Friday, 14 June 2013

Clever Daddy

This week, as its Father’s day, I wanted to write a recipe for my Dad. Dads are pretty great, they can fix all kinds of things, hang pictures, know what the difference between a spanner and a screwdriver is, all the stuff that as a girl you don't really bother trying to remember. They are also good for scaring off any potential suitors, and I reckon from my experience Dads are a pretty good judge of character, if only I’d have listened at the time.

When I think about my Dad and memories of food bacon always springs to mind, well breakfast time in general. Dad would always be able to throw together a pretty decent breakfast for us when we went to stay. I also, for some bizarre reason, thought of Maccy d's. I think it's actually the old clever daddy advert  that sparked the association because now I look back, I'm not sure that he ever actually took us there. However the powers of marketing are a good enough excuse for me to create a home made Mc.Muffin for my Dad.

Sausage or bacon was always a big question for me. I'm unsure why they make you choose. It’s like a mother being told there is only room for one of her children in the lifeboat. How do you decide? There should definitely be an option to have both. The lack of "Sausage, Bacon & Egg Mc.Muffin" on the menu is an epic fail in my eyes. If pushed though I’d go for bacon, or maybe sausage, no bacon… so I've put both in mine, because well, why not?

If you're not usually an fan of baking I really recommend you have a stab at making the muffins yourself. They're actually really simple to do and taste a lot better than the shop bought version. If you're lucky enough to have a nipper in the house you can always say they made them if you mess them up, which I'm sure you won't. Even so, shop bought is fine too. Who am I to judge anyway? Maybe don’t start making them at 10pm like I did though, not if you want a decent nights sleep.

So homemade or not give these a go on Sunday for a Father's Day brunch he’ll be made up (unless he is a veggie, if so then probably don’t make them). If anyone even thinks about topping theirs with a dollop of brown sauce rather than ketchup, I will be forced to withdraw the recipe, seriously…put the HP sauce down! Happy Fathers day Dad, and to all the Dads out there- enjoy!
The sausage, bacon & egg muffin.
Makes 6
(This recipe makes a batch of 6 muffins, they freezer really well if you don’t want to cook breakfast for 6, just slice them before freezing so you can toast them straight from frozen.)

6 good quality large sausages
6 rashes thick back bacon
6 eggs
6 slices cheese
small knob butter (optional)
ketchup, to serve
250g strong white bread flour
200-225ml lukewarm milk
10g sugar
25g butter or lard, melted
½ tsp salt
7g sachet fast action dried yeast
polenta, for dusting

1 In a food processor with a dough hook or mixing bowl combine all the muffin ingredients (apart from the polenta and milk.) Add the milk, with the machine running, you want a firm dough that’s not too sticky, but with no dry patches. You might not need all the milk, I used about 210ml. Knead by hand for 10 mins or by machine for 5-8 until the dough looks smooth, shiny and springs back when pressed.

2 Place into an oiled bowl, cover with oiled cling film and leave to rise in a warm place until doubled in size (about 1 hour 30).  Remove and roll out on a lightly oiled surface until about 2cm thick. Cut out using a 6-7cm circle cutter and place on a tray lined with polenta. Dust the tops with polenta. You can re roll the trimmings too but these don’t look as good as the first roll.

3 Cover again with oiled cling film and leave to prove until doubled in size. About another hour or so. Heat oven to 190C/170C fan oven. Heat a large non stick frying pan on a medium high heat. Brown the muffins for a min or so on each side then put back on the tray, Bake for 12-14 mins, with a roasting tray of water on the bottom to create steam. Cool on a wire rack.

4 OR Open packet! Squeeze the meat out of the sausage skins and shape into burger shapes. Dust in seasoned flour. Grill along with the bacon until crispy. Either fry your eggs or here is what I do to emulate that perfect weird round egg shape that Maccy’s have, grease a round ramekin, crack your egg inside. Season cover with cling film, then microwave on high for 45 seconds to 1 min (rotating the ramekin half way through) until cooked to your liking. You can do 3 at a time, they might need a bit longer though if more that one is in there.

5 Lightly toast muffins on each side under the grill and butter if you like. Put the  cheese slices on the base and grill for a few more seconds until starting to melt. Top with bacon, sausage patties and round egg. Admire, give to Dad, receive praise. Eat with ketchup and a cup of builders tea.

Sunday, 9 June 2013

A great British BBQ....

So it’s Sunday and we're having a family barbecue. We obviously wouldn't be barbecuing one of the family,.. that would be weird. Nope…. instead a load of meat. Brilliant !

It was actually a surprise welcome home party for a close family friend who has been in hospital for a long time. There is something about throwing the word surprise into an equation that makes people completely unable to act normally. You find
yourself totally fabricating your weekend plans to throw your unsuspecting guest off the scent. "Oh yeah I'm just popping over to… erm… France...yeah France for the day to get some…. erm...cheese. Yep, that’s it, to buy lots of lovely cheese." When really a simple "I have no plans" would suffice.

I love BBQ's, despite the fact you can never depend on the weather. Once you get over that and just dress appropriately (mac, jumper, gloves etc) they are always great fun. Something about the smell of the charcoal makes it seem so much more exciting than just an average lunch. Even the thought of the mandatory burnt banger can't dampen my excitement.

I wouldn't be cooking, not with both my brothers there. Although I had prepared all the food, and made the salads. No one ever really noticed salads anyway, and if they did you probably shouldn't have invited them in the first place.  I was under strict instructions from the Mother not to buy too much food. I think it might have been the scale of last week’s pie that was making her nervous. Understandably she had lost all faith in my portion control.

Not one to let the boys steal all the limelight I decided to make something good for dessert. I think meringues are perfect for the summer. Topped with lightly whipped vanilla cream and seasonal fruit they always look much more impressive than they have been to make. You can also cook them a few days In advance and just assemble on the day. Which means you have more time to eat hotdogs and drink Pimms, which I think we can all agree is never a bad thing.

The BBQ went well, it wasn't exactly hot but no rain was a win in my book. I might just mention though I probably wouldn't have burnt the sausages if they'd let me have a go....

N.B. if you have a stand mixer use it for this recipe, if not electric hand mixers are fine. Do not attempt this by hand. Unless you are a sadist, then by all means knock yourself out. Also make sure all your equipment is squeaky clean too, or the whites won't whisk up for agggeeeesss and you might miss the BBQ.

Summer fruit meringue cake
Serves 10-12

12 large egg whites (I buy a carton of those liquid egg white unless I am making something else that can use the yolks, they are by two chicks, Waitrose see them)
600g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla paste
1 tsp white wine vinegar
1 tsp cornflower
600ml pot double cream
2-3 tbsp icing sugar
2 tsp vanilla bean paste
Lots of fruit, I used cherries, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, apricots
6 tbsp cherry jam
3 tbsp cherry juice

1.  Put the egg white in the bowl of your mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or in a really large bowl. Beat until stiff peaks. If you hold the bowl above your head it won't fall out. Mind you if it does not only will you have not mixed it enough. You'll probably be pretty annoyed and covered in meringue too. So maybe don't do that. Add the sugar in 3 additions. Beating back to stiff peaks between each batch.  Fold in the vanilla, cornflower and vinegar.

2. Heat oven to 140/120C fan/gas 1. Get three sheets of parchment, drawn round the base of a cake tin or a round plate about 20cm in diameter. Then turn over so the pencil is on the bottom. Use a bit of the meringue mix to stick each parchment to a flat tray. Divide the mix between the three circles. Spread two so they have a flat top and leave the last one nice and swirly. It looks good on the top. Bake each one on a different shelf, shuffling them around while they cool so they cook evenly. After an hour and a half turn the oven off, open the door slightly and leave to cool completely in the oven.

3. Whip the cream, sugar and vanilla until just holding its shape. Gently heat the cherry jam and juice until you have a drizzling consistence.

4. Assemble on a cake stand, sandwich the layers with cream and fruit. Then finish with cream and loads of fruit on top. Drizzle with the cherry sauce and serve immediately.