Friday, 28 September 2012

Cupcake Decorating Class at Sugarshack

On my day off yesterday (day off from my 'proper' job, day ON my potential new career!) I took a cupcake decorating class at Sugarshack with the lovely Ria. There were about 15 in the class, and we all began with an introduction to ourselves and why we were here. Experience ranged from completely new to baking to mums who have become addicted (and quite accomplished in one case, Gabby!) and a young girl who takes a class where-ever she goes in the world, from Israel to New York to Queensbury, London.

Luckily for us we didn't have to waste any time actually baking the cupcakes or making the icing. Ria had all that prepared for us. She first showed us how to fill out piping bags without dropping it all over the floor, which was a revelation for me - just fold down the piping bag!

The first nozzle was a star tip, so we were show how to hold the bag vertically and plop a little star/flower all around our dummy cupcakes. Very effective, with the right pressure.

Star nozzle

Next, using the same nozzle, for sea-shell shapes, or tadpoles, as Ria likes to call them. Couldn't quite master this one...


Next we learned how to use a C shape, interlocking with a backward C shape to make this weavy type pattern: I liked this a lot.


Then we switched nozzles, to the leaf nozzle. This I found difficult at first, piping and then fading the pressure away outwards (Ria's terminology was much better, but hasn't managed to retain itself in my brain!). But eventually got the hang of it.

Leaf nozzle

The last nozzle we got to practice with was (I think) a large drop flower one, with which we could make some swirly ice-cream type patterns:

Ice cream!
And a beautiful rose: This was my favourite - it's much simpler than it looks to achieve.


Then the even more fun part, we got to add colours, glitters and pearl luminescence, and decorate our own.
Fun Fun Fun!

And later, when I got home, I was inspired (and required!) to make some cakes for the MacMillan Coffee Morning at school, so I used only glacé icing (used up all my butter earlier in the scones and cupcakes), so my spirals didn't keep their shape, but I was able to practice on my daisy mould...

Lovely bunch of people, and a really good teacher, the time flew, but I would love to go to another class very soon - to learn the simple techniques that make cakes look impressive.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Fragrant Chicken Breasts with 'wild' basmati rice pilaf

This quick and easy supper again was inspired by a duck recipe from Good Food 101 Speedy Suppers (again!)

Slash the chicken breasts, and rub in 1.5 teaspoons of garam masala and some grated ginger.
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees (gas 6). Heat some oil in a pan, and fry the chicken, skin-side down (if you leave the skin on!) for about 10 minutes, then transfer to a baking dish and roast skin-side up, for 10 minutes, or until cooked through.

While the chicken is cooking, melt some butter in a pan and gently fry a teaspoon of cumin seeds for a couple of minutes, then stir in the rice and coat in the butter/cumin. Pour over 1/2 pint of chicken stock, cover and simmer for about 10 minutes until all the liquid is absorbed. Add in some raisins (or peas) a few minutes from the end and stir in some gently fried red onions too (or some fresh spring onions, at the end).

Serve with some salad leaves and a spoonful of mango chutney.



Friday, 21 September 2012

Spanish Chicken and Chorizo Pie

Quick and easy recipe from Good Food 101 Speedy Suppers.

Boil some potatoes, drain, and mash with a teaspoon of paprika.
Gently stir-fry some chorizo and cubed chicken breast for about 10 minutes.
Remove the meat, then stir-fry some onion, garlic and pepper until softened. Stir in a teaspoon of paprika, then some chopped tomatoes, and bring to a simmer.
Add in the chicken, chorizo, and some chopped olives, and then mix it all together with some salt and pepper, remove from the pan into an oven proof bowl. Spoon over the mash and bake for about 15 minutes.

Spanish Chicken and Chorizo Pie

Served with something green and crunchy

Murgh Mughalai (Chicken with Almonds and Raisins)

The Hindi-Bindi Club Recipes

I came across a book called The Hindi-Bindi Club by Monica Pradhan,(Bloomsbury, 2007) about three Indian mothers who emigrated to Washington D.C., and their daughters. Not only is it a good story, it also has recipes at the end of each chapter, authentic Indian recipes, all dishes cooked at some point in the story, during a time of comfort, or celebration. I really enjoyed the book, now I'm going to really enjoy the recipes! I also get to use my cup-measuring spoons!

Chicken with Almonds and Raisins

Serves 6

1/2 cup blanched slivered almonds, divided
4 cloves fresh garlic, peeled
1-inch piece fresh ginger root, peeled
2 cups yellow onion, chopped
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 bay leaves
4 whole green cardamom pods
1 2-inch cinnamon stick
4 whole cloves
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed
1 cup milk, divided into thirds
1/4 cup water
1/2 teaspoon cayenne powder (adjust to spicy-hot preference)
1 teaspoon coriander powder
1 teaspoon salt (adjust to preference)
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup fresh coriander (cilantro), chopped and divided
1/2 teaspoon garam masala

Lightly toast the almonds for about 15 minutes, and set aside.
Puree the ginger, garlic and onion, and set aside.
Heat some oil in a wok, and on high, fry the whole spices: bay leaves, cardamoms, cinnamon, cloves and cumin, for about 15 seconds, then add in the chicken and sear it all around, for about 3-5 minutes. Then set this aside.
In the same wok, add the paste and stir-fry until the liquid evaporates.
Next stir in 1/3 cup of milk, reduce the heat, cover and simmer until it evaporates, 3-5 minutes, then repeat this twice until you have a nice thick sauce.
Stir in the chicken, cayenne, coriander powder, salt and water, bring it all to a boil, then reduce the heat again, cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Stir in the raisins, simmer for a further 5 minutes.
Remove from the heat, and discard the cinnamon stick and bay leaves, if you can find them!
Lastly, stir in half the almonds, half the fresh coriander and garam masala.
Serve, with rice, sprinkled with the rest of the fresh coriander and almonds.

Yummmm-eeeeeee. Authentic as you can get, (I imagine!).

Chicken with Almonds and Raisins

Butterfly Chocolate Cupcakes

An easy-peasy recipe I found in cupcakes & muffins 100 everyday recipes, by Love Food a little book I found in a bookshop in South Kensington.  

Just make some normal chocolate cupcakes with butter, caster sugar, self-raising flour, 2 eggs and cocoa powder, mixed with some melted chocolate, and divided into 12 cupcake cases.
Then bake for 15 minutes or so.

Then make the filling with butter, icing sugar and melted chocolate.

When the cupcakes have cooled, slice a circle off the top of each, and half it.
Then pipe the icing on top with a big nozzle. It may look a little dodgy...

Who did that?

Then stick the 'wings' back on. You could decorate them with some coloured swirly icing or silver balls, but I didn't think of that until after...

What on earth?


Sunday, 16 September 2012

Rainbow Cake

My first commission! My friend asked me to make a birthday cake for her little girl who is four. The brief was: Purple, orange and green, her favourite colours...

So, a rainbow? I trawled through Google Images, as ever, for inspiration, and came across this lovely one on Cake Central.

So, enlisted the skidgers to 'help', and got them to separate the smarties into separate bowls. They were then allowed to eat the brown ones. (And later the pink ones too).

Separate the smarties!

Next I rolled out some green sugarpaste icing, for 'grass'.

Lay the lawn
Then I made Nigella's Old Fashioned Chocolate cake, always a favourite - easy to make AND tastes good - and always works! Make two, as it says in the recipe, and slice in half so you have four sections.

Nigella's Chocolate Cake

Then make some purple and orange icing, and using three of the four sections, slap them together with two different colour buttercreams. I used Dr Oetker's gel colourings, you have to put nearly half a tube in, and still only really get a pastel colour.

Purple buttercream icing, honest!

Then stand these up on the 'grass'.

Up goes the rainbow...
Then cover the cake in white glacé icing - the one where you just add a couple of teaspoons of water to the icing sugar! I think you really need marzipan here, as the white colour is a little bit lost here over the chocolate cake, but it somehow turned out a lilac colour, so it wasn't such a bad thing! Also don't make it too liquidy, as it will flow off the edge. I blocked it up with white marshmallow (Clouds!)

Getting a bit cloudy

Next, add the smarties in the right order, of course, neatly along the top.


Then I used some green buttercream and a special grass nozzle in my piping bag to make some grass.

Stick on a few sugar flowers - the purple ones are from Sainsburys, the orange ones are just smarties surrounded by orange chocolate buttons (Disclaimer: my little girl made these!)

Then use the last of the purple buttercream with a writing nozzle for the name. Ta-daaaaaaaah!!

Lots of fun and a very happy little four year old (and mammy!)

Check out my other Birthday cakes

Tapenade, and Moroccan Beef Stew with Olives

 Fragata, who are a specialty Spanish food brand, sourcing authentic Spanish food for the UK, and worldwide are running a competition with my favourite Spanish chef José Pizarro, where I could win a the opportunity to spend the afternoon in the kitchen cooking alongside him! Imagine that!

So with that for motivation, my task was to create two dishes using olives. 
They sent me a hamper containing olives stuffed with anchovies, pitted black Spanish olives, Spanish olives stuffed with garlic, Pimiento Piquillo peppers, capers, and Piri Piri hot peppers.

Fragata hamper

So for starters, I'm making Tapenade served on crusty bread. I found, and adapted, a recipe on the BBC Food website by James Martin.



Ready to make a Tapenade paste

Simply put the garlic, lemon juice, capers and olives stuffed with anchovies into a food processor and blitz for about 10 seconds. Add in the chopped black olives and chopped parsley and enough olive oil to make a paste.
Tapenade paste

Serve on some crusty toasted bread. It's a powerful flavour which gives you an initial 'whoa, stand back!' feeling, but they are more-ish and delicious, I had four!

Tapenade served on crusty bread

For main course, I'm serving a Moroccan Beef Stew with Olives. I made this recipe once before and have it stuck in my cooking scrapbook, just waiting to be called on again. The recipe is for meatballs, but I thought a  nice slowed cooked beef stew would be better. 

Moroccan Beef Stew with Olives


For the marinade:
500 g cubed beef
2 tbsp chopped parsley
1 tbsp chopped coriander
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 small onion, chopped finely
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
salt to taste
olive oil

For the stew:
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
2 medium onions, peeled and finely chopped
4 pimiento piquillo peppers
small bunch of parsley, chopped
4 large vine tomatoes, chopped
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
juice of two lemons
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
3 tbsp green olives (stuffed with garlic), quartered
3 piri piri peppers
salt to taste

4 eggs (although two is enough, for two people)


Firstly, marinade the beef in the marinade for at least an hour.

Next, brown the beef on a high heat for about 2 minutes, then remove and set aside, covered, while you do the sauce.

To the same pan that you used to brown the meat, add the garlic, onion, piquillo peppers, and sauté for about 10 minutes.

Next, add in the remaining ingredients (apart from the eggs!) and simmer, covered, for about 30 minutes until it's a nice thick gravy. Then return the meat to the pan and simmer for as long as you can, at least 30 minutes, on a low heat.

About 10 minutes from when you want to serve, begin to make your cous cous to serve on the side.

Cous cous


200 g cous cous
handful of pine nuts
handful of raisins
1 small red onion, chopped


Simply fry the onion, raisins, and pine nuts in some olive oil for about 5 minutes. Then put your cous cous in the pan, turn off the heat, cover with boiled water and let it absorb (it shouldn't take much longer than 3-4 minutes - add a little more water if needed).

While your cous cous is cooking, add your eggs to the top of the stew, and let them poach gently for about 3 minutes. I like mine runny!

Carefully spoon the stew onto a serving plate, trying to keep the eggs intact! Serve with the cous cous.


Friday, 7 September 2012

Lemongrass Chicken with Noodles

An Impromptu Dinner Party

Friends (and dog) came round for dinner. Luckily Himself was able to stop for ingredients on the way. I quickly scanned the pages of BBC Good Food, October, for a thai dish - as requested. I found Lemongrass beef stew with noodles, only I changed it to chicken, and made it a speedy stir-fry.

First, whizz up a paste made of ginger, garlic, 2 stalks of lemongrass, fresh coriander and chilli. Then gently fry a chopped onion, for about 10 minutes, then add in the paste, and fry for about 5 minutes.

lemongrass paste

Next, stir in some dark soy sauce, 1 tsp five-spice powder, 1 tsp brown sugar, and about a pint of beef stock (yes, even though it's a chicken dish).
Simmer this for about 15 minutes, then in the cubed chicken breasts, peppers, and any other veg you fancy. 
You can then add in some nice thick noodles for two minutes or have some pad thai on the side. Or both...

Serve with a wedge of lime

Pad Thai

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Chocolate chunk brownies

These just speak for themselves. The recipe is taken from Delicious Magazine

Gooey centre and an outer crunch. Lush! The kids are so busy scoffing them, there might not be enough to bring to work tomorrow...?!

Chicken stuffed with chorizo and olives

I received this lovely hamper from the people at Fragata, who are a specialty Spanish food brand, sourcing authentic Spanish food for the UK, and worldwide.

They asked me to create two dishes using olives, which I WILL, but this isn't it!! It was going to be but I have two better ones planned... 

Chicken stuffed with chorizo and olives
(serves 2)

2 chicken breasts
2 inch piece of chorizo, chopped into little cubes
olives, stuffed with garlic, quartered
2 shallots, chopped
2 piri piri peppers, chopped
half a mozzarella ball

Chop everything up (apart from the chicken) into very small pieces.

Slit the chicken breasts down the side so you create a pocket.
Stuff the pocket with the chopped olive, chorizo, shallot and piri piri mixture.

Heat some olive oil in a frying pan, then place the chicken breasts in the pan and lower the heat.
Scrunch up a sheet of greaseproof paper and wet it under the tap, then flatten it out and cover the chicken with it, tucking it in round the edges. (I found this idea in Jamie Oliver's 30 Minute Meals)
Cook gently for about 20 minutes, then remove the paper, carefully turn the chicken over, and recover, cook for a further 5 minutes or so.

Serve with some roasted pequilo peppers and sliced potatoes. And a bit of salad would have been nice!