B is for Beetroot…

I have come to the conclusion that I don’t do this Mummy thing very well. Flapjack Queen does, she hardly ever shouts at her children (and she has 3 of them) or gets cross with them, she talks quietly and gently and reasons with them… I even have another friend in the village who is in my phonebook as “Supermum”. Me, well I’d like to think that at least some of the time my snappy mood is down to the fact that Spider is a very determined little boy (his Grandad describing the same trait in his daughter calls it stubborn !), he knows his own mind and has very strong views on how things can be done, but honestly I know that its mainly me who is at fault. Example, I am not a talker. My life is full of long silences, long periods where I am on my own (134 mile round trip commute) so to spend a day with someone who never stops talking and provides his own running commentary is a little bit hard to say the least !

Anyway, Spider is having an extra movie night tonight as a treat (Valiant and now Cars) and I have been in the kitchen trying to bake away my snappishness and ill temper – Bake your way to a better mummy…

So beetroot then ? Well I have just realised why most of the beetroot in this country is eaten pickled as it takes so bloomin’ long to cook.

I am in the process of cooking Hugh Fearlessly Eats it All’s Beetroot Brownie’s and I have made the classic mistake of not reading the recipe properly as it says use 250g of cooked beetroot. No problem I thought I’ll just cook it, won’t take long. Wrong – beetroot can be roasted in a moderate temp oven (200 deg C) for 1-2 hours or boiled/simmered for 1.5 -2 hours…if you have a pressure cooker then it takes about 20 minutes…so a energy saving recipe this is not ! Although you can buy pre peeled and cooked beetroot in most supermarkets.

I haven’t had much experience with beetroot before – I avoid it due to horrid memories of salads in the late 70’s early 80’s where it caused the cheese to go pink…Husband on the other hand adores pickled beetroot (hates most other pickles) so I usually put a jar in his stocking each Christmas.

Of the 3 times before I have cooked it only 1 was it a pleasurable experience, so I have no idea how these Brownies are going to turn out, fortunately I have chosen the one night of the year where it won’t really matter if I have to wait 3 hours before I can start cooking as I wasn’t planning on going to bed until after Jools (he IS new year…!).

The last 3 occasions just for the record were a chemistry project at the age of 13, making natural dyes I think – all I can remember is the beaker getting to hot, cracking and the bench being covered with hot purple liquid. Second was a recipe for borscht from the Cranks Entertaining book – didn’t like it, but I put that down to the texture as we couldn’t get it to puree smoothly. Last year I made a Beetroot cake which was gorgeous (apart from the linseed’s, but apparently I should have soaked them first).

Two last points about beetroot, it smells horrid when its cooking and even raw it stains everything…my kitchen (white shiny units) looks like a scene from psycho as it somehow has managed to get everywhere.

january-2009-061

Verdict: Turned out a little soggy which I put down to having boiled the beetroot instead of roasting it but were basically ok. Taste slightly less sweet than most of the others, occasionally there was the woody taste of beetroot but not often.

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Cupboard clearing…

Haven’t been baking much the last 10 days as there is plenty to eat and I keep being given left overs from people I know.

Started sorting the cupboards out last night, doing a stock keep of what I have and what needs using up, other than the obvious stuff in the fridge…

Still feeling run down so trying out a “tonic” rather than copious cups of tea as I still have some ginger left from my cold cures and I discovered some forgotten lemon grass in the freezer, which if I was in the mood I could turn into a Thai curry (as there are 2 tins of coconut milk lurking with the rice pud) but I am not in the mood…although there are still loads of goose bits in the fridge…and I wonder if the co op sells corriander…

Anyway rather than the curry I haven’t made here is the tonic (makes 4 cups, I’ve only made 1 as I may use the rest of the lemon grass on something else)

Lemon grass and Ginger Tea (Cook at Home with: Peter Gordon)

2 stems lemon grass bashed flat with a hammer or rolling pin

100g ginger skin scrubbed and roughly chopped

1 litre cold water

sugar, elderflower cordial or honey to taste

Place all ingredients in a saucepan and bring it to the boil. Reduce the heat, out the lid on and simmer for 5 minutes. Strain before drinking.

lemongrass tea - a break for the liver

lemongrass tea - a break for the liver

ps ooooh, whilst rooting around in the veg drawer for the ginger I found the beetroot I bought just before christmas to do Hugh Fernley Whittingstall’s Beetroot Brownies, so I may do one last baking session before new year…

verdict on the tonic: Well I feel invigorated, the ginger was a bit strong for my taste, but perhaps its less intense if you drink it hotter, mine was a bit on the cool side as just as I made it, Spider dragged me off to show me a 3 he had just found – we’ve been playing a number recognition reward game, if he correctly names a number then he gets a small toy as a reward…it probably would be cheaper with sweets…!

Actually, I quite like mince pies…

A long evening cooking and I’ve run out of time again…more at a more normal hour!

The morning after

I don’t know where the time has gone. Thanks to the flu/virus I have ended up with a backlog of cooking, so last night I made:

· Nigella’s star top mince pies

· Nigella’s mini apple pies

· 2 batches of “24 carat brownies”

· finally cooked the Christmas cake and “iced it” with turkish delight

I’d made my Christmas cake on Monday night but ran out of time to cook it, so it had to stand over night until I got back from work. Whilst it was cooking I made my mince pies.

Turkish Delight topped Easy Christmas Cake
Turkish Delight topped Easy Christmas Cake

I have had a lot of hits on these pages for people looking for Nigella’s star topped mince pies so I thought I may as well do them and then post a link. Basically it’s a straight forward shortcrust pastry recipe using a mixture of fats and replacing the water with orange juice. The recipe can be found here. Mine are made with lard instead of vegetable shortening as that’s what I had in the cupboard (besides am a little concerned about transfats and vegetable shortening) and mine are heart topped as that’s the only cutter I have the right size.

heart topped mince pies
heart topped mince pies

Since the only reason I was making the pies was so that Spider had something to leave out for Father Christmas I only made 12. The rest I turned into apple pies using the apple filling recipe (which I will post up later).

Finally I made a double batch of my favourite Brownies. I had been planning to make some flourless brownie’s following my post yesterday on Allegra (as I was short of flour) but Husband put in a request for some nut free brownies to take to work.

nigel slater's fantastic brownies
nigel slater’s fantastic brownies

Anyway the worlds best Brownies can be found in Kitchen Diaries:Nigel Slater but it also appears in various places on the web and can be found here. My version missed out the cocoa powder as I’d run out (put in extra flour instead) and used a mixture of soft brown sugar and caster sugar…they seem to be hitting the spot at my work though – but then we are all in a Christmas mood anyway.

Dead Time:M40

Didn’t make it to work today, instead spent almost 4 and a half hours in a traffic jam on the M40, most of which was spent covering a distance of 5 miles – so I phoned in and took the day off – I gave the Brownies to luscious Lulabelle, the other bag was to go to the ladies at Spider’s pre-school but I didn’t get back until 1pm.

I was cursing myself for having removed my book from my bag in a misguided attempt to carry less junk around – at least I had the radio to keep me company and a Toddler cookbook which I was taking to lend to a colleague. Got back home just in time to see the wicked witch of the west taking photographs of the drive…looks like we are in for a boundary dispute, fun, not !

So headed off to Stratford, my feel good town as having found the bank statement on the mat I really needed cheering up…

It has not been a good day but at least we all came home in a Christmas mood

It’s a wrap

Last night I had a happy potter around the kitchen and made the Toffee Brownies – verdict ? Very rich, very addictive. Raspberry goes so well with chocolate. Not too sure about the toffee, think next time I might use some form of commercial toffee bits as I prefer my toffee a bit chewy and more caramel in taste.

Hidden Brownies
Hidden Brownies

Forgot to take a photo of these before I cut them up into small pieces for delivery to the lovely Mrs Zee and Mrs OD  – Mrs Zee is the main reason I can relax over Christmas and forget about my finances (despite the fact I paid too much off the credit card this month and am back to watching the pennies until payday), Mrs OD has been introducing colour back into my life with large doses of purple objects appearing on my desk…

Anyway hidden beneath the pink there are Brownies – the recipe says cut the tin into 15 pieces, these are very rich – I would recommend more pieces of a smaller size…would I do this recipe again, yes as a variation but I’m begining to think that its hard to beat my favourite Nigel Slater Brownie recipe…

Today has been quite quiet on the cooking front, but  large doses of Ikea has left me considering baking some cookie decorations for the tree and perhaps making a gingerbread house…what I will be doing this weekend is making a ginger cake as my entry into the office Christmas cake competition – the question is, which ginger cake ?

The main event today was watching Spider be 1 of 2 kings in the nativity (3rd king was a victim of budgetary pressures), I was in tears, for no reason, I mean there he was just being Spider, happy vivacious little Spider, and I’m in tears watching his love of life – it’s so weird this Mummy lark !

Can you say “no” to a brownie ?

Almost everyone seems to like brownies, and almost everyone seems to have a recipe for them…from children’s cookbooks to real “cheffy type” writers, they all at some point seem to give a recipe for these soft squishy little chocolate cakes.

 

I’ve been longing to do a taste comparison, or rather a quest for the best, and an evaluation of the rest!  But since brownies are not exactly diet food, unless perhaps you are in training to be a sumo wrestle, it’s hard to justify having more than one batch at a time in the house. I can’t justify it on cheering myself up grounds either, as I’m never going to have that much chocolate in the house in one go, and baking away the blues never entails (for me) making more than one cake or batch of cakes. Finally it doesn’t fall into the category of “budget” cookery. Chocolate is a luxury ingredient except when you are using up odds and ends of bars, or you are using coco powder.

 

Fortunately we are coming up to Christmas and I have quite a few “thank yous” to make to people who have made the last few months bearable. Chief amongst these being the lovely Mrs Zee who has battled with HR to make sure I get paid correctly.

 

So between now and the 25th December I aim to make at least 10 batches of brownies for sharing with friends, family and at times complete strangers.

The first batch despite my concerns has seen to go down quite well with my work colleagues. They agreed that they were different to brownies made with chocolate, but were nice all the same !