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Cooking from scratch

Cheese and herb scones  (makes about 6-8 large scones)

250g self raising flour

1 level teaspoon baking powder

2 big pinches salt

Half teaspoon of dried Colmans Mustard (in the canary yellow tin)

1 teaspoon of dried thyme

3oz grated cheddar (doesn’t have to be an exact measurement: a decent-sized chunk)

50g butter (leave it out of the fridge to soften it, then chop into small pieces)

3 tablespoons (approx.) of milk (you can add another one if the dough seems too dry)
1 egg, beaten

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METHOD

1. Sift flour, salt, mustard and baking powder into a bowl, then add the butter, rubbing it in with your fingertips until it looks a bit like breadcrumbs

2. Add most of the cheese

3. Add the egg and milk to make a dough (don’t over handle the mix – do not knead it)
4.  Roll the dough into a ball and (with your hands) press/ push down gently onto a floured surface until about 1.5inches high (don’t use a rolling pin)
5. Cut out using fluted scone cutter (or use a knife to cut out shapes)
6. Put on lightly buttered baking sheet a few inches apart and brush with leftover egg and milk mix (and place a little grated cheese on top
8. Bake on the middle shelf of an oven preheated to 220 degrees centigrade, for 10-12 minutes (a hot blast in an oven helps them rise well and prevents them being too dry)
10. Leave to cool on wire rack

Storing: Scones are best when just made. You can freeze them and you can pep up two-day-old scones by warming them on a toaster.

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Summer holidays

Summer 2010. I went away on holiday with a car boot full of jam-making kit:  jam pans, jars, my grandmother’s metal thermometer, and recipe books. Staying in Normandy there were plenty of wonderful food markets to visit and return from, weighed down with crates of apricots, strawberries, greengages and tomatoes (for Tomato Chili Jam- great with goat’s cheese). My favourite jam recipe is apricot jam which uses the kernel too – giving it a real edge.

Apricot Jam

Recipe

1kg fresh apricots (and 4 apricot kernels)

550g granulated sugar

Juice 1 small lemon

1. Cut the apricots in half, put into your jam pan or a large bowl, and mix in the sugar and lemon juice. Leave for 2-4 hours.

2. Smash four apricot stones with a hammer (the fun bit) to reveal the small kernels inside.

3. Blanch the kernels in boiling water for 1-2 minutes. Push off the skins and finely slice the kernels into the fruit mixture.

4. Heat up the fruit mix slowly and on a low heat until the sugar has dissolved and then boil for 30 minutes to thicken the mixture.

5. Leave to cool while you sterilise the jam jars and lids.

6. Spoon the mixture into the jars mixing in the kernels evenly

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Sunday afternoon baking

An afternoon in the kitchen baking can be a great way to unwind – if you’re used to it and know a few recipes off by heart. Otherwise it can be a bit stressful as you search out recipe books, discover you’re missing the crucial ingredient for the cake you want to make, can’t locate the right baking tin. Maybe make your bedtime reading a new recipe book one night a week and choose some new things to try? Write a shopping list of the ingredients you’ll need and set aside a few hours on Sunday to make a delicious supper and snacks for the week’s packed lunches.

*see my chocolate almond cake

Old favourites: quick and easy

Flapjack This literally takes 5-10 minutes of tipping ingredients into a saucepan, melting and mixing them. You can liven it up a bit by adding either walnut pieces or a mashed banana at the end.

flapjack-tray-low-res

Flapjack never lasts long enough in my house to consider freezing it. But in the interests of being more organised about packed lunches I decided to give it a go. It was fine, nice even. So I reckon making a double batch once a fortnight is the way to do it. But put them into the freezer bags the minute they’ve cooled.

Into the saucepan goes:

1. 6oz butter and 6oz soft brown sugar (caster sugar will do – this isn’t the River Café) – melt these

2. 4 tablespoons (heaped rather than level) Golden Syrup

3. 12oz rolled oats

Additions: handful of walnut pieces or a mashed banana

Spoon the mix into a lightly buttered tin (I use a 7 x 11inch non-stick one with inch-high sides)

Bake for about 25 minutes at 170 degrees centigrade

After you’ve taken it out use a palate knife to loosen all edges and to press the divides down through the flapjack – you should end up with about 15 large pieces or 30 small fingers (for children).

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Cheese Scones and Fruity Scones

I make these in a double quantity now and spilt the mix in half just before I have to commit to either sweet or savory.

scones-fruity

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Scones

16oz (500g) SR Flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 big pinches salt
4oz (100g) butter (leave it out so soft and chop into small cubes)
250ml milk
1 egg

Sweet:
Add handful of raisins and 2 tablespoons of caster sugar

and/ or

Savoury:
Add 1 teaspoon of dried Colmans’ Mustard (in the canary yellow tin), a teaspoon of dried thyme, 3oz grated cheddar

1. Rub butter into flour using finger tips until it looks a bit like breadcrumbs
2. Add salt and baking powder
3. Split mix into two bowls one for sweet scones, one for savoury and mix in the sweet or savoury ingredients
4. Mix the egg and milk together
5. Put half egg mix into each bowl and mix gently (don’t overdo it – less handling the better) until a soft dough (if they are a bit sticky scatter in a bit of flour and mix round
6. Pat dough into a ball and press down onto a floured surface with your hands until about 1.5inches high (don’t use a rolling pin)
7. Cut out using fluted scone cutter
8. Put on buttered baking sheet (you’ll need two for all these scones) a few inches apart and brush with leftover egg and milk mix
9. Bake at 220 degrees centigrade for 10-12 minutes (the idea is a short blast in a very hot oven
10. Leave to cool on wire rack

Makes 16 scones

Storing: Scones are best when just made. You can freeze them and you can pep up two-day-old scones by warming them on a toaster/ in oven (not microwave as they cook them again toughening them).

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Tiffin – a chocolate treat and no need to turn the oven on

I like recipes where you can make delicious things in a saucepan in minutes – this is one of them.

tiffin

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6oz (170g) butter
4oz (110g) caster sugar
2oz (60g) cocoa
4oz (110g) raisins
7oz (200g) digestive biscuits (smashed while in a plastic bag with a rolling pin!)

And a handful of natural (uncoloured glace cherries) if you like that sort of thing

All ingredients into a saucepan:

1. Melt butter and sugar gently in saucepan (on a very low heat)
2. Mix in cocoa and raisins
3. Stir in crushed biscuits
4. Spoon into buttered (and lined with silicone paper) baking tin (8×8 inches/ 20×20 cm) and press down smoothly using the back of a dessertspoon
5. Melt chocolate very gently (don’t let it bubble) and pour over top of tiffin
6. Leave in fridge for about 20 minutes to set

Makes about 24 small pieces – these disappeared extremely quickly so next time I’m making double the mixture…

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