Thursday, 30 December 2010

Quince Cheese (Membrillo)

Quince is an odd old fruit. Looking not quite like a pear or an apple, hard as a rock and almost inedible in its raw form, you would think it would sit in the 'pointless foods of the world' basket. But cook it like a jam and the fruit is transformed into a delicious paste/jelly that is simply sensational with good cheese, cold meats or a baste for a leg of lamb or even a fruity addition to a stock or gravy.

The Spanish have been using this technique since day one for their 'membrillo' and they traditionally serve it with their lovely sheep's cheese manchego. Cooked into a solid form like my version it becomes a quince 'cheese' and can just be sliced into chunks and served with the cheese board. Floral and sweet, it is a surprising addition and one that blows away most chutneys that usually make the cheese board.

It can be tampered with, and an addition of chilli can be a welcome to the sweetness of the quince cheese, or add the traditional spices of Christmas such as cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. A blob on top of some rice pudding is classy.

If you still aren't convinced, think of our traditional apple jelly and add a floral punch and a sticky, chewy almost fruit gum type chewiness and you have the quince cheese. Delicious.

Quince Cheese (Membrillo)

Makes 2 large wedges

2 large quinces
Juice of 1 lemon
Sugar
Optional spices such as a dried chilli, cinnamon stick, cloves and a little nutmeg

1 - Cut the quince into large chunks and take out the seeds. Leave the skin intact and add to a large pan with the lemon juice. If adding spices, put them in now. Cover with just enough water and bring to the boil. Simmer for 30-40 minutes or until the fruit is soft.
2 - Over a bowl, pour the fruit into a sieve and using the back of a spoon, push the fruit through until all you have is the pulp left in the bowl. Measure out the pulp in a measuring jug then add the same quantity sugar.
3 - Pour back into the pan and bring to the boil. Simmer for anything between 1-2 hours, stirring regularly to prevent burning and sticking. The 'jam' will turn a deep orange colour and it is ready when you run a wooden spoon down the bottom of the pan and it leaves a clean line.
4 - Pour the 'jam' into lightly oiled moulds and leave to set. It can eaten immediately once cooled or it will keep covered in the fridge for 3-4 weeks. To serve, simply tip out onto a cheese board and slice into chunks.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Santa’s Special Christmas Granola

Granola is one of those moreish cereals, all crunchy, nutty and oaty, that you usually eat straight out of the box as opposed to pouring it in a bowl like a conventional bowl of cereal. One of America's better food inventions, we love it with yoghurt and honey in the morning for a great kick start.

Instead of buying some of the commercial products, it is actually really easy to make your own. Mix oats, nuts, honey, a little butter, margarine or vegetable oil together and bake in a low oven and you have it. It is great to experiment with too, adding spices, fruit and different nuts to the whole mixture.

I've invented a lovely Christmas tinged granola which hits healthy highs with the addition of pumpkin seeds. It will keep in an airtight container for 3-4 weeks so make a large batch now to feed your family with over the Christmas holidays.

Santa’s Special Christmas Granola

100g Oats
50g almonds, roughly chopped
30g shredded coconut
30g pumpkin seeds
Half tsp ground cinnamon
Half tsp ground ginger
50g butter or margarine
50g honey
50g dried cranberries
50g dates, roughly chopped
50g dried apricots, roughly chopped

1 - Pre-heat the oven to 160C/GM3.
2 – Stir together all of the ingredients except for the dried fruit in a large mixing bowl.
3 – Put the butter/margarine and honey into a small pan and melt.
4 – Stir this thoroughly through the dried mixture then spread out evenly onto a large nin-stick baking tray.
5 – Place onto the middle shelf and bake for 20-30 minutes, turning over every 10 minutes, until golden and baked.
6 – Allow to cool then mix in the dried fruit. Serve with natural yoghurt and honey.
7 - Keep in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Breakfast Pancakes

There are so many reasons that I love being a dad. I feel an overall sense of being lucky when I think about it too much.

Cooking with Cerys has always been high on the list of 'why I love being a dad'. Ever since she was old enough to sit up straight without falling over, I have had her in the kitchen with me prodding, poking, tasting and smelling which have all evolved 5 years on to moulding, shaping, more prodding and poking and lots of tasting and smelling. It is invariably messy business and that of course adds to the fun. This is education of the highest order, mixed with a lot of love and giggles.

One of our weekend treats are homemade pancakes. Not the thin ones you usually eat on Shrove Tuesday. I'm talking about the thick American pancakes, almost like a flat spongy cake that can soak up anything you add to it, whether that is butter and honey or the grease from a few slices of crisp bacon.

They are incredibly easy to make, 5 minutes from start to plate, just a cup of milk, flour and eggs. But the best bit is of course the sense of sharing with your children, giving them that responsibility and inevitable sense of pride once they have achieved a few of these magnificent breakfast pancakes. Feel free to experiment with flavours, such as adding a sprinkle of cinnamon or perhaps some lemon juice and sultanas. We like ours plain and simple, just like us.

Breakfast Pancakes

Makes 12

1 tea mug of self-raising flour
2 eggs
1 tea mug of milk
1 grated apple or pear
1 pinch of cinnamon
25g melted butter

1 - Tip the flour into a mixing bowl.
2 - Make a well in the middle of the flour and crack the eggs into it.
3 - Pour in the milk a little at a time whilst stirring. You are looking for the pancake batter to be the consistency of thick paint.
4 - Finally, stir in the fruit and spice (optional).
5 - Melt a little butter in a non-stick frying pan. Wipe clean with kitchen towel then add 2 tablespoons of the batter per pancake. Watch it carefully until small holes appear on the top of the pancakes, then it is time to flip. Cook for a further minute until golden brown then serve with your accompaniment of choice.