Blue dot spoon background

Friday, 29 April 2011

Hoorah for Bank Holidays!


Congratulations to the Prince and Princess, and may we all have a jolly good weekend!

PS: To enjoy some of your own Royal Wedding Cake, check out this post.

For the recipe, see Celebration Cupcake

Potato Cakes


This recipe is another from the book, the British Food Bible. Potato Cakes are delicious for a snack, with bacon for breakfast, or as a nice change with dinner, served with some lamb. It's also a handy way of using left over mash from the night before. According to the book, for a truly perfect potato cake you must use fresh, piping hot mash, but I've done otherwise and it still tastes gorgeous to me!

Ingredients:

550g mashed potato
25g butter
Seasoning
1 egg (optional)
115g plain flour

Instructions:

Whip your mash (either hot or cold) with the egg, butter and seasoning.


Mix together with the flour.  Add 100g of flour at first and keep adding flour when necessary going till you get a good doughy texture.


You could take an opportunity now to mix in an optional extra or two - such as small bits of crispy bacon or some spring onion. I've used some tiny bits of chopped leeks here to match in with the rest of our dinner.


When it has all formed a dough, place onto your work top, which should be well dusted with flour, and sprinkling the rolling pin with flour to give you a helping hand - roll out till the dough is 2cm thick.

Use a pastry cutter to cut into the sizes you desire - larger for a snack on their own, smaller if you wish to serve them breakfast or dinner. If you are preparing these for a dinner party you can make them in advance, dust them well with flour, and place them in between sheets of baking paper. Leave in the fridge till you're ready to cook & eat them.


To cook (from freshly made or chilled and waiting) -  oh a high heat, preheat a griddle (or a frying pan) and sizzle off a small dash of butter.

Cook each potato cake for 2 minutes on both sides, till they turn golden brown. Serve straight away.


Thursday, 28 April 2011

Sugar Crusted Lamb


This recipe is delicious and quick to prepare for a dinner party - and pretty unique too. This lamb generally comes out pink > a teeny bit undercooked so be cautious if you're thinking of serving it to a fussy eater. And a small advanced warning about getting an urge to sprinkle sugar on all your dinner - I'm sure it wont taste as good!

Serves 4

Ingredients:

8 lamb cutlets - 700g
Seasoning
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
2 large sprigs of rosemary
2 tbsp demerara sugar
A smearing of olive oil

Instructions:

  • Preheat the grill to high, and place a baking tray underneath it to heat up
  • Prepare the lamb by seasoning with salt and pepper
  • Strip the rosemary sprigs by stripping the leaves off and discarding the stalk
  • Mix the lamb with the rosemary and mustard - ensuring it's well coated
  • On a separate plate, spread out the sugar and dip each side of the lamb cutlets onto the sugar
  • Take out the baking tray from under the grill, quickly place the cutlets on and return to the grill for 10-12 minutes. Or as long as you can stand the smoking! The sugar does burn - but don't worry, it does not taste burnt.



Recipe is adapted from BBC Good Food, which is a fantastic resource.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Easter Birthday Cake



My niece's birthday practically coincided with Easter this year so she requested a mash-up Chocolate Fairy Easter Birthday Cake!  We've been DIYing* all week so to save time I cheated and used this Devil's Food Cake with chocolate fudge icing.

To decorate I used:

  • A Fairy Topper from her last birthday cake
  • Some official Fairy glitter-dust
  • Dotted sugar flowers
  • A few chocolate cornflake nests
  • And teeny-tiny eggs and chicks from Tescos. Too cute!



*Disclaimer: Due to DIY projects this cake may/may not taste of paint!

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Beef Stew with Dumplings



You can make this recipe easier on yourself by just making the stew with 600ml of stock and 200ml red wine and just leaving it in the oven for 2 - 2½ hours, served with a potato side-dish, but my husband and I have quite a soft spot for a good dumpling! This makes a lovely thick and very warm-your-bones stew, and is a great way to use some cheap cuts of beef - the long slow cook makes it very tender. Recipe is slightly adapted from the British Food Bible.

Serves 4-6


Ingredients for the Stew
3 tbsps olive oil
2 medium-large onions, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1kg casserole steak (or braising steak), trimmed and cut into pieces
2 tbsps plain flour
Hefty sprinkle of seasoning
1 litre beef stock
300ml red wine
1 bouquet garni (I use a dried one from Tesco)

Ingredients for the Herb Dumplings
115g self raising flour
55g suet
1tsp mustard
1 tsp finely chopped fresh parsley
1 tsp finely chopped fresh sage
A little seasoning
4 tbsp cold water


Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 150°C
  • I use a flame-proof casserole dish, but if you don't have one of these, use a frying pan first, and transfer to an oven-proof casserole dish with a lid
  • On a medium heat on the hob, heat 1 tbsp of the oil and fry the onion and garlic until soft and golden. Remove from the pan
  • Turn the heat up, use the remaining 2 tbsps of oil and quickly brown the meat all over
  • Sprinkle in the flour and stir well
  • Turn the heat down to medium, pour in 300mls of stock, stirring well to blend it together
  • (At this point, move all the cooked ingredients into the casserole dish if necessary)
  • Add the cooked onions, bouquet garni, seasoning and and 200ml of red wine, mix together.
  • Cover and put into the oven for an hour
  • After an hour, take the casserole dish out and check liquid levels - I find the original recipe quite dry, so at this stage I have taken to adding a further 200-300ml of stock, and if necessary a dash more wine
  • Cover and put into the oven for an additional hour, when the hour is up - leave the oven on, and leave the stew in whilst you start making your dumplings
  • Place the dry dumpling ingredients into a bowl and mix well
  • Add the water to the mix a bit at the time till you create a firm, but soft dough. Use a bit of flour and your hands to shape them into 10-12 dumplings
  • Take the stew out of the oven, remove the bouquet garni, add a bit more liquid if you need (the dumplings will soak up some liquid)
  • Add the dumplings and push down under the liquid. Cover, and return to the oven for a further 15 minutes till the dumplings double in size

Cookbook Review: British Food Bible



A definite 10 stars - a truly great book, and amazing value. I find so many cookbooks are filled with fancy food that I don't want to cook, or they skip past the basic food in favour of something impressive sounding. This book is a wonderful mix of regional British dishes and clear instructions. Everything I've made from it so far has worked very well.

To give you a couple of examples of Chapters and Recipes -

English Breakfasts: traditional Porridge; Kedgeree
Meat, Game & Poultry: Game Pie; Steak & Kidney Pudding; Toad in The Hole
Vegetables & Salads: Pan Haggarty; Colcannon; Glazed Turnips
Tea Time Treats: includes Crumpets, Tea Cakes and Lemonade

I really didn't need another cookbook, however I bought this book for a friend at Christmas, and at buy-one-get-one-free from Tescos - I simply had to add a copy to my ever-blossoming collection of recipes! I've written this review mainly because I was going to link to it for the Beef Stew with Dumplings post, but I can't find a copy of it in an online bookshop anywhere, even using its ISBN.

There are found 4 copies for sale on eBay at £10 including delivery.

But it was still available to buy last week from our local Tescos, at a billy-bargain price of £5!

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Secret Scones



In many ways, home-made scones are the epitome of British Baking. There's nothing quite like a warm scone, fresh from the oven served with some home-made Smug Strawberry Jam, a hefty dollop of clotted cream and a nice cup o' tea. 

Enjoy them straight out of the oven when a friend calls round for a cuppa. Selling the house? Forget brewing coffee, it's so 90's darling... Plate up some of these for an instant welcoming feel. 

Go vintage, go retro - go get your scones on.

So why are they called Secret Scones? 
    Because, shhh....


They're from a packet. 

I'm a firm believer that not everything is best being home-made. Just ask our local take-away for a start. With this Tesco scone mix, you still get the satisfaction of kneading the dough, rolling it out, getting messy with some dusting flour. It's still much cheaper than buying ready made scones (this packet is only 60p). And importantly - they avoid any uncertainty over what they'll taste like. You're guaranteed perfect scones every time.

For variation, you could try cherries, or make them savoury with some grated cheese sprinkled on top. I'm tempted to make my next batch with sultanas and a try of some lemon zest.

See Also: Jam

Rosemary Chicken




This is one of the first things I learnt to make and feel very proud of. I've adapted the original recipe some what and a lot of the time it's a case of seeing what I have in the fridge. In fact - one variation was Lemon Thyme Chicken, which I think may even have been superior, but I couldn't dare to part with dear old Rosemary. A lot of people may find this quite dry, but I quite like that. This dish does have some orange in it, but for those like me, who hate a savoury orange flavour - do not be alarmed, it's barely noticeable.

Serves 2 - 4 depending on how greedy you are

Ingredients
4 chicken breasts
150g carrots, sliced
3-4 tablespoons of olive oil
A few sprigs of rosemary
10 cloves of garlic, peeled (a scary amount of garlic, but they go sweet and not stinky I promise)
500g baby onions, peeled
500g small new potatoes
1 orange, and the juice of 2
A big dash of salt and a small smidgen of pepper


  • Instructions
  • Preheat the oven to 180°C
  • Prepare your vegetables
  • In a large baking dish, place your carrots, garlic cloves, onions, new potatoes and bits of rosemary
  • Drizzle over the oil, salt and pepper and mix together
  • Place in your chicken breasts in the baking dish, getting them coated with the oil, and leave skin side down
  • Halve 1 orange, and cram into your dish
  • Put into the oven and cook for 15 minutes
  • Take the chicken breasts out for a moment, and give the vegetables a good mix up and turning over before putting the chicken back in, skin side up this time
  • Return to the oven and cook for a further 10 minutes
  • Take out of the oven again, and mix in your orange juice. Give everything a good stir
  • Return to the oven for a further 10 minutes
  • Plate up, and drizzle what sauce there is over the chicken breasts

To make it cheaper, you could use different pieces of chicken, like thighs - but you will have to increase the cooking time by about 20 minutes. To make it a bit posher, use shallots rather than baby onions, and use whole baby carrots.

Rocky Road



By now, most people in Britain will have tried some of Nigella's Rocky Road, and if you haven't - make some. And if you've tried some, make some for yourself. And if you have already made some - then just go and make it again.

You only need to look at the raw ingredients to know you're onto a good thing. Chocolate... Marshmallows... Biscuit...


This is great for lunchboxes... To take to a party... And it's especially lovely when it's just you and a cup of hot chocolate.

I've never found much success with Nigella's quantities - the chocolate ratio makes mine crumble, so mine is adapted slightly. I also use a 30cm x 20cm baking tin.

Ingredients
175g of rich tea biscuits
300g milk chocolate (or dark, if you want it richer)
75g small marshmallows
45ml golden syrup (3 tbsps)
125g soft butter

Instructions
  • In a large bowl, crush your biscuits with a potato masher. The bigger the bits the chunkier your Rocky Road, so mash to suit
  • Melt the chocolate, butter and golden syrup slowly together
  • Mix the chocolate into the biscuits - but leave behind 150mls worth of chocolate (enough to cover the top later) 
  • Then mix in the marshmallows and push it all firmly into the baking tin
  • Drizzle over the remaining chocolate, especially into the sides and corners to hold it all together. Smooth over.
  • Leave in the fridge to cool. Cut into pieces, and enjoy.


When I made this, I didn't temper the chocolate properly, so it looked awful when it had chilled. Sprinkle over some icing sugar and voila - instant fix!

Swap the Rich Tea biscuits for Digestive biscuits, and the marshmallows for sultanas and you've got yourself a Fridge Cake. Change around at will - variations could include dried cranberries or some chopped nuts. But fruit? Nuts? Sounds a bit too healthy to me!

And in related news from the Royal Wedding...


Picture from the Daily Mail

Smug Strawberry Jam



Making your own jam is mainly for the smug factor, so you can say to people "The jam's home-made by the way" whilst waiting for the adulation to pour in. There are a lot of other benefits too, but oh, the smugness is definitely the best part. And it's so easy to do... All you need is right here:


A pack of sugar, 2 punnets of strawberries, half a lemon and only 4 minutes of boiling. Amazing.

The quantity is enormous - the last bunch lasted in my fridge for about a year - and I gave half of it away at the beginning.

Makes 1 litre of jam (2 of these)

Ingredients
2 or 3 punnets of strawberries (between 800g - 1kg)
The same weight in Jam Sugar as strawberries
Half a lemon

Alright, so maybe that's all you need in ingredients, but it's a fairly common belief  you need a lot of equipment right? Not really, as I discovered after I bought a lot of preserving stuff. Whoops! It's a simple as a wooden spoon, a large saucepan, some jars. And a lot of kitchen roll, 'cause making jam's messy and sticky!

I don't want to scare you with how difficult it seems - so here are the basic instructions to show you how few steps there are:

Quick Instructions
  • Hull your strawberries
  • Place into a pan with the lemon juice and sugar
  • Heat gently till all the sugar has melted
  • Bring to the boil and keep stirring for 4 minutes till set
  • Leave to cool for 15 minutes, then remove the scum
  • Pour into jars - leave to cool.

However, if you've never made jam before you might want a little bit more information - so here are the same instructions with a bit of advice and information from me.

Instructions for beginners

  • Put a small side plate into your fridge or freezer for testing the setting point of jam. 
  • Hull, and slice your strawberries to size. It depends how many fruity bits you like in your jam and how large your strawberries are. I find Tescos to have huge strawberries which I halved and sometimes cut into thirds. But greengrocers generally have smaller, sweeter strawberries. I let the smaller strawberries go in whole. Bigger pieces of strawberries and whole strawberries = more fruity bits.
  • Weigh your strawberries and then weigh your sugar. If you've eaten some of my latest jam - you'll know it's far too sweet, that's because I couldn't bear to throw 200g of sugar away so I may have slipped a little more in. Next time I'll buy 3 punnets of strawberries.
  • Juice the lemon half, and place into a large saucepan - the wider the saucepan the easier it is.
  • Throw in the sugar, and the strawberries and put the pan onto a medium - low heat
  • Stir, stir, stir, till all the sugar has melted
  • (Are you sure it's all melted? It's not grainy at all?)
  • Turn the heat up, bring to the boil and leave to simmer for 4 minutes while stirring regularly!
  • Get your plate out and test the setting point - keep cooking and testing till it's ready.
  • Then take off the heat and leave to cool for 15 - 20 minutes
  • While it's cooling, sterilise your jam jars
  • You're going to need to remove the 'scum' from the jam now. Scum is impurities from jam and sugar, and it's easy to spot. The more 'scum' you remove the clearer your jam will be. All the fruit had risen to the top of mine, and mixed in with them were some white frothy bits - aka scum. I found the easiest way to get rid of them was a large sharp edged metal spoon to pick them out, and put them into kitchen roll. You're not going to clear all the scum this way unless you have an hour to spare- but just remember, a little bit wont effect the taste, just the look of the jam.
  • Then, pot your jam, and seal the jars. Leave to cool.
See Also: Scones

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Egg Bread





Making egg bread (or French Toast as some call it) is hardly baking; and neither is it something that most people would need a recipe for - but I love it. When you're looking for something satisfying to make, often you need to look no further than simple, buttery, egg bread.

Serves 2

Ingredients:
3 large eggs (If you're only making this for one person, use 2 eggs)
4 slices of thick bread
Splash of milk
2 pinches of salt
Butter, to suit
Dash of oil

Instructions:

  • In a wide, shallow bowl, with a fork beat together the 2 eggs, add a small splash of milk and a sprinkling of salt
  • In a frying pan, melt together a knob of butter on a medium - high heat, and a tiny bit of oil. The butter browns your bread, and the oil stops it burning
  • Halve your bread, and soak each half in the egg mixture for a few seconds, turning over and coating thoroughly before transferring it to the hot pan 
  • When the bottom of the slices turn golden brown, turn the heat down, turn the slices over and add a few more dots of butter throughout the pan.
  • Plate up, and sprinkle over a little more salt, and to be extra sinful, a little bit more butter.

The richer the butter, the thicker the bread and the longer you soak it - the nicer you make it. Enjoy!

Sausages with Caramelised Onion Gravy




I may have called this blog British Baking - but it's more than that. I spend a long time finding great recipes, and then wandering off to find more - and forgetting the ones I have made, and loved. I want this website to host Great British Food - whether it's cakes, bread - or some lovely stodge like this dinner :) It's a bit of a faff, in time more than cooking skill - but well worth it.

Ingredients:
2 medium - large onions, about 300g (I used 1 red and 1 white onion)
20g butter
1 tbsp sugar (I used demerara - but use what you have in your cupboard)
1 tbsp thyme, finely chopped
400ml beef stock
6 sausages (I used Tesco Finest Linconshire, yum!)
Handful of mushrooms

Instructions:

  • Peel the onions and halve (from root to tip, not along the middle). Cut into thin, half moon slices
  • Put a pan (with a lid) on medium heat; melt the butter and add the onions
  • With the lid on, cook for 10-15 minutes till the onions have softened
  • Remove lid, add sugar and cook for a further 15 minutes - stirring regularly
  • In the meantime, start to cook your sausages and mushrooms in a separate pan until cooked
  • To finish off the gravy - add the thyme and beef stock to the onions and bring to the boil
  • Simmer for 5 minutes
  • Plate up together and enjoy!
As you add the stock, you could add a little bit of red wine, or Worcestershire sauce just to change it up a little bit.

Icing



Forget a cherry on top, there's only one way to finish off a cake or a cupcake and that's with even more sugar! Here is a quick run through of some of my favourite icing.

Buttercream (as seen here)
Mix together 115g of softened butter with 170g of icing sugar.
Use a wooden spoon to beat well together for a thick, rich butter cream.
With an electric whisk you can create a much lighter icing - in texture and in colour. This is what I use to pipe onto cupcakes, add a drop of food colouring to suit.

Glacé Icing (for example)
Difficult for me to describe the quantities you might need for a batch of cupcakes - I've just gotten to the stage where I add it into a bowl and make it up as I go along.
Start with about 3 tablespoons of water in a bowl, and add a tablespoon of icing sugar at a time - stirring thoroughly. Keep going (with lots and lots and even more icing sugar) till you get the texture you desire, and add more water if it looks like you need a bit more quantity.
This is very easy to make with lemon juice instead of water for lemon flavoured icing, orange juice for... You get the idea!

Sugar Crush
Glacé icing will get you a lovely smooth topping. If you wanted something with a bit more crunch and crumble, like you would find on top of a lemon loaf - you need to change the sugar. Try a combination of caster sugar and granulated sugar. When you make it, it appears quite watery - but it will dry out and granulate again.
I saw a recipe the other day for a raspberry and orange crush cupcake. Make a batch of cupcakes with some crushed raspberries folded through., and when cooked top with an orange sugar crush... Definitely the next one on my list!

Chocolate Fudge (pictured at top, with Barbie Sprinkles)
OK, guilty secret alert, but ever since I tried Betty Crocker's Chocolate Fudge Icing I've stopped trying to make my own. It tastes divine! It's a wee bit expensive so I do intend to find a home-made version, but I keep saying "Next time!"


See Also: CupcakesCakes

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Celebration Cupcakes



What makes them celebration cupcakes? Cupcakes are perfect for every occasion - and if you don't have a special occasion to make them for... Bake them anyway and celebrate the fact that you have cupcakes! 

The recipe is from this book and very easy to make and adapt for different flavours.

Ingredients:

150g softened butter
150g caster sugar
175g self raising flour
3 eggs

Instructions:
  • Preheat oven to 180°C
  • Fill cupcake tin with with 12 cupcake cases
  • Mix all the ingredients together, with an electric hand whisk if possible
  • Divide equally among the cases and bake for 18- 20 minutes
  • Cupcakes are done when they are firm to touch, and a knife/skewer inserted comes out clean

See Also: Icing

Birthday Cake




OK, so this is a recipe for a standard vanilla sponge cake. It's a candle that makes a Birthday Cake, but I defy you to not think of birthdays every time you eat a bit of sponge with jam and buttercream.

Actually, I might try that challenge myself one day....  Indeed, it could even make a regular event:
"Does this cake taste like birthdays?"
"Yes."
"Oh well, better luck tomorrow!"

But let's not get ahead of ourselves, or our waistlines. This quantity is for 2 x 7 inch round cake tins. For other sizes, and for more variations on flavour - I implore you to buy this book which has some superb starter cake recipes and many many cake designs.

Ingredients:

300g softened butter
300g caster sugar
5 eggs (recipe calls for medium, but I always use large)
4 tbsp milk
400g self-raising flour
1 tbsp of vanilla extract

Instructions:

  • Preheat oven to 160°C, and grease and line 2 x 7" cake tins.
  • I use a cheap electric hand whisker to cream together the butter and sugar till you see the mixture lighten
  • Lightly mix the eggs, milk and vanilla extract in a separate bowl
  • Sieve out your flour into a third container
  • Put the hand whisk on a low setting, and start to pour the egg mix into the butter and sugar, alternating with the flour until it is all mixed together. Don't over whisk.
Pour the batter equally into the 2 cake tins, place in the middle of the oven and bake for around 40 minutes. I will normally set the timer for 35 minutes and keep an eye on it till the end - you don't want it to overcook. You'll know it's done when it is firm to touch and a knife/skewer inserted comes out clean.


See Also: IcingJam