Friday, 18 January 2013

Bread out of thin air

Every now and again you come across something in the kitchen that truly amazes you.  In my case, this was sourdough bread!  I never knew anything about the process involved in making this type of bread but was astonished when I found out because all you need is flour, salt, water and air (well, and some heat to bake the bread) - that's it!  The magic is done by the yeast spores found everywhere around you.  It doesn't matter how clean your house is or where you are, it's a simple fact of life that you are surrounded by those little spores that you won't necessarily notice but that come in handy when you want to make your own bread.  The process might seem a little involved at first but it really does take less time than you think and once you have established the starter, it'll be the gift that keeps on giving...

You'll end up going from this...
Sourdough starter

Sourdough bread
to something resembling this...  Amazing, isn't it?  Bread out of thin air...

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Impress with French pastry

It's January - the festive season is long behind us and the resolutions for the New Year have been backed up by buying lots of fresh fruit and vegetables.  Maybe the "buy one, get one free" offer on apples seemed like a good idea at the beginning of the year but now they are sitting in the fruit bowl, getting slightly past their best. 

Well, I have just the recipe for you: a French Apple Tart.  Slightly decadent for January but how about a special treat for family or friends after a Sunday walk, run, play-about- in-the-snow?  You'll have burnt off those calories beforehand and it'll also help use up those old apples...
Apple Tart...

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Easy supper for friends

When you have friends coming for dinner but not enough time to prepare a complicated meal, how about a simple dish of tarragon chicken with mangetout and rice?  It's tasty, quick and satisfying and with the creamy sauce feels quite luxurious...why not give it a try?  Followed by a simple fruit salad it'll be a meal that can easily be prepared ahead, leaving you to enjoy the evening with your guests rather than slaving over the stove.
Tarragon chicken...

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Useful in the larder (Part I)

Do you have a favourite item in your larder?  Something you simply can't do without...either for cooking, baking or general household use?  On top of my list is bicarbonate of soda.  It is so versatile - have a look at some of its uses in the list below...
  • Sprinkled on carpets, it absorbs the dreaded wet-dog smell and can easily be vacuumed up, leaving the carpet smelling clean & fresh 
  • Dust your pet's fur with it to get rid of unwanted odours & brush out after a few minutes - it's not harmful to them, even if they lick a bit off
  • Put some at the bottom of your cat's toilet tray and top with cat litter
  • Keep some in a bowl in the back of the fridge to make it smell lovely & clean
  • Combined with lemon juice (or powdered citric acid) it makes a fabulous household cleaner...simply sprinkle into the sink, bath tub etc, add lemon juice & water for an eco-friendly way of cleaning your house
  • Add a little to your toothpaste for extra white & shiny teeth...

Once you have started using it for more than just baking, you may want to buy in bulk - that way it works out cheaper than if you just buy the standard boxes from your supermarket.

Monday, 14 January 2013

A chocolate hug

There is lots of snow across parts of the UK today and although it has not hit us here just yet, the cold is making me think of curling up by the fire with a mug of hot tea and - you guessed it - chocolate...or cake...or both rolled into one.  Whether you like it dark & bitter, milky-silky or simply any type in large amounts, melt-in-the-mouth chocolate does the trick...and so do these lovely brownies.

Studded with little chunks of white chocolate they are gloriously rich; divine as an afternoon treat served with a little vanilla ice cream on the side.  A small piece goes quite a long way but fear not, these freeze well for when you next need a chocolate hug.