baking, fEAsting, recipes

fEAsting…gathering ingredients

I am starting to feel a sense of urgency now October is over as if I am suddenly hurtling towards Christmas and I need to get a move on as I know in my head that I have far more to do than I will have time to do it in.

In the past I have always had a rule that we would never decorate beyond the end of October after finding ourselves once or twice still decorating on Christmas Eve to finish a room (ah we were young and foolish) but now we are just old and foolish and what are we doing – still decorating –  but I need to get the guest room done no matter what so that we can buy the bed and my mum can come to stay before Christmas.

Decorating aside, I thought it would be a good idea to start checking over the store cupboards and stock up on ingredients for THE cake (you know the one I am referring to), the Nut loaf and any other baking I might do for gifts.  So with list in hand I went to town on Saturday to my favourite little whole food shop that I buy from as it is the only place I can find organic short grain brown rice for puddings, organic lemon juice and organic currants, raisins and sultanas for the Christmas cake – I find each year that currants are so hard to get hold of, maybe some recipes don’t use them.  My recipe has equal amounts of currants, raisins and sultanas – I use the same recipe each year and it is totally organic and totally yummy (despite my attempts to burn it!).

I know for all you ‘frugaliers’ out there that organic is more expensive but I made this commitment years ago to support natural farming (otherwise known as environmentally sustainable way of growing food) and I am well prepared to pay the price and cut back in other ways.  Baking ingredients are not cheap even in the supermarkets, I noticed how much the dried apricots have risen in price, I always get the non-sulphured variety – the ones that look more like wrinkly dried brown prunes – I cut these up into small pieces to put in the cake in place of candied peel which we are none too keen on but even if we did like it I would still prefer to use the apricots as I think they keep the cake moist and add to the flavour.

I always look forward to making the cake and even more to eating it but at the moment I am just gathering ingredients so they will be ready when I am.  I don’t usually make it until the last weekend in November, it seems too early at the moment – I am holding off getting too involved in doing things just for Christmas as I do not want it to take over my life so much that I don’t even notice November – so to start with I have plans to do a bit of general baking to try out one or two new recipes I have torn from the stack of magazines I decluttered.

I found a recipe for Toffee Apple Flapjacks and also on my list is Chocolate Hazelnut cookies – I have stopped buying biscuits recently so OH will be pleased to see the biscuit jar with something inside it for a change.

As we have an overabundance of cooking apples again this year in the freezer I will be using some up in a well-tried and tested recipe for Apple Cake, that uses stewed apple rather than chunks, from my Good Housekeeping Basic Cookery book.  This was one of the best wedding presents we received when we married in 1976 and I still use many of the recipes today – as you can see from the title it was the revised version which included metric weights (I hate to say I still use the ounces!).  I’ll post the recipe and photos later this week, however, you will have to take my word that it tastes just heavenly.

Of course the book cover is anything but vegetarian but I love the old-fashioned basic recipes it is a bit like using an old much loved Bero book.

Have a great week x

 

fEAsting, meal planning, organising, rEArranging, trEAsure

Easy steps to organised cooking…

Believe it or not there is a term that incorporates organising with cooking.  If you saw the state of my kitchen at times after a baking session you would not think this possible.  The term I refer to is ‘Mise en place’ – quite simply it is French for ‘put in place’ a trained chef would refer to it as prepping.  

I like to call it Blue Peter cooking if you can remember that far back (and no you do not need any empty Fairy liquid bottles).  Every ingredient is pre weighed or prepared and then placed into something like a glass Pyrex bowl.  If you want to refresh your memory just take a look at this brilliant clip (wait for the trailer to finish) and note the bowls of ingredients all ready to go.  I think I might even make those cute mini Dalek cakes!

Having quite a tiny kitchen I adopted this method a while ago and it has much improved the way I keep myself and the kitchen organised whilst cooking and baking. 

Firstly I read through the recipe and collect all the ingredients together. 

mise en place 4

Then I weigh and pre-prepare everything and place into little bowls such as these cuties I found recently in Waitrose…

Pyrex Bowls

Now you might think that this method increases the washing up load with all those little bowls (and you would be right to some extent) however, I find that having one ingredient per bowl isn’t necessary as you can generally combine many of the ingredients. 

For instance when making a cake all the dry ingredients can be put together,

Mise en place 5

or with something like Nutloaf I combine the nuts and breadcrumbs and similarly with veg soup I would combine any veg added at the same stage of cooking.

mise en place 3

 

…then have a good clean up before launching into the mixing and cooking.

 

I don’t weigh out the olive oil for cooking but I do get the bottle out of the cupboard and have it ready together with all the utensils I am going to need.  Before I begin I would also check I have the right baking dish and prepare that too.

The bonus of this method is you don’t come across those little surprises halfway through a recipe when you discover that the only egg you thought you had has been eaten for breakfast that morning and too late to abandon the recipe you end up dashing to the local shop or next door.

The tendency is always to rush into the mixing and cooking but I find organising myself this way I avoid burning one thing in the pan whilst I am hurriedly preparing something else or forgetting an ingredient altogether.  I can remember many times trying to add that pinch of salt or herbs to a rolled up ball of pastry having forgotten to include it when it was just at the crumb stage!  

I noticed that the ‘forgotten’ ingredient happened quite regularly on the Bake Off – and who, I would like to know, does all their clearing up?