Monthly Archives: June 2014

Chocolate yoghurt

This is a really nice thing to have with some fruit. I’m all for eating yoghurt on its own but if you want to butch it up a little, or make it into an extra treaty thing then you can easily make chocolate yoghurt. This serves two.

Melt 50g of chocolate of your choice in the microwave or in a bowl over a pan of simmering water. White chocolate gives a lovely vanilla-y flavour but experiment with milk or plain. Obviously milk or plain will colour the yoghurt.

Now, for the yoghurt, use anything from 150g – 250g. We always have live Greek-style yoghurt (is any yoghurt dead yoghurt?) but use any plain yoghurt that takes your fancy. 150g gives you a very tasty dessert indeed. Chocolate-y tasting with a nice, clean tang of yoghurt. The more yoghurt you add, the more you’ll have to eat but the less sweet it tastes. Experiment..

Once the chocolate is melted you add the yoghurt, add a tablespoon in first so you get a smooth mixture then add the rest; stir it so it’s all amalgamated and serve with some nice fruit. Awesome, fairly healthy, dessert. If you want to up your good fats, sprinkle some chopped nuts on top.

 

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Biscuits made with nut butters

My friend Emily, who originally gave me some starter that started (ha ha) my sourdough journey, told me about some spelt and peanut butter cookies that she had made and couldn’t stop eating. Her email made it sound as if she’d eaten four that day or something.

I have Emily down as a) super healthy and b) incredibly controlled where biscuit eating is concerned so the fact that she had eaten so many, and was trying to resist eating more, meant I had to bookmark the recipe. The original one is here, but Emily said she’d adapted them with some rye so this is what I’ve done too in the recipe below.

But when I looked at the recipe, I saw it was all in cups, which are the Devil’s measurements as far as I’m concerned. I have a set of US cups which I bought from Crate and Barrell when I went to San Francisco with my Ma but I’ve never used them because recipes using cups ‘n’ sticks ‘n’ stuff like that drive me to the very edge of insanity.

Then in this month’s Martha Stewart Living there was a recipe for whole-wheat almond butter sandwich cookies which looked amazing. The recipe, like all Martha’s goddam recipes, was in cups ‘n’ sticks. I emailed her team saying “look, why can’t you also provide metric measurements as you sell your magazine in the UK”. And to their credit they did reply.

Telling me that conversion charts were available on Google. Which I guess told me how much they think of their UK readers.

Donna Hay magazine (note: Australian cups are different to US cups, DH magazine is Australian) always provides metric in its recipes. So it can be done. And you’d think that Martha, with all her Harvard interns that she gets over to organise her photo library at home, would be able to provide this.

But no.

Anyway, there were now two recipes – for essential biscuits – asking for cup measurements, so I had to man up. And with the help of about 45 people on Facebook, lots of crying and shouting and, yes, looking things up on Google, I was able to translate these recipes into metric and here I have them laid before you. I’ve also tweaked where necessary because Martha, for example, was asking for a shed-load of cream cheese and, following her recipe meant the cream cheese was far too runny. When I looked at all my other cream cheese frosting recipes (which is what this is, but sandwiched between two bics) they all had butter in, so I put butter in mine and hey-presto, it worked.

The almond sandwich biscuits are tremendously good. And full of nuts which are great for you. You could use other nuts too. I bet hazelnuts would be fabulous. These biscuits can also be eaten on their own, but where’s the fun in that when you can eat two, joined together with a spoonful of cream cheese. You need to make these as you eat them, otherwise they go soft. They’re still delicious mind. But to keep that crunch you need to keep the biscuits in an air tight container, the cream cheese mixture in the fridge, and assemble them before eating.

The spelt/rye/peanut cookies are wonderful too. But different. Easy to make and filling. You don’t get sugar crashes after eating them. And you feel kinda virtuous. I’m actually really craving one as I write and I crave these little salty, savoury sweet biscuits quite often.

Neither are cheap to make though. But they’re not the sort of biscuits you’d ever find in a shop so if you want them, you have to make them

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Wholemeal almond-butter sandwich cookies

I found these made about 30

160g wholemeal plain flour

1 teaspoon of baking powder

a big pinch of sea salt

113g of unsalted butter

130g almond (or other nut) butter

220g light brown sugar

1 large egg

85g flaked almonds, toasted and chopped

for the filling:

300g tub of cream cheese (at room temperature)

50g runny honey

40g very soft butter

half a teaspoon of vanilla extract

Method

Mix together the flour, baking powder and salt and put aside. Beat butter with an electric mixer for about a minute on medium. Obviously you can do this by hand too, or get a Harvard graduate to do it for you. Add the nut butter and beat until smooth as Martha’s face. Now beat in the sugar and egg until as well mixed as one of Martha’s parties. Now reduce the speed to low and add the flour mixture. Now, by hand, and gentle, mix in the almonds.

The dough is fairly soft at this stage, but you can form it into a long salami shape using baking parchment and a bit of swearing. Aim for about 12″ long. Freeze for about an hour or you can at this stage freeze until needed.

When you’re ready to cook, preheat oven to 180C take out the biscuit dough (if long-frozen let it be at room temperature for about half an hour, if you’ve only frozen it for an hour it’s ready to use straight away). Slice into thin rounds, just under a centimetre.

Bake on parchment lined trays for 8-10 minutes. You want them to be just gently golden. Imagine the sort of tan Martha lets herself get: nothing too extreme. If you were sure you’d want these to be eaten on their own, I’d probably cook them on the lesser side of done to give them a bit of chewiness.

Let them cool completely, then whisk together the filling ingredients, fill and go.

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Spelt/rye nut butter cookies

280g of spelt/rye flour. I used about 200g of spelt to 80g of rye, but use all spelt if you want

1 teaspoon of baking powder

1 teaspoon of salt

240g of nut butter of your choice

85g of tahini

165g maple syrup

50g of coconut oil/olive oil

1.5 teaspoons of vanilla extract

Oven to 180C. Mix together the salt, flours and baking powder. In another bowl mix together the rest of the ingredients. Introduce the two and mix gently until you get a dough. Drop spoonfuls onto a lined baking tray, or take bits of the dough off and roll, roughly into a ball and do the same (depends how easy the dough is to work with). Flatten with a fork. Bake for 8-10 mins.

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Orford Ness

We discovered Orford Ness quite by chance last year. It’s about an hour from where we live and we went there on my birthday last year, with steak pasties in our ruck sack and no expectations.

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We were blown away. Not literally of course, although that’s always a possibility on Orford Ness. It’s an old military bomb testing site – once one of the most secret places in Europe until just a few years ago – and there are still unexploded bombs there so you have to stick to the paths (the Coast Ranger told me that the light house keeper blew himself up by stepping on an UXB many years ago, but I don’t know if he was making that up..). It’s a desolate, fascinating, fragile place.

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Visitor numbers are strictly limited and you can’t book in advance, so you can only turn up and be booked on the next boat of that day – they run from 10am until 2pm to get you out there (the journey takes about a minute). The last boat back is at 5pm and they have a system in place to make sure you don’t get left behind.

So what is it? Well it’s a peninsula, a spit of land, off the very pretty village of Orford (well worth a visit). Although it is, strictly speaking, accessible by land from Aldeburgh, it isn’t for the general public and so it feels like an island which you can only get on to by boat.

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And it’s weird. If you like abandoned places you’ll love this place. There’s left behind ordnance, old buildings – some now too fragile to go into unfortunately. The National Trust – which owns it – treads a fine line between letting nature reclaim it and looking after it. There are three paths and they are only open seasonally, and not all are open at the same time and, as the numbers are limited, there is a real ‘cut off’ feeling when you get there.

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There is only one toilet and no picnic places. When we’ve been we tend to perch on old rocks ‘n’ things. There are no trees so there is no cover, so sensible shoes/clothes/sunhat/sunglasses are a must depending on the weather (which is always that bit more extreme than on the mainland). No dogs or bikes allowed.

But it’s magical. Unfortunately you can’t walk down to the lighthouse anymore and then along the amazing shingle beach which houses a significant portion of all the shingle in Europe. The lighthouse was sold last year (you can still go visit) and the beach suffered terribly in last year’s storms. Ten metres were lost in five months, four metres in just one night.

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This is such a shame because it was one of the best beach walks I’ve ever done, there’s something so raw and…epic…about this bit of coastline.

August 2015 note: this has now changed, and although the Police Tower (which is still shown on the maps) was washed away, you can walk down to and along the beach on approved paths and it is still magical. But it’s always good to check first as things do change on Orford ness!

I am completely obsessed with the Cobra Mist building, which stands, hulking and secret in the distance (you can’t get to it and you certainly can’t go in it).

I had to make do with standing ankle deep in suspect water in one of the AWRE (Atomic Weapons Research Establishment), where work ceased 43 years ago and nature has taken over. It was one of the eeriest, creepiest places I’ve ever been in. I was actually too scared to go in some of the rooms, which were dark and dripping with water.

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The rest of Orford Ness is fragile, beautiful and unlike anywhere I’ve been in the UK. So close to ‘civilisation’ and yet the moment you step onto the peninsula it feels like nowhere you’ve ever been. It feels slightly dangerous, like you’re just on the edge of something happening…

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To reconnect with the world, when we got back onto Orford, we went to the Castle Green to the lovely Lisa’s Ice cream cart and had a truly excellent ice cream..

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