Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Lemon-stuffed Cashew Loaf en Croute with Gooseberry Drizzle

Yes, I know, another nut loaf. However, this recipe combines two favourites - lemon and cashews (as it says on the tin) - as well as cooking them in a golden puff pasty case. I suppose this makes the dish a kind of Wellington, too.
by James Bowe
I made up the recipe for a Christmas lunch ages ago and have cooked it many times since then for 'occasions'. There's no picture of the finished dish currently, as I haven't cooked it since I began this blog in February, but when I next make it I'll post one.

Although it takes a while to prepare - about 40 minutes once the ingredients are assembled - it's not difficult and will always look great as it emerges hot and flaky from the oven. It carves well, producing attractive semi-circular slices, and is well complemented by the traditional roast potatoes and almost any vegetables. Cranberry sauce makes a good accompaniment, but gooseberry drizzle is a lovely sharp dressing as well as looking inviting.

This recipe serves 6, which is why a block of pastry is needed rather than the smaller, ready-rolled sheets (though you could try overlapping two of them if you hate rolling out pastry). The main filling and the stuffing can be prepared in advance, e.g. the previous evening, and kept in the fridge with the pastry while it's thawing. The loaf left over, if there is any, can be served at room temperature the following day.

Lemon-stuffed Cashew Loaf en Croute

  • 75g butter
  • 1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped                 
  • salt and ground black pepper
  • 225g fresh cashew nuts (bought whole or in bits), ground fairly finely 
  • 275g fresh breadcrumbs                                                                                
  • 3 free-range eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 tsp grated nutmeg
  • 3 tbsp milk
  • 1 lemon - all the juice and finely rated rind
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh thyme (or half tsp dried)
  • 2 tsp chopped fresh parsley (or 1 tsp dried)
  • 325g block of frozen puff pastry, thawed for several hours in the fridge
  • 2 handfuls of fresh gooseberries, topped and tailed ( or a cupful of frozen, thawed)
  • 2 tbsp sugar  
The oven should be ready at 180C, shelf in the centre.  
by dbking 
Directions for the Main Filling

   1  Melt 25g of the butter in a large pan. Add the onion and fry gently for 7 minutes, stirring occasionally.
   2  Add the cashew nuts, 100g of the breadcrumbs, all except about 1 tablespoon of the beaten eggs, the nutmeg  and the milk. Season with a quarter teaspoon of salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Mix thoroughly.  
   3  Mould into the shape of a bloomer loaf and set aside. 

Directions for the Stuffing
   1  In a bowl, rub the remaining 50g butter into the remaining 175g of breadcrumbs until well mixed. Season well with salt and pepper, and add the lemon rind and juice, and the herbs.
   2  Mix well and mould into a thin log shape the same length as the main filling.

The Gooseberry Drizzle
  1  If using fresh gooseberries, put in a small pan with 2 tbsp water. Heat gently and simmer until the gooseberries are very soft. Whether fresh or thawed, press through a sieve. Add the sugar, and a little more water if the drizzle seems too thick. Reheat just before serving and either drizzle over each slice when serving, or present in a small, warmed gravy boat.

 To Assemble the Loaf:

  1. Roll the pastry out to a rectangle about the depth of a pound coin. Trim the edges neatly with a sharp knife.
  2. Arrange the stuffing log along the centre, parallel with the longer sides, stopping 6cm from each end.
  3. Press the filling mixture gently around the stuffing, to enclose it completely except at the ends.
  4. Brush the edges of the pastry with a little of the remaining egg, and draw the long edges together, pinching to seal them.
  5. Grease a large baking sheet, or line with parchment, then place the loaf carefully onto it, with the join on the underside. Any pastry scraps could be used to decorate with shapes, stuck on with a drop of egg. Brush the whole loaf with the remaining egg.
  6. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the pastry is golden brown all over.
  7. Remove from the oven and allow to stand for 5 minutes before placing on a dish (oval or oblong if available) and taking to the table to carve. Best to use a sharp carving or bread knife to preserve the shape of the slices.

Friday, 11 May 2012

Lemon Drizzle Squares and Easy Peanut Biscuits

Here's my definitive recipe for lemon drizzle squares soaked in a sharp lemon syrup, and one for peanut biscuits. Both are easy to make, but while the biscuits are, as it were, a piece of cake, the squares may need a little effort if you are beating the ingredients by hand.

Lemon Drizzle Squares

I make these so that each square is about two bites, and this quantity of ingredients makes 20-24. They can be frozen if (by chance) there are any left over. The recipe fits a baking tin about 4cm deep and base 24x17cm; it should be fully lined with baking parchment.

150g butter (room temp), chopped into small pieces
150g caster sugar
2 free-range eggs
100ml milk
150g self-raising flour
1 heaped teaspoon baking powder
juice and finely grated rind of 2 large lemons
80g granulated sugar

The oven should be at 170C if fan type, otherwise slightly higher, and shelf in the middle.

1  In a large bowl, beat the butter and caster sugar until pale and fluffy, without lumps. 
        (Best with an electric mixer but can be done by hand with a wooden spoon.)
2  Beat the eggs into the mixture gradually. Don't worry if it looks slightly curdled.
3  Add the milk and beat again until well mixed.
4  Stir in the flour, baking powder and grated lemon rind.
5  Pour the mixture into the prepared baking tin and smooth over.
6  Bake for about 25 minutes until golden. (It's ready if a skewer inserted into the centre
        comes out clean.)
7  Meanwhile, in a bowl mix the lemon juice and granulated sugar. 
8  When the cake is ready, leave it in the pan and prick all over the top with the skewer,
        maybe 40-50 times. Give the juice/sugar mix a stir and drizzle it over slowly so that
        it seeps into the cake.
9  When cool, cut into squares of the size you want. They may be a little gooey!

*            *            *            *            *            *

Peanut Biscuits

These are quicker and easier to make - the recipe is for about 16 biscuits. As long as they are completely cooled, they can be stored in a tin. A large baking tray, lined with baking parchment, is needed and maybe a smaller one too, as they have to be spaced apart so they can spread during cooking. 

75g demerara sugar
100g granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
50g soft butter or spread such as Flora
100g peanut butter (preferably crunchy type)
50ml milk
160g plain flour
50g chopped plain chocolate (optional but nice)

The oven should be at around 180C for fan type, otherwise 200C. Shelves not too near the top.

1  Place all the ingredients in a large bowl and mix them thoroughly (a wooden spoon 
        should be OK), making sure the butter is well distributed.
2  Mix in the chocolate pieces if used.
3  Take pieces of the dough about the size of a walnut shell and place on the baking tray,
        leaving maybe 6cm between them. Flatten slightly.
4  Bake until the biscuits are golden but don't allow them to darken or the chocolate
        pieces to burn - this may take 15 minutes but check after 13.
5  Slide the biscuits, still on the parchment, onto a wire rack to cool.

*            *            *            *            *            *
I hope you enjoy reading about these treats and - especially - eating them!
Thanks for visiting.

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Asparagus - Ten Facts to Digest with it

Asparagus is rather a catch-it-if-you-can sort of vegetable. Commercially UK-grown asparagus is usually around from late April until maybe early June, though with the odd weather pattern in 2012 it's been late making an appearance and crops may be lower than normal. (Meanwhile, thin shoots of tenderstem broccoli make not a bad substitute.)
by Liz West
While we wait for it, here are ten facts which may not be widely known about these succulent spears.

  1  At its most vigorous, and in optimum conditions, spears can grow up to 25cm in 24
  2  It's high in folic acid (thought beneficial for the growing foetus), has potassium,
          thiamin, and vitamins A, B6 and C, and contains about 20 calories per 100g.
  3  It is considered to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant nutrients, too.
  4  The Michigan Asparagus Advisory Board tells us that the larger the diameter, the 
          better the quality and tenderness. This is contrary to 'popular opinion'.
  5  The Roman emperor Augustus was especially fond of asparagus, and kept ships 
          especially for sailing to fetch it for his own consumption.
  6  It's a member of the lily family.
  7  Planting is with 'crowns' which are best placed about 30cm deep in sandy soil. 
          Sometimes a little salt may be added to the soil. Usually the crop is not harvested 
          in the first three years, to allow a solid root system to develop.
  8  If left to flower and fruit, the plant's red berries are poisonous to humans.
  9  French king Louis XIV was so keen on asparagus that he had greenhouses made
          especially to grow it.
10  Perhaps most interestingly, from about 15 minutes after you've eaten asparagus, 
          your urine is likely to smell of it. May be due to a combination of sulphur and 
          hydrogen. It seems, though, that only about one person in four has the 'nose' to 
          pick that up!