Orange and Star Anise Autumn Leaves

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I don’t often make biscuits but having watched The Great British Bake Off I felt quite inspired, though I wasn’t going to be making a biscuit chandelier! There is very much a sense of autumn in the air, and so the leaf cookie cutters I bought a year or so ago were brought out of their hiding place.

Ottolenghi’s Sweet book has this lovely recipe for orange and star anise biscuits. I really enjoyed the star anise when making the blackberry and star anise friands and since then I have been using this usually neglected spice as often as I can. I now use star anise in my porridge instead of cinnamon. I did simplify the original recipe as I only had plain flour not the two types of flour the recipe called for: rice and ‘00’.

I have to say that I ‘tested’ a significant number of biscuits and they were really delicious. The only thing I might change next time would be to increase the amount of orange zest. Otherwise these biscuits are a true celebration of autumn!

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Ingredients

430g plain flour

165g caster sugar

⅛ tsp baking powder

1½ tsp ground star anise (about 3 whole star anise)

1 tsp flaky sea salt

finely grated zest of 1 large orange (1 tbsp.)

scraped seeds of ½ vanilla pod

250g unsalted butter, fridge-cold, cut into 2cm cubes

1 large egg, lightly beaten

Directions 

1. Sift the flours, sugar, baking powder and ground star anise into a large mixing bowl. Add the salt, orange zest and vanilla seeds and mix to combine. Add the butter and use the tips of your fingers to rub it into the dry mix until there are no large bits of butter and the consistency is that of breadcrumbs. Add the egg and mix gradually, using your hands or a wooden spoon, until the dough comes together. Shape into a rectangle and wrap tightly in cling film. Set aside in the fridge for at least 1 hour to firm up.

2. Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C Fan/Gas Mark 4. Line two baking trays with baking parchment and set aside.

3. Cut the dough in half and roll out one half on a lightly floured work surface until it is just under 0.5cm thick. Using cookie cutters, cut out the biscuits and place them on the lined baking trays, spaced 1cm apart. Re-roll the scraps to cut out more biscuits.

4. Bake for 16–17 minutes, in batches if necessary, rotating the trays halfway through to get an even colour. They should be golden brown on the edges, lightly golden in the centre and have a golden brown underside. Transfer to a cooling rack until completely cool.

5. The dough can be made a day ahead and kept in the fridge overnight; make sure you remove it from the fridge and allow it to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before rolling, so it becomes malleable. The dough can also be frozen before or after it is rolled and shaped; if the latter, bake from frozen and increase the cooking time by 1 minute.

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Leek & Caerphilly Crumble Tart

Leek crumble tart

I first made this tart when we were visiting my parents in France. We were renting an apartment and I decided to cook. Unfortunately, I managed to break the oven, (I was mortified and not even my dad could fix it), but luckily for us the tart was just about cooked and was delicious. It’s perfect for this time of year when we still have sunny days and the light is that beautiful autumnal gold.  

Leek Crumble tart (2)

Ingredients

400g all-butter shortcrust pastry. (I used Eric Lanlard’s recipe)

250g plain flour

1 tsp fine salt

150g unsalted butter

1 egg beaten

1 tbsp milk

For the filling

50g butter

500g leeks (about 2), trimmed and sliced

3 eggs

75ml single cream

75ml milk

1 tsp Dijon mustard

50g Caerphilly cheese, crumbled

For the topping

50g Caerphilly cheese, crumbled

85g fresh white breadcrumbs

50g hazelnuts, roughly chopped

2 tbsp chopped parsley

Mini Leek Crumble Tart

Directions

To make the pastry

* Sift flour and salt into a large bowl

* Rub in the butter with your finger tips until it resembles fine breadcrumbs

* Make a well in the centre and add the egg and milk

* Use fingertips to mix and ingredients to make a dough

* Turn pastry out onto a floured surface and knead two to three times

* Cover with cling film and chill for 30 minutes.

Blind Baking

* Preheat oven to 180°c (fan 160°c)/ gas 4

* Roll pastry out and transfer onto a buttered 23cm loose-bottomed tart tin.

* Prick the pastry and chill for a further 15 minutes

* Place a large piece of grease proof paper over the case and fill it with baking beads (or in my case dried split peas).

* Cook for 10-15 minutes.

* Remove the paper and beans and cook for a further 10 minutes until the pastry is dry and crisp and the top edges of the tart are golden.

To make the filling

* Meanwhile, make the filling. Melt the butter in a large pan and, when foaming, add the leeks, cover and cook on a low heat for 20 minutes until soft. Leave to cool.

* Beat together the eggs, cream, milk, mustard, Caerphilly and some seasoning.

* Evenly cover the base of the pastry case with the leeks, then pour in the egg mixture. Bake for 25 minutes.

To make the topping

Combine all the ingredients. Remove the tart from the oven and sprinkle the topping evenly over. Return to the oven and bake for a further 15 minutes until golden brown.

Banana and Oat Muffins

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There was a time in my life when the sight of bananas with black speckled skins would have meant they were headed straight for the bin. Not anymore! Now that I know that the ugly black spots are a sign of the natural sweetness of the banana, they are headed straight into banana bread or in this case, healthy banana and oat muffins. I’ve had this recipe in my folder for a really long time and decided that this was the time to try it out. It comes from Kate Harrison’s book, The Ultimate 5:2 Diet Recipe Book (that’s why all the calories are there).  I also recently went to a food styling workshop and so my pictures are a little bit different from my usual style. I wanted to try and capture the changing of the seasons, hence the conkers! (I won’t be eating the conkers but I might challenge C to a game!)

Ingredients

100g rolled oats, 355 cals

50g wholewheat flour, 155 cals

150g plain white flour, 503 cals

2 tsp baking powder, 10 cals

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda, 5 cals

¼ tsp salt

75g muscovado sugar, 300 cals

4 large, very ripe bananas, mashed 480 cals

1 large egg, beaten, 100 cals

4 tbsp light olive oil, 540 cals

2 tbsp pumpkin or sunflower seeds or a mix, 175–184 cals

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Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 180˚C/350˚F/Gas mark 4. Line a 12-hole muffin tin with paper cases.
  2. Mix together the oats (keeping a tablespoon aside for the topping), flours, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, salt and sugar.
  3. Mix together the mashed bananas, egg and oil and then pour into the dry oat and flour mix and fold together.
  4. Spoon into the prepared muffin cases and scatter the top of each muffin with the reserved oats and the seeds. Bake for 20–25 minutes, until brown and slightly springy to touch.

 

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Apricot, Almond and Marmalade Loaf

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A very good friend of mine makes excellent marmalade. It takes me ages to get through a jar, even though I love marmalade on toast for breakfast. This marmalade is just way too good to be left at the back of the fridge so I thought I’d give this recipe a go. I was so pleased with the results, just the thing for that mid-afternoon dip in energy. It’s so moist and the flavours really come through. It’s perfect for autumn. I’ve also tried this with a ginger and orange marmalade that I bought at a village fete and it worked extremely well! This recipe can be found on realfood.tesco.com.

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Ingredients

225g unsalted butter

150g light muscovado sugar

 1 orange, zested

3 large eggs, beaten

225g self-raising flour

50g ground almonds

200g dried apricots, roughly chopped

25g flaked almonds

     Preheat oven to 180 degrees

     Line a 1kg loaf tin with baking paper

     In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy.

     Beat in the orange zest and eggs until combined then stir in 50g of the marmalade

     Fold in the flour and ground almonds, then stir in three quarters of the apricots

     Transfer the mixture into the lined tin

     In a bowl combine the remaining apricots and flaked almonds and spoon over the cake.

     Bake for 20 minutes, then cover the top with foil to prevent topping from burning and bake for a further 55 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.

     Leave to cool in the tin, then transfer to a serving plate.

     To make the glaze, gently heat the remaining marmalade in a small saucepan with 2 teaspoons of water. Brush the glaze over the cake and leave to set.

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Roasted Pumpkin Soup with Rosemary and Butter Beans in Pumpkin Bowls

Pumpkin bowl with mini pumpkins

I love Halloween. Though I’m too old for trick or treating and apple dunking, I really enjoy the autumnal colours and golden sunshine of this time of year and even the early dark nights are still a novelty. I particularly like pumpkin lanterns, though they were turnip lanterns in my day! So this recipe, with its pumpkin bowl, is a nod to Halloween. You don’t have to go to the trouble of making the pumpkin bowls; the soup tastes just as great in china bowls!

For the Pumpkin Bowls

  • Preheat oven to 200C/180C fan/Gas 4
  • Cut off the top of each pumpkin (the lids).
  • Using a sharp knife, score the flesh 1cm from the skin.
  • Scoop out the flesh, seeds and membranes.
  • Put the pumpkins on a tray and bake for 20 minutes. After 10 minutes, put the lids in the oven too.

NB: You don’t get much pumpkin out of the bowls, so you would need to buy extra pumpkin to make the soup to fill them.

Pumpkin bowl portait

Roasted Pumpkin Soup with Rosemary and Butter Beans (Serves 8)

(Waitrose Recipe Card, October 2015)

1 kg pumpkin peeled and cut into 2cm cubes

6 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon sherry vinegar (I used balsamic)

½ teaspoon cayenne pepper

8 cloves of garlic (I only used 2)

2 leeks, finely sliced

2 celery stalks, chopped

400g can of butter beans

3 rosemary sprigs

1 red chilli

1 litre chicken stock (I used vegetable stock)

3 tablespoons crème fraiche (I used natural yoghurt)

1 tablespoon lemon juice

Pumpkin seeds to garnish

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Directions

  • Preheat oven to 200C/180 fan / Gas 4
  • Toss the pumpkin with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, the vinegar, cayenne pepper and garlic cloves. Spread over a foil-lined tray and roast for 25 minutes, turning halfway through.
  • Meanwhile, heat another 1 tablespoon of oil in a saucepan. Roughly chop the leek and celery and sweat over a gentle heat for 15 minutes, until softened. Tip in the roasted squash and squeeze in the flesh from the garlic cloves. Add the chilli, butter beans and rosemary sprigs. Add the stock and 500ml water, bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes.
  • Remove the rosemary sprigs from the soup, then blitz with the crème fraiche, lemon and salt and pepper.
  • Serve warm, topped with pumpkin seeds.

 

Pumpkin and Ginger Loaf

 

With the winter nights drawing in and the grey, cloudy days the main feature of the weather forecast these days, I want something sweet and spicy to lift my spirits. This cake is delicious. I’ve never had pumpkin in a cake before and ginger is one of my all-time favourite flavours, so obviously I had to try this recipe. The texture is moist and the heat of the ginger is guaranteed to hit the spot and take the edge off the autumnal gloom.

 

Ingredients

(Recipe from BBC Good Food, Birthday Issue, 2014 )

250g pumpkin, peeled and cut into roughly 2 cm pieces

50g black treacle

140g golden syrup

140g light soft brown sugar

100ml semi-skinned milk

110g cold diced butter

250g self-raising flour

1 teaspoon bicarbonate soda

1 teaspoon ginger

2 teaspoons mixed spice

2 medium eggs

5 chunks crystallised ginger, thinly sliced

3 balls stem ginger

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  • Put the pumpkin into a microwave-proof bowl and add a tiny bit of water. Cover with cling film and pierce. Put on full power for 5-8 minutes or until the pumpkin is soft. Drain the water then mash with a fork until smooth.
  • In a saucepan, add the treacle, golden syrup, sugar and milk. Heat gently until the sugar is dissolved.
  • Heat oven to 180 degrees fan (200 degrees). Grease and line a 900g loaf tin with baking parchment.
  • Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda, spice and a pinch of salt into a large bowl. Add the butter and rub into the flour with your fingertips until no lumps remain.
  • Whisk the eggs, then add with the pumpkin into the lukewarm syrup mixture. Add to the dry ingredients.
  • Cut the stem ginger balls into thin slices and add to the mixture. Pour the batter into a tin and bake for 45 minutes or until a skewer comes out with just a few crumbs on it.
  • Scatter over the crystallised ginger which will stick to the loaf and leave to cool in the tin.

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Nutty Apple Loaf

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This recipe is from the Hummingbird Bakery cookbook. C’s mum wasn’t feeling very well and so I thought some cake might help. She loves her cake but favours the simpler styles rather than the flamboyant. It was C who suggested the apple theme. I think he probably fancied a piece himself. I was quite surprised by this recipe as it says to leave the mixture for a few hours or over night before baking, I’m not too sure why this is. Anyhow, this came out very moist and wintery. I love the pieces of chocolate dotted through the cake. It’s also well worth the effort of toasting the nuts as it really brings the flavour out.

Ingredients

175g unsalted butter (room temperature)

140g soft brown sugar

2 tablespoons strawberry jam

2 large eggs

140g plain flour

1 tablespoon baking powder (I misread the recipe and only used 1 teaspoon, it turned out fine and looked just like the picture in the book.)

1 teaspoon cinnamon (if making again I would add 1 and 1/2teaspoons rather than just 1 teaspoon)

100g shelled mixed nuts, lightly toasted. (I used hazelnuts, almonds and pecans)

50g dark chocolate, roughly chopped

2 eating apples, peeled, cored and roughly chopped

1 eating apple thinly sliced for decoration

A 23 x 13 cm loaf tin, lined with parchment paper.

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  • Put the butter, sugar and strawberry jam in a bowl and cream until light and fluffy.
  • Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well and scraping any unmixed ingredients from the side of the bowl with a rubber spatula after each addition.
  • Sift together the flour, baking powder and cinnamon in a separate bowl, then beat into the butter mixture.
  • Stir in the nuts, chocolate and apples into the mixture with a spoon until evenly dispersed.
  • Cover and refrigerate for a few hours, or overnight if possible.
  • Pre-heat oven to 170 °C/150°C fan/ gas 3
  • Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and smooth over with a palette knife
  • Arrange the thinly sliced apple on top of the loaf along the middle
  • Bake for 50-60 minutes or until brown and the sponge feels firm to the touch. A skewer inserted should come out clean, unless you hit the melted chocolate.

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