Homemade Marshmallows

“At the end of the war, all the guns were collected and melted down”. This was what a friend and historian once told me. The romantic in me likes to think they used the metal for good, cast into medics to help the future generations.

Perhaps that’s why people think medics are so strong, forged from tanks and flak 88s, Rheinmetal running through our veins – we are indestructible. The great battleships used to make consultants; although when I think about it 617 Sqn might have proven this wrong.

So what do medics do when they take a hit, well there is always wine I suppose. The problem with this is that it’s not exactly healthy. Fear not though, for I have found a solution – Marshmallows (with hot chocolate and a friendly shoulder).

Marshmallows are basically just diabetes in solid form; made from egg white, sugar and gelatine, they form an integral role in breaking the silence when you need to talk, or comforting you when you are low. I mean when hasn’t an open fire to toast a marshmallow cheered someone up?

Marshmallows

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Ingredients

  • 3 large egg whites
  • 13 sheets gelatine
  • 25oz caster sugar
  • 2tbsp liquid glucose
  • 1tsp vanilla paste
  • 4oz icing sugar
  • 4tbsp cornflour

Start by going out for all the gelatine and sugar the nearest town will supply. You will need it, otherwise your marshmallows won’t set or will taste strange.

In a bowl, combine the gelatine sheets with 200ml warm water and set aside to soften.

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Whilst this softens, add the sugar, liquid glucose and water to a pan and heat. You need to bring this up to 130C but this will take some time (10-15mins).

In the mean time, separate out 3 egg whites and whisk in a mixer till soft peaks form. At this point you can stop whisking till the sugar has reached the nuclear heat of ‘soft crack’.

When the sugar mix has heated up to 130C, take off the heat and add in the gelatine and water. This is a very violent reaction so be careful. Mix to fully disolved.

Restart the mixer till the egg whites make firm peaks. At this point add in the sugar as a constant stream. Keep the mixer whisking for 10mins during which time the mixture will thicken considerably. At the last moment add in the vanilla.

Now for the fun bit, line 2 deep trays with clingfilm and brush with oil. Cover this with the icing sugar mixed together with 4tbs of cornflour.

Pour the marshmallow mixture into the tins. At this point you can swirl in some colours or flavours.

Now the waiting game – around 2hrs to be precise. This allows the marshmallows to form their unique outer shell.

After a period of time, turn the marshmallow out onto a surface heavily dusted with the icing sugar/cornflour mix. Cut into squares and slightly toss in the sugar.

Let’s eat

So, I mean the possibilities with these are endless: S’mores, coated in chocolate, topping a hot chocolate or simply toasted on an open fire.

So, for when you have run out of shop bought marshmallows but need a hot chocolate – there is a back up.

 

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Dairy Free Pecan Danish

Who doesn’t love a morning pastry?!

For some reason the idea of fresh black coffee, pastries and orange juice in the sun has a certain romance in my mind. I suppose it reminds me of scenes from black and white films, the ones where you get to walk into the sunset. But what happens if you can’t have dairy. Don’t you get to walk off into the sunset………….

Well, with the rise of veganism there is hope for all the people that can’t have dairy for whatever reason. Now that you can get a block of vegan butter, the book turns of Danish pastry are possible. Replace the milk with soya and you are on your way.

That’s the theory at least and with a dairy free F2 currently on surgery with me the pressure is on. This F2 isn’t your normal F2 though, if its not from F&M you probs won’t stand a chance. In fact, she’s probably a missing member of Made in Chelsea (I can say this because I bribed her with Danish Pastries luckily)……….

 

So without delay, I give you dairy free Maple Pecan Danish Pastries

 

Danish Pastry

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Ingredients

  • 8oz Vegan Butter
  • 1lb Plain Flour
  • 1/2oz Salt
  • 4oz Caster Sugar
  • 5g Fresh yeast
  • 250ml Soya milk
  • 4tbsp Maple syrup
  • 4oz Pecan nuts
  • 4oz Dark brown sugar
  • Vanilla
  • 1oz Vegan spread

As you can tell I’ve got slightly better at the artistic shot of all the ingredients. In addition to the soya milk for the baking I also got some single soya cream for pouring over/having with coffee- on a side note it’s really good.

Start by making a simple dough; combine the flour, salt, caster sugar and yeast in the kitchen aid using a dough hook.

 

To this, add the soya milk and eggs – knead for 5mins till you have a silky smooth dough which is very pliable (slightly wet). Form into a ball and leave to proof for an hour -perfect time to write the first part of this blog.

After an hour, the dough should have almost doubled in size and the gluten inside relaxed. Turn it out onto a floured work surface and let the fun begin. It’s time for book turns:

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Step1 – Roll the dough out into a large rectangle (about 40x20cm)

Step 2 – Place half the Vegan butter at the centre in slices in a little raft.

Step 3 – Fold the bottom third of the dough up to cover the ‘butter’

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Step 4 – Place the second half of the butter in slices over the top of the fold (to form another raft)

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Step 5- Fold up the bottom third as shown in progress above

Step 6 – Seal the edges using a rolling pin – cover in clingfilm and place in the fridge to chill for an hour (it stops the vegan butter going soft)

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And there you have it – book turns using Vegan butter – at this point I feel obliged to say you can make the recipe with real butter and milk and it will probably be a million times tastier……….

After the hour is up, retrieve the pastry (now it has vegan butter and folds it’s a pastry not a dough) and roll out onto a floured work surface. The idea is to get somewhere close to the original size.

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Once rolled out, fold the bottom third up and the top third down like before. Seal again and return to the fridge for 30mins – (cold hands and a cold rolling pin help a lot to stop the Vegan butter from melting and ruining the laminations)

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Repeat these further book turns another 3 times which should give you plenty of delicious laminations and ultimately a very flaky pastry.

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Once on your last “turn” you can think about making the filling. For this you will need more vegan butter, vanilla paste or extract, dark brown sugar, pecans and maple syrup.

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Start by slightly toasting the pecans for 5 mins in an oven set to 180C. Once brown, keep around a dozen back and blend the rest to form a sort of chunky pecan dust.

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In a bowl, combine the vegan butter, sugar, vanilla and the pecans. Then fold in the maple syrup to form a deliciously diabetic purée.

Now the pastry should have fully rested, remove from the fridge and divide into two to make working with it easier. Roll it out to form a large rectangle about 5mm thick. Divide this into 6 smaller rectangle which will form the pastries.

In the centre of each pastry place a line of the pecan purée and then cut a fan each side. Wet each side with a little water. It is then simply a case of overlapping the pastry to form the distinctive shape of the pastry.

Remember to pinch the pastry together otherwise it will break open. I learnt the hard way with my first batch – tasty rejects for the theatre team to eat.

With the pastries made – allow one last proof for around an hour in a coolish room before glazing with a beaten egg.

Bake at 180C fan for 20mins

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Once cooked, remove from the oven and allow to cool. Then top with a little icing and some of the pecans kept from before (I’ve cheated on the icing because of timing and I had this left over from a cake bake)

 

Let’s eat.

Well there you have it – a Dairy free maple pecan danish. For the life of me I can’t understand why you could elect to eat it, but if you can have dairy for allergies then this is a pretty good alternative. It’s wonderfully flaky and very tasty – enjoy with coffee whilst slightly warm.

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Right – have to work out what’s next now…………. I’m feeling nostalgic so homemade nachos to celebrate a family trip to Vancouver I think!!

Beef and Ale Stew with Yorkshire Puddings and Herby Dumplings

As you’ve probably realised by now, I am a Birmingham Medical School graduate. As a student we all had one fear; being placed at Hereford. This meant that for 18 weeks you were isolated from your friends, girlfriend, and a decent Calzone. It did however mean you got amazing teaching, opportunities which were only comparable to the old school training days (find me another 5th year that can put in central lines and do an open appendicectomy – quids in they went to Hereford as well ). It also allowed some long-lasting relationships to form.
Now, I can’t claim to have made any long-term romances, but I did discover something amazing………..

Llanthony, a ruined Abbey just across the border in Wales.

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The Priory was founded in 1100 and, following the dissolution of the monasteries, has laid dormant for centuries. Luckily, in the late 19th century, someone converted the remaining tower and cellar into a bed and breakfast which still remains. The rooms are cosy, the perfect place to bring a lover for a secret weekend away, and the bar serves good honest food. It inspired this recipe in fact, a hearty beef casserole slowly cooked in local Stout with herby dumplings and Yorkshire puddings; what’s not to love. The lads certainly did on our recent walking trip.

Beef Stew

For this recipe you either need an Aga or a slow cooker

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Ingredients 

  • 4lb Chunk Steak
  • 2lbs Onions (ideally small)
  • 2 bottles of Stout
  • 4 Carrots
  • 1 Head of celery
  • 1 Parsnip
  • 1 Clove of Garlic
  • Thyme, sage, salt, pepper 
  • Worcestershire Sauce
  • Flour and oil

Start by taking your beef and removing all the obvious fat, tendons and membranes. What you should be left with is delicious meat, some marbling but none of the chewy fat. I’m using beef from Coates butchers – they are great!!

Toss the beef in seasoned flour and then brown off in a Le Creuset – I’m using Bertha, a pan I bought in Hereford years ago. Alternatively you can cook it in a frying pan and transfer to the slow cooker.


Take the browned meat out and then saute the carrot, onion and celery (finely dice these first). I’ve used Grans ridged cutter here for the carrots – rumour is it was made from the old air raid shelter.


Now for the fun part – deglaze the pan with the beer. You can use lots of different types of beer, stout is best and I’m using one from the local brewery, Derventio brewery.

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With the beef, carrots, onion, celery and beer combined in the Le Creuset, add the thyme, sage and some tomato puree/soup (it helps tenderise the beef). Finally add the garlic. A little goes a long way.

Leave to cook overnight in a low oven till the meat is tender. At this point you can add in some small onions to go with the diced up ones. Pickling onions are perfect. Return to the slow oven again. Around another 12hrs should do it.

In the mean time you can make the dumplings and Yorkshire puddings if you want to plan ahead.

Herby Dumplings

I’m a great fan of dumplings, they are a great addition to an already hearty meal. Proper dumplings are made with suet and if you don’t ask too many questions about its origin it’s great. According to mum the box hasn’t changed since she was a young girl. I’ve added some horseradish and parsley for added flavour.

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Ingredients

  • 8oz Self raising flour
  • 4oz Suet
  • 1tbs Parsley
  • 2tsp Horseradish
  • Water

Start by weighing out the flour and suet then transferring into a large mixing bowl along with the parsley.

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Add the horseradish, then add cold water, one spoon at a time.

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Bring together to form a relatively wet dough and divide into walnut sized balls. Roll them in to shape.

To cook, add the dumplings onto the top of the stew and replace the lid.

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Cook for 20mins, removing the lid in the last 5 mins to allow a bit of browning action.

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Yorkshire Puddings

Currently theatres are having a debate around Yorkshires with Christmas dinner. Unless you have beef then the answer should be no.

Ingredients 

  • 8oz Plain flour
  • 1pint Milk
  • 3 Eggs
  • 1 Pinch of salt

Again start by weighing out the flour and transferring to a mixing bowl as well as a pinch of salt.

Add in the wet ingredients; the milk and eggs.

Combine and beat together using a novel whisk – this one I think was used by my Victorian relatives…………… It works really well though.

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Set aside to rest in the fridge. In the mean time, heat up some fat in a red-hot oven. I’m using real beef dripping. This is not exactly heart healthy but tastes great.

When the fat is smoking hot, fill each well about 3/4 full and return to the oven.

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Cook for about 20mins, turning half way through.

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When cooked, remove and serve whilst still warm and crispy. Otherwise they can be rewarmed later.

 

Lets eat.

Right!! With your hearty stew cooked, serve with a couple of dumplings, yorkshire puddings and some veg. If you are greedy, a side of crispy potatoes mops up the gravy perfectly.

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And don’t forget the horseradish.

Salted Caramel Macaroons

Not only are Macaroons the basis of most Bake Off showstoppers, they are a fantastic way to bond with people. In fact if I can’t have a meaningful conversation with someone over a coffee and a macaroon, I rarely keep in touch.

Believe it or not, I’m very fussy with food. I would say till the age of 18 I had a phobia of Fruit and Veg. It’s one of the reasons I got into baking, to allow me to explore foods on my own terms. A problem arises when I go to dinner parties though. As I don’t eat the food, I get lots of concerned looks, but usually the macaroons come out and the tension dies down.

One such occasion happened a few months ago. I was at a consultants house discussing research when his cousin Jenna noticed I wasn’t eating. After the meal instead of asking if I was ok, she simply placed an espresso and a macaroon next to me. What followed I can’t fully recall, some conversation about paradox of medicine and science fiction perhaps. All I recall was the macaroon, salted caramel with a hint of chocolate for dressing.

Here is my version of that macaroon – To my knowledge Dr Coleman bought them so I can’t steal his recipe for a direct comparison.

Macaroons

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Ingredients

  • 7oz Icing sugar
  • 4oz ground almonds
  • 3 egg separated – Whites (with no yolk)
  • 2oz Caster Sugar
  • Pinch of salt

Start by taking a pretty picture of the ingredients (including the caramel ingredients) with a set of vintage scales. These were my Grans – except they’ve been repainted.

Now, combine the icing sugar and ground almonds in a bowl and mix well. Then sieve to remove any large bits of almonds, these will cause the tops of the finished macaroons to split.

In a spotless, dry bowl add the egg whites with a pinch of salt. Whisk on high-speed, as if making meringues. When they have reached firm peaks (tested by holding over your head), add the caster sugar a spoon at a time.

Fold in the almond/sugar mix to the egg whites using a large metal spoon till completely incorporated. The end result will be a light but glossy mixture which runs slowly off the spoon.

Transfer to a piping bag with approx 1cm opening and pipe the size of macaroons you want to make onto baking paper. I always thing about the size of an old penny is correct.

The next bit is important, leave them for between 15mins to 1hr to form a crust. When the outside is firm, not sticky/tacky/soft, transfer to a preheated oven at 170C and bake for 10mins.

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Remove from the oven when the tops are crisp and the bottoms dry. Leave to cool completely on the baking tray.

 

Salted Caramel Buttercream

Ingredients

  • 2oz Butter
  • 2oz  Sugar
  • 100ml Double cream
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 pinch of sea salt
  • 2oz unsalted Butter
  • 4oz Icing sugar

After weighing all the ingredients, start by heating the sugar and water till it has reduced down to produce a thick syrup with a light brown colour. Don’t stir during this period, it will act as a point of crystallisation and mean you have to start again.

Once the syrup is ready, add in the butter and cream. This bit is the part you don’t want to be stood with your face over the pan…….. it causes a lot of steam.

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After this, it’s simply a case of cooking the caramel down until a temperature of 118C is reached. At this point, it’s ready; you can add in the salt now or even a kick of vanilla, lavender or just leave it deliciously plain. Obviously I’ve added a bit of French sea salt…

Cream the unsalted butter together with the icing sugar till no lumps remain. Then add a healthy spoon of the salted caramel and a dash of double cream.

Right, all that remains is to combine 2 shells of the macaroons with a generous helping of the caramel buttercream and put the coffee on. Whilst it brews, pipe a few decorative lines of chocolate onto the top shell.

Let’s eat

So there you have it, delicious salted caramel Macaroons. Crunchy on the outside with a chewy core, the sweet filling partly offset by the bitter edge of the sea salt.

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All you need now is someone to share them with – a friendly actress usually helps.

Sloe Gin and Honey Roasted Ham

It’s nearly Christmas and that means that a very large amount of food is currently resting in my fridge…….. Beef, Turkey, a small chicken, but the one I’m most excited about is the “Gammon Joint”. Not because I like Gammon, but because it’s the makings of my Boxing Day Ham.

It’s a tradition to have jacket potatoes on Boxing day with the left overs, and the Cox household is no exception. Along with the cold turkey, we always have a homemade ham. I perfected the recipe a few years ago and it’s a festive mix of sloes, honey and clovers.

Boxing Day Ham

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Ingredients

  • 3Kg Unsmoked Gammon Joint
  • Apple Juice
  • Cloves and Sloes
  • Thyme, Coriander, Sage
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Carrots, Celery and Onion
  • Brown Sugar
  • Honey
  • Sloe Gin

It’s best to make the Ham a couple of days before Christmas, then it can rest in the fridge and carved when needed.

Start by roughly chopping the celery, onions and carrots. They add flavour to the boiling stock and also stop the meat sticking to the pan. Add to the pan and then place the Gammon joint on top.

To the pan add the herbs and spices. The Sloes are ones I have left over from a recently finished batch of sloe gin. It’s kind of like recycling, same excuse I use when drinking the gin……..

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All that remains is to add enough apple juice to cover the meat. If you have any cider lying around add that to the pot as well.

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Simmer on the slow hob of the Aga (mid heat on an electric/gas) for an hour per pound. During the 3 hours you might need to skim the top of the pan or add a bit more water to keep the Ham covered.

After the Ham has boiled, take out of the cooking liquor and transfer to a roasting pan. Then channel your inner engineer and use a handful of bamboo skewers to support the Ham standing vertically.

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Using a sharp knife, strip the skin off the meat leaving the fat below. Cut this into diamonds and then stud with cloves.

Mix the 2 heaped tablespoons of the sugar, a shot of sloe gin and a good squeeze of he honey in a mug and warm till melted together. I find leaving it on the top of the age for 5 mins works, but a minute in the microwave would work just as well. Paint the glaze onto the ham, concentrating on the top.

Cook in the oven for 45mins at 180C or the middle of the Aga. Remember to keep a close eye on it though, the sugar can burn if it gets too hot.

Let’s Eat

Once cooked, allow the ham to cool before transferring onto a board. All that remains is get a sharp knife and carve a few slices – as thick as you like them. If you can’t wait for Boxing day; french bread, pickle and a few silver skins make a good accompaniment.

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Otherwise a simple Ham and mustard on white would be perfect in my eyes.

Homemade Mince Pies

Merry Christmas everyone.

I love Christmas, not because of the presents or the fact my birthday is close, but because it brings the family together. The hall is decorated with holly, a massive 9ft tree covered in vintage glass baubles stands in the corner and the house is filled with the smells of delicious food. Of course in the weeks before christmas, the hall is used to host friends for a glass of mulled wine and one of Grans famous mince pies. One year it even hosted a choir, but thats a different tale………

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The key to a good mince-pie is thin crisp pastry, lots of filling and a generous amount of brandy butter. I don’t think its worth making your own mincemeat. Robertsons makes probably the best, but adding more fruit, spices and lots of alcohol take it to the next level.

 

Grandma Reynold’s Mince Pies

Ingredients

  • 9oz Plain Flour
  • 6oz Butter
  • 2oz Caster Sugar
  • 2 Egg Yolks
  • Whole Milk
  • 1 Large Jar Robertsons Mincemeat
  • 6oz Sultanas
  • Christmas Spirits
  • Cinnamon, Nutmeg and ground ginger

Start by making the pastry. You can use a mixer with a K beater or just use your hands.

Start by weighting out the flour, butter and sugar and rubbing together. If you have cold hands then fantastic, aim to keep the butter as cold as possible. Overworking the butter will cause it to melt and leave you with chewy, not flaky pastry.

When the mix resembles breadcrumbs, add the egg yolks and milk a tablespoon at a time  until the pastry comes together.

Then wrap in cling film and chill for an hour.

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Whilst the pastry chills, make the mincemeat filling. Combine the jar, fruit, spices and alcohol . Don’t add too much, the fruit will soak up some alcohol but not a whole bottle. Again, leave to steep for an hour whilst the pastry chills. It’s about the perfect length of time to put the lights up on the tree.

Once the pastry as rested, roll out to the thickness of a £1 coin on a well floured board. Remember to roll away from yourself and turn the pastry a 1/4 turn each time.

Using 2 cutters, stamp out the base and lid to each mince-pie. The pastry will make around 30 in total. I sometimes make a double batch and give them away as gifts. However as the tea room is open, they will be sold this time. Cheers Mum.

Grease a mince pie tin liberally with butter or Stork. The one I’m using is a vintage tray I bought Gran for Christmas when I was 8 from a long closed Antique shop. Its got a patterned base which makes a pretty mice pie.

Press the base pastry disc into the tin and add a healthy dessertspoonful of mincemeat into the case. Then add the lid, I tend to paint the edge of the pastry with a little water to help it stick. Press the lid into the base to produce a good seal and then glaze with egg wash.

Cook in a hot Aga (or conventional oven at 200) for 15mins, turning half way through the bake time.

When the mince-pies are golden brown, take out the oven and rest on a cooling rack till completely cooled. Don’t be tempted to remove before they have cooled though, they will just break apart.

 

Lets Eat

Grab a glass of mulled wine or a spiced Latte, open the brandy butter and slightly warm a mince-pie in the Aga. Then all that’s left to do is get the family together and enjoy the festive spirit. It seems like a good occasion to use some Emma Bridgewater pottery as well – Thats if the Polar Bear will give up any mince pies at all though……….

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