Teaspoon cookies

These cookies are a crowd pleaser at any reception you might host. They’re different enough and look like some effort has gone into them to get some attention but are actually surprisingly easy to make. I don’t think my mum has hosted a single family occasion without making them.

Teaspoon cookies

Or lusikkaleivät, as they’re called in Finnish.

Ingredients

  • 200 g butter
  • 15 cl sugar
  • 40 cl plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp vanilla sugar (or 1 tsp vanilla extract)

Method

  1. Bring your butter to a low simmer for 5 minutes. Once the foam starts to recede, pour the butter in to a bowl, add sugar and whisk until cool. Placing the bowl in a water bath help.
  2. Mix the dry ingredients together and add to the dough. Mix until even and smooth.
  3. Press the dough into halved tear drop shapes using a teaspoon and place on a baking tray round side up.
  4. Bake for 10-12 minutes in 175°C until they’re pale brown.
  5. Once the cookies have cooled down, spread a little bit of raspberry jam on the flat side and press two sides together. Finally, roll in sugar.

Preparation time: 30 minute(s)

Cooking time: 12 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 30

The Royal Dubonnet cake

As I alluded to in my previous recipe, Dubonnet with gin, Darina had an idea of making a cake based on the Queen’s favourite drink. After giving it a little thought, I decided to use my old recipe for lemon drizzle with gin and combine it with some sort of Dubonnet ‘element’.

Dubonnet is classed as a fortified wine which is flavoured with herbs and spices. I’ve not come across it before last week but I’m instantly a big fan. It’s similar to port wines but even a little sweeter and those herbs give it a slightly unusual, more complex taste.

But how to incorporate this lovely drink in a cake that already is an adventure by itself? Three words: royal icing & jelly. I’m not a fan of cream cheese or buttercream icing but what I do like is royal icing (no eggs in mine). The Dubonnet gives the icing a beautiful, soft, colour that is somewhere between pink and purple. Kind of reminds me of flowering heather.

I’ve not made jelly in a long time so this was quite a lot of fun. Idea behind that was to leave a more distinctive and noticeable appearance of the wine in the cake, you could eat it by itself from inside the cake. My jelly layer ended being just over 1 cm thick (using 23 cm cake base and 50 cl of fluid, more on this in a bit), you could shine a light through it as it sat there sandwiched between two layers of lemon drizzle.

OK, enough chat, on to the recipe. I really hope you give this a try, I know it’s a bit of work but it’s quite likely the best cake I’ve ever made–or tasted for that matter.

The Royal Dubonnet cake

Moist cake that’ll definitely impress your guests. Pretty alcoholic so don’t let kids go crazy with this.

Ingredients: Lemon drizzle base

  • 225 g soft butter
  • 255 g sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 255 g self raising (or plain flour and 2 tsp baking powder)
  • grated zest of a lemon
  • 20 cl lemon gin liqueur
  • 10 cl apple juice
  • juice of one lemon
  • 25 g sugar

Ingredients: Dubonnet jelly

  • 30 cl Dubonnet
  • 20 cl red grape juice
  • gelatine (vegetarian if available)

Ingredients: Royal icing

  • 250 g icing sugar
  • 40 ml Dubonnet

Method: lemon drizzle base

  1. Preheat oven to 180°C
  2. Mix soft butter with sugar using a hand mixer. Continue mixing and add eggs one at a time
  3. Then add flour and lemon zest. Only mix until dough is thoroughly mixed
  4. Pour into a 23 cm cake tin and bake for 45 minutes or until ready. (Normally I don’t recommend using a silicone base but as we’re using the same base to make our jelly it is advisable. It is perhaps easier to get the jelly out of a silicone one.)
  5. When ready, let it cool for 5 minutes, remove from the base and slice in two. Horizontally, obviously.
  6. Dribble the mix of gin, apple juice and sugar on the cake to moisten it. Remember to do both sides and pour on the cut side.

Method: jelly

  1. Pour the red grape juice and Dubonnet in a small sauce pan
  2. Whisk in the gelatine
  3. carefully bring to boil and simmer for a minute
  4. Pour the mix in to the cake base used for making the cake (make sure it’s not one with a removable bottom)
  5. Put it in a fridge for at least an hour to set

Method: the assembly

  1. Once the jelly has set or you’re almost ready to serve it, place bottom of the cake with cut side down on top of the jelly.
  2. Put a plate on top and in one continues fast movement bring the whole thing upside down
  3. Place it on a table and carefully remove the cake tin. You should end up with cake in the bottom with a clear layer of jelly on top of it
  4. Now all you need to do is put the other half of the cake on and spread royal icing on top
  5. When mixing the royal icing, make sure it’s very thick. It will suck moisture out of the cake and flow down the sides

Quick notes

While it’s OK to make the lemon drizzle base the day before serving, do not add the jelly layer much before serving. The sponge will literally suck the jelly dry in about a day and you’re left with a layer of jam.

Preparation time: 1 Hours

Cooking time: 2 hour(s)

Number of servings (yield): 12

A Dubonnet with gin, shaken

I wasn’t planning on posting this but what the heck. It was so nice I can’t keep it to myself.

I had a chat a few days ago with Darina about what kind of cake I should make for this years street party and she suggested doing something Royal. Perhaps somethings based on the Queens favourite drink. As it happens it is not a gin and tonic but a Dubonnet with gin. (Yeah, I know… You can never be sure what her favourite drink is. I mean, I keep changing my mind through out the evening.) Dubonnet isn’t something I’d normally have in the house and as I’m not making the cakes until tomorrow morning, we thought we might as well give Her drink ago. Turns out the drink is actually really good. Here’s how to make one.

Dubonnet and gin cocktail

Favourite drink of Her Majesty, Queen Elisabeth II. Allegedly.

Ingredients

  • 4 cl Dubonnet
  • 3 cl gin
  • slice of lemon
  • ice

Method

  1. Mix Dubonnet and gin in a shaker with some ice
  2. Strain on top of the lemon and ice in a glass
  3. Drink and think of England

Preparation time: 1 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 1

The Cannelloni

This weekend I made mushroom and spinach cannelloni. I actually did.

I picked the cannelloni partly because I’m currently a pescetarian (after we visited a farm on Easter and the little piglets looked up at me with their little snouts and little eyes that pleaded “let us live!”… I’m hoping it’s just a phase though.) but mostly because I kept seeing cannelloni tubes at the supermarket and, never having known such things existed before, was intrigued. The recipe was from the Mary Berry and Lucy Young book Cook Up A Feast.

This weekend I made mushroom and spinach cannelloni. I actually did.

I picked the cannelloni partly because I’m currently a pescetarian (after we visited a farm on Easter and the little piglets looked up at me with their little snouts and little eyes that pleaded “let us live!”… I’m hoping it’s just a phase though.) but mostly because I kept seeing cannelloni tubes at the supermarket and, never having known such things existed before, was intrigued. The recipe was from the Mary Berry and Lucy Young book Cook up a Feast.

My fist hurdle came when preparing the ingredients. I innocently went to get the called for can of tomatoes but when I opened the cupboard door something threw itself off the shelf at high speed only to break it’s fall in the casserole dish, which naturally shattered. Great. What on earth am I supposed to cook the cannelloni in now? And if that weren’t enough, at that moment, as if inspired, an opened bag of spaghetti followed suit and emptied its contents everywhere. Absolutely everywhere. I’ll be honest, I didn’t take it well, I may have even in the heat of the moment used an expletive. Internally I rounded on my boyfriend, Conor. It never would have happened, I raged to myself, if someone hadn’t overstuffed the cupboard, if someone knew how to organize things, if someone hadn’t just shoved everything up there when they unpacked the shopping last time… And then it hit me. That someone was me. I overstuffed the cupboard, I don’t know how to organize things, and I had unpacked the shopping last time. Sorry Conor.

My next hurdle: mushrooms. The recipe calls for 500g of mixed mushrooms roughly chopped. 500g is a lot of mushrooms. More than a lot. It’s loads. Conor and I have an ongoing debate on how to clean mushrooms (we also talk about interesting things). I was taught, although admittedly I can’t remember by whom, that you should dab mushrooms with a wet paper towel, or cloth or whatever, so that the mushroom doesn’t absorb too much water. Conor insists this is rubbish and that you can just rinse them. So here it was, Sunday afternoon, and I was righteously giving each mushroom a tender loving sponge bath. I had got through perhaps ten when I thought to myself “I’m doing pretty well here!” and checked the pile of mushrooms to admire the hefty dent I felt sure I was making in it. My pile was still 500g of mushroom strong… minus ten. This was going to take ages. So very calmly I made sure that Conor was not only out of the room, but in a far away enough room that I’d have time to hide the evidence should he start heading towards the kitchen, and I started grabbing mushrooms by the handful – chestnut, shiitake, button alike – and shoving them under the tap. Water absorption… really? They were fine.

So. 500g of mushrooms now washed. 500g of mushrooms now to chop. I won’t bore you with the details, suffice to say it took half an hour.

Now to actually make the cannelloni. The first step is to fry the mushrooms with the spinach in a frying pan. It crossed my mind, while trying to fit the mushrooms and spinach into a British size frying pan, that either Mary Berry and Lucy Young have never actually seen 500g of roughly chopped mushrooms and 225g of roughly chopped spinach, or they have access king sized frying pans. Whichever it was, 725g of food does not fit into my frying pans. I somewhat lost my cool as my carefully washed and roughy chopped to perfection mushrooms cascaded to the floor and periodically flew across the room. Enter my boyfriend. Calm in the face of crisis (and always confused by my freak outs in the kitchen) suggested I cook them in batches. It took some serious explanations, and eventually a physical demonstration for me to understand how he intended me to do this, but admittedly it was a good idea.

The rest was pretty easy. For those with patience, dedication to mushrooms, and giant frying pans, this recipe isn’t too complicated. I found a smaller casserole dish to cook it in and was relieved to see the cannelloni tubes were actually much smaller than I had imagined and would fit into it- although that did make spooning in the eventually fried mushroom and spinach mix a bit fiddly.

It came out of the oven looking amazing, and, to my delight, potentially edible. Admittedly the presentation went to pot as I spooned it out onto the plates, but I am very proud to say that it was not only edible, but was actually quite tasty.

In the future, if I make it again I will: buy pre chopped mushrooms, rinse them from the start (only when Conor isn’t paying attention), get bigger frying pans, and cook the mushrooms for longer (not all of them were fried enough and were a bit tough after being baked in the oven).

Not bad for a first timer, right?

Here’s the recipe:

Cannelloni

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 500g mixed mushrooms, roughly chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 225g baby spinach, roughly chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 400g can tomatoes, drained and juice disgarded
  • 2tbsp pesto
  • 75g freshly grated parmesan
  • 12 cannelloni tubes
  • For the sauce

  • 75g butter
  • 75g plain flour
  • 900ml hot milk
  • 100ml double cream
  • 2 heaped tbsp pesto

Method

  1. Heat the oil in a frying pan, add the mushrooms, and fry over a high heat for 2 mins, or until just cooked. Add the garlic and spinach and toss together until the spinach is just wilted. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and set aside to cool.
  2. To make the sauce, melt the butter in a saucepan, whisk in the flour, and cook for 1 minute. Whisking all the time, gradually blend in the hot milk and the cream and bring to the boil. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper, remove from the heat, and stir in the pesto.
  3. Put the tomatoes into a mixing bowl, add the cooled mushroom mixture, the pesto, and one – third of the Parmesan. Stir to combine.
  4. Preheat the oven to 200 Celsius (180 fan / 400F / Gas 6). Meanwhile, fill the cannelloni tubes with the mushroom and spinach filling, diving it equally among them.
  5. Spoon one – third of the sauce into the base of the ovenproof dish and arrange the filled cannelloni on top in neat rows. Pour the remaining sauce over the top and sprinkle with the rest of the Parmesan.
  6. Bake for 30 – 35 mins.

Preparation time: 20 minute(s)

Cooking time: 30-35 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 6

Shortbread

Having always been a fan of shortbread, it’s surprising I’ve not made any before last week. I was inspired by our friend Sara Macdonald who gave some of her home baked shortbread to Darina for her birthday.

Turns out, shortbread is very easy to make. Just look at the main ingredients; flour, butter and sugar. Very simple, even regular bread has more ingredients.

Shortbread

Ingredients

  • 125 g butter
  • 60 g sugar and extra for topping
  • 180 g plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt

Method

  1. Pre-heat oven to 190C.
  2. Start by mixing sugar, soft butter, salt and vanilla using an electric whisk
  3. Add flour and mix until just properly mixed. You should now have a bowl of crumbs
  4. Press into brick using your hand and place on the work surface
  5. Roll into a 1 cm thick rectangular and cut into fingers
  6. Place the shortbread fingers on a baking tray and freeze for 5-10 minutes
  7. Once they’ve gone a little hard, roll them in sugar and place back on the baking tray
  8. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes, or until they start looking golden brown around the edges

Quick notes

Be careful not to over bake or make them too thin, this will make them too cruncy. Unless of course, you want them too cruncy.

Preparation time: 10 minute(s)

Cooking time: 15 minutes

Number of servings (yield): 12-20

Introducing Kate Robinson

I have a confession: I am 22 years old and I cannot cook.
Or bake. Or fry, or grill, or sauté, or flambé… I am, to put it bluntly, a complete disaster in the kitchen. To be honest, I’ve never really minded that much. There are lots of good restaurants, and ready meals, and I can make a salad, which requires little to no skill. But let’s be honest, when all else fails and I’m broke from the aforementioned reliance on restaurants, cereal for dinner never fails. Continue»

Note from the editor: Crofton Kitchen is now just under a year old. I started it simply as a place for me to share recipes I love but of course I’ve want to see it grow from that. I personally don’t have enough time to dedicate to writing new posts all the time as this still remains a hobby to me.

That’s why, I’m very happy to announce that Kate Robinson is starting her own column on the site. She’ll be here every couple weeks writing about her travels around the world and her journey of learning to cook. (She’s actually already a very decent cook but that’s besides the point.)

You should definitely follow her on Twitter: @littlest_robo and from the menu bar above under Kate’s Column. Big cheer everybody and over to you, Kate.


I have a confession: I am 22 years old and I cannot cook.
Or bake. Or fry, or grill, or sauté, or flambé… I am, to put it bluntly, a complete disaster in the kitchen. To be honest, I’ve never really minded that much. There are lots of good restaurants, and ready meals, and I can make a salad, which requires little to no skill. But let’s be honest, when all else fails and I’m broke from the aforementioned reliance on restaurants, cereal for dinner never fails.

So no, for the vast majority of my life it hadn’t even occurred to me to learn how to cook. Until I moved to London. (This requires a little back story, so bare with me, I’ll make it quick. I am originally from Stratford Upon Avon but moved with my family to Los Angeles when I was twelve. I have just moved to back to the UK, but to London via a 9 month stint in New York.)
Each place I have lived in has been an entirely unique experience, with each town / city being completely different from the last. There are all sorts of contrasts between them, which I will get onto another time, but the biggest one for me has been food. Not just what you eat, although that is relevant too, but the whole culture surrounding food. The mindset of eating.

You’d have thought, at least in the western world that eating is eating no matter where you are, but it’s not.

To be honest, my head is a cultural dumping ground when it comes to food. It’s a mess of contradictions and extremes. But I love food. Not just food, I love eating. And a long the way I seem to have surrounded myself with good cooks. It seems everyone here knows at the very least the basics. So, I have decided that now, inspired by those around me, and trying to sort through the cultural clutter going on in my head, is as good a time as any to learn how to cook. I’m excited to start!

I plan on sharing all of my successes–and the inevitable failures–along the long road to culinary competency… if not excellence.

And here’s a little more of a British Easter tradition

This is perhaps a little late for Easter 2012 but in good time for 2013. Again, I’ve not made these before but they turned out really well and we’re liked by all. This is a slightly modified recipe of the BBC original.

Hot Cross Buns

Ingredients

For the buns
  • 625 g strong white flour
  • 8 g salt
  • 2 tsp mixed spice
  • 45 g butter
  • 85 g sugar
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 10 g dried yeast
  • 1 egg
  • 275 ml warm milk
  • 150 g raisins
  • And for the topping
  • 2 tbsp plain flour
  • 2 tbsp golden syrup

Method

  1. Start by sieving the flour, salt and mixed spice into a large bowl. Rub the butter in the flour.
  2. In a separate smaller bowl, mix the milk, sugar, yeast and lemon zest. Leave it for 10 minutes or until you can see that the yeast has started.
  3. Combine above in the larger bowl and add your raisins at the same time.
  4. Once properly mixed, knead for 5-7 minutes.
  5. Leave it to rise for at least an hour or until doubled in size.
  6. Knock it back, divide into 16 equal size little balls and place them on a lightly buttered baking tray. (I do the division by splitting in twos.)
  7. Cover the baking tray with cling film and leave in a warm place for 30-60 minutes or until they’ve risen nicely. Mine took quite a while so be patient.
  8. Pre heat your oven to 240° Celsius or ‘rather high’ gas mark.
  9. While waiting for your oven to heat, mix 2 tablespoons of plain flour and a little bit of water in to a paste and spoon into a piping bag.
  10. Use the paste to draw a cross on the buns.
  11. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown and ready.
  12. Once out of the oven, brush the buns with warmed up golden syrup for that distinctive glaze.
  13. Let them cool down for five minutes or enjoy straight away.

Preparation time: 2-3 hour(s)

Cooking time: 10-20 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 16

Easter treat from the East

Or well, east at least if you’re standing in the Western Europe. If I look back at my childhood and what I remember Easter for it has to be these two things; mämmi and paskha. Mämmi is a Finnish dessert that–how should I say this–doesn’t travel well because of its appearance. (Go ahead, click on the link and you’ll understand)

The second, paskha, traveled well into Finland from Russia back when we used to be part of the empire and get more influences from the Eastern Orthodox church.

Paskha or Pascha is a festal dish made in Eastern Orthodox countries of those foods which are forbidden during the fast of Great Lent. It is made during Holy Week and then brought to church on Great Saturday to be blessed after the Paschal Vigil. The name of the dish comes from Pascha, the Eastern Orthodox celebration of Easter.

Wikipedia

It’s been part of my family’s Easter celebrations for as long as I remember and probably my favourite thing about the season. Of course, as a Finn, I should pick mämmi but try both side by side and tell me this isn’t better.

Without further ado, here’s my mums recipe for paskha.

Paskha

Ingredients

  • 250 g formage frais or quark (try and find the full fat versions of these, really makes a big difference)
  • 70 g butter
  • 70 g sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 75 ml whipping cream
  • 50 g raisins
  • 30 g crushed almonds
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 heaped tablespoon candied orange peel (or mixed peel)

Method

  1. Gently whip the cream for a minute or two. You’re not trying to make whipped cream, just to give a bit more body
  2. In a large bowl, mix all the ingredients together really well
  3. Pour in to a paskha mold (more on this later), cover and place in the fridge for at least 12 hours or over night

Notes

I don’t actually have a paskha mould and wasn’t able to get one for this Easter. I made mine in a coffee filter holder with the filter in the place. If you do this, remember to wet the filter before pouring in your mixture. Traditionally paskha is made in a wooden mould that gives it its distinctive shape (see below). You can of course use anything that’s suitable as a mould. One thing is that excess fluid must be able to strain away so muslin and a hole in the bottom is needed. Maybe try a flower pot? This recipe filled a regular sized coffee filter and there was a little bit extra.

Preparation time: 10 minute(s)

Cooking time: 12 hour(s)

Number of servings (yield): 4

Spiced Cake in a Pool of Chocolate Sauce

This is again one of my mums old recipes. I’ve made it time and a time again, always with great success. Only little addition I made this time is the pool of chocolate sauce it sits in. I’ve been off sweets and chocolate for almost two and a half months now so any reason to incorporate a bit of chocolate in a cake, I’ll take it.

Spiced Cake or Maustekakku as it’s called in Finnish

Hazzle free cake with chocolate sauce.

Ingredients

  • 450 ml plain flour
  • 300 ml soft brown sugar
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 5 tsp mixed spice
  • 2-3 apples, grated
  • 2 eggs
  • 200 ml sour cream
  • 100 g melted butter

Method

  1. Gently mix all the ingredients
  2. Bake in the oven at 175°C for one hour
  3. Let it cool down for 30 minutes and pour chocolate sauce on top. Generously.

===

Chocolate sauce

Ingredients

  • 200 g milk chocolate
  • 100 ml double cream
  • 1 knob of butter

Method

  1. Heat up the cream and butter
  2. Once they they’re almost at boil, turn of the heat and mix in the chocolate

Preparation time: 10 minute(s)

Cooking time: 1 hour(s)

Number of servings (yield): 8

Fresh and Sweet Pea Soup

Pea soup is a traditional Thursday food in Finland. The tradition goes back all the way to the 15th Century when Finland used to be Catholic. People used to fast on Fridays so it was important to eat something nutritious and filling the day before. Although Finland became Lutheran in the 16th Century, the tradition lived on. Today many schools and the Army serve pea soup on a Thursday. For the same reasons, pea soup is also eaten on Shrove Tuesday, day before the fast begins.

Most pea soup eaten in modern day Finland is made with dried peas and is sold in 400 gram tins. As my corner shop doesn’t carry any dried peas, I decided to make up the recipe with fresh ones. Better for it. The soup turned out lovely, fresh but also sweet and filling. I’ve not added any ham to keep this vegetarian but if you feel like it, throw in a couple of handfuls of diced ham about a minute before taking it off the heat.

Fresh Pea Soup

Ingredients

  • 1 onion
  • 500 g fresh frozen peas
  • 500 ml vegetable stock
  • knob of butter
  • 1 tsp mustard
  • salt
  • 1/3 tsp white pepper
  • egg

Method

  1. Sauté the chopped onions with the butter for about four minutes
  2. Meanwhile, place the egg in boiling water for 10 minutes
  3. Add the stock, peas, a pinch of salt, white pepper and the mustard
  4. Bring it back to boil and once it does, leave it to simmer for another four minutes
  5. Blitz with a hand mixer until almost smooth
  6. Serve with half a hard boiled egg
  7. Garnish with small basil or mint leave but don’t use olive oil as I did. It just doesn’t go with it

Quick notes

I’ve tagged this as vegan which it obviously isn’t. But if you substitute butter with vegetable oil and leave the egg out, the pea soup suddenly become suitable for vegan diets. This recipe serves two as a main or four as a starter.

Preparation time: 2 minute(s)

Cooking time: 15 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 4