Sunday, 30 March 2014

Tea Infused Scones with Raspberry, Peppermint & Hibiscus

Readers, since I started the blog, I've been desperate to create some sort of bake infused with tea.  I've been searching on the best way to do this, having read countless blogs with every one saying the flavour completely disappears.


I recently discovered MissIntegriTea, based in Edinburgh Miss Integritea do the most amazing blend of teas using herbs and spices. "Miss IntegriTea blends Exquisite Loose Herbal Teas which contain whole herbs and spices providing rich full flavours of deliciousness. Using the full herb allows all the health and taste constituents to be delivered direct to you (which is often lost in tea bags)." 

I’ve had a bag of Whole Leaf Peppermint & Hibiscus in my store cupboard for a couple of months and whilst I love the teas, sometimes find that late at night, it’s easier just to pull a teabag out of the canister.

The smell of the dry ingredients alone was good enough to convince me that this would be the best tea brand for infusing flavour in my scones. I opted to bake scones as these are a great fit for afternoon tea.

I served these at my Mother’s Day tea party, everyone thought they tasted great and I decided to wait until after they were devoured to reveal the secret ingredients.

I've also decided to enter this recipe into #recipeoftheweek held at A Mummy Too

Tea Infused Scones with Raspberry, Peppermint & Hibiscus

Ingredients (makes 8 large scones)

225g self raising flour
60ml milk
60ml Miss IntegriTea Peppermint & Hibiscus Tea (infused and cooled)
50g butter (cubed and still hard)
1 teaspoon good quality raspberry jam
25g caster sugar

Method


  1. Take 2 heaped teaspoons of dried Miss IntegriTea Peppermint & Hibiscus Tea and add to a large cup, top with 100ml boiling water (more than you need – don’t worry) and stir in 1 teaspoon of good quality raspberry jam.  Set aside to infuse, for around 30 minutes.
    Leave the tea to infuse
  2. Preheat the oven to 220c/200c Fan/Gas 7.
  3. Whilst the oven is heating, sift the self raising flour into a large bowl and add the cubed butter.  Use your hands to rub the butter and flour together until it looks like breadcrumbs.  Once complete, stir in the caster sugar.
    Stir in the sugar to the breadcrumbs
  4. Once the tea has cooled, strain through a sieve, into another bowl, to separate the liquid.   Then measure out 60ml of liquid into a jug.  Top up with 60ml milk and stir to combine. 
  5. Create a well in the centre of the breadcrumb mixture and pour in the milk and tea mix.  Stir with a metal spoon to combine into a dough.   Use your hands to bring the dough together.  If it’s a little sticky, add in a tiny bit more flour to bring together.
  6. Transfer the dough onto a clean surface/ baking mat.  Make sure you have dusted it with flour to prevent the dough sticking.
  7. Roll out your dough to around 2.5cm thick and dip a cookie cutter into flour.  Cut out your scones until no space is left in the dough, then re-roll and cut some more, until all dough is used.
  8. Transfer your cut scones to a lined baking sheet and brush the tops of each with a little milk.
    Transfer to a baking sheet ready to bake
  9. Bake scones in the oven for around 14 minutes until golden on top.
  10. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly before serving with butter and jam.
    Fresh from the oven
  11. Store any leftovers in an airtight container for a couple of days.

Claire’s Tips

  • The flour could be substituted for wholemeal self raising flour if it’s available.
  • These can be baked and frozen if required at a later date.  Just defrost before use and warm up in the oven for a couple of moments before serving. 

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Oven Baked Mac n Cheese with Crispy Pancetta

Readers, along with obsession with chocolate, I have a similar obsession with cheese.  Hard cheese… soft cheese… cranberry inclusion cheese… white cheese… orange cheese… I’ll take any of them.  Apart from pungent and mouldy. I’m unable to get my head around that.

I know cheese is a little bit naughty and my post will probably have the Anti Fat Squad chasing me… but I love it.  Especially when it comes in sauce format, accompanied by delicious macaroni spirals and to top it off, crispy pancetta.

I have to confess, before meeting Mr WhatClaireBaked, I, 1. Very rarely ate macaroni.  2.  Had no idea about the impact of adding pancetta to my recipe.  Life changing.

See, the thing with pancetta is that it adds depth to the dish.  Those little crispy, salty, hammy squares add the crunch to the macaroni.  In essence, macaroni could be baby food.  But, throw in some pancetta, stick it under the grill and it’s almost entertaining-friends-worthy.

Also, my mum once told me that if you can make a white sauce, you can make anything.  I’m sure there’s an exact science to it, but so far, I’ve gone for the make a paste with butter and flour, chuck in some milk, keep whisking, boil, simmer and throw in the cheese method.  To date, it’s worked.

It’s a family friendly dish, can be adapted to suit everyone (grilled tomatoes on top, oh why not…)
Yes, it’s carb-tastic.  Yes, it’s a little fattening.  Yes, it’s falling into hangover food category.  But my gosh, it’s delicious.

Oven Baked Macaroni with Crispy Pancetta

Macaroni with Pancetta


Serves 2

100g cubed pancetta
25g butter
1½ dessert spoons plain flour
300ml milk 
150g grated cheddar
150g macaroni pasta


  1. In a small frying pan over a medium heat, fry your pancetta until the colour changes and it begins to crisp up.  Remove from heat and place in a bowl, with kitchen towel underneath to mop up excess grease.
  2. Grate the cheese onto a plate.
  3. In a separate pot, add the macaroni, cover with boiling water and bring to the boil over a medium heat.
  4. Cook as per the pack instructions, however, remove from heat 2 minutes before cooking time is out.  Drain pasta and set aside.
  5. Preheat the oven to 200c/180c Fan/Gas 4.
  6. In a separate non stick saucepan, melt the butter over a low heat.  Once melted, remove from heat and whisk in the flour until you form a paste.  Once paste is formed, return to heat, add around 100ml milk and whisk constantly to avoid any lumps forming.  Add the remaining milk.
  7. Turn up the heat to medium and continue constantly whisking the sauce to prevent lumps forming.  Bring sauce to the boil. Cook out for around 5 minutes, until the sauce has thickened.  Add in 100g of grated cheese to the sauce and continue to whisk until you have a smooth cheese sauce.   Add in the pancetta and stir to mix.   Then, pour in the drained pasta and mix until fully covered.
  8. Pour your macaroni, sauce and pancetta into an oven proof dish and sprinkle with the remaining 50g grated cheese.  Then, bake in the oven for 20 minutes until bubbling.   If you’d like a really crispy topping, change the oven setting to grill and grill on high for 2-3 minutes.
  9. Serve immediately with crusty bread and salad.

Macaroni with Pancetta

Top Tips

  • Why not try a 3 cheese lasagne?  Add in parmesan to the sauce and try grilling mozzarella on the top.
  • Portions can easily be scaled up and cooked if you have a big enough dish – just freeze the leftovers when cooled and defrost before use.
  • Why not add in chopped leeks to the sauce?  Just soften in a pan with butter for 5 minutes, then stir into the sauce.  A great way to add hidden vegetables!
Looking for more easy midweek meals?  Why not try my Oven Baked Cod with Chorizo.

Friday, 21 March 2014

Baked White Fish with a Chilli Chorizo Crust, Salt and Pepper Asparagus and New Potatoes

Readers, it’s confession time.  I’m an addict.

There. Said. It.   Worst part over.

Yes, I’m addicted to asparagus.  I can’t get enough of it.  Favourite vegetable hands down.  Maybe because it’s perceived to be one of the more dignified vegetables?!  I’ve got no idea.  Whip out the asparagus at a dinner party and everyone thinks your home cooking has gone up a notch…

When the people at Rix Petroleum tweeted me this week with their new competition using seasonal vegetables in a recipe, I was keen to get involved.   When I saw March’s vegetable was asparagus, I was even keener to get involved.

This recipe has been adapted from the Hairy Dieters baked fish recipe, which has been a dream book to use – healthy food doesn’t always have to be boring!

This is an easy midweek supper and if you haven’t got the time to get fresh fish, frozen works just as well.  

Baked Fish with a Chilli Chorizo Crust

Ingredients (serves 2)


2 x 150g cod fillets (I used frozen)
Juice and zest of 1 unwaxed lime
Sunflower oil for cooking chorizo
100g chorizo sausage, cut into slices
2 thick slices wholemeal bread
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon chilli powder
1 teaspoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon paprika
20g grated Parmesan cheese
6 asparagus spears
20g butter
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
100g new potatoes


Method


  1. Remove fish from freezer and sprinkle with freshly squeezed lime juice. Set aside.
  2. Preheat the oven to 200c/180c fan/Gas 4.
  3. Cut up your chorizo into slices and add a drop of sunflower oil to a non stick frying pan. Fry the chorizo for several minutes until the oil is released.  Tear up the bread and add to the pan.  The bread should soak up all the oil.
  4. Remove the bread and chorizo from pan and add to a food processor. Add the garlic, chilli, thyme, salt, pepper, lime zest and juice and grated Parmesan and process for around 30 seconds.  Then add a teaspoon of oil and process again until all the ingredients are well combined.
    Ingredients all blended together
  5. Lightly oil a baking tray and place fish onto the tray.  Remove the crust mixture from the food processor and pat down on top of each fillet of fish, until the top is fully covered.
  6. Place into a preheated oven and bake for around 20-25 minutes.
    Fish fully baked
  7. Meanwhile, as the fish is baking, boil the potatoes for 20-25 minutes until cooked.
  8. Approximately 10 minutes before the fish is ready, melt 20g of butter in a griddle or frying pan, over a medium-low heat. Once melted, add the washed asparagus to the pan and coat in the butter.  After 2 minutes, grind in salt and black pepper to your liking and coat the asparagus.  Continue to turn the asparagus through cooking, to prevent burning.  The asparagus should soften up but retain a little bit of bite to add texture to the dish.  The asparagus will take around 10 minutes to cook.
    Cover asparagus with salt and pepper
  9. Remove the fish from the oven and rest for a moment.  Drain the potatoes and remove the asparagus from the pan.   Serve immediately.
 
Delicious!


This recipe has been submitted to Rix Petroleum’s Recipe of The Month contest.  Find out more at: http://www.rix.co.uk/aga-cooker-recipes/march/

Chocolate and Peanut Butter Bark

Readers, last weekend I took a notion to make bark for the first time. I didn’t really know what it was. It’s a very American thing as I’ve now discovered.  Trying to find a UK recipe to work from was a little difficult. I was convinced Pinterest would come up with the goods but everything was in cup measurements.  It was more than my frazzled head could take.  So, I made up my own.

After the success of the Chocolate Peanut Butter Brownies I decided to cash in on my award winning flavour combo with Mr WhatClaireBaked.

I took myself off down to the supermarket, bought a few random ingredients and went for it.

The bark didn’t last long.  Around 3 hours if we are being exact.  It’s a really simple recipe to make and one that kids could get involved with.   Obviously nut free families would have to adjust the recipe (a mint crème filling would work equally well) but it’s an easy one for families to make.

I’m hoping to experiment with more chocolate bark recipes in future, as I’m sure it would make a great gift, wrapped up in tissue for Christmas.

So here’s how it’s made…

Chocolate and Peanut Butter Bark


Chocolate Bark


200g milk chocolate (100g for base and 100g for top)
40g peanut butter (chunky or smooth – to your liking)
1 tube Smarties
1 pinch ground sea salt
Splash of vegetable oil

Method

  1. Cover a non stick baking tray with greaseproof paper.
  2. In a microwave proof cup break in 100g milk chocolate and melt in microwave for 30 seconds (at 850 watts).
  3. Remove cup, stir and microwave for another 30 seconds.
  4. Pour melted chocolate onto the greaseproof paper and using a pallet knife, spread into a flat, smooth rectangle.   Place in the fridge to set.
    First layer of chocolate on and ready for the fridge
  5. In a separate bowl, take 40g peanut butter and using a metal spoon, stir to loosen.
  6. Grind in a pinch of rock salt and stir to combine.
  7. Check to see if the chocolate layer has set.  If it’s solid, carefully spread the peanut butter over the chocolate. Be cautious as you don’t want to crack the chocolate.
    Peanut butter layer is on
  8. Put the chocolate and peanut butter layers in the freezer for 5 minutes.
  9. Meanwhile, in a clean microwave proof cup, break in 100g milk chocolate and melt in microwave for 30 seconds (at 850 watts). Remove cup, stir and microwave for another 30 seconds.
  10. Add a tube of Smarties to a freezer bag and tie to close. Gently crush the Smarties using a rolling pin or other heavy object.
  11. Allow the chocolate to be cool to the touch and remove the baking tray from the  freezer.
  12. Pour the chocolate over the peanut butter. Using the pallet knife, spread to cover.  Make sure the edges of the bark are also covered, to seal in the peanut butter.
  13. Take your crushed smarties and sprinkle over the top of the bark.  Return to fridge.
    Ready for last round in the fridge
  14. Take around 20g of coloured Wilton Candy Melts, and place in a microwave proof cup.  Place in microwave for 30 seconds, remove and stir, then place back in the microwave for 30 seconds.  By now it should be melted. Candy Melts are fairly thick in consistency, so, to thin out, to be able to drizzle, add a splash of vegetable oil and stir.  You should be able to feel the melts thinning out.
  15. Using a small teaspoon, drizzle the melted candy over the bark (which should now be set in the fridge). 
    Drizzle melted candy on the top
  16. Once drizzled, return the bark to the freezer for 5 minutes to harden. Store in the fridge until ready to eat.  
Chocolate Bark
Ready to eat - delicious!

Chocolate Bark
Close up of the peanut butter filling

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Restaurant Review: The Bothy, Perth

Readers, my dinner out with fellow foodie (and blogger) Nikki from Couthie Cantie turned into an impromptu restaurant review.   It’s not something I do regularly, however, as we were meeting up to talk all things foodie, it made sense (as it probably does to most bloggers) to turn our dinner into a post.
The Bothy Perth

We booked the pre-theatre menu through an internet site, with the offer of 2 courses for £14.95 or 3 courses for £16.95.  Seemed reasonable.

I’ve been passed The Bothy in Perth many a time, but never popped in.  Although the wine bottle candlestick holders in the window always intrigued me.  Grandma WhatClaireBaked, who has a better social life than me, as well as extremely good taste, had been at Christmas time and thoroughly enjoyed her visit. She normally always knows a good thing when she sees it as well.

Firstly I was impressed by the overall look and feel of The Bothy.  Its leather sofas, tartan cushions and stag heads on the walls made for a very welcoming Scottish experience.  The wallpapered pillars depicting Scottish landscapes and dark wooden cellar style shelving around the walls made the venue feel like we were in a shooting lodge in the Highlands… not a damp Kinoull Street in Perth.

The Bothy Perth
The view from our table - bar to the left
Our waitress was incredibly friendly (and dressed to kill in a tartan skirt, continuing the theme).  She very gently tried to up-sell us some bread and olives to start, but genuinely didn’t seem too offended when we declined.  We were given both the Market Menu and A La Carte, to choose from, but decided to go with the Market Menu, as part of the deal we’d booked.
 
The Bothy Perth
Wine bottle candles in the window
Nikki and I both went for the Chicken and Black Pudding Terrine to start. It arrived and we were both impressed by the portion size for a starter.  The triangles of melba toast were perfect for spreading onto, as was the lovely touch of chutney on the side.   The dish also came with a small dressed salad.
 
The Bothy Perth
Delicious starter
We enjoyed the fact that despite ordering a pre-theatre menu, the staff were keen to make sure we enjoyed our dining experience and there was no rush to send us on our way, to make room for the evening diners.   There were a number of tables booked when we arrived at 5.15pm, meaning there was a bit of background noise and atmosphere. 

We opted for different main courses – Nikki having a Beetroot and Goats’ Cheese Salad with Crostinis whereas I went for the chicken supreme, which was served with a selection of vegetables, creamy mashed potatoes and a gorgeous sauce.   
 
The Bothy Perth
My Chicken Supreme main course
Again, I was suitably impressed by the portion sizes, quality of food, speed of service and also the attentive service we received from the staff.  We were offered dessert, which would only have cost and additional £2.00, however, we were so full from rounds one and two that we opted out!

So, in short, if you are in the Perth area, I’d highly recommend a trip to The Bothy. It’s ideal for tourists who are looking for a little Scottish gem in Perth, which is reasonably priced and has a bit of atmosphere. The restaurant is great for a celebration dinner with friends or for a cozy catch up for two, as we did.

For more information visit: http://www.bothyperth.co.uk/

The Bothy
33 Kinnoull Street
Perth
PH1 5EN


Tel: 0845 659 5907

Saturday, 15 March 2014

The Great York Foodie Adventure

York Minster
So folks, we've just returned from a girly weekend in York.  Thankfully the three friends I went with are all bakers (not butchers or candlestick makers) and are all big foodies. Our weekend ended up turning foodie, so I thought I’d share some highlights with you all.

We started off by visiting Jamie’s Italian on Friday night, before friend 4 arrived.  The restaurant was good – the pasta was delicious and made on the premises. I enjoyed the tagliatelle with truffle.  We event managed a cheeky Prosecco with dinner.

On Saturday afternoon, the four of us decided to take a trip to York’s Chocolate Story where, for £10, we were part of a group tour, got to enjoy chocolate tasting and learnt all about the history of chocolate in York.  The whole thing was fascinating – we even learnt that at one point, the Rowntree Factory employed over 14,000 people.  Unreal!




The tour took us back to the early days of chocolate – the history of the tribes who harvested cocoa beans and so forth.   One of the highlights of the tour was the interactive chocolate making circle, where we all learnt about the various types of chocolate, how the beans are dealt with, how cocoa butter is extracted and what components are required to make milk, white and dark chocolate.
 
Old advertising campaigns for chocolate

The highlight of the tour was making chocolate lollies – a fairly simple task in itself – involving acetate, melted chocolate, piping bags, and lolly sticks – but nonetheless great fun.  Whilst the rest of the group threw on their decorations, we were typically the ones who decorated our lollies with care and style!
 
My chocolate lolly!

At the end of the tour, we went along to a demo on artisan chocolate making, which was really useful (and something I’d like to try more of, for the blog). Then, you guessed it, we got to try the chocolates which had been made.  All in all, this was a great afternoon in York and we all felt the tour and incredibly enthusiastic girl who was our guide, made for a brilliant experience, which was value for money.
 
The history of the Kit Kat


Before we left on Sunday, we visited Bettys Cafe Tea Rooms - an institution in York.  I've always wanted to go to Bettys.  Not only do I love tea, I love everything quintessentially British about it.


Image source: http://www.bettys.co.uk/bettys_stonegate.aspx


We originally planned to go on Saturday, but as it was queued out the door, went back on Sunday for brunch, visiting the Stonegate branch, before taking the train back up to Scotland.  My friend is coeliac and sometimes, eating out can be a nightmare for her.  However, the incredibly attentive staff took a great deal of time in running through the menu with her so she could enjoy a gluten free brunch with the rest of us.
 
Bettys current menu

I opted for the Brioche French Toast with Bacon for my brunch. It was completely delicious and perfectly complimented my breakfast tea pot.  There’s something lovely about enjoying breakfast, rather than throwing it down your neck, as you do, on a rushed weekday morning.   Despite being busy, the staff didn't rush us, we had time to chat and enjoy our food.  Whilst not cheap, Bettys was worth every penny if you are a tea aficionado or a lover of proper home-made cakes and pastries.
 
Delicious!

Lovely tea service


Before departing, we visited the shop downstairs and all left with the obligatory brown paper bags.  The macarons, priced at only £1.00 each were a great investment to bring home for family and friends.  The shop had a selection of 6 flavours and I went for raspberry, passion fruit, salted caramel and chocolate macaroons.  I have to confess, most of them never actually made it to the family.

I also need to comment on Bettys amazing home made tomato chutney.  We enjoyed it with our brunch and my friend even left with a jar to take home.

If I’m back in York, I’d be sure to visit Bettys again and would highly recommend it for a special lunch, brunch or afternoon tea with the girls.


In a nutshell, we had a great weekend in York and enjoyed meandering down the winding cobbled streets, popping in and out the vast selection of sweet shops, gift stores and boutiques.  I've no doubt we will return again soon. 

Creating the Perfect Pancakes (and Chocolate Pancakes too!)

Readers, for long enough, I’ve struggled with the humble pancake.  It always felt like the elusive simple bake which I never could master. 

Then I realised the buy cheap, buy twice motto really was true.  A £4.99 frying pan on a gas hob was never going to cut it.   Pancake day arrived again.  Mr What Claire Baked begged for chocolate pancakes.  The fear took over.  Every previous attempt was a burnt exterior and an uncooked interior. 

But, needs must, so I trotted off to Google and consulted Nigella.  My goodness, she’s everything I’ve been missing.  Not only do I envy her taste in frocks.  Her taste in pancakes is ever so good.

Oh and, her recipe is so darn simple. I got my handheld blender out, threw all the ingredients in a Pyrex jug, blasted it to mix everything together and poured into a pan.  I invested in a heavy based Teflon pan, (god bless you TK Maxx) which as I’ve now discovered, made pancake making a doddle.

As for the chocolate, I used my brain, adapted some of the quantities in Nigella’s recipe and taaaa daaa… apparently it worked.

Great British afternoon tea is incomplete without a traditional pancake covered in good quality jam.   However, my chocolate versions are also great for Saturday brunch or as a decadent dessert served with bananas and hot chocolate sauce.  *Drools*.



Traditional Pancakes (taken from Nigella's Breakfast Pancakes)

Ingredients


1 tablespoon baking powder
1 pinch of salt
1 teaspoon caster sugar
2 large eggs (beaten)
30 grams butter (melted, then cooled)
300ml milk
225g plain flour
Butter for frying

Method

  1. Place all of the above ingredients in a large glass jug and blitz with a hand blender until combined.
    Everything in the jug aaaaaand... blend!
  2. Heat a frying pan on a medium heat and melt the butter.
  3. Pour in your batter to a desired size and twist pan to create a round shape.
  4. Cook for a few minutes. Once bubbles start to appear on the upper side of the pancake, it’s time to flip! (Disclaimer – use a silicone spatula for this.  I won’t be held responsible for a roof decorated a la pancake).
    Spot the bubbles appearing on the top
  5. Once flipped, cook the second side for around a minute.
  6. Remove from pan and serve immediately, or allow to cool on a wire rack if preferred.

Enjoying mine with lemon and sugar


Claire’s Chocolate Pancakes (adapted from Nigella


Ingredients


1 tablespoon baking powder
1 pinch of salt
1 teaspoon caster sugar
2 large eggs (beaten)
30 grams butter (melted, then cooled)
300ml milk
200g plain flour
25g good quality cocoa powder
30g chopped chocolate (I used cooking chocolate)
Butter for frying

Method

  1. Firstly chop your chocolate to very small pieces.
  2. Place all of the above ingredients in a large glass jug and blitz with a hand blender until combined. – Tip – sift in the flour and cocoa butter, for a less lumpy finish.
  3. Heat a frying pan on a medium heat and melt the butter.
  4. Pour in your batter to a desired size and twist pan to create a round shape.
  5. Cook for a few minutes. Once bubbles start to appear on the upper side of the pancake, it’s time to flip! (Disclaimer – use a silicone spatula for this.  I won’t be held responsible for a roof decorated a la pancake).
    Bubbles starting to appear - getting ready to flip!
  6. Once flipped, cook the second side for around a minute.
    Ready to serve
  7. Remove from pan and serve immediately, with chopped bananas and hot chocolate sauce, or allow to cool on a wire rack if preferred.