Thursday, 29 December 2011

Christmas, Me - Unplugged and a Happy New Year

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas day with friends and family. I had a great one, surrounded all day with friends and plenty of food and drinks. Cooking for 21 for Christmas Eve's dinner turned out to be rather fun and I am glad everyone enjoyed the meals. There was hardly any leftovers which I always believe is a good sign. I didn't even have a chance to take pictures of the food. I cooked slowly-roasted shoulder of pork with cranberry glaze, potato gratin, roasted Brussels sprouts with balsamic, honey and pomegranate (which you can find here, minus the walnuts) and Christmas rocky road complete with all the trimmings; the plastic trees, reindeer and robin which I bought on-line. The expression 'as camp as Christmas' comes to mind, doesn't it? Well, it is the season after all to super indulge.

On Christmas day, I spent the day with smaller group of friends and we opened our presents, watched Christmas TV (including the Queen's speech) and ate loads. No surprise there I'm sure. For our main, I cooked slow-roasted pork belly which I knew everyone love. This is I think the one dish my friends request the most. The pork rind is flavoured with fennel seeds and after three hours of cooking, it became the crunchiest crackling. Heavenly!

To go alongside the fatty pork belly, I think it's always nice to have something acidic or vinegary to balance the richness of the meat. My favourite is Jamie Oliver's must-try red cabbage braised with apple, bacon and balsamic vinegar (find the recipe, here). I just love this dish. I can actually eat it by itself and if you're lucky enough to have some leftovers, this is I must say, also delicious cold from the fridge.

This holiday season I also managed to convert a couple of friends to like Brussels sprouts. I personally think they're delicious as long as they are properly cooked. Not mushy or watery. Not nice. My favourite is Nigella's Brussels sprouts with chestnuts, pancetta and parsley (find the recipe, here). You've got to try it.

And what is Christmas without some goose fat roast potatoes? They're just out of this world. The secret is, the goose fat must be scorching hot before you roast the potatoes in the oven. Just the thought of these potatoes, makes me salivate.

Of course, I could not let my friends leave without something sweet. And the something sweet we had was Nigella's gleaming maple cheesecake (Nigella Christmas book, p. 74). My friends asked for a second serving of the cheesecake, so this must be pretty good.

Before I set of to Scotland to spend the New Year, recently I was tagged by Victoria at 21st Century Urban Housewife and Little Macaron for a game of Food Bloggers Unplugged... the persona behind the blog... - and I have truly enjoyed reading and knowing more about you. Mainly because I am nosy. Now it's my turn and you can learn a bit more about me :)

1. What, or who, inspired you to start a blog?
To cut a long story, short, I started the blog a couple of years ago in desperation to learn to become a better cook. I can't afford going to culinary school, so I decided to train myself. One evening I was looking through my bookshelf, searching for inspiration and I saw Jamie Oliver's Cook with Jamie: My Guide to Making You a Better Cook. The next day, I cooked my first recipe from that book, blogged about it then eventually all the recipes. Looking back, it was an incredible experience. I loved every minute of it.

2. Who is your foodie inspiration?
Jamie Oliver. The man is a genius. Also, Nigella Lawson. I worship her.

3. Your greasiest, batter-splattered food/drink book is? 
I keep all my cookbooks really clean. I don't or let anyone touch them with greasy hands. But the one book that's pretty worn-out and the only one with scribbles is Jamie Oliver's My Guide to Making You A Better Cook. During my project year, I read the book everyday, whether deciding on my next meal or making notes next to the recipe instructions or highlighting the index of recipes that I've done.

4. Tell us about the best thing you have eaten in another country, where was it, what was it?
When I was in Tokyo, I had this noodles with fragrant, dark (perhaps dashi based) broth and topped with the tenderest and tastiest pork belly and nori. It was simply out of this world. I have had some 'dreams' about this meal.

5. Another food blogger's table you'd like to eat at?
My friend Jenn at Jenn's Food Journey or Elisabeth at Food and Thrift Finds. They're both awesome and I'd love to eat with them. However, they both live across the Atlantic... For someone local, I pick Dom at Belleau Kitchen. I'd eat all of his creations, and we both love pork belly. I am still anxiously waiting for an invite though.

6. What is the one kitchen gadget you would ask Santa for this year (money no object of course)?
This is easy. Kitchen Aid free-standing mixer. I've been begging for this for a while now - but yet again this year, I didn't get it. Boo! Maybe it's time I get it myself.

7. Who taught you how to cook?
My mother. She was a baking and pastry chef and also a private caterer. My childhood was spent following her from one kitchen to another and I loved it. I thoroughly enjoyed just sitting in the corner, watching her assemble all the dishes, whilst waiting for extra food... and there's always extra food. And Jamie Oliver.

8. I'm coming to you for dinner, what is your signature dish?
Rib of beef that's been marinated in lemon, rosemary and garlic then grilled to medium-rare (or however you like it, as long as it's not well-done), served with baked carrots and garlicky roast potatoes. Then we finish the meal with a pavlova or baked chocolate mousse.

9. What is your guilty food pleasure?
I don't feel guilty about eating anything. I only feel guilty if I don't go to the gym and burn off the calories.

10. Reveal something about yourself that others would be surprised to learn?
I'm sure I've mentioned this before but it was quite an achievement, so I'll mention it again. When I was a teenager, I lost a lot of weight, about 30 kg (66 pounds) by avoiding carbohydrates and regular exercise.  

I'm sure you're all tired of reading this post now, so that's it. I need to get packing for Scotland. I wish you all a fantastic New Year! See you in 2012!

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Merry Christmas everyone...

I am so excited for Christmas and I hope you are too. Earlier today I was finally done with my Christmas shopping. I am absolutely terrible at buying presents. I wish my friends would just tell me what they want... within reason, obviously... Oh well, it's too late now. They have no choice but to like what they're getting!

It is now exactly 4.15 PM and I am scheduled for a tea break. I am in the middle of cooking for our annual Christmas Eve's dinner and I must say, I do love this tradition. However, every year the number seems to get bigger and bigger with a record breaking 21 people this year. I've done most of the preparations ahead of time and so lucky to have my friend, Dewi helping with all the last minute peeling and chopping. Whilst I am blogging, she's currently doing all the washing up. Have I mentioned she's a great friend? I'll let her have a break soon. You do know my nick name is slave-driver, right? lol.

Anyway, clock is ticking and I still have some last minute assembling job to do before everyone gets here. So, what I really am trying to say is: have a very Happy Christmas! May your day be filled with joy and laughters with plenty to eat and drink!

Monday, 12 December 2011

The last of the apples...

Well, at least for now... The apples are all gone and Janet has also gone on maternity leave. So, no more free home-grown apples for a while I guess. I can tell you that not a single apple is wasted. You've seen all the cakes, and now I'm gonna share what I've done with the rest of the apples.

First, apple blondies. They are Amazing! (I hope you notice the capital A in Amazing!). When I saw this recipe, I knew I had to try it. The recipe comes via Lucy at The KitchenMaid. I encourage you to make it too. I promise, you won't regret it. The white chocolate I used is infused with vanilla seeds, hence the little black spots on the blondies.

Like Lucy, I threw in the optional dried cranberries as well. And for me it's not just because they are seasonally appropriate, but also I think white chocolate can feel too sickly sweet and the tartness from the dried cranberries create the perfect balance of deliciousness. I must also tell you, the blondies are particularly delicious fridge cold, but Lucy reckons they taste AMAZING (capital A-M-A-Z-I-N-G) frozen. Well, I need to prove it and you know the only way how...

Apple Blondies
Recipe by The Kitchen Maid
For list of ingredients and instructions, click here.

The past few days I have been making my edible gifts (details to come later I'm sure) for Christmas and when my friend Angela at The Good Soup found out that I have loads of apples to use, she suggested I made this apple butter. And so I did. I trust Angela. She's incredible.

Yes, the apple butter takes around 3.5 hours to make, but it's easy. There's nothing much to do but stirring the pot every now and then. During the process, I think you'll also appreciate the wonderful smell of cooking apples with spices like cinnamon, cloves, allspice berries and orange rind. Yum. Thanks Angela.

I managed to make several jars of the apple butter and I know they're supposed to be presents, but I make no such promises.

Apple Butter
Recipe by Kim Boyce
For list of ingredients and instructions, click here.

A couple of weeks ago when I was in London, I went window shopping, for food... obviously. I was admiring the beautiful display of cakes and tarts from a small French patisserie and then I saw tarte Normande pommes-poires (French apple and pear tart). It looked and sounded glorious; and I thought, I wonder if I could make this at home. Since I have loads of apples I really hate going to waste.

So, when I got home I put my thinking cap on and I imagined how I'm going to recreate the tart. I never actually taste the tart from the display window, so this is solely my interpretation of the tart. I used store-bought shortcrust pastry for ease, but obviously by any means, make your own. I poached the apples and pears in sugar syrup; and the filling is sort of like an almond custard and also I added little chunks of white chocolate. In the word of Ina Garten, "how bad can that be?". Then it was topped generously with toasted flaked almonds and heavy dusting of icing sugar. I was very happy with the result because it's utterly delicious.

Apple, Pear, Almonds and White Chocolate Tart
Recipe by Me

With the last couple of apples, they are turned into these apple and cinnamon muffins. Well, why not?!

Apple and Cinnamon Muffins
Recipe by Nigella Lawson
Makes 12

2 eating apples
250 grams spelt flour (or use plain flour)
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
125 grams light brown sugar, plus 4 teaspoons for sprinkling
125 ml honey
60 ml runny natural yoghurt
125 ml flavourless vegetable oil
2 eggs
75 grams natural (unblanched) almonds

1 x 12 bun muffin tin

Preheat the oven to 200 C and line your muffin tin with papers. Peel and core the apples, then chop into small dice (about 1 cm, but please don't measure) and put them to once side.

Measure the flour, baking powder and 1 teaspoon of the ground cinnamon into a bowl. Whisk together the 125 grams brown sugar, the honey, yoghurt, vegetable oil and eggs in another bowl or jug.

Chop the almonds roughly and add half of them to the flour mixture, and put the other half into a small bowl with the second teaspoon of ground cinnamon and the 4 extra teaspoons brown sugar. This will make the topping for the muffins.

Now fold the wet ingredients into the dry. Add the chopped apple, and stir to combine but don't over mix. To remind you: a lumpy batter makes for a lighter muffin.

Spoon this bumpy batter into the muffin papers, then sprinkle the rubbly topping mixture over them. Pop the tin into the preheated oven, and bake for about 20 minutes, by which time they will have risen and become golden.

Take the tin out of the oven and let it stand for about 5 minutes before gingerly taking out the muffins and placing them on a wire cooling rack.  

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Taste of Christmas, Jamie O, Hugh W-F and I am a pig

It's a ritual for me that started about 3 years ago that I must visit the Taste of Christmas or as I call it 'Pork Fest 2011' (you'll see why soon) event in London. This time especially is a must visit because my food hero, Jamie Oliver is making an appearance.

I arrived on time but the queue to the theatre where Jamie is going to do his cooking demonstration was already a mile long. I thought no chance I'm getting in now. Arrgh!! Then I suddenly realised that I have a VIP ticket and so I asked one of the staff and it's true, with the VIP ticket I was given priority to the theatre which actually was already packed. I was happy nonetheless.

Opening speech and thank yous to the sponsors of the event by the host and then it's time for Jamie. He cooked goose with Asian spices (think of roast Peking duck) which smelled incredibly delicious. He showed us what to do with the leftovers as well, a wonderful warm goose salad. He was funny and charming. Too bad there was no Q+A session with him or book signing.

After Jamie's cooking demonstration, I waited around for a bit to see of I can catch him but there must be a special hidden passage for him and the security was everywhere. I sadly had to abort plan B and C.

Oh well, by this time I was starving and ready to get me some food. If you've never heard about this event before, it's basically a gathering of restaurants and food producers serving and selling seasonal menus and  ingredients. I especially love all the free samples. There are sections for cheeses, chocolates, chutneys, nuts, wines and liqueurs, etc, I'm sure you get the idea.

First on my stop was Jamie Oliver's Fabulous Feast and I had the beautiful Royal Berkshire estate pork shoulder rubbed with roasted fennel and sea salt and smashed apple sauce. Yum! This was so good, the pork was tender and the apple sauce was sweet and tangy. I was only a bit worried about the bread. I find often with sandwiches or burgers, the filling/patty is delicious, but the bread is sometimes disappointing. The bread was pretty good too, so I was well happy.

After this quick bite, I returned to the theatre and guess who's next? It was Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall! I almost didn't recognise him because of his new hair. He was absolutely brilliant! So glad I made it again to this event this year.

After the delicious cooking demonstration which I can only smell but not taste, I need more food, like slow roast free range pork belly with Bramley apple sauce, root vegetable mash and port reduction from Roast, one of my favourite food stalls at Borough Market. Cracking crackling I must say.

With the food, I needed some drinks now, so I went to the drinks section and had samples of wines, bubblies and liqueurs. Every year I seemed to discover something new. A couple years ago I was introduced to Todka, that is toffee flavoured vodka. Delicious just with ice or in espresso martini for Christmas morning or frankly any time. This year, I found Amarula, a creamy caramelly liqueur made from marula fruit. I had to get a bottle. I was definitely in my Christmas spirit.

Whilst walking around, this guy suddenly came up to me with a tray and asked, "would you like to try Pussy?" (yes, you read that right). I was like "eh, what?!" Am I still at the same event? or have I moved to London's Sexpo? (a real event by the way which I've never been). I saw the stall and it's true, it's Pussy natural energy drink. The name no doubt grabs everyone's attention. I had a taste and it's actually quite nice. It's made with grape juice, limes, lychees and also infused with six botanical herbs including ginseng and ginkgo biloba.

Few minutes passed and I was hungry again. I do wonder sometime how and where do I store all these foods. This honey-rhum glazed pot roast of pork from Asia de Cuba restaurant was another excellent dish. It was served with sauteed Shanghai bok choy, fried plantains and enoki mushrooms.

With all these savoury dishes, I think I could just about squeeze one dessert and I had been eyeing the lemon cream by Francesco Mazzei of L'Anima. It's layers of sponge cake soaked in limoncello and lemon cream. It was good, but not tart enough for me. Completely a personal thing, I like my lemon dessert really tangy.

I had a wonderful day and was so full. Until next year I guess. Though I am already in the look for the summer event.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Dutch, Swedish and Irish Apple Cakes

I think it's fair to say that when life gives me apples, or actually when Janet gives me apples to be exact... I bake apple cakes; and that's what I've been doing the past few days... testing more apple cake recipes that I've kept over the past few months. Apple overload?! Not yet...

The Dutch apple cake is by far the lightest apple cake yet. And because of its light and fluffy sponge, it's so easy to eat. This is not at all difficult to assemble and lovely to have in the afternoon with a cup of tea. Though as far as I am concerned, any time is good time to eat cake. I did save myself a couple slices, thinking it'll be nice to have in the morning with my coffee. Well, that never happen. That evening, I had my Nigella moment. I strolled to the fridge, looking for something to nibble and I picked up the cake, poured over some cold double cream and ... you know the rest.

Dutch Apple Cake
Recipe by Rachel Allen
For list of ingredients and instructions, click here.

None of my friends questioned about the origin of the Dutch or the Irish apple cakes. But they all asked, what makes this cake Swedish? Well, I don't know to be honest. I just eat. And I did my impression of Swedish accent. Apparently it's not so good . But anyway, this is another easy cake recipe that can be whipped up in no time. It does look like a giant cookie, don't you think? It's buttery and it's crispy around the edges and a little gooey when still warm.

Swedish Apple Cake
Recipe by Allegra McEvedy
For list of ingredients and instructions, click here.

OK, this Irish apple cake is not the prettiest looking cake, it's a bit wonky, but nevertheless it's delicious. I find it somewhat interesting that the batter for the cake begins like making crumble topping and then an egg and few spoonfuls of milk are added to turn in into a thick batter. My favourite bits from the cake are the apples that are poking out from the cake, because they really get sticky and caramelised.

I cannot wait to have the last slice of the cake later this evening.

Irish Apple Cake
Recipe by Diana Henry
For list of ingredients and instructions, click here.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Spiced Apple Cake with Blueberry Compote and Cream

Oh yes! It's about time for another apple cake. This morning Janet brought more apples and I think soon I will be able to tick all the apple cake recipes I really want to try. This recipe for spiced apple cake is from my friend Alex at Dear Love Blog. When I saw it, I knew I just had to bake and eat it.

The original recipe calls for blackberry, a classic pairing with apples, but I couldn't find it yesterday... so I substituted with blueberries which worked deliciously as well with apples. As mentioned by Alex, this cake really is the autumnal equivalent of Victoria sponge. I particularly like the pecans in the sponge, giving a nice crunch; and with the sweet blueberry compote and softly whipped cream, utterly delicious.

Spiced Apple Cake with Blackberry Compote and Cream
For list of ingredients, instructions and a stunning picture of the cake, click here.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Hot & Spicy Bloody Mary Soup with Twenty-first Century Ham, Cheese & Chive Bread

This month's Random Recipe challenge is in collaboration with No Croutons Required challenge, and it's all about soup. I love a warm bowl of soup for a chilly evening. It's just so nice for this time of year... well, at least for people living in the northern hemisphere.

I really want to cook from the new cookbooks I got for my birthday last month, and the book I selected at random is Lorraine Pascale's Home Cooking Made Easy. Lovely book from my wonderful work colleagues.

The soup I selected is the Hot and Spicy Bloody Mary Soup. I must say, I dislike Bloody Mary cocktail. I'm not keen on salty tomato juice from the carton. But made into soup... it's lovely. One of the rules for this month's challenge is "the soup should be vegetarian or at the very least vegetarian friendly". As you may know, one of the key components of Bloody Mary is Worcestershire sauce which is not vegetarian (it's made with anchovies). So, simply leave it out to make it completely vegetarian. As with the rest of the ingredients, they're all vegetarian friendly, including the vodka, however optional (virgin bloody Mary?), but I think it's compulsory.

Celery batons are the classic accompaniment for Bloody Mary, but they just didn't do it for me. What I want is bread for dunking into the soup. I, then, decided to bake the super easy twenty-first century ham, cheese and chive bread from the same book. If you are a vegetarian, I'm sure you can simply omit the ham. Even if you don't normally bake bread, or nervous about baking bread, I can tell you this is easy. If I can do it, you can too.

Hot & Spicy Bloody Mary Soup
Recipe by Lorraine Pascale
Makes about 1.2 litres, serves 4 - 6

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large red onion, peeled and sliced
500 g ripe tomatoes (about 5 vine or plum tomatoes), roughly chopped
1 litre tomato juice
3 squirts of tomato purée
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons soft light brown sugar
50 ml Worcestershire sauce
1/2 - 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (depending how spicy you like it!)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Several shakes of Tabasco sauce (optional)
Vodka, to taste (optional)
1 stick of celery, trimmed and cut into batons

Heat the oil in a large pan, add the onion and cook over a low heat for about 15 minutes until soft but not coloured. Add the tomatoes, tomato juice and purée, bay leaf, sugar, Worcestershire sauce and finally the cayenne and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to the boil, the reduce the heat a little to let it bubble away for a good 30 minutes to really get the flavours going.

Taste the soup and add more seasoning if needed, so it is just as you like it. Remove the bay leaf and discard. Then, you can either work in batches and blend the soup in a blender; or if you don't have the patience like me, use a hand blender. Add he Tabasco and Vodka, if using, and taste again, adjusting the seasoning if necessary.

Ladle the soup into warmed mugs or bowls and serve with the celery batons or the bread below.

Twenty-first Century Ham, Cheese & Chives Bread
Recipe by Lorraine Pascale
Makes 1 loaf

425 g self-raising flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
150 g mature Cheddar cheese, grated, plus an extra 10 g grated cheese for sprinkling
1/2 bunch of fresh chives, finely chopped
Few twists of black pepper
1 teaspoon paprika (optional)
1 teaspoon mustard powder (optional)
6 slices of honey roast ham, ripped up into little bits
200 - 225 ml water

Preheat the oven to 200 C. Put all of the ingredients in a bowl except the water and the 10 g of grated cheese and mix together well. Add enough water to make a soft but not sticky dough. Lorraine usually adds 200 ml, but I ended up using 225 ml. Stir it briefly and the get your hands in and squidge it together. Remove the dough from the bowl and shape it into a ball, flatten the ball slightly, so it cooks more quickly, then slash the loaf three times vertically with a sharp knife. Sprinkle over the remaining grated cheese.

Spray some water into the oven to create a steamy atmosphere, the place the dough on a baking tray and bake for 35 - 45 minutes, or until the bread is golden brown and smells cooked.

Once cooked, remove from the oven and leave to cool a little bit (if you can, of course). And enjoy with soft butter or steaming hot bowl of soup.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Apple and Lancashire Cheese Pie

I promised to make something savoury with all the apples I got, and I delivered: apple and Lancashire cheese pie (or pasty?). Doesn't that sound delicious already? This is so easy to assemble and it's just perfect for a simple supper or light lunch. If you can't find Lancashire cheese, simply use English mature cheddar cheese. The tartness of the apples, together with the sharpness of the cheese, fragrant shallots and thyme, and waxy potatoes are very satisfying. Serve with peppery salad of rocket and watercress and a dressing made with Dijon mustard, white wine vinegar (or lemon juice), finely minced garlic, extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper. Yum.

Before I share the recipe, I also want to say a massive Thank You to everyone for your contribution and support towards my dissertation. I've been anxiously waiting for the result and it's finally out and I can reveal to you that I received a first class grade and I've been awarded Master of Arts in Media and Cultural studies with Distinction. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Apple and Lancashire Cheese Pie
Recipe by Anna Jones
Serves 6 - 8

500 g ready-made butter puff pastry
1 vegetable stock cube
300 g waxy potatoes, cut into 5mm discs
4 apples, such as Royal Gala, Golden Russet or Cox, cut into thin discs (no need to core them)
2 shallots, finely sliced
200 g - 250 g Lancashire or sharp cheddar cheese, grated
2 thyme sprigs, leaves picked
1 egg, beaten
Chutney and salad leaves, to serve

Preheat the oven to 190 C. Cut the pastry into 2 pieces, then roll each into a rectangle slightly larger than A4.

Fill a saucepan with boiling water and add the stock cube. Add the potatoes, boil for 3-4 minutes, then drain and allow to steam dry.

Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper and lay one pastry rectangle on top. Arrange half the potatoes in an even layer over pastry, leaving a 2 cm gap around the edges, and season. Layer over half the apples then scatter over half the shallot, cheese and thyme. Repeat with another layer of potatoes, seasoning, apples, shallot, cheese and thyme.

Brush the edges with a little egg, then lay the second pastry rectangle on top, carefully stretching and moulding it over the filling. Press the edges together with your fingers or a fork.

Score the top of the pie. Brush the pastry with egg and bake for about 30-40 minutes until golden and puffed. Cut into wedges and serve with chutney and salad leaves.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Chicken Pie with Fennel and Tarragon

A couple of weeks ago I was helping my friend Michelle moving and I was given the task to assemble the TV stand. Here's something you should know about me: I suck at D.I.Y. True story: I once called an electrician to replace light bulbs... Pathetic, I know. But to be fair, it was halogen bulbs which I had no idea how to replace and since then I learned and now I know what to do.

Back to the TV stand, I followed the instructions word per word and I succeed. I came back to her flat a couple of days ago and the TV stand is still.... standing. So perhaps I am not that bad at D.I.Y... I am just lazy. I think that's the main reason.

In a way, cooking or baking is also a form of D.I.Y and until now, one of the things I am still scared of sometime is pastry. There are days when I get it spot on. And there are plentier days when it ended up in the bin. But I believe practise makes perfect. So, when I was asked to 're-invent' a recipe from, I immediately turned to the pastry section and I chose to bake a chicken pie.

By 're-invent', I didn't make it completely different to the chicken pie you and I know, I simply want to add more flavours to it. And the flavours I am completely mad about at the moment are fennel and tarragon. I absolutely love it!! To the extend that my shower gel is now also infused with fennel (too much information?!). Both flavour works beautifully.

And for the pastry, I have tried several shortcrust pastry recipe and this is the one that really works for me. The Parmesan cheese is optional, but I really want a flavourful pastry.

Visit more recipes, baking tips and ideas including bread, cakes, pies and cupcake making.

Now, the door handle also needs fixing... can I be bothered to give it a go, or just call the handyman?

Chicken Pie with Fennel and Tarragon
Serves 2 - 3

For the pastry
225 grams plain flour
100 grams cold butter, diced
2 egg yolks
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
a pinch of salt

For the filling
Half a chicken, cooked and roughly chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil, the regular stuff
2 tablespoons butter
1 onion, diced
2 fennel bulbs, chopped
a small bunch of fresh tarragon, finely chopped
65 grams pancetta, cubed
2 cloves of garlic, finely minced
100 gr chestnut mushrooms, quartered
1 tablespoon plain flour
125 ml white wine
250 ml chicken stock
50 ml double cream
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1 egg, beaten lightly

Start by making the pastry. Put the flour, butter, salt and Parmesan in a food processor and pulse until it looks like breadcrumbs. Add the egg yolks and pulse again until a dough is formed. Squidge the mixture together into a ball, cover with cling and put it in the fridge to rest for minimum of 30 minutes.

Now, make the filling. In a pan, on a medium heat, add the olive oil, butter, onion and fennel with a little sprinkle of salt. Cook until both the onion and fennel become soft, stirring frequently. Add the pancetta and cook for a further 5 minutes. Add the finely minced garlic and fresh tarragon leaves; followed by the flour. Cook for a little bit to get rid of the flouriness. Add the wine and the chicken stock. When I say chicken stock, what I really mean is water with once chicken stock cube. But, if you have home-made chicken stock, congratulations, you may use that. Cook until the mixture becomes deliciously creamy. When it comes to a bubble, add the chestnut mushrooms and the double cream, mixing well and turn off the heat. Let it cool a bit.

Remove the pastry from the fridge and let it warm up a little; it will make it easier to roll. Roll the pastry out on a lightly floured board, large enough to cover your pie dish. And with the excess, you can make the decorative ornaments for the pastry. Although, obviously there is no need to. I just feel like it.

Taste the filling if it needs more seasoning and adjust to your liking. Then put it in the pie dish. Brush the pastry rim with the beaten egg and place on the pie dish, pressing it down well with the edge of a fork. Brush the pastry with the egg to give it a shiny glaze when it come out of the oven.

Bake the pie for about 30 minutes, or until the pastry is golden brown. Serve with peas.

Monday, 31 October 2011

Apple and Honey Cake with Apple Ice Cream

Yet another apple cake recipe... I must warn you... there will be plenty more. I hope you're not sick of apples yet. I promise I'm gonna make few savoury dishes with the apples I got from my friend Janet as well, so just wait and see.

But in the meantime, this apple and honey cake is from GOOP by Gwyneth Paltrow which I really enjoy reading. When I saw the recipe for this cake on the newsletter I knew I just have to make it and I'm glad I did. This cake is pretty good. Be sure to use flavourful honey here for more intense honey flavour. The recipe calls for sweet butter which I'm not entirely sure what it is. So I used regular unsalted butter. Also, the recipe did not mention the amount of sugar. I emailed the GOOP team but did not get any reply to this. I used 1/2 a cup of caster sugar and personally I think it's just enough. Remember, there's honey in the cake too.

To go alongside the cake, Nigella's apple ice cream which I absolutely love. It's so easy to make especially if you have an ice cream maker, but you don't have to. I don't. What I also really love is the feeling of smug-ness of making my own ice cream. My friends were so impressed and I love the compliments. Come on, you know you love it too... :)

Apple and Honey Cake
For list of ingredients and ingredients, click here.

Apple Ice Cream
Recipe by Nigella Lawson

1 kg cooking apple
100 grams caster sugar
300 ml single cream
3 egg yolks
juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon Calvados (optional)
150 ml double cream

Peel, core and cut up the apples and put them in a pan with 50 grams of the sugar and cook till soft. Let cool and purée in a blender or processor then push through a sieve.

Make the ice cream by heating the single cream, beating the remaining sugar with the yolks, whisking the warm cream till a custard is formed, the adding the flavourings (lemon juice and Calvados, if using). Let cool.

Fold in the cold apple purée, whisk the double cream till thick but still soft and fold that in, too, and freeze. If you've got an ice-cream maker, follow the instructions. If you haven't got one, what you do then is put the ice cream base into a covered container, stick it in the freezer and whip it out every hour for 3 hours as it freezes and give it a good beating, either with an electric whisk, by hand or in the processor. That gets rid of any ice crystals that form and that make the ice cream crunchy rather than smooth. 

Friday, 28 October 2011

Quadruple Chocolate Loaf Cake

I only know one person who dislikes chocolate... and I can tell you, we are no longer in touch. In this cake there are cocoa powder, chocolate chips, chocolate syrup and shards of chocolate... who says there's anything wrong with excess?

I've baked this cake a couple of times now and it's so easy. Everything is done in a food processor. I do love this kind of baking. This cake is for my friends Deanna and Alison, both chocolate lovers for their birthdays.

The cake is so moist, due to the fact that it is drenched with chocolate syrup after baking. I used all dark chocolates here, my favourite, but obviously suit it to your liking.

Off to watch John Carpenter's The Thing now and I'm sure some baking is in order later (when I'm scared, I have a tendency to bake). Have a great weekend!

Quadruple Chocolate Loaf Cake
Recipe by Nigella Lawson
For list of ingredients and instructions, click here.

 Serve with a dollop of crème fraiche and fresh strawberries

Monday, 24 October 2011

Apple Treacle Cake

When Janet asked me, "Michael, would you like some more apples?", my immediate answer was "Absolutely!". How and why would I refuse, delicious free apples. Plus, I still have a list of apple recipes I want to try. Though I must say, no matter how much I cook, the list isn't getting any smaller. Every time I ticked a recipe off the list, I then found new ones to add to the list... 

The original recipe is actually called apple molasses cake, but I don't have molasses. What I do have is black treacle. I don't know if they're the same thing and I was too lazy to google it. I have a feeling they are (they look the same), but maybe I'm completely wrong. All I can tell you, the cake works great with black treacle. As described by Anne, the cake is "stodgy in the best sense, moreish, dark brown with a deep, comforting flavour". 

To be honest, I don't really care for the honey-butter icing. But, I'm still going to make it the next time I bake this. However, instead of using it as an icing, it'll be lovely as a spread on the warm slices of apple cake.

Apple Molasses Cake
Recipe by Anna Jones

250 grams flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/3 teaspoon ground clove
2 tablespoons molasses
150 grams soft light brown sugar
2 eggs, at room temperature
150 ml olive oil
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3 cm round piece of ginger, peeled and finely grated
3 cooking apples, such as Bramleys, peeled and diced
Butter, for greasing

Honey-butter icing
125 grams butter, at room temperature
5 tablespoons honey
A small handful of almonds, roughly chopped

Preheat the oven to 180 C. Sift the flour into a bowl with the cinnamon and cloves.

In a separate large bowl, mix the molasses, sugar, eggs and oil. Add the flour mixture, baking powder and soda, then mix. Fold in the ginger and apple.

Butter a standard-sized loaf tin and pour the cake mix in. Smooth the top and bake for about 1 hour or until a skewer inserted in the thickest part comes out clean. If the top looks like it's browning too quickly, cover with foil. Remove from the oven and cool in the tin for 5 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

For the icing, beat the butter and honey with an electric mixer until fluffy. Lavish it over the cake, sprinkle over the almonds and serve with a cup of tea.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Roasted Tomato Caprese Bruschetta

I absolutely love tomatoes! But fresh tomatoes are best during the summer months when they're at their sweetest. However, I discovered that if you slow-roast the tomatoes, it will concentrate the flavour and they will have full, rich summer tomato flavour. They became slightly caramelised and utterly delicious.

The inspiration for this bruschetta, obviously comes from Insalata Caprese, a simple salad that celebrates Italy's tricolore flag, made of white buffalo mozzarella, red tomatoes and green basil leaves. Obviously there is nothing wrong with a salad, but I do want some carbohydrates and this salad is just perfect on top of a crusty bread when you want a simple and light but hearty lunch/supper.

The one thing that is slightly different to this Caprese salad is in addition to fresh basil leaves, I also added some fresh tarragon and I hope I have not upset anyone here. I must tell you, the distinctive licorice and anise flavour of fresh tarragon is so delicious with the velvety, milky mozzarella, fragrant basil and sweet, sweet tomatoes. Yum.

This roasted tomato Caprese bruschetta is my entry for a taste of tomatoes competition at

Roasted Tomato Caprese Bruschetta
Serves 2

5 tomatoes
2 tablespoons garlic infused olive oil
a pinch of sugar
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 ball of buffalo mozzarella
fresh basil leaves, julienned
fresh tarragon leaves, roughly chopped
2 slices of crusty bread
extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling

Preheat the oven to 120 C.
Halved the tomatoes lengthwise and de-seed them. When I do this, because I don't like to waste food, I put the seeds in a small bowl and eat it later with a pinch of sugar. My mother used to give me this when I was little. But anyway, arrange the tomatoes on a sheet pan, cut sides up, in a single layer; and season with salt, pepper, a pinch of sugar and drizzle with the garlic infused olive oil. And the reason I use garlic infused oil, not fresh garlic is because I don't want the garlic to burn and turn bitter. Roast for an hour and a half until the tomatoes are concentrated and begin to caramelise. Some dark edges are desirable. Allow the tomatoes to cool to room temperature.

Cut the mozzarella into thin slices. If the slices of the mozzarella are larger than the tomatoes, cut the mozzarella slices in half. Grill/toast 2 slices of crusty bread. Layer the tomatoes alternatively with the mozzarella on top of the bread and scatter with the fresh basil and tarragon. Sprinkle with coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper and drizzle lightly with extra virgin olive oil.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Bubble and Squeak with Bacon and Egg

I have had a wonderful birthday weekend. Thank you again to everyone for the birthday wishes on the blog, facebook, phone calls, text messages and emails. I have just fully recovered from the excessive eating and drinking.

After some very rich dinner and not one, not two, but three birthday cakes... (details to follow I'm sure), I need something completely different and I feel it's the perfect time to cook and eat my entry for this month's Random Recipe challenge. The participants are all paired up to select a random book and a recipe for each other. I got teamed up with the fabulous Victoria of 21st Century Urban Housewive. After several emails, I was assigned to one of my favourite cookbooks (though saying that, I like all my cookbooks, otherwise I wouldn't buy them or ask my friends to get them for me for presents), Economy Gastronomy by Allegra McEvedy and Paul Merrett. Then Victoria gave me page 150 which is this bubble and squeak with bacon and egg.

Bubble and squeak are great to make when you have leftover veg and mashed potato. I love leftovers but rarely have any, so I assembled this from raw ingredients. Earlier in the morning, I roasted the Brussels sprouts, mashed the potatoes and once cooled I put them in the fridge. Then when I'm ready to eat, I have my leftovers. The bubble and squeak will have lots of burnt bits but don't worry, those crispy bits are delicious.

Time for another slice of cake I think...

Bubble and Squeak with Bacon and Egg
Recipe by Paul Merrett
Serves 4

60 g butter
about 20 cooked Brussels sprouts, cut in half
about 8 tablespoons cold mashed potato
4 eggs
4 rashers of bacon

Heat a frying pan and melt half the butter. Toss in the sprouts and cook them until they start to colour on the outside. Be brave at this point and allow them to go a really dark brown - the middles will remain soft and sprout-like.

Add the mash to the frying pan. I find it easiest to do this with my hands - that way you can scatter it across the whole of the pan, which makes the mixing in easier. So, mix the contents of the pan and squelch everything down so it covers the base. Now add the remaining butter by breaking off little pieces and allowing them to melt around the edges of the pan. Don't move the potato and sprout mix. Underneath it is caramelizing, even burning, which is exactly what it should be doing. After about 3 minutes scrape and mix the potato and sprouts. Try to get the burnt bits back into the centre of the mixture, so that you have a fresh surface colouring underneath. Continue to do this until your mix is well coloured and slightly crispy.

At this point fry your eggs in a separate pan and grill your bacon, because you are moments away from serving up a money-saving British classic.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Chocolate Malteser Cake

Continuing my quest to bake Nigella's chocolate cake hall of fame list... minus Michelle this time because this cake is full of gluten and Michelle is allergic to the substance.

My friend Mark told me that this is the kind of cake that makes you smile. And it's true. It's impossible to eat this cake and not smile... The sponge is moist and the buttercream icing is just divine. It's made of butter (obviously), icing sugar, a little cocoa and Horlicks which gives a comforting and not overpowering malty taste to the icing. And the crown-like chocolate Maltesers do look beautiful...

It's my birthday on Friday and I am having several friends over for dinner. I have planned something special for them... though thinking about it now, I think I must have completely lost the plot. I plan to surprise my friends on my birthday, not the other way around... well, but I don't know. We shall see.

Have a great night/morning/afternoon... wherever you are....

Chocolate Malteser Cake
Recipe by Nigella Lawson
Makes 8 - 10 slices

For the cake
150 grams soft brown sugar
100 grams caster sugar
3 large eggs
175 ml milk
15 grams unsalted butter
2 tablespoons Horlicks powder
175 grams plain flour
25 grams cocoa, sieved
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

For the icing and decoration
250 grams icing sugar
1 teaspoon cocoa
45 grams Horlicks
125 grams soft unsalted butter
2 tablespoons boiling water
2 x 37 grams packets Maltesers

Preheat the oven to 170 C. Butter and line two 20 cm loose-bottomed sandwich cake tins with baking parchment.

Whisk together the sugars and eggs until light and frothy. Measure the dry ingredients in a bowl. Heat the milk, butter and Horlicks powder until the butter has melted and the mixture is hot but not boiling. Add this to the eggs and fold in the dry ingredients. Divide the cake batter evenly between the two cake tins and bake in the oven for 25 minutes, by which time the cakes should have risen and will spring back when pressed gently. Let them cool on a rack for 5 - 10 minutes and then turn them out of their tins.

Once the cakes are cold, get on with the icing. Like Nigella, I also used a food processor, so there is not need to sieve the icing sugar. Put the sugar, cocoa and Horlicks powder into the food processor and blitz to remove all lumps. Add the butter and process again. Stop, scrape the sides and start again, pouring the hot water down the funnel with the motor running until you have a smooth buttercream.

Sandwich the cold sponges with half of the buttercream, and then ice the top with the remaining, creating a swirly pattern rather than a smooth surface. Stud the outside edge with Maltesers or which-ever way that pleases you.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Spaghetti with Chicken Ragu

During my second year of uni, several years ago, I decided to live in a private accommodation along with some new friends. On the second night, I cooked spaghetti with chicken ragu and the next thing I knew soon my meals became a custom. I cooked for almost everyday and many of the dishes I cooked have become personal favourites of my friend. Though I won't hide the fact that many times my experiment turned out to be disastrous. But we all just laughed about it. I believe that kind of moments of good times and memories are what cooking is all about. However, I am always surprised, regardless of the outcome of the cooking, my friends seem to enjoy and demolish everything I made.

Years passed, but the memory of all of us eating this spaghetti still remains. I love pasta and I ate loads of it when I was a student and still today. I have always considered pasta as one of the great pleasures of the table. Especially when feeding an army of friends, I know that there's nothing more satisfying and, more importantly, economical than a big bowl piled high with pasta. Everyone can serve themselves as much as they want, and it can either be a side dish or a main course.

With the beginning of the new term and the arrival of new students, I feel it's highly appropriate to share this pasta dish with all the readers who are students. Though honestly you don't have to be one to enjoy it.

This is not in any ways, complicated to make. To give the ragu extra flavours, I use carrot, leek and fennel as the mirepoix and also, marsala wine which gives such a great depth of flavour. By all means, use chicken breast if you prefer it, but I always think chicken thighs have more flavours and it's cheaper. What is not to like? I hope enjoy this.

Spaghetti with Chicken Ragu
Serves 3 hungry students

2 tablespoons olive oil, just the regular stuff, not extra virgin
1 fennel bulb, sliced
1 leek, cleaned and sliced
1 carrot, peeled and finely diced
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, optional
100 grams diced pancetta or lardons or bacon
3 boneless and skinless chicken thighs, preferably organic, diced
1 clove of garlic, minced
60 ml (1/4 cup) marsala wine
1 x 400 grams canned chopped tomatoes
pinch of sugar
500 grams spaghetti
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Fresh flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
Freshly grated Parmesan

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the chopped fennel, leek and carrot and sprinkle with a little salt to stop them from burning. Also add the dried herbs and red pepper flakes, if using and sauté for about 5 minutes. Next add the pancetta and the diced chicken thighs, salt and pepper and cook for further 10 minutes. After 5 minutes, add the minced garlic. I always add garlic at the last, so that it won't burn. Then pour in the marsala wine and scrape up any brown bits on the bottom of the skillet.

Tip in the chopped tomatoes and swirl about the 1/4 can water around in the empty can and pour it in too. Add just a pinch of sugar to balance the acidity of the canned tomatoes. Bring to a bubble and then reduce the heat and let the ragu simmer gently until the flavours blend. Taste and adjust the seasoning.

In the meantime, salt the boiling water generously and cook the spaghetti to al dente according to the packet instruction, stirring occasionally. When cooked, drain and reserve a little of the cooking liquid. Add the spaghetti to the ragu and toss to coat, adding some of the reserved cooking liquid to moisten if it needs it. Transfer the pasta to a large serving bowl and sprinkle with the roughly chopped parsley. I let my friends grate the Parmesan at the table.

Last but not least, a huge thank you to eCollegeFinder for selecting this blog as a nominee for the Top Foodie Blogs Award. I am flattered. Thank you.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Chocolate Meringue Truffle Cake

So, my friend Michelle came around again yesterday and we're on a mission to bake and eat our way through Nigella's Chocolate Cake Hall of Fame from Feast. Even though I have baked some recipes from this list before, such as the delightful Chocolate Guinness CakeChocolate Orange Cake and Quadruple Chocolate Loaf Cake (no links as I didn't have a blog at the time), I don't mind baking and eating them all over again because they're so delicious. And the best thing about having Michelle around is, she'll do all the washing up. Fantastic.

So, after the Chocolate Cheesecake a couple of weeks ago, the recipe that really got Michelle's attention is this Chocolate Meringue Truffle Cake. Altogether: Yum! The meringue base, rather than being airy and crunchy, it's more like a thin layer of chocolate marshmallow and how bad can that be? The dark chocolate truffle filling is rich and silky smooth. And instead of using rum as the flavouring, we used brandy; and the sole reason for that is because I'm running out of rum. The Brandy worked just fine. More than fine actually. To me, chocolate and brandy together is one of the tastes of Christmas and it's utterly heavenly. And just like other chocolate truffles, it needs a good coating of cocoa powder.

We demolished the cake at the office earlier and someone described the taste of the cake and I quote, "it's like I just died and gone to heaven"...

Note from Nigella: If you don't want to bother with the meringue fandango, you could crumble some bought meringue in a bowl, sprinkle with cocoa, mix well and then press into the base of the cake tin (much as you do with digestive crumbs when making a cheesecake). Pour the chocolate truffle mixture on top and refrigerate.

But to be honest, making the meringue base is not difficult at all, but I'll leave that to you...

hmm... which cake is next...

Chocolate Meringue Truffle Cake
Recipe by Nigella Lawson
For list of ingredients and instructions, click here.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Lemony Quail

The theme for this month's Random Recipe challenge is all about recipes from magazines, cuttings and pull-outs collected over the years. Put all of them in a pile, then select a recipe at random and cook/bake it! Simples!

I don't collect clippings or cuttings from magazines or newspapers, so that's no good. But I do subscribe to one food magazine: Jamie (Oliver) Magazine. However, me cooking from Jamie's magazine, I think that's too predictable. One other magazine I subscribe is the self-proclaimed, "the world's leading men's magazine", GQ. It is my bible for trends in fashion, style, gadgets and entertainments; not that I can afford many of the goods in it. I simply could not justify spending my savings just for a jacket. I'd end up living on the street, with one kidney, next to a dumpster, finding food. But I'll be wearing a very nice jacket which will probably be out of style in a month's time.

You'll be surprised (or, perhaps not) to know that it's not just clothes and scantily clad women and men are featured in the glossy magazine. There are some very good interviews, essays on politics and current affairs, travel, sex and relationship guides, and book, music and film reviews I enjoy reading. But obviously, one of my favourite sections is food. I never cooked anything from the magazine yet, and it's about time. I was quite nervous, in case if I get a complicated recipe by Heston Blumenthal, a regular contributor to the magazine. But thankfully, the random recipe I got is from the latest edition of GQ, lemony quail by Simon Schama. I never cooked quail before, so this is definitely a nice challenge. I am just not prepared yet to cook anything that requires liquid nitrogen as an ingredient.

The lemony quail is actually quite a simple, but certainly an elegant dish. I just love the spices, the fragrant cumin and coriander (I am a freak for coriander). I could find preserved lemons in my local supermarket, but I didn't really want to buy a whole jar when I only need one. So I omitted it and used more fresh lemons as suggested by Mr. Schama.

You could serve the quails with polenta or lentils, but I was in the mood for something light, so I went for a generous scattering of salad leaves, like peppery rocket and tender baby spinach leaves which go really well with lemon and fresh coriander leaves; and a simple dressing of lemon juice, crushed cumin and coriander seeds to echo the flavours of the quail, capers, pinch of sugar, salt, pepper and good olive oil.

Lemony Quail 
Recipe by Simon Schama
To serve four

8 oven-ready quail
zest and juice of 2 lemons (or 4 if not using preserved lemons)
4 medium sized preserved lemons, sliced medium thick (optional)
4 tablespoons olive oil
t tablespoon coriander seeds, crushed coarsely in pestle and mortar
2 tablespoons cumin seeds (as above)
1 small dried red chilli
1 tablespoons coarse rock or sea salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
fistful of fresh coriander leaves, torn
150 ml chicken stock
1 glass of dry white wine

Marinate the quail for one hour in juice and zest of two lemons plus, if you have them, the flesh of two preserved lemons. Add half of the olive oil, all the seeds, chilli, salt and pepper, and half the coriander.

Heat the oven to 220C. Remove the quail from the marinade. Stuff each bird with a slice of the preserved lemon, cut in half; seal cavities with toothpicks.

Heat a ridged grill pan with the reaming olive oil until almost smoking and brown quail on all sides.

Transfer the quail to a plate and deglaze the pan with stock and white wine. Let it reduce for a few minutes.

Return quail to the pan, top with lemon slices, roast for 15 minutes. Garnish with fresh coriander and serve with polenta or puy lentils (if you wish).

Saturday, 24 September 2011

More Apples Made Into Apple Cake

Last night I had a great night-out with friends. I thought we'll be meeting for food first then found out that, that's not the case and went straight for cocktails, gin and tonics and the dance floor with empty stomach. On my way home, Mark and I went to the kebab shop and I had some greasy chips and greasy kebab meats with garlic sauce. Lovely at the time of intoxication, but this morning, not so good...

Anyway, as I shouted to my friends all night, "I am fine!", let's get to business. This apple cake recipe is inspired by a recipe from a wonderful blogger friend, Dom at Belleau Kitchen. His recipe for Gunby Orchard Apple Cake looks utterly delicious (today is Dom's birthday, so Happy Birthday Dom! Have a fantastic day filled with food and drinks!!). I'd love to try the exact recipe but since I am bringing this cake to work, I am required to adjust some of the ingredients and also the apples give to me from my friend Janet are of different kinds. I used gluten-free flour so that my friend Michelle is able to enjoy the cake. I omitted the sultanas because my boss hates them, and I always want to be on the good side. And I added apricot glaze to the cake for smooth, shiny look.

I still have more apples and if you have apple recipes you think I should try, please send me the link. Thank you... and enjoy your weekend!!

Apple Cake
Inspired by Gunby Orchard Apple Cake TM

For the cake:
100 grams light brown sugar
100 grams caster sugar
200 grams butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 eggs
300 grams all-purpose flour (I used gluten-free flour)
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons milk
450 grams apples, peeled, cored and finely diced

For the topping:
3 - 4 apples, peeled, cored and finely sliced
2 tablespoons caster sugar
25 grams butter, cut into small dice
3 tablespoons apricot jam

Start by creaming the softened butter and the sugars with free-standing or hand-held mixer, until light and fluffy.

In a bowl, measure and sieve the flour, baking powder and ground cinnamon. Add the first egg to the butter, mix well. Then add half of the flour and mix again. Add the other egg and the rest of the flour. Add the milk to thin the batter slightly. Fold in the finely diced apples.

Pour into a greased and lined cake tin. Like Dom, I used a nine inch square tin. Top the batter with finely sliced apples in any patterns you like. Sprinkle with sugar and dot with the butter. Bake in a preheated 180C oven for 45 minutes. Stay in the kitchen and enjoy the lovely aroma of baking apples and cinnamon.

When the cake is done, heat the apricot jam and brush the apple topping completely with the jam. Allow to cool and serve slightly warm or at room temperature.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Damp Apple and Almond Cake

So, the internet is working again! Hooray, hooray!! Well, at least for now. I promise I am changing to a different and hopefully better internet provider. *sigh. How I have missed reading your delicious posts and sharing my rants to all of you. Work has been pretty busy and it's not even the busiest time yet! Next week, it will be... yikes! But I like it when it's busy. Time just flies...

Last week my friend from work Janet harvested some apples from her garden and when she asked if I want some of the apples, of course I said yes. Don't be silly, why and when would I ever say no to food? I was only expecting few apples, but she gave me a bagful of them! Awesome!! The apples are tart like Granny Smith which I love. And in return, apparently, when life, or Janet to be precise, gives you apples, you bake cakes. Obviously I don't mind. There are actually several apple recipes I wanted to try and one of them is this damp apple and almond cake.  This is so easy to make because it's all done in a food processor, and just so lovely with a cup of tea in the afternoon. For this cake, ground almonds are used instead of flour which results in wonderfully delicate and moist cake. Sure, the puréed apples and the 8 eggs help too. I'll be making this often.

Damp Apple and Almond Cake
Recipe by Nigella Lawson

For the apple purée
3 tart eating apples, such as Braeburns
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons caster sugar

For the cake
almond oil/flavourless vegetable oil to grease tin
8 eggs
325 g ground almonds
275 g caster sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
50 g flaked almonds

To decorate
1 teaspoon icing sugar

Peel, core and chop the apples roughly. Put them in a saucepan with the lemon juice and sugar, and bring the pan to a bubble over a medium heat. Cover the pan and cook over a low heat for about 10 minutes or until you can mash the apple to a rough purée with a wooden spoon or fork. You should have about 285 g of purée  Leave to cool.

Preheat the oven to 180 C; oil a 25 cm springform tin with the oil and line the bottom with baking parchment. Put the cooled purée in the food processor with the eggs, ground almonds, caster sugar and lemon juice and blitz to a purée. Pour and scrape into the prepared tin, sprinkle the flaked almonds on top and bake for about 45 minutes. It's worth checking after 35 minutes, as ovens do vary, and you might find it's cooked earlier - or indeed you may need to give it few minutes longer.

Put on a wire rack to cool slightly, the spring open. This cake is best served slightly warm, though still good cold. Push a teaspoon of icing sugar through a fine sieve to give a light dusting. If you'd like, by all means, mix in a pinch or so of ground cinnamon with the icing sugar before you sieve it on the cake at the end.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Chocolate Cheesecake

The internet is not working again and I am not happy! I'm posting this from the office. Obviously not during working hours, just in case if people are checking. I hope you all had a great weekend. I told you on my previous post that I might bake on the weekend and I did: chocolate cheesecake. Yum! I didn't plan to bake cheesecake but this was a request from my dear friend Michelle. She wanted to learn to make cheesecake, so she came around on Sunday and helped with the baking and she did all the washing-up. She can definitely come again.

The only thing that we change to the recipe is instead of using digestive biscuits for the base, we use gluten-free chocolate chip cookies. Michelle is allergic to gluten. It'll be such a shame if she cannot taste the delicious cheesecake. And the gluten-free cookies work just fine.

Anyway, gotta go home now. I am tired and hungry. Unlike chocolate and cheesecake, these are not good combinations.

Have a great one!

Chocolate Cheesecake
Recipe By Nigella Lawson
For list of ingredients and instructions, click here.

Friday, 9 September 2011

Soba Noodles with Sesame Seeds

So, the rumours aren't true. I am not dead and I have not stopped eating (no way!). The truth is, my internet has not been working (how annoying!!) and it's been super busy at work. If you work in education, though you don't have to, you know how it feels at the beginning of a new academic year. Scary. But I actually rather enjoy the manic-ness. Time just flies when you're busy.

But even on the most tiring day, I try to eat well and eat right, I want foods that require minimum effort to make and most importantly, delicious. One of my favourites is this soba noodles with sesame seeds. Lovely on its own, but sometimes I like to have it with grilled salmon.  The original recipe calls for the noodles to be left with the sauce for thirty minutes to let the flavours develop. *sigh. I am afraid, that's just impossible!

Now, the internet is working again... I cannot wait to read what you've been up to and I look forward to a relaxing weekend at home... maybe I'll bake something.

Soba Noodles with Sesame Seeds
Recipe by Nigella Lawson
For list of ingredients and instructions, click here.

Monday, 29 August 2011

Lemon and Poppyseed Cheesecake

I think I just finished my dissertation! Yay! But I still have another essay to write, so I can't really kick back and relax yet. What I can do, however, is spare a little break with a cup of tea and a slice of this lemon and poppyseed cheesecake.  The cheesecake is made from ricotta cheese rather than cream cheese so the texture is different, lighter actually, but nonetheless scrumptious.

I also made delicious strawberry and rosewater syrup to drizzle on the cheesecake. I love rosewater. However, I completely forgot about it when I took the picture. By the time I remembered, the cheesecake was halfway gone. I could cut another slice, drizzle the sauce and take another picture but that means I must eat that slice. I really could but I know I shouldn't. It's not right to have another slice at this time. You know, I keep telling you that I have no self-control, but perhaps I don't give myself enough credit (I hope I don't speak too soon).

Lemon and Poppyseed Cheesecake
Recipe by Simon Rimmer
For list of ingredients and instructions, click here.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Jumbo Chilli Sauce

I find it very difficult to study at the library. Every body looks so serious and it's just too silent for my liking (Michael, it's a library not a night club, what do you expect... duh!). I like listening to music whilst studying. At home I can connect my ipod to the speakers and I put it on shuffle. Sometimes, when the song is good, I do my chair dance, you know, the one when you're sitting and just concentrating on upper body movements, neck, shoulder, hands. But in the moment of stress, I get up and do a proper dance. I can't really do that at the library. I tried, but my moves were not welcomed. Some said it's too raunchy. Just kidding. Maybe actually because it's horrible. I dance better after at least a couple of drinks.

But here's another problem: no food or drinks allowed at the library. This is one very strict rule and not just frowned upon I've been told. That's my biggest problem. I must have snacks... fruits, protein bars, cheesecake, jug of butter, etc. Today I thought I treat myself to this dangerously addictive jumbo chilli sauce. It's so easy, all done in a food processor. I have made this sauce several times before and though I can't handle spicy things, strangely, the dip seems to get hotter and hotter every time I make it and I cannot get enough of it! Great for dipping with tortilla crisps, but I must say it is delicious with cold chicken or prawns.

Dissertation is nearly done! Yay! Maybe I'll do a little dance now.

Jumbo Chilli Sauce
Recipe by Nigella Lawson

1 x 290 g jar roasted peppers (190 g drained weight)
3 red chillies
1 small garlic clove, peeled
zest of 1 lime, plus 1 tablespoon lime juice
80 g bunch fresh coriander (cilantro)
2 - 3 teaspoons sea salt flakes or to taste
125 ml ground nut oil or any flavourless oil

Drain the jar of roasted peppers and put them into the bowl of a food processor. Take the stalks off the chillies and add to the processor (de-seed them if you don't want the sauce really hot). Tip in the garlic clove, lime zest and juice. Cut the stalks of the coriander and add these too. Blend until paste-like.

Add the coriander leaves and salt and blend again. The gradually pour the oil down the funnel of the processor as the motor is running. It will come together as a sauce, runnier than salsa but is still soft and spoonable (rather than a pouring sauce).

Monday, 22 August 2011

I've been tagged... Seven Links

So, there's a game going around the blogging world called Seven Links. Basically there are seven questions that you must answer using your previous posts. My friend Elisabeth of Food and Thrift Finds tagged me, so here are my answers:

1. The most beautiful post

I must say, presentation is not a natural thing for me. I'm not very good with fancy plating or food origami and added to that my impatience and very amateur photography skill. But I do try from time to time and I just happen to really like the look of this Baked Cherry Chocolate Mousse with Vanilla Cream and Fresh Cherries that I baked for my friend Kelly for her farewell dinner. Runner Ups: French Fruit Tart, French Apple Tart, French Epiphany Pastry... Is it just me or you're also sensing a re-occurring theme here?

2. The most popular post

Thank you to the 'stats' thingy on blogger, I can check the most popular post on this blog and the title goes to these Sweet and Salty Crunchy Nut Bars. They are very addictive, so be very careful. Second in this category is the Fully Loaded Potato Skins. These potatoes are topped with crispy bacon. Enough said I think. Followed by Middle-Eastern inspired Sticky Semolina Cake. Also, very delicious.

3. The most controversial post

I must say this is a difficult one. I never posted anything controversial. Should I? Instead I'm going to tell you a controversial story about myself... errrr.... but I don't have one either *sigh... Perhaps a not so recent non-accidental, much needed public exposure at a well-known... wait, nobody wants to read about that... Next!

4. The most helpful post

Few months ago, on Red Nose Day, to raise money for a very good cause, my friends and I hosted a bake sale at work and this Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake was on offer and they were very popular. To this day, people at work still talk about it. I think it's actually a not-so-subtle-hint for me to bake this again and bring them to the office. Also on offer that day: Chocolate Guinness Cake and Clementine Cake.

5. Post that's surprisingly successful

Chocolate Beetroot Cake. Sounds weird but seriously, you have got to try it. Strangely, you won't really taste the beetroot, but they just blend beautifully with the cocoa and they keep the cake wonderfully moist.

6. Post that did not get attention it deserved

I absolutely love this Pear Tarte Tatin & Apple Ice Cream and I know you will too.

7. Post you are most proud of

This overnight slow-roasted pork is the last recipe from my "cook with Jamie" project almost a year ago. I really wanted to become a better cook and so I cooked my way through Jamie Oliver's My Guide to Making You a Better Cook - cookbook. I had a great time cooking, baking and tasting all 164 dishes in that book. I learned how to make fresh pasta, prepare live lobsters and crabs, oh, it was such fun looking back now. On the last day of the project, I invited some friends over for dinner and this pork was the star of the evening. It was so meltingly tender after about 8 hours of cooking and the crackling, oh the crackling... utterly delicious! Served with some greens, borlotti beans and few bottles of rose :)

I am actually rather surprised that some of the most searched posts in this blog are mainly desserts/baking posts. How interesting. Thank you again Elisabeth for the tag. I had fun compiling the answers. Now, as part of the game, I must tag 5 other bloggers, they are:

Angela at The Good Soup
Jenn at Jenn's Food Journey
Joanie at The Artist Chef
Maya at Foodiva's Kitchen
Pierre at Little Hungry Heart

I won't be offended if you decided not to play, but I'll probably like you less. Just kidding.