Saturday, 28 February 2015

Fictional Food Adventure: Making Sara's Heartwarming Currant Buns

Andy and I made these buns together one Sunday afternoon and then invited Mum and Dad to come and help us eat them, as they are best eaten on the day they are made; plump and fresh and warm and soft.

The dough is very much a bread dough, so it needed two provings. I've always rather liked kneading and it was satisfying to watch the dough rise up in its bowl and then as little balls on the baking tray, dotted with dark, tangy currants.

The buns came out of the oven a gorgeous golden brown and ready for a sugar and water glaze which instantly turned them into an enticingly sticky, shiny treat which we devoured immediately, all chomping and grinning and savouring the softness.

 If you've got a day at home and you're doing other jobs, this is a good kind of recipe to get on with; coming back to give it a few minutes' attention between provings. You don't need a lot of time to make bread, you just need to be at home for a good few hours in a row. If you make them, don't forget to share some!

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Fictional Food Adventure: Making Mr Tumnus' Toasty Tea from The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.

Mr Tumnus' toasty tea with Lucy is one of the most inviting scenes in Children's books. Apart from his intentions to lull Lucy to sleep to capture her for the White Witch, Mr Tumnus gives Lucy a warm welcome to his home, and supplies plenty of steaming hot tea, hot toast, sardines, honey and boiled eggs, all eaten in armchairs before the log fire.

This is exactly what the cat-cosy looks like. Mum and Dad still use it regularly. It's one of those things that is so familiar it's almost invisible, yet so well loved. 
Our family has always enjoyed toasty teas, and a toasting fork is always propped by the hearth in case anyone wants toast when the embers are glowing and orange and perfect. I always loved a Sunday teatime because it would nearly always be toast, with whatever you'd like on it, and a big pot of tea on a wooden tray, with the tabby cat tea cosy sat upon it. We loved to have a bowl of tuna, straight from the tin, all oily and flaky, to put upon our buttered toast, and we all loved Marmite, and Marmalade, and sometimes jam, or golden syrup. There would be crumpets, or English Muffins, and boiled eggs with Marmite Soldiers.

Now that Andy and I have that much longed-for and very much appreciated open hearth of our own, and our own toasting fork, we relish the chance to abandon the kitchen and sit by the fire, surrounded by provisions and yumminess.

With much relish we boiled eggs (Andy has started using the French method - google it, it's perfect every time), and I put a little metal saucepan over the fender to try and boil an egg from the ember heat, and it worked, but was much harder to guage the timing. We made plenty of hot buttered toast and in the end the eggs and buttery toast tasted so good, with lots of tea, that we didn't open the Sardines or honey or jams or anything else. But they will stand by happily for another cosy evening.

The important thing is, fire or no fire, toast is one of life's cheery basics. Anyone can accumulate a teetering tower of toast for everyone to enjoy, and as long as there's tea in the pot you can munch and crunch away til tummies are full. Thank goodness that Mr Tumnus was a good faun after all, and that toasty tea was not Lucy's last.

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Making Mrs Beaver's Gloriously Sticky Marmalade Roly-Poly

Well, this is a triumph and a half! Roly-poly is a revelation. And a keeper!

Andy loves it! I love it! Andy's parents love it! Roly-poly - YAYYEEEE!

Ahem. We like Poly-poly. Who knew it was so so delicious, and so easy?

If you make scones or dumplings a lot you know how quick and easy they are to put together, and roly poly is no different, except for its inclusion of suet rather than butter.

I made this rolypoly last Sunday just after we all got in from a leg-stretchingly wonderful wintry walk in the late afternoon sunshine, taking a loop round the lanes and fields outside of our town, looking down on it from the fresh perspective of clean air, jolly white clouds against a blue sky, slanting shadows and russet sun soaking into all the hedges, leaves, twigs and rutted fields. When we tramped back through the door, everyone slumped into the sofas and I used my last bit of energy to get the roly-poly in the oven before crashing out with my favourite blanket and a cuppa.

I'm very glad that I happened to find out earlier that day that Diana, Andy's lovely Mum, doesn't like Marmalade. Once I'd made the dough I rolled it out to an A4 rectangle and spread three quarters of it with Marmalade and the remaining quarter with our homemade Damson jam, which is really tangy and flavoursome. I was going to mark which end was which but forgot, but it was fairly evident when it came out of the oven!

Once it was all rolled up it was very tricksy to get off the table and onto the baking tray so next time I will roll it out on the baking paper to transfer without such risk. I was supposed to brush the whole beast with milk but forgot - no wonder the brown sugar wouldn't stay on the top! Wally.  Got it on evenutally, and hopefully will remember next time.

It baked to perfection and came out all golden and bulging and sticky. We served it with hot custard and everyone fought over the remnants of Damson jam after Diana had received her portion. Andy devoured his with glee and I was so delighted to see him enjoying it so much. Andy doesn't always get very excited about pudding and neither of us had ever had a jam roly-poly before. He kept talking about it and saying how much he'd loved it, so it's already a firm favourite with us. The soft dough with the crunchy sugar top and the tangy jam, along with the sweet custard was sure to be a cosy warming pudding, and eaten by the fire, we were glad that we'd already had our expedition and didn't have to suddenly rush out of the door like the Beavers and Pevensie children, fleeing for their lives before the White Witch stormed their home.

I'll be sure to always have suet in the cupboard now,  for when the fancy takes us.  I love making jam, but never eat it as much as I think I will. I think jam has found its place in our kitchen now as a great cooking ingredient, more so than having it for jam's sake.

So here's to Mrs Beaver, and her wonderful cosy, sticky, roly-poly pudding. I urge you to bake one and enjoy it for yourself. 

Friday, 6 February 2015

Fictional Food Adventure: Making Turkish Delight from The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe

Oh dear. Oh very dear.

Well I made Turkish Delight. And now it is done and I do not think I will ever feel tempted to make it again. I love the hexagonal boxes of Sultan's Rose and Lemon Turkish Delight and feel quite happy to leave this delicacy in his capable hands.
It was supposed to be such a treat, making Turkish Delight just before Christmas. (Turkish Delight in my family is as necessary to Christmas as a box of Thornton's Special Toffee and Twiglets.) Having just read about Edmund's dusty, sticky fingers as he devoured the Turkish Delight on his first foray into Narnia, I was all ready with my Rosewater and Cream of Tartar, and raring to get going.

I suppose there is a certain triumph for having tried it, but it went rather wrong and I am left a little foxed as to how to have rescued it or even how to do it any better next time (there won't be a next time.)

It's all the wretched CORNFLOUR's fault. Cornflour is weird. It is not co-operative. At all.

I truly think everything would have been delightfully fine if not for the cornflour and its wilful ways. I did follow the recipe exactement. I even purchased a sugar thermometer, (which I have always wanted anyway, so hurrah for that,). The sugar syrup was fine. But when you add water to the cornflour everything gets unhappy very quickly. How are you supposed to avoid the dreaded lumps? As soon as I added the syrup to the cornflour the cornflour went ballistic and like concrete, solid and sticky and not penetrable. The disappointing thing was that, try as I might, there were lumps and they were there to stay. I went through the rest of the heating process in the vain hope that people might not mind the lumps but of course they would mind the lumps. The lumps were hard bits of weird cornflour. Stubborn, nasty cornflour.

I dutifully cut it all up, dusted it all in icing sugar and got myself and the kitchen floor, and my slippers well and truly coated. In the end I was pretty tired, and just glad when it was over.

So, although I added the pink food colouring to perfection and produced a pretty tone of Rose, and it tasted just like yummy Turkish Delight, it was never, ever going to be tempting to anyone. Except for looking at in this pretty dish, pretending that it was all ever so wonderful really.

It was a relief to throw the whole dreadful lot in the bin and go and visit Mum and Dad, who had tracked down the only two boxes of Sultan's finest in the district, in the village shop. Sigh.