Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Bizcocho de Naranja y Almendras (Orange & Almond Cake)

We are all very excited in the Smith household. Tomorrow, we are off to France for a couple of weeks and I have to confess that this orange cake is the result of using up the eggs and the remains of the fruit bowl before we depart. It has also turned out to be the perfect vehicle for the remaining orange syrup from the candied oranges; the orange blossom water and coriander seeds giving a nod towards the Moorish origins of this traditional Spanish cake.  Also, the real beauty of this cake is that it lasts an age and so it will make a perfect roadside picnic pudding on our journey south. Anyway, it may be a few days before my next post, but I will be back as soon as I can with stories and photos from France. We are spending our first week with my husband's parents who live in the beautiful Monts d'Or just outside Lyon, a francophile and food lover's dream. Quelle chance!

À bientôt,

Victoria x

For a 22 cm cake tin.
2 medium oranges
5 eggs (separated)
175 g. caster sugar
285 g. ground almonds
3 or 4 tbsp. orange syrup (optional)  

Put the oranges, skins and all, into a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to the boil and simmer for about 45 minutes. Take off the heat and allow to cool. At this point, if you do not have any orange syrup you could reserve 300ml. of the orange water and add a handful of crushed coriander seeds, a drop of orange juice and 100 g. of sugar and boil them for about 10 minutes until syrupy.  

Once the oranges are cooled, preheat the oven to 180°C. Line and grease your cake tin. Put the cooled oranges into a food processor and blend into a smooth paste. 

Separate the 5 eggs. Beat the yolks with the caster sugar until smooth and pale. Then, beat in the orange paste and the ground almonds, put to one side. Meanwhile, beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks.

Add a small amount of the egg white to the other ingredients and mix until combined. Then add the rest of the egg white, a little at a time, gently folding it into the mixture until all the egg white is combined. 

Smooth the cake batter into your prepared tin and bake for 1 hour. If the top is browning too quickly, place a piece of baking parchment or tin foil on the top for the remainder of the baking time. The cake is done when you can skewer it and the skewer comes out clean.

Remove the cake from the oven and warm the orange syrup. Poke the cake all over with a skewer and pour over the syrup and allow it to seep into the cake. Allow the cake to cool and dust with icing sugar. I enjoy it served with summer berries and Greek yoghurt, or plain and simple with a cup of tea.

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Clara con Naranja (Spanish Shandy)

I promised a recipe for the orange syrup from the candied oranges. Well, the sun has put in an appearance this week, which has put me in a holiday mood and wanting one of those cool, refreshing drinks which the Spanish are particularly good at. 

As a student, I studied in Cáceres, in the Extremadura region of Spain. My friends and I would look forward each week to our invitation to hacer el botellón, that is meet up and party with lots of other students in the open air. In recent years the botellón, or big bottle, has been linked to binge drinking and vandalism, with many of the local authorities in Spain banning these get togethers. 

However, I have fond memories of the botellón. The night would usually start with un paseo, the traditional Spanish evening stroll, this rarely starts before 10 or 11 o'clock at night. In the late evening, Spanish streets are alive with people, everyone from the youngest of children to their grandparents enjoying the fresh air and each others' company. This jovial atmosphere extended, in those days, to the botellón. 

My friends and I would amble from our apartment through the parks on the main avenue through central Cáceres, stopping for an ice-cream along the way, before arriving at the Plaza Mayor where we would buy the ingredients for our drinks. A typical botellón drink is a mix of soft drink and an alcoholic beverage. These, along with plastic cups and ice-cubes were sold by street vendors along the edge of the plaza. The Plaza Mayor in Cáceres is at the centre of a striking historic city, a UNESCO world heritage site. It was a beautiful spot to spend the evening sharing a few drinks, philosophising and talking politics with other students from across Europe, sharing a few impromptu supermarket-bought tapas and dancing to Spanish guitar music until the  madrugada. 

My botellón drinks of choice were Calimocho, a mixture of very cheap red wine and coca-cola, Tinto de Verano, the same cheap red wine with lemonade, or Clara,  a kind of shandy made with lager and orange or lemon Fanta. So, here I sit some 12 years later enjoying my Clara con naranja on a patio in North Wales, raising a glass, ¡Salud!, to my Cáceres friends wherever they are now.

For the Clara
A splash of orange syrup
Lager, San Miguel or Victoria de Málaga if you can get it

Add a splash of orange syrup to your glass and fill it with ice-cold lager. A simple recipe in homage to the simple pleasures of the botellón. Preferably served outdoors enjoying the sun.


Thursday, 9 August 2012

Candied Oranges & St. Martins Orange Buns

I am the first to acknowledge that I am not always the easiest person to live with, particularly when life has been stressful and busy. I do have a tendency to take it out on those closest to me, namely my husband. So, when I am on holiday from teaching I try to earn some brownie points. 

These orange buns are inspired by those that were baked by his maternal grandmother. Unfortunately, I never had the pleasure of tasting the original recipe and it does not seem to have been written down anywhere. Nevertheless, over the years I have been party to a number of in-depth family debates about how she made her famous orange buns.  I have never managed to get them quite right, trying both scone- and bread-based recipes. Scones seem to be the winning formula.

So, this is my most recent attempt, an orange scone recipe made with candied oranges perfumed with coriander seeds and orange blossom water. If I have managed to evoke some of the fond memories that all of her family had for Nana and her baking then I have succeeded, even if I have strayed from the original recipe. I hope she would have approved!
P.S. Back tomorrow with a recipe for the leftover orange syrup, don't throw it away!

For the candied oranges
300 ml. water
100 g. sugar
2-3 oranges sliced
1 tbsp. coriander seeds
1 tsp. orange blossom water

Put the water, sugar, coriander seeds and orange blossom water in a large frying pan and stir. Put the frying pan on the heat and add the orange slices. Heat on medium-high until boiling, reduce the heat to low-medium so the syrup is gently bubbling. 

It will take about 30 minutes for the oranges to become candied. They need to be turned occasionally, but do not stir the syrup as the sugar will crystallize.  

When they are ready (the orange peel becomes less opaque), remove them from the pan onto greaseproof paper to cool.

Once cooled they can be used in cakes and biscuits or dipped in melted chocolate.

For the orange buns
225 g. self-raising flour
55 g. cold butter cut into cubes
55 g. caster sugar
175 g. of candied orange chopped into small pieces
1tbsp. orange syrup
100 ml. milk (approx.)  

For the icing
75 g. icing sugar
1 tsp. orange blossom water
1 tsp. orange syrup
2 tsp. orange juice
2 slices of candied orange

Preheat your oven to 220°C. Rub together the flour and butter until they have a fine breadcrumb texture, I used the paddle attachment on a free standing mixer. 

Mix in the sugar and candied orange, I prefer to do this by hand, then make a well and add the orange syrup and most of the milk. Mix and bring the dough together with your hands, adding more milk if you need to.

Turn the dough out on to a floured surface and roll out until about 2-3 cm thick. Cut out rounds with a small cutter. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment. Bake for about 15 minutes or until risen and slightly golden.

Remove and put on a wire rack to cool. Meanwhile mix together the icing sugar, syrup, orange blossom water and orange juice. Spoon the mixture over the buns and cut a small piece of candied orange to place on top.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Pollo Asado con Patatas Bravas (Spanish Roast Chicken)

'Bravo' means fierce, feisty and wild in Spanish, used to describe the famous fiery potato tapa and the wild coast north of Barcelona.

I love Roast Chicken. Roast chicken is my comfort food; it is also my ‘go to’ easy meal that I make when I just need something to shove in the oven because I feel battered and broken after a day on my feet. Some years ago my husband had obviously cottoned on to this and complained at the prospect of, ‘Roast chicken again!’ So I started to diversify my roast chicken repertoire. And now I probably now have a roast chicken variation for every week if not nearly every day of the year.

'Pollo Asado con Patatas Bravas', fierce and fiery roast chicken and potatoes, Spanish style. The basis of this recipe comes from some of my early experimentation in the kitchen. On a camping holiday to Spain's Costa Brava in my teens, my family and I happened upon the most delicious spit-roasted chicken. It was succulent, juicy and oh so tasty. We ate it many times during our holiday. One night after our feast, my mum and I continued to pull apart the chicken until there was nothing left but the stuffing inside. Here, we discovered all kinds of aromatics which had been steamed into the chicken during its roasting, flavouring the 'salsa' that the patron would spoon over the chicken. When in Spain, if asked whether you would like salsa with your rotisserie chicken the answer is '¡Si, si, si!' I would also recommend the thin cut fries that are usually on offer, they are great for dipping in the gravy. Anyway, back home my mum and I have frequently tried to recreate the chicken of our memories. I would love to return one day to see if it tastes as good as I remember. Here is the latest attempt with my variation on patatas bravas, served with a fresh tomato salad rather than the traditional spicy tomato sauce. ¡Buen provecho!

Serves 4

For the chicken
A whole chicken
1 lemon
12 thin slices of chorizo (I use the thin sausage ring type)
A handful of thyme
A handful of rosemary
A couple of teaspoons of sweet paprika
3-4 bay leaves 
6-7 cloves  of garlic 
rapeseed oil
Sea salt & pepper

For the roast potatoes 
5-6 medium potatoes
2 teaspoons of spicy paprika
Paprika flavoued oil from the chicken roasting pan
Sea salt & pepper

For the tomato salad
300g of tomatoes
1 tbsp. of  chilli pesto

For the salsa
Chicken pan juices and garlic cloves
A good slug of sherry
300 ml. chicken stock
1 tsp. of corn flour   

My guilty pleasure, cold roast potatoes dipped in sea salt.

This tomato salad is also particularly good with steak or with torn mozzarella.

Remove your chicken from the fridge to allow it to reach room temperature and preheat your oven to 200°C. Remove the string from your chicken and carefully slide your fingers under the breast skin, push the slices of chorizo under the skin and pull the skin back up to cover the meat, you could use a toothpick to secure it in place.

Stuff your chicken with the whole lemon and the fresh herbs, then rub all over with a good slug of rapeseed oil and the sweet paprika. Place the garlic cloves in your roasting dish and sit your chicken on top of them. They will soften and sweeten during the roasting and will soak up some seriously tasty chicken juices.

Put your chicken in to roast for 30 minutes before reducing the temperature to 180°C. Continue to roast until the juices run clear (approximately 50 more minutes for a 2kg chicken).

1 hour before your chicken is ready, peel and chop your potatoes into medium sized chunks. Boil in salted water for 10 minutes. Meanwhile skim off 4-5 tablespoons of the paprika tinged oil from the chicken pan. Put into the bottom of a roasting tray and place in the oven to heat up.

Drain the potatoes and rough them up a bit in the colander, Toss them in the hot oil, sprinkle with spicy paprika and sea salt & pepper. Roast in the oven for 45 minutes or until golden and crispy. 

When your chicken is burnished golden and the juices are running clear, remove from the roasting dish and place on a warm plate to rest for half an hour. Spoon any excess fat from the roasting tin and squeeze the garlic cloves from their skins. Mash them with a fork and stir in a good splash of sherry and 300ml. chicken stock (I unashamedly use cubes the majority of the time). Bring to the boil, mix the corn flour with a little water and add to the gravy. Simmer to thicken and reduce, season if needed.

Chop the tomatoes and stir through the chilli pesto. Serve with the chicken, potatoes and salsa. 

Good luck to the Brownlee brothers who race in the Olympic triathlon today. I am sure they will put in a feisty performance. Go team Yorkshire! If we were a country, we would currently be 11th in the medals table! So proud! (Stephen, maybe the time is right for your plight for independence.)

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Bilberry Tart

The hydrangeas and lavender are flowering, the bilberries are ripe for picking; summer is here.

I await bilberry season with the same greedy anticipation and excitement as I did as a child. The first glimpse of  the season’s bilberries sets my mind racing to August days spent in amongst the heather of the moors just outside Sheffield in South Yorkshire, purple-black stained fingers and bramble-scratched knees, ice-cream tub filled with my treasure. I remember the bumpy ride home over The Strines (my dad to this day attacks these country roads with the fervour of a Finnish rally driver); my blue-black berries dancing around on my lap. I am transported to the scents of the kitchen where I would stand on a chair to reach the worktop and help to rub the butter and flour for the pastry.  All this comes rushing back with the first bite of a bilberry pie or tart.  Just writing about it, I am there in the kitchen, I can taste the sharp, floral fruits of our labours. I was hooked back then and in the twenty-something years that have followed I have sought to make more and more food memories that inspire me every day in the food that I buy, prepare and eat with my own family. So, the humble but beautiful bilberry tart represents so much: intimate memories; the beauty of food; the regional delights of my distant yet beloved Yorkshire; the pleasure of searching out, preparing and enjoying seasonal treats; creating fragrant, colourful memories to be savoured. So, when I decided to start writing a food blog about the food I enjoy sharing with my family it seemed fitting that I should name it Bilberry Tart

Here I am sticking to a traditional recipe of shortcrust pastry, pastry cream and the jewelled stars of the show. But, before I share the recipe that represents my inspiration, I wanted to extend my congratulations to fellow a Yorkshire lass, who undoubtedly inspired a generation last night. Jessica Ennis, your graceful determination and dedication to your dream is an inspiration to us all. Go Team GB!

This recipe used a 20cm tart dish.

For the shortcrust pastry
150g plain Flour
75g fridge cold butter cut into cubes
1 tbsp icing sugar
Ice-cold water; enough to bring the dough together.

For the pastry cream
4 egg yolks
75g caster sugar 
25g plain flour
1 vanilla pod
250ml milk

For the topping
250g bilberries (blueberries would work too)
A splash of crème de myrtilles (optional)
2tbsp icing sugar 

In a freestanding food mixer, using the paddle attachment at slow-medium speed combine the flour, icing sugar and cold butter until they have a fine breadcrumb texture. Alternatively you could rub these together by hand. Then gradually add the ice-cold water until the dough forms into a ball.

Form your dough into a disc, wrap in cling film and place in the fridge to rest for about half an hour.

While the pastry is resting you can get on with the pastry cream. In a large bowl whisk the egg yolks with the sugar until they have become pale and fluffy, add the flour and whisk into a paste. 

Warm the milk in a saucepan with the vanilla pod until just before boiling. Remove the vanilla pod then slowly add the warm milk to the egg mixture, whisking constantly. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and continue to whisk until the mixture has thickened. It needs to be quite thick as it will loosen with the juices from the bilberries. Don't worry if you end up with a few lumps, just pass the mixture through a sieve to remove them. Place your pastry cream into a bowl and lay a piece of clingfilm over to stop a skin from forming, then put it to one side to cool.

Heat your oven to 200°C and roll out your disc of pastry on a floured surface; I prefer to do this between two floured sheets of cling film to make it easier to transfer to the tart dish. Lift the pastry into a tart tin and gently press into place.

Prick the bottom of the tart with a fork before placing a sheet of baking parchment over the top. Add beans, rice or baking weights. Place in the oven for 15 minutes or until cooked but still pale. 
Remove from the oven and take out the baking parchment and beans. Smooth the pastry cream around the bottom of the base of the tart.
Toss the bilberries, a splash of crème de myrtilles and the icing sugar together. Place the glistening, boozy bilberries on top of the tart. Return the tart to the oven for 15 minutes.
Allow your tart to cool, then chill in the fridge until you are ready to serve it. For me, this is the taste of summer.

Thank you to Genevieve, Rebecca, Rhiannon, Mum & Dad; The Bilberry Pickers, V xxx.

Friday, 3 August 2012

Bilberry & Goat's Cheese Tart

Bilberry season is under way and I have already had two harvesting trips. Firstly in my home county of Yorkshire, on the moors where I have returned year after year since I was a little girl. My second was to the hills behind my home in the beautiful Vale of Clwyd in North Wales. I will be back tomorrow with more bilberry delights and stories but here is a little taster, my first Bilberry recipe of the summer.

For six tarts

125g soft goats cheese
75g bilberries
2 eggs 
A handful of thyme
Rind and juice of 1/2 lemon
Ready made and rolled puff pastry
Egg wash
Sea salt & pepper

Preheat your oven to 180°C. Cut the ready rolled puff pastry into 6 squares and push each square into a muffin pan, trimming off any excess pastry (My daughter likes to shape the left over pastry into twists, we brush them with egg and dust them with cinnamon and sugar and bake them with the tarts - waste not want not).

In a bowl, use a fork to mash the goat's cheese with the thyme, lemon zest, sea salt, pepper and lemon juice. Beat in the eggs until the mixture is smooth (it may seem very lumpy to start with but it will become silky after a minute or so.)

Fold in the bilberries. Then, spoon the mixture into the pastry lined muffin pan. Brush a little egg wash on the edges of the pastry and bake for 25 minutes or until the pastry is puffed up and golden and the egg filling is set.

A perfect addition to a summer picnic basket or served with a green salad for an alfresco lunch.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Fishcakes & Summer Salad

Just a quick post today. After a busy day walking and bilberry picking in the hills of the Clwydian Range in North Wales (yes, bilberry season has arrived and a tart recipe is on the way!), I was ravenous from all the fresh air. Earlier in the day, at Genevieve's request, I had bought some trout to have for dinner and while we foraged together for berries I came up with these fish cakes and salad. They turned out very well so I thought I would share them here. 

For the fishcakes (makes 6)

4 medium-sized potatoes
2 trout fillets
3 spring onions, finely chopped
A handful of chives
1 tsp. of lemon juice
Sea salt & pepper
1 egg
100g breadcrumbs
Rapeseed oil 

For the salad

2 little gem lettuce
A couple of handfuls of frozen peas
7-8 radishes
1 clove of garlic
Juice of 1 lemon (less the tsp. from the fishcakes)
3 tbsp. rapeseed oil
1 tsp. sugar
Sea salt & pepper

Peel the potatoes and boil in the bottom of a steamer until just tender. Place the trout fillets into the top of the steamer skin side down, steam until just cooked through.

Drain and mash the potatoes with a knob of butter. Then stir through the lemon juice, spring onions and chives and season to taste. Flake the fish with your fingers and add to the potatoes and fold together. 

Beat the egg in a bowl and put the breadcrumbs into a separate bowl. Divide the mixture into six portions and shape into patties with your hands. Dip each fishcake into the egg, then coat on both sides with the breadcrumbs.

Place on a plate in the fridge to rest and chill for half an hour.

When you are ready to cook the fishcakes, put a slug of oil and a knob of butter to heat in a frying pan. When the butter starts to bubble add the fishcakes, cooking on both sides until crisp and golden brown.

Meanwhile, prepare your salad putting the peas on to boil for a couple of minutes. Drain and then run under cold water. Crush the garlic clove and whisk it with the lemon juice, sugar and rapeseed oil.

Shred the little gem and finely slice the radish. Toss these and the peas with the salad dressing and serve with the crispy fishcakes.