf was the first recipe I ever created myself, as opposed to tweaked, and it is still a favourite.

I got the inspiration for this recipe from some rolls I found in a local supermarket – the green one, in case you’re curious – which I thought I could improve. I was looking to achieve a rich, deeply-coloured bread, on the inside as well as the outside. The main ‘problem’, if you could even call it that, with beetroot bread is that whereas the outside of the bread is a gloriously bold burgundy, the inside crumb can be much paler. So I experimented with a few different approaches, and this was the most successful with ready-to-hand ingredients. This is a regular white bread dough, with a little vegetable oil for chew and the rest of the liquid coming from beetroot juice – not pureed beetroot, but juice in a carton. The colour this gives is deep and rich, inside and out, and without the blotchiness that using pureed cooked beetroot can sometimes produce.

The additions can be anything that takes your fancy. I’m very enthusiastic about contrasts in texture as well as flavour so I decided to go with dried fruit and nuts. The traditional nut paired with beetroot is walnut, and it does give a fantastic earthy richness, but once I managed to get the rich colour on the crumb as well as the crust, the only choice for me was pistachio: their bright green making a fantastic pop of colour against the purple dough.

For sweetness I tried a number of dried fruits, and ultimately opted for some seedless green raisins – not as sweet as regular raisins and they match the pistachios. Alternatively, neatly quartered prunes are a nice contrast.

Early combinations I tried included diced beetroot, but ultimately I decided that three added ingredients made the dough too crowded. If liked, I recommend using beetroot instead of the dried fruit. Similarly, omitting the classic pairing of cheese makes these rolls vegan friendly, but use 1cm cubes of your favourite feta or goat cheese instead of the fruit if liked.

You can, of course, shape your rolls into traditional rounds. However, this is tricky when there are additions to the dough as there are here – bits stick out and end up getting burnt in the oven – so an easier and quicker method is detailed below.

Beetroot Rolls

This recipe can be used for

500g strong whte bread flour
5g salt
20g fresh yeast or 1 sachet fast-action yeast
50ml vegetable oil
400ml beetrooot juice

80g shelled pistachios
80g green raisins/prunes (quartered) or 1cm cubes of cooked beetroot

  • Put the first five ingredients into the bowl of a stand mixer and mix using the dough hook for 10 minutes on slow, then 2 minutes on high. Alternatively, knead by hand.
  • Cover the bowl with cling film and set to rise in a warm place for 1 hour. If your dough seems slow in rising, leave it for another 30 minutes.
  • Tip out of the bowl and pat gently to deflate. Shape into a rough rectangle about 2cm thick.
  • Sprinkle 2/3 of the nuts and fruit evenly over half of the dough, and fold over the other half to enclose.
  • Sprinkle over the remaining fruit and nuts over half of the dough, and fold over as before.
  • Gently pat the dough out with your hands until it is 3-4cm thick and cut into roll-sized pieces. I like to use a dough scraper and divide it into rough triangles.
  • Lay the rolls onto a floured baking sheet and cover with clingfilm. Set aside in a warm place to rise – 30-45 minutes.
  • Heat the oven to 180°C,160°C Fan.
  • Bake for 18-20 minutes (25 if you use beetroot cubes, because of the extra moisture), turning the baking sheet around halfway through to ensure even colouring.
  • Cool on a wire rack.

Love Letter Pastries

Love Letter Pastries
Wotchers

Valentines day is just around the corner and here’s a cute and romantic idea that won’t take up a huge amount of your time either making or baking, thereby leaving loads of time for more romantic pursuits.

These Love Letter pastries are made from a sheet of ready-rolled puff pastry, but you can make your own if you prefer. An all-butter sheet will have a great flavour, but other fat/flour combinations can also be surprisingly tasty.

One sheet will make six of these pastries, but since the inside of the roll tends to get a bit squished, I mae just four, and use the offcut for decorations.

The best thing about these pastries is that they are baked without filling, but with a small ball of lightly-crumpled baking parchment inside, to form a pocket for whatever you care to use. As you can see in the photo, I’ve chosen one sweet and one savoury, cold fillings contrasting delightfully with the warm, crisp pastry, but anything goes.

Other suggestions for hot fillings might include caramelised onions, mushrooms and cheese, scrambled egg with smoked salmon, warm fruit compote or apple pie filling with whipped cream.

Love Letter Pastries

1 sheet ready rolled puff pastry
1 egg for glazing
Fillings of choice

  • Cut four (then you can use the best two) squares of pastry from the sheet.
  • For each Love Letter Pastry:

pastryfold diagram

  1. Scrunch up some baking parchment and place it in the middle of the square of pastry.
  2. a, b & c Damp the edges of the pastry and fold the left, bottom and right corners inward, overlapping slightly. Press to seal. Adjust the piece of parchment if necessary so that it can be removed easily.
  3. Prick the remaining exposed pastry to prevent it puffing up too much during baking.
  4. Cut a heart out of the spare pastry and lay it on the place where the corners meet as a ‘seal’.
  • Place the pastries on a baking sheet lined with parchment.
  • Heat the oven to 200°C, 180°C Fan.
  • When the oven is at temperature, whisk the egg and glaze the pastry.
  • Bake for 18-20 minutes, turning the baking sheet around after 10 minutes to ensure even colouring.
  • Cool on a wire rack.
  • When cooled, gently remove the parchment and discard. I’ve found the most effective method is to use the handle of a teaspoon to separate the cooked pastry from the parchment first, before trying to pull it out.
  • Fill generously and serve to your loved one.

Make ahead

You can bake these the day before, and store in an airtight container. To warm, place on a baking sheet and put into a cold oven. Turn the heat to 150°C, 130°C Fan for 10 minutes.


Chocolate Swirl Biscuits

Chocolate Swirl Biscuits
Wotchers!

These biscuits are my newest favourite, and that is due equally to the texture, the flavour(s) and the potential to vary (infinite).

They are a development of the shortbread-like Viennese Whirls, where inclusion of cornflour makes them delightfully crumbly and moreish.

Whereas Viennese Whirls are piped, these can be rolled between the palms in order to produce interesting swirly patterns as the different doughs are mixed together.

Alternatively, if neatness is important and you have a silicone small-hemisphere baking sheet, you can opt to press a mix of the dough into the holes in the sheet to make domed biscuits.

Another option would be to scatter small lumps of each dough over your work surface,  use a rolling-pin to roll them into a smooth sheet with a marbled effect, and cut out your biscuits with regular cutters.

So the method you choose is whatever suits you. What IS important, is that each biscuit has a mixture of all three doughs, especially if they are also flavoured differently as well as contrasting visually .

If you like things simple, you can go: Very chocolate/mildly chocolate/vanilla – which is lovely, delicious and has widespread crowd appeal.

However, ever the tinkerer, I decided to experiment with some alternative flavour combinations the best of which I am going to share with you now.

  • Very chocolate/mildly chocolate/orange: adding orange zest to the palest dough for a classic combination. Would make great Christmas baking/gifts.
  • Very chocolate/coffee/vanilla: mix it up a little with a little mocha combo, ideal if you don’t want to have to choose between coffee and chocolate.

Both of these combinations I found equally delicious, but the absolute best flavour combination I put together tops all of the above (she says modestly), and it is this:

  • Very chocolate/coffee/cardamom: the richness of the cocoa, the bitterness of the coffee and the heady aroma of cardamom are amazing together.
A gif of Emma stone saying Yum.

Actual footage of my face after sampling the chocolate/coffee/cardamom combination, warm from the oven.

I used to drink coffee Turkish-style, flavoured with cardamom, when I worked in the Gulf, so perhaps I’m a little biased, but I strongly urge you to try this combination for a real, to quote Peter Kay, TASTE SENSATION!

Chocolate Swirl Biscuits

This makes a large quantity of biscuits, so divide the quantities in half if you think they might be too much for you, just don’t blame me when they’re all gone in two days and you’re turning on the oven at 10 o’clock at night to make a new batch.

Whichever flavour combination you choose, use the following. Each amount will flavour 1/3 of the dough quantity below:

  • Dark chocolate: 2tbs cocoa powder
  • Light chocolate: 1tbs cocoa powder, 1tbs flour
  • Coffee: 1tbs espresso powder, 1tbs flour
  • Orange: zest of  orange, 2tbs flour
  • Cardamom: ¾tsp ground cardamom, 2tbs flour
  • vanilla: ½tsp vanilla extract, 2tbs flour

250g unsalted butter, softened
125g icing sugar
125g cornflour
120ml vegetable oil
1tsp baking powder
280g plain flour
2tbs cocoa powder
1tbs espresso coffee powder
¾tsp ground cardamom

  • Remove 3 tablespoons of flour and set aside.
  • Put the butter, icing sugar, cornflour, oil and baking powder into a bowl and mix gently until thoroughly combined.
  • Gradually add the flour until the mixture comes together in a soft dough.
  • Divide the dough into three and add the flavourings, using the reserved flour for the two lighter doughs. If using a mixer for this, start with the lightest colour dough and finish with the chocolate, to avoid smudging the colours.
  • Roll each dough into marble-sized balls. Due to the baking powder, they will grow slightly during baking, and with each biscuit being formed from six balls of dough, you want to err on the side of caution, sizewise.
  • Decide on the style of your biscuits:
    • If you’re cutting out your biscuits, scatter the different balls of doughs over your work area, cover with a sheet of clingfilm and roll into a marbled sheet. Use cutters of diameter 5cm.
    • To make the swirled biscuits (top left and bottom right in the pic) arrange two balls of each flavour in a circle either 1,2,3,1,2,3 (top left) or 1,1,2,2,3,3 (bottom right). Gather them together until they form a drum shape (similar to biscuit on the bottom left of the pic), then roll this between your palms, with your hands moving in opposite directions, for 6 or 7 rotations until swirled together. Flatten slightly to finish. NB: I adore the swirl this produces, but a word of advice: if you are a perfectionist, do not choose this method. I made 6 or 7 batches of this dough, experimenting with flavour combinations and wotnot, and I can count the number of perfectly swirled biscuits I managed to create on two hands. I definitely got better with practice, but my husband’s work colleagues had to munch a LOT of biscuits in the process. Which is how the silicone mould method evolved, and beautifully neat and dainty top-right style is now my favourite (as well as being so much quicker).
    • If using a hemisphere mould silicone sheet, proceed as above but instead of rolling the dough between your hands, press it into the mould (bottom left). For the biscuit pictured top right, put the balls of dough in pairs, then arrange them side by side, like the pattern of a six on a dice. Press into the mould.
  • Heat the oven to 170°C, 150°C Fan.
  • Arrange the biscuits on baking sheets liked with parchment, leaving space between them to allow for spreading.
  • Bake for 15-18 minutes, until crisp and slightly risen. NB: If using a silicone mould, the biscuits may take a little longer, as the silicone shields most of the biscuit from the heat. Before removing from the oven, sample a biscuit, break it apart and check that it is cooked all the way through.
  • Cool on a wire rack.
  • Store in an airtight container.

Turkey Chorizo Spirals

Turkey Chorizo Spirals

Wotchers!

It struck me that I haven’t done a main meal in quite some time, and being in a bit of a minimalist mood, here is a family favourite in this house, not least with the cook (yours truly), which has just three ingredients: turkey, pesto, chorizo.

It does require a little bit of preparation in making the rolls, but after that, it’s a less than 10-minute cook for a speedy and ridiculously tasty weeknight meal. The spicing in the pesto and the chorizo do all the work for you, so I usually don’t even bother with salt and pepper.

Over the years I’ve tried various shapes – rolling everything up like a swiss roll, a ‘sandwich’ of pesto and chorizo between slices of turkey – but this form is the most successful.

Serve with Noodles and Rice and some steamed veggies and it’s a taste sensation!

Turkey Chorizo Spirals

Serves 4

4 Turkey breast steaks
1 jar tomato pesto
About 20 thin slices of chorizo

wooden cocktail sticks

  • Flatten the turkey steaks by pounding them with a meat hammer or a wooden rolling-pin. Cover them with a double layer of cling film in order to prevent any bits flying off.
  • Spread a layer of red pesto over each steak.
  • Place a layer of chorizo slices over the pesto.
  • Roll up the turkey around the filling, and pin securely by pushing wooden cocktail sticks all the way through the roll. Three is about the right number, depending how large your turkey slices are: one through the middle and one at each end.
  • Place the rolls on a dish, cover with cling film and chill in the fridge until required.
  • When ready to cook, place a lidded non-stick frying pan on medium heat.
  • Remove the turkey from the fridge and cut into slices. With a sharp knife, cut between the cocktail sticks to make three spiral slices per roll, with the cocktail stick keeping the meat secured in a spiral.
  • Put the slices in the pan and cook for two minutes. There’s sufficient oil in the chorizo and pesto to lubricate the pan.
  • Turn the slices over and cook for another two minutes.
  • Add 100ml water, cover and allow the turkey to cook/poach for about 5 more minutes, or until cooked through.
  • Remove from the pan and gently take out the cocktail sticks. The cooked turkey will now hold it’s shape.
  • Transfer to a warmed serving dish, spoon over the remaining cooking liquid and serve.

In case you missed it: Over on DejaFood.uk this week it’s Lancashire Butter Pie.