And the winners are…

Thanks to everyone who entered The Kitchenmaid’s first birthday giveaway. It was great to get your feedback on what you’d like to see more of and I hope to bring you more good food and ideas in the year to come. But without further ado, here’s the list of lucky winners:

What's For Pudding

Kate of Kate’s Cakes And Bakes has won Alexa Johnston’s gorgeous new book, What’s For Pudding?

Libby of Lovely Wee Days has won the Wellington On A Plate goody bag, complete with a bottle of Wairarapa pinot noir, a bottle of Lot 8 olive oil and a Wellington On A Plate apron and teatowel.

And Janice, Paisley Jade, Heavenly Ingredients, Shaheen and Choey have won twin packs of Whittaker’s 72% Dark Ghana chocolate. Whittaker’s is the only commercial chocolate brand made in New Zealand and I can personally vouch for its deliciousness. It’s the only chocolate I use in baking (and we eat a fair amount of it too).

Sorry I couldn’t send everyone a prize, but it’s been hard enough not eating my way through that box of chocolate as it is! If you’ve won something, drop me a line or DM on Twitter (@thekitchenmaid) and I’ll arrange getting your prize out to you.

The Kitchenmaid is ONE

Like most blogs, The Kitchenmaid had a long gestational period. With the naivety of most first-time mothers I thought it would be a good maternity leave project, something to keep my brain moving. I was going to run it in my spare time, along with website on parenting, training for a half-marathon and continuing my freelance work, because, you know, babies are really easy. Yeah, right. Pull the other one, sweetheart, it’s got chocolate cream cheese icing on it.

Anyway, today marks one year since my first tentative post. I’d like to thank Joan of Sempiterna Me, who acted as an encouraging midwife, and everyone who has stopped by and shared their thoughts, tips and ideas ever since. I couldn’t – or indeed wouldn’t – do this without you. And last but by no means least, thanks to the Small Girl and Boy Wonder who help out in all sorts of ways, not least by being such appreciative eaters.

Now – it might be The Kitchenmaid’s birthday, but I’d like YOU to get the presents. So, thanks to the generosity of Penguin Books, Visa Wellington On A Plate and Whittaker’s Chocolate, I have a bumper hamper of loot to give away.

There’s a copy of Alexa Johnston’s new book, What’s For Pudding?, a Visa Wellington On A Plate goody bag loaded with Wairarapa pinot noir and olive oil, plus a Wellington On A Plate apron and tea towel, AND a whole box – that’s 10 x 250g slabs – of Whittaker’s 72% Dark Ghana Chocolate (which will be split up into pairs).

All you have to do to be in to win is:

1. Become a follower of The Kitchenmaid if you aren’t already. It’s easy, really it is…
2. Leave a comment below, telling me what you’d like to see more (or less) of on this blog – baking? cooking advice? gluten-free ideas? book reviews? pictures of animals? relationship advice?
3. Spread the word – for every extra mention you give this giveaway (and The Kitchenmaid) on Twitter, Facebook, your blog, your national radio or TV show, your local deli, your hairdresser etc, you get an extra chance at winning. (Just nip back and leave another comment to let me know.)
4. This giveaway is open to readers in all geographical locations, though it will help if you have a reliable postal service. Actually, it might be tricky to arrange posting wine and olive oil, but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it…

Don’t forget to tell me what you’d like to see more of on The Kitchenmaid, because cooking for one just isn’t fun. Good luck!

Rye and molasses bread

I’ve finally assuaged my white bread guilt and made a successfully dark and flavoursome loaf after weeks of turning out lead bricks. There are various recipes floating around for no-knead brown breads that you mix up and stick in a cold oven, but I can’t seem to make any of them work. This one, however, adapted from something I copied down from A Pod And Three Peas ages ago, does the trick. It’s a bit like homemade Vogels rye bread, only nicer.

Rye Molasses Bread

Rye and Molasses Bread
This bread came out of the oven looking so dark and brooding I wanted to call it Heathcliff, but thought that might be a Wuthering Heights pun too far. The molasses gives it a distinctive flavour, but you could always substitute treacle or golden syrup. Either way, this bread is really, really good with slabs of cold unsalted butter.

2tsp dried yeast
650ml warm water
1Tbsp molasses
500g wholemeal flour
100g rye flour
100g rolled oats
1tsp salt

Put the water and yeast into a large bowl (or the bowl of your freestanding mixer) and whisk together. Add the molasses and whisk again. Add all the other ingredients and mix well. Leave for five minutes, then either plug into your mixer and let the dough hook work its magic for about five minutes or turn it out and knead it for five minutes. It is a really, really wet and sticky dough – the mixer is far easier.
Scrape the dough into a well-greased and lined large loaf tin (mine has an internal measurement of about 25cm x 8cm), slash the top and put the whole thing into a plastic bag. Leave until doubled – around 60-90 minutes – then bake at 200C for about 45 minutes. I turn it out of the tin at this point and return to the oven for another 5-10 minutes to get a nice, crusty bottom. Let cool completely on a rack before slicing.

My creative space: Dreams

Clever Vanessa Kimbell wants to know what your dream is – because rather than just dreaming about writing a cookbook, she’s actually gone and done it:

I followed my dream and here I am … I’m now officially a food writer and being commissioned to write articles. I have a BBC radio show and a newspaper column, and have also been asked to put my business brains into gear and bring a fabulous new product to market later in the year as a food consultant… so things are coming together!

Illustration by Mel Stringer

Vanessa’s blog tells the story of her path from dreamer to doer, a sort of fairytale with recipes. It’s very inspiring – not least because I often think about how wonderful it would be to write a book of my own, especially using the drawings of Mel Stringer, who illustrates my work for Frankie magazine.
I have lots of other dreams too – like going back to live in London or Paris, running a marathon (preferably in London or Paris), convincing the Cordon Bleu school to take me on when it opens here next year…

Back in January a friend and I were discussing our New Year resolutions. Mine was to make bread instead of buying it (so far, so good!) and hers was simply to be grateful for what she had. Whenever I feel a case of the moans coming on, I remember that. Because dreams are important (“life should always have possibilities, however large or small”, as Vanessa says) – but so is appreciating real life.
I remember hatchet-faced Janice Battersby on Coronation St once telling her daughter that all you needed to be ‘appy was enough money, a decent feller and a good job. I reckon I’m not too far off. Still, if there’s a publisher out there wanting to give Mel and I a break…

What’s your dream?

For more creative spaces – doers as well as dreamers – head over here.

Sweet sweet Friday: Almond Tofu Balls

My dear friend Jo has spent the last two years weighed down chronic fatigue syndrome (and yet still managed to be a human dynamo, achieving the sorts of things it would take most of us forever to get through). There’s a lot of quackery around CFS, but Jo has just discovered that adopting a low-carb, Atkins-style diet has had a dramatic effect on her health and she’s looking forward to regaining some of her old bounce (look out!) Unfortunately though, this means no making her legendary rum balls or other examples of classic Australian baking. Well, she can make them, but if you can’t eat them that seems horribly unfair. I’m no expert on low-carb anything, but I think I’ve come up with a reasonably safe substitute..

Almond Tofu Balls
This is my version of a recipe from Emma Galloway’s My Darling Lemon Thyme – a truly beautiful blog with lovely recipes and wonderful photos. I made these with the Small Girl’s help and she ate a LOT of the mixture while I couldn’t decide whether to be pleased (all that protein!) or cross (fewer left for me!). I also tested these out on a vegetarian coeliac friend and she adored them.
Don’t be scared off by the tofu – it makes for a lovely velvety texture. If you have a very sweet tooth (and are not Atkins-ing), add a little more honey or date syrup.

250g medium-firm tofu
1 cup ground almonds
1/2 cup desiccated coconut
3/4 cup prunes, diced small
2Tbsp date syrup
3Tbsp cocoa
1tsp real vanilla extract
1Tbsp tahini (or almond butter, or smooth peanut butter)

extra coconut, cocoa or sesame seeds for rolling

Rinse the tofu under cold water and pat dry with kitchen paper. Put into a bowl and mash well with a fork, then add all the other ingredients and mix well. (You could also do this in a food processor.) Roll generous teaspoonfuls into balls, then roll them in extra coconut, sifted cocoa or sesame seeds. Store in the fridge. Makes about 20, depending on how much of the mixture your helper eats.

Have a sweet, sweet weekend everyone. I’m planning to play with all my wonderful birthday loot!