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Strawberry Doughnut // VSPP

When I was on study leave during high school, I would have a little lunchtime tradition for spurring me on/consoling my efforts/congratulating me on a good exam (delete as appropriate). I’d walk up to our local shop in the village to purchase a packet of chicken supernoodles (classy) and a pink doughnut from the bakery display right at the front of the store. Filled with all sorts of creations, throughout my childhood i would choose between the fat, thickly-iced cupcakes half dipped in sprinkles with a solitary smartie on the other side, empire biscuits with sparkling jelly sweets and my sister’s favourite, the mallow cone. But when it came to my teenage years, I would always go for a pink dough-ring to accompany my super healthy lunch, normally consumed ignoring my history notes and watching awful wedding shows on the obscure sky channels.

I have to admit there is always the temptation to purchase one when I go back home, stuffed into a paper bag, the icing sticking to the paper. Eaten on the sofa accompanied by a coffee, luckily without any school notes to ignore. The only doughnuts available around these parts are those mass produced versions in neat rounds with perfect sprinkles, stuffed with sickly sweet jam or the tiny ones sold in plastic boxes in volumes of 15. Sometimes you just want a bite of nostalgia. So naturally, I turned to the kitchen.

Iced Strawberry Doughnuts // VSPP

I’ve been desperate to try homemade doughnuts for months, but have been rather put off by a lot of sources. One of my baking books (intended for the home baker) announces one shouldn’t bother if they don’t own a temperature regulated deep fat fryer. Others stick to baked doughnuts which are more cake-like their slightly-crisp fried counterparts. But despite the off-putting posts and books, I was keen to give it a go and thus my interpretation of my study leave doughnut was born.

I won’t lie, fried doughnuts aren’t the most therapeutic of baking projects – if you need to whack the heck out of a dough then choose a bread rather than this enriched one, as it is very delicate and sticky. But after all the proving, frying and dipping in glaze, they are picture perfect even if they are a bit knobbly, squint and lopsided. But I think that’s what I love about them – you couldn’t just pick up one of these doughnuts in a supermarket. They may not be uniform, but they are born from my nostalgic memories of those study leave lunches and to me, that’s what makes them perfect.

Strawberry Icing Blob // VSPP

 

Adapted slightly from Joy the Baker

 

You Will Need

1 sachet fast action dried yeast, plus two tablespoons warm (not tepid) water

240g plain flour, plus extra for dusting

3 egg yolks

60g unsalted butter, room temperature

250ml whole milk, room temperature

2 tbsp caster sugar

1 tsp salt

1 tsp vanilla paste (optional)

Vegetable oil for frying and kitchen towel to drain excess oil

 

For the strawberry glaze

150g icing sugar

2 – 3 tbsp boiling water

4 drops strawberry flavouring

2-3 drops red gel food colouring

Enriched Doughnut Dough Ingredients

In a bowl, whisk together the yeast and the water and leave for five minutes until the mixture is foamy and bubbling.

Doughnut Dough before Proving

In the bowl of a stand mixer fixed with the dough hook attachment, add the flour, yolks, butter, milk, sugar, salt and vanilla if using, and mix on low speed until combined, then up the speed to medium high for three minutes. Stop the machine and scrap down to ensure it’s all combined, then sprinkle with flour to prevent a crust from forming then cover the bowl with a clean tea towel and place in a warm environment to prove for 1 ½ to 2 hours – I placed mine next to the boiler.

Doughnut Dough after first Prove

Once proved and doubled in size, carefully empty the dough onto a clean, well floured work surface and roll to ½ inch thickness with a floured rolling pin. Using round cutters around 2-3 inches wide, cut around nine circles from the dough and using a small 1 inch cutter or bottle top, cut out holes from the middle of the doughnuts. Don’t re-roll scraps. Line a baking sheet with baking parchment and spread with an even layer of flour then carefully place the doughnuts on the sheet, adding the doughnut holes to be used as testers. Cover with the tea towel and leave to prove for a further 30 minutes.

Doughnut Dough after first prove

Once the doughnuts have puffed up slightly, fill a heavy bottomed pan with vegetable oil and heat to 180oc on a sugar or digital thermometer. Carefully remove a doughnut hole from the sheet and place in the oil, cooking for one minute on either side. Remove from the pan once cooked and drain on a plate covered with paper towels. It should be golden and cooked inside. Repeat with the remaining doughnut holes, keeping an eye on the temperature before cooking the doughnuts.

Start with one doughnut to gauge the speed they cook and aim to fry for two minutes on either side, using a timer to guide you. If the doughnuts are cooking too quickly, take the pan off the heat and continue frying – the oil should come down in temperature slightly but keep using your thermometer to check. Once golden either side, remove each doughnut using a fish slice and drain on paper towels before transferring to a paper towel lined wire rack to cool completely. Repeat until all the doughnuts have been fried.

To make the glaze, whisk together the icing sugar and the boiling water to a paste, adding a little more water if necessary to make it smooth but not too runny. Add the flavouring and the colouring – I went for baby pink which was around three drops, but if you want a deeper colour add a few more. Chose the best side of each doughnut and dip in the icing, carefully twisting and letting the excess drip off before leaving to dry on the wire rack. Once the iced doughnuts have dried, serve with coffee. They are best eaten the day they are made.

Strawberry Doughnut // VSPP

 

Blueberry Lemon Poppy Seed Banana Loaf

This is the first time I have ever made banana bread. I know, I know – saying so is like admitting you’ve never melted Scotbloc to make rice krispie cakes, licked cake batter off your elbows or baked Tom and Jerry strawberry cakes from a packet. It’s one of these fundamental starter recipes, like scones or pancakes, walking hand in hand with blackened bananas to create something new from something old. It’s like wasteless baking. Good for the soul.

But it’s no surprise that I don’t have surplus bananas lingering on the windowsill, slowly speckling from muddy brown to black in the sunlight. I’m not a massive fan of the fruit as it is – I’ll rather blend it frozen into a mango smoothie or bake it on hot coals for a smoky, apple sauce texture. But I somehow had a hankering for a loaf cake last week, so I dutifully smacked around a couple of bananas and left them to age for two weeks. I’ve heard this makes the flavour of the cake more intense and judging from the result, I would say that method has its merits.

over ripe bananas for banana bread

I researched a few recipes before I came across this one on the BBC Good Food site, but I wanted to cram in as much flavour as possible – anything sunshiny that will distract from this miserable month of January.  I decided it needed some extra texture, and so added my favourite lemon and poppy seed combination for a little crunch and a citrusy zing. At the last minute, I threw in a handful of blueberries in impulse and I am glad I did – they burst into pools of colour and give the cake a lovely spring-like flavour.

I love the way this loaf slices; each thick, doorstop slice is speckled with poppy seeds and you can see little golden flecks of lemon here and there, spread throughout the loaf. A jammy burst of blueberry punctuates the slice, adding a sweet stickiness with each bite. I had planned to add a lemon glaze, but I greedily hacked into it with a bread knife and immediately decided there was nothing else required. It might seem simplistic, but some of the best bakes are. I still have fond memories of those strawberry fairy cakes after all.

Slice of Blueberry Lemon Poppy Seed Banana Loaf

 

Adapted slightly from BBC Good Food

 

You Will Need

140g unsalted butter, softened

140g caster sugar

2 eggs, lightly beaten

140g self-raising flour

1 tsp baking powder

2 very ripe bananas, mashed

1 tbsp poppy seeds

Zest of 1 lemon, plus ½ to ¾ juice to taste

80g blueberries

 

A couple of things to point out – I followed the original recipe’s specifications for a 2 lb loaf tin and was returned with slightly flatter banana bread although it did take a shorter time to bake. If you prefer the look of a taller cake, go for a 1 lb and bake for a little longer – you might want to add a tin foil hat to the top to stop it browning too much.

banana bread ingredients

Preheat an oven to 180oc/160oc fan and grease and line a 2 lb loaf tin with baking parchment. Place the butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and a third of the flour and beat again. Add the remaining flour and baking powder and beat again to a thick batter. Add the mashed banana, poppy seeds and lemon zest and juice and beat together. Fold in the blueberries then pour the mix into the tin, levelling with a spatula. Bake in the oven for 40 minutes until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Remove the tin from the oven and cool for 10 minutes then lift out of the tin and leave to cool completely on a wire rack. Cut into slices and serve with coffee.

Blueberry Lemon Poppy Seed Banana Loaf and Black Coffee

Bourbon and Apple Spiked Mince Pies

Tradition is a beautiful thing, especially at Christmas time. We swap bouquets of flowers for bursting bundles of festive red poinsettias, potted and perfect for thrusting into the arms of our loved ones when we arrive home in time for December 25. We drink fizzy wine before noon, because everyone is jolly and a good drink bursting with bubbles just adds to the specialness of this time of year. We all eat like gannets, cheering plates of turkey to the table with applause, dousing puddings and dumplings in brandy and setting it all aflame like it’s the most natural thing in the world. Finding money in your dessert is considered good luck, as is scratching the initials of your beloved on a sprig of holly and placing it under your pillow on Christmas Eve. You make the effort to take yourself off to church even if it is only a once-yearly tradition and well up at the true meaning of Christmas during the final few minutes of every festive film on television. Ah, that most wonderful time of year, in all its tinselled, sweet smelling, snow laden glory.

As much as I do love all the elements of a traditional Christmas, or at least my family’s version of it, I do like to switch it all up now and again. Putting up a Christmas tree isn’t a family occasion anymore now that me and my sister have moved, but getting my own tree with my flatmate felt like a wonderful compromise. Without decades of collected baubles, tinsel and decorations, it’s a sparse little thing but it makes me smile so much when I come in from the cold. Plus it’s the real deal, which you don’t get from my parent’s tree which gets fluffed up each year from colour coded bin bags.

christmas tree

And similarly, my little home isn’t perfumed with treacle and sugar the way it is when my mam makes clootie dumpling, or that sticky crumbly smell from tray upon tray of mince pies. Recreating Christmas from scratch feels daunting but it’s also an opportunity for creativity, which is why I wanted to share my mince pie recipe – with a twist of course.

My tipple of choice at the moment is bourbon; like whisky’s sweeter younger sister, its beautiful poured over ice with a squeeze of lemon, stirred into a comforting hot toddy or – as the barmen at The Tippling House will attest – in an Old Fashioned. I wanted to bring that sweetness to the classic mince pie, but with a busy job and Christmas shopping to complete, a full-blown homemade mincemeat was too much to tackle. But spiking a pre-made jar with apple, lemon and a good shot of bourbon? That’s my kind of baking.

unbaked mince pies

Putting your own stamp on mincemeat is a great way to save yourself time but more importantly, it gives you that all important chance to get creative and start your own traditions. The coarsely grated apple gives these mince pies extra bite while the lemon just lifts the flavour slightly. But that beautiful bourbon makes each bite sticky and unctuous – the filling seeping out the sides almost like caramel makes these crumbly mince pies hard to resist. For extra time saving, whizz up the pastry in a food processor but it’s not a necessary step. What is necessary is that you make merry this time of year in the traditional way – your way.

 

Adapted from Nigel Slater’s Perfect Mince Pie Recipe

 

You Will Need

150g cold unsalted butter, cubed

300g plain flour

1 egg yolk (save the white for marshmallows!)

2-3 tbsp water

1 jar mincemeat

1 small apple, coarsely grated – I used braeburn

2-3 tbsp bourbon

Zest of 1 lemon

Icing sugar to finish

perfect mince pie pastry

If using a food processor, place the butter and flour in the bowl and then pulse to a breadcrumb consistency. Add the egg yolk and pulse again before adding two tablespoons of the water and mixing again. If it looks too dry then add another until you have a smooth dough.

If making by hand, rub the butter and flour between your fingers to the breadcrumb stage then whisk in the egg yolk and water and bring together to a smooth dough with your hands.

processor made pastry

Turn the pastry out onto a floured surface and knead briefly until it comes together then cut in half and reserve one half for the tops of the mince pies. Preheat the oven at this point – 200oc or 180oc for a fan oven. Also look out your tin – I used a fairy cake tin which is fairly shallow, but for deep filled pies use a muffin tin – although you will make a smaller amount of pies if you do this.

mince pie pastry

Dust a rolling pin with flour and roll out one half as thin as possible – I went for around the thickness of a 50p. This dough is quite mallable so you can get away with it easier. Cut 12 circles using a cutter slightly bigger than your tartlet holes, re-using the scraps as you go. Press each circle into the tartlet holes, prick with a fork then place the tray in the fridge to avoid the pastry shrinking while you prepare the filling.

spiked mincemeat

Scoop the jar of mincemeat into a large bowl and stir in the grated apple, bourbon and lemon. Remove the tray from the fridge and place teaspoons of the mincemeat in each pastry case. Roll out the second half of the pastry and cut stars for the tops, pressing firmly on top of each pie.

filling mince pies

Bake in the oven for 20 minutes then remove and wait for the mincemeat to stop bubbling before scooping each pie out using a teaspoon and leaving to cool on a wire rack. You will have pastry and mincemeat left over at this point, so repeat the steps until it is all used up – I managed a further seven mince pies. Dust the mince pies liberally with icing sugar and serve warm.

mince pies

Winter Spiced Plum Galette

Britain has a love affair with pies. They are the stalwarts of summer picnics; fat little pork and jelly parcels bundled up with hot water pastry and slice-me-up shortcrust filled with ham, beaten eggs and cheese. Then there is the autumnal arrival of those tart Bramley apples that upon baking become fluffy and sweet, caged up in precise latticework and served with Birds Eye custard, the jolly yellow colour that reminds us that we can never be bothered to make it from scratch. Then there is winter, with unctuous mincemeat dripping with suet, currants and booze that is spooned into the family sweet pastry recipe and served up from the middle of November. Yes, we love a good pie.

Upon thinking, it seems there isn’t much room for haphazardness with Great Britain’s love of pie; each recipe is carefully constructed and moulded to produce the same product time and time again. Ok, perhaps some families top their mince pies with stars, others a smooth disc of shortcrust, but they are all the same. Could they be a bit…boring?

folded unbaked galette

I think that is why I like galettes so much. They are a free form pie, a kind of ‘I fancy pie but don’t want the faff of lining a tin, blind baking and measuring lattice strips with a tape measure’ type pie. This recipe is actually a leftover one, using the cinnamon pastry from my Cranberry and Clementine Christmas Pies. Since that was taken care of, all the effort went into dressing some ripe plums in brown sugar and spices before being baked into a beautiful festive pie. Because there is barely any effort involved in this recipe it might be a nice one to serve on Christmas Eve using mince pie pastry off cuts. Bear in mind this pie would probably only serve two, so if you want to feed a crowd, use a full quantity of cinnamon pastry and double the filling, perhaps baking for around 5 to 10 minutes longer. Either way it gives a stunning result and is the perfect antidote to perfect pies everywhere. Fancy a slice?

 

You Will Need

1 quantity of leftover cinnamon pastry from *this recipe*

3 ripe plums

¼ tsp ground cinnamon, plus extra to finish

¼ tsp ground ginger

A few pinches of nutmeg

A few twists of cracked black pepper

1 tbsp soft light brown sugar, plus extra to finish

1 tbsp plain flour

1 egg, beaten

Spiced plums and sugar

Preheat an oven to 200oc/ 180oc fan and line a large baking sheet with baking parchment. Remove the pastry from the fridge and leave to come to room temperature slightly.

Slice the plums into eighths and place in a medium sized bowl. Sprinkle over the spices and sugar and stir to combine. Sprinkle over the flour then combine again. Set aside.

Flour a clean work surface then carefully roll the pastry to a rough circle that is around the size of a 20cm sandwich tin. Don’t worry if the edges are jagged, a rustic looking galette is quite nice. Roll to around 5mm thickness then carefully transfer to the baking sheet. Don’t worry if a piece breaks off, just press it back on and roll with a rolling pin to bring back together.

Cover in Sugar

Pile the spiced fruit in the middle of the pastry then fold up the sides. The best way to do this is to fold up one piece then move clockwise overlapping slightly and pinching a little. Brush the pastry with the beaten egg and sprinkle over a little cinnamon and brown sugar to finish. Bake in the oven for around 20-25 minutes until the pastry is golden and the fruit jammy. Remove from the oven and leave to cool slightly before serving warm. A dollop of vanilla ice cream adds the perfect cooling texture.

Serve with Ice Cream

IMG_5590

It definitely feels like winter in Aberdeen. Sure the streets are covered in soggy amber leaves, late afternoons become thick with the incoming darkness and Starbucks runs out of Pumpkin Spice Lattes (this did actually happen to me today). But this morning the air was frostier; that way where the cold hits your nose first then spreads across your face and you touch your nose and think ‘Oh! I’m quite cold!’ New jumpers are purchased in a deep plum colour (I am never far away from food even when clothes shopping) and I am considering a pair of fleece-lined tights for extra warmth. Nowhere does autumn quite like Aberdeen.

I’m also prone to sticking my full face in a steaming mug of black coffee, willing the swirls of heat to warm my face after a brisk journey to work. I find that the perfect accompaniment to this late morning ritual is a couple of pieces of this warming shortbread. Its a fairly classic recipe in our household and is often relied upon for marathon baking sessions, Christmas or really any occasion that calls for truly melt-in-the-mouth shortbread, a term that is so heavily relied upon in food writing it sometimes loses its meaning. In this case, I feel it is entirely justified.

To warm up this old favourite, I added some quintessential A/W flavours to the wet and dry mixes. First fragrant orange zest hits creamed not crumbled butter and sugar (it always confuses me at first) and is evenly distributed between the sweet and creamy blend with a quick blast of my Kenwood. Ground ginger meets plain and corn flour and is added to the mix in one go, the two blending together first to breadcrumbs then clumps of dough. It is a subtle mix; I didn’t want to overpower the biscuit but instead add hints of the warming flavours that will ultimately be complemented by a few haphazard drizzles of dark chocolate. Winter may be a little in-your-face, but these shortbread stars are a subtle reminder that it is still autumn.

 

You Will Need

200g unsalted butter, cubed and at room temperature

100g caster sugar

The zest of ½ an orange

200g plain flour

50g corn flour

½ tsp ground ginger

70g good quality dark chocolate (I used 74%)

Shortbread Ingredients

Preheat an oven to 160oc/140oc fan. Line a large baking sheet with baking parchment and set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer or using a handheld whisk and large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until pale and creamy. Add the orange zest and whisk again to combine.

Creamed Butter and Sugar

In a separate bowl, briefly whisk together the plain flour, corn flour and ginger together then add all at once to the butter and sugar mix. Slowly turn on the mixer and combine the two mixes; it should go from breadcrumbs to lumps of dough.

Shortbread Dough

Turn out onto a clean floured work surface and bring together with your hands – much like pastry, if you overwork your biscuits they will be tough so try to keep a light hand. Roll out the dough evenly to around the thickness of two pound coins and cut out star shapes using a floured cutter. If you don’t have a star shape, use round cutters or even the bottom of a glass.

Cut Out Star Shapes

Space the biscuits evenly on the prepared baking tray and bake in the middle of the oven for around 30 minutes. Biscuits can burn easily so keep an eye on them after the first 20 minutes – you are looking for a pale golden colour and the biscuit to feel dry. Once baked, remove from the oven to cool for a couple of minutes then carefully transfer with a fish slice to a wire rack to cool completely.

Baked Shortbread

To decorate, arrange the cooled biscuits on sheets of baking parchment and carefully melt the dark chocolate over a pan of barely simmering water. Transfer to a piping bag, snip off the end and run the chocolate across the shapes in a diagonal, trying to cover as many pieces as possible. Vary the height from which you pipe for thinner and thicker lines. Leave to dry then serve with coffee.

Brown Butter Spiced Pecan Cookies by Victoria Sponge Pease Pudding

The search for the perfect cookie is a never ending story that many of us are trying to conclude. Is it made from one, two or three kinds of sugar? Does it have chips or chocolate chunks? Is it gluten-free, laden with wheat or made with healthy grain flours? Are there piles of pecans, a touch of smoked salt or a tang of zest hidden in between those chewy folds of dough? Or is it crispy and thin? The story of the perfect chocolate chip cookie is never ever ending.

I have so many favourite cookie recipes that it is impossible for me to wade in with my version held high in my hands. One day I want the bitterness of dark chocolate, the next I prefer the childhood smoothness of white. I want fruit pieces, no wait nuts! Actually, can I swirl in some honey? It feels like the perfect cookie dough is actually a lesson in chemistry.

Pecans and Chocolate Chips

I think if you are new to the perfect cookie game, a great place to start is a great base recipe. For this strand of the adventure I looked to The Little Loaf, playing with the quantities of her Brown Butter Buckwheat Cookies to suit my own tastes. A smidge more brown sugar, a dash of autumn’s favourite pumpkin spice, a cup of quality chips and warming notes of nutty toasted pecans. The depth of browned butter lifts these cookies and marries well with the chunks of nut and the melting pools of chocolate. Actually, I think these are my new favourite cookies – until I hit the kitchen again.

Adapted from The Little Loaf

You Will Need

185g unsalted butter, softened

120g caster sugar

120g soft light brown sugar

1 egg and 1 yolk

225g plain flour

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1 tsp pumpkin spice mix (I used this one)

Pinch of salt

50g pecans, toasted and chopped

200g good quality milk chocolate chips

Brown Butter Cookie Ingredients

Firstly you will need to brown the butter. Place 85g of the butter in a small saucepan and place over a medium heat. Melt the butter then begin to swirl the pan. The milk solids will start to separate and crack but keep going, you are looking for a golden brown colour that smells nutty. Pour the brown butter into a bowl, scraping the brown bits from the pan into the bowl and leave to cool for 20 minutes.

Adding brown butter to cookie dough

Place the remaining butter and sugars in a bowl and cream together using a hand held electric whisk or a stand mixer. Add the egg and yolk and whisk again until the mix is smooth then pour in the cooled brown butter. Whisk again until fully incorporated.

chocolate chip cookie dough

Whisk together the flour, bicarbonate of soda, pumpkin spice mix and salt in a large bowl then pour into the wet mix all at once. Stir to combine then add the chocolate chips and chopped pecans. Cover the bowl in clingfilm and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before using.

portioning cookies

Preheat the oven to 180oc/160oc fan/gas mark 3 and line a baking sheet with baking parchment. Scoop tablespoons of the cookie dough onto the tray spaced well apart. Bake in the middle of the oven for 8 – 10 minutes until the edged are browned. Remove and leave to cool on the tray before placing on a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat with the rest of the dough.

Brown Butter Spiced Pecan Cookies

Brussels sprouts are funny old things. I tend to eat them boiled once a year on my Christmas dinner plate, and then they are forgotten about for another 12 months. I have never given these ‘baby cabbages’ much thought, aside from the odd food magazine rolling out the old ‘sprouts and pancetta’ line in their Christmas edition. Hmm, inspired.

However you may well know I have a penchant for a certain food blog called Shutterbean. All of a sudden my weekly shopping basket is seeing a lot more winter veg, a lot less salads and big hunks of butternut squash nestled alongside the kettle chips and pinot grigio. In Aberdeen the weather has gone from suitably bracing to full on arctic blast, and so having a repertoire to browse on my smartphone on the bus that encompasses all the very best of winter veg without the old tired ideas is somewhat inspirational.

I have toyed in the past with the idea of a pizza recipe, but the dough is often the problem. To rise or not to rise? To knead or not to knead? Plain flour, bread flour or self raising flour? The issues with this particular doughy dilemma have often led me to the easy route of the frozen aisle in Tesco. But not anymore. I have devised a wonderfully soft, quick-knead dough that yields a crisp, yet slightly soft base to top with whichever you please, going from dough to dinner in around 40 minutes.

But please don’t be alarmed at the sight of the dreaded sprout adorning this winter pizza. Shredded and marinated with balsamic and oil lifts the flavour of the little leafy things and transforms them into a sort of autumnal baked salad alongside the usual suspects of tomato, and cheese. Add a little fried bacon for a smokey aroma, sliced garlic for a subtle zing and half moons of red onion for a dinner treat that doesn’t exactly squeal unhealthy. Push aside your preconceptions of the humble sprout and branch out into unchartered territory with a wholly original take on Italian eating.

 

Adapted slightly from Shutterbean and Jamie’s 30 Minute Meals

 

You Will Need

For the base

1 ½ cups self raising flour (roughly 375ml on a measuring jug)

½ cup tepid water (125ml)

1 ½ tablespoons olive oil

Salt and pepper

 

For the toppings

4-5 brussels sprouts, thinly sliced

2 tablespoon olive oil

½ tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon dried basil

¼ red onion, sliced

3 rashers of streaky smoked bacon, chopped

125g ready-shredded mozerella

To make the base, place the flour, oil, water and a twist each of salt and pepper in a bowl and mix. Bring together with your hands and turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead the dough for roughly 5 minutes, pulling and stretching with your hands and pressing in with your knuckles to make the pizza base soft and stretchable. Once formed into a smooth ball, flatten down and roll to a rough circle with a rolling pin, until the base is around 1mm in thickness. Oil a baking sheet and carefully place the pizza base on top. Brush with a little extra oil and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 220oc/200oc fan/Gas Mark 6. Place the brussels, 1 tablespoon of oil and the balsamic together in a bowl, mix and leave to marinate. Stir together the tomato paste and dried herbs for a quick pizza sauce and spread evenly over the pizza dough. Top with the cheese, sliced onions, marinated brussels and garlic slices.

Fry the chopped bacon in a frying pan over a medium heat until beginning to crisp. Scatter evenly across the pizza then bake in the oven for roughly 15-20 minutes, checking regularly to make sure the edges don’t burn. Slice up and serve on a wooden board.

 

 

 

 

Hi guys, remember me?

I realise VSPP has gone slightly AWOL in the past couple of weeks due to my ineptitude with technology, accidentally breaking the Wi-Fi on my first night in my new flat. Luckily I live with a so-laidback-he’s-practically-horizontal flatmate, who hasn’t killed me much for my wonderful first-impression mistake. So my first chance to get back on the web has seen me brush Lovefilm aside and get cracking with some blog posts. Who knows when I will finally get the net back? I’m not taking any chances.

So here I am in a First Class seat (not a big expense, the seat was £3 more expensive than standard) heading up to Aberdeen after a fabulous weekend of wine and food, with a little Cosmopolitan Blog Awards thrown in the middle. It was such good fun; I met a ton of lovely people and will give you a little insight to what it was like in an upcoming post. Stay tuned!

Anyway, I suppose I should get down to business and update you about my move to Aberdeen. A couple of weeks ago I made the thrice life-changing move to the top of Scotland to a new city, new flat and (most importantly) new job. It’s terrifying, fast paced and completely different to anything I have encountered before. I utterly love it.

The move up north hasn’t come without its pitfalls. There was the insane weather a couple of Tuesday’s ago that left my connecting bus accidentally hit by a rather large tree, my brolly fancying an adventure and sailing off into the sunset and my central belt winter coat pointing and laughing at me, when what I really need is an arctic puffa. Yes, the weather is at best cold and at worst hurricane like, but I am battening down the hatches and diving headfirst into one pan cooking.

This recipe was earmarked as soon as Shutterbean had clicked publish on WordPress. The large Le Creuset pan filled with liberally curried chicken and fluffy coconut rice practically screamed MAKE ME when I read it. I dutifully obliged and I have been snacking on the leftovers ever since.

The beauty of this particular one pot dish is that it is rather cheap to make. Although expensive items like coconut milk and fresh herbs (which I left out as I had forgotten to buy them) may seem like needless commodities, you are actually allowing yourself to buy nicer store cupboard items due to the fact you are jointing a £4 chicken into ten tasty pieces. 40p for a piece of chicken! It’s an utter bargain! Of course, you do need to take a little time to do it, but the results are worth it. I am conscious of the fact that mere words cannot really do instructions for this kitchen essential justice, so feel free to YouTube to get a visual guide. The extra added bonus is a fresh carcass for stock making, and if you take a slow Sunday to bring a pan of cold water with said carcass, half an onion and two garlic cloves to the boil for a few hours, you will have an unbeatable reduced stock that is perfect for a chicken noodle broth.

As for the eponymous dish, the flavours are extraordinary. Crispy skinned chicken flavoured with beautiful curry spices baked with fragrant coconut rice, nestled with sweet onion and garlic. So simple and delicious, yet packing a delicious punch. The best part is settling down on the sofa on a Sunday with a glass of wine and a big bowl, safe in the knowledge that no matter how many times you go for seconds, there will still be plenty left for lunchboxes for the coming week.

Adapted from Shutterbean

You Will Need

1 whole chicken

1 teaspoon ground cayenne chilli pepper

4 teaspoons curry powder

½ teaspoon salt

1 white onion, chopped

5 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 teaspoon ground ginger

2 tablespoons tomato puree

400g can of light coconut milk

2 cups of basmati rice

2 cups water

Firstly prep the chicken. Remove the string and place breast side down on a chopping board, legs nearest to you. Using a jointing knife (long, slightly curved and thin knife) slice a line right down the backbone, just hitting the bone. Tilt your knife so it is on a slant, and begin to make small cuts along the ribs down one side, removing the meat from the bones. As you slice down, you will find the joints for the wings and thighs. Simply wiggle each joint a little to loosen and cut through any silage to remove from the main bones. Cut as far as possible then stop. Repeat on the other side so that the bird is mostly flat. Begin to carefully cut up the breast bone, trying to keep as much meat as possible on the bird. You will be able to cut right through, but the one part that will remain is the wishbone. Carefully cut down this fiddly bone to remove from the meat and you should have a flat chicken with the ribcage removed.

Now to portion. Begin by slicing down the middle of the breasts to create two halves. Then find the wing joint and remove from the breast, cutting to separate the two. Remove the tip of the wing (the pointed part) as this has barely any meat and is much better used in the stock. Cut the breast lengthways to create two smaller pieces. Separate the thigh from the leg in the same manner, cutting between the joint and separating. Remove any excess skin as this will add unnecessary oil to the overall dish. Repeat with the other half.

Now you should have 10 pieces of chicken, a carcass and wing tips. You could freeze the breasts to use in another dish or create stock with the bones. Try to use as much as possible, as it is far better to use the whole bird well than throwing out needless waste.

Whisk together the cayenne pepper, curry powder and salt and sprinkle over the portioned chicken. Coat well and either leave to rest or continue cooking. On the hob, heat a small amount of oil in a large casserole pot and begin to brown the chicken in small batches, skin side down first to crisp up and then the other side to a golden brown colour. Rest on a plate as you prepare the vegetables. Turn down the heat a little and fry the onion, garlic and ginger together until golden, roughly 7-8 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook for a further minute, then add the coconut milk, rice and water.

Bring to the boil then nestle the chicken on top. Cover and bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes until the chicken is cooked and the rice tender. Sprinkle with fresh herbs such as parsley if you have any and serve in warmed bowls with a glass of wine. Perfect winter comfort food.

When I cook risotto, my favourite five minutes lie in the final stages before plating up. Swirling in a cool pat of butter. Grating in a large lump of parmesan cheese. Folding in each ingredient into the pan, one by one, until they melt and combine together to make a great, oozy risotto. Apart from that moment they don’t. What happened to food harmony?

Butter and parmesan were my go to staples. If a mashed tattie was too dry, add a knob of butter. If the pasta was crap, parmesan would comfort the soul. Joined together, they are the integral ingredients in making a killer risotto. But these two pairings, although helpful, cannot always save a poorly made risotto that is destined for the compost bin.

Meet risotto, my favourite dish and yet, often my nemesis. The tender rice. The sweet onions. The pungent garlic. If foodie poetry was based on any dish it would be risotto. And yet, there can be something of a love/hate relationship between me and the arborio. Sometimes in our relationship things go really well (like Rosé Risotto) or things can go really badly (like Smoked Bacon Risotto).

It’s like any good relationship really. Things will go well if you take your time, let things happen naturally and don’t force it to work. Same goes for risotto. Made carefully and treated well, it will provide you will a plate of food heaven. But if you rush it, you’ll upset it, she will huff with you and you’ll end up in food hell, with a burnt pan and risotto that has little burnt flecks swimming round its soupy texture. That will teach you for your impatience if you couldn’t be bothered to wait for the rice to absorb that last little bit of stock. Patience is a virtue in the kitchen, especially when risotto is involved.

I don’t want to put you off making it though. The beauty of this dish is that it’s so versatile; any vegetable will happily climb into the pot and give you some beautiful flavours. Soft flakes of fish and juicy strips of chicken can give carnivores their protein fix encased in the thickness of a risotto. It’s so simple, cheap and can be made in well under an hour if you take the time to care for each grain, cube of onion and glug of stock. And in that sense, its perfect student fodder that can be pulled off as ‘posh’ because all good Italian restaurants serve it.

So what have I learned in the past 6 years of making this dish? Firstly, slowly sweat your onions over a low to medium heat. Don’t fry them, or they will burn your pan and your end result will be peppered with black flecks of burnt onion. Try using a non stick pan and stick to olive oil, as butter will just burn at this point. Secondly, toast the rice for a few minutes until translucent before you add any liquid. This will ensure a nice texture when finally cooked. Thirdly, add the stock slowly. Don’t throw it all in at once, because if your temperatures too high, the liquid will disappear and your rice will be eons away from being ready. Fourthly, remember that if you do run out of stock, don’t panic. Simple top up with boiling water from the kettle until fully cooked. And of course, don’t skimp on the butter and parmesan. The whole dish won’t work unless you have something to melt into the rice and bind the grains together to create a great oozy risotto. Lastly, a small smattering of freshly chopped basil lifts this dish to a fragrant new level.

So don’t panic about risotto. Love it and it will love you and your tummy.

Mushroom soup isn’t exactly renowned for being an extraordinarily pretty thing. It’s usually grey, the type of grey that lines the skies just as you step out your flat in a great Spring outfit ensemble. Ominous, dark and depressing, grey isn’t a nice colour.

But this soup is different. It is completely and utterly vegan, which is good news for my friend Georgia, who is contemplating going over to the vegetable side, and asked me to make a vegan recipe a while back. This little bowl of goodness tastes just as good as cream of mushroom, without getting all heavy on the cream. Instead, the soup is lightened with home-made cashew cream, a blend of nuts and water to the thickness of single cream. Totally natural, totally creamy and it’s been nowhere near a cow. Food magic!

This vegan soup is enhanced with all types of natural flavours. Pungent garlic, the fungi’s best friend (arf) is thrown in alongside woody rosemary, to give a great herby flavour. Plus a zing of lemon zest will put a spring in your step alongside a very-Italian drizzle of olive oil and some fresh rosemary needles. This soup is pretty and tasty and quite possibly 100% nicer than the tinned stuff. Go fresh, natural and vegan this March. Make Soup!

 

Recipe adapted and inspired by Joy the Baker

 

You Will Need

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 white onion, finely chopped

3 garlic cloves, crushed

1 rosemary sprig, stalk removed and finely chopped

700g mushrooms, sliced

600ml vegetable stock

¼ pint plain cashew nuts

¼ pint water

Zest of 1 lemon

Plenty of salt and pepper

Olive oil and rosemary needles to finish

Place a large saucepan over a medium heat and add the olive oil. Throw the chopped onion into the pan and cook slowly for around 7-8 minutes until translucent and golden. Add the garlic and the rosemary and cook for a further minute.

Throw all of the sliced mushrooms into the pan and cook down for around five minutes, turning every so often to fully incorporate the onion mixture with the mushrooms. Pour over the stock and leave to simmer for 15 minutes.

To make the cashew cream, fill a measuring jug with cashews up to ¼ pint. Add ¼ pint of cold water and leave to soak for 5 minutes. Using a hand blender, carefully blitz until the mixture is smooth and resembles single cream. Set aside.

Once the mushrooms have cooked, remove from the heat and blend the soup until smooth. Stir through the cashew cream and season generously with salt and pepper and the lemon zest. Place back on the heat to warm through.

To serve, plate up into bowls and top with fresh rosemary needles and a drizzle of olive oil.