Fantasy Cake

The 91st of 100 recipes chosen from the blog to go into my cookbook, this is just a wonderful cake, exuding all the loveliness that is an English summer.

You know how the first sunshine of summer works – you sit outside in April or May after months and months of cold, grey, wet winter (and spring) days and you feel those first wonderfully warm rays sink into your bones – all is well with the world. Well, making and eating this cake is a similar experience: it’s best enjoyed warm – the sponge is moist and the deliciously gooey, sweet strawberries deliver summer direct to all of your senses – one of my favourite recipes from Lisa Faulkner’s book, ‘Recipes from my Mother for my Daughter’. Just lovely.

What you need…

1 x 23cm spring form cake tin, lightly buttered and lined with Bake O Glide or parchment paper on the bottom

175g unsalted butter, softened

150g caster sugar

150g self-raising flour

2 large, happy eggs

3 tablespoons milk

100g ground almonds

1 teaspoon almond essence

400g strawberries, hulled and halved

Icing sugar for dusting

What to do…

Preheat oven to 160°c / 325°f, gas 3.

Using a food processor, whizz together all the ingredients except the strawberries and icing sugar.

Stir in the fruit, reserving a handful for decorating.

Pour the mixture into the cake tin and put the remaining handful of fruit on top of the cake.

Bake in a preheated oven for about 1-1¼ hours. To test if it is cooked, pierce the cake with a skewer – if it is clean when you pull it out, the cake is cooked. If not, pop it back in for another 5 – 10 minutes.

Turn the cake out of the tin onto a wire rack to cool and then dust with icing sugar. It’s most gorgeous served just as its turning from warm to room temperature, ideally outside enjoying early summer sunshine.

Inspired by…

Lisa Faulkner

How easy…

Really easy and it comes with a sense of well-being!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Toad in the Hole

The 90th of 100 recipes chosen from the blog to go into my cookbook, this is perfect for today which is rather drab and cold.

There’s nothing quite like it on a cold winter’s day, is there? Toad in the hole – with no soggy bottom – and a great gravy – sticks to the ribs and is soooooo warming and comforting. Our version has great mountainous sides, plunging into the sausagy middle – something easily attainable from the batter whisking and the use of suet. Whip it up, stick it in the oven and serve – great for an early-week supper, particularly as you can use the Sunday roast’s left over gravy to serve it with. Try as we have done in the past, we now tend to avoid accompanying vegetables – why spoil a naughty thing?!

Serves 4 hungry people

What you need…

1 x baking dish, lightly buttered (mine is 30cm x 20cm x 7cm deep)

12 of your favourite sausages

275 g plain flour

4 eggs

300ml milk/Oatly if you’re cutting down on dairy

180ml water

Sea salt and black pepper

A good handful of suet

What to do…

Preheat oven to 220°c / 425°f / gas 7.

Pop the sausages into the baking dish and bake them on the middle shelf in the oven for 10-15 minutes until they are just starting to colour.

Using an electric mixer, whisk together the flour, eggs, milk, water, salt and pepper until there are no lumps and you have a lovely, smooth batter.

Whisk in the suet into the batter – just enough to get it incorporated (mix it for too long and you’ll beat out the raising agent).

Remove the sausages from the oven and quickly tip in the batter. Put it straight back in the oven and cook for 30-ish minutes, turning half way through to ensure and even bake. The batter should be golden, crispy around the edges and cooked properly through the middle; sausages good and brown poking through the batter.

Serve your fabulous winter toad in the hole immediately – huge great wedges for each lucky person. Ideally, top with the rich gravy left over from your Sunday Roast Dinner. Sit back at the end, patting the belly and pronounce that you can do nothing further for the rest of the day!

Tip…

If you don’t have any left over gravy available, this is my quick stop-gap version which does a fine job!  For four people, tip 150g Bistro chicken gravy granules into the bottom of a large jug. Gradually add boiling water from a kettle, mixing in the granules evenly using a balloon whisk. Keep adding water until you have a gravy that is your preferred consistency (we like ours thick). Add a good glug of Pellegrino Marsala Superiore to the gravy and taste – maybe add a bit more. The Marsala adds a wonderful depth of flavour. If you have time,  you can bring this to the boil in a saucepan and cook off the alcohol, but we never have and we’re all quite close to normal!

Inspired by…

John the husband and Delia Smith

How easy…

Ever so. A bit of whisking and then the oven does the rest. A perfect weekday meal!

 

 

 

 

 

Thai Crab Poppadom Canapés

 

89th of 100 recipes chosen from the blog to go into my cookbook, these gorgeous little nibbles are a cinch to knock up and utterly delightful.

Quick, easy and absolutely scrumptious, these lovely little canapés – courtesy of Mary Berry – enliven the delicate, sweet flavour of the crabmeat in a light, fresh, slightly oriental dressing, perfectly topping the crunch of poppadoms. They are simply delightful and easily ‘poppable’ little canapés – perfect for our Friday night tradition of G&Ts at 6pm.

Makes 8 – 10

What you need…

100g white crabmeat, flaked finely

½ fresh red chilli, deseeded and chopped finely

1 teaspoon mayonnaise

1 teaspoon sweet chilli dipping sauce

A squeeze of lime juice

Sea salt and black pepper

1 dessertspoon fresh coriander leaves, chopped

8 – 10 mini poppadoms

What to do…

In a bowl, combine all the ingredients except the poppadoms so that they are thoroughly mixed together. Cover with cling film and pop in the fridge for 30 minutes (or up to 24 hours) to allow the flavours to develop.

When you’re ready to indulge, use a teaspoon to plop some mixture into each mini poppadom, creating 8 – 10 gorgeous little canapés. Serve alongside G&Ts,  fizz, or crisp white wine and enjoy the combined crunch of the poppable poppadom with the delicate, fresh and slightly oriental flavours of the filling – yum, yum!

Tip…

The Thai crab mix also works brilliantly as a sandwich filler treat. Just add in a few extra leaves and sliced tomato.

Inspired by…

Mary Berry

How easy…

An absolute doddle!

 

Cocoa Rum Dessert

The 88th of 100 recipes chosen from the blog to go into my cookbook, this one is ideal for a bank holiday weekend, especially when family and friends are dropping in.

This boozy, moussy choco-oozy dessert is gorgeously decadent and quite unlike anything I have ever eaten. Crunchy amaretti biscuits on the bottom give way to a velvety chocolatey middle and then a silken caramel topping…all with a distinct but delicate infusion of rum – fabulous! (And it’s easy and you can make it ahead of when you want to indulge in it).

Serves 10

What you need…

1 x 1.5 litre loaf tin

1 x medium, deep-sided roasting tin

100g caster sugar

50g brown sugar

4 large, happy eggs

500ml full fat milk

3 heaped tablespoons cocoa powder

50ml golden rum

200g amaretti biscuits (the crunchy ones, not soft), crumbled

Crème fraîche, to serve

What to do…

Preheat your oven to 160˚c / 325˚f / gas 3.

Melt the caster sugar in a small frying pan (I like to use copper for this sort of thing) over a moderate heat until you get a rich, chestnutty-coloured caramel – swirl the pan to help the sugar melt but don’t touch it or stir it!

Pour the caramel into your loaf tin and tilt it around until the base is evenly covered. Set aside.

Into your food processor tip the brown sugar and eggs and whizz for around 3 minutes or until the mixture is pale and slightly thickened. Tip in the milk, cocoa and rum and whizz for 30 seconds. Remove the mixing blade and then use a spoon to stir through the amaretti biscuits.

Tip the whole lot into your loaf tin.  Pop the loaf tin into the roasting tin and fill the latter up with just-boiled water from the kettle.  Carefully transfer to the middle of your oven and bake for 1 hour.

Remove and leave to cool in the tin, then pop into the fridge to chill for at least 4 hours, or until needed.

To serve, carefully run a knife around the edge of the tin and then invert the dessert onto a pretty serving plate, spooning over any caramel left behind in the tin.

Slice and serve with a dollop of crème fraîche – decadently indulgently delicious!

Inspired by…

Jamie Oliver who in turn was given this dessert by Baroness Susanna in Turin!

How easy…

Very and it looks and tastes like waaaaaay so much more effort was required.

Proper Old-Fashioned Shortbread

The 87th of 100 recipes chosen from the blog to go into my cookbook, this shortbread is so butterly good, that it’s practically a staple food in our kitchen!

Utterly delicious, delectable and delightful is this recipe for buttery, sweet shortbread! And also, they are a doddle to make and take just minutes.  The only downside is that it’s so easy to keep making them: perfect with morning espresso, afternoon tea, a quick dip into the tin just because….

Makes 8 – 12 slices in a 23cm tin

What you need…

1 x 23cm lightly buttered, lined fluted tart tin

175g plain flour

125g butter, cubes and at room temperature

50g caster sugar, plus extra for sprinkling

A good pinch of salt

1 vanilla pod, seeds scraped out/¾ teaspoon vanilla paste

What to do…

Preheat your oven to 190˚c / 375˚f / gas 5.

Chuck all the ingredients into your food processor and pulse until a dough is formed.

Dump the dough into your tart tin and use the side of a short glass to gently and evenly ‘roll out’ the dough to fill the tin. Fork the edges.

Pop into your oven and bake for 30 – 35 minutes and then cut it into 8 – 12 segments as soon as it comes of out the oven.

When cool, sprinkle with caster sugar.

That’s it! Enjoy with a hot cup of tea, an espresso or just by themselves – seriously yummy!

Inspired by…

Lisa Faulkner

How easy…

It’s a doddle!

 

 

My Absolute Favourite Recipe for Carrot Cake

The 86th of 100 recipes chosen from the blog to go into my cookbook, this was one was always a ‘dead cert’ with a rather large version presented annually to husband with birthday candles in it!

John’s favourite cake is carrot cake and I think it might be mine too – so moist and heavenly; a gentle, warming spice flavouring the sponge, contrasting beautifully with the sweet frosting – sheer delight!

One of our friends made the Hummingbird Bakery version of this delicious treat for John’s 60th birthday a wee while ago (!) so last year, I finally replicated it for him and it was simply gorgeous – very difficult not to dive into and demolish the whole lot in one sitting! Just two weeks later, I was asked by a lovely friend to make it again to celebrate her son’s 40th and I made a double-sized one! Fab! The recipe below is for the original cake (rather than the 40th birthday version); however, it’s been Cindy-tweaked. The original splits the mixture between three 20-cm cake tins but I only have two. I however, made more frosting to accommodate the 4 tiers made from the two sponges and that’s what you’ve got here. Try it once and you’ll be a devotee!

What you need…

2 x deep, 20cm cake tins, liberally buttered and lined with parchment paper

300g soft light brown sugar

3 large, happy eggs

300ml rapeseed oil

300g plain flour

1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground ginger

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon vanilla extract

300g carrots, grated

100g shelled walnuts, chopped

A handful of walnut halves, to decorate

for the cream cheese frosting

750g icing sugar, sifted

125g unsalted butter, at room temperature

310g cream cheese, cold

What to do…

First, to the cake mixture! Preheat the oven to 170˚c / 325˚f / gas 3.

If you have a stand mixer, use it to combine the sugar, eggs and oil together (an electric handheld mix would also do the job).

Gradually add the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, cinnamon, ginger, salt and vanilla extract.

Take the bowl from the mixer and stir in the chopped walnuts and grated carrots by hand until they are evenly distributed.

Pour the mixture into your cake tins and pop into the oven, for 25-30 minutes or until an inserted skewer comes out clean.

Cool on a wire rack.

Next to the frosting! Use an electric handheld whisk to beat the icing sugar and butter together. Plop in all of the cream cheese and beat until completely smooth (a couple of minutes) taking care not to over beat as it can become runny quite quickly.

And finally to the cake assembly. When the cakes are cold, carefully halve each cake sponge horizontally. Then, place one tier on a cake stand and spread a thin layer of frosting over it. Place the second tier on top and repeat and then again with the third tier. Top with the last tier. Spread the remaining frosting generously over the top and sides. Finish decorating with walnuts.

Tip…

I like to make the cake sponges in advance, wrap them in foil and freeze them. Then, on the day of the cake-fest, it’s just a case of frosting and decorating.

Inspired by….

Jo Wilkes, who made this for John’s 60th birthday and who in turn, retrieved this recipe for me from the Hummingbird Bakery.

Chicken Kiev

The 85th of 100 recipes chosen from the blog to go into my cookbook, this one indulges the 1970s in a really, really good way!

A 70’s classic and an oldie but a goodie as they say. I don’t know why I’ve never made this before but having tried it once, it’s now a regular to our supper table. To cut through the crispy coating to the succulent chicken is lovely enough but then the big reveal: the garlicky butter oozes out of the meat and the wonderful aroma enticingly wafts towards you. Not only is the chicken beautifully flavoured throughout but all that butter assures the meat of a gorgeous moist lusciousness! I wouldn’t bring back the 1970s but this dish is staying firmly on this decade’s favourite list!

What you need…

4 plump skinned chicken breasts (or supremes)

125g dried breadcrumbs (see tip)

40g Parmesan

2 large, happy eggs, lightly whisked

50g plain flour

Pinch paprika

2 tablespoons rapeseed oil

String!

for the garlic butter

100g butter, softened

4 cloves garlic, chopped

1 tablespoon parsley, finely chopped

Squeeze of fresh lemon juice

What to do…

Use a fork to mash together all the garlic butter ingredients. Dump the whole lot onto a large piece of cling film and use the cling film to help you create a log shape. Pop the garlic butter in the freezer for 1 hour.

Lay the chicken breasts on a chopping board and use the point of a sharp knife to make a deep pocket in the middle of each one. Slice discs of garlic butter from your log and insert them into the pockets – be generous. Pull the meat together to cover the garlic butter and use the string to tie up the chicken breast like a parcel.

Take 3 plates or shallow, wide bowls. Into the first, mix together the flour and paprika. In the second, tip the whisked eggs and in the third, mix together the breadcrumbs and Parmesan. Now the fun bit, dip each breast, first in the flour, then the egg and then the breadcrumbs. Repeat the process for an extra crispy coating. Pop them on a plate and into the fridge for 1 hour.

Preheat your oven to 180°c / 350°f / gas 4.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan over a moderate heat and then fry the kievs for 2-3 minutes on each side until golden brown. Pop onto a baking tray – pocket side up and cook for 20-25 minutes until cooked through.

Enjoy the ensuing garlicky aroma. Remind everyone about the string before they tentatively try their first bite and then devour the rest – they’re that good, honest!

Tip…

To dry out the bread, I stuck 2½ slices of white bread in a low oven for 10 minutes or so, before roughly cutting them up and whopping them in the food processor to create the breadcrumbs.

Inspired by…

BBC Good Food

How easy…

Very easy and really satisfying to make but you do have to be at home for the afternoon so that you can have time for the butter to sit in the freezer for an hour and the kievs to chill in the fridge for a further hour. Absolutely worth it though.

Prawn Saganaki

The 84th of 100 recipes chosen from the blog to go into my cookbook, this is an absolute family favourite, exuding Mediterranean sunshine!

Ooooh, this is sooooo lovely that I cooked it twice in one week before blogging it – the cooking smells the first time around demanded immediate indulgence so no photographs were taken before we sat down… so I had to cook it again – shame!!!! It smells amazing and tastes even better! Greek in origin, this is a brilliant starter or supper that tastes like it belongs in a gorgeous summer holiday – you can practically feel the Mediterranean sun, smell the lavender carried on the breeze and hear the sea gently lapping on the shore. It’s quick to knock up and is definitely so much greater than simply the sum of its parts.

Serves 4 as a main meal and 6 as a starter

What you need…

A good splash of rapeseed oil

1 large red onion, chopped

3 garlic cloves, chopped

1 teaspoon dried crushed chillies

2 star anise

6 large, ripe tomatoes, chopped

Sea salt and black pepper

800g raw king prawns

50g Boursin cheese (the original recipe uses Feta but I prefer Boursin)

A small handful of parsley, roughly chopped

What to do…

Heat the oil over a moderate heat in a frying pan. Add the onions and garlic and sauté for a couple of minutes until soft but not brown. Stir in the chilli and the star anise, then add in the tomatoes, season with salt and pepper, cover and simmer gently for 5 minutes.

Next, dump in the Boursin cheese and then add in the prawns, stirring and cooking for a few minutes until the prawns are pink and the cheese is evenly dispersed. Remove the star anise.

Scatter over the parsley and serve immediately with a nice chunky doorstep of good, fresh bread – just yummy!

Tip…

I just love this dish but if you wanted to be a little more authentic, replace the rapeseed oil for olive oil and the star anise for 3 tablespoons of ouzo. If you choose to do the latter, you’ll need to cook it off for a bit before adding the tomatoes to dispel the alcohol and reduce the liquid. However, star anise worked really, really well (weirdly, I didn’t have any ouzo in the house!)

Inspired by…

The Traveller’s Table (although I have mucked about with it quite a lot).

How easy…

Soooooo happy that I happened upon this ridiculously easy recipe!

 

Espresso Martini

83rd of 100 recipes chosen from the blog to go into my cookbook, this is perfect for a Saturday night celebration: party time!

Discovered by my son, Connagh, when we went out to dinner to celebrate exam results, this wonderful cocktail presents itself in all innocence but it is in reality deliciously naughty and has the potential to knock your socks off!

Serves 2

What you need…

100ml vodka

70ml Kalhua/coffee liqueur

2 shots espresso coffee

Ice

Cocktail shaker

2 Martini glasses

What to do…

Pop the Martini glasses in the freezer whilst you make the cocktail.

Tip all the ingredients into the cocktail shaker and shake, shake, shake, smashing up the ice in the process and making this cocktail fabulously chilled.

Pour into your Martini glasses and watch as the cocktail separates to top the dark lushness with a creamy espresso top. Pass one glass to your drinking companion, sip and indulge. Delicious and soooooo naughty. A rich, sweet ice-cold coffee with a tangiable kick. The only problem is that it’s quite difficult to put the glass down – just one more sip…

One, however, is probably enough!

Inspired by…

Jamie Oliver has published the recipe together with a lovely anecdote as to its creation but we first tried it at the Windsor Grill.

How Easy…

Dangerously ridiculously!

 

 

Tournedos Rossini!

The 82ndof 100 recipes chosen from the blog to go into my cookbook, this is definitely worth celebrating the weekend with!

When we fancy a bit of blow out, we turn to steak and I’ve tried some amazing recipes. On one such an occasion, at the behest of the uni-returning daughter, steak was once again on the menu and we elected to try a classic: Tournedos Rossini – a gutsy yet elegant dish that is served with a wonderful velvety sauce – it was nothing short of fabulous. I did adapt the recipe however! The original includes fois gras and as much as my food shopping bills are significant, even I could not push the boat out for that extravagance so swapped it for a little chicken liver paté and some sautéed mushrooms – still decadent and absolutely delicious!

Serves 4 very lucky people

What you need…

1 x small cookie cutter

Olive oil

1 tablespoon butter

4 x 200g beef fillet steaks

Sea salt and black pepper

250g chestnut mushrooms, wiped and sliced

150g good quality chicken liver paté (optional)

4 chunky slices of ciabatta

for the sauce

100ml hot water from the kettle

½ beef stockpot (I use Knorr)

2 tablespoons port

4 tablespoons brandy

4 tablespoons Madeira, plus extra for frying

4 garlic cloves, chopped

1 truffle, finely sliced

What to do…

A couple of hours before you want to eat, take your steaks out of the fridge, put a teaspoon of oil onto each one, massage the oil in using the heel of your hand, season with black pepper (no salt at this stage), flip them and repeat on the other side. Cover with cling film and set aside.

Just before you’re ready to eat, add the butter to a hot frying pan. Season the steaks with salt on both sides and when the butter is foaming, pop in the steaks and cook over a high heat for 3 minutes on each side. Remove from the pan and keep warm (I put mine into a really low oven).

Add the sliced mushrooms to the pan and sauté for five minutes until golden. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and pop onto kitchen paper to drain any excess liquid and then keep warm with the steaks.

Into the pan pour the port, brandy and Madeira and bring to the boil. Add the stock and reduce the heat to moderate, letting the sauce bubble away until it starts to thicken.

In a separate pan over a moderate heat, add a splash of Madeira and the garlic, cooking for a couple of minutes before adding the truffle. Turn the heat to low and cook for a further two minutes. Then, add the reduced sauce.

Meanwhile, toast the ciabatta. Also, if you’re including the paté, cut 4 small circles from it using your cookie cutter. Set aside.

To serve, place each steak on a piece of the toasted ciabatta, top with a circle of paté if using, then the mushrooms. Pour over the delicious sauce and dig in – it’s gutsy but elegant at the same time – fillet steak needs little faffing and this sauce together with a little pate and mushrooms create a fabulous dish that should be lingered over but….is demolished!!!!!

Serving Suggestion…

Potato Dauphinoise and a few green beans works particularly well.

What’s it all about…

Tournedos Rossini was created by chef, Marie-Antoine Carême, who is renowned as the ‘king of chefs’ and ‘chef of kings’ having cooked for Napoleon,  the Prince Regent and Tsar Alexander I, to name but a few. But it was whilst working for the House of Rothschild that he met and became friends with great composer and kindred spirit, Gioachino Antonio Rossini and it was for him, that this wonderful dish was created.

Inspired by…

James Winter, who included it in his fabulous book, ‘Who Put the Beef in Wellington?’ and who said, ‘…people with passionate appetites for luxurious food will always order Tournedos Rossini.’ What a wonderful line!

How easy…

Really easy, very quick and absolutely fantastic – only for a special occasion though unless you have very deep pockets!