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Roly Poly Rhubarb Pudding

Roly Poly Rhubarb Pudding

When I was a child I could hardly wait for Rhubarb Season to roll around. My mom would make us our favourite rhubarb pies. They were so tasty, served warm with vanilla ice cream all melting down into that buttery crust and the sweet/tart juices of that beautiful fruit . . .

But that was not the bestest part. The bestest part was eating it raw. Oh what a treat that was. Mom would carefully wash and trim each of us a stalk and then we would each be given a little bowl of sugar. We would sit there at the table and dip the ends of the rhubarb into the sugar and then suck and munch away . . . a jaw aching, mouth puckering right of spring. It was soooo good. 

We have a rather large rhubarb patch out back here in the garden. We brought up the rhubarb that we had had down in Kent when we moved up here 8 years ago, and we added it to the patch that was already here. Its never really done well here however, producing only spindly stems.  Its rather early in the season of course, so for this pudding toay, i took advantage of the early pink Yorkshire forced rhubarb we can get in the shops this time of year.  It has a beautiful colour.

These first tender pink and ruby coloured spring shoots are so delightful, and a wonderfully welcome taste after the long cold  wet winter we have had.  When I was married before, in what seems like eons ago, we used to summer on PEI most years.  I used to walk along the beach near my es-husbands American relatives cottage in Malpeque and pick wild rhubarb, which grew there in abundance.

As with most fruits, the wild stuff was smaller in size, but larger in flavour.  I wonder why that is?  Have we slowly grown the flavour out of things?  Or is it just the flavours are more concentrated in a smaller fruit  . . .  in any case this early pink rhubarb very much reminds me of that Malpeque rhubarb.

Today we had company for dinner and I made a sort of a roly poly rhubarb pudding for dessert, with a rich buttery scone type of batter, spread with butter, sprinkled with sugar and nutmeg and then scattered with the chopped pink stalks of this delightfully tart fruit.

Rolled up and then cut into slices like a jelly roll, they were placed in a buttered pan, and topped with a sweet, lightly spiced sauce and then baked. It was oh so wonderful, served up warm and covered with lashings of warm homemade custard. You could also serve it with pouring cream.

*Roly Poly Rhubarb Pudding*
Serves 8 

Kind of like a rolled rhubarb dumpling baked in a delicious sauce.  Serve with lashings of custard or cream for a delicious treat! 

For the dumplings:
280g plain flour (2 cups)
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 1/2 TBS butter
7 fluid ounces of milk (7/8 cup) 

For the filling:
softened butter for spreading
95g caster sugar (1/2 cup)
freshly grated nutmeg
3/4 pound rhubarb, chopped (2 cups) 

For the Sauce:
190g caster sugar (1 cup)
4 tsp plain flour
1/4 tsp salt
240ml hot water (1 cup)
1 TBS butter
freshly grated nutmeg 

Preheat the oven to 180*C/350*F/ gas mark 4.  Butter a deep 9 inch square baking dish and set aside. 

Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.  Cut the butter into little bits and drop it into the flour.  Rub it in with your fingertips until it resembles fine crumbs.  Stir in the milk to make a soft dough.  Tip out onto a floured board.  Knead a few times and then pat out to a rectangle that is 1/4 inch thick.  Spread the top with softened butter.  Sprinkle the sugar over top and pat down.  Sprinkle with some freshly grated nutmeg and then cover with the chopped rhubarb.  Pat it down a bit then roll up as for a jelly roll, pinching the edges shut.  Cut into 8 slices with a sharp knife.  Place each slice, cut side down into the prepared baking dish. 

Whisk together the sugar, flour and salt for the sauce.  Whisk in the hot water.  Cook on high in the microwave for about a minute.  Take out and whisk.  Cook for a further minute, until boiling.  Pour this over top of the rhubarb rolls in the dish. 

Bake for 45 to 50 minutes in the heated oven, until the rolls are cooked through and the whole thing is nice and bubbly.  Serve warm, spooned into bowls, along with some custard or pouring cream. 

I tried to tempt Todd with a stalk rhubarb and a bowl of sugar once . . .  so he could dip it, like a natural pixie stix, but he wasn't having any of it! Lets just say it didn't appeal! 

*Proper Custard* 
Makes about 3 cups

This is also known as creme anglaise. Be sure not to let the mixture boil once the eggs are added, or you wil end up with a curdled mess. You only need to heat it up enough to cook the eggs. The custard is ready when it coats the back of a wooden spoon. 

8 egg yolks
75g caster sugar (a generous 1/3 cup)
300ml whole milk  (1 1/4 cup)
300ml double cream (1 1/4 cup)
1 vanilla pod, split 

Beat the egg yolks and sugar together in a bowl until well blended. Place the milk and cream in a saucepan with the vanilla. Scrape the insides of the vanilla pod into the mixture before you add it. Bring the mixture just to the boil. 

Pour a little of this mixture into the eggs to temper them, and beat it together well. Pour this back into the pan and whisk together. Return to the heat and using a whisk, lightly stir until it begins to thicken. DO NOT BOIL. 

As the egg yolks warm, the cream will get thicker and create a custard. Keep stirring until it coats the back of a wooden spoon. Remove from the heat and pass through a fine sieve. Leave to cool a bit before using. Serve warm or allow to cool completely,stirring occasionally.  

If you only make one dessert this spring, it really should be this one. You won't regret it!  Bon Appetit! 

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Marie Rayner
Diner Style Hot Sandwiches

Diner Style Hot Sandwiches

One thing I miss over here when we go out to eat (which isn't often) are the lovely Diner Style of Hot Roasted Meat Sandwiches which we used to get back home in North America.  Almost every family restaurant, truck stop, or diner has hot sandwiches on offer.  Hot Roast Beef, Hot Turkey (very popular) Hot Chicken, Hot Hamburger, etc.

Going out for one of these was always a real treat.  With  tender roasted meat with gravy between two thick slices of white bread with more gravy ladled over top, they would be served up hot, on large platters, with plenty of hot chips, veg and coleslaw on the side. You could also have gravy on your chips (fries), or not as per your choice.  In Canada we love gravy on our chips, and here in the UK, they also like gravy on their chips, or curry sauce. (Something I have yet to try.)

I had some leftover roast chicken today and so I made us Hot Chicken Sandwiches for a change, instead of the usual casserole.  Of course with there only being two of us and with neither of us having huge appetites these days, we basically only each ha half of a sandwich, along with the suggested trimmings.  It looks like rather a lot, but we only ever use a sandwich plate for our meals these days, never a full dinner plate. And it is plenty for us.

*Diner Style Hot Sandwiches*
Serves 4

Simple really.  A once in a blue moon treat. 

8 slices thick white toasty bread (Texas Toast in North America)
1 pound sliced leftover roasted meat (chicken, turkey, beef, pork, lamb), gently warmed
 2 TBS of appropriate stock
about 720ml (3 cups) of hot leftover or fresh gravy  

To serve:
hot chips (french fries)
cooked vegetables (peas and carrots are a favourite)

Place the appropriate stock in a saucepan, and add the sliced meat.  Cover and cook over low heat until heated through thoroughly.  Place one slice of bread on each of four heated plates.  Top each with one fourth of the hot meat.  Top with some of the gravy, and then place another slice of bread on top.  Place chips and vegetables on the plates, and ladle the remaining gravy over the bread and chips.  Serve immediately with coleslaw on the side. 

Good chips/fries are a must!  If you want to make your own from scratch this is a cracking recipe.  You can also use oven chips.  I like the crinkle ones in that case, or if you are really lucky and have a chippy close by, you can just send hubby out to pick up a large portion of chips. By the time you have the remaining elements ready, he'll be back and you'll be set to go!

*Perfect Chips*
There are two things you need for perfect chips. One a really good potato.  You want a nice floury one, such as a Maris Piper.  You cannot make good chips with new potatoes.  Old ones are best.  Second you want to start with pure hard fat or dripping, preferably an animal fat.  Third . . . patience.   Good chips require several cookings. The first is a quick poaching in lightly salted water.  .  Let them cool and then fry for about five minutes just until cooked through, then a final fry in hotter fat to brown and finish cooking.  See . . . patience. 

200g floury potatoes per person (a scant half pound)
(use potatoes that are good for mashing)
a good solid fat to half fill your pan when melted
a frying thermometer

Peel your potatoes and cut them into chips.  Rinse them well in cold running water and drain well.  Put the cut potatoes into a pot of lightly salted cold water.  Bring to the boil and then reduce the heat to a slow simmer and cook for about 5 minutes, or just until they give slightly with the prodding of a sharp knife.  Drain well and then dry them on kitchen paper towelling.  Allow to cool completely and then place into the fridge until well chilled. 

When you are ready to fry your chips heat your fat to 120*C/250*F.  Add the chips in batches, without crowding the pan.   Blanch in the fat for 5 minutes, just until cooked through.   Remove, pat dry and drain on paper towelling.  Once you have blanched all the chips raise the temperature of the fat to 160*C/320*F.  Fry the chips again until crisp and golden brown.  Drain well, season with some salt and serve immediately.

I added a dollop of cranberry sauce to the top of mine . . .  coz I'm crazy like that,  and I love cranberry sauce with both roast chicken and turkey.  You  will want a nice gravy to serve with your hot sandwiches.  You can of course use Bisto granules and make it that way, but if you have leftover drippings, etc. its really quite easy to make a better tasting gravy from scratch!

*Brown Gravy*
Makes 480ml (2 cups) 

2 TBS of fat from the roasted meat
2 TBS plain flour
360ml pan juices, broth, water, wine or a combination ( 1 1/2 cups)
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Pour all the pan juices from your roasting pan into a measuring cup.  When the fat rises to the top, spoon off 2 TBS and return that to the roasting pan.  Scoop off and discard the remaining fat. Place the roasting tin over a burner and heat gently until the fat begins to sizzle just a bit.  Whisk in the flour and cook through for several minutes, stirring constantly.  Add enough additional liquid to the juices in the cup to make 360ml/1 1/2 cups in all.  Slowly whisk this liquid into the roasting pan and cook for 5 to 6 minutes until thickened and bubbling. If your gravy is too thick, then you can add additional liquid.  Cook for a further minute.  Season to taste with salt and black pepper.  Keep warm until you need to use it. 

Coleslaw is a must.  You won't get any meal at a diner in North America,  that doesn't come with a small container of coleslaw on the side. At some places it might be a vinaigrette coleslaw, but more often than not it will be a delicious creamy slaw.  Just like this.

*Creamy Coleslaw*
Serves 8 to 10

A deliciously cream coleslaw that has just the right amount of crunch and flavour!  There is no sogginess here!!

10 ounces of white cabbage, trimmed, cored and very thinly cut
(about 1/2 of a medium cabbage)
5 ounces of carrots, peeled, trimmed and julienned
(1 medium carrot)
4 inches of an English Cucumber, trimmed, seeded and cut into small dice
(Do not peel)
2 - 3 large dessertspoons of good quality mayonnaise
1 TBS of Dijon mustard
2 TBS white wine vinegar
1 tsp caster sugar
1/2 tsp celery salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 tsp onion powder

Place the vegetables into a large bowl.  Whisk together the mustard, mayonnaise, white wine vinegar, sugar, celery salt, black pepper and onion powder.  Mix well.  Pour over the vegetables and toss to coat.  Cover and chill for at least one hour before serving.

Note - the amount of mayonnaise you use depends on the cabbage, some cabbages take more mayonnaise than others.  It also depends on how creamy you like your coleslaw!

Of course there may be times when you don't have any leftover gravy, or even gravy granules, but don't worry!  That doesn't mean you can't still make a delicious gravy as this next recipe proves quite deliciously!  Adapted from a recipe found in the Fanny Farmer Cookbook. (So you know that it just has to be good!)

*Improvised Gravy*
Makes about 360ml (1 1/2 cups)

Perfect for when you don't have enough pan drippings or meat juices to make a gravy, or need some gravy to create a tasty dish when using up leftovers. You can add herbs if you wish.  Use beef broth for red meat and chicken broth for poultry. 

2 TBS mince shallots or onion
3 TBS butter
3 TBS plain flour
60ml red wine or dry vermouth (1/4 cup, optional)
360ml  beef or chicken broth or stock (1 1/2 cups)
leftover drippings or butter
salt and black pepper to taste 

Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Add the shallots/onions and cook gently until translucent.  Whisk in the flour.  Cook slowly, stirring constantly, until it begins to brown. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the red wine/vermouth if using, along with an equal amount of broth. whisking constantly. Slowly add the remaining liquid.  Continue to cook for a further 5 minutes, stirring often, until you have the proper consistency. Whisk in the drippings or butter, salt and pepper to taste. 

This isn't something which we have very often, maybe only once a year.  Back in the day I could eat a whole one of these sandwiches, and then a polished of a slice of cream pie as well.  Mind you, back in the day I was a very busy and active mother of five.  Things change   . . . Bon Appetit! 

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Marie Rayner
Baked Mac & Cheese

Baked Mac & Cheese

I confess I have a penchant for Macaroni and Cheese.  I have never met a dish of macaroni and cheese that I did not fall in love with, and I am always keen to try new versions.  This version today was adapted from a recipe I got in a newsletter which I regularly receive from Yankee Magazine, which comes from their archives dated to way back when.

As soon as I saw the recipe, I knew that it was something I wanted to make and try.  It had all the hallmarks of becoming a favourite  for us me. Mustn't forget my husband who is not really fond of pasta at all  . . .  although  once in a while I do get him to tolerate it.  It is a real sacrifice for him.

One thing which intrigued me about this recipe was that there was no sauce making involved.  Just layering.  It was very similar to my recipe for Old Fashioned Escalloped Macaroni and Cheese, with the exception being that there is no cream involved  . . .

Instead it relies on the use of soft bread crumbs to thicken up the cheese, milk, etc.  These bread crumbs get layered in a buttered dish along with the cooked macaroni and grated cheese. Easy peasy.

A few things to take under consideration . . .  use a really coarse bread crumb, from a heavy textured bread.  Freshly made, but a bread that won't fall to bits when you pour the milk over top. You want the bread to absorb the milk and melt into the cheese . . .  along with the butter, this is what creates the sauce.

You also want to use a really well flavoured cheese for this.  Trust me.  The cheese is the star of this dish, and you want it to shine brightly! Use extra strong (extra sharp) cheese.

Don't be tempted to stint on the butter either.  It asks for 4 to 6 TBS and they mean 4 to 6 TBS.  Its mac and cheese, in for a penny in for a pound!

Also use full fat milk.  This recipe hails from a time and day where people didn't bother with skimmed or semi-skimmed milk.  They used milk, and it was full fat.  Lots of the time it was farm milk, straight from the cow.

So . . .  no, it's not un-calorific to say the least, but it is tasty, and it is worth a once in a blue moon splurge.  With a bit of salad on the side, you could almost trick yourself into feeling virtuous because there is no cream sauce, lol.  Well, that's the way my mind works anyways . . . or eat it standing up, because as anyone knows, calories consumed standing up, don't count. 😉

*Baked Mac & Cheese *
Serves 4 to  6
This is simple, old fashioned and quite, quite delicious. 

400g dry macaroni (3 1/2 cups, dry)
4 to 6 TBS butter
120g coarse fresh breadcrumbs (2 cups)
362g grated strong cheddar cheese (3 cups)
salt and pepper to taste
240ml milk

Preheat the oven to 180*C/350*F/ gas mark 4.  Butter a 2 litre/2quart baking dish really well.  Set aside. 

Cook the macaroni in lightly salted boiling water according to the package directions.  Rinse well with cold water and drain again.

Put a layer of bread crumbs in the bottom of the buttered casserole dish. Cover with a layer of macaroni. Season lightly with salt and pepper, remembering that cheese can be salty. Sprinkle on a layer of cheese and dot with butter.  Repeat layers until all of the ingredients have been using ending with a layer of cheese, and then bread crumbs.   Pour the milk over top and then dot with butter.

Bake in the preheated oven for 35 to 40 minutes.

Homestyle comfort food.  It is worth the splurge.  Why not try it for yourself and see how it compares ???  Bon Appetit!

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Marie Rayner
Pain Perdu with Clotted Cream & Berries

Pain Perdu with Clotted Cream & Berries

I really love simple things . . .  time and time again, I am reminded that it is the simple things in life which truly are the best . . .  things like the sound of rain falling on the roof when I am laying all toasty warm in my bed, or the smell of roses, or the sound of the dawn chorus when I wake up in the morning.  All simple things, and all things which money can't buy and that we, more often than not, take for granted.

Its the same with food  . . .  it is often the simple things we eat which bring us the most pleasure.  Things like the crisp and sticky skin of a perfectly roasted chicken, tasting of salt and pepper and, well . . .  chicken. Properly baked potatoes with crispy skins and fluffy insides, broken open and topped with a pat of butter along with some salt and pepper . . .

A crisp grilled cheese sandwich, golden brown and cut into fingers, dipped into hot tomato soup on a rainy day . . . the smell of beans baking in the oven, or . . .  and this is the best of all, the smell of a freshly baked loaf of bread, and then a slice of it still warm, with cold butter melting into it . . . 

See???  Simple things . . .

Slices of sweet and  rich brioche bread, soaked in a mix of cream, eggs and sugar, and then gilded until golden brown in a buttery hot pan  . . .

Ddshed up and served warm on china plates  . . .  topped with  dollops of  ice cold clotted cream  . . . rich Cornish clotted cream  . . . scattered with fresh berries and dusted with icing sugar . . .

the heat of that golden eggy brioche melting that cold clotted cream until it runs in milky buttery rivulets  . . . deliciously down over those golden buttery crisp edges of bread . . .

pooling into delicious little puddles . . . rich and creamy  . . . so good with the sweet/tartness of those cold fresh berries . . .

Oh yes, it IS definitely the simple things in life which bring us the most pleasure, especially when you are sharing them with the people you love.  You really can not beat them . . . you really can't . . . 

*Pain Perdu with Clotted Cream & Berries*
Serves 4

Dessert of breakfast. You decide.  You are sure to love it either way and so is your family.
150ml double cream (5 ounces heavy cream)
2 large free range eggs, plus 1 large free range egg yolk
2 TBS caster sugar (fine granulated sugar)
8 medium slices of brioche bread
55g unsalted butter, divided (1/4 cup)
icing sugar to dust
175g fresh raspberries (1/3 pound)
clotted cream to serve

Whisk together the eggs, cream and sugar.  Cut the brioche slices in half diagonally.  Dip the first two slices into the egg mixture and leave to sit for a few minutes.

Melt a knob of butter in a large non-stick frying pan until it begins to foam.  Add the slices of soaked brioche and cook first on one side until golden brown and then on the other. (while you are cooking them, you can be soaking the others.  Repeat the soaking and cooking until it is all golden brown, keeping the browned slices warm in a low oven until you are done.

To serve divide the toast between four plates, topping each with a dollop of clotted cream and a handful of raspberries.  Dust with icing sugar and serve immediately.

This is fabulous, even made with ordinary bread. Just make sure you choose a bread with a soft crust.  Your family will love it, wether you choose to have it for breakfast or for dessert.  Either way, its the bomb!  Bon Appetit! 

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Marie Rayner

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