Category: Comforting

For the times when you need the edible equivalent of a hug.

Classic Cinnamon Buns

Classic Cinnamon Buns

 

Recipe

Makes 12

Time: 2 hours

Ingredients

  • 75g soya margarine
  • 250ml soya milk
  • 14g fast action dried yeast
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 45g caster sugar
  • 450g strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting

For the filling

  • 100g soya margarine
  •  50g caster sugar
  • 2 tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 small egg
  • 1 tbsp soya milk

Method

  1. Melt the butter in a small pan. Add the milk and warm through until body temperature (about 38C if you have a thermometer).
  2. Add the yeast to the milk, stir to mix through and then leave for 10 minutes to activate.
  3. Put the salt, sugar and flour into a bowl. Pour over the milk and stir to make a sticky dough.
  4. Turn the dough out onto a worktop and knead for 5-10 minutes, until the dough is stretchy, smooth and not quite as sticky.
  5. Lightly oil a bowl (I find pouring a little oil onto a piece of kitchen roll and rubbing that inside a bowl works well). Then tip the dough into the bowl, cover with cling film and leave for 1 hour to rise.
  6. When the dough has doubled in size turn it out onto a lightly floured worktop and knead it for 5 seconds to knock out the extra air.
  7. Shape the dough into a rectangle and roll it out so it’s roughly 60x40cm.
  8. Use a palette knife of spatula to spread the soft margarine (for the filling) over the dough in an even layer.
  9. Mix the sugar and cinnamon together in a bowl and then sprinkle it over the butter in another even layer.
  10. Roll the dough sheet up, long edge to long edge to get a long sausage. Use a ruler and a sharp knife to mark every 1.5 inches along the roll and then cut at these points.
  11. Line a deep roasting tin with butter and baking paper. Transfer each bun to the tin, in 4 rows of 3. (You might need to gently nudge the buns into more of a circle shape if they got squashed during cutting).
  12. Cover the tin with clingfilm and leave to rise for 30 minutes. Pre-heat the oven to 200C.
  13. Beat the egg in a small bowl until runny and smooth. Add the milk and whisk again to combine. Brush this mixture over the buns to glaze.
  14. Bake the buns in the oven for about 20 minutes, or until golden brown and risen.
  15. Leave to cool for 30 minutes and then enjoy!

Thanks for reading!

Emma x

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Double Chocolate Blackberry Brownies

Double Chocolate Blackberry Brownies

It’s blackberry season again!! This is such a big thing in my house as we live in the countryside, so we watch the blackberries over the season from mid-August to start of October, by which point they’re juicy and sweet and beautiful. We literally can’t leave the house any more without my mum bringing tubs for foraging (one time we even took a fishing net to catch apples in – it was strangely effective!) So now that we have tubs and tubs of blackberries in the fridge it’s time to start getting creative again!

It’s no secret that I’m a complete brownie freak. I like to make them, smell them, eat them, jazz them up, play around with them and generally appreciate their existence. So it’s no surprise that I ended up making some these swanky blackberry brownies. I’ve also added in some booze in here because it works so so well with chocolate! I’m not much of a drinker (relatively speaking) and so I’m only just discovering it’s value in cooking – but boy does it give this a nice lil’ touch! Of course though, if you wanna make these t-total you can leave out the alcohol and soak the blackberries in some spices (a pinch each of ground cinnamon and ginger are good!) and Ribena to give them a touch up.

As term hasn’t started for me yet (I know we start super late!) I’m in the process of bouncing between home and my uni house to make the most of the time I have free to do that. When I went home the other day I came up with these (as you can’t not appreciate having a fully stocked kitchen when you’re in one!) and luckily I managed to have a few left to take back to Oxford with me. One of the things I love most about baking is being able to share what I make with friends, and it’s something I really don’t do enough of any more. But these went down a treat so I can definitely see them becoming a favourite in our house!

Recipe

Makes 12

Time: 1 hour

Ingredients

For the Brownie

  • 220g Butter
  • 280g Dark chocolate
  • 4 Medium eggs
  • 280g Caster sugar
  • 60g Plain flour
  • 150g White chocolate, roughly chopped

For the Icing

  • 200g Blackberries
  • 10ml Chambord
  • 40ml Creme de Cassis
  • 175g Icing sugar

To decorate

  • Fresh blackberries
  • 50g Dark chocolate
  • Ice cream to serve (optional)

Method

  1. Begin by prepping the blackberries for the icing. Place the blackberries, chambord, Cassis and 25g of icing sugar in a bowl, mix together and then set aside to macerate for 30 minutes.
  2. Now move onto the brownies. Pre-heat the oven to 180˚C. Grease and line a 15×15 cm loose tin with butter and baking paper.
  3. Put the butter and chocolate into a metal or glass bowl over a pan of simmering water and leave to melt.
  4. Take another bowl and whisk the eggs until pale and fluffy with an electric whisk. Add the sugar and continue to whisk until it leaves a trail when the whisk is taken out (around 5 minutes should do it).
  5. Fold the chocolate into the eggs, sieve in the flour and add the chopped white chocolate. Mix everything together until just combined.
  6. Pour the mixture into the lined tin and sprinkle over half of the macerated blackberries. Then bake the brownies for around 20 minutes until a crust has formed on top and it feel slightly firm. Set aside to cool.
  7. Whilst the brownies are cooling, move onto the icing. Sieve the remaining blackberries, pressing the berries into the sieve with the back of a spoon to release the juices. Then mix a little of this juice into the icing sugar, 1 tsp at a time until a smooth, pourable icing is made.
  8. Turn the brownies out onto a serving board. Once completely cool drizzle the icing over the top. Scatter over some fresh blackberries and finish with some flakes of dark chocolate. These are really good served warm with ice cream!

Thanks for reading!

Emma x

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Duck leg ragu tagliatelle

Duck leg ragu tagliatelle

Welcome to autumn folks! Some people might be sad that the warm summer days are now behind us, but I can’t wait for the next couple months of warm blankets, cosy nights and comfort food favourites! Which brings me onto this delightful lil’ dish I have for you today. Now, personally I think duck has a bit of a bad rep. It’s often seen as expensive, fatty and a pain in the butt to cook – but hang on a sec and I’ll prove you wrong. When it’s done right you end up with a rich, moist deep-flavoured meat, topped with some salty, crispy skin and then whatever you put with it you’re gonna end up with something that screams decadence and class. As I’m not cooking as much as I used to I’m trying to make the most of my time in the kitchen by pushing myself both with my skills and my flavour experimentations. For example, I tend not to use alcohol in my cooking (apart from the odd liqueur in desserts) so I’ve never tried using red wine in sauces and the like. Yet I tried it in this dish to bring a little French classicism and it brings a depth to the sauce I’ve never been able to replicate before! (I guess there’s something to be said for the classics!)

Duck can also have a bad reputation because it’s traditionally very expensive. I heard of the idea of making duck bolognese years ago, but I couldn’t understand why you’d want to shred such a beautiful, expensive meat and cloak it in a bolognese sauce!? But then I realised that duck legs are what you need. They’re so much cheaper than duck breast and are perfect for shredding and pairing with a rich sauce. So in short, abandon your preconceptions, this is definitely worth a try – and because of the flavour you get from duck I think this would be particularly good for a special occasion like an anniversary, birthday or dinner party!

Recipe

Serves 2-3

Time: 2 hours

Ingredients

  • 2 Duck legs
  • 1 Small white onion
  • 3 Garlic cloves
  • 1/2 stick of Celery
  • 2 tbsp Tomato puree
  • 1 tsp Dried oregano
  • 1 Handful of fresh thyme
  • 250ml Red wine
  • 400g Chopped tomatoes
  • 1 large pinch of Paprika (optional)
  • 120g Tagliatelle pasta
  • 50g Parmesan
  • A handful of fresh parsley

Method

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180˚C. Season the duck legs with salt and pepper, then rub them with a little oil and place them in a roasting tin. Roast them in the oven for around 40 minutes until the skin is crispy and the flesh is cooked through.
  2. Take the legs out of the oven and leave to cool for a couple of minutes. Then use two forks to pick the meat off the bone. Set this to one side, separating the flesh and skin.
  3. Place a large pan over a medium heat and add a little of the duck fat that will have collected in the tin you cooked the duck in. Peel, halve and finely chop the onion and garlic and add these to the pan. Fry for 2-3 minutes until starting to caramelise. Then dice the celery and add it to the pan with the tomato puree. Fry whilst stirring for another 2 minutes.
  4. Add the oregano, thyme and wine to the pan and bring to a boil. Once the sauce has reduced by half add the tomatoes, paprika and duck meat. Then turn down the heat to a gentle simmer and leave to bubble for 15 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile put a large pan of water on to boil for the pasta. Add the pasta and cook to packet instructions (around 10 minutes is standard) until al dente.
  6. Drain the pasta and add it to the ragu. Mix everything together and then get ready to serve.
  7. Divide the pasta between 2 serving bowls and top with a little grated parmesan, chopped parsley and the remaining crispy duck skin. Enjoy!

Thanks for reading!

Emma x

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Choco-nana-offee Rocks

Choco-nana-offee Rocks

Ok, so I know these look more like something from a sci fi film than something from the kitchen, but bare with. As you know I’ve been trying out the ‘healthy’ lifestyle to help me get some consistency back in my life, however, even the healthy eaters need some comfort food sustenance every now and then. This started as all things do, with good intentions. “I’ll just make a chocolate cookie” I said to myself. Innocent enough. Little did I know that by the time I’d finished I’d end up with a bubbling tray of molten salted caramel, dotted with floating bananas, and sandwiched between two layers of warm chocolate cookie-shortbread. Eyo.

That said, I have no regrets! This was 100% about food to feed the soul and boy did it do that. I know it’s not traditional in the food blogging-sphere to see things that look less that perfect. Even rustic home food is preened and touched up to get the perfect shot these days, however when getting these out of the pan it was clear there was no hope in making them look beautiful. But hey, looks aren’t everything, right? Whop them on a board, snap a few shots and then make the most of the best bit – the eating!

After some time in the fridge these work really well as on-the-go bars, however they do become a bit more gloopy and unpredictable the warmer they get. I think this is because the shop-bought caramel I used for the filling was more of a pouring-consistency than a block one, which had both ups and downs. On the one hand it made for the ultimate gooey masterpiece, on the other it was a bit hard to handle. Therefore I’ve found these bars work at their best as a deconstructed splat in a bowl – looks: 0, taste: 10. Alternatively you could make your own caramel or find a thicker one so you can actually slice these into nice, neat squares… But seriously though, if you’re looking for comfort food in a bowl, this is your guy!

Just one last note – the name. Yeah… um… wasn’t sure how to christen these as there was so much going on in them and for something so much about the taste a long description of it’s component parts seemed too resturant-like. Hence choco-nana-offee rocks. Quick, to the point, leaves more time for the eating. Any other ideas welcome though!

Recipe

Makes roughly 16 squares/rocks/blobs

Time: 1 hour

Ingredients

  • 340g Butter
  • 220g Caster sugar
  • 240g Icing sugar
  • 1 tbsp Vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract)
  • 490g Plain flour
  • 55g Cocoa powder
  • 400g Caramel sauce (I used 1 can of Carnation’s caramel)
  • 1 Banana
  • A large pinch of Salt

Method

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180˚C and line a baking tray with butter and baking paper.
  2. Beat together the butter and sugar with a wooden spoon until smooth and creamy. Then mix in the vanilla and icing sugar until smooth. Finally mix in the cocoa powder and flour until a dough has formed.
  3. Split the dough in half and wrap one half in cling film and put it into the fridge.
  4. Take the other half of dough and press it into the base of the tin to fill it evenly. Bake the base in the oven for around 15 minutes until starting to to look baked on top.
  5. Pour the caramel over the base and then scatter over the chopped bananas in an even layer. Finally sprinkle over the remaining dough in a sort of crumble. Return to the oven and bake for another 20-25 minutes until the topping is crispy and the caramel is bubbling.
  6. Take the tray bake out of the oven and leave it to cool to room temperature. Then put it into the fridge until set (about an hour should do it).
  7. Cut the traybake into 16 squares (or blobs) and enjoy!

Alternatives

Another great thing with these squares is that you can try all sorts of different swaps and alterations to make them perfect for you! Why not try…

  • Swapping 100g of the butter with 100g of nut butter (like peanut butter) to get a nutty biscuit top and bottom?
  • Swapping the cocoa powder for 70g Plain flour to make vanilla flavoured dough?
  • Adding fresh berries instead of bananas?
  • Adding 50g chopped chocolate to the dough to make it chocolate chipped?

Thanks for reading

Emma x

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Meatball Pasta Bake

Meatball Pasta Bake

The start of Uni is coming up and so it’s time to dig out those quick, comforting student-friendly recipes for term time! This one’s a really useful dish to have under your belt as it’s hearty, tasty and will also give you some really useful skills that you can use to make loads of other things. My mum always says that if you know how to cook a bit of meat, make a tomato sauce and make a white sauce you’re pretty much set. From the skills you learn from this you can also make a chilli con carne, bolognese, cauliflower cheese, fish pie and a number of other dishes!

This is also a really easy dish to play around with to suit whatever you need.  Want to make it vegetarian – use a meat substitute or vegetables (I like aubergine and sweet potato!). Want to feed a crowd? Just double your quantities! Don’t have the cash for/can’t find meatballs? Use some chopped up sausages instead! Don’t have the time to make this in one go? Make the tomato and white sauce in bulk and then all you need to do is re-heat them and add the meat and pasta! I’ve included some herbs and spices in this tomato sauce as it really does make it so much better than boring ones you get out of jars, however, if you’re a student and/or on a budget I wouldn’t expect you to have these so they’re not essential. That said I would really recommend taking some paprika to uni with you if you can – it might seem pretentious but it’ll add instant flavour and kick to any dish without making it blow-your-head-off spicy!

This year I’m living out of college so I’ll have my first taste of true student cooking which is gonna be interesting… That said, I did use our little kitchen in halls quite a bit last year and found out some things that are kinda useful to know:

3  Nuggets of knowledge to take with you to Uni…

  1.  Pasta is life! It’s so versatile, goes with everything, and is really quick/easy to cook. Make sure you take some pasta and maybe some pasta sauces with you when you go to uni. (If you don’t like pasta a staple carb like rice or noodles will also work!)
  2. In the hectic life of uni the fruit you buy can often end up being neglected and before you know it the beautiful morsels you bought are 4 weeks old, squishy and gross. You may be tempted to throw these in the bin (and if they’re mouldy then, yeah, do that!) but if they’re looking generally ok, they’re just too far gone to eat raw, use them in your cooking! I found topping some chopped up eating apples with a simple crumble topping and baking them for 20-30 minutes gave a really quick apple crumble. You can use pretty much any fruit you want to make a good crumble, but stone fruits (like plums, peaches and nectarines) work super well! You can also put old bananas in banana bread and citrus fruits in smoothies!
  3. ALWAYS TIDY UP AFTER YOURSELF! Ok, so maybe I’ve not had the best experience this year with dealing with other people’s mess in the kitchen – but trust me, people know who are the ones who leave their stuff in the kitchen and though they’ll never tell you it, they won’t like you for it. Just make sure you leave the kitchen as you found it (or better) – wash up your dishes, put them away, put food back in the fridge and wipe down the work tops. It’s common niceties for using a shared space and it’ll stop people forming judgements about you before they know you!

I also had no idea what kind of equipment I’d be needing in the kitchen last year, and no matter what you do take you always end up forgetting something. So if you’re wondering what to pack for your student kitchen I’d say make sure to pack the following…

  • A good non-stick sauce pan.
  • A large mixing bowl  – This’ll be useful for everything, from making a 3 tiered birthday cake to eating cereal when you can’t find your crockery!
  • A mug – If you don’t drink coffee or tea before you go to uni you will by the time you come home! (Also really good for mug cakes and for measuring!)
  • A spare fork – great as a whisk, pastry crimper, tub opener, cake prodder, pasta tester and pretty much anything you can think of. You will also always get to a point where the only piece of cutlery you can find is a broken table knife and a ladle, so spare forks are very valuable!
  • A spatula – As a student you don’t want to be wasting any food you’ve spent money and time on making just because you can’t scrape it out of the pan.
  • Tupperware boxes – If you’re as bad as portioning as I am you’ll often end up with a whole other portion of food you want to put in the fridge and keep for another day!
  • Glass dish with lid – Great for baking and cooking things in (like this pasta bake!) and for then storing leftovers in the fridge.
  • A bottle opener – everyone always needs one, no one ever has one!
  • A chef’s knife and a smaller prep knife.
  • A chopping board – self explanatory, but also great for carrying hot dishes back to your room to eat.
  • A tea towel – can double up as an oven glove and ensures you have no excuses to leave your pans out!

Of course there are lots of other useful bits of kit like a wooden spoon, extra pans, oven gloves, a tin opener, a sieve, and of course crockery, but these are the the main things I found I reached for when I was in the kitchen!

Recipe

Serves 2 – 4 (really depends on how hungry you are!)

Time: 45 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ mugs of Pasta
  • 1 tsp Sunflower oil
  • 12 Meatballs (or 4 sausages)
  • Fresh basil to serve (optional)

For the tomato sauce

  • 1 Small white onion
  • 2 Garlic cloves
  • 1 tbsp Sunflower oil
  • ½ tsp Smoked papirika
  • ¼ tsp Cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 400g Chopped tomatoes
  • 1 Beef (or vegetable) stock cube
  • 1 Bay leaf (optional)

For the white sauce

  • 50g Butter
  • 1 tbsp Plain flour
  • 450ml Milk
  • 75g Cheddar cheese, plus extra for the topping

Method

  1. Begin by making the tomato sauce. Peel and finely dice the onion and garlic. Put the oil into a large saucepan and fry the chopped onion until starting to caramelise and turn golden. Add the garlic, paprika and cayenne (if using). Stir and fry for another 1-2 minutes.
  2. Add the chopped tomatoes and beef stock cube to the pan, stir and bring it up to a boil. Fill the empty tomato tin/carton with water and pour this into the pan (it’ll rinse the remaining tomatoes out into the pan and will give you the liquid you need!). Add the bay leaf, stir the mixture again and then reduce the heat to a gentle simmer. Leave for 30-40 minutes until reduced and not too watery. Season to taste with salt and pepper and leave to cool until needed
  3. Meanwhile put a pan of water on to boil. Then cook the pasta to the packet’s instructions. When aldente take the pan off the heat and leave in the water until needed.
  4. Next prepare the meatballs. Put the oil into a frying pan and place over a medium heat. Add the meatballs and fry them for 1-2 minutes until browned on one side. Then turn them over and repeat the frying and turning until they’re brown all over. (If using sausages instead, pierce the skins 2-3 times with a sharp knife and pan-fry them in a similar way, before chopping them into chunks). Don’t worry if the meat isn’t cooked all the way through as it’ll continue to cook in the oven, you just want them browned all over on the surface. Leave to one side until needed.
  5. Meanwhile make the white sauce. Melt the butter in a pan and then add the flour. Mix the flour into the butter with a wooden spoon to make a paste. Beat it in the pan for around 1 minute to cook out the flour.
  6. Slowly add the milk to the pan, (around 3-4 tbsp at a time at first and then after 4-5 of these start to slowly pour it in), whisking constantly to slowly make a sauce. This is the most important step as if you add the milk all at once the mixture will become lumpy and won’t thicken. Once all the milk is added keep on whisking for 5-10 minutes until the mixture thickens and leaves a trail when the whisk is lifted out.
  7. Grate the cheddar into the sauce and whisk again until it’s melted and combined. Then taste the mixture and season with pepper and salt, if needed.
  8. When all the elements are ready start assembling. Drain the pasta and mix it into the tomato sauce. Then pour it out into a glass/oven-proof dish. Top with the meatballs and then spoon the white sauce in between the meatballs. Top with some extra grated cheese and then bake the dish in the oven for around 10-15 minutes, until the top is golden brown and the sauce is bubbling.
  9. Serve with a side salad and basil (if you want!). This will keep in a covered contained in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Thanks for reading!

Emma x

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