Friday, October 17, 2014

Twice Baked Potatoes

There is nothing that is quite as versatile as the humble potato.  Boiled, sauted, mashed, crisped, chopped and of course baked.  A  baked potato really hits the spot when you're cold and tired and in need of the ultimate comfort food; it should be crispy on the outside and meltingly soft on the inside; lather it in butter,add some cheese and it's nothing short of nirvana.  In fact, the only thing better is a TWICE baked potato which is then stuffed with delicious things.  This 'recipe' (if you can call it that!) is a total winner in our house.  I serve it with a crisp green salad.


one large potato per person (or more if you're very hungry or want leftovers)
diced pancetta
mature cheddar cheese
sour cream

How to:
  • I always start by microwaving the potatoes for a short time to shorten the time in the oven - usually five minutes if I have 4 potatoes in there
  • Place each potato on a metal skewer and place in the oven for approximately an hour.  They are done when you squeeze the skins and they give pleasingly
  • Fry the pancetta until crispy and when the potatoes are ready...
  • Half the potatoes and scoop out the soft flesh and place into a bowl.
  • Add a good dollop of butter, salt and pepper and mix together until smooth
  • Add as much cheese as you like for taste
  • Add the pancetta and spoon the mixture back into the cases and place on a baking tray
  • sprinkle a little extra cheese on the top and a smidgin of smoked paprika
  • Place back in the oven (or under a hot grill if you can't wait any longer) for about 15 minutes, or until the cheese on top has melted and golden brown
  • Serve with sour cream and chopped chives

Image: Peonylim

Monday, October 13, 2014

Autumnal Pleasures

I love the month of October.  Autumn is officially here and its ok to put on tights, get out the jumpers and snuggle on the sofa under a blanket.  This past weekend has been a total get-away from it all; a few days in the South Downs and it's been a  showcase for Autumn's finest.  Glorious sunshine, berry hues, copper and burnished ochres as well as a spectacular thunderstorm and torrential rain.  There has been a trip to the coast and a blustery walk along the pebble beach, breathing in the salty seaweed smell and watching the sun play hide and seek with the storm clouds.  There's been a log fire, fizz and warming pies;  picking the last of the raspberries from the canes and country pubs with scrubbed wooden tables, roaring fires and sunday roasts.  In every little shop I passed there were reminders that Autumn is upon us - the scarves, the corduroy, the pumpkins and fairy lights. Embrace it all I say, before the colours fade and the darkness of winter begins to nudge its way forward...

image: 1

Monday, October 06, 2014

Blackberry and Blueberry Brown Butter Cake

With the hedgerows bursting with sweet ripe blackberries, this recipe is just shouting out to be used right now.  I love the autumnal colours of the cake and the brown butter gives the cake batter a nutty flavour as well as that hazelnut hue. It looks like it should take centre stage at a bachinalian feast.  As this recipe is American you may want/need to convert cups to grams and you can do this here.

You will need:

3/4 cup unsalted Challenge Butter
4 eggs, room temperature
1 and 1/2 cups sugar
2 and 1/2 cups flour
1 and 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons milk
10 ounces blackberries, for cake batter
6 ounces blueberries, for cake batter
6 ounces mixed blackberries and blueberries, optional garnish for the top of the cake


Icing sugar approx one and a half cups
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon poppy seeds

First, brown the butter. When making browned butter, it is best to use a stainless steel pan so that you can see the color of the butter change. Heat the butter in a large shallow frying pan over medium heat until melted. Swirl the pan around a bit every couple minutes to help it cook evenly. Over a period of several minutes, you'll notice the foam at the top of the butter start to change from light yellow to a dark tan. Once it reaches the dark tan stage and the butter looks light brown and golden, smell it. It should smell nutty and similar to toffee. Remove from heat and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix together the brown butter, eggs, and sugar until blended. Add the vanilla extract and milk and mix until combined. Set aside.

In a large bowl, mix together the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon. Gradually add the flour mixture to the batter, mixing at medium-low speed until fully incorporated. Add the blackberries and blueberries and stir in by hand. Evenly distribute the batter between 2 well-greased and lightly floured 8-inch cake pans.

Place the pans in the oven and bake for 40-50 minutes, or until they're golden around the edges and a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean (don't insert it into a berry bit though, that will always come out rather jammy). Allow to cool for 10 minutes before removing the cakes from their pans and setting them on a wire rack to cool completely.

Once the cakes have cooled, prepare the glaze. Whisk together the powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla extract until smooth. Add the poppy seeds and whisk until they're evenly distributed throughout the glaze. Drizzle 1/3 off the glaze over the first (bottom) layer of the cake. Place the second layer on top of it and drizzle with the remaining glaze. Garnish with the fresh blueberries and blackberries and serve.


All images:Adventures in Cooking

Friday, October 03, 2014

Reasons to be Cheerful

1. Driving to work, tired and slightly dreading the very long day I knew I had ahead; as I turned the corner towards the common to see low-lying mist shrouding the grass.  The early morning sun perforated it like tiny stars and it was so breathtakingly beautiful I was instantly glad I had been out early enough to catch it, like a very unexpected gift.

2.  During a Sunday afternoon ramble, to find not just ONE haul of goodies, but TWO!  Sweet, sweet blackberries from the hedgerow that popped satisfyingly with juice when you bit into them, and the shiniest, most polished conkers I've managed to find for years; they were dropping off the tree to my feet as I walked by.

3.  To light a candle that I'd forgotten I had!  Bought in the summer along with a perfume with the same scent, once lit it instantly transported me back to those lazy, hot days in the South of France.