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Monthly Archives: November 2011

Ok, so I know that Christmas has barely even started and most of you probably haven’t even seen the Christmas Coca-Cola advert yet (the true indication of the holidays), but trust me, you will fall head over heels for these spiral rolls that capitalise Christmas with a very cranberry capital C. After recipe testing for the December issue of Brig, I have been left with a ramekin of leftover cranberry sauce and barely any roast chicken to make sandwiches. So I have decided to put this Christmas essential to good use, by spreading across a thick, pillow-soft dough, dredging with cinnamon and rolling up into pinwheels that will taste good for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Adapted from Good Food

You Will Need

For the Dough:

550g strong white bread flour, with extra for dusting

Zest of ½ a Clementine

2 x 7g sachets easy bake yeast

85g caster sugar

½ teaspoon salt

85g butter, with extra for greasing

1 egg

250ml warm milk

A little olive oil

 

For the Filling:

Leftover cranberry sauce

Small handful of pistachios, shelled and chopped

Small handful dried apricots, chopped

1 teaspoon cinnamon

 

To Decorate:

Melted butter

Icing sugar

Mix the flour, yeast, caster sugar, salt and Clementine zest in a large bowl. Add the butter and rub in with your fingertips. Beat the egg with the warmed milk and pour onto the flour mix. Stir with a knife, and then bring together with your hands.

If you have a hand mixer, use the dough hook attachments as the dough is very sticky. If not, never fear. Instead, tip onto a floured work surface and knead for 10 minutes until smooth. Oil the bowl , place the dough back inside and cover with cling film. Place in a warm place for 45 minutes to an hour to double in size.

Butter and line a deep tray with baking parchment. Roll out the risen dough on a floured work surface into a rectangle. Spread the cranberry sauce across the dough, top with the pistachios and apricots and sprinkle over the cinnamon. Carefully roll up the dough lengthways, trim the ends and cut into equal pieces. Lay the slices in the tin facing upwards, cover with cling film and leave to rise a second time for a further 45 minutes to an hour.

Heat the oven to 190oc/170oc/gas mark 5. Remove the cling film and bake for 15-20 minutes until golden. Brush over the melted butter and sieve over the icing sugar. Serve warm with a cup of coffee, and keep your fingers and toes crossed for snow.

Sometimes it feels like such a sin when fast food becomes synonymous with deep fried chicken, fries and a LOT of cheese. Of course, now and then we all like to indulge and there’s nothing wrong with that – I had to stop myself from hopping on a bus for a McDonalds earlier. Sometimes, you can’t deny yourself McNuggets after a day of PR research. And yet sometimes, a nice bowl of spicy noodles, filled with some brightly coloured veg, a crunch of chopped peanuts and a nice twist of lime is enough of a boost to reinvigorate your essay writing.

I haven’t really experimented much with Asian cooking and to be honest, I’ve no idea how authentic this dish really is. However, I have dipped my toes into the cuisine with my recent purchases of rice wine vinegar and the fairly pungent shall we say fish sauce. Of course, you could make the dish without these ingredients but sometimes it’s kind of fun to take a risk, and this one certainly pays off. Just don’t judge me for using olive oil to finish it off – sometimes you can’t get away from old favourites.

Serves One

You Will Need

1 tablespoon olive oil, plus extra for drizzling

½ white onion, sliced

1 garlic clove, crushed

½ red chilli, finely chopped, seeds removed

1 red cabbage leaf, sliced

A handful of bean sprouts

1 sachet of straight to wok noodles

1 dessert spoon fish sauce

1 dessert spoon rice wine vinegar

1 lime, juiced

A handful of dry roasted peanuts, chopped

Freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oil in a large frying pan or wok and add the onion and cabbage. Stir fry for 5 minutes and then add the chilli and garlic, cooking for a further minute. Add the beansprouts and noodles and cook for 3 minutes, adding the fish sauce and rice wine vinegar as you stir to coat the vegetables and noodles evenly. Squeeze over the lime and stir through the peanuts. Transfer to a warmed bowl, top with a drizzle of oil and freshly ground pepper, and eat with chopsticks or a fork.

A couple of weeks ago, I decided to let my imagination run away with me and get creative in the kitchen. Armed with only a stand mixer and my imagination, I soon created what I thought would be a masterpiece – individual pear drop meringue tarts. As I photographed my handiwork, confident that I had something brilliant to share the world, I felt like I had cracked this baking lark. And then I sliced it up. The insides oozed out like a bad cold, the meringue wasn’t crispy enough, and my laziness in procuring butter meant my shortcut of stork made my pastry taste like oil. The word disappointment didn’t even begin to describe my heartache and my so-called masterpiece went in the compost bin. If I had a dog, the poor thing would have probably turned its nose up at it as well.

Baking, in many ways, can be a science. Ever heard Paul Hollywood on Great British Bake Off talk about stretching the gluten or complicated crumb structure? As complicated and crazy as it sounds, it’s practically the same as creating an experiment in a chemistry lab. What will happen if I add more liquid? What if I overwork the dough? Who will I punch when my soufflé collapses? The whos, whats and whys of baking are largely down to someone throwing a load of ingredients together and praying for the best. Which I suppose was what I was trying to do when I created my pear mishap. Sometimes experiments work really well, like my white peach scones, but other times, it will just be a disaster. Of course for a lot of people, following a recipe can be complicated enough, so it can be ten times as frustrating when a dish still doesn’t work. I suppose cooking and baking experimentation isn’t for everyone, but I do like the idea of coming across a great combination by chance. I am by no means a professional and have no desire to get ‘cheffy’ and learn to love all these Paul Hollywood terms. I love to bake. And what’s more, the disasters will always be a plenty.

There is very little you can do to avoid a baking disaster. But, more often than not, problems will arise by simply not following the recipe. This is any baker’s main pitfall. Using the correct depth, width and size of tin will make all the difference between a cakey brownie and a soft, fudgy one. Too much or too little sugar and you’ll either be left with diabetes or a tasteless Victoria sponge. The temptation to open the oven is perhaps the biggest problem to be faced with, especially if your oven door has no window, or the light has blown. ALWAYS wait until at least halfway through baking to check, otherwise your creation will head south, collapsing like your sinking heart. And checking your oven is set to the correct temperature will be key to your success.

But what about those times when it all just GOES WRONG? That time you (sorry, I) made a tart au citron, forgetting to place the pastry case in the oven first, and then filling with the lemon mix. Then the moment you over filled it. The gung-ho optimism of “I’ll make it work!”, and the subsequent spillage all over the clean floor. Throwing it in the oven with desperation, then turning, sliding in the lemon filling that’s all over the floor, and, in a moment You’ve Been Framed would be proud of, falling straight on your arse. And then there’s that internal dilemma. Do you cry, the past three hours of rubbing butter through your fingertips, juicing lemons and whisking eggs now smeared across your skinnies? Of course, I felt like it but instead, I howled with laughter. The tart was now soaked and the pastry was raw. And what did I learn? NEVER FILL THE CASE BEFORE PUTTING IN THE OVEN!

That’s the thing about baking. You can devour cooking books and be a literary expert, but if you’ve never experienced a scrambled custard, yolk in your meringues and a chocolate sponge the same height and texture as a Frisbee (me again), you’ll never learn. And when you do, keep a smile on your face. And a camera ready for your You’ve Been Framed £200.

So after a brilliant Halloween that had me and my friends traipsing all over Stirling, attempting to find somewhere that possessed decent tunes and a licensed bar that wouldn’t have us queuing for an hour to get into, the next day I was in possession of an ever so slightly delicate head. Normally this is remedied with a quick trip to McD’s, but living on campus has somewhat stunted this tradition (not to mention my car is in ‘Muchty and slightly poorly). The campus shop had also disappointed me with its lack of chicken supernoodles (seriously, what is that all about? Neon noodles with a hint of artificial chicken are the only ones worth stocking Nisa). So me and Nicola made the (somewhat bad decision) to hit the atrium burger bar, in the hopes their £3.85 burger meal would contain enough salt and grease to get me through Advanced Reporting.

Alas it was not to be. Sodexo’s attempt to bring the students of Stirling tasty fast food fell flatter than my attempts at a fat-less sponge (more on that in an upcoming post). Never before have I seen a burger so burnt that hadn’t been ‘cooked’ on a BBQ. Said burger was having a great time swimming in a  strange concoction of mayo and ketchup, all housed in a roll that was the size of a small dinner plate. Couple that with the depressing sliver of lettuce that had given up on life about a week ago, and you have the standard offering from the food outlet.

Naturally, I was upset and annoyed having shelled out for something so gross when I could have made something far better with less money. So please don’t make the same mistake as me and instead make some breadcrumbs, fire up the frying pan and create the ultimate chicken burger.

 

Serves 1 (easily doubled)

 

You Will Need

 

1 chicken breast, skin removed

1oz (25g) plain flour

1 egg, beaten

A large handful of breadcrumbs (to make, simply blitz some stale bread in a blender. White or brown bread is fine)

A small handful of grated parmesan

Salt and pepper

1-2 large floury potatoes (I love Roosters)

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 sprig fresh rosemary, leaves removed and finely chopped (alternatively, use 1 tablespoon of dried rosemary)

Rolls, mayo and lettuce to serve

 

  1. Preheat the oven to 200oc/180oc fan/Gas Mark 4. Slice the potatoes into fairly chunky chips (about 1cm thick). Add to a pan of cold water with a pinch of salt. Bring to the boil.
  2. Once boiled, drain and place onto an oiled baking sheet. Drizzle over the olive oil and season well with salt and pepper. Add the rosemary and make sure each chip is coated well. Place in the oven for 20 minutes.
  3. After 20 minutes has passed, take out the chips and turn. Place back into the oven for a further 20 minutes. Meanwhile, take out three plates or bowls. In one, add the beaten egg, another the flour and the third the breadcrumbs and parmesan. On a chopping board, flatten the chicken breast with a rolling pin. Then dip into the flour, making sure it’s coated well, then the egg and finally the breadcrumb mix.
  4. Heat a frying or griddle pan under a medium to high heat. Drizzle over a little oil. Add the chicken breast and fry for around 5 minutes on each side until cooked through. If your chicken burger still needs longer, simply place on the tray with the chips and the heat from the oven will finish it off. To serve, place in a bun spread with mayo, add the lettuce and plate up with the chips.

P.S I dressed up as the Black Swan. Like the costume?