Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Buckwheat Libum Cheesecake (Ancient Roman Honey Buns)

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Have you ever heard of Libum? 

I hadn't either. 

It's a type of bun, eaten in ancient Roman times at special occasions. And they're really easy to make. They're made using flour, soft cheese and and egg - and then they're soaked in honey. 

Like this. 



Drooling.

I first came across these little beauties in a copy of Amazing Magazine. My daughter loves it. It's a monthly magazine, with a special theme each month, and it's specially designed to support the National Curriculum so it helps her at school. Well, one month, it was Roman month. I love the Romans, because I love history. And so we both got stuck in making these Libum, so we could taste what the Romans tasted. It was all good. 

I decided to adapt the recipe a bit, and make a gluten free version using buckwheat flour. I have no idea if the Romans ever used buckwheat, but there's no reason why they wouldn't, I suppose. These are made with soft cheese though - I used ricotta. I've also used a little less honey. We found it was enough to drizzle a tablespoon of honey over at the end, as you eat, while the bun is still warm. It still soaks in. Oh, and it's flavoured with bay leaves, too, as if you needed another excuse to make them. 

Writing this up, I'm dribbling a bit at the memory of these so I'm off to make a batch now, with the kids. Laters! 



Buckwheat Libum Cheesecake (Ancient Roman Honey Buns)
adapted slightly from a recipe in Amazing Magazine
Makes 4
Ingredients
three quarters of a cup of buckwheat flour
1 cup ricotta cheese
1 large egg, beaten
4 heaped tablespoons runny honey
4 bay leaves

Method
Preheat the oven to 190ºC/gas mark 5/375ºF. Get out a baking tray and line it with greaseproof paper. 

In a large mixing bowl, combine the buckwheat flour, ricotta cheese and the egg until it forms a soft dough. If you find the mixture too dry, add a trickle of cold water until you get a dough that's a bit like a soft bread dough - it will be soft and sticky but you can just about handle and shape it. 

Lay the bay leaves onto your baking tray and split the dough into four equal balls. Place each ball over the top of a bay leaf and press down slightly. Bake for 35 minutes. 

Once the buns are cooked, turn them over and peel off the bay leaves. The leaves will have left behind a beautiful fragrance in the bun as they cooked. 

Serve the buns warm, with honey on the side for drizzling. 

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Monday, 20 February 2017

Cassava Flour Lamb and Olive Empanadas

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I bought myself a packet of cassava flour a few months ago and I just can't stop myself. Pancakes, gnocchi, pastries, crispy-fried coating on stuff - I love it. It's quite a handy flour to have in the cupboard and it works really well for people on special diets that are avoiding gluten and grains. 



These empanadas were inspired by the ones I ate in Argentina - although they mainly use beef in theirs - while I've used lamb and green olives. There's a speckling of dried parsley on top, and they're totally nut free, dairy free and gluten free. Hurray for that. 


If you're wondering which cassava flour I use, it's the Tiana brand, which I buy from Amazon. I once bought some cassava flour in a huge bag, which was very cheap, in a local supermarket but it tasted bitter and just didn't behave the same when it was cooked with. I'd recommend this brand if you're making cakes, pastries or pancakes, definitely. 


Cassava Flour Lamb and Olive Empanadas
Makes 6-8
Ingredients
For the pastry: 
200g cassava flour (I used Tiana)
quarter teaspoon salt
75g lard, cold, cut into cubes
about 50ml cold water (more or less, see notes below)
1 egg yolk, for brushing (omit for AIP)
half a teaspoon dried parsley

For the filling:
1 tbsp olive oil
pinch sea salt flakes
1 small white onion, chopped finely
2 cloves garlic, chopped finely
200g good quality lamb mince 
8 pitted green olives, halved lengthways

Method:
First, heat the oven to 200ºC/gas mark 6/400ºF and get on with your empanada filling. 

Take out a large frying pan and trickle in the olive oil. Fry the onion and the pinch of salt until softened but not coloured, and add the garlic. Stir-fry for another minute or so and then add the minced lamb. Cook, stirring, until browned and fully cooked through. Tumble in the olives, and turn off the heat.

Lave to cool slightly, while you make the pastry. 

Measure out the cassava flour and the salt into a bowl and mix together. Take the lard and rub it into the flour with your fingertips, until you end up with a floury mixture that looks a bit like fine breadcrumbs. Pour in the cold water - a little at a time, you might not need the full 50ml) and work with your fingertips until the mixture forms a smoothish, firm dough. 


Dust a work surface or board with a little cassava flour and roll out the dough to about 5mm thick. Cut out circles - I use a small dish to make a template and then ran a sharp knife around it. 


Pick up a circle of the pastry and moisten the edge of one side of it with a fingertip dipped in cold water. Put a tablespoon or two of the lamb and olive filling onto the pastry and fold in half to seal. If the pastry splits, don't worry - just take a small piece of the dough and press it back together. 

Crimp the edges of the pastry half-circle by using a fork, and place on a tray lined with greaseproof paper. Brush with beaten egg, if you like, for a glazed finish and sprinkle over the dried parsley. Bake in the oven for about 20-25 minutes, until the pastry is firm and golden and the filling is hot. 

Remove from the oven and eat hot - the filling may be very hot so allow to cool slightly before giving them to young children. 

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