Thursday, 29 November 2012

random recipes #22 - the round-up

...wowzers what a month... it's had it's kicks and starts... rain and wind... floods and hurricanes... and look out UK, the cold blast is here... but more importantly it's random recipes round-up time one again... and once again I gently doff my cap to you and you and you for taking part with such gusto and fervour... it seems you all loved the birthday random number and weirdly many of you share the same day... 27 is a favourite with 11 and 7 coming in close behind... and have you ever seen yourselves a more random collection of recipes... so without further ado, may I introduce miss november random recipes to you...

and kicking us off in fine fettle is Ren from Fabulicious Food and her fabulicious Chicken, Chorizo and Chickpea Soup, her 15th book on the book shelf which was Whole Food Kitchen by Ros Dobson... and have you ever seen a bowl more full of fabulousness than this...

and i'm going to make you read the rest after the jump...

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

chocolate swirl bread and butter pudding with chocolate custard

... just a quick little post to put a smile on your face on a gloomy Tuesday before the madness of December comes crashing your way... yes, this is a very stodgy, old-fashioned pudding but boy what an devilishly wicked way to use up some bread that none of us quite knew what to do with... as my regular readers will know, I recently made a rather fabulous looking chocolate swirl loaf for this months we should cocoa bloggers challenge... it looked amazing, as many of you commented but many of you also pondered how it would taste...w ell let me tell you that this loaf was a true case of all talk and no trousers... or fur coat and no knickers... oh, I don't know the correct phrase but I assume you get my drift... even The Viking gave it the benefit of a second helping and after the one slice I tried I automatically knew that it was destined for the bread and butter pudding pan...

chocolate swirl bread and butter pudding with chocolate custard 
not that that's such a bad thing... chocolate custard made with 70% Callebaut Origine Equador chocolate given to me by Rosella from Okie Coco to use at the recent cooking demo I did at the Lincoln Christmas Food and Gift Fair, is a bloody good thing... I love that this dish is as basic as basic gets but with added divine luxury... quite heavenly if you ask me...

one chocolate swirl loaf - recipe to be found here
300ml milk
300ml double cream
4 large free range egg yolks
2 tablespoons caster sugar
50g very good quality darkest chocolate

- slice your bread, generously butter both sides and lay the bread into a shallow baking dish then sprinkle generously with cinnamon

- in a pan, gently heat the milk and cream till just about to boil, then take it off the heat and whisk in the egg yolks and continue to whisk as the custard thickens... whilst it's still warm add the chocolate and whisk until it all melts gloriously into the custard.

- pour over the bread an then bake on 170 for 15 mins until bubbly and hot

eat and of course, enjoy!

Saturday, 24 November 2012

saffron risotto - without the saffron - a random recipe

... this recipe was destined for disaster from the moment I started by placing my beloved copy of Kitchen by Nigella Lawson onto the hot hob... I was pottering around the kitchen minding my own business when The Viking asked me what that odd plastic burning smell was... as poor Nigella melted into ceramic I was resigned to the fact that today was not a day I should be anywhere near the oven...

... my random recipes pick for this month was on page 352 of Kitchen... a very simple saffron risotto... saffron adds little but colour to a dish but out I popped anyway, to scour Louth for saffron... four local shops and two supermarkets later I finally got my sticky paws onto some... honestly, the difficulty I went to to get hold of the stuff, it's not as though it's particularly rare or anything... and what do I go and do... I bloody well forgot to put the stuff into the risotto!... I managed to roast a butternut squash and throw in some brie... but the actual saffron... no...

saffron risotto with butternut squash and brie
without banging on about the power of parmesan again, I would say, and I know many Italian's who'd agree that it's the addition of parmesan at the end of a risotto that really creates the dish... rounds it off... makes it whole... but sadly and increasingly annoying is the fact that parmesan is not vegetarian... I usually substitute with an aged poacher or other hard cheese but I had some rather strong brie in the fridge that needed eating and it added the most wonderful creaminess to the dish that I would whole-heartedly recommend...

1 butternut squash - peeled and diced
1 litre good quality stock
1 teaspoon of saffron threads
50g butter
olive oil
50g shallots - finely chopped
250g risotto rice
125ml massala or white wine
40g brie

- place your squash in an oven dish, drizzle with olive oil, season and bung in a hot oven until soft and  melty - set aside

- make up your stock and add the saffron, dumb-ass! - set aside

- in a heavy pan melt some butter and olive oil, then add the shallots and let them bubble away for about 5 mins on a medium heat

- add the rice and stir so that it's coated in the buttery onions

- add the massala or wine and stir until it's absorbed by the rice, then add the stock - ladle by ladle, stirring as you go and allowing the rice to absorb the liquid before adding the next ladle... this should take about 18 minutes or until the rice is tender but still with a little bite

- stir in the brie and the squash and serve... all the moaning and lack of saffron aside, this was an incredibly tasty risotto...

eat and of course, enjoy!

have you entered random recipes yet?... there's still time to get your entries in - i'll be posting the round-up on Nov 29th.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

cocoa nibs and rose tea cupcakes

... another few busy weeks ahead as christmas rushes up upon us... The Persuaders are down in the big smoke once again this week producing a launch event for Wilkinson Sword and it's quite an exciting one as we're using a venue with a swimming pool and a team of synchronised swimmers - something we've never done before... and then I have to rush back to the cottage to prepare for my demo-cooking weekend at the Lincoln Christmas Food and Gift Fair.  I'll be showing off my bread-making and roulade rolling skills on Saturday and Sunday at the Lincolnshire Showground, so if you happen to be in the neighbourhood do come and say hello... i'll be the one with the microphone, burning chocolate... information and tickets can be found here

... so in an effort not to disappoint you my dear friends I spent the weekend in a cooking and baking frenzy so that i'd have something to pop up on the blog this week... and seeing that i'm completely in love with the exotically fragrant rose petal tea sent to me from Betty's I thought i'd use it again in some more bakes...

rose tea and cocoa nibs cupcakes
I do love a challenge that really gets you thinking so i'm very excited to be taking part in the second 'ingredients swap' challenge hosted by Ruth over at Makey-Cakey... Ruth pairs us off with other foolish individuals and we have to send them one special ingredient.  My swap partner was non other than lovely Lou from Please Do Not Feed The Animals who sent me a little packet of cocoa nibs... now cocoa nibs are an odd little chocolate by-product, they are actually raw chocolate, pieces of cocoa bean that have been roasted, hulled and prepped to the point at which all there is left to do is process them into bars, grinding them finely like coffee and adding sugar, cocoa butter and milk... they do have a wonderful nutty, coffee-like feeling in the mouth and can be used in baking in place of, or alongside nuts... you can buy bars of chocolate with the nibs blended in... there's something maturely sophisticated about them too...

this recipe makes 6 regular size cupcakes and 18 baby cupcakes
i'm using the 'weigh the egg method' for the basic batter so it's easy for you to increase the ingredients to make more

for the cupcake batter
1 large free-range egg
5oz self-raising flour
5oz caster sugar
5oz soft butter
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 pint of milk
2 tablespoons loose leaf tea
1 tablespoon cocoa nibs

for the icing
5 tablespoons icing sugar
2 tablespoons single cream

- place the milk and tea in a pan and gently bring to the simmer... once hot take it off the heat and allow the tea to infuse until the milk is cold, drain and set aside.

- cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, then add the egg and mix, then add half the flour followed by half the milk infusion, then repeat until the flour and mil are gone and you have a nice smooth batter, throw in the cocoa nibs and mix once more

- poor batter into cupcake cases until 3/4 full and bake on 170 for 15 mins for the small ones and 20-25 mins for the big ones. - allow to cool completely

- mix the icing sugar and cream together in a bowl until you have a thick but moveable liquid and then dip each cupcake into the bowl, swirling around as you lift them away, sprinkle with cocoa nibs to finish

to find out what I sent Lou as her secret ingredient check out her blog over the next few days and then check out the round-up on Ruth's blog on the 1st Dec.

eat and of course, enjoy!

Monday, 19 November 2012

spaghetti bolognese two ways

... one of the things that reminds me of my mums kitchen the most is the richly sweet aroma of bolognese sauce bubbling away on the hob... I remember her making it for us regularly in the 80's when I guess it would have been at the peak of it's popularity... it was a very traditional recipe and way back in the darkest 1980's suburban London it was served with dried Parmesan cheese that came in a little cardboard shaker tube... i'm sure any of my readers over the age of 30 will remember the time when italian cheese came wrapped in cardboard.  I know Nigel Slater reminisces eloquently about the sweet, sickly smelling stuff in his excellent book Toast... well in the Franks household, we loved the stuff... whichever cheese you use I think that although it's not one of the bolognese ingredients it is most definitely 100% part of the finished dish... much like a risotto is not quite complete without that hit of salty cheesiness before serving...

... with The Viking being a vegetarian I often get asked if I cook twice at mealtimes and it's a tricky answer because we tend to eat a lot of salads with a variety of toppings which we choose ourselves but obviously I do cook quite a bit of meat and what I tend to do is start every dish as vegetarian and then split it when it comes to adding the meat... or not as the case may be... it may sound confusing but it's illustrated nicely with this recipe...

spaghetti bolognese two ways
for the meat version i'm using some truly incredible steak mince, which was part of the starter pack recently sent to me by the brilliant people at Westin Gourmet,  and for the veggie version i'm using what I think is the best alternative for this classic dish, Quorn mince... there are one or two tricks along the way including using one of my favourite new finds - Lincolnshire Relish... it's brand new to the market and is a nice veggie alternative to Worcestershire Sauce... the ultimate trick with both versions is to cook them in the morning or better yet, the night before and then leave them before eating for at least 6 hours...  I start with a classic triumvirate of onion, carrots and celery...

1 large onion - finely chopped
1 large carrot - very finely diced
1 large stick of celery - finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic - crushed
8 medium chestnut mushrooms - very finely chopped
1 teaspoon dried oregano
fresh rosemary

to add to the veggie version
1 packet of quorn mince
1 tablespoon Lincolnshire Relish
600g or 2 tins chopped tomatoes
1pint of liquid made up of -
1/2 pint good quality veg stock
1/4 pint dark gravy powder
1/4 pint red wine

to add to the meat version
50g lardons
3 chicken livers - finely chopped
1kg steak mince

600g or 2 tins chopped tomatoes
1/2 pint good quality veg stock
1/4 pint red wine

- so you need to start with a large pan or casserole dish, add a nob of butter and some olive oil and then gently saute the onions for 5 mins, then add the celery and carrots and saute for another 5 mins before adding the garlic, dried oregano and rosemary... sizzle gently for another 5 mins... remove from the pan and set aside

- melt a little more butter and oil in the pan and saute the mushrooms with a generous amount of pepper and a little salt until almost dissolving... this is the stage where one becomes two...

- now, if you're making 2 versions, this is where you'll need your second large pan as you halve the cooked ingredients... if you're just making one version then simply continue with the ingredients and method as outlined below...

veggie version
add the quorn mince and stir it into the vegetables and let it sizzle a minute or two before adding the tomatoes, relish, and liquid - a quick stir and then let it bubble away on a very low heat for at least an hour.

meat version
add the lardons and chicken livers, whack the heat up and let them melt together, then add the meat and mix it all around... allow it to brown gently and entirely before adding the tomatoes and liquid, then let it bubble away on a very low heat for at least an hour.

re-heat gently after leaving for at least 6 hours and serve both version with your favourite pasta, spaghetti being the traditional choice and plenty of strong hard cheese...

eat and of course, enjoy!

Saturday, 17 November 2012

rose tea and chocolate swirl loaf

...this post goes out to the power of twitter... I recently had a lovely and very rare afternoon in Yorkshire with The Viking... we had some business in a warehouse in Wetherby to take care of and as we left I suggested we make a detour on the way home through the charming village of Harrogate... whilst my motives were to end up stuffing my face with cream cakes at the infamous Betty's Tearoom I knew that The Big V's increasingly scary obsession with TK Maxx could also be placated in this fair town... you see, we do quite a bit of driving up and down this lovely country and I now know the back end of most retail parks from here to the west coast...

... anyway, back on track and a cup of tea and a heart-shaped cream cake or two later and we're sitting comfortably in the window of Betty's... if you don't know about this traditional tea room, it's one of the UK's most famous cafe's situated in the heart of the spa town of Harrogate in Yorkshire, opened nearly 100 years ago it has become internationally renowned for its array of wonderful cakes and thoroughly British meals... I guess the point i'm making here is that a lunch, followed by cake and tea at Betty's should most definitely be on your bucket list...

... as we leave the tearoom I tweet about my lovely experience and then when I get home there's a delightful email waiting for me from the team at Betty's saying how happy they are I enjoyed my lunch and would I like to receive some goodies to cook with and review on my blog... would I ever...

rose tea and chocolate swirl loaf
I received some charming spiced christmas tea which I think I shall bake into the christmas cake i'll be making next week but I also took receipt of some very fragrant rose petal tea and some stunning Cru Sauvage dark chocolate which I can tell you is simply heavenly...

200g plain flour
200g strong white bread flour
1 teaspoon fast action dried yeast
1 egg beaten
200ml of Betty's Rose Petal Tea (make a pot to drink and leave some behind for this...)
1 tablespoon caster sugar
a pinch of salt
80g of Betty's Cru Sauvage chocolate
3 tablespoons sunflower oil or other plain flavourless oil

once again i'm using the low-knead method... not only is it so simple to do but it produces a guaranteed light and airy bread and with the inclusion of the sugar and eggs this loaf has a wonderful brioche quality to it...

- place all the ingredients apart from the chocolate, into a large bowl and bring together with a rubber spatula until you have a sticky, shaggy mess. Cover and leave for 10 mins

- place a little oil on your work surface and lift the dough onto the oil.  quickly run some more oil around the inside of the bowl

- knead the dough for 8 'stretch and heel-of-hand turns' then place it back into the oiled bowl, cover and leave for 10 minutes - repeat this step twice more

- before the third turn, melt your chocolate.

- take a third of the dough and place it on an oiled surface, spread it out a little and pour the chocolate onto it before repeating the 8 'stretch and heel-of-hand turns' - knead the non chocolate dough and then place both bits in separate bowls, cover and leave for an hour to double in size

- oil the inside of a loaf tin

- oil your work surface once more and take the plain dough and pat it out onto the oiled surface into an oval shape, next take the chocolate dough and lay this on top of the plain oval and pat it out, then tightly roll the dough up, tuck the ends under and place into the loaf tin - leave to rise for a further 30 mins

- bake on 200C for 5 mins then reduce the heat to 170C for 20 mins until risen and golden

I am of course entering this chocolate loaf into this months excellent blogging challenge, we should cocoa... originally founded by Choclette from Chocolate Log Blog and Chele from Chocolate Teapot but hosted this month by Nazima from Franglaise Kitchen... the theme this month is bread.

eat and of course, enjoy!

Thursday, 15 November 2012

chocolate marzipan and whisky cake

... with the celebrations finally over and with all the hooha surrounding the secret organising of mum's wedding, it seems that we may have made neglected poor Eric's actual 75th birthday... it wasn't until we were finally back at the house that we realised we'd not even sung happy birthday and, god forbid, we didn't even get the old man a cake...

... i'm staying down in London this week with mum and so I thought i'd borrow her kitchen today and bake Eric the birthday cake he deserves... my inspiration for the cake came from all his favourite things - marzipan, chocolate and whisky and in fact I've used his all time favourite chocolate bar as the main ingredient in the cake which is a very simple dark chocolate covered bar of marzipan from marks and spencer... it's probably been 25 years since I've baked anything in this kitchen but it felt like i'd never left and as mum popped out for a couple of hours I stole myself downstairs, threw open the cupboard doors and made a right old mess, knowing full well i'd be in deep trouble if the kitchen wasn't exactly the way she'd left it on her return... it reminded me of when I used to skive off sick from school and when mum left to go to work i'd spend hours in the kitchen making the most ridiculous mess and some pretty dreadful concoctions...

chocolate marzipan and whisky cake
I think I made up for it today though... I found a beaten up old bundt tin in mums baking cupboard, I don't ever remember her making a bundt cake, I think she used to use it for making jellies with fruit in... but it found it's purpose today... the cake is incredibly moist and very very sweet, so if you're not one for such a sweet tooth you could reduce the sugar... or just add more sugar to it like I did and eat it with some teeth jaringly tart raspberries... that should do the trick!... I know I've been making a lot of bundt's recently but it's National Bundt Day in the USA today so let's raise a doughnut shaped glass to the bundt...

adapted from an almond cake recipe found in Nigella's Domestic Goddess 
250g butter - very soft
250g marzipan - very soft (I used 6 bars of chocolate covered marzipan)
150g caster sugar (I would use half this next time)
6 eggs
150g self-raising flour

- pre-heat the oven to 170C and grease well a bundt tin

- gently melt the marzipan in the microwave until just soft, add the butter and sugar and beat till light and fluffy

- add the eggs one at a time and beat in, after adding 3 eggs, stir in half the flour, then continue with the eggs one at a time and then finally the rest of the flour... you may still have one or two lumps of marzipan in the mix - don't worry, this is fine.

- pour into the tin and bake for 50 minutes but check after 40 to see if it's ready.

- my icing was simply another bar of the chocolate covered marzipan melted and drizzled on but I also mixed up some icing sugar with a wee dram of whisky which added a little hit of heat to the final taste...

...happy to report that 'dad' loved the cake as did mum's coven of bridge-playing ladies who have seemed to have nearly devoured the monster...

this months tea time treats challenge celebrates it's first birthday and in honour of that celebration I am submitting this cake... quite fitting I think... tea time treats is hosted by the gorgeous Karen from Lavender and Lovage and delightful Kate from What Kate Baked...

eat and of course, enjoy!

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

baby leek, mushroom and tomato jam quiche

... last week I spent a few days baking Christmas treats for my December Lincolnshire Life Magazine article... it was quite odd having the aromas of sweet mincemeat and sausage rolls wafting through the house on a rainy November Wednesday but it was nice to have that wonderful feeling of Christmas begin to bubble up inside... i'm such a pathetic sod really, i just love all the tinsel and glitter... inviting guests to the cottage for a glass of warm spiced wine, home-made goodies ready to serve... I think if salads were invented for the Summer then surely pastry was developed for the Winter months... of the little treats on my list are some yummy mini-quiches, they're so simple to whip up and yet they have that wonderfully rich quality to them that makes them feel like they've taken ages to make... I make mine in advance and then pull them out of the freezer and re-heat like some kind of frenzied version of the perfect domestic 1950's housewife... I made a bucket load for the photo-shoot and then with all the pastry flying around I had quite a bit left over to treat myself to a regular sized quiche of my own...

baby leek, mushroom and tomato jam puree
is it wrong that I wanted my quiche to be Christmas coloured, red and green... and the combination of leeks and mushrooms, that I think is heavenly, works so well for this that i'm not complaining... the addition of tomato jam is one of my 'quick tips for christmas' as I think having a jar or two around is so useful as it works with so many things... on pizza's... in risotto's... roasted with a chicken... plus if you pop it in little jars it makes a very nice gift too... i'm also a little obsessed with putting cream-cheese into my shortcrust pastry... it works for both sweet and savoury dishes and adds a little something special to the finished crust

for the pastry
8oz plain flour
4oz butter
2oz full-fat cream cheese
salt and pepper
some water to mix

for the filling
5 baby leeks - finely sliced
6 medium mushrooms - very finely chopped
3 tablespoons tomato jam (recipe in the link above)
4 eggs
360ml single cream
150ml soured cream

- make the pastry by crumbling the flour with the butter until you have evenly distributed breadcrumbs, season, then add the cream cheese and bring together with your hands and a little water if needed until you have a rough dough, wrap in cling film and pop in the fridge for 30 mins

- saute the leeks and mushrooms in plenty of butter until soft and the leeks are translucent and the mushrooms have turned a dark brown, season well and set aside

- in a large bowl whisk the eggs with the two creams, then add the leek and mushroom mix and stir well

- on a floured surface, roll out the pastry nice and thin and line a flan dish or pie dish... I used a brilliant George Wilkinson pie dish which i'd been very kindly sent to test, which is quite shallow so I didn't blind bake the pastry first... I find that if I place the pie dish on an oven tray it provides enough heat to bake the pastry fully leaving me with no soggy bottoms!

- pour the cream and leek mixture into the pastry-lined dish and then dollop the tomato jam on top and gently swirl it into the mix

- bake on 180C for 25-30 mins until gloriously golden

i'm entering this quiche into one of my favourite blogging challenges Alphabakes, which is hosted alternatively each month by Caroline from Caroline Makes and Roz from The More Than Occasional Baker.  The letter this month is J... and whilst i'm a big fan of the tenuous link I think you'll find that Jam starts with the letter J...

eat and of course, enjoy!

Sunday, 11 November 2012

the happy couple

... so i'm not quite sure how I kept it a secret all these weeks but today my mum and her long term 'boyfriend' Eric got married... it was Eric's 75th birthday today and so they invited all their friends and family along to celebrate with him at a lovely little hotel in North London and once all the guests were seated for high-tea, a hidden wall opened to reveal the happy couple, with the rabbi, ready to begin the marriage ceremony...

... the amazing thing is that they kept this a secret from everyone except for me and The Viking, who have been using our event skills to help them organise, along with my brother, who's daughter Emma was the bridesmaid... none of the other guests, including their close family and children, had a clue!

... naturally mum has been fretting for months but the whole event went off with such charm and all the guests were positively blown away... there were many tears and much joy but most of all it was just so wonderful to both celebrate and surprise... and I truly believe that in these days where we have a deficit of wonder it's so lovely that these two proved there's still a little magic in the world...

Thursday, 8 November 2012

roast chicken with black pudding and tomato jam

...a decent gravy is a thing of beauty isn't it... I must be honest and say that I rarely bother because I normally have to consider vegetarian options and so usually plump for the easy route with a quick mix of stock and gravy powder and then pour in any of the juices, coming off whatever meat I have roasting, into a separate cup just for me... but when the good people at Mermaid Cookware sent me a wonderful hard-anodised roasting tin which is ideal as it is specifically created to withstand the transfer from oven to hob I simply had to give it a go... they even sent me this link to a very simple gravy tutorial  so I had no excuses.

... I do feel very spoilt this week as I also received an incredible delivery of very fine, quality meat from Westin Gourmet, a British on-line butcher who delivers fresh meat to the UK from their suppliers based in Smithfield Market... they sent me their First Time Visitor pack which as you can see from the link is packed to the gills with an outstanding selection of cuts of meat, sausages and a lovely corn-fed chicken... I feel very privileged to have been asked to become a Westin Gourmet quality checker to ensure the freshness of the product and quality of the packaging and i'm glad to report that the produce is exceptionally good and I was particularly impressed by the standard of the delivery... delivering to a small village in the middle of nowhere can be tricky at the best of times but the effort the delivery company went to to ensure I received the meat was second to none...

... so, lucky me and lucky you as you can expect some delicious recipes over the next few weeks...

roast chicken with black pudding and tomato jam
black pudding is all the rage now isn't it... it's very much a 'marmite' product I find and I tend to hang out with the 'love it' gang and quite frankly can't get enough of the stuff... when roasted with other meats it tends to breakdown and make a very rich gravy, so perfect for this... plus it's British Sausage Week this week and so i'm doing my bit in the way I know best... i've also used some of my tomato and chilli jam which has added a nice depth of flavour to everything...

1 medium corn-fed, free-range chicken
1 medium onion - roughly chopped
2 medium carrots - roughy chopped
1 black pudding sausage
6 garlic cloves
fresh rosemary and thyme
2 tablespoons tomato and chilli jam

for the gravy
1 tablespoon flou
a glug of white wine
half a pint of veg stock

- pre-heat the oven to 170C

- boil the kettle and then carefully pour the boiling water over the chicken in a bowl and leave it to sit, covered in the water for 5 mins

- place the vegetables in the bottom of your baking dish and lay the chicken on top, breast side down, place a few pieces of onion in the belly of the bird, season well and bake in the oven for 1 and a half hours, depending on the size of your chicken.  I turn my chicken onto it's back half way through and pour on a little water from the kettle

- 15 mins before the end take the dish out of the oven and smother the bird in the tomato jam then place it back into the oven until done

- once golden and cooked, take the chicken out of the pan and set aside, covered in foil.

- place the pan, with the vegetables still in, onto a hot hob and throw in the flour and with a ballon whisk, stir around letting the flour cook and absorb all the lovely juices

- add the wine and continue to stir as it bubbles and then after a few mins throw in the stock and lt it bubble again for another couple of minutes

- now take a hand-blender and whiz the whole lot together into a thick gravy

eat and of course, enjoy!

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

apple juice victoria sponge with apple juice buttercream

... if you're expecting some kind of fancy iced triple-decker i'm sorry to disappoint.. this is all about the simple pleasures... i'm sure The Viking won't mind me telling you that he's got a little bit of a stomach issue at the moment and he's currently on a low-fibre diet for a couple of weeks to ascertain what the issue is... it's a little dull as he has to cut out a lot of nice and healthy wholemeal type foods as well as having to peel apples, which is really boring... this also includes not eating any multi-grain breads or wholemeal cakes which means we're eating a lot of white food... and you know me... any excuse to bake a cake... and I felt that due to The Big V's condition something drastically simple was called for... something classic... something a little old-fashioned...

apple juice cake
our local market town of Louth hosted their annual Victorian Market a couple of weeks back... it's a lovely idea but essentially consists of their regular market but with all the stall-holders wearing traditional Victorian clothing... I bumped into Guy from the Skidbrooke Cyder Company who very kindly gave me a crate of their delicious new St Botolph's apple juice to thank me for the article i'd written about them in Lincolnshire Life Magazine and so i've used a little of this in the cake batter mix...  and it's done something incredible to the finished cake... I think the apple juice, which is 100% natural, has caramelised during the bake, creating a wonderfully rich and honeyed crust and an incredibly light and slightly aromatic crumb... simply divine!

I'm using the weighed egg method which is again, nice and simple and always creates a perfectly formed cake... simply weigh your eggs then use the same weight of butter, sugar and flour... which for me was:

for the cake
3 eggs
7oz caster sugar
7oz butter
7oz self-raising flour
2 tablespoons pure apple juice (cloudy)

for the apple juice butter cream
8oz butter
4oz icing sugar
2 tablespoons pure apple juice (cloudy)

- pre-heat the oven to 170C and grease and line 2 x 7inch victoria sponge cake tins

- in a large bowl cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy then add one third of the flour followed by one egg and mix in well, continue until all the flour and eggs have gone, then beat in the apple juice... you want a thick but flowing batter so add the juice only a little at a time, you may be able to get more in...

- divide between the two cake tins and bake for 20 mins or until golden and risen, cool on a wire rack

- to make the buttercream simply beat the butter till soft then add the sugar and apple juice and beat again till combined

- sandwich the two cakes together with a thick layer of the buttercream and a swirl of jam

eat and of course, enjoy!

Saturday, 3 November 2012

vegetarian sausage, mushroom and stuffing wellington

...each year I always panic slightly about what i'm going to be cooking for The Viking and our veggie friends for Christmas... I know that he's not fussed and we'd both be happy simply eating a heap of vegetables, some luscious home-made gravy and a yorkshire pudding or two but I do think it's nice to create something special as a centrepiece that's every bit as fabulous as a golden roasted bird... if not more so...

...last year I made a wonderfully decadent layered mushroom suet pudding and so this year I feel like I need to top that with something that extra special and the idea of a wellington has been ruminating in my mind for some time... I also watched this excellent demonstration by Paul Hollywood on the Great British Bake Off Masterclass, who as usual made it look just so bloody easy that I just had to give it a go...

vegetarian sausage, mushroom and stuffing wellington
i'm using a product called sosmix... something many vegetarians will have heard of but it's still quite rare and almost impossible to find in normal stores... easy to buy on-line though and it makes a great bulk filling for when you're really after a meat substitute... I find it a little bland if used by itself so I tend to jazz it up a little with a fancy stuffing, so what I do is spend money on a decent veggie stuffing and mix this in with the sosmix, then once mixed I treat it the same as sausage meat which is absolutely perfect for this wellington... and if you take your time with the puff pastry and make a nice and rich mushroom pate you'll hopefully feel this is suitably excellent for the Christmas table...

for the puff pastry
150g strong white bread flour
150g plain flour
2 eggs
100ml water
160g very cold butter

for the filling
1 x 150g packet of very good quality veggie stuffing (buy the best you can afford)
1 x 300g packet of sozmix

for the mushroom pate
1 large pack of mushrooms - about 15 medium sized - very finely chopped
1 onion - finely chopped
2 garlic cloves - crushed
fresh rosemary

ok, so let's start with the pastry - for those of you in the UK and can receive the BBC iPlayer I beg of you to watch the film above, I think the puff pastry tutorial comes in at about 29 mins... it makes it all so easy... and for those of you not so lucky I will try and break it down for you... I stupidly didn't photograph the stages so i've screen-grabbed from the tutorial above which should help... (obviously Paul's using a hunk of sirloin and some liver pate but the principle is the same..)

- place the flour, eggs and salt in a large bowl and get your claw into it a mix it around adding little drops of water as you go

- combine the flour into a ball, tip it onto a floured surface and work it a little till you have a smooth ball of dough... wrap in cling-film and chill in the fridge for at least an hour

- meanwhile make the mushroom pate by melting butter and oil in a pan and sauteing the onions and garlic till translucent, add the mushrooms and rosemary and saute gently for about 15 minutes or until the mushrooms are fully cooked and tender - set aside to cool completely

- next make up the sozmix and the veggie stuffing according to the on-pack instructions, combine and set aside to cool - once cool, form into a large sausage shape, wrap in cling-film and pop in the fridge

- by this time your pastry should be ready to begin the puff process... take it out of the fridge, slap it onto a floured surface and roll it out into a thick oblong shape - 24cm x 16cm

- take your block of butter out of the fridge, place that onto a floured surface and whack it with your rolling pin until flat and 2/3rds the size of the pastry shape

- lay the butter onto the lower 2/3rds of the pastry and fold the empty 1/3rd over the top, then fold the butter and pastry over the top of this - cutting the butter at the seam can help

- now flatten the pastry with your rolling pin from the centre up and then centre down and once flat enough to fold, fold into thirds again... repeat the process once more and then wrap in cling-film and pop in the fridge for an hour... repeat this once more and your pastry should be ready to use.

- roll out the pastry still it's bigger than the sausage mix but not too thin and spread the mushroom pate on top... your mushrooms should be much chunkier than the pate shown in the picture...

- lay the sausage on top and roll the pastry up over it... when you get to the top of the sausage spread the pastry out onto the sausage with your finger, this will ensure you get a tight roll as you continue to roll it up

- tuck the ends in neatly before finishing the roll when you can place it onto your baking sheet and brush with a beaten egg

- score the pastry with the back of a knife and then bake on a medium to hot oven, say 180C for at least 35 mins - you may need longer and if the pastry looks as though it may catch simply lay some foil over the top

...i've got to say I was the most nervous i've ever been making this dish, mainly because it was so easy to make and looked so pretty before it went into the oven... and this is usually a sign of doom for me... I did open the oven a few times and adjust temperatures and also drained off quite a bit of liquid coming from the wellington... plus, the cheap baking sheet I bought buckled and rolled the wellington over to the back of the oven, so I had to do a baking tray shuffle half way through... however the final dish was very good... the pastry was crisp and light and although it was a little underdone in places I didn't suffer from the ubiquotous soggy bottom and you can clearly see the layers of pastry beginning to separate... not bad at all for a first attempt...

eat and of course, enjoy!

Thursday, 1 November 2012

random recipes #22 - random birthday number

... whilst last month's challenge was both practical and fun (there I go doing my best Marry Poppins impression again...) i'm keen on not losing sight of the original idea behind random recipes and so this month I'm returning to the original idea of picking a random book from amongst your myriad of lost souls...

... so, keeping it nice and simple this month I would like you to refer to your birthday date as the number you should use to randomly pick your book... for example, my birthday is the 24th September and so I have randomly chosen the 24th book on my bookshelf counting from right to left...  it doesn't really get more tenuous or random than this does it but it's nice to have a little theming every month don't you think?

...and my book for November is Kitchen by Nigella Lawson... I have a feeling this pick must be karma as I've been a little mean about her recently because I think her new TV show Nigellissima is the most patronising and xenophobic pile of clap-trap she's ever put out... don't get me wrong, I really do like Nigella Lawson.  I love her books and her style of cooking, it's very me... but with this show I think she's become a parody of herself - all the sly nods to camera, the cheeky grins and the voluptuous leaning over counter tops... and then there's the soft-focus shots of her shopping in little boutiques or trendy food markets... it's all very cloyingly middle-class and I really expect French and Saunders to pop up in the background somewhere... I know all this ranting is quite strongly worded but I almost feel disappointed in her for doing this - she seems to have missed a beat and you'd have thought she was more forward thinking than this and would have advanced her 'formula' just a little...

... anyhoo... the Kitchen book is a fab book, lots of great pictures and her recipes are fail safe, tasty and make for great dinner party food and on page 352 is a recipe for saffron risotto... as you know I love risotto and a classic like this is a wonderful thing to have in the repertoire.... just need to get out and re-stock my saffron supplies and i'll be posting my finds later in the month...

... here's how you can join in too...

1 - take your birthday date and count along your bookshelf that number of books
2 - take that book off the shelf and open it randomly
3 - make the recipe on the page you open - do not cheat, you're only cheating yourself!
4 - you may adapt the recipe for health/dietary/product availability purposes only
5 - post the recipe on your blog linking back to me and my blog
6 - include the random recipes badge in the post
7 - email me a link to your post to
8 - challenge deadline is Nov 28th 
9 - if you tweet your posts please mention @belleaukitchen, and use the hashtag #randomrecipes and I will retweet all those I see
10 - your post can be submitted to other blogging challenges, just make sure this complies with the rules of the other challenge.

... enjoy the picking my random recipes lovelies... oh and happy birthday!



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