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

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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.