Friday, 30 May 2014

Mini Rhubarb Lemon Buttermilk Bundt Cakes

I have wanted a bundt tin for so long so I was very excited when I found a yellow silicone mini bundt tin in Lidl for just £2! I’m normally quite good at resisting tins and kitchenware that I know aren’t exactly vital to my collection, but this was too much of a bargain to resist. And I’m happy I didn’t because it gave me the excuse to make these tasty little rhubarb cakes. DSC_0143They turned out so cute that I want to make all my muffins and cupcakes in this tray in the future! I slightly overfilled the tin, hence the pirouetting look to my cakes, but no one was complaining about having a bigger portion. Rhubarb and orange is a classic combination but lemon and rhubarb work really well together too, giving a fresh and zesty result. I didn’t want to hide the pretty bundt shapes, but if you were just using a muffin tin I think a lemon glace icing would be perfect on these to add a little extra sweetness. Because I adapted this from a muffin recipe, they are not super sweet on their own and technically count as breakfast food. What is not to like? You can find the recipe below – enjoy!DSC_0142Mini Rhubarb Lemon Buttermilk Bundts adapted from this recipe

Ingredients: 175g caster sugar
200g rhubarb, halved lengthways then diced into 1cm pieces
1 lemon, zested
2 tbsp sunflower oil
1 egg
125ml buttermilk, or 125ml milk and 1tsp of lemon juice left to stand for 5mins 
200g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

Method: 1. Heat oven to 180’C. Spray a mini bundt tin with cake release spray, or line a 12-hole muffin tin with paper cases.
Stir the sugar, lemon zest and rhubarb together and set aside.
3. Beat
the oil, egg and buttermilk together. Pour onto the sugary rhubarb and stir until combined.
4. Now, add the flour, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda and stir until just evenly incorporated.
Quickly spoon into the cases, filling ¾ full. Bake for 15-18 mins until golden and springy to the touch. Cool on a wire rack and dust with icing sugar.

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Leiths: Advanced Term, Week 5

A week filled with days to look forward to – a trip to a vineyard, first time making filled pasta, petit four day. I think this week contained highlights from my whole time at Leiths and made a welcome change from the struggle Week 4 had been. More days like this please!photo 1 (22)Spinach and ricotta tortellini is one of my favourite instant lazy dinners – boil for 2 minutes and boom dinner is ready. Therefore it was quite different to spend the best part of 3 hours making the above crab and prawn tortellini with a crab bisque. I’ve really been looking forward to making my own filled pasta and although fiddly, it was undoubtedly more satisfying than the supermarket option. Shaping is going to take a bit of practice but with results like this I’m more than happy to do 1 (23)Tuesday brought our first Leiths school trip! We all piled on the coach down to Plumpton College, an agricultural college with a vineyard and winery used by the students as they learn about wine, and then Ridgeview Wine Estate which makes English sparkling wine that has been served to the Queen. Before this trip I didn’t realise how much wine and sparkling wine England makes, and more importantly, how good it is! It definitely made a change (for the better!) from the museums and conferences that school trips used to involve. Even when our coach got stuck in rush hour traffic on the way home I didn’t feel we could really complain, and I’m pretty sure the 6 wines we’d tried that day helped that…photo 4 (16)Petit four day. A day I have literally been looking forward to since I first heard about it way before I even started at Leiths. And it didn’t disappoint! A day devoted to sugar and pastels in which we made (deep breath) rose marshmallows, almond & pistachio nougat, passion fruit pate de fruit, pistachio and raspberry macarons, amaretto chocolate truffles and iced fondant fancies. Cue the sugar high! The atmosphere in the kitchen all day was really relaxed and fun as our table worked together to bring the above plate together. I’ve tried making macarons before and they’ve never worked so it was super satisfying to open the oven and see ‘they look like actual macarons!’ much to our teachers amusement. As our teacher pointed out, at the start of Leiths we were scared of making a single sugar syrup and now we’d made a plate involving at least six – showing just how far we’ve come in the last eight months. Dividing it all up at the end of the day felt like dealing out a sweet shop and we all went home tired but happy….craving salt and nursing a sugar induced headache. photo 2 (24)Podding broad beans, shelling peas…Thursday morning felt like it should have been spent in a sunny field in the countryside instead of a hot London kitchen. The veg was for our gnocchi and combined with asparagus made a perfect Spring dish. I’ve made gnocchi once before and they turned out gloopy and grey so it was so satisfying to learn the secrets and get light and tender results this time. This dish, followed by a raspberry macaron saved from the day before, made the perfect lunch. Bring on week 6!photo 5 (15)

Leiths: Advanced Term, Week 4

Week four highlighted the rollercoaster that Leiths can be. I don’t even have a photo of the seafood feuilletee I made on Friday because I was so annoyed with the plate I’d served, although in the end it wasn’t actually that bad. Sometimes everyone has a bad week and I hope that this was mine – still enjoyable but just frustrating at the end!photo 2 (23)So far at Leiths we have only dealt with duck breasts, so our first challenge this week was carving up a whole duck. In fact we had to carve it once semi-cooked, adding an extra challenge in the form of a double layer of gloves so you could actually handle the meat. I didn’t expect carving a duck to be so different to carving a chicken (is that weird?) so it was really good to give it ago. Essentially this dish was the retro classic duck a l’orange served with pommes anna – a potato dish with the highest ratio of butter to potato I have ever seen – and it proved a very tasty way to start the week. photo (19)New week, new nemesis. Jus. Sauces have been a struggle throughout Leiths for me – that final element that needs perfecting to bring a dish together. Perfect seasoning, reducing, skill right from the beginning. I made a jus last week that pretty much worked but this week felt like I was going backwards as it went from watery thin to toffee stringy in a matter of moments. Also, it appears eight months of burns and cuts in the kitchen have hardened us somewhat and the previously discussed skewer test (insert skewer into cooked meat, place skewer on wrist, if searingly hot then the dish is done) no longer works for us as despite repeated attempts we couldn’t feel anything, resulting in slightly overcooked chicken. Annoying when you have spent two days ballotining and cooking the whole chicken. Not my most successful dish but the wodge of garlic butter potatoes on the plate cheered up the situation. photo 4 (15)Croissants. Took 3 days to make, 2 minutes to burn. 6 months at cookery school and it appears I still haven’t lost my talent for forgetting when things went in the oven! In fairness, it was only the outside which had ‘taken on a bit of excess colour’ and the inside was still buttery and delicious but nevertheless it was a lesson learnt – when a recipe says 10 minutes, it means 10 minutes not 12. Despite this I had to remind myself that I never thought I would be making croissants from scratch – especially ones that actually looked and tasted like real, shop bought croissants – so I’m still a little bit proud and look forward to making them again so I can actually get them right! Bring on week 5!

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Salted Caramel and Ginger Cake

When I find a food I like, I tend to temporarily lose all willpower over it. The most recent case, as previously discussed, was mini eggs – an addiction only stopped because they stopped being sold at the end of the Easter season. Previous fads have been varied – bourbons, greek salads for lunch, toasted pittas. I’ll eat it every day for a week, my Mum will stock up on supplies, and then suddenly I’ll be over it and on to the next thing. I’m always impressed by people who can hold back over something they clearly love – my Granny is one of these people. We always have great afternoon teas with several cakes (the most recent felt like a fun wedding cake tasting as we worked our way through 3 different cakes) but whilst I’ll happily accept seconds, she always has more restraint. Therefore, it was a sign of just how good this cake was when she not only asked for the recipe, but had a second piece!DSC_0127To be honest, it was a slight miracle that this cake worked. That most simple piece of advice given to anyone starting cooking – read the recipe carefully before you start – continues to occasionally evade me. Hence why this cake had double the amount of caramel inside that it was meant to. Whoops! Turns out I was supposed to put half my caramel sauce in the cake and save half for the top, whereas I just merrily stirred it all straight into the cake. I was really surprised that the extra 100ml of sauce didn’t disrupt the cakes texture but the result was soft and delicious, with a texture similar to gingerbread. If I made this cake again I would repeat my mistake! The spicy ginger pieces ensure it isn’t too sweet I hadn’t used crystallised ginger before (only ever the candied ginger in jars) and I loved it and had to stop myself snacking on it out straight out of the tub. You can find the recipe here so you can try it both caramel ways – enjoy!DSC_0133

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Leiths: Advanced Term, Week 3

After spending nearly six months at Leiths, my class and I are well aware of the weird world we enter into every day. Cookery school is a bubble with food consistently on the brain – if you’re not making it, you’re watching someone else, if you’re not eating, you’re just waiting for the plate to reach you. You find yourself talking and obsessing about food in a way that most people would find crazy. And it’s not just us students – this was the week that our range of teachers uttered some memorable lines (18)Another week, another new pastry. This week was the turn of filo – something I’ve bought countless times, marvelled at as they made it on Great British Bake Off and never given a go myself. Until now! A crucial part of making filo is beating the dough against the table with a specific flick of the wrist in order to develop the gluten. Trying to explain this process led to the classic line by my teacher ‘imagine you are a monkey and your pastry is your tail’ accompanied by a mime which sounds crazy but was surprisingly helpful. The next step is the elaborate stretching process to get the dough so thin you can see through it. We did this in pairs, draping the pastry over our knuckles and gently stretching it apart. As a different teacher said, this was potentially ‘the Bride Wars (what a film) of pastry’ as we desperately attempted not to create holes and sabotage our partners delicate filo. All in all, an interesting experience resulting in a tasty apple strudel!photo 1 (19)Wednesday was a day I don’t think many people were looking forward to: poached fish mousseline. Involving blending raw fish with egg white, then painstakingly passing it through a very fine sieve and poaching it in fish stock. Mmm. The day was about practicing classic skills – mousseline, beurre blanc, quenelling. In fact week 3 became known as the week of the quenelle and having been informed that our teacher that day was ‘the quenelle king’ the pressure was certainly on. Like piping or jointing I think it’s a skill that benefits hugely from practice so whilst this was perhaps not the most delicious dish I’ll make at Leiths, it was definitely helpful. trufflejointFew demonstration titles are more enticing than ‘Chocolate’. It was the perfect reward after a morning of sieving fish – encompassing a chocolate tasting, watching tempering and sampling truffles. The ones on the above left were passion fruit or raspberry ganache filled and the right were coconut&white chocolate – essentially a gourmet Bounty bar. According to our teacher ‘chocolate makes everybody go weird’, referring to the new level of greed and struggle with self control people have when presented with a plate of chocolate, so hopefully we managed to restrain ourselves suitably. photo 4 (14)Turning out set desserts has become an unexpected nemesis at Leiths – jellies, bavarois’ and now pannacottas all seem desperate to stay resolutely in their moulds. Each time I learn a new trick – tip the mould at an angle rather than directly inverting it, shake it from side to side, jolt the whole plate downwards. Although the above vanilla pannacotta actually came out like a dream, it slid and stuck to the side of the plate, leading to a presentation dilemma that saw me plate up two versions of the dish and ask anyone who happened to walk past my table which they preferred. In the end the consensus was for the first one anyway, but hopefully next time I will be able to confidently get it right first time. Bring on week 4!photo (17)

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Rhubarb and Stem Ginger Pie

I never make pies. In total I’ve only made 6 pies on here in nearly 6 years of blogging – terrible odds considering I normally love anything involving pastry. The last full size pie I made on here was way back in 2011 – the classic apple pie. I’m not sure why I’ve been avoiding them but it was clearly time to change. This may be cheating a little, as it is only a single crust, but it was so delicious I don’t think anyone was complaining. DSC_0128Rhubarb is one of my favourite fruits, and rhubarb and ginger are a classic combination so I knew this would be good. Opinions were divided in my house over the stem ginger in the pastry. I liked the spice it added to the pie, but the texture was maybe a bit strange, so to compromise you could easily just stick with ground ginger to provide a bit of heat. With a splash of crème anglaise (always practicing for school) I was sold and the pie did not last very long in my house. It was also easily adaptable – I had slightly less rhubarb and so made a smaller pie and used the spare pastry to make little ginger biscuits to keep us going while the pie baked. You can find the recipe here – enjoy! DSC_0134

Monday, 5 May 2014

Leiths: Advanced Term, Week 2

Week 2 – the week all day cooking returned, jelly making involved eggshells and cocktail sticks, tart slicing symbolised friendship levels and a tomato black market emerged in Kitchen 1 at Leiths…photo 1 (18)There are some things at Leiths that, when demonstrated or explained, we can all instantly tell are going to cause trouble when it comes to our turn making them in the kitchen. ‘Clearing’ was this weeks example. This is the process of making a liquid as clear as possible by removing all solid particles, even ones you cannot see, resulting in sparkling consommés or jellies. The process feels truly bizarre – I never imagined I would be adding crushed eggshells, yes, eggshells, to a saucepan – and anything so intricate is a challenge in a small kitchen. Making the above strawberry stay prettily suspended in the lemon jelly was painstaking and nearly gave me a premature heart condition at 18, much to the bemusement of my teacher, so it was a relief to have it finally presented, turned out…and demolished in 3 (12)Shortcrust was the first pastry we learnt to make at Leiths in the Foundation term when we made it multiple times, but since then we haven’t really returned to it - until now in this Tarte Normande. It was funny to see us all struggling to remember something we’d managed to learn and bake back in the day when we were still nervous and lost the majority of the time. Time constraints meant we were only able to do 3 rather than 5 apple spokes on top of the frangipane, meaning that although it was still delicious you had to pick carefully who got what slice!photo 1 (17)Our week finished with the return of all day cooking, this time centred around a Nordic inspired smorgasbord of goodness. I never thought that I would be curing and smoking my own fish, but this week I did both in the same day – and both were surprisingly easy! Tea smoked mackerel took 5 minutes to cook in a homemade smoker using a roasting tin and some foil, and cured salmon was as simple as making the marinade in 5 minutes, wrapping in clingfilm and leaving it for the week to absorb all the flavours. To be honest, I didn’t think this would really be my kind of food but when it turned out so pretty I couldn’t complain. photo 2 (19)                        Green olive and artichoke pithvier with heirloom tomato salad
I’ve lost track of the number of different pastries I have learnt to make so far at Leiths but this week was a big one: puff. When good all butter versions are so easily bought it is not something I have ever made before, but I really enjoyed learning how and the sense of pride on seeing your pastry rise after making it all day is embarrassingly satisfying. A heirloom tomato black market formed in our kitchen in the afternoon as we all tried to present pretty plates with limited tomatoes: conversations such as ‘How much do you want for a slice of your green one?’ ‘A piece of yellow or two orange slices at least, the green is rare’ were integral to getting a decent variety. Bring on week 3!

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Blood Orange & Cardamom Sorbet

Whisper it – I’m beginning to see the first signs of summer. Sunny days are becoming more frequent (glossing over today’s rainstorm), jumper wearing days less so. I’ve eaten Twisters in the park, gone for a scoop of ice cream after dinner (rosewater – it was delicious), walked into town without a jacket. And now I’ve made my first sorbet of the year!DSC_0151I’ve made a few ice creams at Leiths already but making it under pressure in a busy kitchen isn’t quite the same as taking the time to eat sorbet in the sunshine in the garden. It seemed fitting that my first foray into frozen goods this year was such a beautiful summery colour. I was lucky that my blood oranges were each a bold deep pink, apart from one that lacked any sign of colour at all, making us wonder whether it was a sneaky imposter of a normal orange supermarkets use to pad out their blood orange supplies?! Nevertheless the result was delicious – super refreshing, vibrant and just a hint of bitterness. I really liked the pistachios on top to add a bit of crunch to the icy sweetness. I was also surprised by how simple it was – I don’t have an ice cream machine so I just stirred it up with a fork every few hours to break down the ice crystals and this worked perfectly, inspiring me to make more sorbets this summer. You can find the recipe here – enjoy!DSC_0155