Spelt, nut butter, chocolate chip cookies (aka mummy’s lockdown cookies)

I was craving a very particular kind of cookie when I made these: I wanted peanut butter, I wanted spelt or rye flour rather than white flour, and I wanted oats. Basically something a bit wholegrain, not madly high in sugar but definitely still feeling treaty. Because otherwise, just eat something else no?

This is a mishmash of a few recipes I had and really  tasty with, dare I say it, quite a lot of depth to them (dare I say it because: wanker alert). I’m not usually one to ‘make up’ a recipe (and I don’t feel this is really made up in that way but you know…as close as I’ll get). The chocolate chips still make these feel norty, but the other ingredients lessen the sweet-treat hit that makes you want to eat more and more. So in other words, a good, tasty cookie that isn’t just empty calories.

I used some hazelnut paste in the cupboard that I wanted to use up, but if you don’t have it then any nut butter will do. You absolutely do NOT need it for these and I wouldn’t buy it especially, it’s insanely expensive and rather a waste here but like I said, it was in the cupboard and needed using up so…

You need:

100g soft unsalted butter (or you can use salted and don’t add the salt later)

120g nut butter of your choice (so, I used half hazelnut paste, half peanut butter, crunchy)

150g sugar – I used caster and light brown

Two eggs

90g spelt flour (you can also use wholemeal plain, white plain if you must, or rye)

100g oats, any size or if you want to you can blend them so they are fine. I used large oat flakes which makes them a bit chewy

half a teaspoon of baking powder

a good pinch of salt (unless you are using salted butter in which case you don’t need any)

150g chocolate chips/pieces of your choice. I like to use a mix of small pieces and quite large bits and I use milk and dark because I’m all over the place with what I like

Method:

These make about 24. Oven to 190C you’ll also need a baking parchment lined tray.

Mix together the butter, nut butters and sugar until one big, buttery, sugary whole.

Add the eggs one at a time, until all blended, then add the flour, oats and baking powder with the salt if using. You can do this all by hand, it doesn’t need a lot of mixing.

Finally mix in the chocolate chips gently. You can dollop these onto the tray straight away – use a tablespoon or an ice cream scoop. They don’t spread out madly but give them a little space to do their thing.

You can also chill the mixture in the fridge for a few days. I bake some from fresh, chill the rest and I’ve also chilled then rolled into cling film and stored some in the freezer.

I’ll report back on how they fare.

Mine were done in 9/10 minutes. You want to take them out when they are fairly ‘dry’ looking, it’s okay if they look a bit ‘wet’ just in the middle. I like to flatten them gently with a fork the moment they are out. Leave on the baking tray for a few moments before sliding the parchment straight onto a cooling rack. I really like these still a bit warm so the chocolate is still melting and liable to make a mess so you have to sit still for a moment whilst you eat them.

 

Pear and spelt tart, with ground almonds and cinnamon

As I write, we are – in England where I live – entering our fifth week of lock down due to coronavirus. Ingredients which we once took for granted are now limited, or unavailable.

I have always run a well-stocked larder, and I have a regular vegetable and fruit box delivery from Riverford a frankly fantastic company. And I get my flour (and you still can) in industrial quantities from Ingredients for Cooks.

I started off wanting something involving banana, peanut butter and oats (tasty but still healthy and not just white flour and sugar) but somehow, ended up making this.

The original recipe is from my Donna Hay (all hail). It’s from her Fresh and Light book, published in 2014 and given to me by my eldest for Christmas that year. I know this because she inscribed the book. I love a book inscription.

I’ve adapted it slightly because I didn’t have the exact flour (flour is a luxury!) and if you don’t have pears you can use other fruits: I think apples would work, or plums. This is a thin tart – as you can see from the pic. And it’s not fluffy and light. But that’s not what I wanted, I wanted something fairly healthy. That’s what I got.

115g flour – I used a mixture of plain wholemeal and spelt

40g ground almonds

One and a half teaspoons of baking powder

80ml of  maple syrup (I actually used 60ml and it was fine)

1 egg

180ml yoghurt or buttermilk

Finely grated rind of a lemon

Half a teaspoon of cinnamon

40g unsalted, melted, butter, slightly cooled

Two pears, peeled, cored, sliced

Two tablespoons of demerara sugar

 

Oven to 190C.

You need a loose bottomed tin of about 24cm, line the bottom with baking parchment.

Mix together the flours, almonds and baking powder in a largish bowl (this is where you’ll end up putting all the mixture). In another bowl mix together the maple syrup, egg, buttermilk/yoghurt, lemon zest and cinnamon. Add the maple/egg mixture to the flour/almond mixture and at this point, add the melted butter. Mix til combined.

Plop the thick mixture into the tin and spread out, you won’t have much, that’s okay. If you haven’t already, peel/slice/core the pears now and arrange in a pleasing fanned out pattern. Sprinkle with the demerara sugar. Bake for about 35-40 mins. It should be golden brown and a skewer stabbed into the cakey part should come out clean.

You can serve this warm with cream or ice cream, or cold just as it is. It’s a humble little tart but no less pleasing for that.

 

Hot oven? Cold oven?

Most mornings I preheat my oven to put the day’s bread in. My oven has a handy timer which means I can come down, the oven is up to temperature (I put the baking tray in the night before) and then I can bake the bread. That’s the usual advice isn’t it? Bread goes into a hot oven.

But one day I hadn’t pre-heated the oven and I only had a certain amount of time to put the bread in so I just put the bread onto a cold baking tray, dusted with polenta, into a cold oven, with my regulation one ice cube on a tray underneath. Then I put the oven on to 250C fan and cooked it for 40 mins (as that’s all the time I had available).

The bread needs a bit longer cooking time – probably 50 mins for a decent crust. But guess what? Absolutely no difference. Here’s the loaf I made today which went into a totally cold oven..

 

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Ratatouille and halloumi tray bake

This recipe came from an excellent and surprising source. My friend Lynda recommended it and it’s The Fast 800 Recipe book. But don’t let it put you off, honestly it’s become one of my most used and loved books for its simple, healthy, quick recipes which you can augment or add to if you’re not fasting. Which I so rarely can…This serves four which you can eat with lovely crusty bread if you’re not carb-avoidant. And who is these days? It’s surprisingly delicious. TBH I’m not a huge fan of ratatouille, or beans and yet this is…yum.

 

Ingredients

2  peppers – not green sorry, de-seeded and cut into chunks

1 medium aubergine or two courgettes

1 onion cut into chunks

3 tablespoons of olive oil

2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed

Basil leaves, a small handful sliced into shreds (don’t cry if you don’t have)

1 x 400g can of chopped tomatoes

1 teaspoon of oregano (or use a tin of tomatoes with herbs)

225g block halloumi cheese – slice into eight

A tin of 400g of drained and rinsed cannellini beans

 

Method

Oven to 220C. Place the peppers and aubergine/courgette and onions onto a tray, season with salt and pepper (but not too much salt as the halloumi is quite salty). Mix everything around and roast for 30-35 minutes, turning half way through if you can be bothered.

After this time, take out, stir in the garlic and basil, tomatoes + oregano and beans. Arrange the slices of halloumi on top and back in the oven for about 15 mins. I tend to give it a ‘top oven’ blast for a few minutes at the end. The halloumi should be lightly browned.

Scatter over more fresh basil if you remember and serve with a crisp green salad.

Pasta with roasted red pepper and walnut sauce

This is a super simple, super tasty little dish which you can prep beforehand and then, after cooking the pasta, assemble at the last minute.

Ingredients

3 red peppers (you can also use an orange or yellow one but the red adds a good colour; don’t use green peppers)

75g walnuts, lighted toasted

1 garlic clove mashed

1 tablespoon of pomegranate molasses (nice but not essential, I’ve made it without)

zest of one lemon

20g parmesan

pinch chilli flakes

25g chopped flat leaf parsley

four tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil

300g pasta – linguini or tagliatelle are a good shape here

 

Method

You need to roast the peppers for 30 minutes at 220C, and you can do this bit the day before or earlier in the day. Once roasted and cool, skin, de-seed and finely chop the peppers. As you can probably see from my pic, I chop mine very inaccurately and have tiny pieces and sometimes the odd larger piece. It is better if you take the time to really chop the pepper quite finely – so don’t be like me.

I’ve often thought about keeping the juice the peppers exude and mixing it into the pasta later, lessening the amount of oil, but confess I’ve yet to do it because I forget.

If you haven’t already, lightly toast the walnuts for five minutes but watch carefully because we know how readily nuts burn. Finely chop these too.

Once the peppers are all cooled and de-seeded and chopped, you can add in the rest of the sauce ingredients – which is basically all of the rest of the ingredients above save for the pasta. What I tend to do is do the peppers and walnuts and assemble the rest just before dinner time.

But whichever you do, at some point, you need to mix together the other ingredients to make the sauce and then season it. I forget to season something and it’s also okay. The chilli flakes lift it but I add those over the plate as my children don’t like them.

Cook the pasta, or have it cooking whilst you mix together the sauce. Then when the pasta is ready, drain, plonk into a big serving bowl and put the pepper sauce on top. Serve with extra parmesan/chilli flakes if you like. Voila.

Super fluffy pancakes with cherry berry compote

There are a few reasons this blog exists. Doing the day job I do, it’s nice to have somewhere to write fluffier (all puns intended) pieces. It’s a nice repository for recipes I’ve tried and liked (hence all the notes to myself, at times) and it’s also somewhere for my children to look up family recipes.

I didn’t have that. All the things my grandmothers (nonne) or zie (aunts) made have gone with them. My mum is still alive, thank goodness, but she now doesn’t really remember what she put in what. None of my female relatives ever wrote anything down. (The men in my family didn’t tend to cook. Although my dad made the best fried eggs and he did show me his tricks!) Perhaps they didn’t have time, perhaps they wore the whole “I don’t follow a recipe” thing as a badge of pride. Perhaps it helped them regain control in a world where they they had little control, with no economic independence (not talking about my mum here but those before her) and having to push out baby after baby all in the name of religion. Perhaps having ‘no recipe’ to follow meant that, were they mightily pissed off, as they must have been at times, meant they could at times sabotage things. Adding more or less of an ingredient that someone did/didn’t like.

You take it where you can.

But I am lucky. Thanks to my feminist mum I am financially independent but I do need to follow a recipe and as my eldest starts to grow up, and thoughts of her leaving home settle on the horizon, it’s nice to think that she can, should she so wish, look up recipes for things she enjoyed at home.

These super floofy pancakes as we call them are beloved of my youngest who isn’t a fan of super thin crepes or my oatmeal pancakes so occasionally I make these just for her and every time I have to hunt the recipe (originally from BBC Good Food) down.

Ingredients (This recipe makes enough for about ten regular sized pancakes, enough for three of us, if you want an abundance or there are more of you, then make double. The mixture keeps happily in the fridge for a day or two).

for the pancakes

175g white self raising flour, don’t even think about adding wholemeal here

1 teaspoon of baking powder

A sprinkle of cinnamon

1 teaspoon of caster sugar

1 large egg

75g of buttermilk or yoghurt

165ml of milk

for the compote if you wish

A tin of 150g cherries and berries in natural/light/syrup – don’t sweat it you can work with any of it. You can of course also use fresh or frozen berries if you have them, just cook the latter for longer. If using fresh add a tablespoon of water into the pan.

Method

the compote

Empty the tin of cherries and berries into a saucepan and warm through until gently bubbling. Depending on the juice the berries came in you may need to put half a teaspoon of cornflower to thicken it up. What you want to ideally end up with is a thickish syrup. Tinned fruit takes the least amount of time, fresh a bit longer, frozen the longest. None of it should take too long though, you want the fruit to still have shape but be soft and the syrup to be thickish.  Set aside to eat in a moment. I make the pancakes whilst this is bubbling in the background.

for the pancakes

You literally just tip all the ingredients into a bowl one by one as they are listed and give it a good whisk until there are no lumps or bumps.

Heat up a skillet or frying pan, I dribble a tiny bit of oil on and then brush the pan with my silicon pastry brush. Note a natural pastry brush will melt so don’t do that. You can just try to get the oil to cover the pan. You really don’t need much oil at all. Perhaps on a non stick pan you need none at all, but I don’t use non stick pans.

When the pan is hot, you dollop about two tablespoons (I have a small ladle from Muji which is perfect for this) onto the frying pan, on mine I can do three pancakes at a time. They don’t need much time at all to cook, maybe two mins per side. I like how the second side tends to puff up as you turn onto it.

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I have mine with Greek yoghurt and the compote, my daughter has it with chocolate hazelnut spread, my husband has his with compote, banana and chopped nuts. My eldest doesn’t like them.

 

 

 

All about the crust

I make bread almost every day. I put it in for final fridge-proving overnight and get up early (with the oven on a timer so it is up to temperature by the time I get up and a baking tray in the oven so that the raw dough goes onto a hot tray) to bake it.

I know. How lucky is everyone in my house.

There are many great things about baking your own bread but you can also custom-bake the crust so it suits you/what you’re going to use the bread for.

I usually bake sourdough bread at 220C for thirty minutes. This is how I’ve been doing it for years and it affords time for the bread to bake, and cool, in time for making sandwiches for packed lunches. And the first packed lunch leaves the house at 7.30am so you can perhaps work backwards and work out how early I get up.

(No-one makes me. I like to get up early and as the bread bakes I tidy up and get ready for the day.)

The crust on a 30 min loaf is quite thin, golden brown, it wouldn’t stop the room at a party but it’s good for anyone who can’t, or doesn’t like, very crusty bread.

But lately I’ve been craving really thick, dark, chewy crusts. To do this you need to bake for about 45 mins minimum but the longer you go the thicker the crust.

Of course if your oven is too hot it will also be too burned so you need to play with the temperature. However, what works for me is this:

250C ten minutes

220C twenty minutes

down to 200C for another ten if it’s looking too burnt, if not keep it at 220 for another ten minutes.

Yes I know this is 40 mins but timings are really tight in the morning which is why I blast it with a 250C heat to begin with.

My shelf is on middle and my oven is on normal oven (not fan) setting

The crust is amazing. I love it with butter and apricot jam.

I also stick an ice cube on a tray under the bread to allow for maximum oven spring (rising). Nothing beats the bread when it’s first baked – but cooled as I hate hot bread – and I will fight anyone for the crust-end, or ‘il culo’ (the bottom) as we say in Italian.