Posts Tagged ‘cooking’

Cook For Syria with Baharat spice blend

Thursday, November 10th, 2016

This November sees a fantastic initiative #cookforsyria, set up by influential instagrammer Clerkenwell Boy and Suitcase Magazine in support of Unicef UK’s Children of Syria fund. A month long celebration of Syrian cooking, there will be events, supper clubs and sharing of recipes, in order to raise money through the power of food.

“We hope that through the #CookForSYRIA campaign we will not only be able to raise significant and much needed money for Unicef UK’s Children of Syria Fund, we will also increase awareness of the plight of children in the war-torn country. Through cooking, sharing recipes and the power of social media, we invite everyone to help make a difference and positive contribution towards this important initiative.” Clerkenwell Boy

For more information on the initiative please visit http://cookforsyria.com/. In the meantime, we’d like to share a recipe and information on one of our Middle Eastern spice blends, Baharat, which is popular in Syrian cuisine.

Baharat

baharat-organic-arabic-spice-blend-48gSteenbergs Organic Baharat Spice Mix is based on a traditional general spice mix used throughout the Near East or Levant, especially the Lebanon, Syria, Turkey and Palestine.  In fact baharat means spices in Arabic.  In the Levant, Steenbergs Organic Baharat is used on almost everything from lamb and mutton to fish.  Steenbergs Organic Baharat version is a Tunisian style recipe.

Steenbergs Organic Baharat contains (amongst other ingredients) organic paprika , organic black pepper , organic cumin and organic cloves and organic cardamom powder.  Try it rubbed onto chicken drumsticks for an Arabian inspired alternative to standard roasted chicken drumsticks or try the tasty recipe below.

Pan-fried Beetroot Pasta with Baharat, Orange & Walnuts

Beetroots that have been pan-fried in orange zest take on a whole new taste sensation, especially when combined with Baharat spice blend.

INGREDIENTSbaharat pasta

WHAT TO DO

  1. Toast the walnuts in the oven on 200’c for 5-10 minutes till light brown, but watch as they will burn if left unattended.
  2. Wash and slice the celery sticks and put into pan with beetroot (below)
  3. Cut the beetroot into 1/4’s and put into a deep frying pan with the butter, Baharat and orange zest
  4. Cook on high till the sugars in the beetroot start to caramelise and bring out the flavours
  5. Set aside and make the pasta
  6. Put pasta into a pan of water with the veg bouillon and bring to the boil.
  7. Cook the pasta till al dente (still with a slight chew when you bite into a piece), which should take about ten minutes, but follow packet instructions.
  8. Drain and add the nutmeg and spinach to wilt down.
  9. Put into hot bowls
  10. Divide the beetroot mixture between the bowls of pasta
  11. Top with the walnuts
  12. Serve with warm crusty bread

Delicious Family Favourites from Nadiya Hussain

Friday, May 27th, 2016

9780718184513_Nadiya'sKitchen_COV.inddHave you ever looked for alternative recipes for black sesame seeds, star anise or mustard powder? Have you wanted to add a little twist to your family meals? Then look no further than the new cookbook from 2015 Great British Bake Off Winner Nadiya Hussain.

spiced parsnip cake 2

Parsnip & Orange Spiced Cake

Nadiya’s Kitchen (Penguin, HB, £20) is a collection of over 100 of her favourite family recipes and includes delicious twists on classics such as Mustard Kale Mac & Cheese and Parsnip & Orange Spiced Cake – a twist on the traditional carrot cake but with added sweetness and flavour from the parsnips.

peanut brittle 4 resized

Peanut, Black Sesame & Ginger Brittle

Another ingenious idea is Peanut, Black Sesame & Ginger Brittle, with the black seeds giving extra theatre and the ginger adding a lovely warm kick. We’re really keen to try out the the Chocolate Fondants with Star Anise too. The star anise is ground in a pestle & mortar and then passed through a fine sieve, creating a delicious fondant that is: “crusty on the outside, warm and gooey on the inside with the distinctive, lingering aroma of anise.”

cod clementine process 13 resized

Cod & Clementine

Here at Steenbergs we are always trying to find new ways to add a bit of extra spice to our dishes and Nadiya definitely uses them with style and experience. Her unusual but delicious dish of Cod & Clementine, one of her Mum’s regular recipes, includes a great combination of spices to liven up the fish, and the clementine peel adds a fresh, zesty finish.

The book is filled with chapters ranging from ‘Lazy Sunday Mornings’ to ‘Midnight Feasts’ and ‘Snacks and Sharing’ to ‘Dessert for Dinner’. Sweet treats vie for attention with aromatic savoury snacks and we mustn’t forget the famous birthday cake that Nadiya created for Her Majesty The Queen; a delight of orange, fondant and roses.

queen's cake 1

Her Majesty’s Cake

For more information on Nadiya, please visit her website: www.nadiyahussain.com.

To buy any of the herbs and spices mentioned in the recipes, just visit www.steenbergs.co.uk or click on the images below. Happy cooking!

star anise yellow mustard powder black-sesame-seed-60g

 

 

 

 

Click here to view this promotion.

 

 

Meet Sharmini – our new recipe collaborator!

Friday, December 4th, 2015

LOGO_grey_155wWe’re really pleased to announce our new partnership with Sharmini Thomas.  Originally from Kerala, Southern India, but now based in York, Sharmini runs her own cookery courses, is a cookery tutor for the City of York, and is a presenter and judge for York Food & Drink Festival.   We’re delighted to be partnering with her on some new recipes to highlight the Steenbergs Indian spices and blends and are looking forward to an exciting 2016 where we’ll be demonstrating and videoing, sharing top tips along the way.

  1. Tell us a bit about what you’re up to at the moment:

I am Sharmini Thomas and my Company is Sharmini’s Inspirational Indian Cuisine which denotes my passion for cooking and inspiring everyone to cook simple delicious homemade food. I’m originally from Kerala but I’m now settled in York where I have been teaching Indian cuisine for the past 17 years.

I am a presenter and judge at the York Food and Drink Festival and won the ‘Yorkshire Vision Curry Contest’ through public vote against several reputable York curry houses.

I also deliver cookery demonstrations for Radio York and local schools, as well as offering team building events, hands-on cookery workshops and networking events to corporate clients through the ‘medium’ of cooking.

  1. Who was your inspiration?

Indian cooking is an art handed down from generation to generation in India and my mother was my inspiration, she shared her love through food.

  1. Tell us about some of the recipes you will be cooking for Steenbergs:

I’ve recently done a version of Bombay Potatoes, which is a very popular dish in the UK and a great accompaniment to any Indian dish.  I’ve also shared my version of Tandoori Shammi Kebabs, made with minced lamb.  Kebabs originated from the Middle East and were made famous in India during the Mogul reign.

Sharmini Bombay potatoes Sharmini tandoori shammi kebab

  1. What are you looking forward to about the partnership with Steenbergs?

A marriage of ‘Spices with recipes’!

Steenbergs had sent some of their spices and I decided to use them in preparing my usual curries. Wow! To my surprise, the curries tasted so much better as the spices took it up another notch.  It then dawned on me what I have been missing all these years…

These are some of partnership ideas to share with you all:

  • Sharing some of my classic recipes using Steenbergs spices and blends.
  • Recipe development – coming up with new dishes using different organic Steenbergs blends
  • Use of Steenbergs spices in my cookery workshops and courses
  • Cookery demonstrations – joint cookery demonstrations next year
  • Customer involvement – asking customers to post pictures of their versions of the recipes.

We will be happy to hear from you on any other ideas?

  1. What is your favourite Indian dish?

Chicken/Lamb biryani: a one pot dish with memories of family get together back in Indiaturmeric-powder-organic-fairtrade-40g

  1. Which spice could you not live without?

Turmeric powder: it has so many health benefits.

  1. Who would you most like to have dinner with?

Family and friends- looking forward to our Christmas lunch at home.

  1. What is your favourite piece of Yorkshire?

Villages of Yorkshire-very scenic and lovely fresh air –we are really blessed to live in such a beautiful county.

 

For full details of her recipes, visit: www.steenbergs.co.uk/recipes

For more details on Sharmini’s cookery courses visit her website: www.sharmini.co.uk

Recipe For Fragrant Rose Rice Pudding or Rose Kheer

Friday, August 7th, 2015
Rose Rice Pudding With Raspberries

Rose Rice Pudding With Raspberries

I have recently finished reading “The Architect’s Apprentice” by Elif Shafak, starting while on our holidays in Portugal.  It is a lovely read about unrequited and so a forlorn love between a lowly architect’s apprentice and the Sultan’s daughter,  It’s slightly magical, but with a far fetched end that sees Jahan, the main character, living a very long life to stretch his influence across the centuries.  Based in Turkey, it is redolent with the smells of roses and rose water, e.g.

“Jahan tried to utter something to raise her spirits, but he could find no words that she would follow.  A while later a servant brought her a bowl of custard, flavoured with rosewater.  The sweet scent…”

It turned my thoughts to roses, so I made today a Rose Rice Pudding that we ate warm because outside it was raining again – summer where have you gone.  I then let it cool and made the leftovers into a Raspberry & Rose Kheer per the photo.

Rose Rice Pudding or Rose Kheer

Ingredients

1 litre / 1¾ pints / 4¼ cups full fat milk
100g / 3½oz / ½ cup pudding rice
50g / 1¾ oz / ¼ cup golden caster sugar
½tsp organic cinnamon powder
Pinch of sea salt
½ teaspoon of vanilla powder or a vanilla pod, slit lengthways
150ml / 5¼ fl oz / ½ cup double cream
½tsp organic rose blossom water
1tsp ground dried rose petals (optional)

How to make rose rice pudding

Put the pudding rice, caster sugar, organic cinnamon powder and salt into a heavy bottomed pan.  Give it a quick stir to mix it up a tad.

Add the milk and the vanilla pod, then bring to the boil.  When it starts to boil, reduce the heat and leave to simmer gently for 35 minutes, or until the rice is tender.

Add the double cream, rose water and rose petals, then cook for a further 10-15 minutes, stirring constantly until nice and it has thickened.

If you want to eat it warm, sprinkle some caster sugar over the top and either caramelise it with a blowtorch or under the grill.

For rose kheer or a nice cold rice pudding, leave to cool for around 30 minutes, then place into the fridge for at least an hour.  To make it into a Raspberry & Rose Kheer, I put some raspberries in the base of the glass and three delicately on the top.

Rose Kheer With Raspberries

Rose Kheer With Raspberries

Spice Taster Panel – Ras Al Hanut and Organic Harissa with Rose

Friday, June 13th, 2014

  SPICE – SEASON – SAVOUR

Welcome back to our taster panel, where this time our resident testers have been spicing it up with Ras al Hanut and organic Harissa with Rose.   We’ve had a great response and thought we’d share some of their thoughts and ideas with you.  Some of the tips were so good that we’re adding them on to the product pages!

Steenbergs Ras al Hanut

Steenbergs Ras Al Hanut spice blend

Many of you found this wonderful blend of over 20 different spices well rounded, warm, fragrant and spicy but not too hot. ‘Even the kids like it’, said one taster.  You all found it an incredibly versatile blend, using it in everything from scrambled eggs to fish and in a lot of lamb dishes, such as koftas & rack of lamb. With its heady range of spices, it made you think of holidays in the sun, somewhere warm and exotic.  Keith Lemon was mentioned as an ideal dinner guest (!) but the majority of you wanted to share an alfresco meal with your friends and family.  A little Bedouin music was in order for one taster, with an eclectic range from reggae to latin for the rest of you.  Definitely a blend to be enjoyed together.

Steenbergs Ras Al Hanut spice blend, created in rural North Yorkshire and tested by the Steenbergs taster panel.

Steenbergs Ras Al Hanut spice blend, created in rural North Yorkshire and tested by the Steenbergs taster panel.

Key Phrases for Ras al Hanut: ‘wonderful smell – casting me back to ethnic spice markets in foreign parts’; ‘light & fragrant without being overpowering or aggressively punchy’; ‘fantastic, had a lovely warmth without being too spicy’; ‘perky, interesting, not too hot,  very tasty, brilliant with lamb’.

Top Cooking Tips: moroccan chicken stew; vegetable stew; on scrambled eggs; stew; rub on chicken; rub on steak & lamb; Moroccan tagine; roasted veg; eggs; fish; chicken; chicken curry; lamb spice rub on rack of lamb; spice rub on chicken wings; with lamb; on hummous; roasted veg; lamb koftas with ras al hanut with spritz of lemon; Moroccan veg stew; pork steak with garlic; Couscous balls – mixed with olive oil then stirred into couscous, then formed couscous into a ball before eating;

Steenbergs organic Harissa with Rose

Steenbergs organic harissa with rose spice blend, blended in Yorkshire.

Another blend with North African origins, this was very different in character and also divided opinion with the addition of rose.  Most of you enjoyed it, one was pleasantly surprised after initial suspicion, one couldn’t taste the rose and one was definitely not convinced! However you did all give it a really good try in a fantastic range of recipes: from roasted chickpeas to Muhammara dip, and from butternut and harissa hummus to puy lentil dressing.  You also used it in tagines, as a rub and in a yoghurt dip showing the huge variety of meals that can benefit from this blend.  Again it whisked you all far away to a warm night in Morocco with friends, or maybe by yourself but you had everything from Algerian Rai to Reggae to entertain you!

 

Steenbegs organic Harissa with Rose comments from the Taster panel

 

Key phrases for Harissa with Rose: ‘Lovely, one of the nicest harissa’s I’ve had’;nice, warm, spicy hot with flavour’; ‘warm with hints of garlic & onion’; ‘there is an initial chilli flavour which mellows into a lovely fragrant flavour and leaves the palate with a warmth that hums on afterwards’.

Top Cooking Tips: roasted chickpeas; veg stew; grilled fish; stock for couscous; Shakshuka; marinade for lamb/steak; dressing for bulgur wheat & chickpea salad; spicy pork;in Muhammara dip – nicely set off the vinegar/sharp notes; Butternut & harissa hummous; harissa and sweet potato wedges; spicing for N African stews, mixed with olive oil for marinade for fish, chicken, meat and kebabs; puy lentil salad dressing; tagine; griddled veg; patatas bravas; pork steak and couscous

We always love to hear from our customers, what amazing creations you make in the kitchen with our spices and what you like (and don’t like), comment underneath about how you find these spice blends or alternatively email us direct, instagram, facebook or tweet your creations to us. Happy Cooking

  SPICE – SEASON – SAVOUR

For the full range of Steenbergs arabic spice blends, click here, all of these are created and blended at Steenbergs in rural North Yorkshire.

Steenbergs Tasting Panel results – Spices 1

Wednesday, February 5th, 2014

 

Spice Tastings

Welcome to 2014 and a review of our exciting new Taster Panels!  Back in October 2013, we asked all of our lovely customers if any of you would like to be tea and spice tasters for us and luckily lots of you agreed! Thank you so much to all of you who have kindly spiced, seasoned and savoured for us, so that we can help improve our products and ultimately give you all more of what you would like to see from Steenbergs.

If you have a point of view about either of these products, please don’t hesitate to comment at the end.

Our volunteer spice panellists were sent 2 very different blends to try: Steenbergs organic Perfect Salt, which is the ultimate all-round seasoning, first introduced by Steenbergs in their first summer back in 2004 and the brand new Steenbergs organic Apple Pie Mix, a comforting blend of warming spices, perfect for all kinds of home-baking.

 

1. Perfect Salt

We had a fantastic response to our Perfect Salt sample with 85% of you loving its great versatility, using it in recipes ranging from scrambled eggs to tomato salad, and from stews to breadcrumb toppings, as a cooking ingredient as well as a condiment.  60% of you loved it with roasted vegetables, with potatoes being by far the favourite.  The majority of you loved the crunchy texture of the blend but some of you chose to use a grinder for finer application.  The herbs and pepper were a welcome combination but a couple of you made the helpful suggestion that perhaps this should be called ‘Perfect Seasoning’ rather than Perfect Salt due to the balance of other flavours.  Cosy, homely times with friends and family were the ideal way to enjoy this product, although Tom Kerridge and Italy also made an appearance – showing its versatility in a new light!

Steenbergs Organic Perfect Salt Mix - ideal for seasoning savoury products or as a table condiment.

Steenbergs Organic Perfect Salt Blend


 

Key Phrases for Perfect Salt:

‘Herbs bring a warming balance and flavour’; ‘tangy sea salt’; ‘adds an extra dynamic to food’; ‘rich and versatile product that no good cook or kitchen should be without!’; ‘use with everything!’; ‘Salt & pepper with a herby bite’; ‘A one-stop-shop for seasoning’; ‘really versatile’; ‘a quick addition of umami’; ‘works in/on anything savoury’; ‘a real all-purpose product’; ‘the potential uses for this are unlimited’; ‘one pot for a lot of flavour’

 

Steenbergs Organic Perfect Salt Wordle

What the Steenbergs Taster Panel thinks about Steenbergs organic perfect salt blend

 

 

 

 

 

4. Apple Pie Spice Mix

We received a definite response to our Apple Pie Mix, with cries of Christmas, winter, log fires and baking.  Even with a relatively specific product name, the versatility of the product was enjoyed and thoroughly put to the test with everything from the more obvious fruit pies and crumbles through to North African tagines, chai tea, mulled wine and pumpkin soup.  Over half of you wanted to enjoy this at home in some wintery or autumnal context although the Caribbean was mentioned!  Along with family and friends, Paul Hollywood and children also featured as your preferred guests to enjoy some cosy family baking courtesy of the Apple Pie spice blend.

Steenbergs spice mix for apple pies

Steenbergs Organic Apple Pie Mix

 

 

Key Phrases for Apple Pie Spice Mix:

‘A mouth-watering blend of organic bliss!’; ‘It inspires flavourful pie making’; ‘this took me back to my Nan’s apple pie’; ‘liked that it had no sugar’; ‘not limited to apple pie’; ‘an aromatic blend to enliven any pie/crumble’; ‘lovely and warm and cosy’; ‘good spice with roundness and a hint of vanilla’; ‘warm & wintery flavours’; ‘warm, Christmassy spice’; ‘like Grandma’s mince pies’; ’It smells like Christmas and tastes like Heaven!’

What Steenbergs Taster Panel think of Steenbergs Apple Pie Mix

What the Steenbergs Taster Panel think of Steenbergs Apple Pie Mix

Cooking With A Wonderbag

Tuesday, June 5th, 2012

Sophie came across the Wonderbag on the radio and then The Guardian, so one arrived several weeks thereafter.  Basically, a Wonderbag is a modern and green take on the slow cooker and that you find in books as far back as Mrs Beeton’s and even like the traditional way of cooking in a hole in the ground.  It is a highly insulated textile bag that comes in very homely patterns and is filled with insulating balls that you wrap around your boiled pot of food.  The key is to get them really hot and to have a pot that fits the amount of food you are making, rather than one with loads of space.  We have found it a great way of preparing a healthy, wholesome stew in the morning for eating when we get back with the kids after school later in the day; much better than whacking on the microwave for a “ping meal”.  Overall, it is a great and retro way of creating change in the world that works especially well with foods that do best with a slow cooking, for example pork ribs, casseroles and mince.

Wonderbags are so ethical in that for everyone you buy in the UK, one will be given for free to a family in South Africa.  They are so green that they are said to save 30% on fuel bills for those using them in South Africa and we can save here in the UK as well.  They have been hugely successful in South Africa and now are in over 150,000 homes (saving 50,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide) and Unilever is looking to distribute 5 million to people in poverty around the world.

In overview, the way to cook is summed up in the little booklet that comes with the bag:

“Just heat up your pot of food on the stove, kick-starting the cooking process, then place inside the Wonderbag.  Wonderbag’s incredible insulating properties allow food that has been brought to the boil to finish cooking while in the bag without the use of additional energy.”

Pork ribs in sweet sauce

Sweet Pork Ribs cooked in a Wonderbag

Sweet Pork Ribs cooked in a Wonderbag



Ingredients

2 racks of pork ribs
2tbsp vegetable oil
3 cloves garlic, smashed and chopped finely
2tsp cornflour
400ml / 14 fl oz apple juice
2tbsp cider vinegar
2tbsp dark soy sauce
4tbsp dark brown sugar
2tbsp honey
1cm / ½ inch fresh ginger, grated

Prepare the pork ribs:  remove the thin skin on the underside by pulling this off with your hands (for more on this visit Youtube); then chop the ribs into thirds.  In a heavy bottomed frying pan, add the vegetable oil and heat until hot.  Add the pork ribs and fry until browned.  Set aside.

Fry the garlic and ginger in the vegetable oil, then remove then add all the other ingredients, except the ribs and cornflour, and stir together.  Put the cornflour into a small dish or ramekin, add a small amount of the sweet sauce and stir with a teaspoon until thoroughly mixed and without any lumps; add some more of the sauce and stir until you get a thickish paste, then add this to the sweet sauce and stir in.  Now add the ribs.

Put the top on to your casserole dish and bring to the boil.  Simmer with the lid on for 15-20 minutes, then place into the Wonderbag, close up and leave for 6 or more hours – the longer the better.  If you need to reheat it before stirring, simply place bag on the hob and heat to boiling, then serve.

Serve with plain boiled rice and some stir fried vegetables.

Slow cooked mince

Mince Cooked In Wonderbag

Mince Cooked In Wonderbag

Ingredients

1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 carrots, chopped into thin slices
500g / 1lb beef mince
2tbsp olive oil
1 glass of red wine
1 x 400g / 14 oz tin of chopped tomatoes
250ml / 8 fl oz water
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper to taste

Add the olive oil to the casserole pot.  When hot, add the chopped onions and lightly fry for 5 minutes.  Add the carrots and fry for another 2 minutes.

Next add the beef mince and cook until browned all over.

Add the red wine, stir in and let it be simmered off.

Add the chopped tomatoes, water, bay leaf and season.  Bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes until the sauce has reduced to your satisfaction.  Put the lid on and simmer for a few minutes to get the lid heated through, then place into the Wonderbag and leave for 2 to 8 hours.  Reheat if necessary on the hob before serving to get it piping hot.

Serve with rice or pasta, or some mashed potato.

Simple rice pudding

Ingredients

100g / 4oz pudding rice
50g / 2oz  caster sugar
500ml / 17 fl oz whole milk
10g / ½ tbsp unsalted butter
1tsp vanilla extract

Firstly, wash the rice in water.

Add the milk to the casserole pot and bring to the boil with the casserole lid on.  When it starts to boil, add the butter, caster sugar and vanilla extract and stir until the butter and sugar have melded in.

Add the pudding, bring to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes with the lid on.

Place into the Wonderbag, close it up and leave for 2 hours.  When finished, grate a little nutmeg over the top, grill for a few minutes to brown off the top, then serve.

Pretty Little Rich Cake

Tuesday, April 17th, 2012

It was Sophie’s birthday the other day.  We went out en famille for a Chinese meal at Sweet Basil in Kirk Hammerton.  Sophie wanted a strawberry cake, so I felt like trying something a bit old-fashioned.  Before Bird and Dr Oetker independently came up with the idea of baking powder to put the fluff into your cakes through a bit of basic chemistry, cakes were made with more eggs and the air was physically put in through some hard grafted whisking.  Cakes were generally less light, but had a lot more body to them.  I also think that these old-fashioned cakes tend to soften over time rather than dry out as much as more modern cakes.

This little cake looks pretty, dressed in fluffy white cream and gorgeous pink strawberries, and is full of that extra rich taste from a profusion of eggs.  I like it much more than your typical sandwich type cake, and it is not much more complicated to make.

Strawberries & Cream Vanilla Cake

Ingredients

125g / 4½ oz / 1 cup organic plain flour
125g / 4½ oz / ½ cup organic caster sugar
4 medium free range eggs, at room temperature
1tsp organic Fairtrade vanilla extract
75g / 2¾ oz / ⅓ cups / ⅔ sticks butter, melted then cooled a bit
2tbsp strawberry jam/conserve
4-6 decent sized strawberries, quartered
125ml / ½ cup whipping cream
½-1tbsp vanilla sugar

How to make

Start by preparing two 20cm/9 inch round cake tins: lightly grease the tins, then line with base with some baking paper.

Preheat the oven to 180C/355F.

Sieve the plain flour then set it aside.

Add the caster sugar, eggs and vanilla extract into a heatproof bowl.  Boil a kettle of water and put into a pan, then reheat it until simmering.  Put the heatproof bowl with egg-sugar mix over the simmering water, using a hand-held electric whisk at the highest level for 5 minutes.  This will increase the volume to around three times the initial level and the colour to a creamy yellow colour.

Scoop about one-third of the sieved plain flour over the egg-sugar mixture, then using a big metal spoon fold the flour into the mixture.  Repeat for the remaining two thirds of plain flour.  Next drizzle the cooled liquid butter into the mix in thirds again, folding in carefully each time.  The key is do the minimal of folding to keep the air in the egg-sugar mixture as much as possible.

Pour the mixture into the prepared tins and then bake for 25 minutes.  Leave in the tins for a few minutes before turning out the baked tin, and allow it to cool down fully.

This cake is delicious on its own, but I wanted to make it into something a bit fancier for Sophie:

  • Firstly, I spooned some strawberry jam onto one of the cakes – not too much, but enough to stick the two cakes together.  Then I put the two cakes together.
  • Secondly, I whipped some cream with the vanilla sugar – pour the cream into a mixing bowl, then whisk until getting harder, when you should sprinkle over the caster sugar; whisk some more until the cream makes soft peaks.  Scoop and smooth over the top of the cake, then arrange the chopped strawberries in the whipped cream.
Strawberry & Cream Cake

Strawberry & Cream Cake

Enjoy on its own, or with a delicious cup of Earl Grey tea or First Flush Darjeeling.

Having A Crack At Making Pan Pepato

Monday, March 5th, 2012

One of my favourite Christmassy things is panforte and I, also, love Nurnberger lebkuchen.  It hails from Siena which is probably my favourite city in Italy.  There really is something special about sitting out in the Piazza del Campo, looking across the amphitheatre shape of the cobbled open across to the Palazzo Publico.  Perhaps it is all a bit too idyllic and I am lucky never to have seem the Palio with its crowds and thundering horses which would distract from this view.  Anyway Siena is the capital of panforte.

While I went on the hunt for a panforte recipe and came across a recipe for pan pepato, a peppered biscuit-cake.  In fact, it appears that the history of both panforte and pan pepato are intertwined, with both coming from the region – there are various stories as to whether pan pepato came first then was rejigged in 1879 to make a cake, panforte, in honour of a visit by Queen Margharita of Savoy, while others say panforte came first and Sister Berta fiddled with the recipe to make a more wholesome breadcake, pan pepato, when Siena was besieged in 1554.

Pan pepato is a chocolatey and spicy biscuit cake that is more similar in flavour and texture to lebkuchen than anyone seems to indicate.  This suggests to me that this style of sweet baked goods was pretty ubiquitous across Europe in the Middle Ages, as there is no raising agent in it as would be found in most modern biscuits.  Then in a similar vein to British Christmas items, it is heavy on those grocery items that were really expensive in the past – dried nuts, dried fruits and spices.  They also contain chocolate or cocoa, so probably could not have included these flavours before 1585 when the first commercial shipments of chocolate were recorded nor perhaps until the mid 17th century when cocoa became more freely available.

It is pretty easy to make and is a good use of lots of unusual spices, giving the cake a decently warming aftertaste from the black pepper and cubeb pepper while it has the festive flavours of cassia, nutmeg and cloves coming through.  I like it but it is definitely an adult treat – our kids were decidedly unimpressed and gave that classic “What is that, Dad?” look after the one mouse-like, little bite.

Panpetato Layered In Black And White

Panpepato Layered In Black And White

Note that some recipes suggest that you boil the sugar mix to the soft ball stage, but I did not need that at all, and question whether that is just a modern adjustment to the recipe, e.g Waitrose, but these exclude chocolate and use cocoa instead.

Ingredients

75g / 2½oz sultanas
25g / ¾oz dried figs, chopped into sultana sized pieces
125g / 3½oz hazelnuts
125g / 3½oz almonds
50g / ¾oz pine nuts, chopped
100g / 3½oz chopped mixed peel
100g / 3½oz plain dark chocolate, chopped into medium sized chunks
200g / 7oz runny honey
2tbsp unsalted butter
80g / 2¾oz plain flour, sifted
1tsp ground black pepper
1tsp ground cassia (or ground cinnamon)
½tsp ground nutmeg
¼tsp ground cloves
¼tsp ground cubeb pepper
1tbsp icing sugar, sifted
1tsp pink peppercorns, crushed (optional)

The method

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F.

Boil the kettle and pour hot water over the sultanas and chopped figs to soak them.  Leave to infuse for 15 minutes, then drain.  I made a pot of strong black chai tea (you could use any strong black tea), and infuse them in this; it is not traditionally correct, but it worked well, or perhaps you could soak it overnight in a port or sweet white wine, ideally a vin santo.

Put the whole nuts on an ungreased baking tray at 180C/350F and toast for about 5 minutes, which will dry the skins.  Roll these in a clean tea towel for a couple of minutes to remove the skins.   Place the pine nuts on the baking tray and toast for about 3 minutes until they start to colour.  Leave all the nuts to cool down, then chop them roughly.

Turn the oven down to 170C/325F.  Lightly grease two baking trays; use the ones that you used earlier but make sure they have cooled down.

Tip the toasted chopped nuts, soaked fruit, mixed peel and ground spices into a mixing bowl.  Give them all a good stir to thoroughly mix it all together.

Weigh the runny honey in the saucepan, then add the unsalted butter.  Over a medium heat, heat these until the butter has melted.  Take off the heat, add the dark chocolate pieces and stir until all the chocolate has melted.

Pour the chocolate sauce into the nut-fruit mixing bowl and stir thoroughly.  Add the plain flour and mix everything together until it starts to clump.

Pan Pepato Arranged In A Tower

Pan Pepato Arranged In A Tower

Spoon the mix into 8 or 10 scoops, roll into balls then place each onto the greased baking tray.   Flatten the top of each of the balls until each is about 2½ cm thick (1 inch).

Bake for 20-25 minutes until firm.  Take from the oven and allow them to cool completely before removing them.

Dust the tops very generously with icing sugar.  Sprinkle with the crushed pink peppercorns if using them.

They will keep for many weeks and make good Christmas gifts.

Delicious (Though I Say It Myself) Orange And Earl Grey Cake

Saturday, February 25th, 2012
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