Sunday, 28 April 2013

Welsh Laverbread Cakes

This New Year, Mr P and I spent a lovely few days with our friends Beth and Pete on Anglesey. the trip was memorable for many reasons, not least the following conversation:
Pete: Ooh, I'm going to cook this egg in the log burner.
Me: I'm pretty sure it'll explode.
Pete: Don't be daft, it'll be amazing.
Me: Hmm.
A couple of minutes later...
Me: I really think you should get it out before it explodes.
Pete: It's going to be perfectly cooked, and then you'll be laughing on the other side of your [BANG].
Sometime life grants us comic timing that would just look implausible in a sitcom. As you can imagine, I was laughing on both sides of my face after that little incident. Hysterically. For a long time.
But I digress.... why am I telling you a story about a trip we took almost 4 months ago?
Because it was on that trip that I decided to buy a tin of laverbread, a traditional Welsh delicacy that I'd neither eaten, nor used, before. And I only just got round to trying it out. So after checking out various recipes for laverbread cakes, I came up with this one. It's got a higher proportion of oats to laverbread than you often see, mainly because when I opened the laverbread it absolutely stank (and not in a good, brie-esque way). Although I don't know what authentic laverbread cakes are supposed to taste like, these actually turned out to be not half bad.
Welsh Laverbread Cakes
Makes 4
120g laverbread
45g jumbo oats
1 tblsp sunflower oil
1. Mix together the laverbread and oats.
2. Form into four 'cakes', and fry in the oil in a frying pan on a low-medium heat until the oats are crisp and the laverbread is cooked through (flip half way through the cooking time).
These are traditionally served with bacon, I believe, but wold be lovely with a nice poached egg on top!

Saturday, 27 April 2013

Chocolate and Ginger vegan cupcakes

Call us stingy if you like, but due to our grand plan of trying to save for a house deposit one day before we are both old and grey, Mr P and I try to stick to a budget of £50 per week for our food and other household shopping. I'm constantly amazed by how well we live on this, even though the inspirational Michelle Rice at Utterly Scrummy Food for Families has totally blown our efforts out of the water this week, with her £50 family meal plan - epic!
Anyhoo, occasionally if we have extra expenses like bus/train tickets etc, we end up 'borrowing' from a futue week, and then trying to claw ourselves back by living on whatever we have in our store cupboard. And this often leads to a great tendency to experiment, and also to some interesting foodstuffs making an appearance on our table.
This week, when I fancied a naughty little sweet treat but we were out of eggs, the obvious answer was vegan cupcakes. We had the syrup from some stem ginger left over from Christmas ready for just such an emergency, so I adapted the Basic Chocolate Cupcake recipe from Vegan Cupcakes take over the world to come up with this scrumptious Chocolate and Ginger delight.
Chocolate and Ginger cupcakes (vegan)
makes 12
1 cup soya milk
1tsp apple cider vinegar
3/4 granulated sugar
1/3 cup rapeseed oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 cup self-raising flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cream of tartar (original recipe called for baking powder, which I'd run out of)
For the toppings
1 tablespoon ginger syrup
1/2 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/2 tablespoon icing sugar
orange/yellow food colouring (optional)
jelly sweet decorations (optional)
1. Pre-heat the oven to 10 degrees celcius and line a muffin tray with cupcake cases.
2. Whisk the soya milk and vinegar together and set aside to curdle for a few minutes. Then add the sugar, oil and vanilla extract and beat until foamy.
3. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, cream of tartar and ground ginger.
4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients in a few small batches, and beat together until there are no large lumps, then pour the mixture into the cupcake cases.
5. Bake for 18-20 minutes, until a skewer comes out clean.

Ginger Drizzle topping (top)
This topping needs to be made whilst the cupcakes are still warm: Prick all over the surface of the cupcakes with a cocktail stick, then drizzle 1 tsp of ginger syrup over each of them. Sprinkle generously with granulated sugar.
Ginger icing (middle)
Mix the icing sugar with approximately the same amount of ginger syrup, and a little food colouring, if required. Add a little water if needed to thin the icing out. Use this to cover the top of your cupcakes, and finish with a jelly sweet, if you like.
Chocolate buttercream topping (bottom)
I had a batch of vegan chocolate buttercream in the freezer, so used some of this to cover my remaining cakes. To make it yourself, you can veganise this buttercream by replacing the stork with Pure vegan spread.

Friday, 19 April 2013

Chilli and Vodka pasta

We've had a couple of days of really blustery gusts in Manchester this week, and poor Mr P has had to cycle to work in - not very nice at all. So I decided the best way to mitigate this would be by making him a nice bone-warming dinner to sort him out after his latest 14 hour day.
This dish has a little bit of everything you need in this situation - the pasta helps you to carb back up after a tough bike ride, the protein in the kidney beans helps to keep you full, the chilli peps you up when you're dog tired, and although the cooking process destroys the alcohol content of the vodka, it leaves behind a little bit of fiery 'je ne sais quoi' that leaves a satisfied smile on your face.

Plus, the whole meal can be easily prepared in under half an hour - bonus!
I'm entering this recipe into the monthly Pasta Please, run by Jacqueline at Tinned Tomatoes. This month the theme is chilli, and it's hosted by hosted by Shaheen at A2K.
Chilli and Vodka Pasta
serves 2-3
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 red chilli (with seeds), chopped
1 tablespoon tomato puree
2 measures (50ml) vodka
1 tin chopped tomatoes
1 tin kidney beans, drained
enough pasta to feed 2/3 people
1. Start to cook the pasta on the hob, whilst you prepare your sauce.
2. Gently fry the onion in your oil in a saucepan until it starts to soften. Then add the chilli, garlic and tomato puree, and cook for a minute or so more. Adding the tomato puree at this early stage helps to take away any bitterness and give a slightly sweeter flavour.
3. At this point, add the kidney beans, vodka and chopped tomatoes and stir well. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook for a further 15-20 minutes or so until the sauce has thickened somewhat.
4. Meanwhile, when the pasta is cooked al dente, drain well. Serve either with the sauce on top, or stir the pasta into the sauce at the last minute for full coverage.

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Draniki (potato pancakes)

After its vague and short-lived attempt at Spring, Manchester has gone drizzly and miserable again, and if there's one thing guaranteed to make me crave comfort food, it's miserable weather.
This recipe is for a traditional Russian/Belarusian dish of Draniki, or potato pancakes. In fact, according to wikipedia, variants of this item are fairly common in the cuisines of countries across Central and Eastern Europe and beyond, and when you've tasted them, it will be obvious why they enjoy such widespread popularity.
When I've had these in Russia and Belarus, the traditional accompaniment is sour cream. However, I've also had them with vegetable slaw (in Russia) and apple puree (German style). Here's the basic recipe for the Draniki, together with two alternative condiments to serve them with. Although these are best served fresh, they can be reheated and still taste pretty darn good. Though I have to admit, I've rarely experienced a case of leftover Draniki... just sayin'.
1kg potato, peeled
1 onion
1 tblsp plain flour
1 medium egg
a liberal amount of sunflower oil
1. Grate the potato and onion. Considering that Draniki are a traditional peasant dish, the idea of doing this manually fills me with dread - if you've got a processor with a grater attachment, let it take the strain!
2. Mix the grated vegetables with the flour and egg in a large bowl.
3. Heat a little oil in a good frying pan to a low-medium temperature (use several frying pans if you have them - you'll save a lot of time if you get a few on the go at once). Place a dessert spoonful of Draniki mixture into your pan, and flatten with the back of the spoon. Repeat with as many as you can fit in the pans. Gently allow the Draniki to fry without burning. You will know that they are cooking at the right kind of rate if the top side starts to go dry whrn the underside is just pale golden. At this point, flip the Draniki to cook from the other side. Make sure you keep topping up the oil, as this helps them to cook evenly.
4. When the Draniki are cooked through, drain them on a piece of kitchen towel. If you've still got a large batch to fry up, you can keep them warm by placing on a warmed plate and covering with tin foil, or popping in an oven on a very low heat.
5. When ready, serve with your choice of accompaniment.
Spiced carrot slaw
2-3 medium carrots
3 pieces of stem ginger, finely chopped
1 dessert spoon of ginger syrup
1. Peel the carrots and grate finely.
2. Combine with the other ingredients, and serve. Simplicity itself!
Apple puree
2 eating apples
dessert spoon of honey
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1. Peel the apples and cut into small cubes.
2. Put the cubed apple into a saucepan, and add enough water to rise about a third of the way up the pieces.
3. Simmer over a medium heat until the apple is tender, adding the honey towards the end of the cooking time.
4. Allow to cool slightly, then add the cinnamon and blitz to a puree. Can be served warm or chilled.