potato chip cookies

Potato Crisp Cookies

potato chip cookiesYup. This week’s recipe is cookies made with ready salted crisps because a) I’m stuck in the house due to ill health and bored and b) why the hell not? January is a time of indecision for most people and I like to provide the answers to questions like ‘do I want crisps or a biscuit?’ with a literal ‘have both’.

I had randomly stumbled across this idea on an American blog ages ago and clipped it to an Evernote folder. I love Evernote. It’s like the organised version of my tendencies toward large piles of paper and lists and forgetting about stuff and my entire life is plotted out in there.

So when an old friend emailed to say he would be in London this week and would love to pop round for a long catch up and some home baking and I needed some inspiration, I just put the word ‘cookies’ into Evernote and this was the first hit in how my mind stores things.

It may sound odd, but really it’s just a novel way of reworking the good old salt and sweet combo and achieving my ambition to potato-ize every dish in the world. I do like lofty aspirations in my home baking, but I like deliciousness more. Would they manage that?

Spoiler alert: they are basically butter, sugar and crisps combined. They take deliciousness into a whole new sphere. These are so good I even stopped cursing the original recipe for using a cup and two thirds of flour. I want to be eating them right now, not using my hands to type this blogpost…

Potato Crisp Cookies:  makes about 20 (adapted from here)

  • 220g room temperature butter
  • 125g sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 250g plain flour
  • 50g plain or ready salted crisps, crushed up

Preheat your oven to 160℃ and line two baking trays with greaseproof paper. You can cut out the whole tiresome weighing cups adaptation of the recipe because I’ve done it for you.

I mistook the 1/3 cup measure I have and the 1/2 cup one and for the first ever my life added more sugar to an American recipe than it stated, but skipped the whole adding icing sugar step at the end so it worked out fine.

Cream the butter and sugar together with an electric whisk until light, fluffy and pale and then add the vanilla extract. Add in the flour and when it is about two thirds combined, mix in the crushed crisps too.

It will all come together into a soft pliable cookie dough that comes away from the bowl cleanly. I pinched a sort of walnut sized ball of dough off it and rolled and placed on the trays without flattening. The original recipe shows thin flat delicate cookies. I preferred some heft myself.

Bake the biscuits for about 20 minutes until just colouring round the edges. They didn’t flatten much upon cooking so I could have put them closer together and done them all once. You live and learn.

Cool for 5 minutes on the tray and then transfer to a wire rack. They are light and buttery like shortbread but with the salty crunch of crisps and my friend and I inhaled several in close succession. I put some in a tin overnight and they softened slightly to be chewy and buttery with the salty crunch of crisps. This is a biscuit that likes to keep on giving frankly.

Make them. That’s an order. Celebrate butter. Celebrate crisps. Make January nicer with both. I might sub some rice flour in next time to give even more shortness, but if you excuse me, I have a biscuit tin to raid instead of chat to you lot…

 

 

 

 

trifle

Chocolate Mousse Trifle

trifle

Merry post Christmas and Happy New 2016! I hope you had a fantastic festive season and aren’t planning to punish yourselves in anyway with month long detoxes or exclusions? You can drink a wee bit less or eat more vegan food any time you know. A pissing wet January weekend isn’t my moment to have a major life change, but I guess everyone’s different…

My big difference this Christmas was that I didn’t cook. I ate some excellent food but for once I allowed other people to cook for me. And it was absolutely wonderful.

My lovely friends went out of their way to welcome me to their homes and tables over the holidays and make food I could eat and make no fuss when there was something I couldn’t. As a result I enjoyed each and every time I ate and felt more treated and spoiled than if I’d been plied with gifts.

This was my first Christmas in England and I decided to go the whole hog and do as many firsts as possible and try as much new stuff as I could. I ate my first blini, drank my first Baileys, ate Brussel sprouts and pigs in blankets with Christmas dinner, had a snowball and the big one, made and ate my first ever trifle.

I have always loathed the idea of trifle. Technically I have never loathed trifle because I have never eaten trifle until last week. It’s not something we do in our family and frankly, I’ve always found it rather English.

My only childhood experience of trifle were terrifying ready made Dale Farm ones made of lurid jelly, cryogenically suspended tinned fruit and squirty cream begging to be put out of its mercy. Other Northern Irish children of the Eighties probably remember these in Crazy Prices or Stewarts too. I believe one was supposed to wash it down with some of that day glo orange squash children were practically weaned on in those days since it came in milk bottles beside your daily pinta.

I never touched them no matter how rude it made me look when I went to friends’ houses for tea after school. Luckily most adults were so tickled by a small child refusing sugar that they forgot to tell my parents what a precocious brat I was. Once I got to secondary school, trifle just seemed to vanish out of my life and I’ve avoided it ever since.

Listening to this Radio 4 programme with Tim Hayward before Christmas was my equivalent of watching a horror film. I ducked beneath the bed covers at least once as they discussed jelly and declared myself trifle-phobic.

Then it all happened. My friends who I was joining for Christmas dinner asked me to bring a dessert. I decided to make a version of this chocolate prune cake but with chestnut puree instead of dried fruit. This was my no cooking Christmas after all and that cake is so simple you can make and bake it in under an hour.

But what you can’t do at 1am on the morning of Christmas Eve is take it out of a bundt tin without it breaking into moussey hunks of panic on your kitchen worktops. Emergency Googling told me you have two options with a broken cake: cake pops or trifle.

And when you’ve got Christmas Eve plans involving prosecco and good jamon and better manners than turning up to Christmas lunch with no desert, you go with trifle.

One swift trip to Tesco Express later and I had the makings of a chocolate mousse trifle. I would layer the sliced cake up and pour raspberry coulis and fresh raspberries over it, add homemade chocolate mousse, more raspberries and whipped cream and it would all be fine.

Apart from the fact a trifle-hater doesn’t usually have anything they can make trifle for 6 people in and carry it around the corner with ease. Which is how I found myself making a bucket of trifle in a Tupperware container big enough to bath a baby, but yet easy to transport.

This actually make enough trifle for 16 people so it was going to be too weird to excuse myself from eating my own dessert. I dug in and told myself it wasn’t really trifle because the cake hadn’t been moistened but was meant to be like that.

And it was delicious. Incredibly ridiculously rich. But delicious. Turns out I’m not trifle-phobic. I’m just fussy. But you probably all knew that anyway…

Chocolate Mousse Trifle (serves an even dozen at least)

For the cake:

  • 400g dark chocolate
  • 200g chestnut puree
  • 175g butter
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 6 egg whites
  • 3 tablespoons icing sugar

For the mousse:

  • 400g milk chocolate
  • 175g butter
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 6 egg whites
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the trifle:

  • 350g raspberry puree
  • 200g fresh raspberries
  • 500ml double cream

You could of course just make the cake or the mousse and not bugger either of them up and serve them separately. But if I’d done that I wouldn’t have had an amusing anecdote or a blog post.

Grease and flour a 9 inch cake tin. You can use a bundt if you want to save on some of the effort of slicing, but a standard tin is fine. Heat the oven to 175℃.

Make a bain marie by placing a large bowl over a pan of water on the cooker, making sure the water doesn’t touch the base of the bowl. Melt the chocolate, chestnut puree and butter together in this. Separate the eggs and set aside.

Once the chocolate is melted, take it off the heat and set carefully into a sink of cold water to cool. Beat the egg whites with the icing sugar until stiff peaks and set aside.

Take the chocolate out of the water and beat each egg yolk into it one at a time with your electric whisk to add lots of air. Then fold in the egg whites a third at a time.

Pour the mix into your cake tin and bake for 40-45 minutes. The cake will rise massively in the oven so allow breathing space. Once the top is slightly cracked and light in colour, take out and let it cool on a wire rack.

Make the raspberry puree by blitzing either defrosted raspberries or fresh ones with a tablespoon of icing sugar and a squeeze of lemon juice and set set aside.

Slice the cooled cake and layer into a trifle bowl (or enormous tupperware container.) Pour the raspberry puree over it and add about half the raspberries. Allow to sit while you make the mousse. You could use that bottle of Chambord you have knocking round instead if you prefer.

Set up up your bain marie again and melt the chocolate and butter together. Separate the eggs and cool the melted chocolate well. You do not want scrambled egg while you’re making trifle (obviously I got it on Christmas Eve and just carried on anyway.)

Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks with a pinch of salt and set aside. Add the vanilla extract and beat each egg yolk in one at a time and then fold in the egg whites a third at a time.

Pour over the cake and raspberry puree and chill for 4 hours or overnight. About an hour before serving whip the double cream and spread on top of the set mousse and decorate with the remaining fresh raspberries. Serve and convert all the trifle haters and jelly doubters!

 

fodmap granola

Fodmap Friendly Granola

fodmap granolaThe places that those pesky fodmaps can hide is never ending. If there is isn’t wheat in one thing, there’s lactose in another and honey in the next. Ironically the ‘healthier’ the food is, the more likely it is that a fodmap trigger will leap out at you.

I don’t really eat cereal, but I do love granola. Two things force me to make my own: the cost of the decent ones and the fact they all seem to sneak inulin in there for fibre. Inulin is the stuff that makes Jerusalem artichokes so difficult to digest for most people and it’s a super charged neon light flashing fodmap.

Discovering there was such a thing as oatgerm recently made me realise I could tweak my basic granola recipe to something all fodmappers can eat if I switch the honey for golden syrup. Before everyone gets up in arms about sugar in their breakfast cereal, let me remind you that honey is just middle class sugar. In fact it’s got a higher fructose load than the high fructose corn syrup we are taught to fear but it’s allowed to be put into things as ‘no added sugar’. Ahem.

Fodmap Friendly Granola (makes about 850g)

  • 100g jumbo oats
  • 150g porridge oats
  • 30g oatgerm
  • 30g sesame seeds
  • 30g pumpkin seeds
  • 30g sunflower seeds
  • 100g Brazil nuts, halved
  • 50g pecans
  • 100g flaked coconut (not desiccated)
  • 125g vegetable oil (or coconut oil if you like)
  • 125ml golden syrup
  • pinch salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 egg white

This is so easy to make and this is a good base recipe that you can tweak to your own preferences. If you want higher protein levels, add some amaranth or if higher fibre is your thing, add chia seeds. If you can tolerate dried fruit, add about 100g as the granola cools. If like me, you like your granola more like a snack than breakfast, add some chocolate chips when it’s cooled.

Put the golden syrup and the oil in a small saucepan and heat until melted together. Take off the heat and add in the salt and the vanilla extract.

Put all the dried ingredients in a large bowl and pour the syrup and oil mix over it all and mix well. It will look like the liquid has soaked in and it will be too dry. Don’t panic. It will be the perfect amount to give a burnished golden look to the granola.

Beat the egg white slightly in a small bowl and add to the dried ingredients. This helps them to cluster together to give that luxurious feeling the posh granolas have and separates it further from its raw cousin muesli. It doesn’t make any difference to the storage of the granola because the egg is cooked.

Put the granola mix into two deep non stick roasting tins, making sure you can move the granola around in them. Cook in a preheated oven at 160℃ for about 25 minutes or until as golden as you like it. It will still be very slightly soft as it crisps up as it cools.

Give the granola a stir round before it cools or it will harden into a massive clump that you will have to chisel off the tray later. I made this mistake the first time and the mice in my kitchen are still enjoying the spoils of it exploding everywhere when I tried to lever it out of the tray.

Once cooled, stir any additions in and then store in an airtight container for up to 4 weeks. It would also be rather excellent in small cellophane or foil bags as Christmas gifts. Just leave the egg white out if you’re going vegan.

It will seem like you spent a lot of money to make a small amount of granola, but remember the ingredients make at least five or six batches for the price of two boxes of branded stuff. Plus you can eat it dry in front of the telly over Christmas and look much fancier than if you ate cereal from the packet…

 

confit potatoes

Slow Cooker Confit Potatoes

confit potatoesUntil I got my new cooker earlier this year with its top oven, I’ve always had that dilemma when doing a roast dinner about how you balance different timings and temperatures for potatoes and meat. And since I got the new cooker, I just haven’t made a roast dinner…

But at Christmas you often don’t have enough roasting tins, eyes on the clock and hands to co-ordinate it all and I wondered if there was a way to give you great potatoes with minimum fuss.

After reading Felicity Cloake doing ‘perfect’ fondant potatoes in the Guardian recently, I decided that they were definitely not what I was looking for since most of them looked stressful in the extreme, but I wondered if I could do a version in the slow cooker?

Life is too short to melt enough butter for that though and duck fat is always on offer around the festive season, so I thought I’d basically confit some baby potatoes instead and see what happened.

And spoiler alert: good things happened. I mean, I know it would be tricky to make something bad with duck fat and spuds, but these were really good. Softer and richer than a roastie and so easy. 5 hours in the slow cooker and 5 minutes in a frying pan. Sea salt scattered over them to serve. Potato filled silence at the table as people ate them. Could be just what you need at Christmas…

Slow Cooker Confit Potatoes (serves 4)

  • 250ml duck fat (or olive oil if veggie)
  • 500g baby potatoes
  • 5 sprigs fresh thyme (optional)
  • sea salt

There’s barely a recipe for this but I like writing so I’m sure I’ll spin it out. Put the whole baby potatoes in the slow cooker crock. I used 500g in a 3.5 litre slow cooker which was one layer but you could double the amounts and do two layers.

Melt the duck fat in the microwave for about 50 seconds (minus the lid) so it’s liquid and pour it over the potatoes so they are covered. Don’t worry if the very tips aren’t. Add the fresh thyme if using.

Put the lid on the slow cooker and cook the potatoes on high for 5 hours. They will wrinkle and darken as they cook but hold their shape. Don’t be tempted to give them longer to be sure they are cooked. Potatoes cook surprisingly quickly in a slow cooker.

Use a slotted spoon to scoop them out onto a plate lined with kitchen roll. You can leave them to cool up to overnight if needed or pop them into a hot frying pan immediately. Keep the potatoes moving as if sauteeing them and give them a few minutes until crisped on the outside. Serve as soon as possible, making sure you pour the duck fat back into its container while it’s still liquid.

The potatoes actually don’t absorb very much of the fat but cooking them this way makes them the richest tastiest steamed potato you can imagine which, whisper it, makes a lovely change from roast potatoes in this season of repeat roast dinners.

 

slow cooker pumpkin

Freekeh and Feta Stuffed Pumpkin

slow cooker pumpkin

I have to admit I’m a bit guilty of using my slow cooker to cook meat and meat only, especially now my fodmap friendly diet is so carnivorous. So I was delighted to see that this month’s Slow Cooker Challenge was to go veggie to give me the excuse to branch out a bit.

One of my favourite dishes to cook for Slow Cooked was a whole stuffed pumpkin which I filled with sausage and cannellini beans for a Bonfire Night meal and I’ve been wanting to revisit it.

Luckily I had stockpiled a few medium sized orange pumpkins from Halloween to play around with, but if you can’t find them now, Lidl are going a dinger on the seasonal squashes at the moment instead. I wanted to go a bit Middle Eastern since I recently got a bag of freekeh and I am not afraid to use it.

Freekeh is a green cracked wheat that’s been smoked to help release it from the husk. It is particularly associated with Palestinian cuisine and is now more easy to find here through Ocado and even  Tesco. I scored my bag from Khan’s Bargains in Peckham and I’m a bit obsessed with it. The added smokiness means it packs an umami punch I often find a bit lacking for me in vegetarian food (I blame my anchovy obsession.)

I made a slow cooker lamb stew recently and chucked half a cup of dried freekeh into it to see if it would work. I love pearl barley in the slow cooker so assumed this might work well (unlike rice which turns to glue for me) and it exceeded my expectations with bells on.

This time I knew it would work perfectly in the pumpkin which works like a mini slow cooker within a slow cooker. I also wanted it to be easy like my usual slow cooker style with a minimum of prep so it went into the hollowed out pumpkin as it was along with some feta, green olives and cherry tomatoes and some water and it was good to go.

I added a sprinkle of sumac to serve since I was going Middle Eastern. This is the dried powdered berry of the sumac bush and it’s got a wonderful tart, lemony flavour that’s deeply savoury. I’m using it a lot right now where I would have used pomegranate or when I’m out of lemons. It’s best added toward the end of cooking as heat destroys its nuance or it can be used raw in salads or dressings.

Freekeh and Feta Stuffed Pumpkin (serves 2)

  • 1 medium pumpkin or onion squash
  • 100g dried freekah (or barley)
  • 75g cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 50g feta, cubed
  • 200ml vegetable stock
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 teaspoon sumac (or zest of 1/2 lemon)
  • 25g pumpkin seeds

Cut the top off the pumpkin and scoop all the seeds and pulp and flesh out. Wash the seeds under the tap and leave to dry in some kitchen roll.

Put the dry freekeh into a bowl and add the feta and cherry tomatoes and season it all well. Add the smoked paprika and mix it all well together and tip it all into the pumpkin. Add the water or stock.

I’ve been using slow cooker liners for certain dishes after I was very kindly sent some to try. They are great for dishers where stuff gets really baked on or it’s difficult to lift stuff out to serve it. You may be better at trying to get a piping hot pumpkin out of a confined space than I am, but do give them a go.

Put the filled pumpkin in the (lined) slow cooker and put the lid on the slow cooker. Cook on low for 7 hours for a 600g pumpkin or 8-9 for one that weighs up to kilo.

Just before you are ready to serve the pumpkin, toast the reserved seeds for a few minutes in a dry frying pan until golden brown. Lift the pumpkin out of the slow cooker and scatter the seeds and the sumac inside it and then cut into wedges and serve.

Play around with different grains such as pearled spelt or buckwheat or try a variety of dried pulses to fill the pumpkin. There are so many ways to make squash and pumpkin interesting in the slow cooker and make a great Sunday lunch centrepiece that is meat free and hopefully avoids the goats cheese-mushroom risotto trap for vegetarians!

This is my entry in this month’s Slow Cooked Challenge hosted by Farmersgirl Cooks and BakingQueen74.

Slow+Cooked+Challenge