Saturday, 28 May 2011

Eton Mess Cake

It's a bank holiday weekend here in the UK and the weather is dull and grey (which is why my pics aren't so bright) and no sign of the sun coming out, oh well no change there for a bank holiday! I decided to bring some sunshine and flavours of an English summer in of my own with this Eton Mess Cake. This cake is a take on the traditional English dessert Eton Mess which is served at Eton College's annual prize giving celebration picnic every 4th of June. Eton College was founded in 1440 by King Henry IV and has a long list of distinguished pupils, Prime Minister David Cameron and Prince William to name a few.
OK enough history lets talk cake! This cake was straight-forward and simple, providing you prepare the ingredients prior to assembly. The smell of the cake cooking was sumptuous and filled the house with a glorious aroma. My hubby was eager for the cake to finish baking but unfortunately it took 15 min longer than the recipe stated to completely bake in my oven and he had to suffer that wait. The flavours and textures in this cake are absolutely divine and really capture the essence of British summer! Oh and hubby said the wait was well worth it.

Eton Mess Cake

175g unsalted butter
5 tbsp double cream, from a 300ml pot
1 tsp vanilla paste or extract
225g plain flour
100g ground almonds
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp fine salt
200g golden caster sugar
5 large eggs, at room temperature
400g strawberries, half roughly chopped, half finely sliced
4 meringue nests, (50g) very roughly chopped
a little icing sugar, to serve

Grease a deep 20 x 30cm traybake or roasting tin, then line with parchment. Heat the oven to 160C/140C fan/gas 3. Melt the butter, take off the heat and stir in the cream and the vanilla. Mix the flour, almonds, baking powder and 1/4 tsp fine salt and set aside for later.

Put the caster sugar and eggs into a large bowl, and whisk with electric beaters until very thick and foamy, about 5 mins. Pour in the butter mix, whisk briefly, then add the flour mix and whisk briefly again until even. Stir in the chopped strawberries, then pour the batter into the tin and level the top.

Scatter the sliced strawberries and meringue over the cake, then bake for 40-45 mins until risen, golden and a skewer comes out clean. Cool for 20 mins in the tin, then transfer the cake to a rack. Just before serving, dust with a little icing sugar. Enjoy with the rest of the double cream, whipped if you like.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Butternut Squash and Chorizo Linguine

A few weeks backs I decided to try a protein diet and whilst it promised major weight loss, and I did lose some weight, it wasn't the weight loss program for me. Being a lover of pasta and most carbs, I found it tough not having them in my diet. Not to mention missing the odd glass of wine or vodka & tonic during the week. So I've gone back to Weight Watchers which I know works for me as long as I stick with it. Sticking with it is easier as I'm still able to enjoy the food I love in moderation.

Pasta recipes whether in magazines or cookbooks always seem to catch my eye and this Butternut Squash and Chorizo Linguine certainly done just that. The bonus being it is a low fat recipe, even with the Chorizo, and easy to work out the ProPoints value. The sweet nutty taste of the roasted butternut squash and spicy chorizo combined wonderfully with my home-grown sage. This was a satisfying weeknight meal that didn't take much effort and one I will make again.

Butternut Squash and Chorizo Linguine

Serves 4

half a large butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and cut into small cubes
100g piece chorizo, chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
400g cherry tomatoes
large handful sage leaves, shredded
400g linguine or spaghetti
grated Parmesan, to serve

Heat the oven to 220C/200C fan/gas 7. Tip the squash and chorizo onto a roasting tray, season, then toss in the oil. Roast for 20 mins, adding the tomatoes and two-thirds of the sage for the final 5 mins.

Cook the linguine/spaghetti. Drain, then toss with roasted ingredients and juices from the tray. Serve sprinkled with remaining sage and grated Parmesan.

Monday, 23 May 2011

Banana and Passion-Fruit Loaf

Banana loaf, bread, cake or muffins normally feature quite a bit in my baking repertoire but it's been a while since my last banana bake. I have recipes that I revisit time and time again which will always remain my favourites. However, I am always on the hunt to try out new and exciting recipes! This Banana and Passion-Fruit Loaf is another delicious installment from my new cookbook Weekend Baking. I knew the moment I came across this recipe that it was a winner and would be absolutely amazing and it is! The banana and passion-fruit combination is the perfect marriage of flavours, that brings a tropical twist to the classic banana loaf. My only disappointment which is not the fault of the recipe, is that my icing was too runny and I should have added more icing sugar. If your looking for a recipe to use up those ripe bananas in your fruit bowl then look no further, this recipe is the one!

Banana and Passion-Fruit Loaf

Serves 8-10

225g self-raising flour
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
100g butter, softened and cubed
175g caster sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
3 passion fruit
3 very ripe bananas

To decorate:
100g icing sugar
1 passion fruit
dried banana slices, to decorate

2lb loaf tin, lightly buttered and base-lined with baking parchment.

Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan/350F/Gas 4.

Sift the flour and bicarbonate of soda into a bowl. Put the butter and sugar in an electric mixer and beat until pale and fluffy. Add the beaten eggs and sifted flour mixture alternately to the bowl.

Halve the passion fruit and scoop out the pulp into a sieve over a bowl. Using a teaspoon, press and stir the pulp to extract the juice. Discard the leftover seeds. Peel and mash the bananas. Add the passion fruit pulp and mashed banana to the cake mixture and mix again.

Tip the mixture into the prepared loaf tin and spread it evenly with a spatula. Bake in the preheated oven for 55 minutes, or until golden and risen. Leave to cool in the tin.

To decorate, sift the icing sugar into a small bowl. Halve the passion fruit and scoop out the pulp into the bowl - no need to sieve the pulp this time. Mix together with a teaspoon. The icing sugar will seem stiff at first, but persevere until is thoroughly mixed. If the glaze still seems a little thick, add a drop or two of cold water - the consistency of the glaze will depend on the size of the passion fruit and how ripe it is. You want the glaze to be a thick, spreadable consistency.

Tip the cold loaf out of the tin and peel off the base paper. Spoon the glaze over the top of the loaf and decorate with dried banana slices. Leave to set for about 30 minutes before slicing.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Elderflower Crunch Cake

My hubby is fortunate that his job allows him to work from home most of the week. I love those days because it means we can have more of a lay in, not having to catch a train into the city and when he finishes work his always home on time for dinner! This working from home arrangement brings a demand for a regular supply of baked goodies. He loves nothing more than teasing his colleagues on conference calls whenever his enjoying said baked goodies with a cuppa. We spent this weekend at the lodge and I baked a fruit cake which we bought back with us and was finished yesterday. I will be blogging the fruit cake soon, along with pics I took whilst at the lodge. This morning I decided to make this Elderflower Crunch Cake that I've had book-marked for a while and replenish the cake tin contents for hubby! This cake is light and fluffy with a subtle hint of almond that works wonderfully with the elderflower crunch topping. The flavours in this luscious cake really capture the essence of summer (although the weather hasn't been great lately).

Elderflower Crunch Cake

For the loaf cake base:
175g softened butter, plus extra for greasing
175g golden caster sugar
3 eggs
140g self-raising flour
85g ground almonds
1/2 tsp baking powder
100ml milk

For the Elderflower drizzle:
4 tbsp elderflower cordial
4 tbsp white or golden granulated sugar

Heat the oven to 160C/140C fan/Gas 3. Grease and line a 2lb/900g loaf tin with a long strip of baking parchment. To make the loaf cake batter, beat the butter and sugar with an electric whisk until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, flour, ground almonds, baking powder and milk until smooth. Pour into the tin and bake for 45-50 mins until golden, risen and a skewer poked in the centre comes out clean.

As soon as the cake has come out of the oven, prick it all over with a skewer. Mix together the cordial and extra sugar, then pour all over the cake. Cool in the tin, then carefully lift out to slice.

Monday, 16 May 2011

Soft-Set Strawberry & Pimm's Jam

Strawberry season in the UK depends on the weather but normally runs from May to August. During the rest of the year they are imported from countries such as Spain. June being the quintessential strawberry month when 27000 kilos of strawberries are eaten during the Wimbledon tennis championships, together with 7,000 litres of cream! The other British classic for this time of year is Pimm's, an English summer drink, that no BBQ would be complete without. Whilst browsing this month's Good Food Magazine I discovered this recipe for Soft-set Strawberry & Pimm's Jam. What better way to combine these two seasonal favourites? The recipe is easy to follow but you will definitely need a preserving thermometer. The jam turned out absolutely divine and everything I expected. This jam will come into it's own on home-baked scones and clotted cream and the other British classic Victoria Sponge Cake.

Soft-set Strawberry & Pimm's Jam

Makes 5 x 450g jars

1.5kg/3lb 5oz strawberries, hulled and halved if large
1kg bag jam sugar (it has added pectin)
juice 2 lemons
juice 1 orange
3 tbsp Pimm's No 1

Put a few saucers into the freezer for later. Put the strawberries into a preserving pan (or your very largest saucepan), then mash roughly with a potato masher, or crush slightly between your fingers and thumbs to make them a little juicy. Stir in the sugar, then put the pan over a very low heat. Stir occasionally until the sugar has dissolved and the berries are surrounded with red syrup. Don't let it boil. Once the sugar crystals have gone, stir in the lemon and orange juice.

Turn up the heat. Once the jam reaches a foaming fast boil (this will read 105C on a preserving thermometer), set a timer for 10 mins. After 10 mins, put 1 tsp of jam onto one of the frozen saucers, put into the fridge for 1 min, then push your finger through the jam. If the jam wrinkles, it is ready. If not, boil for another 2 mins and test again. As soon as the jam is ready, remove from the heat. Leave to cool for 30 mins, skim away any scum, then stir in the Pimm's. Ladle into steralised jars.

Will keep in a cool, dark place for up to 1 year.

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Fat Witch Brownies

Lately I've treated myself to a selection of new cookbooks and isn't it just the best browsing amazon and adding them to the cart? Not to mention when the postman delivers them! It was the title of one of my new books that caught my eye, Fat Witch Brownies. The book is based on the Fat Witch Bakery in NY who are known for their brownies, blondies and bars. I had never heard of this NY bakery or the book before now but glad I stumbled upon it. Of course the first bake from the book had to be their signature recipe, Fat Witch Brownies, which just so happened to be the first one in the book.

This brownie recipe was easy and straight forward, although I had a minor mishap when I got ahead of myself, either that or I need glasses and I doubled the amount of flour required. This is the reason they were not as gooey as I was expecting and more of a dense cakey brownie. Either way they were still a hit with my son, hubby and hubby’s work colleagues!

Most of you will have experienced the problems with blogger these last couple of days, with many losing posts and not being able to blog or comment. Unfortunately my original version of this post and its comments was lost and not recovered (not impressed blogger)!! Could I ask if anyone who originally commented could help in re-posting their thoughts. :-)

Fat Witch Brownies

Makes 12 to 16 brownies

14 tablespoons/1¾ sticks/198g unsalted butter
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons bittersweet chocolate chips
1¼ cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons unbleached flour
pinch of salt

Grease a 9-inch baking pan with butter. Dust with flour and tap out the excess.

Preheat the oven to 350F/180oC/160oC fan oven/gas 4.

Melt the butter and chocolate in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring frequently. Set aside to cool.

Cream the sugar, eggs, and vanilla together. Add the cooled chocolate mixture and mix until well blended.

Measure the flour and salt and then sift together directly into the chocolate mixture.

Mix the batter gently until well combined and no trace of the dry ingredients remains. Do not over-mix. At this point, if desired, stir in any extras like walnuts.

Spread the batter evenly in the prepared baking pan and bake 33 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean or with crumbs but not batter.

Remove from the oven and let cool on rack for 1 hour. Cut just before serving.

Monday, 9 May 2011

Creamy Pasta Salad with Ham, Avocado, Tomato and Mozzarella

Jacqueline at Tinned Tomatoes is hosting this week's Presto Pasta Nights #213. blog event. I don't normally partake in blog events and I need to remedy that but any excuse to eat pasta and I'm sold. In the warmer months I love cold pasta salads for lunch or dinner and they are perfect for barbecues, packed lunches and picnics. I got the idea for this pasta salad from one of my favourite Italian salads, Tri Color. This quick and easy creamy pasta with the addition of ham and spring onion produced a comforting luscious lunch for one!

Creamy Pasta Salad with Ham, Avocado, Tomato and Mozzarella

Serves 1

75g fusilli pasta
3 slices of lean ham
half an avocado
handful of plum or cherry tomatoes
handful of mozzarella pearls
3 spring onions
1 tbsp of half-fat crème fraîche
salt and pepper

Boil pasta according to packet instructions. Chop ham, avocado, tomatoes, mozzarella and spring onions and mix together in a bowl with a tbsp of crème fraîche. Season with salt and pepper. Once pasta is boiled, drain and run under cold water. Then toss pasta in with other ingredients and serve.

Friday, 6 May 2011

Triple Chocolate Cookies

Hurrah it's finally Friday and the start of the weekend! I am looking forward to spending it with my hubby and hopefully if it doesn't rain as predicted maybe visiting some of our favourite local National Trust places. What plans do you have for this weekend? This morning I whipped up these dark, decadent triple chocolate cookies from Eat me by Cookie Girl, which is certainly worth adding to your cookbook shelf! These rich and chewy cookies that are packed with a mixture of creamy white, smooth milk and intense dark chocolate are a chocoholics dream! Have a great weekend everyone.

Triple Chocolate Cookies

Makes 20

200g unsalted butter, room temperature
255g caster sugar
125g muscovado sugar
1 medium egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
45g cocoa powder
255g plain flour
¾ tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 tbsp milk
55g plain chocolate chips
55g milk chocolate chips
55g white chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 180oC/160oC fan oven/350oF/Gas 3.

Line a large baking sheet with greaseproof paper.

Cream the butter and both sugars together, beating until pale and fluffy. Add the egg and the vanilla extract. Once they are mixed, sift in the cocoa powder, flour and bicarbonate. The mixture will now seem a little dry, so add the milk and stir until all ingredients are combined. Stir in the chocolate pieces, but take care you don't over-mix at this stage.

Drop tablespoons of mixture onto the baking sheet, placing each spoonful about 2in apart. If you want to make sure the cookies turn out as neat rounds, pop them in the fridge for half an hour or so before baking. Bake in the preheated oven for 12 minutes.

Let them cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Chocolate Chocolate-Chip Muffins

My hubby has been in Madrid on business for a week but his back tonight, yay, I've missed him! He did however have 2 days free and took a short flight to Alicante to visit my parents, sister and nephew. I was sad that I couldn't be there too but I was happy he got to see them all and have a nice time. This morning I decided to do some baking for my hubby's return and made these Chocolate Chocolate-Chip Muffins from Nigella Lawson's cookbook Feast. These double chocolate muffins with their light and fluffy sponge are very yummy and will no doubt be a hit!

Chocolate Chocolate-Chip Muffins

250g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
2 tbsp best quality cocoa powder
175g caster sugar
150g dark chocolate chips, extra for sprinkling
250ml milk
90ml vegetable oil
1 large egg
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 200oC/180oC fan oven/Gas mark 4. Put the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cocoa, sugar and chocolate chips into a large bowl and mix well.

Pour all the liquid ingredients into a measuring jug and mix well. Mix the dry and wet ingredients together with slow and gentle strokes. Stop stirring once the last traces of flour disappear. Do not overmix. A lumpy batter will ensure the muffins stay moist and fluffy.

Spoon the batter into paper muffin cases. Sprinkle with extra chocolate chips on top and bake for 20 minutes or until the muffins are dark, risen and springy.