Saturday, February 27, 2010

Potato Gnocchi

In an attempt to use up some leftover boiled potatoes, I decided to make gnocchi. I was expecting it to be really difficult, but it actually turned out to be really easy!

There are a lot of steps involved but as you can freeze the gnocchi before the blanching stage, it's worth making more than one meal's worth.

I used Maris Piper potatoes for this, you can use whatever kind of potato you have to hand but it's advisable to avoid the waxy varieties.


600g potatoes, unpeeled
200g plain flour
1 tsp salt
1 egg

Place the uncut, unpeeled potatoes in a pan of cold water with a little salt and bring to the boil. The reason for not peeling or cutting the potatoes is that you want the cooked potato to be as dry and starchy as possible. Boil until tender, about 20 mins depending on the size of your potatoes.

Drain the potatoes and peel while still hot. The best way to do this is to cut each cooked potato in half, placing the cut side down on a chopping board and peel the skin off with a knife.

In a large mixing bowl, mash the potatoes until are no lumps left but avoid over-mashing. Stir in the flour and salt and mix to combine.

Add in the egg and beat until you have a dough-like consistency. Turn the dough out onto a well-floured work surface and knead until smooth. If your dough is too dry, you can add some water at this point, or if it is very sticky then you can add additional flour.

Divide the dough into 4 pieces and refrigerate the other 3 while you work on the first piece.

Roll the dough into a long log, about 2 cm in diameter and using a sharp knife, cut the dough into individual pillows about 2 cm wide.

With well-floured hands, shape each section into an oval pillow shape and indent with a fork. Place each pillow of dough onto a floured board and repeat the process with the other 3 pieces of dough.

I found it easier for the next stage to place all the gnocchi into the fridge for an hour so they cooled down before cooking. You can also freeze them at this point, place in the freezer in a single layer until frozen, then you can transfer them to whatever container you wish to store them in.

Cooking the gnocchi is easy, just drop them in a pan of simmering salted water, working in batches so they're not too crowded. When the gnocchi rise to the surface, about 3 minutes when fresh, 6 when frozen, they're cooked. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and reserve in a colander while you poach the remaining batches.

Reheat and sauté the gnocchi in a frying pan in a little olive oil before serving with the sauce of your choice.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Swedish Saffron Bread (Lussekatter)

I recently have been in the enviable position of having obtained about 30g of saffron for free and needing to find a way to use it up. I had heard of saffron bread before but had vaguely thought it was a savoury bread until I found this recipe which is a traditional Swedish Christmas bread.

The texture of the bread is wonderfully light and moist - I'll be using an adapted version of it to make Stollen and cinnamon buns soon.

You need to begin the recipe the day before you want to make the bread. It's so nice fresh that I would recommend you bake the bread on a Saturday morning so you can enjoy it at it's nicest.


1/2 tsp saffron strands
2 tbsp boiling water
125g salted butter, melted and cooled
250g plain flour
250g strong bread flour
50g caster sugar
200ml full-fat milk, bloodhot
15g fresh yeast (1 sachet fast-acting)
1 egg


1 egg for egg wash

The first stage the evening before you plan to bake the bread is to soak the saffron strands in the boiling water for at least 12 hours. I crushed the saffron strands slightly as they would be going into the final dough along with the coloured water and I didn't want the strands to be too noticeable.

After the saffron has soaked you can begin making the bread.

Place the flours and sugar in a large mixing bowl and rub the crumbled yeast into the flour. In a separate jug, beat the egg into the bloodhot milk.

Pour the milk mixture, saffron liquid (including pieces of saffron) and melted butter into the flour and mix well. It should form a smooth dough fairly quickly.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured worksurface and knead for 7 minutes. I usually use my Kenwood mixer for this kind of dough as it means that I don't have to worry about adding additonal flour and spoiling the consistency. It's very important that you only use one light dusting of flour (no more than 2 tbsp) for the kneading process or your bread will be tough and dry.

Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover and let rise for an hour.

After the hour, the dough should have doubled in size.

Turn the oven on now, to 200C.

Carefully turn it out onto an unfloured worktop. When working with rich, buttery dough like this, there is no need for flour and it ruins the texture of the dough. I promise the dough won't stick to your hands or the worktop at all.

There are different ways to shape this dough. You can make a challah shape by separating it into 4 sausage like strands and plaiting or go with the traditional crown shape which is what I did.

To make the crown, divide the dough into 7 equal pieces and allow them to rest for 15 minutes. Then make long sausage-shaped cylinders with each strand and roll each one up like a snail.

Place one snail-shaped roll on a well-buttered baking sheet in the middle and arrange the other 6 around it. Cover the bread again and let rise for 30 minutes.

If you are using an egg wash then brush it onto the top of the dough after the second rise.

Bake for 25 minutes. The bread will sound hollow when tapped on the bottom and will still feel quite springy.

Let cool, but be aware that these are wonderful when they are still slightly warm.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Banana Bread

This has always been one of my favourite cakes which is ironic as I am not a fan of fresh bananas!

It's a great way to use up over-ripe bananas and it is a very adaptable recipe, you can add choc chips, nuts, a little espresso or even lime juice to jazz it up.

I'm not sure why this is called banana bread rather than banana cake - I think it might be that it is commonly baked in a loaf tin rather than a cake pan and also that the use of bicarb of soda as a raising agent would place it into the quick-bread category along with soda bread.


4 over-ripe bananas
375g plain flour
75g butter, melted
150g brown sugar
1 egg
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp bicarb of soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 175C.

Mash up the bananas in a large mixing bowl with a fork.

Add the butter, sugar, egg and vanilla and mix well with a spatula or wooden spoon.

Add the bicarb, salt and cinnamon and mix again.

Lastly, sift in the flour and stir until just combined.

Pour mixture into a buttered 400g loaf tin and bake for 50-60 minutes, until a skewer inserted in the middle comes away cleanly.

Leave to cool slightly in the tin before turning out and cooling on a wire rack.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Milk Loaf

I found this delicious bread recipe cut out from a 1976 cookbook of unknown origin.

It's flavoursome and has a great soft crumb that makes it perfect for sandwiches.

Make cheddar and Branston pickle sandwiches with it and relive your childhood!


450g strong white bread flour
50g butter, melted and cooled
325ml full-fat milk, bloodhot
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tbsp sugar
1 (7g) sachet fast acting yeast (15g fresh yeast)

In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, yeast, sugar and salt.

Add in the milk and butter and stir until it forms a dough.

Turn the dough out onto a clean worksurface and knead for 8 - 10 minutes until it is smooth and elastic.

Lightly flour the work top and shape the dough into a round and place in a covered bowl. Leave to rise in a warm place for 1 hr.

After the hour, the dough should have risen to twice the original size. Carefully remove it from the bowl and knock some of the air out of the dough.

Preheat the oven to 190C.

Shape into a loaf shape and place in a buttered 800g silicon loaf tin. Cover and let rise again for 30 mins. You can also shape the dough into a free form shape and score it like I have above.

Bake for 40 minutes. The loaf should be a deep gold colour and will sound hollow when you tap the base.

Turn out and cool on a wire rack.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

French Onion Soup á la Julia Child

French onion soup is so wonderfully comforting and warming; there is nothing better to eat when you're wrapped up on the sofa watching the Winter Olympics.

It takes a few hours to make properly so I usually make it the evening before and allow it to sit for a day in the fridge which only seems to make it better.

I use my food processor (with a slicing blade) to slice the onions as you need a lot of them for this recipe. You can slice them by hand, but I wouldn't recommend it unless you have eyes of steel!

This recipe makes enough for 4 big servings, but I wouldn't scale down for 2 as it freezes very well.

Also shown in the picture is Gruyere and Cumin Bread, which fabulous with this soup.


4 tbsp butter
800g white onion, finely sliced
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar
3 tbsp plain flour
15oo ml beef broth
250ml red wine
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp sage
salt & pepper to taste

Melt the butter in a large, heavy bottomed pot. Add the sliced onions and cook, covered for 10 minutes on medium until the onions are translucent. Stir frequently to ensure the onions don't stick or burn.

Take the lid off the pot and add in the salt and sugar, turning the heat up to medium-high. Cook the onions uncovered, for at least 25 minutes, stiring constantly. The onions should become deep brown and caramelised.

Turn the heat back down to medium and add in the flour. Stir well to ensure there are no lumps of flour remaining and cook for 2 minutes.

Whisk in 200ml of the beef broth to begin with, making sure that the flour is well incorporated.

Add in the remaining stock, along with the red wine and herbs. Bring the soup to a simmer and cook for 45 minutes.

Taste to check seasoning, you will certainly need pepper and might need salt depending on the salt content of the stock used.

For the true French experience, ladle the soup into oven-proof bowls and place a toasted piece of baguette on top. Cover the bread and soup liberally with Gruyére and pop under the grill until the cheese is melted and bubbling.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Harissa Bread

Harissa is a condiment that I fell in love with when I had a 2 week holiday in Tunisia. There, they serve it with bread and oil at the start of every meal. It's hot and spicy but also really tasty as it's got lots of garlic.

The Real Olive Co do an amazing harissa that they sell at the Temple Bar market in Dublin every Saturday. I think we must have worked our way through a dozen of jars in the last year!

As we always eat our harissa with bread, I thought it would work well as an ingredient in bread and I was right. The resulting bread has a faint hint of the heat and all the flavour and is amazing with cheese.


400g strong white bread flour
125g wholemeal flour
2 tbsp harissa
25ml olive oil
15g fresh yeast
10g salt
325ml water

Place the flours in a large mixing bowl and rub the yeast into the flour.

Add the salt, harissa, oil and water and mix with a spatula until it forms a dough.

Turn out onto a work surface and knead for 8 -10 minutes until it is smooth and elastic. Place in a bowl and leave, covered, in a warm place to rise for 1 1/2 hours.

The dough should have doubled in size in this time. Turn out onto a lightly-floured work surface and shape into a loaf.

Turn the oven to 220C at this point.

Place the loaf on a baking sheet, score with a razor blade and allow to rise again for 45 minutes.

Spray the inside of the oven with 15 squirts of water immediately before placing the loaf on the baking sheet inside.

Bake for 25 minutes, until the loaf sounds hollow when tapped on the base.

Cool on a wire rack.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Millionaire's Shortbread

This is a typically Scottish treat in that it has far more sugar than is at all necessary! It's delicious but very rich so make sure to cut it into small squares.

The key to Millionaire's Shortbread is in the thickness of the layers. You want a decent sized layer of quite dry shortbread on the bottom to give structure, followed by a layer of caramel twice the height of the base. Then a thin layer of chocolate on top - not too thick or the caramel will squidge out the sides when you bite into it.


225g plain flour
75g caster sugar
375g salted butter
1 (379g) can sweetened condensed milk
4 tablespoons golden syrup
250g chocolate ( I usually use 1/2 milk and 1/2 dark so the chocolate isn't too sweet)

Preheat oven to 170C.

Put the flour and sugar into a mixing bowl and rub in 175g of butter, until the mixture looks like damp sand.

Press the shortbread mixture down firmly into the base of a buttered 8 x 8 square cake tin and make sure it's even. Prick the surface with a fork and cook for five minutes, then lower the temperature to 150C, and cook for a further 30 minutes until pale golden and no longer doughy.

Allow the crust to cool in the tin.

Melt the remaining butter in a heavy bottomed pan, then add the condensed milk and golden syrup. Whisk the mixture well until the butter is thoroughly incorporated.

Heat on medium 6-7 minutes until boiling, stirring constantly. The mixture may bubble up when it's boiling, just lift the pan off the heat until it goes down. The caramel is ready when it's thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon and turned a light golden brown.

Pour the caramel over the shortbread and leave to cool at room temperature and then place in the fridge for 1 hr.

Melt chocolate and pour over the set and chilled caramel mixture and leave to cool again.

Once set, cut the caramel shortbread into squares. You should get at least 24 from this.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Pesto Chicken

This is Joe's invention. It goes brilliantly with risotto and is impressive and easy to make. It doesn't sound like much, but the way the cheese in the pesto cooks when it's grilled makes it so much more than the sum of its parts.

Serves 2.


2 chicken breasts, skinless and boned
6 tbsp pesto (you can make your own but Sacla is pretty good for this)
15ml olive oil
15ml balsamic vinegar
15 ml soy sauce
Pinch of salt

In a bowl, combine the pesto with the olive oil, soy sauce, balsamic, and salt.

Marinade chicken breasts in the mixture for as long as possible - overnight is ideal. Even an hour helps.

Make a little tray from tin foil.

Place the chicken on the tray, and grill on a low temperature, basting regularly with the rest of the marinade and the oil that runs off. The pecorino cheese in the pesto will darken, sizzle and blacken, which is excellent. If you baste regularly, the chicken will have a nice dark color overall.

It takes about 20 minutes to cook.

Monday, February 8, 2010


I have mixed feelings about brownies. When they're good, they can be an easy crowd-pleasing snack. When they're bad they can be either rock hard or so gooey that they feel uncooked.

This recipe satisfies everything that I want in a brownie; rich and chewy.

If you don't like coffee you can replace it with extra flour as it does give the brownies quite the caffeine kick! Use as fine a grind of coffee as you can.


200g 70% cocoa chocolate
115g butter
40g cocoa powder
3 large eggs
285g granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt
200g plain flour
28g ground coffee

Preheat oven to 170C.

Melt both chocolate and butter together in pan on the hob, stirring frequently and removing from heat as soon as it's melted. Stir in cocoa powder.

Whisk eggs, sugar, vanilla and salt together in a mixing bowl.

Add the melted chocolate mixture and beat well.

Add the flour and stir until just blended.

Pour into an 8 inch square buttered pan.

Bake for 35-40 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes away with a couple of just-moist crumbs attached. You want the centre to be cooked, but not over-cooked.

Cool on a wire rack and cut. You can easily get 16 brownies from this.