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  1. Our Antarctica and South America trip

    April 2, 2018 by sarah

    We have been back from our trip of a lifetime for only a week and already in some regards, it seems a million years ago! But at least I have nearly 9,000 photos to sort to help remind me of this fabulous trip. I have managed to trim it down to 300 photos that capture some of the wonder things we saw and experienced. Remember these photos are copyrighted so if you’d like to use one or to have one printed, please ask. Enjoy!

    Antarctica and South America


  2. Sticky Toffee Puddings – a microwaveable steamed treat

    November 26, 2017 by sarah

    I feel this recipe is a little like cheating as it is so easy to throw together and then it is cooked in the microwave for a super quick treat. No steaming involved. AND it freezes very well so you can also have a luscious dessert at the ready! I have no idea where this recipe came from – it is hand written in my recipe collection that I started when I was a student. I use plastic pudding bowls for this recipe. I have a collection of various sizes from when I have purchased sponge or steam puddings in the past and some come with plastic lids. So in future don’t throw those bowls away – they are useful.

    Sticky Toffee Puddings

    Serves 8

    175g stoned dates, finely chopped by hand or food processor
    1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
    2 teaspoons of instant coffee granules (or if none in the house, use hot coffee instead of water for soaking the dates)
    3/4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
    75g soft butter
    150g caster sugar (golden if available)
    3 medium eggs, beaten
    175g self-raising flour, sifted

    For the sauce:
    25g pecan nuts, toasted and chopped
    175g soft brown sugar
    110g butter
    6 tablespoons of double cream

    Put the chopped dates in a bowl and pour over 175ml boiling water. Add the vanilla extract, instant coffee and bicarb and leave to one side. If you don’t have any instant coffee then use freshly brewed coffee instead of the boiling water but make sure it is scalding hot.

    In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until pale and light. Gradually add the eggs a little at a time. Fold in the sifted flour and then the wet date mixture. A very sloppy mixture is normal.

    Pour the batter into lightly oiled containers – either ceramic ramekins or the plastic tubs that bought sponge puddings come in. Make sure they are no more than half full! Cover loosely and microwave on high for 2-4 minutes, depending on the size of the pudding bowls.

    Take out and leave to cool for a few minutes.

    Make the sauce by combining the sauce ingredients in a pan and gently heating until the sugar has dissolved then bring to the boil.

    Serve by turning out the puddings onto a heat proof tray. Preheat the grill to high and have a shelf at a level that the puddings will fit underneath. Pour the sauce over the top of the puddings, knock off any nuts off the top of the puddings (otherwise they burn), put under the grill until hot and bubbling. Serve immediately with ice-cream, cold pouring cream or custard as your fancy takes you.


  3. Rum Babas or Savarins

    November 11, 2017 by sarah

    A French treat (baba au rhum) and so very retro – a fitting post for my blog when it has been such a long time since I last posted! From a limited check with work colleagues, most people seem to have heard of them but not be entirely sure they are. Rum babas are yeasted enriched dough cakes, soaked in a rum based sugar syrup. They are traditionally eaten in France for Sunday dinner with a good helping of chantilly cream. They seem to be making a bit of a come back so here is a post ahead of the curve! And having made them, I can say they are not something to be scared of and once you have tasted boozy sponge, you will hopefully be converted too!

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    The enriched dough from which babas are made of is also known as a savarin dough. Traditional rum babas are made in small ring moulds that are known as savarin moulds, though you can also get large ring moulds and then the cake that is made is called a savarin! From internet searching, it looks like most modern chefs bake the babas in dariole moulds as these are something that most kitchens will have rather than having to buy specialist moulds. Indeed, for this recipe I made 4 traditional type babas in aluminium dariole moulds and then the rest of the dough went into a large fluted tin (it said it was a brioche tin on the label) and all turned out great. So I think the lesson for this is that it doesn’t actually matter what tins you use as a mould – how about trying individual loaf tins or tart tins (probably not loose bottom type) or even silicone moulds – you may need to adjust proving and baking times.

    Because this is an enriched dough, you need to know a few things about how it will behave. It will take a long time to rise and will rise better if kept warmer than you would do for bread dough as if it is too cold, the butter will firm up and the bubbles will struggle to get the rise. Professional chef websites recommend between 30°C and 40°C – I used my lizard heat mat under the bowl and then the molds and this worked perfectly. Also the dough needs a long and energetic beating to get the gluten to develop so really a stand mixer with a dough hook is pretty essential unless you have muscles like Arnie! Additionally it can be difficult to tell when done as the cake will colour quite fast in the oven.

    This recipe is adapted from ‘Patisserie Maison’ By Richard Bertinet. The original recipe called for fresh yeast which is a pain to find so I used the sachet instant stuff it worked out just fine. This recipes makes a lot of dough and is far too much for just half dozen babas but a mixer struggles with smaller quantities. The cooked babas freeze well or use the rest of the dough in a large tin.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Rum Baba – Ingredients
    FOR THE FERMENT
    150g strong white bread flour
    7g sachet fast action yeast
    150ml warm milk

    FOR THE DOUGH
    4 medium eggs
    150g very soft unsalted butter
    extra butter for greasing the moulds
    50g caster sugar
    1/2 teaspoon fine salt
    125ml warm milk
    400g strong white bread flour
    grated zest of a lemon or an orange

    To make the ferment, mix the yeast into the flour and then whisk in the warm milk with a spatula or metal whisk. Cover the bowl with cling film and leave the ferment somewhere very warm for 2 hours until very bubbly – on top of a lizard heat mat is perfect.

    Put the ferment in the bowl of a stand mixer with a dough hook. Add all the other ingredients and beat until very elastic and silky and no sign of the butter – 10 to 20 minutes on medium.

    Grease the moulds well with melted butter.

    Pipe the mixture into the moulds until it comes about two-thirds the way up. Cover the tins in greased cling film and again place somewhere warm until risen a little above the moulds – this will take at least an hour.

    Preheat the oven to 190°C or 170°C if fan assisted. Take off the cling film and bake the babas in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes for small ones and up to 40 minutes for a large one. You can tell they are cooked as a skewer will come out dry and they sound hollow when tapped underneath (just like bread). Carefully turn out onto a wire rack to cool. Then store in an airtight container for up to 2 days or freeze.

    FOR THE SYRUP
    1 lemon
    1 orange
    800g sugar
    500ml water
    200ml spiced rum

    For the syrup, thinly peal off the rind of the orange and lemon with a vegetable peeler or knife then cut into fine julienne strips. Squeeze the orange and lemon and put the juice into a pan with the sugar and water. Bring to the boil once the sugar has dissolved and boil for a few minutes until syrupy and the peel is tender. Take off the heat and add the rum. This can be stored in a container in the fridge for up to a week.

    To finish the babas place the syrup into a wide shallow dish and place in the babas. Turn them frequently and leave them to soak for a minimum of 3 hours and up to 24 hours at room temperature.

    FOR THE CHANTILLY CREAM
    150ml double cream
    50g icing sugar
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract or vanilla seeds

    Beat the cream with the sifted icing sugar until stiff peaks. Add the vanilla and give one more quick beat. Serve immediately otherwise the firmness disappears.

    To finish the babas, place a baba in a small dish, spoon over syrup and place some of the citrus peal on top. Serve with chilled Chantilly cream. Enjoy!


  4. Papua New Guinea

    October 14, 2017 by sarah

    This year our main holiday was to the other end of the world, figuratively and literally, to Papua New Guinea! It was one of the most extraordinary countries I have ever been to. My overwhelming memory of the holiday is the people; friendly and open, quiet but happy, unassuming and generous. Much like my previous favourite place in the world, Vanuatu. We saw some wonderful and unique things and had a variety of special experiences, of which these photos only touch the surface.

    It was very hard to go back through these photos to prepare them to be viewed. For a start there were nearly 6000! Secondary, I did not want to spoil the magic by looking back at photographs rather than memories but actually having a space of a few months then going back through the photos has allowed me to re-enjoy the holiday again. In the interests of brevity, I have not included many of my ‘arty’ photos, instead concentrating on ones which tell the story of Papua New Guinea and our holiday. I have captioned most of them – please ask me any questions!