Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Parsnip cake

A Moosewood recipe, originally entitled Anna's Country Spice Cake. I have metricated the (American) recipe and added my own topping - orange-cinnamon icing with caramelised walnuts. You could sub carrots for the parsnips.

It's possible to make this vegan by subbing the eggs with aquafaba.

Mix together 120ml (=100g) vegetable oil, 165g brown sugar, 2 eggs [6 tbsp aquafaba] and the zest of a large orange. When well combined, stir in 300g grated parsnip (equated to one large one, minus the toughest bit of core) and 120g chopped/crushed tinned pineapple (half a tin of chunks, drained then chopped roughly).

Sift together 225g self raising flour, extra 1tsp baking powder, a pinch of salt, and then cinnamon, ginger and cloves to taste (suggest 1.5tsp cinnamon, 1tsp ginger, 0.5tsp cloves). Stir into wet mix, then fold in dried fruit and nuts to your preference (cranberries work really well, also sultanas, and walnuts).

Bake in a 20cm square tin (greased & lined) for approx 1 hour at 160°C (fan) or until risen and springy.

To decorate: make up icing sugar to the desired consistency with orange juice, and add orange zest and cinnamon. This could be just a drizzle or enough for a full-on topping, as you like. Optionally, sprinkle with chopped walnuts, and for an extra touch use caramelised ones (55g sugar, 15g butter, melt and coat (chopped) nuts, then separate on a silicone mat before they solidify, or deliberately allow to set together then bash/chop into pieces of brittle).

I made this again for a bake sale and topped it with a pack of Violife 'cream cheese' blended with icing sugar and orange zest to taste. I caramelised some pecans using sunflower spread and caster sugar - they're a bit grainy but it works!

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Cowboy cookies (oat & choc chip)

A recipe from the Moosewood book of desserts, that shamefully I don't dip into that often because I bought it in the US and it's based on cups, which are inherently annoying and inaccurate for dry goods. There's also all of the subtle differences in types of flour and sugar, which can be significant for baking. This is one of the recipes that I have converted to weight - soft, slightly cakey cookies that take additions well, and have a vague air of healthiness with the oats. Depending what you add, they can be quite trail mix-ish.

Cowboy Cookies (the reason for the name is lost in the mists of time...)

Makes about 50 good-size cookies, so I often halve the quantities.

225g soft butter
100g caster sugar
85g brown sugar
2 large eggs
1tsp vanilla extract
280g plain flour
0.5tsp salt
0.5tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
280g porridge oats
360g (!) chocolate chips, chunks or other additions such as raisins, nuts or seeds.
Milk if needed

Cream butter and sugar, then add in eggs and vanilla and beat well. Combine flour, salt and raising agents, and mix in with butter/sugar/egg, then stir in oats. Makes a very stiff mixture so add milk to loosen if needed before folding in the chocolate or other ingredients.

Drop rough blobs of mixture onto a silicon mat or greased tray, with space to spread. Bake for 12 mins (160°C fan) until golden at the edges.

Monday, 5 March 2018

Cheese & mustard scones

Adapted from a Be-Ro recipe as I was trying to use up some buttermilk (bought for the cornmeal dumplings that go with Feijoada).

Rub 25g butter into 175g seasoned self-raising flour, and stir in 75g grated cheese (I used Emmental).
Mix a good tablespoon of wholegrain mustard into a "large egg" worth of buttermilk (I estimated this by eye, but conveniently it was more or less how much buttermilk I had left...), adding a little milk if needed to bring the mix together to a soft dough.

Roll into a thick round and cut into 8 wedges. Brush the tops with milk and sprinkle with parmesan or another cheese. Bake for 10-15 mins at 180°C until they are browning at the edges. Try not to scoff them all while they are warm and springy...

Sunday, 4 March 2018

More family dinners: leek & ham gratin, cod & chorizo stew

Thought I'd try something different: leek and ham gratin with rosti topping (Delicious mag). Was OK, but not brilliant.

1) I misread the instructions which say to chop the leeks in thirds. I just cut them into rings.
2) the additional surface area to the cut leeks then soaked up all the butter so there was nothing to make the white sauce with.
3) maybe my cloves were a bit strong, but the sauce was quite heavily garlicky!
4) the rosti topping was really dry - I was a bit stingy with the butter as I'd used more of it earlier.

I think I'd try it again but with a mash topping. The rosti were a faff that didn't turn out to be worth it.

Thought I'd try something else different: cod and chorizo stew (BBC Good Food). Ding - winner!

The only thing I did differently was to add a bit more paprika when cooking the onion & chorizo, and add a dollop of sun dried tomato paste. It all worked brilliantly. Would try it again, especially with a cheaper fish like basa. Family had potatoes and I had cous cous (not enough potatoes...) - both worked.

Monday, 1 January 2018

A tale of two cakes

I made my first ever Christmas cake in 2016 - it turned out really well but for some reason I never blogged it. I therefore made a different recipe in 2017, but only realised when a Facebook photo popped up with a caption specifying a recipe from Mary Berry. This year I did James Martin's, and next year I'll return to the fold of St Mary. These photos are from 2016.


The biggest difference is that this year's cake was undercooked, despite passing the skewer test and being cooked for a bit longer than specified. It's still tasty, but definitely squidgy in the middle, and despite covering for the last part of cooking I would say the top is a bit burnt. The recipe is also wetter overall: it has less fruit (over 25% less) and less flour, but the same amount of egg and alcohol plus the juice of a lemon and an orange.

Other errors were mine. I fed with brandy, which is just not as tasty (to me) as sherry or rum, and I made the icing wrong, omitting one egg white, so the icing is very crumbly. (However, a useful note - the egg whites make this a good partner to the Christmas shortbread recipe which needs yolks.)

I don't roll out marzipan for the whole cake at once, but match up a circle (drawn around the outside of the cake tin) and a couple of strips wrapped around the sides. The icing recipe given by Mary (3 whites, 675g icing sugar) is quite a lot for a 20cm cake, and personally I prefer a thinner layer of icing. However it keeps well and is good for piping on biscuits. I piped filligree stars on the top of the cake after lightly pressing a biscuit cutter into the icing to give a template.

Next year I also need to make multiple smaller cakes, as a 20cm one is too much for us really. I see that various blogs and recipe sites suggest using small baked bean tins, which is genius. Must remember that it would use more marzipan and icing, to do them all over, or much less, to just do the top.

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Taking (or giving) the biscuit

Biscuits are easy to make but also easy to jazz up into nice gifts. My favourites come from Holly Bell, on Recipes From A Normal Mum:

St Clement's Shortbread Stars - Super easy, and look very classy if you can manage to keep small hands away from the decorating. Of course, the splodges-and-sprinkles look is also great, especially for teacher and grandparent gifts...

Cut Out Vanilla Biscuits - the best for fiddly cutters.

Lemon Animal Biscuits - For playdough-style moulding rather than cutters.

I've previously done Nigella's Christmas Spice Cookies and they are good too.

Sunday, 17 December 2017

Ikea meatball sauce

...allegedly (recipe here)

This was too thick. It's basically a white sauce made with cream and stock instead of milk. Pretty tasty, but another time I would make the usual white sauce with milk and a stock cube. Could benefit from mushroom stock, finely chopped mushrooms and maybe capers or gherkins.