A Spanish Interlude….. and (at last) bread.

Spanish Bread
Baking and blogging have both been a bit on the quiet side recently as I’ve been on a late summer break to get a last burst of sun before Winter starts to set in. LSH and I have spent the last week on Menorca doing as little as possible. The island was lovely but unfortunately the most exciting bread on offer was a baguette (it was either that or a miserable looking white sliced…)

The nearest we got to a decent baked item was from a small bakers in Mao where we had a couple of delicious pastries and a coil of sweet bread liberally dusted with icing sugar.

So on my return I’ve come up with a “Spanish” bread of the kind I wished I’d seen over there. This is a spicy bread stuffed with Serrano ham, manchego cheese and chilli stuffed olives to counteract the Yorkshire autumn we’ve come back to.

Spanish Bread - fillingTo 375g of strong white flour add 1/2 heaped tsp of salt, 3/4 tsp of yeast, 1 tsp of chilli flakes and 1tsp smoked paprika. Stir in 40g of extra virgin olive oil and 235g of water. Knead until silky and leave for an hour.

Roll out the dough into a rectangle 30-35cm wide and about 5mm deep. Line it with 5 slices of Serrano ham. Coarsely grate manchego cheese over the top to taste ( I used about 150g). Keep some cheese to one side. Roughly chop 75g of olives stuffed with chillies. Tap them with kitchen paper to remove any excess water and scatter over the cheese.

Spanish Bread - pre roll
Roll the bread up to create a long sausage. Cut in half longways and twist the two halves together before connecting them to form a garland.
Spanish Bread - pre bake

Leave to proof. When ready, wash with beaten egg and finely grate some manchego cheese over the top. Bake at 200C for 35-40 min, turning down to 180C for the last 15 min.

Spanish Bread - inside

I apologise for the fact that mine looks a bit doughy – I had to take it out 5 min earlier than I wanted as LSH was prowling. Nor would he wait for it to cool which didn’t help its texture. It didn’t affect the taste though which has a definite kick from the chillies both in the dough and the filling. The next door neighbour has already put in a request for seconds. Hopefully I’ll get to leave it the oven for longer next time.


From the jaws of defeat comes ice cream….

Bramble curd ice cream

I know – why am I blogging about ice cream when I’ve just dug my woolly tights out for the first time this autumn? But there is a very good reason. Honest….

We are at the height of bramble season and this year has been one of the best for a while. LSH is continuing with his brambling expeditions and is bringing home tubs of them.(I think it’s his inner hunter/ gatherer coming out). Some are stashed in the freezer waiting for my apples to ripen. Others are fermenting in a large jar of gin. Some were turned into a soft squidgy bramble cake. But this batch I decided to turn into curd.
Bramble curd
I was happily stirring my bramble and egg mix when I suddenly realised I’d failed to add the sugar or butter! I frantically mixed, seived and heated but in my panic I’d added too much sugar and whilst the result was a beautiful dark purple colour with a good consistency it was far too sweet and any hint of bramble was just overpowered by it.

Then I had a flash of inspiration ice cream! That needs to be sweeter in order to offset the cold – I just wouldn’t need to add any extra sugar to the mix. I needed to add yoghurt (to offset the sweetness) and cream and it might just be saved.

So that’s what I did . To my 230g of bramble curd I added 200g of Greek yoghurt and 130g of double cream.

I beat them together in a bowl until well mixed. Then I poured it into an ice cream maker and churned until frozen.

Curd and ice cream

What I ended up with was a beautiful pastel lilac colour ice cream. The cream and yoghurt cut through the sweetness wonderfully leaving a light blackberry flavour. Not quite seasonal but I can always serve it with a slice of hot apple pie.

The Village Show

preserves for show

Each year our local branch of the Women’s Institute host the Village Show – a display of local home grown and home made produce. And this year I actually entered something, after being “encouraged” by LSH – my redcurrant curd and rose petal jelly.

I was slightly nervous about doing this. After all the WI are the font of all knowledge where preserves are concerned. I suspect that many of them come out of the womb knowing how to make the perfect raspberry jam! I certainly wasn’t holding out any hope for the redcurrant curd – this batch was definitely on the “soft set” side and whilst pretty and tasty I didn’t think it was WI standard. And indeed it came away empty handed beaten by an array of lemon curds.

So it all rested on the rose petal jelly which was competing against about five or six other jellies, mostly of the redcurrant variety. I approached the bench nervously. Would it be too radical for the WI? How would it compare with those made by people with years of jelly making experience? I hadn’t been this nervous since my degree results….

rose petal jelly

And it won! I am so excited. The comments on the back of my card were “lovely clear jelly with unusual flavour”. So if you want to eat your own “prize winning rose petal jelly” you can find the recipe here.

In the meantime I am just going to stick my certificate in pride of place on the fridge door before having a celebratory glass of bramble gin!

Redcurrant Shrub and other things

Redcurrant shrub bottled

The LSH and I have been brambling, risking life and limb climbing through overgrown hedgerows in search of the elusive blackberry. They are everywhere but the best fruits are hidden in the depths of prickly bushes and vicious nettles. By the time we return with our hoard, we are stained with scarlet juices and bearing scars.

But what to do with them – I have enough jam to last til the next season. Blackberry curd is an option as is freezing them til my bramleys are ready to turn into crumble. However, worryingly, my thoughts are turning to gin…..(clearly this blog is turning me into a cake making lush!)

bramble gin

I already have some rather potent plum brandy from last year but I’m in a “booze producing” mood. Pip and Little Blue posted a raspberry gin recipe recently and I feel it’s wild cousin will lend itself to a similar treatment. So I’ve put some of them into a large jar with remains of a bottle of Gordens and some caster sugar.

But already maturing in the cupboard is the last member of my redcurrant preserve family. After jelly and curd comes something that the River Cottage Preserves book calls Shrub aka Redcurrant brandy.

If you are keen to get into preserve making I can heartily recommend this and you’ll find this recipe amongst many others. Follow the redcurrant curd recipe to get your redcurrant juice ( You can force this through a sieve if you want). For 300ml of juice, add 600ml of brandy and pour into a bottle or large jar. Leave for a week. Put the liquid into a pan with 300g of sugar and heat to about 60C when all the sugar should be dissolved. Pour back into a sterilised bottle. Now for the difficult bit – leave for a few months to mature and voila – a splash of warming summer fruits to see you through the cold winter months.


Rose kelly -gj

And finally an update on my rose jelly – the photo on the left is my Gertrude Jekyll rose in full bloom. It’s on it’s second flush and I’ve made some more rose jelly but just from this rose (pictured right). As you can see its come out a slightly more peachy tone than my earlier batch that also had a much darker bloom added to the mix. My white roses may be the next ones I try – it will be interesting to see what colour that goes.

Redcurrant and Orange Meringue Cake

Cake- day

I don’t usually do cake, as even the most cursory glance at this blog will show. But this weekend we had the inlaws for dinner and I was in charge of pudding. So I have faced my cake demons and have actually baked one (I’m blaming my recent Bake Off binges for thinking that this might be a good idea….).

I wanted to use the redcurrant curd that I’d made earlier but I wanted to make something a bit snazzier than a victoria sandwich. I eventually stumbled upon this – Nigella Lawson’s lemon meringue cake. You can find the recipe here

It’s a twist on a lemon meringue pie but with sponge instead of pastry. Nigella’s version has lemon juice and zest mixed into the sponge mix, but as I was using redcurrant curd I decided to go for orange instead and so added the zest of one orange along with 5 tsp of orange juice (the mix looked a bit dry). Once you’ve added the thin layer of sponge to each sandwich tin you then pop the meringue on top.
cake - Straight from the oven

In one tin it’s smoothed flat to form the base of the cake, and in the other it’s pulled up into peaks and scattered with sugar to create a more impressive top. It’s baked once a skewer comes out clean which doesn’t take long (I’ve hidden the slightly burnt edge of the base off the top of the photo…). Removing the bottom tin wasn’t too much of a problem but I was a bit worried about squashing the carefully constructed peaks of the top – I think a loose bottomed tin would be distinctly less stressful than trying to delicately handle fragile peaks of meringue!


The whole thing was then sandwiched together sponge sides in with whipped double cream and redcurrant curd. Obviously I added more curd than the recipe said only to see it start to slide Vesuvius like over the side of the cake – not quite the look I was going for! So in order to try and deflect attention from the curd avalanche I sprinkled some pink sugar on top.

I was a bit worried about this as it wasn’t the neatest of cakes but taste wise it was a massive hit with everyone raving about it. The in laws even took doggy bags of slices home with them. And it was even better the next day when the filling had had more time to set. Cake for breakfast – what could be better!
Slice of cake