Friday, 24 September 2010

Eccles Cakes

One of the hardest parts I find in cooking at the moment is finding a good use for those odds and ends that hang around in the fridge and cupboards – lurking. The hard rind of cheese, a lemon with no zest, an end of cucumber or deserted half pot of pesto. It is a lot harder to find inspiration when things look a little but dreary or half-empty, as opposed to looking at shiny new ingredients and packets. But when the UK throws away 8.3 billion tonnes of food every year, costing the average family £680 a year – I definitely realise that using up odds and ends is important. Plus, when bakes as delicious as these come out of it, what’s the problem!?DSCF7754 Today I avoided wastage by turning a leftover ‘wodge’ of puff pastry into a delicious batch of Eccles cakes. Eccles cakes are not a cake at all, but a dried fruit and sugar mixture wrapped in puff pastry and baked. Eccles cakes are also an old-fashioned British treat so I thought they would be an appropriate bake during British Food Fortnight! The Eccles cakes were delicious – consisting mainly of butter, sugar and dried fruit how could they not!? The filling was almost good enough to eat on its own, but when surrounded by crackly, slightly caramelised golden pastry it went to another level. Quite addictive!DSCF7752 This Delia recipe here is very similar to the Rachel Allen one I used – the difference being I used some all-butter puff pastry instead of making some flaky pastry. Enjoy :)


Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Celebration Chocolate Log

People who know me know that I’m not fussy with pudding. Crumble, pie, a cookie, a tart, – I’m with you. But there are certain occasions that just cry out for something a bit extra special. Occasions like, perhaps, a second blogoversary? Or, reaching 100 posts? Or…both?DSCF7739 Yes, Teen Baker is in the midst of celebrating both these milestones! I realise I am slightly late with celebrating these on the blog, and am a little over 100 posts now – but hey, when there is a cake this good around, who is complaining? And this cake is definitely this good. With nearly half a litre of cream and half a kilogram of chocolate I had no doubts that this was the perfect cake for my 2nd and 100th celebrations ;)DSCF7764
This cake is from Orlando Murrin’s book called A Table in the Tarn which I have used before a while ago and now shall certainly be using again. Intended for Christmas or New Year, this cake is decadence on a plate. It consists of…
- chocolate cake layer
- chocolate/cointreau mousse layer
- chocolate cake layer
- chocolate/cointreau mousse covering
- chocolate ganache coating
- chocolate shavings and strawberry topping
Can you say YUM?

DSCF7757Now, this cake is a celebration one not just because of the calorie count but because of the time it takes. Each step is only 5-10minutes, but most steps end in ‘Now refrigerate for 2 hours until firm’. Perhaps some of these firming-up periods are unnecessary, but with the large scale ingredients involved I was determined not to ruin this cake and followed it to the T. My favourite part of this was the chocolate and Cointreau mousse because it was so silky smooth, rich and deep with flavour. I would definitely like to make just this component again for a dessert, although as it is so rich it would have to be in very small servings! The cake layers are very thin and have a brownie-like texture which is great for supporting those thick layers of mousse. All in all – a resounding success! Because the recipe is so long and special, I don’t feel I should post it here but do buy the book or I think it would be easy to create using your own log with your favourite recipes for a rich chocolate cake and mousse. Happy Baking!

Friday, 10 September 2010

Carrot and Coriander Soup

Surprises. My Mum can’t stand them – from who’s left Strictly Come Dancing to a surprise birthday present, she just needs to be in the know. But I think there can be good surprises: finding £5 in your pocket, a day forecast to be rainy turning out sunny, a botched up recipe turning out well after all! My good surprise today was a gift in the post…DSCF7781 This book was destined to give good results – the recipes are from the WI  after all! As with all cookbooks, I flicked straight to the dessert/puddings/baking section (or in this case, all four of them – the book is organised by seasons!) and of course found plenty of gorgeous things I look forward to trying. But what also struck me about this book was the fabulous collections of soups that came at the start of each season. So many varieties of and new twists on tomato soup, but also dozens of vegetable, fish, bean and meat soups. Plus, with our summer weather slowly slipping away and the rain creeping in I thought I better get practising a truly delicious winter repertoire!DSCF7730 I forgot that I had already made a carrot soup, but this version was different in every way: taste, appearance, texture, cooking style and the flavours involved. This soup also taught me the important message of seasoning, something I knew I need to learn more about. After taking the first spoonful, I was concerned that the soup was a bit bland and the carrot goodness wasn’t coming through. The trick? After pureeing, hit this soup with A LOT of black pepper. There is no point being shy here, just taste as you go along and slowly the flavours appear! Gorgeous.DSCF7732 I was a big fan of this soup. Because of the true carrot flavour, you just know this soup is good for you. A large amount of coriander adds heat and the amount of work required from you is minimal. How could you not be a fan? This soup is from the Spring section of the book, which is a couple of seasons away for me, but I found it just perfect for a rainy Autumn afternoon. Enjoy!

Carrot and Coriander Soup from Best-kept Secrets of the Women’s Institute

Ingredients: 25g (1oz) butter
1 onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
25g (1oz) plain flour
1 litre (1.25pints) chicken or vegetable stock
450g (1lb) carrots, grated
2tsp chopped fresh coriander (I probably used double this)
salt and LOTS of freshly ground black pepper
cream or yoghurt, to serve

1. Melt the butter in a pan and soften the onion and garlic slowly.
2. Blend in the flour and then add the stock gradually, stirring all the time over a low heat.
3. Add the carrots and coriander. Bring the soup to the boil and then let it simmer for 15minutes.
4. Remove the pan from the heat and adjust seasoning. Pour into a food processor and blend until smooth.
5. Divide between four bowls and add a swirl of yoghurt/cream to serve.