Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Orange Madeleines

Madeleines, for anyone who doesn't know, are small, light sponges baked in shell shaped moulds. A French patisserie classic they are wonderfully light, moreish and a delight at any time.

The traditional madeleine is made with vanilla but I have a couple of variations that also work well. I can't remember where I got my original recipe from (and I suspect it is probably a mix of several recipes) but here it is with the variations below.

I will add some photos tomorrow when I have time to take them.

110G Butter (unsalted)
130G Plain flour
1/2tsp Baking powder
1/8tsp Salt (omit if you have used salted butter)
3 Eggs
120G Caster sugar
1tsp Vanilla extract

Madeleine pan - sorry, but, you do need the pan to get the shell shapes.


Cream the butter and sugar.
Add the vanilla and eggs and mix well until light and fluffy.
Keep mixing and add the dry ingredients.
Mix thoroughly and add the mixture to a well buttered madeleine pan.
There is enough mixture to make 24 madeleines.
Put the tray in the oven. 190C for 13 minutes.

These are at their best on the day they are baked but will keep OK for a couple of days in an airtight container.

Orange Madeleines:
Swap the vanilla extract for orange extract and also add the zest from a medium orange (zest it finely!).

Lemon and poppy seed madeleines:
Swap the vanilla extract for lemon extract and also add the zest of a lemon (finely zested) and 2 teaspoons of poppy seeds.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Stanage Edge

Path to Stanage Edge

For various reasons I’ll admit now that I’m not going to be able to get much walking done this year. That situation will improve next year, but, for now, to keep the walking side of this blog ticking over I’ll share some of my favorite previous walks.
First up along those lines is Stanage Edge. Situated in the Peak District this is one of the areas famed gritstone escarpments. Probably most famous amongst climbers for it’s many routes it also provides a spectacularly beautiful area for walking. Evidence of previous stone working also abounds with many mill stones, carved, but never removed from the area, left under the escarpment.
Starting from the car park Upper Burbage Bridge (Grid Ref: SK260830) this is quite an easy walk with little ascent to do.
Head west along the path through the heather and after a short ascent you pop up onto the escaprment by the Trig point at SK251831. From here on you have wonderful views as you follow the edge roughly North West. You can look down into the valley towards Hathersage and Bamford, Bamford Moor, Ladybower Reservoir, Win Hill and the Great Ridge.
The High Neb Trig at SK228853 marks the high point of this walk at 458 meters above sea level (but given that you start at 398 meters that is not a great climb and once up on the edge it is quite flat). Past here carry on to Stanage End at SK226867. This is a great spot to stop and have lunch, tending to be quieter than the rest of the escarpment. Enjoy the view over Moscar Moor towards Ladybower.
From here follow the footpaths under the escarpment until Long Causeway (SK238846). The remains of a Roman road it can be used to re-ascend back up onto the escarpment. Then retrace your steps back to the car park.
This walk is absolutely lovely with some stunning views and can really be savoured on a nice day. Pictures below and if you do this walk I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Path to the Edge - wide angle pano
View from by the first trig point

Looking towards High Neb

Looking back along the Edge from High Neb

Rock formation

View to Ladybower from Stanage End

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Pearl Barley

Does anyone else have the joy of discovering a new ingredient and seeing how it can change a dish you have been making for ages...
I suspect that like most people I will make soups / stews from left over potatoes, vegetables etc. Whatever happens to be stuck in the fridge before I go shopping. Bung it all in a big pan, add some water, stock, a few herbs, bring to the boil and then leave to simmer for a couple of hours.
Simple, easy to make, filling and a good way to use up those odds and ends. However, recently I was browsing the shelves of my local supermarket and I came across some pearl barley and the blurb on the packet said it could be used to thicken stews etc so I thought I would try it.
So, the next time I made a vegetable stew I added a couple of tablespoons of pearl barley and, lo and behold, the stew slowly thickened to a lovely consistency. Furthermore, when eaten the pearl barley had plumped up as it absorbed the water and gave a lovely change in texture as you ate the stew and bit into one of the pearls.
Definitely a good find and I will be using this more in the future.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

A Croque-Madame…

Croque-Madame take on a French classic. The croque-madame is one of many variants of the traditional croque-monsieur, a grilled ham and cheese sandwich (typically with a béchamel on top). 
Now, my version isn’t exactly grilled...or a sandwich...I suppose if I was going to get cheffy about it I would call it a deconstructed croque-madame as I have taken the elements and put them together my way. Whatever you want to call it, it is also the most decadent and indulgent breakfast going!
The first thing to do it get a béchamel going. For this dish I keep it really simple. Large knob of butter and a tablespoon of flour to make a roux and while stirring slowly add milk until you get a thick but pourable sauce. Pinch of black pepper and the sauce is done. Keep it on a very low heat to keep it warm and give it an occasional stir while making the rest of the dish. Do keep an eye on the sauce though as you may well need to add a dash more milk at some point to save it thickening up too much (which is what happened to me with this one).
Next up is the toast. Take a couple of slices of thick white bread (possibly the only time I will recommend using a sliced white), cut the crusts off and butter it liberally on both sides. Get a hot frying pan and fry off the bread on both slides. It needs to be hot to get the bread nice and crispy. Remember “croque” comes from “croquer” - “to crunch” so it needs to be crispy!
Put the toast on a oven proof plate, put some sliced ham on top of the toast along with a little bit of grated cheese and then put this in the oven at 100C to keep it hot and start melting the cheese.
Back to the frying pan. Add a little vegetable oil and then fry a couple of eggs. If you like your yolks runny (and, frankly, is there any other way) fry them until they are just cooked.
Quickly get the plate out of the oven (turn the oven up to 200C at this point) and put the eggs on top of the cheese and ham. Then pour the béchamel over the top and put back in the oven for 5 minutes.
Out of the oven and serve. Pure indulgence on a breakfast plate.