Category Archives: Food

Pea and Mint Soup

Today I made some Pea and Mint Soup, from this recipe on BBC Good Food. There aren’t too many ingredients – in the end I didn’t use the lemon or the crème fraîche either. I decided to make plenty for tonight’s tea and for a few lunches next week, so I made it with 1kg of peas and upped everything else too. Even with the kilo of peas, this is a pretty cheap recipe.

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The weird thing I found about this soup was that there’s no frying of onions and garlic to get things going. Instead, you simmer the potato, garlic and stock together until the potato is really soft.

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Then you throw in everything else except the dairy (if you’re using it).

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I used almost all of my mint plant. The mint flavour does develop after it sits overnight though.

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After everything had been added, it was time to blend it with the stick blender! This took ages, and it still wasn’t very smooth.

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We reheated the soup at tea time and it was fairly well received, though the texture was still sort of bitty from all the pea skins. Maybe the dairy would have helped with that. The flavour was nice though.

Edit – Tuesday lunchtime: This soup started to ferment and was visibly bubbling when I took it out of the fridge the next day. Argh! I’ll not be batch-cooking this again.

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Birthday Cake

It was my mam’s birthday today, so I made a cake to celebrate. I chose the classic Victoria Sponge Cake, partly due to a range of dietary restrictions. Even so, I think it’s hard to beat a nice plain sponge with jam and too much buttercream. I used the recipe available on the BBC Good Food website. I was using large eggs, so I only used three and a half. I didn’t want an eggy sponge.

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The mixture comes together nicely, especially if you cream the butter and sugar together first. Sifting the flour made the sponge nice and light.

I didn’t have two 20cm tins, so I just baked this all together. The only problem with this is that the outside can get overdone, especially the top. I turned the temperature down by twenty degrees after the first twenty minutes, and covered the top with some baking paper. After twenty more minutes at 170, the cake was nicely cooked through. I left it to cool (the most annoying part!) and then cut it.

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I made almost double the buttercream so I could fill and ice the cake. I daresay you could do some more adventurous decorating on top of the buttercream, but I just used candles.

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You can’t knock a classic. Even if it is a bit wonky.

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Cheesecake

I made a cheesecake for a colleague’s birthday. This is a proper baked cheesecake, American style. You can find the recipe in Sue Lawrence’s book of Baking.

You start with a base made from digestive biscuits. I suppose if you’re a real purist you could make your own… but they do come in packets. I put them in a bag and smash them with a masher.

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And then some melted butter goes in.

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Once it’s all mixed together, I used the masher again to flatten it all out in the greased and lined tin. Springform cake tins are brilliant.

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And now for a whole lot of cheese! I’m not using the light Philly out of calorie-fear – it’s recommended in the book as it gives a better texture than the full fat kind. I did make a full-fat one once and it wasn’t as good.

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OK, this is how much flour is in the whole cheesecake. I think this is the part that makes it a “cake”.

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Mixing all of the ingredients together makes a brilliant squelching noise. Or a disgusting one if you’re not a fan of squelches.

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After it’s all thoroughly mixed it gets poured onto the chilled biscuit base and gently smoothed out.

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Happily, I had a tiny bit of spare everything.

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They go in at a high heat for the first few minutes, and then bake cooler for a lot longer. I had to guess a bit for the mini cheesecakes! Near the end of the cooking time, you can add a thin layer of sour cream mixed with sugar. It really makes the top nice and smooth, but take care not to let too much run down the sides of the tin like I did… it burns up.

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But look how smooth it makes the top!

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The mini cheesecakes didn’t fully cook through, but the big one was lovely and rich and fluffy when it was cut the next day!

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At least we got to eat the mini ones the same day…yum! The big version was left in the oven overnight to cool slowly, and cut well the next day.

Lemon Cake v1.0

I made a lemon cake in between making a Sachertorte – why have one cake when you can have two? The recipe I used for the cake part itself was this one from Delia’s site. I wouldn’t use it again, mainly because it results in hardly any cake!

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Smells good!

To make it lemony, I added the zest of one lemon, chopped as small as I could make it.

After I made the cake I split it through the middle and added some lemon drizzle to the cut side of the bottom half. The drizzle is just lemon juice and sugar, use the juice of 1 lemon and about 60g caster sugar. Mix it together and dissolve as much of the sugar as you can. I juiced the lemon I’d zested and made up some drizzle – I reserved a few tablespoons of juice for later. The important thing to remember with the drizzle is that it’s quite potent, and you don’t want to totally soak the cake as it’ll just fall apart. Just use a couple of tablespoons on each half for a thin cake like this one.

I also made up some lemony buttercream – a basic recipe can be found on the BBC website. I stuck a little bit of lemon juice into it as well, just for the sake of completeness. I only added about a teaspoon at a time and tasted it before adding any more. Also, I used caster sugar because I didn’t have icing sugar.

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Haven’t used one of these for ages.

Once this was done, I spread a generous layer of lemon curd on one of the cut sides of the cake, and buttercream on the other. I always find it easiest to put icings and fillings in the centre of the cake and then push them out towards the edges. If you pull the icing back (especially from a surface of cut cake) you end up dragging crumbs up and potentially damaging the cake. Leave a quarter inch or so around the edge of the cake to stop it from squishing out of the edges when you make the sandwich.

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Shiny lemon cake with artistic zest bits.

After sandwiching the cakes together, I pierced the top of the cake with a skewer a few times and added the drizzle to the top, which is why it looks shiny in the pictures. I chucked on a bit of lemon zest to make it look a bit prettier!

If you’re looking for a good lemon cake, I’d definitely recommend the lemon drizzle cake on BBC Food. You can always cut it in half and put fillings in that one if you’d like to!

Sachertorte

I decided to make a Sachertorte for Rene’s birthday. I followed the recipe from Mary Berry on BBC Food. Though I’ve not made this before, I followed the recipe to the letter and it worked out really well. I don’t normally use electric mixers when I’m baking – partly because I can’t be bothered washing them but also because I like the satisfaction of making things “by hand”. This doesn’t extend to hand-building an oven.

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Five egg yolks…

The trickiest part of the recipe for me was getting the egg white to the right consistency and then folding it into the chocolately mixture without completely deflating it. The bubbles in the egg white are the only raising agent in the cake, if you can call them that.

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Mixed cake batter

Once the batter was in the oven I could get the washing up done! When it came out it was cracked around the top and had risen to a mound shape around this crack. I was really worried about that at first but in the end it deflated again. The crack would be covered by the ganache icing anyway.

Speaking of ganache, I think it might be my favourite cake topping. It gives such an impressive look for the effort you put in. It’s just two ingredients – chocolate and cream.

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Trying not to steal a bit.

All you need to do is heat up the cream until it starts to emit steam, then stir in the chopped chocolate off the heat. Eventually you end up with a really, really shiny chocolate-cream goo. Which is utterly delicious.

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Making ganache

You can work with the ganache at various stages. As it cools it thickens, and you can pour it over a cake to get a mirror-shine finish like below.

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Poured ganache

The ganache can also be left to cool further and spread with a palette knife, as the recipe above suggests. Even more fun – you can refrigerate it and make truffles by making small pieces using a melon baller or two spoons, and rolling them in cocoa powder. I made some balls of leftover ganache and used them to decorate the cake after I’d taken it to work.

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Finished!

Transporting this on the Metro was slightly hazardous, but it all worked out in the end and Rene approved of its authenticity!

Chocolate Meringue Cakes

An interview with the Great British Bake Off team that a friend posted on Facebook gave me a kick into the kitchen today. As Terri is writing an essay at my house I thought it would be nice to provide a sweet treat as well. I have often used recipes from Sue Lawrence’s Book of Baking and have found them to be absolutely fantastic. I adapted this recipe today and had an attempt at individual cakes rather than the standard sandwich cake. I made the mixtures for the Chocolate Lemon Meringue cake as usual, but added six Terry’s Chocolate Orange segments roughly chopped into chips. I also ran 15g short of cocoa and left out a little milk to compensate. I didn’t make the mixtures one after the other, but made the cake mix up to the point of adding the flour, then made the meringue and quickly finished off the cake.

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Cake mixture.

I didn’t want to lose any of the action of the raising agents in the self-raising flour by setting them off too early – I was making my meringue by hand so it took a while to whisk up the eggs. I put the cake mix into the muffin cases and pushed down the mixture, spreading it as evenly as I could.

The cake doesn’t usually spread or rise a great deal, so it’s important to get it roughly level so that it cooks through evenly. Next came the meringue tops, which looked absolutely huge in comparison to the tiny spoons of cake!

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Topping

They went into the oven for 20 minutes. As I write this post they’re still in the oven, so the verdict has yet to be reached!

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Meringue styling.

After 20 minutes at 170 fan, the meringue tops were browned and hardened, but the cakes had risen a lot more than I had expected and were still quite wobbly! I tented the tray with foil to keep the direct heat off the meringue tops and stop them catching, and lowered the oven temperature to 150 fan.

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The yellow-brown tinge to the meringue is partly down to the fact i used golden caster sugar instead of white.

After 10 more minutes they came out, and the cakes were done. The balancing act with times hadn’t quite gone right, as the meringues weren’t cooked through, but we ate them anyway. Overall, the experiment was fairly successful – we ended up with edible cakes. However, a lot more tweaking is necessary to get the balance right. In this case, both the cakes and the meringue were much deeper in the cake cases than they are when they are in sandwich tins, so the cooking time definitely needs to increase, but at the same time, I don’t want to burn my meringues into oblivion – burnt sugar does not taste good! I think cooking for a longer period at a cooler temperature would be the key – either that or just make the sandwich cake because you can fill that with whipped cream and raspberries.

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Inside

Gingerbread House

I don’t like gingerbread, but I do like festive food. I read a lovely post a few years ago at Baked Bree and decided to give it a go for myself. I didn’t use a template as such, but measured out my own pieces, cut from a batch of Bree’s gingerbread recipe. The gingerbread was fine, and really easy to make. The construction of the house was not so simple – it did not go as well as it could have done.  That said, I am not disappointed by the fact I managed to make an actual house that only fell down once. I have learned a lot for the next attempt…

  1. Make a really stiff icing to glue the pieces together.
  2. Take into account the thickness of the gingerbread when making the side pieces. My roof ended up at the wrong angle and sort of propped up by the too-tall side walls.
  3. Decide whether the gable ends are going inside the other walls or outside. Then measure your roof size from there!

Don’t compare the photo TOO much with Bree’s beautiful creation… I swear they’re identical. This photo is before the emergency re-pointing and re-arrangement of pieces. Can you see the walls collapsing?

Gingerbread House

 

Just wait until you see next year’s…