Sunday, 20 November 2011

Cake Slice Bakers 14 - Fail.

This month we were to make Creamy Pumpkin Cheesecake from our new book The Cake Book by Tish Boyle.  First off I notice it is decorated with ginger spiced pumpkin seeds and I don't do ginger but no problem, I can just leave that out.

Next I have to worry about getting the canned pumpkin.  I imported some for last year's Pumpkin-Chocolate Chip Pound Cake (my first ever bake with The Cake Slicer Bakers but I didn't really want anything else from the US so didn't fancy paying the delivery charge just for this one thing.  However, a friend let me know of a place that sells US things quite near by.  (Mains Of Drum for anyone local who is interested - quite a nice selection of classic American goods.)  So, I took the boys for a trip to get some and managed to get two tins of pumpkin.  All set to make the cheesecake.

Somehow, though, I just kept putting off making it.  There was always something more important to do.  I finally decided that I had to get it done and it dawned on me that I wasn't getting on with it as I didn't really fancy pumpkin cheesecake and wasn't sure that anyone else in the house would particularly want it either.  But I had bought the pumpkin.  

It suddenly became clear - I would use the pumpkin to make last year's cake instead as we had all loved it.

I made two of the Pumpkin-Chocolate Chip Pound Cakes.  The only difference from last year's one was that I changed the walnuts to pecans and I used a bar of dark chocolate chopped into rough chunks instead of the chocolate chips. Oh, and I had enough batter to make about 8 cupcakes too. 

I must say I would choose cake over cheesecake any day.

If you want to see the cheesecake, though, please go and have a look at the Cake Slice Blog Roll.

Friday, 11 November 2011

Cheesy Buttons.

This is my second recipe from Short and Sweet by Dan Lepard for Short and Tweet, the Twitter challenge by @EvidenceMatters.

The recipe was originally published in the Guardian in 2008.  I don't know why I didn't make them at that time because this is right up my street!  Anyway, I made them today and will take a box of them round to my friend's house for our book club tonight.  I think they are a really classy little nibble and they were amazingly quick and easy to put together.

These are rather moreish.  I'll have to leave for book club soon or there will be none left to take with me.  Dan Lepard says this is a great recipe for using up odd bits of cheese you have in your fridge and I can see me doing these quite regularly.  Certainly the perfect thing to take to book club.  Does anyone else have any good suggestions for nice quick easy nibbles for a book club gathering?

Tuesday, 8 November 2011


I got some lovely munchkin pumpkins mainly for decoration for the house over Halloween.  I also meant to use them for styling for blog photos but didn't get round to it.  However, once Halloween was past, it came time to eat the things.

I saw this recipe from Eat Like A Girl posted on iVillage

The only thing I did differently to the original recipe was to scatter on some grated gruyere for the last 5 minutes of cooking.  Oh, and I made different sizes so put the bigger ones in the oven to start with and added the teeny tiny ones after 10 minutes or so.  The teeny tiny ones were perfect for the boys.

We loved this dish.  I really thought we would just eat it as a way of using up the decorative pumpkins but, in fact, I would buy the munchkins just to make this dish - it was yummy.  The roasted pumpkin had a lovely nutty taste and each one tasted slightly different to the others.  The cream and cheese were so comforting and then there was a lovely little kick at the end from the chilli. And how unbelievably cute are they to serve to the wee ones?  

Monday, 7 November 2011

Roast Onion Soup with Thai Spices (RR 10).

A bit of cross-breeding in blog challenge world has resulted in Random Recipes Does No Croutons Required or No Croutons Required Does Random Recipes depending on which host you visit.  So this month we all have to make a soup randomly chosen from our recipes at home.  This challenge runs to the end of the month so plenty of time to join in for anyone who fancies a bowl of warming soup.  Just click on either of the links.  

I opted to use to get a number then counted along my cookbooks and landed on Real Cooking by Nigel Slater.

Look how young Nigel looks there!

Anyway, I went to the index and found that there are 10 recipes listed under "soups" so I used the random number generator again and it chose Cream of Roast Onion Soup with Thai Spices.

Nigel calls it "Sweet, sour, hot and creamy.  A soup to invigorate".  I have to agree.  This was absolutely delicious.  Amazingly easy to put together and tasted like it took way more effort.  I love the Thai flavours here (I missed out the ginger) and thoroughly enjoyed it.  It's a funny soup - both comforting and warming, and also refreshing and zingy - really hots the spot.  Glad I made this recipe.

Recipe - adapted from Real Cooking by Nigel Slater.
Serves 4.

Ingredients - 
4 medium sized onions
4 plump cloves of garlic
1 L of vegetable stock
1 tbsp Thai fish sauce (Nam pla) - now this recipe is supposed to be vegetarian for the challenge so you can just miss out the Nam pla unless anyone has any great ideas for a vegetarian substitute for me?
2 small red chillies, seeded and chopped
400ml tin of coconut milk
Grated zest of 1 lime
Juice of 2 limes

Method - 
1. Cut the onions in half vertically, skin and all.  Place in a roasting tin and roast at 200C/GM6 for about 45 mins, turning once.
2. Add the whole garlic cloves after about 20 mins.
3. When the onions are golden and soft, peel off the skin and slice into big chunks - whatever you think you can eat without making too much mess!  Nigel doesn't slice his at all - just separates the layers but either my onions were too big for that or my mouth too small. 
4. Drop into a deep saucepan.  Add the roast garlic, squeezed from the skin, the stock, the fish sauce and chillies.
5. Bring to the boil, turn down the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes.
6. Stir in the coconut milk, bring back to simmering point, then taste for seasoning. Add salt or soy sauce if needed.  I added some of my posh soy sauce for the depth of flavour and a little sea salt for an extra kick of saltiness.  
7. Add the lime zest and juice just before serving.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Short And Tweet.

I have joined the world of Twitter.  Still finding my way but enjoying some of the chats between my fellow food bloggers and meeting new ones.  I have been following @dan_lepard who writes the "How To Bake" section in the Guardian Weekend.  I also noticed that a few of my fellow bloggers were raving about his new book, Short and Sweet  - ummm Vanessa, are you being paid by Dan for all the promoting you have been doing? ;-).  I bought the book a few weeks ago and have been enjoying flicking through it.

It seems to be a comprehensive baking book and has obviously come out at just the right time with all the news reports of a spike in sales of baking products on the back of The Great British Bake Off.  I believe Paul Hollywood's book will be coming out in about a year (yes, I follow him on Twitter too) so I hope that its release coincides with an equally popular new series of GBBO.  Knowing me, I'll probably get myself a copy of that too - will be good to compare the two books.

Anyway, I have joined Short and Tweet, a weekly bake challenge using recipes from Short and Sweet (obviously). This challenge is run on Twitter by @EvidenceMatters.  What a great way to get me using the book.  I won't be able to do it weekly but will join in when I can.  In fact, I missed the first one which was to bake Chocolate and Almond Fudge Cake but I managed to do the second and baked Olive Oil and Potato Flatbread.

I did this today.  Dan says it is a focaccia-style dough and the method involves a long rising time with intermittent stretching and folding which should give you those lovely big open holes in the dough. (Remember how keen on those Paul Hollywood was in GBBO?)

Unfortunately, I just didn't have the time to follow his schedule exactly so missed out some of the rising and folding.  However I still ended up with a lovely focaccia-like bread.  I had some medium sized holes in my dough and the bread was quite chewy with a crispy, salty crust. I did struggle to get it out of the tin - it was a very sticky dough - and even with plenty of olive oil on the tin, it stuck a bit.  I may have made the dough too sticky.  I sliced it up and got on with making my soup for Random Recipes which I'll post in the next few days.  This was a big mistake.  I couldn't stop eating it as I worked in the kitchen so by the time I served the soup to my family, there was only about half the bread left!  I suppose that shows that it was a great bread!  Or maybe just that I'm a greedy pig.  Steve and the boys enjoyed it too.

I might try it again some time when I feel I have the time to do the recipe properly but it won't be a bread I make very often.  Will need to stick to my quicker, easier every day loaves while I have such young children.  Mind you, if I was in for most of the day, it only means a minute or two of attention every half an hour or so - maybe it was just trying to get it done today to be on time for the challenge that was the problem.  It certainly is a very tasty bread, though with a fantastic chewy texture and I am extremely pleased with it.