Cheddar & mustard scones

Throughout university, or at the very least towards the end of it, on those long nights of sitting in the library rather than going out like everyone else seems to be, the 9-5 life sounds pretty perfect. Evenings to yourself, not having to work over dinner, and long weekends with lie-ins, afternoons in beer gardens, and, well, freedom. You sort of forget about bills, washing up, and truly dull tasks like washing the shower curtain.

A lot of my friends are now finishing uni, terrified of the current climate for graduates and desperate to tackle adult life head on, away from the family home. Others have recently broken into the job market, having graduated last year (three cheers for the competitive nature of journalism!), while many more are still juggling internships and work experience with earning a living.

I wish I’d taken a step back to really appreciate those last few months at home as I planned my future. To soak up the family meals and laying on a trampoline with my best friends. If I could give year-ago me some advice, it’d be “don’t wish it away”. And make sure that every now and then you thank your mum for dealing with the insane amount of washing you generate.

As the saying goes, life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans. I think what I’m trying to say is, life is what happens when you should be writing about cheese scones. There’s been a lot of life lately. So here are some scones, to balance things out a little.

Cheddar & mustard scones | The Littlest Bakehouse

I’m not totally sure I have a signature dish. In terms of views on this blog, salted caramel layer cake is the one. But in real life? I think it’s probably cheese sauce. That’s not even a dish. It’s a lasagne topping; or a pasta sauce. But damn, it’s good.

The secret to a phenomenal cheese sauce is, of course,  loads of cheese. But mustard is to cheese what speculoos is to a spoon. They are a match made in heaven.

As much as I’d love to, though, you can’t make a meal out of cheese sauce. These scones are the taste of a great cheese and mustard sauce made into a warm, carb-packed delight.

Adapted from BBC Good Food
Makes 12

Ingredients

200g self-raising flour
40g butter, chilled and cubed
1/2 tsp salt
25g Wensleydale cheese, grated
70g cheddar cheese, grated
1/2 tsp mustard powder
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp wholegrain mustard
100ml warm milk

Method

1) Preheat oven to 180c and line a baking tray. In a food processor, pulse the flour, butter, and salt until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
2) Transfer to a large bowl and stir in 3/4 of the grated cheeses, along with the mustard powder and cayenne.
3) Add the wholegrain mustard to the warm milk and stir with a fork. Gradually add this to the dry ingredients to form a soft dough. Resist over-kneading!
4) Pat out onto a floured surface to about 3/4 inch thick. Cut out using a 2 inch round cutter, transfer to baking tray and brush the tops with milk. Bake for 10 minutes, sprinkle with the remaining cheese and bake for a further 5 minutes, until golden brown. Serve warm with butter.

Roasted red pepper houmous

HumousOne

As someone who was incredibly wary of most foods until about the age of 16, houmous was not a food that featured much as I was growing up, much less something that I ever saw myself making.

In England, our houmous flavours are pretty basic. We’re happy to eat lemon & coriander, sweet chilli, and plain houmous, but haven’t yet been adventurous enough to try the flavours seen in other countries, like peanut butter houmous and wasabi houmous. But that doesn’t mean we don’t love it. Sadly, a lot of people don’t realise how easy – and cheap – it is to make.

Admittedly, one stage is a bit of a faff. As recommended by Smitten Kitchen, peeling the chickpeas gives you a nice smooth finish, but it does mean popping each chickpea out of its skin, leaving you with a pile of skins that look remarkably like disposable contact lenses. But if you do it on a Saturday afternoon while watching the Six Nations, you’ll be too mesmerised by the thighs sport to notice the passing of the 10 or so minutes it takes.

The beauty of it is that you can dip your finger in and adapt the seasoning to your taste, to ramp up the paprika or lemon as your tastebuds tell you. It’s also super easy and yet is guaranteed to impress.

Roasted red pepper houmous

Ingredients

1 red pepper
1 tin chickpeas, drained (240g) (only costs about 70p!)
1/3 cup tahini
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1/4 tsp smoked paprika
Juice of half a lemon
5tbsp water
2tbsp olive oil

Method 

1) Preheat oven to 180C. Slice pepper into two or three pieces, removing the stalk and seeds, and place in a small baking tray. Roast for around 30 minutes, until soft.
2) While the pepper is roasting, peel the chickpeas by squeezing them between forefinger and thumb.
3) Remove the pepper from the oven and put the pieces into a food processor along with all the other ingredients. Pulse until smooth.

Carrot, orange & ginger soup

CarrotGingerOrangeAs part of Operation Eat on a Slim Budget (catchy name for it, huh?) , I’ve been working carrots into a lot of my food – they surely win the prize for most versatile vegetable. Although I love them for being a super cheap way of bulking up other foods, right here they deserve to be the star of the show, kicked up a notch and nudged into the spotlight.

It might be sunny outside for once, but I still feel like we’re firmly in soup season. The squeeze of citrus in this dish is my way of looking forward to sunnier months with optimism that they might not be too far away.  We’re almost there.

I also loved this recipe for roasted carrots with coriander dip…it was delicious.

LittlestBakehouseCarrotSoup

Christmas gifts: two-cheese biscuits

When you’ve lived away from home for a while but still go back for Christmas, you get used to hearing, “Is there any particular food you want me to get in?” around the first week of December. This year, there was one less thing on my usual list of Christmas visit must-haves, because my mother entrusted me with the secret of these two-cheese biscuits. They don’t look much, these wee biccies, but oh boy do they pack a punch. Supposedly, they taste even better after a few days, but they’ve never been around long enough for us to test that theory.

Although I’m posting these as a Christmas gift (in-laws, I’m lookin’ at you), they’d also be great after Christmas to help to use up the leftover nuts and Stilton you just couldn’t fit into your stomach. Yep. they’ve got Stilton in them – but in my experience, even Stilton haters love these.

Recipe makes around 50 biscuits 5cm in diameter – perfect to pop straight in your mouth! They are happy to be frozen (and I confess to sneaking to the freezer to eat a few there and then. Oops).  Continue reading

Butternut squash, honey, and sage soup

Bnutupdate

There are some weeks when you just need to give yourself an easy life, weeks when the best thing you can do is make enough food for five nights of dinners and then forget about cooking for a while. The kind of thing that you can put in the microwave, safe in the knowledge that by the time you’ve kicked off your shoes and unwound your scarf, stashed your handbag away and eaten a cheeky biscuit, that microwave will ding! at you and deliver something delicious.

This week has been one of those weeks, and this soup has been that dependable dinner. In the past seven days, Lizzi and I have moved in together, bought everything we need for our flat, and started off on new life adventures (I started a new job, and Lizzi started at Leiths School of Food and Wine). It’s scary, and it’s wonderful, and we’re loving every minute.

But at the end of the working day, after half an hour jammed into a tube carriage, with your nose alarmingly close to a stranger’s armpit, nothing could be more comforting than something warm and sweet. Luckily, this butternut, honey, and sage soup is just the ticket.

Ingredients:

1 medium butternut squash, cut in half lengthways and seeds removed
1 tbsp honey (or 2, if you’ve got a sweet tooth)
2 cloves of garlic, sliced
6 sage leaves
1 medium onion
3 cups/750ml chicken or vegetable stock (use only 2 cups/500ml if, like me, you prefer your soup thick)
Salt and pepper to season
Olive oil

Method:

1) Place butternut squash halves, garlic slices, and 3 sage leaves, torn into halves, in a baking dish. Drizzle with olive oil and roast in pre-heated oven (180C) for 45 minutes, or until the butternut is soft.

2) While the butternut roasts, dice and fry your onion in a casserole dish until it is soft and just about turning golden. Turn down the heat and add the honey, stirring to ensure an even distribution. If you reach this point long before the butternut is due to cook, turn off the heat and leave the onion to stand – the honey doesn’t need to cook.

3) When roasted, remove the skin from the butternut – it should come away quite easily – and add to the pan with the garlic, and sage. Add stock (use 2 cups rather than 3 if you prefer your soup thick), and the remaining sage leaves, torn, and blend until smooth, using a hand blender. Season to taste.

I’d recommend you serve it up with warm homemade bread with lashings of butter!