Tag Archives: Ingredients

Christmas Cake – no excuses, you can make your own

24 Oct

A really good Christmas cake is within your grasp. This is a really easy recipe that is quite forgiving if you don’t have exactly the right ingredients. If you have to substitute anything, just ensure it weighs the same. First of all you gather all the ingredients and let them seep in alcohol for a week. You make an easy cake mix and combine the two and cook – simple. Do make this as soon as you can, to allow it to mature.

You’ll need a square cake tin about 20cm across and baking parchment or greaseproof paper.

For the soak

500 grams of raisins
200 grams of currants
100 grams of chopped dates
50 grams of dried cherries (not glace) if you can’t find these, use dried cranberries
3 tablespoons of each of the following: brandy, kirsch, whisky, port and water. You can use rum, Cointreau, grand marnier or sherry instead. Or, if use the 12 tablespoons of one alcohol and 3 of water)
1 teaspoon each of ground cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves
1 teaspoon of vanilla essence (the pure sort)
1 tablespoon of dark brown sugar (or demerara)

Method

In a saucepan, put all the ingredients and warm through until the sugar is dissolved. Take off the heat and let it cool.
Scrape all of the ingredients into a box with a lid and put into the fridge. Try to remember to shake the box each day.
A week later, you are ready to make the cake. You’ll notice that the dried fruit has plumped up and smells wonderful!

Cake ingredients

250 grams self-raising flour (or plain plus 2 tsp baking powder)
250 grams soft brown sugar (or Demerara)
250 grams of butter
5 large eggs beaten
50 grams of mixed nuts

Method

Mixing the fruit and cake mixture together

Mixing the fruit and cake mixture together

Before you start making the cake, grease your tin and line it with greaseproof paper or parchment. Turn the over on to Gas mark 3, 170 degrees.

For ease, make the cake in a food processor or use a hand-held whisk.

Whisk the butter and sugar together until well mixed, Add a little flour. Add the eggs little by little until all used up. Spoon in the flour and mixed nuts. Put this mixture into a large mixing bowl with the fruit that’s been soaking and mix well.

The cake mixture in the lined tin

The cake mixture in the lined tin

Carefully spoon the mixture into the tin, making sure that your lining stays stuck to the edges of the tin.

Cook for approximately 2 1/2 hours. PLEASE CHECK REGULARLY. The cooking time seems to vary greatly – particularly if you have a fan oven. Use a skewer to test if it is ready – it should come out clean.

When it is done, leave it in the tin until cold. Turn out and store in silver foil until needed.

Store the cake in foil until needed

Store the cake in foil until needed

Love cooking: Cooking as entertainment?

19 Oct
Love Cooking Show - Ainsley Harriott

Love Cooking Show - Ainsley Harriott

The Playhouse Theatre was the rather unlikely location for a day of cookery demonstrations by TV chefs this week. In such a large theatre, could an audience do the chefs justice?  After rather cringing at the Tiggerish personality of Olly the “wine guy” from Saturday kitchen (did he have to do the same Mexican wave ‘thing’ at each demonstration?), we settled in for an entertaining evening.

I’m often frustrated by not being able to see what the chef is preparing  – here this was overcome by a roving camera woman taking close-ups. These were alternated with fix camera shots. What a great idea, so simple and really effective.

I am not really sure why the words Ainsley Harriott invoke  a forceful response – I guess he is rather like Marmite, either you love it or you don’t.  I’ve been a fan since trying to find an interesting cookery book for a beginner chef. She  found that his recipes were easy to follow, tasty and effective.

We were entertained with charming stories about Ainsley’s family – one of his aunties would smuggle mangoes into the country in her underwear in the sixties – and plenty of useful cookery tips. The recipes were colourful and vibrant (and tasted pretty good too). And the sight of Ainsley limboing across the stage? Well, that won’t be forgotten soon.  His philosophy – learn to cook so you can enjoy eating with friends – who can argue with that? So were we entertained? Yes, and we learnt a few things too.

Recipe

(from the Love Cooking Recipe Book)

Caroline and I sneaked up on the stage to taste this cooking – delicious. I just had to have a go at the cornbread muffins. I’ll certainly make them again. These are best eaten warm. They’re really easy to freeze and reheat.

Ainsley Harriott's Chilli Cornbreak Muffins

Ainsley Harriott's Chilli Cornbread Muffins

Ingredients

50 gr butter
150 gr self-raising flour
1 tablespoon caster sugar
1 tsp salt
2 teaspoons baking powder (EF: yes you do need this as well!)
1/2 tsp black pepper
150 gr yellow cornmeal (or polenta)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
300 ml of buttermilk or milk with juice of half a lemon
1 chili, de-seeded and chopped
2 tablespoons of chopped fresh herbs (whatever you have to hand) or 3 teaspoons of dried herbs

Paper or silicon muffin cases and tin.

Pre-heat oven to 180 deg C.

Method

1. Melt butter in pan or microwave and use some to grease your muffin cases. (EF :If you have silicon cases you do not need to do this)

2. Sift the flour, sugar, salt and baking powder into a bowl, then tip in the pepper and cornmeal. Stir to combine.

3. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and quickly stir in the eggs, buttermilk (or milk mixture) and butter and mix until smooth. Fold in chilli and herbs until just combined. Spoon the mixture into the paper or silicon cases.

4.  Cook for about 20 minutes until golden brown and a skewer comes out clean. (EF I found you need less time with a fan oven).

Love Cooking – James Martin and Guests

19 Oct
James Martin on Love Cooking, Edinburgh

James Martin on Love Cooking, Edinburgh

 I don’t watch Saturday Kitchen and chances are I’m not going to start after this experience. Although the food looked decent enough, the personality of the cook rather put me off eating it. Saying that, James’ guests, entertaining Oz Clarke and demure local hero Tom Kitchin, made the hour and a half  quite pleasant. Two skilled chefs, a three-course cookery demonstration and wine advice to boot – what’s not to love? Let me tell you.

What’s in season? October

11 Oct

 

October produce at Edinburgh's Farmers' Market

October produce at Edinburgh's Farmers' Market

 

It’s autumn, but still warm. We’ve the tail end of the summer produce (those with greenhouses are probably still picking peppers and tomatoes) and some new autumnal favourites inspiring me to make soup and simmer long cooked stews. I’m also really enjoying the figs from Turkey and contemplating how to make the most of a gift of quinces.

Fruit and Vegetables

Fennel (baby and full size); Beetroots; Broccoli, Dirty carrots (always the best, they keep so much longer); squashes in all shapes and sizes; Leeks, Pumpkins, Onions, Spinach; Swiss chard, Parsnips, Quinces, Wild Mushrooms, Figs, plums, pears.

Meat and Fish

Crab, Sole (Dover, Lemon), Lobster,  Squid, Mallard, Goose, Guinea Fowl, Chicken, Veal, Beef,

RECIPE

Poached figs

This is so easy, quick and delicious (adapted from a Waitrose recipe)

 

Poached Figs

Poached Figs

 

Serves 2

4 large figs (just wash gently, no other preparation needed)
1 orange juice extracted and zest grated
100 grams soft brown or demerara sugar
4 cardamon pods crushed
300 ml water
Greaseproof or non-stick paper

Find a saucepan that the figs fit snugly into. You do not want it to be too big as they will not stay immersed during cooking.

Put everything except the figs into the saucepan and bring to the boil. Turn down the gas so it is just bubbling. When the sugar has dissolved, put the figs into the liquid.
Bring back to a good simmer (lots of bubbles, not boiling).

Place a circle of greaseproof paper over the figs to ensure they stay mostly under the water.

Cook until soft. This will depend on how ripe your figs are – mine took about 10 minutes -they should be soft to the touch.

Remove the figs to the bowl you’ll eat from and boil the syrup to reduce it by half. Cover the figs with the sauce and add ice cream or cream.

The best bakery in Edinburgh? Peter’s Yard

7 Oct
Peter's Yard Cafe and Bakery

Peter's Yard Cafe and Bakery

For those of you based in Edinburgh, you’ll have probably come across Peter’s Yard Cafe and Bakery when walking through the Meadows or coming through the new Quarter mile development. It’s a sleek glass building with a distinctly Swedish feel to it. Inside, there is plenty of wood, comfortable seating and a relaxed atmosphere. Peter’s Yard opened in 2007 and its reputation grows with every month. Just recently, master baker Dan Leppard writing in the Times, placed the bakery in the top 10 of small bakeries in Britain.  I was keen to find out more.

Preparing Baguettes at Peter's Yard

Preparing Baguettes at Peter's Yard

One morning recently, I arrived at 7 am to watch head baker Georgie Crisp at work. Georgie is passionate about what she does. She admits that getting in to work at 4 am does rather affect her social life, but being head baker more than makes up for it – it is simply her dream job. After completing a general catering course, she started to explore breadmaking. On a two-week stage with Mark Lazenby at Cinnamon Twist in Helmsley, she realised she had found her passion.

Much of bread making is in the preparation, you need to plan and make ahead. Georgie has several different sour dough “mothers” in unprepossessing buckets ready to add to the bread flour. Each need careful feeding each day to ensure it keeps alive.  Sour dough starters are used in all the rye-based recipes. For other breads including baguettes, fresh yeast is used. The baguette dough is made 12 hours before it is needed and placed into a special proving cabinet to gently grow over night.

There is a large French-made cooker with different ovens set at pre-programmed, tried and tested temperatures ready to accommodate a particular recipe. The bread is steamed as it cooks helping a good crust form – Georgie leaves the door of the oven open for a few minutes at the end of the baguettes’ cooking time to make it just that bit crisper. I was very taken with the special “roller blanket” which ensures you can deftly put your bread into the oven without using a peel.

Placing the baguettes on the roller blanket

Placing the baguettes on the roller blanket

In short time that I am in the kitchen, Georgie makes baguettes, foccacia, sweet buns with vanilla filling, cardamom buns and pizza dough and up until 2pm she will make an amazing range of items  including crispbreads (now those you can order online).

Georgie Crisp, Head Baker

Georgie Crisp, Head Baker

George and I agree that baking is magical.

Georgie is certainly a magician and Peter’s Yard probably the best bakery in Edinburgh. Visit soon won’t you? And please leave me at least one bun …

Making Cardamom Buns

The best seller, and my personal favourite, is the cardamom bun. For me, cardamom is the spice that really sums up Swedish cooking  and in this recipe it is the star ingredient. It’s a long, tricky process to make the bun. A basic dough is made and left to rest,  butter, sugar and spice is added and kneaded again. The dough is folded and  threaded through a machine (rather like a laundry press) to make it thinner and thinner, and is folded and thread through again. A filling of cinnamon, butter, treacle and syrup is spread over the dough. Then Georgie cuts it into strips each weighing 85 grammes and deftly twists the pieces before being rolled into a spiral. After another short rest period, they’re baked.

Adding the cardamom bun filling

Spreading the filling on the cardamom dough

Twisting the dough into shape

Twisting the dough into shape

Proving the Cardamom Buns

Proving the Cardamom Buns

The famous Peter's Yard Cardamom Bun

The famous Peter's Yard Cardamom Bun

Peter’s Yard Coffee House and Bakery
Quartermile, 27 Simpson Loan
Edinburgh EH3 9GG

0131-228 58 76
info@petersyard.com
twitter.com/petersyard

Photographs by Brendan MacNeill except exterior shot. A very big thank you for Peter’s Yard inviting me into the kitchen.

Edinburgh’s best French cheese and macarons?

18 Sep

I’ve known Cedric Minel for 6 or 7 years since he set up the curiously named Cheesee Peasee. I think he is one of Edinburgh’s best kept secrets. Those in the know make regular pilgrimages to his authentic French cheese van parked on Meadow Place on Saturdays to purchase his produce and practice their French.

Cedric once worked for another cheesemonger in Edinburgh, but was not satisfied with the quality of the cheese they were importing from France, so he set up his business. Focussing on cheese with an appellation controllee mark of quality, he imports cheeses from all over France. He once explained to me that the appellation controllee ensured that the quality is good year round rather than dipping when the cows have different fodder to feed on.  The cheeses are simply delicious. A favourite of ours in Reblochon, but there is something for everyone, from harder Comte to soft, soft goats cheese. Don’t wait to seek him out.

Reblochon Cheese

Reblochon Cheese

So where do the macarons come in? Some months ago, Cedric suggested I try one of the first experimental batches  he had made. The macaron was lovely, but he was not totally happy with the results. He spent  time refining the quality, taste and appearance. Today’s macarons are simply gorgeous – as you can see I couldn’t wait to taste before taking the photograph. You can purchase them by the half-dozen in pistachio, lemon, vanilla or chocolate and passion fruit.

Macarons

Macarons

If you can’t get along on a Saturday morning, visit Cuthbert’s cafe Monday to Friday and you can enjoy one with a great coffee.

www.cheesee-peasee.com – a little out of date unfortunately

@cuthberts

No more over-powering sauce please!

16 Sep

Wild mushrooms in sauce, gardnished with a second sauce

Wild mushrooms in sauce, garnished with ... a second sauce

You source the best ingredients you possibly can, prepare them with delicacy and respect, heat them just so and serve them covered in sauce. Loads of sauce. Richly flavoured sauce. And there they lie, languishing in a sea of flavour, their own flavour lost.

Continue reading

Could you butcher a pig?

13 Sep
Sunnyside Farm Pigs

Sunnyside Farm Pigs

This post is perhaps not for the queasy or vegetarian amongst you, but don’t leave yet!

I really like to know where what I buy comes from. With farmers’ markets, it has become easier to get to know the meat producers and hear about how their raise their stock. When you get to visit the farm, you really start to understand the sheer hard work and dedication these men and women have for producing tasty meat for us to eat.

About a year ago, I decided to go one step further. A friend and I took a half-share each in a pig from Sunnyside Farm, Sanquhar, Dumfriesshire. We visited the farm to pick a Gloucester Old Spot piglet who would be raised on our behalf. The farm is lovingly run by Doreen, David and Dom Smith who produce pork, Dexter Beef and rosy veal.

She appeared to be a sassy piglet. We received regular updates when we visited Sunnyside’s stall at Edinburgh’s farmers’ market. She always seemed to be up to a bit of mischief. Something I rather liked. However, we did not see her after that first day and we did not name her. When she was good and ready, we set off to the farm to butcher the carcass.

Working on the carcass with Dom Smith

We arrived for the butchery day got togged up and were presented with a beautiful carcass and set to work.  I can truly say it has been one of the most satisfying tasks I have every done. It was fascinating to see where the familiar joints were located and how they were joined together. Using the sharpest of knives, we followed seams of fat and gradually divided the carcass into pieces. We occasionally used a saw and a chopper to gradually reduce the bulk into recognisable cuts.

Preparing the joint to make ham

Dom demonstrates how to prepare the joint for ham

It took us the good part of day to joint the carcass and then create sausages and start the processes to make ham and bacon, with a break for lunch. When we asked Dom Smith how long it would have taken him, we found it would have been a mere fraction of the time. As to the meat, it has proved the most delicious we have ever eaten, and the bacon absolutely outstanding.

Making sausage meat

Sunnyside have a Pig in a Day event coming up on the 17th September to learn how to do the butchery. Places are very limited, I’d grab one if I were you! Otherwise, do consider taking a share in a pig, you’ll never want to eat any other pork again.

Just some of the cuts and sausages from half a pig

Just some of the cuts and sausages from half a pig

All the pork and products were for our own personal use. We froze most of what we produced.

Sunnyside Farm,
Sanquhar,
Dumfriesshire,
DG4 6JP

Tel: 01659 50258
Email: sales@sunnysidefarm.biz

Celebrating cupcake week 2010

9 Sep

What a lovely week to celebrate, I hope that you discovered Kelly’s red velvet cupcakes?

Alice Rose Cakes and Cookies

Alice Rose Cakes and Cookies

I am always curious as to why people start up a business and how they found their passion, so  I asked some cupcakers (is there such a word) to share their experiences. In this post, Alice Rose who is starting up a new business distributing cupcakes across the UK (yum!)

Like many great people, Alice’s inspiration came to her in the bath. Three years ago, she’d left university with a business degree but wasn’t sure what she really wanted to do. Her Ah Ha moment was to become a cake decorator. The first cake she made was for her own birthday whilst she was doing up her own house. She had to contend with a really old cooker the previous tenant had left behind and the only work surface available on top of the fridge! She wishes she had taken a photo of that first effort, to see just how far she has come. Night classes at college followed to learning basic royal icing skills then more modern sugar paste techniques.

Tennis theme cake and cupcakes

Tennis theme cake and cupcakes

Cupcakes have become increasingly popular amongst her customers but she also makes an equal amount of large celebration cakes combined with cupcakes as well.

Cupcake Canapes

Cupcake Canapés

Alice explains “Cupcakes are so flexible, you can add them to a children’s party bag or customise them with a company logo. The range of flavours are also endless – traditional puddings are now lending their flavours to cupcakes including black forest gateaux and banoffee pie. I have also  just started creating cupcake canapés which are bite size and are in an edible case for easy eating”. Not surprisingly, her favourite pastime is creating new flavours and of course, sampling them!

An alternative wedding cake?

An alternative wedding cake?

I was keen to hear more about the cupcake delivery system. Alice explains “My partner and I are setting up a delivery system working with a team of independent cupcake makers and decorators across the country. Once we receive an order on our Direct Cupcakes website, we commission the bakers to create the order for us and deliver. We are planning to launch it in the next couple of weeks.

If you are interested in getting involved, visit the website, or send Alice a tweet @arcakescookies

Useful kitchen gadgets – garlic saucer

8 Sep
Garlic Saucer

Garlic Saucer

This gadget may prove a little challenging for you. I recently promised one of my co-authors one and ended up on a much longer quest than I had hoped as well-known kitchen shop in the USA where I originally bought it no longer stocked it!

But, do persevere, once you have used the garlic saucer (or ceramic garlic plate), you’ll never grunt and groan over ginger or garlic again, each are reduced quickly to a paste.

Does anyone know of a source in the UK? I’ve found some similar ones on Amazon, but the grid is not so regular and even.