Saturday, 11 May 2013

Refrigerator cookie renaissance?

When I was little, I'd look through my mother's cookbooks and see these old-fashioned recipes for 'icebox cookies'.  

But we almost never made them - baking was something you did in the afternoon, not something you started the night before.  

Then, this year, I was given a new cookbook by my friend Jacky - one of those classic, everything you might want to bake books.  So, faced with the need to prepare something for the Christian Aid Coffee morning at church, I thought I'd try some shortbread. Only to discover that the dough needs to sit in the fridge over night - argh!  

But, you know what, I think ice-box cookies might suit our generation even better than that of our grandmothers. I mixed up the dough last night after work, and sliced it this morning for baking before the sale.  Brilliant. I do most of my baking at night after the kids are in bed, so I can even see a scenario where I make the dough one night, and bake the next.  Spreads out the dirty dishes too. 

However, I must confess. I baked one batch last night, when the dough had only chilled for a couple of hours.  Not only did it work fine, but the family loved them.  Best shortbread we've ever made (translation: they scarfed the lot). 

Do check out the cookbook, but here's the recipe if you're curious:  

110g butter
50g light brown sugar (we used light muscovado)
160g spelt flour
plus demerara sugar for rolling

Mix all the ingredients in a food processor (I was just able to jam all the ingredients in my little food processor that attaches the handy blender), until it forms a soft dough.  Then roll into a short cylinder and roll in demerara sugar.  wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for a few hours (or longer).  Slice into 12-14 rounds - not too thin, and bake on greased cookie sheets for about 30 minutes at 160C.  

Remove carefully from the sheets and cool.  

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Strawberry and rhubarb jam

2012's jam of the year was definitely strawberry-rhubarb.

It's quite popular in North America, but here in Scotland, every time I say to people 'I just made some fab strawberry-rhubarb jam', they look disapprovingly at me and say 'oh, *we* make rhubarb-ginger'.

We also tried strawberry-gooseberry, but it wasn't terribly successful. We'd picked a lot of gooseberries, but they didn't have much flavour, and jamming didn't help much. It looks nice though.

What will we discover in 2013?

Pick your own season coming up soon...

Picking 'strawbies' at Craigie's
Our jam making started three summers ago, when we first acquired a bike-trailer. In fact, this was just a trial run, when the trailer was on loan from the previous owners. We brought back the trailer full of strawberries and made lots and lots of jam. They were pretty squashed when they got home (stopping at friends' for a BBQ en route), so the jamming was pretty apocalyptic, but it all tasted good in the end. 

It also convinced us of the great value of a bike trailer, but it was quite a ride with some big hills - albeit also great views at the inch.

The next year, we cycled to Craigie's instead. It's flatter, and there's an off-road cycle path most of the way. It always seems to rain, but somehow we have fun nonetheless. 

We've picked strawberries, gooseberries and currants there.  
Currants at Craigies.

The fruit seems to arrive home in better shape too, but you'll have to wait for pictures of that in the next post.

Right now I'm just looking forward to our next picking expedition (and hoping it doesn't rain).

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Yogurt with mangoes and peaches

We somehow ended up with South African peaches (marked down for quick sale) and Mexican honey mangoes in the fruit bowl today.  They provided a divine excuse to taste test our yogurt experiment.

My mom always made yogurt when I was a kid, but we're spoiled by good yogurt in the shops and have never quite got around to making our own.  This week, however, we were down to our last few spoonfuls, and, inspired by a Nigel Slater account, decided to have a go at replenishing our supplies, rather than popping across the road to Scotmid.

Our first go used a couple of tablespoons of Yeo Valley as starter.  It was okay, but a bit bland.  So then we tried Pakeeza, which turned out a little sour, but not much flavour.  Best of all so far was a little tub of 'Loch Arthur' which we bought specially for starter.  So, no money saved there. But it was really nice and made for yogurt that was just about right in terms of flavour and texture.

The preferred method so far is 500 ml whole fat milk, warmed for about 2 min in the microwave, until it reaches 46C.  Then stir in 3 tablespoons milk powder, and 2 generous tablespoons of starter.  Then, I sit it on a hot mat, and under a tea-cosy, in a warmed up (but turned off) oven.  Next morning, Voila! pop the yogurt in the fridge, and slice the mangoes.

Mangoes have started to appear...

Mango is without doubt our most popular chutney, if you measure popularity in terms of requests for the recipe (not to mention how quickly we run out).  It's actually a tremendously simple recipe from Delia, which we have hardly tweaked at all as it turns out so well.  

We usually make it in June when all the halaal shops have big boxes of Pakistani honey mangoes  but have had surprisingly good results with mangoes from Peru in February.  But this year, we've found honey mangoes from Mexico in the shops in May!

We always use a very dark muscovado sugar, in place of the light brown sugar that Delia recommends, which may be why some of our testers refuse to believe that we've not added tamarind. It's all those requests for the recipe that made me start the blog - as a place to share and reflect on our favourite recipes. 

This is shaping up to be a fabulous mango season - enjoy!