Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Cheesy buttermilk scones with chives

I had some leftover buttermilk from the chocolate cake (which, to update, apparentely arrived safely and in one piece in South Wales. Or at least thats what I've been told- I remain very suspicious as to the general wellbeing of that particular cake on its 200 mile journey, not to mention its jaunt round London beforehand). So, I decided to put the buttermilk to good use and make some savoury scones, while also using up a chunk of cheese I had left over from some pasta sauce earlier in week. The sense of satisfaction and feeling of helping-the-environment-reducing-food-waste from using up not one, but TWO leftover ingredients was immense. I kid you not.

Anyways, the scones were courtesy of  Delia (whose website, fact-fans is apparentely celebrating its 10th anniversary this month).

The recipe goes a little like this, for six scones:

Sift 6oz/175g self raising flour into a bowl, add half a level teaspoon of mustard, half a level teaspoon of salt and a really good pinch of cayenne. Mix. Rub in 25g/1 oz of butter, until all nice and crumbly. Mix in 75g of grated cheese (I used mature chedder, Delia suggests Cheshire Cheese), with 1 tablespoon of chopped chives.
Beat 1 egg with two and a half tablespoons of buttermilk and gradually add to the dry ingredients, firstly with a knife and then with your hands to make a soft dough. If it seems dry, add a little more buttermilk. Don't overwork the dough at this stage, otherwise you'll end up with heavy scones. And no one wants heavy scones right? Right.
Roll out to 1 inch thick (no less than 1 inch thick otherwise your scones won't rise). Using a cutter (or an upturned glass), cut out the scones. You may need to re-roll the dough to cut out all six.
Place your scones on a baking sheet that is well greased with butter. Brush the tops with a little milk and sprinkle a little cheese and a tiny little bit of cayenne on each scone. Bake on a high shelf for 15-20 minutes until your scones are risen and golden.  

Then cool a little on a wire rack, but they are super tasty warm, spread with lots of nice butter. And perfect with some homemade soup.

Voila, lovely savoury scones!

Friday, 25 March 2011

Chocolate cake

Yesterday I made this Ultimate Chocolate Cake recipe from Good Food magazine

Now this chocolate cake didn't exactly go to plan for one major reason. I ate half the chocolate meant for the ganache topping. In my defence...well, I have no defence. Just an overwhelming chocolate addiction. So the 'ganache' became more of a 'chocolate flavoured cream', which I attempted unsuccessfully to stick to the top and sides of the cake in the style of a proper ganache. I had to mount a search and rescue mission to find the chocolate flavoured cream as it promptly, and repeatedly, gushed off the sides of cake. Like a continous chocolate cream avalanche.

The cake is intended to take my place this weekend when A goes back to Wales to celebrate his Mam's birthday and I stay in London oncall at work. As I type, the cake, wrapped lovingly in foil and bubble wrap (yes, really), should be winging its way on the First Great Western 18:45 London Paddington to South Wales train. I have forwarded the picture below to Cariad's Mam so she has the idea in her mind as to what the cake should look like. Presumably it is now a chocolate swampy mess complete with drowning sugared flowers. Lesson I've learnt? Stick to chocolate brownies next time. Or buy a cake from M&S and palm it off as my own. Or buy extra chocolate to feed my addiction. Any of these lessons will do.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

London Restaurant Week.. and a postscript to John Lewis

I had a day off today and together with my foodie friend B we decided it would frankly be rude not to take advantage of the restaurant offers available as part of London Restaurant Week. With the Oxo Tower disappointedly fully booked we came over all la-di-da, air-kiss-air-kiss and joined the world of Chelsea ladies who lunch at Gordon Ramsey's Foxtrot Oscar. A creamy, luxurious fish pie with broccoli was followed by one of those fancy deconstructed-style vanilla cheesecake- for a special rate of £15 it was very enjoyable.  I'd highly recommend the hand cream in the toilets too by the way.


However, the experience duly reminded me why I don't suit lunchtime vino quaffing. I came to feel rather woozy by the time the bill was presented and smacked hard into a wall of booze and spring sunshine induced exhaustion/coma by half past three. I needed a lie down. Maybe thats why these ladies who lunch aren't generally in any form of gainful employment- the lunchtime alcohol must play havoc with afternoon work productivity levels. 


Prior to lunch I popped into Peter Jones on Sloane Square (see, I rather suit the Chelsea Ladies who lunch mentality). A visit to John Lewis makes me happy, at peace. Its all just so nice there. And I think its because it feeds into my magpie tendencies* for shiny new things. All those gleaming KitchenAids, those sparkling utensils, the artfully arranged new pastel bake wear line- it took every will I possess not to whip out the credit card and spend the GDP of a small African nation on new kitchen stuff. I dragged myself out, kicking and screaming inside and instead went into Jane Asher's cake shop. Jane Asher sells all manner of sugarcraft related items and I appeased my inner magpie with the purchase of some decorative cake toppings for future cakes I'm planning.




*A (aka the boyfriend) reckons I have magpie tendencies. Apparently I can't resist 'ohhing' and 'ahhing' shiny new items of stuff and (if his back is turned) occasionally purchasing these shiny new items.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Masterchef

Its a Wednesday night. As well as being the peak of the week (its a freewheel downhill from here to the weekend), Wednesday also represents Masterchef night. The one night of the week where, quite frankly the motivation to cook just ain't there. How can it possibly be when a whole hour is spent salivating at the delights of Masterchef? Anything, absolutely anything I attempt pales into comparison. I think even if I was to be offered a 1:1 masterclass with the head chef from El Bulli throughout the day and then, singlehandedly produce a ten course Michelin starred menu for the evening I'd still, by the end, do my usual Wednesday night shrug of the shoulders, sigh and announce that my food just ain't Masterchef. And make some toast. It doesn't get tougher than attempting to cook on a Wedneday night with Masterchef in the background eh Greg??


Sorry, terrible, terrible joke there.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Super romantic cupcakes

My colleague is work is getting married next week  and so I decided to bake a bunch of 'romantic' cupcakes, courtesy of Good Food. I discovered this recipe a year or two ago and it is one of my firm favourites. For why? Well, its dead easy for a start. And it is a super moist sponge (that'l be the natural yoghurt then). But most of all because they are super-super delicious. The blurb on Good Food suggests they would be a perfect centrepiece for a Wedding or Christening.

Romantic cupcakes

150ml natural yoghurt (one of those mini pots)
3 beaten eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
175g golden caster sugar
140g self raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
100g ground almonds
175g melted butter

For the white chocolate topping:
100g white chocolate
140g unsalted butter (at room temperature)
140g icing sugar

Fancy decorative things to pop on top- see below

Pop the yoghurt, eggs and vanilla extract in a jug and mix. Put the flour, sugar, baking powder and almonds together with a pinch of salt into a large bowl and make a well in the middle. Add the butter (melted) and the yogurt mixture. Fold using a spatula (don't overwork) and spoon into a 12 case muffin tin with paper cases. Pop in the oven for 18-20 minutes, or until golden, risen and springy to touch. At this stage you can freeze 'em until you need 'em.

For the white chocolate topping: melt the chocolate in a microwave on high for one and half minutes, stirring half way through. Leave to cool. Meanwhile, beat the butter and icing sugar in a large bowl until creamy. Beat in the chocolate. It can be kept in the fridge for up to one month. I defy you not to sample a little of the chocolate mixture, and I can guarantee, if you are anything like me, you will not stop at just the one 'sample'.

Up to 48 hours before serving, bring the chocolate back to room temperature and spread liberally all over the cupcakes. I decorated them with some Edible pink hearts from The Great Little Cupcake Company (available at notonthehighstreet.com).

The cupcakes often taste better (in my rather extensive experience of eating these little beauties) the day after baking them. They will last about three days, kept in a cool, airtight container.

Voila! One of the best cupcake recipes I've come across!

PS: Sorry there is no photo, but its a great excuse to make them again soon to show you how good they look.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Soup?

So, the plan had been to make some soup to go with the bread detailed below. However, due to a craving for risotto I made this instead:

(Disclaimer: I do realise this isn't a cake, or a bake, cakes and bakes will make their appearance on this blog, I promise!)

Leek and pea risotto (for two)

Ingredients:

200g risotto rice
1 tbsp olive oil
knob of butter
1 onion (chopped)
1 clove of garlic (crushed)
1 leek (cleaned and chopped)
handful and a half of peas (frozen or fresh)
1 pint of vegetable stock
1 large glass of white wine (optional, replace with extra stock instead if not used)
Parmasan (as little...or as much as you like!)
Juice from half a lemon

Heat the oil and butter in a large saucepan. Add the onion and garlic and fry for approx 5-10 min. Add the leek and fry for a further 5-10 min. Pop in the rice and stir the whole time until the rice takes on a certain translucent colour. Pour in the wine, keep stirring, until the rice absorbs most of the wine. Then, add the vegetable stock, one ladle at a time, continuously stirring and only adding a new ladleful once the rice has absorbed most of the previous ladleful of stock. When roughly half the stock is in your pan add the peas. Then continue with adding the rest of the stock, one ladleful at a time, always stirring. This process should take about 20 minutes. Once you've used up all your stock, taste to see if your rice is cooked. If your risotto is dry, add a little water. Season. Add the parmasan and lemon juice and stir in. Leave to rest for two minutes, to become all creamy and tasty, before tucking in.

Voila! Easy peasy risotto

Bread

I started making my own bread (get me) last year after discovering:

a) how easy it is
b) how cheap it is (making by hand versus buying it in your local supermarket is, I reckon, and bear in mind absolutely no scientific research has gone into this, at least half the price)
c) the sense of satisfaction you get from making your own loaf (comparable to that sense of satisfaction you got as a small child when you presented to your parents with a self-portrait made entirely with pasta shells that took at least an entire afternoon and subsequently meant there was nothing left for supper).

Its a nice relaxing Sunday kindof activity. Pop on Radio 2's Sunday Morning Love Songs, grab the pinny and away you go.

This recipe is for a simple, but darnit delicious, white loaf.

Ingredients

500g Strong White Bread Flour
2 tsp salt
3 tbsps olive oil
7g sachet of fast acting yeast
300ml tepid water
Extra flour for dusting
(not an E number or preservative in sight!)

Grab a large bowl. Pop in your flour, salt and yeast. Make a hole in the centre, then add the tepid water and oil. Grab a knife, bringing the wet and dry ingredients together a few times. Sprinkle a very very light covering of flour onto your work surface. Pop the contents of the bowl onto your work surface and now the fun starts! Kneading.

Kneading is basically the pushing, pulling, pummelling, stretching and drawing apart of the dough to aerate it as much as possible, evenly incorporate the ingredients and it also enables some scientific bit about getting the gluten to work. It should take about ten minutes or so. Once you've done this, wash out your large bowl, brush lightly the oil and pop your dough in the bowl. Cover the bowl with a teatowel, then put the bowl in a warmish place for an hour to allow the dough to rise. Near to a radiator or in the airing cupboard will do nicely. After the hour is up, the dough should have doubled in size.

Then, knock back the dough by punching it (this bread making lark is fun right?) a couple of times. Take it out of the bowl and place on a baking sheet, moulding into a ball shape, or if you prefer, a bloomer style shape. Leave to prove for 30min-1 hour. When proven you can use a sharp knife to 'draw' a cross or a couple of lines in the top of the dough- it'll make it look well fancy, as though from a posh French bakery. In it goes in the oven, for approx 25 min (220 C/fan oven 200 C/Gas Mark 7). You know when its done when you pick the loaf up and, when you knock the bottom it sounds hollow.

Voila! Lush, tasty fresh bread!


Some useful tips:

- Properly  and accurately measure out your ingredients. Not to be a stickler or anything but it does make a right difference to your loaf
- I tend to use the sachet of fast acting yeast, but I know some homebaking purists prefer fresh yeast (available from your local bakers or bakery counter in the supermarket). Delia reckons there is no difference
- You can pop the 'first rise' dough in the fridge overnight, this can be a useful time saver and, some argue, leads to a deeper flavoured loaf
- Homemade bread lasts about two days, but freezes easily

Welcome..

Hello and a warm welcome! (Yes, I do sound like a vicar about to open the village fete...). Nicknamed the 'Cacen Monster' * by A**, I decided to put the moniker to good use and start this blog...enjoy!




* Welsh for 'Cake Monster'

** the Boyfriend whom I live with and who samples all my kitchen offerings and is obliged to make appropriate 'yummmm' type responses in return