Sunday, 4 March 2012

Spring Victoria Sponge Cake (and a few other bits n bobs)

Now that the decision has been made to postpone the purchase of new cooker in favour of a holiday I've been experimenting with my knackered old oven, trying to adjust times and temperatures for baking purposes....sometimes it feels like everything just gets chucked in at Gas 4 for an unspecified amount of time, with fingers and toes crossed that it comes out properly cooked...  so I put this to the test with a few bakes.

Victoria sponge layer cake, fresh cream and lemon curd (wee butterfly sponges as well)

Soured cream and cherry sponge cake - recipe below

Raspberry macarons

So far, so good, all were delicious. although these macarons were a second attempt...the first ones fell victim to my over zealous approach to egg white whisking....not pretty.  These are far from perfect but I was pleased with my beginners effort.

Here a few pics from the rest of my foodie efforts:

Brunch!  Scrambled eggs with serrano ham

Tom Yum Soup with Prawns

Pan fried mackerel with homemade horseradish cream

Mozzarella, basil and parma ham tart

Thai chilli beef with spicy spring onion and mushroom noodles
The soured cream and cherry cake was a particular triumph and is the easiest wee cake to make...
You will need:
225g self raising flour
175g of caster sugar
175g soft butter
1tsp baking powder
3 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
150g soft fruit - blueberries. raspberries etc  I used a Lidls jar of cherries in syrup - what a bargain...
4/5 tbsp soured cream
Preheat oven to gas 4 or equivalent.  Line the bottom of a 20cm tin with parchment.
Either by hand (if you are strong) or with a mixer beat together the butter and sugar until pale and creamy.  Add half the flour, the baking powder and two of the eggs...beat again.  Add the rest of the flour, the vanilla and the last egg and beat until smooth.  Fold in the soured cream with a large metal spoon until completely incorporated.  Fold in the fruit and spoon into the tin.  Bake for 50 mins or so until the top is golden and springy and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.
Leave to cool in the tin, it will likely sink a little, thats okay.  I didn't ice mine but I guess you could...I just munched it slightly warm with a dollop of creme fraiche....yum yum yum!

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Foodie February so Far - Pics

Been spending a lot of time in the kitchen this month, it feels good to be cooking again for pure pleasure, unhurried and without Xmas deadlines hanging over me!

Here are some pics of what I've been up to:

Low Fat Blood Orange and Almond Sponges

Roasted Bone Marrow with Parsley on Sourdough Toast
  From this!

Pan fried monkfish cheek on a chorizo and roasted tomato stew, couscous and sourdough bread

Chorizo and butternut squash risotto with parmesan and rosemary scones

Lets see what the last two weeks of February brings!

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Braised Ox Cheek

Decided to take a run over to the Wholefoods Market at Giffnock last week and spent a happy hour, and £22! wandering the aisles.  I had thought it very expensive on my first few visits but, whilst I'm unlikely to ever pay £1.79 for a bunch of spring onions, I realised that there are plenty of great foody bargains to be had, in fact by paying just a fraction more you are getting a far superior quality and selection that will never be found at supermarkets. 

None more so than at the fish and butcher counters.  Fish is expensive, right?  We all know that. But lovely silvery glistening mackerel fillets, not too bad,  thank you.  Big fat hand made sausages, a little more expensive but three bangers between two people would be more than enough.  Ox cheek.  Ox. Cheek.  The butcher seemed genuinely pleased at my excitement, each one cost less than £3.50 and would easily serve two/three in a casserole. The cheeks were vacum packed so I bought two, one for the freezer. I never buy chicken wings even though I love them, as the only ones you find in supermarkets are from their value, this chicken had a miserable life, range.  But here I found free range chicken wings, still cheap (or cheep, sorry).  All in all I was impressed.

Braised Ox Cheek. (would serve three but we are greedy, so serves two)

Set the oven to Gas 3. The meat was trimmed of excess fat and quartered, making four little rumps.  These were then browned in a heavy casserole pot until well coloured.
I used the usual selection of casserole veggies, onion, leek, swede, carrots, around 5 cloves of garlic and sweated these off in the pot.  I returned the meat to the pot, seasoned well and added a generous amount of thyme and a half bottle of decent red wine.
I then added around 300 mls of beef stock, and around 4 tomatoes, quartered.  The casserole was then placed in the oven for approx 3.5 hours.  I checked it after a couple of hours just to check the lovely liquor was still covering the meat.  When done the meat was amazingly tender and the liquor reduced to make a lovely gravy.

We kinda didnt do it justice by sticking a few boiled potatoes on the side but the overall taste was fantastic, melt in the mouth, strong almost gamey tasting meat.  And what a bargain!

I also made a pretty decent stab at Hestons chocolate tart with popping candy inside;

Ooooft was that good!  Recipe on the Channel 4 food website so I wont repeat it here.
All in all it was a Sunday feast to remember!

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Big Bread!

Peking-y Style Duck

Quick trip to supermarket a few days ago and I couldn't help but notice a special offer for whole Gressingham duck....hmmm...what to do.....

I browsed a few recipe books, settling on a variation of a recipe for peking duck from Asian Flavours (Mr Jean Georges Vongerichten I salute you).  Didnt exactly have all the ingredients so improvised a bit.  The duck was cleaned and patted dry.  A marinade of 2 tbsp each of soy sauce, cider vinegar, honey and hoisin sauce was heated in a pan with 100 ml of water, brought to the boil then cooled, before slathering all over the duck.  Into the fridge for 24 hours, recoating the duck a few times with the marinade during the first 6 hours, then leaving it to dry out the skin as much as possible.  JGV suggests hanging the duck on a hook in the fridge and if possible blowing it with a small fan to assist the drying, right then....tiny fridge and no battery operated fan to hand so it just sat on a tray like a good wee duck.

Next day, 4pm, out of the fridge it came.  The skin was not as crispy as it might have been (if only I had that fan! Or a hairdryer with a cool setting!) but still it looked good.  It went into a hot oven (gas 8) for the first 20 mins - I put it on a rack over a roasting tray with a little water in it to stop it spitting - then turned heat down to gas 4 and cooked it for another 55 mins - this was correct timings as per weight of the duck.  The duck was then rested for around 10 mins.

As it was cooking I made a little dressing of soy sauce, few drops of sesame oil, few drops fish sauce, some chopped chilli and a little raspberry vinegar.  Chopped some spring onions and dressed a plate with no frills iceberg lettuce.  Didnt have time to even contemplate making my own pancakes for the duck so made do with wraps, warmed in the oven.

This is how it ended up;

We quartered it to make the carnivorous munching a bit easier.  Not too bad for around a total cost of £8!!!

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Celebration Trifle

This was my solution to our Christmas Lunch dessert dilemma, easy to transport and make in advance.  I 'poshed' it up in a number of ways with what turned out to be great success, it really is delicious!

For the 'champagne' jelly:

300mls of pink cava or prosecco
4 leaves gelatine
100 mls water
1 tbsp caster sugar

10/12 cherries, halved
4  rectangular almond sponge fingers or biscuits

  • Soak the gelatine leaves in the cava/prosecco
  • Slowly bring the 100mls water to boil in a small pot with the caster sugar, stirring to dissolve the sugar before it boils, simmer for 5 mins to make a slightly syrupy liquid.
  • Remove the gelatine leaves, squeeze out any liquid then add to the pot and whisk into the syrupy liquid to dissolve.
  • Add contents of the pot into the cava/prosecco and mix together.  Pour into the bowl you are using for the trifle, cool and place in the fridge to set.
  • After a half hour and when just starting to set take a punnet of 250/300g cherries and drop some halved cherries into the jelly, they should not sink to the bottom but be suspended in the jelly.  Push the almond sponges or biscuits into the jelly in the shape of a star.  Return to fridge to set fully.

As it sets prepare the rest of the cherries:
  • Half the rest of the cherries and place in a shallow pot or frying pan with 2 tbsp caster sugar
  • Over a low heat warm the cherries and melt the sugar
  • When slightly softened turn up the heat and tip the pan over the gas flame (or use a gas lighter if you dont have a gas hob) and add a tbsp of amaretto - it should catch fire, the alcohol will burn off and flambe the cherries.  Remove from the heat and cool.

With the jelly in the fridge and the boozy cherries cooling you can make the custard and the amaretti crumble:

  • In a bowl blend together  3 egg yolks, 1 tbsp caster sugar and a tsp cornflour
  • Scrape seeds from one vanilla pod
  • Gently heat 10 fl oz of double cream in a pot until just before boiling point
  • Pour the cream over the egg mixture, whisking as you go until all combined.
  • Return the mixture to the pot and gently heat until it starts to thicken, whisking.
  • Add the vanilla seeds.
  • A thick consistency is needed, then remove from heat and cool quickly, stirring now and then to ensure lumps dont form.
  • As it cools crush 6/8 amaretti biscuits to a fine crumb and set aside.
When the jelly is totally set and the cherries and custard cool you can begin to assemble it:

layer the custard over the jelly

spoon over the boozy cherries

cover with the amaretti biscuit crumb
Return to the fridge to keep cool.  The prep the double cream topping:

  • 10fl oz double cream - whisked to medium consistency.
  • 3/4 of the cream is smoothed over the trifle in a single layer and the remainder is piped decoratively around the outside of the trifle.
To finish:

  • Spun sugar -  to make spun sugar take a shallow frying pan or pot and add around 150g of caster sugar
  • Heat very gently, do not stir!
  • As the sugar melts and begins to turn into a golden brown caramel the pan can be tipped or shaken to incorporate any unmelted sugar
  • When golden brown remove from heat
  • Place a large sheet of baking parchment in front of you
  • You will also need a knife sharpening steel or the handle of a long wooden spoon, plus an ordinary spoon
  • Dip the small spoon into the caramel and flick it backwards and forwards over the steel or spoon handle (held up at shoulder height over the parchment) until strands form
  • Gently gather the strands and shape as desired
  • Alternatively pour the caramel onto the parchment in a large pool and once set break it into shards to decorate
  • a fine dessert and delicious to eat
  • Fine grated  dark chocolate would also be a good alternative to spun sugar ;-))

councilflat Christmas!

28th Dec.  Wet.  Windy.  Post festive slump well underway.  New year resolution is to update this blog at least three times a month...I spent most of Dec too busy actually doing the cooking to blog about the cooking!

Here is a wee taste of what I was up to...

First task was to get my christmas cake underway, its a looooong recipe so I won't post it here but happy to send on to anyone who wants it - its a lighter cake with hints of honey, saffron and amaretto instead of brandy...

my variation of an old bbc good food mag recipe and doesnt require a month of feeding, just as well as I made two of these babies on the 14th Dec!

pretty traditional approach, lots of thick marzipan underneath

not too shabby, if I say so myself!

Next job was to get festive on all my jars of chutneys, jams and jellies, ready for christmas hampers and gifts for family and friends...

only another 80 jars to go....

Moving swiftly on my daughter decided to get in on the act and at the last possible moment wanted to give home made gifts....a quick but effective solution were these pretty peppermint creams, deceptively simple and given a sophisticated edge by dipping in dark chocolate and sprinkled with gold stars.  She quickly had enough to fill 5 of these pretty little boxes which we lined with tissue and florists celophane and then decorated in a simple but quite classy way...voila!  The total cost for ingredients and the boxes to make 40 peppermint creams was easily less than a fiver...

By now it was the final week of Dec and one of my last tasks was to make something for our staff Xmas lunch....what could be more festive than a yule log?  This was to be my first attempt at a swiss roll sponge so decided to play it safe and followed the Paul Hollywood recipe from the Dec Good Food mag.  All went to plan and although the sponge did crack I just used extra buttercream to even it out.  I used a jar of morello cherries in syrup from Lidl instead of raspberries for the filling and added a touch of amaretto to the cream.  The result was pretty spectacular if I say so myself....although a LOT of work went into it...

With the end in sight I put together christmas hampers for family members, choc full of chutneys, jams, home made christmas cake and other foody goodies picked up along the way...

So, at last!  Christmas lunch at my mums was a chance to relax and enjoy the fabulous top end turkey with all the trimmings that she prepares so well.  I supplied starter and dessert, a simple beetroot and grilled goats cheese salad and my posh version of a trifle which was deeelicious...the recipe for which I will post later.

So, happy New Year, happy eating and good health to everyone, Cheers!