the Kitchen on the Kelvin

Recipes, news and reviews from my cubby-hole of a kitchen on banks of the River Kelvin, Glasgow


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Home comforts: cheese scones

I can't think of a better way to describe these scones than 'scrummy'

I can’t think of a better word than ‘scrummy’ to describe these scones

There’s something so homely about cheese scones that I’m not sure anything can beat them on the comfort food front. I love making them on chilled out Saturday mornings, and my mum even makes them for us fresh on Christmas morning.

Her classic recipe from an old Bero cookbook is probably still my favourite, but a couple of years ago I came across an alternative, more substantial version by baking maestro Dan Lepard for the Guardian. This is what I’ve adapted below, exchanging the buttermilk for good old semi-skimmed (or whatever you have in the fridge) and the parsley for chives. With a hell of a lot of cheese in there, these certainly aren’t one for diet days but they make a perfect brunch dish when you’re not feeling quite so extravagant as pancakes and you don’t fancy eggs (as I never have and never will).

Ingredients:

75g jumbo rolled oats, plus a handful for sprinkling on top
150ml water
50ml milk (I use semi-skimmed but whatever you have in the fridge will do nicely)
1 large egg
50ml sunflower oil
A large handful of chopped chives
200g mature cheddar, coarsely grated
350g plain flour
3 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt

1. The first stage of this recipe sets it aside from any other scone recipe I’ve known; a porridge style mixture is made by combining the oats with the water in a saucepan and bringing to the boil. At this stage, pour the mixture into a large bowl, stir in the milk and leave to cool.

2. Pre-heat the oven to 220c/200c fan assisted/425F/gas mark 7.

3. Beat in the egg and oil until mixed well and stir through the cheese and chives. Next, add the flour, baking powder and salt, mixing until a soft dough forms.

3. Roll out the dough on a floured surface until around 4cm thick and use a round 6-8cm pastry cutter (I like the ribbed edge best) to form the scones before transferring them to a floured baking sheet. Place them a few centimetres apart to allow for a little spreading.

4. Brush the tops with milk and sprinkle over a little grated cheese and some more oats for a rustic, homely finish.

5. Bake for 15-20 minutes until the kitchen smells divine and they are risen and golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack.

6. Enjoy! These are best straight out of the oven with a generous serving of real butter. Later on, a gentle toasting brings them back to life and they freeze pretty well too.

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Sshhh! Don’t tell your dentist: Mum’s Muscovado Tablet

Muscovado tablet: a delicious twist on a Scottish favourite

Mum’s muscovado tablet: a most satisfying twist on a Scottish classic

I’ve been in turmoil over this particular blog post, unsure whether or not to share a very special family recipe with you. The fact is that my Mum’s Muscovado Tablet is so good that I reckon it could make me millions. But after much tossing and turning and procrastination, I’ve decided to put a stop to my selfish thoughts and share it with the masses.

For anyone who hasn’t had tablet before, it’s a traditional Scottish sweet consisting of sugar, sugar and more sugar. Tooth-meltingly sweet, with a much grainier texture than fudge, it’s widely served up as a complementary side when you order a tea or coffee in any half-decent restaurant, cafe or tearoom across the country.

Many years ago now, my mum decided to road test a Nigel Slater recipe for Muscovado Fudge which appeared in an antiquated issue of Sainsbury’s Magazine. The rich molasses flavour imparted by this sticky, unrefined sugar delivered a scrumptious twist to the standard fudge recipe and – in a stroke of genius – my very clever mother realised how to make it even better: adapt it for tablet!

Her recipe isn’t an exact science but requires a bit of sensory observation. It is, however, well worth the effort and if it ends up a little softer or a little harder than you intended, I can guarantee it will still taste incredible. What’s more, you’ll have a great excuse to keep practicing and get started on another batch! One instrument you will require to guide you, though, is a sugar thermometer.

Ingredients:

500g light muscovado sugar

500g golden caster sugar

300ml evaporated milk

150g unsalted butter, cubed

1 tsp vanilla extract

Method:

  1. Put all of the ingredients except the vanilla into a large, heavy-bottomed pan and heat gently. Keep stirring to ensure the melting ingredients don’t burn onto the bottom of the pan.
  2. Once dissolved, place the sugar thermometer in the pan. Continue to stir the mixture constantly – for up to 30 minutes – until the thermometer reaches the ‘soft ball‘ stage. You can test this by dropping a blob of the mixture into a bowl of cold water. Rolling it between your fingers, if it literally forms a soft ball it’s ready to come off the heat. Stir through the vanilla extract.

    Boiling sugar: treat with caution

    Hubble, bubble, toil and trouble: stir with caution!

  3. I’d recommend using an electric hand mixer if you don’t want your arm to turn to stone during this next stage. Begin beating the mixture evenly and watch as it expands in volume, turning from glossy and smooth to a more matt and grainy texture. It’s ready when the ripples created by the beaters hold their form for a few seconds.

    Beating will thicken the mixture and turn it from glossy to a silken, grainy appearance

    Beating will thicken the mixture and turn it from glossy to matt with a grainy appearance on close inspection

  4. Pour into a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper. The surface will be uneven and swirly, giving it a rustic, rough-around-the-edges Scots charm. After ten minutes or so, cut into bite-size squares with a knife and leave to cool entirely before removing from the tray.

    After allowing the tablet to cool for 10 minutes in the tray, cut into bite-size pieces

    A sweet, crumbly and incredibly moreish treat; perfect with a cup of coffee

The last piece of advice I can offer you is to divide it up into cellophane bags tied with ribbon and distribute it to your friends and family ASAP! They’ll be over the moon when they taste it and you won’t be three stone heavier and toothless.


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Book review: ‘What Katie Ate: Recipes and other Bits & Bobs’ by Katie Quinn Davies

What Katie Ate: Recipes and other Bits & Bobs

What Katie Ate: Recipes and other Bits & Bobs

I’m a real sucker for things that look nice. Ashamed as I am to admit it, text-heavy cookery books just don’t do it for me. It’s the mouthwatering, tantalising imagery that ignites my enthusiasm to try whatever Nigel, Nigella or Jamie has effortlessly thrown together in a rustic yet refined fashion. So when Amazon alerted me to the fact that the debut cookbook of Katie Quinn Davies – author of stunning blog What Katie Ate – was available for pre-order, my restraint didn’t stand a chance.

This is genuinely one of the most beautiful cookery books I’ve ever laid eyes upon. A designer and photographer turned food stylist and blogger, Katie has created a bohemian, laid-back and aspirational aesthetic throughout her book and I’m very pleased to say it combines style with substance.

As a Dubliner living in Sydney, she has adapted very well to the Aussie great outdoors and the pages are strewn with luscious images of barbecue-ready shellfish and vibrant garden party salads. I’m praying this weekend’s weather brings an abundance of sunshine and warmth to Glasgow so that I can get tucked into the sizzling prawns, barbecued peppercorn beef fillet with chilli and herb gremolata and chorizo and potato salad with rocket and manchego shavings. This food is intended for open-air consumption with charcoal and drinks and friends and family.

Dotted throughout the book, however, are lucid references to her stubborn Irish roots. It doesn’t get any more homely than Katie’s fish pie with crunchy bacon and leek topping, Mick’s pork and red wine lasagne and roast pork with apple, apricot and pistachio stuffing. So when I’m craving stodgy, oozing and tummy-pleasing comfort food, I’ll be reaching for this all-encompassing tome all over again.

Here’s a rough critique of the recipes I’ve tested so far:

Beautiful raspberry friands

Easy on the eye: raspberry friands

Raspberry friands: These eye-catching little delicacies made the front cover of the book and were my first stop as a result. Very simply thrown together, the recipe calls for egg whites and ground almonds affording them a deliciously light texture and grown-up, sophisticated flavour. They make an excellent alternative to standard fairy cakes when the occasion calls for something with a bit of elegance. I also threw caution to the wind and used frozen raspberries – knowing full well I was risking soggy bottom syndrome due to the excess liquid they hold – but the friands came out just fine.

Finger-licking good: Sticky chicken with sesame and chilli

Finger-licking good: Sticky chicken with sesame and chilli

Sticky chicken with sesame and chilli: In the introductory paragraph to this recipe, Katie says “This is a great mid-week, easy-peasy, ‘throw-it-all-in-the-baking-dish’ meal. Even though the list of ingredients looks long, I’m willing to bet you’ll find 99% of them in your fridge or store cupboard already”. Aside from being a girl after my own heart with her excessive use of hyphens, she was right: all I needed to pick up were the chicken drumsticks and wings and the sesame seeds for sprinkling over when serving. Honey, wholegrain mustard, ketchup, balsalmic vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, red onion, sugar, smoked paprika and cayenne pepper bubble down deliciously to create a very tasty dinner with very little effort involved; until you go to clean the pan, that is!

Packs a punch: Barbecued prawns with Thai dipping sauce

Packs a punch: Barbecued prawns with Thai dipping sauce

Barbecued prawns with Thai dipping sauce: Do not eat these prior to spending time with anyone who hasn’t had them too. The prik nam pla dipping sauce requires a strong hit of raw garlic which rather outstays its welcome. But that’s not to say you shouldn’t try them. With very little cooking required, this dish offers an explosion of hot, zingy and tongue-twisting flavour which can be adapted to suit your own tastes: my generous addition of chopped chillies almost blew the head off Craig’s unsuspecting mother when she had a taste.

And that’s as far as I’ve got with What Katie Ate at present. Aside from being drop dead gorgeous, the Australian fusion cuisine it offers makes a very welcome and distinctive addition to my ever-expanding foodie bookshelf. In a nutshell, I’m a happy customer!


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The most moist Easter chocolate fudge cake

Writing about food is something that I’ve thought about for too long, but somehow there was always something standing in my way – until now, that is. Just last week, the final hurdle between me writing and you reading this was overcome as a shiny, new, functioning oven was installed in the cubby-hole I call my kitchen.

From the moment I met my former oven, we didn’t get on. Droning and loud with a temperamental thermostat, I couldn’t bear the thought of posting photos of cremated cakes for the world to see; even the mighty powers of Instagram couldn’t hide the char. I am most definitely ashamed to admit that at my very lowest point I plunged to the murky depths of microwaving a Victoria sponge sandwich in order to cook the eggy ooze outpouring from a crusty, black shell. Knowing that I’d crossed a terrible, terrible line, I abandoned baking for months.

Now, however, I’m free to resign that sad saga to history. But what foodie marvel could justify my debut blog post from the Kitchen on the Kelvin? I quickly concluded that it had to be something season-appropriate and, as an agnostic Scot, Easter means only one thing – CHOCOLATE.

The manic expressions on the faces of these fuzzy chicks can't fail to bring a bit of springtime fun

The manic expressions on the faces of these fuzzy chicks can’t fail to bring a bit of springtime fun

The recipe for these chocolate fudge sponges and cupcakes was tweaked from the BBC Good Food’s highly rated Naughty Chocolate Fudge Cake – I felt compelled to drop the ‘naughty’ – although I’ve swapped their chocolate buttercream for a more intense, grown-up ganache.

The cake recipe itself is unrivalled, though. The use of oil instead of butter leaves it scrumptiously moist and the all-in-one method makes it almost foolproof.

Ideally, I’d have topped these with speckled Cadbury’s Mini Eggs, but after hopelessly searching the shelves of supermarkets and newsagents for more than 90 minutes, I was forced to accept that I should probably be spending my time attending to more pressing and important tasks like picking up my dry-cleaning and going to the Post Office. I settled for Cadbury’s Flake dust and some inedible fuzzy chicks to add a much-needed injection of colour.

The use of oil instead of butter makes this cake scrumptiously moist and light, too

The use of oil instead of butter makes this cake scrumptiously moist and light, too

INGREDIENTS

For the cake:

[This deeply filled two mini 11.5cm sandwich tins and six generously-sized cupcake cases but would equally suit two standard 18cm/7″ sandwich tins]

175g self-raising flour

2 tbsp good quality cocoa powder

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

150g caster sugar

2 medium eggs, beaten

150ml (1/4 pint) sunflower or vegetable oil

150ml (1/4 pint) semi-skimmed milk [I’d use whole milk if I had it handy]

2 tbsp golden syrup

For the ganache:

[These quantities left me with a ramekin-full left over – perfect heated up and poured over ice cream for a satisfying and instant mid-week dessert]

150ml double cream

150g good quality dark chocolate [or substitute half for milk chocolate to lessen the cocoa intensity for kids/adult wimps like my boyfriend]

PROCESS

  1. Preheat your oven to 180°c (160° fan) or gas mark 4 and grease and line your tins.
  2. Sieve the flour, cocoa and bicarb and add the caster sugar. Mix well.
  3. Make a well in the centre of the dry mix and add the wet ingredients. Beat until smooth with an electric freestanding or hand mixer – unless you’re looking to build biceps.
  4. Pour into your tins or cupcake cases – the batter will be quite wet – and place in the oven. Leave until risen and firm to the touch. The cupcakes should only take around 15 mins while the sandwich tins will be ready in 25 – 30 minutes.
  5. Leave to cool before turning out onto a wire rack.
  6. You can start on the ganache right away if you wish as it requires an hour or two to cool. Add the cream and broken up chocolate to a pan on a very low heat and stir gently until the chocolate is melted.
  7. Remove from the heat and beat until smooth and glossy. It will continue to thicken as it cools.
  8. I levelled off the rise on each sandwich with a sharp knife – allowing me the benefit of a sneaky taste test – before spreading on the ganache with a flat-edged pallet knife. Sprinkle with Flake dust created by venting your pent-up anger on a sealed Flake with a rolling pin. And if you’re lucky enough to source Mini Eggs – where did you get them!? – they’ll add an unmistakable Easter charm.