30 April 2008

Almost Angel cake

Almost Angel cake

Angel cake, the layered pink and white loaf cake similar to Battenberg is popular with my kids. This is a alternative version, a marbled sponge cake, layered with jam and as I don't 'do' marzipan a almond butter icing.

This cake was so simple to make, it is a rubbed-in cake which saves on washing up the mixer, basically you rub the flour, butter and sugar together then mix in the wet ingredients, split the mixture in half and dye one half with a little food colouring paste. Then get creative marbling your cake mixes. If this was a true Angel cake / Battenberg it would be finished with a layer of marzipan, sticking with the almond flavour marzipan would give I substituted it for a almond butter cream. The cake is filled with plum jam as plum works very well with almonds, a match made in heaven.

Almost Angel cake:

225g S/R Flour

225g caster sugar

125g butter, softened

2 eggs

150ml milk

1 tsp vanilla extract

few drops food colouring paste

4 tbsp plum jam, to sandwiching sponges


100g butter, very soft

100g icing sugar

150g ground almonds

Grease and line two 20cm cake tins,

Preheat oven to 180c.

In a bowl sieve the flour, add caster sugar and butter rub together until it resembles breadcrumbs.

In another bowl whisk together eggs, milk and vanilla extract.

Add to flour mixture and mix together until it is smooth. Remove half the batter to another bowl, add a few drops of food colouring paste to one bowl and mix well.

Place alternate spoonfuls of each mix into the cake tins. To create the marbling affect drag a skewer / cake tester through the cake mix to swirl the colours together. Bake for 25 minutes.

To make the frosting place the butter, icing sugar and ground almonds in a blender and mix until smooth, taste and add more sugar or almonds depending on your tastes. Firm up in the fridge. When the cakes are cooked and cooled sandwich together with the plum jam and cover with the butter cream.

This cake was delicious, the rubbed-in method made it a moist and tender sponge, the plum jam and almond icing work well together and the marbled pink and white cake looked very pretty. Proved very popular with my daughter...but anything pink is popular with her.

23 April 2008

Another tag

I have been tagged, this time by the lovely Amy from The new Nigella / Cooking for Chris , this tag was started by Anna
The challenge was to show your top ten pics from your blog.
As I have only been blogging for about a month I'm not sure if I have 10 pictures, let alone a top 10, so I have picked my favourite pictures of the food I enjoyed blogging about the most.

I am not a natural photographer, in fact I am one of those people who can take something of beauty and make it a thing of sheer ugliness in one click of the camera :) I am eager to learn though and have a new camera on the way woohoo!

  • Home cured bacon

Chicken from the Venetian ghetto

  • Meringue cupcakes

  • Oaty shortbread

  • Dulce de leche chocolate cake

  • Chocolate brownie with hot blonde sauce

16 April 2008

Bringing home the bacon

You can buy bacon just about anywhere nowadays, in desperate times the key ingredients for a bacon sandwich i.e bacon and white bread can be bought in any corner shop. I prefer my bacon to come from my butcher, not just because I care about where my meat comes from but the fact that mass produced shop bought bacon just doesn't compare to butchers bacon.

First of all no white gunk leaking out the meat into the frying pan and second of all it actually tastes like bacon.

So if my butchers bacon is so good and easy to get a hold of, why on earth am I planning on curing my own bacon, in fact I thought it was such a strange idea that it has took me best part of a year to get round to it, and I am only doing so now out of amused interest.

It could be a complete waste of time, then again it could change my bacon eating life for ever.

This recipe comes from Hugh Fearnley - Whittingstall's 'The River cottage family cookbook'
I halved the quantities in this recipe.

Free range piece of pork such as loin (I used organic), about 1.5kg
for the dry cure mix:
bay leaves,
2 juniper berries, 10
Coarse salt, 500g
Soft brown sugar, 100g
Coarsely ground black pepper

First prepare the dry cure.

Finely chop the bay leaves, lightly crush the juniper berries and add both to a non-metallic bowl along with the salt, sugar and pepper. Mix thoroughly together.

Rub a handful of the salt mix into the pork, when all the surfaces are covered put it in a Tupperware box, cover and put in the fridge.

After 24 hours drain any water that the salt has drawn out of the meat and rub another handful or two of the salt cure into the pork. Return to the fridge.

Repeat this process everyday, after 4 days the bacon will be 'lightly' cured (ready to use as bacon sandwiches) although you could cure it for up to a week, this will make it too salty for bacon rashers though so more suited to using in cooking such as soups.

When you've finished curing your bacon, rinse off the excess salt and pat the meat dry with kitchen paper.

Ideally the meat should be hung for 24 hours.

Wrap the finished bacon in greaseproof paper, to let it breathe, and slice as needed.

The 'cure' mix, rubbed into the pork.

So was it worth it, 4 days wait for a bacon sandwich, well, yes it was.

I sliced lovely rashers and fried them (a treat in itself) and served them on fluffy homemade white bread with chunky oven chips.

It was the most delicious bacon, I was quite unsure how it would taste actually, especially as I have such a soft spot for smoked bacon, and while I am not yet ready to attempt smoking bacon just yet as I was surprised at how 'bacon-ey' it tasted.

And while it produced no white gunk in the frying bacon it did produce lovely juices perfect for dipping my bread into.

The only down side I can see to this is that the bacon was slightly over salty for my liking, next time I might cure it for a day less, although the salty bacon will be perfect as a flavour base in many meals.

A long wait but well worth it.

I've been tagged!

The lovely George and Vi from Violets pantry have tagged me, this is for a challenge set on Violets pantry to get bloggers to get to know each other a little better, basically I have to describe my self in 5 words and then tag 5 other bloggers.

I would describe myself as:
quiet (yes, really!!!)
greedy (where cake is concerned)
that was quite hard actually.
I am tagging:

Tina - http://tina-cookerybookchallenge.blogspot.com/

Teresa- http://www.teresagskitchen.blogspot.com/

Amy- http://www.cookingforchris.blogspot.com/

Laura -http://www.hungryandfrozen.blogspot.com/

Gayle- http://theovenison.blogspot.com/

please have a nosey at some of the above mentioned blogs, they are all fantastic.

15 April 2008

Lemon curd

I always thought I did not like Lemon curd, I never ate it, as in a shop bought jar, on toast in place of jam, we never had it in the house growing up so I always thought it was just like a yellow marmalade. Yuk.
Once I got thinking about it I saw it was just my preconceived marmalade-esque thoughts that were putting me off. One of my favourite desserts is lemon meringue pie....full of lemon curd, talk about not seeing the wood for the trees.

Nigella's lemon meringue cake in Feast had caught me eye many times but I had always made the Strawberry version (from Forever summer) instead of the lemon version.

My first attempts at lemon curd making was for the above mentioned cake, I used Nigella's recipe, adapted from her Passion fruit curd recipe. I admit I was slightly nervous at making this, I don't really go in for jams and preserves but this recipe is so simple and extremely gratifying.

Lemon curd:

2 unwaxed lemons (zest and juice)
2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
150g caster sugar
100g unsalted butter

Juice and zest the lemons.
Beat the eggs, egg yolks and sugar together.
Melt the butter over a low heat in a saucepan, when melted stir in the sugar-egg mixture and the lemon juice, keep cooking gently, stirring constantly, until thickened.
Take off the heat and whisk in the lemon zest, cool slightly and pour into a sterilised jar.
Store in the fridge.

Simplicity itself, I am always amazed at the cheerful yellow colour and extreme lemon taste this produces, all from 2 lemons, eggs, butter and sugar.

As it is so simple to make I always have a jar in the fridge now so I am never far away from a intense lemony hit.

This is great in Nigella's Lemon meringue cake, her 'Fried egg' biscuits from 'How to be a domestic goddess' and probably best of all, spread on fresh brioche.

12 April 2008


Venison, I love venison.

I first ate it as a child, my Mum had a fondness for game meat, I grew up on pheasant, guinea fowl and rabbit which are quite hard to get a hold of here, although something tells me that my Mum wouldn't be able to go to the local butcher and pick up a unplucked pheasant anymore, such a shame.
I found my venison at my local organic farmers market, it is only held once a month and I finally remembered about it and got there before they had sold out of everything.
I don't 'do' early on a Saturday morning.

I don't think I had eaten venison since my childhood until recently. I think of it now as one of my favourite dinners, a venison steak, served rare with a red wine, chilli and chocolate sauce. Chocolate compliments venison beautifully, not surprising really as chocolate goes very well with beef and venison is similar to beef, although richer and lower in calories, fat and cholesterol, yay!

Venison is best served rare....why would you want to eat it any other way?

I quickly seared it in a hot pan and then cooked for 3 -4 minutes each side. Plus 5 minutes resting time.

While the meat is resting you can get on with the sauce, it really is that quick.

Red wine, chili and chocolate sauce:

50g butter
150ml red wine (just whatever is sitting by the stove)
pinch of chilli flakes
1 tbsp good quality chocolate

Measure out the wine and quickly soak the chilli flakes in it.
Pour wine into the venison pan, de-glazing all the meaty cooking juices, simmer until it reduces by half,
add the chocolate to the pan, stir until melted,
whisk in the butter,
serve with rare venison and new season asparagus.

A must for game lovers, it is the tenderest meat, as it is very lean it doesn't like being overcooked, anything more than 'medium' would spoil it, the red wine and chocolate sauce is the ideal match for this meat, I don't think I would want to eat it any differently.
A word of warning, the couple of times my OH has eaten this he comments that it reminds him of liver, as I love liver it isn't a problem for me, but yes, I can also taste the similarities. So maybe not a meat for liver haters.

09 April 2008

Tea and biscuits, milk and cookies

Tea and biscuits

Tea and biscuits, sometimes in life only this will do, I suppose that sounds very quaint and English but it is true.

Ask anyone, they all have their favourite biscuit for tea, either to eat along side a cup of tea or a good biscuit to dunk, (for the record, mine is a good old digestive) these biscuits aren't so good for dunking but nevertheless they are fantastic tea biscuits, I suppose I like them so much because they remind me of my Dad's favourite biscuit the 'Hobnob'.

At first bite I wasn't too impressed with these biscuits, but they are seriously addictive, they are quite robust but light at the same time, and they contain lots of oats so they are practically health food, if only.

This recipe comes from Rachel Allen's 'Food for living'

Oaty shortbread

275g oats
100g plain flour
150g caster sugar
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 level tsp salt
25g butter, softened.

Preheat oven to 180c
Whiz oats in a food processor until they are quite fine
Add the remaining ingredients and whiz until the dough comes together.
Roll out the dough on a floured surface to a thickness of 5mm.
Cut into shapes and place on baking trays.
Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes, or until pale golden and slightly firm
Transfer to a rack to cool.

This will make around 40 biscuits, they keep very well, if you can bear to leave them alone.

Milk and cookies

Chocolate mint cookies
A favourite with my children, chocolate mint cookies from Nigella Express.
Chocolate and mint, a match made in culinary heaven. My kids love them as they taste just like those lurid green Aero bars that I don't like them eating. These are a breeze
to make and were decorated by my daughter.

The cookies are chocolate chip cookies and the mint comes from a icing glaze, having made these before I knew that I'd up the amount of mint extract for a more pronounced flavour. I also didn't make up for the extra liquid in the icing with more icing sugar, going for a sticky glaze instead of a hard set icing.

Chocolate mint cookies

100g soft butter
150g light brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg
150g flour
35g cocoa powder
1/ tsp baking powder
200g dark choc chips
75g icing sugar
1 tbsp cocoa, sieved
2 tbsp boiling water
1/4 tsp peppermint extract (I used 1 tsp)

Preheat oven to 180c
Cream butter and sugar, beat in the vanilla extract and the egg.
Mix the flour, cocoa and baking powder in a bowl and gradually beat into the cream mixture.
Finally fold in the chocolate chips.
Using a rounded 15ml tablespoon measure, spoon out scoops of cookie dough and place on a lined baking sheet.
Bake in the oven for 12 minutes, cool slightly before moving to a wire wrack.
Put the glaze ingredients into a saucepan and heat until combines.
Using a teaspoon, zig - zag the glaze over each cooling cookie. (We poured over the cooling cookies, lol.)
Makes about 26.

My kids love these with a glass of milk as a after dinner snack.

06 April 2008

Sunday lunch....My way!

Sunday lunch, traditional family meal, roast dinner and Yorkshire pudding, food heaven?...well it can be, but , in my house at least, it is more like this... 'the beef is too bloody', 'ahh, I don't want broccoli' and worst of all 'damn, my Yorkshires didn't rise'
What starts off as a lovely meal can leave you stressed and harassed.
This Sunday my dearest OH found himself suffering from the dreaded 'man flu' poor him, or poor me depending which way you look at it :). So this left me with a dilemma, a Sunday dinner for myself and the kids, well one child as my son was also poorly, would be far too much work and not worth the bother. Using this to my advantage I made Sunday lunch my way.

Completely selfish and completely enjoyable, relaxing and delicious.

I had a few organic chicken legs in the fridge so decided on cooking one of my favourite meals 'Tagliatelle with chicken from the Venetian ghetto' from Nigella's How to eat.
I love this recipe, although I altered it slightly, by using linguine in place of tagliatelle and whole chicken legs in place of a whole chicken, well, there was only two people eating it.

This is so simple, roast your chicken (I throw some chopped onions and unpeeled garlic cloves in with it too), rip it apart, toss chicken, skin and all the roasting juices in the pasta with some toasted pine nuts and sultanas, delicious. Perfect for slurping.

My Sunday lunch version of Venetian chicken :

2 chicken legs
1 tbsp EVOO
needles from 1 / 2 sprigs of rosemary
I onion, peeled and cut into 8
4 cloves of garlic (in the skin)
20g sultanas (soaked in water)
50g pine nuts, lightly toasted
200g linguine
Preheat oven to 200c
Rub chicken with oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, place in a baking tin with the onions and garlic and sprinkle with the rosemary.
Roast for 30 - 40 minutes, until well browned, and the juices run clear.
When the chicken is nearly done put a pan of water on to boil.
Remove the chicken from the oven and take the meat off the bones, leaving on all the skin, rip apart into 'mouth' sized chunks.
For the sauce pour all the juices from the roasting tin, along with onions and garlic cloves, into a saucepan, add the drained sultanas and toasted pine nuts, simmer while you cook the pasta in the salted water.
When the pasta is cooked and drained, toss it in the pan with the sauce, throw in the chicken and transfer to a large bowl. Enjoy.


I always cook a pudding on Sunday, but my original plan for rice pudding got put on hold, as due to illness it would get wasted.
My self indulgent, simple Sunday pudding was gooey chocolate brownies with creamy vanilla ice cream and hot blonde chocolate sauce.

These were absolutely delicious, although after two helpings I started to feel slightly nauseous.

Hot blonde sauce:

100g white chocolate buttons
280ml double cream
Heat cream in a saucepan til just warm,
add white chocolate to the pan,
after a minute or two turn off heat,
stir until chocolate has melted and the sauce has thickened.
Pour over gooey brownies and cold ice cream.

Sunday lunch heaven....I wish it was like this every Sunday.