Semolina

semolina and strawberries

When I was a child, milk based puddings popped up regularly on the menu at home. Rice pudding, angel delight, custard and of course, semolina.

I haven’t eaten semolina pudding for decades, but always have a bag of the stuff in, as I add a little to shortbread biscuits.  More recently though I have joined the terribly fashionable crowd, and started buying semolina to shake onto my par boiled potatoes before popping them in the oven to roast.  I know, marvellous.  To be fair it does give the potato an amazing crunch if the fat is hot enough.  Goose fat, naturally.

Today, as we were shopping for a few bits and pieces, the wee boy asked if we could buy a block of jelly cubes.  As we hovered in the puddings section of the supermarket, I looked up and saw a box of semolina, so, out of curiosity, had a look to see how it was made.

During my childhood, semolina was always made on the hob, then put into a buttered dish with a few extra knobs of butter and nutmeg grated on top.  But did you know it tastes as delicious just cooked on the hob?  In fact, hot or cold, it’s quite the pudding.  It takes just three ingredients to make, 100g semolina, 1 litre of milk and only 25g castor sugar.

When I look at all the prepared puddings, such as low fat yoghurts, ready made jellies, etc. and how much sugar they contain, I am flabbergasted that more people aren’t substituting them for more home made milk puddings.  They are absolutely delicious.

Anyway, the wee boy and I have spent the afternoon in our pretend cooksTV kitchen, experimenting with semolina.  We have tried it both hot and cold, with and without fruit, with and without vanilla (much better without), with and without nutmeg (lovely either way) and with and without jam mixed in ( which most definitely reminded me of school dinners).

It’s been a fun afternoon, with more than a hint of nostalgia and a taste of home thrown in.  Perfect.

Brownies

Brownies

There are many cakes that I will probably, through lack of knowledge of their existence, never bake.  But a brownie is not one of them.  Although to be fair, it has only been in the last couple of years that I have even considered making them at home and not just buying them to eat when meeting friends at the coffee shop.

Brownies have recently become synonymous with morning coffee, perhaps in part due to their American origins, although I have a sneaking suspicion that it is more likely because they compliment a hot drink wonderfully, so they, like so many other cakes, have naturally veered towards the morning or afternoon ‘nibble’ slot.   Although according to thenibble.com brownies are actually a bar cookie as opposed to a cake because,

“…brownies are finger food, like cookies, and cake is eaten with a fork”

I don’t know about you, but I can eat cake very nicely without a fork, thank-you. Moreover, I always presumed the classification process was more about how the item was baked and it’s consistency.  But who am I to argue?  Although there is another issue, on our little island, regarding whether it should be taxed or not, based on the classification of whether the food is a biscuit or cake.  And for those of you who are the slightest bit interested, may I guide you to the ‘Jaffa Cake Fiasco’ for more, vitally important and gripping details.   *Ahem*

Meanwhile, the brownie recipe I follow is a gloriously simple one, promoted by the one and only Nigella Lawson, who, for any of you that didn’t see it, read out with wonderful precision, the Eurovision results for our little island this year.  A show dedicated to all things gloriously ironic and ever so slightly camp.  Perfect for our sense of humour.

And now let me shimmy, seamlessly, to the ingredients.  You will need 375g butter, 375g good dark chocolate.  Melt together, leave to cool slightly.  Meanwhile, mix together 225g plain flour, 1 teaspoon salt, 300g chopped nuts (usually walnuts, but yesterday I did a mixture of walnuts, pecans and almonds simply because I didn’t have enough walnuts) into a bowl.   Then add six large eggs, 500g castor sugar and 1 tablespoonful of vanilla extract into another bowl and whisk together.

When the melted chocolate mix has cooled slightly, add the whisked egg mixture and then the flour nut combo.  Pour into a greased and lined rectangular dish, depending on the size of brownie you would like.

Cook at gas mark 4 for around 25 minutes.  As soon as the mixture stops wobbling, and the top has cracked and turned a lighter brown, whip them out of the oven and leave to cool before cutting.

Make a coffee (or tea) and sit down, brownie in one hand, drink in the other, for five minutes – or 30 seconds in my case –  of absolute pleasure.

Car Biscuits

car biscuits #2

As those of you who read regularly will know, once a week the wee boy and I have our ‘me and you’ day.  Sometimes these days are filled with places to go and people to meet.  Other times they are less busy which affords us the pleasure of doing something we both enjoy.  Baking.  So, by popular request, today we made car biscuits.

There is nothing special about these biscuits other than they are made together, over time and with love.

For those of you who may have the slightest interest, they are in fact, shortbread biscuits.  250g butter, 88g castor sugar, 275g plain flour and 25g semolina.  The semolina is not a necessity needed to make shortbread, but in my experience it gives that extra ‘shortness’ to the biscuit which I find irresistible.  You may, on the other hand, not enjoy such a ‘short’ biscuit in which case just replace the semolina with plain flour.

Mix butter and sugar together but don’t over cream.  Add the flour and semolina until the whole thing starts to chase itself around the bowl and become one.  Roll out on a floured surface until the mixture is half a centimetre or so thick.  Cut out and place on a butter and floured baking tray.  Prick the biscuits to stop them from rising.  Bake in a warmed oven, gas mark 3 until they look ready.

Take off the baking tray and place on a cooling rack.  Dip into melted chocolate.  Leave to cool.

The wee one has not, until recently, been that interested in using shapes to cut out but was quite insistent that we made cars from a cutter he had found in one of those ‘chuck everything in and put the lid on’ boxes.  And then there was the chocolate. We had actually bought some chocolate buttons from a stall in the market, but sadly they disappeared, slowly but surely, until we weren’t left with enough to dip a cornflake in, so ended up buying a cheap bar from somewhere else and just melting it.

Obviously with the amount of ‘quality control’ that was needed throughout the process, we were not able to dip all the cars into the chocolate, however, it’s quite nice to have a mixture.

Meanwhile the delights of stirring, adding, scooping and cutting have been glorious.

And the biscuits?

Delicious, though I say so myself.

Strawberries in Dark Syrup

photo (58)

It is thanks, once again, to Nigella, that I discovered this most fabulous and extremely easy recipe which uses strawberries in a different way, because, as much as I love strawberries, they are not now at their best really and quite frankly, everything needs a little pick me up sometimes.

So, as I said, this is an absolute doddle to do, and it is as follows:

1kg Strawberries

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

10 tablespoons castor sugar

Time

Put all in a bowl (barring the time), stir, cover with cling film and place in the fridge for at least three hours according to Nigella, although I reckon an overnight stay in the fridge helps everything along very nicely thank-you.  Give it a stir occasionally to make sure all the strawberries are coated.

There are a couple of things to remember.  Firstly, these are best ‘with’ something. Yesterday we had them with American pancakes.  Sponge cake is good, basically anything that soaks up the deliciously sweet sauce is fantastic.   They are also very delicious warmed up and poured over very cold vanilla ice cream.  I wouldn’t recommend a cream accompaniment, too much sloshing round in one bowl for my taste.  However, you may absolutely love it.

The other thing is, make sure your quantities are relatively accurate.  I made the mistake of having a few too little strawberries yesterday, and although I halved the vinegar sugar combo, there was a hint of vinegar lingering disparagingly in the background like a unknown, quiet guest.  Not unpleasant, but not engaging either.

Once you have had these, I promise you, the flavour will tease you for days afterwards, enticing you to make some more and share the discovery with your family and friends, who will be bowled over too.  Job done.