Monday, 30 April 2012

Salade composee

As the rain subsides and the sun comes out, salade composee is an easy choice. In fact Kit ate salade composee most of last week, her choice being pasta mixed into a green salad, with the addition of grated parmesan cheese. Also croutons, a new favourite. The family salad dressing is given a twist with lashings of balsamic vinegar, I take some consolation in it not being the really treacly kind. I don't know what she is eating tonight, but I am having green salad with avocado and, providing the store cupboard has them, some nuts.

It's a summer menu.

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Enormous egg

Steve says that must have been one hell of a squawk.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Cake meets trifle, smiling

Many people think cake making is a mysterious art. This seems to be driven by an unhappy equation: desire for cake over failure in baking. I have experienced this, in the distant past, when I forgot essential ingredients like baking powder or sugar, and more recently when a cake failed to meet my expectations. Fortunately on these latter occasions, the enthusiasm of those eating the cake reduced my disappointment.

Making cake requires a degree of concentration, and the core ingredients, usually these are fat, flour, butter, sugar and eggs, with flavourings. The basic sponge recipe is for every egg you should use 60g each of flour, sugar and butter. For a 20cm/8" cake (top and bottom) I use six eggs. That is a handsome cake, enough for 8 greedy people who really like cake.

cake meets trifle, birthday treat

Everyone should have a birthday cake on their birthday. It is a small offering, it is a chance to take a god-like pause. Birthdays come around more often than weddings, or at least weddings where you are the bridegroom or bride. In Schultz's Peanuts, Linus always took a day off on his birthday, I used to read the cartoon strip and think that it looked a bit boring. Now I think it is a small gesture of indulgence, and one that we should all try, some time.

As someone who bakes cakes, I greedily grab the chance to make that moment happen. Last week I made chocolate nemesis for my friend, Alex. Today I am making a concoction I call cake-meets-trifle for my pal Margo. It's a cross between a Victoria Sandwich and a trifle, but I've junked the custard. Nothing else about this cake is reduced. It is not a cake to eat without a plate and cutlery, unless you like licking your fingers and wearing a bib.

Recipe follows with pix.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

dutch apple tart

Lovely biscuity pastry, and luscious cinnamon flavoured apples give your mouth and nose a treat - this tart also looks fantastic, and is pretty easy to make.

1 egg
2 cups/250g self-rising flour
2/3 cup/150g butter chopped up small
½ cup/90g brown sugar
A pinch of salt
Zest of 1/2 lemon

Two handfuls/150g of sultanas
1 tbsp brandy or other alcohol (use juice or water if you prefer)
2 lb/850g tart apples
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Heaped tablespoon brown sugar (50 g)
2 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tbsp corn flour

Loose based or springform tin, 20cm/8”
Two good sized bowls

  • Soak the sultanas in the liquid of your choice for at least an hour – or heat in pan or microwave to speed things up, set aside.
  • Set oven to 180C/350F
  • Butter sides of the tin generously, and line the base with baking parchment. If you don’t have baking parchment butter the base and flour it, shaking out the excess
  • Put the flour into a large bowl, with the chopped butter, lemon zest and brown sugar
  • Whisk the egg, hold back about a tablespoon, and add the rest to the flour and butter
  • Knead dough, using a stand mixer with a dough attachment, or use your hands, until the dough comes together into a ball. Set aside for 20 minutes, while you peel and prepare the apples.
  • Peel and core the apples, cut them into pieces (about 1.5cm square, no need for precision)
  • In another bowl mix with the sultanas, lemon juice, the remaining 1/3 cup brown sugar, and spices
  • Sprinkle the corn flour over and stir to cover the apples with spices and sugar and mix in the sultanas
  • Use 3/4 of the dough to cover the bottom and sides of the dish, you can roll it out on a well floured board, or flatten it out and press the dough into place, nudging it along
  • Add the apple mixture to the pie dish and firmly press down
  • Use the rest of the dough to make the lattice topping, dividing it into five bits, rolling each one into a ‘snake’ and flattening it. Three strips one way and two the other, pressing them into the sides and trimming them so nothing hangs over the edge
  • Brush the lattice pastry with the egg and bake for around an hour, until the apples are tender
Serves 8

I use Bramleys if possible, and serve the pie cold. Eat with cream or ice cream, or on its own.

more pictures - dutch apple tart

Better pictures of the delicious dutch applie pie, buttery and biscuity crust with cinnamon apple. Yum.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Refreshing spring soup

Spring is always welcome, all the buds and blossom, the fresh green of the new foliage. The sun comes out, and just as you start getting used to the idea of wearing less, back comes the rain and the temperature goes down again. That is when thoughts turn to soup, in my mind anyway.

Keeping with the nourishing needs of the winter soups, I like lentils or some other beans. I'm not precious (that's a lie). I cooked up some puy lentils, with an onion, bay leaf and garlic. Use lovely fresh green veg, a couple of handfuls of cabbage or greens, a leek, a couple of tomatoes, an onion and I included a pepper. Garlic, as usual, has to be included.

Spring soup with lentils

  • three bowls of chopped spring veg
  • two tomatoes
  • three bowls of water 
  • stock cube
  • garlic
  • pepper and salt 


chop everything fine, so that it cooks quickly.

fry veg and lentils lightly in a little bit of olive oil, then add the water and stock cube
cook for 15 minutes

eat with a spoonful of rouille

rouille for soup

It's a grey day, welcome rain with a nippy wind. I'm cooking a few puy lentils, and looking forward to a light soup with spring greens, and other veg. I will add a bit of tang with a tomato, and some fresh herbs. It will be a light stock, with powdered bouillon, the veg will all be finely cut, and the lentils will give a slightly earthy note. I will toast some bread and rub it with garlic, and may add a bit of rouille.

Sauce Rouille: small amount
  • 1 Tsp hot stock
  • 1 clove peeled garlic
  • ½ small red chilli pepper
  • pinch salt
  • 2 tbsp roughly shredded white bread (without crust)
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
If you have a stick blender, use the narrow beaker, adding the hot stock, garlic and hot pepper, salt and bread. Blend until very smooth. Slowly add olive oil with the blender running slowly, checking to see when the oil disappears, then stop.

I’ll be using the trusy pestle and mortar

I'd better go to get those greens. Pix will follow.

Kitty's brownies

She reckons hers are the best, and rations who gets some.

Test it out: make your own. Here is the recipe. The beauty is you just use pure cocoa.

Monday, 23 April 2012

nemesis side view

A first try at the 'impossible to cook' chocolate nemesis, via the River Cafe referenced cook book. As it was taken off the interweb I can't be sure it is the original recipe. To be more accurate it is out of the Telegraph. The recipe is here on cookable.
it's about 3.5 cm high, 22cm wide, and dangerously rich
Impossible to cook? Well, clearly not, although had I tested it after the allotted time as instructed, with the palm of my hand' I would have had some thoroughly chocolatey licking to do, and probably a big hole in the moussey mass. When I do it again I shall cook it at 300C. Oh and cook it the day before, as it sets a bit. Still, on the day, or the next, few have managed to eat more than one  slice, no matter how uch they like  chocolate. 

Looks pretty good doesn't it?

nemisis too

Nemesis for Alex

Dutch apple tart

A weekend in Amsterdam saw me returning with all sorts of bicycle fittings, in particular a very large bell. In addition an unexpected enthusiasm for apple pie. This apple pie is tangy, the apples are chopped roughly, and heavily flavoured with cinnamon. I easily resisted repeated offers of whipped cream,- slag to the locals - and savoured many slices in the natural state. The biscuity pastry was delicious and intriguing.

I scoured the internet, found a variety of recipes, and made one in rather a hurry yesterday, to take to a family gathering for Sunday lunch. The tart went hot out of the oven on a car journey with a lot of hills, and spilled quite a lot of juice, the flavour was great, but I couldn't help thinking about that juice... Here is a very bad picture of the last slice. I had help with the eating. Better pics and recipe here.

Just a word about the pastry. It is really more of a biscuit. My sister asked if it was Betty's pastry, which is gloriously buttery and made with alcohol, and is biscuity, like shortbread. This pastry is lighter, as it's made with self-raising flour. Both have sugar added and have some egg in them, to help the pastry bind together. Both give great pleasure with the crust - and both are very easy to make. This Dutch apple tart crust is flavoured with lemon zest.

Saturday, 21 April 2012


Serves 8-10

dusted with icing and a royal A outlined for Alex's birthday
This is a recipe from the Telegraph newspaper, given in the article as an Easter cake. The writer clearly thought there wouldn't be enough chocolate in the recipe, so in the newspaper version they added a chocolate glaze, and some chocolate eggs. After all, no-one gets enough chocolate at Easter. It said it was the River Cafe recipe for their chocolate nemesis cake. Every recipe I have ever tried from the River Cafe cook book up to now didn't work out well. It can't fail to offend when that happens, I take it very personally. I expect that if I follow a recipe it will work. So I don't like that cook book, and was little nervous making this. As usual I added the pressure of making it for a friend, for a birthday party. The result, after over an hour, was a highly chocolate-y mousse. I reread a number of recipes referencing chocolate nemesis by the River Cafe, and found out that
it had a reputation of being impossible to make
the temperatures given online varied from 120C to 200C
you are meant to beat the eggs with an electric whisk for 10 minutes (I got bored after 4m)

The 'cake' was very well received, and held its own against a most delicious lemon cake (recipe follows). However, if I do it again I shall whisk the eggs for longer and bake it at around 200C. And use a cake tin of 25cm instead of 22cm.

Feeling like taking a risk, and really like chocolate? And have lots of friends who like chocolate? Have a go then.


340g 70 per cent cocoa solids chocolate
225g unsalted butter
270g caster sugar
5 medium eggs
100g water

Butter a 25cm cake tin with a loose base and line with baking parchment.
Preheat the oven to 120C/gas mark 1/2.

  • Break up the chocolate and put in a bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Add the butter and melt together.
  • Put 100g of the sugar in a pan with 100ml water and bring to the boil.
  • Boil for three to four minutes, then pour into a jug to cool a little before pouring into the chocolate mixture.
  • Mix well.
  • Meanwhile, whisk the eggs with the remaining sugar until doubled in size and foamy.
  • Slowly pour in the chocolate/sugar mixture, continuing to stir.
  • Pour the cake batter into the tin.
  • Put the cake tin in a roasting pan, and add enough boiling water to the pan so it reaches halfway up the cake tin.
  • Put the cake into the oven and bake for one hour or until the surface is still and set.
  • Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tin before unmoulding on to a plate.

Friday, 20 April 2012

Chicken with tarragon sauce, mushrooms, mash, sticky carrots and leeks

Daughter two, for whom this blog was started, is cooking tonight with a friend. She found a recipe on the BBC website, however it was written in a rather complicated way, so I have rewritten it to make the process easier. I included a cooking sequence, to help the process along.

In the traditional manner the original rice in the recipe has been junked and mash is being made. The other veg is a lovely combination of carrots with leeks. The oniony nature of the leeks adds flavour and the cooking process leaves the vegs coated in a lovely, slightly sticky buttery residue. In our house we refer to carrots like this as caramel carrots. Other recipes I've seen use lemon juice, maybe honey, or sugar, but I like the sweetness you get from the veg itself.

For the chicken
·          2 tbsp butter
·          1 tbsp olive oil
·          1 free-range chicken breast, skin removed
·          200ml/7fl oz hot chicken stock

For the sauce
·          100ml/3fl oz dry white wine
·          shallot, finely chopped
·          250ml/9fl oz double cream
·          handful chopped fresh tarragon
·          1 tsp Dijon mustard
·          salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the chestnut mushrooms
·          1 tbsp butter
·          1 tbsp olive oil
·          garlic clove
·          5-6 chestnut mushrooms, chopped
·          1 tbsp double cream

3tbsp butter
2tbsp olive oil
1 chicken breast
1 mugful hot stock
1/3 mugful dry white wine
250ml double cream (1 mugful)
1tsp Dijon mustard
1 clove garlic


5 carrots
5 leeks

Preparation sequence
Start by preparing the carrots and leeks and set to cook, peel the potatoes, cut them into small chunks to cook quickly,  then make the sauce, and set aside, then start cooking the chicken, as it simmers prepare and cook the mushrooms, fitting in mashing the potatoes.

Mashed potatoes
·          Cook the potatoes thoroughly
·          Mash with butter and warmed milk, adding a good pinch of nutmeg, and pepper and salt to taste

Caramel carrots and leeks
A patent recipe for delicious slightly sticky veg. Ingredients for three people.

5 medium sized leeks
5 medium sized carrots
·          Peel carrots and cut into fine slices
·          Prepare leeks, cut into 3cm long slices, wash
·          Put carrots and leeks into a pan with a knob of butter, pepper, salt and enough water to cover (only just cover)
·          Put onto the heat and bring to the boil, simmer vigorously with the lid off, until the carrots are cooked
·          Make sure the veg doesn't burn, but only add moisture a spoonful at a time
For the chicken
·          2 tbsp butter
·          1 tbsp olive oil
·          1 free-range chicken breast, skin removed
·          200ml/7fl oz hot chicken stock
For the sauce
·          100ml/3fl oz dry white wine
·          shallot, finely chopped
·          250ml/9fl oz double cream
·          handful chopped fresh tarragon
·          1 tsp Dijon mustard
·          salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the chestnut mushrooms
·          1 tbsp butter
·          1 tbsp olive oil
·          garlic clove
·          5-6 chestnut mushrooms, chopped
·          1 tbsp double cream
·          Heat the butter and olive oil in a frying pan over a high heat.
·          When the butter is foaming, add the chicken and fry for 3-4 minutes, turning once, or until golden-brown on both sides.
·          Add three to four tablespoons of the hot stock (reserving the remaining stock for the sauce), reduce the heat to medium and continue to cook the chicken for 12-15 minutes, turning once, or until the chicken is completely cooked through.
·          Remember to baste the chicken regularly during cooking with the stock and chicken juices
·          heat the white wine and chopped shallot in a non-reactive saucepan for 2-3 minutes, or until the shallots have softened
·          add the remaining hot chicken stock and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 5-10 minutes, or until the volume of liquid has reduced by half
·          add the double cream and tarragon and simmer for a further 2-3 minutes
·          stir in the Dijon mustard and season, to taste, with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
·          set aside and keep warm
Chestnut mushrooms
·          heat the butter and olive oil in a frying pan over a medium heat until the butter melts
·          add the garlic and mushrooms and fry for 4-5 minutes, or until golden-brown
·          Add 1 tbsp double cream and cook gently until heated through
To serve
·          cut the chicken into thick slices, and arrange them into a fan shape on a serving plate
·          drizzle the sauce over the chicken and serve the mushrooms alongside

Monday, 2 April 2012

Raspberry almond cake

Kitty tells me that this cake is 'quite good'. That is a rave review, seriously four star. From the pictures you can see that it has gone down well. It was good warm, with a lovely chewiness, from the almonds and kind-of-meringue. Sort of soft macaroonyness. With a raspberry in the middle.I have to make this again, to be sure of the recipe, so this is just a log, or a tease, of the cake.