‘Why didn’t I know that before?’ Making your own vanilla essence is super easy, saves money and provides a quality ingredient that you don’t need to go to the shop for. BUT it isn’t instant so I am making this now for use in winter cooking.
Easy peasy make: cover vanilla beans with vodka for at least two months. I used 2 and a half beans in a 1/3rd of a litre bottle.
Do your research on quality of beans and proportion of bean to alcohol but it is that easy.
My advisers (bloggers and diy’ers galore) tell me you just top up the bottle with more vodka to make this a perpetual supply…
The things we find during a lockdown cupboard clean…in this case a big bag of walnuts gifted by our neighbours last autumn. Determined to put them to good use here are some of the recipes I found on walnuts.org (California walnuts promo site)
Walnut pesto (replace pine nuts in the classic recipe)
Walnut and Parmesan ‘cream’ a veggie pâté alternative
Walnut ‘meatballs’ where mushrooms are used
Walnut honey butter, a sweet chunky ‘peanut butter’
New menus and cooking methods have flooded into our kitchen recently. Many discovered when browsing digital magazines courtesy of our library card. So here are the tastiest (we think) so far …
1.Savoury bread and butter pudding: basically fried leeks instead of jam on the bread and cheese in the ‘custard’ rather than sugar
2. broccoli pasta – cooking broccoli in with the pasta for the last 3 minutes makes it a lighter, tastier dish, even for the broccoli hater in the household. Top with your usual pasta sauce
3. Frozen bananas found lurking at the back of the freezer work brilliantly in banana bread. Made more mix than fits your loaf tin? Dig out the mince pie tray to make Muffins
4. Ingredients intended for stuffing that never made it to the Christmas table combine to make great meatball replacements. Why these hid behind the frozen bananas is a mystery.
5. Jamie Oliver is an inspiration. His no frills gnocchi (mashed potato leftovers with just enough flour mixed in) are lighter and lovelier than bought
6. Dredging steaming hot, par-boiled parsnips in flavoured flour means the flour sticks without need for egg wash. You can roast them immediately or freeze them ready floured so they can be roasted at a later date
In the face of February storms and thwarted plans a cake bake brings a little cheer. Found this recipe in the manual for my elderly bread maker. I couldn’t take the paddle out of the bread maker so baked this in the air fryer instead. Delicious.
Mix dry ingredients then rub in butter and add wet ingredients, mix well and spoon into small pan lined with greaseproof paper. Bake for 30 mins at 170 degrees. If a knife blade comes out clean it might be ready, if not keep going for up to 50 mins (the bread maker timescale).
How to use the hazelnuts that the French squirrels didn’t beat us to… a small harvest so I want to use them carefully. These biscotti will stretch and keep well so seem to fit the bill.
It is a recipe from the great British bake-off apparently but so easy that I would recommend it to anyone with a reliable kitchen timer. Half one batch shown here. Not as dry as the ones I have bought.
6 egg yolks, 1 can condensed milk, 1 teaspoon vanilla essence, 350 ml vodka (or brandy), lemonade
whisk the milk, then the essence then the vodka into the egg yolks – decant into small bottles and chill until ready to tipple
(this quantity made some little gifts but bear in mind that without preservatives this has a limited life)
then pour a measure into a champagne glass and dilute with lemonade
snowballs from my childhood (we drank them made with Warninks which is 17.2% alcohol, really!? well it was only once a year…) were topped with a glace cherry on stick but a little grated nutmeg looks good
for a wicked version replace the lemonade with sparkling wine (don’t waste good stuff on this)
Rather than go and buy some sweeties in case we get callers – we are a bit off the beaten track for most trick or treaters – I whipped up some peppermint bites that we can unwrap and enjoy ourselves if not collected this weekend.
these are easy – about 5 mins once you have got the ingredients together, plus a couple of hours chilling time
3oz of Philadelphia type cream cheese, a tablespoon of softened butter, 3 cups of icing sugar (yes it is a lot), a drop or two of green colouring and a drop or two of peppermint oil
mix everything together and put teaspoons of the mix on a silicone or wax paper sheet – chill till firm
A plum bonanza! Found this recipe by Jane Hornby on Good Food Magazine and it worked well (eventually after hours – literally – of boiling down). Below is my recipe adapted, based on comments on her recipe and my experience.
Weigh and then halve the plums (no need to remove stones) and cover with water in a robust deep pan. Simmer for about 45 minutes until pulpy and deep red in colour.
Remove the stones and then whizz the pulp with a stick blender. Stir in half the weight of jam (preserving) sugar ie if 2 kilo of plums, add 1 kilo of sugar. Once dissolved heat on high for about 25 minutes – be prepared for much longer if your plums are watery, it needs to be so thick that as you stir the spoon leaves a thick trail. Take care not to let the mixture catch on the bottom of the pan so keep stirring as it thickens.
Decant into silicone moulds or ramekins and keep chilled until you next have a posh cheeseboard.
This was soooo much easier than membrillo made with quinces.
I had to stand in and do a slot at our food event so I was given this ‘bombproof’ recipe to make good mayonnaise using an electric stick blender. It works (even on a hot day, in front of an audience) and is tasty too. Apparently it originated with Masterchef Australia’s Gary Mehigan
1 tbsp of mustard – I used dijon but recipes suggest wholegrain
2 tbsp of white vinegar – again some people say white balsamic
pinch of salt
500 ml sunflower oil (approximately)
Add mustard to eggs in bowl – no need to separate – add salt and vinegar plus a dash of oil then blend for about 10 seconds. (The beauty of this is that you don’t spend time trickling oil in gradually, it won’t split if you are generous with even the first dash of oil). Add further slugs of oil until the mayonnaise is the consistency you want. If it gets too thick you can thin it with lemon juice, vinegar or even water.
Option: add in chopped herbs or spices even sweet chili sauce etc.