Sunday, 29 April 2012

Random Recipes #15 - round-up

... let me set the scene... its a darkened room, lit only by the light of flickering candles... a bunch of colourful balloons struggle for freedom, their ribboned tails tied to a chair leg... a hushed silence falls as the party guests wait to scream their 'surprise'... in the centre of the room is a long table, groaning with the weight of glorious cakes of all kind... multi-coloured napkins and plates lay empty with the anticipation of a slice of something sweet and sugary... and all the guests can think... 'when will he get here so I can decide which piece of cake I can have first!...'

... and what a choice...!

blog: Searching for Spice
book: Step by Step Baking by Caroline Bretherton
recipe: Ginger Cake

our first entry is one of my all time favourite cakes... simple but always pack a punch, thank you Corina for your delicious entry

book: River Cottage Baking
recipe: Rhubarb and Strawberry Tart

Michael has come up trumps with my favourite kind of tart... a tart tart... thank you Michael!

book: Bake by Nick Malgieri
recipe: Chocolate Raspberry Sandwiches

lovely Susan has made the prettiest little cakes for the blogarversary table... filled with jam and love... next time she's going to fill them with Nutella... heavenly!

book: Tapas!
recipe: Banderillas Picantes

... so Karen, bless her, got it all a little bit wrong and piled up her 'party' books and so came up with these little numbers... I guess with all the sweetness we may appreciate something a little savoury!

book: Gorgeous Cakes by Annie Bell
recipe: Chocolate Prune Cake

now how incredible does this cake look...? a wonderful chocolate cake for the table... which contains prunes and rum... what's not to like... ?

book: The Hummingbird Bakery's Cake Days
recipe: Cinnamon and Raisin Loaf Cake

so it's a warm welcome to the lovely Jack as its his first Random Recipe... which of course makes him an RRV... and aren't these a wonderful way to start a great journey... the tables really on cake overload now!

book: 21st Century Housewife by Victoria
recipe: Nonnas Banana Bread

a genius pick of a recipe from Victoria after shuffling through her own hand made recipe book... and my favourite loaf... a yummy banana bread

blog: Makey-Cakey
book: A Greener Life by Clarissa Dickson Wright and Jonny Scott
recipe: Marlborough Cake

never heard of this kind of cake before but Ruth insists it tastes wonderful and who am I to argue with this months sponsor?... looks bloody good anyway!

book: Food and Drink TV Show
recipe: Mr Barry's Chocolate Cake

bending the rules out of all proportion here is Phil... but what do I care with such a wonderfully light and fluffy cake... nice one Phil!

book: The Boy Who Bakes by Edd Kimber
recipe: Nanimo Bars

how wonderful are these unusual bars from GG...? I just love them, they look so sophisticated but you know they're really very naughty!

book: The Joyful Baker
recipe: Apple Cider Pudding Cake

a bit of a twist is this Vik Sponge... and C has it all going on with this lovely gooey apple cake... I think she made them for me... she said they were made for the Queen...

book: Tea with Bea
recipe: Nutty lemon Biscotti

Suelle is celebrating her 300th post along with my 2nd blogaversary so a little double party going on here, which is just as well as with the addition of these wonderful treats the party table is beginning to groan!

book: Hummingbird Bakery Cake Days
recipe: Mixed Nut Slices

so impressed that Gary persuaded his OH to bake this for me... and she said yes!... of course Gary got to pick the book and the recipe, so the drama was there but then he duly passed on the sweat and tears!

book: Peyton and Byrnes British Baking
recipe: Banoffi Pie

hot on the heels of his OH we have, what is probably the best pudding in the world... I thank you Gary... Gary?... still in that sugar and banana induced coma?... Gary?

book: Colossal Cookie Cookbook
recipe: Heart Shaped Cookies

returning to an old favourite cookbook has inspired Jo and these pretty little cookies are just so adorable aren't they... would you like bite?  Come on... I know you would!

book: Ottolenghi
recipe: Orange and Polenta Cake

like me, having never cooked with Polenta before Lucy was a little worried but it all turned out rather wonderful and I think she's grown to like it quite a bit... and who could blame her... just look at this cake!

book: Marks and Spencer Easy Baking Recipe Book
recipe: Chewy Golden Oat Cookies

it seems as though Gill has started something she shouldn't have at work by being so generous with her baking... they'll be fighting over the tea urn soon Gill!

book: Eric Lanlards Home Bake
recipe: Walnut Tarts

poor Clare originally picked a Christmas Cake for this months challenge but she decided against it and picked again... for which I do forgive her but only because these beauties are such a delightful sticky treat!

book: Short and Sweet (and Emma's Mum)
recipe: Coconut Milk Layer Cake

oh look, a Random Recipe Virgin along for the celebrations... and Emma has gone out guns blazing with this triple layer cake, using some of her mums wonderful lime curd... delightful!

book: Apples for jam by Tessa Kiros
recipe: Orange Juice and Olive Oil Cake

Debbie celebrates the incredible and torrential rain (go to her blog and check out the video) we've been having with this wonderful olive oil cake and some excellent photography too.

book: Edmonds Classic Cookbook
recipe: Ginger Kisses

i'd never heard of Ginger Kisses until reading Lucy's post but they look damn fine to me and a most welcome addition to the now seriously bowing in the middle celebration table!

book: Short and Sweet by Dan Lepard
recipe: Marbled Chocolate Crumble Cake

The Baking Addict is relieved not to have picked macaroons again for this challenge and she really lucked out with this yummy treat which also happens to be one of my favourite cakes... although I think i've said that about a lot of the cakes made this month... and i wonder why i'm so fat!

book: Sumptuous Cakes 
recipe: Chocolate Fruit and Nut Crispy Cakes

these little beauties were great fun, easy to make and scarily easy to eat!

book: A Treasury of New Zealand Baking
recipe: Cinnamon and Raisin Pinwheels

Mel has adapted a little recipe for these divine pinwheels from a book that took her a while to find on native NZ baking... not that they're particularly native in any way but that's the point... oh just read the post and you'll see what I mean...

book: Cake Days - The Hummingbird Bakery
recipe: Pistachio Cake

well I feel truly honoured that Lou has entered into RR this month... she's been a busy bee and will hopefully be blogging again more frequently... I do hope so if she comes up with stunning stuff like this fabulous loaf cake.

book: Green and Blacks Ultimate
recipe: Sticky Toffee Chocolate Puddings

The Vikings favourite pudding this time and Choclette has created a thing of beauty with this very naughty little puddings... can you just imagine the heavenly smell in her kitchen when these were baking... my mouth is quite literally dribbling!

book: Gorgeous Cakes by Annie Bell
recipe: Apricot Upside Down Cake

Laura has a spot of bother with her upside down cake, although to be frank it looks practically perfect to me... don't you think... and i know it'll go quickly!

book: Mary Berry's 100 Cakes and Bakes
recipe: A Rather Red Loaf Cake

making room on the table for just one more... and Glace cherries are the main feature in this delicious loaf cake... I can taste their heavenly scent now... give me just one little slice...

book: Donna Hay Magazine
recipe: Pine Nut Cake with Orange Syrup

usually first but coming in late this month... but I really can't fault Denise and her gorgeous cake... she's right, I would love it!

book: The Best of Cadbury Chocolate Cooking
recipe: Chocolate and Amaretti Slice

...and with a stunning flourish Janice comes sweeping in with what can only be described as a show-stopper of a cake... thank you... thank you.. thank you... i need a slice NOW!

... thanks for helping me celebrate my second blogaversary... what a party!... look out for Random Recipes number 16 coming your way on Tuesday...

Thursday, 26 April 2012

chocolate fruit and nut crispy cakes - a we should cocoa random recipe

... I know he wont mind me telling you but The Viking and I have both put on a serious amount of weight recently and to be honest, being men of a gentle nature who are well and truly finished with the salad days of our lives, we really can't afford to let anything slip too far... as it were... I simply refuse to have to purchase anything that comes with an elastic waistband!

... not that i'm pointing fingers but since I began blogging 2 years ago I have baked and eaten more cake than ever before in my entire life and this must have something to do with it surely... The Viking has almost put his foot down and banned me from baking anything sweet... but clearly I can't stop baking... I enjoy it far too much (both the baking and the eating) but I really need to temper my intake... I guess this means my neighbour Tracey will benefit from plenty of treats over the next few months as I attempt to gain control... that or i'll have to come down and bake in the darkness of the night...

with one final flourish before the sugar goes away here's my random recipe for the month...

Chocolate Fruit and Nut Crispy Cakes
these are such a nostalgia hit for me as we used to make something very similar as kids... I think they're such a brilliant kid-friendly bake aren't they...?

300g semisweet chocolate - broken into pieces
150g butter
1 tablespoon honey or golden syrup
1 tablespoon chopped nut
1 tablespoon sultanas
cornflakes or similar (I used a mixed dried fruit and flakes combo)

200g mascarpone cream cheese
150ml double cream

- prepare 18 paper muffin cases on a baking sheet

- place the chocolate, butter and syrup in a pan and gently melt until they are runny but not hot, remove from the heat and stir until well mixed

- add the chopped nuts and sultanas, stir and then add the cornflakes and stir again until combined

- spoon the cornflake cake mix into the muffin cases and leave to cool for 2-3 hours

- whip the mascarpone and double cream together until thick and then make little fancy quinelles using two teaspoons, so they sit prettily on top.

these are of course my random recipes entry for this month... if you haven't entered and would still like to you have until Sunday to submit your entries... and i'm also entering them into the excellent we should cocoa challenge which, this month is chocolate and cheese...

eat and of course, enjoy!

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

cakes in memory of Sheila

... a couple of years ago I baked some scones for Sheila's 80th birthday... Sheila is the mum of my friend Tina and very sadly she died last week... Sheila, Tina and her family live in Aby, our nearest village and we've been good friends since we moved up here almost 10 years ago.  With the wonderful sense of community that you have out here in the middle of the country it is always so sad to lose anyone and it really does effect the community as a whole... i'm sure Tina won't mind me saying that Sheila was a powerhouse of a woman... always at the centre of any village get together, usually with a whole box of outstanding cakes... a staunch member of the WI, she was the woman to judge if a Victoria Sponge was good enough... and she didn't mince her words...

... Tina asked me to make some cakes for her funeral and of course I could hardly say no... I've gone for three easy, classic crowd pleasers, a Victoria Sponge of course, a Banana Loaf and i've also made a mixed fruit and candied peel loaf cake which contains some rather wonderful homemade apple jelly.

... these should send Sheila off in style!

a four egg victoria sponge
... the recipe for the banana loaf is my classic and can be found here... and the fruit loaf is a very simple adaptation of this recipe, using 2 tablespoons of apple jelly instead of the mashed banana... the reason the victoria sponge is a 4 egg not the traditional 3 egg is that I couldn't find my 18in Victoria Sponge cake tins and had to use by 20 inch ones and didn't want to stretch the mix and end up with flat cakes... I have, however, followed Sheila's traditional method of weighing the eggs and then using the equivalent weight of flour, sugar and butter...

4 eggs (weighing in at just over 9oz) - beaten
9oz margarine
9oz caster sugar
9oz self-raising flour
1 teaspoon little pod vanilla extract
4 tablespoons damson jam

- pre heat the oven to 170C and line and grease 2 20inch cake tins

- cream the margarine and the sugar until light and fluffy... I did this with a wooden spoon, which took seconds... add the vanilla and beat again.

- add one third of the eggs and beat until combined, then add one third of the flour and beat again until combined... continue this way until all the eggs and flour have gone.

- divide between the two cake tins and bake for 20-25 mins or until risen and golden

- let them cool and then sandwich liberally with the jam of your choice

eat and of course, enjoy!

Monday, 23 April 2012

apple and rhubarb sorbet - bloggers scream for ice cream

... it takes just a little longer for everything to get going over here on the east coast of England... I read about people eating wild garlic... or nettle soup... watercress... or rhubarb... and my rhubarb (well, you all know it's actually my neighbour Tracey's rhubarb but what she doesn't know wont harm her...) has really just come into its own... it's at that perfect stage where I can feel happy picking it whilst still giving it a chance to continue to yield all summer long... as long as Tracey doesn't take too much, the thieving moose!

... i've been meaning to get around to taking part in the excellent bloggers scream for ice cream challenge since its inception by the delightful Kavey a couple of months ago but you know how fundamentally lazy I am, plus I have a rather small freezer and the thought of having to place the stupid ice-cream maker in there 24 hours before I want ice cream just annoys me to hell... who is that prepared...?

... but the idea of missing out on freezing the rhubarb into a sorbet and capturing its sharp-sweet fabulousness seems awfully sad... plus there's no faffing with eggs or cream here, simply sugar and water and a few apples and cinnamon to spice things up a little...

apple and rhubarb sorbet
2 tart apples such as braeburn or cox - peeled, cored and chopped
4 stalks of rhubarb - chopped
3 tablespoons of sugar
a squeeze of lemon juice
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
a drop or two of water

- place it all in a pan and simmer gently till soft

- whizz it all up with a hand held blender

- pop it in a tuppaware type box and freeze until, well, frozen

eat and of course, enjoy!

Saturday, 21 April 2012

roasted thai chicken thighs

... I apologise for the sporadic blogging this last week and i'm afraid to say it may continue as i'm off to Stockholm for 24 hrs on Tuesday to pitch for a bit of Persuaders business that is very exciting and I really hope I get, so my concentration has been elsewhere... i'm hoping I pick up a little Swedish inspiration for my cooking too, so watch this space...

... continuing on my chicken thigh world tour i'm off to the exotic shores of Thailand with its wonderfully aromatic mix of sweet and heat, coconut and lemongrass all with an underlying kick of chilli... perfect to whisk me away to sunnier climes... beaches... palm-trees... hot sticky nights... but I digress...

... again i've taken the essence of thai ingredients and condensed them into something that can be roasted in the oven in a one pot dish, as I did with my moroccan chicken thighs and chicken thigh yakitori... I hope i've captured a little taste of thailand here... the incredible aromas in the kitchen most definitely make me think so...

roasted thai chicken thighs
I am entering this dish into the Sweet Heat Challenge hosted each month by the lovely Lyndsey over at  Vanilla Clouds and Lemon Drops as the theme this time is of course Thailand.

2 sticks of lemongrass
1 small green chilli
1/2 teaspoon dried chili flakes
the juice and body of 1 lime (I only had a lemon...)
a thumb sized piece of ginger
2 tablespoons of olive oil
2 cloves of garlic
a handful of fresh coriander (stalks and leaves)
1 medium onion - chopped

1 packet of mixed chicken thighs and drumsticks

- pre-heat the oven to 180C

- bunch up the coriander and chop the leaves from the stalks (don't waste time individually picking the leaves off the stalks... it is NOT worth it) set aside the leaves for later.

- place all the ingredients (apart from the onion, coriander leaves and body of lime) along with the coriander stalks into a blender and whizz them up into a paste (you can also do this by hand but you get a chunkier finish)

- place the chopped onion and lemon bodies into an oven proof dish

- score your chicken with a sharp knife - a couple of slashes per joint should do - and then rub the thai paste deep into the chicken, laying each joint on top of the chopped onion in the dish

- roast in the oven for an hour and a half or until the chicken is golden - you may want to turn the chicken half way through

eat and of course, enjoy!

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

vegetarian mince hot pot

... as you know i've been eating quite a bit less meat recently... its more of a financial thing than for any health or lifestyle reasons as its less expensive for The Viking and I to share meals like this... and it does me absolutely no harm I can tell you... previously mentioned, the UK is currently in the grip of its second, second winter... so the headlines tells us... an arctic wind is over us and it's bloody freezing... well, it's bloody freezing and then the sun comes out, the wind drops for a second and its actually rather quite warm... oh I give up!

... a nice hot pot of vegetables, mince and potatoes should warm things up a bit...

vegetarian mince hot pot
this really is a cheats meal as I didn't have much time to do any cooking this week, so I used a gravy powder... I know, don't tell the food blogger police... and I also threw in all kind of comfort food like peas and baked beans... it was all about ease for me this week...

1 packet of Quorn mince
1 large onion - finely chopped
1 large stick of celery - finely chopped
1 medium carrot - finely chopped
2 garlic cloves - crushed
fresh rosemary and thyme
2 bay leaves
a cup full of frozen peas
1 small can of baked beans
1 pint of half vegetable stock and half good quality gravy (I used Bisto Best Caramelised Onion)
1 small glass of red wine
2 medium potatoes - finely sliced

- pre heat the oven to 180C

- in a large pan, saute the onions, carrots, celery and garlic in some olive oil and butter until soft, you can do this first with the lid off and then with the lid on

- add the vegetarian mince and saute again for about 5 minutes

- add the stock and gravy plus the wine and bay leaves and let it gently simmer with the lid on for 10 minutes

- meanwhile, place the sliced potatoes in a bowl or pan and cover with the remainder of the water you've boiled to make up the stock and gravy

- add the peas and baked beans to the pot and now transfer the whole lot into an oven-proof dish, lay the par-cooked potatoes on top, season well and drizzle with a little olive oil

- bake for 20 minutes or so until the potatoes are golden and the gravy is bubbling over the top

eat and of course, enjoy!

Sunday, 15 April 2012

apple and almond passover cake - a tea time treat

... i suppose my Jewish heritage mainly rears its head when i'm talking about food and as any good Jewish boy will tell you, food is the essence of life in any Jewish household...

... on the day that Moses (he of the 10 Commandments fame... although not yet, they come after this little bit of history...) led the Jews out of slavery in Egypt, it turns out they weren't quite as prepared as perhaps they should have been... history tells that they didn't have enough time to wait for the bread they'd baked to rise... yes, they had to take un-leavened bread on the long trip to freedom... and so as part of the celebrations of passover we remember this act of un-preparedness by eliminating anything everything that contains yeast or flour from our households and from our foods, ... this act of cleansing the house is reflected in many of the religions, including Lent where we cleanse our bodies and souls of temptation and has even become what we now all call the annual 'Spring clean' ...

... what this means for all of us foodies is that we've had nearly 3000 years to get creative on baking without flour...

apple and almond passover cake
the beauty of this cake is that not only is it yeast free but its dairy free too... sure there is a bucket of eggs in there but its so light and moist it tastes so divine... the recipe draws its heritage from a Nigella recipe found in Feast and also her classic Clementine Cake but it's also very similar to one of my mum's passover cakes... it's more than possible they both got it from the same old jewish lady...

3 apples - I used braeburn for the tartness - peeled, chopped and cored
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons sugar

8 eggs
325g ground almonds
275g caster sugar

1/2 cup sliced almonds

- place the apples, 1 tablespoon of the lemon juice and sugar in a saucepan and gently heat until the apples turn to mush.  this should take about 10 minutes with the lid on.

- pour the eggs, ground almonds and sugar into a food processor or large bowl, add the cooled apples and blitz until well combined

- scrape this into a pre-greased and lined 25cm spring-form tin, sprinkle with the sliced almonds and bake in the oven at 180c for 45mins or until golden and risen

- this cake is divine served warm or cooled, so if you have little or no patience... yes Viking, I am talking to you... then go ahead and cut into it once it's cooled down a bit...

i'm entering this into this months Tea Time Treats, hosted alternatively by Kate from What Kate Bakes and Karen from Lavender and Lovage.  The theme for this month is Easter and I thought that rather go with the traditional I would make it my traditional Passover celebration which falls at the same time of year.

eat and of course, enjoy!

Friday, 13 April 2012

smoked haddock oven-baked risotto

... this dish has been inspired by a Nigella recipe for smoked haddock in milk that can be found in her Feast book... it is delightfully light and aromatic yet deadly simple I can't quite think why I haven't made it before... I adore smoked fish of any kind but I think haddock has to be up there as a favourite... it's the mildness of the smokey taste that compliments the soft white flakes of fish that I like so much... you have to be a fish fan though as baking it this way does fill the house with a deep smokey fish aroma...

... its funny how a train of thought leads to something so delicious isn't it...?

... I was thinking about how to cook the fish and The Viking had reminded me of the way his mum used to simmer haddock in milk and it struck me that if I threw some rice in whilst it was cooking i'd end up with something on its way to kedgeree and on my search for rice I realised I only had risotto rice... I also knew that I didn't want to overcook the fish either so it was a fine balance between rice and fish... I think i've hit the nail on the head here... Nigella adds an egg to her dish which I could have done here at the half-way point but I thought that the dish was protein enough for one meal...

smoked haddock oven baked risotto

3 smoked haddock fillets
cherry tomatoes on the vine
risotto rice
freshly ground pepper

- pre-heat the oven to 180C

- place the haddock fillets into an oven-proof dish, pour over enough milk to just cover them and sprinkle in enough rice for 2 people, dollop in some butter and grind some pepper then place the cherry tomatoes on top

- bake in the oven for 15 minutes or until the rice is soft... you want there to be quite a bit of liquid left... remove from the oven and cover with a tea towel for 5 minutes after which time the rice should have soaked up a little more of the liquid without compromising the fish

- flake the fish and rice and combine the tomatoes with a fork

eat and of course, enjoy!

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

quorn 'chicken' style fillets stir-fry

... it's a bit odd isn't it... to call something 'chicken' style... particularly when a lot of people think vegetarians don't want anything to do with anything that is in the style of any meat product... but you see I think its all about the thought process of food and cooking... if you're having sausages... I want sausages... the average household wouldn't know how to wrap their heads around a lentil, let alone tofu or goats cheese, so I do believe that products like Quorn have their place... plus, in something like a stir-fry they are a brilliant and healthy alternative to meat...

quorn 'chicken' style fillets stir-fry
i think the knack to a good stir-fry is not to try too hard... it doesn't even have to be Chinese in taste, just inspiration, wonderful seasoning and fresh vegetables... below is my list of ingredients, you should use whatever you have in the house...

1 packet of Quorn Fillets (i prefer these to the 'chicken' style pieces as you can decide on the final shape and size
1 bunch of spring onions (about 6) - finely sliced
a handful of chestnut mushrooms - finely sliced
2 cloves of garlic - crushed
a nugget of fresh ginger - chopped into matchstick sized pieces
1 carrot - finely sliced
1 small head of broccoli - broken into florets
1/4 savoy cabbage
a handful of bean sprouts
sesame oil
chinese 5 spice
soy sauce

- heat your wok or frying pan to a gentle heat and throw in some oil followed by the spring onions and garlic and let these soften, then add the mushrooms and saute until cooked - set aside

- in the same wok, add some more oil and then add the quorn fillets, let them brown slightly before adding a teaspoon of Chinese 5 Spice and a little soy sauce, let the fillets brown further, then remove them from the wok and let them cool down before slicing them into nice bite-size chunks

- now you're really ready to make your stir-fry

- heat the wok again, add a little more oil and throw in your ginger, followed by the broccoli, cabbage and carrots, add a little soy, and flip them around a bit... add a dash of water from the kettle so they steam a little and as they are reaching the al dente stage throw in the rest of the veg, the cooked onions and mushrooms and the quorn fillets

- flip it all together and continue to heat until everything is hot through, you may wish to add a little more water just to give it a bit of liquid

- serve directly from the wok, eat and of course, enjoy!



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