Saturday, 28 September 2013

Mini Chocolate Scones with Pear Compote

These scones are bloomin’ marvellous!

Mini Chocolate Scones

Oh, don’t mind me over here blowing my own trumpet.  It’s just that I could eat these all day, every day. They are (as most really, really good baking recipes are by my standards) adapted from my Mum’s recipe – so are inevitably going to be scrummy. I would be in a lot of trouble from Mother Hen but, she doesn’t know how to “do a blog” as she says. And well, what’s the point in me spending time teaching her how easy it is? When once she’s in front of the screen, mouse in hand, she’s going to get **new technology fear!! Get me a pen and a piece of paper!!** syndrome and forget everything I’ve told her. So I’ll give her the credit she deserves but put it up in full glory on my blog.

This recipe is adapted from her basic scone recipe, with my added twist of chocolate. And the pear compote is a perfect pairing (and my own recipe!). So actually, this dish is almost entirely my own creation. Mum, you’re lucky you got a mention!

Scones are just perfect for this time of year. Like most people, the darkening days and change in weather has got me down. I remember writing something similar around this time of year last year, when I made soup. This year, the comfort factor has been taken up a notch. Warm, sweet scones are the perfect comfort food and taste of home, alongside a big cup of tea, naturally. And they could be said to be very en vogue what with Bake Off and Downton (follow the links if you’ve been living under a rock or if you are not familiar with these British obsessions) back on our screens.

So over the winter period, on a Sunday night when most of us can be found snuggled under a blanket in front of the box, I would definitely recommend trying these British classics. And of course this recipe can be adapted to incorporate your favourite flavours – apple, hazelnut, lavender, orange and chocolate whatever takes your fancy really, this recipe definitely allows for experimentation.

Mini Chocolate Scones with Pear Compote (serves about 10)

Pear Compote:
4 Williams pears, peeled and chopped
6 tbsp (jam) sugar
1 star anise
2 tbsp hot water

Mini Chocolate Scones:
300g self raising flour
75g butter, cut into cubes
2 tbsp caster sugar
50g chocolate (with at least 40% cocoa solids)
150ml milk

Start with the pear compote...

1. Peel and chop the pears into small cubes. Put all the ingredients into a microwavable bowl. Then follow the same instructions here for my microwavable jam. You should not expect a jammy texture for this compote though – it is much more dry and the pears do not break down as much. However look out for a change in colour. The pears should darken a little and soften slightly. The texture you’re left with goes perfectly with these scones.

Pear Compote

Now for the scones...

1. First put your oven at 200ºC on to preheat so it is well heated before the scones go in.

Butter and flour now resembles sand!

2. Next, weigh out the flour. Sift into a large bowl. Add the butter and rub the butter into the flour between your finger tips (as seen in the video above). Keep going until the mixture resembles sand or fine breadcrumbs. Keep the mixture light and airy by lifting it through your fingers 

Notice the round-bladed knife

3. Pour in the milk and spoon in the sugar. Mix together using a wooden spoon or round-bladed knife. Once it begins to incorporate add in your chopped chocolate pieces. (I prefer these to chocolate chips as they’re all different sizes adding texture, and you can get bigger chunks – which is always a good thing with chocolate!)

Cutting out the scones

4. Once the mixture comes together, tip out onto a well floured work surface. Knead slightly to remove any cracks in the dough. Be gently though as you don’t want to knock out all the air and over work your dough. Flatten out using your hands until the dough is 1.5cm in thickness. Use a 6cm pastry cutter to cut out your scones. (If you don’t have a pastry cutter you can use a knife to shape them manually or trace round a bottle – just try and keep them all the same shape so they cook at the same rate.) You should get around 10-12 scones from this mixture.

Almost ready for the oven!

5. Transfer onto a baking sheet lined tray. Give the scones space between them as they will expand. Brush each scone with some milk – this will give them a lovely golden sheen. Bake in a preheated oven for 10-12 minutes at 200ºC until golden brown.  

My Mini Chocoalte Scones with Pear Compote

6. Once baked transfer onto a cooling rack. You can have them warm or cold. I like them best warm, with a dollop of whipped cream and a spoon of pear compote. Delicious!

I think I'm ready for Bake Off and Downton!

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Until next time... 

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Chutney Cheese Sandwich with Pickled Onions

With September being the start of the academic year (here in the UK at least), it got me thinking about my school lunch box. Kids these days seem to have such exotic palates, growing up exposed to so many different cuisines both at home and when they go out, I can’t imagine they are satisfied with just a sandwich and a piece of fruit anymore. However when I was growing up my packed lunch always begun with a sandwich – cucumber and mustard mainly, sometimes jam, sometimes peanut butter, often the two together (you can tell I had a limited palate). Something between two slices of bread was always the starting point for my lunch box, followed by a box of fruit, packet of crisps, maybe a chocolate or a piece of cake and a couple of snacks for the journey home (I had a very high metabolism – and also very hungry friends on the coach home from whom it was impossible to hide any scrap of food!).

Since those lunch box days I have progressed in the way of sandwich fillings. Now pretty much anything is permitted between any two slices of bread that enter my mouth. This recipe was born in that vein because almost every Indian household will have some green chutney hanging about in their fridge, and naturally anything that is hanging about in the fridge is game when it comes to sandwich fillings. A lot of people will have their own version of this sandwich adding all sorts such as sliced tomatoes or shredded lettuce. But my recipe keeps it classic; simply chutney and cheese.

Chutney Cheese Sandwich with Pickled Onions

However it should be noted this chutney is not your average sweet mango marmalade-ish chutney. This is the real deal chutney, the chutney that my grandmother, like her own grandmother and her grandmothers grandmother too (probably) means when she refers to chutney. It gets its vivid green colour (and name) from the hoards of coriander that it begins with, plus a little extra from the mint I’ve added in for freshness. This chutney is used as a dip for absolutely anything, so even if you're not too keen on the sound of the sandwich, the chutney alone is worth a try.

To make this sandwich properly, the bread you use has to be white. You just won’t get the same crisp lightness on your toast without white bread. A packet of crisps is never too far away from any sandwich but I like mine with a side of pickled onions. They add a satisfying crunch and sharpness to the dish. Furthermore, they really couldn’t be any easier to make.
So if you want to spice up your lunch box here’s how you make my Chutney Cheese Sandwich with Pickled Onions.

Chutney Cheese Sandwich with Pickled Onions (serves 4)

Ingredients for the Chutney
For the Chutney:
1 bunch of corriander, roughly chopped
Approx 30 mint leaves
2 tsp cumin seeds
¾ tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 lemon, juice only
3 chillies, or less depending on how spicy you like it
Approx 10/15 roasted peanuts

For the Pickled Onions:
1 red onion, thinly sliced
1tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 pinch of sea salt

To make the chutney, simply add all the ingredients, apart from the peanuts, into a blender. Blitz until smooth. Check the consistency of the chutney. Add the peanuts to thicken if necessary. Blitz until smooth – and the chutney is done. It will keep in the fridge for up to two weeks. Alternatively you can freeze it ready for a later date.

Ingredients for the Pickled Onion

For the pickled onions, simply mix all the ingredients together and leave the onions to pickle in the juices for at least a couple of hours. (If you can make this day before you want to eat it, even better! The flavours develop over time, so the longer you leave it the better it will taste).

To assemble the sandwich simply toast one side of each slice of bread. Spread the chutney on the un-toasted side. Pile on the cheese (grated/sliced – however you like it) and sandwich together. Serve with the pickled onion on the side. This recipe couldn’t be any simpler but still tastes delicious!

Just couldn't help but take a bite!

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Until next time...

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