Recipe: Homage to Manchester Tart

jammy coconut thumbprintsAs a child I loved Manchester Tart, the combination of sticky sweet jam, pastry and the exotic coconut on top  was hard to resist and I always had second helpings.

These biscuits were developed to satisfy my craving for this school day favourite and Mr T has already requested a second batch be baked this weekend, so join me in the kitchen, set aside 20 minutes and pop a tray of these in the oven. Best of all, they’re gluten free and dairy free so I can indulge my sweet tooth and remember all those delicious, stodgy school dinners.

You’ll find the recipe here

If you’re looking for a modern take on the traditional Manchester Tart, there is agreat recipe on the Great British Chefs website.

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Friday Bake: Choc Chip Cookies

plate of cookiesThis simple recipe meets all my requirements in a cookie. They’re crunchy on the outside, but still slightly soft and chewy in the centre.

Using orange flavoured chocolate drops adds an element of surprise to the unwary; it’s never a bad thing to elicit an “ooh” over the tea pot!

Of course, they’re gluten and dairy free too – but that’s an aside – first and most importantly they taste great. If you need a quick recipe to make with your little ones, these are ideal. From start to finish, you can have a batch on the kitchen table within half an hour.

You’ll probably have most of the ingredients in your store cupboard. Do look out for the Beyond Dark chocolate drops, they are great quality. The taste is delicious and they hold their shape well for baking which is very important in a choc chip cookie.

This recipe makes 12, just enough to nibble a couple while still warm from the oven and then serve to friends with a pot of tea!

You can find the recipe here. Along with a few rather “under par” photos taken on my phone!! Believe me when I say my baking is far superior to my photgraphy skills!

Recipe: Salads with a Twist

I love beetroot, jewel colours, tiny globes of sweet flavour which brighten up winter mealtimes. Yet, for most people, mention beetroot and their first thought is the vinegar steeped slices bought from the supermarket. If you can get hold of fresh beetroot it’s truly delicious, easy to cook, versatile and very good for you. You can even eat the tiny young leaves in a salad.

LOWRESthenaturalvegmen_3143Earlier this week, I picked up a bunch of tiny, overwintered beetroot from the Veg Men (I wrote about them here). I decided to make a salad for lunch, using up a few left overs from the fridge, added some slivers of Gabriel Blue (a ewe’s milk cheese) bought from my favourite Cockermouth deli last weekend and a few slices of baked beetroot. Looking for a bit of added “crunch” I made some candied nuts as a gluten free alternative to croutons. Here’s how you can recreate your own version. Mix and match your flavours to suit what you have. Think of it as a twist on the classic goats cheese salad you find on so many restaurant menus and experiment.

sliced beetrootThe Basics

150g of mixed salad leaves (either home grown or find a local producer)

100g candied walnuts or pecans (see below for instructions)

75g goats cheese (I used a blue ewe’s milk because that’s what I had – and I didn’t weigh it – a small handful should suffice) chopped into small cubes.

3 or 4 small baked beetroot (see below for instructions)

A simple dressing made with 3 tablespoons  walnut oil and 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar

Method

Whisk together the oil and vinegar to make the dressing. Shred the salad leaves, slice the beetroot and combine all the ingredients in a large salad bowl. Leave to stand for a few minutes for the flavours to develop beofre serving.cheese and walnut salad

Candied Nuts

The ideal nut for this salad would be walnuts –  the eagle eyed among you will spot I used pecans – that’s what I had in the cupboard! To be honest, that’s what I’d use again, the flavour of cooked pecans worked really well with the blue cheese.

1 tablespoon of dark muscovado sugar

3 tablespoons of water

100g nuts

Mix the sugar and water in a saucepan and heat until the sugar has dissolved, add the nuts and stir until well covered in the syrup.

Pour onto a baking tray lined with silicone paper or baking parchment and cook at gas mark 6 for about 5-7 minutes. Start checking after five minutes, you want the nuts cooked, but not burnt. Leave to cool. The nuts can be stored in an airtight jar for about a week. They make a great snack too.

As a variation you could substitute maple syrup for the sugar, add a little ground ginger, plenty of sea salt and perhaps even a little paprika. Combine with a small bag of mixed nuts and make the perfect gluten free nibble to serve with drinks. These may take a little longer to cook, in my oven I give them 10 minues.

Baked Beetroot

Wash the beetroot, but don’t scrub. It’s important not to break the skin or the colour will “bleed”. Trim off the leaves, leaving about 1cm of stalk and  then trim the roots. Place in a shallow baking dish and add a little water (as a general rule I add a tablespoon for each beetroot). Cover with foil and bake at gas mark 2 for about an hour. The baking time depends on the size of your beetroots, “golf ball” size take about an hour, larger ones will take longer).

Once cooked, leave to cool before trimming the stalks and roots. You can then peel them if you wish and add them to salads, make a delicious dip or make a puree.

Veg Men salad

When I was a little girl, a “salad” meant a slice of lettuce, tomato, cucumber and if we were really pushing the boat out, slices of hard boiled egg. This would be smothered in Heinz salad dressing. Today, we eat some kind of salad almost every day. Even if you only have  a small plot or a window ledge, it’s easy enought o grow a few salad leaves. Even during the winter you’d be surprised what will grow.

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Recipe: Almond Biscuits

plate of amarettiFew of us can resist a biscuit, and after a morning hard at work in the garden (boy, it’s chilly out there) I came in to make a nice cuppa and indulge in a biscuit, but sadly the tin was empty. It seems I have been neglecting the baking this week!

If you need a quick biscuit fix, these definitely fit the bill and they fall into the category of “store cupboard standby” as I always have the ingredients to hand. You can have a batch ready to serve within half an hour of switching on the oven, which is just what I needed today.

I am reluctant to call them Amaretti, the ones I’ve eaten in Italy have a more bitter almond taste to them, At best, these are a soft, chewy version similar to the soft Amaretti Morbidi you sometimes find in Italian restaurants. Crisp and brown on the outside they hold up well to a quick dunk. They are also great to serve with ice cream or as the basis for a trifle.

You can find the recipe here. Best of all they’re naturally gluten and dairy free and low in fat so please most people.

Recipe: Parsnip and Coconut Soup

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You might think this would be a strange combination, but it works. Using up the leftovers before we make our pre christmas visit to family, I found a bag of parsnips looking rather sorry for themselves. I fried 2 finely chopped onions, a clove of garlic and a small piece of fresh ginger until golden. Then I added chopped parsnips, a teaspoon of garam masala and poured on cold water to cover. The soup was left to simmer until the parsnips were soft. To finish, I added the remains of a pot of fresh coriander leaves and blended until smooth. Finally the soup was returned to the pan and I added half a can of coconut milk left over from last night’s thai chicken. Season to taste and serve warm with crusty bread. Now I need to find a use for some rather wrinkly carrots….

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Home Baking: Chicken Plate Pie

When I showed my friend Michelle  The Simple Things magazine, I knew she wouldn’t be able to resist it.  So, when she texted so say she’d made the Chicken Pot Pie “…and it was delicious…”, I was determined to give it a go.

The only problem is,  if I served this to Mr T I was sure we’d have the “pie lie” discussion (a “pie lie” is  a perfectly acceptable thing – often served in pubs – it’s casserole with a disc of puff pastry on top . Often delicious but for an old fashioned Northerner like Mr T, there has to be a crisp pastry base or he feels cheated).

So, here’s my version. Just the same filling as The Simple Things version but served as a plate pie, with fluffy baked potatoes and fresh veg.

It was delicious and we’ll have it again.

Chicken Plate Pie

For the pastry

125g butter and 75 g lard

250g plain flour

pinch of salt

cold water to bind

Yes, I know lard isn’t fashionable, but it does make the best, crispest, tastiest pastry and it is worth the effort

For the filling

You’ll to dash out and buy the mag for that bit!

Method

Make the pastry, by hand or in a food processor. What do you mean you don’t know how to make pastry? It’s the easiest thing in the world. Find a video on youtube,  check out Delia, or better still get a friend to show you! Roll half the pastry out on a floured board and place on a floured plate. Place a dish on top and cut around the dish to form the pastry base. Top with the filling. Roll out the rest of the pastry, cut to size and top the pie. make a couple of slits to let out the steam and brush with beaten egg  to give a crisp, brown topping. bake in the oven.

I bake mine at gas mark 5 for 35 minutes, but every oven is different. It should be golden and crisp on the top.

Serve hot and enjoy.

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Gardener’s Hand Salve

My hands work hard, and I like to pamper them. Not with manicures and glossy polish, but a home made salve that soothes and leaves them soft. It’s easy to make, even in the smallest of kitchens and the ingredients are easily sourced. If you don’t have a decent herbal supplier nearby then you can order online from Neals Yard.  I first shared this recipe way back in 2009 and I’m still making it.

One of these days I’ll take a fresh set of photos, these are awful! Thanks to the” instagram generation”, we all expect beautifully styled images, artfully arranged to tell a story and inspire us to roll up our sleeves and emulate our favourite posts. Me, I still snap away on my smart phone and rarely think about composition! So yes, these photos look “clunky”, old fashioned and maybe even a little out of focus, but they’re honest and they’re mine – not “borrowed” from pinterest or shamelessly retouched in picasa!!

To see the real beauty of this salve, make a batch for yourself. Even buying all the ingredients from scratch will probably cost you less than a tube of organic or fancy pants hand cream and you’ll be able to impress all your friends with home made gifts (yes, I still give this at Christmas). You can buy small jars, but I like to rinse and re-use face cream jars or even those tiny little tins you buy mints in. Be resourceful, use your imagination and have fun in your kitchen! I’ve always “pottered about” with home made cosmetics, making face masks with fruit or egg white, concocting lip balm coloured with beetroot (not a great success, pink hands, pink worktop) and I like the idea that what I put on my skin is as natural as what I eat. It’s a lot easier to find organic, “natural” cosmetics these days, but it still pays to read your labels carefully.

Chamomile hand salve:
Ingredients: 50g dried chamomile flowers, 150ml olive oil, 1tablespoon chopped of beeswax, 10 drops of wheatgerm oil, 5 drops of benzoin tincture, 10 drops of chamomile essential oil. A bain marie or double boiler*, 2 small, sterilised glass jars.
method:
Put the chamomile flowers and the olive oil in a bowl over a pan of simmering water (or use a bain marie if you have one), warm gently for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, grate or chop the wax. Strain the chamomile and oil mixture and return the infused oil to the bain marie, add the beeswax and stir until it has melted. Remove from the heat. Add the wheatgerm oil and benzoin tincture and stir gently. Pour the liquid into the glass jars, add 5 drops of chamomile oil to each jar and stir gently with a cocktail stick.

Leave to cool completely before sealing the jars.
You can use a different essential oil if you like, but chamomile is gentle and soothing.

This salve can seem a little hard at first, so warm it, by rubbing gently between your fingers before massaging into your hands (or, even the rough skin on your feet, it’s bliss after a day’s sight seeing).

NOTE:Certain essential oils are not recommended if you have a medical condition, are pregnant or breast feeding, always take advice before using, if in doubt leave them out!

*Just a bowl over a pan of simmering water – just like you would melt chocolate.

 

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Foodie Friday: Popsicles

Image (c) Little Wren Pottery

Last week’s post got a bit delayed due to internet issues (thanks BT for sorting it out so quickly!)

We’ve been eating lots of these delicious popsicles while the weather has been sunny. They really are super quick and very moreish, why not pop over to the Little Wren Pottery blog and try making some for yourself!

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Foodie Friday: Chicken Curry

This is my version of a delicious Thai style curry devised by Martin Macdonald from Mac Nutrition.  The photo above shows the version we made at Cheshire Cookery school. We like a fruity style curry, so for tea tonight I’ve made a few changes. I simply fried some chicken strips in coconut oil, added some thai curry paste, fresh peppers, beans and mushrooms. Added some cubes of fresh pineapple and used a tin of coconut milk to make a thick sauce.

Served up with whole grain rice and a large salad, the whole family enjoyed it.

Quick, uncomplicated, healthy food – just we needed after a hard week of work and socialising!

Enjoy your weekends.

Tracey x

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Total Game Changer

Last week I was invited along to  a day at Cheshire Cookery School in Altrincham organised by Total (the Greek Yoghurt people). The theme was nutrition and healthy eating, two things I thought I knew a little bit about. But, Martin from MAC Nutrition made me reassess my whole approach to eating and made me realise what a rut we’ve been stuck in when it comes to nutrition and healthy eating!

It’s no secret that since Taran (the pony)  and Pippin (the dog) died, my weight has sky rocketed. Of course I’ve been in complete denial, but the harsh truth is,  not walking a huge dog every day and not having a pony to keep me fit means that my weakness for cake and chocolate has to stop!

And, it stops right now. Armed with some useful advice from Martin, a goody bag full of  tasty yoghurt and a renewed determination to regain some fitness, this family is about to embark on a whole new regime of healthier eating and my lazy ways will be a thing of the past.

And, if you want to know why I’m sharing this on the blog – it’s so I can’t back out – now you all know I’m determined to regain some fitness and not kid myself that a weekly pilates and yoga class can replace the daily walks and hefting of hay bales that used to keep the excess “baggage” at bay!

Of course, there will still be plenty of baking and making, but with a renewed focus on eating for health as well as taste.

Take a look at these gorgeous cookies – we made these on Friday and they are so easy, you can knock up a batch in under 10 minutes. This family loves them!

You can find the recipe here and find more information on Total Greek recipes here.

By the way, the great photos were taken by Dave, one of the few photographers who has succeeded in putting me at my ease and he managed to get some great shots of me in the kitchen.

So, look out for “Foodie Fridays”, when I’ll be sharing more recipes and tips from my Total Greek day. This  week kicks off with my twist on a delicious chicken curry – doesn’t it look delicious? I’ll be posting the recipe on Friday.

Stay healthy and happy.

Tracey x

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