Monthly Archives: August 2017

Connagh’s Weight-Training Birthday Cake!

Serves 16+

I’m not sure how many of you would want to create a birthday cake designed to look like gym weights (or even if you think I have pulled it off!) but just in case, this is the recipe for my son’s 18th birthday cake. Despite it’s appearance, the cake is absolutely decadently delicious, moist, sweet and very far removed from anything related to fitness!!!!! Happy 18th Birthday Connagh! xx

What you need…

1 x 23cm cake tin, 1 x 20cm cake tin and 1 x 15cm cake tin, all spring form ideally and liberally buttered and lined with parchment paper.

1 x 35.5cm cake board

1 small deep cookie cutter (to cut the hole in the top ‘weight’)

340g unsalted butter, room temperature

340g caster sugar

6 eggs

1 dessertspoon vanilla extract

140g milk

225g self-raising flour

85g cocoa powder

2 teaspoons baking powder

Pinch of salt

for the chocolate butter cream

100g dark chocolate (ideally 70% cocoa) broken into pieces

200g unsalted butter, room temperature

400g icing sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

for the decoration

750g Renshaw ready-to-roll black fondant icing

Icing sugar for dusting

Royal icing sugar and water for letter-writing

Disposable icing bag with No. 2 writing tube

A couple of tablespoons of vodka in a water spray bottle (see tip!)

1 x weight-training rubber duck! (optional!)

What to do…

Preheat the oven to 180°c / 350° / gas 4.

Using a food processor, beat together the butter and caster sugar until light and fluffy. Whilst it’s still beating, add in the eggs, one at a time, ensuring that each is thoroughly mixed in before adding the next. Add the vanilla extract and milk and mix in.

In a large mixing bowl, sift in the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt. Mix well. Then, add in the ingredients from the food processor and, using a balloon whisk, fold together all the ingredients until they are thoroughly blended. Divide the chocolate sponge mixture between the three cake tins.

Bake the sponges in the oven for 35 – 40 minutes until the cake is firm and an inserted skewer comes out dry.Allow to cool for 30 minutes in the tins and then turn out onto cooling racks to cool completely.

Meanwhile, make the butter cream, made especially gorgeous by the use of the melted chocolate.

Put your chocolate into a heatproof bowl and then into a steamer over a saucepan of simmering water. Gently melt the chocolate and then set aside until it is cool enough to touch.

In a separate bowl, sieve in the icing sugar and then, using a handheld electric whisk, beat together with the butter. Add the vanilla essence and then tip in the warm chocolate. Use your whisk again to mix together, ensuring that the ingredients are evenly and thoroughly blended. Set aside until you are ready to assemble the cake.

Halve each sponge horizontally, slather one half with butter cream and then return the other halves back on top. Set aside.

Take 250g of the fondant icing and roll it out thinly on an icing sugar-dusted surface so that it is big enough to cover the top and sides of the largest sponge. Use a small spatula to cover the top and sides of the largest sponge in butter cream, smoothing as best you can. Drape the rolled out fondant over the cake, smoothing it across the top and sides and then trim the sides to the bottom of the cake, tucking the edges of the fondant in neatly around the bottom.

Place the fondant-covered cake onto a cake board.

Take another 250g of the fondant icing and repeat the butter cream and fondant draping process for the middle-sized cake – you don’t have to roll it out quite to thinly this time though. Place this second sponge on top of the first.

Take your cookie cutter and cut a hole in the centre of the smallest sponge. Then take the final 250g fondant and repeat the butter cream and fondant draping process for the last time. This time however, poke a small hole into the centre of the rolled out fondant before draping over the smallest sponge. Then, when the fondant is smoothed over, carefully make four cuts away from the small hole (to create and ‘X’) and then fold the ‘flaps’ down the sides of the hole. Place this final sponge on top of the other two.

To ‘write’ on your cake, mix together sifted royal icing sugar with a tiny amount of cold water to create a gloopy texture – not quite stiff. Spoon into your piping back and go for it, praying for a steady hand – this process is NOT part of my skill set but I do persist in trying!!!!

Leave the cake overnight/for 24 hours for the icing to dry and set – this inside sponge will still be moist and lovely so don’t worry.

When you’re ready to celebrate, pop on candles, sing Happy Birthday and dive in – a delightful, moist, rich decadent sponge – yummy!

Tip…

If your black fondant is streaked with icing sugar, spray a little vodka over the cake and then dab with kitchen paper – the streaks will magically disappear!

Inspired by…

My son, Connagh, who threw down the design challenge. The sponge is based on the 365 Celebration Cake, already blogged.

How easy…

The sponges and butter cream are dead easy. The draping of the fondant and icing-writing fill me with dread but…they’re not that bad as long as we’re not trying to look professional!!!

 

 

 

Oriental Noodle Salad with Crayfish

Light, fresh and tangy, this is a wonderful salad that will now be gracing our table regularly, so lovely it is! The fabulous combined flavours of ginger, chilli, fish sauce and lime together with coriander and mint is just sublime; and the addition of crayfish just makes it that little bit extra special – simply yummy!

Serves 4 -6 (as a side or light lunch)

What you need…

200g rice vermicelli noodles

½ cucumber, cut in half horizontally and seeds scraped out and sliced

200g crayfish tails, cooked and peeled (more if you’re feeling exuberant)

1 red pepper, deseeded and sliced finely

150g bean sprouts

6 spring onions, sliced finely

1 fresh red chilli, deseeded and sliced finely

A large handful of coriander, chopped

A small handful of mint, chopped

3cm knob of ginger, peeled and grated finely

2 garlic cloves, chopped

for the dressing

Sea salt and black pepper, to taste

3 tablespoons Thai fish sauce

3 tablespoons fresh lime juice

3 tablespoons dark brown soft sugar

1 tablespoon sesame oil

What to do…

First, bring a pan of water to the boil. Take it off the heat and pop the noodles in for 5 minutes. Drain. Refresh under cold running water. Drain again. Use clean scissors to snip into short lengths. Allow to cool completely. Job done.

Whilst that’s going on, prep the rest.

Into a screw top jar, tip all of the dressing ingredients, pop on the lid and shake like mad.

Into your salad bowl, tip everything else, including the noodles. Toss together, pour over the dressing. Toss again. Serve and enjoy with a crisp glass of white wine. The salad works particularly well with barbecued meats or roasted fish (salmon in this case). Absolutely fabulous!

Tips…

Really fresh ingredients are key to the gorgeousness of this salad.

If you don’t fancy crayfish or can’t find any at a viable price, swap them for prawns, sliced beef or shredded chicken.

Inspired by…

Firstly, friends and neighbours, Cyn and Suzy, the first of whom did her own fabulous version (but has no recipe, just raw cooking talent) and the second of whom kindly pointed me in the direction of the lovely Mary Berry!

How easy…

Just a chopping and assembly joy really.

Exotically Naughty Turkish-Inspired No Churn Coffee and Cardamom Ice Crea

 

So, just a couple of weeks ago I pronounced my take on a no churn coffee and Kahlua ice cream to be stratospherically stupendous and sinfully good. I can’t tell you how many times, I’ve made it – the freezer is never without a freshly made tub. But last time, I took one third of the basic mixture and added cardamom seeds, the inclusion of which have created an extra dimension to this lovely frozen dessert: a wonderful aromatic, slightly spicy and exotic Middle-Eastern flavour that somehow intensifies the coffee – fabulous! The only problem we now have is which version we prefer the most – with or without the cardamoms!!!! Anyway, I felt the need to share this slight twist on my original recipe. Another ‘naughty but gorgeous’ addition to our growing list of sinful desserts!

What you need…

600ml double cream

397g (1 tin) condensed milk

4 espresso coffees/200ml VERY strong coffee (cold)

2 tablespoons camp coffee

4 tablespoons Kahlua/coffee liqueur

12 – 15 cardamom seeds

What to do….

Use an electric hand held whisk to beat the double cream to form soft peaks. Pour in the condensed milk and use a balloon whisk to gently fold it in so that it is evenly incorporated.

Pour in the cold espresso, Camp coffee, Kahlua and cardamom seeds and stir to incorporate. Pour into a plastic container, pop the lid on and stick it in the freezer for at least 6 hours. Indulge, enjoy and immerse yourself into this exotic, sinfully delightful ice cream – just keep going – it’s hard to stop!

Tip…

Once out of the freezer, it takes about 10-15 minutes to reach the consistency whereby you can easily scoop it out.

Inspired by…

Mary Berry is responsible for the base no-churn ice cream. Since making her Honeycomb ice cream, I have started experimenting with other flavours – this and a Limoncello and Lemon Curd one (not yet blogged) being the latest…to be frank, it’s becoming a little obsessional and ever so slightly addictive!

How easy…

Stupidly! And it’s quick. What’s not to like?!

Delightful Duck with Ginger and Lime Salad

A lively, fresh and tangy salad topped with succulent duck – ideal for a lazy summer lunch in the garden. And….so tasty, so easy!

Serves 6

What you need…

3 boneless duck breasts, about 250g each

Salt

A pile of your favourite fresh salad leaves, washed and torn

for the dressing

125ml olive oil

2 teaspoon sesame oil

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

Grated zest and juice of 1 orange

2 teaspoons fish sauce

1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated

2 garlic cloves, chopped

2 teaspoons light soy sauce

3 spring onions, chopped finely

1 teaspoon sugar

1 Thai chilli, finely sliced

What to do…

Preheat your oven to 200˚c / 400˚f / gas 6.

Wash the duck breasts, dry on kitchen paper and then cut in half.

Prick the skin all over with a fork and season well with salt. Place the duck pieces, skin-side down, on a wire rack over a roasting tin. Pop the duck into your oven and cook for 10 minutes. Tuner over and roast for a further 12 minutes or until cooked but still pink in the centre.

Meanwhile, make the dressing. Chuck all the ingredients into a screw top jar, pop on the lid and shake like mad.

Remove the duck from the oven, cool and then cut into thick slices. Add a little of the dressing to the duck to moisten.

To serve, arrange your salad leaves on a serving plate. Top with the sliced duck breasts and drizzle with the remaining salad dressing. Absolutely delightful!

Inspired by…

Carol Bowen, Thai Cooking (a VERY old book)

How easy…

Quick bit of roasting and a little bit of shaking: job done!

Light and fluffy Individual Cheese Soufflés

I have skirted around making soufflés until recently but had achieved success making sweet ones. For savoury ones though, this was a first and made with extra tips from James (Martin), they are absolutely heavenly! Unbelievably light and fluffy, gorgeously tangy and flavoursome, these lovely little soufflés are an absolute delight to make and to indulge in – so light and tasty, they’re gone in a flash. An ideal dinner starter or light lunch, served with a fresh green salad.

Serves 4 – 6, depending on the size of your ramekin dishes

What you need…

4 – 6 ramekin dishes, liberally and thoroughly buttered (this is key to helping the soufflés rise)

1 x deep-sided roasting dish

25g fresh Parmesan, finely grated

25g unsalted butter

25g plain flour

300ml semi-skimmed milk

75g mature Cheddar cheese, grated

75g Gruyère cheese, grated

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

Sea salt and black pepper

4 happy eggs, separated

What to do…

Preheat your oven to 180˚c / 350˚f / Gas 4.

Divide the Parmesan between the ramekins and roll around the insides to coat the sides then tip out any excess and set aside to add to the sauce later.

Melt the butter in a medium-sized saucepan over a moderate heat. Tip in the flour and cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring the whole time, until a light golden brown. Gradually add the milk, again stirring the whole time until you have a thick, smooth sauce (I start off with a wooden spoon and then, when the sauce becomes looser, switch to a balloon whisk). Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer and cook for a further 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a clean bowl use an electric handheld whisk to beat the egg whites to soft peaks. Set aside.

Back to your saucepan: stir in the Cheddar, Gruyère and remaining Parmesan together with the Dijon; then remove from the heat and season to taste. Use your balloon whisk to beat in the egg yolks.

Fill your kettle up with water and switch on to boil.

Back to the soufflé mixture: add half the egg whites to the cheese mixture and use the balloon whisk again to beat thoroughly to combine. Then, continue to use the whisk, but gently, to fold in the remaining egg whites, keeping in as much air as possible.

Pour the mixture into your prepared ramekin dishes, then smooth the top of the mixture with a palette knife, flattening it all the way across (I forgot to do this bit which is why they look the way they do!)

Put the ramekins into your roasting dish and half fill the dish up with just-boiled kettle water. Place in your oven for 8 – 10 minutes until risen, golden and wonderfully wobbly.

Serve immediately, diving your spoon into this delicious, tangy cloud of a dish – yummy!

Inspired by…

James Martin

How easy…

Really easy, quite quick and pretty foolproof, I’d say! The trickiest bit is photographing them before they start to deflate!!!!

 

 

 

Za’atar-Crusted Prawns with Bulgar Wheat and Herb Salad

This is a lovely, fast recipe, ideal for a lunch or supper with family and friends. I only came across Za’atar recently but I think it might be creeping into a few more recipes. It gives the prawns a unique aromatic and tangy flavour that worked really well with the bulgar wheat salad. Fresh, light and really quite lovely!

Serves 4

What you need…

24 large raw king prawns

4 tablespoons za’atar

½ tablespoon plain flour

Sea salt and black pepper

2 tablespoons olive oil

for the salad

120g bulgar wheat

Splash of olive oil

1 red onion, sliced finely

200g pomegranate seeds

6 cherry tomatoes, roughly chopped

½ cucumber, halved lengthways, deseeded and diced

A handful of dill, chopped

A large handful of flat-leaf parsley, chopped

A handful of coriander, chopped

1 handful of mint, chopped

Lemons wedges to serve

for the dressing

1 tablespoon orange juice

1 tablespoon lemon juice

5 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon ground sumac

1 teaspoon runny honey

What to do…

For the salad, cook the bulgar wheat according to the packet instructions (mine was to put 600ml of water into a saucepan with the bulgar wheat, bring to the boil, cover and then reduce to a simmer for 15 minutes). Drain and set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a frying pan over a low heat and add the onion. Cook gently until the onion is just starting to soften, then increase the heat and allow it to brown just a little. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.

Then make the dressing: tip all the ingredients into a screw top jar, pop on the lid and shake like mad. Set aside.

In a small bowl, mix together the za’atar, flour, salt and pepper. Tip in the prawns and mix together so that the prawns are evenly covered.

When you are about ready to eat, heat the 2 tablespoons of oil in your frying pan and sauté the prawns over a moderate heat until they are delightfully pink,

In a pretty salad bowl, tip the cooled bulgar wheat and onion as well as the pomegranate seeds, tomatoes, cucumber and herbs. Stir to evenly combine. Shake the dressing again and tip over the salad. Toss everything together. Divide the salad between 4 plates and then top with the za’atar-crusted prawns. Serve with lemon wedges. Enjoy this unusual and rather lovely dish.

Tips…

Most supermarkets sell pomegranate seeds, ready prepared.

Make the dressing in advance and keep in the fridge until needed.

Prepare the salad in advance and cover with cling film but don’t put the dressing on until the last minute otherwise the salad will go soggy.

What is Za’atar…

Usually a combination of dried thyme, sesame seeds and sumac but there are variations on the theme. I’ve seen it in lots of Middle Eastern-inspired recipes.

What is Sumac…?

A tangy lemony spice used often in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cooking.

Inspired by…

Leiths How to Cook

How easy…

Just an assembly job really and you can do most of it in advance.

 

 

Chilled Cucumber and Crayfish Soup

Delicate and delightfully refreshing, this velvety chilled soup is perfect for a summer lunch with friends. The light, subtle flavour of the cucumber is uplifted with lemon and chilli oils and the added luxury of crayfish tails makes this little number a surprisingly lovely addition to a sunshiny day! It can also be cooked a day in advance of eating – perfect for summertime relaxation with friends and a bottle of crisp white!

What you need…

2 x screw top jars with lids

500g hot water from the kettle

1 vegetable stockpot (I use Knorr)

4 tablespoons olive oil

Squeeze of lemon juice

1 teaspoon dried, crushed chillis

100g unsalted butter

1 onion, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

2 cucumbers, halved, deseeded and finely diced

1 tablespoon dill, finely chopped plus extra to garnish

1 tablespoon fresh mint leaves, finely chopped

400ml full-fat natural, creamy yogurt

Sea salt and black pepper

240g crayfish tails (yum!)

What to do…

First make a vegetable stock by using a balloon whisk to help dissolve the stockpot into the hot water from the kettle. Set aside.

Next, into one jar pour 2 tablespoons olive oil and a good squeeze of lemon juice. Pop on the lid, shake like mad and set aside. Likewise, with the second jar, pour in two tablespoons of olive oil and tip in the chillis. Pop on the lid, shake and set aside.

To the main event: melt the butter in a large saucepan over a low heat, tip in the onion and garlic and cook gently for 6-8 minutes or until softened but not brown. Tip in the cucumber and again cook gently for another 5 minutes – the aroma is quite delightful!

Pour in the stock and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and cool for 15 minutes. Transfer to your blender, tip in the herbs and whizz until smooth. Set aside to cool completely and then gently stir in the yogurt. Season, taste and season again if necessary. Chill for anything between 2 hours and overnight.

When ready to serve, ladle the chilled soup into bowls, scatter in the crayfish tails, drizzle over the lemon and chilli-infused oils and garnish with a few sprigs of dill. Delightful!

Inspired by…

Waitrose.com

How easy…

Extremely and the fact that you can make it ahead is even better!

 

 

 

 

Dad’s Paella

There were several drivers for starting this blog and one of them was that hardly any of my dad’s recipes were retained and he’s no longer around to share them and, he was a great cook. So, to have family favourites photographed and typed up seemed like a good plan – not morbid – the kids and their friends are already delving into the list of nearly 300 recipes that have been published so far.

Anyway, all that aside, Dad used to make great paella and his recipe was actually retained. I have no idea whether it’s authentic but it’s oh-so tasty – intensely flavoured to savour the images of beachside chiringuitos basking in the Mediterranean sunshine – absolutely delicious!

Serves 6

What you need…

Splash of rapeseed oil

8 chicken thigh fillets

2 medium onions, chopped

3 cloves of garlic, chopped

1 red pepper, chopped

100g pancetta, chopped

70g chorizo, chopped (optional: I can’t stand the stuff so left it out)

4 large tomatoes, chopped

600ml hot water from the kettle

2 chicken stockpots

250ml dry white wine

2 bay leaves

Sea salt and black pepper

2 mugs long grain rice (about 450g)

Saffron

24 fresh mussels, cleaned

2 fresh squid, thinly sliced

500g clams (I couldn’t get fresh so used ‘Big & Juicy Delicious Clams’ by the Big Prawn Company, Waitrose)

250g raw king prawns

1 mug frozen garden peas

A handful of parsley, chopped

Lemon wedges, to serve

What to do…

First, make your chicken stock by using a balloon whisk to help dissolve the chicken stockpots into the hot water from the kettle. Set aside.

In a large frying pan (I don’t get on with paella pans – the rice always sticks) heat the oil over a moderate heat and then sauté the chicken until golden brown.

Chuck in the onions, garlic and red pepper. Add in the pancetta and chorizo, if using, and sauté until soft.

Chuck in the tomatoes, chicken stock, wine and bay leaves. Season with salt and pepper. Stir everything together.

Add the rice, some saffron, the mussels, squid and clams, if they’re fresh. If however you’ve bought pre-cooked clams like I did, hold them back until later.

Cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally and checking on how the saffron is colouring the rice, adding a little more if you would like a deeper yellow colour.

This is also a good time to pour yourself a glass of Rioja to enjoy, together with the fabulous cooking aromas, during the rest of the paella preparation.

Finally, add in the cooked clams, prawns, peas and parsley, cooking for 10 minutes or until the prawns have turned pink.

Serve flamboyantly if possible (I just feel that paella deserves some kind of a grand entrance) with lemon wedges to a group of chattering family and friends with several glasses of good Rioja!

Tips…

The quantity of mussels, clams and prawns is obviously taste-dependent. One of the joys of this recipe is that you can adapt the ingredients to suit your personal preferences, hence the many varieties of paella available.

My dad added to the bottom of the recipe, ‘Cooked lobster is supposed to go in this as well’, but I don’t think it needs it and that this is a flamboyant step too far!

Dad's Paella 2 w

Inspired by…

Dad

How easy…

Very easy and very relaxed to make as well as such a delight to enjoy.