Cooking, Recipes

Ghoulish Bakes

I know I said this blog was about cook-books but hey it’s mine and I can change the rules, right?

Those of you following me on facebook will know that I have been trying to perfect my ‘Halloween Graveyard Cake’ before next weekend and some of you have requested the recipe so here goes…………

I found the idea for the cake in an old edition of BBC Good Food Magazine – the sponge is very easy and I decorated it with butter icing rather than chocolate.

If you’re doing the headstones – make sure you allow the chocolate to set fully before adding the writing (trust me I know what I’m talking about!!)

First Attempt
Take 2

Graveyard Cake

 

Oven:

180C/Gas 4

 What you need:

  • 375g soft brown sugar
  • 200g self-raising flour
  • 85g cocoa powder
  • 200ml milk
  • 175 mlsunflower oil
  • 4 eggs
  • Butter Icing:
    • 225g/ 9oz icing sugar
    • 175g/6oz  butter
    • 50g /2ozcocoa
    • Splash of milk/rum
  • ‘Headstones’
    • Rich tea finger biscuits
    • 50ml/2 fl oz. cream
    • 50g/2 oz. dark chocolate, finely chopped

What you do:

  • Mix the dry ingredients – the sugar, flour and cocoa in a large bowl (make sure to break up any lumps in the sugar!)
  • In a measuring jug mix together the milk and oil and lightly whisk in the eggs, then add to the dry ingredients and mix to a smooth batter.
  • Pour cake mix into a lined cake tin (20*20*5 cm).
  • Bake in preheated oven for 40 mins until firm to touch.
  • Allow to cool in tin for 10 mins before turning out.
  • To make the butter cream – whizz icing sugar, butter and cocoa inn the food processor and add a splash of milk to ‘loosen’. (If you’re making it for an adult party add rum or brandy instead of the milk!)
  • For the ‘headstones’, pour the cream in to a small saucepan and bring to just ‘below the boil’. Pour over the chocolate and stir until the chocolate melts. Use a pastry brush to paint the chocolate onto the rich tea biscuits and leave to cool.
  • Decorate the cake with butter icing, ‘headstones’ and lots of imagination!
My next challenge is to try the meringue ghosts to attach to the headstones!
I hope my nieces and nephew like it next weekend – It will be interesting to see how they choose to decorate the cake!
Happy Halloween!
PS for anyone who worked in Louise’s this is a simpler method of the famous ‘oil cake’ – you don’t have to separate the eggs!
Chef, Cookbooks, Cooking, Food, Recipes

Flash Food – Laura Santtini

There was great excitement in Hey Pesto! this week when thanks to  Irish Food Bloggers Association I receieved a review copy of Laura Santtini ‘s new book Flash Cooking  from Quadrille Publishing.

This book is about ‘fast, healthful, easy-to-prepare, nutritious, flavour-packed meals, that look great, taste extraordinary and promote well- being’ ; in fact I would almost describe it as a lifestyle book rather than a cook book!

I loved the introduction and the definition of the concepts involved , for example ‘Flash Cooking (3) – show one’s culinary genius in public’!

What appealed to me most were the flavour tables for seasonings, glazes, rubinades, pastes, finishing bits, dressings etc. – they’ve opened up a whole new world of experimentation for my kitchen. And I’m delighted to say that, with a few exceptions, they’re all store cupboard ingredients.

Laura’s alchemist’s approach was definitely a ‘hook’ for me (once an engineer…) but don’t let this put you off !   The recipes are straightforward and easy to follow and most importantly, in the case of the ones I tried – they work!  Oh and the taste sensations – WOW!

The photography is stunning – my favourites are the antique cutlery shots. But I have to mention my pet peeve – there isn’t a picture of every dish 😦

My verdict – this book is NOT leaving my kitchen and I foresee lots more flavour experimentation in my future! 🙂

My advice – put it on your Christmas list! *****

There are so many recipes I want to try, including:

  • Tea-steamed Sea Bass with Vanilla Star Anise Olive Oil
  • Duck Breasts with Black Magic Elixir
  • The Dog’s Bolognese
  • Curried Sweet Potato and Ginger Soup

but this one caught my eye straightaway:

Flash Glazed Cauliflower Cheese Steaks

What you need:

  • 1 large cauliflower
  • 1 tbsp harissa paste
  • 1 tbsp olive oil (plus extra for frying)
  • Sea salt & black pepper
  • 75g Feta Cheese
  • Pomegranate Vinaigrette to serve

What you do:

  • Preheat oven to 180 C/160 C Fan/ Gas 4
  • Cut 2 thick slices of cauliflower from the centre, from top down through to the stalk, to give two ‘flower steaks’
  • Mix the harissa paste with the olive oil and brush over the ‘steaks’ on both sides
Brush the steak with the harissa paste & oil mix
  • Heat some oil in frying pan and add the steaks – fry until golden on both sides
Fry until golden
  • Then brush the steaks with any remaining glaze and  transfer to the preheated oven. Bake for 10 minutes.
  • Crumble feta cheese over the steaks and return to the oven until cheese becomes golden and starts to melt.

Laura suggests serving this with the Pomegranate vinaigrette and being delighted to find a use for the bottle in my cupboard I was happy to oblige!

  • To make the vinaigrette
  • mix 1 tsp of pomegranate molasses, pinch of freshly ground cumin, juice of half a lemon and lots of fresh mint.

When I tasted the vinaigrette on its own I found it rather sweet but this excess sweetness disappeared once it was mixed with the cauliflower steak and the feta.

The flavour combinations made my mouth zing!

Spot the difference!

This great recipe has already earned its place in my book of favourites! Thanks Laura!

I think the Lemon Halloumi recipe will be the next one to try……………

PS

  1. Delighted to see The Tasty Tart  mentioned in the credits – well done Tara!  
  2. Thanks to Mark from Quadrille Publishing for sending me the book!
Chef, Cookbooks, Cooking, Recipes, Uncategorized

Apples, apples everywhere………….

Okay so I finally started a blog and decided on a theme – now my dilemma was which cookbook  got to open the show!

Thanks for all your suggestions and I will get round to them all I promise – even to Hugh (eventually….) !

The problem was solved by the amount of apples in my kitchen demanding to be used (thank you to all my wonderful neighbours). I decided to stew and freeze some of them and then remembered a recipe for a ‘sauce’ cake. Cue  Sophie Grigson’s Country Kitchen

This book was a Christmas present from my sister after my time in Ballymaloe Cookery School  and her inscription  ‘to the petite chef with the big ideas’ still makes me smile!  The splashed pages and the handwritten notes will convince you that this is one of the workers in my collection – I love the Rhubarb & Honey Compote, and her sweet & sour red cabbage is a Christmas must.

In the introduction the book is described as  ‘a record of a year’s cooking in a country kitchen – but with a modern twist’ . This is borne out in recipes such as ‘pot-roast pork with star anise, ginger. tamarind and port’ or ‘cauliflower with sundried tomatoes, garlic and capers’ .

The book is laid out by season with beautiful photographs and informative notes on ingredients. The recipes are well laid out and easy to follow and most importantly they work! My biggest peeve is that it doesn’t have a photograph for every dish – I like to know what I’m aspiring to!

My favourite and most used from this book is Sophie’s recipe for ‘Gooseberry Sauce Cake’ – simple and quick and adaptable for most fruits. I’ve tried it with gooseberries, rhubarb, plums and most recently with apples and the result is a lovely moist cake everytime!

So if like me you’re overrun with apples you should give this a try:

Apple Sauce Cake

What you need:

  • 10oz/280g self raising flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 40z/110g caster sugar
  • 40z/110g demerara sugar
  • 4oz/110g butter, melted
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 pt/300ml stewed apples

All set!

the original recipe includes 1/2 tsp salt which I omitted as I use salted butter
What you do:
  • Firstly stew your fruit – I used a mix of sweet and cooking apples as I like the difference in texture. Peel, core and chop the fruit. Then stew with a little water over a low heat for 20-30 mins. I didn’t use any particular quantities as I froze the rest of the fruit in 1/2 pint portions for future cakes!
  • When fruit is stewed to your liking measure out 1/2 pt for your cake (btw apologies for any confusion and if I appear old fashioned but I tend to bake in imperial and cook in metric!)
  • Mix all your dry ingredients – flour, baking powder and sugars together
  • Fold in wet ingredientsFold in the lightly beaten eggs, melted butter and vanilla extract. Finally stir in the stewed apples.
  • Pour into prepared tinPour mixture into a lined 9″/23cm springform tin and sprinkle a little extra demerara sugar over the top.
  • Sophie’s instructions are to bake the cake at 180C/Gas 4 for 45 minutes. Having tried it on several occasions it takes 30-35 minutes in my oven at 170C Fan so I’d advise you to check it after 30 mins!
  • Allow the cake to cool in the tin for 10-15 mins before turning out. Then there’s nothing left to do but serve it with some lightly whipped cream!
The finished product!
***************
There are lots more recipes in this book that I’ve earmarked to try and as this is the first year my pear tree has produced any fruit next up is Sophie’s  fresh pear relish……….