Apple pie

There are probably as many apple pie recipes, or variations of recipes, for this favourite dessert of many nations, than there are chefs and home cooks. The below recipe is one I like. Some people prefer more filling to pastry, some like more pastry. I think this recipe gives you enough of both.

Pastry
225g butter, room temperature

50g caster sugar, plus a little bit extra for sprinkling on top
2 eggs
350g plain flour
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Filling

1 kg Bramley apples
150g caster sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
3 tbsp plain flour

1. Prepare the pastry first. Beat the butter and sugar together in a bowl until mixed. Add one whole egg, and one yolk, and save the remaining egg white for later. Beat together for one minute.The mixture will look a little bit like scrambed eggs at this point. Then add the flour little by little. Tip the dough onto floured surface, and finish working the dough by hand. Form the dough into a ball, wrap in cling film and chill in the fridge for 45 minutes.

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2. Whilst the dough is in the fridge, prepare the apple filling. Quarter, core, peel and slice the apples. You want the slices to be quite thin, about 5mm thickness. Lay on a baking paper, and cover with paper towels. Let dry for about 30 minutes.

3. Mix the sugar, cinnamon and flour for the filling. Use big enough bowl, to be able to fit the apple slices later.

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4. Heat the oven to 170°C / 340°F. Cut 2/3 of the dough for the base, leaving the remaining third for the lid wrapped. Roll the base out, to be big enough to cover the pie tin, with a slight overhang. It may be a good idea to place the dough between two non-stick baking paper sheets when rolling it. Place into the tin, and roll out the lid.

5. Pat the apples dry, and put into the bowl with the sugar – cinnamon mix, and mix together well, so that all the apple slices are coated with the mixture. Tip it all onto the pie tin. Wet the pastry rim with water, using your fingers. This will help the lid to stick. Place the lid over the apples, and press edges together with the base. Stab 5 slashed with a sharp knife, and brush with beaten egg white. Sprinle with some more sugar, and bake for about 45 minutes.

6. Once baked and golden brown, let rest for about 10 minutes.

 

Scones

Scones are very British, and traditionally eaten with afternoon tea. Go anywhere for your high tea, scones will be served after your finger sandwiches, before the cakes. You will usually have a selections of ones without raisins, and ones with them. I personally tend to prefer the ones without. I’m a big fan of using buttermilk in baking, and I do use them for scones as well. Scones are traditionally served with some jam and clotted cream (I normally prefer whipped cream). There is a long standing debate about whether the jam goes on first, followed by the cream, or vice versa. One thing is for sure: they are indeed very easy to make, and you will be wondering why you never made them yourself in the past!

makes about 10-12

350g self-raising flour
100g caster sugar
100g butter, cut into small pieces
180ml buttermilk
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clotted / whipped cream
jam

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C / 356°F (fan).

2. Measure together the flour and sugar, and mix. Add the butter pieces. Rub together, until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add the buttermilk, and mix together into a dough.

3. Place the dough on a floured surface. I tend to cut the dough into half, to make it easier to handle the dough when making the scones. Shape it into a ball, and flatten with your hand. Finish flattening with a rollin pin, until about 2.5cm (1 inch) thick. Cut out the scones. I use a glass that is about the size I want the scones to be, about 5cm (2 inches) in diameter. Repeat with all the leftover dough, to use it all.

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4. Place on a non stick baking paper and baking tray, and bake for about 12 minutes. After the time has passed, you can check they are cooked through by piercing one with a metal pin. If nothing sticks to the pin, they are cooked.

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5. Let cool on a wire rack. Cut in half and fill with jam and cream.

Butternut squash tortellini

I don’t often cook full vegetarian meals (I should try to do it more), but at the end of the day, as long as the food delivers on flavour, it doesn’t really matter what it is. These vegetarian  tortellinis filled with butternut squash definitely do just that.

Serves 4
1 butternut squash
250g fine white wheat flour (00 grade is best)
2 large eggs
3 cloves of garlic
3 sprigs of fresh thyme
1 onion
50ml double cream
50ml pine nuts
1tbsp olive oil
salt
black pepper

1. Peel and cut the butternut squash into cubes. Place half in a pot with two cloves of garlic and the thyme sprigs. Cover with a lid, bring to boil and simmer until soft (around 20-30 minutes), drain the liquid in another pan, saving it for later.

2. Peel and chop the onion, and place in the same pot the squash was cooked in, together with the olive oil. Heat and fry the onion for a few minutes. Squeeze one clove of garlic in, and fry for another minute or so. Remove the thyme sprigs and whole garlic cloves from the cooked butternut squash pieces, and add the butternut squash to the pan. Stir together, and set aside to cool.

3. Bake the remaining half of the squash pieces in a preheated oven 180°C/355°F for about 30-40 minutes, depending on the size of the pieces.

4. Prepare the pasta.  Measure the pasta flour in a bowl. Make a well in the centre, and pour the eggs in. Then, starting with a fork, break the eggs and little by little mix the eggs with the surrounding flour. Once the dough gets firmer, move onto kneading by hand.

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5. Once cooled, prepare the filling. Put the boiled squash pieces,  fried onion and garlic in a blender. Add half the cream and half the pine nuts, then blitz together. Add salt and pepper to taste.

6. Cut the dough into four pieces. Repeat the next stages with all pieces. Roll the piece to a cigar shape, then flatten the piece with your hands, and roll through the pasta machine, on the widest setting. Fold the dough over in half, and roll through the same setting again. Then reduce the setting to the next, and roll through. Repeat until desired thickness is achieved. I would say from 7 down to 2 should be fine.

7.  Cut your pasta. Brush half of the pasta round with egg, and add the filling (make sure it’s cooled). Fold the other half of the pasta over, and close with your fingers, pressing the pasta firmly together. Make sure you don’t leave air in.

8. Boil a large pan of water, with a generous amount of salt. Add the tortellini to the boiling water and cook for 5 minutes.

9. Bring the saved cooking water of the butternut squash to boil in a separate pot. Reduce to about half. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and add 25ml double cream. Mix the oven roasted squash pieces into the sauce.

10. Serve the tortellini and the sauce together with the rest of the pine nuts sprinkled on top, and with some pea shoots and grated parmesan cheese.

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Lobster bisque

To make this food sing, you do want to make the effort. The shells of this crustacean are packed with flavour, so you must use them to your benefit. Lobster is an expensive ingredients, so this is perhaps something to make when you’re seriously trying to impress someone. This soup is very decadent and luxurious. Most of the meat will be used in the base of the soup, however you could save some of the meat to be eaten either on it’s own, or as pieces in the soup. It’s always satisfying to bite into a juicy piece of meat. I got my lobsters from the fishmongers already boiled. You can serve this as a main soup, or it works very well as a starter.

serves 6
2 fresh lobsters
1 onion
1 carrot
1 celery stick
2 litres water
2 tbsp tomato paste
200ml brandy
2 tsp sea salt
1 tbsp black peppercorns
2 bay leaves
3 garlic cloves
5 parsley stalks
25g butter
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1 shallot
1 garlic clove
1 tbsp lemon juice
3 tbsp flour
150ml double cream
handful of dill, finely chopped
salt
black pepper

25g butter

1. Cut the shell on the belly side, to remove the meat. Pull the tail part of the shell separate from the head. Discard what’s inside the head, but keep all the shell of the lobster. Set all of the tail and claw meat aside.

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2. Place the butter and all other ingredients apart from the brandy and water into a large pan. Fry on medium to high heat, stirring, to ensure the shells are fried. Then, pour in the brandy, and let it bubble for a few minutes, then add the water. Simmer the stock for about an hour.

3. Melt the butter in another pan, and fry the shallots and garlic on a medium heat for couple of minutes, until the shallots are translucent. Add the flour, and stir together. Add the lemon juice, and start straining the stock from the shells. Keep stirring the mixture, to incorporate the liquid into the flour mixture. Little by little it will become thinner liquid.

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4. Once all the liquid had been used , place in a blender, together with the lobster meat, and blitz until smooth. Return to the pan, and add the cream and dill. Season to taste.

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Crêpes

Crêpes are a good, easy choice when you feel like you would like to treat yourself (or your family) to a sweet breakfast. All ingredients are part of most households’ basic cupboard, so this doesn’t require much pre-planning. And why not make a big enough batter to have some left over, to use for savoury galettes later?

makes 8 large crêpes
2 eggs
600 ml milk
250 ml basic wheat flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp sugar
~ tbsp butter, melted, + extra for frying

1. Slightly whisk the eggs so that the yolks and the whites are combined together. Whisk in half of the milk. Then add the flour little by little, whisking in until all the flour has been added and the mixture is slightly thick batter. Mix rest of the milk into the batter, then add salt, sugar and melted butter, and whisk just to mix everything together.

2. Let the batter rest for about 15 minutes.

3. Give the batter a slight stir. For each crêpe, use a small piece of butter for frying. Melt the butter in a frying pan, and add a ladle (about 100ml) of batter into the pan. I have a large frying pan, and this amount works well. If your pan is smaller, less might be better.

4. The first crêpe tends to take slightly longer to fry, than the rest of them, but generally it will take around 3-4 minutes to cook the first side, and around one minute for the second side, depending on heat. I use medium heat, and fry the first side one setting higher than the second side. When cooking the first side, when the batter has become firm on top, and the crêpe has normally gotten holes in the batter, you can start checking the underside to see whether it’s browned enough. Once the underside is nice golden colour, flip the crêpe over and fry the other side until nice colour.

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5. Serve with your choice of topping and enjoy!

 

Ultimate roast beef

I’ve been on a quest to find that perfect way to cook roast beef, so that it’s very tender, pink and juicy. I’ve been combining tips and tricks from different recipes, and I believe I have now gotten to where I want to be. This is how I will from now on always cook my roast beef. It will take time to cook, however roasting it at such low temperatures should guarantee a perfect result every time. It will really help to use a meat thermometer.

1.6 kg beef roasting joint (I use rump)
2 litres of Pepsi or Coca Cola (I use Pepsi Max)
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1 tbsp coarsely ground black peppercorns
2 tsp sea salt
leaves from a few sprigs of fresh thyme
2 tbsp olive oil

1. Cover the beef with the cola, then cover with cling film and put in the fridge over night.

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2. Remove the beef from the cola, and dry with kitchen tissue. Mix the coarsely ground peppercorns, salt, oil and thyme leaves together, then massage the mixture onto the beef. Keep in the room temperature for few hours.

3. Preheat oven to 80°C / 176°F. Place the meat thermometer in a way that the tip is right at the centre of the meat. Put the beef in the oven, and roast until the inside temperature reaches 60°C / 140°F. For this size roasting joint it will take around 3.5 hours.

4. Remove from the oven, and wrap in few layers of foil and a cloth, then rest for 15 minutes, before carving.

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My weight loss journey series: vol 3 – The first hurdle

As I’m on a pretty low calorie diet, I knew that at some point by metabolism would shut down, so I was prepared for it when it happened. It’s a funny thing with our bodies. Those who do weights training at the gym for example, know that you need to change your exercise programme after a while, because the body has gotten used to the old programme. We have to break that routine to kick start things again. Now, this actually suits me very well. I like having the break weeks, where I can be on a normal diet and eat more, and things I don’t eat during my dieting weeks. Don’t get too discouraged when the weight loss stagnates. As my target per week is to lose 0.5kg (1.1lbs), and I lost more than double that within the first weeks, I tend to calculate where I should be at that stage, if I had lost only my target amount. Sometimes you lose more, sometimes less.

My metabolism shut down came after 5 weeks of dieting. For the next two weeks, I was off my strict diet. For breakfast I might’ve been having either the usual porridge, or perhaps some bread, omelette etc, more varied than during the diet. For lunch I still had my usual salad, and for dinner rice and potatoes were added. Here are a  couple of recipe ideas you could try: Squid and chorizo saladChicken paella

I think the key is firstly not to go completely crazy and overboard when you are on the break weeks, not counting calories, but still keep some sense to it. Secondly, the more difficult thing is to start the diet again after the couple-of-week-break. At this stage, you have now gotten comfortable with not counting calories, and the taste of your favourite foods. You really have to be disciplined to get back on the diet. I think this part is where some might fail and drop out.

People also tend to start slacking when they have achieved such a weight loss already, so it’s important that even if you’re feeling really great because of your achievements so far, there is still a way to go.

During your break week, do expect to gain some weight. My weight only went up by 0.7kg (1.5lbs) which I consider to be quite good. After going back on the diet, my weight went down to less than what it had been before the break within the first week.

Now, sometimes your weight may momentarily go up regardless of your efforts. This happened to me four weeks after being back on the diet after the break. I just kept at it, and the following week the weight came crashing down, far lower than it had ever been since starting originally. Firstly, view it over a couple of weeks. If still not budging, do another break to kick start the metabolism again, or a booster with some exercise.

I haven’t included much exercise to my weight loss yet. I’m at the moment using it as a booster if things get stuck. I might do a brisk 30-60 minute walk once or twice a week when required or a jog around the block (this hasn’t been many times). This seems to have helped a few times.

Regardless of the hurdles my weight still keeps going down. Just keep going and don’t give up.