Posts Tagged ‘organic’

Time for Tea with Jo @includingcake.com

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014

Time for Tea – our monthly chat with someone who cares about tea – this time it’s with Jo Hodson from including cake.com blog

Jo from includingcake.com

1.What is your favourite tea to set you up for the day first thing in the morning?

I’ve always been a big fan of a slice of fresh lemon in warm water but when I want more of a boost I choose a tea instead- a green tea infused with mint or lemon fits the bill perfectly.

2. What is your favourite tea to relax you in the afternoon?

My afternoon and after dinner choice for tea is nearly always peppermint (or a triple mint combo!) I love mint tea and could drink it forever!!

3. What do you like best about Steenbergs teas?

I have only recently started drinking loose teas and I love the choices Steenbergs offers, in both traditional and more unique flavours, as well as the fact they are all organic which is very important to me.

4. Which Steenbergs tea would you most like to try and why?

I love the sound of the Happy Hippy herbal tea! The name makes me smile and the ingredients sounds great- offering a nice change from mint once in a while! I imagine drinking it late morning with a one of my healthy treats to nibble on.

Steenbergs organc happy hippy herbal tea – a delcious blend of flowers and mint.

5. Who would you most like to have a cup of tea with and why?

Oooh this is a tough one. For me tea drinking is a mindful process that centres you in the present. I have a tendency to rush around so much in life and tea really helps me slow down and practice mindfulness in those few moments of sipping from a hot mug. Therefore my ideal tea partner would be someone who could help deepen my spiritual awareness, maybe someone like Deepak Chopra.

 

For more information and to learn more about Jo’s interests – she operates a very interesting vegetarian blog, go to;

Website: www.includingcake.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Including-Cake/163685083724688

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/IncludingCake

LinkedIn:  https://www.linkedin.com/pub/jo-hodson/64/788/707

Instagram: http://instagram.com/johodson
Pinterest:  http://www.pinterest.com/johodson/

Time for Tea with Helen @FussFreeFlavours

Wednesday, June 25th, 2014

The lovely Helen Best Shaw from Fuss Free Flavours imparts her tea habits and desires in this month’s Time for Tea blog spot.

 

HBS Profile Phoho

1.      What is your favourite tea to set you up for the day first thing in the morning?

I am an afternoon tea type of person – I drink coffee in the morning – but occasionally I’ll have a coconut, banana and matcha smoothie for breakfast.

2. What is your favourite tea to relax you in the afternoon?

It depends – I always drink my tea without milk and usually choose something light – Japanese, Chinese greens and whites.  I always use my Emma Bridgewater teapot, silver tea strainer and use a china mug.

3. What do you like best about Steenbergs teas?

The variety and quality! And that I know that they are organic and FairTrade, or traded fairly

4. Which Steenbergs tea would you most like to try and why?

Steenbergs white tea stars – part of the Steenbergs flowering tea.

The white tea stars – they look adorable – or any of the flowering teas.

5. Who would you most like to have a cup of tea with and why?

Skye Gyngell – who is my favourite chef and writer by far.  I had the most amazing meal at Petersham Nurseries about 6 years ago and can still clearly remember her amazing salt cod.  Her flavour combinations are wonderful, I want to cook everything from her cookbooks.

For more of Helen foodie news, you can contact her via:

Website:  fussfreeflavours.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/fussfreeflavours

Twitter:   @fussfreehelen

Instagram:  fussfreeflavours

Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/fussfreeflavour/

Spice Taster Panel – Ras Al Hanut and Organic Harissa with Rose

Friday, June 13th, 2014

  SPICE – SEASON – SAVOUR

Welcome back to our taster panel, where this time our resident testers have been spicing it up with Ras al Hanut and organic Harissa with Rose.   We’ve had a great response and thought we’d share some of their thoughts and ideas with you.  Some of the tips were so good that we’re adding them on to the product pages!

Steenbergs Ras al Hanut

Steenbergs Ras Al Hanut spice blend

Many of you found this wonderful blend of over 20 different spices well rounded, warm, fragrant and spicy but not too hot. ‘Even the kids like it’, said one taster.  You all found it an incredibly versatile blend, using it in everything from scrambled eggs to fish and in a lot of lamb dishes, such as koftas & rack of lamb. With its heady range of spices, it made you think of holidays in the sun, somewhere warm and exotic.  Keith Lemon was mentioned as an ideal dinner guest (!) but the majority of you wanted to share an alfresco meal with your friends and family.  A little Bedouin music was in order for one taster, with an eclectic range from reggae to latin for the rest of you.  Definitely a blend to be enjoyed together.

Steenbergs Ras Al Hanut spice blend, created in rural North Yorkshire and tested by the Steenbergs taster panel.

Steenbergs Ras Al Hanut spice blend, created in rural North Yorkshire and tested by the Steenbergs taster panel.

Key Phrases for Ras al Hanut: ‘wonderful smell – casting me back to ethnic spice markets in foreign parts’; ‘light & fragrant without being overpowering or aggressively punchy’; ‘fantastic, had a lovely warmth without being too spicy’; ‘perky, interesting, not too hot,  very tasty, brilliant with lamb’.

Top Cooking Tips: moroccan chicken stew; vegetable stew; on scrambled eggs; stew; rub on chicken; rub on steak & lamb; Moroccan tagine; roasted veg; eggs; fish; chicken; chicken curry; lamb spice rub on rack of lamb; spice rub on chicken wings; with lamb; on hummous; roasted veg; lamb koftas with ras al hanut with spritz of lemon; Moroccan veg stew; pork steak with garlic; Couscous balls – mixed with olive oil then stirred into couscous, then formed couscous into a ball before eating;

Steenbergs organic Harissa with Rose

Steenbergs organic harissa with rose spice blend, blended in Yorkshire.

Another blend with North African origins, this was very different in character and also divided opinion with the addition of rose.  Most of you enjoyed it, one was pleasantly surprised after initial suspicion, one couldn’t taste the rose and one was definitely not convinced! However you did all give it a really good try in a fantastic range of recipes: from roasted chickpeas to Muhammara dip, and from butternut and harissa hummus to puy lentil dressing.  You also used it in tagines, as a rub and in a yoghurt dip showing the huge variety of meals that can benefit from this blend.  Again it whisked you all far away to a warm night in Morocco with friends, or maybe by yourself but you had everything from Algerian Rai to Reggae to entertain you!

 

Steenbegs organic Harissa with Rose comments from the Taster panel

 

Key phrases for Harissa with Rose: ‘Lovely, one of the nicest harissa’s I’ve had’;nice, warm, spicy hot with flavour’; ‘warm with hints of garlic & onion’; ‘there is an initial chilli flavour which mellows into a lovely fragrant flavour and leaves the palate with a warmth that hums on afterwards’.

Top Cooking Tips: roasted chickpeas; veg stew; grilled fish; stock for couscous; Shakshuka; marinade for lamb/steak; dressing for bulgur wheat & chickpea salad; spicy pork;in Muhammara dip – nicely set off the vinegar/sharp notes; Butternut & harissa hummous; harissa and sweet potato wedges; spicing for N African stews, mixed with olive oil for marinade for fish, chicken, meat and kebabs; puy lentil salad dressing; tagine; griddled veg; patatas bravas; pork steak and couscous

We always love to hear from our customers, what amazing creations you make in the kitchen with our spices and what you like (and don’t like), comment underneath about how you find these spice blends or alternatively email us direct, instagram, facebook or tweet your creations to us. Happy Cooking

  SPICE – SEASON – SAVOUR

For the full range of Steenbergs arabic spice blends, click here, all of these are created and blended at Steenbergs in rural North Yorkshire.

Steenbergs New Taster Panels Report – Tea Tasting 1

Wednesday, February 19th, 2014

Welcome to Steenbergs Tea Taster Panel’s first review of some of our teas!  Back in October 2013, we asked all of our lovely customers if any of you would like to be tea and spice tasters for us and luckily lots of you agreed! Thank you so much to all of you who have kindly spiced, seasoned and savoured for us, so that we can help improve our products and ultimately give you all more of what you would like to see from Steenbergs.

 

Tea Tastings

We started our Tea Tasting Panel with two very different flavour teas: Steenbergs organic Green Tea with Lemon Verbena and Gingerand Steenbergs organic Gingerbread Chai, to see whether indeed there was a difference in where, when and how you liked to drink them (and who with!), and if you had any comments for us.  We also asked you to say which music genre the product made you think of – just to spice things up!

 

1. Green Tea with Lemon Verbena & Ginger

Many of you found this tea to be a subtle blend with a fresh taste and a bit of a zing.  However a few of you did comment on the need for more ginger or lemon and that maybe it was a little bitter or a bit too subtle. With this fresh blend, all of you decided to drink it with no added milk or sugar and only one of you added lemon. 62% of you chose to enjoy the tea without food, although biscuits were a favourite option.  There was a pretty even split between morning, afternoon and evening drinking so you obviously found it to be a versatile tea.  Many of you imagined enjoying this, relaxing with family and friends at home (although George Clooney and Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall did get a mention) and by the sounds of it, chilling out to some classical or folk tunes (with a bit of hippy psychedelic music thrown in!).

Steenbergs refreshing blend of organic green tea with lemon verbena and ginger

Steenbergs organic green tea with lemon verbena and ginger loose leaf tea in a tea caddy.

 

What people think about Steenbergs organic green tea with lemon verbena and ginger

What people think about Steenbergs organic green tea with lemon verbena and ginger.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Key Phrases for Green Tea with Lemon Verbena and Ginger:

‘Lovely subtle verbena and ginger flavour’; ‘Dry with a zing’; ‘clean, refreshing’; ‘subtle, satisfying delicate taste of green tea ending in a lemon zing;’ light & fresh’

 

2. Gingerbread Chai

Whereas many of our tasters found the Green Tea blend refreshing, their second tea conjured up something totally different.  According to the panel, Steenbergs organic Gingerbread Chai is a spicy, warming blend, redolent of wintery evenings and Christmas and full of the flavours of ginger, cinnamon & cloves.  It was much stronger for many of you and this time 30% decided to add milk, although there were still very few who sweetened or added lemon.  60% opted to enjoy without food, but when you did, mince pies or biscuits were the chosen indulgence.  There was a really even split between morning and evening drinking, with many of you looking to enjoy it during the festive season to ward of the winter chills.  Being an authentic chai blend, some of you thought nostalgically about homemade masala chai, whilst others pondered wistfully about dinner in Mumbai or a boat on the Ganges.  The Indian influences were definitely carried through to the musical choices, although folk, rock, reggae and Christmas songs also featured – definitely an eclectic mix!

Chai tea mix

Steenbergs organic gingerbread chait tea loose leaf

organic gingerbread chai tea loose leaf

organic gingerbread chai tea loose leaf

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Key Phrases for Gingerbread Chai:

‘Very pleasant & refreshing’; ‘warm & unique’; ‘spicy but not overpowering’; ‘An authentic masala chai’; ‘warming with a touch of spice’; ‘spicy, soothing, tasty’; ‘A warm aromatic blend with mild spicy hints’; ‘warm, comforting & easy’

 

 If you have an opinion on either of these teas that you’d like to share. Please feel free to comment at the bottom of this post.

 

Steenbergs Tasting Panel results – Spices 1

Wednesday, February 5th, 2014

 

Spice Tastings

Welcome to 2014 and a review of our exciting new Taster Panels!  Back in October 2013, we asked all of our lovely customers if any of you would like to be tea and spice tasters for us and luckily lots of you agreed! Thank you so much to all of you who have kindly spiced, seasoned and savoured for us, so that we can help improve our products and ultimately give you all more of what you would like to see from Steenbergs.

If you have a point of view about either of these products, please don’t hesitate to comment at the end.

Our volunteer spice panellists were sent 2 very different blends to try: Steenbergs organic Perfect Salt, which is the ultimate all-round seasoning, first introduced by Steenbergs in their first summer back in 2004 and the brand new Steenbergs organic Apple Pie Mix, a comforting blend of warming spices, perfect for all kinds of home-baking.

 

1. Perfect Salt

We had a fantastic response to our Perfect Salt sample with 85% of you loving its great versatility, using it in recipes ranging from scrambled eggs to tomato salad, and from stews to breadcrumb toppings, as a cooking ingredient as well as a condiment.  60% of you loved it with roasted vegetables, with potatoes being by far the favourite.  The majority of you loved the crunchy texture of the blend but some of you chose to use a grinder for finer application.  The herbs and pepper were a welcome combination but a couple of you made the helpful suggestion that perhaps this should be called ‘Perfect Seasoning’ rather than Perfect Salt due to the balance of other flavours.  Cosy, homely times with friends and family were the ideal way to enjoy this product, although Tom Kerridge and Italy also made an appearance – showing its versatility in a new light!

Steenbergs Organic Perfect Salt Mix - ideal for seasoning savoury products or as a table condiment.

Steenbergs Organic Perfect Salt Blend


 

Key Phrases for Perfect Salt:

‘Herbs bring a warming balance and flavour’; ‘tangy sea salt’; ‘adds an extra dynamic to food’; ‘rich and versatile product that no good cook or kitchen should be without!’; ‘use with everything!’; ‘Salt & pepper with a herby bite’; ‘A one-stop-shop for seasoning’; ‘really versatile’; ‘a quick addition of umami’; ‘works in/on anything savoury’; ‘a real all-purpose product’; ‘the potential uses for this are unlimited’; ‘one pot for a lot of flavour’

 

Steenbergs Organic Perfect Salt Wordle

What the Steenbergs Taster Panel thinks about Steenbergs organic perfect salt blend

 

 

 

 

 

4. Apple Pie Spice Mix

We received a definite response to our Apple Pie Mix, with cries of Christmas, winter, log fires and baking.  Even with a relatively specific product name, the versatility of the product was enjoyed and thoroughly put to the test with everything from the more obvious fruit pies and crumbles through to North African tagines, chai tea, mulled wine and pumpkin soup.  Over half of you wanted to enjoy this at home in some wintery or autumnal context although the Caribbean was mentioned!  Along with family and friends, Paul Hollywood and children also featured as your preferred guests to enjoy some cosy family baking courtesy of the Apple Pie spice blend.

Steenbergs spice mix for apple pies

Steenbergs Organic Apple Pie Mix

 

 

Key Phrases for Apple Pie Spice Mix:

‘A mouth-watering blend of organic bliss!’; ‘It inspires flavourful pie making’; ‘this took me back to my Nan’s apple pie’; ‘liked that it had no sugar’; ‘not limited to apple pie’; ‘an aromatic blend to enliven any pie/crumble’; ‘lovely and warm and cosy’; ‘good spice with roundness and a hint of vanilla’; ‘warm & wintery flavours’; ‘warm, Christmassy spice’; ‘like Grandma’s mince pies’; ’It smells like Christmas and tastes like Heaven!’

What Steenbergs Taster Panel think of Steenbergs Apple Pie Mix

What the Steenbergs Taster Panel think of Steenbergs Apple Pie Mix

Sophie Grigson Cookery Demonstration At The Oak Tree In Helperby

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012
On Monday 26th, we had arranged a cookery demonstration by Sophie Grigson of some recipes from her new cookery book, Spices, followed by some fizz and a book signing session, before lunch. The event was hosted for Steenbergs at The Oak Tree in Helperby, which in a twist of fate celebrates it one year birthday after having been completely refurbished and reopened on 28 March 2011. The Oak Tree is part of Provenance Inns, a small and newish local chain of foodie pubs, run in a partnership between Chris Blundell and Michael Ibbotson (who owns the acclaimed The Durham Ox); they have, also, recently taken over The Punch Bowl in Marton cum Grafton and breathed life back into it and are developing a reputation for turning around pubs that have gone awry. Sophie Grigson’s demonstration was fantastically well supported with all available places being snapped up immediately they went on sale and the sun even came out, bathing us all in unexpected Yorkshire sun, so proving that North Yorkshire not only has excellent local provenance, fantastic food pubs in lovely villages, but also beautiful, sunny weather some of the time.
Axel Steenberg, Sophie Grigson And *

Axel Steenberg, Sophie Grigson And Kate Robey

Sophie Grigson was full of joie de vivre and enthusiasm for spices and as always was very approachable both in the way she explained how to make the recipes and afterwards in chatting with everyone.  She showed some unusual ways to use them, as well as some less well known spices. So we had sumac used to marinade an onion salad, red peppercorns for a prawn, mango & avocado salad, but I was really taken with vanilla chicken with peppers & white wine.   I loved the way vanilla was used for a savoury dish rather than its usual use in baking or sweet puddings, like creme brulee or panna cotta. And it tasted truly fabulous. It was so good that I cobbled something together for our evening meal, knowing that we had some chicken thighs out for defrosting.  It came out really well, especially as I had left her book at work so had to second guess the details, but then this is a really versatile dish and seems to be quite forgiving – now that’s a key factor for great home cooking , so thank you Sophie for this recipe. All in all I felt very excited and enthusiastic afterwards as I am sure everyone else did.
Sophie Grigson Sprinkling Spices Over Vanilla Chicken With Peppers

Sophie Grigson Sprinkling Spices Over Vanilla Chicken With Peppers

Vanilla Chicken With Peppers As Prepared By Sophie Grigson

Vanilla Chicken With Peppers As Prepared By Sophie Grigson

Here’s the recipe for vanilla chicken (but now please buy her book):

Ingredients

1½kg /3¼lb of free-range or organic chicken, jointed
3 red or yellow peppers
1tbsp extra virgin olive oil
100ml /3½ fl oz / 0.4 cup dry white wine
A few thyme sprigs

Spice rub

½tsp vanilla paste
½tsp coarse sea salt
½tsp thyme leaves
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
¼tsp freshly ground black pepper
1tbsp extra virgin olive oil

For the spice rub, just mix all the ingredients together in a large bowl. Add the chicken pieces and turn them in the mixture, massaging them all over. Cover and leave for at least 1 hour, but far better a full 24 hours.

Preheat the oven to 220C/Gas Mark 7/428F. Halve, core and deseed the peppers, then cut into broad strips. Put the peppers and olive oil in a roasting tin or shallow ovenproof dish with a little salt (not too much as some will leach out of the chicken), and turn to coat the peppers lightly in oil.

Add the chicken to the tin, distributing the pieces amongst the peppers. Pour over the wine and scatter the thyme sprigs. Roast for 45 minutes or so, turning over the pieces and stirring around twice, until the chichen is cooked through. Check the seasoning.

Serve with rice.


When I made this in the evening after Sophie Grigson’s demo at The Oak Tree, and as I did not have the correct ingredients, I mixed together 1tbsp vanilla paste, 1tbsp honey, a good pinch of freshly ground pepper (I am using a new Epices Roellinger grinder from Peugeot in cherry red), a smidgeon of my Italian herbs blend, some olive oil and some sea salt. I used chicken thighs and cooked them at 180C in a fan assisted oven for 30 minutes. It seemed to do the trick.

A Better Version Of Simnel Cake Than My Last Attempt

Monday, March 19th, 2012
A year or so ago I made a simnel cake, but it came out rather squat and a tad heavy. The squatness was easily remedied with a smaller baking tin, while the texture was improved through using a lighter recipe with more eggs. I have, also, used an idea that was given to me, and the marzipan is incorporated into the cake itself rather than as a layer between two halves.

I made this cake on Saturday and we tried a few pieces today for Mothering Sunday. The fourth Sunday in Lent in England is Mothering Sunday. This celebration is based on the day’s appointed old testament reading (Isaiah 66) for the Church of England, which includes the lines “Rejoice ye with Jerusalem, and be ye glad with her“, combined with the day’s new testament lesson (Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians) which speaks of Jerusalem as “the mother of us all“.

Simnel Cake

Simnel Cake

Combined with this, Mothering Sunday was the day when, prior to the First World War, servants were the given the day off to visit their mothers. In the Victorian period, some 50% of all employment was in domestic service, of which a goodly chunk was unmarried girls. These young women were given free rein in the kitchen to make a cake to show off their skills to their mothers, and so they devised a rich, fruit cake that they then carried home and it was stored until Easter, some three Sundays thereafter. This gave the cake ample time to mature nicely ready to be decorated with marzipan. It is worth remembering in these profligate times (if pretty austere economically) that fruits, nuts and sugar were relative expensive items back in the nineteenth century unlike today where they are comparatively cheap.

As for the marzipanning, the cake is topped with rich marzipan that is then baked to a golden brown, and around the top there are either 12 or 11 balls. I must admit to always decorating with 11 balls for the eleven disciples, although Elisabeth Luard says it should be 12 to signify the 11 disciples and Jesus, which may be more correct as it reflects the British superstition for the number 13 and is a lot easier to balance out on the top of the cake. The missing ball is for Judas Iscariot who is no longer a disciple by Easter.

The Steenbergs’ Simnel Cake Recipe

The marzipan:

250g / 9oz caster sugar
250g / 9oz ground almonds
2 medium free range eggs, lightly beaten
1tsp of almond extract
1 medium free range egg, lightly beaten (keep in mug or cup for the glaze later on)

The Cake:

110g / 3¾oz unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 medium free-range eggs, lightly beaten
110g / 3¾oz soft brown sugar
150g / 5¼oz plain flour
Pinch of sea salt
150g / 5¼oz raisins
50g /1¾oz currants
150g /5¼ oz sultanas
55g / 2oz candied mixed peel
2tsp orange extract
2tbsp apricot jam
1tsp mixed spice
½tsp ground cloves
1tsp ground cinnamon

What to do?

Pre heat the oven to 140C/285F. Prepare an 18cm/ 7 inch and quite tall cake tin, by lightly oiling it all over, then lining it with baking parchment.

To make the marzipan: place the sugar and ground almonds in a bowl, then add the 2 lightly beaten eggs and mix thoroughly. Add the almond essence and knead for a minute or two until it becomes smooth and soft. Divide the marzipan into 3 roughly equal portions.

Next, I start by preparing the flour and dried fruit:
  • Sieve the plain flour, baking spices together into a mixing bowl.
  • Mix the dried fruit together in a big mixing bowl either with a spoon or your hands. I prefer hands as cooking should be a tactile experience, but also it enables you to break up the fruit which is usually quite stuck together. Next add the mixed peel and spread that through the mix, using your fingers. Finally, I mix through 1tbsp of the flour mix, which will stop the fruit dropping to the bottom of the cake in the oven.

Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy in a decent sized mixing bowl using a hand-held electric whisk. Add the lightly beaten eggs and orange extract until well mixed together. Then add the flour-spices mix and mix together thoroughly.

Now take one of the pieces of marzipan and break into small chunks. Add these to the cake mix and gently fold into the cake batter, trying to keep them as intact as possible.

Spoon the simnel cake mixture into the prepared cake tin. Place into the centre of the pre heated oven and cook for one hour and thirty minutes. Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin. After 15 minutes turn out and place on wire rack to cool down.

Baked Simnel Fruit Cake

Baked Simnel Fruit Cake

When cooled down, brush the top of the cake with the apricot jam. Next, dust a rolling surface with icing sugar and a rolling pin also with icing sugar (otherwise it sticks to everything), then roll out one of the remaining pieces of marzipan. Place this rolled marzipan over the top of the cake, cutting off the edges (they taste nice so enjoy these as a cook’s perk). With the final third of marzipan, split it into 11 (or 12) equal pieces and roll into balls and place these around the edge of the cake. Finally, glaze the marzipan with the beaten egg.

Put the cake under a hot grill and brown the top of the cake lightly, then leave to cool.

Simnel Cake With Baked Marzipan

Simnel Cake With Baked Marzipan

Delicious (Though I Say It Myself) Orange And Earl Grey Cake

Saturday, February 25th, 2012
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Give Some Time And Make Some Christmas Sweets

Friday, December 23rd, 2011

In this festive period, we have been asked out to various families for drinks, or the kids out to parties.  And the question always is what to give people in a period of giving.  So yesterday, the kids and I spent a happy day making sweets, much as we have done before.  So there was a kitchen full or sugar, ground almonds and the smell of chocolate.  Our clothes were covered in the light white snow of icing sugar and there was a healthy crunch of caster sugar beneath our feet on the kitchen tiles.

Our Kitchen Table Covered In Homemade Sweets

Our Kitchen Table Covered In Homemade Sweets

But why bother, when you can buy sweets in the shops.  And where they are way cheaper as well – excluding the ingredients, our time would cost each sweet at about 50p, and that’s sweet and not box of sweets.  The answer is in part that they taste much nicer as we use better ingredients like organic Fairtrade sugar, and are much more generous in the luxury components like chocolate and vanilla.  But also, it is the giving of our time.

In an age where everyone claims to be so time poor, giving excuses like I am far too busy to play with my children or cook a meal from scratch or to make sweets or bake, what is more generous than giving over some time to make something for friends and family.  And they taste pretty damn delicious as well.  Think if I were a hedge fund manager or big corporate fat cat, I could perhaps even get the cost per sweet up to £18 or more per chunk of fudge – think how generous my time would be then.

So I say, please give some time and make something for your friends and family and show how generous you can be by releasing some of your precious time to show how much you love and care.

Enough of that and down to the nitty-gritty, we made marzipan kugeln (or marzipan balls dipped in milk chocolate), peppermint creams (shaped as circles and stars and dipped in chocolate), milk chocolate shapes (Merry Christmas tablets, santas and stars), vanilla fudge and chocolate fudge.  There was something about the fudge that made it extra soft and velvety this year and less crystalline and tablet like.  I think it was the patience and extra diligence over the stirring, but it could just have been the recipe, which was tweaked for the ingredients I had to hand.

Homemade Chocolate Fudge

900g / 2lb caster sugar
100g / 3¼oz unsalted butter
1 large tin of evaporated milk (410g/ 14½oz)
¼ of evaporated milk tin of cold water
250g / 9oz milk chocolate

Prepare a tin, by lining the base with some baking parchment.  We use a 2cm (½ inch) deep pan that is 30cm by 20cm (12 inch x 8 inch).

Put the caster sugar, unsalted butter, evaporated milk and cold water into a heavy bottomed pan.  Put the pan over a medium heat and with a wooden spoon stir the mixture until it is fully dissolved.  While the sugar mixture is melting, melt the milk chocolate over a pan of boiling water, then when melted switch off but keep warm by keeping over the pan.

Turn up the heat a tad and let the sugar mixture boil rapidly, stirring consistently all the while.  When the mixture reaches the soft-ball stage (114C/238F), remove from the heat immediately.  I reckon this part takes around 20 minutes, but many books seem to claim it is much quicker.  Now you need to vigorously stir the mixture until it starts to thicken and begins to become rough – this takes 10 to 15 minutes and is quite tiring on the old arms.

Pour the fudge mixture into the baking tray, smooth over with a spatula.  Then using a sharp knife, cut the fudge into whatever sized cubes you want.

Leave to cool for 3 hours, then turn out of the baking tray, break off the fudge pieces, eating a few along the way to ensure the taste and texture are spot on, then put into an airtight container or some pretty gift boxes for pressies.

Homemade Chocolate Fudge In Gift Box

Homemade Chocolate Fudge In Gift Box

Recipe For A Thoroughly Modern Vegetarian Balti

Tuesday, December 20th, 2011

Once in a while, I really need to go without meat of any form and I am going through one of those patches at the moment.  So I have tweaked my Chicken Balti Recipe from earlier this year to be more tofu friendly and so usable as a vegetarian dish. At the same time, I have simplified the spices in the recipe to make the whole thing a bit quicker; if you want to mix the spice blend from scratch, I have put the spices as a note to the whole recipe. Now it is something that you can whizz up quickly at the end of the day and keep the whole family happy – for a short while as well.

Vegetarian Tofu Balti

Vegetarian Tofu Balti

Stage 1: the smooth Balti tomato sauce

3tbsp sunflower oil
1 medium onion (125g / 4½oz), roughly chopped
2 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
2cm fresh ginger, grated finely
2tsp Steenbergs Balti curry powder
150g / 4½oz chopped tomatoes

Firstly, we need to make the base balti sauce. Add the sunflower oil to a heavy bottomed pan and heat to sizzling hot. Add, then stir fry the onion and garlic until translucent which will take about 3 – 4 minutes. Add the fresh ginger and stir once. Add the Steenbergs Balti Curry Powder and stir in, turning for about half a minute, making sure it does not stick to the pan. Finally add the chopped tomatoes and simmer gently for about 5 minutes.

Blitz the sauce either with a hand held blender or take out and pulse in a Magimix until smooth. Set aside until later.

Stage 2: the Balti stir fry

3tbsp sunflower oil
500g / 1lb 2oz Quorn or tofu, cut into 2cm x 2cm cubes
1 red pepper, deseeded and chopped into 1cm x 1cm pieces
150g / 5oz onion, finely chopped
150g / 5oz button mushrooms, chopped in half or quarters
3tsp Steenbergs vegetable curry powder
2tbsp chopped tomatoes
1tsp Steenbergs garam masala
100ml / 3½ fl oz / ½ cup water
Handful chopped fresh coriander leaves

Heat the oven to 100C / 212F. Add half of the sunflower oil to a wok and heat until smoking hot. Stir fry the Quorn or tofu in batches until lightly browned. Put the cooked Quorn and tofu into the warmed oven. When complete, clean the wok.

Add the remainder of the sunflower oil to the wok and heat until hot and smoking. Add the green peppers, chilli and button mushrooms and stir fry for 4 – 5 minutes, stirring constantly, making sure it does not burn and is fried well. Tip in the vegetable curry powder and stir through twice, then add the smooth balti tomato sauce and mix in plus the 2 tablespoons of chopped tomatoes. Heat until simmering, then add the water and reheat to a simmer, mixing all together. Cook on a gentle simmer for 15 minutes.

Add the cooked Quorn or tofu pieces and mix together. Add the garam masala. Cook for a further 10 minutes. About 2 minutes before the end add the chopped fresh coriander and stir through.

Serve hot with naan, plus we like dhal with it.

Spice blends for those doing the spices from scratch:

Spice mix for Balti sauce (1)

½tsp cumin seeds
½tsp coriander seeds
¼tsp fennel seeds
½tsp chilli powder
½tsp Fairtrade turmeric

For these, mix together then either grind iun an electric coffee grinder or break up in mortar and pastle.  Alternatively you could use powders rather than whole seeds.

Spice mix for Balti stir fry (2), instead of vegetable curry powder

½tsp cumin powder
1tsp paprika
¼tsp fenugreek powder
1tsp turmeric
¼tsp cinnamon powder
¼tsp cardamom powder