Thursday, 9 December 2010

Lil' Lemon Poppyseed Cakes

munching 1
I have a whole heap of egg whites lying around at the moment. The freezer's full of them, the fridge has about 5 containers, each carefully labelled up with number of whites and the date. Despite loving meringue a lot, I had to find another use for them!! (As an aside, I did try macarons, but I'm going to make those a few more times as they're far from photogenic at the moment!). The reason for so many whites? The ice cream maker we were given as a wedding present! Loooooooove it. So awesome and much easier to use than I thought it would be. But this isn't about ice cream - I'll save that for another day (when I've mastered the art of taking photos fast enough that the ice cream is still frozen and not a strange looking puddle). This is about little lemony wonders that are light and a little springy but still moist and cakey. Really yum, in short! And, most importantly, use egg whites.

The original recipe puts the mix into a large ring mould. But I'd just purchased the cutest of mini moulds so decided to test out how well it worked in miniature. Plus everyone knows that cake tastes better when it's dainty. Actually, that's a lie - I'm a firm believer in HUGE slices of cream cheese-laden carrot cake, but it's nice to pretend I'm lady like once in a while!
I would bet this cake mix would work well in almost any cake tin - just adjust the baking times accordingly. I'd also think this would work with oranges or limes too, so there's plenty of flexibility to experiment as you wish. Just whatever you do don't forget the glaze and icing - super easy but it transforms these little bites from a perfectly nice cake to a moist, flavourful treat with just the right citrussy punch.
iced 2

Enjoy! Rosy x

Lemon Poppy Seed Cake

55g unsalted butter, room temp
190g caster sugar
grated zest 1 lemon
10g poppy seeds plus extra to decorate
110ml whole milk
160g plain flour
1 1/3 tsp baking powder
pinch salt
2 egg whites

Lemon Syrup
juice and zest of 1 lemon
50g caster sugar

Lemon Glaze
juice of 1 lemon
250g icing sugar, sifted

Preheat oven to 170C/325F. Prepare your chosen tin - I just lightly greased my silicon moulds but regular tins should be greased and dusted with flour. The original recipe calls for a ring mould which looks so pretty in their pics!

Put the butter, sugar, lemon zest and poppy seeds in a stand mixer and beat until well incorporated. Slowly add the milk and beat well - it might look a little split but not to worry, it'll turn out fine.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Add to the butter mixture in about 3 batches and give a quick beat to make sure it's all incorporated and nice and fluffy.

Whisk the egg whites to stiff peaks. Fold (using a metal spoon or rubber spatula, NOT a wooden spoon) into the cake mixture. Fold carefully until just mixed - you don't want to loose too much air.

Spoon into the tin(s) and smooth. Bake until the sponge bounces back when lightly pressed. Little cakes, about 15-18mins. The ring mould apparently takes 30mins.

Lemon Syrup
While the cake is baking, pop the lemon juice, zest, sugar and 100ml water in a small saucepan. Bring to the boil over a low heat. Raise the heat and reduce by half, until a thin syrup consistency is achieved. When the cakes are out of the oven and still hot, pour over the tops. I poked a few holes in the cakes with a skewer to help the absorption along a bit. Leave to cool slightly before turning out onto a rack to cool completely.

Lemon Glaze
Mix the lemon juice and icing sugar in a small bowl until smooth. It should be thick but pourable - add a little water if it's too thick or a little sugar if too thin until the correct consistency is achieved. When the cake is cool, place on the serving plate and pour the glaze over, allowing to run down the side. Finish with a light sprinkling of poppy seeds.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Spiced Butternut Squash Soup

richmond view 3
Ah, it's definitely autumn now - wet, windy and freakin' freezing! But when the lighting is right and the weather hits that perfect mix of chilly and fresh, crisp and clear, I realise just how much I love autumn. I mean, who in the food world doesn't?! The incredible produce all around and the replacement of green salads with rich stews, burnished fruit pies and comforting soups. 
butternut squash soup 1
Now, I'm not a soup person. Not at all. After a rather unfortunate incident about 5 years ago which meant I had to live off nothing but soup for 2 weeks (tip of the day - cycling with a pen in your mouth is a bad idea) I find it hard to get excited about it. With one or two exceptions, I just don't do soup. The two exceptions? Jerusalem artichoke soup and this soup. Jerusalem artichokes aren't in season yet but when they are, I'll share as it's a winner. This one epitomises autumn in a bowl. Just heaven. And, by total coincidence, it's super healthy! Yum...

Rosy xx
butternut squash soup 2
Spiced Butternut Squash Soup

2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp sage leaves, finely chopped
1 tsp thyme leaves, finely chopped
2 bay leaves
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 medium butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and diced
2 carrots, chopped
1 large leek, sliced
1 large potato, peeled and cubed
1 onion, peeled and chopped
2 celery sticks, diced
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp chilli powder
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp garam masala
2 pints vegetable or chicken stock
Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 200C/400F. Toss the butternut squash in 1 tbsp of the olive oil. Season with a little salt and pepper and roast in the oven for about 25 minutes until soft and caramelised around the edges (that's where all the flavour is).

While the squash is roasting, heat the remaining tbsp oil in a large heavy based saucepan. Fry the onions, leeks, carrots, celery and potatoes for about 5 minutes until the onions are soft and translucent. Add the garlic and fry for about a minute, being careful not to let it burn. Add the herbs and spices and fry for another minute or so. Add the stock and the roasted squash and bring to the boil. Simmer for about 30 mins until all the vegetable are soft. Let cool a little and blitz with a handheld blender (or regular blender or food processor) until the desired level of chunkiness has been achieved. Can be served with a drizzle of cream, a little olive oil, a sprinkling of herbs or even some crumbled up bacon. Tastes even better when left for a day or so!

Oh, and of course, don't forget the bread...

buttered bread

Friday, 29 October 2010

Spiced Apple Cake

apple spice cake iced 1
Erm, yeah, so it's been a while since I did one of these post malarkies! Oops... Life kinda got in the way there. Speaking of which... We got married!
One of the professional wedding shots in Postmans Park
I can highly recommend it - we had the best day and were so lucky to have so many of our friends there to celebrate with us. We also moved! Here's a pic of the new 'hood.
View across Surrey from Richmond Park
Another view across Surrey from Richmond Park
Looks like we live in the country, right? Well... We cheated - we moved south of the river to a stunning part of London called Richmond. Just about the prettiest place within the M25. And it's still on the underground (so within the civilised world) but with parks and wildlife and stuff. Squirrels! And deer!
a squirrel in Richmond Park
Richmond Park Deer
And I baked! And you should bake too. Seriously, go to the nearest supermarket/farmer's market/member of your family's house with an obliging tree and get some apples - you really really want to bake this. It's made our flat smell like Christmas and I can't tell you how excited that's made me! Only 8 weeks to go...  Granted, there's a small amount of hassle with the apple puree making, but it's super easy and I could eat the stuff neat. Apart from that (and hey, you could just buy pre-made puree. I won't tell a soul, I promise) it's a breeze to make and is sooooo moist and tasty. Amazing with or without the icing but hey, I've never been one to turn down a perfectly good opportunity to slather a cake with cream cheese icing...

Rosy x
apple spice cake
Spiced Apple Cake
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

260g Plain Flour
1 1/2 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Bicarbonate of Soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp ground cloves
115g unsalted butter at room temp
218g light brown sugar (I didn't have any to hand so I used about 160g dark brown and topped up with caster sugar)
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
365g unsweetened apple sauce

Preheat oven to 350F/175C. Line a cupcake pan with liners or grease a 9" square pan*.

First, whisk together the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, salt and spices in a large mixing bowl. Then place the butter and sugar in a stand mixer and beat until paler in colour and fluffy, around 3 mins (or use a hand mixer or good old elbow grease).

Beat in eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition, then beat in the apple sauce and vanilla. On low speed, add the flour mix until just combined, careful not to overmix. Fill the cupcake liners about 2/3 full and bake for 15-18 mins, until springy to the touch and a cocktail stick comes out clean.

Cool completely before icing.

*You could probably use almost any shape of pan you fancy for this - I used a large canele mould as I've just bought one and couldn't resist, but this would work in a circular pan too. Or even a bundt pan - the recipe would probably need to be tripled for that.

Cream Cheese Icing
Adapted from The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook

300g icing sugar, sifted
50g unsalted butter at room temperature
125g cream cheese

In a stand mixer beat the butter and icing sugar together. Add the cream cheese and beat on high speed until light and fluffy. Chill thoroughly if you want to pipe it or just spread straight onto the cakes if you can't wait that long!

Monday, 28 June 2010

Some chewies and some changes

ginger chewies
So things are a-changing over here! In case you haven't been reading for very long, there's an impending wedding that's been keeping us busy. And it's now less than 2 months away! I can give it in days, but I shan't as that's just a stage of sad too far. But yes, it's super close and I'm SUPER excited!!

But you've gotta take the good with the, um, slightly less good! I don't want to go all out and say bad. Some of it's not bad at all, such as this is officially my last week at work. That's great!!! Freedom. But on the other side of that, there's the fact I currently don't have anything to go to. Scary... Intentional, yes, but still scary!! I kinda wanted to wait until some other pieces had fallen into place before talking about all the changes that are happening but then some pieces were just taking far too long to fall into place! One of those such pieces provides a bit more insight into why I'm taking some time off but I shall remain aloof about that for now!

And no, I'm not pregnant. I re-read that and realised that's what it sounded like! Nothing like that.

But some of it is bad. Really really sucky. Remember this? Well, it happened again. Words can't really describe how incredibly frustrating it is! We're doing ok on the emotional side of being burgled, but on the getting-our-lives-into-some-semblance-of-order side, we're struggling! Ooo, which reminds me, there are some workmen I have to phone...

So yes, I am yet again without camera. Or laptop. Joined with the fact I shall very soon not even have access to a work computer, that puts a bit of a roadblock in the way of the ol' blogging schedule. But when normality is restored, you shall be the first to know! In the meantime, a trawl through my flikr photostream revealed a picture of some cookies I baked up an age of makind ago and just never got around to telling you about them. They're great. Make them - they'll warm your soul when you're unemployed, broke, burgled and blue*.

Rosy xx

*Disclaimer - I'm not really that blue... Whilst 3 out of the 4 are true, again, re-reading this sounds like I'm about to leap out of a window. I'm not - I'm just obviously a little prone to exageration this afternoon!

Ginger Chewies
Adapted from Joy the Baker. I love her a little bit... And she in turn adapted it from Big Fat Cookies by Elinor Klivans.

280g all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
175g unsalted butter, at room temperature
215g light brown sugar
1 large egg
1/4 cup black treacle (or molasses if you have it)
about 1/2 cup turbinado or demerera sugar

Position a rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat the oven to 170C/ 350F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Sift the flour, baking soda and salt into a medium bowl and set aside. In a mixer, beat the butter, brown sugar and spices until smoothly blended, about 2 minutes. Stop the mixer and scrape the sides of the bowl as needed during mixing. Add the egg and molasses and mix until blended and an even light color, about 1 minute. On low speed, add the flour mixture, mixing just to incorporate it.

Spread the turbinado sugar into a small bowl. Roll 2 Tablespoons of dough between the palms of your hands into a ball, toss the ball sugar to coat and place on the prepared baking sheet. Continue making cookies, spacing them about 2 inches apart.

Bake the cookies one sheet at a time until the tops feel firm but they are still soft in the center and there are several large cracks on top, about 12-14 minutes. Cool the cookies on the baking sheet for 5 minutes, then use a wide metal spatula to transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely. It took me a batch or two to get the right baking time for my crunchy on the outside, chewy in the middle preference, but have a play and bake them until they’re right for you.

The cookies can be stored in a tightly covered container at room temperature for up to 4 days.

Monday, 7 June 2010

Rhubarb and Custard Crumble Tart

rhubarb crumble tart 2
Having gone from loathes to loves on the rhubarb front, I seem to be unable to stop making sweet treats from rhubarb at the moment. Well, this one wasn't really my fault as it was a Sweet Melissa Sundays treat, but I've also made this, this and kind of interesting coffee style cake that used so many recipes from all around the interwebs I don't know where to start linking. All in the hunt for perfection in rhubarb cake form. I know it exists! I ate it at Ottolenghi. But can I recreate it? Of course not! And those other imposters to the crown of awesomest rhubarb cake were just not the real deal. Whether it be a disappointing crumble or just a bit too 'wholefood' tasting, they were all fine, but not worth writing home about. Or to you about, should I say dear reader!

Then, as I was whiling away an hour or so with a cup of tea and a new cookbook, I spotted this tart. Not at all en route to my rhubarb dream cake, but an appealing diversion, especially with JJ's parents coming to tea.
rhubarb crumble tart 1
The idea of combining rhubarb crumble, custard and a tart all in the one dessert sounded pretty incredible to me - so off I set with the recipe in one hand. Only to fall very flat at the first hurdle. Apparently the initial step of blending butter, flour and sugar should form a dough to be rolled out (like shortbread). Mine looked like dust. No matter how much I blitzed in the food processor and even resorted to smooshing with my hands, it just would not come together. Major concerns about the recipe started to form in my mind. But I soldiered on! Baking up the crumbs in a slightly squished together layer (no rolling out happened) seemed to work well. In a second attempt at the tart a week or so later, I added more butter and it helped, but still didn't form a dough, so not a clue what's supposed to happen at that stage!

I won't even bore you with the pastry dough and how impossible I found it. I hate sweet tart dough - it's official. I shall, of course, persevere to find one that doesn't take one look at me and grab the counter with such force only hacking at a knife will get it off. Or maybe it's the way I look at it that scares it into shrinking about a mile away from the tin on all sides. Phew. So anyway, Pastry 2 - Rosy 0.
rhubarb crumble tart 5
But! Ah yes, there's a but. This tart is amazing. Whilst the recipe was, um, well, quite wrong in places and I'm gonna suggest you find your own way on the sweet tart dough front for the moment, the filling is heaven. Utter rhubarb and custard flavoured, creamy, dreamy, sweet heaven. Ya know what it reminded me of? Those rhubarb and custard boiled sweets. I love those. But better - less sickly. More elegant and flirty. A true lady of a tart. So lady like in fact, it's the prettiest of pale pinks! I think it would be just as tasty without the crumble but not very attractive... I've toyed with alternatives but whipped cream would just compete for creaminess and there is something pleasing about the buttery crumble contrast, even if it is a touch on the faffy side.
rhubarb crumble tart 4
Just make sure to eat it the day you make it - room temperature, it's perfection, but I tried it the next day and both the crumble and tart shell were soft. If I hadn't lost all enthusiasm by the end of this, I would've made a rhubarb sauce from a little extra rhubarb poached, pureed and strained. I think I'll be doing that next time - when I can face sweet tart dough again...

Rosy xx

Rhubarb and Custard Crumble Tart
adapted from here.

For the Crumble
100g plain flour
60g unsalted butter, cold
40g caster sugar

For the Custard
360g rhubarb
130g caster sugar
3 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
130ml double cream

1 pre-baked tart shell

Preheat oven to 180C.

In a food processor, blitz the crumble mix until it looks like breadcrumbs. Turn out onto a tray lined with parchment paper, give a bit of a smoosh together with your fingers (but don't worry too much!) and bake crumble for 15 mins, until lightly golden.

Mix the rhubarb with the sugar and place in a roasting tin. Cover with foil and roast for 20 mins until soft. Break up with a fork and leave to cool slightly.

Lower the oven to 150C.

Place the cream in a pan and heat gently to simmering point. Meanwhile, beat the eggs with the vanilla. Add the hot cream, slowly at first to temper, and the rhubarb. Fill the pre-baked tart case and bake for around 15 mins until no longer wobbly in the middle. Break up the baked crumble mixture and cover the rhubarb custard with the crumble. Leave to cool to room temperature and eat the same day.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

The Daddy of Chicken Caesar Salads

caesar salad 3
I've found since leaving University that my ability to sleep in has greatly diminished. It's so frustrating! I find myself wide awake at 7am on a Saturday, my body clock fully expecting me to dash off to work, when all I want to do is embrace the joys of not having to get up and go to work. JJ does not suffer from such an affliction. He would sleep in til noon if I let him. He's one of those people that can nap anytime, anywhere. It's one of the main points of difference in our relationship, made worse by our extremely open plan flat with very creaky floorboards. Try as I might to potter away quietly downstairs, I'll end up crashing and banging around, waking him up anyway.

So to try and avoid disturbing his lie in this past weekend, I sneaked out super early to spend the day wandering around Borough market with a very lovely blog buddy - why can't I spend my whole life wandering around produce markets in the sunshine with awesome friends talking pretty much non-stop about food?? Heaven! The resulting haul included rhubarb, which will feature in the next post, some stunning Sicillian lemons (so pretty I couldn't resist but no idea what to do with them - ideas welcome!) and a rather magnificent chicken. The chicken was simply roasted up and served with Jersey Royal potatoes and English asparagus and enthusiastically devoured Sunday evening. But, given that there's only two of us, there was plenty left over for last night's supper. Enter the king of all chicken salads - the Chicken Caesar!
caesar salad 4
Salads have such a bad rap. Those lip, lifeless green leaves thrown onto a plate are the root cause of the problem - I've never really understood how restaurants get away with charging so much for them! Side salads. Urgh. Even the name is enough to make me skip the salad and order something far less healthy.

But with the wedding looming ever closer and my diet being ruined by oh so much temptation (mostly my own fault, I'll concede) it's time to get salad happy! And there are so many incredible salads out there. I've never had such praise for a meal as the one I prepared the other night of a selection of deliciously different salads. This could be something to do with a rather amazing cookbook I'm now the very proud owner of, but I'm also going to go ahead and take a little credit. (not much though... It's really all down to the cookbook!)
caesar salad dressing 2
With the left over chicken, it had to be chicken salad and, of course, there's no chicken salad quite like a chicken Caesar salad. This salad started off innocently enough - chicken, lettuce and a bit of dressing. But somewhere between the lettuce aisle and eggs aisle, we got a little carried away. So this version would, I'm sure, make Cardini roll in his grave, but I'm willing to live with that. You can, of course, par it right back and just serve the dressing on the lettuce but that's just a touch too much like a 'side salad' for my liking!
caesar salad 2
Caesar Salad
Serves 2 for supper or 4 for a starter

For the croutons:
2 slices white bread, cubes
1 tbsp olive oil
Salt and Pepper

For the salad:
1 crispy lettuce (Romaine ideally, but hey, it's lettuce. Use whatever you've got)
Half a cucumber, diced
Handful of cherry tomatoes, halved
4 rashers of smoked streaky bacon
Diced, cooked chicken, around 1 cup.
Freshly grated parmesan
4 anchovy fillets, minced (optional)

For the dressing:
2 cloves garlic
2 egg yolks
1 tsp dijon mustard
1 tsp worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp lemon juice
4 floz/125ml olive oil

Place the rashers of bacon on a tray and pop in the oven. Turn the oven to 200C. Apparently, this stops the bacon from shrinking or something...

Toss the bread cubes in olive oil, salt and pepper and place on a baking tray in the middle of the oven to toast, about 10 minutes or so (until golden - this depends so much on how dry your bread is so be prepared for this to take longer).

Crush the garlic into a paste with a pinch of salt. A pestle and mortar would work great here - we don't own one though so just chopping it very finely works well too! Add the egg yolks, worcestershire sauce, lemon juice and dijon mustard and give a whisk around.

Continue to whisk while slowly drizzling in the olive oil. This sounds tough but I have a VERY low tollerance for hand whisking and it took no time at all. Once it's all added it should have the consistency of slightly thickened double cream. Give it a taste and season with pepper and lemon juice. I wouldn't add any more salt as we used anchovies, bacon and parmesan, but if you're not using quite such an excessive number of salty ingredients, do season to taste with salt too.

On a large platter (or individual bowls) lay the lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber and chicken. Add a good couple of dollops of dressing and a grating of parmesan and toss to distribute. Crumble over the bacon and scatter with croutons. You can serve with bread too, but it's really hearty in its own right. Devour immediately! The dressing will keep for about a week in the fridge but, as with any lettuce-based salad, leaves should be dressed immediately before eating.

If you're worried about the raw egg component, apparently they can be coddled before hand. I've never tried this but though as I like to live dangerously. That, and I'm lazy. But of course, this might be one of those salads to avoid if you're pregnant!

Rosy xx

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Lemon Blueberry Scones

lemon blueberry scones 1
I have a major problem I have to confess to and I hope you'll understand and love me all the same... I am totally, utterly and completely addicted to watching cookery shows. Having spent the past couple of days under a duvet on the sofa with a rather grotty cold, I've watched pretty much nothing but cooking tv for 2 days straight. Sky is amazing - whole channels dedicated to food! I don't know what it is about cookery shows and the ever perky, enthusiastic presenters, but I just can't help but watch them. Even sometimes when I'm not overly keen on the person, or even the food, I just can't seem to stop myself. Case in point, Sophie Dahl's tv series. Did I find her excessively annoying? Yes! Do I particularly want to cook what she was making? No! Was I constantly confused by the show's premise and why on earth she roasted an entire chicken to make chicken soup?? Oh hell yes! (seriously, why??!) But did I record every single episode and watch it anyway? Or course!!
lemon blueberry scones 2

There are some exceptions. Like other dear friends of mine, I love Nigel Slater. He has a way of writing about food that just makes me want to lick the page but his show just did not float my boat at all. Just couldn't watch it!!

But the one show I could (and indeed do) watch over and over again is Barefoot Contessa. I get the impression that Ina Garten is super well known in the US - on a par with Nigella and Jamie over here. But to us Brits, she's relatively unknown - indeed, if it weren't for the wonder that is sky tv (and aforementioned food channels) I wouldn't have the faintest idea who she is. But I'm so so happy she came into my life! Oh how I adore her. Incredibly informative but never condescending, and she genuinely seems to be the loveliest person ever. And her kitchen! Wow. Just wow. What I wouldn't give for her pantry. And I LOVE the way she gives so much thought to the table! There’s one episode where she hosts a lunch for a group of carpenters and she uses tools rather than flowers as a centerpiece. Seriously had me in stitches (in the best possible way). Oh and Miguel! How JJ and I love Miguel’s guest appearances.
lemon blueberry scones 3
The part I love her for the most? The recipes. I don't think I've made a single recipe that hasn't worked and they're always so so packed with flavour. This one, though a modification on her cranberry orange scones, is no exception. A very American scone - buttery, sweet and fruity - rather than the typical (I'm going to say it) bland British scone, so no adornement in the way of butter or jam is necessary. More of a pastry in its own right. Breakfast, a sweet treat or afternoon tea, it doesn't matter - these are just perfect.

Rosy xx

Lemon Blueberry Scones
Adapted from Ina Garten’s recipe
Makes about 20 large triangles – halve the recipe if you’re not feeding an army!

500g flour plus 30g extra
100g sugar*
2 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp grated lemon zest (ca. 3 lemons)
345g unsalted butter, diced and cold
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
240ml double cream
About 2 cups fresh blueberries
Egg wash for the tops (1 egg beaten with 1 tbsp water)

For the glaze:
Juice 1 lemon
Icing sugar

Preheat the oven to 200C/400F.

In a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the 500g flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and lemon zest. Add the cold butter and mix on low speed until the mixture resembles coarse sand, with butter in pieces no larger than peas. This takes a bit of time – maybe a couple of minutes or so – so have patience and it will happen.

Combine the eggs and cream. With the mixer on slow, gradually pour in to the flour mixture. Mix until just blended. Combine the berries with the 30g flour (to stop them sinking apparently) and carefully mix until blended. I do this by hand to prevent the berries getting smooshed.

Turn the dough out onto a well floured surface – it’s quite sticky! Pat or roll to around ¾” thick. Keep the dough moving so it doesn’t stick to the surface and use more flour if necessary.

Flour a cutter or knife and cut to your desired shape – I like triangles. There’s no reason for this, other than you don’t have scraps left over to re-roll out which can affect how flakey the scones are, much like pastry. Plus I’m lazy that way.

Pop the scones on parchment lined trays and brush with the egg wash. You could sprinkle with sugar if you’re not going to make the glaze, but I highly recommend the glaze!

Bake for 20-25 mins until the tops are nicely browned. They will be firm to the touch and the undersides should be golden too. Allow to cool for 15 mins before glazing.

To make the glaze, mix the lemon juice with icing sugar until the desired drizzling consistency is achieved – Ina recommends ½ cup plus 2 tbsp icing sugar to 4tbsp juice. I don’t really weigh this bit – I just stir until it looks right! Drizzle over the scones.

As I've modified the recipe, so too could this be switched and swapped to your heart's content - orange choc chip, anyone??! Ooo, or raspberries....

*This is twice the amount quoted in the original recipe, following on from some commenters' advice. It needs it! They're really not that sweet, even with double. I would think the original amount of 50g would hardly make them sweet at all.

Friday, 7 May 2010

Almond Rocket Pesto and a Tart

goats cheese tart 2
I'm on a bit of a pesto kick at the moment - especially the more random combinations. We've had a great recipe for regular pesto that's been on almost weekly rotation for a while now but basil and pine nuts can be expensive. And hey, it's always fun to mix things up a bit! So this time it's almond (because they were lying around) and rocket (because, um, it was lying around). And? So good!!! I think I may be obsessed. So many different flavour possibilities!
rocket almond pesto 3
Pesto's one of those things that's just great to use in a huge variety of dishes. I think stirring it into pasta has to be one of my least favorite things to do with it (although, of course, we still eat it that way a whole lot). A recent discovery was aubergine wrapped halloumi with a smear of pesto on the inside - absolutely delicious but oh so ugly! The photos really don't do it justice so I shall have to make it again and pay a little more attention to its visual appeal before sharing it with you. JJ was close to tears it was so good. Or that might have been the quantity of garlic used... No, it was the halloumi, I'm sure!

Anyway, no matter what kind of pesto I have on hand, I LOVE to use it in tarts. Especially vegetable tarts - it really ups the flavour and helps contrast the sweetness of the vegetables. In the winter, it's a blind-baked tart shell, a coating of pesto, a heap of roasted veggies and a basic quiche filling. But I really don't feel inclined to roast up vegetables in the spring, especially when the season is all about the vibrant greens of new life rather than the dusky reds and russets of autumn. So, very much inspired by this recipe, I went for a substantially lighter, cleaner tart with a thin layer of filling - something that I'll definitely be doing again! Makes the whole thing much lighter and the eggy base doesn't overwhelm the other ingredients.
goats cheese tart 6
All in all, this was incredible. I'm ashamed to say that I managed to demolish the whole thing before JJ even got a look in (over two nights, mind - I'm not that bad. I did have to physically restrain myself from eating it all on night one though...). This pastry is surprisingly forgiving - I struggle so much with pastry but I've made this countless times. This time, I really thought I'd done it when I carried on messing around with it but it was just as flakey and perfectly savory as always. Now to perfect my sweet pastry...
goats cheese tart 4

Recipes - I will add them later this evening as I totally forgot to copy them down before I left the house this morning!! Oops... But the inspiration for the tart can be found here.

Rosy xx

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

A very late strawberry rhubarb cobbler

I'm getting into terrible habits at the moment - leaving laundry to the last minute, not really thinking through the weekly shop so having to top it up nearly every day, being woefully behind on the hoovering and (by far the worst) posting my Sweet Melissa Sundays posts wildly late! So I must apologise profusely to my fellow bakers and I shall try to do better. As for the laundry and hoovering, I'm making no guarantees...
strawberry rhubarb cobbler 1
Back to this week's pick - Strawberry Rhubarb Cobbler Pie. Rhubarb and I have a mixed history. Growing up, it was one of three things I would simply refuse to eat - the others being courgettes and aubergine (or eggplants for all you Americans out there). Which was a little unfortunate given my parents' love of growing the stuff. And courgettes (not aubergines - phew!). Rhubarb was synonymous with being persuaded that the slimy goop in front of me was actually very good for me and I had to eat it - rhubarb fool, rhubarb crumble, rhubarb and custard... All equaled a traumatising childhood in my eyes (note - this may be a slight exaggeration. My childhood was in fact wonderful and in no way traumatising. Apart from my big brother and a certain incident with a pram and a rather large muddy puddle but we shan't go into that now!).

Then, about a year ago, I started to experiment with it to find I actually liked the stuff! I think a certain strawberry rhubarb white chocolate mousse cake might've had something to do with my conversion. I can only conclude that the reason I didn't like it before was my mother's motto that you can always add more sugar to a dish but you can't take it away. This meant that the aforementioned rhubarb crumbles were eye wateringly sour and when we attempted to add a spoon more sugar, we were of course scolded and told we were rotting our teeth. I need not add that my mother does not have a sweet tooth!
strawberry rhubarb cobbler 2
That's the thing with cooking rhubarb - too little sugar and you'll end up with a dish so tart your teeth with be sucked back into your head, but too much and all the tartness and delicate flavour will be lost. With this recipe, that was the main alteration I made right up front - I actually halved the sugar after finding a similar recipe from a very trusted source. I also subbed half the sugar (about 75g) for soft brown sugar, upped the cornstarch by about 1/2tbsp and added a teaspoon of ground ginger. If anything goes better wit rhubarb than ginger, I've yet to find it. I found this also cut through the sweetness of the strawberries nicely - with the original sugar quantity quoted in the recipe I can't help but think this would have been tooth achingly sweet.
I did actually intend to make this as a cobbler pie - I promise!! But I had a mishap with the pastry. I have no idea what I did wrong but it was a disaster! I must've measured the butter out incorrectly as it did not look right at all. After baking off a little disc to check the pastry and binning the resulting weird greasy biscuit thingy, I scrapped the idea of a pie and went with the straight up cobbler. And all's well that ends well! We loved the flavour combination and the cobbler topping was yummy - perfect for a sunday night in watching CSI (again with the terrible tv! I should stop confessing to such things).
strawberry rhubarb cobbler 3
So hop on over to Tracey's blog for the recipe and, as always, don't forget the other lovely ladies!

Rosy xx

Friday, 23 April 2010

Wild Garlic and Walnut Pesto

wild garlic pesto 4
I love living in London with a passion. Have I mentioned that lately?! Whilst having dinner with some friends the other night, we got to discussing how overwhelming some people find life in London and how, in towns outside the capital, you'll frequently meet people who just can't imagine dealing with the constant hustle and bustle, frankly terrifying crime rate and above all, the expense of the big city. And of course I can identify with that sentiment! Finding a quiet space is nigh on impossible and having any space to yourself is normally incredibly expensive (although by the sounds of things, nothing on the cost of New York appartments). As soon as you open your front door, you're never alone and yet lonliness is rife.

So what exactly is the appeal of the city? For me, predictably, this revolves primarily around food. You could eat out at a different restaurant every night and never eat at the same place twice. Of course, some nights might be a whole lot worse than others, and I definitely don't earn enough to test this theory! Within this huge swathe of eateries throughout the city, there are so many marvelous hidden gems. From the stunning sandwiches and cakes in cafes tucked away down alleys to organic pizzas with toppings that make grown men weep. The italian deli in the most unpreposessing of locations with heavenly antipasti, the tiny grocers stocking perfection in chocolate form, sourced from arguably one of Brussels' finest chocolatiers (and they know a thing or two about chocolate) and the late night falafel bar for soaking up the alcohol after a night in the West End. To name but a few. And today, my head is aching thanks to the discovery of some of the finest cocktails I've ever tried, in a bar so hidden it doesn't even have a name.

All of these places and more - oh so many more! On reflection, I've visited each of these places only a handful of times, if only because of the ever growing list of new places on my list to try (a consequence of equally food obsessed friends). On of my favorite and most frequently used discovery to date? Awesome food I don't even have to leave the flat for - sign me up! Especially when my head is quite so painful... And this is how I came to sample the stunning and so underused ingredient that is wild garlic. If we lived in the country, I would dedicate a morning to learning to forage for the stuff, but in the mean time, we shall have to make do with someone else doing the foraging for us (I'm not sure whether Hampstead Heath is a hot spot for foraging. Rumour has it, wandering off the beaten track is left to those with a taste for rather different earthly delights...).
wild garlic pesto 2
Having never tried this leaf before (salad? vegetable? herb? Not sure of the precise definition) I decided to keep it simple. Nothing showcases garlic's pungency quite like pesto. But the charming thing about this particular pesto is its gentler flavour and so much more sociable nature. If you happen to spot wild garlic (whilst foraging or otherwise) I urge you to give it a go. It has been added to our order again this weekend so I shall keep you posted on other uses! Thinking wild garlic mayo...

Rosy xx

Wild Garlic and Walnut Pesto
adapted from Wild Garlic, Gooseberries and Me

100g wild garlic leaves
50g shelled walnuts
200ml olive oil
40g parmesan (or other similar hard cheese)
salt and pepper
lemon juice, parsley

Toast the walunts in a hot over for about 5 minutes - keep a close eye on them as you don't want them to burn but a good amount of colour really brings out the flavour. Allow to cool slightly.

Blend the wild garlic and walnuts in a food processor to for a course puree. Pour in the oil and blend. Add the cheese and pulse a few more times. Taste and season - I added a spritz of lemon juice and a tablespoon of parsley to brighten it up slightly but these aren't in the original recipe and could easily be ommited if you don't have any to hand.

Store in jars of tupperware with a layer of olive oil on top to keep the air from spoiling the pesto. Keeps in the fridge for about a week. Use as you would any other pesto but a little more liberally due to the more delicate flavour. I scaled the recipe for 80g wild garlic and it made 2 small jars of pesto.
wild garlic pesto 1

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Sweet Potato Bread

Oops, a little bit late with this week's Sweet Melissa Sundays! I actually baked it on Friday evening but there's a whole heap on our plates right now - going to have to be a bit cryptic about it for the time being but needless to say if only it were just the wedding invitations keeping us busy!!! We have FINALLY gotten around to planting some seeds so (if we don't suffer the terrorism of the local wildlife again) we should have some homegrown veg this summer. Which might be the best thing if the UK can no longer transport produce to our shores via plane! The volcanic ash cloud is such a surreal phenomenon but one which really drives home just how dependant the UK is on imports. I'm sure my favorite local produce suppliers will be seeing a huge surge in business though so definitely not all bad news.
sweet potato bread 3
Back to Sweet Melissa and her sweet potato bread! I've never used sweet potatoes in a sweet treat before, only ever as a side to a main meal, so I was keen to try it out. Being the huge fan that I am of carrot cake, I figured this would be right up my street. And it was! Wonderfully moist, great spice flavours and impossibly easy to make. And in a bundt tin! I heart my bundt tin. It would've been even easier had I been able to source canned sweet potatoes. Instead, I just threw a few large sweet potatoes in the oven whilst I was cooking dinner and let them roast in their own skins. Once nice and soft, I simply pulled the skins away to reveal the super soft, sweet flesh to use in the recipe. Got to say, a whole lot easier than my attempt at making pumpkin puree!!! Yeah, that didn't go so well...

Anyway, this tasted great and it's still gorgeous several days later! A few things I think I might change next time... I think I'll use at least some brown sugar to add a little depth to the sweetness and I also might try using less sugar as the cake was quite sweet. Also, I'd probably add some raisins and maybe miss the glaze but add cream cheese frosting. This would work so well with cream cheese frosting! Granted, cream cheese frosting makes rocks taste good, but it really would take this cake to a whole new level. Or of course, just use loaf tins for portability.
sweet potato bread 2
Thank you so much to Lorelei of Mermaid Sweets for a fantastic pick and head on over to her site for the recipe (and some great news!!). And, as always, have a look see over here at the other bakers' posts.

Rosy xx

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Chocolate Malted Cupcakes

*Warning, this post reveals I have truely terrible taste in books. And movies for that matter...

I have a terrible habit of baking up Sweet Melissa Sundays treats in advance, thinking myself oh so organised, and then promptly forgetting to take any snaps of them. And then what a shame! I have to bake them again... I swear I don't do it on purpose! (Ok, only sometimes do I do it on purpose). This week's sweet treat was one such occasion and I'm definitely not sorry I had to bake up these babies again!
malted chocolate cake
I first baked these a couple of weeks ago for a girls night in. It was the birthday of one of the girls from work - a girl I hold solely responsible for my love (ahem, obsession!) with a certain vampire romance series. In honour of this, the night was themed. Yep, we were a bunch of old ladies lusting after Edward and Jacob! We're that cool... But how to theme the food?? Everything red?! A little grim... Themed cupcakes to the rescue! Team Edward had red velvet cupcakes - an obvious choice. And Team Jacob? These deeply dark and delicious chocolate malted cupcakes. At the end of the night, everyone was Team Jacob, if only for the superior cupcake!
malted chocolate cake 2
This is a cake recipe used a fair bit throughout the Sweet Melissa Baking book, and an absolutely awesome recipe it is to. I used it in full layer cake form for one of JJ's two birthday cakes and it works equally well in cupcake form. I used 2/3 of the recipe and it yielded 16 good sized cupcakes. Half the icing recipe is mroe than sufficient for that many cupcakes - it's very sweet! Many thanks to Nicole of Sweet Tooth - amazing pick. And don't forget to head on over here to check out the other bakers' creations.

Rosy xx

Monday, 5 April 2010

Pecan Shortbread Cookies

pecan cookies 1

I've been a little rubbish with posting Sweet Melissa Sundays for a few weeks now but wow, I definitely couldn't miss pecan shortbread cookies! I love shortbread and I love love LOVE pecans. And these were wonderful - not a typical shortbread texture but buttery and much much lighter. Delish!

pecan cookies 2

Thank you to Lara from The Lab for hosting this week. And, as usual, don't forget to check out the other bakers' cookies.
pecan cookies 3

Rosy xx

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

JJ's Birthday Cupcakes

cupcakes 1
If you're anything like me, you have about 10 blog posts half finished lying around. Whether the pictures are on flikr but the words aren't typed up, or the post is waiting to go but the pics are still sitting on my camera, there's a bunch of lost and lonely dishes just sitting there, waiting, gathering dust and probably not long for this world... (one day I'll have a sort out... One day. About 20 years from now).

Normally, the reason I forget is because whilst they were good, they weren't great. But then yesterday, I spotted that I'd totally forgotten to post these babies! And the 'not great' descirption definitely doesn't fit here. These were stunning. So here it is! The ever so slightly late post on JJ's birthday cake part deux.
cupcakes 3
Hands down, the best thing about birthdays is cake. And if you're JJ you get two birthday cakes! (well, birthday cupcakes and a birthday cake). When I asked him what cake he'd like this year to take into work, it didn't take him long to settle on cupcakes. I did mention that maybe these weren't the most masculine of choices, but he reasoned that now he's engaged, he's free to confess his love of cupcakes without any question marks over his masculinity.

And I did try and make them as manly as possible! Apparently it's the cake-to-icing ratio, ie lots of icing! I thought it was just me who had the monster sweet tooth, but apparently not...

Now, I find that you have to have a great cake and a great icing. One without the other = a sub par cupcake. So to make these puppies I did a little research and mixed two recipes - the Hummingbird Bakery chocolate cake base and the Primrose Bakery icing (both FANTASTIC cake books - the Hummingbird cake method intrigued me but the icing used cocoa not chocolate*, hence using the Primrose icing).
cupcakes 2
This was a genius combo and one I highly reccomend. As for the second birthday cake? Oh it was good. SO good. Check it out over here...

Rosy xx

Chocolate Cupcakes
Adapted from The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook, makes about 12 English fairy cakes or 8 American cupcakes

100g plain flour
20g cocoa powder
140g caster sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
a pinch of salt
40g soft unsalted butter
120ml whole milk
1 egg
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
So the method is very different to how you'd normally make a cake but follow it to the letter and it'll work, I promise!
Preheat your oven to 170C and line a tin with cupcake cases.
Put the flour, cocoa, sugar, baking powder, salt and butter in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. On a low speed, mix until it resembles sand. This took me a fair while, so have patience if it doesn't happen instantly! Of course, this could also be because my kitchen is currently freezing cold...
Whisk the egg, milk and vanilla extract together and mix half into the flour mixture. Beat on high speed until smooth. Then add the rest of the milk and give a quick mix to combine, trying not to overmix. (I've made these a few times now and I have to say, it works fine if you have the beater on, pour in the milk slowly and then give a quick beat for a few seconds to thoroughly combine)
And that's it! How easy is that?! Just fill your cases 2/3-3/4 full and pop them in the oven for 20-25 mins until springy and a skewer comes out clean. Cool completely before icing.
Chocolate Icing
Adapted from the Cupcakes from the Primrose Bakery
175g dark chocolate, melted (go for a 70% cocoa solids one if you can)
225g unsalted butter at room temperature
1 tbsp milk at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
250g icing sugar, sifted
Melt the chocolate - any way you like! I use a pan of simmering water with a glass bowl over the top, but that's because our microwave exploded. But microwaves are great for melting chocolate - I was actually melting chocolate when ours exploded (not the cause - crappy old rental house microwave was the cause!). Anyway, melt the chocolate and then leave it to cool.
Beat together the butter, milk, vanilla and icing sugar. Add the melted chocolate and beat. You'll probably have to beat it for a good 5 or so mins to get the mixture to thicken but don't panic if it's not yet spreadable, just keep beating!
Spread on your cooled cupcakes and decorate as appropriate for your audience. I just attacked a bar of white chocolate with a potato peeler to get the curls.
Eat! And try to stop at 1 - I dare you...

*I've since tried the Hummingbird cookbook icing and it's also very good - less ganache and more buttercream.

Friday, 19 March 2010


It finally feels like the cold is behind us and spring is here! Although the bulbs are having a hard time registering that they should probably get a move on and produce flowers... And so the season of planting has suddenly come around and we've not planted a single seed. Not even close - our garden is still a total mess. But that means I get to dream up grand plans of what to do with it! I'm thinking raised beds this year. Yep, they look pretty easy to make... Granted, I haven't picked up a saw in, um, 15 years and I'm hardly the world's best DIY peep but that's obviously not going to stop me! What this space for how I get on. Or alert the local hospitals...

We had a go at gardening last year. As you can see, our efforts weren't rewarded well...
mini carrots
We ate A LOT of courgettes and had a fair amount of success with tomatoes, but root veg appears to hate us and almost everything else was dug up. I hate squirrels. So what to grow? I'd like to try strawberries and we're definitely going to do courgettes and tomatoes again but more ideas welcome!! (easy please!)

Rosy xx

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

carrot cake 1
Who doesn't love carrot cake?? It has to be one of my all time favorite cakes. Super simple to make and incredibly versatile - you can add or take away nuts, sultanas, coconut or pinapple and switch out spices as you wish. The one thing that's absolutely clear to me though is that there's no such thing as the ultimate carrot cake. What floats one person's boat won't be to someone else's taste. And from having a look at the comments on this week's Sweet Melissa Sunday's choice of carrot cake with orange cream cheese icing, most people have their favorite recipe that's tried and true and no other cake would really live up to!
carrot cake 2
I do have a great carrot cake recipe but it's more suited to a loaf cake than a layer cake. More along the lines of wholesome and best without any adornment. This recipe is, I think, what I'll choose when I make a layer cake though! Delicious, moist and (with a couple of minor alterations) full of flavour. Both me and my testers were big fans, one even proclaiming this to be the best carrot cake they'd ever tasted!
carrot cake 4
All I changed was to use light brown sugar to up the depth of flavour, add orange zest to the batter and a good handful of sultanas (love them in carrot cake!). Ooo, I also used pecans rather than walnuts but that was just what I had on hand. I also used a different cream cheese icing - 50g butter made into a buttercream with 100g icing sugar and then 50g cream cheese mixed in. It's yummy and a touch more 'cream cheesey' if that makes sense!!! I love it but, true to form, JJ prefered the Sweet Melissa's cream cheese icing from the red velvet cake! See? You just can't win!!!
carrot cake 3
Thank you to the lovely Julie of A Little Bit of Everything for this week's great pick (the recipe's on her blog) and don't forget to have a see what the other bakers got up to! I think there's some rather fab cupcakes to be seen...

Rosy xx