Time for tea: apricot and tamarind Bara Brith

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In part one, I spoke about the introduction of tea both as a drink, and as a fashion in Britain. It wasn’t just a drink for the upper classes. Tea soon became a staple for the working classes too. But the light afternoon tea was not something that would satisfy the hard-workers at the end of the day. Around six, when workers would arrive home, they needed to refuel with something warm and hearty. This was high tea, named for the high, hard chairs the working classes used. High tea was more like an evening meal. It would often include a hot meal followed by cakes, bread, butter and jam.
This recipe is a traditional Welsh tea time recipe with a few additions. It’s very dense and moist with sweet fruit, tangy, bitter tamarind and earthy wholemeal flour.

Bara Brith

600 ml black tea
200 g dried apricots, roughly halved
100 g dried figs, roughly halved
150 g raisins
1 egg
1 tbsp tamarind paste
50 g caster sugar
400 g wholemeal self-raising flour

Mix the fruit in a large bowl and pour over the tea. Leave this to soak overnight

The next day, preheat your oven to 120 degrees C and line a 1lb loaf tin with baking parchment.
Beat egg, sugar and tamarind in a bowl.
To this, add the fruit and flour and combine.
Add the tea and beat to a thick batter. Pour this into the tin and bake for 1 hour 20 minutes.

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Foodie finds: Golden plum candy

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I love cooking and part of the thrill is coming across something new. I get such a thrill from wandering aimlessly around unusual food shops, independent delis and international supermarkets. Dun dun DUNDUN, I am introducing Foodie Finds: my adventures in food.

I am lucky enough to have an awesome oriental supermarket just down the road and it was here I came across my first Foodie find: Golden Plum Candy.

DSC_0186These are beautiful, if somewhat odd-looking sweets: Individually wrapped hemi-spheres of beautifully golden caramel. Suspended within is a dried plum. I placed one on my tongue and was immediately amazed. The caramel is intensely, meltingly sweet, inside, the plum is tangy and salty. The combination is wonderful, though the hard pip of the plum was something of a surprise in the centre. I’ve never come across anything quite like these! They are definitely one to try. You can buy them online here!

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Time for tea: Earl Grey and Lemon Drizzle Fairy cakes

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DSC_0152Tea is buried deep into the culture of Britain and since that’s what I’m most familiar with, it’s where I’m starting. The first reference to tea in England was in a newspaper in 1658: that ‘China Drink, called by the Chinese, Tcha, by other Nations Tay alias Tee’. Charles II’s marriage to Catherine of Braganza was the start of a revolution in our households. She was a Portuguese princess, and a tea addict. Anything that our royal family would popularise rapidly became high fashion and it was not long before tea became a household necessity.
The seventh Duchess of Bedford was to thank for the phenomenon of afternoon tea. The Duchess would become hungry around four o’clock in the afternoon and since evening meals would often not be served until eight, she would have tea with bread and butter and cake be brought to her room during the late afternoon.
Now afternoon tea is something of an occasion and one around which many businesses have been built (Betty’s to name just one in my adopted home town). Afternoon tea tends to be rich but light and dainty and by far the most suitable accompaniment is a treat from my childhood: the predecessor to the somewhat bigger and more robust cupcake.

Early Grey Lemon Drizzle Fairycakes

For the cakes
180g butter
120g sugar
3 eggs
zest 1 lemon
250ml early grey tea (brewed about 3 minutes and allowed to cool)
200g self-raising flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
24 cupcake cases

For the lemon drizzle
juice 1 lemon
3tbsp sugar
2tbsp water

For the buttercream
50ml earl grey (brewed about 3 minutes and allowed to cool)
50g butter
75g icing sugar

Preheat the oven to 180°C and line a cupcake tin with the cases.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs and lemon zest, then stir in the cooled tea. Add the flour, baking powder and salt and fold in.

Spoon about half a desert-spoon full of batter into each case and bake for 15 minutes.

For the lemon drizzle, heat the lemon juice, sugar and water in a pan until the sugar has dissolved. Set aside.

When the top of the cakes bounces back if you press it gently, they are done. Take them from the oven, and with a sharp knife, cut a circle about 1/2 cm from the edge of each cake. Cut down about 1/3 of the way into the cake and use a teaspoon to remove this section from each. Set these aside next to the cakes.

Into the hole left, spoon 1 teaspoon of the lemon drizzle. Now leave the cakes to cool completely.

For the icing, simply cream together all of the ingredients until light and fluffy and leave to chill in the fridge.

Once the cakes are cool, place 1 teaspoon of the icing into each hole. Slice in half the tops and place onto the fairy cakes like wings.

…a drink with jam and bread

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DSC_0101Sleep is sometimes hard-won. I hate lying awake at night and too often when I think I’m going to, it make me too stressed to sleep. When my brain finally does allow me to drift off, too often it is only for a matter of a couple of hours. After a night like this, tired as I am, I’m sick of my bed and in desperate need of something reviving. Fortunately, tea is always an option. Making herbal tea at night sometimes helps me to drift off. Strong black tea in the morning brings a bit of life back in to me.

It’s not just a stereotype here in England; we are bring tea drinkers. But tea is more than that. It has a long and rich cultural history, here and around the world. In the next few weeks, I’ll be introducing you to all sorts of different teas you may of may not be familiar with and showing ways you can make them into something so much more than a drink!

How to brew your best cup of tea: over at Food52

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Rhubarb and custard profiteroles with rhubarb glaze

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So this year’s Comic Relief had me watching celebrities panic with choux pastry (with varying success) so I figured I’d give it a go myself, and why not mix a French and an English classic?! Spring is here and it’s rhubarb season. I love this bright, tart plant and paired with rich custard, we have a beautiful combination.

DSC_0114For the crème pâtissière custard

1 egg yolk
16g caster sugar
4g plain flour
4g cornflour
75ml semi-skimmed milk

Whisk together yolk and sugar until pale golden.
Gently warm the milk until it is just steaming. Slowly pour this into the egg mixture, whisking as you do so.
Add the mix back to the pan along with both flours.
Heat this gently, whisking all the time until it is thick and smooth. It should get to a custard consistency.
Allow this to cool then cover the top with clingfilm and place in the fridge to chill.

For the rhubarb compote

3 stems of rhubarb
3 tbsp orange juice
1 tbsp soft brown sugar

Chop the ends off the rhubarb and slice into 1cm sections. Place this, along with the sugar and juice, into a heavy bottom saucepan and heat gently. Stir every so often for 10 minutes, until the rhubarb has broken down. Set aside.

For the choux pastry
25g butter, cut into cubes, plus extra for greasing
36g plain flour
1 egg

Plus
1 tbsp icing sugar

Preheat the oven to 200°C.
Melt the butter in a saucepan in 75ml water.
Add the flour and stir until the dough forms a ball.
Remove the pan from the heat and allow the dough to cool slightly, before adding the egg and beating in.
Add a tablespoon of boiling water and stir in, before spooning the mix into a piping bag (in my case, this consists of a freezer bag with one corner cut off).
Pipe around 20 blobs onto parchment paper. Smooth them slightly with a wet finger and bake in the oven for 25 minutes.

Leave to cool, then slice them in half.
Spoon about half a teaspoon of custard into each, followed by half a teaspoon of compote. Ensure at least one teaspoon of compote is left for the glaze.

Mix 1 teaspoon of the leftover compote with the icing sugar and 2 teaspoons of boiling water. Place the tops back on the profiteroles and pour over the glaze.

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(Blood) Orange and ricotta pancakes with honey caremelised orange

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pancakes1Do you celebrate pancake day? Shrove Tuesday is the day before Lent begins. Lent was the time for fasting so traditionally, Shrove Tuesday was the day to use up all of the perishable ingredients that you would not be allowed to eat during Lent by making pancakes! So, sticking with tradition, these pancakes should be as rich and delicious as possible, and what better way to do that than by adding cheese!?

These ricotta pancakes are so fluffy and delicious. Sadly, I wasn’t able to find the blood oranges I really wanted to use in this recipe, though they are in season. Normal oranges make a delicious substitute.

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(Adapted from theKitchn)

1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 oranges
1 cup ricotta cheese
3/4 cup milk
2 eggs, separated into yolks and whites
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
8 tsp honey
Butter, for the pan

Whisk together flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt in a small bowl. Zest the orange. Combine ricotta, milk, egg yolks, vanilla and orange zest in a separate mixing bowl. Add the dry ingredients to the ricotta and milk mixture, and combine.

Beat the egg whites with a handheld electric mixer until stiff. Stir a small scoop of the egg whites into the pancake batter to lighten the batter, then fold in the remaining whites with a spatula. Slice about a quarter off either end of the oranges and cut the central sections into 4 slices each. Juice the remaining ends and stir the juice into the honey in a small bowl.

Melt a small amount of butter in a large pan over medium-high heat. Spoon the mixture into the pan. Cooking time will vary depending on the size/thickness of your pancake but fry for about 3 or 4 minutes, until the undersides are golden and you see a few bubbles popping through the pancakes. Flip the pancakes and cook another 2 to 3 minutes, until golden. Repeat with the remaining pancakes.

Remove the pancakes from the pan and immediately add the honey-orange juice mixture. Keep over a high heat and place in the slices of orange. Allow the orange and honey to reduce into a think caramel and flip the orange slices to coat on both sides.

Serve the pancakes with slices of orange on top.

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Buttery leek, swede and chorizo cloud hand pies

Cloud hand pies?! What are these? I’m calling them cloud hand pies because, though rich, biting into on of these is like biting into a fluffy little cloud! They turned out so much better than I expected: so worth making!

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Note: I miss cut the top and smoothed it over, hoping it wouldn’t notice but the gap opened up on cooking. It wasn’t meant to have a face, but look how happy it is!

As soon as spring arrives, it’s time for sweet, buttery leeks. I combined this with lovely, earthy swede and chorizo for some added flavour and richness. The combination works perfectly.

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Ingredients

1/2 a swede
2 leeks
3 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp cream
salt and pepper
100g chorizo (sausage or chunks)
200g shortcrust pastry
milk

Cube the swede into roughy 1 inch chunks. Bring a large pan of water to boil and reduce to a simmer. Add the swede and simmer for 10 minutes or until soft. Drain.
While the swede cooks, add the oil to a large frying pan and begin to heat. Slice the leeks into 1 cm pieces and add to the pan over a medium heat. Stir until the leek begins to soften, then add 1 tbsp butter and coat the leek in melted butter. Cook for a further 5 minutes until the leek is soft.
Place swede and leek into a food processor with the remaining butter and cream and process until smooth but leaving some of the leek in larger pieces. Season with salt and pepper.
If the chorizo is in sausage form, slice it into 1/2cm slices.
Roll out the pastry to about the width of a 10p coin.

Crystal orange brownie

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DSC_0015I always find that this time of year begins to drag. The cold seems to creep right down to my bones and I can’t remember the last time I saw the sun. So this is citrus season? It feels like the closest I can get to the sun in this weather is a beautiful piece of citrus fruit. Just the smell of orange is enough to bring some life back into me. It turned out as I sat outside the little cafe at my university that it was “cookie hour”: a hot drink and a cookie for £1.60, and with dark chocolate chip cookies fresh from the oven. When I’m this cold and tired, I just can’t resist and I’m finding myself giving into temptation whenever it appears. These dark, dense, gooey brownies with a tang of citrus are just what I need.

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Ingredients
3 large unwaxed oranges
180g granulated sugar
350g dark chocolate, broken in small pieces
250g unsalted butter
3 eggs
250g dark brown sugar, preferably muscovado
100g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder

Peel the oranges and but the peel into strips, about 1/2 cm in width. Put it in a pan and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil, then simmer for 5 mins. Drain, and cover with 250ml fresh cold water. Bring to the boil and simmer for 30 mins.
Add the granulated sugar to the pan, stirring to dissolve and simmer for 30 mins until the peel is translucent and soft. Leave to cool in the syrup, then remove with a slotted spoon and arrange in 1 layer on a wire rack set over a baking sheet.

Heat the oven to 170°C/338°F and line a 22cm square cake tin.
Melt the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water, stirring until smooth and silky, then set aside to cool a little.
Whisk together the eggs and sugar until frothy.
Fold the chocolate mixture into the egg mixture and stir until combined.
Sift the flour and baking powder into the mixture and combine with a metal spoon.
Pour the mixture into the cake tin and scatter on top the candied peel.

Place on the middle shelf of the oven and bake for 35 minutes until the surface is set. Leave to cool completely in the tin then cut into slices.

Kimchi season and a mozzarella and kimchi grilled cheese

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This morning brought with it a smattering of glitter across our pavements and my breath billowed before my face as I cycled in to uni. it is the epitome of a crisp, clear winter’s day. As beautiful as it is, even the plants on the windowsill in my utility room are looking a little sad. Eating seasonally is not always easy in winter but this is the time of year when the preserve comes into its own. There has to be a preserve for every taste: sweet, salty, spicy, smoky, tangy, or bitter. I decided to try something I’d been meaning to for a long time: Kimchi.

It’s hard to make pickled, fermented cabbage sound sexy but Korea has done it. The first time I tried this was at a beautiful little Korean restaurant in York that I never would have found were it not for a bit of expert googling by my sister.

DSC_0105Tucked away in an unsuspecting alleyway, at the suggestion of the wonderfully friendly owner, we ordered a plate of homemade kimchi to share. It’s spicy, crunchy, tangy: a mouthful of flavour and texture. It’s the sort if simple thing you could add to a plain dish to turn it into something magnificent. It’s also fantastically easy to make.

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I used the recipe given at chow.com , which gives about four jars. You’ll want to make it about a week in advance it’s so worth it. Particularly as it is the key to making one of the world’s most important sandwiches:

Mozzarella and kimchi toastie. Make one. Make one now.

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