Monday 29 May 2017

A safe pair of hands

Grandma Abson was never too explicit about baking temperatures. Her recipes ranged from ‘cool, slow, fast, warm, moderate, fairly hot, hot' to 'very hot’. Those early years cooking on Yorkshire ranges had equipped her with that mysterious knowledge of what was just the right heat for whatever she was baking.
Much of her expertise in baking was based on what she thought was common sense, making sure the oven was heated up and getting the ingredients to room temperature before mixing. 
Modern ovens have temperature controls so we can preheat them and know when to put in our bakes. Oven mitts and gloves provide essential protection for our hands to take hot things in and out.
Back in Grandma’s early days as a below stairs cook for  her employer, Mrs. Hick and her family, Grandma had been told to put her hand in the oven to check the temperature. Thankfully, we don’t do have to do this now. Although Grandma never said she hurt her hands, the chances of a serious burn must have been high. So wear oven gloves or mitts at all times to protect your hands from burns.
Grandma worked with coal, gas and electric ovens during her life and was always keen to keep the oven clean. Fortunately, we don’t have to ‘black lead’ now but we do need to keep our ovens and microwaves clean as grease is a major source of fire in the home and half of all house fires start in the kitchen. Electrical Safety First has more tips and advice. 
Take care and follow these simple rules to stay safe in the kitchen. Grandma wouldn’t want us to take safety in the kitchen for granted. It’s a piece of cake! 
Have you got a tip or a story to share for a safe pair of hands? 

Saturday 13 May 2017

Dutch Apple Pie is the pick of the crop

This has to be one of the best Apple Pie recipes I’ve ever tasted - in fact it’s the pick of the crop! It’s even better using the Dutch Speculaas spice mix from The Speculaas Spice Company.
For the pastry base
8oz/225g Shortcrust pastry 
For the filling
3 large Bramley apples 
(or 2 Bramley + 2 Braeburn apples)
Zest & juice of 1 lemon
2 tsps Speculaas Spice
For the topping
3 oz/75g butter
4oz/110g plain flour
2oz/50g demerara sugar
1 tsp cinnamon

Pre heat the oven to 180C (Fan 160c)/Mark 4/350F. Line a 9 inch/23 cm flan or pie dish with the pastry and leave to chill in the fridge for 30 minutes. Chop the peeled apples into slices and chunks, place in a pan on the hob and add the lemon zest and juice. Simmer for 3-5 minutes and allow to cool. Mix in the speculaas spice mix. Pour the filling into the flan case. Prepare the topping; in a bowl rub the butter into the flour, add the sugar and cinnamon and mix until coarsely crumbled. Spread this mixture on top of the apple filling. Bake in the oven for 45-50 minutes until the top of the pie is golden brown. Serve with crème fraiche, cream or ice cream.
You can make small Dutch Apple Pie tartlets in the same way. Cut circles (approx 4-5 inch/10-12 cm) of shortcrust pastry. Place in a deep bun tin.  Add 1-3 tbsps of the filling and 1 tbsp of the topping. Bake for 20 minutes.
Meryl says : Bramley apples on their own will make a soft filling as in a British Apple Pie. Using a hard dessert apple such as Braeburn will add crisp chunks of apple.  Eva, a Dutch friend, tells me that 
using a mixture of soft and hard apples will fit well with the Dutch tradition. What's your favourite apple dessert?