Friday, 24 August 2012

Mr E's Photo Catch Up (sort of!)

As you may know, last year I took a photo every day and documented them here on Makey-Cakey. This year Mr E is doing the same thing, and I am very sporadically and with a significant time lag, posting monthly-ish roundups of his pictures.

My last roundup took us to the 27th April, when we set off on a camping road trip around the Highlands for three weeks, during which time, normal service was suspended - he didn't specifically take daily photos, I probably monopolised the camera again, and took waaaaaay more than one a day.

To be fair, normal service was suspended in a whole load of other ways, like having to wear all of our clothes, hat gloves etc at night in our tent as the temperature dipped below zero, listening to endless hours of children's songs (oh wait, that's fairly normal), not eating lunch because we didn't want to have to unpack the car to find the food (don't worry, we fed Mini-M!) and spending a lot of time in the campsite toilet block because it was warm! All of that aside, it was a fantastic trip though. And the apparently 'Arctic winds from the North' meant that as well as the chilly temperatures we got clear skies and stunning views.

So I thought that before I continue with Mr  E's daily photo roundups, I should fill in the holiday gap. To that end I've just spent 20 mins agonising over which photos to pick. I was tempted to go for all the silly ones - the holiday outtakes - but I've concluded they are most likely to be of interest to family and friends (and probably limited interest at that) and they've already been bored to death with our pics. So instead I've gone for the 'Visit Scotland' approach, with scenic views aplenty.

Seriously though - the far north and west of Scotland is amazing. If you are lucky enough to live here, get out and explore! If you're not, then brave the elements for a holiday. Deserted beaches, deserted roads, endless horizons, towering mountains, rocky cliffs, and if it's cold enough, no midges!

Montrose Splash playpark
Bread for breakfast
Rosemarkie swings 
Loch Fleet
Dunnet Sands
On the way to Durness
Inside Smoo Cave 
A happy camper (with towels drying!)
Little Loch Broom at Badrallach
Castle Moil, Kyleakin, Skye 
Hugging the giant ice cream in Mallaig 
Giraffe on the West Highland Line
Relaxing at Pulpit Rock overlooking Oban
Over the sea to Skye - oh wait - we've been there already - must be Colonsay! 
Family portrait en route to Balnahard, Colonsay
Kiloran Bay, Colonsay
Torrential Rain, Kiloran Bay, Colonsay
Scalasaig harbour, Colonsay
3D Car Tetris
Catching up on some reading
Waking up to snow, Rothiemurchus
I've tried not to include any foody photos in this roundup, as I've already written a couple about some of the things we ate and cooked. So if you'd like some scenic photos of bread and beaches, sausages and sand, camping stoves, caravans and youth hostel kitchens, then click here (cooking locations), here (lovely local foods and some of our own camping creations) or here (Beef Bourguignon made in a vacuum flask).

Night all - sorry for the photo overload!!!

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Potato Cake - with a difference!

When someone says potato cake to you, you probably mentally conjure up a rosti, or a fishcake, or a tattie scone. Something savoury anyway and not really all that cakey.

Well this is the potato cake I made today!

Now that's a proper cake. Sweet, fluffy, light, filled with fruity icing - oh, and made from potatoes. Yup, the only flour in it is potato flour.

If that sounds a bit weird and wacky to you, then does it convince you any more if I add that potato flour has been around for a long time, and is regularly used in Polish baking (and probably many other countries too!). It's just not something that we see on our supermarket shelves here, which is weird because it makes really good gluten free cake!

I've been doing some gluten free baking experiments recently in preparation for a wedding cake I'm making for the end of the month, and I have to confess that this one has left me feeling a little bit like a kitchen alchemist! Just that instead of turning base metals into gold, I've been turning spuds into sponge cake.

I used this recipe at Grain Free Living, and followed it exactly (opting for the arrowroot choice rather than tapioca).

For the filling I mashed some brambles that Mr E had gathered along the Water of Leith path this morning whilst duck-feeding with Mini-M. It's his second bramble foraging haul of the season, the first was a few days ago and we added them to some Elderflower Edinburgh Gin to make a fruity G&T.

I made up a small amount of butter icing using dairy free margarine and icing sugar, then mixed the brambles in, spread it all over the middle of the cake, then dusted haphazardly with icing sugar. Done!

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Take 1 Bag of Cornmeal...

I'm writing this blog post in a state of semi-disgruntlement (is that a word? Probably not, but I think it should be.) as we seem to have lost our TV reception for all BBC channels just as the new series of The Great British Bake Off begins. And unfortunate co-incidence - or perhaps it is not a  coincidence at all... I'm really hoping it doesn't mean we've also lost CBeebies - that might be rather complicated to explain to Mini-M!

But I shall distract myself by writing my Daring Cooks' August challenge post, whilst Mary, Paul and the contestants flicker and stutter in the background.

Rachael of pizzarossa was our August 2012 Daring Cook hostess and she challenged us to broaden our knowledge of cornmeal! Rachael provided us with some amazing recipes and encouraged us to hunt down other cornmeal recipes that we'd never tried before - opening our eyes to literally 100s of cuisines and 1000s of new-to-us recipes!

At the outset of this challenge I'd never cooked with cornmeal before, so I armed myself with a bag and got cooking. In the end I made four different recipes, and there's very little left in the bag!

Firstly I played it safe and baked some cornbread using this vegan recipe at Pickles & Honey. I followed it to the letter - a rarity given my usual slightly haphazard and improvisational approach to cooking - and it worked a dream. It was really delicious. Since I've never eaten cornbread before, I had no idea what to expect and no idea if this is authentic, but it was lovely! It was lightly sweet from the maple syrup, and we had it for pudding with chopped bananas, oat cream and a little drizzle of extra maple syrup. Mini-M also enjoyed it spread with 'butter' (aka dairy free margarine which she wants on everything. e.g. Mini-M: "My hungry Mummy" Me: "Is there something you would like?" Mini-M: "Butter" Me: "On toast?" Mini-M: head shaking "Butter" Me: "How about on an oatcake then?" Mini-M: "My having butter" etc Don't worry she has never actually eaten 'just butter'!)

The brown flecks are form the flaxseed 'eggs'
I split the mixture across two tins and froze one
With 'butter'
Next I made some fab gluten free fruitcake. In my head, I can't help thinking of this as gluten-free pirate cake - packed with bananas, dates and rum it has flavours of both the tropics and grog! I started off making this Date, banana & rum loaf from the BBC Good Food website, but due to a) not having the right ingredients and b) not concentrating when attempting to half the quantities, I ended up far enough away from the original for me to post my version here too.

It'd help the gluten-free pirates on their way to 5 a day too!
Tropical Cornmeal Rum Cake (Makes 1 small loaf)

  • 125g Stoned Dates
  • 1 Smallish Banana
  • 60g Pistachio Nuts
  • 50g Raisins
  • 100g Dried Pears
  • 50g Dried Apricots
  • 50g Medium Cornmeal
  • 1 tsp Mixed Spice
  • 1 tsp Baking Powder
  • 3 tbsp Dark Rum
  • 1 Egg beaten

Preheat the oven to 180C (160C fan) and grease a 1lb loaf tin.
Put the dates in a small saucepan with 100ml water. Bring the the boil and simmer for 5 mins.
Take off the heat, then add the banana and rum and blitz until smooth.
Chop the dried pears and apricots into approximately raisin sized pieces.
Mix all the ingredients together.
Tip into the prepared tin and level - it will be fairly full, but don't worry, it doesn't rise too much.
Bake for around 1hr until a skewer inserted comes out clean, and the top is browned and crusty.
Allow to cool completely before turning out of the tin.

Full of pistachio apricot and raisin nuggets
I then decided to make some savoury cornmeal pancakes. Instead of using milk, I used tinned smooth spiced lentil soup. Mini-M helped me make these, and as we stirred the soup into the cornmeal she said "My mixing up sick Mummy" I have to admit at that moment she had a point, however the resemblance was only fleeting, and they cooked up well and she happily ate them!.

The finished result looks much more appealing than the raw batter!
Spiced Lentil and Cornmeal Pancakes (Makes 6-8)

  • 1/2 Cup Medium Cornmeal
  • 1 Cup Smooth Lentil Soup (I used Suma Spicy Lentil Soup)
  • 1 heaped tsp Runny Honey
  • 1/4 Cup Self Raising Flour plus 2tbsp 
  • 1 Egg beaten
  • Pinch of Salt
  • Sunflower Oil for frying

Firstly heat the lentil soup up.
Add the cornmeal to the hot soup and mix thoroughly.
Mix in the honey, salt and 1/4 cup flour.
Next mix in the beaten egg and add a little flour if needed to reach the correct dropping consistency.
Heat a tiny drop of oil in a nonstick pan, and once hot, add a small ladleful of batter to the pan.
Cook for 2-3 minutes on each side, and cool under a tea towel on a cooling rack.

And finally I made my fourth recipe for dinner tonight - a polenta based veggie 'pizza'. I'm using the term loosely since it's an unconventional pizza base, and since it's dairy free has no cheese. However if you're feeling cheesy then a generous grating would finish it of fantastically. It was lovely! Really fresh and zingy.

A good start at eating a rainbow
Polenta Veggie Pizza (Serves 3)

  • 500ml Boiling Water
  • 1 heaped tsp Marigold vegetable stock
  • 100g Quick Cook Polenta
  • 1 tsp Parmesan Cheese Substitute (optional - or more real parmesan!)
  • 200g Stir Through Tomato and Basil Pasta Sauce
  • 5 Closed Cup Mushrooms
  • 1 Very Small Broccoli Head
  • 6 Cherry Tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp Olive Oil

Bring the water to the boil in a pan, add the Marigold powder and stir to dissolve.
Turn the heat down to a gentle simmer then stir with one hand whilst sprinkling in the polenta with the other to stop it clumping.
Keep stirring constantly over a low heat for 5 mins then take off the heat and stir in the "Parmesan".
Allow to sit for a minute or two.
Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper and heat the oven to 180C (170C fan)
Spread the polenta in a freeform circle on the tray, keeping it at least 1cm thick, then pop in the oven for 5 mins.
In the meantime, blanch the broccoli, slice the mushrooms and quarter the tomatoes.
Take the polenta base out and spread the tomato sauce over it, then arrange the veggies on top as artistically as you like!
Return to the oven for about 30 minutes until the broccoli is starting to look a little frazzled around the ages and the mushrooms and tomatoes are cooked.
Allow to sit for a couple of minutes before slicing to help the base stay firm enough to lift.

Mmm - leftovers for tomorrow!
Thanks for a fab challenge and so many new and exciting tastes on our menu this month!

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Long Overdue Surprise Ingredient Swap Recipe

This post is late. Almost 3 weeks late. For my own blog event challenge. I should rap my own knuckles and ground myself for a week. Or alternatively I could get on with writing it...

In order to distract myself from a number of birthday I've not quite recovered form the trauma of reaching, I organised a surprise ingredient swap and invited other bakers to post a surprise ingredient to their swap partner, then bake up something delicious. I then posted a roundup of all the beautiful creations on my birthday.

My birthday, however, is just one day after Mini-M's. (Believe me, she was quite some birthday present!) and after she requested a Kitty Pirate cake for her party, I had a little more cake decorating on my hands than I'd imagined, and a little less blogging time. So I'm partially blaming this character!

My ingredient swap partner was Exploits of a Food Nut, and before I go any further, I should send some grovelling in that direction, for not getting this posted sooner and saying an official thank you for my lovely surprise ingredient parcel which contained lots of delicious dark chocolate, and some fresh red chillis.

I used them to make two different sweet treats: A chocolate chilli truffle torte, and chocolate raspberry brownies with a chilli hit.

So the Chocolate Chilli Truffle Torte is first. This is a rich, decadent, delicious and dairy free dessert - in fact if you choose your chocolate carefully, it could even be vegan. Instead of re-writing the recipe entirely here, I'll instead direct you to this post, and give you the chilli kick instructions... after you've chilled your coconut milk and spooned off the thickened cream, add 1 red chopped chilli and mix well, then leave to steep for about an hour. Sieve to remove the chilli, then proceed as the recipe. We enjoyed this with some fresh cherries and it was delicious - creamy and chocolatey to begin with followed by a warm chilli kick.

And now the Chocolate Raspberry Chilli Brownies (Makes 15-18)
  • 250g Plain Flour
  • 300g Demerera Sugar
  • 65g Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
  • 200g Fresh Raspberries
  • 1/2 tsp Baking Powder
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 250ml Milk (I used Oatly Oat Milk)
  • 1 Red Chilli
  • 200ml Sunflower Oil
  • 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
First chop the chilli and add it to the milk of your choice. Zap it in the microwave for 30s to heat up and help the infusing, and leave for about 15 mins.
Preheat the oven to 180C (170C fan) and grease a 9"x13" tin.
Drain the chopped chilli from the milk. (Don't do what I did first time, when I drained all the chilli infused milk down the sink...).
Mix all the ingredients bar the raspberries together, then gently fold them in too.
Tip into the prepared tin and level the surface.
Bake for about 30 minutes until set and browned on top. Slightly shorter if you like your brownies super gooey, longer if you like them chewy around the edges.
Allow to cool completely in the tin before cutting.

These brownies are really something special. And vegan if you pick your milk carefully! A good recipe to have up your sleeve to impress vegan or dairy / egg intolerant family, friends and guests.

So thanks again to Exploits of a Food Nut for such an inspiring and delicious surprise ingredient package!

Thursday, 9 August 2012

A Meal Out With Mini-M

A couple of weekends back, we had a Mac store mission to undertake, meaning a day trip to Glasgow to pick up our old laptop which had been in for some surgery with the Mac doctors in the Apple shop.

As well as exploring the transport museum, delivering some table cloths (long story) and generally running around like loons after Mini-M, we paused for lunch at Stereo Cafe/Bar which is tucked away very unassumingly down Renfield Lane. It was fantastic!

Oh yes, and the day started with some 06:30am face painting after which Mini-M spent the rest of the day as an increasingly grubby tiger/cat. (There's a limit to how realistic / artistic / creative I can be at a) 6:30am on a Sunday morning, and b) within Mini-M's standing still window!)

06:50am - still in PJs, face paint relatively un-smeared!
And why was it such a big hit? Because the food is vegan, which is a HUGE blessing, with a dairy intolerant toddler who suddenly seems to be transitioning from scoring 10 on the fussy eater scale (i.e. eats only spaghetti hoops, bananas, soya yoghurts, raisins and toast) to wanting to "try some this one Daddy".

The sudden change in Mini-M's food outlook is fantastic, however it has started to lead to the inevitable "No you can't try that one it will make your tummy sad". She's really good about it. She kind of understands. The other morning she asked to have some of my cereal but before she dived in asked "Having cow milk Mummy?"

But I digress - back to Stereo. Yep, the food is all vegan, so the menu was fair game for me (yippee! I'm getting kind of sick of there only being one dairy free option, and it being a sodding baked potato with tuna mayo...) and Mini-M was free to try some of whatever she fancied from our order.

Mini-M wasn't for waiting to have her photo taken before tucking in...
They do a range of tapas style dishes as well as mains and daily specials. We played it fairly safe and went for things we thought she might like, trying to keep the whole "trying" experience as positive as possible: veggie haggis bites, spring rolls, hummus and flat bread, and the old failsafe - chips!

She tried them all. The haggis was a fail, the jury remains out on the spring rolls - she didn't want to eat them, but she didn't want Mr E to eat them either, the chips were unsurprisingly a hit, but the real winner was the hummus. She loved it. In fact she almost cried when the waitress took the plates away, and there was still a small scrap of half chewed hummus-y flatbread on hers! And Mr E and I thought it was all delicious - particularly the haggis.

Making sure every last scrap of hummus is mopped up!
And to top it all off... there was soya ice cream for pudding!

Grubby tiger/cat concentrating hard on her ice-cream scooping
So if you find yourself in Glasgow (with or without a dairy intolerant toddler!) and fancy something different, then Stereo is worth the detour for. And if you live within a 50 mile radius with a dairy intolerant kid, it's worth the trip especially. Being able to eat all together without having to ask the waiting staff a million questions about what is or isn't dairy free and being able to let your little one be as adventurous as they want is just such a refreshing experience. Thank you Stereo!

And of course, come the evening, it is also a great bar and music venue - it's got all bases covered!

Gratuitous mucky tiger/cat pout!

Sunday, 5 August 2012

"My having Kitty pirate cake" Oh really?

Mini-M turned 2 a couple of weeks ago.

The weeks running up to her birthday are well and truly party season, as lots of her friends in very quick succession, so by the time hers came along, she was well versed in birthday parties!

We were walking home in the buggy one day and chatting about her birthday party, discussing the fact that we were going to be having a BBQ. "Sausages" she said. "Too hot. Cooling down. Blow on it" I confirmed that there would be sausages, and one of the unfortunate drawbacks of BBQing them (or indeed cooking them any other way) was that for a little while at least they would be too hot. "And cake" she continued. "Having cake". I said there probably would be cake too. "My having Kitty pirate cake" she added. "Pardon?!" I replied (although possibly it came out more like "WHAAAT!?!?" "My having Kitty pirate cake" she repeated very clearly and deliberately. A little more discussion revealed that was indeed exactly what she meant. Hello Kitty pirate cake.

Hello Kitty Pirate says Miaowarrgh!
As soon as Mr E got home, he was immediately questioned. Have you been discussing birthday cakes with Mini-M? Did you put her up to asking for a Kitty pirate cake? etc etc. No, and no.

So Kitty pirate cake it was. Goodness knows how she came around to imagining that concept... but given that she had, my job was to create it in cake!

2 layers vanilla sponge and 2 tinted with beetroot,  with 'islands' on top
I made the cake 5 days in advance, sandwiched the layers with jam, used some muffins I made with the same mix, then wrapped it in greaseproof paper and tinfoil and froze it until the day before.

I used coloured writing icing to give some jelly fruit stars faces
And since everyone and everywhere seems to be Olympic daft at the moment, I thought I'd include these two, of some happy starfish synchronised "swimming".

Now on to Kitty herself. I used some ready coloured Renshaw fondant, and a soft toy for inspiration. I did all the modelling for Kitty (in fact pretty much for the whole cake) using just a butter knife and a cocktail stick.
Head - check! Onto the body...
Waves or sharks? 
Palm trees in the making
I used some Liquorice Allsorts stuck together with royal icing to make the trunks of some palm trees. I used strawberry laces to top the pink one, and made some fondant leaves plus a foam banana sweet to top the taller yellow one. To get them to stick to the cake, I stuck a cocktail stick halfway into the base of each, which then helped anchor it to the cake. I did the same to Kitty - which seemed slightly brutal, but it did the job, and she survived the 15 mile car journey unscathed.

Assembled save the palm trees, which I left off until we arrived.
Kitty on her island complete with cutlass.
Looking at this picture, I just realised that I lied - I used some tiny daisy cutters for the flowers. You can do magic with a butter knife and cocktail stick, but possibly not quite that neatly!

Pirate treasure!
Birdseye view - or perhaps from the crowsnest!
 And now for a few cake-in-action shots... (taken by my Dad - Thanks Grandad N!)

A moment of pre-cake contemplation 
Blowing out the candles
Kitty's work is done!


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