Saturday, 18 April 2015

Khubz Mbassis

This is the baking challenge for the second half of April from The Book of Buns by Jane Mason Group on Face Book.   I had baked these yesterday, and after having a delicious lunch in the conservatory, just over an hour ago, how better to spend half an hour or so resting, to write about the Khubz Mbassis buns, which are enjoyed in Tunisia.

We had had some semolina bread at breakfast at a Moroccan Farm last Autumn, and was looking forward to baking these.  The recipe states that you can use either wholemeal or strong white bread flour, and the mix of seeds too can be varied, but that the semolina element is not optional.  As I already had a new bag of finely ground semolina from Shipston Mill, I decided to use their strong white flour, so that I could savour the taste of the semolina and spices.

You start the day before, with a predough, and there are careful instructions on how to bring all the ingredients together.

For my seed mixture to go in the buns I chose, whole anise seeds, cumin, celery, and Nigella seeds.  I just love that you can have 'love in the mist' seeds in your bread.  I have read that the seeds for eating are Nigella Sativa, whereas the ones we usually grow are Nigella Damascena.  I shall try scattering a few of my culinary seeds, but they may no longer be viable, but let's hope!

I am very careful to weigh both dry and wet ingredients, and almost panicked when I found how wet the final mixture was.  I put it all back on the scales, and checked the recipe again.  Total dry flours 525g, total liquids including oil, 405g, which gives 77% hydration.  Of course if I was using stoneground wholemeal it may well have seemed a little less wet.  However I am not afraid of wet doughs, and persevered.

By the time the dough had risen, and was shaped, it felt just right and was very well behaved.  I had a little difficulty getting the thumb marks to keep in the dough..

for my top mix of seeds I added sesame to the nigella, anise and cumin.  Twenty minutes later, they were all cooling

Saturday lunch was thin sausages, friend with smoked paprika, then some white wine, and cooked chikpeas added, with a large handful of herbs freshly picked from the garden.  Together with a warmed up Khubz Mbassis, we had a deli quality lunch.  With the bright sunshine we could almost have been in Tunisia!

Earlier this week, my 'Boss' at my voluntary 'unpaid' job, zero hours, bought me a present from where they stayed at the weekend.  I was totally overcome, I have some lovely friends, and how nice to be thought of.  Just like my other friends, who bring me sugar, salt, honey etc...

I shall have to plan some lovely bakes with this flour.

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Pan de Camote

Another catch up bake from the Book of Buns, found me roasting sweet potatoes for these little buns from Peru.  The buns come up with a lovely golden colour, but are not at all sweet in taste.  They rose really well, and the texture is soft.  We have had them with soup, with cheese, and Mr S even had one with a glass of milk for his supper!  They went particularly well with my latest preserve: Blackcurrant and Apple Jam.

Mid April Garden

The sunshine is warming up the soil.  The bees, bumble bees, and 'my' red mason bees are also active.  All the flowers are buzzing.  I'm feeling rather pleased with myself too, as I have just finished giving the garden bench and the three gazebo benches, several coats of paint.

Saturday, 11 April 2015

Preserved Ginger Cake

Its some time since I baked a cake for the weekend, as I've been baking yeasted buns most Fridays.  I just fancied something rather plain, and remembered a preserved ginger cake which I first baked many many years ago.  I must have baked this recipe over 20 times.  I used to  copy recipes from magazines and newspapers, onto cards, then file them in alphabetical order, that was before computers!  The card got so old and tatty, that a few years ago I rewrote it into my old cookery book.  Now that is starting to falling apart.

 I had always baked this cake it in a tin that was one size too small and it usually domed in the middle.  This time I used the Silverwood 8 inch tin which I had bought last year, it still had the labels on!  But using the right size tin for the recipe means you get the best results!

Its just like a Madeira Cake in texture, made with three eggs, but with chopped crystallized ginger in the cake.  For the icing I mix the icing sugar with grated lemon peel and some of the syrup from the preserved ginger which I slice and use for the top of the cake.  You can use the preserved ginger in the cake, but I only had a couple of large pieces left, which was not sufficient for the filling. It uses the all in one method, so it is just about the easiest cake to make.

This recipe is in ounces and I have digital weighing scales which you can switch around, so I like to keep to the old measurements as a bit of nostalgia.

5 generous sized pieces of preserved ginger
6 oz soft margarine, I use Pure
6 oz white caster sugar
8 oz plain flour
1.5 tsp baking powder
3 eggs

Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl, with a hand held mixer till well mixed.  Put the cake mixture in a lined 8 inch deep cake tin, and bake at Gas Mark 3 for about 1.5 Hrs.  I cover it with a pieces of baking parchment balanced above the paper collar, and take this off for the last 30 minutes.  Cool in the tin for about 10 mins before turning out onto a cooling rack.

When cold decorate with an icing made from 4 oz icing sugar, a little ginger syrup, some grated lemon peel too if you have some.  Decorate with more preserved ginger.

Exochorda Giraldii Var Wilsonii

When some 'girls' go shopping on a Saturday, they are apt to come home with some treats.  One of my favourite shopping treats, I have several types, are plants.  I have had my eye on this shrub for some time.  At least since February, so I have waited nearly two months....  I first was drawn, sorry about the pun, to this shrub, when at art class we were presented with some twigs and seed heads...

This isn't a very good picture, but I love the star shaped seed pods, which reminded me a little of star anise.  It took me some time to find out which shrub these came from.  It may well have been Exorchorda x macrantha 'The Bride'.  One of my friends had promised me a plant a couple of years ago, but sadly it was passed to someone else!  So long as it is growing well somewhere else, I don't mind at all.  I had not really yet fallen for this shrub at that point, and if I had followed the recommended pruning, may never have discovered the lovely seed heads.

Last week, I happened to pop into Hintons Nursery to chase another shrub I had on order since last year, and spotted that they carry a couple of varieties, so made a note of the names, and came home to research which I would like.  What I like about this nursery is that they carry some unusual shrubs, and it is only a couple of miles away.  They produce most of the plants themselves, and Sarah Ridgeway is usually on hand to offer information and advice.and her staff are pretty knowledgeable.

With my two one pound gardening vouchers won with my first prize, and some change riffled from Mr S's wallet, I bought my shrub.

Close up the flowers are intricate and interesting, with a gentle perfume.

The plant is well grown, and for a little while I shall plant it up in a larger pot, and place it around the garden till I find its final resting place.  I read that this grows into a large shrub, but I hope to keep it in check with pruning.

Friday, 3 April 2015

Garden at the start of April

Although the winter does not seem to have been very hard this year, I think that we are late with Spring here in the Midlands.  Usually I manage to find one or two good auriculas to show, these is not a blossom stem in sight.

I love to grow shrubs in tubs, this one with a dwarf prostate forsythia works its way to the patio each spring.  The show starts with a few species crocus and there is interest throughout the year, but it does move down the garden as different tubs take their turn as  stars.

This is a new planted pot has Lophomyrtus ralphii Little Star, a new fern, a couple of parahebes,  and some cyclamen seedlings, and my stone with a large hole through it!

My little wild pink primrose is in full bloom, and I have even managed to divide up a clump just this week and position some around the garden.  With the ample rain, they still look very perky as if they were well established!

Even though I think the garden is just about full, you can get seduced by new plants!  Especially when Mr S admired the leaf form of this one.  We bought it from Packwood House a few days ago.  The gardeners there have a few of their well grown plants for sale, and it is lovely to support them.  This one is Sanguisorba Officinalis 'Pink Tanna'.  For the moment it is still in its pot on the patio table where the light is shining through its leaves.

I still love to find flowers seeded where they will, and of course left by me, and not moved elsewhere:

 and one of our little men is wondering what happened to his label this year.  I think I should made him a tie!

The last plant is very small, but just look at the pattern, and the light falling on its hairy leaves.  It looks positively tropical and yet it is fully hardy.

Later it will have tall flower spikes, with dainty little flowers.  This picture was taken in June last year.  Its called Saxifrage stonlonifera.  Its great for growing in shady areas in the garden and is completely frost tolerant in Warwickshire.

April Posy

After finding that I could not tolerate the pollen from the bunch of daffodils I had picked, I made up this little posy with about four different varieties of lungwort or Pulmonaria growing in the garden,  some leaves and a daisy.

Aeoniums win Prizes

I selected a couple of my aeoniums to take to the April Show and in the category House Plant Foliage where they won First and Third Prize.  I now have four varieties and enjoy watching them grow, and trying to propagate them.  The Green one gives off a lovely honey fragrance especially when it is warm, and has a good habit of branching off regularly.  This is the one I brought back from the Isles of Scilly several years ago.

My newest acquisition is still doing well:  Cristata Sunburst which is the green and white variegated one.  I shall have to bite the bullet and remove the central few leaves to help it branch, and then hopefully I shall get two or three side shoots to propagate further.

What I love about Aeoniums is that they love the light levels in the conservatory, yet can easily spend the winter with no heating.  If is going to drop to below -5C I drag them into the dining room for the night, as I would hate to loose them.

Hot Cross Buns

These buns were really easy to make.  I had never made hot cross buns before, because I could not be bothered with the pastry crosses, but this recipe gives a flour goo to pipe on, and it was easy.  However just as ever I find it hard with straight lines and judging angles, not true crosses on many, some just look more like kisses!  Again another winner from the Book of Buns by Jane Mason.

With sixteen buns there is no shortage here!  Made of course with goat's butter and milk....

Lime Marmalade and Grapefruit Marmalade win Prizes

I was surprised to win these as I did not count these as the best I have made.  I entered just for the sake of taking part and swelling the numbers!  £2 as first Prize Money, will go towards some more fruit for more preserves.