14 April 2014

Apple and Cinnamon Hot Cross Buns


I love any excuse to decorate the house - Christmas is of course the obvious one but I think it's really nice to add little seasonal touches throughout the year. We have an Easter tree that we make out of branches from the garden and lovely little painted eggs that hang from ribbon. Along with an Easter wreath and some freshly picked daffodils, it's a lovely reminder of the fact we're getting closely to summer and some beautiful sunny weather! We also started sowing seeds in the veg patch today - hopefully they'll be as successful as last year! (fingers crossed)

What are your plans for this Easter weekend? We are having a big Sunday roast and then I'm off for brunch with the girls on bank holiday, a much anticipated break from revision. 



Easter isn't Easter without hot cross buns. This is just a quick post for this classic recipe. The addition of pieces of apple to this version gives a lovely tang to the buns and makes them extra moist. Toasted and slathered with some salted butter, they are a perfect breakfast treat.


Ingredients: (makes about 12)

300ml full-fat milk
50g butter
500g strong white bread flour
1tsp salt
75g caster sugar
1tbsp sunflower oil
7g sachet fast-action yeast
1 egg, beaten
40g sultanas
35g currants
Zest of 1 lemon
2 apples, peeled, cored and finely chopped
1 tsp ground cinnamon

75g plain flour
Apricot jam


Method:

1. In a small saucepan, bring the milk to the boil. Then remove from the heat and add in the butter. Stir until the butter has melted and then leave to cool slightly.

2. In a large mixing bowl, add in the flour, salt, sugar and yeast. Then, once the milk has cooled to hand temperature, (you should be able to test the temperature with your hand and it should be warm not hot) make a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the warm milk and butter mixture. Then add in the egg.

3. Mix well with a wooden spoon, bringing everything together and then use your hands to form it into a sticky dough. Tip the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead the dough for about 5 minutes until smooth and elastic. You could also do this in a mixer with a dough hook.

4. When the dough is ready, put it in a lightly oiled, clean mixing bowl and cover the bowl with some lightly-oiled cling film.

Leave the dough to rise in a warm place (a warm kitchen or pantry) for about 1 hour until doubled in size.

5. After it has doubled in size, add in the sultanas, currants, lemon zest apples and cinnamon. Knead these into the dough, making sure the fruit and spice is evenly distributed throughout. Then leave to rise for another hour or until doubled in size, covered again with some lightly-oiled cling film.

6. Then divide the dough into about 12 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a smooth ball on a floured work surface. Then arrange the buns on baking trays lined with baking paper. Leave enough space in-between the buns for them to rise again. Cover with a clean tea towel and then set aside to prove for one more hour.

7. Then heat the oven to 200 degrees C (fan.) Before baking, mix the 75g plain flour with a few tablespoons of cold water until you have a fairly thick paste. Spoon into a piping back with a small nozzle and pipe a cross over each bun. I didn't have a piping bag and so just used a tablespoon to drizzle the paste over the buns. It's easier to go along the whole line of buns one way and then the other rather than do them individually.

8. Then bake for 20 minutes until golden brown. Once baked, remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack.

9. Meanwhile heat a few tablespoons of smooth apricot jam in a bowl in the microwave for a few seconds until runny and then brush over the hot cross buns with a pastry brush.





Slightly adapted from:
http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/2066661/hot-cross-buns


10 April 2014

Pear and Walnut Cake with Ricotta and Salted Caramel






I've come home to two new cafes in my local town - one of which, The Buttercross has a very tempting cake display including an assortment of chocolate cakes, crunchy lemon drizzle, seasonal creations and one of my favourites- a tasty banana bread. They serve theirs with ricotta and a caramel sauce- something I hadn't considered before but just knew I had to try my own version.

This cake is not overly sweet but has a great crunchy texture with lots of walnut pieces throughout. The roasted half pears are a delicious surprise when you bite into the cake and provide a great fruity contrast.

Served still warm with a spoonful of ricotta cheese and some salted caramel sauce, it's a divine treat with a cup of tea!

Ingredients:

For the cake:

260g plain flour
55g ground almonds
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1tsp freshly grated nutmeg
75g walnuts

2 large eggs
225g caster sugar
85g light brown muscovado sugar

120ml buttermilk
120ml sunflower oil (any vegetable oil)
2-4 medium sized ripe pears

For the salted caramel sauce: 

200g caster sugar
90g salted butter
120ml double cream
1 tsp salt


Method:

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C(fan.)





In a large mixing bowl, stir together the plain flour, ground almonds, baking powder, baking soda and spices.


 Chop the walnuts into small pieces on a chopping board and then add the walnuts to the bowl. Stir thoroughly.






In a separate mixing bowl, beat the eggs and both sugars together with an electric whisk until you have a pale and thick mixture. Add in the buttermilk and oil and beat again until mixed.

Fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients with a metal spoon until fully incorporated into the mixture. Spoon the mixture into a greased and lined round and deep cake tin.



Wash the pears and then cut them in half. Use a small scoop to take out the pips and then arrange the pear halves in the cake batter with the tops just sticking out.


Bake the cake in the preheat oven for around 55-70 minutes until a skewer, when inserted into the middle of the cake, comes out clean. You may want to cover the cake with tin foil half way through baking to stop the top from burning. 



To make the salted caramel sauce to accompany the cake: (recipe taken from http://sallysbakingaddiction.com/homemade-salted-caramel-recipe/)

Heat the sugar in a saucepan over a medium heat. Don't stir the sugar but let it melt, shaking the pan a little to spread it out evenly if you need to. When the sugar has all melted and turned into a brown-amber coloured liquid (don't let it burn), add in the butter.

Stir quickly until the butter melts into the caramelised sugar. Be careful as the caramel will bubble when the butter is added.

Then drizzle in the double cream and continue to stir. The mixture will bubble rapidly here and start to boil but continue stirring over the heat for about one minute until you have a smooth caramel sauce. Remove from the heat and stir in the salt.

Serve the cake with some ricotta and a drizzle of the salted caramel sauce.






Adapted from: http://www.bakersroyale.com/cakes/pear-walnut-cake/

6 April 2014

Asparagus, Pancetta and Parmesan Tart





Spring has sprung in the form of the asparagus season!
It's one of my favourite vegetables as it's so delicious just simply chargrilled, roasted or steamed and topped with a little butter and sea salt.
A bunch of new season asparagus is the feature of this tart and pairs wonderfully with some smokey pancetta, creamy mascarpone and ricotta and topped with melted parmesan cheese.
It's perfect for brunch, lunch or a special spring-time dinner.

Ingredients:

1 big bunch asparagus
320g roll of ready made puff pastry
2-3tbsp olive oil
125g ricotta
1 large garlic clove, peeled
125g mascarpone
50ml single cream
Small bunch fresh parsley and chives
A few rashers of smoky pancetta
Sea salt and black pepper
1 egg
Large handful of walnuts

Method:

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C (fan.)

Wash the asparagus and then holding them in the middle snap the stalks off. They will snap off naturally at the right place where they are tender. Discard the tough lower stalk. Then wash the asparagus and mix in a bowl with a few tablespoons of olive oil and a sprinkle of sea salt.



In a small bowl mix together the mascarpone, ricotta, single cream, finely chopped garlic, parsley and chives and a good seasoning of salt and black pepper. 



Next line a baking tray with greaseproof paper. I use a baking tray with small holes in to ensure the underside of the pastry is cooked properly. Lay the sheet of puff pastry onto the baking tray and spread evenly with the mascarpone mixture. Make sure to leave a good border of pastry around the edge.



Then lay over the rashers of pancetta and top with the asparagus, arranged neatly in a line. Sprinkle with a little more sea salt and pepper and a generous grating of fresh parmesan. 




Beat an egg with a fork in a small bowl and then using a pastry brush, brush the edges of the pastry with the egg. Bake the tart on the middle shelf in the oven for around 20 minutes and then turn the heat down to 150 degrees C and cook for another 10 minutes until the asparagus is tender and the pastry puffed up and golden.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly. Top with some crushed, toasted walnuts and some more grated parmesan. Serve warm with a big leafy salad.




Inspiration taken from : http://notwithoutsalt.com/2011/06/20/asparagus-tart-with-walnuts-and-parmesan/



31 March 2014

Spiced Sweet Potato Pancakes



That end-of-term tired feeling has really hit hard now and the next few weeks at home are looking very appealing! I've got one more exam to get through up here and then I'm heading home for the Easter holidays to an (apparently) summery and beautiful spring climate!
This term has whizzed by with my internship at delicious sandwiched in the middle and now I'm nearly at the end of my second year (already!!!)
In order to get me out of bed the last few days I've been whipping up some energy-sustaining breakfasts including these spiced sweet potato pancakes. All you need to do in advance is boil up some peeled and diced sweet potato and then keep it in a tupperware in the fridge until you are ready to use it. 
These pancakes are absolutely delicious and make a filling but light meal to keep you going for the day ahead. 
Sweet potatoes are rich in fibre, vitamins and betacarotene and so make a great healthy addition to one of my favourite breakfast choices.




To make enough to feed 2-4 people (depending on how hungry you are!)

Ingredients:

1 medium sized potato (roughly 225g), peeled, boiled, cooled and then mashed.
250ml almond milk (you can use normal or soya milk here instead)
2 eggs
100g plain flour ( I used gluten-free)
50g spelt flour
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1tsp cinnamon

Coconut oil/butter to cook.

Method:

Measure out the flours and spices into a large mixing bowl. In a separate small bowl or measuring jug, whisk together the eggs, almond milk and cooled, mashed sweet potato. You could also add a little vanilla paste if you wish. Then pour the wet ingredients onto the dry ones in the mixing bowl and whisk using a balloon whisk to a batter. ( Don't worry about any lumps!)

Put a large, non-stick frying pan over a high heat and then add a little coconut oil or butter. Then add heaped tablespoonfuls of the batter - I cooked 4 small pancakes at a time. Let the pancakes fry on one side for about 60 seconds until small bubbles start to appear and then flip them over and cook on the other side until golden brown. Repeat with the rest of the batter mixture. Whilst I'm cooking the pancakes I have a plate ready in a warm oven so that I can keep the pancakes warm whilst I'm cooking the rest.

Serve the warm pancakes with a generous drizzle of honey or maple syrup, some freshly sliced banana and some crushed pistachios or a little bit of whatever you fancy!





24 March 2014

Field




Field is a small independent restaurant in the heart of Edinburgh that having only been open for just over a year is already in this year's Michelin guide. It's welcoming and cosy restaurant space invites you in to sample its delicious, affordable menu that celebrates local and seasonal produce.

I've been to the restaurant twice now and the lovely Rachel agreed to chat with me about having finally opened up their own restaurant after 3 years of looking for the right venue and how lucky they feel to have such loyal and enthusiastic customers.




Here are some of the questions I asked Rachel:

Let's start with the name of the restaurant- it's fun and simple - what was the idea behind it?

To be honest, it was quite a last minute thing. We knew the basic ideas we wanted it to represent but we lacked the branding. In the end, this was our favourite. We wanted it to show our ethos of fresh, seasonal and local food straight from the field to your table.

Why do you believe it is so important to cook with seasonal, local produce?

We believe it is important to support the new independent businesses around us as well as local suppliers, who in return have been highly supportive of our venture. Cooking with seasonal, local produce also helps to reduce our carbon footprint and allows us to be creative with our food yet maintain good value for money.

Do you think people are educated enough in eating seasonally? 

Yes, I think so, especially after events such as the horse meat scandal last year, I think people are more aware of where their food comes from and what exactly goes into the meals they are eating. For example, we source our steak from a great farm in the Scottish borders and we often visit the farm to be as involved in the process as we can be.

Would you think about putting this information about the source of your products alongside the relevant dishes on your menu?

It's something we've thought about but we don't want to bombard people with too much information. We'd like to think we are approachable and if somebody wants to know where their food is from, we can tell them everything they'd like to know.



What are your favourite dishes?

My personal favourite is the hake with ratatouille and chunky chips. As a starter, the chefs have also started smoking duck in the kitchen with applewood which adds a mild but distinctive flavour and a beautiful texture to the meat, served alongside a spicy pineapple relish and freshly made potato crisps.
I love all puddings, so that is a tough one! I can't pick my favourite but we sometimes have a spectacular dessert special such as our rocky road baked alaska!

Your food is very creative and playful. Do you all work together in producing the menus? How often are they changed?

Gordon and Byron in the kitchen are really passionate about what they do. They like to do things a little differently, it's just something that comes really naturally to them and they're always in there cooking up new ideas for dishes. I can't ever see them getting bored, it's got to be exciting and a challenge for them too!

Our menu changes in line with what fresh produce is available in the local markets for example with our lunch and pre-theatre menu we often have our fish of the day dish dependent on the catch available that day. We also don't like bored chefs- we want to keep them interested in the food they are cooking!

Do you think it is important to fight against the stereotype of Scottish food as meat and stodgy carbohydrates?

Yes, I think Scotland has so much to offer. Gordon can do things with these local ingredients that don't have to be stodgy and full of fat but can be made lighter and exciting. Fresh fruits and vegetables can be made very comforting for winter or light and fresh for summer. Our chef likes to add a twist on the traditional Scottish cuisine for example our current chicken dish is based on the Scottish haggis, neeps and tatties reconstructed through a turnip dauphionise and crispy haggis ball in a completely different style.

What have been the main challenges in setting up your own restaurant?

To be honest, we've been really really fortunate. We've had so much support from local people coming back to the restaurant instead of going somewhere else the next week, continually supporting and helping us out.We've had a really easy journey so far and there hasn't been anything yet!

You've been open a year now and have been mentioned in this year's 2014 Michelin guide! You must be thrilled?

It's one of these things you day-dream of.  It was a lunch time and I was downstairs and I thought, I'll just have a wee look to see who's in it, and when I saw we were there it was a bit of a shock- it took a couple of days to sink in! It was really amazing and the guys in the kitchen did brilliantly to get that - we've got our red sticker in the window now!

Where are some of your other favourite foodie hot spots in the city?

We've been going to The Dogs a lot recently which we love. Another one which isn't in Edinburgh is The Wee Restaurant over in North Queensferry. We went to a wine tasting there the other day which we really enjoyed.

What do you like about being based in Edinburgh?

It's just a really great city. There is so much on your doorstop in Edinburgh and the people here really embrace it. The city is very neighbourly and it's lovely to see people who have come in from a recommendation from their neighbour or friend. I think this area especially has a lovely community feel.

There are so many restaurants here in Edinburgh- do you think this is a problem for new start-ups?

Yeah it is, There's just so many restaurants in Edinburgh. There's so much choice and so much competition everywhere- people could chose to go somewhere different every night of the week if they wanted to so I think it's really really important for new businesses to look after their customers. That's what this is about, giving customers a good experience. We hope to stand out with the combination of the value and the creativity of our food. Each restaurant has their own place in the city, but this is what we are trying to do.

Do you have plans to expand in the future? What can we expect for the rest of this year?

I think the building has a lot to do with the atmosphere here. We opened with a very limited budget and have slowly been making little changes as we go along. As it is at the moment, we think it works quite well as a small place. If we were to move somewhere bigger, say a 100-seater, it would loose its atmosphere and appeal. It took about 3 years before we got this place but when this place came up it was perfect as it's such a brilliant location. It's been quite a crazy year to be honest but it's been great - there's never a low moment.


Do you hold any events in here?

In November, we did a wine testing dinner that was really nice. One of our wine suppliers had been to visit lots of wine makers and so we did a whole evening of 5 or 6 course matching wine and food. We also did a big dinner for Hogmanay which we really enjoyed.

***

The times I've been to Field, I've been welcomed with a friendly and excellent service. The menu is different, creative and extremely good value for money.
Although quite a small space, it is lovely and bright and you don't feel packed in. As it is small and the kitchen quite near to the dining room, it did get a little smoky at times but you could also smell the delicious aromas of the food and you felt like it was a personal, cosy dining experience.

They serve you fresh homemade bread rolls straight from the hot oven- I sampled their sun-dried tomato and sesame seed roll which was delicious.


To start, I had their smoothy and creamy duck liver parfait served with a refreshing and tangy pineapple relish and gingerbread toasts with a warming spice which really complement the duck. It was very light and creamy which made it a great sized started.


For main course I chose the special fish of the day which was pan-fried coley served with sweet potato fishcakes. The fish was cooked perfectly and the flavours in the dish were lovely but the fishcakes, although crispy in the outside, were a little soggy on the inside and would have been better with some chunkier pieces of potato.



For dessert, Rachel informed me that their South African pastry chef had been working on a South African style Malva pudding with banana and star anise ice cream which I just had to try! It had a deliciously sticky and spongy texture and the slight aniseed taste from the star anise in the ice cream was a great accompaniment to the very sweet sponge. A bit like the traditionally British pushing on syrup sponge pudding, this pudding is doused in syrup after baking so that the syrup seeps all the way through the sponge.





Field is one of Edinburgh's little foodie gems and certainly one to watch! With a very reasonably priced menu, it makes a great setting for a lunch out with friends or a special occasion dinner. 

They are now open Tuesday to Sunday serving lunch and dinner. 

Check out their website here. Booking advisable.


Lunch and Pre-Theatre: available between 12-2pm and 5.30-6.45pm

1 course £8.95, 2 courses £11.95, 3 course £14.95