Thursday 25 April 2013

White Chocolate and Rosewater Cupcakes

Keep Calm and Eat a White Chocolate and Rosewater Cupcake

Tuesday 23 April 2013


Traditional Swedish Knackerbröd
This month Jen over at Blue Kitchen Bakes is hosting this month's Fresh from the Oven challenge which is organised by Michelle at Utterly Scrummy.


Rather than a general theme this time Jen has decided that this month's challenge would be the recipe for Knackerbröd. I had a look at the recipe on the Jen's blog and thought, “How hard can that be?” Ho, ho, ho. If you look up Knackerbröd you'll find several variations on the spelling such as knackerbrod, knäckebröd and knackebrod. While most sites agree on it being Swedish in origin a few make a claim for it to be Finnish. If this is all a mystery to you it's best described as you can buy it in Britain under it's brand name of Ryvita.”Oh yes, now I know what you mean,” you all chorus. However I didn't look all this up before I went out and bought the ingredients. Firstly there is the rye flour. Not all supermarkets stock this but Sainsbury's do sell Doves Farm wholemeal rye flour (is there any other type of rye flour?). This wasn't a problem as it's my local supermarket. The wheat bran however was a bit harder to track down. Not being someone who lets things go when it comes to tracking down ingredients (my Brother called me the 'Retail Hound') I did find a bag of it in Morrisons. It was by the dried fruits and nuts if you want to buy some yourself. If you are wondering what it looks like it is basically the crushed crumbs you find at the bottom of the cereal packet.

Once I had gathered my ingredients together I started to look at recipes for Knackerbröd and found that while rye flour is the traditional flour used in Knackerbröd I couldn't find any other recipes that contained wheat bran. Since I didn't have a clue about this type of flat bread I felt I couldn't start to make up my own recipe. Therefore I decided to follow the recipe for Knackerbröd that Jen posted on Blue Kitchen Bakes.

While I was having a look through some recipes I found someone else had tried the same recipe a couple of years ago on A Bread A Day. Let's just say it didn't go too well and if I'd read that first I probably wouldn't have tried it in the first place. Hey, ho though and off we go...

It starts off like a standard bread recipe – weigh out the flour, salt, yeast (I use Allinson Easy Bake Yeast, which is cheaper than the individual sachets) and a little bit of butter. Add some lukewarm water and mix this together into a dough. I did this in my food processor as it has a dough blade. Unlike most bread doughs it didn't come together as easily and I was a bit tempted to add some more water. In the end I didn't but I did have to keep scraping the sides and trying to get it to come together. After this I added the wheat bran and gave it a blitz in the food processor. Once you've combined all the ingredients you have to knead it for 5 minutes. I have to say the first few minutes were more akin to trying a make a sandcastle when the sand isn't quite wet enough. Finally I was able to get it all in one ball but this isn't a dough you can start stretching out. It's definitely more like wholemeal pastry dough. This obviously makes it seem a bit odd to be kneading it as the golden rule of pastry dough is that you shouldn't handle it too much. The instructions require you to knead until elastic but I can't say after many minutes of kneading it ever got to this state. After this it gets cut into 8 equal pieces to be rolled out. Due to the nature of the dough it doesn't really allow to be rolled out to a perfect circle but naturally forms a ragged edge formation. 

Traditionally the centre of the Knackerbröd is cut out with a small, round pastry cutter, which I believe was so the breads could be hung afterwards to help make them crisper and thus preserving them for a little longer.

Onto the cooking. This part is a bit of a faff. Obviously eight pieces of flat bread plus eight small rounds need eight baking trays. I have a double oven with the main oven being fan-assisted and the top, smaller oven a conventional single tier oven. I usually do my baking in the top oven and so used this oven first of all. The recipe puts the temperature at 230°C but my top oven only goes to 220°C so I put it to that and thought I could always bake it for a little longer if needed. Well, after 15 minutes I it really didn't need any more baking because it was a bit burnt.

The next two I tried in the fan-assisted oven and put the temperature down 20°C to 210°C to compensate. Success! In fact I was rather chuffed.

Buoyed by the fact that I had some Knackerbröd that actually looked like they were meant to be I put the next batch in the fan-assisted oven for the same time. Disaster! I guess the oven was fully heated by now and all I was left with black rye bread or just something that even the birds won't eat.  

I turned off the main oven and went back to the top oven for Knackerbröd number 6 and baked it for a few minutes less. Once that one was done I turned the main oven back on and baked the final two plus the eight rounds. Thankfully they all seemed to turn out fine.

The burning question (see what I've done there?!) is would I make this again. The answer is yes and no – I wouldn't do the whole quantity again as the constant juggling of trays, ovens and uncertainty about temperatures and timings was just a bit too much to bear. I would though half or quarter the ingredients and perhaps make some of rounds on their own, particularly if I had some nice cheese to go with them.

Saturday 20 April 2013

Count Your Blessings

This week has been dominated by bad news – the bombings at the Boston Marathon, the terrible explosion in Texas and now an earthquake in China. Sometimes it's hard to understand the reality of such events. Reports and pictures on the television and across the Internet just seem to distance me both mentality and geographically. It almost seems a case of, 'I am not there, how can I weep?'.

I ventured out into the garden today as it has been the first day this year that it hasn't been freezing cold, snowing, raining or blowing a hooley. Some things were overgown while the weather had taken its toll on others. When I started to look around I realised how lucky I was to be outside and worrying about the state of the garden. The problem of life's problems is that they are all in context. How can a person be fretting about the amount of weeding that needs doing in the garden while at the same time other peoples' lives have been devastated? We can only deal with what we have to deal with at that time.

So I got on with the jobs that needed doing. Thinking about things that I can't change obviously isn't going to change those things so it's back to the mundane stuff. I have two hydrangeas in the garden. One is white the other is pink. Both were already in the garden when we moved in. I know nothing much about gardening but occasionally remember snippets of advice about plants. My Father told me not to dead-head hydrangeas until the last frost had been as they help to protect the new shoots. Although I'm not sure this has passed yet I couldn't bear the sight of the brown skeleton petals any more so they had to go.

I go through passing phrases of herbs. This is mainly down to what survives and what dies in the garden. The snow has not been kind this year and I believe this used to be thriving chive plant. No wonder I've turned to the dried variety.

Rosemary is a robust herb. Once its roots are in the ground it's not going anywhere. Last month the garden was under snow so heavy some plants were pinned to the ground. Not the rosemary though and I sent my husband out to retrieve a few sprigs to put in some lamb burgers. Now it has flowers on and its strength continues.

Hidden behind some aquilegias was the rhubarb. What a joy to see some real food in the garden in April – and no effort required. The sight of it also comes with the thrill of knowing how happy I will be to see everyone scoff down a portion of rhubarb crumble after a Sunday roast dinner.

When we first moved here conifers dominated one side of the garden. They blocked the view and the light as well as zapping the life out of other plants with its thirst for water. I suggested to my husband we (as in he) cut them down. To fill the gap one plant we put in was a forsythia. I know its name because today I saw the original name tag at the bottom of the plant. All I know is that it has beautiful and plentiful small yellow flowers. From daffodils to sunflowers a yellow flower cannot fail to cheer me up.

One job that desperately needed doing was putting up the Wendy house. We wanted to buy one for the kids last year but found them to be too expensive. Last year a family friend moved away and when she came to visit in November she asked me if I wanted their Wendy house as it was still in the garden of their house which they had rented out. Of course we did! It's been sitting in pieces on the patio since then. While we miss our friend she has left us with a memory of her characteristic generosity. Now when I look at it I will think of her. The kids spent the rest of the afternoon running in and out of it, squealing in delight. For all of this I know I can only count my blessings.

Tuesday 16 April 2013

Honey & Chocolate Flapjacks

There comes a time after Christmas when you keep stumbling across the same packets and jars still lurking in your cupboards. Add to that Easter and its many boxes of chocolate and sweets and you know you have to start turning them into something edible rather than shelf rotters.

In a mini hamper at Christmas we were given a jar of local honey. As I have said before when I had a similar problem and I made a Ginger Preserve and Chocolate cake we're not a family who really eats this sort thing on a regular basis. I have only solution to this problem and that is to bake it in something! Along with the honey there seems to be half opened (or attacked) boxes of Easter eggs lying about. With the combination of the two you have the base for some flapjacks. Great for breakfast, an after-school snack or for the cycling commuter in your family; suddenly unloved food gifts become a a quick energy fix.

The recipes states 50g of chocolate – this is just a guide. Really you can put in as much as you think. Remember the chocolate will melt when baking so don't break it into too small a pieces. Also use what chocolate what you like or have to hand. The chocolate in the photograph is 50% plain chocolate.

Equipment: 8in (20cm) square loose-bottom baking tin


4½oz (125g) Margarine or butter
4½oz (125) Demerara sugar
3 tbsp (45ml) Clear honey
7oz (200g) Porridge oats
2oz (50g) Chocolate, roughly broken


1. Line the base of the baking tin.
2. Pre-heat the oven to 190°C/Gas mark 5
3. In a large saucepan put the margarine/butter, sugar and honey.

4. Heat gently until the sugar has dissolved.

5. Take off the heat and add the oats and mix well, then stir in the chocolate until all the ingredients have combined.

6. Transfer the mixture to the prepared tin and press down.

7. Bake for 20 minutes.

8. Cut the flapjacks while still warm and then leave to cool and firm up.

Sunday 14 April 2013

Slow Cooker Pork Creole

 Easy Pork Creole in the slow cooker
I'm not claiming this to be an authentic Louisiana Creole dish but it is a family friendly way of injecting a bit of spice into a meal. The amount of chilli in this dish shouldn't blow the heads off the kids but should make it taste a bit more interesting than just tomato sauce. The vegetables I used in this dish was what I had available in me in my fridge and freezer at the time. Feel free to substitute or add what you have to hand. For example instead of the sweetcorn use peas or frozen mixed vegetables. Strips of pepper would work as well but add them towards the end of cooking (when I add the sweetcorn) otherwise it may end up as mush.

As this recipe uses pork, tomatoes and sweetcorn I will be putting it forward for this month's Recipes for Life challenge which is hosted by Vanesther at Bangers and Mash. Vanesther is helping to compile a recipe book in aid of her local charity Swallow.

This recipe uses an inexpensive cut of pork I have used before in my Pork, leek and apple casserole dish and I was able to get a second pack reduced.

This is quite a different taste but still uses cheap and store cupboard ingredients. As such I will be entering it for another Credit Crunch Munch, which is jointed hosted by Helen at Fuss Free Flavours and this month's host, Camilla, at Fab Food 4 All.
Credit Crunch Munch
Serves 4


450g-500g Pork shoulder, diced
1 Large onion or 2 small onions, chopped
4 Carrots, chopped
1 Tin chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp (15ml) Tomato purée
¼-½ tsp (1.25ml-2.5ml) Chilli powder
1 Garlic clove, crushed
100g Frozen sweetcorn

To serve: boiled rice


1. Pre-heat the slow cooker to High.
2. Prepare the vegetables.
3. Put all the ingredients except the sweetcorn into the slow cooker. Stir well

4. Cook on High for 4-6 hours or 6-8 hours on Low.
5. While you prepare the rice add the sweetcorn to the slow cooker mixture. You can turn off the slow cooker at this point but keep the lid on.
6. Serve once the rice is cooked.

Wednesday 10 April 2013

Eggless Chocolate Orange Muffins

Eggless Chocolate Orange Muffins
I'll start off by telling you these muffins were born through a forgetful accident. It was Maudy Thursday and I had been out all day and by the time I had got the kids to bed it was quite late by the time I had started my baking list. I'd made the dough for the morning's hot cross buns and left it to prove but I also needed to make something to take with me to the football. I won't bore you with my footballing obsession except that Radio WDON provide radio commentary for AFC Wimbledon's match and are partial to a bit of cake. As I was going to one of the away matches I thought they may like a cake donation to keep them going through the trauma that is watching AFC Wimbledon this season.

So I made these muffins and took them out of the tray to cool on a wire rack. After the hot cross buns were baked I started to tidy everything away and that's when I noticed sitting on the side in the egg box was the egg that was meant to go into this recipe. I looked back at the cooling muffins and thought they looked fine. In fact this is the only muffin recipe I have ever made with or without egg that ever comes out looking like muffins. By this time it was too late to go out and get another orange so my husband offered to be first taster. We split one in half and I was very relived to discover they tasted delicious or as the Radio WDON commentator tweeted to me, “deee-lish”. He also told me he loved me - twice. We still haven't met...

These muffins do have a more heavier cake-like texture than other muffins, obviously due to them having no egg in them. However, if you are allergic to eggs, don't have any to hand or simply don't want egg in your recipe these really are a double chocolate delight with a good hit of orange.

Makes 12

Equipment: 12 cup muffin tin/pan, paper or silicone cases.


8oz (225g) Plain flour
2oz (55g) Cocoa powder
1 tbsp (15ml) Baking Powder
4oz (110g) Caster sugar
6 tbsp (90ml) Sunflower oil
7 fl oz (200ml) Milk
Zest and juice of 1 Orange
100g Dark chocolate either a bar smashed up or drops.


1. Line the muffin tin with the cases.
2. Pre-heat the oven to 200°C/Gas Mark 6.
3. In a large bowl sift the flour, cocoa and baking powder.
4. Quickly add the remaining ingredients and mix together again just combined (i.e do not over mix or beat).
5. Put even amounts of the mixture into each of the cases.
6. Bake for around 15-18 minutes.
7. Once cooked leave to cool on a wire rack.

Thursday 4 April 2013

Pork, leek & apple casserole

Pork, leek & apple casserole in the slow cooker
Everything has a perfect combination and with pork it has to be leeks or apple or indeed an amalgamation of all of them. The best herb? Of course it's sage. So gather together these ingredients, throw them in the slow cooker and in a couple of hours you'll have a delicious and warming dinner with minimum effort.

As ever this is one of my family thrifty meals. I used diced pork shoulder which I found reduced and here's the maths for the other ingredients. I haven't included the sage as it's part of my stock cupboard ingredients and I can't remember how much I paid for it. Also, life is too short to be weighing out dried herbs. 

Pork £1.29, carrots 9p (200g at 65p for 1.5kg, Sainsbury's), leeks 50p (2 out of a 4 pack at £1, Sainsbury's), apple juice carton 28p (1 out of 6 for £1.69, Sainsbury's), Oxo stock cube 4p (1 out of 24 for £1, Poundland), apple 17p (1 out of 6 for £1, Sainsbury's). Total: £2.37 or 59p per portion for 4.

With the above thrift notes I will be putting this forward to this month's Credit Crunch Munch which is a monthly challenge hosted by Camilla at Fab Food 4 All and Helen at Fuss Free Flavours.

Credit Crunch Munch
Serves 4


Approximately 450g pork shoulder, diced or 8 pork cheeks or 4 pork loin chops
4 Carrots, chopped
2 Leeks, chopped
200ml Apple juice or 1 individual carton
300ml Chicken stock
1 tsp Dried sage
Salt & pepper to taste
1 Apple (any will do – whatever is lurking in your fruit bowl)

To serve: your choice of potatoes or rice


1. Pre-heat the slow cooker to high while preparing the vegetables and measuring out the juice and stock.
2. Add all the ingredients except the apple to the slow cooker.

3. Cook on High for 4-6 hours or Low for 6-8 hours.
4. Before preparing the potatoes or rice cut the apple into wedges and add to the mixture.
5. If you think the liquor needs thickening add 1tbsp (15ml) cornflour to 1tbsp (15ml) water and pour into the casserole.
6. Serve when the potatoes or rice are ready.