• Celebrate Vegetarian Week

    by  • 21/05/2015 • Country food • 0 Comments

    Mediterranean wild rice salad

    This week is National Vegetarian Week (18th – 24th May). How about serving this tangy fennel and artichoke salad with olives and caper berries? It’s a great alternative to Greek salad and so easy to do. The large caper berries provide a salty and tangy contrast to the sweetness of the roasted vegetables, and best of all it’s super healthy [Serves 2]

    ½ fennel bulb, cut into bite-sized pieces
    1 large red onion, cut into bite-sized pieces
    160g chestnut mushrooms, cut into bite-sized pieces
    1 courgette, cut into bite-sized pieces
    ½ red pepper, cut into bite-sized pieces
    2 tbsp olive oil
    a few thyme leaves
    sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
    80g wild rice
    handful of cherry tomatoes, halved
    4 marinated artichoke hearts, cut into bite-sized pieces
    80g black and green olives, halved
    12 large caper berries
    finely grated zest and juice of 1 unwaxed lemon
    handful of basil leaves
    4 tbsp roughly chopped parsley leaves

    1 Preheat the oven to 200°C/fan 180°C/400°F/gas mark 6. Place the fennel, onion, mushrooms, courgette and red pepper in a roasting tray, drizzle with the oil, sprinkle on the thyme, salt and pepper and roast for about 45 minutes until all the vegetables are cooked. Stir halfway through.

    2 Meanwhile, cook the rice according to packet instructions. Drain and set aside. When the vegetables are cooked, mix in the tomatoes, artichokes, olives, caper berries and lemon zest. Now mix these with the rice and stir in the lemon juice and herbs. Serve warm or cold.

    *Recipe taken from Thrive on Five by Nina & Jo Littler and Randi Glenn (Quadrille, £16.99)
    Photograph by Dan Jones

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    Chocolate and berry cheesecake

    by  • 14/05/2015 • Country food • 0 Comments

    chocolate berry cheesecake

    Here’s a real treat for the weekend, a double chocolate cheesecake with berries…

    250g chocolate biscuits such as Oreo’s
    125g blanched almonds
    120g unsalted butter, melted and cooled
    100g good-quality dark chocolate
    100g good-quality milk chocolate
    500g cream cheese, softened
    250g light sour cream
    4 free-range eggs
    250g dark brown sugar
    3oo ml double cream, plus extra, whipped, to serve
    1 tablespoon amaretto

    For the berry sauce:
    250g fresh pitted cherries or sour cherries from a jar, drained well
    250g punnet strawberries, hulled and halved
    125g raspberries
    1 tbsp lime juice
    2 tbsps caster sugar

    Serves 8

    1 Preheat the oven to 170°C/150°C fan/gas 3 and grease and line the base and sides of a 22cm springform cake tin. Wrap the outside of the tin with foil, sealing it securely.

    2 In a food processor, whiz the biscuits and almonds to fine crumbs. Add the butter and pulse to combine. Press this mixture evenly into the base of the prepared tin and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.

    3 Melt the dark and milk chocolate in a heatproof bowl that fits snugly over a saucepan of gently simmering water, then set aside to cool slightly.

    4 Beat the cream cheese and sour cream in a stand mixer on low-medium speed for 1-2 minutes until smooth and combined. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition until incorporated. Add the brown sugar, cream and amaretto and beat on low speed for 1 minute. Beat in the melted chocolate until combined.

    5 Pour the batter onto the biscuit base and tap the tin gently on a flat surface to remove any bubbles. Place the cake tin in a large roasting tin and pour enough cold water in to come 2-3cm up the sides of the cake tin. Carefully transfer to the oven and bake for 1 ½  hours or until set at the edges with a slight wobble in the centre. Leave in the switched-off oven to cool for 1 hour with the door slightly ajar, then remove and cool to room temperature, before chilling in the fridge for 1 hour.

    6 Meanwhile, to make the berry sauce, place all the ingredients in a saucepan, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low-medium and simmer for 3 minutes or until the fruit is soft but still holding its shape. Drain for 5 minutes over a bowl, reserving the syrup. Place the syrup in the pan and simmer over a medium heat for 10 minutes or until thick and glossy, then gently fold into the fruit and set aside to cool completely.

    7 Sit the cheesecake on a large plate and remove the tin, then top with berry sauce and serve with whipped cream.

    *Recipe from What Katie Ate at the Weekend by Katie Quinn Davies (£25, Saltyard Books)

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    Almond polenta cake

    by  • 30/04/2015 • Country food • 0 Comments

    almond and raspberry polenta cake

    This gluten-free cake is perfect for satisfying your sweet tooth while staying away from flour. The polenta and almonds give the cake a crumbly texture that beautifully offsets the tartness of the raspberries. It travels well too – great for packing up for a Bank Holiday weekend picnic if the sun is shining…

    Serves 8-10

    200g unsalted butter
    230g unrefined caster sugar
    3 large free range eggs
    1 tsp almond extract
    200g ground almonds
    100g polenta
    1 1⁄2 tsp baking powder
    200g raspberries
    20g flaked almonds

    1 Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F/Gas 4). Grease and line a 23cm springform cake tin with greaseproof paper. Cream the butter and sugar with an electric whisk for 2 minutes or until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well between additions. Then add the almond extract and whisk for 2 minutes until fully incorporated.

    2 Place the ground almonds, polenta and baking powder in a separate bowl and mix well. Lightly fold the dry mixture into the butter, sugar, and egg mixture until just smooth. Gently fold the raspberries into the batter. Spoon the batter into the prepared tin, smooth over the surface, and scatter over the flaked almonds.

    3 Bake the cake for 45 minutes or until golden brown and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out with only a few crumbs. Leave the cake in the tin to cool slightly. Then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before serving. Store in the fridge, in an airtight container, for up to 3 days.

    Recipe from Grains as Mains by Laura Agar Wilson, (DK, £16.99)

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    Make these delicious apple fritters

    by  • 16/04/2015 • Country food • 0 Comments

    apple fritters

    These spiced Granny Smith fritters are a scrummy combination – crispy on the outside with soft, tart apple in the middle. Like apple doughnuts but so much better!

    Makes about 20 fritters

    225g self-raising flour
    2 tablespoons caster sugar
    1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
    pinch of ground nutmeg
    pinch of ground cloves
    2 large Granny Smith apples, peeled and cut into 5mm cubes
    2 free range eggs, beaten
    180ml whole milk
    1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
    butter for frying
    icing sugar to serve

    1 Combine the flour, sugar, ginger, nutmeg and cloves together in a bowl. Add the apple and toss around in the dry mixture until all the cubes are well coated. Pour in the eggs, milk and vanilla extract, and stir gently until everything is combined.

    2 Put a small knob of butter into a heavy-based frying pan over a medium heat. Use a large spoon to add a portion of apple batter to the pan. Spoon more fritters into the pan, but don’t overcrowd it – doing 4–5 at a time is enough. Fry for 2–3 minutes until golden and then flip the fritters over to fry the other side for a further 2–3 minutes until golden and crisp all over.

    3 Remove the fritters from the pan using a slotted spoon or spatula and drain on kitchen towel. Add more batter to the pan and continue cooking until all the batter is finished. You can crisp the fritters back up in a very hot oven for 5 minutes before serving.

    *Recipe taken from Breakfast: Morning, Noon and Night by Fern Green (Hardie Grant, £18.99). Photograph: Danielle Wood

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    Retro biscuits we love

    by  • 09/04/2015 • Country food • 0 Comments

    Gypsy cream

    Today we’re reminiscing about the gypsy cream, the squidgy chocolate and oat cookie sandwich with a smooth chocolate cream filling that harks back to the Seventies. You can’t really mention it without an honorary nod to other era-defining classics such as Space Hoppers and Spangles. As it’s so moreish, this biscuit has acquired something of a dedicated following so we tracked down a recipe to see if they are as good as we remember. This short and sweet recipe is one of the stars of the new Women’s Institute cookbook and frankly what the WI doesn’t know about baking doesn’t count, so it’s over to the experts…

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    Easter passion fruit and chocolate cake

    by  • 02/04/2015 • Country food • 0 Comments

    easter cake

    Easter tends to be all about Simnel cake and hot cross buns. But sometimes you just want to ring the changes and wheel out a real showstopper. This layered cake fits the bill perfectly and although it looks spectacular is really easy to do. Chocolate and passion fruit are a quirky combination – the bitterness of the chocolate enhances the tanginess of the passion fruit. Topped with cape  gooseberries and a passion flower, this cake is fit for a very special Easter celebration…

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    A little bit of what you fancy…

    by  • 12/03/2015 • Country food • 0 Comments

    Out with the comfort puddings and hot toddies – it’s time to throw open the windows and embrace the new season. While you’re at it with the new broom thing, why not refresh your dessert options too. Apricots and frangipani in a crisp pastry case add up to a really smart tart if you’re entertaining this weekend. It looks so light and pretty, just right for spring, and a great opportunity to give your best china and cake forks an airing too.

    Serves 8–10

    For the pastry:
    175g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
    75g cold butter, cubed
    25g caster sugar
    1 free range egg, beaten

    For the filling:
    75g butter, softened
    75g caster sugar
    2 free range eggs, beaten
    75g ground almonds, plus extra for sprinkling
    ½ tsp almond extract
    2 x 400g tins of apricot halves in natural juice, drained (reserving the juice), sliced and dried

    1 You will need a 28cm round, loose-bottomed fluted tart tin, 3–4cm deep. Preheat the oven to 190°C/170°C fan/ Gas 5, and slip a heavy baking sheet inside to heat up.

    2 First make the pastry, either by mixing the flour and butter in a food processor or by hand – rubbing the flour and butter together with your fingertips, until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add the sugar and mix in briefly, then add the egg and ½–1 tablespoon of water. Mix until the dough just holds together.

    3 Roll the pastry out on a floured surface as thinly as possible, 1–2mm thick, and use to line the tin, making a small lip around the top. Prick the base of the pastry all over with a fork.

    4 Next make the frangipane filling. Place the butter and sugar in the food processor (no need to wash this out first) and whizz until creamy, blend in the eggs, then mix in the ground almonds and almond extract. Alternatively, beat together with a wooden spoon if making by hand.

    5 Arrange the apricot slices over the base of the pastry and spoon the frangipane mixture on top, spreading it evenly to cover the apricots.

    6 Sit the tart tin on the hot baking sheet, and bake in the oven for 45–50 minutes until the pastry is crisp and the tart is golden brown.

    For the topping:
    about 125g icing sugar, sifted
    1–2 tbsp apricot juice from the tin

    To finish, make a glacé icing by mixing together the icing sugar and apricot juice, adding enough juice to give a pouring consistency and for the icing to hold its shape. Using a spoon, zigzag the icing over the tart and leave to set. Remove the tart from the tin and transfer to a serving plate. Serve warm or cold.

    Our top tips…

    *When filling the pastry case, it’s best to add the apricots at the last possible moment so  the juices don’t make the base wet. If time is short, you could use a 500g pack of shop-bought short-crust pastry.

    *Sprinkling extra ground almonds on the cooked pastry base before adding the apricots helps to absorb extra moisture.*The apricots need to be as dry as possible to prevent the juice soaking into the pastry. Dry each one individually with kitchen paper.

    *An easy way of removing the tart from the tin is to stand the tin on one or two tins or jars; the ring around the tart can then be lowered to your work surface, leaving the tart on the base of the tin. Slide the tart off the base on to a serving plate.

    *The tart can be kept in the fridge, covered in foil, for 1 day and reheated in a low oven to serve.

    *The tart can be frozen – defrost at room temperature before serving. The pastry also freezes well, as a block or ready-rolled and lining the tart case, depending on how much space you have in your freezer.

    *Over to you!

    Recipe from Mary Berry Absolute Favourites (BBC Books, £25). Photograph by Georgia Glynn Smith

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    Jam roly poly – seconds please!

    by  • 05/03/2015 • Country food • 0 Comments

    Things don’t get more trad than jam roly poly. One of England’s oldest puddings, it’s part of a long tradition of suet-based creations along with plum duff and spotted dick. The lovely combination of sugar and stodge swirled through with plenty of jam will tempt even the most die-hard of detoxers. Jam roly poly is staging something of a comeback too, the star of many a gastro pub chalkboard around the country. A trend we are 100% behind – here at Country Homes & Interiors we say just add a large jug of custard and get stuck in…

    225g self-raising flour
    110g suet
    2 tablespoons caster sugar
    8-9 tablespoons whole milk
    7 tablespoons blackberry, raspberry or strawberry jam
    Milk to seal the edges of the pudding
    Soft butter to grease the greaseproof paper

    1 Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/Gas mark 5. Combine the flour, suet and caster sugar in a bowl. Gradually add the milk and gently knead together until dough forms. Turn the dough out on to a lightly floured surface and roll into a roughly 23cm x 30cm oblong.

    2 Warm the jam and spread on top, leaving 1cm around the edge of the pastry jam-free. Brush the jam-free edges with milk and loosely roll the pastry, starting with the short edge, into a Swiss roll shape. Press along the seam and the ends of the pudding to ensure it is completely sealed.

    3 Cut a piece of greaseproof paper into a generous oblong shape large enough to wrap the roly-poly with a pleat down the middle. Lightly butter the paper and carefully place the roly-poly in the middle, seam side down. Loosely wrap the pudding in the paper, making a pleat down the middle. Finally, fold the loose ends and tuck them under the pudding.

    4 Place the roly-poly on a baking sheet and bake in the preheated oven for 45–50 minutes. The pudding should be puffed up and look brown through the paper. Carefully open the greaseproof paper and cut into thick slices. Serve with plenty of homemade custard – heaven.

    *Recipe taken from Great British Cooking by Carolyn Caldicott (£12.99, Frances Lincoln Publishers)

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    Fancy biscuits

    by  • 26/02/2015 • Country food • 0 Comments

    Ready_Faulkner03-0073 rgb

    Here at Country Homes & Interiors magazine everything stops for afternoon tea. There’s quite a bit of competitive baking going on so when the lid sprung off the cake tin recently to reveal these pretty lemon meringue sandwich biscuits there was much oooing and aahing among the team. It’s amazing what you can do with a little bit of lemon curd and some icing sugar – as someone commented, these look like fancy French patisserie but are in fact so easy to do even the most challenged cook could run them up.

    Makes 12 (definitely not enough if the girls are coming round – we suggest doubling the quantities)

    For the biscuits:
    250g plain flour
    100g rice flour
    250g salted butter, softened
    75g golden caster sugar finely grated zest of 1 lemon
    1 egg yolk

    For the filling:
    200ml double cream 3 tablespoons lemon curd
    4 meringue shells, crushed

    1 Sift the flours into a pile on a clean work surface. Make a well in the centre and add the butter, sugar, lemon zest and egg yolk. Gradually work in the flour using your fingertips until the mixture comes together to form a soft dough. Wrap in cling film and chill for 30 minutes until firm.

    2 Preheat the oven to 150˚C (300˚F), gas mark 2, and line a baking sheet with greaseproof paper. Dust the work surface with a little flour and roll out the dough to a thickness of 5mm. Cut into discs with a 6cm round cutter and place on the prepared baking sheet. Refrigerate for 30 minutes until firm.

    3 Bake the biscuits for about 30 minutes until a pale golden colour, then transfer to a wire rack to cool.

    4 Meanwhile, whisk the cream to soft peaks then fold through the lemon curd and crushed meringue. Spoon the mixture on to half of the biscuits then sandwich with the remaining plain biscuits. Use a doily as a template and sprinkle over some icing sugar to create a hand-crafted effect.

    Recipe from Tea and Cake with Lisa Faulkner (Simon and Schuster, £20)

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