Sunday, 30 October 2011

Halloween Party.

I have mentioned my group of friends from our antenatal class before.  Well, I have to say, we throw fantastic parties between us.  We share out what needs to be done so we all bring a dish or two, someone brings drinks, someone else does party bags, someone does the games.  We have had so many brilliant parties over the last 4-5 years.  Here was last year's Halloween Party

This year's Halloween on was at our house.
I made savoury pinwheels and meringue ghosts with forest fruits and cream and Steve made a pumpkin soup.
Others brought a parsnip and apple soup, spooky jellies, home-made toffee apples, spider biscuits, hot chicken dip, vegetable crudites, hot spiced cider and other bits and pieces.  We ended up having a real feast.  All the kids were so cute in their costumes.  We also had fun and games for several hours and then finished off with brilliant party bags.

This is such a fab time in my life.  So much fun. 

Okay, so my meringue ghosts I copied from a cut out from a magazine that I saved from last year.  I can't now remember what magazine it was.  I did try searching the net for the original but didn't find it.  However, there are loads of recipes on the net and videos showing how to do it too.  The Art Of Being Perfect did them this year too and she has a recipe on her post.

I got the idea for my savoury pinwheels from this post.  I thoroughly recommend Utterly Scrummy Food For Families. I get loads of ideas for easy meals here.  I recently made her pumpkin pasta bake too and may post about that later.

For my versions of the pinwheels, I made one with pesto, olives and parmesan and one with a tomato pasta sauce, sundried tomatoes and cheddar.  They were very easy to assemble and made a lovely little party dish.

So, off to another Halloween party today and it's not even Halloween yet.  We like to stretch celebrations over several days.  Hope the ghosties don't get any of you tomorrow night.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Honey And Pear Layer Cake.

I decided to go a little more grown up for Dad's birthday cake this year after his last two novelty cakes!
I went for taste and chose the honey and pear layer cake from the Hummingbird Bakery Cake Days book.  I got this book from my two boys on Mother's Day but haven't made an awful lot from it yet.  I felt this cake was seasonal and knew my Dad would love the flavours.

The recipe worked very well and the cake was beautiful.  It has caramelised pears on the top of each of the four layers and a lovely honey buttercream in between the layers.  I even just decorated the cake in the same way they did in the book.  I hadn't made these wee crystallised fruits since I was in a wee craft class in the community centre when I was at school.  Brought back memories of all the lovely little projects we made there.  I think there were only about 4 regular members of the class but we did loads of different things.  I don't know who the people were who took the class but I am so appreciative now when I think back on it.  I really hope I showed my appreciation at the time!  

Anyway, back to the point.  This is where I would normally publish the recipe.  Sometimes I have varied the recipe a bit and other times not.  I always reckon that if I give good publicity for the source of the recipe, it's okay for me to give it here.  I guess, I have always had my doubts about that, though, and recent discussions on Twitter have made me really think hard about it.  Maybe I really shouldn't be copying other people's recipes on here.  I didn't vary at all from the recipe for this one so I am not going to publish it.  Especially as this book is fairly new and still available.

I would, however, really appreciate your opinions on this.  Should I continue to write out the recipes I use or should I only write out recipes if I have made them up myself or significantly changed the original?

What I can do, however, is let anyone who doesn't know how to make these crystallised fruits.  It works well with edible flowers too and the leaves in the picture are just mint leaves from the garden.
It is really simple.  Lightly beat an egg white.  Brush a light coating of egg white over your chosen fruit, flowers or leaves then sprinkle some sieved caster sugar over the fruit.  Leave on some greaseproof paper overnight to dry.

Friday, 28 October 2011

FFTO 10 - Oct 2011 - Cinnamon Buns.

This month's Fresh From The Oven challenge was set by Claire from Things We Make.

These buns were amazing and still tasted great 3 days later.  I used the buttery icing.  I wouldn't like to think about the calories in these things but for a treat with a cup of coffee they were brilliant.  I gave some of them to my Dad and he enthused about them next time he saw me.  I can definitely see these becoming a regular feature in our family.  I might just have to get a nice deep round tin I can use to make them next time as the round versions do look nicer than my square one.  

As these are so simple to make, I love the idea of assembling these the night before then leaving the tin in the fridge overnight and baking first thing in the morning.  What a great idea for Christmas morning!  Last Christmas we had the cranberry-oat scones straight into the oven from the freezer from my second FFTO challenge.  Maybe I'll start a tradition of doing FFTO recipes for Christmas morning.  

Have a look at Fresh From The Oven to see the round up.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Mint Chutney - RR 9, Part 2

This is Steve's post for Random Recipes this month. Steve was randomly paired with the very lovely C from Cakes, Crumbs and Cooking (check out all her recent recipes for chocolate week!).  She chose number 44 out of our 53 cookbooks which was The New Penguin Cookery Book by Jill Norman.  She then chose page number 383 which gave a recipe for a mint chutney.  Am I allowed to say that C has 191 cookbooks?  Wow!

Okay, here's Steve's bit -

Indian-Spiced Lamburgers with a Mint Chutney (Serves 4)

Recipe for the Lamburgers (from The River Cottage Meat Book)

500g of minced lamb
2 small dried red chillies (possibly too many for the kids…)
1 teaspoon of coriander seeds
½ teaspoon of fenugreek seeds
½ teaspoon of mustard seeds
½ teaspoon of black peppercorns
1 tablespoon of olive oil
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

Split the chillies open and remove and discard the seeds. Place in a pestle and mortar with the other dry spices and pound to a coarse powder.

Put the lamb in a bowl and mix with the oil and garlic, massaging it well so that is covered with a light film of oil. Toss thoroughly with the pounded spices and then leave to marinate for at least 2 hours.

Form into patties 2cm thick and barbecue (or fry – I fried) for 4-5 minutes on either side, till nicely browned and cooked through.

Recipe for the Mint Chutney (from The New Penguin Cookery Book)

1 handful of mint leaves
1-2 green chillies, seeded and finely chopped
½ tsp of sugar
salt to taste
5tbs of plain yoghurt

Blend the mint, chillies, sugar and salt to a paste in a food processor or pound them in a mortar. Blend in the yoghurt.

I got a bit lucky with this challenge as the random recipe chosen for me was the mint chutney which was basically “bung everything in a food processor”. I thought the chutney on its own would have made a great lunch but Louise overruled me and I had to do an accompaniment for the chutney, hence the lamburgers.

I should perhaps have worked this out in advance but I overdid the chillies in both recipes, with the result that it was all a bit too hot for our two kids, no matter how much extra yoghurt I ploughed into the chutney. If I was to make it again, I would probably leave the chillies out of the chutney altogether and let it be a more cooling accompaniment to the lamburgers.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Cake Slice Bakers 13 - Apple Cake With Maple Frosting.

Another fabulous Autumnal cake but I just LOVE apple cakes.  This one comes from the new book that The Cake Slice Bakers are baking from this year - The Cake Book by Tish Boyle.

I do find frosting made with butter quite sickly so I wish I had maybe made a little less and just had a very thin layer of frosting.  This time last year I made a similar cake with a brown sugar glaze. I think the cakes were very similar but I would really need to taste them side by side to know which was better but I do prefer the sugar glaze to the frosting.

Here is a link to Brownieville Girl's post of the same cake for the recipe.  She just made a glaze with icing sugar and maple syrup which looks lovely - I think I will try that next time.

Here is my adapted recipe for the Cream Cheese Maple Frosting - 

Ingredients - 

140g cream cheese, softened
30g unsalted butter, softened
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp maple syrup
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp allspice
pinch of salt
115g icing sugar, sifted

Method - 

1. Beat together the cream cheese and butter until smooth.
2. Beat in the vanilla, maple syrup, spices and salt.
3. Beat in the icing sugar.

This looks to be a really great book with recipes for every conceivable kind of cake for all occasions. My only slight gripe is that it is another American book so there are a few hard-to-get-hold-of ingredients again.  However, it does have metric weights for all ingredients as well as cup measurements, although, for some reason, they haven't converted the oven temperatures.  If you are going to go to the bother of converting all the weights for an international audience, why would you not convert the oven temperatures which is surely a much simpler job?
There aren't photos for ever recipe but that would probably make the book prohibitively expensive with so many recipes but the photos there are are amazing and so inspiring.
It would also be a good book for a beginner as it has big sections at the beginning on all aspects of baking and decorating cakes.
I wonder how many recipes there are in this book - hundreds by the look of it!  We will make one every month for the next year but I imagine this book will keep me going for years to come.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Blast From The Past - RR 9 , Part 1.

This month, for Random Recipes 9, Dom paired us all up and we had to choose a recipe for our "other half" to cook.  I was very lucky to get paired with the very lovely BrownievilleGirl.  I didn't need any introduction; I have been following her blog since I discovered the world of food blogs.  I had to tell her the number of cookbooks I own.  It was 53 at that point.  We had done a major cookbook cull before moving house so it's fairly manageable at the moment.  BVG randomly chose number 33 for me which happened to be Tempted; 150 Very Wicked Desserts.  This happens to be one of Steve's books.

I then told BVG how many pages there were and she chose page 357 for me and the recipe on that page is Creamy Coconut Ice.

Now, this is something I have made before and my Mum made it for me when I was a little girl so I am quite familiar with it.  Here is the recipe.

Makes 30 pieces.

Ingredients - 

250g icing sugar
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
395g tin condensed milk
315g desiccated coconut
pink food colouring

Method - 

1. Grease a 20cm square cake tin and line the base and two opposite sides with baking paper, extending the paper over the sides for easy removal later.
2. Sift the icing sugar and cream of tartar into a bowl.  Make a well in the centre and add the condensed milk.  Using a wooden spoon, stir in half the coconut, then the remaining coconut.  Mix well, using your hands.  Divide the mixture in half and tint one half pink.  Using your hands, knead the colour through evenly.
3. Press the pink mixture evenly over the base of the tin, then cover with the white mixture and press down firmly. (The mixture is VERY thick and so actually spreading it out in the tin needs a lot of patience!) 
4. Refrigerate for 1-2 hours, or until firm.  Remove from the tin, remove the paper and cut into pieces.  Store in an airtight container in a cool place for up to 3 weeks.

So, who can resist taking a spoonful of condensed milk from the tin before you do anything else with it?  And licking the spoon afterwards like a thing possessed?  Well, my 4 year old, it seems.  Whoever heard of a child who doesn't go crazy for condensed milk?

My 54th cookbook arrived the following day.  As a Guardian Weekend fan, I couldn't resist Dan Lepard's new book Short and Sweet.  Especially after seeing all of Vanessa's enthusiastic Tweets.  (I'm trying to master the art of Twitter.)
It looks amazing and I can't wait to get started baking from it.  While flicking through it I noticed a recipe for coconut ice, would you believe?  He uses mascarpone instead of condensed milk and he makes the pink layer by substituting half the mascarpone for fresh raspberries.  Now doesn't that just sound wonderful?  I will certainly be trying this method and doing a compare and contrast but it may be some time before I do this as I have half a ton of coconut ice waiting to be eaten up and I'm sure we'll all be sick of it by the end.

Thanks BrownievilleGirl for being my better half this month.  I can't wait to see what she makes - she has given me a slight clue and I really can't wait.  Will be right up my street!

And thanks Dom for continuing to run this wonderful challenge and for keeping it fresh and exciting. 

Doesn't this just look like a plate of dainty ham sandwiches?

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Fresh From The Oven 9 - September 2011 - Fougasse.

Ooops I am rather late with Fresh From The Oven this month but it did mean I got to nosey at everyone else's attempts first and get inspiration!

So I made a plain white one, a plain white one with rock salt, an olive and rosemary one and a roquefort, pear and walnut one.  It was MUCH easier to make a pretty leaf shape with the plain ones but the other two were more flavourful.  I think I might generally make enough dough to make a plain one and a filled one.  It also allowed for everyone in the family to have what they preferred.

I used the white dough recipe and the instructions for fougasse from "Dough" by Richard Bertinet.  I bought this book for Steve for his Christmas.  I think it is a lovely book - very inspiring!

The roquefort, pear and walnut filling was inspired by Sally from My Custard Pie.  Her version had roquefort and pear in it and she was inspired by a Dan Lepard recipe which used roquefort and walnut. I decided to combine them to get the best of both worlds.

Recipe (adapted from plain white bread dough from Richard Bertinet's book).

Ingredients - 
10g yeast (fresh if possible)
500g Strong bread flour
10g salt
350g water (or 350mls but weighing is more accurate)

Method - 
Ummm, I just tipped all the ingredients into my Kenwood Chef and left it running with the dough hook for 10 mins or so.  I ten let the dough rise in a warm place for 1 hour.
I ten divided the dough into four then placed each one on a floured surface and let it spread out into a rectangle shape.  I then cut a large diagonal cut through the middle of the dough.  I did this with a sharp knife but found it easier to do on subsequent ones by slicing with a pair of scissors.  I then made smaller cuts fanning out on either side of the large cut to make a kind of leaf shape.  I used my fingers to stretch out the holes to try to keep them from closing over again during cooking.
I heated my oven to 230C and placed a tin of water in the bottom of the oven.  I then baked the fougasse for 10 - 12 minutes.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Cherry Bakewell Cupcakes.

Sorry about quality of lighting in photos but it is getting dark so early now.  And, in fact, it is quite dark all day when it rains solidly like today and yesterday.

These are Cherry Bakewell Cupcakes and are inspired by those made by Holly in the second series of The Great British Bake Off.  Yes, my favourite programme at the moment.  It is even beating Strictly Come Dancing... maybe?  Anyway, it is the final on Tuesday.  I know it was filmed ages ago but I still want to say "Good Luck" to Holly, Jo and Mary-Anne.  May the best baker win.

The new GBBO book was reviewed by Kelly-Jane here just the other day and after reading it, Steve arrived home with a copy for me.  He had wanted to buy it for my Christmas but was scared I would buy it myself before then so just gave it to me early.

I made these for a girly night with friends watching 'Julie and Julia'.  The first time I had ever seen it!  I give the recipe below as it is slightly different to Holly's one which is here.  Brilliant idea for cupcakes and I really enjoyed them.  Very easy to make too and I love the simple and retro decoration.

Recipe - Cherry Bakewell Cupcakes inspired by Holly's Recipe from 'The Great British Bake Off - How To Bake'.
(Makes 18 cupcakes)

Ingredients - 

For the cupcakes - 
150g Stork margarine
150g caster sugar
80g SR flour
80g ground almonds
3 large eggs
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp almond essence

For the decoration - 
6 tbsp seedless raspberry jam
250g icing sugar
about 3 tbsp lemon juice
18 non-dyed Glace cherries

Method - 

1. Preheat oven to 190C/375F/GM 5.
2. Line muffin trays with paper muffin cases.
3. Put all cupcake ingredients into large bowl and mix at high speed with electric mixer until light and fluffy (about 4 mins).
4. Spoon the mixture into the paper cases and level the tops with the back of a spoon.
5. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until golden and the top will spring back when pressed lightly with a finger tip.
6. Remove each cupcake from the trays and leave to cool completely.
7. With a small, sharp knife, cut a circle out of the top of each cake.  Fill the hole with a teaspoon of jam then replace the cake lid.

8. Sift the icing sugar into a bowl and work in the lemon juice a tiny bit at a time until you have a thick but spoonable icing.  Spoon over the top of each cake and level with the back of a spoon.
9. Finish each cake with a Glace cherry.