Monday, 28 May 2012

Tea Time Treats - Floral and Fabulous!

Tea Time Treats is a monthly themed baking challenge hosted alternately by Karen at Lavender and Lovage, and Kate at What Kate Baked. This month, it's being hosted at Lavender and Lovage, and the theme is floral.

For my entry, I'm submitting these fantastic Giant Pistachio and Rosewater Meringues. I made them for the Charity Cake Auction I helped organise, in aid of Borders Exploration Group, back on the 1st April, and they've been languishing in the to-blog pile ever since! Hopefully despite my 11th hour brinkmanship, they'll manage to sneak in the right side of the challenge posting deadline.

I use the recipe that is found on p 249 of Ottolenghi The Cookbook.
Alternatively, you can find a wealth of information and a detailed description and unflavoured Ottolenghi recipe in the Guardian newspaper Meringue Masterclass. To this, add 1 tsp rosewater and 30g finely chopped pistachio nuts to arrive at the same thing.

I halved the book recipe, and it still made 6 very large meringues, plus one small pavlova base! (This is the same quantity as the Guardian recipe).

A bit of a squeeze in the oven!
It's a purists meringue base - just caster sugar and egg whites; no cream or tartar or vinegar. But there is an added element of kitchen adrenalin injected by the method, which sees you heating your caster sugar to melting point, then pouring the boiling sugar into your eggs as you whisk. Without a stand mixer, this is definitely a two man job, and Mr E dealt fearlessly with the boiling sugar!

After the sugar is incorporated, you add the rosewater, but you could add a whole lot of other flavourings here - or colouring if you wish. Orange flower water would continue the floral theme, but almond or peppermint would also be lovely.

The recipe directs you to roll the meringues carefully, using two spoons, in the chopped nuts. My nerve failed me at this point - after the boiling sugar success, I didn't want to push my luck, and since I needed them to turn out well for the auction, I went for the safe option - I dolloped them onto my greaseproof paper, then sprinkled the nuts over the top.

I think that this may well become my go-to meringue recipe - the result were brilliant. Crisp on the outside with a lovely marshmallowy centre - just how they should be (in my opinion!) and the rosewater flavour was subtle but delicious.

We ate the small pavlova base ourselves, topped with strawberry compote, Co-Yo Coconut Yoghurt and more chopped pistachios. It was eaten in rapturous silence - a rare occurrence around our tea table, and about the biggest compliment you can get.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Daring Bakers' May 2012: Challenging Challah

Today it's been hot - and that's proper hot, not hot by Scottish standards. Whilst it was lovely to have properly warm weather, it was unfortunate that what will probably be one of the hottest days of year, was also the day for the Edinburgh Marathon. I was only doing one leg of a team relay and that was hard enough in the heat - how the full marathon runners coped I have no idea. But it did bring out a fantastic community spirit, with lots of local people getting their hosepipes out and kids with water pistols giving the runners a cool shower as they passed by.

As a result, I'm writing this enjoying a guilt-free celebratory cider, radiating a warm glow from my slightly sunburned shoulders!

But I digress - back to the Baking...

May's Daring Bakers' Challenge was pretty twisted - Ruth from The Crafts of Mommyhood challenged us to make challah! Using recipes from all over, and tips from "A Taste of Challah", by Tamar Ansh, she encouraged us to bake beautifully braided breads.

Firstly, I did exactly as suggested and practised my challah braiding using some of Mini-M's play-dough!

Simple three-strand braid
Four-strand braid
Four-strand braided round
Six-strand braid - tricky!
Once I was feeling confident, I tried it with the real thing. I used the 'Easy Challah' recipe suggested in the challenge, which you can find here. I halved it, which made two mini loaves.

When I went to make my dough, I discovered that the bread flour I had in the cupboard was multigrain - which is definitely not traditional - but I continued regardless and it worked out not too badly. In the end I opted for a four strand braid, and four strand braided round.

Braided and having a final rise before baking
They lost their shape slightly during cooking, but they kept the characteristic challah look, and tasted delicious.

Baked and delicious!
And to finish, just in case anyone remains unconvinced by the Scottish sunshine... this was taken at 11am this morning.
Marathon relay change over at Cockenzie

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Rainbow Hearts

Back in mid-April I was really pleased to be able to make a cake for my lovely very-soon-to-be-sister-in-law.

I cannot tell a lie - it was a bit of a last minute one. I only found out I was making it two days before, which gave me limited planning time. Usually I think about celebration cakes for quite a while before I get down to the baking.

Selfishly, I wanted something that I could eat too, and after a bit of brain-wracking, I decided to go with a rainbow layer cake, that wouldn't be obvious until the cake was cut, since Miss P likes surprises, and I iced it with seven-minute frosting, as it's dairy free.

I went with four layers, each a 2 egg Victoria sponge mix, and used food colouring paste to get the colours nice and bright. Mr E was forbidden from licking the bowls or eating the cake trimmings to prevent him from bouncing off the walls!

And in the end, my 'seven minute' frosting took about 14 minutes to get it to the correct consistency. But it got there in the end, which is the important bit!

I made a fondant hen decoration for the top, with some orange, brown and yellow fondant which I decorated with some writing icing.

Now... if you're not easily offended, then feel free to follow this link to see the finished cake. Look closely and you'll see why I thought it might be a little too risqué for everyone!

And I even gave a DIY makeover to a stray Easter chicken to perch on top.

Here's a cross section of the finished cake. Thankfully despite all the colouring, it still tasted delicious, and went down a treat with everyone - especially after some rather potent cocktails.

Thursday, 24 May 2012


Anyone fancy taking part in a Makey-Cakey Birthday Surprise Ingredient Swap?

Ingredients! (Although not very exciting or swappable ones)
Cake (not that it probably needed a caption)
I think it could be fun...

My cunning plan is as follows

1) Anyone that wants to participate adds a comment to this post between now and the 1st June

2) On 1st June, I will randomly pair people up and post the pairings

3) Everyone contacts their paired partner, has a quick chat, exchanges addresses, flags up any allergies etc.

4) Everyone then goes out and buys a lovely little surprise ingredient (of a Cakey nature of course) and posts it to their partner.

5) Once you receive your ingredient, thank your partner profusely and get baking!

6) Photograph your creation, and if you blog, send me the link. If you don't - fear not, you can still join in - just send me a picture - by the 22nd July

7) I'll post a roundup of all the sure-to-be-delicious-and-beautiful bakes on 23rd July - my birthday - as a distraction from the distressing fact that I'll be 30!

Hopefully someone will take me up on this idea - since it's not something I can do on my own!!!!
Getting post is fun. Surprises are exciting. Baking ingredients are lovely. Combining all three should guarantee a fun, exciting and lovely package arriving through your letterbox.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Random Recipes No. 16 - Fruit Cocktail and Muesli Cake

Reading the title of this post, you might be forgiven for thinking that the randomness referred to is the choice of ingredients!

However this concoction, believe it or not, came from a recipe book, and the randomness instead describes the method of selection of said recipe. The monthly Random Recipes challenge is hosted by Dom at Belleau Kitchen, who this month felt sorry for those poor recipes at the start and finish of books that are often overlooked. He asked us to randomly choose a cookbook from our libraries, then cook either the first or last recipe.

Since it is the 16th RR challenge, I decided to pick the 16th book on my shelf which turned out to be 'Waste Not Want Not' by Patrik Beer and Gunter Jaros.

The first recipe was for a ketchup based BBQ sauce, and I'm really not a ketchup fan, so I decided to go for the last one instead, on p246 - and found myself making "Muesli Cake" with the slightly cryptic subheading 'My first cake'.

This most definitely isn't my first cake, but it is easy, quick and tasty. It makes use of some store cupboard basics - tinned fruit cocktail, and muesli, which I'd certainly never have thought to combine in a cake before!

We ate it for tea on Saturday. Yep - you read that correctly. No main course. Just pud! We'd had a fantastic lunch cooked and hosted by the lovely P&P, so were still feeling fairly full. And we told ourselves that since it had lots of oats in it, it was almost healthy, right? (Note, just to clarify, Mini-M did NOT have this for her dinner - she had a proper tea with no fruit cocktail cake in sight!) We ate it as a slightly guilty pleasure after she had gone to bed.

As usual, I didn't have the right ingredients - no muesli, but I did have crunchy cereal, so I used that and reduced the sugar as it is already sweetened. Also (big confession) I couldn't find my scales - a temporary state of affairs thankfully that has now been remedied - so I just guessed. Bad me. They are probably the two main reasons that the picture in the book is of a kind of crumbly cake, with the instruction to alternate layers of fruit and muesli mix, and I instead ended up mixing it all together to make a more 'cake' cake. Still tasty though - phew!

Right - on to the recipe...

Fruit Cocktail Tropical Crunch Cake (Serves 4)

  • 150g Tropical Crunch Cereal - or Muesli if you will
  • 60g Plain Flour
  • 1 Egg
  • 1x 400g Tin Fruit Cocktail (drained)
  • 2 tbsp Caster Sugar (3 if you're using unsweetened muesli)
  • 2 tbsp Dairy Free Margarine

Firstly, preheat the oven to 200C (180C Fan). Put the crunchy cereal, margarine, flour and sugar in a bowl. Use a fork (or your fingers if you're feeling messy - that's what the original recipe suggested) to mash it all together. Add the egg and mix it in. Depending on the crumbliness of the mixture, you can either alternate layers of fruit and muesli mix in a baking tin, or, like me, add the fruit, give it all a good stir and pour it into a greased 20cm cake tin. Bake for 20-25 mins until lightly browned and springy to the touch. Enjoy it warm as a pudding, or leave to cool and cut into slices as a cake.

If you're a custard fan, I reckon a big dollop would complete the fruit-cocktail induced nostalgia. But speaking as a custard hater, it was lovely unadorned too!

Saturday, 19 May 2012

A Rather Overdue But Scenic Daring Cooks Boeuf Bourguingnon

So, the 14th of each month is the Daring Cooks challenge reveal date. However this 14th, I was on a ferry from the tiny island of Colonsay, off the West Coast of Scotland, back towards the mainland, then on towards Aviemore to camp at the Rothiemurchus estate on our camping tour of the North of Scotland. So not really ideal blogging conditions.

I did however do the cooking bit of the challenge on time, whilst on our travels, and took advantage of the well equipped (not to mention scenic) kitchen in Tongue Youth Hostel, coupled with a stainless steel vacuum food flask to make a very passable Beef Bourginon.

Our May 2012 Daring Cooks' hostess was Fabi of fabsfood. Fabi challenged us to make Boeuf Bourguignon, a classic French stew originating from the Burgundy region of France.

A word of forewarning to any Bourguignon purists out there - this is by no means authentic! But I am very proud of it - and of the village shop in Tongue that managed to supply the key ingredient.

Boeuf Bourguignon a la Tongue Youth Hostel
 Here are my ingredients... Round steak (thank you Tongue village shop), Rosemary (taken from home, still doing OK after 5 days on the road), Chorizo (the last little bit, after two other chorizo based meals!), a carton of chopped tomatoes, olive oil, mushrooms, an onion and 3 small carrots (taken from home and definitely starting to suffer from the travelling), and some red wine, from a bountiful wine box :o) Plus the important steel vacuum flask.

Not exactly mise en place!
And the method... chop and brown the onion in oil, then dice the beef and add it, stirring until browned. I cut the beef into fairly small pieces, just in case the vacuum flask cooking didn't go so well! Then I added the chopped carrot, mushrooms, tomato puree, a sprig or two of rosemary and the wine and brought it to the boil. In the meantime I put some boiling water into the vacuum flask to warm it. As soon as it was boiling, I poured the water our of the flask, poured the beef in, sealed the lid and then.... crossed my fingers and left it for 24hrs.

Ready to go into the flask
This has to be one of the most scenic dish washing views I've ever seen
 Fast forward 24hrs, and dinner time sees us sitting in the car, in Scourie, in the rain. With a sense of trepidation, we opened the flask and decanted the contents into a very glamorous transparent green plastic bowl. There was still steam - which was a good sign - and when we tasted it, the veg was cooked, the meat tender, and it was a delicious, tasty, meal - win!

Beef Bourguignon a la camping
 Here's a location shot...

Sporks - the sophisticated camping cutlery of choice...
 And since it's not clear in the last photo...'s a closeup of the rain!
But to finish up, I thought I'd share three stunning views from the front door of Tongue Youth Hostel

Back in Blog-Land after a Highland Fling

I'm back, after a fantastic if very chilly three weeks touring round the North of Scotland with Mr E and Mini-M.

I have to confess, we had a lot more indoor nights than planned, but then again when we masterminded our camping trip, we weren't envisaging snow, ice on the inside of the tent and the majority of days hovering around the 5C or cooler mark - in May! Even for Scotland that's uncharacteristically cold.

I've got a lot of blogging to catch up with - things I made before we even went on holiday, plus a couple from our travels, but I'll start off with a quick post with some of the cooking arrangements...

Trangia stove at Dunnet Bay
Mr E mans the BBQ on Dunnet Sands 
Tongue Youth Hostel - a very scenic kitchen. The best dish washing view I've ever seen

A tiny Eriba caravan on the shores of Little Loch Broom where we sheltered from the hail
A BBQ which it was too wet to light, plus a trangia and micro mug stove at Cambusdarrach
All things considered we ate well! Post about some of what we ate to follow over the next few days...


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