Saturday, 30 November 2013

Leiths: Week 9

Week 9 and also the last week of the term! I cannot believe that the Foundation term is already over, especially as this means that I’m a third of the way through my course. As much as I did enjoy secondary school, this is definitely the first time that I’ve been truly sad at the end of a term and our class was all saying we would happily do another week or two! My next Leiths post won’t be until mid-January when the Intermediate term starts (scary thought!) so normal baking blogging can be properly resumed in the meantime. Until then though, here’s everything that happened in my last week of term…
· We started the week by plucking and drawing (as in, gutting) a whole pheasant. As you do. This was definitely the most intense meat experience of the term and pushed the slightly more squeamish members of our class (me included) to our limits. Whilst it was a bit graphic and ‘pungent’ at times, it was also satisfying to understand more how meat gets from the field to the table which is an important lesson as a meateater. However, I do have to admit that after seeing the transformation our pheasant had gone through I couldn’t quite bring myself to tuck in and was more interested in our game chips accompaniment!
IMG-20131126-01087· This week we also cooked a proper Indian feast in our groups of four and what made it extra special was actually getting to sit and eat it together in the kitchen, just like when we made brunch. The fried breads you see on the left of the picture above are called methi poori – discs of dough that puffed up when deep fried – and were dangerously addictive! I’m normally a bit of a spice wimp (a korma kind of girl) but I loved the super spicy lamb rogan josh. The date chutney was really unusual and one of those things I just couldn’t decide whether I hated or really liked – it tasted to me a bit like a spiced sticky toffee pudding. Is that a bad thing? I still can’t decide!IMG-20131128-01092· With the Christmas party season rapidly approaching, our final demonstration being on canapes seemed very appropriate. Our teacher admitted that no matter how many complicated, unusual or innovative canapes you create, sausages always remain the most popular canape that disappear instantly – a fact that was proved at the canape party held for our year at the end of the day. I think my favourites were the little spinach and feta filo pastries and also the mini pavlova which won for just sheer adorable factor. It was the smallest thing I’d ever seen! IMG-20131129-01105· We ended the week by decorating our Christmas cakes. We have been working on these for the last few weeks now – baking, feeding, marzipaning and icing several times so we’re all quite protective over them! To put it plainly, my sister is the one with artistic skills in my family so I knew it would be best if I kept my cake design rather simple. I saw this tree made of stars design here on The Pink Whisk and adapted it slightly for my own cake – adding more stars and spraying them with edible gold spray for a bit of Christmas glitz and sparkle! It was a bit fiddly for someone occasionally lacking a bit of finesse but I was really happy with the way it turned out in the end. If you search Leiths School of Food and Wine on Facebook they have photos of lots of the finished cakes – designs ranged from Banksy drawings to ice skating penguins to the London skyline to gingerbread houses and many more. The next day we had our theory exam, charity lunch & raffle and that was it! Just my practical exam to go (eek). I’ve loved the Foundation term and I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about it so bring on the Intermediate term in 2014!IMG-20131129-01106

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Leiths: Weeks 7 & 8

Quite an eventful fortnight! From the lows to the highs, the pastry to the roasts, here’s what went down…
· Midway through Week 7 was one of our most memorable demonstrations yet – Game! Walking into the dem room and seeing 2 pheasants hanging from the ceiling was an indication of how the session was going to go…It was really interesting to see and try meats that I haven’t tried before such as pheasant and partridge, and learn about classical accompaniments that I also hadn’t seen before such as Fried Crumbs – literally just breadcrumbs fried in butter and served in a heap with pheasant! The most memorable aspect, however, was woodcock. Woodcock is a small game bird and the indication to be worried was when even our normally total food-enthusiast teacher was not keen. To sum up, woodcock are roasted with their ‘entrails' still inside them, which then melt and are spread on toast and served with the roast. Yep. If you imagine that woodcock are small birds that were probably killed on a rainy October day then that is exactly what it tastes like: damp bird. Not something I’d race to try again but interesting nevertheless!

IMG-20131126-WA000· There was an exciting development this week: we were upgraded to a Magimix whilst pastry making! So far we have always had to make pastry the traditional from scratch way, using cutlery knives to rub the butter into the flour. Although a bit laborious to begin with, it means we have a proper understanding and ‘feel’ for the pastry and the various stages. Still, it was definitely exciting to make the apple tarts above in a fraction of the time as we whizzed the flour and butter together in a few seconds. The lengthy bit came when the pastry was done, as we had to practise rolling perfect circles without using a cutter…harder than it sounds I promise! That darn pastry was just determined to roll itself into a square.
DSC_0031                  Soda Bread served at our buffet, not made by me but so pretty!  

· On Monday of Week 8 our cookery session was held in mock exam conditions which meant essentially meant silence, particular focus on timing and temperature and no help from teachers. It was quite surreal at the beginning having to walk in in silence and only weigh our own ingredients rather than the usual chat and hubbub as we help each other by one person getting all the flour, one getting all the butter etc. On the menu was Vichysoisse soup and pan fried sole with warm tomato caper dressing and crushed potatoes. It started well, but sadly the day went rapidly downhill for me. I won’t go into every detail but let’s just say the words ‘your soup is almost chewable’ are ingrained in my memory forever…I’m not going to lie, it wasn’t the most motivational start to the week but at the same time it did make the following days seem 10x more fun than normal because they definitely couldn’t be worse! Ah well, onwards and upwards.DSC_0059· Happily, I ended Week 8 on a complete opposite to the way I’d started. Week 8 was also known as Buffet Week as we were in groups of 8 cooking a buffet for 32, with each group cooking on a different morning. This meant we were very lucky and got to eat gorgeous buffet lunches everyday for a week! My group was the last of the week meaning there was lots of pressure following some delicious and beautiful dishes and our teacher expecting us to learn from everything we’d seen! I was in charge of one of our 2 desserts (we had 8 dishes in total) which was the mini pavlovas you see above. Cooking for 32 is the biggest I’ve ever done and compared to the half recipes we normally do in class the quantities felt very strange – 12 egg whites and 600g of sugar for the meringues, over a litre of whipped cream, 18 egg yolksfor the creme anglaise etc.! It was really enjoyable getting to cook our own food for a change and have complete free reign as we designed the menus and presentation. My team worked well together and were very happy with the final result. The pavlovas were topped with orange cream, pomegranate and berries and a slice of bruleed orange which was especially delicious! Bring on week 9.DSC_0058                        Caramel Apple Tart made by my dessert duo buddy Rosie!

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Tomato and Mozzarella Risotto

Pasta with tomato sauce could easily be a desert island dish for me. I know it’s not that exciting and doesn’t exactly take much skill but I don’t mind. That’s part of it’s charm and appeal! It’s my ultimate comfort food after a day of ‘chewable’ soup at cookery school (more of which on Sunday), the meal I make when I have no time, the meal to line your stomach before a night out, the meal for when there’s nothing in the fridge. The meal for when I’m tired, a storm is brewing outside and Downton is on (hello last Sunday evening). But, much as I love it, it’s not the most interesting dish to share on the blog and even I need a change (however small) once in a while. Enter, tomato and mozzarella risotto. DSC_0088Obviously this contains all the the things that make pasta and tomato sauce great: carbs, cheese, tomato, a bit of herbage. Just in a way that makes it a little bit different and makes me feel like I’m doing some actual cooking! This recipe uses the same method as a basic risotto, just with the addition of a tin of tomatoes to the hot stock. Although it was only one tin, the resulting tomato flavour was surprisingly intense but I suppose you could add a blob of tomato puree as well to boost the flavour even further. I loved the final result – the strings of melting mozzarella, soft rice with just a little bit of bite left, sweetnesss from the onions… exactly what I needed! And fancy enough to serve to friends too. You can find the recipe here – funnily enough, right underneath a recipe for pasta and tomato sauce…DSC_0092

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Leiths: Week 6

6 weeks! That’s a half term or whole school summer holiday in my brain, still slightly stuck in secondary school mode. No half term break at cookery school though, just a 3 day weekend to give us a slight breather. So, what happened in week 6?

· This week brought a new winner for the title of Most Strongly Scented Thing To Bring Home On The Bus. Despite heavy competition from warm pizza on Friday, the mackerel recheado (containing 12 chillies) of week 3 has lost it's crown to the dry spice mix I took home on Tuesday…and can definitely still smell in my bag today. To me, it smells exactly like a branch of Wagamama which is not necessarily a bad thing but definitely got people looking round the bus expecting to find someone tucking into a takeaway. Nope, just me and 50g of freshly ground spices!

· Wednesday was a prime example of the extreme nature of cookery school – healthy eating demo in the morning, then making crumble, custard and deep fried plaice goujons in the afternoon. From a morning based around avoiding/reducing salt in your diet, to an afternoon of sprinkling it all over every breadcrumbed and delicious piece of fish. The cooking session made me way less scared of deep frying which could actually be a bad thing as now I kind of just want to deep fry everything…

· From the great high of the plaice goujons to the low that was Thursday. Don’t cook whilst tired, kids. Who knew cooking pork tenderloin would be the thing to push me over the edge? I managed to set fire to things. Twice. One of those being my oven gloves, with my hand inside. Luckily although I was completely oblivious to it happening my teacher noticed me in time, whipped it off and stamped it on the floor and thus nothing happened to my hand. But still. Not ideal! Especially when followed 10 minutes later by accidentally setting the piece of paper intended to keep my pork warm firmly alight. That was when I left the kitchen for 5 minutes – slightly concerned by what might happen next if I didn’t take a break! I think it taught me that cookery school is just a bit of a rollercoaster full of mainly good, some great, and then the odd bad days.

· In contrast, you know it's going to be a good day when your morning starts by blind taste testing 5 vanilla ice creams. We were trying them to examine the different textures, flavours and appearances and therefore effect that dairy, fat and air have on the final result. They were all shop bought and it was interesting to see how distinctive different brands were – the bright yellow of Walls and creamy vanilla flecked Green & Blacks were instantly spotted. These were followed by more from scratch ice creams and a selection of jellies and it was definitely an enjoyable way to spend Friday morning and round off the week! Bring on week 7.

                         Plaice goujons and lemon wedge – highlight of the week!

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Leiths: Week 5

Over 5 weeks have now passed of my Leiths Diploma! It feels a weird combination of week 1 being ages ago, but also wondering how the weeks have passed in such a flash. The fact that I’m now in the 2nd half of the first term is terrifying! Here’s what happened in week 5…

· It wasn’t exactly the healthiest week: Tuesday’s cooking session was one long sugar high with both lemon meringue pie and swiss roll on the menu, followed on Wednesday with possibly one of the best dems so far: deep frying. Sitting in the dem room as plate after plate of different deep fried food was passed round – fish, chips, tempura, goujons, beignets etc – was one of those pinch yourself moments. I’m trying to convince myself that since we only have mouthfuls of each dish it won’t be too bad for me, but I guess we’ll have to wait a few more weeks to work out exactly what effect the cookery school diet is having!

· Jointing a chicken into 8 perfect and even pieces remains my nemesis. I practised at the weekend ready for making it again in class on Wednesday but I still hate it. Definitely been put off chicken for a while. It’s weird, at school I never would have been scared of the fact that I struggled with my Maths homework whereas the fact that I can’t joint a chicken properly scares me! I guess it shows that I care a heck of a lot more about cooking than I ever did about algebra… Nevertheless, I will keep practising and my freezer will just gradually fill up with a whole selection of chicken pieces!

· Thursday was our biggest challenge yet as we had our first day of all day cooking, rather than just our usual 3 hour session. We had to make stew, mash, 5 dishes for a brunch at 12 and ├ęclairs in the afternoon. The morning passed easily (if very busily) and we got to sit and eat our brunch in the kitchen on our tables, rather than having to hurriedly grab a few bites and bin or clear away. Food never tastes quite the same after it’s been chucked in a tupperware or sandwich bag and carried down a few flights of stairs, so this was definitely a treat! After an all too brief lunch break it began to hit us that we still had a good 3 hours left of rushing round the kitchen rather than sitting peacefully in a demo! We were all a little bit delirious and exhausted by the end of it, but it was actually really fun and definitely brought us closer together as group. Also, new found respect for professional chefs who do much longer than 9hour shifts, day after day!
· Our next big challenge will be cooking an 8 dish buffet for 32 people – a task that currently feels very daunting but luckily is not for a few weeks yet, so I still have time to work on my speed and various other skills that need polishing! Chicken jointing, I’m coming for you. Bring on week 6!

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Leiths: Weeks 3 & 4

It appears a month at cookery school has passed already! Here’s what’s been happening during the last fortnight…

· At the end of week 3 we had our first test! I think the teachers were slightly bemused by how scared we all were but the first 3 weeks had gone past in such a flash and blur of information that the thought of a test on everything we had learnt was definitely a scary one. In the end it was only a very short theory test. After recently finishing A Levels and the essays and 2hour long exams that come with them it was quite surreal (but definitely more enjoyable) to be answering questions on stock making, meringues and oven temperatures!DSC_0114
                                 Victoria Sandwich filled with Lemon Curd · This week we started wine lectures. Mine were in the morning, which meant tasting four wines before midday on a rainy Thursday – another surreal but enjoyable cookery school experience. Having only turned 18 in June wine is a subject I couldn’t know less about, and it was a bit daunting sharing a classroom with people older than me who were a lot more confident. But the classes were really interesting and I learnt a heck of a lot in just two sessions – we covered grape types, regions, body and sweetness, pairing wine with food and more. I even found a wine I liked! Our wine exam is next week – wish me luck!
DSC_0121                                       Smoked Salmon and Dill Quiche
· This week we made Christmas cakes, bringing a little bit of early festive spirit to west London. The smell of 16 Christmas cakes (stocked full of beer soaked fruit) all baking in one kitchen is pretty incredible. Now we begin the feeding process – not eating the cake (sadly) but giving it a drink of alcohol every week until December before we marzipan and ice it. I’ve chosen amaretto to feed my cake with and I'm pretty excited to taste the final result! DSC_0007                          Profiteroles with Chocolate Sauce and Whipped Cream · Our skills were stretched with new techniques this week as we learnt to fillet a fish and joint a chicken into 8 even pieces. I enjoyed filleting a lemon sole (despite them being the slimiest fish delivery the school had ever seen) but jointing a chicken is definitely going to take some practice. Just as well we’re doing it again on Wednesday then! Next week is also our first time cooking all day – making a full brunch, beef stew, mash and coffee ├ęclairs. It feels slightly daunting at the moment but at least we’ll all be in it together, so bring on Week 5!

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Pear, Almond and Amaretto Tart

As I mentioned on Twitter the other day, starting cookery school has had an effect on my weekend baking. I often have the kitchen to myself during the weekend so I can potter around, Radio 1 blaring, baking, humming and making a bit of a mess. Last weekend was the first time I had properly cooked at home since starting Leiths and it was strange (in a good way) to be in the kitchen on my own without being assessed, in a dress and jewellery not chefs whites, with a dishwasher not a sink and scourer, and just my hunger levels instead of a service time and waiting teacher dictating my speed. It was definitely enjoyable being relaxed again whilst baking but at the same time I’ll admit I missed some of the camaraderie of my group all cooking and chatting together. Cookery school has, of course, had positive impacts on my baking – I’m more organised (‘mise en place’ is our mantra), probably faster and more efficient in my timing. Those daily time plans are not going to waste! My weekend baking also gave me the chance to practice some of my skills I’ve been learning: starting with pastry.DSC_0081My Mum sent me this Lorraine Pascale recipe a while ago and it sounded right up my street – you know how much I love almond flavoured anything. It also gave me the chance to use my rectangular tart tin which I have had for an embarrassingly long time without using and now that I’ve used it once I know it will become much more of a baking regular for me – the shape, particularly with this tart, make serving really easy and you don’t have to worry about slightly wonky or uneven slices like with a normal circular tart.DSC_0084But more important than shape is taste! Happily, this tart did not disappoint there either. It’s been ages since I’ve used amaretto and I loved the way its warmth enhanced this dish and emphasised the almond flavour. The frangipane stayed really soft with just a slight chew and crackle on the surface. My only slight issue was the pears – the recipe said to use either tinned or fresh and I chose fresh. However, mine were pretty unripe and didn’t really soften during baking so I think I would recommend tinned ones in future, for a reliably softer and slightly sweeter final result. Overall though this tart was still a winner – the only real problem being that the obvious serving option of a pear per slice makes it difficult to sneak a little bit more each time you walk past! You can find the recipe here – enjoy!DSC_0098

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Leiths: Week 2!

I promise more normal baking posts will be coming this week – I have been busy in the kitchen this rainy weekend! In the meantime, here’s everything that happened in week 2 at cookery school…
· This week I think the pace stepped up slightly, from chopping and dips last week to two or three dishes each session this week. It’s hard to get used to the teachers silently watching you from a short distance, Masterchef-style – I seem to immediately lose my kneading rhythm or forget what I was doing. Each week means a new kitchen and new table (we work in tables of 4) and my group this week really enjoyed working together. We made a solid team and managed to finish first on 4/5 days – definitely got to try and keep my pace up next week!
IMG-20131009-01038                                             Leek, Bacon and Parmesan Quiche
· Our focus at the beginning of this week was pastry. I’ve made pastry before but, to be honest, never really considered the best techniques or processes to ensure the best results. How things have changed! One step that initially threw me was the moment you add the liquid to the mixture – we have to shake and spin the bowl with one hand whilst simultaneously cutting in the liquid with a knife in the other hand. Phew. It's like patting your head and rubbing your stomach: not something I was ever good at. However, the thing I struggled with most was only being allowed to roll the pastry in one direction, to prevent overworking and stretching. I literally had to stand there reciting One Direction songs in my head whilst rolling my treacle tart and quiche pastries to stop me from just merrily going back and forth!
DSC_0077                                                        Caesar Salad
· This week I was cooking in the afternoon, which meant lots of freshly baked goods warm out the oven coming home with me. Rosemary focaccia and leek and bacon quiche are both rather hard scents to disguise on the bus, and definitely get you a few looks. Same with the box of very fudgy chocolate brownies on the Friday rush hour tube. Also, note to self: it's really rather difficult to get a treacle tart home unscathed after 2 buses and a 20 minute walk when it's just wrapped in clingfilm. Always remember Tupperware.
DSC_0105· Cooking in the afternoon obviously meant demonstrations in the morning. This was sometimes quite bizarre. We had a demo on roasting in which our teacher incredibly managed to make 3 full, different roasts with 3 different versions of all the trimmings in just 3 hours. Beef, chicken, pork, boiled and roast veg, potatoes, 2 sauces, 3 gravies, Yorkshires and more. Sampling mini versions of each roast dinner not that long after eating breakfast was quite a strange (but extremely delicious) experience! At the other end of the spectrum, sampling several different meringue dishes one morning left us all on quite a sugar high for the rest of the day. Bring on week 3!DSC_0110

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Leiths: Week 1!

This week, I started cookery school! From 9-5, Monday to Friday, now until July 2014, I’m doing the Leiths Diploma in Food and Wine. I can already tell it is going to be an exhausting 3 terms with a huge amount to learn, but I’m excited to share my progress with you here at the end of each week alongside my normal posts. So, what happened in week 1?

· The first day felt like Christmas. Brand new knives with my actual initials engraved, loads of new equipment, new full chef’s whites to try on – the works. All our equipment was blobbed with nail varnish so we know whose is whose. I’m fully addicted to painting my nails and buying nail varnish, so the bare nails rule at cookery school is a challenge (I now paint it on as soon as I get home on Friday and take it off last thing on Sunday evening). So, getting to bring in a bottle to mark all my stuff made me embarrassingly happy. Also on the embarrassingly happy front – using my new peeler. It’s just so satisfying.
· We cooked in the morning and had demos in the afternoon (although this swaps order every week). In my first proper cookery demonstration I was stunned by how much information we learn. Who knew there was that much to learn about eggs?! (And I get a strong feeling that we really only touched on the subject). It was so interesting though – a jam packed three hours of learning techniques, facts, figures and 8 different recipes. If you ever need to know the percentage of protein, fat and water in an egg yolk or how to prove a frying pan – I’m your girl. DSC_0073· There was a great moment in our second demo when our teacher casually asked ‘Does anyone watch Great British Bake Off?’ The whole room, that’s 48 of us, immediately chorused ‘YES!’. Our teacher laughed and said ‘Okay, have 2 minutes to talk about it’ and I have never heard the room so buzzy as everybody immediately turned to their neighbour to vent about the latest results, the bakes, the contestants – everything! It was very hard to bring us back to concentration again – definitely a great bonder in cookery school.DSC_0070· One of my most interesting experiences this week was making hummus. I’m not normally a big fan of hummus so tasting as we went along was tricky as I wasn’t sure exactly what I was looking for! When our teacher tried it, she added a hefty pinch of salt and told us to try it again. It had made such a difference! Whereas before it had been fairly bland, suddenly you could taste all the other flavours we knew we’d added such as cumin and cayenne pepper. She added another pinch and we tasted again and again it was completely transformed! Seasoning is definitely going to be an on-going lesson and salt may just become my new best friend.DSC_0067                 Arranged fruit salad on mango & passion fruit coulis · I once read someone describe Leiths as feeling like the safest place in the world. Whilst I can’t quite say that yet (mainly due to insanely sharp new knives and searingly hot metal saucepan handles) I can definitely say it is a bubble. After spending the day there – cooking all morning, talking about what you cooked all morning all lunch break, and then in a demo all afternoon about what you’re going to cook all morning tomorrow – it becomes pretty easy to forget that there is a world outside where perfect food is not the centre of the universe. I sit on the bus home and look at people in business suits or school uniform and I'm like what? You mean you haven’t also just spent 3 hours batoning veg? Your carrots are still round, not in perfectly 1cm square x 6cm long sticks? I don’t understand? Bring on week 2.

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Mini Apple Pies

Top tip: deciding to make 12 mini apple pies instead of one big one at the last minute is not the best idea. These were for my friends who were arriving for lunch at 1pm and my last minute change meant that at 12:55 I still hadn’t started on the main course…But I think these were worth it! And hey, my friends didn’t mind the slight delay. DSC_0113Mini pies make serving up a doddle – they are the perfect size so that they are still generous and filling and you don’t feel like you’re losing out by not getting a big slice! I loved these piping hot with plenty of custard, but they are equally good cold the next few days so they would be such a treat in a lunch box. I simply used this BBC recipe and rolled out the pastry to make 12 mini pies and lids (cut using my biggest cookie cutter) and baked them in a silicone muffin tray for around 25 minutes. I think you could probably get one or two more out of the mixture – I was in a rush so my pastry was a bit thick. It’s also important to fill the pies really high – the apples shrink during baking so you don’t want to end up with a sad empty gap in between the filling and pastry lid. The filling has a good dose of cinnamon and sugar so the apples taste almost caramelised, when in reality the filling is super simple – just raw apple slices stirred together with sugar, spice and flour. These make the perfect after dinner treat as the evenings get darker and colder – enjoy! DSC_0105


Monday, 16 September 2013

Browned Butter Caramel Apple Cake

Where did summer go? I feel like it disappeared really quickly. One minute I was eating strawberries and peaches and desperately trying to tan, the next minute we’re halfway through September, closer to October than August and it’s raining. I’m struggling to adjust to wearing jeans and coats again. So I have dived straight back into Autumn baking in a pretty major way with this cake that pretty much sums up all the best things about baking this time of year. DSC_0106This cake certainly lived up to the expectations created by its fabulous name. I knew from the raw mixture it was going to be good and while it is baking it makes the house smell incredible. The browned butter in the sponge makes all the difference, especially combined with the cinnamon. The generous amount of caramel makes it deliciously decadent – particularly if you add a drizzle of cream to your slice. This acted as the ultimate comfort food to rid me of end of summer or post holiday blues! You can find the recipe here – my only change was to use extra flour to replace some of the ground almonds, simply because I didn’t have enough and the rain was a tad too ferocious to persuade me to go out and buy more! Eating this cake, listening to the rain, watching it get dark at 5pm – autumn is definitely here. DSC_0117

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Whole Lemon Bars

Something happened to me last week whilst cooking that, in 5 years of blogging, has never happened to me before. We had lots of fresh gooseberries to use up and I love taking advantage of their short season in all the different recipes I gather during the rest of the year. I found a Nigel Slater gooseberry crumble cake recipe that sounded like it would fit the bill perfectly – a simple cut and come again cake that could also be easily transported. I made it, photographed it, took it to my Granny’s and sure enough it went down really well, like most Nigel Slater recipes do. When I was eating it, and then particularly when I was writing up the blog that evening, I started to feel that there was something really familiar about this cake. I checked my archive and sure enough, in July 2011 I had already made and posted it. Today’s post is my 205th, so in all honesty I’m surprised this hasn’t happened before! If you want to read about the cake, you can read my original post here, otherwise today I present all new Whole Lemon Bars!
I really enjoyed making this cake with a whole orange a few months ago, so when I saw these bars I was intrigued how the same technique would work with a much sourer fruit. I ended up making the lemon mixture in my mini food processor as my normal size one had broken, and luckily it just about all fit in, making the whole process really easy. Lemon bars in record time! The base was also super simple as you just press it into the tin, saving any rolling faff. The results were delicious – obviously the whole lemon in the filling meant they tasted (and looked) really vibrant and citrusy without being too sour. The base was also actually really tasty even just on it’s own, I think the vanilla balanced really well with the sharper topping. You can find the recipe here – enjoy!

Friday, 30 August 2013

Lemon Drizzle Traybake

The picture below is only roughly half of this traybake. Sometimes you just need a hefty dose of cake. This lemon drizzle marks the third and final (for now!) podcast in the Lucy’s Recipes series, which you can listen to here. I think lemon drizzle cakes are one of those bakes that are always popular – they’re seen in tearooms and cafes across the country. They’re also easy to adapt to your own likes and needs – I’ve made loaf cakes, mini cakes, covered the whole top with icing, used a crunchy sugar syrup instead of icing, and used oranges or limes instead of lemon. The possibilities are endless! The recipe I used is below, adapted from a Donal Skehan recipe – enjoy!DSC_0130Lemon Drizzle Traybake
225g caster sugar
225g butter
4 eggs
250g self raising flour
1tsp baking powder
3tbsps milk
zest of 3 lemons
150g icing sugar
juice of one lemon
1. Preheat the oven to 160’C. Cream the butter and sugar until really light and fluffy.
2. Gradually add in the eggs, mixing well in between each addition.
3. Grate in the lemon zest, then sift in the baking powder and flour.
4. Add the milk and fold gently until everything is evenly combined.
5. Pour the cake mixture into a lined rectangular baking tin (30x23cm) and cook for 30mins until golden and springy. Place on a wire rack to cool.
6. Combine the icing sugar and lemon juice into a smooth paste. Drizzle off the end of a spoon over the cooled cake in a large zig zag pattern. Enjoy!


Monday, 26 August 2013

Blackberry, Lime and Elderflower Cake

It appears lime recipes on this blog are like buses – you wait forever for one and then two come at once. I was really surprised when I was tagging my Lime & Rosewater cake that I’d never blogged anything limey in all 5 years of blogging – especially considering I have made 18 lemon and 16 orange recipes. It was actually a sheer coincidence that I ended up making two limey recipes so close to each other after years of nothing, but the tasty results of both cakes have persuaded me to make sure another 5 years of blogging doesn’t go by before I use it again.DSC_0086In this cake the limes are paired with a whole load of fresh blackberries. The bramble bushes near my house are ripening rapidly now – the fruit can’t be picked fast enough! I remember going blackberrying with my parents when I was younger – spending hours in amongst the huge brambles, perfecting a routine of one berry for the bucket, one for me, one for the bucket, one for me. Now my parents go together to pick the berries all growing by the river or the common – I think its great that even in London there is still fruit growing wildly. My Mum uses the fruit to make jars and jars of blackberry jam for gifts and to last us through the winter, and I take advantage of this wealth of free fresh fruit to bake with. DSC_0089This recipe makes a big tray of cake but it’s not rich (and it is addictive) so you’ll definitely find yourself repeatedly going back for more, and also the drizzle keeps it super moist. I really liked the combination of flavours in this cake – lime and blackberry isn’t something I would have put together but they really work – but I think I would have liked the elderflower to be a bit stronger. It’s only a delicate flavour that got slightly overpowered by lime, so I would up the cordial and reduce tCalendar Cakes Challengehe lime juice in the drizzle next time. Also, I think I would stir the blackberries right into the cake mixture rather than place them on top so that they release a bit more juice and flavour into the cake. Overall though I was definitely pleased with this traybake – it was super quick to make and really versatile. I’m going to submit this cake to my first ever Calendar Cakes challenge, hosted by Dolly Bakes and Laura Loves Cakes.The August theme is ‘Summer Lovin’ using seasonal ingredients or summer memories and this cake combines both! Enjoy :)

Blackberry, Lime and Elderflower Drizzle Cake, adapted from Waitrose Kitchen Magazine
Ingredients: 225g self raising flour
75g ground almonds
250g softened butter
250g golden caster sugar
4 eggs
1tsp vanilla extract
1 lime, juiced and zested
2tbsp milk
200g blackberries

Drizzle: 100ml elderflower cordial
6tbsp granulated sugar
zest of 1 lime
juice of 1/2 lime

1. Preheat the oven to 180’C. Line a 22cm x 33cm cake tin.
Blitz all the cake ingredients apart from the blackberries in a food processor (or with an electric whisk) until smooth.
3. Tip the cake mixture into the tin and top with the blackberries, pressing in lightly (or stir the blackberries into the cake mixture gently before tipping into the tin). Bake for 30 minutes.
4. Use a cake skewer to poke holes all over the surface of the cake – this will enable the drizzle to properly soak into the cake. Mix together the drizzle ingredients and spoon over the hot cake. Cool in the tin before slicing. Enjoy!

Friday, 23 August 2013

Sausage Plait

Today is the second instalment in the ‘Lucy’s Recipes’ series of podcasts over on and it is one of my favourite recipes – sausage plait! I spoke briefly about this a few months ago but it really is a weekday favourite at my house. With only 4 ingredients it is so simple but worth it and perfect for after a long day at work or school – and then the leftovers are just as good in a lunchbox the next day. It’s also really versatile to adapt to your favourite flavours – you an experiment with different types of sausages, herbs and spices. It also doesn’t require exact quantities – if you have some leftover sausagemeat or puff pastry it is You can find the recipe below and listen to the podcast here – enjoy! Lucy Sausage Plait collageSausage Plait

Ingredients: 350g puff pastry
8 sausages
1 apple
1 onion

1. Preheat the oven to 190’C. Dice the apple and onion – there is no need to peel the apple.
2. Remove the sausages from their skins by making a small cut in the casing and peeling it off. Add the sausages, apple and onion to a large bowl.
3. Mix with a wooden spoon or your hands until the apple and onion are evenly distributed throughout the sausage meat.
4. Roll out the puff pastry on a floured surface to a large rectangle, a few mm thick. Shape the sausage mixture into a rectangle down the centre of the puff pastry.
5. Cut diagonal slits an inch apart in the puff pastry either side of the sausage mixture, towards the same end of the plait on both sides.
6. Starting at the end nearest you, fold the pieces of pastry over the sausage meat alternately, forming a plait effect. Bring up the ends of the pastry and trim off any excess.
7. Brush the plait with beaten egg and place on a large baking tray. Bake for 30minutes until the pastry is risen, crisp and golden. Enjoy!

Monday, 12 August 2013

White Chocolate & Raspberry Dipped Cookies

You might remember back in May I told you I had been interviewed all about this blog and baking for a podcast on Well, today is the start of a new 3-part podcast series with me over on Podium, called ‘Lucy’s Recipes’ where I bake and chat through a different recipe each week. I am super excited about it, I really enjoyed recording it and it was a really fun new challenge. These white chocolate and raspberry cookies are the first recipe in the series and were a big hit in my house!DSC_0102As well as talking through the recipe for these cookies on this weeks podcast, I also chat about my future plans now that I have finished school. I haven’t mentioned them on here before as I was waiting until everything was confirmed and I had solid plans to announce. But since exams results day was yesterday here in the UK I can finally be sure of exactly what I’m doing for the next four years. At the start of October, I am starting cookery school! I know it will be a massive challenge going from a fairly relaxed Sixth Form schedule at school to an intense year of learning everything there is to know about food but I am so excited! In case you are interested, I will be doing this Leiths Professional Diploma for a year. After that, I will be starting a History degree at Cambridge in October 2014. This blog will of course keep going and I’m hoping to be able to write posts about my time at Leiths and updates on cookery school as well as my normal content, if people would be interested? Now, back to the cookies!DSC_0145This is my fourth white chocolate cookie on my blog and they are always super popular but I wanted to do something slightly different with this version. I adapted a Dorie Greenspan sable recipe, meaning that the cookies are super sandy and buttery. This was the first time I have used freeze dried raspberries and I really liked them – they are super pretty and their burst of intense raspberry flavour helps cut through the richness of the thick layer of white chocolate! At first, I wasn’t sure if these cookies would be too rich but judging by the speed at which the cookie tin emptied I think we managed! You can find the recipe below, and head over to the podcast here to listen to me chat through the recipe and discuss cookery school a bit more. I hope you enjoy!DSC_0143
White Chocolate and Raspberry Dipped Cookies
Ingredients: 225g butter
1/2 cup caster sugar
1/2 cup icing sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 egg yolks
2 cups plain flour
250g white chocolate, chopped into small chunks freeze dried raspberries
1. Cream the butter and sugars in a stand mixer or with a wooden spoon until really light and fluffy.
2. Add the yolks and salt and mix until combined.
3. Pour in the flour and 100g of the white chocolate and stir until the dough comes together and looks uniform.
4. Shape the dough into a log and wrap in clingfilm and chill for at least 3 hours.
5. Preheat the oven to 180’C. Unwrap your log of cookie dough and slice into 1cm thick cookies. Place on a lined baking tray, leaving 1inch between them.
6. Bake for 15minutes until golden, then let cool.
7. Melt the remaining white chocolate in the microwave (stirring every 30seconds) or in a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water.
8. Dip the cookies halfway into the white chocolate and place on parchment paper. Sprinkle some freeze dried raspberries over the white chocolate and leave to set. Enjoy!

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Lime, Yoghurt and Rosewater Cake

This post is an important post for me. It marks my first blog post with my shiny new camera! Well, technically, my Borough Market post did, but hey – this is my first recipe post with it. I have been meaning to buy a proper SLR camera since around my first blogoversary. Four years ago. Despite thinking how much I needed one every. single. time. that I struggled to get a half decent photo with my old camera I just always was too scared to make the investment. What if I stopped blogging? What if I dropped it? What if I lost it? Until this week, on my 5th blogoverary, I finally took the plunge! My old camera that I used, a little hot pink point-and-shoot that is over 7 years old has finally been relegated in favour of a proper Nikon SLR and, as much as I have fond memories of my old camera, I am beyond excited!DSC_0071This cake was also important in another way: it saved the baking day. My Mum looked through my whole list of bookmarked bakes – that’s a selection of 340 cakes, pies, ice creams, muffins, cookies, doughnuts, tarts and more – and found not one that she liked. (Update: she would like to add there were many that she liked, just none that she fancied that day.) Eventually, we found this cake that suited us both. Not too rich for her, summery enough for me. I can always rely on a Rachel Allen recipe to unite us! DSC_0081Luckily it lived up to expectations – the recipe delivered a really moist, flavoursome cake with plenty of lime zing but a touch of sweetness from the rosewater. My notes on this cake would be to take care with the drizzle. When I made it, I added the minimum 1tbsp of rosewater which seemed like a lot and certainly smelt and tasted strong when I tested it, but once it’s competing with the lime in the cake I felt it got a bit lost. Rosewater is always a flavour to be careful with to prevent bakes tasting soapy, but in this cake I think you can definitely add more than you think. The generous dose of drizzle also means the cake keeps really well for a few days – if you can get it to last that long! You can find the recipe here – enjoy!DSC_0083

Saturday, 3 August 2013

Borough Market

This week I’ve been enjoying acting like a tourist in my own city. I sometimes think I don’t take advantage enough of living in London – sticking to the areas I know and love rather than exploring everything this incredible city has to offer. My Thursday trip to Borough Market was something of a compromise – somewhere I love, but haven’t got round to revisiting for well over a year. I spent the morning at the market, establishing a great routine of wander, find something to eat, sit in the sunshine and eat, and repeat. In the afternoon I walked from the market all the way to Hyde Park (a good hour and a half or so at a leisurely pace in the sunshine), taking in all the sights of Southbank, the Tate, the London Eye, Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, the Mall and the Houses of Parliament on my way. I loved seeing the city at it’s best in the blazing sun and felt truly proud to be a Londoner! I thought I’d share a few photos from my Borough Market with you today – enjoy!DSC_0013
IMG-20130801-01012This was just a small selection of the unusual meats offered by the aptly named Exotic Meat Company – they also had kangroo, crocodile, elk and ostrich on offer! I was very intrigued but wimped out – has anyone else tried?!DSC_0035My gorgeous Lemon, Lime and Basil goats milk ice cream from Greedy Goat – the ultimate refreshment. I also ate (too speedily to get a photo of) gorgeous gnocchi stuffed with tomato and mozzarella served with tomato sauce from La Tua Pasta and several different types of fudge, including a great salted caramel fudge, from Whirld so I would highly recommend all 3 stalls! DSC_0030