Been to the west coast of Scotland a couple of times these last few weeks. It hasn’t been warm but, my Goodness, it’s been pretty. This was a trip I took with my friend Rosie. Good times.🙂
I’ve been toying with the idea of giving up the blog recently. Life in the last few years has got busier and I find myself with less time to experiment in the kitchen and capture my successes. But every time I thought about drawing a line under A Wee Bit of Cooking, I felt sad.
This blog has been going for almost 10 years now (!!!) and has always been a really positive part of my life. Not only have I “met” some truly lovely people and been given some fabulous opportunities, having a place to record beautiful/happy things in my life has often made me slow down and appreciate them more. And that’s not something I want to give up.
So I’m opting to remain once again.
Recipes coming soon. For now, let’s catch up with some iPhone photos from the last few months.
On the list to teach are Hot Cross Buns – beautiful, spiced tea cakes that are eaten around Easter. I’d never made them before and expected them to be tricky but it turns out, they are very straightforward to make at home and are miles better than anything I’ve ever bought in the shops. They also make the house smell utterly divine. Can see these being made all year round from now on.
Hot Cross Buns
300ml full-fat milk
10g sachet dried yeast
500g strong bread flour (plus approx. 50g more)
1 tsp salt
75g caster sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tspn mixed spice
60g mixed peel
1 egg , beaten
For the cross:
75g plain flour
For the glaze
3 tblspn caster sugar & 1 tblspn water
- Heat the milk and butter gently in a small pan until the butter has melted and the milk is warm. Remove from heat and leave until the milk is tepid. Add the yeast and leave for 10 mins.
- Meanwhile, sift the flour, salt, sugar and spices into a bowl. Stir in the sultanas and mixed peel until well distributed.
- Make a well in the dry ingredients then add the yeasty milk and egg. Stir to form a sticky dough. Tip dough onto a floured surface then knead for 10 – 15 minutes. If the dough is too wet to control, add a little more flour but do this very gradually. You’re looking for a soft, light dough. I do this by hand as I’ve found it difficult to get the consistency right in a mixer.
- Once dough is smooth and elastic, place in an oiled bowl. Cover and leave somewhere warm until double in size. Remove from bowl. Punch out the air and knead for another minute. Place in bowl to rise again.
- Once dough has doubled in size, remove from bowl and roll into a sausage shape. Cut tangerine sized pieces off the dough (75/80g) and roll into a ball. Place dough balls on a baking tray lined with parchment, 5cm apart. Continue until all the dough is used. Cover with a clean dish cloth and leave in a warm place to rise again. Preheat the oven to 220oC / 200oC(fan).
- Mix together the plain flour and water until a smooth paste has formed. It shouldn’t be too runny. Spoon into a plastic sandwich bag and cut the very tip off one corner. The dough squeezed out should be approximately 5mm wide – it’ll spread. Once dough balls have doubled in sized, slowly pipe crosses on each of the buns.
- Bake the buns in the oven for 10/15 mins until buns are bronzed and risen. Remove from oven.
- Whilst buns are baking, make the glaze. Add the sugar and water to a pan and heat gently until sugar is completely dissolved.
- Brush the hot buns with the glaze immediately after they come out of the oven. Place buns on a wire rack to cool down.
Best eaten warm with butter and/or jam. If you aren’t eating these on the day, freeze once cooled.
Made the following dish last summer and loved it. Knew at the time that we’d enjoy it even more come winter. And so we do. The bright flavours and warming spices are perfect for days when the frost lies thick on the ground and two pairs of socks just aren’t enough to keep the chill from your toes.
Venison and Black Bean Chili (adapted from Diana Henry’s Food from Plenty)
(serves 6 – freezes wonderfully)
300g dried black beans, soaked over night
750g diced venison
2 medium onions, chopped
4 plump garlic cloves, chopped
1 tspn dried chilli flakes
1 tblspn cumin
2 tins chopped tomatoes
600ml light ale or lager
1 tblspn tomato puree
1 tblspn brown suar
1 tblspn dried oregano
Chopped spring onion
Yogurt or sour cream
- Cook the beans in plenty of unsalted water until just tender. Drain and set aside.
- Add enough olive oil to cover the base of a large, heavy based pan. Heat to medium-high then brown the venison in small batches.
- Once all the venison is browned, place it to one side. Reduce the heat to medium and add the onion to the pan. Cook until truly soft and beginning to turn golden (about 20 mins).
- Add the garlic, chili flakes, cumin and oregano to the pan and cook for 30 seconds.
- Add the tomatoes, beer, sugar, and venison to the pan. Season with salt and pepper then bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer gently, covered, for an hour.
- Remove lid, add beans and cook for another hour until sauce is thickened and venison is tender.
- Serve topped with coriander, spring onions, a squeeze of lime and some sour cream.
Happy New Year!
Hope you all had a good festive season. I did but I’m very glad it’s over. Being ill and very tired before the holidays began, I wasn’t as enthusiastic about all the celebrations this year.
These early, quiet days of January are very welcome. I haven’t left the village since Hogmanay. Marco has been walked mostly along the shore, I’ve read a few books and I’ve been cooking with whatever is in the cupboard rather than venturing out to the supermarket.
In my cupboard, it turns out, are a lot of carrots and chickpeas. And carrots and chickpeas, I have discovered, are a great combination.
Made the following salad the other night and it’s a winner. It’s all about the contrasting textures, I think. Chewy chickpeas. Sweet, sticky, roasted carrots. Nubbly grains. Crunchy, lemon dressed red onion. You could eat this salad as a side but add a dollop of Greek yogurt and this is a meal in its own.
Roasted Carrot and Chickpea Salad (serves 2)
I find it easier to think about this salad in its component parts first. Start with the grains. While they are cooking, get on with the other parts. Don’t combine the ingredients when hot. Warm or cool is better.
Start by preheating an oven to 190 oC. You’ll need two baking trays as the carrots and chickpeas should roast seperately to avoid the flavours combining and so you can cook each perfectly.
For the grains:
½ cup quinoa or bulgar
2 celery stick, chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped
¾ cup stock or water
Fry the celery in a little olive oil over a medium heat until it begins to soften (5 mins). Add the garlic and cook for another 2 mins. Stir in the grains. Add the water and increase the heat. Once the liquid begins to boil, reduce the heat to low and put a clear lid on the pad. Cook until the liquid has been absorbed and little air pockets appear in the surface of the grains. Remove from heat and let sit for 10 mins without removing lid. Remove lid and fluff with a fork. Allow to steam dry. Season carefully.
For the Carrots:
4 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1 cm pieces
1 tspn honey
1 tpsn cumin
Toss the carrots in a little olive oil then roast for 15 minutes until starting to soften. Heat the honey until liquid (I just put it in the oven in a heat proof dish for 2 mins), add the cumin and pepper. Remove the carrots from the oven and toss in the spiced honey. Roast for another 10 mins until carrots start to caramelise.
For the chickpeas:
400g tin of chickpeas
½ tspn smoked paprika
Pinch of chilli powder
Rinse and drain the chickpeas well. Toss with a little olive oil, the spices and the salt. Roast for 20 – 25 mins until chickpeas darken slightly and become nutty.
For the onion:
½ onion, finely chopped
Juice of half a lemon
While the carrots and chickpeas are in the oven, let the onion marinate in the lemon juice.
1 tblspn chopped coriander
1 tblspn chopped parsley
Toss the grains, carrots, chickpeas, onions and herbs together.
Serve with a dollop of Greek yoghurt.