Monthly Archives: June 2012

doughnut peach conserve

A miscommunication and two food shoppers meant that a glut of doughnut peaches over filled our fruit bowls! I absolutely love eating these doughnut shaped peaches… to me they are little flattened pillows of sweetness with a wonderful peachy perfume. If you need a sweet fix… eat a doughnut peach…  you will not stop at one! Less fuzzy skinned than other varieties of peach, the flesh pale, sweet, juicy and low on acidity. Because of their shape, these peaches are also called Saturn or even UFO’s.

With a big bowl full of peaches sitting in front of me I was reading a post by fellow food blogger Appetite For Discovery… it was the cherry filling oozing out of the pie that made me think of a lovely jar of chunky conserve…  the urge to start  skinning some peaches came upon me!

Making home-made conserve or jam is not something I do on a regular basis so using ordinary household utensils for the process suits fine. My mother made jam on many occasions with no fancy equipment and I have vivid memories of the big bubbling pot and the wonderful smell of jam filling our home! The chilled saucers in the freezer ready and waiting for the wrinkle test…  great for licking afterwards! All the saved glass jars lined up on the kitchen table, waiting to be filled with the hot sticky jam. Pressing circles of waxed paper over the surface (this is where I would come in) of the jam, then covering with cellophane and securing with thick brown elastic bands. Once the jam had cooled a flick test with the fingers would be preformed on the cellophane covers, confirming the covers were taut and a proper seal had taken place!

Conserves contain bigger and more whole pieces of fruit than jams, both contain lots of sugar which acts as a preservative, enabling long storage of home-made conserves and jams without the need for refrigeration. As I am not interested in storing jam for months on end in a cupboard, making preserves with a high ratio of fruit and less sugar is my preference… hence this home-made conserve needs to be refrigerated and consumed within three to four weeks… no problem there! A delicious tasting peachy conserve, flavored with orange and a hint of clove… with a lovely spoonable consistency!

Doughnut Peach Conserve

Ingredients:

  • 500g doughnut peaches (choose firm fruit)
  • zest one small orange, afterwards segment the orange taking care not to include any pith or membrane
  • 225g granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice (preserves the colour of the fruit and increases the pectin content)
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon of home-made vanilla extract, or store-bought

You will need: One 450ml jar with a lid or use a few smaller volume jars, which will need to be sterilized! Some waxed or silicon paper cut into circles to fit the appropriate jars!

Removing the skin from peaches: Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Also fill a large bowl with cold water and throw in some ice cubes. Cut a shallow cross (only into the skin) on the base of each peach with a sharp knife. Place the peaches into the boiling water for about 20 seconds. With the help of a slotted spoon, transfer the peaches quickly into the cold water bath (stops the peaches from cooking) for about 30 seconds. Remove and skin the peaches. Unfortunately all the lovely colour disappears with the skins and the peaches will look somewhat insipid!

This next step is completely optional but wanting to put a bit of blush back into the conserve I gathered the skins of the peaches and gave them a good squeeze over a bowl, collecting about a tablespoon and a half of pinkish coloured liquid (with a bit of flavour)  which I incorporate when making the conserve!

How to make:

Cut each peach into quarters and discard the stone. Cut the orange segments into small pieces.

Add the peaches, juice from the skins (if using) orange zest, orange segments, sugar, lemon juice and cloves into a wide low sided thick-bottomed stainless steel saucepan. Gently mix everything together and let the contents stand undisturbed for about 15 minutes, this process helps extract the juice and also firms up the pieces of fruit enabling chunks of fruit to remain whole in the cooked conserve.

Heat the contents of the saucepan gently while stirring with a wooden spoon until the sugar has completely dissolved. Raise the heat and cook steadily (not a rolling boil) until  the fruit is soft and setting point (see note below) has been reached. Take care that the jam does not catch on the bottom of the saucepan and burn! This will take around 20 minutes.  Remove from heat and allow the conserve to cool for about 10 minutes, stir in the vanilla extract, remove and discard the cloves.

Spoon the peach conserve into a hot sterilized jar.  Press a circle of waxed or silicon paper onto the surface of the conserve and cover with lids.  Store the completely cooled jar in the refrigerator.

How to know when your preserve has reached setting point: Usually I follow the wrinkle test when making a conserve or jam. Spoon a teaspoon of the boiling conserve onto one of the cold saucers from the freezer, let sit for about a minute until cold, then push with your finger… if the preserve wrinkles it has reached setting point, if not, boil for a couple of minutes and test again.

Wonderful delicious ways to use and enjoy Doughnut Peach Conserve:

  • Mix a spoonful of peach conserve thorough a pot of home-made natural yogurt or store-bought, makes a delicious real fruit flavoured yogurt.
  • Place a small chunk of creamy blue cheese or soft goats cheese on a cracker and top with a little blob of peach conserve… I love this combination!
  • Serve the peach conserve as an accompaniment to pan cooked duck breast for a quick fruit sauce.
  • For a quick fruit topping, spoon some peach conserve over plain cheese cake or some vanilla  ice cream.
  • Peach conserve served with warmed croissants, scones, a nice chunk of home-made brown bread or french toast… simple but all delicious!
  • Replace the blackcurrant jam with peach conserve in this Welsh Cheese Cakes recipe.
What is your favourite flavour of conserve or jam? 

Welsh Cheese Cakes

welsh cheesecakes-2

When the theme “Sweet as Pie” was announced for this months Sweet Adventures Blog Hop hosted by KC of the Capers of a Kitchen Crusader… apple pie came to mind. Warm apple pie with a dollop of fresh cream… delicious!  But after giving the theme some more thought I started thinking back to my school days… my favourite subject… home economics.

I remembered these  “little jam pie cakes” baked during one of the cooking lessons but I couldn’t remember what they were actual called. They were a cross between a pie and a cake with a jam filling.  But I do remember that I loved baking them and did so on many occasions during those years.

Update: 2015 🙂 Happy to announce that my sweet as pie Welsh cheese cake photograph is published in the new edition of Essentials of Living text book for Irish Students.

Not so long ago I acquired two old Irish cookery books called   “All In The Cooking” from my mother (no way were these gems going in the bin)  which Mum had used during her teacher training days at college. The cookery books were official text books compiled for students and classes of Domestic Science in Ireland and printed during the 1940’s and 50’s.  Flicking through the old yellowed pages and scouring over the recipes, came across what I was looking for… these little jam pie cakes were called “Welsh Cheese Cakes.” Maybe our domestic science teacher called them something different. Why they are called cheesecakes… I have no idea and there is no cheese in them either!  But the theme for the blog hop is pies… pastry on the bottom and pastry on the top… well these Welsh Cheese Cakes fit the bill.

This is the first time I have baked this old school recipe for my family and once the camera was set aside (although I got the first bite), the cakes were eaten and the family  statement was “why have you never made these before”… home baking at its best!

Some notes: As I used a 12 hole patty tin more pastry was required, the pastry weight stated in the orignal recipe seemed on the low side anyway! Rolling the pastry into 1/4 inch thickness was a bit on the chunky side for me so I went for about 1/8 inch thickness, a little more delicate! Using a home-made sweetened short crust pastry was also a preference, but when buying  short crust pastry from the supermarkets I choose pastry made with butter!

When making the cake filling I used the all- in- one method of cake mixing for this recipe, which is quicker, rather than the creaming method. The cake filling was soft enough when mixed so I omitted the milk and used vanilla extract for the flavouring.

Welsh Cheesecakes

Welsh Cheesecakes

Welsh Cheese Cakes

 (Adapted from the All In The Cooking, see below for original recipe)

Ingredients:

  • 200g short crust pastry (home-made or bought)
  • 2 tablespoons of blackcurrant jam

for the cake filling

  • 50g butter, softened
  • 50g castor sugar
  • 75g all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • icing sugar, for dusting (optional)
Useful Kitchen Jewellery:
  • 12 hole patty tin
  • rolling-pin
  • pastry cutter
  • electric beater
  • kitchen weighing scales

How to make:

Pre-heat the oven to 350°C/180°F/160°C Fan/Gas 4.

On a lightly floured work-surface roll out the pastry to 1/8 inch thickness. Cut into 12 rounds using a 3-inch round fluted pastry cutter and line the un-greased patty tin with the pastry. Re-roll the scrapes of pastry out into 1/8 inch thickness and cut pastry into thin match-like strips, you will need 2 strips per cake.

Place a 1/2 teaspoon of jam into the middle of each pastry round. Place patty tin into the fridge (especially if the kitchen is very warm) while making the filling.

Put the butter into a medium mixing bowl and sieve in the castor sugar, flour and baking powder. Next add in the vanilla extract and egg.

Beat all the ingredients together using an electric mixer for about 2 minutes or until mixture is smooth and lighter in colour.

Place 1 heaped teaspoon of cake mixture over the jam, then cross two strips of pastry over the top of the cake mixture.

Bake for about 18 to 20 minutes or until light golden. Leave to cool in the tin for about 5 minutes before transferring to a wire cooling rack. Dust over some icing sugar before serving, if using.

Original Recipe from All In The Cooking 

This post has been part of the “Sweet Adventures Blog Hop, click here to see all the other “Sweet as Pie” entries!

dal makhani infused with a smokey flavour

 When dining at an Indian restaurant a makhani dish (dal or chicken) will inevitable be one of the choices ordered from the menu!  Dal Makhani originates from the Punjab region of India and is a legume dish with a very rich and fragrant, buttery sauce… so forget about counting the calories

When I first came to Bahrain some years ago, an Indian restaurant called The Copper Chimney (still going strong) was where I first savoured the wonderful smokey and aromatic flavours of Indian food and this was where… I met my first makhani.  Having had the opportunity of traveling to the Indian subcontinent on many occasions, acquired a taste for this vast and diverse cuisine.

The only Indian-style food tried before all my travels would have been the “bright yellow fenugreek loaded curry sauce,” which did nothing for my taste buds… chips smothered in curry sauce… need I say more!

Fast forwarding the years…  Indian cuisine has become a favourite and at home I try replicate some of the Indian dishes that my family and I have enjoyed when eating out.  Not having a tandoor oven at home meant that the wonderful smokey elements in certain dishes were missing… until I came across an old method of smoking food called Dhungar (see here), popular in some regions of India. Infusing dal makhani with this easy smoking technique is optional… but definitely worth giving it a try.

whole dried black lentils (urad dal)

Soaking dried whole black lentils and beans reduces the cooking time and gets rid of some complex sugars that can cause indigestion!  Miss Vickie’s web site makes some reference to  why you should soak dried beans and may be helpful if you like using a pressure cooker.

Small stones are sometimes found in packets of dried lentils and beans when bought, check throughly before soaking. I have used some canned kidney beans and chickpeas in the recipe below simply for convenience, but you can use dried versions which will need pre soaking.

Asafoetida powder (hing) used in this recipe has a very pungent aroma (some reference made to its smell…devils dung, stinking gum) and once opened quickly permeates the whole cupboard with its very strong onion aroma if not stored correctly. Storing the whole container of asafoetida in a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid usually does the trick. Its strong  onion flavour mellows out during cooking, always use sparingly.

Clarified butter can withstand higher cooking temperatures (because the milk solids have been removed) and can easily be made at home. If buying ghee (also a clarified butter), do check the label to make sure it has been made with pure cow’s milk, some inferior brands will have oils and other types of milk added to the product.

 Dal Makhani 

(serves 4)

Ingredients:

  • 175g whole black dried lentils (urad dal)
  • 2 inch piece of ginger, peeled roughly chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon clarified butter or sunflower oil
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 3 whole green cardamom pods, lightly bruised
  • 2 inch piece cinnamon stick
  • 1 dried red long chilli
  • 1  dried bay leaf
  • 200g canned red kidney beans, (drained and rinsed)
  • 50g canned chickpeas, (drained and rinsed) (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon clarified butter or sunflower oil
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
  • 1/8 teaspoon asafoetida powder (see note above)
  • 1 packet of tomato puree (weighs 135g)
  • 3 or 4 tablespoons of whipping cream
  • 50g to 75g un-salted butter, cubed (you decide on how much butter you wish to add)
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of  home ground garam masala or shop bought
  • salt, to taste
  • 1/2 tablespoon chopped parsley, for garnish (optional)

How to make: 

Soak the whole black lentils in plenty of water for 6 to eight hours, changing the water at least once or twice during this time, otherwise skip this step if you are soaking overnight!

Place the ginger, garlic and salt into a pestle and mortar and pound together until a paste is formed.

Heat the clarified butter in a medium saucepan on medium heat and cook the onion until light golden. Add the garlic and ginger paste and cook for a further minute. Throw in the pre-soaked whole lentils, cardamom, cinnamon, chilli and bay leaf.

Pour water into the saucepan filling about 2 inches above the surface of the whole lentils and bring the contents of the saucepan to a boil then reduce the heat to a simmer, cooking the dal for about 50 minutes or until soft. The whole lentils will absorb water while cooking so make sure the water does not go below the surface, top up with some boiling water if necessary.

Once the whole lentils are cooked, throw in the canned kidney beans and chickpeas, lightly mash together using a potato masher, do not over mash as you want to keep some texture, but if you like a really smooth dal, keep on mashing!

Heat the clarified butter in a small saucepan, add the cumin and fenugreek seeds and cook stirring continuously until fragrant, be careful not to burn the seeds. Stir in the asafoetida powder and tomato paste and cook for about a minute, add this to the pot of dal.

Next stir in cream and butter, on a low heat gently simmer the dal uncovered for about 40 minutes until cooked. Stir occasionally while dal is cooking and add some boiling water if you feel the consistency is too thick. When finished cooking stir in the garam masala and seasoning with salt to taste.

The following stage (smoking) of the recipe is optional.

Optional: Infuse Dal Makhani with a smokey flavour by following the Dhungar method explained in a previous post!  Note: Spices were not mixed with the clarified butter on this occasion.

Place the dal makhani into a serving dish and garnish with a little parsley. Serve Dal Makhani with warm naan bread and raita.

Look out for more recipes using “my little tandoor oven”!

Do you have a favourite method for adding a smokey flavour to food?

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