Wednesday, 27 April 2011

A right Royal Feast

Royalist? or ready to run from stories of 'that wedding' - I say it's a good excuse for food fun... and fun in general come to that. 

This event has created a surge of interest in all things British, including our grub. 

Many of my fellow food-Bloggers have been been allowing their imaginations to run away with them to create treats fit for royalty. 
Like these beauties from!

Following on from my new found love of meringue making, 

I decided to make a royal version for my work peeps
as we reluctantly headed back to work today -

and had great fun in the process!

Monday, 25 April 2011

Meringues - treats for m'girls!

Meringues may just be the simplest desert to bake - ever. It's their simplicity that I love and they are fantastic if you have a very sweet tooth (like me).

All you need is egg whites and sugar (50g of sugar for each egg white). I used 4 eggs and 200g sugar. 

Following a long day of cleaning and unpacking with friends (moving a friend into her gorgeous new house) I wanted to give the hardworkers a treat - a girly desert. 

I decided on mini pavlovas and made half of them pink and strawberry flavoured using a mixture of strawberry juice and a dot of food colouring. 

This was added at the last minute and stirred only a couple of times to give a ripple effect.

Made the day before (baked for an hour at 140)- all I had to do was whip, and add, some cream and strawberries when the girls arrived. 

Lightly dusted with icing sugar these Spring puds seemed to go down very well as we polished them all off! 

A well deserved treat for my hard working ladies!

Sunday, 17 April 2011

One-a-penny, Two-a-Penny, Making Hot Crossed Buns

Hot cross buns
"The most popular English Easter bread is the hot cross bun..." 
Oxford Companion to Food
, Alan Davidson

I adore these traditional cakes - the smell alone is reason enough to eat or make them! They are traditionally eaten on Good Friday with their sugary surface marked with a cross to symbolize The Crucifixion. Apparently, if you hang a hot cross bun in the house on this day it offers protection from bad luck in the coming year!

I had never made these before (but have eaten many) and was curious to find out how to make them and to see if they taste even better home made than they do from the shops. 
I used a recipe from the BBC website which seemed traditional and simple.

Now for a little warning. I assumed that, like bread, these buns would need some rising time. They do. I started this recipe mid evening and made the mistake of not looking at the preparation time - "over 2 hours"! However, they were fun to make and made the house smell amazing!

My hot cross buns straight from the oven.

The finishing touches of the crosses and glaze were especially satisfying - making them glisten. Mine were not as fluffy as the ones I normally buy from the supermarket, but they definitely had a more complex and delicate flavour. They were best toasted.

As they go stale quickly, you should either eat them all quickly (2/3 days) or store some in the freezer until needed. They can then be thawed out and reheated in the oven before serving. 
Apart from taking the time to allow the dough to rise properly, the way to ensure good results is to buy the best quality raisins/dried fruit that you can. 

Serve with Earl Grey Tea and spread with lots of butter 
for a very Good, Friday.

Monday, 11 April 2011

The Best Thing Since Sliced Bread? Home-made bread.

Fresh bread would rate as one of my Top 5 scents / tastes. I'm sure I'm not alone. Nothing is more satisfying (in my humble opinion) than carefully stirring, kneading and baking bread and waiting for that enticing warm smell to filter through the house. 
According to Michel Roux Jr it is, however, a dying art form, with traditional bakers going out of business and more and more of us opting to buy cheaper and less tasty bread. The trouble is - I think - that making your own bread can be frustrating, disappointing and time consuming.
I would dearly love to be someone who only ever bakes, and never buys, bread. Unfortunately, I have had some real disasters in the past - either the bread has been hard as a rock, or looked beautiful but was stodgy inside. As bread-making takes a fair while, these failed attempts were especially frustrating and I admit, I gave up. 

However, I found a rather different recipe to the ones that I've used before and so, I decided to give making my own bread one more go. This recipe promises a fluffy white loaf and unlike other recipes I have used, calls for melted butter and warm milk. It is in fact described as 'fool proof' ... ah, setting myself up for a fall there. 

  • Warm the milk gently. Add the butter and syrup and melt them gently together.
  • Add the yeast (if you don't have fresh, then you can just use half the amount stated of dried). 
  • Add the flour and mix gently until a smooth dough forms. Cover the bowl with cling film and set aside for 5 minutes.
  • After 5 mins turn out the dough and knead for 10 mins. I found the dough difficult to work as it was quite wet. But I'm told that a wetter dough can make a fluffier loaf, so I persevered.
  • It then has to be left to rise for 1 hour.
  • Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface again and knock back a few times. 

I decided not to make a traditional loaf shape so I divided the dough into several balls rather than just two and then placed them in the tin.
You then have to leave it again to rise in this prepared shape until it has doubled in size. Then slash the bread with a very sharp knife and finally my bread was ready to bake. Fingers crossed.
It looked and smelt great. Finally - edible bread! Ha haa! 
This did take quite a while but I realised as I was doing it that a) if I did it more regularly then this recipe could become very simple - a Sunday afternoon habit and b) that although it seemed to take ages to get the finished product, most of that time I did not need to be in the kitchen and was able to do other things while the dough was rising etc.
I cannot claim that it was perfect... it looked a little better than it tasted. But the recipe did deliver a fluffy white loaf and that is good enough for me. Tasty enough to eat with just a little butter but it was especially good as a sunny morning breakfast treat with scrambled eggs. I'm not sure I am ready to completely give up shop bought bread just yet, but I wont write the idea off completely! Practice makes perfect. 

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Breadsticks?! Bake your own!

Have you seen the BBC's latest cookery show and their new 'queen of food porn' (Ms Lawson being the old one)?! Her name is Lorraine Pascale. The show - 'Baking Make Easy'. 
Baking Made Easy (Lorraine Pascale)Now, I grant you that she can be a little irritating (my brother refers to her as horse-face!) and there is a blatant selling of her lifestyle and look as well as her food, but put that to one side because the girl can cook!

I was given her book as a Birthday present and was really pleased as I'd been scribbling down the odd recipe as I watched the series.

The book is good but could do with a few more pictures - some of the recipe names are not familiar to me and I'd like to be able to see what it will/should look like once I've finished.

There is a real mixture of recipes that range from the simple to the more complex. One of the simplest recipes I found was for home-made breadsticks. They looked delicious and I fancied some quick baking. The recipe can be found here:
I had a go and found the recipe very easy to follow. 

A tip I picked up from watching her make these on the show was just how long you need to knead the bread. 

It says 10 mins (5 with a machine) and you really do have to knead for that long - it feels like a long time, so keep an eye one the clock.

I also had great fun creating different twists and plait shapes. The were quickly baked and came out beautifully - I was chuffed!

To make this into a quick dinner I also baked 'Camembert & Roasted Garlic' which isn't even really a recipe, it simply involves putting those two items in the oven too.
imple though it is, this was delicious and made the most of having freshly baked bread. 

Now, I will admit that this recipe made me eat a disgraceful amount of cheese!
...but who cares - if you make your own breadsticks, I say you can have as much cheese as you like! Right?!

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Baking day - cupcakes.

As promised, to ease our way through the last working week before a 2 week holiday. I had a go at making electric coloured cupcakes! Making the fabulously lurid icing was, in itself, energising!
I used a basic cupcake recipe and decided to make them darkly cocoa packed so that the colourful icing would stand out as much as possible. I used butter-icing and added blue colouring - much more than usual!

The verdict: Everyone was very grateful for their Monday morning  pick-me-up. The colour proved either alarming or exciting, depending on the individual. As for me, I loved making these (although I really need to work on my icing skills!) and the electric blue icing stopped the cupcakes from being too twee! As the cupcake is so versatile and delicious, I dare-say  that they are here to stay - hoorah! Lets get decorating.

Monday, 4 April 2011

Cupcakes go electric!

Recently, the cupcake has seen a well deserved revival – one that has brought a smile to many a cake lover’s face (mine included)! The simple cupcake is now one of the most fashionable of all afternoon tea treats.

But hold onto your hats – this Spring, cupcakes have gone electric!
No more the prim and proper pastel shades. Bring on electric blue, shocking pink and spring greens.  Fun!

This is one food fashion that I cannot ignore! So, after some brief research I will try out a simple cupcake recipe next week - to brighten up the office and cheer up the folks at work. 

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Making Samosas

Samosas - savoury patties from Indian cuisine are a fantastic as a snack, starter or part of a main meal. The only downside is that they can be very greasy (as they're deep fried) and are often soggy when not served fresh. 
I learned this recipe at a cooking course I've been attending. They are simple, less fatty without reducing the taste and a tasty snack to serve with a beer.
For the filling you will need:
50g butter
1 clove garlic
1 tbsp fresh ginger
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp ground coriander
2 tbsp garam masala
1 tbsp turmeric
1 tsp chilli powder
2 finely chopped potatoes
1 diced onion
1 diced carrot
200g frozen peas

Ok, so there's quite a few ingredients. The good news is that all you need to do is put all of these ingredients in a pan (melt the butter first) and cook for 1 minute. After that time just add 150ml water. Leave the mixture to simmer for around 15 minutes - until the mixture has thickened and the vegetables are soft and cooked through. Leave to cool slightly.

Next, the pastry. This recipe calls for Filo Pastry. Making this pastry is simply not an option! To make it well you really need specialist machinery. Just buy it ready made. Take one sheet and lightly brush with melted butter (this helps to keep it supple as filo dries out in minutes). 

Use a very sharp knife and cut the pastry into 3 strips (the recipe says 4 strips, but I found that this made 
them too small and fiddly). Spoon some of the mixture on to on one of the strips. Fold the corner to make a triangle shape. Keep folding the pastry in triangles until you get to the bottom. Brush the last fold of pastry with melted butter to help it stick to the samosa.

This technique takes a little practice and I had a few odd shapes! To make the perfect samosa, you just need to work slowly and carefully. Make sure each fold gives you a clean triangle shape. It is actually a very therapeutic job and easy enough once you get the hang of it.
Brush all over with butter and bake for 15mins, or until golden brown at around 180 deg.

The results: 
They made perfect samosas! Very crispy, fresh tasting and lightly spiced.
However, they did not last well. Putting them in the fridge or covering with clingfilm makes them go soggy as the pastry is so thin. I'd recommend cooking them just before you want to serve them. 
I'll definitely be making them again - if for no other reason that, served with a cold beer, they make my boyfriend a happy chappy! 

Saturday, 2 April 2011

Baking Traditional Chocolate Cake

The recipe can be found at:

The genius of this recipe is that all you have to do is measure everything out, put it in a blender and mix until smooth-fantastically simple.
It makes a gorgeously rich and smooth mixture that makes you want to lick the bowl clean!

Spoon this mixture into 2 tins and bake as directed. I found that the cakes cooked slightly too quickly (going brown on top while still runny inside) so I turned the oven down slightly.

The cakes came out really well. Considering that I'd messed around with the recipe, I was pleasantly surprised. They were moist and smelled amazing.
I bought a piping bag this morning so I wanted to try and decorate the cake in a simple but better way that usual. I have absolutely no icing skills but I thought that simple swirls would be manageable! I made a simple butter icing but made it rich and chocolatey by replacing some of the icing sugar for cocoa and adding a small drizzle of cream. 1/3 went in the middle of the cake and most of the rest of the icing was spread on top using a palette knife. Then I had a good go at decorating the top with swirls and actually it wasn't too difficult! It looked more professional than I thought and was quite simple. Finally, I added a tiny amount of edible glitter - for no other reason than I fancied making it girly!

Taste Test! 

Well, I couldn't have hoped that it'd taste as good as my Mum's cake. But I tell you what, it came a good second! I highly recommend this recipe. It is simple and fantastic, especially if you don't have much time. I suspect that it is reliable too, as it came out so well even after I had messed around with the ingredients. 

My friends agree, this is a winner - simple, sumptuous and all round sensational! You need this cake in your life!
Happy Mothers Day Everyone!

Recapturing Memories of Traditional Chocolate Cake

 So, this morning I woke up and realised that tomorrow is Mother's Day. Don't get me wrong, I've made a card and sent the flowers, my duty is done! But Mothers Day always makes me think about my childhood and all the lovely memories my Mum helped to give me. 
My first ever birthday cake was teddy bear shaped and chocolate. Fantastic.
Like may children, chocolate cake quickly became a firm favourite of mine and many subsequent Birthday cakes have been chocolatey and all of them baked lovingly by my Mum. Now that I live away from her I have to bake my own cake - I know - it's tragic! 

I haven't managed to recapture the same taste. I have had some successes and some failures but none of them have that same taste. Today I did some research to try and get a good but not too complicated recipe to make in honour of Mothers Day. 

I came across this recipe by Nigella Lawson for 'Old-fashioned Chocolate Cake' and I though, yup that sounds good!  Here goes.