Sunday, 25 March 2018

MaltEaster Bunny Brownies

I have a total weakness for the MaltEaster bunnies that pop up in the shops around Easter time, so naturally I decided to bake them into a brownie! I used a really basic and quick brownie mix here, but feel free to use any brownie recipe as your base. Just push the little chocolate bunnies into the tray about 10 minutes before the end of baking. It's hardly gourmet, but they are great with a cuppa!




(Makes around 20 brownies)

Ingredients:

400g caster sugar
225g melted buter
60g cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 eggs
225g plain flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large bag of regular Maltesers
3 bags of mini MaltEaster bunnies


1. Preheat oven to 180C.

2. Mix all the ingredients thoroughly in the order listed, apart from the regular Maltesers and MaltEaster bunnies.

3. Add 2/3s of the bag of Maltesers to the mix and gently fold through.

4. Pour the mix into a greased lined baking tray (it should fill a 23x33cm rectangular tray) and smooth out with a spatula. Bake for around 20 mins.

5. Remove from the oven, and push the rest of the Maltesers and MaltEaster bunnies into the brownie crust gently, being careful not to burn yourself.

6. Return to the oven and bake for another 5-10 mins, until just cooked. If you find the top is going too brown, cover with tin foil and continue to bake.





Thursday, 8 March 2018

A Trip to the Rhubarb Triangle

A look inside the Rhubarb sheds.....


Last week, despite weather warnings of the 'Beast from the East', I braved the snow and gale-force winds, and headed North to visit Wakefield, part of the Yorkshire 'Rhubarb Triangle', and  conveniently also home to a great friend of mine. Visiting the forced rhubarb sheds has always been on my bucket list, and it transpired that my friends-parents-friends are one of the few remaining true Yorkshire forced rhubarb farmers left. They very kindly allowed me to visit their farm, D Westwood and Son.

Visiting any farm and seeing quality produce being grown or reared, is something I delight in doing. But there's something about the forced rhubarb process that just seems completely magical to me. Perhaps it's because the process itself is somewhat secretive; it being grown in blacked-out sheds, that few can visit, for fear of light damaging the crop. Any more than ten minutes of light is enough to ruin the forcing process. The light bulbs you can see in my images were screwed in especially for our visit- the farmers won't risk leaving them in there in case someone accidentally leaves the lights on!

Or perhaps it's the technicalities of  it. As Jonty (6th generation farmer at D Westwood and Son) explained to me, the process is incredibly precise, with the plant roots or crowns firstly being planted outdoors in fields, where it grows for more than two years. At the start of it's third winter outside, the farmers will wait until the ground has reached a certain freezing temperature, usually when then first frost hits (there's a special thermometer to measure this). It is then up-rooted, and re-planted in the purpose-built sheds by hand. When it's time to harvest, this process is also done by hand, and in candlelight, to avoid damaging the rhubarb at this stage. It ain't easy work producing this stuff, but it's totally worth it!


The alien-like neon green leaves are actually poisonous, so avoid eating them!  







I'm not going to try and do a rhubarb history lesson here, because frankly I'm no expert. But, I was interested to learn that the process of forcing rhubarb - which is growing it in the darkness to produce the sweet-flavoured, bright candy cane sticks - was originally invented in the Chelsea Physic Gardens in London. It became a phenomenon in the Yorkshire areas of Wakefield, Morley and Rothwell during the War, when there were supposedly around 200 farms producing it, due to the ideal conditions and high demand for the stuff.

Today there's only 9 farms producing Yorkshire forced rhubarb, so I feel privileged to be able to visit a farm first hand, and learn about the process myself. Yorkshire forced rhubarb was also given PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) status relatively recently in 2010. This means it can only be sold as Yorkshire Forced Rhubarb, if it's grown from within the Rhubarb Triangle. That's a real testament to a quality product, that's been grown using these ancient methods by generations of Yorkshire farmers. Now I know the effort that goes into it producing it, I have a whole new appreciation for it myself, although I didn't really need converting.

When we got back to the house, we snacked on sticks of newly-cut raw rhubarb, dipped in a little sugar, before turning the rest into a winning crumble. It was such a joy to cook and eat the freshest rhubarb I'll probably ever get my hands on, especially after seeing it growing in the ground just moments before. You can find the recipe for our crumble below, if you'd like to have a go yourself. Just make sure you use Yorkshire forced rhubarb- preferably from Jonty's farm!


Pleased as punch with my harvest! 



Proper Yorkshire Forced Rhubarb Crumble





Because why mess around with such a wonderful raw product? Thank you to Catherine Clark (my friends Mum) for the top crumble recipe- the addition of demerara sugar gives it a wonderful toffee chewiness!

NB. When poaching the rhubarb in step 1, the quantity of sugar will really depend on how sweet the rhubarb you have is initially (it can vary drastically). You can always have a nibble of it raw and if it's lovely and sweet, as Yorkshire Forced Rhubarb is, you really don't need much sugar!

Serves 6 - will make one large crumble, or 2 smaller ones.

600g Yorkshire forced rhubarb, washed and leaves removed
Approx 1 tbsp caster sugar
230g flour
170g butter, cubed at room temperature.
90g demerara sugar
90g caster sugar


1. Preheat oven to 200 C.

2. Chop the rhubarb into 3 inch pieces and place in a sauce pan with the 1 tbsp of caster sugar. Heat on low to medium, and cook for around 10 minutes until the rhubarb is soft, but still holding it's shape (remember it will continue to cook in the oven, so don't over do it). If it looks dry at all, splash a little water into the pan, but rhubarb itself has a high water content, so you shouldn't really need to add much liquid.

3. Spoon the rhubarb into the bottom of your chosen crumble dish, and allow to cool while you make the crumble.

4. In a bowl, mix the flour and sugars, and then add in the cubes of butter. Rub together with the tips of your fingers to create a rough bread crumb consistency (any lumps will add texture!).

5. Spoon the crumble mix generously over your rhubarb. I personally like a crumble-to-rhubarb ratio of around 50:50. Definitely don't skimp on the crumble.

6. Bake in the oven for 30-35 mins, until the top is lightly golden and crisp.

7. Serve hot with cold cream or custard.

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Flourless Beetroot and Chocolate cake

Photo by Ryan Ball (www.ryanballphotography.com), Food Styling and recipe my own. 

In this recipe, beetroot acts in the same way carrot does in a carrot cake; it adds moisture, natural sweetness and earthiness to a wonderfully gooey chocolate cake base. This cake is incredibly easy to make, and you can make it even simpler by buying pre-cooked beetroot, which is available to buy in many shops (just make sure it's plain boiled beetroot you are buying, as opposed to anything in vinegar!).

It's best made the day before you want to serve it, as it benefits from a night in the fridge, to firm up the sponge. If you're feeling adventurous, have a go at the candied beetroot too- it's sure to take your cake to the next level!

Ingredients

For the Cake:
300g beetroot, peel and chopped into 3cm chunks
350g dark chocolate, broken into pieces (I like 70% cocoa variety)
185g butter, cubed
6 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
220g soft brown sugar
100g ground almonds

For the Vanilla Creme Fraiche:
360g creme fraiche
2 tbsp icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

For the Candied Beetroot:
230g caster sugar
150ml water
2 small beetroots, peeled and sliced as finely as you can
1 tbsp lemon juice

Method

1. Start with the cake. Boil your beetroot in a small pan of water until tender (around 45 mins). When cooked, blitz in a blender to create beetroot pulp.

2. Preheat oven to 160°C / 325°F. Grease a 9 inch cake tin and line with grease proof paper. 

3. Put the butter and dark chocolate in a small saucepan, and melt over a low heat, stirring occasionally until smooth.  

4. Meanwhile, crack the eggs into a bowl, and add the vanilla extract, soft brown sugar and ground almonds. Whisk together, then add the beetroot pulp and the melted chocolate and butter mixture. Mix well.

5. Pour the mix into your pre-prepared baking tin, and cook in the middle shelf of the oven for about 1 hour. After about 45 mins you can check it, and if the top is going too dark, just cover it with some tinfoil and continue to bake. You will know the cake is ready when the edges look cooked, and the middle still has the slightest wobble to it. Remove from the oven and allow to fully cool, before placing in the fridge for atleast 3 hours or overnight ideally. This will help to firm up the cake, and make it easier to get out of the tin.

6. For the candied beetroot, add the water and sugar to a small sauce pan and slowly heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Once it has dissolved, bring to the boil gently, and add the thinly sliced beetroot. Simmer for around 15 minutes, until the beetroot is softened and slightly translucent. Remove each slice from the pan with a fork, and lay flat on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Leave to cool. If you want to caramelise and crisp them further at this point, you can pop them in the oven at 180°for 5-10 minutes, just keep an eye on them as they can quickly burn at this stage.

7. When you are ready to serve the cake, make the icing by beating the creme fraiche, vanilla extract and icing sugar together. Have a little taste and add more sugar or vanilla if you like. When you're happy with the flavour, simply spread on top of the cake. Top with your candied beetroot pieces, and drizzle with the reserved syrup. Voila! 


Sunday, 29 October 2017

Diwali Recipes for VeeTee Rice

I'm pleased to be able to share my most recent food styling project for VeeTee rice (https://www.veetee.com/). I was the food stylist on this two day shoot, featuring 15 mainly Indian-influenced recipes, all using extra long grain basmati rice (which incidentally, is a wonderful product, I would highly recommend!). Below are some shots from the project. It was a pleasure as always working with photographer Casey Lazonick on this, and it was a real delight to be able to venture into some interesting Asian recipes, all written by the chef, author and teacher, Monisha Bharadwaj. Thank you for the opportunity all!

Photographs: Casey Lazonick (https://www.caseylazonick.com/)
Recipes: Monisha Bharadwaj (https://www.cookingwithmonisha.com/)
Food Styling: Georgie Hodgson (www.georgiehodgson.co.uk)











Sunday, 6 August 2017

Frozen Watermelon lollies

Freezing fruit is something I love to do over the summer months; favourites of mine include bananas (peel then freeze), grapes and watermelon. When the temperature soars (we're still waiting for that to happen here in UK...!), there's nothing better than cooling down with an ice-cold lolly. These frozen watermelon lollies are guilt-free and a great way of boosting your fruit intake and re-hydrating. They are just the thing for hot and bothered children too!

With a small knife, simply make a small slice into the edge of each watermelon wedge, to create a groove in which to insert a lolly stick. Place your watermelon lollies on a tray lined with greaseproof paper, and freeze for between 2-4 hours. Enjoy!


Photo by Hannah Hughes, Props by Lauren Miller, Food styling by me.


Saturday, 15 July 2017

Griddled corn with lime, chilli and coriander butter

Photograph by Hannah Hughes, Props by Lauren Miller, Recipe and Food Styling by Georgie Hodgson (that's me!).

This moreish griddled corn is a great vegetarian option for a summer barbeque, and with sweetcorn coming into season very soon (usually around August to September time), it's the perfect time to be eating it. Make the butter as spicy as you like by adjusting the amount of chilli to suit your tastes.

Serves 4

Ingredients:

4 fresh corn on the cobs, stripped of their husks and washed
1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
handful of chopped coriander, plus extra for garnish
zest of 1 lime
150g butter, softened to room temperature

Method:

1. Mix the chopped red chilli, coriander (reserving a small amount for garnish), lime zest and butter together in a bowl with some salt and pepper and place to one side.

2. Par-boil the corn until just tender (about 5-7 minutes) in a large saucepan of salted water. Remove from the pan and finish it off by placing on a hot barbeque grill or a griddle pan for 5-10 minutes, turning regularly until it is nicely charred.

3. Remove the charred corn from the heat and place onto a serving platter. Spread the lime, chilli and coriander butter over the top of each corn (or let people do this themselves if you prefer). Finish with more fresh coriander and lime wedges for squeezing.


Saturday, 8 July 2017

Panfried Mackerel with pickled rhubarb

Photography by Casey Lazonick, prop stylist Cynthia Blackett, food styling and recipe myself.


Here the tartness of rhubarb together with the oiliness of mackerel is a match made in heaven. This is a good recipe for a midweek supper; mackerel cooks in minutes, and if you have a jar of pickled rhubarb in your fridge ready to go, then there's really very little prep to do. Just serve with some new potatoes or rice, and a bit of salad.

Top tip: You can add other veg into the pickle too; I threw in some sliced radishes in the photograph below, as I had some that needed using up. Pickling is a great way of making use of leftover bits and bobs like that- generally any veg which you can eat raw works for pickling.


Pickled Rhubarb

Sterlized jars
250ml apple cider vinegar
250ml water
150g caster sugar
500g raw rhubarb, washed and cut into 2cm pieces (choose the pinkest you can find for a good colour)
Small piece of ginger, peeled and sliced
Couple of cloves, peppercorns, bay leaves for flavour

1. Add the chopped rhubarb to the sterilized jars. Pop in a couple of peppercorns, cloves and bay leaves.

2. Place the apple cider vinegar and water in a small saucepan and add the sugar. Heat until just simmering, stirring it to dissolve the sugar, then pour over the rhubarb into the jars.

3. Close the lids and leave to cool, before refrigerating. They will be ready to eat after 2 days, and will keep for around a month.



Panfried Mackerel

Mackerel fillets
Salt and Pepper
Oil for frying (I use rapeseed)

1. Add a glug of oil to a large frying pan, and place on a medium to high heat.

2. Pat the mackerel fillets dry with some kitchen towel- this will help them to crisp up. Season with salt and pepper.

3. When the oil is hot, add the mackerel skin side down. Press down on each fillet firmly with a fish slice, until you feel the fish is no longer trying to curl up. Cook for 1-2 minutes, then flip and cook for a further 30 second to 1 minute depending on the thickness of the fillet. Remove the fish to a plate lined with kitchen towel to remove excess oil, then serve.


Photography Casey Lazonick, prop stylist Cynthia Blackett, food styling and recipe myself.