Thursday 30 August 2012

Rose Harissa Chicken, Israeli cous cous, chickpea, pinenut and pomegranate salad

A few days ago I was skipping around to Mungo Jerry's 'In the Summertime' and plucking ripe figs off the tree. It was over 40C a couple of days and the weather made doing anything quite difficult. My bathroom is outdoors and there's something magical about showering outside in cold water looking over the mountains. The shower gel, warm in contrast, from sitting in the sunshine. And now, I'm back in London and today I got rained on. The wind smacked my face and whispered 'go home, pull on a hoodie and cook up something summery, don't give in to this grey BS'.
So, here we have a salad that we had on the menu at the cafe, it was a firm favourite and I fancied it's lemony, chilli punch. It was this salad, all those years ago that had me hooked on rose harissa. 

Serves 4

2 cups of cooked and cooled Israeli cous cous 
1 tin of drained chickpeas
2 tbsp of Belazu Rose Harissa 
1 lemon, juiced
2 tbsp lemon oil
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 pinches of maldon sea salt
grind of pepper
2 cooked chicken breasts, sliced
1 handful of toasted pinenuts
1 handful of coriander
1 pomegranate, seeds of

Don't be put off by the ingredient list, it is soooooo worth it. Plus, all you got to do is mix it all together, kick back and think of the Med. 

Wednesday 29 August 2012

Voodoo Doll Cake

I've been known to present cake in the most unlikely of situations. Cheering a gloomy friend up with cake works a treat. Treating a friend who's boyfriend has been bad, with a voodoo doll cake adds a little humour and yummy-ness to an evening of bitterness. 
Trust me, you are safer with cake than you are with wine. You provide the cake and pins and your friend can do the stabbing. Don't make this cake for a 'recently-dumped-but the boyfriend was nice' friend, it won't go down well. This is for the 'he may have been cute, but he was a douche bag' kind of thing. 

Start with a sheet cake. A simple sponge that you've poured into a rectangular tin (brownie pan in my case) and let cool. Then with a sharp knife, carve out your doll.
Cover in frosting. I used a chocolate buttercream. Then roll out fondant and layer over the cake. Decorate how you wish!

Tuesday 14 August 2012

Chocolate, sour cream and peanut butter cake

            Fancy making someone else a Birthday cake on your Birthday eh? Well, actually, it was the perfect start to my day as I'm happiest when whippin' and whisking! What's more, my friends Squeeze and Emma made me cake for Friday night, lucky me. Just as the waitress placed down dessert settings (and there was me thinking it was a very presumptuous thing to do before we had even looked at the menu) I was presented with a whoppa of a cake, chocolate and raspberries in a 26, eek! A wonderful surprise.
So, this cake here had an American recipient, and although I didn't know his favourite cake flavour, I was guessing you can't go wrong with a bit of peanut butter. That's a bowl of PB and cream cheese frosting, yes it is the best thing I have ever tasted. The cake is made up of 3 squidgy layers of chocolate sourcream cakes and PB frosting, and chocolate peanut ganache. If you want the chocolate icing to be smoother/glossier, omit the Peanut butter, but seriously, it's a nutty-buttery-dream.

 Adapted from Sky High:Irresistable Triple-Layer cakes
1 tall, 6 inch cake
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, preferably Dutch process
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup neutral vegetable oil, such as canola, soybean or vegetable blend
1 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cups water
2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
1/2 cup coarsely chopped peanut brittle (I skipped this)
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the bottoms and sides of three 8-inch round cakepans. Line the bottom of each pan with a round of parchment or waxed paper and butter the paper.
2. Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl. Whisk to combine them well. Add the oil and sour cream and whisk to blend. Gradually beat in the water. Blend in the vinegar and vanilla. Whisk in the eggs and beat until well blended. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and be sure the batter is well mixed. Divide among the 3 prepared cake pans.
3. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a cake tester or wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out almost clean. Let cool in the pans for about 20 minutes. Invert onto wire racks, carefully peel off the paper liners, and let cool completely.
4. To frost the cake, place one layer, flat side up, on a cake stand or large serving plate. Spread 2/3 cup cup of the Peanut Butter Frosting evenly over the top. Repeat with the next layer. Place the last layer on top and frost the top and sides of the cake with the remaining frosting. Once you “mask” your cake, let it chill for 15 to 30 minutes until firm, then use the remainder of the frosting to create a smooth final coating.
5. To decorate with the Chocolate–Peanut Butter Glaze, put the cake plate on a large baking sheet to catch any drips. Simply pour the glaze over the top of the cake, and using an offset spatula, spread it evenly over the top just to the edges so that it runs down the sides of the cake in long drips. Refrigerate, uncovered, for at least 30 minutes to allow the glaze and frosting to set completely. Remove about 1 hour before serving.
Peanut Butter Frosting
Makes about 5 cups
10 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
5 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
2/3 cup smooth peanut butter, preferably a commercial brand (because oil doesn’t separate out)
1. In a large bowl with an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy. Gradually add the confectioners’ sugar 1 cup at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl often. Continue to beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes.
2. Add the peanut butter and beat until thoroughly blended.
Chocolate-Peanut Butter Glaze
Makes about 1 1/2 cups
8 ounces semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons smooth peanut butter
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/2 cup half-and-half
1. In the top of a double boiler or in a bowl set over simmering water, combine the chocolate, peanut butter, and corn syrup. Cook, whisking often, until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth.
2. Remove from the heat and whisk in the half-and-half, beating until smooth. Use while still warm.

Sunday 12 August 2012

Spaghetti and Meatballs cake

Have you a greedy guy in your life? I have a lot of greedy men in my family and this kind of cake is perfect for someone who loves their food. If you want your cake to look like a real plate of pasta, just use half a sponge, but I wanted mine to look OTT so cut the edge off making the cake a dome shape. Have you noticed I bought this sponge? Yup, if you're the creative type but can't be faffed with the baking, this cake is for you. It's simple.
Start by making a royal icing with one egg white whisked with 350g of icing sugar and loosened with a little yellow food colouring or water until pipe-able. Fill a piping/sandwich bag with the icing and cut off the tip and start swirling the 'spaghetti' all over the sponge.
If you want meatballs, add a few Ferrero Rocher, press them down into the sponge and continue icing over them leaving a little of the chocolate visible.
Keep going until all your icing has finished, get messy, pipe some over the plate rim and then pour a stirred up strawberry jam over the top. If you want something even more realistic, try a cherry compote or similar.
Now finish off your pasta with some 'parmesan' I grated white chocolate over the top but ground almonds look great too , I suppose the choice depends on what you want to eat. 'Stick a fork in me...I'm done'.

Thursday 2 August 2012

Peach and Raspberry Slice, Bill Granger

So, I'm back in London after weeks and weeks away. I am slightly narked at the jeans and jumper combo that comes with this weather but it's the Olympics and I am getting more involved than I thought I would be, so yay for being in London at such an exciting time! Got a shiny new HD telly and have been glued to the gymnastics and swimming! I missed the opening ceremony due to attending the most wonderful Malaysian supperclub in Old St but home in time for the highlights, wow..just wow, we put on a show and I could see those fireworks from my window.
On the weekend the Men's road race came whizzing by my flat and I had a photographer from the Press Association with me snapping away for the papers to add to the thrill, we opted for the roof in the end for some super shots. Then for a little while on Sunday, the sun shone! Off to my friends for a champagne and Pimm's picnic and to the beer garden, then came the champagne headache and the self pity.
Shook it off just in time for the Olympic tennis at Wimbledon on Sunday and it was such a buzz to be watching Murray at Center court, back to my sister's for a Tooting Indian takeaway (the best) and to bed. Such a cracking weekend I'm happy to be home, and although I miss the sunshine, the icecream and the mountains, I'm checking out some exciting restaurants this week, a show at the National and a hen party which all couldn't be done in Alhaurin.
One of my favourite recipes for cake with fresh fruit is this Bill Granger's Peach and raspberry tray bake. I always keep frozen raspberries for emergency muffin/smoothie type situations. 
The recipe is as follows but to make it even more yummy, add 150g of ground almonds and a big splash more milk to the mix. Lesa, my friend who thinks of finishes more than I do, made a wee glaze for it too which adds a 'come eat me shine'
185g (6.5 oz or 1.5 cups) plain (all purpose flour)
1.5 teaspons baking powder, plus an extra 0.5 teaspoon extra
125g (4.5oz) butter, chilled and diced
115g (4oz or 0.5 cup) soft brown sugar
115g (4oz or 0.5 cup) caster (superfine) sugar
3 ripe peaches, peeled and sliced into wedges
90g (3.25 oz or 0.75 cup) raspberries – fresh or frozen
2 teaspoons natural vanilla extract
1 egg, lightly beaten
185ml (6fl oz or 0.75 cup) milk

Preheat the oven to 180C (350F/Gas 4). Grease and line the base of a 20x30cm (8x12in) baking tray. Sift the flour and baking powder into a large bowl and then rub in the butter with your fingertips. Stir in both the sugars. Press half the mixture over the base of the tin. Lay the peaches over the top and sprinkle with raspberries.
Add the vanilla extract, extra baking powder, egg and milk to the rest of the base mixture and stir well – don’t worry too much about lumps. Pour evenly over the top of the peaches and raspberries and bake for 1 hour. Cool in the tray and then cut into squares to serve.