Friday, 22 February 2013

Pancakes are for life, not just for Tuesdays

Or Shrove Tuesday, specifically. I adore pancakes. I've been the resident pancake-maker at home since I can remember, and they're so fun and easy to make that there's really no excuse not to. Last summer I went to France, and the fantastic crêpes there only increased my love. 

There are a million ways you can eat your pancakes, but the basic batter recipe's a simple one, and not at all expensive to make.

Ingredients (makes approx 12):
- 115g/4oz plain flour
- 2 eggs
- 300ml milk
- 2tbsp melted butter

You can use gluten-free flour. I did last week cos that's basically all we have in the house, and I suggest if you do that you add an extra 50ml of milk cos the batter'll be thicker.

1. Put the flour in a bowl. Add the eggs and some of the milk, and whisk in the flour a little at a time.
2. Gradually pour in the remaining milk, whisking until the ingredients are well mixed in.
3. Add the melted butter and whisk again.
4. Brush the frying pan with a little more butter, and heat the pan until it sizzles. If the pan isn't hot enough your first pancake will fall to bits, and I take it upon myself to prove the 'first pancake will fail' rule wrong as often as possible.
5. Pour in approx 2tbsp of batter, and cook for about a minute - until the edges are curling and the batter is bubbling - then flip. Despite my love of pancake-making I had honestly never flipped a pancake before last week. So thank you, Jamie, for teaching me the art! 

As for the filling, it's really just whatever you fancy. My sister's favourite is maple syrup. Mine's good old lemon and sugar. In summer I re-created a spiced, caramelised apple concoction we'd had in France, which we ate with raspberries and yoghurt:

Grab two apples (peeled, cored and sliced), 3tbsp caster sugar, 1tsp of cinnamon and 50g butter and put them in a pan. Whap on a gentle heat for about 10 mins until it's all golden and sitcky.  

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Something Different: Roasted Red Pepper Soup

Apologies for the lack of posting this month - I know we always say life's really busy but LIFE'S REALLY BUSY. This should make up for it though.

Every Friday afternoon Jamie and I go into Egham for soup and tea at what we call 'Bar-Divisible-By-Three' to celebrate the end of the week and get into the general Friday-feeling. A few weeks ago I got excited by the prospect of 'roasted red pepper and tomato soup', but when we went to order we were told the cafe had run out. The soup we got was awesome but I couldn't stop thinking about the one that got away... so I made my own. Because stubborn is my middle name.

 You will need:
- 2 onions                                                      - 600ml water  
- 2 sticks of celery                                         - 300ml double cream            
- 1 large clove garlic                                     - 1tbsp red pesto
- 4 large red peppers                                     - 2 handfuls fresh curly parsley  
- 10 cherry tomatoes                                     - plenty of salt and pepper     
- 1x 500ml stock pot, or 2 Oxo cubes                                 

What to do:
1. De-seed and quarter the peppers, then place into a baking dish. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle over some salt and pepper, then stir it all up so they're coated. Place into an oven preheated to 220°C, and cook for about 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes or so so they don't burn. After 20 minutes, add the tomatoes too. This can be done in advance.
2. Roughly chop the onions, celery and garlic and throw into a stock pot (or any big pan) along with a knob of butter and some olive oil. Cook on a medium temperature for 10-15 minutes, until soft.
3. Add the peppers and tomatoes to the pot, and cook for a further 5 minutes. Lots of recipes tell you to take the skins off the peppers, and you can, but leaving them on gives the soup more texture as well as being healthier. Add the pesto, water, stock, and cream (or you could use milk for a healthier alternative) and mix.
4. Bring to a gentle boil, then put on a lid and simmer for half an hour, stirring occasionally.
5. Using a hand blender/food processor/a sieve and lots of determination, blitz the soup. You can obviously make it as smooth as you like, but I think it's best if it's not done too much so you get the textures still. Chop your parsley and add that in, then season to taste.

To give it an extra bit of awesome, while you're on stage 4 and it's simmering away, chop a few slices of bread into cubes along with some sun-dried tomatoes (or a few chopped cherry ones) and put into the baking dish the peppers were roasted in. To this, add a bit more salt and pepper, and if you have it some garlic/basil/nicely flavoured olive oil (normal olive oil is fine), then stir to coat and stick in the oven at 180°C. You need to stir this every 10 minutes or so to make sure they crisp evenly, and after about 20-30 minutes you should have some fancy homemade croutons to go along with your soup.

Voila. Super simple, and super tasty.