Friday, 27 May 2011

Prepped! - book review

Prepped! is out today, this is the recipe book that I helped to test with my first ever guest blog post, so this book means something to me and other more renowned food bloggers who have tested the recipes over the last few months.

Its not every day ordinary people cooking at home get the chance to try out new recipes and feedback to the author directly...but we have, and I hope I speak for others when I say I have loved the opportunity!

This is a really lovely new recipe book, full of easy to follow, time saving and inspiring recipes from drinks and main course family meals to grown up suppers, biscuits, cakes and preserves. The recipes will tempt you and draw you in with new and interesting flavour combinations and gorgeous photography.

Each chapter of 'Prepped!' is not only seasonal but also based around a theme, like rhubarb, lemon, tomato, plum, chocolate etc. and many helpful tips and suggestions are given to make additional dishes from previous recipes. This is all with the notion of making wonderfully delicious food and saving time.

In the cardamom and rhubarb chapters the 'Victoria sponge cake with cardamom, rose cream and rhubarb' is the most scrummy tasting cake ever; this is one of those cakes that for me will become a family favourite for generations. I know I've made that cake several times, here it is.

If you ever click on this blog and wonder what the cake is at the top of the page this is the one!

While the '100 mile an hour rhubarb and cardamom batter cake' is unbelievably quick, easy and a sure fire winner for any (caught on the hop) cook looking for a delicious cake or dessert.

The recipe is on this blog...

'Prepped!' does not just deliver on wonderful cake recipes it covers a range of pasta and family supper dishes.

It would make a fabulous and inspirational gift for any food lover or short of time family cook, its been written by Vanessa Kimbell, someone who knows about food, loves good food, and has a passion for feeding her children. Her enthusiasm for food and life is laid out before you on each page.

Prepped! is different, its new, its easy on the eye, its a different approach to cooking for those who are short of time and want to eat something that tastes so much better.

Prepped! is available on line from Amazon , and can be bought from Waterstones.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Light as a hen's feather chocolate muffins - recipe

Family visiting for afternoon tea and what to make to add to the menu? Something chocolatie and a firm favourite enjoyed by everyone...chocolate muffins...who does not like a chocolate muffin?

This is a another easy and delicious recipe from Ruth Clemens at The Pink Whisk...I love Ruth's recipes, they never fail me...ever and they always go down really well. Go straight to Ruth's original recipe...where those muffins are even more lovely as they have a gooey chocolate centre.

These are easy to make and really you might just get away without using a food mixer, with just a bit of elbow grease at the start of the recipe.

165g butter, softened
300g caster sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 eggs, large
70g self raising flour
200g plain flour
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
70g cocoa powder
225ml milk
25ml malt vinegar
100g chocolate chunks of your choice to top the muffins

Preheat the oven to 160c Fan/180c/Gas Mark 4.
Go into the garden and get your 3 eggs from the girls...enjoying breakfast here...
Start off by measuring out the milk in a jug, add the 25ml of malt vinegar, give it a quick stir and leave it to stand until later.
Chop up your chocolate of choice to top the muffins with later.

Cream together the butter and the sugar...if your doing this with or without the help of a food mixer...make sure the butter is soft and at room temperature, and cream with the sugar until pale and fluffy.
Add the vanilla extract and the eggs and beat together well.
Weigh out all the dry ingredients into a bowl together, don't sift them it doesn't seem to make a difference with this recipe - add them all to the mix.
Now add the milk/vinegar mixture and give it a really good mix up.
 Divide the mixture between muffin cases by filling two thirds full.
Top each case with chopped chocolate chunks. I used dairy milk but you could use any kind of chocolate.

Bake for 25 minutes. Then try not to devour all of the 18 muffins this recipe made! These muffins are really light, not at all stodgy like some shop bought ones are, we all loved them.

Forget to take a pic of the end product...duuuuuhhhhhh.
Trust me they were light, moist and yummy!

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Smoked mackerel flan - recipe

Its not just about sweet things here at 'the castle', we do like the savoury stuff as well. I'm not a lover of quiches, 'topless tarts' or flans (call them what you like?) and cannot stomach even the thought of those shop bought ones, but I do like my own homemade ones...funny that!
AND they need a good few eggs to make, so its a good way to use up the eggs from the girls...who are basking in the lovely sun we are having and dust bathing themselves into a frenzy each day...a lovely sight! It might look a bit crowded in that (ahem!) beautiful full blooming Spring border (that was before the girls took control) but the girls are in heaven, trust me, this is their first free Spring and they are loving life!
So departing from the usual ham/cheese or cheese/onion, cheese tomato style, we are partial to here, I saw a recipe recently and decided to give it a is a slightly altered was really delicious and I have made it again this weekend, we liked it that much.

Its nice hot or cold with salad and the like (I made a salsa and put it over some leaves). If you are not partial to this fish filling you can use another or see the link below with lots of other options.

For the pastry 
125 g butter, cubed, plus extra for greasing the flan tin
250 g plain flour, plus extra for dusting  
pinch salt
COLD water to bind
(in desperation, please buy a ready made pastry flan case or ready made shortcrust pastry)

For the filling
3 smoked mackerel fillets (buy one vacuum pack, this is sufficient)
3 large eggs 
50 ml double cream
100 ml milk 
1-2 tsp coarse wholegrain mustard 
1 bunch watercress, chopped
1 handful grated extra mature cheddar

1. For the pastry: put the butter, flour and a pinch of salt in a food processor and blend until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add the cold water to the mixer and continue processing until a dough is formed. Wrap it in cling film and chill for at least 1 hour, removing it from the refrigerator 15 minutes before you want to roll it.

2. Butter a 25cm shallow tin and sprinkle with a little flour. Lightly dust the dough with flour and roll out to a thickness of 3mm. Carefully lift the dough and lay it over the tart tin, then gently press down into the base. Trim the edges, leaving a rim of pastry above the rim of the tin to allow for shrinkage. Prick the base with a fork, then chill for 30 minutes.

3. Preheat the oven to 170C/150C fan/Gas 3. Line the pastry with a sheet of greaseproof paper, then fill with dried peas or beans and bake for 12 minutes. Remove from the oven.

4. For the filling:
Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan/Gas 4. Remove the skin from the mackerel fillets, cut them in half lengthways and flake the flesh, removing any bones. Scatter the mackerel and watercress over the based of the part-cooked tart shell.  

Beat together the eggs, milk, cream, mustard and some salt and pepper. 

Carefully pour the egg mixture over the filling, stopping when the liquid reaches the rim of the case – be careful not to let it overflow. Top with grated cheese then bake for 30-40 minutes, until the filling has set.

5. Remove the tart from the oven. Trim off any excess pastry around the rim, allow to cool, then cut into wedges and serve.

Here's the finished one, delicious! 

If you want more 'topless tart' inspiration then look here...where there are lots and lots!

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Vanilla (food mixer free) cupcakes/spongecake and a buttercream recipe

Dark, fragrant vanilla there's nothing like it...its a lovely delicious flavour.

A while ago I posted about some vanilla cupcakes that I'd made and said I'd put the recipe on my blog, so (at last!) here it is.

This is a recipe I use for all manner of vanilla cakes, cupcakes/fairy cakes/victoria sponge cakes. It works every time, its been a really popular recipe and you don't need a food mixer to make this version! So why not have a go?

You MUST use either a vanilla pod (cut in half and scrape the seeds out with a knife), liquid vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste (though none are cheap but they are worth it and the last 2 will go along way). If you don't use either of these you won't get that lovely vanilla taste that makes these so very special.

This will make about 24 cupcakes (these are bigger than a fairy cake).
Or two halves of a lovely plump sandwich cake.

Preheat the oven to 180°C or 350°F or gas mark 4.

225g caster sugar
225g soft margarine (at room temperature) (or the same amount of soft butter)
4 eggs (at room temperature)
225g SR flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons milk (at room temperature)

Prepare your tins or cupcake cases ready.
Put everything (that means ALL the above) into a mixing bowl and mix together really thoroughly, with a wooden spoon (a metal spoon will do just as well).
When mixed, don't beat it into submission, just make sure its well mixed. Fill each of the cupcake cases two thirds full with the batter like mixture, and bake in the oven for 15 minutes.

If you want to make a sandwich cake, split the batter between 2 greased 8 inch round tins, and bake for 25 minutes.

Remove from the tins when slightly cool and put on a wire rack to cool completely. Then let your imagination go wild and decorate/personalise to your hearts content! These examples below are topped with a white chocolate/vanilla butter cream and decorated.
My recipe for white chocolate butter cream is here and is adapted slightly from a Ruth Clemens recipe:-

150g unsalted butter, softened (MUST BE BUTTER)
300g icing sugar
100g good quality white chocolate
2 tbsp double cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Beat the softened butter (you can do this by hand).
Sift in the icing sugar and beat together well.
Add in the vanilla and 2 tablespoons of double cream to help it come together.
Take the white chocolate, break into small pieces and melt.  Melt the white chocolate in a microwave if you don't fancy doing it over a pan of hot water. Short 30 second bursts on half power, stirring in between to make sure it doesn't overheat and burn.
Add the melted chocolate to the butter cream and mix well.
Leave to stand at room temperature for a couple of hours or half an hour in the fridge and the mixture will thicken as the chocolate cools.

Depending on how thick or decorative you like your butter cream to be you may need double the above quantities for 24 good size cupcakes.

My cakes were featured by DELICIOUS MAGAZINE on their Facebook  page on 13th June 2011.