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Sunday, 29 September 2013

Sticky Toffee Pudding

My winter checklist: 

Trees turning? Check.  
Occasional central heating required? Check.  
Cats staying in longer? Check.
Craving for stodgy food? Check.
Shower dial turned another notch towards hot? Check.
Winter coat out of loft? Check.

These are my signs that winter is on its way.  

Although spring and summer are my favourite times of year, winter does mean my birthday, bonfire night and of course Christmas.  It is also the time of year for warming stews, midweek roasts and stodgy puddings - and weight gain if your not careful.

Sticky toffee pudding is one of my all time favourite winter treats.  I have never attempted to make one before, normally happy to just purchase a good quality one from a supermarket, but I came across this recipe by Simon Hopkinson and I had to try it. 

Whizzed up in the food processor and baked in the oven this treat is perfect to eat after a Sunday roast, simply put it in the oven while you are eating the main.  I found molasses sugar in the supermarket and demerara is very easy to get hold of.  Although sticky and sweet the sponge is especially light and delicate, served with simple vanilla ice cream I could very happily get fat on this.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Go Get 'Em Smoothie

Quick post today...its a busy week!  Breakfast was never a big deal for me, when I was younger I never really bothered.  It wasn't that I could not have breakfast, it was just that I wasn't hungry in the morning.  Since growing up though I often find that missing breakfast results in hunger pains by lunch.  I now make every effort to eat something before heading out for work.  Normally its a bowl of something with milk, or crumpets with butter, or even porridge with Nutella spread mixed in.  Some days however I am in such a rush I don't get chance to eat anything and normally turn to my favourite breakfast smoothie by Nigella Lawson.

Go Get 'Em contains everything to set you up for the morning and more importantly they are ingredients you can keep in all the time.   I always have a bag of chopped up bananas in the freezer - saves on using ice!  Nigella uses instant espresso powder but you won't find that in my house, especially since I have my trusty Gaggia bean to cup.  If possible, reduce the speed of you blender after the first initial whizz, a slower speed will result in a smoother mix as large lumps tend to avoid the blades at full speed.

Quick and easy to make this smoothie does not really taste much of banana, instead think malteasers.  

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Chocolate cake in a mug!

Ok, so this isn't a classy recipe, but it is a super fast 'chocolate fantastic' hit when you need one.  Cake made in a microwave?  How tacky, how horrible, how wrong.  Let me just stop you there, this cake is soft, chocolately, warm and rich.  Served with a scoop of ice cream and drizzled with toffee sauce this is the perfect mid week pick me up when you are in the mood for cake but do not have the time or energy to make anything complex.  The fact it serves one means no waste and 2 to 3 minutes in the microwave this cake is as express as it gets.  Please don't be expecting the best cake in the world, after all this is made in a mug in the microwave, but do expect dense fudge like chocolate cake.  Make sure you top with ice cream and some sauce.

There are many recipes online for this strange idea.  I have looked over a number, tried a couple, and put this one together.  You could sub the chocolate chips for white, or add in some coconut, or zest in some orange for a chocorange cake.  Experiment and see what you find.  

Cooking times are rather difficult to suggest.  My microwave is 800watts so I cooked for 2 minutes and found this to be just about right.  My first attempt (2.30mins) resulted in a rubbery cake.  Undercooking isn't much of an issue for this type of cake, if it needs more just continue cooking or see it as a 'fondant' style cake.  The quantities are so small if you mess it up it does not matter that much - ok so you wasted an egg - just tip it out and try again.

See what you think...give it a go!

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Asian Chilli Jam

I am a big fan of Asian food.  I am lucky to visit Thailand quite often and have travelled around to different areas experiencing a wide range of different things.  Travelling to Singapore and Malaysia has opened up taste buds to a range of strange and interesting items.  Even eating plane food is an experience when traveling via India.

I love the sweet and sour mixes, the simplicity and the wide range of different courses available.   I am happy to wonder through a Thai market and sample anything that comes my way - somethings are great, somethings are bad and somethings I have no idea what it is.

Recently, while channel hopping, I came across Lorraine Pascale's Asian Chilli Jam recipe.  It seemed very easy to make and ingredient wise contained everything I like.  It did require a quick trip to John Lewis to purchase jam jars and a funnel, but apart from that tomatoes and bottle of balsamic vinegar where the only other things I needed to pick up, the rest I had in the cupboard.

After whizzing everything up all you need to do is bring to the boil and reduce for 30 minutes.  I did find that some had burnt to the bottom of the pan therefore next time I think I would reduce the boil to a strong simmer.  I only managed to get one jar full, maybe the boil was too high and resulted in too much evaporation of the liquid.  She managed two small jars - one as a gift and the other for the fridge.  

Buy a large piece of ginger, chop off what you need and stash the rest in the freezer until you need it again.  I used chilli flakes because I couldn't get red chilli from my local greengrocer. 

To sterilise my  jars and lids I ran them through the 'pots and pans' setting, this is the hottest setting my dishwasher can do.  Although you could wash and dry them and then place in a hot oven for 10 minutes to remove any germs that may spoil your jam.

Unopened this jam will last for months in a dark cupboard, once opened I think its best used up as soon as possible and store in the fridge.

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Frasier Torte (Strawberry mousse cake)

It seems like the weather has finally turned.  Goodbye mild warm summer and hello cold wet autumn.   I love it when the air is cold but the sun is shining, the leafs turning and cosy nights are drawing in.  This recipe takes me back to the end of my summer holidays.  Strawberries where being sold off cheap at a local market stall and I was in the mood to try something technical and new.  Frasier torte, or simply strawberry cake, is a delicious summer dessert.  The mousse is light and the sponge delicate with lemon and vanilla.  Although it may look difficult to make, actually I found it very easy.  Just be prepared and stick to the recipe.  Also, do not be in a rush, this recipe takes time to set.

There are two versions of this cake - American and French.  I have decided to make the American version as it is by one of my favourite pasty chefs Anna Olson.  I have had success with her Chocolate Tart recipe therefore I trusted that this one would turn out well.  The only change I made was adding the strawberry jelly to the top.  

The main difference between the two versions is the American one has strawberry mousse and the French, rich custard.  I would be very happy to eat both and one day I may attempt the custard version.  Today, however, its American all the way.