Archive | March, 2013

Easter TWEETINGS… from *gemsfoodgems*

31 Mar
Happy Easter... tweet tweet!

Happy Easter… tweet tweet!

March has been a great month here at ‘gemsfoodgems‘.  I have had a major HIGH in views and people loving the recipes.  It’s also Easter time, which has allowed me to indulge in a ‘few of my favourite things’ <singing, as per sound of music>; including:

which overall has made me very very happy.  So thank you for tuning in.

I hope you all have a very merry Easter.

LOVE GEMSFOODGEMS x

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HOT CROSS BUNS… with a *CRANBERRY* surprise… {mixing it up}

29 Mar

IMG_4724[1]For the last week I have been pondering what to do with my next batch of HOT CROSS BUNS to make them different from my last batch and to deliver something to you (… my friendly audience) that will be a treat, something extraordinary.

My inspiration came when I was treated to the ‘BOSTON BROWNIE’ from Konditor & Cook in Borough Market.  It was a true taste sensation – so much so, that I (gemsfoodgems@twitter) had to tweet a thank you!

The secret, making these brownies a real taste sensation was the addition of cranberries.  Yes, seriously – little explosions of fruit flavour in the middle of a heavenly, luxurious, chocolate brownie.  My brain started whirring and I thought… cranberry, orange zest… in my hot cross buns… THAT’S IT.

Without further ado, I present to you my CRANBERRY & ORANGE HOT CROSS BUNS.

PREPARATION TIME: 2 hours (including the proving time and time to make the shortcrust pastry)

COOKING TIME: 20 minutes

MAKES: 12 Cranberry & Orange Hot Cross Buns

INGREDIENTS:

For the Bread Buns

  • 250g strong white bread flour
  • 250g strong wholemeal bread flour
  • 60g light brown muscavado sugar
  • 1 x 7g sachet fast-action dried yeast
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp mixed spices
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • zest of 1 large orange
  • 140ml luke-warm semi-skimmed milk
  • 130ml luke-warm water
  • 60g butter (melted and cooled slightly)
  • 1 large free-range egg (approx. 90g)
  • 100g raisins or currants (without seeds)
  • 60g dried cranberries

Shortcrust Pastry

  • 30g plain flour
  • 15g butter
  • water (cold, enough to bind together)

Sugar Glaze

  •  2 tbsp caster sugar
  • 2 tbsp water

HOW TO MAKE YOUR EASTER TREATS…

To make the bread buns…IMG_4725[1]

♥ Sift the flour into a large bowl, stir in  the sugar, yeast, salt, mixed spice, cinnamon and nutmeg, and make a well in  the middle.

♥ Mix together the warm milk and water and add to the bowl with the melted and cooled butter, together with the whisked egg.

♥ Mix to a soft dough using a metal spoon.

♥ Knead the dough on a  lightly floured surface until smooth and elastic.  You will know when it is ready when the dough ‘springs back’, so shape into a ball, gently push your finger in about 1/2 a cm, then take it out – if the dough ‘springs back’ it is well kneaded – if not knead some more!IMG_4726[1]

♥ Shape the dough into a round and then place in a large bowl.  Cover with a clean tea towel and leave to rise in a warm  place for 1-1½ hours or until the dough has doubled in size.

♥ Remove the dough from the bowl and ‘knock back’ using your fists – this removes all the air.

♥ Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface for 2-3 minutes  until smooth and elastic once again.

♥ Now add the orange zest, currants and the dried cranberries and knead for a minute until all the fruit is mixed into the dough.

♥  Divide the dough into 12 pieces and shape into small  rolls.

♥ Perfect bun, now lets make the shortcrust pastry crosses!

To make the crosses…buns 3

I would make the shortcrust pastry whilst the dough proves.  Then you can wrap it in cling-film and keep it in the fridge until you need to use it.

Then…

♥ Roll out the shortcrust pastry to 5mm narrow strips – as you have 12 buns you are going to need 24 strands.

♥ Place one strip across the top of one of the bus, then place the other across this, to make a cross.  Press down lightly and if required, secure  with a little water and a pastry brush.  If you want to go a little crazy (like me) you could make some ‘shapes’ and place these on top – I have (as you can see) created little love hearts…buns6

♥ Lightly oil 2 baking trays, arrange the buns on the  trays and cover with oiled cling-film.

♥ Leave to rise in a warm place for 30  minutes or until doubled in size. Remove cling-film – it’s time to bake the buns!

♥ Bake buns in a  preheated oven at 220 degrees C / Gas Mark 6 for 20 minutes (or until golden brown).

♥ Transfer the buns to a wire rack.

To make the glaze…

♥ Heat the sugar and water in a pan, until the sugar dissolves.  Do not let the sugar/water burn or begin to caramelise.  Make this whilst the buns cook.

♥  When you take the buns out of the oven and place them on the wire rack, you can brush them with the glaze and then serve warm or cold.

♥ If you let them cool, you can slice in half the next morning, toast and serve with a little butter!  YUM!

Baked, glazed and ready to eat! MARVELLOUS!

Baked, glazed and ready to eat! MARVELLOUS!

STORAGE:

The sugar glaze on these buns can make them go quite soggy, quite quickly and as they are fresh, with no preservatives the inside of the homemade hot cross bun can begin to go stale/dry quite quickly.  So, eat one or two fresh and store 2 or 3 in a large cake tin.  With the rest, chop them in half, put them in freezer bags and place them in the freezer for another day.

You know the days where its hard to get out of bed and there has to be something super special to make you get up and give you the start your day need.  I think these may just be that ‘kick start’.

HAPPY EASTER!

WARNING: This recipe is NAUGHTY, but BOY they taste good… *MARS BAR CAKES*

28 Mar

20130328-091952.jpg

This week, I got a real craving for something naughty, but nice.  So, with it being Easter and having a large box of cornflakes at home, yet to be eaten, I thought…

…‘I know, MARS BAR CORNFLAKE CAKES’.

I ran home, purchased my ingredients and got to it.  Within 10 minutes I had made these little beauties, ready for my dessert.  They really didn’t take any time at all and they taste absolutely delicious.  I know my blog promises ‘healthy, nutritious foods’, which this recipe absolutely is not, but I think it is really important (as part of a healthy balanced diet), to know when a treat is acceptable. And, it TOTALLY is.

This is a great recipe to make with children, as it is no bake.  Though, I would suggest that the adult does the majority of the melting – steam can burn just as badly as water – so please do be cautious.

PREPARATION TIME: 10 minutes (this could take anything up to 30 minutes with little hands!)

COOKING TIME: N/A

MAKES: 12 mars bar cornflake cakes

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 mars bars (standard size)
  • 50g milk chocolate
  • 30g butter
  • 1 tbsp golden syrup
  • 4 large handfuls of cornflakes – slightly crushed (you can add more or less if you like depending on how chocolate-y you want them!)
  • 12 mini eggs (you can eat the others!)

HOW TO MAKE THE MARS BAR CORNFLAKE CAKES…

This recipe is so simple.  The first thing you need to do is place 3cm of water in a medium sized pan and then heat this up – so that the water begins to boil.  Turn the heat down and allow it to simmer.

In a bowl place the chopped up mars bars, broken up milk chocolate, butter, golden syrup and then place the bowl on top of the pan of hot water.  The heat from the water should heat the bowl and melt all the ingredients together.

You will have to stir the chocolate/butter/mars bar mix, so hold the bowl with an oven glove and do this gently.  The mixture may curdle to start with, but after this it will all come together nicely.

Remove the bowl containing the melted chocolate from the heat and to this add the cornflakes.  As you add them crush them just slightly – this will make it easier to mix together.

Mix the chocolate and cornflakes together – don’t worry if some break.

Spoon the mixture into your cupcake cases (it should make about 12 cakes) and then add a mini-egg to the top of the ‘nest’ you have created.

Leave to cool and then eat!  They will be quite sticky and gooey… which is just what you want!  HAPPY EASTER from gemsfoodgems.

This is how the finished cornflake cake should look... YUM! HAPPY EASTER!

This is how the finished cornflake cake should look… YUM! HAPPY EASTER everyone!

[SINGING] HOT CROSS BUNS, hot cross buns, one a penny, two a penny, hot cross buns!

26 Mar

hot cross bunsIt is nearly Easter – which not only means that we get a 4 day weekend (wooo!), but also that we get to eat many HOT CROSS BUNS, Easter eggs, chocolate filled rabbits and the like!  Yum!

For me, Easter is a real treat in terms of my breakfast time habits.  I stop eating toast and/or porridge for a week (or two) and I treat myself to some delicious toasted Hot Cross Buns with butter each morning.

A couple of years ago my Nanna, who was a truly wonderful lady passed away.  She taught my mum all she knows about cooking and baking, who in turn taught me, so we decided to start a yearly tradition of making these Hot Cross Buns together; in time for Easter.  Hot Cross Buns are also something I vividly remember eating in a little cafe with my Nanna when she was looking after me.  We would go to town to get some shopping and treat ourselves to a toasted Hot Cross Bun with butter – just half each mind!  I loved it, and when I eat them now it takes me right back to the little cafe in the North.  There really is nothing like a ‘food memory’.

So, last time I headed to the North, my mother and I decided to take the opportunity to make some homemade Hot Cross Buns.  My mum (SallyAnn) is the proud owner of a ‘Mary Berry’ cook book, so this year we decided to try out her basic recipe – with a few of our own, family additions.

PREPARATION TIME: 2 hours (including the proving time and time to make the shortcrust pastry)

COOKING TIME: 20 minutes

MAKES: 12 Hot Cross Buns

INGREDIENTS:

For the Bread Buns

  • 250g strong white bread flour
  • 250g strong wholemeal bread flour
  • 60g light brown muscavado sugar
  • 1 x 7g sachet fast-action dried yeast
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp mixed spices
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 140ml luke-warm semi-skimmed milk
  • 140ml luke-warm water
  • 60g butter (melted and cooled slightly)
  • 1 large free-range egg (approx. 90g)
  • 120g sultanas/raisins or currants (without seeds)
  • 40g chopped apricots (optiona – if you don’t want to use these, use more currants/raisins)

Shortcrust Pastry Crosses

  • 50g plain flour
  • 25g butter
  • water (cold, enough to bind together)

Sugar Glaze

  •  2 tbsp caster sugar
  • 2 tbsp water

HOW TO MAKE YOUR EASTER TREATS…

To make the bread buns…

The kneaded dough, without any fruit.  These needs to be left to rise and double in size.

1. The kneaded dough, without any fruit. These needs to be left to rise and double in size.

♥ Sift the flour into a large bowl, stir in  the sugar, yeast, salt, mixed spice, cinnamon and nutmeg, and make a well in  the middle.

♥ Mix together the warm milk and water and add to the bowl with the melted and cooled butter, together with the whisked egg.

♥ Mix to a soft dough using a metal spoon.

♥ Knead the dough on a  lightly floured surface until smooth and elastic.  You will know when it is ready when the dough ‘springs back’, so shape into a ball, gently push your finger in about 1/2 a cm, then take it out – if the dough ‘springs back’ it is well kneaded – if not knead some more!

Dough split into 12 and rolled into small rolls, with the fruit added. Yum!

Dough split into 12 and rolled into small rolls, with the fruit added. Yum!

♥ Shape the dough into a round and then place in a large bowl.  Cover with a clean tea towel and leave to rise in a warm  place for 1-1½ hours or until the dough has doubled in size.

♥ Remove the dough from the bowl and ‘knock back’ using your fists – this removes all the air.

♥ Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface for 2-3 minutes  until smooth and elastic once again.

♥ Now add the currants and the apricots and knead for a minute until all the fruit is mixed into the dough.

♥  Divide the dough into 12 pieces and shape into small  rolls.

Perfect bun, with the shortcrust pastry cross.

Perfect bun, with the shortcrust pastry cross.

To make the crosses…

I would make the shortcrust pastry whilst the dough proves.  Then you can wrap it in cling-film and keep it in the fridge until you need to use it. Then…

♥ Roll out the shortcrust pastry to 5mm narrow strips – as you have 12 buns you are going to need 24 strands.

♥ Place one strip across the top of one of the bus, then place the other across this, to make a cross.  Press down lightly and if required, secure  with a little water and a pastry brush.

♥ Lightly oil 2 baking trays, arrange the buns on the  trays and cover with oiled cling-film.

♥ Leave to rise in a warm place for 30  minutes or until doubled in size. Remove cling-film – it’s time to bake the buns!

♥ Bake buns in a  preheated oven at 220 degrees C / Gas Mark 6 for 20 minutes (or until golden brown).

♥ Transfer the buns to a wire rack.

To make the glaze…

♥ Heat the sugar and water in a pan, until the sugar dissolves.  Do not let the sugar/water burn or begin to caramelise.  Make this whilst the buns cook.

♥  When you take the buns out of the oven and place them on the wire rack, you can brush them with the glaze and then serve warm or cold.

♥ If you let them cool, you can slice in half the next morning, toast and serve with a little butter!  YUM!

Hot Cross Bun - baked, with cross and glazed with the sugar and water.  Stunning!

Hot Cross Bun – baked, with cross and glazed with the sugar and water. Yum!

STORAGE:

The sugar glaze on these buns can make them go quite soggy, quite quickly and as they are fresh, with no preservatives the inside of the homemade hot cross bun can begin to go stale/dry quite quickly.  So, eat one or two fresh and store 2 or 3 in a large cake tin.  With the rest, chop them in half, put them in freezer bags and place them in the freezer for another day.

You know the days where its hard to get out of bed and there has to be something super special to make you get up and give you the start your day need.  I think these may just be that ‘kick start’.

LET’S CELEBRATE… I made it to 1,000 hits today! THANK YOU!

18 Mar

Thank you for helping me hit 1,000 views today!  A very happy little lady 🙂

Hello everyone, just a quick word from me… I made it to 1,000 hits today.  Thank you very much to everyone who has taken the time to read my blog and visit my pages.  I am a huge foodie, I cook and bake all weekend every weekend (apart from when I am at the gym or sleeping!) and it really is a huge part of my life.

I decided to write a blog a few months ago, so that I could share my passion with others.  At first I wasn’t sure I was going to be any good at it and wondered what my aim was, but with a help from a few others (you know who you are) I have fallen in love with blogging and now I spend my weekend cooking, baking, photographing, instagram-ing and wordpressing!

I set myself a few goals last month and today I reached my first one!  Knowing that people are reading my recipes and sharing my food experiences/stories is really great.  So thanks again and please do keep reading… you are making my day!

Gems x

It’s chilly… So let’s eat CHILLI… yum!

18 Mar

chilli 2Recently it has been very cold outside, and to be honest it doesn’t seem like it is going to get any better soon.  I heard the weather forecaster this morning telling the world it was going to SNOW in the North of England.  So, I thought that I should give you all my chilli recipe, to stave off the winter chills.

I used to prepare this chilli and make a relatively normal amount, so I could freeze the left overs.  I soon realised that rather than making 6 portions I may as well make a HUGE batch and then freeze the rest.  Therefore, my chilli has become an epic chilli making day.  I literally set aside a day to prepare this and then I can portion it up and freeze it for easy meals when I come home from work.

I am going to give you the recipe for my EPIC CHILLI and if you feel that it is too much, you can reduce the portion sizes.  However, the cost will increase per portion if you do this.

Here we go chilli people… this long winter will not beat us if we have chilli in our tummies!

PREPARATION TIME: 30 minutes

COOKING TIME: 45 minutes

MAKES: 20 portions

COST PER PORTION: approx. £0.67

I think this is really really good value for money (especially when you are purchasing fresh, lean beef mince).  I have used Sainsbury’s to buy my ingredients as it is most local to me, but do shop around try to buy your tins/cartons when they are on offer, as you can reduce the 67p even more.  Also, if you live near a market go there to buy your peppers, courgettes and onions as they will be significantly cheaper.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1kg lean beef mince (I buy 2x 500g packets when they are on offer.  These will cost approx. £6.00)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil 10p
  • 3 onions £1
  • 2 small courgettes £1
  • 2 large dark red peppers (I always feel like these have more vitamins and minerals as they are so deep in colour) £1.60
  • 2x 400g tins of kidney beans (In water, not chilli sauce, unless you really want that one!) £1.40
  • 3x packets of tomato passata (Don’t buy the ones in the glass jars they are a lot more expensive) £1.60
  • 300ml water
  • 4 tsp chilli powder 10p
  • 3 tsp black pepper 10p
  • 1 tsp worcestershire sauce 5p
  • 1 tsp salt (I do apologise, but it does need it…) 1p

You are also going to need some freezer bags… shop around for this, get the smallest ones you can.  I estimate these will cost 2p each so add this to the cost of the recipe to.

HOW TO MAKE THE CHILLI…

Lets do this in stages to make it more manageable…

1. Prep your area:

I warn you, your kitchen is going to erupt into kitchen mayhem.  So be prepared!  Lets start by getting out our pans.  I have 3 pans – we have a pan set, so I use these.  If you have 2 large pans this would be best.  Ensure you choose pans that have lids, we will need these! Get out your chopping board and a sharp knife.  Then get a bowl – this is going to be for all the rubbish from the onions (the skin and the root), the tops and tails of the courgette, the pith and seeds from the red pepper.

2. Prep and cook your vegetables:

We are going to prepare the onions first, so chop the top off, chop them in half and then peel them.  Leave the root intact, this will stop your eyes stinging anywhere near as much.  Now dice the onion so that it is quite fine.  If you like chunky vegetables then feel free to leave the onion quite large, I like everything small.  Do as you please!

Place the oil into one of the pans and heat until it is warm, not spitting.  Place the onions in and leave to cook until golden.  You will need to stir them every now and again.  Whatever you do, do not let them burn. (This should take 10 mins).

Whilst the onions are cooking wash your courgettes and red peppers.  Dice these finely (about the same size as the onions, however you did those) and then place to one side.  Chopping a red pepper is really easy – when you know how.  Place it down on your board with the stalk facing upwards.  Then chop down the edges of the pepper, so you end up with all the pith and the seeds attached to the stalk.  You can then chop off the rest of the base and the rest of the red pepper from the top… taaaa daaa!  Then you can chop the red pepper nice and finely… do this flesh side up, shiny side down – much easier.  The knife will glide.

Add the courgette and red pepper to the cooked onions.  We want to cook these until they just start to loose their colour and become soft.  This should take about 7 minutes.  Ensure the pan is on a medium heat.

At this stage I would add the salt, pepper and chilli and then leave to cook out for another 2 – 3 minutes.

3. Brown the beef mince…

In the second pan place the lean beef mince, turn on the heat and cook.  You want to keep ‘chopping’ this with the spoon you are using to stir, so that it all breaks up into little pieces.  Cook this until it is golden.  If you can do this at the same time as the onions, peppers and courgettes then great.  If not that is fine, but ensure you turn the heat off on the onion etc. whilst the beef cooks.  Browning the beef mince will take 10 – 15 minutes.

4. Share between the pans…

This is where the cooker starts to get messy!  Well mine does!  I now have veg in one pan, beef in the other – so either get a large bowl, throw everything in and then split between the 2 pans, so that they both contain the same, or add everything to one pan and split.  Its up to you, but now you need to ensure that both the pans are equal in veg:meat.

5. It’s time to get saucy!

The main ingredients for our chilli are now done.  Well done!  Now we need to make the sauce.  Add 1 and a half cartons of passata to each pan.  Add 1/2 the water to each pan too.  Now measure and add 2 tsp of chilli to each pan (you can always add more later if it is not ‘hot’ enough – but you cannot take it away, so be careful!).  Drain the tins of kidney beans, so there is no liquid and give them a good wash.  I find the best way to do this is to put everything into a sieve and then run water over the beans.  Add half to one pan and half to the other.  Shake approx. 1/2 a teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce to each pan of chilli annd then give them a good stir to combine all the ingredients.

It is now time to leave the chilli to cook.  So add the pan lids, bring the contents to the boil and then reduce the heat so that the chilli is just bubbling (simmering).  We are going to let this cook for half an hour.  Set an alarm for 10 mins and then stir the chilli, set for 10 mins and stir the chilli etc.  This will stop the chilli sticking to the bottom of the pan and burning.

pans

Here is my chilli cooking away… I split everything between 3 pans, which makes the maths complicated!
NB. My kitchen doesn’t seem to messy for ‘chilli day’.

You know the chilli is ready when it has changed colour and become a deep red/purple – as per the pictures.  The liquid should have evaporated off and the chilli should have reduced a little.  If it does not look like this, remove the lids, and leave for another 10 – 15 minutes.

I then allow all my chilli to cool down – with the lids on.  This takes a few hours.  Once it is cooled I place all my chilli in a very large bowl add 1 large cup of water, mix well and then its portioning up time!

6. Portioning up!

I get out my scales and my freezer bags and then I begin to portion up.  I am a Nutritionist and have worked for a well known supermarket, so I know that the approximate portion size for meat and sauce is about 200g.  I therefore weigh out 200g of chilli into each freezer bag.  I tie/roll and then place them in the freezer and I am done.

When I come in from work (generally on a Monday after a long day) I get one portion of chilli out the freezer and defrost it for 6 minutes in the microwave.  I then cook it in the microwave for 4 minutes, 30 seconds and then serve it with wild rice and a dollop of sour cream.  If I was more prepared I may leave the chilli to defrost in the fridge overnight then cook in a pan on the hob – but Monday holds an element of laziness (for me) so unfortunately I resign myself to the microwave.

HAPPY CHILLI MAKING PEOPLE.

The ORANGE-IEST, Lemon Cake you ever did see…

11 Mar
My orange coloured Lemon Cake.  It was phenomenal :)

My orange coloured Lemon Cake. It was phenomenal!

My mother and I made the lemon cake together yesterday for mothers day, using the eggs we collected from the chickens.  We then devoured it with a large mug of tea!

I just wanted to take the opportunity to share the end result of this cake with you here.  It was fantastically orange (due to the eggs we used from our chickens) and it was beautifully lemon-y.  It really was a taste sensation!  So, if you are doing any of your own baking at home and can afford to buy organic, free-range eggs do – you will not regret it, I promise.

Do you want to make my lemon cake?  If so, you can find the link on the right of the page under ‘A little Lemon Cake for my Mother Hen’, or simply click on this link!

If you make one of your own do send some pictures over to me, or send me a TWEET @gemsfoodgems.

Just a few of the chickens for the eggs for my Lemon Cake... Thanks!

Just a few of the chickens for the eggs for my Lemon Cake… Thanks!