Olive and thyme bread...

This week I've started to bake for my upcoming engagement party. It's not for a few weeks but me and my mama are doing the catering ourselves and there is no way we will be able to make enough food for 70 people on the day of the party- so I decided to start making some of the breads and quiches and popping them in the freezer to be put back in the oven on the day. 

Today I whipped up a few loafs of my fail safe olive and thyme bread. It's super easy and really delicious on it's own or dipped in to olive oil and balsamic vinegar served with antipasti! Find the recipe below!

Here's the recipe (slightly adapted from this book), enjoy!:
- 200g strong white bread flour
- 75g strong seeded wholemeal bread flour
- 7g sachet fast action dried yeast
- Sprinkle of sea salt
- 200ml luke warm water
- Around 70g green olives
- A small bunch of fresh thyme 
Start by combining the two bread flours, the yeast and the salt in a large bowl.  
Make a well in the middle and add the water. Either form the dough using your hands or pop it in a mixer with a dough attachment. Knead the dough for 10 minutes by hand or for 4 minutes on a slow speed with a dough hook. 
Put the dough in a large bowl and cover with cling film. Leave in a warm place for about an hour or until the dough has doubled in size.  
When it has risen, punch the dough down and turn it out on to a well floured work surface. Gently press the dough out to form a rectangle approx 40cm X 20cm.  
Arrange the olives down the middle third of the dough. You can use as many or as little olives as you like, but try and stick to a single layer. If your olives come in liquid make sure they are well drained before placing them on the dough to avoid any sogginess.  
Fold the outer thirds of the dough in on to the middle one to envelope the olives (see photo for help with this!) and pinch the ends to seal. Turn the dough over and cover with a damp tea towel or cling film.  
Leave for a further 45 minutes or until doubled in size.  
Towards the end of the rising period, preheat your oven to gas mark 8/230c/450f and place one baking tin at the very bottom of the oven (I'll explain this tip...) and another big enough to transfer your bread on to in the middle of the oven to heat up.  
When your dough is risen, place it on grease proof paper on the pre heated tray and pop it in the oven.  
A tip for a crunchy crust: put a baking tin at the bottom of your oven to heat up. When you place your bread in the oven, throw a cup of cold water into the tin at the bottom and shut the door super quick. The steam helps the crust to form!
I hope you find this recipe as easy and impressive as I do!

The Makery Emporium: Bath

When I move to a new area there are a few things on my mind- where is the nearest/best haberdashery and where can I get my baking supplies? Whilst wondering the streets a couple of weeks ago I came across The Makery Emporium (16 Northumberland Place, BA15AR). Entering the shop is like going into a hidden treasure trove of loveliness. Vintage and new ribbons, lace, buttons, trims, bobbles, fabrics, books, hoops, stamps- you name it! 
The great thing about The Makery Emporium is that they also run crafts and sewing workshops, from tea cosy and lampshade making to simple zips and buttons classes. If you live in or around Bath it's definitely worth checking out their workshops. I definitely intend on doing the knicker making and furniture revamp workshops when I get chance!
Until you get a chance to visit yourself, here's some photos I took when I popped in last weekend.


Gingerbread hearts...

Everyone in my family absolutely adores gingerbread so I decided to make some the other day. I find that it's really hard to get gingerbread right. The dough is always really soft and flakey and they always spread out far too much in the oven. After a few disastrous batches I realised it was because I didn't roll the dough out thin enough. Anyway, here's the recipe and I wish you all the luck in the world with gingerbread success!
- 350g plain flour
- 1tsp baking powder
- 3 tsp ground ginger
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp all spice/mixed spice
- 125g butter/margarine
- 1 beaten egg
- 5 tbsp golden syrup 
Pop the flour, baking powder, and spices into a large mixing bowl and thoroughly mix.
Add the butter/marg and rub until the mixture turns into fine breadcrumbs.  
Mix together the beaten egg with the golden syrup and add to the mixture.  
Either form this mixture into a ball with your hands and knead for a few minutes until smooth, or pop it in a mixer with a dough hook for a few minutes. 
Wrap the dough in cling film and pop it in the fridge for 15-20 minutes to firm up. 
Roll out on a floured surface and cut out your shapes.  
Cook on gas mark 4 for 12-15 minutes. When you take them out the oven they might seem a little soft- don't worry. They'll harden up when they cool. If they're hard when they come out the oven then you'll probably break your teeth on them!



Mini victoria sandwiches...

With the Queen's Diamond Jubilee coming up I'm feeling very British, and I can't think of a more quintessentially British cake than a good old victoria sandwich.

I'm currently living at my parents house in a village in Leicestershire and there are huge plans for street parties and parties in parks for the Jubilee, I've managed to bag myself a stall at the park on Jubilee day selling cakes- so I thought I'd give these a trial run to see how they work out!

Chicken, chorizo and red pepper bake...

For Sunday dinner last week I decided to do something a bit different. I threw together a super quick meal that was really tasty and enough for the whole family. Serves 6 easily and this recipe can be made as big as you need. You should definitely try it out tomorrow! Here's the recipe:
- Big drizzle of olive oil
- 2 large white onions
- 2 sweet pointed red peppers. This will work just as well with bell peppers!
-  Half a chorizo round
- 6 chicken thighs
- A small bunch of fresh oregano 

It's so simple. Just get a big baking tray and drizzle with olive olive. Dice the onions roughly and chuck them in. Do the same with the peppers.
Throw in thick cut chorizo and place the chicken thighs on top. Sprinkle the oregano on top.
I cooked it for 2 hours on gas mark 4 and whacked it up to gas mark 7 for 10 minutes at the end to crispen up the chicken skin. 
You can also cook it for 30 minutes on gas mark 6/7. However, you'll get a lot more juice from the chicken if you cook it slowly. 
I served up with spicy brown rice. Delicious. 

UPDATE (16/05/12): Do you ever go through phases when you're really into a certain flavour or combination? Well, at the moment we're stuck on chicken and chorizo! I just wanted to add that last night we made chicken and chorizo pasta following a recipe similar to the one above and it was DELICIOUS! I fried off the onions, red peppers and chorizo for a few minutes then thrown the chicken in. Add a tin of chopped tomatoes and sift in a tablespoon of flour to thicken. Stir in about 100ml of double cream and voila! Divine chicken and chorizo pasta! I put some fresh pasta into boil and served immediately. 

Cheap herbs in old crates...

I wanted to share this little herb garden that I put together the other day.

As you all know, I'm organising mine and Rob's engagement party for June so the other day I took a trip to Aldi to get some knock off Pimm's (it's called Austin's, it's £5.99 and it tastes exactly the same- even the Good Housekeeping Institute agree!) and I came across these little herb pots for £2.99 for 6. I'm a sucker for a bargain so I got two. If you're into this sort of stuff then go and get some! They have parsley, oregano, mint, thyme, chives and basil.

I planted them in these old crates that my mum picked up from an orchard in Essex in the 80's (how they have survived in our garage so long I do not know...) You can find them online but they're pretty expensive. If you know anyone that grows fruit/veg go and visit them, we bought some more a couple of months ago from a local corn grower for £5 each and we planted them up and sold them. 

Just a little tip!

Spinach, new potato and stilton quiche...

After exhausting all options for what food to have at our engagement party, we've finally decided on a giant tea party style buffet (unless you've got any other ideas for feeding 80 people on a budget?) We've been through giant paellas, hog roasts, huge joints of pork and beef, and none of them work for various reasons. So buffet it is. We're all good cooks in my family so I'm sure me, mama and my grandma can knock up something tasty. 

So the minute we decided buffet, I had this idea of having different quiches on cake stands. I love quiche but I'd never made one before so yesterday I decided to give it a go. 

I slightly adapted a recipe from the Great British Bake Off book available here for £9.39. The recipes in this book are fantastic for amateur bakers but it's also got some great pastry recipes for the more adventurous!

The quiche I made was spinach, new potato and stilton on a walnut shortcrust pastry. If I made it again I'd leave out the new potatoes because I found it a bit heavy but that's just personal preference! 

It's a bit long winded and takes some time but it's definitely worth it! Here's the recipe:
For the pastry:
- 200g plain flour
- 100g butter or margarine
- A good pinch of salt
- 50g walnuts, blitzed in a blender to breadcrumb size
- 1 tsp paprika
- 2 large eggs, beaten
For the filling:
- 200g baby spinach
- 200g new potatoes. I used drained tinned new potatoes
- 3 large eggs
- 250ml double cream
- Zest of 1 lemon
- 25g parmesan cheese
- Small bunch of fresh thyme
- 150g crumbled stilton
- 23cm deep loose-based flan tin
- Baking beans 
To make the pastry, mix together the flour, the salt and the paprika. Add the butter and rub the mixture until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Mix in the walnuts. 
Add one of the beaten eggs and combine the mixture into a non-sticky firm ball. If the mixture is still crumbly, add more more of the other egg. Set the rest of the beaten egg aside for later.
Turn the dough out on to a floured work surface and roll out in a rough circle to about 2cm thick. Wrap the dough in cling film and pop it in the fridge for about half an hour. 
When the dough is nicely chilled, roll it out between two sheets of cling film into a circle approx 0.5cm thick. 
Line your flan tin with thick tin foil or grease proof paper and place the pastry into the tin, making sure to gently press it around the base. Neaten up the top edges and prick the pastry with a fork. Return for the fridge for a further 20 minutes. 
Preheat the oven to gas mark 4/350f/180c. 
Whilst you're waiting for the pastry to chill, start making the filling.
Wash the spinach and plunge it into a pan of boiling water. Cover and boil for about 3/4 minutes until wilted. Drain the spinach and leave to cool. Once cool, pop the spinach into a clean dry tea towel and wrap it up. Squeeze out all the excess water. Make sure this is done thoroughly or your filling could be soggy! Chop the spinach finely.
Chop the new potatoes into thin slices, about 0.5cm. 
Whisk the eggs and then add the cream a bit at a time. Whisk in the lemon zest, parmesan and a bit of salt and pepper. Add the spinach and half of the thyme and mix thoroughly. 
By now, your pastry should be chilled and it's time to blind bake it. Fill the pastry case with grease proof paper or tin foil and fill with baking beans. Pop in the oven for 10-15 minutes. 
Once it's been baked, brush it with the left over beaten egg and pop it back in the oven uncovered for a further 5 minutes.
When it's done, layer the potatoes and sprinkle the stilton on the bottom of the pastry. Fill the case with the pre-prepared filling and sprinkle thyme on top. 
Bake for 30-40 minutes or until the filling is golden brown and the middle is a bit wobbly. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for about 10 minutes before serving. It'll continue to set once it's out the oven so don't worry if it's a little wobbly!
As I said, it's a bit long winded but definitely worth it! 

Enjoy! Hope you're having a lovely Sunday. I'm making a chicken thigh, tomato and macaroni bake from one of the Leon cook books for Sunday dinner. I'll post the recipe soon!

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