SIMPLE OATY BISCUITS TO BAKE AT HOME

 

 

Fiona's Oaty Biscuits
Fiona’s Oaty Biscuits

Simple oaty biscuits to bake at home?  Simple is great and it’s a shame that simple is often thought to be boring.

My mother is a Scot and I was brought up eating lots of oats, porridge, oat cakes, haggis, muesli, flap jacks, oaty bread, oaty biscuits and a delicious pudding called cranachan, a creamy mix of raspberries, toasted oatmeal and whisky. I have to admit to preferring porridge made with rolled oats (not pinhead), milk (not water) and sugar (not salt). We were subjected to ‘proper’ porridge on visits over the border to see grandparents and I still shudder at the memory. Our rolled oats of choice was Scott’s Porage Oats. Who could resist the athletic, kilted Scots man on the packet about to release his shotput over the glorious highlands?.

Oats are healthy to eat, high in fibre, cheap to buy, nutritious and their slow release, wholegrain goodness will keep you going until lunchtime and beyond…what’s not to love?

This recipe for oaty biscuits comes from a Scottish (of course) friend Fiona, have a go they are simply delicious!

FIONA’S OATY BISCUITS

125g  Plain flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

125g rolled oats

125g  unrefined caster sugar

125g  block margarine or butter

Generous tablespoon golden syrup

Splash of milk

Prepare a baking tray with baking paper.  (It is helpful to have two trays if you have them as the biscuits take up quite a lot of space in the oven)

 

  • Put the flour, baking powder and oats in a bowl and mix together.
  • Melt the sugar, margarine and syrup in a small pan and then add to the dry ingredients.
  • Stir until incorporated. The mixture should be quite stiff but add a very little milk if it doesn’t come off the spoon easily. Drop approx. a small desert spoonful of mixture onto the baking sheet, it helps to use a teaspoon to push the mixture off the spoon.
  • Bake for about 20 minutes in a medium oven at approximately 160C, Gas mark 2. When golden remove from the oven, allows them to cool a little and then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely.

 

NOTE: It is easy to put too much too much mixture on the tray, the biscuits need room to spread or you will end up with one large (but equally delicious) biscuit!

BOSTON BAKED BEANS for Bonfire night

These sticky pork Boston Baked Beans are just the ticket for Bonfire night.

I love it when the nights start to cut in and there is the lovely sweet smell of autumn in the air. I can’t wait to get the log fire going and look forward to cosy evenings. I have always loved Halloween and Bonfire night -maybe because my mother always made an effort to celebrate them and I have never forgotten about them. Halloween involved dressing up and anxiously searching the sky for witches and Bonfire night was always at home with a bonfire in the garden and my mums food. My ‘food memories’ are still clear in my mind; almost impossible to eat toffee apples, homemade tomato soup in a mug, sticky parkin (well, I am from Yorkshire), sausages and jacket potatoes cooked in the fire. I think I recall even doing this the day after bonfire night, the embers were so hot! I thought it the most exciting night of the year. I think I may have blocked out all the rainy nights when we couldn’t do them but I do recall tears… Organised firework displays have never done anything for me at all -perhaps because the food was as important as the fireworks.

These Boston Baked Beans are the sort of thing I would cook nowadays for either a Halloween or Bonfire party but my recipe is perfect for comfort eating at any time. So batten  down the hatches and give it a go. This dish won’t spoil if it is left and it’s even better the next day.

BOSTON BAKED BEANS

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MARINATED COURGETTE WITH DILL

Courgette & fresh dill pickle
Marinated courgette with dill

Summer time and the plot is bursting at the seams…and the courgettes are intent on a veg patch take over. Will we ever learn not to put in so many-no, probably not because ‘you never know’ what may happen.  Some plants may not make it through the minefield of growing your own vegetables………………… too hot, too cold, too dry, too wet slugs, hapless gardeners, mildew, pests etc etc. Once they get past the danger times they grow at an alarming rate the beautiful, orange flowers start appearing and, magically, they develop into tiny courgettes. It is best to pick them small but beware turn your back, they have grown into huge marrows. ‘What shall I do with them’ ? is a common cry.

I like mine sliced into rounds and simply fried in olive oil but there are lots of other options -roasted in the oven, made into soup, spiralised into salads or pasta and baked in various cakes and scones.  After you have exhausted all the usual ways to deal with them try this very simple dish. It is easy to grow the delicious herb dill alongside your vegetables or it is pretty enough to go in the flower beds as well. It is my favourite fresh herb and simply used with courgettes a summer treat for me. Don’t forget it isn’t a pickle and you have to eat it fresh although it will last until the next day.

MARINATED COURGETTE WITH  DILL

2/3 Small courgettes

50ml rice wine vinegar (+water)

Approx. 1 teasp. sugar*

Fresh dill

Seas salt and freshly ground, black, pepper

  1. Using a ‘T’ vegetable peeler remove long, fine ribbons along the length of the courgette. Move around in quarter turns and then discard the middle bit. If you have to use an older courgette I would remove half of the peel as it will be tough.
  2. Put the vinegar in a small pan with 3 tbsp. water. Add *some of the sugar. Briefly simmer and then leave to cool. Taste- it shouldn’t be too sweet or too vinegary.
  3. Finely chop the dill-you can do it with the stalk unless they are tough. In this case you can take them off and just chop the feathery bits.
  4. Put the courgette, vinegar mix and dill in a small bowl and mix together.
  5. Leave for an hour and then drain before eating.

 

 

 

 

ROAST CHICKEN WITH STICKY CARROTS

Roast Herby Chicken with Sticky Roots
Roast  Chicken with Sticky carrots

Well it’s been a while…I’m thinking ahead to a simple Sunday lunch or  easy get together meal with the family and this roast chicken with sticky carrots fits the bill. Roast chicken is always a safe bet (and economical) so it’s my go to family, weekend, roast. My Christmas turkey always sits on top of a ‘trivet’ of  vegetables & herbs  to help keep it moist by raising it off the base of the roasting tin and adding extra flavour to the chicken. It also helps to make the best gravy ever so I have used this trick with the chicken. Try to get hold of  to a higher welfare chicken if you can it is much better not just in terms of flavour but more because of the meaty texture-not the ‘cotton wooly’ texture  of meat from many factory raised birds.

My bird is fragrant with rosemary, roasted garlic, juicy with lemon and sweet, sticky carrots AND roasted all in one pan so not much washing up-can you resist?

Here is my;

ROSEMARY AND LEMON ROAST CHICKEN WITH STICKY CARROTS

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MOTHER’S DAY CAKE for a special mum

Mother's day cake
My special Mother’s Day cake

A special cake for a special day-what could be a nicer gift than a home baked one made with love? This is a rather special mother’s day cake which, ditching the bunting, you could use for all sorts of celebrations-the crystallized rose petals giving it a very pretty, vintage look.

I have a long history of making cakes for Mothering Sunday..with various degrees of success..for some reason my sisters and I thought it would be a good idea (and perfectly feasible) to get up very early in the morning bake a cake AND ice it….yes, you can imagine what happened but I’m sure my mum looked at the wonky cake with the icing sliding down the sides and thought it was the best present ever!

Nowadays we have ready made fondant icing  which is very easy to use and gives a perfectly smooth professional looking finish -it’s as easy as child’s play to put it on just have a look at some You tube videos to show you how. I confess I am not a fan of eating it and I think that the synthetic, vanilla flavour is over sweet and spoils my lovely cake! It is a waste as I cut mine off before I eat it.. I could be harsh and say it often is used to cover up a poor quality cake and, from a business point of view, gives it a very long shelf life.

Home made marzipan is a revelation to convert even the most ardent ‘I hate marzipan’ brigade and I confess to being quite evangelical about singing it’s praises.  It is easy peasy to make just stir the sugars together and bind with egg and it doesn’t have the sharp, chemical after taste of bought marzipan. Almonds are expensive so it makes commercial sense not to use too much and then to get the ‘almond’ flavour by adding a cheap, artificial flavour.

I made the bunting for a special Mother’s day message, it was a fiddle although you can buy the little paper flags from a craft shop. These I glued onto the ribbon (using a high tac glue that dries quickly and clear) and tied the ribbon onto some paper straws. Move them around to get the right ‘hanging effect’ before you sink them into the cake. also used crystallized fresh rose petals which look so..oooooooooooooooo pretty. You can also crystallise primroses, violets or forget me nots, the loveliness is endless. I did try it with snowdrops one year, they looked ok but are really too fleshy to do properly and you really need a flower with an ‘open’ face. Give it a go and you will be amazed at how easy it is.

 

A simply iced cake for any celebration
A simply iced cake for any celebration

Here is my mother’s day  cake-appropriately for Mothering Sunday I have used my mother’s own recipe for it. I used a Madiera cake as it is quite firm so a good base if you want to cover it with marzipan and icing. The cake has a dense texture and lemony flavour and traditionally it was served topped with very thin slices of crystallized lemon peel.

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THE VERY BEST CHOCOLATE BROWNIES

 

The best chocolate brownies

I’m sticking my neck on the line here-the Very Best Chocolate Brownies?  Who does she think she is …well I have been working at this recipe for a number of years and a lot of brownies have been eaten by family and friends-it’s hard for some people.

The brownie world is split into two camps -those that love the more ‘CAKEY’ types of brownies and those that love the  more ‘SQUIDGY’ type. Both have their place in the culinary brownie world but my favourite would have to be the ‘SQUIDGY’. type. To make the ‘CAKEY’ type you have, not surprisingly, a cake type mix but to get the ‘SQUIDGY’ type you are aiming for a batter type mix that easily pours into your tin.

Here are some things to think about before you try these out:

  • Kit matters especially if you are planning to do a lot of baking and investing in the best is a good idea-I’ve lost count of the number of cheaper tins etc that I have thrown out over the years after they have buckled and twisted in the heat. So invest in a sturdy tin they are often called, very helpfully,-brownie pans. I’m not mad keen on the non stick versions, this eventually wears off and where does it go? Yes, it’s in your food. Perhaps I am being a little harsh here as the more modern versions are more durable.
  • Lining the pan is important-you only need to do the base.  I like the re useable ones but if you don’t want to do this use a baking paper with silicone, not just greasproof paper. The higher the sugar content the more your cakes/biscuits/meringues will stick and these brownies have a lot of sugar in them.
  • Take care melting the chocolate-it is very temperamental. On the temperamental scale the easiest to melt is chocolate with a high proportion of chocolate solids eg a good dark chocolate with 70% chocolate solids, the trickiest to melt is white chocolate ( it is not really a chocolate as it doesn’t contain any chocolate solids) and milk chocolate is somewhere in between. I use a microwave, break up the chocolate into pieces and put into a plastic jug-spread them out a bit so they are not just piled in the middle. Microwave this in short bursts on high. Don’t stir it as this can cause it to ‘seize’ up and ruin just turn the jug back and forth until it is melted. Once it starts to melt it will go very quickly-Don’t burn it.

Enjoy making these-VERY BEST CHOCOLATE BROWNIES

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PANINI PIZZA

Just back from the Italian Dolomites the skiing was lacking in style and quite scary but the pizzas were fantastic. Thin and crispy, with just a little topping, we watched as the pizza dough was twirled in the air to get the required thinness and then cooked quickly in a proper wood oven they were on the table in a trice before I had time to recover from the exertion of hurtling down the piste. There was a bewildering choice of toppings ( I wish that I hadn’t left the phrase book on the hall table at home..) from sausages and ham, eggs, rocket, tuna, seafood, pineapple, mushrooms, etc. My favourite was the plain and simple tomato with cheese and garlic. It had a stronger cheese for flavour (not sure which) and the lovely soft mozzarella that stretches between pizza and mouth alarmingly.  It doesn’t let go until you can manage the quick twist and flick of the chin. No doubt the tomato base was lovingly made by hand, gently simmering fresh tomatos with fragrant basil and then reducing it until it is thick enough to spread. I will try to make this properly sometime but in the meantime-

Let’s not kid ourselves sometimes a quick and easy dish using the really GOOD convenience ingredients available are just perfect for a ‘coming home for work don’t have time to cook’ sort of meal or,indeed for any day of the week. You can rustle these up in 20 minutes or less

Panini pizza for an easy supper dish or snack-pronto

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BEEF LASAGNE – SIMPLY DELICIOUS

BEEF LASAGNE – SIMPLY DELICIOUS

Take a look at these…there are just a few ingredients for this simple family lasagne. You can make the recipe ‘more special’ by using eg Gruyere or Parmesan cheese in the sauce.

I have used good quality minced beef from my local butcher so I know exactly what is in it (and what is not in it..).  Time can be an issue when choosing a local butcher or the supermarket but you can always in larger quantities and then freeze the meat. So stop horsing around and make your own!

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FESTIVE PORK WITH ORANGE AND CRANBERRIES

 

Festive Pork with orange and cranberries

 

 This is one of my favourite festive dishes and it always appears some time over the Christmas holidays. The mix of warm spices, cranberries and orange go well together with the tender pork and it looks stunning on the festive table.  You can make it ahead of time or well ahead and freeze it.  I like to have a few dishes tucked away ready to be whisked out at the last minute so that I don’t have to miss any of the Christmas fun and this is perfect.  Like lots of dishes it is even better re-heated the next day.

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