Nadiya Hussain Q & A

To whet your appetite for the BBC Good Food Show at Olympia, London from 11th – 13th November 2016, here’s a mini Q&A soundbite from Nadiya Hussain, the 2015 Great British Bake Off winner (as if I needed to remind you). Sadly it wasn’t an interview with me but via the publicity people who organise the Show who have kindly allowed me to post it here.

Q. What is your favourite dish to cook?

N.H. I love one pot dishes. So a chicken tagine, with preserved lemons and dates. Served with lemon couscous.

Q. What is your top tip for festive cooking?

N.H. Try and do as much in advance. I like to pre prep anything that can be done and then par cook anything that can be finished off last minute. I always par cook/blanch my roasties and then freeze them and cook again in fat to get them really crispy.

Q. What is your most treasured item in the kitchen?

N.H. My favourite thing in the kitchen has to be my micro plane. I can’t believe how well those things grate the zest of any fruit. I’m always mesmerised. But my treasured item would have to be my oven as without it I’m quite literally half a person. Recently moving house I hadn’t used an oven for 9 days – it’s the longest I have been without baking and it was pretty tough.

Q. What are you most looking forward to about the BBC Good Food Shows?

N.H. I have attended the BBC Good Food Shows before but this year it will be interesting to come back since so much has changed. Very excited to be a part of it all.

Q. What new ingredient or ingredients are you inspired by right now?

N.H. I am loving yellow ras-el-hanout. It works so well as a coating on fish but it’s even better with slow cooked lamb.

 

Don’t forget that I have two *FREE* tickets up for grabs – you can go to the Show in London on Friday 11th November or Sunday 13th November 2016. Follow me on Twitter for details of how to enter the draw – @TheLittlePK.

 

www.bbcgoodfoodshow.com

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Never Say Diet!

My foodie interests are quite wide-ranging and in my time I have tried all sorts of eating regimes including vegetarianism, veganism, raw foodism, high protein and everything in between. Over the last 30 years I’ve been slim (ish) and I’ve been overweight. In fact, I’m on the rather generous side of the “Rubenesque” scale at the moment with the genuine intention of doing something about it this year. As I do every year (oh dear). In 2015 I managed to lose just over 2 stone (30lbs) and to date only 1 of those (stones) has gone back on. So, somewhat unusually, I start a new year lighter than I was at this point 365 days ago. Which is a good thing. But I want to do better.

My downfall as far as diets go is that I absolutely love food and if I’m not eating it, I’m thinking about it, reading about it or writing about it. I love cooking and experimenting with new ingredients and baking makes me feel really good. Unfortunately, with cooking comes eating and that’s my downfall. As a result, I’ve joined various slimming groups over the years including WeightWatchers and Rosemary Conley (RIP that company), and I’ve tried diets like Atkins (lost over 3 stone) and LighterLife (lost almost 7 stone). I’ve realised that all sorts of diets do work – when you stick to them. I get to the point when I feel I’ve done really well and decide I don’t need ‘the diet’ any more …… and I duly go back to my poor eating habits and pile the weight on again. Plus a little bit more for good measure.

In December 2015, I moved with my husband and our dog to North Norfolk to escape our busy, stressful, and traffic fume filled existence in south London and have a better quality of life in the country. We’re staying temporarily in my mum’s former holiday rental cottage on the coast – very “bijou” with a tiny kitchen – while we look for a house to buy. I’m also looking for a job. Lots of changes at one time so not ideal really.

I’ve decided to bite the diet bullet (here I go again) and join a local “Slimming World” group because their Jan/Feb 2016 magazine proudly claims that you can eat the food you love and therefore have decent meals. No sparrow sized portions. How great is that? Apparently, there are also “free foods” that you can eat in unlimited quantities which I’m curious about, seeing as eating food in unlimited quantities is what has made me fat in the first place! I’ll be toddling along to my first meeting on Tuesday 5th January 2016 – watch this space and I’ll report back on how it goes.

So, bearing in mind that I’ll be able to eat proper food while I’m on the Slimming World programme, I’m going to treat myself to some new cookbooks and write reviews of each one I buy. This will be an interesting project seeing as I seem to buy quite a lot (ooops) but I hope it will be helpful for other people who may be struggling with their weight as well as for people who just wonder what the XX cook book may be like.

I want to be able to eat the same food as my husband. I don’t want to be eating celery and lettuce or cutting out any major food groups while he tucks into a hearty chicken or beef dish. I’ll be looking for recipes that are immediately “diet friendly” as well as those I can tweak to make more suitable e.g. by reducing the fat or portion sizes. It has taken me a long time to appreciate that diets are only short-term fixes. If I’m ever going to conquer my 30 year history of yoyo dieting, I have to change my lifestyle once and for all. As we moved to Norfolk to improve our lives, this seems the ideal time to do it. Carpe diem, and all that.

When I buy books, I like to read reviews first but I’m never sure how reliable the ones are that you see on Amazon: there has been the occasional scandal of dodgy reviews posted by an author’s competitors or times when a writer’s friends and family post excessively positive reviews. People that know me appreciate that I’ll be honest and unbiased and also that I won’t be malicious or unkind.

The things I look for in any cook book are:

  1. Are the recipes “do-able” for the average home cook? Too much faffing or fancy / obscure ingredients put me off right away;
  2. Are there decent photographs? We may all know what a lasagne or chocolate cake should look like, but I’d like to know how the dish I’m making at any one time is expected to turn out. I tend not to buy recipe books with a lack of pictures;
  3. Are the instructions clear? Cook books are usually aimed at domestic cooks or people who wish to improve their skills in the kitchen. Too much jargon or vague explanations are not helpful nor are authors who patronise their readers;
  4. Do I want to eat the food or am I buying the book for another reason? This may seem to be a silly question but if you think about it, do we buy the recipe book or do we “buy” the person who’s written it? At the time of writing this piece, I’ve seen a couple of Sunday newspaper supplements and Davina McCall has a recipe book coming out and Bear Grylls – not usually known for his culinary skills – is also publishing a cook book. The extract from the book by Davina frequently refers to her “team of nutritionists” which does make me wonder who created the recipes that she’s selling. Sorry Bear and Davina, your books aren’t going to make my list of purchases this year.
  5. Nutritional information. This could be calories per portion or how much fat, protein or carbohydrate is in a dish. While Slimming World doesn’t work on the basis of calories, I find it helpful to know how much fat a recipe contains as this is something I can change when I make it.

During this year I’ll be reviewing newly published cookbooks by a diverse group of writers, including Anna Jones, Amelia Freer, Ella Woodward, Jamie Oliver, Fiona Uyema, Hemsley & Hemsley, Anya Ladra, and Natasha Corrett. Please be aware that these aren’t “diet books” as such but ones I happen to be interested in anyway that I hope will help me to lose weight while eating rather well.

 

Happy New Year!

 

Scarlett & Mustard product reviews with recipes

I was asked by ‘My Foodie Heaven’ to try out and review some products made by Scarlett & Mustard. I’d already heard of the company and had seen some of their products with their quirky labelling in the shops so I was keen to see what they were like.

I received a parcel containing the delightfully named ‘Rudolph’s Left Overs Curry Sauce’, an English rapeseed oil flavoured with truffle (oil, not chocolates!) and a blackcurrant and star anise curd.

When I’m asked to review any food product, rather than just sticking my finger in the jar, tasting it and rating it out of ten, where possible I try to create a recipe that will really bring out the flavour. At the moment, we’re in the middle of moving from Surrey to Norfolk and so it’s slightly chaotic in our house . However, we still need to eat but as my kitchen facilities are now rather basic, any food I prepare has to be quick and easy.

With that in mind, I came up with two recipes using the Left Overs Curry Sauce and the truffle rapeseed oil and decided to test the blackcurrant and star anise curd out as part of a traditional afternoon tea.

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‘Rudolph’s Left Overs Curry Sauce’ is an oil free dressing full of fruity, tangy flavours and it will, quite simply, transform your left overs from one meal into a tasty dish for another. You don’t have to limit yourself to using it for left overs though: I used it to make a light ‘coronation’ style sauce to have with chicken which was delicious. By mixing Greek yoghurt with Rudolph’s in a 2:1 ratio, I had a simple sauce which was far superior to the heavy ‘coronation chicken’ dish I recall from the 1970s (which was basically curry powder mixed with mayonnaise). What I liked about Rudolph’s is that you could actually taste the fruit in it (mango chutney, apricots and sultanas) and the heat from the ginger and curry powder was subtle.

Coronation chicken S and M

 

Scarlett & Mustard also recommend Rudolph’s with roasts (including your Christmas bird if you plan to have one), on rice and peas, on potatoes and even on salads. What you do with it is only limited by your imagination. I’m sorry the photo of my chicken dish isn’t brilliant – my ‘staging’ props for my photos have been packed away but you get the idea.

 

For the English truffle rapeseed oil, I thought a potato recipe would be in order as it would be blending two wonderfully earthy flavours together. Readers of this blog will be aware from previous posts that I love the versatility of the humble spud and for this recipe I turned once again to Maris Pipers but you could use any floury potato for this dish.

 

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Truffled Crushed Potatoes

Ingredients – for 2 servings

300g Maris Piper potatoes

150mls semi skimmed milk (or use soya milk for vegan option)

I twig of fresh rosemary

1 tbsp Scarlett & Mustard English Rapeseed Truffle Oil

3 tbsp single cream (or use vegan cream)

 

Method

  1. Cut the potatoes into chunks and put in a large saucepan with the milk and add a little water to cover. Season with a little salt if required. Once boiling, allow to simmer for 15 – 20 minutes until tender. Add the rosemary twig about 5 minutes before the end so it infuses the cooking liquid.
  2. Drain the potatoes leaving a little of the cooking liquid but throw away the rosemary.
  3. Using a potato masher, gently crush the potatoes to break them up. You aren’t looking for mashed potatoes so go carefully!
  4. Add the truffle oil and the cream to the potatoes and turn them gently to coat.
  5. Tip the potatoes into an ovenproof dish and place under a hot grill for a few minutes to brown the top.
  6. If you’ve made the potatoes to eat later, you can reheat them in the oven for 15 – 20 minutes at 180 C / 200 C fan or gas mark 6 until the top goes golden.
  7. Eat and enjoy.

I’m afraid there isn’t a photo of this dish as it was demolished as soon as it came out of the oven!

 

Finally, for the blackcurrant and star anise curd, I used it to fill Viennese whirls and I also sampled it on a scone with butter. I was apprehensive about how the star anise would affect the flavour of the blackcurrant but I have to say that it’s an inspired combination. The blackcurrant is not over-sweet or sugary and the star anise gives it a real warmth without overshadowing the fruity flavour.

 

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I used my friend Kevin’s recipe for the Viennese whirls – you can find it on his blog www.thecraftylarder.co.uk – and dipped them in white chocolate and sprinkles. Bit of a girly moment!

 

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I can confirm that based on my tasting of the products I was sent, Scarlett & Mustard are purveyors of excellent foodie items and I recommend you look out for them in your local shops. They’d make ideal Christmas presents and would look particularly stylish in an elegant hamper.

 

All Scarlett & Mustard products can be found on their website: www.scarlettandmustard.co.uk

 

 

Disclaimer: I was sent a package of Scarlett & Mustard goods to review and I was not paid. My review reflects my honest opinion of the items I was given.

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Borderfields Rapeseed Oils – A review with recipes

image1 - Copy (25)When I was growing up in the 1970s, the only cooking oil I remember my mother using was an unnamed generic vegetable oil that was pale yellow, rather ‘thin’ in consistency and very bland.

Fortunately culinary oils have moved on in the past few years and now there is a huge variety available which then begs the question, which one do you choose? As we don’t fry food in our house and my husband has a heart condition, he likes extra virgin olive oil and swears by its healthy properties i.e. the Mediterranean diet. I find olive oil too rich and so I hunted around for an alternative: a lighter oil that was also good for you. What I eventually chose after some research (how did we ever manage without Google?) was gloriously golden rapeseed oil, which has less than half the saturated fat of olive oil. I’ve tried a few brands over the years and personally prefer it now to olive oil.

I was therefore very pleased to be asked by ‘My Foodie Heaven’, the Artisan & Speciality Food online magazine, to review ‘Borderfields’ cold pressed British rapeseed oil and a couple of their infused rapeseed oils. I was provided with a selection of oils and asked to review them honestly and come up with a couple of recipes if I was happy with the product. Luckily, I loved the product and had a lot of fun creating recipes with it.

Firstly, I’ll cover the technical stuff: Borderfields has a near perfect blend of Omega 3 and 6 which are considered to be essential fatty acids because the body cannot manufacture them, plus Omega 9. In fact the omega 3 content is ten times more than you find in olive oil. Borderfields is also a good source of Vitamin E which is known for its antioxidant properties. Borderfields rapeseed oil can be used as a healthy replacement for butter and when baking as well as for dressings, dips, roasts and stir fries.

image2 - Copy (19)I was keen to devise some recipes which would allow the flavour of the oil to shine through without overpowering the other ingredients so what I did first was to test out the garlic infused rapeseed oil on the humble potato. Many people swear by using goose fat for the best roast potatoes but of course vegetarians and vegans can’t eat that and even though I eat meat, for some reason I’m a little squeamish about using goose fat.

So last weekend, I part boiled some Maris Piper potatoes, cut them into chunks and tipped them into a baking tray of hot garlic infused rapeseed oil, tossed them around and put them in a 200 degree C / Gas mark 7 / 400 degree F for 30 minutes. I then turned them over in the pan and put them back in the oven for another half hour. The result was the perfect roastie: soft and fluffy inside and crispy on the outside with a beautiful golden colour and a buttery taste that make you want to dive right in.

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Later in the week, I made spicy garlic potato wedges, also using the garlic infused rapeseed oil. Again, I part boiled the potatoes and cut them into chunky wedges, placed them in a tray of hot oil then sprinkled Barbecue Spice and chilli flakes (from the supermarket) over the top. These needed less time in the oven (same temperatures as for the roast potatoes) so I gave them 20 minutes, then turned them, then gave them 20 minutes more. These definitely had a kick to them and were crunchy and delicious. I found it hard not to keep taking one to ‘test’!

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One evening, we weren’t particularly hungry but fancied something light and flavoursome to eat. I thought a simple bruschetta would be a good idea as we were somewhat overwhelmed with tomatoes in our kitchen and we had some French bread that needed using up. Here’s what I came up with using Borderfields basil infused rapeseed oil:

‘BORDERFIELDS BRUSCHETTA’

image3 - Copy (6)Half a French stick, cut diagonally into 1 cm pieces

I clove of garlic, peeled and left whole

Borderfields basil infused rapeseed oil

3 large, ripe tomatoes, deseeded and finely chopped

I small red onion, peeled and finely chopped

I small red pepper, deseeded and finely chopped (optional)

½ teaspoon of dried red chilli flakes

½ teaspoon caster sugar

Salt and black pepper to taste

A few small leaves of fresh basil

  1. Mix the tomatoes, red onion, red pepper (if using), chilli flakes, caster sugar and salt and pepper together in a bowl and set aside for 30 minutes to allow the flavours to blend
  2. Toast the French bread slices and when slightly cooled, rub the clove of garlic over one side of each slice. Place 3 or 4 slices of the toast on a plate and drizzle a little of the infused basil oil over them
  3. Spoon some of the tomato mixture onto each slice in a little pile and drizzle over a little more of the basil oil.
  4. Artfully place two or three small basil leaves on or around the bruschetta to garnish then serve.

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The infused basil oil in this recipe adds a subtle basil flavour to the dish and enhances the flavours of the rest of the ingredients. Basil and tomatoes is a traditional combination but the addition of some chilli gives the dish a little twist. The bruschetta is great on its own as a grab and go snack but if you add some Italian cold meats and a glass of wine like we did, it’s even better!

Finally, to continue the Italian theme, I decided to create a pesto sauce with the Borderfields cold pressed British rapeseed oil. I like making things that can be kept in the fridge for a while and whipped out to make a fast and tasty meal, as I’m usually pretty pooped by the time I get home from work. Most pesto recipes require you to use pine nuts, which are lovely but expensive and also a bit ‘fatty’ in taste. Also, if you keep them a little too long in the cupboard, they go rancid. I therefore chose to use walnuts as a lot of people are likely to have them in their food cupboards and they are reasonably cheap.

‘BORDERFIELDS BASIL & WALNUT PESTO’

40g walnuts (halves or pieces)

2 medium cloves of garlic, peeled

35g grated parmesan cheese

25g fresh basil leaves

¼ tsp black pepper

¼ tsp salt

175mls Borderfields cold pressed British rapeseed oil

1 tbsp fresh lemon juice

  1. Place walnuts and garlic cloves in a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped
  2. Add the basil leaves, salt and pepper and pulse again until finely chopped
  3. With the food processor running at a low speed, slowly add the rapeseed oil through the feeder tube until incorporated. Turn food processor off.
  4. Add the grated parmesan cheese and the lemon juice and pulse a few times until blended in. You should have a reasonably thick pesto sauce that has a bit of texture.
  5. Put the pesto mix into a small glass jar and refrigerate for up to two weeks.

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You can use the pesto on pasta, tomato and mozzarella salad, potatoes and anything else you fancy!

You’ll see that I had a great time trying out the Borderfields rapeseed oils and I’d certainly recommend them for both flavour and versatility. It’s also great that they are produced in the UK and available all year round.

You can find out more information about Borderfields products (including other infused rapeseed oils like chilli and lemon)  on their website: http://www.borderfields.co.uk.

You can find out more about ‘My Foodie Heaven’ at their website – do go and have a look: http://www.myfoodieheaven.co.uk

Disclaimer: although I was given samples of Borderfields products to review, my opinions represent my honest feedback on the goods provided.  I was not paid to write the review nor did I receive any other financial incentives.

“Ravens’ Nests” – John Whaite’s Sophisticated Hallowe’en Dessert

John Whaite Raven's Nest

In the lead up to this year’s Good Food Bakes and Cakes Show in London (13th – 15th November 2015 in London), the awfully nice people who organise it are allowing me to share a dessert by John White, the charismatic winner of The Great British Bake Off in 2012. It’s not just any old dessert though – John has created a chocolate cherry delight that will wow your guests at any time, but would go down particularly well at Hallowe’ en.

So if you fancy making – and eating – a rich chocolate cake topped with a light cherry mousse and decorated with chocolate ‘feathers’, read John’s reminiscences about how his mum planned Hallowe’ en and what inspired him to create this recipe. Then go for it!

RAVENS’ NESTS

MAKES 4

Essential equipment

3 disposable piping bags, one fitted with 10mm nozzle, one fitted with a large star nozzle and one with a number 1 writing nozzle

4 mini savarin moulds, greased, frozen, greased again then dusted with flour

Sheet of acetate/baking paper

For the cake

30g cocoa powder

100g dark muscovado sugar

50g hot water

50g Greek yoghurt

1 egg

1 tsp coffee extract (optional)

50g dark chocolate, melted in a heatproof bowl over a pan of barely simmering water

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

50g plain flour

For the cherry mousse

2 gelatine leaves

200g pitted cherries (frozen are cheaper, defrost first)

80g golden caster sugar

250g whipping cream

Red food colouring paste

For the feather decorations

100g dark chocolate, tempered

2 tbsp cocoa powder (optional)

 

When I was a tot mum used to throw the best Halloween parties for us: bin bags torn up and hung from the doorways, cobwebs covering the entire ceiling, and even disco lights in the dining room to create an eerie environment. Bin bags, however effective in the Nineties, wouldn’t quite cut it nowadays, and so I need to impress my guests with food. These little rounds of cake, filled with cherry mousse and adorned with a tempered chocolate plume of feathers, are just the thing for an adult Halloween party. They were inspired by Edgar Allan Poe’s ‘The Raven’, that haunting poem of waiting and fear. These beautifully light chocolate, cherry and coffee cakes are well worth the wait.

 

1 Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/Gas 6.

2 Place the cocoa powder and sugar in a mixing bowl and stir together until well mixed and fairly lumpfree. Add the hot water and stir to a smooth paste, then beat in the yoghurt, egg, extract if using, and the melted chocolate. Sift over the bicarbonate of soda and flour and fold to a smooth batter. Put the batter into the piping bag with a 10mm nozzle and divide between the 4 prepared moulds.

3 Bake for 10–14 minutes, or until a skewer gently inserted into one of the cakes comes out clean. Remove from the oven and de-mould immediately, and allow to cool on a wire rack until completely cold.

4 To make the cherry mousse, soak the gelatine leaves in a jug of cold water – put them into the water one at a time or else they’ll stick together and never dissolve. Blitz the cherries to a mush in a food processor or with a stick blender, then put into a small saucepan and add the sugar. Bring the cherry pulp and sugar to a boil, then simmer and allow to reduce down to a loose compote consistency. While the cherries are still hot, squeeze the surplus moisture out of the gelatine leaves and add to the pan with the cherries. Add the food colouring. Stir until the gelatine has dissolved, then allow to cool completely, but don’t let it set.

5 When the cherry compote is cool, whip the cream to soft, floppy peaks, and gently fold together with the cherry compote. Put the mousse into the piping bag fitted with large star nozzle.

6 Place the chocolate nests on serving plates, and pipe a large, indulgent swirl of the cherry mousse in the centre of each one. Chill until needed.

7 For the tempered chocolate feather, put the tempered chocolate into the piping bag with small writing nozzle. Pipe a fairly thick line of chocolate about 10cm long, then, with the tip of the nozzle, drag the chocolate out diagonally on either side of the line to create a feather shape. Make 12 in total, each a slightly different size, and allow to set at room temperature.

8 Once set, place 3 into the mousse of each Raven’s Nest to create a dramatic, haunting finish. Sift over some cocoa powder if desired.

Luis Troyano’s recipe for Chocolate Hazelnut Star Bread

JS42944408As most of you reading this will know, Luis Troyano took part in the 2014 series of the Great British Bake Off and was in the final along with Nancy Birtwhistle (who won) and Richard Burr. Luis is now a published author – his book is called “Bake it Great” – and he will be appearing at the BBC Good Food Bakes and Cakes Show in London, which this year runs from 13th – 15th November. The nice people at the Bakes and Cakes Show have kindly given me two FREE TICKETS that followers of my blog can win (more about that later).

In order to tempt you even further, they also gave me one of Luis’s delicious recipes from his book to share with you. So please read on to see how you can ‘bake it great’ like Luis and enjoy a delicious bread made with – * drools * – chocolate hazelnut spread.

Chocolate Hazelnut Star Bread (in Luis’s own words)

This is a stunning, delicious chocolate and hazelnut tear and share loaf. If you don’t have a jar of chocolate hazelnut spread handy, you could use jam or marmalade. You can even make a savoury version with a pesto and feta cheese filling. In fact, you can fill it with anything you like as long as it’s not too wet. It looks complicated but is actually very easy to do. I would usually make the dough and prove it overnight in the fridge for improved flavour, before finishing the loaf the next day. But you can make it all in one day if you prefer.

Makes 1 star bread

Time required: 60 minutes preparation and two proves

Baking time: 20–25 minutes

Optimum oven position and setting: centre and no fan, with a baking stone

Essential equipment:

A kitchen mixer fitted with a dough hook

A baking sheet; mine is aluminium and measures 38 x 32cm.

Non-stick baking parchment

A large bag to put the baking sheet into for proving

Ingredients:

135ml boiling water

135ml whole milk

500g strong white bread flour

14g instant yeast

1 tsp fine salt

2 medium eggs

100g soft unsalted butter

rapeseed oil, for greasing

2 tbsp smooth apricot jam

For the filling:

200g chocolate hazelnut spread

finely grated zest of 1 orange

75g chopped roasted hazelnuts

Method:

Add the boiling water to the milk to give you a warm liquid. Place the flour, yeast, salt and eggs in the bowl of a kitchen mixer fitted with a dough hook. When adding the yeast and salt, place them at opposite sides of the bowl. Add two-thirds of the liquid and begin to mix it all together. Add more liquid gradually until all the dry ingredients are picked up and you have a soft dough. You may not need all of the liquid.

Mix for about 8 minutes. You will work through the wet stage and eventually end up with a smooth, soft, silky dough. With the mixer still on, gradually add the butter in thumb-size pieces until it is all incorporated and the dough is smooth and shiny.

Lightly oil a large bowl and place the dough in it. Cover it with cling film or a shower cap and leave it on one side until doubled in size. Depending on your room temperature, this can take 1 hour, but it’ll be fine for 2 hours.

Find the largest round plate you have that will fit completely on your baking sheet.

When the dough has proved, tip it out onto a lightly floured surface (I use rice flour). Fold the dough over on itself several times to knock the air out of it. Divide the dough into two equal pieces. Roll out one half of the dough on a piece of non-stick baking parchment into a circle just a little larger than your plate. Place the plate on the dough and trim around it with a knife.

To make the filling, place the chocolate spread in a heatproof bowl. Warm it gently in a microwave to make it runny. Using a palette knife, spread it evenly over the dough, leaving about 1cm bare all around the edge. Sprinkle over the orange zest and 50g of the chopped hazelnuts. (You could also sprinkle any other finely chopped nuts or dried fruit of your choice.)

Roll out the other half of the dough on a lightly floured surface and trim to the same size circle. Carefully place it over the chocolate-covered dough and press to seal around the edges.Luis Troyano - Folding star bread photo

Get a small bowl with a diameter of about 12cm and make a light imprint in the centre of the dough circle. Using a sharp knife, cut 16 equally spaced slices up to the circle imprint. The easy way to do that is to cut four evenly spaced, then another four in between those and so on. Gently lift each slice, spin over twice and lay back down. This will give you the amazing pattern. Twisting in one direction only will give you the pattern depicted in the photograph on page 110. Twisting each alternate section in opposite directions will give you the pattern depicted on page 111.

Slide the whole thing onto the baking sheet. Place the baking sheet inside a large bag to prove. Make sure the bag doesn’t touch the dough. Prove again for about an hour until doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 200°C fan/220°C/ 390°F/gas 7. Place your rack just below the centre of the oven. Bake the bread for about 20–25 minutes until golden.

Warm the apricot jam and brush it over the hot bread to glaze it. Sprinkle some chopped hazelnuts in the centre circle of the loaf – use a pastry cutter to sprinkle into and get a perfect circle of nuts. Eat warm or cold.

Luis Troyano - star bread finished photo

Luis Troyano’s new book Bake it Great – Pavilion is out now. Recipe image credit to Clare Winfield. Luis will be cooking live on stage at BBC Good Food Shows this Autumn.

  • HOW YOU COULD WIN FREE TICKETS *

If you want the chance to win TWO FREE TICKETS to the BBC Good Food Bakes and Cake Show in London, you’ll need to FOLLOW my blog and my Twitter account @TheLittlePK and then you’ll be entered into a draw. I’ll announce the winner on Sunday 1st November 2015 via Twitter. The tickets can only be posted to a UK address – the winner will need to provide me with this (it won’t be shared with anyone else).

Good Luck!

Tracy

How I Became a Food Blogger

I was off work last week due to minor surgery on my toe which was accompanied by a rotten cold so I was feeling rather miserable. However, sitting at home on the sofa with my foot elevated for a couple of days did allow for some time for contemplation.

I’m inherently quite a curious (alright, nosey) person and I love hearing about how people ended up doing the jobs they do or leading the lives they have. I then started to think about how I came to set up my blog because I find the history of such things fascinating. Bloggers all have different stories to tell about how they began so I thought I’d share mine.

Two and a half years ago, I was sitting on the same sofa with my leg elevated but for a far more serious reason. In March 2013, I was hit by a car as I was running across a road (after my dog which had scarpered during a walk in the park) and subsequently suffered a badly broken right leg and a head injury. I think the fact that I’m quite a generously proportioned lady of a certain age (!) and therefore quite robustly built was what ensured that I wasn’t killed (the driver must have been doing at least 50 mph in a 30 mph zone) because apparently I was thrown through the air and landed in the middle of a crossroads. I don’t remember the impact or the landing – as I was knocked unconscious and the next few days were a blur due to the vast amounts of morphine I was given. At least the dog was OK.

Only a few months before the accident I’d set up my small home baking business (to run alongside my day job in HR) having registered with my local Council, completed an online Food Hygiene course and given my new enterprise the name of ‘The Little Pink Kitchen’ because my kitchen is quite small and the walls are pink. I attended a cupcake decorating workshop run by the 2011 Great British Bake Off winner Jo Wheatley and thoroughly enjoyed myself. It was the first time I’d really played around with cutters, moulds and sugar paste and I was hooked from the start. Orders were steadily coming in and I did a few bake sales and got my name out there locally. All things considered, I was feeling rather good about things at that time.

But then, the accident changed my life. I got over the head injury relatively quickly – although I must say that you do get quite a bad headache when your head comes into contact with a road from a great height! The leg took longer as initially I had a ‘tibial nail’ holding it together (basically a titanium rod from knee to ankle – with screws in) but the bone didn’t heal so after 6 months it was removed and I had a plate put in, which on the X-ray looked like a long piece of meccano. (If you are under the age of 40, you’ll probably have to google ‘meccano’.)

With these surgeries came a lengthy recuperation period involving crutches, no weight-bearing with no cast, then light weight-bearing with a cast (I had a pink one!) then an air boot all followed by months of physiotherapy learning how to walk again. It took almost two years for life to get back to a relative ‘normal’ state. My poor husband didn’t know whether he was coming or going as he had to look after me and the dog as well as trying to do his job. It was a very difficult and emotional time for both of us.

Although I couldn’t do any baking or cooking for several months, I kept my hand in with the cakey bakey world via Twitter (mostly) and other social media using my trusty iPad. Well, it was a better option than watching day time television – I think that really would have finished me off.

I was delighted to find such an active online baking community on Twitter. I made contact with a lot of home bakers and people who had started their own baking and cake businesses, both on a small and a large scale. I was surprised to find that people who wrote blogs could make serious money by doing it. I remember thinking that it must be wonderful to earn a living doing something you love. I work in HR dealing with the problematic side of people management, things like disciplinary hearings, poor performance and absence so a lot of what I deal with on a daily basis can be quite negative and it definitely drains you. Making cakes and pottering around the kitchen makes me happy and the worst thing for me about the accident was that I couldn’t do it for months.

As time went on, I got back into the kitchen and started baking again, just on a small scale for pleasure. I found baking to be very therapeutic: it took my mind off my troubles and there was something nice to eat at the end. At the same time, the thought of returning to my job was not making me feel particularly happy. It was a very large company with over 16,000 employees and there had been a lot of changes while I’d been away. I think my managers were wondering if I’d ever come back given the recovery time after the operations and I sensed that their sympathy was waning, which to be honest was quite hurtful. Anyway, an opportunity came for me to leave in mid 2014 when there was a restructure and I took it because financially it was worth it and it felt like a great relief.

Since then, I’ve found alternative HR work that I enjoy and I’m now baking and cooking much more often and feeling a lot happier. I’ve attended courses at Squires Kitchen and a celebration cake decorating course at Konditor and Cook at Borough Market and I highly recommend both. Late last year I started writing monthly articles and recipes for a local newspaper but this offered only limited opportunities going forward. It was at that point that I had a ‘light bulb moment’ when I realised that if I set up my own blog, I could write about anything I liked, with no limits.

So what did I like? Well, cakes and baking obviously but I also love trying out new kitchen gadgets, visiting food festivals, cake and baking shows, developing recipes, reviewing books, products, cafes, tea shops and so much more. So www.thelittlepinkkitchen.com was born earlier this year after a brief time writing under a WordPress heading.

Recently I’ve been actively making new foodie contacts and networking as although I write my blog for pleasure and don’t make any money from it (one day perhaps…..) I would like it to contain things that people really want to read about and find entertaining. I have some projects in the pipeline which I’m very excited about and have been sent some items to review so I’ll be getting around to that very soon.

What’s the selling point for my blog, I hear you ask. Well, I’m an all-round foodie (as my waistline makes only too clear) so I cover quite a range of topics which adds variety to my blog. I’ve received feedback that I have an engaging style of writing with a quirky sense of humour that comes through in my posts. I’m not paid to write posts so my opinions are my own which means I can be totally honest although I would never be unkind or malicious. (See my earlier post on ‘blogger blackmail’ for an insight of what can happen when bloggers are unreasonable.)

I’ll finish by saying that it’s been interesting for me to reflect on events over the last two years and I can honestly say that if the accident hadn’t happened, my blog probably wouldn’t exist and I wouldn’t have made friends with some wonderful people via Twitter, especially the Sunday Baking Club crowd.

You all know who you are. Thank you for your on-going friendship and support.