JOANNA'S FOOD: family cooking, from scratch, every day

Thursday, April 22, 2010

An English Kitchen

I've started a new blog, An English Kitchen. I'm not abandoning this one, I'll be using it exclusively for recipes. An English Kitchen will cover all the stuff that goes on here in the heart of our home. Today, there's baking, and I've been eating primroses. Yes, really.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Tulips in my study

I often think I like them better when they're half dead ...

Monday, April 05, 2010

Pastry ... and a watercress tart

This weekend I have cracked pastry-making. Perfect every time (4x). And, of course, it's not rocket science; but it's satisfying, all the same, to be able to write it down.

Put into a processor bowl:

200g strong* white flour
100g cubed butter, preferably straight from the fridge, but, actually, it doesn't matter
1 egg
1 tbsp water

Blitz until it forms a ball.

Roll it out until it will cover a 23cm** tin. If you used warm butter, it will stretch to a larger tin, but you will have to roll it around your pin to put it in place, AND you will have to patch it more. Speaking of which, this pastry takes well to patching.

Put it in the fridge for at least 20 minutes. All the pastry cases I made were rock hard when I put them into the oven, and this may well be a factor in their success.

Bake blind for 15 minutes at 190-200C, covered with paper and beans. The first time I gave the pastry an additional five minutes without the beans to dry it out.

You can press straight on, or leave the pastry to cool before going further. The custard will need to cook for 30 minutes, although you may need to turn it down a little for the last 10 minutes. Let it settle for 5-10 minutes before serving ... better for the tart, easier for the cook.

*strong flour is what you need for making bread, as it is full of gluten; this pastry is noticeably stretchy once it has come together in a ball .... so I think the flour is probably the secret

**A 23cm tin is just a bit too small for a 6-egg flan, but if the butter is warm and the pastry has stretched to a slightly larger tin, then the 6 egg mix is perfect: 2 whole eggs, 4 egg yolks, 500ml single cream poured over ... bacon for quiche Lorraine, or chopped watercress and a sprinkling of finely grated strong Cheddar, which I made for the vegetarians for Easter lunch but which was wolfed down by the carnivores too.

Related links

The shaken hot water pastry is an old French recipe. The olive oil pastry is good too.

Butterless pastry - and a fruit tart
Shaken hot water pastry
Olive oil pastry
Egg and bacon tart

Friday, April 02, 2010

Blue Orpingtons

My beautiful blue Orpington hens laid their first eggs this week, just in time to help with the Easter baking. I bought them in October, a sustained moment of extravagence at the end-of-season auction - the first lot went for slightly more than I wanted to pay, and so I bought the second lot for a little more than that.

They live in an Eglu just outside the kitchen window, where they anticipate my every move as they hope for yet more bread, more baked potatoes, perhaps a handful of weeds and seeds. I love their low contented-hen sounds, their busy-ness, their good-natured sibling banter ... and now, their eggs. What a treat.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

A new take on flapjacks

I've always had trouble making flapjacks that don't flake into a hopeless mess of crumbs, never quite managing to achieve the chewy texture that make flapjacks so appealing. So I wasn't at all surprised when this recipe didn't work first time. I say "didn't work" - the resulting crumbs were the most delicious flapjacks I've ever tasted. It's just that if the oats don't stick together, you can't quite call your baking a success.

I followed the recipe faithfully (SO hard), apart from one apparently insignificant detail: I used jumbo oats instead of half jumbo and half rolled. These fudgy oats are going on apples at the weekend for a cheering Easter pud, a sort of cross between apple crumble and a brown Betty. Meanwhile I have now achieved flapjack perfection, by using rolled oats chopped fine which are easily glued together by the buttery sugary fudgy mess you boil up in a saucepan first. Easy.


170g light brown soft sugar
75g golden syrup
130g unsalted butter
75ml apple juice
380g finely chopped rolled oats
95g sultanas
50g pumpkin seeds
50g sunflower seeds

Preheat the oven to 180C

Line a 20x30cm baking tin with greaseproof paper. Do not bother to grease either tin or paper.

Put the sugar, syrup, butter and apple juice in a pan and heat until the butter has melted. Weigh the dry ingredients into a large bowl, pour on the buttery sugary juice and stir well. Pour into the tin, press down, and bake for 15-20 minutes. Leave them in the tin to cool.

Lift the flapjacks out of the tin by their paper and cut into squares or bars. They'll keep for a week in a tin. If they last that long.


* As you can see, the photograph is from the first batch, made with jumbo crumbs. You are looking for oats chopped finely - you can do it yourself in a food processor (when I make our oatcakes, I routinely start by blitzing oats to make fine oatmeal, then I only need to keep one sort in the larder).

* This is adapted from Isidora Popovic's wonderful Book of Baking. The recipes are original yet adaptable, unusual but easy, beautiful and delicious. Not surprising, I suppose, as she ran a baking stall at Portobello Market for years, and so knows through and through what people like to bake and eat.