Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Pancake Cake

I'm keeping this post quite short because I think the pictures speak for themselves. All I'll say is, "You must try making this cake!". I've included a link to the original recipe at the end.

When me and Billy saw this on Jamie Cooks Summer, we thought it'd be the perfect thing to follow up our last cake with. With pancakes, chocolate, nuts and cream it's hard to imagine a better cake. 

For the most part, I let Billy lose on this by himself. I hung around the kitchen taking photographs and giving some guidance, as he doesn't do much cooking.

In the original recipe, Jamie says to use a small frying pan, but I don't have one. So, we used a regular one. This just meant that the cake was wider but not as tall as Jamie's. We also used mixed nuts instead of just the hazelnuts or brazil nuts stated.

Jamie Oliver's Pancake Cake recipe is here

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Boyfriend, car boot sales and food

Taken from Jamie Cooks Summer
Just a quick post to let you know what I'm up to...
Last Friday, Billy came to stay with me for a couple of weeks. We’ve got a few things planned. Namely, Liverpool Food & Drink Festival and Batman Live. But, of course, there are car boot sales too. Recently, when we’ve been together, we’ve not had much look with the weather, so haven’t been able to go to any. (Those that follow us on Twitter will know how much we love going to car boot sales). I picked up some DVDs, a writing book and a copy of the I Am Legend book.

French Onion Soup
There’s also been plenty of food in the house. We’ve had Spanish fabada, made ciabatta, enjoyed French onion soup and made some bread. I’m also planning on making bread-crumbed Cajun chicken and tarte Tatin. But, by far the most exciting thing we'll be making is Jamie Oliver's Pancake Cake!!!

Homemade Bread

Sunday, 28 August 2011

A Short Guide To Bread

Making your own bread is not particularly hard, but may appear to be time consuming. The truth is, once you’ve got used to the processes involved and the timings, you can make the bread fit your own schedule. Bread making is one of the most satisfying things you will ever do in the kitchen.
Though infinitely tastier than supermarket bought, I find that homemade starts to go stale after 2-3 days. But this is far from the end of its life. First, there’s always toast. Then, how about ladling soup or stew over it in a bowl? Following that, desserts like bread and butter pudding. And, finally, you could make it into breadcrumbs. (I make breadcrumbs regularly out of the scraps left and freeze them).
So, for the 50p or so it costs to make a loaf, there are a multitude of uses, ensuring none goes to waste.
There are a few things you need to know, if you’re planning on baking a loaf of bread...

Homemade ciabatta. There are many types of bread.

Yeast is a living organism that is used as a leavening agent. It converts the sugars in the dough into gas that makes the dough expand and rise. Recipes most commonly call for dried or easy-blend yeast. As a general rule, if you are using fresh yeast instead of dried triple the amount called for e.g. 7g dried yeast = 21g fresh yeast.
Kneading the dough sufficiently works the gluten. This makes the dough soft and springy, allowing it to hold the gas the yeast releases and ensures the final baked product is soft.  To knead, pin the dough down with one hand and, with the heel of the other hand, stretch it away from you. Fold the dough over on itself, rotate by a quarter turn and repeat. (The Cook’s Book has an excellent description of this technique).
During the rising stage, leaving it in a warm place and covered, can speed up the process. But be careful that the heat is not too harsh as this can kill the yeast.
Once the dough has doubled in size, the next stage is knocking down the dough and proving it. This simply makes sure that the dough has an even texture and that the yeast is still alive. If it has died, the dough will not rise during baking.

Other short guides:

 Soft White Bread

Makes 2 loaves
500g strong white flour, plus extra for dusting
2 teaspoons table salt
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for greasing
2 teaspoons dried active yeast
2 teaspoons maple syrup (or sugar or honey)
300ml warm water

Grease two 2lb (130mm x 230mm) loaf tins.

Place the flour in a bowl and mix in the salt. Separately, put 150ml warm water into a jug and whisk in the salt, olive oil, yeast and maple syrup. Set aside, in a warm place, for 15 minutes until it froths.

Before and after kneading
Then, slowly pour the yeasty water, along with the remaining 150ml warm water, into the flour whilst stirring with the end of a wooden spoon; using your hands towards the end. If the dough is too sticky, add a bit more flour. If it’s too dry, add a bit more water. Turn the dough out on to a floured work surface and knead for at least 15 minutes. The dough should become smooth and elastic.

Place the dough back into the bowl and cover with cling film. Set aside in a warm place for 1 hour or at room temperature for 2 hours, until the dough has doubled in size. (You could even leave it in the fridge overnight).

Turn the dough out on to a floured work surface, knock it back and knead for 5 minutes. Half the dough into two equal portions and shape into oblongs. Fold the ends of each dough underneath itself and place into the greased loaf tins. Allow to prove.
Preheat oven Gas 9 (240°C/475°F).

Once the dough has risen to just above the top of the loaf tins, place them in the oven for 10 minutes. Then, reduce the oven temperature to Gas 6 (200°C/400°F) for another 10 minutes. Remove the loaves from the oven and carefully turn them out of their tins. Place back in the oven, upside down, for 5 minutes.

Remove the loaves from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack.

Favourites List - 28th August 2011

  • Liverpool Food & Drinks Festival - 3rd & 4th September. Special guest include Marco Pierre-White, John Torode, Simon Rimmer and Aiden Byrne. 
  • Tomato Basil Pizza - Now that the end of summer is approaching, and tomatoes are not far off the end of their season, David Lebovitz blogs about a great way to use them up and preserve them for the cold months ahead.

My popular culture tv fixes:


Saturday, 27 August 2011

Traditional Recipes: French Onion Soup

Onions are the hardest working ingredient in the kitchen. From ragu and hotdogs to sausage and mash, onions are the key players in a number of dishes. But every now and again, it's nice to let them shine in their own right. French onion soup is one of the dishes that does this in a spectacular way - if you can handle all the tears from the onions.

Having been admitted from the chef's Bible, Le Repertoire de la Cuisine, French onion soup saw a rival in the 1960's, perhaps as a result of Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking. It contains few ingredients and the key is to use the best stock available to you. I find this is best done by making your own - it's cheap and easy. I've seen various recipes calling for different stocks and, though beef stock is the traditional choice, I used chicken stock because I had some in the freezer.

French Onion Soup

Makes 4-6 portions
20g butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
600g white onions, thinly sliced
1 large clove of garlic, sliced
2 teaspoons plain flour
2-3 tablespoons dry sherry
1 litre stock (veal, beef or chicken)
salt and pepper
4-6 slices of ciabatta
50g Gruyère cheese, grated

In a heavy saucepan, melt the butter and add the olive oil. On a very low heat, add the onions and garlic then allow them to sweat for at least an hour, stirring occasionally. They will turn brown as they caramelise and release their natural sugars (pictured, right).
In a small pan, flambe the sherry then add to the onions along with flour and stir it together.   
Next, add the stock and season to taste and let simmer for 30 minutes.
Carefully transfer the soup to either individual tureens or a single large tureen. Spread the cheese over the ciabatta slices and place on top of the soup. Grill or bake until the cheese has melted and browned. (Otherwise, grill the ciabatta and cheese separately to the soup).

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Liver and Mini Roast Potatoes

What can you say about liver? You either hate it or love it. And, if you've never tried offal before, this is probably the best one to start you off on. The most popular way of cooking it is with onion gravy and mash, similar to the great British classic bangers and mash
Here I've used pigs livers, which are said not to be as good as lambs or calves. But, as long as they are cooked well I don't think there's much of a difference. Plus, pigs livers are a lot cheaper.

This was the first time I had tasted oregano flowers, and I can say that they are quite tasty. It has a delicate oregano flavour with a hint of mint and fennel. They make a pretty addition to the dish that makes it looks and taste fresher.

Liver and Mini Roast Potatoes 

Serves 4
800g new potatoes, cooked and cubed
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
20g butter
1 small onion, diced
1 clove of garlic, sliced
400g pigs liver
4 tablespoons double cream
handful fresh oregano, roughly chopped
salt and pepper
salad to serve

Preheat oven Gas 6 (200°C/400°F)

Put the potatoes in a roasting tray and toss in the olive oil. Season well with salt and pepper. Roast for 30 minutes, shaking occasionally, until golden brown and crispy.
About 10 minutes before the potatoes are done, fry the onions and garlic, in the butter, over a medium heat for 2 minutes. Don't let them brown though. 
Add the liver and cook for a further 5 minutes. Then poor in the cream, reduce the heat, and stir into the pan juices. Simmer for 2 minutes. 
Once you are ready to serve, season the liver with salt and pepper and stir in the oregano.

Monday, 22 August 2011

Quiche à l'oignon

There are few dishes that become the property of a nation as well as a region. In France, one such dish is the humble quiche with the most well-known being the quiche Lorraine. Essentially, quiches are open tarts that can contain any number of fillings; savoury or sweet. 
  I find that they are ideal for picnics, enjoyed in the warm sunshine. But they are equally as good (if not more so) straight out of the oven, when the top has soufflés as if to gesture its proudness.

Quiche à l'Oignon
Adapted from French Provincial Cooking by Elizabeth David

The left over egg whites from this recipe can made into meringues, frothed up and added to an omelette, or used to make a mousse. They can also be frozen for use in the future.

Serves 4-6

10g butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 onions, sliced
3 egg yolks plus 1 whole egg, medium size
250ml (approx 1/2pint) double cream
50g pecorino cheese, grated
salt and pepper to season
1 pastry case, blind baked

Preheat oven Gas 6 (200°C/400°F)

In a frying pan, on a loew heat add the butter and olive oil. Once the butter has melted, add the onions and sweat for 10-15 minutes, until the become soft and translucent.
Meanwhile, in a bowl, mix well the eggs, cream and cheese. Then season with salt and pepper.
Once the onions have sweated down, arrange them evenly in the pastry case. Pour on the cream mixture, again ensuring the cheese is spread evenly.
Bake in the oven for 20 minutes at Gas 6 (200°C/400°F) then a further 10 minutes at Gas 4 (180°C/350°F). Allow to cool for 5 minutes before serving, or let it cool completely to eat cold.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Easy Rhubarb & Custard

Rhubarb and custard, what a classic combination. As a child, these were one of the few sweets I liked. I don't know if that's weird or not. Anyway, I picked up some reduced price rhubarb from Tesco with the idea of doing something similar to simple prune sponge cake, but I've done so much cooking today I wanted something that involved minimal effort. Cinnamon, star anise and, of course, ginger would all go well cooked with the rhubarb.
Ps. Don't shout at me for using shop bought custard. Mum keeps buying loads for my nieces but they never use it.

Easy Rhubarb & Custard

Serves 3
400g rhubard, chopped (as pictured above)
3    tablespoons caster sugar
Custard to serve

Preheat oven Gas 6 (200C/400F)

Place the rhubarb in an oven-proof dish and sprinkle evenly with the sugar.
Cover with tin foil and bake for 20-30 minutes, until the rhubarb is just starting to lose its shape.
Spoon into serving glasses and top with custard.

Favourites List

Just thought I'd share a few of my favourite things from this week with you.


Thursday, 18 August 2011

Traditional Recipes: Bolognese Ragu

A while ago, at university, I had a discussion with a tutor and another student about what constitutes as a Bolognese sauce. 'Does it have to have meat in it?' seemed to be to most pressing question. Countless times I have just thrown a spaghetti Bolognese or lasagna al forno together without even thinking about what the traditional way of making it was. 
  Well, as it turns out, I was doing it all wrong. The tins of chopped tomatoes, the various herbs, the red wine - apparently all wrong. The only thing I had been getting right was the chopped onion (and even then I reckon I was doing that wrong). According to Elizabeth David's Italian Food, the key ingredient in a Bolognese sauce is nutmeg. Let me start from the beginning.
  My earliest memories of spag bol were of a sloppy tomato sauce. Sometimes we would have sliced mushrooms or even peppers in there, but guaranteed it was Dolmio's suace we used as a base. But alas, this is not it's true origins (thank god). It may be stating the obvious, but Bolognese sauce, or ragu as it is correctly known, comes from Bologna, Italy. Ragu is Italian for 'meat-based pasta sauce' (Heston Blumenthal, In Search of Perfection)
  The traditional recipe excludes the use of tomatoes, which is something that came with the discovery of America. It calls for beef, pancetta, onions, stock, tomato puree, white wine and cream or milk. Though nowadays, you'll see recipes calling for a range of additions from the basic celery, carrots and herbs to the perhaps more unusual chicken livers. 
  Though I do believe that Italian cuisine is at its best when it's kept simple, I am also guilty of not sticking to traditional recipes and elaborating on them. Yet, I can't decide if that's a good or bad thing. Granted, you shouldn't call a dish Traditional Spaghetti Bolognese if you've used tomatoes or red wine, but that doesn't make the dish itself 'wrong', does it? Surely it's just an adaption of a recipe, and isn't that how new dishes are born? 
 So, back to my original question that had myself, my tutor and my friend had been asking. Does Bolognese sauce have to have meat in it? Yes.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Food, Art & the Boyfriend

My three favourite things in life are food, art and, of course, my boyfriend. So, when I asked him to draw me a picture to make a cover for my new food scrapbook, it brought all three perfectly together. I asked him to pick any photograph from the blog to draw. These are what he came back with. 

The first one he did was off a chocolate cake we made together. The second of the prune sponge cakes I made the other day.
His blog is well worth checking out.

Do you have any similar stories?

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Simple Prune Sponge Cake

These cakes were born out of wanting to use up some prunes I had in the cupboard. (I also made a Moroccan chicken stew with them). It really is pretty simple to make and I'd recommend it if you're new to baking. 

Let me know if you have any easy baking recipes.

Simple Prune Sponge Cake
Adapted from

Though I've used prunes here, any dried fruit could be used. Also, try adding a tablespoon of lemon juice to the mix.

Makes 4 small cakes

100g butter
100g caster sugar
2 eggs
100g self-raising flour, sifted
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
10-12 prunes, chopped
Maple syrup

Preheat oven Gas 4 (180C/350F) 

Firstly, cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. This can be done by hand, in a bowl using a wooden spoon or in a food processor. (The idea is to get air into the mixture to lighten the end product).

Next, beat in one egg at a time followed by the vanilla extract and the self-raising flour.

Then spoon the mixture equally between four greased ramekins and scatter the prunes on top.

Place on a baking tray and bake for 20-30 minutes until golden brown.

Finally, allow to cool in the ramekins before turning them out and drizzling with maple syrup.

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Easy Butterscotch Ice-Cream

 If you follow me on twitter, you may have seen that I have recently become the proud owner of an ice-cream maker. The first recipe I tried out was blueberry frozen yoghurt, inspired by Food Stories. However, mine was not so good. (First off the ice-cream maker overheated because the bucket was not cold enough). Basically, I should have puree'd the fruit, rather than leaving it whole - though I did heat them up slightly to get the juices running. Biting into frozen blueberries is not a pleasant experience. 
  With this, my second attempt at making ice-cream, I had to be a bit inventive with what I had in the kitchen. The blueberry bush was fresh out of blueberries. The cupboard out of vanilla. I did, however, have the ingredients for butterscotch sauce left over from when I made Billy sticky toffee pudding.
Doncaster butterscotch is a sweet dating back to at least 1848 and was primarily made from butter, sugar and treacle. However, now the term butterscotch generally refers to the flavour of butter and sugar, that resembles toffee. Butterscotch sauce indicates the inclusion of cream and sometimes syrup, vanilla, lemon and/or salt is added. I've included an extra link to which has some more great information. 

Easy Butterscotch Ice-Cream

250g salted butter, cubed
200g dark brown sugar
500ml double cream
1/2 tsp table salt

1. In a deep-pan, gently melt the butter and sugar. Make sure you keep stirring, so the two combine. 

2. Slowly add the cream and bring to a boil. Let the mixture simmer for 5-10 minutes, until it begins to thicken slightly.

3. Transfer into a jug. Cover and refrigerate until cold. 

4. Pour the sauce into the an ice-cream maker along with the salt and follow the manufacturer's instructions.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Cafe Moo Baa Oinc

I've been meaning to write this post for a while now. But, I keep putting it off because I've only ever written one restaurant review before now. 
  So, where to start? You may recall a previous post about mine and Billy's little holiday in Wales where I wanted to try local Welsh foods. This lead us to the Anglesey Farmers' Market and buying some game sausages
  On that same (rainy, cold) day we visited Beaumaris, namely to see the castle and walk through the town. We came across a little food shop. It sold various local products, including meat, dairy and poultry items. Most of which I recognised from the farmers' market.  
  Attached was Cafe Moo Baa Oinc. I had been on the look out for Welsh Rarebit and, upon examining the menu, not only did I find it at a reasonable price, but also that the Head Chef was Aled Williams. (I guess he's most famous for being on the BBC programme The Great British Menu). Straight away I was excited.

The inside of the cafe was very understated. It had a modern feel to it, but I felt the decor was a bit to bland and it was a shame that our table was wobbly. The staff were friendly. 
  For me, choosing what to eat was simple. Welsh Rarebit. (It was only morning and, sadly, couldn't justify a big meal). Billy ordered the soup of the day: white onion and horseradish. Mine came served with a little salad and both with vegetable crisps.

The topping on the Welsh rarebit was cheesy and creamy, with an non-overpowering flavour of ale and Worcestershire sauce. The toast thick and crisp. The salad I wasn't so keen on. I found it to be bitter. Billy loved his soup. It was delicately sweet with the onions and  horseradish hit a subtle background note. All in all, we were both happy.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

A Short Guide To Pastry

My time working in kitchens was mostly spent on the dessert section, hence I see myself as a pastry chef. Although none of the other chefs were particularly keen to work this section, I found it a joy. Since I'd never had any formal training, I endeavored to teach myself. One of my first cookbooks was James Martins' Desserts. I quickly  realised the need for measurements and patience when it came to baking. This led me to wanting to learn more about the one of the most important components in baking: pastry.
  What I have written here is just a bit of what I'd learnt. I had originally included a lot more. Things like how fat coats the protein molecules in flour to prevent the formation of gluten. But I thought that might be a bit too boring. Enjoy...

Pastry was not always used in the way it is today. From medieval times, it was used primarily as a preserving agent, “meat [was] brought to a simmer inside a thick, durable crust would essentially be pasteurised and protected against contamination” (McGee, On Food And Cooking).
  The art of pastry was gradually refined over the years to produce 4 different types of pastry: crumbly pastries (this is where short pastry falls into), flaky pastries, laminated pastries and laminated breads, each of which are formed by a varying permutations of flour, water and fat.

Plain flour is most commonly used in pastry making, but wholemeal or self-raising can also be used, resulting in a distinctly different outcome.  

As a rule of thumb for short pastry, the less liquid added the better; there are two main reasons for this. Firstly, during cooking the liquid will evaporate causing the pastry to shrink. Secondly, the less liquid added the more crumbly the pastry will be. Vice versa, the more water added the harder the pastry will be. So, there should only be enough to hold it together. Some recipes call for no liquid at all. Either water or milk can be used in pastry making, but it largely depends on the required pastry.

The way in which fat (usually butter) is added to the flour is very important; as with everything else in pastry making, the fat should be as cold as possible, but still workable. 

Additional Ingredients
Additional ingredients can include eggs, sugar, spices and herbs, depending on the use of the pastry. Eggs can add an extra richness to a pastry and can also go towards some of the water content of it. Sugar adds sweetness, while spices and herbs can flavour a pastry.

‘Rubbing in’ is the term given to combining the flour and fat. The process can be started by using a knife and finished by using the fingertips to ‘rub in’ the fat. When rubbing in it is useful to do so with a little height so more air can be added and the resulting pastry is lighter. 
  Remember to keep everything as cold as possible. Some pastry chefs go as far as chilling their equipment before use. 'Relaxing' is part if this chilling process. The pastry is wrapped in clingfilm and refrigerating for at least 15 minutes. This decreases the formation of gluten. If too much gluten develops then the pastry can become too elastic and not keep its shape when rolled, and the cooked pastry can become hard. This is why it is important
  When rolling out the pastry, it is important to flour the work surface as lightly as possible so ratio of flour to water and hence the consistency of the pastry is maintained. The pressure that is applied should also be minimal so the gluten has less chance to develop.

Simple Shortcrust Pastry

160g plain flour, sifted (plus extra for dusting)
80g unsalted butter, cubed
Cold water                               
Pinch of salt                               
1 egg, beaten for glazing

1. In a bowl, rub the butter into the flour and salt by using fingertips, until it resembles breadcrumbs.

2. Make a well in the centre and add 1 tablespoon of the water. Gently work your fingers through the mixture, until a dough forms 
NB. Be careful not to add too much water, if too much has been added then compensate by adding a little flour.

3. Shape the dough into a ball and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes.

4. Lightly dust a clean work surface with flour and gently roll out the pastry using a rolling pin.
NB. Only roll in one direction, turning the pastry around.

5. To line a tin (for pies, quiches, etc.), roll the the pastry on to the rolling pin then slowly unroll over the tin. Softly press the pastry into the edges. 

Blind Baking

In order for the pastry base of dish such as a pie to be crisp, blind baking is recommended. When a filling is put on top of a pastry base there is limited heat getting to it. This results in a soggy pastry. Blind baking allows the pastry to start cooking and be crispier.

Preheat oven Gas 6 (200C/400F)

1. Once the dish has been lined with the pastry, use a fork to prick the base all over.

2. Scrumple up a sheet of grease-proof paper. Then unscrumple and line the pastry.

3. Use ceramic beans to weigh the paper down.

NB. Dried beads work just as well.

4. Bake for 10 minutes then remove paper and beans and bake for further 5 minutes.

Monday, 1 August 2011

Traditional Recipes: Tarte Tatin

Tarte Tatin is simple, classic French dessert of apples and pastry. It is said to have originated when the Tatin sisters were making an apple tart and overcooked it. They managed to save what they could, resulting in a dessert as close to perfection as you can get. 

Unexpectedly, there are many variations. Some recipes call for the apples to be sliced and neatly layered in a spiraling fashion; some state to peel the apples while other say not to; and some specify the use of cinnamon and cloves, where others simply add vanilla. 

My personal preference is to keep the dish as simple as possible. Letting the tartness and softness of the apples play against the crispiness of the pastry and sweetness of the sticky caramel.

Tarte Tatin
Adapted from Jamie Oliver's Jamie Does...

6-8 small apples
1 sheet JusRol puff pastry
100g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
70g butter, cubed

Preheat oven Gas 4 (180C/350F)

Roll out the puff pastry sheet and use an ovenproof frying pan to cut out a circle, giving it an extra 2cm around the edge.

On a low heat, sprinkle most of the sugar (reserving a tablespoon of it) evenly as possible in the pan with 3 tablespoons of water and the vanilla extract. Let the sugar caramelise and resist the urge to stir or shake the pan. When it starts to turn a light caramel colour add the butter.

Meanwhile, halve the apples and scoop out the core and seeds. When the caramel has turned a slightly darker brown, arrange the apples in the pan. Be careful, the caramel will be very hot. 

Carefully drape the pastry over the apples, letting it fall into the gaps. Sprinkle the reserved sugar over the top and place in the oven for 30 minutes or until the pastry has turned golden-brown.

Let the tarte cool down for 5 minutes the turn it out on to a plate. This is done by placing a plate over the top and, holding it firmly, flipping the plate and pan upside down together.

Ideally, the tarte tatin is served with ice cream or alternatively  serve with cream or custard.