Sunday, 28 October 2012

Halloween Cupcakes

I had a great day making these today!

Apple Pie

This was a Nigel Slater number from the November Sainsbury's Magazine, where he used pears. I needed a back-up for my dinner party dessert Bailey's Cheesecake, as it wasn't looking promising and I had pledged to bring dessert. Slighty risky as I'd only made pastry once before, and all I had left were apples...

Still, it worked out well. Quickly make the pastry by mixing butter, flour, caster sugar and an egg yolk. Chill that for a bit, then roll it out into a tart tin, keeping the cut-offs to make the lattice later. Chill this again, then make the filling by peeling and slicing the apples, and cooking them for 10 minutes in a saucepan with some butter and sugar, until they are soft. Put this mixture in the pastry tin and brush over some of the butter from the pan. Sprinkle a little nutmeg and some flaked almonds over the top, and a little sugar. Mess about with the remaining pastry and make some sort of a lattice - or just scatter the shards over the top if it's easier. 
Bake for about 40 minutes, brushing some butter or milk on the pastry towards the end to help it brown a little better. Leave it to cool before slicing and eating with ice cream!

Oh, and no soggy bottom!

Baileys Baked Cheesecake

This could have gone very wrong. I've never baked a cheesecake before, chilled ones yes, Strawberry and Chocolate, and the Lemon, twice! Both successful and much-admired.
But this was more of a challenge.

It all went really well to start with. I adapted the recipe from the Tia Maria one in the Good Food 10 Menus for Entertaining, free with the November issue. Blended the melted butter and crushed chocolate hobnobs, and pressed them into the based of the tin. Baked this for 10 minutes at gas 4, then left it to cool.
Increased the heat to gas 9. Beat 900 g cream cheese and 200 g castor sugar until smooth, then whisked in 4 tbsp flour, 2 tsp vanilla extract, 3 tbsp Baileys, 3 eggs, and 300 ml double cream.
Poured this mixture on top of the base and bake for 10 minutes. This is where it got a bit iffy. It seemed way too liquidy to be right, so I left it about 20 minutes more at the low heat, then let it cool. It was still a bit wobbly in the centre, but I was hoping that the chilling to come would sort it out. 
Luckily it did, I beat some more double cream with more Baileys (splash away!) and then chilled it for the rest of the day. 
We brought it to a friend's house for a dinner party, and it went down really well, scattered with a grated flake... Delish...

Baileys Baked Cheesecake

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Rustic Rogan Josh from The Spice Tailor

I seem to have pre-empted Anjum Anand's weekly Spice Night! I 'won' a sauce on Twitter simply by retweeting one of the Spice Tailor's tweets and have had in it the cupboard waiting for a night when we needed a quick supper. Week 7 is the Rustic Rogan Josh, coming up next Tuesday at 7.30pm. 

Tonight was such a night where we were both hungry, feeling spicy, and a bit, well, lazy. This pack was great. It comes with three packages, all you have to add is the meat, and vegetables if you want. No spice grinding, dry-roasting, blitzing, or any of that hard work! Fine if you have the time, but when you're just ready to eat... 15 minutes and it was done.

Simply chop your meat (I used chicken) and vegetables (peppers) and have them ready. Then quickly fry your spices (the pack contained red chilli, black cardamom, green cardamom, bay leaf, cinnamon, black peppercorns, and clove) in some olive oil for about 20 seconds. Then add in the meat and brown all over for a couple of minutes. Next add in the peppers, and I also added some ginger and extra chillies here, and then add the base sauce, which I suspect is an onion based puree. Simmer this for a few minutes, then add the main sauce, which (again, just a suspicion) was tomato-based. Simmer for about 5 minutes, and that's it! It really is as easy as Anjum makes it look.

Authentic tasting, quick, just the right amount of sauce, and perfect for a night in.

Rustic Rogan Josh Chicken

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Smoked Haddock and Saffron Quiche - Lab Lunch

Our new cooking club at work: Every Monday one of us (out of three at the moment - let's see how popular it becomes) gets to bring in lunch. I was up first, so after all my talk about food, leaving science to do food, and showing off cakes, I had to think of something impressive.

As ever, Good Food to the rescue (November issue). I needed something that could be eaten cold (due to the lack of kitchen facilities at work), and was light enough for lunch, so I went with a smoked haddock and saffron quiche, with fennel and rocket salad. The recipe was for mussels, but I wasn't going to risk that!

I've never made a quiche before. I've never even made pastry before! So, as it was a rather risky first attempt for sharing lunch, so I made mini ones as well, just to check!

First, to make the pastry, put 250 g plain flour, 140 g butter and some salt in a mixer and process into breadcrumb-like mixture. Add a large egg and 1 tbsp cold milk and pulse until the dough comes together, then shape it into a disk, wrap in cling film and stick it in the fridge for an hour.

Roll the pastry out on a floured surface, until it's about £1 coin-thick, and line your tins with it. Put some greaseproof paper on the pastry, some ceramic baking beans (been watching GBBO!) and chill.

Next, bake the pastry cases for about 15 minutes at gas 7, then remove the paper and beans, and brush the pastry with beaten egg yolk and milk. Lower the gas to gas 3.

To make the filling, lightly beat together two eggs and 200 ml double cream. Then once you have pre-baked the pastry, scatter in whatever you like for the filling - I added chopped spring onions, smoked haddock chunks, a few saffron strands, and some grated cheddar cheese. Pour over the egg/cream mix, and bake for about 20 minutes. You can serve warm, or at room temperature (which is handy when you take it to work!)

We also had a rocket and chopped fennel salad, with some lemon and olive oil dressing.

Smoked Haddock and Saffron Quiche

And just to check my cake skills are still in working order, there was a little bit of Rachel Allen's chocolate mousse cake for afters.

Chocolate mousse cake

I think I got away with it this time...

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Food Styling by Jennifer Joyce

Food Styling - this is going to be my thing. All the following dishes were styled by Jennifer Joyce, the lovely teacher of my Food Styling class at Leith's Cookery school. I really want to do this! Her tips and ease of putting the dishes together were inspiring, with beautiful results. The photography is all my own, however, on my ancient old Nokia, so I didn't quite do them the justice they deserve (new smartphone on the Christmas list).
A fun, fascinating and informative class. Thank you Jennifer!

Chicken Skewers

Japanese Salad

Vietnamese Salad

Chicken Salad

Butternut Squash Soup with honey and sage
Chocolate mousse and...

... raspberry...


Hummus dip

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Chicken and chorizo in garlic and white wine

Another evening of 'Feck, there's nothing in the fridge, it's your turn to cook'. However, after perusing several usually-dependable cookbooks from many celebrity chefs, I eventually settled on bite-sized Spain by Hamlyn, and loosely based the following supper on their Pollo al ajillo.

Heat some oil in a wok. Add two cubed chicken breasts, and cook over a moderate heat for a few minutes, then add some sliced chorizo. Fry for 5-10 minutes until the chicken is golden. Transfer the meat to a shallow casserole dish and season.

Next, sauté some crushed garlic (4-5 cloves), 1 chopped onion, 1 chopped red pepper for a few minutes. Then add in 125 ml white wine (you may have to sample the wine to check it's ok), stir and bring to the boil. Once it's at a boil, pour it over the chicken and chorizo, and then squeeze in the juice of a lemon and a few saffron strands (pre-soaked in a little warm water). Cover, and cook for about 15 minutes until the chicken is cooked through, and nice and tender. 

Serve with some crusty bread. And the rest of the wine...

Chicken and chorizo in garlic and white wine. 

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Beef Stew with peppercorns and cheddar dumplings. And chocolate cake.

I've been on a quest to cook a beef stew for Himself, with meat that wasn't chewy, and this one worked really nicely. It's taken from the November issue of Olive Magazine (website here) (Thanks Lulu Grimes!). My impatience has previously been the problem, I expect, as it cooked for about 4 hours on a low heat, and the beef really was melty.

A sprinkling of black peppercorns and balsamic vinegar give this an extra flavour boost.

Melty beef, cheesy dumplings, and Guinness graaaavy!

Coincidentally, the same issue also has this delicious Chocolate Victoria, by Annie Bell. I don't work for Olive, honestly! (But maybe one day...)

Classic Tearoom Chocolate Victoria
Himself, he who doesn't 'do' cake, liked it. Liked it a lot. 

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Lamb chops with Basil, Rosemary, and Mint Sauce

Himself got us some lamb chops - for a change from chicken - and I immediately thought that my lovely Rachel Allen Easy Meals would be the best option. Right I was. As ever, I had to adapt to what I had in my kitchen, but it was still simple, quick, and delicious:

First I boiled some potatoes for the mash. While this was bubbling away, I whizzed up the sauce: some chopped rosemary (fresh from the garden!), basil, a spoonful of hot mint jelly (from The Larder N21), juice of half a lemon, olive oil, one chilli, and a spoonful of capers. Then tasted and seasoned, and it was ready to drizzle.

When the spuds were nearly done, I drizzled the lamb chops in some olive oil, salt and pepper, a little bit of rosemary, and then fried them for about 5 minutes each side (they were quite sturdy chops).

When the mash was ready, I added in a tiny bit of chopped rosemary, and a drop of the cooking oil, and a little splash of milk.

Serve the chops on top of the mash and drizzle the sauce over the chops and round the edge of the plate.

Lamb chops. Sturdy.


Sunday, 7 October 2012

Lemon Cake Pops

CAKE POPS! The new cupcakes. I've been wanting to try these out for a while, so what better excuse than Himself's birthday. Trouble is, he doesn't like cake much. Especially really sweet cake. (Chocolate, on the other hand, he could scoff til the cows come home). Still, any excuse, and a boy has to have a cake on his birthday, am I right? He prefers lemon cake to chocolate, so I bought a load of lemons, and off I went.

First off, I needed a stand. Lacking the polystyrene block or a flower arranging oasis, I had to improvise, with a clear plastic serving bowl, into which I plunged a skewer to make some holes. It worked quite well, at the top, but the angled ones around the side meant a few dropped pops later on! Still, all good learning fun!!

Cake Pop Stand. Patent pending...

For the lemon cake, I used a simple sponge recipe from a card I picked up at the Cake and Bake Show, by Rachelle:

  1. Preheat oven to Gas 4, and line two 8" tins.
  2. Zest 1 unwaxed lemon, and juice.
  3. Using a mixer, beat 8oz butter and 8oz golden caster sugar until pale and fluffy.
  4. Add 4 eggs, one at a time, beating after adding each one, then add the lemon zest and juice (I would add more lemon next time, at least 2)
  5. Sift in 8oz self raising flour and gently fold it in, keeping the mixture light. 
  6. Divide evenly between the two tins and bake for approx 30 minutes until risen, golden and springy.

Lemon Cake by Rachelle

To make the cake pops, I then took one of the sponges, saving the other for a 'proper' cake later. I made some buttercream, with 75g butter and 175g icing sugar, and the juice of half a lemon. I let this refridgerate for a while, then I crumbled up one of the cakes, (sorry Rachelle!) and mixed in the buttercream, a spoonful at a time, until it look sort of pliable - by taking a small handful you can tell if it's roll-able.

Mushed up cake and buttercream

Then I took spoonfuls of the mixture and rolled them into little balls. I would say next time, I'd make them smaller, as once they are covered in decoration, they get a bit weighty and tend to fall off the pop stick.
They then need to go in the fridge for an hour or so, to sturdy up a bit.

Balls of cake

To pop them on the lolly sticks, I then melted some white chocolate, dipped the sticks in and carefully plunged the chocolate covered tips into the balls. Then they need to set so they don't topple off the end. Which, to be honest, a couple did...

Becoming  cake pops...

Then for decoration, I thought I'd make lemony icing. So with the remaining melted white chocolate, I added some lemon juice. Bad idea. It just became a huge ball of doughy sweet un-meltable un-usable goo. Bin.

So instead I melted some proper chocolate, and carefully dipped each cake pop in it to cover the surface. Once that had hardened, I using the remaining lemon buttercream to pipe his name and age.

Whose birthday is it?
How old?

Of course, I didn't have enough brown chocolate to cover all of them, so I just played with some drawings with the lemon buttercream again. Lots of fun to make and decorate, but very sweet. The sponge on it's own was really nice though, yum!

Guess who?
And the other cake was quite nice too!

All my Birthday Cakes can be seen together on my Pinterest page.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

The Cake&Bake Show

It seems like a long time ago now, but on the 23rd September, my cake-loving friend and I went to the Cake&Bake Show at Earl's Court. As I left my house on that dreary morning, I couldn't help but feel inwardly excited to have a whole day to spend surrounded by pretty, edible, and inspiring cakes. When I arrived at Earl's Court, I was greeted by George Michael. Not literally, unfortunately (well, maybe quite fortunately), but his image posted onto the front of the Earl's Court Exhibition Centre. However, I met with my good friend (and photographer), Shani, and we followed the steady trickle of fellow cake-lovers inside the exhibition centre. 

The first stand we came to was that of the British Sugarcraft Guild. At first, I thought it was a picnic spread, before realizing everything, yes, everything, from the flowers to the sausage rolls to the teapot, even the napkins, was made from icing. To quote Shani, 'Ah-MAZ-ing'! Really spectacular. Of course, there was a sign to say 'Do Not Touch', fair enough, but it was so tempting just to get really close and check. 

The British Sugarcraft Guild Stand, that teapot is real!
Table of Honour. Those shoes!

Napkin, anyone?
Flowers of icing

Some other really impressive stands below:

Lace Designs by Karen Davies

More Karen Davies

Tracy's Cakes

Squires Kitchen Publishing Stand
Beautiful Ballerina by Squires Kitchen

Shani and I sampled some Lovoka vodka liqueur, caramel and chocolate flavours, at the Emerald Street stand. The nice boy took our photo too.

I met the lovely Peggy Porschen in her beautiful boutique stand. Looking a bit sleepy after that vodka... sorry Peggy!

Peggy Porschen has a bespoke cake company based in Belgravia, London. I want one of those aprons, please, Santa.

A sneaky photo of Mich Turner, her cakes were also just incredibly beautiful, she was a popular lady that day, for sure.  She is the founder of The Little Venice Cake Company and has quite a lot of celebrity clientele. 

We tried to get close to Mr Hollywood, and then he chucked some of Mary Berry's roulade at us!
I don't think the Food Heaven Magazine guy knew we were taking a sneaky photo of his stand -  or did he...? Hmm... I should have just asked him for a job really.

Below are some more incredible cake designs: (I so want to be able to do this!)

Debbie Brown

This is so clever!


And finally we came to the The Edible Beach Competition. You can see all the entries on the Facebook page, but they were all absolutely amazing. Non-professionals? Incredible.

These are my favourites:
Fish 'n' Chips. This was the non-professional Winner.

Rock Pools

Beach Bag

A fabulous, inspiring day. I made some purchases, of course, a few little tools of the trade, which hopefully will be of use in my new career! A big Thank You to Shani for the photos and the support. 
Can't wait for next year...