Chilli & Almond Biscuits

When a recipe has equal amounts of butter, cheese and flour, you know the result will taste good. These spicy cheesey biscuits are lovely, crisp salty little snacks speckled with the pleasant contrast of the almonds.

ingredients:
175g unsalted butter, softened
175g grated strong cheddar
1 tsp chilli flakes
¾ tsp salt
2 tsp smoked paprika
1 small clove garlic, crushed
175g plain flour
2 tbsp ice-cold water
150g blanched almonds, roughly chopped

Haul your food processor out of the high cupboard where it’s stored. Roughly chop the butter into the food processor, add the cheese, chilli flakes, salt, paprika and crushed garlic, then let it whiz around for about a minute. Add in the flour and cold water, and keep whizzing away until you have a soft dough. Take it out of the food processor, and stir in the chopped almonds by hand so they don’t get too crushed up.

Get two sheets of baking paper, and spoon half the mixture onto each one. Roll them up into log about 4cm thick and 20cm long, and put them into the fridge or freezer until the dough is fully firm.

Heat up your oven to 180C (about 170C if fan forced). Cut 1cm thick slices off the dough sticks, and put them a few cms apart on lined biscuit trays. Bake for about 25 minutes, until golden, then slide the biscuits onto a cooling rack with a spatula.

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Myrtle Allen’s Brown Bread

This is such a fantastic bread for such low effort. It doesn’t require kneading, it can rise overnight in the fridge so you can bake it fresh in the morning, and the combination of molasses with the wholemeal flour is so tasty. Next time I’m going to use a smaller loaf tin so I can get a higher rise – the original recipe recommends a 22cm x 12cm loaf tin.

ingredients:
3 3/4 cup wholemeal flour
11 grams dry yeast
2 cups warm water
2 tblsps molasses
1 tblsp salt

Put half a cup of warm water in a bowl, and stir in the yeast and molasses. Leave for 10 minutes or so until it foams up a little. Add in another half cup of water, then stir in the flour and salt. Add around one further cup of warm water gradually until you’ve made a wet, sticky dough – I needed around 3/4 of a cup. Spoon the dough into an oiled bread/loaf tin. Cover the tin and then either:
a) put it in the fridge to rise overnight, which is what I did, or
b) set in a warm spot and allow to rise by one-third of its original size.

Heat up your oven to 230C, and bake the bread for 50 minutes, when it should be nicely browned and sound hollow when tapped. Tip the loaf out of the pan and onto a cooling rack to give a crustier finish. I think I waited about 15 minutes before cutting into the loaf for warm bread and butter, but I expect if you have a bit more discipline, you should probably wait until it cools properly.

Cashew & Date Biscuits

Chewy wholemeal biscuits studded with cashews or dates – or whatever combination of dried fruit and nuts you prefer. I adapted them fairly heavily from Dan Lepard’s blueberry choc chip cookies. Next time I think I’ll reduce the sugar a bit even more, or use one of those less sweet alternative sugars, like coconut sugar. It was a good toddler-baking-assistant recipe – plenty of stirring involved.

ingredients:
100g softened unsalted butter
25ml rice bran oil
150g brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
200g wholemeal flour
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
good pinch of salt
100g – 150g dried fruit, such as chopped dates
100g cashews or other nutes
75g rolled oats

Heat up your oven to 170C (or 160C if it’s fan-forced). Chop up the nuts and dried fruit. Beat the butter, oil and sugar together with a spoon until smooth, then beat in the egg and vanilla extract. Add the flour, bicarb and salt, beat it in well, then stir in the dried fruit and nuts. It mixes up to a fairly damp dough.

Line two biscuit trays. Scoop up spoonfuls of the biscuit dough and roll them into rough 2-3cm balls. Pass the balls to your toddler, and tell him or her to press them gently onto the biscuit tray. This instruction will be ignored. You may need to uncompress some of the biscuits a little before baking them for around 15 minutes, until they’re just started to brown at the edges. They’ll firm up as they cool, and you can transfer them to a cooling rack after 10 minutes or so.

Recent baking

I was moved to another area at work occupied by rather more people than the previous area I was in (I do refer to it as Cubicle Death Farm, but only in my head and mostly in an affectionate tone), which has given me a chance to try some new cake recipes and leave cakes in the kitchen for general consumption. Occasionally with apologetic post-it notes about burned bits, raw bits, and lumps. Sifting is so dull.

1. Gingerbread snacking cake from Smitten Kitchen (pictured above) is delightful – a really easy recipe that you can put together in one saucepan and bakes in half an hour. Lovely combination of spices, and you can easily halve the sugar. I used treacle instead of molasses, and it still has a nice depth.

2. Chocolate banana bread from Smitten Kitchen – this isn’t overly sweet, just nice and darkly chocolatey. I like banana bread, but I think it is only improved with the addition of chocolate. As are so many things!

3. Ginger & parsnip cake from Dan Lepard’s Short and Sweet – rather like a carrot cake, in that it uses grated raw parsnip, and a wonderfully spicy gingeriness. I’d like to try the alternate versions with turnips and swedes.

Wrapping up – 7 best recipes of the year

As part of smugly congratulating myself on cooking 100 new things, I had a scroll through my round-up posts, and thought I would list down my very favourite and/or most momentous recipes from the year. [Most momentous because I’ve listed the first Ottolenghi salad I made, and I know I am tediously repetitious on the subject, but every single one of his salad recipes are the best salad ever. But I can’t make an entire list of Ottolenghi salads. So the first one can stand in for all of them.]

1. Carrot Soup with Tahini and Roasted Chickpeas, recipe number 3 featured in the first round-up. It was one of those recipes where I really appreciated how all the slightly fiddly steps came together into essential flavour components.

2. Slow Braised Pork Shoulder with Cider – recipe number 4 in the first round-up. My first real attempt at braising and with such a spectacular result.

3. Date & Spinach Salad – my first Ottolenghi recipe! Recipe number 22 in the third round-up. It was the first in my “holy hell, this salad is amazing – oh, it’s an Ottolenghi recipe” revelations for the year.

4. Thomas Keller’s recipe for roast chicken – recipe number 39 in the fifth round-up. It was so very simple and resulted in such perfect juicy chicken.

5. Tourtiere – recipe number 54 from the sixth round-up. The first time I’d made a proper meat pie in this way, and this pork pie has a wonderful combination of flavours.

6. Strawberry & Rhubarb Pie – recipe number 71 from the seventh round-up. Mostly because it reminds me of this period when we were eating ever so many strawberries, strawberry and rhubarb is such a wonderful sweet/tart combo, and it was an amazing pie.

7. Shooters’ Sandwich – recipe number 97 from the last round-up. Just a truly awesome sandwich, and I like how portable it is.

100 new recipes: part nine and last

The project is finished! 100 new recipes in a year. It was great fun cooking so many new things, I discovered chefs that I’m now very fond of (Ottolenghi!) and made some completely new-to-me things such as yoghurt. I can’t say I kept up a consistent cooking pace and flagged at some points – my success owes a great deal to Vaxen’s unfailing enthusiasm and sourcing of recipes for me. Thanks Vaxen!

94/100: Stromboli – from this recipe. Basically a rolled pizza and pretty much as awesome as that concept sounds.

95/100: Eggplant Pie – from this recipe. Roasted eggplant is one of the most wonderful things in the world, and this silky cheesy pie is gorgeous.

96/100: Honey Maple Pumpkin Loaf – from this recipe. Lovely moist pumpkin loaf, greeted with toddler approval, during a period when so very few things were.

97/100: Shooters’ Sandwich – from this recipe. This whole concept is awesome. Squashing steaks and a caramelised onion mix inside a cob loaf overnight equals a really delicious sandwich, in wonderfully picnic-friendly slices.

98/100: Espresso Brownies – from this recipe. Very simple recipe makes a rather flat square of subtly coffee flavoured brownies.

99/100: Jamaican Black Cake – from half of this recipe. I didn’t make it as smoothly as a lot of picture you can see online, and it’s yet to be eaten – it smells amazing though (as I have it stored and am topping it up with rum, prior to Christmas Day). I totally stuffed up the burned sugar – it solidified into toffee. Update: post Christmas eating of cake – wonderful! Heady with fruit and rum, and didn’t obviously suffer from lack of burned sugar.

100/100: Cranberry & Pistachio Cookies – adapted from this recipe. I replaced the strawberries with dried cranberries and plums. Lovely buttery little cookies.

Et finis! I had so much fun actually completing a year long project that I’m now thinking about potential cooking projects for 2014, and trying not to settle on anything too excessively ambitious.

(Bonus 101/100 because it seems odd not to count the new recipe I made tonight – Ottolenghi’s Crisp Couscous Cakes from this recipe. These are gorgeous, albeit slightly tricky to keep together in neat little cakes – the perfect balance of crispness and softness, and the salty feta and sweet sultanas (in the case of my slightly amended recipe) worked beautifully together.

100 new recipes: part eight

The penultimate update! Only seven recipes to go.

73/100: Herb, Tofu & Kidney Bean Stew – from this recipe. This stew had such a beautiful combination of flavours, although it was an irritatingly fiddly recipe in terms of the steps involved. Freezing, defrosting then baking the tofu makes it wonderfully chewy.

74/100: Brioche – from this recipe. A two day process, with the number of risings, but relatively easy to make otherwise, and deliciously rich and soft.

75/100: Sardine & Breadcrumb Pasta – from this recipe. Lovely fishy pasta, with the bite of capers and crunchy breadcrumbs, and very quick to make.

76/100: Curried Carrot Soup – from this recipe. Warmly spicy soup, and gets the toddler seal of approval when mixed with congee.

77, 78 & 79/100: Roast Chicken, Mushroom & Leek Stuffing and Waldorf Salad – Waldorf salad from this recipe, mushroom and leek stuffing from this recipe, and roast chicken from Joy of Cooking. All three recipes went so well together – juicy roast chicken, rich mushroom stuffing and the crisp salad.

80/100: Congee – from this recipe. It’s barely a recipe – chicken stock and rice – but the slow cooking makes such a delicious rice porridge, perfect for babies.

81/100: Banana Bread with Honey – from this recipe. I replaced the sugar with honey – this was a very banana-y banana bread, very well received by the toddler.

82/100: West African Peanut Soup – from this recipe. A lovely spicy sweet potato soup.

83/100: Late Night Coffee Brined Chicken – from this recipe. I over brined the chicken, and it was a little too salty, but the coffee gave it a really lovely flavour.

84/100: Carrot & Quinoa Cake – from this recipe. I didn’t make the frosting, replaced the cup of sugar with half a cup of honey and soaked the dates in hot water before adding them in. It was delicious – very moist, and I felt the quinoa gave it a nice nutritional boost for the toddler.

85/100: Upside Down Buttermilk Pear Cake – from this recipe. This is such a quick recipe – a really easy batter, and sliced pears and sugar and butter syrup making the upside down topping. Beautiful caramel flavours.

86/100: Pumpkin Chickpea Almond Butter Bars – from this recipe. Another really lovely light cake for the toddler, full of chickpeas, almond butter, pumpkin and eggs.

87/100: Broccoli Salad with Hazelnut Romesco – from this recipe. Smokey romesco sauce goes beautifully over the almost crisp broccoli.

88/100: Beet Pesto Pasta – from this recipe. This was such a pretty recipe! Pretty pink pasta, slightly less pretty when hurled around the place by a toddler during “dinner”, and such lovely earthy flavours, with crunchy bits of pistachio.

89/100: Bloody Mary Burgers – from this recipe. I hadn’t really considered not overworking mince in burgers before, but it apparently makes a difference – these were so juicy, with a nice spicy kick from the sauces.

90/100: Cocoa Banana Bread – from this recipe. Deeply rich chocolate banana bread.

91/100: Herb Roasted Lamb Chops – from this recipe. Essentially a basic herb marinade, but god it was good with the lamb – garlicky and delicious.

92/100: Banana & Sour Cream Pancakes – adapted from from Smitten Kitchen’s cookbook. These are amazingly rich soft pancakes, and the slices of banana caramelise well.

93/100: Piadinas – from this recipe. I’d never made a fried quick bread before, and these were great – very quick and easy to make. (And probably would have cooked more evenly in a better frying pan. I need a cast iron skillet.)

100 new recipes: part seven

62/100: Braised Pork with Cabbage – from this recipe. Ridiculously easy, tender pork. Also, braising. I love braising.

63/100: Roasted Eggplant with Crispy Chickpeas – from a recipe in the Smitten Kitchen book, written about here. Nice easy unattended-in-the-oven dish, and the combo of silky roasted eggplant and crunchy chickpeas is great.

64/100: Bread Pudding – from this recipe. Lovely cheesy pudding, a big hit for breakfast with my one year old.

65/100: Grilled Chicken with Dry Spice Rub – from this recipe. For some reason I’d never made a dry rub before – this was great, lovely combination of spices.

66/100: Challah – from Mark Bittman’s recipe.

67/100: Mixed Bean Salad – from this recipe. Ottolenghi salad. Marvellous, as always.

68/100: Spiced Chickpea Salad – from this recipe. Another Ottolenghi salad (I served both this one and the Mixed Bean Salad at the same lunch). This one is amazing – the spices on the chickpeas are beautiful, and I loved the mixture of vegetables, including radishes.

69/100: Fresh Cheese – from Mark Bittman’s recipe, described here. A little bland, and could have done with more salt and more compression, but was lovely crumbled over salad, and an interesting experiment.

70/100: Oatmeal Cookies with Dried Peaches – from this recipe. Lovely chewy oatmeal cookies, and dried peaches are delightful.

71/100: Strawberry & Rhubarb Pie – from this recipe. Strawberries were plentiful and cheap here this winter. This was a beautiful pie – not only the beautiful pink filling, but the sweet and tart mixture of the strawberries and rhubarb was perfect. Looking at the photo of it makes me want another slice. I don’t make enough pies.

72/100: Red Wine Velvet Cake – from Smitten Kitchen’s cookbook, described here. This was a lovely birthday cake – the red wine doesn’t quite cook out and it has a headily intense flavour with the chocolate.

Challah

While I was making this loaf of challah, glancing down occasionally at my son “playing” around my feet (in other words, unravelling a roll of alfoil and emptied a drawer of baking implements), I realised that I hadn’t been making bread recently because breadmaking is a little more difficult with a toddler, or proto-toddler, than it is with a largely inert baby. Needing to make sudden interventions or pick up a grizzling child is hard when your hands are covered in dough. This excuse sounds ridiculous when the kneading part of breadmaking only comprises a few minutes, but for some reason there is always some baby-related disaster during those few minutes. He has a knack for it.

This is Mark Bittman’s recipe for challah, the “traditional Sabbath bread of European Jews”. It is a lovely soft, eggy bread, but is best eaten on the day it’s made, as it gets a bit dry. Second-day-challah is perfect for bread pudding or French toast, both of which are met with enthusiastic proto-toddler approval.

ingredients:
650 grams flour
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons instant yeast
1 tablespoon honey
3 eggs plus 1 egg yolk
325ml milk, warmed
poppy seeds or coarse salt for sprinkling, egg for egg glaze

Sprinkle the yeast into the warm milk, and leave it for five minutes, until it’s foamy and active.

Put the flour and salt into a large bowl. Crack the eggs and egg yolk into the middle, add the honey, then pour in the milk and yeast mixture. Mix everything together roughly with a fork, so that it’s mostly sticking together. Mark Bittman says if it’s dry, add in a little bit of milk until it’s wet enough to knead. He claims it is unlikely to be too wet. Mine was too wet, making me presume that I’d done something wrong along the way. Or perhaps Mr Bittman is simply too presumptuous about the state of my dough. (Oh, and obviously if it is too wet to knead, add a little bit of flour at a time until it’s kneadable.)

Check the whereabouts of your baby and hand them a distracting toy, because you’re about to get your hands covered in dough. Dump your rough mass of dough out onto your counter and knead away. It doesn’t need too much, just a few minutes until it’s smooth and elastic under your hands. Clean the bowl, and give it a light coating of oil. Pop the dough back into the bowl, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and leave it for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, until it’s roughly doubled in size.

Punch down the dough, and divide it into three similarly sized balls – weighing them if you want a nice evenly braided loaf. Leave the balls of dough to rest for about 15 minutes, then roll them out into ropes – about 36cm long, but there’s no need to be exact about it. You want your loaf to fit onto your baking tray (you should probably find a baking tray and lightly oil it, by the way). You can create all sorts of complicated braided loafs, or you can just plait your three strands like hair, and tuck the ends under. Let the dough rest for 30 minutes while you heat your oven up to 190C. Just before putting the bread in the oven, whisk up an egg and brush it over the loaf. (Generally, recipes call for an egg yolk, or an egg yolk plus a little water, but I’ve never seen the point of seperating an egg. This article on glazing kind of backs me up. Well, not really, but it concludes that many forms of glazing are acceptable.) If you like, sprinkle the glazed loaf with poppy seeds or coarse salt.

Cook the bread for 40 to 50 minutes, or until it’s nicely golden and sounds hollow when you tap the bottom of the loaf. I’m always a bit paranoid about undercooking bread, and I think I left this in a teenst bit too long, judging by the crust.

100 new recipes: part six

45/100: Sweet Potato & Chickpea Salad – from this recipe. Roasted sweet potatoes are obviously delicious, and this is a great substantial salad that also works as a main meal.

46/100: Muesli Muffins – from this recipe. I made a batch of these and froze them, and they were very handy to take to work for morning tea. They aren’t exactly delicious little cakes – they taste like the healthy little muesli and apple concoctions that they are, but they’re very tasty, particularly when warmed up.

47/100: Paleo Pumpkin Bread – from this recipe. Using raw grated pumpkin in this dish gives it a very different flavour to something made with cooked pumpkin. It’s more vegetabley than the sweetness you’d expect from cooked pumpkin. This is very much a savoury loaf, and was nice with a bit of avocado spread on it.

48/100: Granola – from this recipe. Any sort of homemade granola would be delicious, I think, and this recipe was really nice – sweet and crunchy, the perfect topping for yoghurt. Homemade yoghurt, of course! (Well, if you’ve been well organised and haven’t broken your slow cooker. No, I haven’t done anything like that. Stop giving me that look.)

49/100: Raw Beet Salad – from this recipe. I hereby pronounce Yotam Ottolenghi the King of Salads. All of his salad recipes are wonderful. This one is crunchy and refreshing and generally divine.

50/100: Roasted Cauliflower & Grape Salad – from this recipe, and another Ottolenghi salad. The combination of roasted cauliflower, grapes and cheese sounded weird to me, and yet it is just the perfect combination of nutty roasted cauliflower, salty cheese and sweet grapes.

51/100: Split Pea & Bacon Soup – adapted from this recipe. (Don’t click on that photograph, it looks like someone threw up in a bowl. Well, refrain from clicking and also put that unpleasant image out of your mind.) I added zucchini and sweet potato, which according to a horrified friend made this an “abomination!” and not a proper split pea soup at all. Despite my cooking crimes, it was delicious.

52/100: Spiced Beef with Hummus – from this recipe. That blog does a great job of making this dish look vastly more appealing. It’s a deliciously simple little midweek recipe, and the spices and hummus go beautifully together.

53/100: Chickpea & Choc Chip Cookies – from this recipe. These are made from whizzed up chickpeas, and the only thing that really stops them from tasting like little lumps of peanut butter and chickpeas is the liberal use of chocolate chips. They’re reasonably tasty gooey little morsels, but unfortunately nothing made with chickpeas is ever going to compare to an actual cookie made from flour, despite people’s emphatic attempts to convince you that “no-one will know the difference!”. Yes, they will.

54/100: Tourtière – from this recipe and using this recipe for the pastry. Both recipes were excellent – the pastry is rich and buttery (just don’t think too hard about the amount of butter/fat in it), and this is a fantastic pie – not as intensely pork-y as it smells while the filling is cooking (which I was pleased about, not being a really enthusiastic fan of pork except in the form of bacon. I mean, obviously. I’m not insane.)

55/100: Grown Up Birthday Cake – from this recipe. The cup of olive oil and a cup of white wine included in this cake batter sounded odd to me, and I don’t know that I would have made it if it hadn’t been recommended to me. I should always disregard my instincts because this is lovely, with a very delicate flavour, and as per the title, a great birthday cake for adults.

56/100: Butter Tarts – from this recipe. These are like… gooey little caramel syrup bombs. Delicious.

57/100: Naan Bread – from this recipe. Soft, delicious naan bread – a quick accompaniment to curry for dinner.

58/100: Seed Loaf – from this recipe. Is this a “loaf of bread” that will “change your life”? No, it is not. Well, perhaps the discovery of seed loaf might change your life, I don’t know. I don’t judge. (I do, actually, but I do so in the full knowledge that I’m a terrible person, so that’s all right.) But it is a nice seed loaf with a good combination of nuts and seeds.

59/100: Quinoa & Vegetable Slice – roughly adapted from this recipe. How to get your reluctant partner to eat quinoa? And zucchini? Surround them with eggs and bacon. A good way of incorporating leftover cooked quinoa into a weeknight dinner.

60/100: Beetroot & Red Cabbage Slaw – from this recipe. It’s another Ottolenghi salad. I don’t need to tell you that it’s delicious. Of course it is.

61/100: Cashew & Cauliflower Mash – from this recipe. Put aside the fact that it’s inspired by a recipe from a Tim Ferriss book (I know, try and suppress your nausea), and that it’s described as satisfying carb cravings “without the guilt”, simply focus on the fact that this is cauliflower cooked with coconut milk and cashews. It’s beautiful. It’s amazing. You can eat it with everything. I am having a bit of a love affair with cauliflower at the moment though, so I might be slightly biased.