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.