Monday, 26 November 2012

Good Food!

Well, I am amazed!  Who'd have thought just a couple of years ago that Sainsbury's would be selling Edamame Bean Stir Fry!  And Sprouted Lentils! It's so exciting that supermarkets are beginning to realise that consumers actually want REAL FOOD.

Most people seem to like a good chocolate cake and my daughter, Jolie, wanted to bake one for my Knit and Natterers, so we did.  The recipe came from a nice kids cookbook called Dorling Kindersley's Cookbook for Girls.  I have a new heart-shaped silicone baking 'tin' so we used that and made up the icing a bit.  I'll try to remember the quantities.  Anyway, I think you'll agree, with the addition of some classy white chocolate curls, it looks pretty good!

I came over all 'unnecessarily Pre-Christmas' tonight!  As I was making The Quince Tree's Christmas Chutney, Barney requested some mince pies!  Well, I know it's the middle of November and not really Christmas yet, but as the chutney aromas were filling the room, and I happened to have a jar of last year's mincemeat in the cupboard, I succumbed.  Yum!  Check out The Quince Tree blog for amazing photography and inspiring food. I also made my Christmas Cakes (see below for recipe).  I'm never sure I like it really, but I love the tradition and I want my children to remember those evocative cooking smells!

I always seem to have a packet of breakfast bran-type cereal hanging about in the cupboard, which no-one but me likes but I can never bring myself to finish.  Here is a good idea to use it up and have a treat for brekkie at the same time!  Made with no fat or eggs, this cake is made to spread with butter and is moist and sticky.

I also seem to have started a few posts and not published them, so below are some recipes which have been waiting to come your way!

 Chocolate Cake with Classy Icing
200g caster sugar
200g butter, soft
4 eggs
200g self-raising flour, less 3 tbsp
3 tbsp cocoa powder (Green and Black's is the best)
1 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp milk
Dark and White chocolate to decorate

Heat the oven to 190C/gas mk 5.  Butter and line two 20cm round sandwich tins.  Whisk all the cake ingredients in a large bowl until well combined.  Divide the mixture between the cake tins and smooth gently.  Bake for 20-25 minutes until risen and firm to the touch.  Cool completely.
Cream together 125g soft butter with 250g icing sugar, 2-3 tbsp cocoa power and 2tsp milk until smooth. Half of the cream to sandwich the two cakes together, and spread the other half over the cake evenly.   Using a vegetable peeler, make curls to decorate the top of the cake.

Breakfast Loaf Cake
100g bran cereal
120g muscovado sugar
130g mixed, dried fruit
175ml strong tea
100g plain flour
1.5 tsp baking powder
1.5 tsp ground mixed spice

Heat the oven to 180C/gas mk 4.  Put the cereal, sugar and fruit in a bowl.  Tip over the hot tea, stir.  and leave for 30 minutes.  Add the flour, baking powder and spice and stir thoroughly.  Tip into a 2lb/450g loaf tin and bake for 45 minutes to an hour or until a skewer comes out clean. Leave to cool and spread with butter for brekkie!

What I have been cooking:

Chicken Kiev
Heat the oven to 200C/gas mk 5 and lightly oil a roasting tray.  Make some garlic butter with 50g soft butter, half a crushed clove of garlic, some seasoning and some parsley.  Beat together until smooth.  Take a chicken breast per person, cut a slit carefully into the thickest part without cutting all the way through.  Insert a tsp or so of garlic butter and seal the edge.  Whizz a couple of slices of bread in the processor until bread crumbed and season.  Dip a chicken breast into some beaten egg  and then into the breadcrumbs and place on the oiled tray.  Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden.

Burritos:  for 4 people.  Take a chicken breast or so per person, cover with taco seasoning mix (I know, what a cheat!) and bake for 20-25 minutes at 200C/gas mark 4.  Cut two peppers and an onion into slices, with some mushrooms, toss in oil and season and bake in the same oven for the same time.  Make a tomato sauce with two tins of tomatoes, chopped with a knife and seasoned well, add a little oil and some herbs.  Take two flour tortillas each, lay one flat.  Put some sliced chicken along the centre with 2 tbs tomato sauce and 2 tsp creme fraiche.  Roll and place in a baking dish.  Repeat until all the tortillas and the chicken are used up.  Spread the tomato sauce over the tortillas and sprinkle with a generous amount of grated cheddar.  Bake for 15 minutes at 200C/gas mark 4.
I made a veggie version with 4 blocks of frozen and thawed spinach, 3-4 tbs ricotta, seasoning and a grating of nutmeg.
Serve the lot with homemade coleslaw and guacamole made with a mashed avocado, juice of half a lime, 4 cherry tomatoes chopped, a crushed clove of garlic and lots of salt and pepper.

Spaghetti Carbonara
500g spaghetti
200g smoked bacon
1 tbsp olive oil
4 egg yolks
100ml double cream
100g finely grated Parmesan, plus extra for sprinkling
50ml pasta water

Cook the spaghetti for 8 minutes in salted, boiling water.  Meanwhile, whisk the rest of the ingredients in a bowl.  Drain the pasta, reserving at least 50ml of the water.
Add the egg mixture to the hot spaghetti and stir gently until all the pasta is coated.  Sprinkle with extra Parmesan.

I do turn to Nigella Lawson a lot.  She really knows a good cake recipe or two, so here are a couple which are delectable!  Interestingly, when I cooked this almond cake, it didn't turn out anything like the picture!  I don't know if she left out some ground almonds, so I baked it again, this time with 100g ground almonds and at a lower temperature and it turned out fine!

Easy Almond Cake
250g unsalted butter
250g softened marzipan (at room temp)
150g caster sugar
100g ground almonds
1/4 tsp each vanilla essence and almond essence
6 large eggs
150g self-raising flour

25cm buttered and floured spring-form cake tin

Preheat the oven to 160 degrees C/gas mark 3.  Chop the butter and marzipan and process with the sugar until well blended.  Add the almond and vanilla essences, then the eggs one-by-one, and finally tip in the flour and the ground almonds and process until smooth.  Pour this into the prepared tin and bake for 40-50 minutes.  Cool in the tin and dust with icing sugar before serving.

Nigella's Madeira Cake
240g softened butter
200g caster sugar
grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
3 large eggs
210g self-raising flour
90g plain flour

You will need a 23cm buttered and lined loaf tin.  Preheat the oven to 170 C/gas mark 3.  Cream the butter and sugar in a processor, add the lemon zest.  Add the eggs one-by-one with a tablespoon of flour with each.  Gently mix in the rest of the flour and the lemon juice.  Tip into the loaf tin and bake fro 1 hour until a knife comes out clean.  Cool in the tin.

Christmas Cake (makes 1 large and 1 small)
4oz glace cherries, halved
8oz each currants, sultanas, raisins
2oz almonds, halved
1oz ground almonds
Zest and juice of an orange and a lemon
half tsp salt
8oz butter
8oz dark brown sugar
1 tsp each vanilla and almond essence
4-5 eggs
8oz plain flour
1 tsp mixed spice
1tbsp treacle

Mix the fruit, nuts, orange and lemon juices together and leave overnight to soak.  You can add a glug of brandy.  Double line a deep 10" cake tin and a smaller 8" tin, with brown paper wrapped around the outside and tied with string.  Next day, beat the butter and sugar together until creamy, then add all the other ingredients and mix well.  Tip into the fruit and stir (make a wish now!).  Tip the mixture into the tin and level the top.  Bake for 1 hour at 170C, 2 hours at 160 then use a skewer to see if it is cooked yet, and up to another hour at 150C.  Leave to cool.  Wrap in greaseproof paper and foil.  Feed with some brandy every week until the week before Christmas.  Then marzipan and ice!

Spinach and Cheese Pie
Loosely based on a Jamie Oliver recipe, this is a great vegetarian main course.

100g pine nuts, toasted for 4 minutes in a hot oven
5 eggs
200g cottage cheese
100g cheddar, grated
snipped dill and chives
zest of half a lemon
250g packet of spinach
1 pkt puff pastry
lots of salt and pepper

Heat the oven to 200C/gas mk 5.  Toast the pine nuts for 4 minutes until slightly browning.  Crack the eggs into a large bowl, mix in the cottage cheese, cheddar, herbs and lemon zest.  Put the spinach into a colander and slowly pour a kettleful of boiling water, turning over the leaves as you go to wilt them.  Squeeze the spinach against the side of the colander to get rid of as much water as possible.  Add to the eggs and stir, along with lots of salt and some pepper.
Roll out the pastry to bigger than a 23cm (approx) pie dish or cake tin.  Drape the  pastry over the sides of the tin and pour in the egg mixture.  Bring the sides of the pastry from outside to cover some of the filling.  Bake for 30 minutes or so, until the pastry is cooked through and golden brown.