Thursday, 25 October 2012

Harvest Time Mac n Cheese

You all know how much I love a good mac n cheese (not that I've ever come across a bad mac n cheese) and that I could pretty much eat it for breakfast, lunch, dinner and a few snacks in between.  I've met the odd person over the past few years who can't stand the stuff...but for the most part I think that people just love mac n cheese.  I don't know what it is about a warm bowl of cheese covered pasta but it just warms my heart, like a big comforting hug.  Mac n Cheese just does it for me.  

This week my MIL and SIL were up visiting and on Monday while I was at work (sob sob) the wonderful David treated them to an afternoon on the beach at North Berwick. Keeping in mind that this is Scotland and it is October I planned our meal wisely...what better to come home to after a day of walking in the wind and rain than a steaming dish of mac n cheese.  

I wanted to make this mac hearty, filling, rich, creamy and above all different.  Ages ago I made a mac n cheese with chunks of roasted butternut squash, which was a big I thought I would tweak that a bit.  Added veggies must negate the calories in the cheese...right? The chunks of squash in the mac I made before were great, but I wanted something silkier...I wanted a really smooth and creamy dish.  

I cut a butternut squash in half length wise, scooped out the seeds and put it cut side down into a baking dish and then into the oven (180f ish) for about 40 mins.  I wanted the squash to be soft enough to just scrape it out of the skin.  While the squash was roasting I put a huge pan of water onto boil and then cooked and drained 500g of elbow macaroni (I feel very strongly about only using elbow macaroni for my mac).  

I like to make my cheese sauce right in my shallow Le Creuset casserole because it can be used on the stove top, plus it saves on washing yet another pot and I can generally tell if there is enough sauce for all the pasta.  My basic cheese sauce is 50g of butter melted until bubbling and then 2 tbsp of flour whisked in for a couple of minutes.  I then add 300ml of milk and stir until nice and thick.  I usually add a pinch of cayenne and mustard powder and a good crank of pepper and salt.  For this mac I used a extra mature cheddar, but sometimes I use a mixture of cheddar, edam, gouda, mozzarella...whatever is on hand.  About 200g grated (a handful reserved for the topping) goes into the white sauce.  To make the sauce creamy I added 150ml of creme fraiche (full fat), and then scraped out the squash (once it was  really soft) using a fork and added it to the cheesy mixture.  

Then in with the pasta and mixed it all up.  If the pasta wasn't really covered I would have added a bit more creme fraiche or some more milk...but luckily this time I had made just the right amount of cheese sauce.  I topped the dish with the cheese I had saved, a naughty sprinkle of store bought breadcrumbs (I just happened to have in the cupboard) and a quick drizzle of olive oil to help the bread crumbs brown.  Into the oven it went (180f ish) for about 20 mins until it was crisp and golden on top.  Between 4 greedy adults there was barely a scoop left.  

I have to say this was hands down the best mac n cheese I've had for a long time.  I christened it my Harvest Mac since pumpkins and squash are in abundance at the moment, but seeing as I can get butternut squash all year round at the supermarket I think it might just become my not-so-boring  standard.  

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Perfect pairings

Red Jacket paired with 
Ginger Cupcake from Vanilla Cream Bakery

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Scandilicious Cinnamon Bun CAKE

I am supposed to be on a cake break...there is a dress I need to fit into at Christmas time and all the incredible Edinburgh cakes I've been eating and making lately are not going to make it easy.  That said, we have 2 weekends of house guests staying over the next fortnight and it would be rude not to have something for them to nibble away at...right? 

I loved the look of this cinnamon bun 'cake' the moment I set eyes on the picture in Scandilicious Baking.  It reminded me of buying sticky buns back home in Canada, and the time I was at a friend's cottage and we got up extra early to go to 'the best' bakery out in the middle of nowhere to buy a circular tray of sticky buns (devoured with tim hortons coffee down at the dock).  

The recipe is easy to follow, made even easier by using the dough hook on my stand mixer.  Instructions are given for using plain flour as well as spelt flours.  I used a mixture of white bread flour and wholegrain spelt flour.  Initially the dough was very sticky, but after the first proving it was soft and easy to work with and although the spelt flour gives the dough a sweeter flavour I feel more virtuous using is wholegrain after all.  Just ignore the fact that it is the slathered in a buttery sugary cinnamony paste, rolled up tightly, cut into rounds and squished into a tin only to be glazed and topped with more sugar! 

The buns hold together really nicely.  It is advised to let the cake cool before eating but it is truly satisfying ripping right into the buns while they are still super soft and slightly doughy.  If you can manage to wait until cooled try cutting into slices using a bread knife...either way...yum! 

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Lemon Squares for an Afternoon Tea Party

I went to a lovely little afternoon Tea Party at a friend's house today. It was perfectly gorgeous and dainty and everything a tea party should be.  I took along some lemon squares that I whipped up Saturday afternoon.  

These lemon squares take no time at all and a really easy to make.  The base is a shortbread mixture pressed into the tin and baked until just starting to turn golden.  The topping is a combination of eggs, sugar, baking powder, and lemon juice.   They really are that easy.  

A little dust of icing sugar finishes them off...but best not to dust before transit.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Belleau Kitchen Random Recipes #21 Store Cupboard Finds

I daren't look at the back of my cupboards.  I have no idea what might be lurking there.  Once in a while I will build up the courage to get the step stool out, clamber up and peer into the deepest darkest corners of the cupboards.  I usually find something like mincemeat or condensed milk or something else bought with the best of intentions (like the tube of chestnut paste recently purchased in Paris), this time I found...Sardines.  I remember purchasing them for lunch a month or so ago and then changing my mind and having an egg or something else instead.  So there the lonely tin of Portuguese BONELESS Sardines have sat...waiting.  

Thank goodness Dom from Belleau Kitchen challenged his readers to randomly select an ingredient from the cupboard for this month's Random Recipe.   Who knows how long the poor tin would have sat there, unloved, unopened, unused. 

I didn't use a cookbook recipe this month.  I used a trusty old quick school night supper standby instead, so forgive me Dom.  

I like to think of this as my version of Pasta Puttanesca...the whole dish takes the time it takes to boil the water and cook the spaghetti.  The recipe (for 2) goes a little something like this: 

Rush in the door and before you have taken off your coat put a large pan of water onto boil.  Take off coat (hang up coat) and get down to business.  While the water is boiling heat a generous glug of oil in your largest sautee pan and add to that 1/2 red onion finely chopped, 1 clove garlic pressed, and a sprinkle of chilli flakes.  Once the onion is soft toss in 200g cherry tomatoes, quartered and softly cook until the tomatoes break up.  By now the water should be boiled.  Salt the water and add enough spaghetti for 2 greedy people.  Add a couple of Tbsp of the pasta water to the tomato sauce when it looks like it is getting a bit dry.  When the pasta is almost cooked add 1 Tbsp (minimum) capers, rinsed if too salty and the sardines (minus the oil) from one tin.  Use a spatula to break the sardines up a bit.  Before draining the pasta I reserve about 1/3 of a cup of the pasta water.  Drain the pasta, add it into the sautee pan with the sauce and toss to coat.  Add a little bit of the cooking water if you feel it is needed.  I'd normally toss in a handful of chopped parsley or basil and lots of black pepper.  

Pile high in bowls and devour.  

Saturday, 6 October 2012

we baked and then we shaked (shook) at the Aga Store

Last week I took my mum along to The Bake & Shake event at the Aga Store in Edinburgh.  The plan for the evening was simple...we would learn to bake in an Aga and while the cakes were baking we would build up and appetite learning some belly-dancing moves.  I'll admit it sounded a bit scary at first...two new skills in one evening, but it was so so so fun.  

I've never dared step foot in the Aga Store before...In my real life I am, sadly, not in the market for an my dreams I am.  In the past I have only managed to stick my nose to the glass and sigh so it was a real treat to step inside and touch.  

There were about 12 participants and with the help of Aga Champions we baked 4 different traybakes. Under the tutelage of the champions we discovered the differences between baking in an Aga and a conventional oven, the different functions of the various compartments and the role an Aga can play in other household tasks...ironing, drying, heating.  I found myself thinking through the finances while I mixed the brownie mixture. 

Sigh...there is something so romantic about the thought of the Aga being the heart of the home.  I caught myself daydreaming about a lovely cosy kitchen with a gorgeous ice blue Aga...sigh.  

With the cakes in the oven we were invited into the main section of the shop where we shaked (shook). We learnt a handful of belly-dancing moves...attempted to put them together into a little routine...and had a good laugh while doing so!   

Chocolate Brownies, Banana Chocolate Chip Cake and a Fruit Cake appeared while we were still shaking (the champions were keeping an expert eye on things).  

The staff at the Aga store and the champions were very welcoming, very friendly, very helpful and very encouraging. After baking and shaking we had a chance to taste the goods and chat.  The evening was a resounding success, I'd say, and I hope they become a regular feature at the Aga store.  These evening will quite possibly be the only opportunities I will have to use an Aga.  

(mum's favourite) 

If you are in Edinburgh and interested in attending a future event subscribe to the Edinburgh Cake Ladies' Blog.