February Sampler


Thursday, 28 February 2013

February turned out to be all pink and white. Very pleased with this one.

I am done with winter though. The days are lengthening, there are crocuses, hellebores and even a primrose blooming in my garden and there are buds on the quince tree.

March promises many good things. It begins with a day spent with blog friends and ends with Easter. In between I will become the mother of three teenagers (and by the end of summer I will be the mother of one adult).

I'm planning to join in with this photo challenge through March. I shall be using my phone and posting my pictures on Instagram so if you're an Instagrammer by all means follow me- thequincetree- and maybe join me.

Many thanks to those of you who suggested closing my comments to anonymous commenters to combat the spammers. I have done this and it has had an immediate effect -I was getting continual spam throughout the day and now it seems to have stopped.

Mood Food


Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Do you cook the same kind of food all the time? 
I don't. When my family go camping in the summer I cook myself extravagant little delicacies. I make dishes like tarragon chicken, garlicky scallops, baked goat's cheese in pastry, steak and hollandaise sauce. I indulge.

When I am feeling full of good intentions (usually after eating too much of the above) I make lots of lovely, big, modern salads. Like these.

When I want to make everyone happy I cook roast chicken, sausages and mash, pizza and chocolate fudge pudding.

When the weather is cold and miserable and I'm a bit bored I bake things like brownies, cinnamon roll cake and rainy day muffins.

And when I'm trying not to spend too much I cook simple, old-fashioned grub. If I bake then I choose recipes which don't call for things like whole bars of best quality chocolate, pistachios, maple syrup or dried cherries. I choose instead recipes like flapjacks, scones or these date slices.

Date Slices

Cook 8oz of chopped dates in 5fl oz water until soft -about 10 mins.
Rub 4oz self-raising flour and 1 teaspoon bicarb with 4oz butter until you have a breadcrumb-like mixture.
Stir in 4oz oats and 4oz sugar.
Grease and base line a tin about 7" by 11" and press half the crumb mixture into it.
Spread the dates on top and cover with the rest of the crumbs pressing down.
Bake at 180°c (160°c fan oven) for 25 mins.

Homity pie is a good, honest, frugal dish. A shortcrust pastry crust is filled with chopped cooked potato, fried onions and cheese. I added a parsnip and a leek to mine because they needed using up. This was made in a deep cake tin and baked for 40 minutes at 200°c (180°c).

Simple, wholesome and cheap is my kind of cooking at the moment. Who knows for how long though. It all depends on my mood, the weather's mood, and how many driving lessons George is going to need.

In other news I am being plagued by spammers at the moment. The spam box is always full but just lately a lot is getting through Blogger's screening and ending up on the blog. I delete between thirty and forty spam comments a day at the moment. I do not intend to put the word verification as I don't think it is fair to ask genuine readers to decipher those things. I won't enable comment moderation either because I'll still have to read and delete them. Instead I have decided to close comments on all posts older than a month. If anyone has a question about an old post just contact me directly -details on the black bar under my heading.

Rhubarb, Roobarb


Saturday, 23 February 2013

I've been thinking a lot about rhubarb this week as you do.

First Richard Briers died. Then Bob Godfrey died. Those of you of a certain age will no doubt remember Roobarb and Custard. Richard Briers narrated it and Bob Godfrey was one of the animators. It was one of the many superb five minute programmes which used to end the children's programming on BBC1 each weekday before the boring news came on forty odd years ago. The theme tune will stay with me forever.

Richard Briers was best known for his role as Tom Good in The Good Life. No doubt Tom and Barbara grew plenty of rhubarb in their Surbiton garden.

Now is the season for that English speciality, forced rhubarb. Two hundred years ago a gardener discovered that the rhubarb he had accidentally covered with soil had started to sprout bright pink stalks unseasonably early. This rhubarb was not only pinker but sweeter and less sharp than the later darker rhubarb.

Ninety percent of the world's forced rhubarb is grown in the rhubarb triangle, an area of Yorkshire between Wakefield, Morley and Rothwell.  It is grown in sheds and picked by candlelight. You can actually hear it growing. At the height of its popularity there was a special train called the Pink Express or the Rhubarb Special which took the crop from Yorkshire to London each night during the season.

Usually I make a crumble with rhubarb but today I thought I'd get creative and come up with something different. Inspired by Bakewell tart I thought I'd have a go at a rhubarby version.

I apologise for the mixture of imperial and metric weights. I make pastry in imperial, it makes more sense to me.

First I made some shortcrust pastry by throwing 8oz of plain flour and 4oz cubed cold butter into the food processor. I processed it for a few seconds until it formed crumbs. Then I poured in 3-4 tablespoons of cold water and processed until it formed a ball of dough. It is just as easy to make by hand but it is quicker using machinery.

I rolled the pastry out straight away and used it to line a 9 inch (23 cm) tart tin. Then I put it in the fridge for about 20 minutes before baking it blind for 15 minutes at 200°c (180°c fan oven). After removing the foil and baking beans I put the part-cooked pastry back in the oven for another 5 minutes. Then I let it cool.

I mixed 250g of chopped rhubarb with a jar of strawberry jam. I used homemade jam and I think it was about 1lb. I spread this mixture in the tart case.

Next I made the almond layer. I beat together 2 eggs, 200g ground almonds, 150g caster sugar and 100g of soft butter. This is just a double quantity of the almond filling for galette des rois. I spread it carefully over the rhubarb and jam and then sprinkled flaked almonds over.

I baked it for 40 minutes at 180°c (160°c fan oven) until golden.

I put it on a baking tray before putting in the oven because I was a little afraid I'd overdone the jam and that I'd have jam escaping all over the oven. I needn't have worried but it is a wise precaution.

I was very pleased with my Rhubarb and Almond Tart, but it was a little on the runny side. Next time I think I will use less jam and more rhubarb and maybe give it another ten minutes in the oven.

If you want to make this gluten-free then I am sure that if you put the rhubarb and jam filling in a shallow baking dish and top with the almond mixture you will have a lovely pudding. It might be good in individual ramekins too but I would reduce the cooking time.

Cinnamon Roll Cake


Friday, 15 February 2013

Thank you to everyone who commented on my last post, and to everyone who comments on any post for that matter. Except spammers, spammers are bumholes, as my charming daughter would say.

I am greatly encouraged to hear that so many people are making fasting part of their lives. If you follow the link I gave you will see that it isn't just about weight loss- the long-term health benefits are many. 

I will try to include a post or two with fast day menus ideas at some point. Meanwhile I have cake.

Yesterday was St Valentine's Day which as we know is all about love. Well I love cake. So I made one.
Cinnamon roll cake was a Pinterest find from the Lil Luna blog. We love sticky cinnamon rolls (there's a recipe here, and this pull-apart version here) but they require a bit of forward planning. This cakey version though, can be yours in about 40 minutes.

It's an American recipe so the ingredients are measured in cups. As I measured out my cups I plopped the ingredients into my scales so that I could give you a European version. It makes for rather strange measurements.

Cinnamon Roll Cake

You need a greased tray-bake tin 9" x 13"

In a bowl put
500g (1lb 2oz) plain flour
½ teaspoon salt
210g (7½oz) caster sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
340ml (12 fl oz) milk
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Mix well, then add gradually, mixing as you go
112g (4oz) melted butter

Pour the batter into the tin.

Next make the cinnamon filling.
Mix together well
227g (8oz) soft butter
190g (7oz) dark soft brown sugar
2 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon cinnamon
I had half a packet (about 50g)of pecans lurking in my cupboard which I chopped and added to the filling.

Dollop spoonfuls of the filling on top of the cake batter. Then use a knife to swirl it through the cake. 
Bake the cake at 180°c (160°c fan oven) for 40mins

While the cake is still warm pour over a glaze made by combining
180g (6½oz) icing sugar
2½ tablespoons milk
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
This is half the amount given in the original recipe. I felt it was enough.

I cut my cake into 16 pieces and served it warm as a dessert. It was pronounced 'super yummy'.

Edit 16.03.13
Having made this cake a few times now I have found that it needs longer baking than the original recipe specifies. I have therefore altered the baking time to 40 mins rather than 30 mins, but it may need even longer in your oven.

Edit II - 6.12.13
For a less sweet and sticky version of this cake see this post.

Fast Days


Wednesday, 13 February 2013

This is a post about dieting so if that is a subject which bores the pants off you click away now.

I'm doing the Fast Diet (details all in the link). I think it is marvellous. I've only been doing it for three weeks and I've lost 4lbs. I knew it would work. If you follow any diet you will lose weight. The trick is to keep following it.

I've done calorie counting and points counting over the years and although they work I found it so hard to keep counting. Continual measuring, calculating and planning is soul destroying. Giving up puddings, cakes, chocolate and wine is horrible. When you are cooking for a family every day you don't want to be cooking separate meals for yourself. But I'm happy to do all these things if I know that the next day I don't have to. And that's the beauty of the Fast Diet, there is always light at the end of a very short tunnel. Hunger, after all, doesn't hurt and it doesn't last.

I usually choose Mondays and Wednesdays as my fast days. Obviously I never choose Fridays, Saturdays or Sundays. Today has been a fast day and I have eaten my 500 calories. Yes I am quite hungry and by bedtime I will be hungrier, but I shall go to sleep knowing that tomorrow I won't have to count calories. Tomorrow I can eat what I like. But I won't be indulging in a feeding frenzy I shall just eat normally without worrying about calories and on Friday I shall make Nigella's blondies for us all to enjoy over the weekend. .

This is what I ate today

Brunch - 60g smoked salmon and a poached egg - Approx 200cals

Dinner- fish stew made with cod, red peppers, passata and veg stock and lots of smoked paprika. Spices are a big help in making low-cal food taste satisfying. Approx 280 cals

The rest of the family had eggs, chips and beans which they greatly appreciated. Sometimes I double a meal and give them the other half on a fast day, mostly though I give them pasta because I'm not very keen on it and they love it.

It's simple to understand, easy to follow and you don't have to give up your favourite foods.
Anyone else doing it?

Simple Pleasures


Friday, 8 February 2013

A stunning sunrise.

 Tom's 16th birthday cake was simple as birthday cakes go. An easy all-in-one sponge lavishly iced with chocolate butter cream (6oz butter, 10oz icing sugar, 2oz cocoa, 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract and 1 tablespoon milk) and finished off with a bag of Maltesers. The Maltesers made it impossible to cut thin slices.  Nobody minded about that.

I took a lot of photos of my white hyacinth. A lot. It smells delicious.

Lentil and barley stew. Brown and wholesome food to counteract the cake. Very tasty too.

February Posy


Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Catkins, snowdrops and hellebores were all I could find for my February posy. The hellebores are not open yet. March's posy will include some hellebores which are fully open, and there will be daffodils, crocuses and pussy willow.

 But we have to get through February first. Luckily we have a birthday and an anniversary to celebrate in this the longest shortest month. Then there's Valentine's day and Shrove Tuesday -chocolate and pancakes, or maybe pancakes with chocolate in them? It's not all gloom, this waiting for Spring. There are hopeful signs.

It is extremely cold at the moment but the bright sunshine has made my walks pleasant. Everywhere you look branches are budding and birds are singing.  The UK is not known for its colourful bird-life but those few species which are not a drab brown have been making an appearance in my neighbourhood. Last week I saw a green woodpecker, several jays and most pleasing of all a goldcrest. Much as I enjoy all our birds, those with a flash of bright colour are particularly thrilling to see. Perhaps that is why we love robins so much. Britain's most colourful native bird is this one. How I would love to see one.

Crêpes et Chandelles (et le rugby)


Saturday, 2 February 2013

Today is Candlemas. I've written about it here and here where you will find more information about this forgotten feast day. It is not quite so forgotten in France where it is called Chandeleur from the word chandelle which means candle. Chandeleur is celebrated in France with the eating of pancakes which seems like a bonne idée and a good opportunity to try out this French recipe for crêpes.

Crêpes à la règle de trois (Rule of three pancakes)

300g plain flour
3 eggs
 ¾  litre of milk (750 ml)
3 tablespoons of vegetable oil

Mix everything together well. I used a stick blender.
Cook in a non-stick frying pan over a medium-high heat. Brush with a little oil after every second crêpe.
You don't need much batter for each crêpe, swirl it around the pan to get a thin coating and wait for it to become loose before turning -about 1 min. Be prepared for the first one to be a disaster -it will still taste good.

Makes about 10 crêpes. You could make them rule of two pancakes if you want less.

I found this batter very easy to manage. I shall certainly be using it in ten days time when we Brits have our pancake feast.

In French there are three words for candle; le cierge, la chandelle, and la bougie. 

Un cierge is a church candle.

Une chandelle is a candle made of tallow rather than wax but also refers to the long tapering candles one would use for a candlelit dinner.

Une chandelle is also the French word for the rugby term 'an up-and-under' which seems appropriate as the Six Nations Championship kicks off today. I shall be watching both matches but will be paying particular attention to the England-Scotland game. After the fantastic birthday present England gave me I'm very hopeful.

Une bougie (pron. boo-zhee not boogie) If I understand correctly this word can refer to any wax candle but particularly thick candles. It also means a spark-plug.

French readers please feel free to correct me if I have got this wrong!
Scottish readers  -good luck this afternoon -you're going to need it.
Irish and Welsh readers good luck this afternoon too.

Les petites bougies dans un moule.

The Quince Tree - bringing you French lessons, pancake recipes, rugby, and anything that takes my fancy really.

The Quince Tree All rights reserved © Blog Milk - Powered by Blogger