Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Making beautiful fresh pasta at home

I recently spent a lovely day making fresh pasta in the beautiful home of Carmela's Kitchen. Carmela teaches Italian cookery from her family kitchen in Northampton, be that pasta, meat, fish or desserts, you're sure to find a class of interest. On top of this she teaches and demo's at the Italian Shop and Bay Tree Cottage as well as running large events for up to 70 people at a time!
For details on upcoming classes, visit Carmela's Kitchen

First up we had to start by making the basic pasta dough (recipe below). It's so inexpensive to make and goes an unbelievably long way, I have since bought myself a pasta machine and vow to make it more often with the help of my 2 boys.

Messy but fun! Me having a go at mixing the pasta dough!!

Adding some fresh herbs to pasta sheets, so simple and so tasty...  

 From pasta sheets to beautiful herby tagiatelle

Next up, adding a filling of ricotta, spinach and a touch of nutmeg to sheets, fold over to make little pillows...

cut into ravioli...

 or use a cookie cutter to make crescents...

 then bring the corners together and we have tortellini!!

We also used a gnocchi board to make rigatoni and little bite size pasta gnocchi 

Recipe for basic pasta dough (feeds 4)
What you will need
400g Flour OO
Large pinch of salt
4 Free range eggs

1. On the board tip on the flour and make a small well in the middle. I don't normally beat the eggs first.
2. Crack all four eggs into the well and add a generous pinch of salt.
3. Use your fingers to start combining the eggs into the flour, then work it in to a ball. Work the dough once formed for about 7 minutes, until silky and smooth. You can use a dough hook on your mixer, but i love making pasta by hand.
4. Leave the dough on the board and cover it with a clean tea towel or tip a bowl over it so the air doesn't get in, and leave for half an hour to rest.
5. Set the pasta machine up. Cut the dough ball in half.
6. Feed the first half through the pasta machine. Feed it through the machine about 10 times, until it is thin, (the Italians say that you should be able to read a newspaper through the pasta sheet).
7. Once the pasta has passed through the machine and is a thin sheet, you can then go ahead and make your pasta of choice.

Think I'm pretty pleased with my little spinach and ricotta tortellini!

Happy baking xx

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Weston and Weedon Food Fair

The Weston and Weedon Food Fair, 

Lois Weedon, Northamptonshire

Saturday 7th September

Last of the summer berries: Twist on a Victoria sandwich: Autumnal Pumpkin Spce

Carmela's kitchen: beautiful pasta demonstrations

Brick chicken... Delicious lunch!

I was delighted to attend this year's first Food Fair as part of The Weston and Weedon Horticultural Society who, for over 70 years, has attracted growing number of visitors to what is one of the county's biggest horticultural and food shows.

The show was opened and presented by food writer and star of BBC2's brilliant TV show Great British Menu, Matthew Fort

 and brought together a selection of the counties food and drink suppliers as well as some of the biggest, prize winning veg you ever did see....

Next year promises to be even bigger and I look forward to seeing you there.
Happy baking
Julie xx

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Autumn is here!

Well I think Autumn is definitely upon us... The nights are turning chilly, there's the smell of wood smoke in the air and yes, my heating has just been switched on!! 

I do love Autumn... I love the smells. I live in a village where the smell of wood smoke is around pretty much every day but it's not the same as when accompanied by a frosty chill, reminds me of being in the mountains. I love wrapping up in layers and taking my boys for walks in the woods. Coming home to something comforting. Cooking becomes so much more wholesome, hearty soups and stews packed with delicious warming root veggies. Summer berry tarts replaced by fruity crumbles covered in thick custard.. Yum!

The first of my Autumn cupcake flavours made an appearance this last weekend at the Weedon & Weston Food Fair, and it's one of my favourites... This is pumpkin pie. It's a really moist cake filled with pumpkin purée and spiced with cinnamon. It's similar in taste and texture to carrot cake but without the chunky bits!!

Using up the last of the summer berries in this mixed berry cupcake. A vanilla cupcake with a berry compote inside and decorated with fresh berries on the top

Good old Victoria sandwich gets a mini makeover... Vanilla cupcake is hollowed out to be filled with strawberry jam and buttercream, the top is then replaced, another swirl of buttercream and a fresh strawberry to finish.

And while searching Google for a picture that epitomised the colours of Autumn I came across this lovely little poem by George Cooper.

Happy leaf peeping and happy baking x

Saturday, 27 July 2013

Afternoon tea at the gorgeous Fawsley Hall

Last Sunday, myself and a bunch of 9 lovely ladies headed over to Fawsley Hall, nr Daventry for a friends (nearly 40th!!) birthday. 

We were presented with a beautiful selection of finger sandwiches, fruit and plain scones with jam and clotted cream and some gorgeous mini cakes and pastries, all washed down with lots of tea and chilled Prosecco... delicious!!

lovely tiered cake stand
mixed berry tart
Coffee and walnut profiterole
Chocolate and raspberry tart
I think there was still a little room for more clotted cream here....

After all of that indulgence, a stroll around the gardens was much needed
(Church of St Mary seen at the other side of the lake)

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Recipe for Thorntons Orange and Cardamom dipped cinder toffee

I was recently sent a bundle of delicious Thorntons chocolates to play with and create some tempting recipes. Being a massive chocolate lover this was no easy task.... so many recipes, which ones to choose??
Belgian Milk Choc Block, Milk Choc Block with Fudge, Orange and Cardamom Choc Block, Special Toffee Milk Choc Block, Award-winning Pistachio Block, Hazelnut and Raisin Block, Award-winning Strawberry Block

Totally by chance I came across a recipe for cinder toffee (think honeycomb/Crunchie bars)... It reminded me that I still needed to have a go at making it after my lovely friend Rosie made some for one of our trips down to London... and it was lush!!

  • 100caster sugar
  • tablespoons golden syrup
  • 1 ½ teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
  • 50g Thorntons Orange and cardamom chocolate
  1. Put the sugar and syrup into a saucepan and stir together to mix. You mustn't stir once the pan's on the heat, though.
  2. Place the pan on the heat and let the mixture first melt, then turn to goo and then to a bubbling mass the colour of maple syrup - this will take 3 minutes or so.
  3. Off the heat, whisk in the bicarbonate of soda and watch the syrup turn into a whooshing cloud of aerated pale gold. Turn this immediately onto a piece of reusable baking parchment or greased foil.
  4. Leave until set and then bash at it, so that it splinters into many glinting pieces.
  5. Melt the chocolate and dip the shards of honeycomb to coat. 

Happy baking x

Recipe for Thorntons toffee fudge chocolate brownie

I was recently sent a bundle of delicious Thorntons chocolates to play with and create some tempting recipes. Being a massive chocolate lover this was no easy task.... so many recipes, which ones to choose??
I'm big into my brownies at the moment so my first thought was a brownie recipe and what better than combining both the toffee and fudge chocolates for this...

The toffee is a Mexican milk chocolate with chewy pieces of special toffee which I thought would be perfect melted in to the brownie. While the fudge is a creamy Papua New Guinea milk chocolate with soft fudge pieces.


90g each of Thorntons toffee and Thorntons fudge chocolate blocks
175g unsalted butter
325g caster sugar
130g plain flour
3 eggs
icing sugar, to decorate

a 33 x 23 x 5cm baking tray, lined with greaseproof paper

Makes about 12 portions

1. Preheat the oven to 170C / 325F / GM3

2. Put the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water (do not let the base of the bowl touch the water). Leave until melted and smooth. Or heat in the microwave for 30 seconds at a time, stirring at each interval until just melted.

3. Remove from the heat. Add the sugar and stir until well incorporated. Add the flour and stir until well incorporated. Finally, stir in the eggs and mix until thick and smooth.

4. Spoon the mixture into the prepared baking tray and bake in the preheated oven for about 25-30 minutes, or until flaky on the top but still soft in the centre. Be careful not to overcook otherwise the edges will become hard and crunchy. Leave to cool completely before dusting with icing sugar, to decorate. 

I like my brownies with a gooey centre so generally cook for just 25 minutes but if you prefer them a little more firm then check at 30.


Happy baking x