Apple biscuits

Whenever I make a crumble I always make the topping in bulk so weasy have enough to last a few days (I’m not great when it comes to puddings so this is about as adventurous and work-intensive as it gets). Sometimes though I have too much topping leftover relative to fruit. No big deal, I’ll just put a bit more on  (or eat it raw) but it does make for a dense and less crumblier crumble.

Not this time! I guess I was having a biscuit craving (I do have a weakness when it comes to biscuits) but I thought ‘why not make a few biscuits?’ After all, I was already half-way there.  The boys leapt at the idea and Harry then requested apple biscuits. I remembered vaguely reading an apple biscuit recipe where they lay slices on top and we had a half-eaten apple in the fridge so I thought I’d give it a go.

Rather than binding the already rubbed in mixture with water or egg, I used the leftover liquid from my chickpeas that I’d been storing in the fridge. It had congealed  (sounds appetising, I know) so was very egg-like in consistency. The liquid is called aquafaba and is becoming a popular egg replacer  (around 3tbsp = 1 egg). The liquid from any pulse could be used but chickpeas,  followed by other white beans (e.g. butter beans,  cannelini beans) are supposed to have the best results. I’d used a dairy-free spread in the crumble mix so these biscuits are both dairy-free and vegan-friendly.

Ingredients for crumble topping 
8oz flour

4oz butter (I used an olive oil spread)

2oz sugar (I used raw granulated sugar)

Handful of oats

1tsp ginger or cinnamon

Ingredients for biscuits

Leftover crumble mix

Aquafaba  (or water)

Thin slices of apple (I used a vegetable peeler to do this – I think it would be good to dry them out a bit first so the top of the biscuits don’t get too soggy.

Sprinkle of cinnamon and sugar

Rub all the icrumble ingredients together. After you’ve made your crumble take whatever is leftover and add enough aquafaba to bind it into a soft dough. Either roll and cut out your biscuits or just place flattened balls on a greased tray. Lay apple slices over the top and sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar. Bake at 180c for approximately 15 minutes.

Leftover food stuff used:

Apple * aquafaba * crumble mix

Summer fruit pavlova 

I usually try to set a theme for whenever I’m off with my son during school holidays but I had no inspiration this time.  However we seemed to set a theme regardless: fruit picking. Monday was the fruit farm for strawberries and raspberries. Tuesday was early blackberry picking (and a surprise gift of cherries from a colleague’s cherry tree). Wednesday was a lovely walk around the university’s fruit route.

So what to do with a glut of fruit? Summer and berries just called out pavlova to me. The only problem with pavlova is it is too pretty to cut…

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Meringue:

2 egg whites

4oz sugar

1tsp cornflour

Whisk egg whites until firm then add sugar and cornflour in a thin stream until combined. Spread onto a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper in a circle, making sure the edges are thicker than the centre. Bake in the oven at 150C for between 45 minutes and an hour. Turn off the oven and leave to cool in the oven with the door ajar.

The Filling:

Creme fraiche (a few tablespoons)

Icing sugar (sweeten to taste)

Selection of fruit (in our case: strawberries, raspberries, cherries and blackberries)

A few sprigs of mint

Mix the creme fraiche with enough icing sugar for your taste. Spread over the cooled meringue. Distribute the fruit on top and finish with some mint leaves.

Food stuff used up:

Creme fraiche * Eggs * Fruit

Tips:

Meringues only use egg whites so always make sure you have a recipe in mind to use up the egg yolks so that they don’t go to waste. I was making egg-fried rice the next night so I used them in that.

Egg whites and egg yolks can also both be frozen once separated (although I have never tried it) so if you don’t plan on using the egg yolks immediately then this is a good idea.

 

 

Chocolate-coconut-toffee-flapjacks

Using up leftovers isn’t just about not wasting food, it is about making the most of what you have. I know I am not alone in opening the cupboards/fridge/freezer and thinking I have nothing for dinner so I order a takeaway instead. Yes, it is rare for me to do this (takeaways are generally planned, or at least have to be flexible within my menu planning), but I admit that there are days when I am flummoxed and have no inspiration whatsoever.

Generally when we think of wasting food, and using up leftovers, perishable food is top of our concerns (which they should be), and we neglect the freezer and the store cupboard. The freezer is, of course, perfect for those occasions when you reach for the takeaway menu – just make sure you label everything, and even keep an inventory, unless you like surprises or playing guessing games through the frost (I’m the latter). The store cupboard is a whole other ball game, but one that is much more fun – mainly because it usually means baking.

It is important to keep a well-stocked store cupboard, not least because when zombies/the apocalypse/environmental disaster hit you want to be prepared, but particularly because these ingredients help tie your perishables together in what might otherwise have been just a plate of veg (I’ve been there). The problem with store cupboards, however, is that they do end up with a lot of forgotten ingredients – the things you bought for just one recipe, in my instance things like quinoa and pearled spelt, or things that just come in too big a packet (baking powder! I can do baking once a week and I still don’t use the whole packet before it becomes useless! I have solved the bicarbonate of soda (baking soda) and cornflour problem though as I use these in homemade deodorant, plus Doves Farm sells substantially smaller packets of cornflour than supermarket own and other brands).

Remember, non-perishable items usually have a best before date as opposed to a use by date. This refers to the quality of the product and not its safety. Baking powder, yeast and spices are good examples of products that are best before the date stated on the label. You will notice a difference in rise of cakes and breads if your baking powder and yeast have been open a long time. Likewise, the flavour of spices will be nowhere near as potent as when you first opened that packet and took a good whiff. Suitable storage will help improve the longevity of any food, be it perishable or non-perishable. And, at the end of the day, even if something does last indefinitely, it is always going to be better to just eat it!

The forgotten ingredient in these flapjacks was a solid block of 100% cocoa purchased at the Eden Project about 5 years ago.

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The flapjack base:

85g light brown sugar

1tbsp golden syrup

85g coconut oil (I didn’t have enough butter so I thought I’d experiment with dairy-free flapjacks!)

75g oats

Heat the sugar, syrup and oil over a low heat until the sugar has dissolved (not all of the oil incorporated into the mix so it might be worth using left of it). Stir in most – but not all – of the mix into the oats so that it is clumping together nicely and bake at 180C for about 15 minutes.

The toffee:

Turn the heat up and let the mixture in the pan bubble away for a minute (there is a proper way of doing this but I just guessed – I also didn’t want to overdo it as I still wanted it to be a bit chewy and gooey). Pour onto greaseproof paper and leave to set.

The chocolate:

Icing sugar (about 5tbsp)

Water (as much as necessary to get desired consistency)

Solid cocoa (or you can use cocoa powder, sifted into the icing sugar, instead) – about 1tbsp

Whisk together icing sugar and water (sorry for no precise amounts, but I tend to make it up as I go a long as it always end up a sloppy mess if I follow a recipe). Melt the cocoa in the microwave and whisk this into the icing. Beat it until it is holding its shape.

The finished product:

When everything has cooled, layer the toffee on top of the flapjack (cutting if necessary), then spread the chocolate icing over the top.

Summer berry tea jelly

20160515_171550[1]I’m not a big dessert person. Give me chocolate or biscuits and I’ll ravage the lot, but when it comes to making desserts at home I’m not particularly adventurous and I don’t enjoy making them anywhere near as much as savoury dishes. My repertoire of desserts is crumble, bread and budding pudding and rice pudding, and this is usually only at weekends.

Last weekend, however, I was minus all the ingredients for all of the above. Raiding the cupboards I found a box of gelatine sachets that I had bought to make a jelly that was an epic failure (saved, somewhat, as a chewy orange sorbet). I thought I would try again, although I had nothing to flavour it with. Until I remembered I had a couple of teaspoons of a summer berry fruit tea left in the tea caddy and ta-da! I boiled the kettle, brewed the tea along with a tablespoon of sugar, and when it had cooled I made the jelly according to the packet’s instructions. And, yay! It set!

Personally, the flavour was very subtle and in need of more sugar, but the boys wolfed it down, and it is certainly something I will experiment with again – and a good way of using up all the random flavoured tea leaves/tea bags that I seem to collect! (Another good use for these is for macerating fruit, or making tea loaves.)

(I have since discovered I still had some beetroot brownies in the freezer, so that’s next Saturday sorted!)

 

Mixed apple crumble and banana muffins

I had good intentions – a couple of softening apples in the fruit bowl and half a tub of cream in the fridge that by food hygiene standards at work would have been open a day too long. But at home this equation meant only one thing: my husband’s favourite, apple crumble. However, I did not count on my son suddenly deciding he liked apples again and I had no other fruit to add to the now one lonely apple in the fruit bowl.

Or did I?

The fruit base:

By way of getting over the card limit in the health food shop I had bought some dried apples so while I preheated the oven, made my crumble mix and prepared the one remaining apple, I poured some boiling water over a handful of dried apple and left it to puff up a bit.

In the bottom of my baking dish I put the fresh apple slices, a sprinkling of cinnamon, and the dried apples along with a splash of the water they’d been soaking in.

The crumble mix:

This is never the same. I always use a ratio of 2:1:1 for the flour, sugar and butter with a (large) sprinkling of cinnamon, but what flour or sugar I use depends on what I want to use up. On this occasion the ‘flour’ was wholegrain spelt, oatmeal and wheatgerm (I like oatmeal in crumbles as it helps everything stick together enough to give some texture) and the sugar was golden caster (usual preference is soft light brown sugar as it works in a similar way as the oatmeal). I rubbed all the ingredients together until I got my desired consistency, then sprinkled it on top of the crumble and put it in the oven to bake for about 40 minutes at 180C.

…which leads me to the banana muffins.

I had, it seemed, been a little generous in my measurements and although I like the crumble more than the fruit there was the problem of fitting it in the dish. So what could I do? Well, my lonely apple did have the companionship of some browning bananas which I did not think my husband would appreciate in a crumble (maybe one day). So, I mashed a banana into my remaining mix and put it in a couple of muffin cases to bake alongside my crumble. A little bit of baking powder wouldn’t have gone amiss but they made a very yummy breakfast.

Food stuff finished:

Apple  *  Wholegrain spelt  *  Oatmeal  *  Wheatgerm  *  Cream

Tips:

Crumble is such a great quick dish to use up both leftover fruit, and the dregs in the storecupboard.

Try experimenting with fruits and spices. Classics are apple and cinnamon, and pear and ginger. But what about plum and star anise?

If you do not eat dairy then don’t miss out – the butter can be replaced by a dairy-free alternative, nut butter or oil.