Friday, 15 March 2013

Vanilla extract

Being the keen baker of cakes that I am I love to use a decent vanilla extract. But some of them can work out expensive even for a small bottle. Especially when you have a budget, So a bit of thriftyness was required.  Our local wholefood shop sells some really nice but reasonable priced vanilla pods.  I use them then stick them in a jar of sugar resulting in vanilla sugar for baking with or even in coffee mmmmm :o)

But while waiting for the kettle boil I realised there was a fair bit of vodka left in the bottle on the kitchen side, and though it's great to drink I probably wouldn't be drinking it any time soon.  So I went and found a jam jar,  Then I went and bought 2 fresh vanilla pods and added them cut in half and split to the jar with about 3 dried ones from the sugar jar.  As you can see it doesn't look particularly wonderful however.........

Give it a few gentle shakes and a few hours and the vanilla starts to infuse into the vodka and starts going that classic brown colour we are used it.  Bit weak and wobbly now but I will give it a week and see how it is then. 

Really simple and I bet it would make a welcome gift for any foodie in a small cute bottle maybe. 

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Quick gnocchi and chorizo side dish

Friday night I was clearing out the vegetables that needed using up and roasted them in the oven with some dried thyme and lots of Garlic,  I also topped with some herby halloumi in the last 10 minutes. But to turn this into a meal with a bit of pizzaz and make it go far enough for 4 of us I opened the fridge and pondered.  Some things are always almost in my fridge, one of them being Chorizo and the other that vacuum pack of chorizo, cheap and cheerful.  

Nigella Lawson once showed us how to turn gnocchi into tiny roast style potatoes by frying them in oil in a pan or in the oven.  Very quick and surprisingly good.  So the brain started ticking  that if I fried off the chorizo until the lovely oil leeched out I could use that delicious oil to then fry the gnocchi in.

Although I didn't get them fully crispy and crunchy because I would of reduced the chorizo to black lumps, they still came out very light and fluffy with mostly crunchy outsides and mildly flavoured with chorizo. Just a few minutes on each side and stirred a few times made an easy and fast side dish.

Although thinking now I should of fried the chorizo until crispy and removed it with a slotted spoon and added it back at the end.  It's funny how your brain can go dead to these simple ideas when you have a toddler clinging to your leg screaming because you have just told her she cannot kick the cat anymore!

Such a colourful meal we had with so many tastes and textures.  And for a vegetarian version of the gnocchi I am going to try it with some smoked paprika soon I think. 

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Low fat fruit tea loaf

At the moment I am going through a phase of really looking at what I have stashed away in my kitchen and trying to use it.  At some point this year we are going to have a new kitchen fitted, which means the less that is squirrelled away in the cupboards the better. So the other night I had a yearning for an old fashioned sultana loaf like we used to have when younger.  I have no idea who made it as it wasn't my Mum but I do remember fruit soaking in strong tea and I made these before.  The recipe? who knows? So I did my classic hunt the Internet via google, Look up at least 5 recipes and cobbled together a recipe with what I actually have.

So I started Tuesday night taking 250 g of dried mixed fruit with peel and soaking it with  250 ml of tea made with 2 tea bags, a LARGE glug or 2 of Malibu and a splosh of orange blossom water.  The Malibu and blossom water didn't end up being tasted so I think it's a case of either the tea or the booze in future.

So this murky unpromising looking bowl was left overnight in the microwave (saved cling filming it) until the next morning where it then started to look more plump and luscious than blurgh

Into the fruit mix I cracked into and beat in 2 medium eggs.  In a bigger bowl I added 
250g self raising flour 
100g caster sugar 
1 teaspoon mixed spice

Stirred these together to combine then poured in the fruit with all its liquid into the flour mix and stirred until combined and no white spots of flour were visible in the bowl.  Placed it all into a 2lb lined loaf tin and in the oven at gas mark 4/180 for 50-60 minutes.  

Mine caught a little on top but not enough to interfere with the taste

The outside was slightly chewy but crispy to.  Strange  but good.  Inside was moist and very light. On day 2 it is still moist and same textured despite having no fat in it other than the egg yolks.  

It may be low fat, but do you know what? It is really really good with a good slathering of butter.  But at least you won't feel so guilty ;o)

My son is already suggesting using dried apricots and dried pineapple in this so it is one we will play with again as it is going down well.  And anyway to get extra fruit into the kids has to be good I think. Much better snack than a chocolate biscuit