Archive | November, 2012

Baby Victoria Sponges

30 Nov

This was originally the recipe for one big Victoria sponge, and it was the first ‘proper’ cake I made.

It was for my brother’s birthday and the success of it buoyed my interest in cooking as opposed to just food.

Here, I will give the recipe for 12 little cakes baked in a muffin tin, however I doubled the amount to make lots, as I have volunteered at 2 Christmas fairs today! Christmas fairs have bake sales -> I like baking -> the results are natural.

I did actually intend to make 2 big cakes, but the love rightfully pointed out that fairy cakes would sell better, so I improvised to make us both happy 🙂

Anyway, all you have to do to make one big Victoria sponge is to pour the mixture into 2 greased and lined cake tins, 20cm in diameter. This way the sponge rises beautifully so you have a very impressive looking cake.

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Makes 12 sponge babies

  • 175g unsalted butter, softened
  • 175g caster sugar
  • 175g self-raising flour
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • approx 400ml double cream
  • 12 tsp strawberry jam
  1. Preheat the oven to 180°c and fill the muffin tin with cake cases. 
  2. Cream the butter and sugar together until light and creamy, then slowly add the beaten egg, making sure the mixture is well combined after each addition.
  3. Fold in the flour, taking care not to overwork, and add about 2 tbsp of the mixture to each case.
  4. Bake for 20-25 minutes. I find that the cakes still look a little uncooked after 20 minutes, but if you insert a skewer through the middle, it will come out clean 9 times out of 10, so don’t worry, if the skewer is clean they are ready!
  5. Leave to cool for 5 minutes in the tray, then remove and leave to cool completely on a wire rack.
  6. Meanwhile, whip the cream until it nice and thick. Alternatively, you could use squirty cream for an easy option 🙂
  7. Remove each cake from its case, then carefully cut them in half horizontally. Now spread a teaspoon of jam and a little dollop of cream onto one half of each cake, then place the other half back on top. You may want to dust with icing sugar but this is entirely up to you.
  8. Finally, I know it’s a hassle but as the cake cases will now be slack and untidy, I like to place my finished Victoria babies into fresh cake cases. Admittedly, this is mostly for their purpose as Christmas fair goodies, so really a plate will be fine.

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I feel it is also necessary to say that as this was my first Christmas fair bake sale effort, I (perhaps foolishly) didn’t make incredibly chocolatey cakes or anything covered in smarties or fancy cupcakes, but they still all sold: they appealed to the adults more so than the children.

Cherry and Poppy Seed Plant Pot Bread

29 Nov

This isn’t really a seasonal recipe, but I felt the urge to post and this is something I made in the Summer that I am very proud of.

I had a recipe card for something similar a long time ago, which I always planned on using, but after looking everywhere for it I supposed it must have got lost in transition somewhere along the way.

So I set to researching the best way to recreate my (probably skewed) idea of what this recipe card gave instructions to make.

You will need 4 x 11cm or 8 x 6cm terracotta plant pots. Makes 4 small loaves or 8 smaller loaves respectively: not to insult your intelligence.

I used 4 x 11cm pots and found each loaf sufficient to serve 2 people, but the love ate a whole one so it really depends.

Before starting to cook, note that some cooking equipment (such as terracotta pots) need ‘seasoning’ before they are used for the first time, so they don’t crack. To do this, heat your oven to 180°c. Wash the pots thoroughly in warm, soapy water. Dry, then use oil or butter to coat them inside and out. Place in the oven for 20-30 minutes. To be extra cautious, this can be repeated 2 or 3 times. I fit this in when I am waiting for my dough to rise for the first time.

  • 500g strong white bread flour
  • 10g salt
  • 10g fast-action yeast
  • 20g butter, softened
  • approx. 325ml cool water
  • 80g fresh cherries, quartered and tossed in flour
  • 30g poppy seeds
  1. Place the flour in a large bowl. Add salt on one side of the flour and yeast on the other. Salt can kill yeast if it is placed directly on top of it. Add the butter and ¾ of the water. Mix with your fingers, adding water steadily until all of the flour is incorporated and everything is mixed. You may need a little more or less flour; just bear in mind that your dough should be soft but not soggy.
  2. When you can clean the bowl with your dough, tip it onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 5-10 minutes. 10 will be a safer bet as it is very hard to over-knead dough by hand, but the bread may collapse, sag or crack on the top if the dough is under-kneaded. Obviously, you won’t have to knead it for as long if you are using an electric mixer, but I don’t feel comfortable giving instructions for this as I have never used one.
  3. When your dough is smooth and fairly elastic, place in a lightly oiled bowl and cover. Leave for at least an hour, or up to 3 hours until at least doubled in size.
  4. Tip the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead briefly to knock the air out of it, then add most of the cherries and poppy seeds. Knead to incorporate them into the dough completely.
  5. Place back in the bowl and cover for 30 minutes more to allow the dough to prove. Meanwhile heat the oven to 220°c and line your pots with baking parchment.
  6. When the dough has proved, shape it into even sized balls and place one in each pot. Glaze with a little milk and sprinkle the rest of the poppy seeds and cherries over the top. Bake for 10-30 minutes depending on the size of your pots, until golden-brown.
  7. Turn out of the pots and leave to cool. When cooled they can be returned to the pots to look pretty, if you like.
  8. They are now ready to eat! I had mine with honey and crumbled goat’s cheese, and I would highly recommend this!

I dare you

29 Nov

To tell me that I don’t have the most exquisite taste in underwear.

Just a quick word to say…

28 Nov

Those of you who have read the ‘about me’ page on this blog will know that I think a lot of Nigella Lawson.

I met her yesterday :3

!!!

And I can honestly say that I wasn’t prepared for Nigella ‘in the flesh’.

Seeing her on telly is one thing, but when she is in the same room, it’s breathtaking. It is incredibly unfunny that she can be so beautiful.

I am gutted that I have no photo of the two of us to share, so allow me to paint you a picture…

*Nigella sits behind a desk in a gorgeous purple dress looking pretty unreal. I stand on the other side of the desk trying not to blurt out nonsensical rubbish, wondering whether I should be wearing my hat indoors… some people find that offensive right? What if Nigella finds that offensive!? Haha. I am wishing with my whole heart for a body guard or camera man to take pity on my star-struck expression and allow my boyfriend to take a photo of us… *

That’s right, I have a boyfriend. I am not even gay. I just love the woman to bits.

*I walk away, trying not to fall down the stairs as  my legs are trembling as a result of nerves and queueing for over 2 hours.*

All worth it, cos’ I got to thank her for being one of my go-to inspirations as I fought for my health.

Home-made Hoisin sauce and a Side of Stir-Fry

26 Nov

It has been a few days since I posted anything, but not for wont of trying!

Unfortunately, this week has been clutz week. Clutz week usually entails a lack of concentration, clumsiness, forgetfulness and impatience, so when it comes to cooking it doesn’t tend to turn out quite right.

I attempted crab cakes last Wednesday – one of my favourites, and they were delicious but I had to improvise with certain ingredients that I forgot to buy. Thursday I made my first risotto! Which, despite a few mistakes turned out how it was supposed to! But I didn’t think much of the flavours I used. Friday, cassoulet. I could eat cassoulet until it was coming out of my ears, but seriously just look on the BBC Good Food website. Sunday was my worst failure of them all. Please, don’t make me talk about it.

Anyway! As I was successful in the kitchen today, I am hoping that the coming week is set to wash out the clutz in me. For a while.

Making this sauce was amazing as all of the ingredients were already in my cupboards. If they’re also in your cupboards, you have no excuse not to make it in my opinion.

Serves 2.

For the Sauce:

  • 4 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp smooth peanut butter
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 2 tsp rice vinegar (I used spiced black rice vinegar. You should too.)
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp hot pepper sauce
  • a sprinkling of black pepper, to season

To Accompany:

  • 1 pack firm tofu, drained (if necessary) and cubed
  • 1/2 red pepper, deseeded and chopped
  • 2 handfuls beansprouts
  • straight-to-wok noodles
  • 2 spring onions, chopped
  1. First, simply combine all of the sauce ingredients and mix until smooth.
  2. Marinate the tofu in the sauce for about 15 minutes.
  3. Heat a little oil in a wok over a high heat and add the tofu with a scant covering of the sauce. Stir-fry for 2-3 minutes then set aside.
  4. Tip in the pepper. After a minute or so add the noodles. After another 2-3 minutes, add the beansprouts, tofu and remaining sauce. Mix everything together.
  5. Transfer to bowls and scatter over the spring onions.

I love tofu and like using different types. For this recipe I used silken tofu which broke up a lot during the cooking process. I loved the texture and would use it again, but if you prefer more bite, use regular tofu which will retain its shape much better.

Chicken Saag

20 Nov

I think it’s common for people to be intimidated by recipes which come with a long list of ingredients.

This isn’t one of the worst, but curries tend to be that kind of recipe.

The way I see it though, most of the bits and bobs are herbs and spices which can be stored in a cupboard for years, or prepared and frozen in bulk for whenever you need them. And it’s so worth it. This recipe is incredibly straight-forward, but the level of difficulty doesn’t matter – making a curry from scratch always comes with a nice helping of self-satisfaction. It’s a good thing.

I treated me and the love to a special Ocado shop the other day, so we could try out some new ingredients. One of the things I bought was Natoora Saag (Indian spinach), as we tried chicken saag once before and really enjoyed it, but the sauce was from a jar. And of course I had to see what it was like home-made. I was surprised at how different Indian spinach is to the regular sort I’m used to. The stems are quite thick, the leaves don’t retain half as much water and it reduces much less in size when wilted. I definitely prefer it, but see for yourself 🙂

Serves 2.

  • 2 skinless boneless chicken breasts, diced
  • 2-3 tomatoes, chopped
  • 100g spinach (preferably Indian saag)
  • 1 red onion, grated
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 100ml chicken stock
  • 2 cardamom pods, seeds crushed
  • 1 clove, crushed
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1.5 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 inch fresh root ginger, minced
  1. Heat some oil in a frying pan. Add the onion, garlic and spices, and fry for about 3 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, boil a full kettle of water. Put the spinach in a colander and pour over the water to wilt. Drain and squeeze of excess water, then chop.
  3. Add the chicken stock and tomatoes to the frying pan and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Add a splash more water if you think it’s necessary. Add the chicken and cook for 5 minutes, then add the spinach (if using saag) and cook until the chicken is done. If using ordinary spinach, just add it a minute or 2 before the chicken is ready.
  4. Serve with your favourite Indian accompaniment(s).

Wild Rocket Pasta

19 Nov

This is one of those ‘throw bits and pieces together because you’re tired and lack imagination’ dishes that, once you taste it, makes you wish you had less imagination more often.

I bought some wild rocket to see if there was a difference compared to regular ‘unwild’ supermarket rocket, so that went in. Incidentally, I did find a difference in that eating a lot of it didn’t make me feel at all nauseous, like rocket usually tends to. That may just be me. Also in my fridge were a couple of very ripe tomatoes and half a jar of roasted peppers, and (this was meant to be), a little tub of leftover pesto I had made yesterday 🙂 see: https://welcomebackbelly.wordpress.com/2012/11/18/pesto-crusted-salmon-with-little-roasties/

The pesto already contains all of the intense punchy flavours you would need to go with this dish, so it requires absolute minimal preparation and is ready in 15 minutes. And it’s heaven.

Serves 2.

  • 200g spaghetti or linguine
  • 1-2 ripe, juicy tomatoes
  • 2-3 tbsp parsley and walnut pesto (see link above, or other)
  • large handful of wild rocket
  • 2 large or several small pieces of roasted pepper from a jar
  • sea salt and extra-virgin olive oil, to serve
  1. Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and add the spaghetti. Cook for 10-15 minutes, until al dente.
  2. Meanwhile, roughly chop the tomatoes; make a cup of tea; pace the floor impatiently; read a chapter of your book. There is no more work required.
  3. When the spaghetti is done, reserve a splash of the cooking water then drain. Return to the pan with the splash and add the tomatoes, pesto, rocket and roasted pepper. Give it all a thorough mix and transfer to a plate. Sprinkle over a little sea salt and a drizzle of olive oil for the smoothest, most harmonious, spaghetti-smackingly dinner ever known 😛 you may also want to add a bit more rocket on top for a crunchy contrast.

Pesto Crusted Salmon with Little Roasties

18 Nov

I wanted to go to Frankie & Benny’s this weekend.

It was the first restaurant that featured in my food obsessed musings. I researched that menu and wanted to go back every weekend until I had tried everything.

My need to try everything is fighting fit, and actually I’d say it’s stronger than ever, but as the love wanted to stay in tonight, I decided to make one of their dishes myself. I felt that it was okay if I tried it at home. It didn’t absolutely have to be in the setting I had imagined. Working on flexibility… I can try everything in different contexts now!

And it was so tasty, I almost didn’t mind the fact that I wasn’t sitting amongst all that joyous chattering, bustling and celebration.

I know it’s not a sophisticated place to eat out, but I think that’s one of the reasons I love it so much. You can be silly and loud, and the atmosphere is contagious. You just go there to relax and have fun.

Here I give the recipe for enough pesto for 4. Feel free to halve/double it; I just fancied having some left over for the next day, to have with pasta 🙂 see: https://welcomebackbelly.wordpress.com/2012/11/19/wild-rocket-pasta/

Serves 2.

  • 2 salmon fillets
  • 2 baking potatoes
  • 1 tbsp plain flour
  • few sprigs of fresh rosemary
  • broccoli, to serve

For the pesto:

  • large handful of chopped parsley (approx 15g/1 cup)
  • 55g walnuts, toasted and chopped
  • 25g parmesan, grated
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 120 ml extra-virgin olive oil
  • pinch of salt
  • handful of fresh breadcrumbs (approx 1 slice bread, crusts removed)
  1. First, get the potatoes ready. Preheat the oven to 180ºc. Boil the kettle and add some salt to a saucepan. Peel and chop the potatoes. I like quite a small roastie – they make for more tasty crunch, but suit yourself of course. When the water has boiled, add it to the saucepan with the potatoes and boil for 7 minutes. Drain thoroughly, then return the potatoes to the pan and sprinkle with the flour. Put a lid on the saucepan and give it a few hard shakes. (This will encourage crispiness!)
  2. Cover the base of a baking tray with raised sides with sunflower oil or the fat of your choice. Place in the oven and leave for 5 minutes, then carefully remove and add the potatoes and rosemary. Return to the oven and roast for 20 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, make the pesto. Set up a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Add the first 4 ingredients (making sure the walnuts are toasted) and blend until well combined. If you like, leave about 15g of the walnuts out for now, and use them to sprinkle over the broccoli at the end of cooking. Mix the oil, lemon zest and juice in a bowl and, while the food processor is still blending, add the mixture steadily. Then add the salt and breadcrumbs. Taste to check for seasoning and balance. Any excess can be frozen for up to 3 months or kept in the fridge (covered) and used within a day or 2.
  4. Turn the oven up to 220ºc and, turn the potatoes and roast for 20-30 minutes more.
  5. Place the salmon fillets on a wire rack and spread with the pesto mixture. When the potatoes have about 15 minutes left, add the salmon and cook until the crust is turning golden and the salmon is just cooked. Boil the kettle again for the broccoli, and cook in salted water until just tender.
  6. Serve the whole affair with a bit of the crisped up rosemary and lemon wedges to squeeze over.

Obviously, just buy a jar of pesto if you want to make your life easier 🙂

And again, obviously, if you don’t dote on rosemary like I do, leave it out. Your meal will not suffer.

Curd Fritters

17 Nov

These are beautiful and unusual.

You won’t be able to find curd cheese everywhere, but I get mine from the Polish section in Asda.

It is a type of cottage cheese, so I reckon you could substitute with that… but don’t take my word for it as I haven’t tried.

When I first tried these I was blown away by the intensity of flavour.

What I will say is that I found them quite difficult to pair with a suitable starch. It just didn’t seem right to put them with pasta, rice or potatoes… but sweet potatoes match them perfectly.

Sweet potatoes… I swear they could be eaten with anything and it would be delicious.

Serves 2.

  • 250g curd cheese (I use Twaróg Lowicki curd cheese)
  • 1 egg
  • 50g breadcrumbs
  • 2-3 sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1/4 fresh red chilli, deseeded and chopped (or pinch of dried chilli flakes)
  • pinch of dried thyme
  • a little grated nutmeg
  • sprinkling of salt

  1. Simply mix all of the ingredients together thoroughly in a large bowl. Leave to stand for 20 minutes. This is important to allow the flavours to develop and the ingredients to cling together sufficiently. Trust me, I was impatient once and didn’t leave them to stand at all. The result was a lot of burnt, oily, cheesy crumbs scattered around my frying pan.
  2. Shape the mixture into 4 fish-cake shapes.
  3. Heat some oil in a frying pan over a medium heat. Add the curd fritters (I find 2 at a time is best to keep an eye on them), and fry for 3-4 minutes either side. If they still insist on being awkward to flip over, don’t despair! It will create crispy bits and crispy bits are good.
  4. Serve with sweet potato and peas 🙂 or as you see fit.

Crap Tea Night

16 Nov

I’m tired and I have a headache. It’s cold and all I want to do is watch coronation street and children in need.

So I’m having a day off.

Beat this Tracey Cooke – a Fray Bentos pie that expires this month, and too much pasta to substitute a lack of mash 🙂

Oh yeah.