For the love of Cookbooks

I love Cookbooks. I read them like novels, each recipe is a new chapter . Usually I am not a fan of cookbooks that don’t have pictures but there is one exception – “The New Baisics Cookbook” by Sheila Lukins and Julee Russo, former owners of the Silver Palate Deli. This cookbook was given to Mammy by a close friend about 30 years ago in America. The spine has fallen off and it the book has divided into about four different sections. Pages that have fallen out are stapled back on other loved recipes are stained from eggs and cake batter. To make matters worse it smells of old, damp paper but despite all its faults Mammy refuses to replace it. I recently went to visit the giver of the book  in the States I discovered her book had, had a similar fate. I was delighted to discover that she had the third book by the “Silver Palate Girls” “The Good Times Cookbook”. Shelia Lukins and Julee Russo, who co-owned the small deli in  Upper West Side New York, were my heroes when I was little. The Whenever we had  a dinner party there book was referred to for the famous “Chicken Marbella ” which has become Mammy’s signature company dinner. At Christmas it was there “Old Fashioned Chocolate Chip Cookies” that Santa enjoyed and there brownie was served on our table long before it became popular this side of the Atlantic. In this new book I stumbled upon a recipe for biscotti or more correctly known as biscotti de Prato. I was never a huge fan of the very hard twice baked biscuit I found it almost impossible to eat but decided to give it a try .  This recipe the biscuit is a little bit softer than the traditional biscuit but the flavour is really good what can go wrong with hazelnuts and chocolate

Chocolate and Hazelnut Biscotti

makes 20

Adapted from “The Good Times Cookbook” by Sheila Lukins and Julee Russo

2 eggs

50g of dark chocolate chips

50 g of hazelnuts toasted, skinned  and bashed with a rolling pin

50g of sugar

20ml of vegtable oil

1 tsp of vanilla extract

150g of white flour

60g of wheat bran/wheat germ or a combination

1 tsp of baking powder

1/2 tsp of salt

Preheat the oven to 190C

Beat eggs and sugars in large bowl with mixer until light and fluffy. Add oil and vanilla; mix thoroughly. Whisk flour and wheat bran/germ, baking powder and salt together in another bowl; add to sugar mixture. Mix until blended; stir in nuts and chocolate.

Briefly knead the dough. Firmly shape into a log 3 inches wide ( be sure to make the loaf compact. Pat it solidly, so when you cut it into slices, the cookies won’t crumble). Place log on parchment paper-lined cookie sheet. Bake until golden, 20-25 minutes. Remove from oven; let stand until cool enough to handle. Cut log into slices about 1/2 an inch thick. Return to the oven for about 5 minutes on each side (longer if you want them crunchier). Leave to cool before serving they last up to a week in an airtight container but can be frozen for as long as three months.

Variations: You could change the nuts to pistachio, almonds ect. Dried fruit could replace the chocolate. The original recipe is Apricot and Pistachio which sounds like a really nice combination. The biscuits could be drizzled with melted chocolate after cooking. Or if you are not a fan of whole meal or don’t have wheat bran white flour or ground almonds could replace it. If using the ground almonds replace the vanilla with almond extract for extra flavour.

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The Hunger Games Inspired Fruit and Nut Bread

I, like the rest of the world have just finished reading “The Hunger Games” first book. I unlike the rest of the world did not fall madly in love with it. I will admit it is a good book and enjoyed every minute of reading it but I just wanted the Hunger Games to end and for Peeta’s and Katniss’s romance to bloom. I suppose I won’t really enjoy the next two in the trilogy hence the name “The Hunger Games Trilogy”. I have a sneaky feeling that the next two book will not focus on a happy ever after the hunger games theme. Oh well, I still commend Suzanne Collins for like J.K Rowling and Stephanie Meyer she has gotten people who never read before to start reading which is always great.

When I read a book or watch a Movie I remember and focus on the food eaten and prepared by the characters ( Anne of Green Gables -Liniment Cake, The Help-Mississippi Mud Pie, Laura Ingalls Wilder Maple syrup snow). I am an avid foodie. In “The Hunger Games” food and lack of it plays a big part. One food scene that I remember most (and don’t worry it won’t ruin the end of the book) is at the start when Katniss recalls Peeta purposely burning Fruit and Nut Bread so she could feed her starving family. I decided to try for myself fruit and nut bread.

Peeta’s Fruit and Nut Bread a.k.a Hazelnut, Raisin and Honey Wholemeal Loaf.

^note you could call it a Honey I’m Wholemeal Loaf


When I made this bread for the photo I killed the yeast so it didn’t rise. Instead of light airy bread it was dense and heavy in texture but the flavour was still really nice (and I ate it all) that’s why I have included it on my blog. I am going to try it again hopefully with a better outcome

80g of hazelnuts blanched toated and chopped

400g of wholemeal flour

100g of plain flour

1.5 tsp of salt

7g sachet of fast-action yeast

1tbs of honey

350 ml of lukewarm milk

60g of raisins

2 tbs of milk to brush top with

Combine the flours and salt in a large bowl or freestanding electric mixer. Add the yeast and make a well in the flour. Stir the honey and milk together and pour into the well.

Using your hand or a dough hook attachment of the mixer, mix the flour into the liquid. If it feels or looks to dry add a tablespoon more milk at a time and vice versa with the flour if its too wet.

Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and kneed by hand for 10 minutes until it feels elasticy.  Add the nuts and raisins and gently work in to evenly distribute. Return to bowl cover with clingfilm and leave to rise for about an hour in a warm place until the dough has doubled in size.

Punch down the dough and shape into a loaf. Cut a line down the center. Tuck the ends under each other on a lined baking tray Cover loosely with cling film and leave to double in size again for about an hour. Towards the end of the rising preheat the oven to 200C/400F/gas mark 6

Uncover the loaf and glaze with milk. Bake for 30 minutes until golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.

This bread is lovely plain or just buttered but it is not too sweet to serve with savory toppings either such as cheese or chutneys.

Crunchy a.k.a Granola

Granola, or crunchy as it’s known in my house, has always been the naughtier cousin of the healthy muesli. Then again food is about enjoyment and who honestly enjoys a bowl of muesli. I love anything oaty but there is something about the dry uncooked oats that gives me the shivers. Granola is is enjoyable and this homemade recipe unlike the shop bought version contains no sugar ( just honey so the calories are still there) so it’s a little healthier. It’s delicious served with natural yogurt and fruit for breakfast it’s also yummy,, or so I’ve been told, as a topping to ice-cream sundae. Another option layer it in pretty jam jars with fruit or compete, granola and yogurt and serve for breakfast or healthy dessert. I also like to nibble at it dry through out the day but that’s just me.

Granola

makes one large tub that lasts a week in a airtight container

Measurements don’t have to be exact use it as a rough guideline

250g of oats

5 heaped tbs of honey

3 tbs of olive oil

handful of pumpkin seeds

handful of sunflower seeds

small handful of chopped almonds

small handful of hazelnuts (raw)

50g of dessicated unsweetened coconut

Preheat the oven to 180C. Put the oats and coconut in a saucepan and put on a low heat for about 2 minutes stirring regularly. Add the coconut and continue to stir. Add the seeds and nuts. Then add the honey continue to gently heat and mix it so the honey covers all the oats. Take off the heat and mix in the oil (the oil makes it crunchy). Pour onto a baking tray and cook in the oven for about 15 minutes until golden brown. Take it out every 5 minutes and give it a stir as the pieces on the edge cook quicker than the center.

The above recipe is just a guideline the first three ingredients are the base after that you can add what you wish.  Seeds and nuts go in before baking just ensure they are unsalted and raw (from experience poppy seeds don’t really work) dried fruit or chocolate can be added after baking. You can add as much or little extras as you like.

P.S I think the coconut is really nice in it so I would recommend  that unless you have a coconut phobia.

Award winning Oaty Raspberry Crumble

From 4th of March
Today is one of those days in Ireland that tricks you. I left my house this morning to go to my sisters camogie match looking out the  window I saw that the sun was shining and the sky was blue. “What a lovely day” I thought “I won’t need a jacket” but boy was I wrong. I spent all morning freezing on a sideline. I should have known, it is March after all, who am I kidding you need a jacket in June in Ireland. I was deceived by the blue sky  . I then feeling very energetic despite the cold went for a swim. There is something about swimming that makes you very hungry afterwords. I wanted something sweet but not wanting to undo my mornings work swimming I decided upon this Award Winning Oaty Raspberry Crumble. I love it because anybody who knows me will know I am healthy, I love oaty things and fruit. This is a combination of all three and of course it is award winning. Well I lie it’s not actually award winning but Runner Up Oaty Raspberry Crumble doesn’t have the same ring to it and I think it was worthy of first place.
The story is Sister number two who was only seven at the time entered this recipe  a kids cooking competition one night and we thought we would hear nothing of it again. Then about a month later Daddy received a phone call to say she had been chosen as a finalist and had to go to Hamleys Dundrum to prepare her dish. There was great excitement Sister number one and I even skipped training to go to Hamleys with her.  All the contestants were given a station to prepare their dish. Mammy, Sister number one and I watched anxiously from afar as Sister number two prepared the dish. It was one of the most nerve raking experiences of my life. “Oh no she is going to forget the sugar” or “How long has it been in the oven” we said to each other, but we should have trusted her she knew what she was doing. She didn’t forget the sugar and cooked it to perfection. Sadly to say she didn’t win despite all of us agreeing that it was the best dish there. So here it is our Almost Award Winning Oaty Raspberry Crumble.
Oaty Raspberry Crumble 
Serves a family of five or six
100g of oats
20g of coconut desiccated
10g of chopped almonds
5g of butter
2 tbs of honey
600g of raspberries ( I use frozen)
30g of sugar
Preheat the oven to 160 degrees. Put the oats, chopped almonds, butter, and cocunut into a saucepan and heat over a low heat, stirring constantly, until the butter has melted. Then add the honey and continue to heat for 2-3 minutes until it has turned slightly golden. Put the raspberries and sugar in a 25 by 25cm pie dish. Scatter over the oat mixture and place in the preheated oven for 25 minutes or until the raspberries are hot through and the tip is a dark golden colour. Eat warm served with natural yogurt ( for a healthy option) or vanilla ice cream ( for a naughty option).
You could of course use any fruit of your choice – apples, rhuabarb, pears ect. but if using a hard fruit I would stew it first and add sugar according to taste. I love  raspberry and apple together but try out whatever fruit you want to decide you like.