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Chapatis, cupcakes and crème brulees!

22 Sep

This is a bit of a random update as I’ve been away from the blogging scene for a while. I finished my 3rd year medical exams, travelled around Uganda, went home to Holland and have now commenced my penultimate year of medical school (the holidays seem such a distant memory already!). I have only recently managed to get back in the kitchen and I’ve been cooking up some rather random experiments. Here are a couple of little odds and sods which I thought I’d share….

Chapatis

I’ve always wanted to know how to make chapatis as I am a massive fan of a good curry. For some reason I always thought they would require a lot of effort. I am happy to report that this assumption, my friends, is nonsense. Never again will I buy a chapati! It is literally a few handfuls of flour, a pinch of salt, a little cold water and a splash of olive oil to bring it all together to make a dough. You don’t even need to measure things! Knead the dough into a good happy place, and let it sit and rest for 20 minutes, then roll out your pride and joy into little round circles to be thrown into a hot, hot, hot pan and dry fried each side for a minute. Don’t roll them too thinly or they’ll come out crispy, and don’t cook them for too long or they’ll also come out crispy. They’re fantastic with a home made curry, and it’s an easy, easy choice to impress your mates with your impeccable culinary skills (they don’t need to know they took a few minutes to prepare!).

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Creme Brulees

I’ve always wanted to try to make creme brulees. They are my mum’s absolute favourite dessert and the look of disappointment on her face when we go out for dinner and the creme brulee doesn’t crack when she drops her spoon onto it has spurred me on to get busy trying to make them. In my head I thought these would be really tricky to do, especially as everyone I speak to about anything remotely custardy reacts with a sharp intake of breath, and whispers of ‘curdled custard’ haunt my dreams for days. It was a Saturday afternoon and having made a monster of a pavlova for the night before I had a load of yolks to use up. Now, just a quick tip – the creme brulees don’t actually require you to make custard, but if you want to make custard, do it over a low heat, whisking constantly and heating very slowly. As soon as it starts to thicken take it off the heat and whisk like your life depends on it. No longer will you be haunted by ‘curdled’ and ‘custard’, and scrambled egg will be a thing of the past.

The creme brulees are easy (although no, not healthy).

Recipe (makes 2)

225ml double cream
1 vanilla pod
25 grams caster sugar
2 egg yolks
4 tsp brown caster sugar

Preheat your oven to 170 C (fan).

Pour the cream into a pan, and carefully slice the vanilla pod in half (length wise). Scrape out the seeds with the back of the knife and add to the cream; heat gently to simmering for a few minutes, then take of the heat and leave the vanillary goodness to infuse into the cream for about 10-15 minutes.

In a clean glass bowl, beat the egg yolks with the white caster sugar until pale and well mixed. Carefully add the cream mixture to the yolk/sugar mixture, whisking to ensure it is all well mixed.

Pour this mixture into two ovenproof brulee moulds, then put these into a roasting tray. Once your tray is in the shelf of the oven, pour in water until it comes up to around halfway up the sides of the moulds (essentially a bit of a home made bain-marie). Bake these in the oven for 30 minutes.

Once baked, take them out of the oven and allow to cool. If you’re making them for a dinner party, they can sit in the fridge for a few hours until you’re ready to scatter a couple of tsp brown sugar over each and blow torch them (being careful not to burn the sugar). If you haven’t got a blow torch you can stick them under the grill, but I found that the grill didn’t get to the edges of the creme brulee, so the final effect would be better with a blow torch. Serve immediately. They should be crisp and crackable on the top, and lovely silky smooth custard underneath.

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Red Velvet Cupcakes

….a staple of mine. I just added this one because I think it’s pretty. I had a load of black fondant left over so I cut out little hearts from it (this would be a heck of a lot easier with a heart cutter, I assure you), coated them in a little edible glue and then sprinkled some red glitter over them. They make a very cute gift, or a good girly cupcake to enjoy with a cup of tea (read: wine) when someone needs a bit of cheering up 🙂

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Quick and easy fruit cake

13 Jun

I lovvvvvve dried fruit, to the extent that Pat has found me once or twice rummaging through the bag of muesli and picking out the raisins. Desperate times my friends. My parents came to stay a few weeks ago, so I thought it was the perfect excuse to whip up something lovely and home made for them. My mum’s an incredible baker, my grandmother owned a bakery, and her mum was apparently one of the best bakers of them all. I suppose baking makes me feel a bit closer to them all somehow. Like it’s in our genes. Well, it’s certainly in my jeans now – I’ve eaten so much cake and ice cream over the last few weeks that I’m slightly concerned that I’m not going to fit into my dress for Ascot next weekend. Hopefully there won’t be more tears as per the boob cake episode. Speaking of boobs, ladies you MUST check out this video – if there was ever an excuse to get checking those beautiful boobies of yours, this video is it! Check it out. Anyway now that I’ve gone off on a tangent, what I meant to say was that fruitcake is one of those traditional cakes that really reminds me of cosy homes and families. Also, Daps doesn’t like it which means there’s more for me. Ha.

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As you’ve probably guessed from the lack of posts exam period is looming…which means increasingly less time to do anything other than sit next to my computer pretending that I’m working, sit on the sofa with a book on my lap hoping that all the information will seep in by osmosis, and then promptly fall asleep. It’s not going well. This cake needed to be whipped up in a flash – no time for all that christmas-cake-soaking-hundreds-of-ingredients-nonsense, the prep was going to be done in under an hour total and then stuck in the oven. My tip is to boil your fruit up the night before and leave it to cool overnight, so you can just bung everything in the oven in the morning the next day. The recipe was taken from a few different recipes as I improved a bit, but this is the closest one I could find from food.com. It’s a wonderfully light, moist cake which is unbelievably satisfying. Yum!

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– 200g brown sugar
– 225ml water
– 375g mixed fruit (plus a bit extra for nibbling)
– 1 tsp bicarb soda
– 275g SR flour
– 1 tsp mixed spice
– 1 egg
– pinch salt

1. Put the water, marg, sugar, bicarb of soda and dried fruit in a pan and bring to the boil; as soon as it’s boiling, take it off the heat and leave it to cool overnight. I may or may not have splashed a fair few glugs of brandy into the mix at this point…ahem.

2. Beat the egg and add to the mixture along with the mixed spice, salt and the flour. Mix well with a spoon.

3. Preheat the oven to 170 (fan) and grease and line a cake tin. Put the mixture into the cake tin and bake for around an hour and a half – check at around 1hr15 to see how it’s getting on as ovens vary. I covered mine with a damp tea towel about half way through cooking just to make sure it wasn’t drying out around the edges, but to be honest I’m not sure it needed it!

4. Leave to cool and enjoy a generous slice with a nice cup of tea and some friends and family.

Boob cake

7 Apr

Over the last couple of days I have been making a new masterpiece. Boobs. Cake boobs. CHOCOLATE cake boobs. What could be better?! As Pat was celebrating his birthday along with one of his friends Keithy, I thought it the perfect option for two Australian boys men to get excited about on their birthday. After a bit of an easter egg making fail (I tried to temper my chocolate, got a bit impatient, and then the chocolate stuck to the moulds…etc., etc.), I was feeling a little bit grumpy, so I decided to embark on a cake making frenzy on Friday night.

The two ‘boobs’ were made in two small pyrex bowls. It was the first time I’d baked a cake in a glass bowl, but it worked out fine! Just keep your eye on them as the baking time will be longer (and make sure that the bowls are oven safe, obviously). I then baked another cake in a square cake tin, and once everything was cool I started to try to get a good ‘boob-plus-body’ design; next time I think I’ll cut out a bit more of a waist shape. The cake was a basic chocolate sponge from the ‘Hummingbird Bakery’ cookbook, and I used vanilla frosting. In hindsight, I would double the amount of frosting as it really lifts the flavour.

If there is one piece of advice that I can give you at this point, it is this: don’t lick the cake bowl, plus spoons, spatulas, frosting bowls, bits of left over cake, bits of left over cake topped with left over frosting, and bits of left over fondant. You will feel sick. And if you’re anything like me, there will follow an almighty sugar crash, a very irrational sugar-induced-hypo-slump crying tantrum about how your beautiful new jeans aren’t going to fit any more because your bum has obviously gone up at least two dress sizes in the last half an hour because of all the bowl licking. Say what?!! I’m telling you, step awaaaaay from the sugar. I think by this point Pat was wishing I’d just made him a Victoria sponge. Or maybe a loaf of bread.

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Anyway, sugar evils aside, I was going to leave it just as it was frosted and then make a fondant bikini to place over the top, but I like a smooth finish so I ended up covering the entire thing with fondant. The navy blue was bought coloured, the skin tone was made by mixing white fondant with a ‘flesh/paprika’ colouring paste, and the red was white fondant mixed with a ‘poppy’ colouring paste. The pastes really are far superior to basic food colouring, and give a much more evenly distributed and strong colour to the fondant.

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From there it was all just a bit of fun, really! I just cut the fondant to size, and stuck any odd edges and patterns with some edible glue. To get a smoother finish you can always whip out the cake smoothers, but after the cake-induced-emotional-turmoil I was quite ready to get somewhere far, far away from the fondant covered boobs.

It seemed to go down well (boys + cake boobs = winning combination?), it was a great night, and my jeans did still fit!

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Button cupcakes

28 Mar

So…the reason we were going a bit button-happy with the old fondant was because my lovely housemate Hannah had a bit of a bake off at work, and the theme was ‘collections’. I’m sure a lot of you all have that little box under the stairs with random odd buttons which don’t really match anything, big ones, small ones, that odd cracked one which is still there because, well, it just belongs in the button box. No? Just me? I used to love rummaging through my mum’s button box. The lovely noise that the buttons make when they clip against one another, and the wonderful feel of the cool little shapes when you trickle your fingers through them…(simple things!).

Anyway! So buttons were to be the ‘collection’ item, and we tried to recreate some of that magic of the button box with fondant. The cupcake recipe was a straightforward chocolate sponge from the hummingbird bakery cookbook, with a vanilla frosting (which I can wholeheartedly recommend after Hannah left me one this morning…..I was going to be good and only have a little nibble and a healthy breakfast, and save the rest until later, but it was so good, it lasted all of about five minutes. Whoops!).

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It is such a simple idea but is so colourful and pretty (and tasty!). It turns a very simple cupcake into something much more fun and creative. Yum!

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Battenburg

25 Mar

My goodness, I can’t believe I overlooked posting this recipe! A couple of months ago Pat challenged me to make something a bit different, and as I’d always wanted to try out a battenburg I thought I’d give it a go. It really isn’t as difficult as I thought it would be, although my mathematical measurements weren’t entirely accurate after a glass or two of wine (*ahem*), so my trusty (very-good-with-problem-solving) housemate was on hand to make sure I measured out the right size of marzipan. Ha!

I used a standard square cake tin and made a divider using silver foil and greaseproof paper, with a little butter on the bottom to make sure it stuck. Take a bit of time getting this perfect, and it’ll make measuring out the cake that much easier later! You can pretty much use any standard sponge recipe, and add a few drops of pink food colouring to half of it.

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Recipe

  • 175g butter or margarine
  • 175g caster sugar
  • 175g SR flour
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • A few drops pink food colouring
  • 6-7 tbsp apricot jam
  • 500g marzipan

Preheat the oven to 180C (fan), and grease the square tin. Cut a strip of silver foil the same length as the tin, and fold it to make a vertical fold (check out my ‘how to prep a Christmas pudding’ pictures to get an idea) which stands up in the tin to divide it into two equal parts (make sure it’s as high as the tin edges!). Continue to line the rest of the tin with greaseproof paper.

Cream the butter and sugar with an electric whisk, then add the eggs one at a time with the vanilla essence. Fold in the sifted flour, and then place half the batter in one side of the prepared tin. Add a few drops of food colouring to the other half of the batter – it doesn’t need to be hugely dark, as the baking process will bring out the colour (and too much colouring will give your sponge a dodgy aftertaste). Place the pink batter into the other half of the tin, and bake in the preheated oven for around 20-25 minutes. Keep an eye on them; they want to be spongy and light, not dry! Turn them out to cool on a wire rack.

Now for the fun part!

If the sponges are a bit dome shaped, I can’t recommend the use of a cake leveller enough. They are so easy to use and they ensure that the cakes are exactly the same height! If not, a sharp knife will do, just to make sure they’re pretty symmetrical. Divide each sponge rectangle into two equal long pieces. If you’re a bit of a perfectionist like me, you can get a ruler out just to make sure they’re all the same length/width.

Warm your jam in the microwave for a bit until it is nice and runny and sticky, and stick the four sponges together.

Roll out your marzipan (you can use a bit of icing sugar to make sure it doesn’t stick) into a rectangle, making sure that it will be long enough to go round the WHOLE cake. It doesn’t need to cover the ends. I ended up rolling mine quite thinly as Pat doesn’t like marzipan too much (and, err…I had nibbled through quite a bit of it by the time it came to assembly…).

Brush some of the left over jam onto the centre of the marzipan, and place your assembled sponge onto the jam. Continue to brush all of the sides of the cake with the jam, then carefully bring the marzipan up the sides of the cake, pressing gently to ensure it sticks, and make a join in the centre of the cake. Carefully flip the cake over so that the join is on the bottom. To tidy things up (aka have an excuse to sample the cake, obviously), trim off a slice from each end. You can crimp the sides a little by pinching between a thumb and finger to make it a little prettier.

Voila. Beautiful, impressive baking, which really isn’t too difficult – and is a lot of fun to make!

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Tarte tartin

17 Mar

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I’ve never had a tarte tartin before, but after watching one of my pudding-making-idols, Michel Roux Jr, make it look so easy I thought I’d give it a go. With limited ingredients it was a perfect option to take and make fresh at my sister’s place for a quick sweet treat after a wonderful dinner with friends.

On the one hand I’m a little confuzzled because I read quite a few recipes before embarking on this new bake-a-sode, and some use short crust pastry while others use puff pastry. I am not fond of soggy pastry and prefer it relatively crisp, but this method creates so much delicious syrupy sauce that the pastry doesn’t really stand a chance once you’ve flipped it over! I’m not sure whether short crust pastry might be a better option? Any tarte tartin making regulars who could offer some advice?

On the other hand, it’s apples, sugar, butter and pastry – what’s not to love?!

From a health perspective, err…I’ve got nothing. I’m not sure it needs the additional butter (I hear the Frenchies gasp at such a suggestion), OR the additional sugar (as the apples are quite sweet already), and omitting them would seriously reduce the calories! Will try it out next time.

Recipe (serves 6)
6 cox apples, peeled, cored and sliced relatively thinly
110g caster sugar
110g unsalted butter
500g ready made puff pastry (was pushed for time!)
Single cream, to serve

Put about 2/3 of the sugar into a oven proof frying pan (about 20cm is good) over a low/medium flame and allow to caramelise. Don’t stir but do to tip and turn the pan sometimes to make sure it’s not burning. You want a nice golden colour – too brown is not a good sign!

Take off the heat and arrange the apples on the bottom of the pan. A bit of overlap is fine.

Stick in the oven at 250C for ten minutes until the apples have softened and released some juice, then take out of the oven and turn the temperature down to 220C.

Scatter over the rest of the sugar and dot the butter in places over the top. Roll out about 3/4 of your pastry into a circle big enough to fit over the pan, and tuck the edges down into the pan using a wooden spoon – the pan and caramel will be super hot, no burned fingertips please!

Plonk back in the oven for twenty minutes until the pastry is puffed up and golden, then put a large serving plate over the top of the pan and carefully flip over to serve, along with a drizzle of cream.

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Easy squeazy lemon cheesecake

5 Mar

I’m so sorry…again, it has been much too long since I have written up some tasty culinary delight. Life has been crazy! Finished up my geriatrics placement (which I loved) and I’m now back at University. I also spent a wonderful last minute weekend up in Edinburgh which was so much fun, but a little over-indulgent! I did however walk up Arthur’s seat, so in my mind that walking cancelled out some of the delicious food, wine, cocktails, coffees and pastries (some reviews to follow).

This one is an absolute failsafe which I think I learned how to make at school when I was about 14 years old, and everyone seems to enjoy. I’ve experimented with it once or twice over the years, and the worst that has happened was that it went a little bit runny on an occasion that I only used two lemons. The trick is to make sure you have big fat juicy lemons; the acidic juice reacts with the fats and proteins in the condensed milk/cream cheese to apparently form a bit of a mesh which holds any liquid in a gelatinous suspension (again, science is cool!).

It’s particularly good when you know that you’re going to have a super busy week, a mid week dinner party and you have about 15 minutes to whip up a delicious pud. I’m not going to pretend that there are any health benefits to this…there are not, however it is one of the healthier recipes that I’ve found for cheesecake!

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Recipe (serves 6-8)

  • 10 digestive biscuits, bashed up to make nice crumbs
  • 50g unsalted butter, melted
  • 25g demerara sugar
  • 1 can condensed milk (397g)
  • 150ml single or double cream
  • 175g low fat cream cheese
  • 3 big fat chubby juicy lemons, washed

To make the base:

Once the butter is melted, mix the bashed up biscuit crumbs and sugar into it until well coated. Use this to form a nice base in a non stick cake tin (an 8ish inch tin is probably a good size). With the back of a metal spoon smooth the base and squash it together a bit so that it is nicely packed into place. Place in the fridge until you need it.

To make the filling:

Finely grate the rind of all lemons into a large bowl. Add the cream cheese, condensed milk and cream and whisk it up with an electric hand whisk until nice and smooth.

Juice the lemons into a small jug or mug and make sure there are no pips hiding. Slowly add the lemon juice in little bits at a time to the cheesy mixture, whisking after each addition. The filling will thicken up as you add the lemon juice. Give it a good old whisk (a little trick I use if I think my lemons are a bit ‘unjuicy’ is to have some bottled lemon juice handy and add a couple of tablespoons of that to the mix).

After having an obligatory little taste of the (now very delicious) filling, pour it over the refrigerated base (leaving a tiny bit at the bottom of the bowl) and leave to chill in the fridge overnight.

Now, get yourself a spoon and some of the left over digestive biscuits, and enjoy the little bit that you’ve left at the bottom of the bowl. NOM! Just a quick note too – I’ve found that some cake tins allow some of the yummy sugary lemony goo to leak out a tiny bit (it by no means affects anything to do with the cheesecake outcome, but does leave a bit of a mess), so it’s worth sticking the cake tin on a plate in the fridge just to be on the safe side!