Tuesday 30 November 2010

Ackee and Saltfish

Food tastes better when someone else cooks it for you right? Well, definitely the surprise I had yesterday when Chris (my brother in law) cooked me a packed lunch of Ackee and Saltfish, it did. In the 18th Century, the people of Newfoundland island bought over salted cod (saltfish) to Jamaica to trade for rum, it's now Jamaica's National dish and I can see why.

Chris cooks really good homely food taught to him by his Jamaican dad Felix, I am yet to try his Curried Goat, but hear it's a bit of phenomenon. The best bit of my packed lunch? The sweet dumpling.... mmmmm
Thanks Chris! 

Wednesday 24 November 2010

Mini Carrot Cakes

I'm so often disappointed when presented with a little weeny cake that makes your heart melt but doesn't quite do the same in the mouth. Too often they've dried out already or just had that minute too long in the oven. BUT  I promise, shrink your favourite carrot cake recipe (must be made with oil, not butter) and the results will be very pleasing. I cooked mine at 180C for 12 minutes in silicone moulds. Make sure you top them with cream cheese icing with a little lemon zest in the mix!

Sunday 21 November 2010

These are a few of my favourite things...

Well, not mine but I do love the idea. If you had to put four of your favourite things on a cake, what would they be? I actually can't think of mine, well I can, but they all look very odd together! 
 For this cake I was sent lots of photos of the dogs and of 'Grannie' so I could really make it personal and we even had Arsenal winning against Liverpool on the telly! 

Saturday 20 November 2010

Boeuf Bourguinon

There is more than one way of spelling it and more than one way of cooking it. I've been on a bit of a mission to perfect it lately and try out different methods. It seems to be a favourite and I'm cooking it for a fair few people's dinner parties this winter.
Here are my findings (hehe feels like GCSE Chemistry)  

-Marinating the beef in wine makes not much difference, infact I think it almost dries the meat out. 
-Adding the mushrooms and bacon lardons at last minute keeps them crispy and cleaner looking.
-Burgundy, Merlot, Shiraz - I can't taste much difference, favourite was probably the shiraz but to be traditional you should use Burgundy.
-Brandy. Ok so it does add a certain "Je ne sais quoi" but I think go with what you've got, I used a Spanish Brandy and it was yum. 
-Slow cooker or casserole pot? SLOW COOKER. I have just bought myself one for £60 and it was the best money I've spent on a piece of equipment and plus it looks pretty nice on the counter too (Cuisinart, if you are looking) 
-Mushrooms. Delia recommends dark-gilled mushrooms, but I much prefer button mushrooms (sorry Delia)
-Beef stock. Sin sin sin... I think either an organic Kallo stock cube or a Knorr Stock Pot does the trick,(yes I too thought Marco was a sell out for advertising these, but they aren't half bad!) you need something strong to come through the wine and having roasted bones and making stock from them it just didn't cut it. 
Lastly, Herbs. I reckon you need a mix of dried and fresh.

Serves 6
1 kilo of braising steak cut into big chunks
1 onion
3 garlic cloves crushed
2 bay leaves
fresh and dried thyme 
fresh and dried parsley (save fresh for garnish)
200g bacon lardons (unsmoked)
1 tbsp of plain flour
20 shallots or small onions
20 button mushrooms
16 fluid ounces of red wine (you choose) 
Big splash of Brandy

Dry and season the beef and fry in a little olive oil until browned, don't overcrowd the pan and fry in batches if need be. 
Tip into the slow cooker (or casserole pot)
Next slice the big onion into strips and fry until slightly crispy, add the garlic for a minute.
Tip onion and garlic over the seared beef and sprinkle with flour. Throw in the wine and brandy, herbs, and if you think it needs it, a glass of stock. Fry your small onions and add to cooker.
Slow cook for at least 3 hours and then check. In the slowcooker it took 2 hours on high and then 3 hours on slow but I do like big chunks of meat. 
Before serving fry bacon lardons and mushrooms and add to beef. 
Serve with creamy mash, green beans and fresh parsley. 
Voila! (said in your best French accent! - mine sounds Spanish as is the only accent I can do)

Sunday 14 November 2010

Christmas Pudding Cake Pops!

Ok so it's mid November and we've got a while to go before we need to start thinking about Christmas, but sadly I am spending my first Christmas away this year and so would like to soak up any festive cheer I can in the next three weeks!
So I made cake pops... Christmas pudding cake pops. I've gotta say I've never fancied the ones made with cake mix crumbs and frosting coated in candy melts so I made up a slightly more sophisticated and rich recipe and wasn't disappointed. These are easy and they make such cute gifts tied up in little cellophane bags, my first batch went out this week, jinga jing jing ..Christmas is coming!!

 Make a tray of gooey brownies and let cool. Now cut into small 1 inch squares and roll in your palm briefly to make balls and then pop them on a tray and freeze for 20 minutes. 
Leave out to soften enough to push a lollypop stick in 1cm that's been dipped in a little melted chocolate. It may crack a little so just dab on a little more melted chocolate and because the brownie is cold the chocolate will set so quickly - like super glue!
 Now roll the pop in a bowl of melted chocolate and tap until all excess drips off.
 I stood my pops up in a jar of caster sugar but I suppose if you have a foam block or some polystyrene packaging that would work really well too.
 Oops this one didn't even get to the holly stage, well we're experimenting here so that means munching too.
 Sieve a cup of icing sugar into a bowl and slowly mix in drops of water until you get quite a thick, smooth icing. Spoon a little onto the top and drag down little bits with a toothpick and then before the icing dries pop on your holly leaves and berries and sprinkle with glitter. 
I left mine to dry properly overnight and they were still good in the morning no crackling or spoiling. These are so yummy and moist inside and let's admit it they are pretty cute too. 

Thursday 11 November 2010

Chocolate Torte

Today has been miserable :( But there are 4 things that have cheered me up..

1. Got an exciting catering job coming up  
2. my cakes were on the Apprentice last night!
3. There is chocolate torte in the house 
4. I'm going to Spain on Monday 

So back to number 3...Chocolate isn't always my first choice but when it is pouring it down outside and I've a cup of tea in my hand and a long list of things to do, it suits me just fine! 

250g dark chocolate
250g unsalted butter
6 eggs
125g caster sugar
50g almonds
pinch of salt
1 tsp of vanilla paste

Beat egg yolks with sugar until pale and fluffy. Pour into cooled melted chocolate and butter.
 Add ground almonds, a pinch of salt and vanilla and stir through.
 Whisk egg whites until soft peak stage and stir in a third thoroughly.
 Now use a large metal spoon to lightly fold in the rest of the egg whites until just combined.

 Pour into a lined and greased 23cm tin and bake for 25-30 minutes on 170C fan
 Leave to cool in tin, then dust with cocoa and serve with whatever you like! I like mine with Kirsch cherries and creme fraiche.Mmmm

Tuesday 9 November 2010

Saturday 6 November 2010

MMMmmmushrooms on toast

Gotta say, when you wake on a Saturday with a slightly sore head there's nothing better than a cooked brekkie and sometimes it's not of the Full English sort. 
Fry mushrooms until edges brown and crisp in butter, then chuck in a dollop of creme fraiche and a smaller dollop of grainy mustard. Pour onto toast, season and sprinkle with chives. yum. 

Friday 5 November 2010

Stationery cake

I do love making cakes. Even if I don't know who they are for, I hear about the birthday girl or boy, what they like, what will make the cake personal. This one was great because it was for a woman turning 30 but her mum wanted to have a cake that reminded her of her childhood passion. Geez it was mine too! 

Apparently Hannah used to run in from school and pretend to answer phone calls, fill in petty cash receipts, write lists and take the register. This was all under her shop name of "Caroline Smart"- her mum still has no idea why. I completely understood this, my sister and I used to do this kind of stuff all the time. Occasionally I will open a book from the bookshelf and spot 15 years on there is still a homemade library slip in the inside cover, stamped all over the place where we asked our mum for a date stamp! 

I really had fun making the cake, especially the receipt roll and pencil sharpener and also the "Caroline Smart" lettering to look like fridge magnets!