Saturday, 31 January 2015

Sourdough Scones

Earlier this month I was given the most amazing opportunity to attend one of Vanessa Kimbell's sourdough courses.

Although, for a whole range of reasons, I have not made my own sourdough bread yet, I have been very careful to keep my sourdough starter alive.  In doing so I get an amount of old starter to use in my baking - you may have read about my Cinnamon Coffee Cake.

Mr R loves scones and since I hadn't made scones for such a long time I thought that they would be the perfect thing to make with this week's old sourdough starter.  I used Vanessa's recipe to make them.
I followed the recipe except where it called for buttermilk or soured milk. I had some sour cream in the fridge so substituted that for the buttermilk.

I only had a large cookie cutter handy so the scones were rather large but they were light and lovely making Mr R very happy to have with his cup of tea!
The sourdough scones were lovely and light but didn't last long in this household.  Will have to make another batch soon.

Here is Vanessa's recipe for Sourdough Scones:-

Prep time: 10 minutes Cooking time: 20 minutes Freeze: Yes
  • 225g organic self-raising flour
  • 75g slightly salted butter, chilled, cut in small pieces
  • 50g Fairtrade sugar
  • ¼ tsp sea salt
  • 125ml buttermilk (but ordinary full fat milk is also fine) 
  • 100g of unrefreshed starter
  • 1tbs fresh lemon juice
  • 3–4 tbsp milk
  • Extra flour, for dusting
  • sugar, for sprinkling
  • 1 egg, beaten with a tablespoon of milk for the glaze
  • *Fresh cream & raspberry jam to serve
1. Preheat the oven to 180?C/gas mark 4.
2. Put the flour, butter, salt and sugar into a bowl. Mix well. Make a well in the centre. In a large jug whisk the sourdough starter and the buttermilk and lemon juice together then pour into the centre of your dry mix. Bring the mixture together to form a dough. If the dough seems a bit too dry, add a drop more milk slowly just a fee drops at a time, if it is too sticky then add a dusting of flour to handle it more easily.
3. Turn out onto a floured work surface and use your hands to form a 2.5cm round. Cut out shapes from this, depending on your preference, and put them on a baking tray.
4. Glaze the scones with the beaten egg and bake for 18–20 minutes and sprinkle with sugar.
5. Cool on a wire rack. If you want to freeze these scones, do so as soon as they are cool.
Note: Scones are normally best enjoyed the same day, but these are just as lovely the next day.  Keep wrapped in a linen cloth.

I made these scones out of choice and was not asked to make them.  As usual all opinions and photos are my own.

Friday, 30 January 2015

Sweet and Easy Sweet Potatoes

We love sweet potatoes in our house and the fact that they are so good for you is an extra bonus.  We eat the whole thing, rarely peeling as most of the goodness is in the skin.

I like to cook them very simply and not to over complicate things.

I often put a tablespoon of oil in a bowl of thinly sliced sweet potatoes and cook in our air fryer until they are crispy.

Another favourite is simply to cut them into wedges and roast in the oven with a small amount of sunflower oil rubbed in and a drizzle of maple syrup.  They roast in an oven at 180oC for about 40 minutes until a knife goes easily into them.

I am entering this into Eat Your Veg by Citrus Spice which I have guest hosted this month.

Thursday, 29 January 2015

A Master Class in Bread Baking at PAUL Patisserie

Bread seems to be coming into my life a lot lately. Firstly I attended a Sourdough bread making class at the beginning of January and now a French bread making class in London at the renowned Bakery and Patisserie PAUL.  The bread making masterclass was held at their Bankside shop although if you check out their website you will find all the other London locations.
The trains were having problems with signalling because of the floods in the Farringdon tunnel which meant I was about 10 minutes late for the class but I was welcomed and allowed to catch up with the others.
Our Baker for the evening was Felixe who knows bread baking inside and out. He explained the processes to us, showed us procedures and then let us have a go at the dough we had started.
Because the dough we were making would not be advanced enough to bake during the class we set this aside and worked on some dough already made (in the ‘Here’s one I made earlier’ category!)

We kneaded, shaped, rolled and rested our little loaves under Felixe’s expert eye putting them inside the specially shaped baskets for their final proving.

When the dough was ready we were shown how to put it on the paddle, score it and put it into the ovens, even pressing the button for an injection of steam, very important to the bread making process.

Whilst the dough baked itself into bread we went upstairs to their balcony seating area for a veritable PAUL feast! Salami, sliced meats, cheeses, pesto, roasted peppers and much more (are you drooling yet?) were waiting for us as well as the PAUL house red wine which I absolutely adore.

When we finished eating we went downstairs and our own dough had been wrapped up to take home to bake that evening or put in the freezer for another time.  I want to use mine when the little people visit and get them to roll their own bread rolls.

And of course the loaves that we had put in the ovens ourselves were ready, warm and inviting and were intended for us to take them home.  I loved sitting on my train home with the smell of warm dough all around me!

PAUL host their French Bread Masterclasses on a Tuesday evening every other week at Bankside and every other week at Covent Garden – there is no excuse not to attend one!
The photos from the night were taken by the lovely Marco who was helping Felixe and who took everyone’s camera and made sure he photographed everyone have a trial at doing each stage.  Many thanks Marco and to Felixe as well for an enjoyable and educational evening.

I was a guest of PAUL-UK and usual all opinions are my own.

Friday, 23 January 2015

Weekend Cake - Cinnamon Coffee Cake

I often make a cake on the weekend and somewhere in the past I had a recipe for a Cinnamon Coffee Cake.  My mother used to buy a Coffee Cake to have when her friends would drop in for coffee - hence the name and coffee is not an actual ingredient!

Coffee Cakes of my childhood often had a sort of crumbly cinnamon layer on top however this one is a pretty good example of a great cake to have a slice with a cup of coffee.

This recipe called for buttermilk and I didn't have any in the fridge.  I know you can add lemon juice to milk to sour it but I just had to have the leftover sourdough starter after I refreshed some for the forthcoming week.  I added this along with some milk to the recipe instead of the buttermilk as an experiment and it really worked out well.

Cinnamon Coffee Cake

Cream 1 cup of soft butter and 2 cups sugar until fluffy. 
Add 2 eggs, one at a time.
Add 2 cups of either buttermilk OR 1 cup sourdough starter and 1 cup milk
Fold in 4 cups of flour which has been sifted with 2 tsp baking soda

Cinnamon sugar:-
In a small bowl mix
2/3 cup sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon

Prepare two loaf pans.
Pour 1/4 of the batter into each loaf pan
Sprinkle 3/4 of the cinnamon-sugar mix
Pour the rest of the batter into the two loaf pans
Sprinkle the rest of the cinnamon-sugar on top

With a knife or skewer swirl through the batter and sugar mix

Bake at 180o for 45-50 minutes or until a tester comes out clean
Cool for 20 minutes then turn out.

Can be frozen but lasts for 5-6 days in an air tight container.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Prunes! Nature's Perfect Snack

Mention prunes and most people pull a face or make a gesture to indicate an unpleasant side effect.  In fact prunes are one of nature’s little miracles.

They are full of protein, low in sugar (due to the way they are left on the tree for a much longer time) and low in saturated fats.  They are also full of calcium which is necessary for good healthy bones and 'B' vitamins essential to help build a healthy immune system. But best of all they are so versatile and taste so good.

Prunes are the perfect take anywhere snack and are versatile working equally well in baking as general recipes.

 California Prune Board is made up of around 900 independent prune producers. Because of the climate and weather conditions California produces some of the best prunes in the world.

California Prune is not a brand but a mark of quality and control and indication that the product was grown and processed in California.

The California Prune Board recently invited a group of bloggers and journalists to spend the day with Chef Rosemary Shrager at her cookery school in Tunbridge Wells. We were welcomed on a freezing January morning with hot coffee, fresh pastries and of course bowls of prunes!
Rosemary Shrager is a lovely lady with a passion for food and for passing her knowledge to her students and that was certainly the feel of the day as we prepared our lunch under her watchful eye. 
All of the dishes we made contained prunes, were simple to make so that you could make them again at home and really tasty.
In fact the food that we made during the morning was our lunch later on in the early afternoon.
California prunes are running a competition and have teamed up with the Rosemary Shrager Cookery School to encourage people to cook deliciously healthy and indulgent recipes using this versatile and incredibly tasty super fruit. 

We finished the afternoon and left with a generous goodie bag, all the recipes we had used during our day and the loaf of Prune Bread we had made to take home with us.
Whether it’s a gorgeously indulgent winter warmer or a tasty high-fibre snack for a healthy new you, California Prunes are rich and flavourful, healthy and nutritious -which means they are great in both gooey desserts and light healthy snacks?

Share a California prune-based recipe in one of their two themes, for the chance to win a Bread-making Masterclass for two with Rosemary Shrager – including travel and overnight accommodation plus the chance to have your recipe published in an e-recipe book.

Upload your recipes in either category at or visit the California Prunes Facebook page for details. Ten runners up will each win a £100 supermarket voucher to spend in a store of their choice.
I was a guest of California Prune Board and Rosemary Shrager Cookery School. I was not paid to attend this Masterclass and as usual all opinions and photos are my own.


Thursday, 15 January 2015

Meat-free Spaghetti Bolognaise with Quorn

When I make my spaghetti sauce I prefer not to use mince but Mr R really likes it with mince and occasionally I give in and make it his way.  I like to cut my vegetables really small so it feels a little like mince in your mouth.

I hadn't considered using a meat-free mince so when Quorn asked me to try Quorn in my bolognaise sauce I rose to the challenge.

Quorn is high in healthy protein and low in saturated fat. It is also not only meat free but gluten free and a great source of fibre.

The mince comes frozen but doesn't need more than a few minutes to defrost and you don't need to brown it first either.  I do like that just browned look so I did brown mine for a few minutes then added it to the sauce.

I made my usual sauce; onion, celery, pepper, garlic, tomato puree, pesto, tins of tomatoes.
When the sauce was ready I added seasoning then the Quorn.
I let it simmer for about 20 minutes whilst I boiled the water for the pasta and cooked it.

Served with parmesean cheese on top and yummmmm!
Neither Mr R nor FIL (father-in-law) guessed it was meat-free. There was loads left over so you can guess what we had for lunch the following day!

I received a voucher to purchase the Quorn. I was not paid to write this review. All opinions and photos are my own.

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

The Sourdough School Courses and Sourdough Club

My friend Vanessa Kimbell was a food writer and blogger when I first met her. Following visits to Uganda, Grenada and India Vanessa has changed the way she reacts to the world around that we live in and the world we want to leave to our children.

After working in a French bakery during summer holidays as a young girl and later on as a mother, Vanessa has been involved with sourdough bread making for over thirty years and along with a long list of other credentials Vanessa has gained a lot of knowledge of sourdough baking.

To spread the sourdough word and impart some of that knowledge Vanessa runs sourdough courses from her beautiful Victoria home in a North Northamptonshire village. Learn more about Vanessa's love of sourdough and get further information about the courses.
I was invited to attend one of Vanessa's Introduction to Sourdough courses. I am a sourdough beginner, having tried a starter but killed it a couple of years ago.  The amount of knowledge I came home with and my head was still spinning into my dreams!

I arrived at Vanessa's beautiful home just in time for the course and to meet the other participants. Whilst we were getting the introduction we had coffee/tea and sourdough rolls with homemade cherry jam! Beautiful.
We went on to learn the intricacies of making sourdough to use for bread, pizzas, muffins, pancakes and the list goes on.  Vanessa is very insistent on missing out unnecessary steps and to make the process as easy and foolproof as possible.
There was loads of time to ask all sorts of questions and we even tried to think of one that Vanessa wouldn't have the answer to but to no avail!

When we got our leven to the stage where you leave it and take a 'glass of wine' break Vanessa's father (Bill Hulme) popped in with some of the wine he grows on his local vineyard in the village of Brixworth and turns into award winning wines.  If you want to know more you can visit and have a tour or just contact him to order.

Following our little wine break we learned the techniques for shaping and rolling the dough.
We carried on getting the dough ready to make pizza for our lunch.
Sourdough makes a fantastic pizza and is quick and easy to roll our and cover in your favourite toppings.
After feasting on our pizzas and finishing our lessons Vanessa took one of the loaves out of the oven from the dough she had prepared earlier.  Beautiful round loaf of sourdough bread.
The huge difference in learning about sourdough at The Sourdough School and other cookery schools is that once you have finished your course you don't just go home never to be contacted again but you become a member of Vanessa's Sourdough Club, a members only web site where you can access all the information you learned on the course plus a plethora of recipes and a monthly sourdough recipe challenge.

I love having all the correct gear when I start a new project and all of the items Vanessa uses on her courses can be found at Bakery Bits, a one-stop place to get everything for the serious artisan baker.

I drove home, down the M1, thinking about all of the things I could make with the sourdough starter we were sent home with!

You can give someone a gift certificate to attend one of Vanessa's sourdough courses and they will learn a skill for life.

I was a guest of Vanessa Kinball's Sourdough club and was not paid to write a positive review and as usual all opinions and photos are my own.

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Surprise Supper - Spanish Chicken with Olives and Paprika

I got home tonight with no idea of what we were having for dinner. Thought of a bacon and tomato pasta but decided to save that for Friday when the family were coming for dinner.

I started as usual with my Holy Trinity - onion, garlic and celery. 
Chopped them all quite finely and started to sautee in rice bran oil mixed with a little oil from the sun dried tomato jar.
It was a case of what was in the fridge and cupboards tonight. I found half a red pepper and a dozen or so sun dried tomatoes in a jar. These were both chopped roughly and added to the frying pan.
I had three chicken breasts in the freezer which I defrosted and cut into chunks. Add to the frying pan with the vegetables.
Continue cooking until the chicken is cooked, about 10 minutes.
Season with freshly ground salt and pepper and 4-5 drops of Tabasco Chipotle Pepper Sauce.
At this point I added in a Knorr Paprika Flavour Pot, 4 Tablespoons of tomato puree along with a Knorr Chicken Stock Pot and approx 250ml of water.
The chicken meal seems to be taking on a Spanish characteristic.
I had a jar of stuffed green olives in the cupboard and decided to throw a couple of tablespoons in.  Continue cooking until the mixture reduces and thickens whilst you cook the rice.
Serve with basmati rice and ENJOY!
Our meal was indeed a surprise - as I said above I had no idea when I started what we would end up with.  Sometimes this creates a really tasty meal like tonight.  I am happy to say there is just enough left for me to take to work for lunch tomorrow!!

I was not paid anything to write this post and as usual all opinions and photos are my own.