Thursday, 24 November 2011

Pecan Pie

Happy Thanksgiving too all our American friends!

And to celebrate from over here I had a go at a Pecan Pie from an American recipe. This recipe for Pecan Pie was actually given to us along with some other American favourites by our friend, Bonnie, who we met on our travels to Canada. I'd wanted to try making Pumpkin Pie in time for Thanksgiving, but it seems that many recipes call for canned pumpkin, and by the time I'd found one for fresh pumpkin there were no more pumpkins available in the shops. It seems they magically disappear from the supermarkets as soon as Halloween is over!
Looking up a bit of info about traditional Thanksgiving menus it seems that Pecan Pie can feature, but as a less obvious choice than Pumpkin Pie. So thought this was the ideal time to try out the recipe.

I'd also cut a couple of corners, and took this opportunity to try the newly discovered Dietary Specials ready made frozen shortcrust pastry.
The pastry itself seemed to work well, as expected was rather crumbly - but normal shortcrust is. Obviously the convenience of the pastry is fantastic, but at the price of £2.50 for 2x 200g amounts I might continue to make my own pastry unless I'm in a rush.

Back to the Pecan Pie. The recipe below is taken from Betty Crocker's cookbook 1989, via Bonnie Safyurtlu of California. And we've attempted to translate the quantities and ingredients to British equivalents.
The recipe didn't indicate whether the pastry should be baked blind or not. Bonnie had sent us through the recipe for the pastry too, but it didn't say there either. So I opted not to. It would have actually benefited from baking first as the pastry at the bottom didn't seem to cook too well. Also, we don't have a 9-inch tin, so it all went in a slightly smaller one. This meant that the nuts floated to the top for the mixture and the pie was deeper than it should be. Overall the pie was very very nice indeed and I will certainly do it again, next time probably after investing in a larger pie plate.

Pastry for a 9-inch one-crust pie
2/3 cup (150g) sugar
1/3 (75g) cup margarine or butter, melted
1 cup (340g) corn syrup (golden syrup)
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
1 cup pecan halves or broken pieces (we used slightly more - 100g)

1. Heat oven to 375F (190C).
2. Prepare pastry.
3. Beat sugar, margarine, corn syrup, salt and eggs with a hand beater.
4. Stir in the pecans
5. Pour into pastry-lined pie plate.
6. Bake until set. 40-50 mins. Refrigerate until chilled, at least 2 hours.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Souper Mix

Souper Mix
Here is a great idea if you like to use your own stock in your cooking but find it a chore to make it for specific recipes.  Even if you make a batch of stock it still needs freezing which means using up valuable space.  We found this in the River Cottage Handbook No2; Preseves, by Pam Corbin.  This book is fantastic and has been a real godsend for us as we have made Christmas Hampers for family and friends this year. 

This particular mix has gone into one or two hampers for those that like to cook.  The benefit to making stock this way is that in it's preserved form it lasts for up to 6 months and by my calculations a standard jar could could make nearly 20 litres of stock! 

Here are the ingredients as stated in the book:

250g Leek
200g Fennel
200g Carrot
250g Celeriac
50g Sun-dried Tomatoes
2-3 Cloves of Garlic
100g Parsley
100g Coriander
250g Salt

If you follow the weights you can easily change one veg for another according to availability.  For ours we exchanged the celeriac for celery and used a mix of herbs including rosemary, thyme, sage and parsley.

All that is needed is to blitz everything in a large food processor.  You may need to do it in batches but if you do make sure you mix it well afterwards by returning it to the blender once the volume is reduced through the processing.  You should be left with a moist, granular paste.  Spoon the mixture into sterilised jars and seal with vinegar-proof lids.  Store in a cool, dry place for up to 6 months.

To use the souper mix, stir 2 teaspoons with 500ml of hot water.

TIP - to sterilise the jars, wash in hot soapy water, rinse and dry in a low oven.  Fill and seal as soon as possible from removing from the oven.

Sunday, 13 November 2011


A while ago I was feeling the need for lots of sweet things, and as we know most cakes/pastries/desserts are a no-go if you need gluten free. It was the September issue of delicious magazine that caught my eye. I was actually fancying a go at making doughnuts, then the magazine came out with mini doughnuts on the cover! After a quick look through the recipe I thought I'd give it a go, substituting the strong white bread flour, for Doves Farm gluten-free bread flour to see how it would go.
The recipe was easy to follow, but for just two of us there seemed to be a lot. This is an issue I have with the yeast sachets rather than the recipe though. I couldn't accurately halve the yeast to reduce the quantity, so I made the full amount.
I made mini doughnuts rather than full sized and half dusted with sugar and half dusted with cinnamon sugar, and both were delicious, especially when still warm. I didn't attempt to pipe the jam into the doughnuts as I thought it would be rather fiddly.
One thing I did notice was that they seemed to go stale quite quickly, whether this is because they're best eaten straight away, or something to do with the flour, but halved, with a bit of whipped cream and jam in the middle, this wasn't a problem!

Recipe (taken straight from delicious magazine)

200g strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting
50g chilled unsalted butter, diced
7g sachet dried fast action yeast
4 tbsp caster sugar
1 medium egg, beaten
100ml whole milk, heated to lukewarm
Sunflower oil for deep frying, plus extra for greasing the bowl
4 tbsp raspberry jam

1. Sift the flour and a pinch of salt into a large bowl, then rub in the butter with your fingertips. Stir through the yeast and 1 tbsp of the sugar, then make a well in the centre. Mix the egg with the lukewarm milk and pour into the well. Mix quickly and bring together to make a soft dough.

2. Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface for  minutes or until silky smooth. Put in a very lightly greased bowl, cover with cling film and leave in a warm place for 1 hour or until doubled in size.

3. Dived the dough into 12 evenly sized pieces and shape these into smooth balls. Do this by pinching the dough on top, rolling the bottom on a smooth surface, then turning them over so the pinch is on the bottom. Place them, spaced well apart, on a baking tray lined with baking paper, then loosely cover with a sheet of greased cling film. Leave for 45 minutes in a warm place until doubled in size again.

4. Heat the sunflower oil in a large deep pan to a temperature of 190C. Carefully lower the doughnuts into the hot oil using a slotted spoon, in batches of 2 or 3. Fry for 30 seconds on each side until golden and cooked through. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper.

5. While the doughnuts are still warm, spoon the jam into a disposable piping bag or sheet of baking paper rolled into a cone. Make a little slit in the side of each doughnut with the tip of a small sharp knife, then squeeze a little jam into the centre.
6. Roll the jam-filled doughnuts gently in the remaining caster sugar to coat them completely or dust well using a dredger. Serve warm or allow to cool.