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Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Tasmanian Lemon Pudding

I have started to notice a trend in my blog...its mostly puddings!  Well, dessert is my favourite part of the meal and this spans back to babyhood.  I remember my mum telling me that when I was being fed as a baby if the next spoonful wasn't pudding as soon as I finished the main I would start to cry.  Well... the crying has stopped now but I still always demand something sweet after finishing a meal.

I saw this pudding while flicking through Tamasin Day-Lewis Kitchen Bible.  I was looking up a new recipe of Yorkshire pudding when I came across this and noticed that the ingredients list wasn't too long and also I had two lemons in the fridge that needed using up. 

This is a light pudding with a sponge like top that hides a pool of lemon flavoured custard.  Sweet yet twangy, this is a great winter pudding to serve with cold cream or ice cream.  I love lemon puddings and this one is perfect!

When I made this my mixture curdled when I added the milk, I think its was far too cold.  I would recommend using room temp milk or maybe even warming it slightly (not hot though)  My pudding still turned out ok though, even with cold milk.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Churros and Spanish Hot Chocolate

Its been a long time since I last posted.  Starting back at work after six weeks off is always difficult and to top it off its like starting back at a new school with new rules and ways of doing things.  Finding time to bake is one thing never mind blog!

October is my birthday month and also the month the yearly fair comes to town.  First its the 'Goose Fair' in Nottingham and then 'Ilkeston Fair' where I grew up.  Believe it or not this was the first year I tired churros and I love them!  I can not believe how easy they are (and quick) to make and the only faff is the hot oil.

Ingredient wise these are so basic - flour, water and salt.  Pipe in to hot fat and then dredge in cinnamon sugar.  I have come across two methods of making these - with egg and without.  My first attempt (the ones pictured above) have egg in them.  The style without seems to use baking powder instead.  I will try the other method sometime soon and post the results.

Churros, if you don't know, are basically Spanish/Mexican doughnuts.  Traditionally dipped in thick hot chocolate or eaten for breakfast without the sugar coating.  I treated myself to real Spanish hot chocolate brought from Marks and Spencer - its SO good, thick and chocolatey just like what I tried when I was in Barcelona.  

One method I came across to make these involved frying bread and lemon in the oil to prepare it before frying the churros.  I did as I was told although I am not sure if it made much difference.

Monday, 22 September 2014

I'm still here (again)

Apologies, September for me is 'start back to work' month and getting back in to the habit of working isn't easy when you have had six weeks off.  People say teachers are lucky to get all those holidays...and I would agree, we are lucky to get time off spread across the year, but we do work very hard when we are not on holiday and for me the six weeks holiday is a joy and a curse.  The first two weeks are like being on holiday, the next two are when I start to feel like I have nothing to do and the final two are the ones where you start to reprogram yourself to do other things.  Then its time to go back to work again and you simply don't want to.  All the other holidays are great and feel like a nice rest.  The summer is the one that always catches me out.

So, this month will be a quiet one on my blog.  I may get chance to bake something soon.  I have been invited to a coffee morning next Saturday so I will try and get something baked and posted before the month is out.

Anyway, off to work I must go...

Ps.  Mr Puck (from my previous post) is doing really well.  His only eye is starting to look normal again and hopefully his vision is getting better.  His missing eye looks perfect now the stitches have been removed.

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Mr Puck-Tastic Chocolate Cake

Let me introduce my friend Kate's new puppy pug - Puck (or Mr Puck as he is now called)  He is one tough little solider, only weeks in to young life he developed a problem in his eye that caused it to cloud over and restrict his vision.  The vets worked really hard and at one point it looked like his eye might have to be removed.   With lots of love and support his eye slowly started to return to normal and it all seemed like he was getting better when Kate noticed his other eye (the good one) had started to develop similar problems.  A quick rush to the vets resulted in very bad news - it would be very unlikely that this eye would return to normal.  A few days later he was undergoing an operation to remove his eye...  

Thankfully he is now a very happy puppy and is always fighting with his sister and his eye seems to be healing well and his vision, although poor, is getting better.  

As a thank you to the vet Kate ask my help in baking a cake.  She had already researched online and came across a number of 'Pub Cakes', some much better (and less creepy) than others.   We decided to use a selection of ideas and build our own version, with eye patch.

The cake in the picture is a chocolate cake covered in a rich chocolate ganache and then decorated with fondant icing.  Not bad for a few hours work.  

The cake is from Great British Bake Off winner 'Jo Wheatley'.  In her book she simply tops with cake with crushed Malteasers.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Apple Tart with Salted Caramel and Hazelnuts

This tart is a bit of an experiment.  I had a bag of apples in the fridge that really needed using up and I couldn't be bothered to juice them.  I flicked through a couple of cookbooks and located a simple recipe of apple tart.  Simple being - make a pasty case, slice apples and arrange, bake, spread with apricot jam, eat.  I was just about to start making it when I remembered I had some hazelnuts that needed using up.  While hunting through the cupboard for the hazelnuts I knocked over the box of sea salt and I suddenly thought - salted caramel!

I had never made salted caramel before but I had tried it a number of times and liked it.  I think the last time was a salted caramel latte from Costa Coffee.  Anyway, it didn't take long to find a suitable recipe online for salted caramel sauce and after a little bit of playing around with the recipe I came up with this.

The tart was better the next day after the caramel had time to set.  Straight from the oven the apples had released quite a bit of juice and cutting the tart resulted in a puddle of sauce.  The next day however the caramel had set more and the juices soaked back in to the apple.

The pastry for this tart is baked along with the apples, but I brushed the uncooked pastry with egg to form a seal.  After an initial bake to soften the apples I poured over the caramel and baked for a further 20 minutes.

Salty and sweet...I didn't use any special apples for this, actually I was worried they would be too sweet, it worked and I am happy with it.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Strawberry Cupcakes

I love strawberries and these cupcakes contain 1 punnet of fresh strawberries, both in the cake itself and the frosting.  This recipe comes direct from Martha Stewart 'Bake' and all I have done is adapt the ingredients to sub the 'cake flour' Amercian's use so much and also slightly reduced the amount of strawberries due to comments left by other bakers about the cakes being a little too wet due to the strawberry moisture.  I converted all the measures from cups to gram for us UK bakers - that is why you my wonder why the amounts are not rounded up like most recipes.

The recipe I give below is based on Martha's Yellow Cake recipe and on the show she shows three different uses for it - a simple orange chocolate cake, fruit topped cakes and these strawberry cupcakes.  The recipe makes 30 cakes, yes I know lots!!  And I did find the I had quite a bit of frosting left over, maybe I should have used more on the cakes?  I have not changed the amounts she suggests due to the fact I had already played around with the cake flour sub and I didn't want to introduce another element that could mean these went wrong.  However, now I have baked them and am happy with the outcome I believe you could quite easily half the amounts for both cake and frosting and make about 18-20 cakes instead of the bumper 30.

It is important that all the cake ingredients are at room temp - butter, milk, eggs, etc.

You WILL need a stand mixer to make the frosting, I really do not think a handheld would cut it.

You can store these at room temp until needed or in the fridge, but its best to remove a good hour before serving otherwise the buttercream sets solid.

Saturday, 2 August 2014

Clementine Cake

This is a very summery cake.  Quick and easy to make, well easy to make, it does take 2 hours to simmer the oranges but thats hardly work.  This cake is made with ground almonds and if you use gluten free baking powder its totally gluten free.  Made with clementines this cake is dense yet light, sweet but tangy, perfect for afternoon coffee.

You could make the cake with lemons instead and add a little more sugar to compensate the sourness.  Or mix lemons and oranges to create a citrus style cake.  Everything is whizzed up in the processor and it takes about 1 hour to bake slowly in a medium heat oven.  It really is that easy and uses minimal ingredients.  

Served warmed from the oven is nice or cold from the fridge.  This cake actually gets better with age and will always stay moist.  You could say FAT FREE to, since it contains no fats, but actually I don't think this makes it healthy to eat since there is natural oils in the almonds, lots of eggs and plenty of sugar.

It takes about 3 large clementines to make this cake, don't stress too much about the weights although I do give them below.  When I placed three on the scales it went well over the recommended amount but don't worry, 100g over won't be the end of the world.  Of course, be sensible, don't use four clementines when three would do or you may end up with far too much mixture.

Thursday, 31 July 2014

Coconut Mocha 'Frapp'

Last week I broke up for the summer holidays and as tradition goes I always treat myself to something yummy on the way home from work.  Last year it was a strawberries and cream frap from Starbucks and this year it was one of their coconut mochas.  I was really in the mood to try one before however at the time I wanted a hot drink and had it in my head that the new drink I had seen on a billboard somewhere was for a hot chocolate with coconut, at the time I really wanted a hot drink not ice cold so I passed on it.  But last week, Wednesday, was super hot and very sunny and an iced drink really hit the spot.

I love coconut and chocolate.  This drink tastes like a bounty bar whizzed up with ice.    I passed on the cream topping but they did sprinkle it with toasted coconut.  It was very yummy!  The coffee hit worked well with the chocolate and the coconut isn't too sweet.  This isn't the same consistency as the strawberry and cream frap though, this one is more liquid than slush.    

After trying it I knew I had to try and make it at home.  I watched as they made my drink and all they put in the blender was coffee shot, a few pumps of coconut syrup, some ice and the all important chocolate frap mix.  So my first task was to locate the correct ingredients.

First I knew where I could get coconut syrup.  I always keep a stock of hazelnut in the house and still have gingerbread left over from Christmas.  My local Makro store sells all the monin range, but you can get it online if you don't have Makro membership.  Ice and espresso, tick done.  The chocolate frap mix can be brought online from specialist coffee shops that sell for industry.  The stuff I came across was a powder that you mix with milk and store ready to use - a bit like Starbucks.  It was rather expensive though so I decided to experiment.

First I tried this with cocoa powder.  It worked but was rather bland.  Next I tried chocolate milkshake mix (Nesquik) and found it far too sweet.  Finally I decided to try ready made chocolate milkshake, the bottle I used is from Sainsbury.  Just like Goldilocks this was just about right.  So my recipe follows...

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Simple Lemon Bars

I have always loved lemon flavoured cakes, biscuits and puddings.  Lemon Tart has to be my all time favourite, as I have said before, I can quite easily eat a whole tart to myself over a weekend.  Today's recipe is inspired from my 'Leon' cookbook.  Lemon bars are simple to make and consist of a shortcake like base topped with a lemon tart egg mixture.  Baked in the oven and dusted with icing sugar you end up with a tray of sharp but sweet tasting bars.  Perfect with a cup of coffee eaten outdoors.

I have slightly adapted the Leon recipe to make the tarts a little more sharper, simply reducing the amount of sugar does this.    You do need to make sure you have a tin with high sides or you might struggle to get all the mixture in.  I used my 'Delia Silverware' swiss roll tin as it was the correct measurements for the recipe and the height is good although could have been a little taller.

Best to chill and then dust with icing sugar just before serving.  You will find that the icing sugar is absorbed when these little goodies are left overnight so you may need to dust again before serving if you don't intend to eat them all in one go.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Ina's Potato Salad

Its been a while since I posted anything savoury.  In my last post I mentioned that I went to a day at the races and, in my  opinion, the main event wasn't a horse race but instead the picnic.  This potato salad is a recipe I have seen Ina Garten make a couple of times and since I own pretty much all her cookbooks I knew that I had to have it somewhere.  

I am not a massive fan of potato salad.  The thick gloopy stuff I have tried from supermarkets has always put me off.  Cold mushy potato and lots of mayo isn't really my thing.  This recipe however is so much better and once I made one batch for the picnic it wasn't long (two days later) I was boiling up another pan full of potatoes to make some more to keep in the fridge as my daily side to whatever I decide to put with it. 

The dressing is so good I even found myself pouring it over gem lettuce and adding a few baby tomatoes as a quick snack salad.

In the recipe Ina suggests buttermilk or white wine.  I have only ever used buttermilk but I guess the wine would add an extra dimension and is something I would try another time.

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Cherry Chocolate Brownie Tarts

I have finally broke up for the summer holidays and already Marks & Spencer have back to school items in their windows - depressing or what!  Hopefully this summer will be filled with plenty of baking, lots of gym and days of sunshine.  I hope to finally get my back garden sorted out, it currently looks like a scene from 'Lost', and host lots of alfresco dinner parties.  

On Friday I went to the races, horse races, at Uttoxeter for a friends birthday.  Although I don't gamble it was an excuse to put together a cracking picnic and bake something yummy for dessert.  This recipe is slightly adapted from 'Smart Tart' by Tamasin Day-Lewis.  I say slightly adapted, basically I baked it as mini tarts instead of the large one she presents.  I have halved the amount of brownie mixture however due to there being far too much for 8 mini tarts - I could have filled at least 16!  The recipe does require cherry brandy, 2 tablespoons, and it can be costly but I managed to get a bottle half price (think it cost me £6)  or Tamasin states using any brandy and adding a teaspoon of almond extract to 'cherry it up'.

It is a bit of a pain to stone the cherries but actually it does not take long.  I didn't bother with any fancy cherry stoner gadgets and just used a sharp knife to cut round the stone, I was done in less then 10 minutes.

Make the pastry in the processor, it takes seconds, and rest it well in the fridge.  I found it much easier to cut it in to 8 equal sized pieces and then rolling out, instead of rolling out the whole lot and cutting to fit the mini cases.  If necessary warm the pastry in the hands before rolling out.

These tarts are great warm from the oven, or chilled (expect more fudge brownie)  I found that they warmed up in the picnic basket and when served where just about right!  I ate them without cream but maybe whipping up some cream with a dash of cherry brandy would really make these special.

Please note that in my photographs I made the original amount of batter - far too much!  So I have scaled it back.  Please ignore the amounts in the photographs.

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Lime and Coconut Cake

I was given a coconut last week...I know, not the sort of thing that gets given as a present often.  Along with the nut was a post-it setting me a challenge to cook something with it.  I flicked through a couple of my cookbooks - thai curry? ice cream? I wasn't sure.  Then I came across 'Fresh Lime and Coconut Cake' in Delia Smith's Cake book.  

I remember watching her make it on her 'Summer Collection' TV series.  

In the recipe she uses desiccated coconut and soaks it in lime juice for an hour to soften.  I thought I would give it a go with fresh coconut and it works!

My first challenge was cracking open the nut.  I wasn't too bothered about saving the water inside (I tried it once in Thailand and didn't really like it).  So I just took the nut outside and gave it a good whack with a rolling pin.  SMACK! It broke perfectly in two.  I was half expecting a crumbled mess on the floor but a perfect split I got.  Then it was just a task of running a sharp knife around the white of the coconut to loosen and remove it.  I cut off any bits of shell still attached.  A quick whizz in the processor and I had tiny pieces of fresh coconut ready to make the cake with.  

This cake uses the 'all in one' method that Delia seems to like in almost all her cake recipes.  Personally I enjoy the process of making a cake and simply putting it all in a bowl and mixing does not cut it for me.  There is something about creaming the butter and sugar for ages, adding the egg a bit at a time, the risk of splitting and all rest that goes with it.  However, this recipe did give me an excuse to use my handheld mixer again!

This cake does not rise that much, its rather flat.  However its very moist and looks fresh and inviting.    The icing is simply lime juice and icing sugar mixed with some coconut milk powder.  

I brought the milk powder from Tesco, but I am sure you can get it cheaper from smaller Chinese supermarkets.  In the brief to the recipe Delia does suggest that nothing else worked and the coconut milk powder is very much required - I would advise getting some if your going to make this recipe, don't try and sub for something else.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Elderflower & Blackcurrant Eclairs

Summer seems to be finally here.  Today the sun has shone all day.  This morning I ventured out for a walk with Kate and her dog, then we nipped to a local coffee chain for hazelnut lattes before playing with all the dog toys in 'Pets at Home'.  When I returned home I decided to try out a recipe that I have been thinking about for a while.  This recipe, Elderflower & Blackcurrant Eclairs, is one of what I am calling my 'summer flavours that go together' collection.  

Over the next flew blog post I will be presenting a range of recipes where fruit is the theme.  Seasonal fruit would be my ideal choice however I will be travelling the world a little - you will see.

The last time I made eclairs was at school.  I remember well watching my home economics teacher demonstrating how to make choux pasty.  I remember she used a handheld mixer to beat the eggs in to the flour, so did the same (any excuse to use my newest gadget, another Kitchenaid to all to the collection.  Delia states to use strong plain flour, however Raymond Blanc just says use plain.  This recipe uses plain because I happened to have it in.  Next time I will give strong flour ago.  This eclairs turned out well and as you will see from the photos I created small 'two bite' pieces and a few larger 'three bite' ones.  

Elderflower cordial is quite easy to get hold of, my local coop stocked it in their bottle juice section.  The blackcurrant preserve was also from the coop.  My tip is to use a pastry brush to apply the glaze, it gives a more uniform finish and stops excess dripping.

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Ice Cream Cone Cupcakes (Student Demonstration)

As some of you may be aware in my spare time (real life) I am a secondary school ICT teacher.  A few weeks ago was 'Focus on Food' week and one of the cookery teachers, who knew about this blog, asked me if I would like to demonstrate to her Year 10 class.  At the time I thought about it for a few minutes and said yes.  As the weeks went by and the cookery deadline approached I started to stress slightly about the whole process.  As a teacher I am totally used to having 30 students in front of me and having to demonstrate, question and discuss a range of ICT related topics, but this time I would not be discussing my comfort zone of ICT, instead I would be discussing baking!  Scary stuff!

Now I will admit that sometimes, at home as I bake, I will play out as if I was on TV.  Almost talking to myself to reassure as I try out new recipes and ideas.  Thinking about that one day when I may have my own TV show and be as super popular as Nigella, Nigel, Delia or Ina.  But this is only ever in front of the pretend audience in my head, not a real group of young cooks, and this was in a different kitchen, with a different oven and unfamiliar equipment.  None of this helped with my nerves.

I thought really hard about what I wanted to bake.  It was always my intention to show the students something different.  I didn't want to make a simple cake as I am know they would have done it before.  I didn't want to make basic frosting, because I know they would have done it before.  So I thought carefully and decided to show them the 'reverse creaming method' of cake making and an 'Italian Meringue   Buttercream'.  Two techniques that I had a good feeling would be new to them.

Italian Meringue is something I have made many times before and I was not worried about demonstrating that.  The reverse method however was totally new to me.  I played around with a number of recipes I found online and none seemed to work as I hoped.  It got to the point where the day before the demonstration I still hadn't cracked the perfect recipe and the stress was starting to kick in.  I will admit now that first time I made the recipe (the one that worked) was the day I demonstrated it to the students.  I just went for it and hoped for the best!   It worked (or no one complained anyway)

For those that do not know the reverse creaming method is a very different way of making a sponge mix.  You start by combining the flours and butter to make breadcrumbs.  The purpose of this is to protect the gluten in the flour from the liquid you add later.  Doing this means you can mix without worrying about over doing it.  The cake mixture result is slightly denser than a normal sponge and the crumb is a lot more crumblier -  see image.  

My inspiration came from a simple 'Mr Whippy' ice cream.  I would bake a vanilla sponge inside a ice cream cone and top with smooth vanilla butter cream, top with a flake and sprinkles, syrup if you must.  The students liked them so I consider it a success.  I was able to bake the cakes and discuss various baking techniques and ingredients, while taking the odd question from the students - see men can multitask!  

Each cone would be filled with a little chocolate spread, topped with a scope of vanilla mixture and after baking, frosted tall with a smooth 'Mr Whippy' style buttercream.  

Sorry to say but I do not have my normal array of images as I show off this recipe.  I have made the frosting before in other posts so please check them out if you need to see the technique.  

The cones come in packs of 21, but they are cheap and sealed in foil, so you can make 25 isn with the batter mix and don't have to worry about waste.

So, this was the most scariest thing I have ever done in a long time.  Baking LIVE in front of a group of young cooks, in a strange kitchen, with a recipe I hadn't tested before.  Afterwards it felt great and I was so pleased that I managed to see it through.  

Give the recipe a go and let me know what you think...

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Lemon and Raspberry with Coconut Birthday Cake

It was my Grandma's 83rd birthday this weekend and normally its a family get together and BBQ.  This would always be a good excuse for me to bake a couple of desserts.  This year we decided to forgo the normal BBQ and instead go to a local country pub for a simple meal.  I was given the task of baking a birthday cake. 

Since its summer I wanted to bake a cake that was fresh tasting and light.  In the past I would have been tempted to bake a chocolate cake or some sort of heavier style cake.  Lemon and raspberry has always been a favourite of mine and since I hadn't had chance to bake my lemon and raspberry cupcakes yet I thought I would adapt the idea and create a large bday cake.

While researching I came across a recipe for lemon, raspberry and coconut cake.  At first I was unsure if putting coconut on the cake would be wise because it tends to be one of those ingredients that some people don't like.  However, knowing my family well, I just went for it and they all liked it.

The sponge is a simple lemon scented white cake.  I used 00 plain flour as this is supposed to result in a lighter, whiter, crumbed cake.  Without a cake baked using basic plain flour I am unable to comment on whether this one is better or not, but it was light.

The frosting is a simple '7 minute' american style lemon buttercream.  I used seedless  good quality jam. 

If I was to make this cake again, and there is no reason why I wouldn't, I would make sure I added more jam as some layers were not visible when cutting.  Leaving the cake to set before attempting to coat the outsides is a very good idea, you may find that the cake starts to slide apart.  I used a kebab spike to hold the layers together while it set in the fridge.

Make sure you bring this cake to room temp before serving.

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Ice Cream Cake Pops

My friend Kate and I were inspired by a post on 'Heavenly Cake Pops' to try and recreate their amazing ice cream cone cake pops.  We didn't have a fancy and expensive cake pop rolling machine so instead we had to roll ours by hand and we feel that next time we make them we can focus on perfecting them, but we were very happy with the outcome.   This is my first time making cake pops (Kate has made plenty before) and we really had fun making them.

It is important to note that the covering is not chocolate, or not chocolate as such, but instead 'Candy Melts'.  These are specialist melting candy that is designed to fully coat and quickly set on all types of cakes.  You treat them the same as chocolate but sometimes its necessary to add a little corn oil to loosen the mixture.  Candy Melts can be brought online or from specialist cake stores.  You may find them in some larger supermarkets but I am unsure of which ones. 

Cake pops are very quick and easy to make.  You could bake a cake or simply buy one.  We choose to buy cheap and cheerful jam rolls from the supermarket.  You are only going to mix them up anyway so there is no real need to spend too much time baking.  This is a great way of using up a cake that may have gone wrong.

Friday, 30 May 2014

Chocolate Mousse Torte

Well this is my first real blog post in a long time.  I feel like I have let my blog down a little by not posting as I usually did. Since getting back from Thailand I have had 4 (yes only 4) weeks of work, the shortest term ever, however also the busiest and most stressful.  Now its finally over and I am on half term I feel like I can start getting back to normal posts.  I do have a few things lined up for the coming month and actually did expect to have more produced this week but due to the poor weather I had to change my original plans and not bake what I intended.
This post is all about chocolate.  Chocolate mousse torte by Anna Olson is something I have seen her make on TV a couple of times and have thought about making it for a while.  It does have a lot of steps and I don't feel like it turned out as well as I hoped this time but I did learn a lot and feel more prepared the next time I make it.  

If you intend to make this recipe be prepared to take your time.  Making the base is quite quick but the mousse needs to set in the freeze for at least 4 hours  and the chocolate coating will need making, chilling, then heating again.  Then the whole thing needs to set in the fridge for a few hours.  I would recommend if you wanted to try this cake you should make it at least the day before you need it and then store in the fridge.  An hour or so before you wish to serve take it out the fridge and allow it to return to roomish temp.  I found the chocolate sponge a little tougher when cold and an hour or so out of the fridge helps soften them.

When I tried this torte I thought of the classic 90's dinner party frozen dessert that you deforest before serving - Sara Lee's Chocolate Cake.  The chocolate mousse is pretty much identical!!  It is very nice though and I will be making another one again.  

Oh, an important point to note is you actually make two sponge bases but only require one of the recipe.  They freeze perfectly and if you wanted to make another torte later in the month you are already halfway there or another suggestion would be to whip up some cream and add some crushed raspberries, the sandwich, very thickly the left over cake together.  Dust with cocoa and you would have some sort of raspberry chocolate sponge cake.

Finally, I have presented the ingredients using american cup measures, as the original recipe, if you require it in UK measures then search for the recipe online and FoodNetworkUK has the full recipe.

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Thailand - Foodie Post 3

Thailand - Foodie Post 2

On arriving to Kuala Lumpur I checked in to the Madarin Oriental Hotel, this hotel is located in the very centre of KL next door to the Petronas Towers.  Unfortunately, perfect as the hotel was, my room did not overlook the towers.  After two very busy days sight seeing in Singapore it was great to finally relax in this luxary hotel and spend some time by the rooftop pool.  Dinner that even was at one of the Madarin's resturants.  Mosac is a buffet style resturant like no other I have been too.  The choice was amazing and nothing like the buffet style resturnants I have been to in England. 

The resturnant had 8 main areas consisting of Meats, Chinese, Indian, Cheese/Breads, Seafood, Japanese, Italian and Desserts (my fav).  

In the meat area you could help yourself to precook BBQ meats such as chicken and satay style kebabs.  The main section though was the raw meat that they cooked to request.  Fillet steaks, chicken and lamb chops where my favourite here and they cooked it perfectly.  You could also have duck, some seafood and also varous sasusages.  As Mayalsia is mostly muslim in religion they do not serve pork.  This counter also served various accomlements to the meat, corn on the cob, carrots and sauces.  I must have consumed 6 lamb chops, 2 steaks and about 5 satay chickens from the counter alone.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Thailand - Foodie Post 1

Thailand is a country I have been lucky enough to visit a number of times. Having family based in Bangkok makes it almost a second home.  I always try and visit once a year normally during the Easter holidays as this is the best time for the weather and also when I have two weeks off from work.  This  years visit is the 10th to the 25th of April and I arrive just in time for the Songkran Festvial.  Songkran is basically  a three day water fight to celebrate the thai new year.  Its great fun and something that anyone visiting Thailand who is lucky enough visit during the festival should take part in.

During my visit to Thailand I will also be travelling to Singapore and Kuala Lumpur (two places I have been before but a long time ago so a revisit is due)  I have decided that this first post will be a feature on food that we do not get over in the UK, however it won't all be 'strange, but true' dishes, some will be well known but just will see.

BBQ Chicken at Sarah Janes Restaurant, Bangkok

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Deep Sea Diving Cake

Now I consider my self a baker, not sugar crafter.  As you can see from the photograph this is my first major attempt at one of those novelty cakes.  I did not make it alone though, my very good friend Kate helped created many of the items on the cake and she was my 'baking rock' throughout the whole process.  At times I did think why on Earth did I say I would make this cake?  

As you can see from the image this is an underwater deep sea diving cake made especially for the principle of my school who is due to retire at Easter.
I am a Governor at my school and it was decided as it was his final meeting before Easter to make it a special one and present him with a leaving present, card and cake.  It was another Governor who put the idea in my head to create a cake the one shown above.

Apologies, there is not step by step baking photos with this post.  Instead think of this post as a special one off where I simply mention the idea and where the recipes came from etc. we go...

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

I'm still here!

Many apologies...I have not posted anything for a while now.  My other job is keeping me very busy.  New post coming very soon and it will be an interesting one (or should that be... it may be a disaster one)

Check back soon!

Monday, 17 February 2014

Chocolate Hazelnut macaroons

After quite a bit of recipe searching, video watching and failed attempts I do believe I have actually got much better at making french macaroons.  The saying "practice makes perfect" is true.  I read somewhere that it is suggested that when you make macaroons expect to over mix the first time, under mix the second and get it perfect the third.  I was lucky on the my second attempt (but failed the third and forth).  

This recipe is slightly adapted from a recipe by Edd Kimber (The Boy who Bakes).  Instead of his process of turing the sugar in to syrup and adding to the eggs I have simply added the caster sugar while whisking the eggs.  Added cocoa for colouring and used a small amount of cream of tartar to help stabilise the eggs.  

The key is to completely grind the almonds, icing sugar and hazelnuts together for much longer than you think.  Almost 7 minutes in the processor, stopping once or twice to scrape up the icing sugar from the bottom of the bowl.  Sifting takes time and can be a bit of a pain but it is very important.  Mixing is the bit where it can all go wrong...I think I have mastered it now, simply fold and cut until the mixture is one colour then stop.

I printed off a large sheet of A3 paper with equal sized rounds and then placed a sheet of non-stick baking parchment over the top.  I have found this the best way to make sure all your macs are the same size and to stop the stress of drawing each one out by hand.

So, here is a recipe for chocolate hazelnut macaroons.  Have a go, just don't shout at me if your first attempt does not go to plan.

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Chocolate Orange Macaroons (1st attempt)

To start this month I really wanted to something more technical than my normal range of recipes.   Last summer was the first time I had ever tired a french macaroon and it is something that I always thought about making.  I had watched contestents make them on 'The Great British Bake Off' to various degress of success so I knew that it would be a challenge.             

Ingredient wise macaroons are very simple - almond, egg whites and sugar with a filling, unfortunately although limited in ingredients the things you do need tend to be costly.  Ground almonds make up the bulk of the recipe and in the amounts you need will end up costing the most.  Then you need egg whites, another costly ingredient, especially when you throw away the yolks.  

My advice to try and reduce the cost is to buy your ground almonds from local shops that supply the indian community.  I found a large bag of ground almonds (250g) for £2.99.  The solution to the egg white issue is to hunt around your local supermarket (Tesco, Sainsbury or Waitrose are stockists) for cartons of egg whites.  Normally found in the butter/cream area although you may need to ask.  If you intend on making lots of macs I would highly reccommend the egg white carton.  You MUST weigh/measure the egg whites, this is very important.  

As this is my first attempt I am being very honest with the results.  They tasted great and the crisp/chewy texture was perfect (I made sure I sampled some from M&S so I knew what I was looking for) but I know I didn't get the texture right when piping.  You will see from the images that they looked like little puddles of mixture when actually they should stand taller and 'peak' when piped.  I didn't get a peak and found the mixture leaked out the piping bag as I went so the whole experience became rather messy.  I hope it was beginners error.

I tried to colour my macs orange, using paste colouring,  but as you can see from the photo they are not very orange.  I think powdered colours are best and when I try again I will make sure I use them.  Do not use liquid coluring as this may make the mixture too loose and you wuill ruin your mixture.

I made a simple ganache for my filling - chocolate, cream and orange extract.  At first I had a very glossy mixture and it looked and tasted perfect, however while it cooled I didn't notice it splitting a little and the glossy look became very oily.  The next day the chocolate had set and looked fine.

One final area that I think is important to consider when baking macs is the use of non-stick parchment.  I used my normal baking parchment (shiny side up) and have some success however I did have to use a spatular to remove them and found that some of the insides stuck.  Hunting around the net I found a number of recipes, most recommending the using of baking parchment as I used, but  a couple recommended purchasing good quality non-stick baking lining - John Lewis is a good stockist.  I am going to make sure I get some for my next batch and will update this post with the details as soon as I do.

This recipe is a combination of ideas I found on the internet.  As you see from the images they worked.  I think my issue is getting the texture right when folding the mixture together just before piping.  My mix was very runny and difficult to pipe.  I would recommend that you hunt around YouTube for videos on making macs before baking your own.  That way you can watch how the mixture should fall back in to the bowl instead of just looking at images.

Saturday, 11 January 2014

BOOK REVIEW: Smart Tart by Tamasin Day Lewis

Not a recipe today, instead its a review of my newest book to add to my collection.  'Smart Tart' by Tamasin Day-Lewis is a book I first came across when I started this blog. After 'following' Tamasin on Twitter, she posted a comment about a new book she was hoping to publish via the Unbound publishing company.  Unbound, if you don't already know, is an online company where writers can pitch ideas to the general public and wait for backers to donate money.  When the target is met the book is published, simple.  Of course the backers get something out of it otherwise why would they bother donating?  Depending on the author most rewards include a first edition print of the book, dedications in the back of the published book, access to addition content and more interesting extras like VIP invites to the release party.  Tamasin offered cooking lessons at her home, acknowledgments in the book and even a tart named after you.  I would have loved to pay for the cooking lesson but missed out due to the book being published early with thanks to Fortnum and Mason.

As with past 'book reviews' please do not expect something as fluent as the reviews you find on Amazon by professional reviewers, this is my simple take on telling you what this book is all about.

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Chocolate Truffle Torte

Quick post today as I just remembered that I start back at work tomorrow and for the past two weeks I have done nothing!  The pile of marking has been sitting on my desk since I placed it there at the start of the Christmas holidays and has been looking at me everyday since.  Thankfully tomorrow is an INSET day so I don't have to stress tonight or iron my work clothes (hopefully I still fit in them).

I have just over three months before I jet off to Thailand and I have set myself the goal of losing two stone in weight and seriously sorting out my now misshapen body by visiting the gym I pay for but never go.  When I think back, five or so years ago, I was at my fittest I had ever been.  11% body fat, bang on my ideal weight, knew how to use every piece of gym equipment going and more importantly felt like one of those real 'gym addicts'.  The older I get the harder it becomes so I really need to crack on with it now.  I know this is a new year and is typically the time when everyone starts a diet, loses weight and wants to get fit, and I am sure that every year I have said it.  But I really need to get a move on this time.  I have publicly announced on my blog that I am going to do it!  As soon as I get my stomach flat again I will be going with Kate to her tattooist to get my   'I was 17 and had should have known better' tattoo improved.  I will also fit in my designer beachwear again!  Right, call it a new years resolution if you like, but I have stated what I am going to do and now I just need to get on with it.

So, todays post, I know, chocolate, not the best of posts for someone who is now getting fit.  But this if from Christmas and has been sitting around waiting to be posted since Christmas Eve.  A classic recipe by Delia Smith and only slightly adapted by me since I struggled to get the glucose syrup and could not be bothered to look for amaretti biscuits.  The correct recipe is here if you like.  I should really have added the rum as stated as I feel this would have made the texture of the final product better, but as long as you take it out the fridge a good hour before you want to each this torte was very nice.  Like eating soft chocolate truffles.  I hate to think how many calories per slice.

Thursday, 2 January 2014

Steak Rub (and how to cook steak)

Is there anything better than a perfectly cooked steak? Tiger striped, juicy and slightly rare in the middle?   For me one of the best (and simplest) meal is a nice slab of steak served with mash potato or chunky chips.  The best sauce in the world for steak has to be bĂ©arnaise, followed second by pepper and a close third by Diane.  Peas and mushrooms, yes please.

My favourite type of steak has to be ribeye.  This steak has plenty of fat which results in loads of flavour and a very juicy cut.  Cheaper than fillet (unfortunately only just now) you get more for your money and unless you cook it for an hour its very difficult to get wrong.  Due to its high fat content many sources recommend cooking this steak to medium/medium well.  For me however my steaks must be rare.  

Nigella couldn't have put it any other way - "rare enough that a good vet could bring round".

This special rub is from chef Anne Burrell and I first came across it over a year ago and since then has been my rub of choice for all steak.  Easy to make and once you have a batch it will stay happy in the cupboard for a few months while you get through it.  Mainly consisting of salt (meat needs to be salty) and sugar (to guarantee a perfect tiger stripe crust) this rub has the smoky flavour of paprika and warming scent of garlic that infuses in to your steak within 30 minutes of rubbing.  I have never tried this rub with anything other than steak but actually it might work well on chunks of red onion, peppers and courgettes.  Anne created it for ribeye steak and she states that leaving it overnight will give your steaks an aged flavour.  I tend to get my steaks from Marks and Spencer as they surprisingly sell amazing steaks at very good prices, all aged for at least 21 days.  Simply rub in, leave for 30 minutes while the chips cook and sear in the pan.

A few notes on cooking steak.  I would always use a pan of some sort, never a grill (BBQ only exception)  You must heat the pan to as hot as you dare and not add any oil - oil the meat if you must, never the pan.  Once 'shimmering' hot place your steak, presentation side down, and LEAVE well alone.  Start a timer and cook for 4 mins.  Do not touch.  Then turn over and continue to cook for 2 minutes for rare, 3 for medium and 4 for well.  Again do not touch or you will spoil your stripes if using a griddle.  You want the steak to catch in places and slightly burn.  The high heat will sear the steak and it will naturally release itself from the pan.  Finally the most important thing to do is allow your steak to rest after its cooked.  Leave it on a wooden board or warm plate.  I leave for 5 minutes as there is normally other things I need to do while I wait (heat up sauce, dish out mash, etc).

So, if you enjoy steak as much as me why not give this rub a go?