Saturday, 26 December 2009

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, everybody! 2009 has been a good year for me and my little piece of the blogosphere – I’ve spoken to new lovely bloggers and discovered many gorgeous new blogs to become addicted to, been published for the first time on TasteSpotting, celebrated my first blogoversary and generally learnt so much about blogging! Of course, lots of delicious things have also been baked, consumed and enjoyed (with a few disasters along the way). I am very much looking forward to 2010, a whole new decade, and seeing how the blog progresses into its third year.
I hope everyone has a gorgeous holiday wherever you are. I won’t be posting again until January in the next decade (!) as I’m off to see in the new year in Venice. Happy Holidays people :)

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Christmas Gifts No3: Mince Pies

There isn’t anything that screams “classic British Christmas” to me than the humble mince pie.
DSCF5667Crisp and flaky pastry houses the juicy Christmas mincemeat, topped off with a festive-shape pastry topping and dusted with a sprinkling of icing sugar snow. Delicious.
DSCF5669Christmas wouldn’t be the same without mince pies for me: they just symbolise it (along with a classic Christmas Cake). The reason I love them so much is mainly in the making: the rolling out of the pastry, twisting open the rich jars of mincemeat, gently laying on mini pastry stars, candy canes and snowflakes to top each little morsel, with Wham and Slade playing in the background. Aand…relax. (Of course its more hectic and over-excited on sugar and festive spirit than that..but you know.)
You can buy mince pies anywhere, but often the pastry will be stodgy and the mincemeat filling turns out as a heavy lump. They are so easy to make and turn out so much better – its worth the miniscule effort :) Plus, nothing can fill your house with a more Christmassy scent, and no Christmas tin can make a face light up brighter! I made my own mincemeat last year here, and you can use any sweet pastry recipe (I like to add the zest of an orange to make the pastry extra festive) you like.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Christmas Gifts No2: Orange Chocolate Marzipans

With all the gifts I give to my friends or family, I think its nice to give something a bit different or special. Even if I am giving someone a specific thing off their list, I like to give a small extra gift as a surprise. It just makes present giving more fun. Which is why these little sweets appealed to me – I hadn’t seen a similar recipe before and they looked like they tasted truly delicious. And again, there’s just something in the name that lets you know these are going to be good.
These marzipans are another simple gift – requiring a total of about ten minutes hands on time. You just blend the ingredients to form a soft and squidgy (and full of flavour) marzipan, cut into small circles and let dry for a couple of hours. Then cover each one with a swirl of chocolate and piece of candied peel – if you are a fan of this often-hated treat. What could be easier?
DSCF5634These went down a storm as after-dinner treats in front of Strictly Come Dancing! They have all the perfect textures – soft soft marzipan, light crunch from the chocolate and chew from the candied peel. The orange flavour in the marzipan adds a little bit of Christmas “zing” and you could enhance this with orange flavoured chocolate if you so wished. You will be popular when you make these – find the recipe here.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Christmas Gifts No1: Chocolate Truffles

On the blogs right now, you’d have to have been severely absent not to notice the huge amount of Christmas Gift posts. There are cookies and candy-canes, jams and jellies. Anyone would be overjoyed to receive a scrumptious hamper of goodies, jars of chutney or box of chocolates as a gift from a foodie friend. I haven’t given away homemade Christmas presents before, but for Christmas this year on the blog I thought I’d show some gifts really worth making. I’ve got several goodies coming up but first – chocolate truffles. DSCF5632Chocolate & Cointreau Truffles, to be precise. You can surely tell they are going to taste good when you read the name! But also, these are so simple to make, so you can make lots quickly for every lucky recipient. I can never resist a truffle. For my tenth birthday I held a truffle-making and cookie decorating party – that is the strength of my affection for the truffle. For some reason I do always think of them as a Christmas thing – perhaps because they are so rich – and this is the first time I have made them in a very long time.
DSCF5640From my experiences, I learnt several things about making truffles:
  • Heat the cream gently but don’t let it get too hot or your truffles will split.They take practice to get the perfect sphere, but even a misshapen pentagon truffle tastes delicious.
  • Cut your chocolate very small (you could even grate it) before pouring the cream over it so that the chocolate melts faster.
  • Do not make the truffles too big. Glorious as they are, a plate full of mini truffles looks far nicer than half a plate of huge ones. Plus, they are very rich.
  • They only need a light roll in the cocoa-covering – mouthfuls of cocoa powder ruins the effect.
  • After making your truffle balls, they need to firm up before you attempt to put them in pretty gold cases.
I made chocolate truffles with a splash of Cointreau and grated zest of an orange. I chose to roll in either cocoa powder or coconut but you could do chopped pistachios or almonds, icing sugar, crushed amaretti biscuits, hundreds and thousands, festive chopped candy-cane or edible glitter – whatever takes your fancy. You can also cover the truffles in melted chocolate (tempered if not coating, there’s not much need if you are) for more richness.
Chocolate Truffles
150ml double cream
150g chocolate
1. Heat the cream gently – either in the microwave for 1.5minutes or over a low heat.
2. Put the chopped chocolate in a bowl and pour over the hot cream. Stir slowly to form a ganache. Cover and chill for a few hours or overnight.
3. Take teaspoons of firm ganache and roll into balls. Set out plates of your chosen coatings, and roll the truffles. Leave for about 30minutes to firm. Place delicately in boxes, cases or on plates. Enjoy!

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Raspberry Jam Drops

There are good cookies, and then there are great cookies. There are everyday cookies, and then celebration cookies. There are “are-these-worth-the-calories-?” cookies, and then there are five-in-one-go cookies. There are mini cookies, and then plate-sized cookies. There are simple “meh” cookies and then there are these cookies.
DSCF5592 The thing with a To Bake list, is when ever you see a different recipe it just calls you more. These cookies were spotted on the Delicious magazine website – and immediately it was clear the To Bake list was going to have to wait. These were being made!
These are so simple, which is partly what makes them so good (aside from the fact they make a LOT.) The cookie dough is flavoured with vanilla and custard powder (which is pink! Who knew thick yellow custard could be made from a pink custard powder? Strange.) and a blob of bright raspberry jam is plopped into a well made in each little ball of dough. Refridgerate, bake, eat. The trouble with these cookies being so small is that it becomes very easy to eat several in one go. 26 cookies were produced for a family of four on Saturday evening. 9 remained on Sunday morning!
These would make lovely Christmas gifts – give these stacked into a jar tied with ribbon and you would be very popular! Let the Christmas baking commence! These are also versatile – I’m seeing rhubarb jam for a nice rhubarb&custard combo, or less custard and more ground ginger/cocoa powder/chopped raisins – anything! – in the cookie. But at heart, these are best simple and warm. Oh so good warm. Find the recipe here.

Monday, 30 November 2009

Chicken Pie Terrine

Most people who know me, and anyone who reads this blog, will have realised by now that I’m not much of a savoury cook. My Mum can make gorgeous dinners: roasts, homemade curries, pastas, risotto, soup, pies – everything. Me, I tend to stick to “dessert duty”. In fact of all 62 posts so far on this blog (this being the 63rd), only two could be properly classified savoury. And both still involved baking. Well, things look set to change around here.
DSCF5570 My heart is always going to lie with all things sweet. Lemon DSCF5589 tart is always going to grab me more than smoked salmon. Yet, as I have been told many a time, a career in food is going to be much harder if all I can make are cupcakes and brownies. Plus, as delicious as sweet treats are, and as enjoyable as the family finds them, its not fabulous for the waistline. So, a new Father-implemented rule has entered the kitchen: for every sweet thing I bake, a savoury thing must follow. A hard task for me personally, but one that must be followed if my new To Bake list is ever to be accomplished. Starting, with this scrumptious chicken pie/terrine. 
DSCF5578 This pie comes from the little cookery book compiled by my old Primary School a couple of years ago. The original recipe was from a Delia Smith book, but this version is altered a little. Essentially, you have a short crust pastry bowl, with a layer of sausage-meat (with spring onions, parsley and lemon), layer of chicken&nutmeg, more sausage-meat, the rest of the chicken, topped with sausage-meat and a pastry lid. The layers are what make me call it a pie/terrine as it is not quite the traditional white-sauce chicken pie. The pie took me quite a while to get together, partly I think as it was my first time properly using savoury ingredients alone. For a more seasoned cook, I’m sure this would be a breeze. There were plenty of moments throughout the preparation where I yearned for a sprinkling of sugar, spoonful of jam or handful of chocolate but I did it. And to be quite honest, I was mighty proud when my pie came out the oven, ready to be served for dinner. With no back up!
DSCF5574This pie was delicious! The sausage-meat was juicy and fragrant, the chicken was moist and fresh-tasting, and the pastry kept everything sturdily happy. The layers turned out prettily, and my favourite flavour was the juice and zest of a whole lemon in there – keeping the pie bright and light! If I were to make this again, I think I would make it less complicated by doing it how Delia does: just having three layers: two sausage-meat and one chicken in the middle. Also, the adapted recipe I was using didnt have enough pastry for a lid, so I used some puff pastry. Here is the link to the Delia recipe, with my shortcrust pastry amounts below.  Try it, its a lovely savoury thing to serve up. Now… where’s that cookie recipe…
Chicken Pie/Terrine Pastry:
100g butter
225g plain flour, sifted
Cold water to mix (about 4tbsp)
Beaten egg to glaze
  1. Make the pastry by rubbing the butter into the sifted flour until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add just enough water to make a dough, place in cling film and chill for 30minutes in the fridge. Use this pastry to line a 20cm deep pie dish.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Blueberry Apricot Crumble Tray Bake

Quite a name, for quite a cake.
fireworks and rain 192 I’ve made things before with lots of flavours – but this is the best. Simple cake base. Lemon yogurt topping. Blueberries sprinkled on top. Sliced apricots join them. And the crowning glory layer of crumble. But not just plain crumble, utterly delicious cinnamon crumble. All in one little square of cake. That’s my kind of cake :)
fireworks and rain 158 This scrumptious cake is from the lovely The English Kitchen blog, by Marie. Every day Marie posts something delicious – and this was from back in mid-October but I’ve only just got round to making it. My finished cake is slightly different to Marie’s, because I used frozen instead of fresh blueberries. Whilst the fresh ones sit there looking gorgeously neat and round, the frozen ones explode in juicy purple goodness…creating a rather different look!
fireworks and rain 188 The frozen blueberries also make the topping more squidgy with juice, which in turn affects the crumble topping. Because of this, I had to cook the cake for about 20minutes longer – but the cake was alright as the blueberries kept them moist. I’d like to try this cake with apples and blackberries, or pears, or a nice summer version – I’m sure it would be so versatile. The lemon yoghurt was also an interesting addition – it’s just a subtle little flavour but it really adds a little extra zing! This makes a lovely big tray of cake, perfect for big casual gatherings: it won’t last long! Thank you Marie for the charming recipe, find it here :)
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Friday, 6 November 2009

Millionaire’s Shortbread

I mentioned last time how I had my eye on this dessert. Not strictly true – the ingredients were already in the cupboard. It was only a matter of time…
Some things, I’ll only bake once in a very long while. Sometimes, something is so sinfully delicious it is simply too bad for the hips and too good for the lips to be made repeatedly. Such as in the case of this Millionaire Shortbread.
DSCF5305 The name for this shortbread is totally right: forget fit for a king, fit for a millionaire is the best. Millionaires shortbread is basically a layer of shortbread (shocker!) topped with a thick caramel layer, all finished with a chocolate topping. Mmm!
The recipe is not too hard to make, but there are a few point it could go wrong. You need to be careful that you don’t overcook the caramel or it will get either too hard to cut (and you’ll lose the wonderful squidgyness) or it will come out with a slightly burnt flavour, no good to anyone. You can make this with a cheesecake-style base of crushed biscuits, but then I feel its not millionaire’s shortbread is it? Overall, this shortbread was oh-so good. And it disappears far too quickly for our liking – the reason its only made rarely. My minor grumbles would be in trying to stretch out the layers to fill the tin, they layers turned out pretty thin (particularly the chocolate) and you lose something about the decadence of the thing! I’d prefer to have thicker layers and smaller richer pieces at a go!
Millionaires Shortbread
Shortbread: 9oz plain flour
6oz butter
3oz sugar
Cut the butter into the flour and sugar, either quickly in a food processor or by hand. Rub the butter in until it resembles breadcrumbs, and then begin to pull and “squish” the dough together. Press into a tin, and bake for around 15minutes at 150’C. Leave to cool.
Caramel Layer: 150g butter
150g sugar
4tbsp golden syrup
307g tin of condensed milk
Melt all the ingredients together in a large saucepan. Stir absolutely constantly – making sure the mixture doesn’t catch on the sides or base of the pan. Its all about the colour change – from pale and white to a deep golden (takes about fifteen minutes). However stop as soon as it over thickens or lots of black bits appear. Pour onto the cooled shortbread and let set softly.
Chocolate Layer: 200g chocolate
Gently melt chocolate in a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, or in the microwave. When completely melted – spread onto caramel. Leave to cool and set before slicing into tall soft slices!

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Passion-fruit and Lemon Cheesecake

This cheesecake shouts pure summer to me. Currently, the rain and low temperatures outside my window shout pure winter. Strange contrast really, a slight “in your face” to the weather. But the main point is, this is a mighty fine cheesecake.
DSCF5247Why such a mighty fine cheesecake? Lets go through. Crumbly, buttery biscuit base: classic good cheesecake. Thick, rich, creamy middle with very strong lemon “tang”. All topped off with big tropical flavour from juicy fresh passion-fruit. Plus the best bit: So Very Simple To Make!
DSCF5262  The recipe was sent to me from my Mum, and she found it on the Carnation Nestle website. Celebrity chef Phil Vickery has created loads and loads of recipes using all the Nestle products (condensed milk and soft caramel) and not only put all the recipes on the website, but also turned loads of them into “Pudcasts“ (videos of him making the creations): my new favourite thing. Its amazing the variety of dishes he’s thought up using these ingredients: from cookies and truffles to sundaes and mini treats to pies and tarts. And this lovely cheesecake!
The clever thing Phil Vickery discovered is that when condensed milk reacts with lemon juice, the mixture thickens dramatically. That's how this cheesecake is so simple: you don’t need to bake it or add gelatine to thicken it, the reaction has already occurred when you mix the lemon juice into the mascarpone and condensed milk mix. After a few hours in the fridge: voila! Creamy gorgeousness at your service. Then its just a simple matter of spooning over the passion-fruit. However, in the original recipe, Phil fills the cheesecake with a blueberry compote, something I chose to leave out. I thought it might overpower the passion-fruit, so I added the juice and zest of a couple of extra lemons so that there were complimenting bright flavours rather than overpowering ones. Also, the original recipe states to use 4 passion-fruit, but to get a decent covering like I had below I used 6. If anyone tries it with the blueberry, then do tell me how it went! You can find the recipe (and have a happy time browsing all the others) here. I personally have my eye on the Millionaire’s Shortbread….Enjoy!

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Aldeburgh Food Festival

Almost a month ago now, at the end of September, I was lucky enough to go with my Mum to the Aldeburgh Food Festival in Suffolk. Whilst called the Aldeburgh festival, the main show is in the lovely Snape Maltings. The Aldeburgh Food Festival is massive, as the whole of the county gets involved in mini events across the weekend festival. The festival celebrates all the fantastic food and foodie businesses in Suffolk so they were all there showing their yummy produce (I love tasters!) There were also big marquees with a few celeb chefs showing off the local produce in some recipes. Here are my pictures from the day I went – enjoy!
general shizzle 010 ^ Food writer and critic Matthew Fort (left) did a great show with celebrity chef Tom Parker-Bowles. They are good friends and were fun to watch – especially as they had not planned what to cook but gone around all the stalls before hand to gather inspiration and ingredients.
general shizzle 012 ^ Ah, the beauty of front row seats! Restaurateur Mark Hix (left) and friend Marcus Verbene, head chef at the Browns Hotel in Mayfair also did a show but it was not as entertaining. They did however make some interesting game dishes, with lots of ingredients I've never used before. general shizzle 017 ^ Winner of the Suffolk Raised Pie competition, judged by Matthew Forte. Beauty!
general shizzle 027 ^ High House Farm apple juice – this stuff is nectar! Wonderfully fresh and sharp tasting – mmm!
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^ I hadn’t heard of this company before but I did buy a bottle of this: it had a strong kick from both piles of ginger and the chilli addition – it was a great combination.
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^ I want this van. Its a mobile chocolate business, Choc Star, and above is their amazing menu. I repeat, I want this van.
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^ Failing that, I would happily LIVE in this above van, the Creperie, perhaps purely for the bunting… :)
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^ This Chilli con carne van was pretty cool too!
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^ Alder Tree is an ice cream company in Suffolk and their ice creams are gorgeous! I have tried the Toffee Apple which has scrumptious pieces of toffee swirled in, and the Tayberry, which is a berry like a cross between loganberries and raspberries, and totally sublime.
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I had a lovely day the festival, and enjoyed seeing all the brilliant business ideas and fun companies the people ran. I was very envious of some of their lives (and vans..)! The festival also proved to me how much I want to do something foodie when I grow up. Hope you enjoyed!

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Fruity Bread

Yup, I’ve made rather a lot of loaf cakes on this blog. All different, I hasten to add, but still all loaf cakes. I never really think I like them that much, but with beauties like these I always prove myself wrong! And this little cake was no exception :)

general shizzle 062 The recipe was from the brilliant blog, English Mum In Ireland. This bake is, just like English Mum says, the perfect cake for the afternoon (4pm) lull when something sweet should just hit the spot. A thick slice of this and a big old cup of tea – perfect! Except, I’m 14 and don’t like tea so p’raps just a big slice of this for me :)

general shizzle 069 Look at the top of this marvel! Chock-a-block with sultanas, raisins, cherries, dried pineapple: one beauty of this cake is how you can adapt it to suit what you like or what you have in the cupboards – it doesn’t always have to be the same. Also, after a day or so this cake is one of those fantastic bakes that morphs into a very rich teabread – even better with a slather of butter on a slice. So, for a simple bake to fill up your tummy in the afternoons – head to English Mum and find the recipe here.

Monday, 12 October 2009

Lemon Loveliness

There are a lot of times in winter, like I touched on a while ago, when I crave warm comforting dinners. A bowl of stew or fat “wodge” of crumble is always going to make a chilly night all cosy and delicious! But as you leave autumn and edge towards winter, there are times when I also crave something light, refreshing and zingy: just to wake me out of the dark winter stupor. This little dessert does just that…

general shizzle 104 It is a light lemon mousse with little lemon madeleines! I’ve found that I tend to just make a cookie, or a cake, rather than say a pie with a fancy sauce or something, you know? Such as in restuarants – they do fancy things such as “Textures of Strawberry” where you get a strawberry donut, strawberry milkshake, chocolate strawberry and little strawberry tart all as one dessert. Whilst I’m not about to start bringing out foams and emulsions any time soon – I think it is nice to have two little treats accompanying each other for pudding: its sort of the difference between a pudding and a dessert!

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Ooh, I do like a little bit of lemon! In fact, lemon is the second most popular flavour of things I have baked on this blog, just behind chocolate. Can’t go wrong with a bit of citrus :) Although saying that, this mousse didn’t turn out quite as delicious as hoped. The comments on it were, “a bit too sweet” and “slightly curdled tasting” – not perfect but sadly true! I can’t pinpoint exactly where or why this mousse turned out wrong, but there was just something wrong! It didn’t have the texture of lovely smooth tangy mousse, just very fluffy and eggy. I’ve given the recipe at the bottom anyway as maybe some people like their mousse like that (?) or maybe one clever blogger knows why it wasn’t good. Thankfully, the madeleines were a different story!

general shizzle 109 The madeleines were light, zesty, full of lemon flavour – yum :) My one problem with these was, in the picture they turned a pretty golden brown when they were cooked. Once these were cooked nicely – they still hadn’t changed colour! Still, nothing a pretty coating of icing sugar cannot hide.

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Both the mousse and the madeleines were from the most gorgeous book – Bills Food by Bill Granger. I so recommend this book. The photos are stunning, and most pages in here just make you want to move to sunny Australia! Plus, the recipes aren’t half bad – another one from this book coming up shortly! I’ve given the recipe for both the mousse and madeleines, but I honestly would not give the mousse a go :S !



Sunday, 27 September 2009

Oaty Raspberry Muffins

There are times, rare times, when I want to bake, but also mind about being that li-ittle bit healthier. But just because thinks are healthier, doesn’t mean they are going to be baked any less tasty! One ingredient that could always make me feel healthier, even if surrounded by kilos and kilos of chocolate – would be oats.chloes 163

See, as soon as you throw a handful or two of oats into a muffin (or anything baked!) I can feel just that bit better about having a second helping. And once you’ve added some yummy juicy fruit (in this case raspberries) – why stop at two helpings? After all, muffins are best on the day they are made ;)

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The recipe for these Raspberry and Oat muffins came from the lovely must-read Bibliocook blog, where the muffins are originally made with blueberries. Having none of these available, I substituted for frozen raspberries, and added a few minutes onto the cooking time. Ooh, these were delicious! The raspberry juices stained the muffin a pretty light pink inside – and they smelled divine! Mmm :) If you’re a muffin fan, then these are most definitely for you. You can find the recipe here. Until next time!