Monday, 29 October 2012

The Daring Bakers October 2012 Challenge: Layering Up

Late again. This was supposed to be posted on Saturday, and it's now Monday.
We were away for the weekend with friends to the Isle of Arran, and I thought I had written a post and scheduled it to auto-post on the 27th. Turns out what I actually did was write about 2 sentences, and save it as a draft.

So without further ado, I shall get on with it.

Rather flat Mille Feuille!
Our October 2012 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Suz of Serenely Full. Suz challenged us to not only tackle butter and flaky puff pastry, but then take it step further and create a sinful delicious Mille Feuille dessert with it!

This challenge was, by all measures, a fairly unmitigated fail for me.

I burned my first lot of pastry, and it was good only for christening our new food-waste recycling bin.

I intended to fill it with strawberry marshmallow mousse, instead of pastry cream, and the mousse was made and setting up before I cremated the pastry, so we just ate it as it was. It was made with fresh strawberries, marshmallows and coconut milk and was lovely, although unphotogenic!

For my second attempt I used some spare ready made puff pastry, which I know is a big cheat, just so that I could try to create something vaguely Mille Feuille-ish.
I then didn't put enough pastry cream in it, and then because it was already a fail, I didn't want to go to the effort of mixing up icing to adorn something so unimpressive, so I topped it with jam!

On the plus side, I did manage to make a very tasty and effective dairy free pastry cream, or creme patisserie if you're feeling continental, using almond milk. So that's something!

Almond Pastry Cream

  • 500ml almond milk
  • 50g icing sugar
  • 50g cornflour
  • 2 egg yolks
  • a few drops almond extract

Put all of the ingredients in a small pan and blitz with a hand blender until completely smooth and mixed.
Slowly bring to a medium heat, stirring constantly, until the cream thickens.
Once it coats the back of a spoon and leaves a trail in the surface, remove from the heat.
Allow to cool slightly, then transfer to a bowl or tub.
Cover with a sheet of baking parchment on the surface to prevent it from forming a skin.
Chill for at least an hour before using, preferably over night.

It's also good on crumble! Super crumble to be precise!

Tuesday, 23 October 2012


We had crumble after tea on Friday night at Mini'M's request. I have to confess I was a little confused at first, as the conversation went a little like this...

Mini-M: "Apple Crumble"
Me: "Pardon? Apple crumble? What about apple crumble"
Mini-M: "For pudding. My not liking apple crumble at nursery"
Me: "Did you have apple crumble at nursery and you didn't like it?"
Mini-M: "My liking apple crumble at home. After main course"
Me: "What is different about apple crumble at nursery that you didn't like" (thinking to myself, better suss it out, so that I don't make the same mistake...
Mini-M: "My not eating apple crumble at nursery. My having biscuit instead. Having dairy in it"

Phew - mystery solved - no specific requirements, it seems in Mini-M's book any apple crumble is good, as long she's able to eat it!

The nursery she goes to are really great at making sure she doesn't eat dairy, and most of the meals are compatible, but every so often, there are things on the menu for everyone else that are off the menu for Mini-M. 

And once I'd established that the crumble bar was set fairly low, I decided that if I was going to pander to toddler-whim dessert making, I was going to make it as healthy as I possibly could. I'm calling it Super Crumble - since I managed to cram in blueberries, manuka honey, almonds and quinoa. There's no wheat, dairy or refined sugar in it. And it tastes really good - it got the wholehearted Mini-M seal of approval. (Which goes something like this "Mmmm nummy. Yum yum. Scrum Tum (laughs at her own rhyming witticism) my funny Mummy")

Super Crumble (Serves 2 adults and 1 small person)
1 pear
1 apple
75g blueberries
1 tsp manuka honey
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp water
2 tbsp dairy free margarine
1 tbsp unrefined raw cane sugar 
3 tbsp quinoa flakes

Preheat the oven to 180C (160C fan)
Peel, core and chop the apple and pear into chunks.
Put in a microwaveable bowl and toss in the lemon juice and water.
Microwave for 2 mins until cooked
Stir in the blueberries and the manuka honey and tip the lot into a small casserole dish.
Chop the margarine into small pieces and put into a bowl along with the sugar, quinoa flakes and ground almonds. 
Rub in until it resembles clumpy sandy breadcrumbs.
Sprinkle over the crumble and bake for about 20 mins until browned and golden.

I hate custard with a passion, so I had mine 'naked' (and indeed out of the casserole dish to minimise washing up, which confused Mini-M a little). She and Mr E ate it with some dairy free almond milk custard, but that's a post for another day!

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Tonight I carved a melon...

A rock and roll Saturday evening chez Makey-Cakey tonight...

I carved a watermelon, as an alternative to a 2-day-late wedding anniversary card for Mr E. (Note - I did NOT forget it was our wedding anniversary, just that I had been lacking the time/inspiration to come up with something appropriate). Apparently in the UK, your 4th year wedding anniversary is traditionally celebrated with fruit. Or so Mr E said - if I find out that is total nonsense and he was playing to my very gullible side, then I shall have to revoke the watermelon. Anyway, I did think about grafitti-ing a banana to pass time on my train journey back from Birmingham earlier in the week but thought that would probably just make me look like a crazy to the person sitting next to me on the train.

So instead I carved a watermelon tonight and shared the tale here, making me seem like a crazy in blog-land instead. Clearly a better plan...

From time to time I also indulge my geeky side by checking my Google Analytics keywords, which lists what search terms people have used and ended up on Makey-Cakey. I also quite like the thought that by writing about some of the weirder ones here, it's a self fulfilling prophecy, because if anyone searches for the same weird combo again, this post will increase the chances of them ending up here! Hello confused internet users :o)

Onto the search terms:

  • "can I get dairy free donuts in Glasgow" - I have no idea! But I hope for the sake of the searcher than answer is yes. They like frying things in Glasgow. There's a good chance!
  • "Cheezly muffins" Don't do it!!! They are horrid. I have done it, take my word for it.
  • "fondant rowan berries tutorial" Surely you just roll up little balls of red fondant. There you go - tutorial done!
  • "fondant squirrel" Beyond my fondant modelling skills. Although fondant and squirrel as separate words probably do feature relatively often on this blog, never in the same sentence!
  • "fudge porridge" I've never made it, but it strikes me as something that would appeal to Mr E...
  • "how to make naked wedding cake" The mind boggles. How to make wedding cake whilst naked? Carefully. I am assuming the person actually meant un-iced, which is easy. Make a wedding cake. Don't ice it.
  • "I'm making a wedding cake in advance" That's nice, but you're not special - most people do! Perhaps whoever searched for this got Google confused with their diary?
  • "ideas to fill dead space in kitchen" Clearly asked by someone who doesn't cook very much, because everyone I know who does has absolutely zero dead space - it's all packed full of books, spices, pans, tins, etc etc
  • "imperfect wedding cakes" I'm slightly insulted by this - I think Google is poking fun at my cake decorating skills!
  • "marzipan before or after royal icing" BEFORE! ALWAYS! Although I would love to see the end result of someone attempting to put marzipan on after covering cake with jaggy hard set royal icing
  • "paving over front gardens" Nooooooooooo save the flowers and grass.
  • "romanian flag love heart" Honestly, I have no idea
  • "vanilla fudge pyjamas" another ?!?!!?!
  • "vegetable = pi" Mathematically untrue
  • "what quantity" that's a rather esoteric question to ask Google I can't help thinking. I'm going to go with 150g. A fairly useful quantity - not too much or too little
And with that, it's time for bed. (And to my Mum who will read this and wonder... no I've not been drinking!)

Friday, 19 October 2012

Surprisingly Seasonal

Just a quick post to say that we're up and running with the Seasonal Surprise Ingredient Swap.

14 baking enthusiasts will soon be receiving surprise ingredients through the post from their partners and baking up some delicious seasonal goodies.

Of course the interpretation of seasonal is left intentionally vague - it could be Halloween, Bonfire Night, Autumn, Winter, Christmas or any other 'seasonal' event that occurs between now and the end of November!

If you're one of the intrepid 14, then you have until the 31st October to make contact with your partner (you should have already received an email with their details in), choose your ingredient and post it to them.

You then have until 30th November to bake something using the ingredient you have received - anything you want! - take a photo and either blog about it if you have a blog, or email me the picture if you're not a blogger.

So here's the pairings...

Baking in Franglais with Recipe Junkie
Belleau Kitchen with Please Do Not Feed The Animals
Cake Crumbs and Cooking with Hell Yeah Four Ingredient Recipes
Makey-Cakey with What's For Dessert
Andy and Cooking Manu
Frances and Let Them Eat Cake
Chloe and Claire

Happy baking!

Sunday, 14 October 2012

The Daring Cooks' October 2012 Challenge: Brazilian Feijoada

Another month has zoomed by, and it's Daring Cooks' challenge posting date again.

Rachel Dana was our October 2012 Daring Cooks' Challenge hostess! Rachel brought Brazil into our lives by challenging us to make Feijoada and Farofa along with some other yummy side dishes traditionally served with Feijoada, which is a delicious black bean and pork stew.

Feijoada, Farofa and Vinaigrette
The Feijoada actually ended up being the second pork and bean stew I made within a fortnight - earlier in the month I made Fasolka po Bretonsku for the Random Recipes challenge.

But luckily both Mr and E (and indeed Mini-M as it turns out!) are fans of this sort of dish, so there were no complaints!

I'm not going to put the recipes up here, as the post would become quickly rather epic. Full details are provided on the Daring Kitchen site here. Instead I'll give a bit of a description of how mine differed (as usual!) from the recipe.

Firstly, it had an unusually Polish slant. When I went hunting for the ingredients in our local supermarket, I couldn't find the right sorts of sausages, meats etc - however after making the Fasolka, my mind immediately jumped to some Polish substitutions which are easy to get hold of in Edinburgh as there's a large Polish community in my part of town. I used Sokolow sausages and Boczek bacon for the meats in the casserole. Instead of butter, I used Smalec (dripping) to make the Farofa, along with some Polish dry breadcrumbs.

Although they may have been unauthentic substitutions, they were still very tasty!

I added banana to the Farofa, but no bacon, since the Smalec is meat fat with small pieces of pork in.

I couldn't find black beans (indeed in our local supermarket, I couldn't find ANY dried beans. That says sad things about local eating habits - ready meals galore but no dried pulses. I had some kidney and black-eyed beans in a jar in the cupboard, so just used them. I cooked the beans for 20 mins in the pressure cooker first of all, and then for a couple of hours on the hob after the rest of the ingredients had been added, which was probably marginally too long, as they had started to mush down quite a lot. It still tasted amazing though!

I didn't make the collard greens, as we had a little coleslaw left over that needed using, so we ate that with it instead.

I also didn't add the raw onion to the vinaigrette, since I'm really not a fan of raw onion - either the taste whilst eating, or the aftertaste a few hours later.

Vinaigrette, minus onion, before dressing
This was a really really delicious meal. It also got the Mini-M seal of approval. We've been encouraging her to try a little of everything, and she's getting so much better. Last week when we went to the dietitian I didn't have to embarrassingly admit that she mainly only ate spaghetti hoops, cocktail sausages and fruit! In fact she exclaimed a few days ago that she was 'trying everything in the world' which may be over egging things a little, but she is rightly quite proud of her new adventures in food!

Feijoada toddler style
Going in for a piece of sausage
Sausage and banana farofa - all gone!

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Cupcake Cuteness for a Good Cause

The week before last, I gave a cupcake decorating workshop for Bethany Trust service users.
It was a lovely event, with a really good turnout. I went armed with 72 cupcakes, thinking that should be plenty and give everyone a chance to decorate a few each, but almost an hour of the 2 hr session still to go, we had completely run out, and emergency cupcakes had to be procured! In the end 110 were decorated by kids and adults alike.

Butterkist popcorn lion says "Raaar"
I had to laugh at the decorating style of some of the little-uns: Dollop on icing, stick on as many sweets as possible. Eat said sweets. Stick in some more. Eat those ones and lick off the icing. Repeat. I can't help thinking there were probably a) a few kids full up of cake and refusing to eat their tea and b) on a sugar high come bedtime!

Anyway, I decorated a selection of cakes in advance to take along for inspiration. Undoubtedly the panda and the marshmallow flower were the most popular with the participants.

Toppings tubbed up and ready to go! (Thanks Mrs H!)
Oreo panda and a rather squat hedgehog
Gold and silver sprinkle stars
Cross-stitch heart
Jammy heart for icing haters
Marshmallow flowers a la Australian Womens Weekly 1980s cake decorating tips! 
Scary face looks a little non-plussed
Multi-coloured flowers
Rosebuds and sugar pearls 
Flags - incase you don't like icing OR jam!

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Random Recipes # 21 - Store Cupboard Raiding

I'm getting off the mark early this month with my Random Recipe entry. We've been challenged to rummage blindly in our store cupboards, emerge triumphant with an ingredient lurking somewhere in the back, then find a recipe from our collection to make with it. So it's the ingredient rather than the recipe that is random this month.

Imagine my joy when I got these in my store cupboard lucky dip...

Thanks store cupboard... what have I ever done to you!
Yep, you read that correctly - they have been translated from the Polish as "Big Handsome Johnny Beans". Which is why they ended up in my store cupboard - Mr E's name is Jonathan, and he's 6ft 4, and of course I think he's handsome ;o).

I think they are the seeds from a type of giant runner bean, but I'm no gardening expert!

So back to the recipe...

I have to confess that when I got these out of the cupboard, a recipe immediately sprang to mind - Fasolka po Bretońsku - a very popular dish in Poland for Breton style beans.

Served with another Polish staple veggie - cabbage (and a sprinkle of dill)
I have 4 Polish cookbooks in my culinary arsenal - two of them I discounted straight away, since one is entirely dedicated to flavoured vodkas, and the other cakes. A quick browse revealed that neither of the other two were going to come up trumps either. Boo.

Not to worry - I resorted to the power of the internet, and ended up trawling through for a while until I found one that fitted the bill.

I have to confess now, I'm not 100% sure that what I made matches the recipe completely, since my Polish isn't so amazing, so something may have been lost in translation, but I was determined not to use Google Translate and exercise the grey braincells instead!

Here's the recipe for what I did end up making!

Fasolka po Bretońsku (Serves 5)
  • 400g 'Big Handsome Johnny Beans' (Fasolka Piękny Jaś)
  • 1 large onion
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 6 allspice berries
  • 1 tsp boullion (I used Marigold)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 tbsp (sunflower) oil
  • 200g Polish sausage (I used 3 small Kiełbasa śląska)
  • 2 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 1 tbsp dripping
The day before you want to cook, put the beans to soak in a large bowl of warm water, cover and leave for 24hrs.
When you're ready to cook the next day, drain and rinse the beans then add them to a large pan with 1.5l of water, the bay leaves, allspice and bouillon.
Boil them for 45 mins and check if they are cooked. If not, boil a bit longer - I went for an hour, and it still wasn't long enough, which meant I had to do lots of extra simmering later.
Heat the oil in a frying pan, and chop the onion and cut the sausage into chunks, then fry both together until the onion is soft.
Add the cooked beans (and cooking water) and cook for 5 minutes more, then stir in the tomato puree.
Melt the dripping in a small pan, add the flour and fry for a few minutes to make a roux, then stir it into the tomato and beans.
Allow to cook for a few minutes more for the sauce to thicken, then you're ready to go.

This is good hearty winter fare - great for tea on chilly days. Since it contained sausage and tomato, 2 of her favourite things, Mini-M declared it 'num num' (although she did leave all of the beans, so not a complete success!).

If like me, you don't cook your beans for long enough in the first place, then once you've added them to the sausage and onion, throw in a tin of chopped tomatoes and simmer on a low heat for another two hours until they're done, before proceeding with the roux and the rest of the recipe. I must have had super dry beans or something - they were soaked for 24hrs rather than the 12hrs that the packed recommended, boiled for an hour rather than 45 mins, then another 2hrs simmering and a few of them were still a little tiny bit on the crunchy side!!!

Still simmering...
And if like me you don't have a pot of dripping saved from your weekend roast (because let's face it, most people won't!) you'll most likely find it in the Polish section in your supermarket. Mr E is looking forward to re-living our last trip to Poland by eating bread and dripping, which was served in quite a few pubs as a bar snack - the Polish equivalent of pork scratching, i.e. a method to consume large quantities of fairly unadulterated pork fat!!! If you don't want the temptation of an open pot of dripping in your fridge, then you could use butter or oil instead to make the roux.

Dripping - well at least it comes in a small tub.
Not cat food, despite visual similarities. Tastier and probably less healthy!
Thanks for another tasty challenge!

Monday, 1 October 2012

Seasonal Surprise Ingredient Swap

I think it's time for another surprise ingredient swap!

Flour - an essential baking ingredient, but a boring one to swap!
I organised one in July to distract me from turning 30 which I was somewhat unenthusiastic about, and received a lovely little flurry of delicious looking entries (which you can see here). At the end, I also received quite a few requests to "do it again please!" so I am.

I'm calling this one 'seasonal' - interpret that as you will: autumn, winter, (heck summer, depending on what part of the world you're in), Halloween, Christmas etc etc etc.

Here's how it works...
  • You have from now until October 16th to register your interest - by commenting on this post, tweeting me @MakeyCakeyRuth or email me ruthie.ellis AT
  • On October 14th I'll pair everyone up and let them know their swap partners and people can then get in touch to exchange addresses, discuss likes, dislikes, allergies, price limits etc
  • You then have until 31st October to send your swap ingredient winging its way to your swap partner and vice versa.
  • Once you receive it, you've got until November 30th to bake up something delicious and seasonal with it, and send me a link to your completed post (or a photo if you're not a blogger).
  • On the 1st December, I'll post  round up of all of your no-doubt delicious offerings and we can begin December with the virtual smell of warm fresh baking wafting deliciously from our laptops!
Hopefully there will be enough interested people to make it work. Please feel free to share with anyone else you think might want to participate. And if you don't blog but like the thought of a surprise ingredient landing on your doorstep, like a very early Christmas present, then you can still join in - just take a photo of what you create and send me it via email and I'll make sure it's included in the roundup.

Don't all rush at once now...

Rainbow Hedgehogs!

Today, Mini-M and I made Rainbow Matchstick Plasticene Hedgehogs.
It was great fun for both of us, and she was captivated for ages. We played with them for about an hour in the morning, then another 15 mins or so after lunch, and another 20 mins after tea.

I got the matchsticks from Amazon, where a bag of 1000 cost around about £3.50 - and yes, we've got plenty left! I think there will many more spiky plasticene masterpieces in the pipeline...

Mini-M wanted to hold hers so I would know whose was whose
Let the match-sticking begin!
Large amounts of concentration. I think she was giving it a nose here to make a rhino hedgehog
Many, many multicoloured matchsticks
The rarely spotted flying hedgehog 
Yey - hedgehogs
Colour choice was a matter for careful deliberation
Deconstructing my hedgehog. It had too many prickles apparently
Hedgehogs kissing. Yes, she is puckering up too!
So, if you have a small person and plasticene in the house, I thoroughly recommend the minor investment for a lot of hedgehog fun! We branched out as the day went on, and had spiky snakes, snails and sea urchins. There were hedgehog races across the table (Mini-M kept telling mine off for not starting properly behind the line!), and my knee took some serious abuse from all varieties of pricklies that wanted to 'eat' it.


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