Sunday, September 24, 2006

A birthday cake for P & R and R's wife

Nigella's Rococoa Cake

(Warning this cake needs over-night refrigeration prior to topping with chocolate glaze!)

I made this cake for P's birthday he shares with his brother R and while she doesn't share the same birthday, it was also for R's wife T.

In our family because there are so many birthdays we have to get together at a convenient time and share a few. P & R are twins so of course that means 2 with one blow and T's was around the same time. I made the cake for P to take to a lunch at his sister's place one Sunday and I couldn't go to it. Being the start of 3 weeks of hell at work at the time, I stayed home without interruption and wrote some submissions.

I have been wanting to make this cake for years when I first saw it in Feasts but a few things were stopping me, like sourcing the decorations and the three pages of instructions were quite intimidating. However for me, nothing could have been further from the truth in terms of actually making and assembling this cake it all came together beautifully, even though I didn't quite get the decorations right.

I actually needed gold cachous and did find them, but was dissuaded from buying them after I discovered a very small packet cost just under $10. I also needed to have nibbed pistachios. I ended buying shelled pistachios and tried my best to display their verdant insides to the world as best I could.

I now have the right colour cachous (my trip to Melbourne) but I still don't have the right pistachios oh well... means I have to make this cake again.

The cake itself was a very easily made chocolate sponge then it became a rum tiramisu topped with a luscious chocolate glaze. I have found that Nigella's chocolate cakes so far have all proved very easy to make and this one was similar to the Chocolate Malteser Cake in the same book.

For the cake:
50g plain flour
50g cornflour
40g cocoa
4 eggs separated
150g caster sugar
pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 180 C. Butter and line the bottom of a 23 cm springform tin. Sift together the flour and cornflour, and add the cocoa, pushing it through the sieve. Whisk the separated egg yolks with half of the sugar - until the mixture becomes pale and moussy.

In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites with a pinch of salt until firm, then whisk in the remaining sugar, one spoonful at a time, until you have gleaming white peaks. Gently fold in the yolk mixture into the whites, and then add the flour, cornflour and cocoa, folding gently again until combined. Pour this moussy liquid into the tin and bake for 30 mins. The cake will be almost silicon-springy on top. Unclip the tin and let the cake cool on a rack, right side up.

For the Rum-Espresso syrup
100 g castor sugar
60ml water
125ml strong coffee (or 125ml hot water and 2 teasp instant coffee powder)
60ml rum (I used less about half as much alcohol)

Bring the sugar and water to a boil in a small saucepan and let it bubble for just under a minute before taking the pan off the heat and adding the coffee and the rum. Stir- just with a fork - pour the hot syrup into a bowl and let it cool.

For the filling:
3 egg yolks
70g castor sugar
80ml dark rum
250g mascarpone cheese
250ml double cream

Put the yolks, sugar and rum into bowl that will fit over a saucepan of barely simmering water. Whisk (hand beater) until the mixture has thickened airily and the lift the bowl off the pan and let it sit on a cold surface while you whisk for another few minutes to help it cool down. Don't worry too much about whether it is thick enough, the marscapone and cream will give it the extra body to fill the cake later.

Make sure this mixture is quite cool before mixing through the marscapone. Softly whip the cream in a separate bowl and beat or fold that into the filling as well.

To assemble:

Cut the cake into 3 layers - thin slices. Brush a 23 cm springform tin with some of the syrup and then layer a third of the cake, laid horizontally, to line the bottom of the tin. Brush with syrup to dampen the cake and seal the joins.

Spread the layer of cake with half of the zabaglione using a rubber spatula and a light hand to coat evenly, and then add another layer of cake slices to cover. Dribble again or brush with the syrup until the cake is damp as before, and then spread over the final half of the filling.

Cover with the final third of the cake slices and drip, pour or brush over the syrup to give the cake a smoothish layer, which can be iced later; if the cake is damp, there's no need to drench it.

Put the cake covered with clingfilm, in the fridge overnight to set. You can ice the cake and return it to the fridge (although it will make the glaze dulish)

100g caster sugar
60ml or 4 tablespoons golden syrup
60ml dark rum
1 teaspoon instant coffee
150g best quality dark chocolate, chopped very small.

Put the sugar, syrup, rum and espresso powder into a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Turn off the heat and add the chopped chocolate, swirling it around so that the chocolate melts in the hot liquid. Leave for a few minutes and then whisk everything together in the pan (just using a little hand whisk) to make a smooth shiny glaze. Moving quickly, run a small spatula or thin knife blade around the inside of your cake tin. Spring open the tin, taking care with the sides as the cake will damp and delicate. Sit the cake on a plate or stand (don't move it from the tin's base - it will deconstruct!) and pour over the icing, letting it dribble here and there. You may need to ease it over the top of the cake while it is still malleable. The glaze will set quite quickly, as the cake will be quite cold and the finish will be ruined if you try and spread the icing too long after your initial pouring.

Scatter with gold sprinkles, nibbed or chopped pistachios.

Well the effort for me was in repeating that recipe here ( I have just found the energy to re-edit all the spelling mistakes out) because given it was made over two days I didn't find it too onerous. It was also a huge hit, so well worth the effort.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Rain, Sunday, shopping and scones

Scones, jam & cream and some gabi fingers on the side

Apart from all the posting I have been doing today I also decided to go shopping. I went to my fav delis on Deshon Street East Brisbane, and picked up things like half a huge wedge of brie, some Italian Grana Padano, our chillie sauces which eggs for brekky are boring without, some pastizzis (pea and anchovy plus some apple ones), pappadums and parathas and because I needed some coriander for the curries tonight, I had to spend $10 to use my credit card and bought "The Grange" Boysenberry jam.

Once home, due to my searching of food blogs this morning, I couldn't quite forget Vicious Anges' use of a Bill Granger recipe for scones. Being a Bill Granger fan I would have to say his recipes are never fail I had to give them a go. Considering two other things I had made this weekend were a flop, I needed one sure fire hit. I messed up some apricot slice, I burnt every single apricot piece but not the biscuit strangely enough. And the ice-cream slice, well the slice wasn't as cold as it should have been when I sandwiched the icecream which meant I lost a lot of great icecream due to melting from the heat.

I am happy to say these scones redeemed me:

Preheat oven to 220c

11/2 cups of plain flour
1 tablespoon icing sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
250mls milk
30g melted butter

Makes about 8-10.

Sift the dry ingredients and add the other two slightly mix together, ditch the spoon and use your hands and bring dough together. Once together move to floured surface and knead gently. Roll out to about 3cm deep and using a 5cm round object like a glass cut out circles in the dough and move to a tray which you have either greased or being slack like me put some baking paper on.

Push the bits of dough back together roll out again and cut scones - do this again till dough is finished.

Put in the oven for about 20 mins, or 15 if your stupid oven is as hot as mine.

I served mine with lashings of whipped cream, said jam purchased above and for a touch of the traditional some fresh strawberries. Elliot couldn't wait to get his mouth on them. I made some tea with real leaves and poured tea for all of us and served it in the K&K "good room". It was sweet!

Eager for some scones

Girl Overboard

Pizza Fritta (Fried pizza)

Okay I don't post for months, there are some who have wiped me completely I don't blame them.

But hey I am actually doing this for me so if per chance someone wanders by then, well I hope they find something new that appeals.

I made these fried pizzas one night for a dinner we served to P's cousin and her husband. The full meal involved some gorgeous lamb shanks and couscous, I think the lamb shanks had some mediterraneon flavours, harrissa and preserved lemons and prunes etc. Deeeevine. Oh and a Torte Della Nona (recipe in another 4 months - Ha Ha Ha - oops I may not be joking!)

I didn't want to do starters and an entree as such so I opted for some fried pizzas which Jamie Oliver's Italy cookbook inspired.

I have been making my own pizza dough for some time now. The recipe is via this blog

Pizza Dough , courtesy of The River Cottage Family Cookbook.

500g bread flour
2 tsp salt
1 sachet dry yeast (fast-action)
2 Tbsp olive oil + more for greasing the bowl
2 tsp honey or sugar300 ml (approx) of warm water

Put a small pan of water in the oven. Turn the oven to about 150 c. for about 15 mins then switch the oven off. (All will be revealed this will save lots of time in the long run)

Mix the flour, yeast and salt into a big mixing bowl. Mix olive oil and sugar/honey into a mixing jug and top up with warm water to just over 300 ml. Stir well to dissolve the sugar/honey.

Make a well in the centre of the flour and slowly pour in the oily water. Mix and then knead until soft and elastic.

Wash out the mixing bowl and brush with olive oil. Place the dough inside the bowl and cover with alfoil. Put the dough in the oven (which has been switched off). Leave in this nice humid environment for about 20 - 30 mins and check - remove when the dough has doubled in size.

Tip the dough onto a floured surface and knead for about 5 mins.

Turn your grill on really high.

I decided to make the pizzas rustic like jamie so I divided the pizza dough into about 6 balls and rolled and stretched it out - no perfect circles thanks.

Heat up some olive oil in a heavy fry pan, my Le Crueset frypan was perfect for this. Place the pizza dough in the pan and cook on high about 30 seconds on each side.

Remove from pan and place on a tray - then keep it simple with the toppings.

I nearly always use passata for the base (too lazy to make a sauce) and mainly boccincini for the cheese. Then use some fresh basil, sometimes pepperoni, anchovies and sometimes some spinach, prawns and pesto.

When topped move tray under the grill and cook under cheese is bubbling.

My experiences with home-made pizza: the fried pizzas are great for serving to guests as a starter where you prep before guests arrive as the pizzas can be grilled quite quickly and served.

I have found that nothing works better for a nice crisp base then an electric pizza oven, I hope Santa brings me one for Christmas. I got to try my father-in-laws recently. The pizza cooks quite quickly about 5mins but you do have to be on top of it all as the dough has to be rolled out and put on the pizza oven then topped.

So the family are eating while your working but it is worth the crisp base, which I just cannot get in the traditional oven.

Chocolate Malteser Cake

Chocolate Milo cake

I made this cake for work some time ago. It is from Feast and is Nigella's Chocolate Malteser cake. I decided not to use Horlicks and used Milo instead, and thought it turned out pretty well anyway.

Here it is with my message made by melting chocolate in a little zip lock bag and snipping off the edge and writing on some grease proof paper:

I would have to say that this is one of the easiests cakes I have ever made and they looked pretty perfect when they came out. The kiddies loved this cake when I made it the second time with just the maltesers so it will no doubt become a standard.

Here goes:

150g soft light brown sugar
100 g caster sugar
3 eggs
175ml milk
15g butter
2 tablespoons Milo (or Horlicks)
175g plain flour
25g cocoa, sieved
1 teasp baking powder
1/2 teasp bicarb soda

Sweet stuff for the middle and the top:
25o g icing sugar
1 teasp cocoa
45g Milo
125g soft unsalted butter
2 tbsp boiling water
80 g Maltesers

Preheat ovn to 170c. Butter and lline two 20cm loose bottomed sandwich tins ( i didn't use loose bottomed pans and I thought it turned out well)

Weight out dry ingredients. Heat the milk, butter and milo in a saucepan until the butter melts, and it hot but not boiling. Whisk together the sugars and eggs till light and frothy, beat in the hot Milo mixture and then fold in the flour, cocoa, baking powder and bicarb of soda. Divide the cake batter evenly between the two tins and bake in the oven for 25 mins, by which timethe cakes should have risen and will spring back when pressed gently. Let them cool on a rack for about 5-10 mins then turn out of their tins.

In a food processor, add the icing sugar, cocoa and milo, blitz then add the boiling water until you have a smooth buttercream. Sandwich the cold sponges with half the buttercream, then ice the top with what is left, creating a swirly to rather than a smooth surface. Stud the outside with maltesers.

Goose fat potatoes

Nigella's perfect potatoes

1 jar of goose fat
About 1 kilo of medium potatoes
2 tbls semolina

I found the goose fat in a deli only $14 a jar! Peel the potatoes and cut each one into three by cutting off each end at a slant so you are left with a triangle in the middle.
Put the potatoes into salted cold water in a saucepan and bring to a boil - cook for 4 mins. Drain the potatoes in a colander and then tip back into the saucepan, sprinkling with the semolina and some salt. Shake the potatoes around to coat them well and, with the lid clamped on, given the tin a good shake so their edges are fuzzy.

Empty the goose fat into a large roasting tin and heat in the oven until very hot. Then tip the semolina potatoes carefully into the hot fat and roast in the oven for an hour or so until they are darkly golden and crispy, turning them over about halfway through.

Nigella says you can drain off the oil and let them sit in the pan in the oven till the last minute.

My very first roast beef and yorkshire pudding

This winter I finally got to make a roast beef. Some good friends left to go live in Tassie so to appropriately farewell them, I decided to do the most classic of all roasts. I bought an expensive rib on the bone. I almost didn't post about it, mainly because the roast is overdone - I really wanted medium rare, but it was well-done.

Nevermind it was pretty fantastic, expensive meat means you never really make a mistake.

I have to say that this roast took alot of planning due to the timing of the various ingredients. One smallish oven though means alot of juggling. The beef approximately 60 mins on high, yorkhire puddings 20 mins on high, the roast potatoes 88 mins on high (44 mins per kilo), green beans and an red onion gravy (made earlier) all from Nigella of course.

Given the state of the meat, I think it is really only worth giving the recipe for the yorkshire puddings and the roast potatoes.

Yorkshire pudding (from Feast)

324 ml semi skimmed milk ( i used full cream I don't think it made a difference)
4 eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
250g plain flour
12 x 1/4 teaspoons beef dripping or vege shortening. (I found the dripping about $1 so why not!)

Whisk the milk, eggs and salt well and let stand for 15 min, then whisk in the flour and let stand till you need it.

Cook at the highest temperature. Put a muffin tin in the oven to heat up a good 10-15 mins, with a 1/4 teasp of drippin in each compartment.

When the pan and the fat is hot, pour in the pudding batter for 15-20mins or until they have puffed up gloriously so Nigella says.

Lea's 40th birthday lunch

It is not the spring morning I thought it would be when I planned yesterday to make some brunch and head with P and the kiddies to our nearest park. The plan was, to lay down with the Sunday paper and watch the kiddies scamper around the playground.

Instead the strangely grey day has prompted me to spend some time on my much neglected posting while I have a nice butter chicken curry simmering gently on the stove - an Elliot special request for dinner this evening. I have felt quite guilty as word keeps getting back to me that more and more people at work now read this food blog.

I keep telling them I am still cooking and baking just not getting this far and choosing pictures, posting and writing. When was the best time for me to be doing this, the past four weeks while we have been in caretaker mode at work. Doesn't mean we don't have things to do, just means we don't have as many things to do at once!

This collage is of a lunch I had about two weeks ago at my place. I was on holidays after having returned from Melbourne and the Sunshine Coast and had the energy to spend my weekend cleaning and planning and cooking.

The entire lunch was as follows: Antipasto brought by one of my lovely sister-in-laws. It makes life so much easier when your feeding 12 adults and 5 kiddies (we were missing 4 kiddies who spent the day doing something else). My brother-in-law brought some sausages and we did a sausage sizzle for the kiddies. These lunches are for the kids to play and the adults to indulge in gourmet delights. Because once all those kiddies are together they focus on playing and the birthday cake.

The kids are welcome to the adult food but really they are way too busy and don't bother us at all. If your worried about their eating, don't. These family functions are not to force vegies into them that's what discrete family dinners are about away from the glare of the public. They often enjoy the Antipasto anyway so never go hungry on the day.

I wanted to make it super easy - so I bought a huge butterflied leg of lamb (about 2.3kg) the day before, and in my pestle and mortar bashed up lots of garlic, sea salt, pepper and rosemary and olive oil and rubbed it all over the lamb. It stayed in its marinade overnight. Then the next morning I removed it from the fridge and brought it back to room temp, before P took it to be barbecued. It was great for a group because one its cooked you thinly slice and serve with salad and potatoes and in this case a gorgeous mint pesto. Sorry no piccies of the lamb or the pesto, but I will write down the recipe for the pesto because I will definately be doing that one again.

The potatoes for this lunch were my Greek potatoes that I have done many times previously. The thing about Greek potatoes is that while the potatoes are in your oven baking they send out waves of gorgeous carmelising onion and garlic, whetting the appetites of all those arriving.

I was feeling particularly springy and decided to make the asparagus and egg salad from this month's Delicious magazine. A true hit, that salad went in the blink of an eye! In addition there was a simple garden salad.

Finally I got to make Nigella's Winter Plum Cake - because one of the principal reasons for going to Melbourne was buying Billington's golden icing sugar something I have found difficult to source here.

In order to have something appealing for the kiddies for dessert I made the cup cakes as well.

Gabi and Winter Plum Cake

I was inspired by Niki making this cake some time ago, and waited till I could get the brown icing sugar for this cake before I made it.

Winter Plum Cake (How To Be A Domestic Goddess - Nigella Lawson)

575g tin of red plums - I can't find them so I used the approximately same amount from a 1 kilogram bottle of Goulbourn Valley red plums
125 grams self-raising flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
75 grams ground almonds
125 grams butter, softened
125 grams light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 scant teaspoon almond essence

20 cm Springform cake tin.

For the icing:160 grams unrefined icing sugar1-2 tablespoons hot water

Preheat oven to 170 c (mine is very hot so I had used about 150).

Line and grease the cake tin. I am so lazy when it comes to this part I have taken to spraying the sides with canola oil and it works just as well!

Drain the plums, remove the stones and broke them up in the process and leave in a sieve to drain.

Mix the flour, baking powder and ground almonds.

Cream the butter and sugar, then beat in the eggs one at a time, adding a tablespoon of the flour mixture after each one.

Beat in the almond essence ( I think the essence is optional) then fold in the rest of the flour mixture and the drained, chopped plums. Turn into the prepared tin and bake for about 1 - 1 1/4 hours ( I only went to 45 mins its this super hot oven of mine!).

Remove from oven, cool in its tin for about 10 minutes, then turn onto the rack.

When cool, ice with brown-sugar icing. Mix the sieved icing sugar with water till you have a caramel-coloured shiny paste. A word about this icing sugar, Nigella says that no other icing sugar works so I took her at her word and refused to make it prior and I think it was well worth the wait.

Pour over the top of the cake to cover thinly, and leave to drip down the sides - I couldn't resist using some gold cachous also purchased at the Essential Ingredient in Melbourne. I found some gold ones at a store here but they were so expensive I gave them a miss.

I also added some dried rose petals (dare I say also obtained in Melbourne at the Essential Ingredient). When I took this cake to work recently it had a distinctly Middle Eastern flavour due to the almonds and rose petals which worked quite well.

asparagus, egg & anchovy salad

Asparagus, egg and anchovy salad courtesy of Bill Granger in Delicious Magazine

Soft boil three eggs. Blanch two bunches of asparagus in some salted water for 2-3 minutes, then plunge into cold water.

Arrange asparagus and eggs on platter. Finely chop about 4-6 anchovey fillets and scatter over eggs and asparagus. Make dressing from 2 tbs olive oil, 1 tbs of lemon juice and 1 tsp Dijon mustard - whisk together, season to taste. Drizzle over assembled salad prior to serving. Finely chop chives and garnish salad.

Mint pesto

2 bunches of mint (it was such a hit I wish I would have doubled this)
parmesan cheese
canola or olive oil *

Unfortunately I don't measure my ingredients for pesto. I just grab my pestle and mortar and fill it with the mint leaves, grate about 1/4 cup of parmesan and 1 large clove of garlic.

With the toasted pine nuts, I guess I added about 3 tablespoons. Generously splashed some oil in and started bashing away. Sometimes I want a runny pesto with a finer grind sometimes I do not.

This pesto was fairly thick and coarse, my brother-in-law was bashing it while I oversaw it.

If I had have made it all myself I think would have thinned it a little more with some oil.

*(I don't necessarily think you always need to use olive oil for pestos. I am fairly fickle when I am making them I switch between canola and olive. I think if I want the herb flavour to be truly the principle one, I tend to use canola)

About Me

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Mother of two with one of each. Wife of one.Dogless. Busy working five days a week, baking and cooking when time allows. Writing rarely these days. Wishing I had time to read more often.