13 September 2010

Cat cake

Here's Millie's 5th birthday cake. As ever, it was Nigella's buttermilk birthday cake recipe - the perfect construction cake. I used a massive round cake tin (I think it's 30cm across), and a smaller, 7inch sandwich tin.

You'll need

250g butter
400g white sugar
6 eggs
150g yoghurt mixed with 250ml milk (or 400ml buttermilk)
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
500g plain flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon bicarb of soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

Stick the oven on at about 180 degrees, and line your cake tin with greaseproof paper (bit fiddly, but worth it).

I did all this in the food processor, as it's a right pain if you have to beat the butter and sugar together by hand (an electric mixer would probably be even easier).

Sling in the butter and sugar, and pulse on a high speed until they are light and fluffy. Slowly add the eggs (one at a time) on a lower speed, until everything's blended together.

Pour the yoghurt, milk and vanilla into a measuring jug, and mix well. In a bowl (or second jug), mix together the flour, baking powder, bicarb and salt. Add a couple of tablespoons of the flour mix to your egg/butter/sugar combo in the food processor, and blitz for 20s or so. Do the same with a couple of tablespoons of the yoghurt/milk/vanilla mix. Repeat ad nauseam until everything is combined. It's a bit of a faff, but does make for a light cake.

Pour into your cake tin, and then bake in the oven for about 35 minutes, until it's golden brown on top and a skewer poked into the middle comes out clean. Cool on a rack for 10 minutes or so in the tin, and then leave to cool, preferably overnight.

Next, assemble your cat. You'll need:

some ready roll white fondant icing (life's too short to make your own)
jam to slather over the cake, so the icing will stick
a little icing sugar, for rolling out the icing
chocolate fingers for whiskers (I tried to find black licorice laces, but couldn't get hold of any in time)
chocolate buttons for eyes
some chocolate icing for piping - I bought some ready-made stuff in a tube, so it was easy to draw on paws and stripes

First, cut your small cake to size, and save two triangles for the ears. Then, melt your jam in a saucepan (or microwave), and brush over the cakes' surfaces. Roll out the fondant icing (if you scatter icing sugar everywhere it shouldn't stick), and carefully cover the cakes and ears.

Add the decoration - stick the chocolate button eyes and chocolate finger whiskers on with the chocolate icing, and draw on some paws and a nose.

Decant into a tin, transport very carefully for 45 minutes in the car, and serve on a windy Northumberland beach.

20 July 2010

Oaty date slices

These are brilliant for lunchboxes, and vanish faster than a particularly fast thing. I found the recipe in Olive's July issue, and tweaked it a little bit.

You'll need:

100g porridge oats
100g self-raising flour
100g butter
50 soft brown sugar
200g stoned dates, chopped
2-3 tablespoons lemon juice

Sling the oven on at about 180 degrees C, and fish out an 18-20cm square baking tin. Line it with greaseproof paper.

Mix the oats and flour together, and tip into a food processor. Add the butter, and pulse until it's all well mixed (you could rub this in by hand, but this is far quicker). Add the sugar, and pulse again until you get a crumbly mix - tip it out of the food processor and into a bowl.

Pour the lemon juice and chopped dates into the food processor (don't bother cleaning it out from the crumble mix, it'll be fine), and blitz until you get a thick, jam-like consistency. You might need to add a little extra water to make it easier to spread.

Press half the crumble mix into the bottom of your tin. Spread over the date jam. Top with the remaining crumble mix, and press down firmly.

Bake in the oven for 30 minutes, until it's golden brown. Cut into small squares while it's in the tin, and then leave to cool (still in the tin). Once it's cold, you can lift the whole lot out using the greaseproof paper.

13 July 2010

Chard and chorizo tart

The chard plants have gone rather mad on the allotment this year - here they are a month or so ago - they're now well over six feet tall.

So we've eaten lots of chard with a dash of lemon juice and olive oil, and it's been cunningly hidden in all sorts of vegetable sauces. But before outright rebellion began, I had the bright idea of combining it with chorizo...

You'll need:

a large bagful of chard leaves (you could also use spinach)
1 onion, finely chopped
lots of chorizo, sliced (I used about 10 slices for three of us)
2 eggs
a dash of milk
shortcrust pastry

Stick the oven on at about 180 degrees C, and find a quiche/flan tin or dish (preferably with a removable bottom).

Gently fry the onion in a little olive oil until it's translucent. Wash the chard, drain in a colander, and then tip into the onion pan. It'll gently wilt, and shrink to about a tenth of its former volume over a couple of minutes. Stir it occasionally to stop it sticking.

Line the flan dish with your shortcrust pastry, and then place the whole thing on a baking sheet. Tip the chard/onion mixture on top of the pastry, and then decorate roughly with the chorizo slices. Beat the two eggs together in a mixing jug, and add a splash of milk (or cream if you have it lying around the fridge). Tip into the pastry case, season with some ground black pepper, and bake in the oven for 20-30 minutes, until the pastry is crisp and the eggy mixture is set.

It goes very well with a tomato salad. Or more green leaves, if you've got an allotment glut...

Gooseberry icecream

We have finally found another recipe involving gooseberries that we all like. Hurrah! (Especially given that the gooseberry bush on the allotment is crawling with big fat berries this year).

If you didn't freeze this, it'd make a nice gooseberry fool (although you may want to tone down the sugar).

You'll need:

500g gooseberries, topped and tailed
150g caster sugar
a tablespoon of water
250ml greek yoghurt
250ml double cream

Sling the gooseberries in a non-stick saucepan with the sugar and water. Bring to the boil (really carefully so the sugar doesn't catch), and then simmer for 10 minutes or so until the gooseberries are pulpy.

Strain through a sieve - you'll have a beautiful green puree. In the meantime, whip the yoghurt and double cream together until it holds in soft peaks. Stir through the gooseberry puree, and then tip everything into an ice cream maker, or into a plastic box to go into the freezer.

If you're using an ice cream maker like mine, the tricky bit is remembering to put the bowl in the freezer the day before you need it so it's suitably cold. If you're using the good old-fashioned plastic box method, you'll need to take it out of the freezer every hour or two to give the ice cream a good whisk as it solidifies.

It's delicious with fresh raspberries or strawberries sprinkled on the top. You quite liked yours with hundreds and thousands (the colours aren't what they used to be though).

17 June 2010

Oaty cherry biscuits

I was going to take a photo of these, but you and your Dad ate them so fast that there were none left. I think they've joined his list of favourite biscuits (although Anzac biscuits may still be top of the heap).

You'll need:

125g butter
25g caster sugar
50g light muscovado sugar
75g self-raising flour
112g porridge oats
100g glace cherries, chopped
25g raisins

Stick the oven on at about 180 degrees C. You'll need a baking tray, and a silicon sheet or some greaseproof paper - these will stick horribly otherwise.

Beat the butter and sugar (both kinds) together until they look fluffy. Stir in the flour and oats, and mix everything really well. Don't worry about the fact there's no liquid - it all comes together remarkably well (it's probably the appalling amount of butter involved).

Tip in the cherries and raisins, and stir until they're evenly spread throughout the mixture.

Divide the mix into lots of little balls (about as big as a ping-pong ball). Sling them on a tray (reasonably well spread out, as the mix does spread a little), and then flatten each ball with your fingers.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the biscuits have turned golden brown round the edges - you still want them a little squidgy in the centre.

Cool on the baking sheets for a few minutes, and then sling them on a wire rack to cool down properly. They go beautifully with a nice cup of coffee at about 10.30am.

13 June 2010

Spinach and feta muffins

I adapted a Hugh Fearnley-Whernley recipe for these - and it turned out a treat.

Makes 12 enormous muffins, or lots and lots of fairy-cake sized ones. You'll need:

1 small onion, finely chopped
whatever spinach you have lurking at the bottom of the fridge, chopped
a little olive oil
half a pack or so of feta, cubed
250g self-raising flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon bicarb of soda
a little salt (not a lot, as the feta's pretty salty)
2 eggs
80g butter, melted and cooled down a bit
200ml buttermilk (either use milk with a squeeze of lemon juice, or add 75g yoghurt to 125ml milk...)

Stick your oven on at about 200 degrees C, and line your muffin tin/cupcake tin with paper/silicon cases of your choice.

Fry the onion in a little olive oil, until it turns translucent. Add the chopped spinach, and stir for a couple of minutes until it's wilted. Take off the heat, and leave to cool.

Sling the flour, bicarb, baking powder and salt into a large mixing bowl. Whisk the eggs/buttermilk/melted butter together in a jug - and then pour them into the flour mixture. Mix everything gently together. Carefully fold in the onion/spinach mixture, and then the feta cheese.

Spoon the muffin mixture into your cases, and then bake in the oven for about 10-12 minutes (small fairy-cake size), or a 15-20 minutes (large muffin size) until golden.

Eat lots while hot. They'll keep for a while, but are loveliest warm.

12 June 2010

Creamy chicken, thyme and leek

This goes really well with some plain rice, and maybe some steamed greens/broccoli.

You'll need:

3-4 chicken thighs, deboned and chopped into large chunks (it's also good with leftover cooked chicken)
1/2 small carton of cream (or whatever you've got left in the fridge)
a couple of large leeks
a clove of garlic, or a bulb of wet garlic, finely chopped
a few sprigs of fresh thyme (or a sprinkle of the dried stuff)
lots of black pepper

Chuck the chicken into a frying pan, together with a slosh of olive oil, and brown the meat. Tip in the leeks and garlic, and fry until they have softened too.

Add the cream and a little water, sprinkle over the herbs, and leave to simmer for 10-15 minutes until the chicken is cooked through (you may have to add a little more water to stop it sticking).