Tag Archives: eats

Chilli beef

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Is it wrong that I wish the weather at the moment was a little colder?  With the clocks having gone back almost a month ago I feel somewhat cheated that the weather hasn’t turned and started to get cooler.  London is decidedly grey at the moment giving the sense that winter is on its way but yet it is still warm outside which is mildly disconcerting.  I can’t wait until we start getting the frosty mornings with the brilliant clear blue skies that justify you making comfort food.

Perhaps it was wishful thinking when I got the stewing beef out of the freezer at the weekend with the view to making something both hearty and warming.  Well the balmy weather has certainly not deterred my plans for the stewing beef and last night I made Chilli Beef.  I suppose in reality Chilli Beef is really a play on Chilli Con Carne but in a stew format.  The combination of the spices and the tomatoes in this recipe create a wonderfully rich sauce.  For me though it is the smoked paprika in this recipe that makes this Chilli Beef something special as it adds a real depth of flavour that makes you want to go back for seconds.

This recipe can be made in advance and reheated when you need it which makes it a good option for when you have friends coming around for supper during the week.  I would recommend serving the Chilli Beef with something simple like boiled rice and a green vegetable of your choice.  Bon appétit!

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Chilli Beef

Ingredients:

400 g stewing beef
salt and pepper
2 onions sliced finely
3 garlic cloves roughly chopped
1 heaped tbsp plain flour
1 tbsp smoked paprika
1 tbsp paprika
1 tsp cayenne pepper
½ tsp cumin
¼ tsp ground coriander
½ tsp thyme
1 tsp hot chilli powder
1 beef stock cube
Water to deglaze the pan
½ a fresh chilli chopped finely
1 tin of tomatoes
2 tbsp tomato purée
1 to 2 tbsp of honey to sweeten
1 tin of kidney beans (400g)

Steps:

  1. Preheat your oven to 180°C (Fan)
  1. Mix all the dry ingredients together in a bowl, add the beef to the mixture and stir until the beef is well coated.
  1. Heat some oil in a heavy bottomed pan on a high heat. Add the beef and any remaining dry mix to the pan stirring from time to time until the beef has browned off.
  1. Turn the heat down and add the onions and garlic to the pan. Continue to cook until the onions have softened stirring as required.
  2. Whilst the onions are cooking, dissolve the beef stock cube in a little boiling water and use the liquid to deglaze the pan. It is best to use a wooden spoon to do this so that you do not scratch the bottom of your pan.
  1. Next add the tomatoes, fresh chilli, tomato purée and honey to the pan and stir well.
  1. Cover the pan with the lid and place in the oven and cook for 40 minutes before adding the kidney beans. Return the pan to the oven and cook for a further 1hr 20mins.

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Spiced apple cake

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This has been a weekend of cooking with seasonal food.  Today’s seasonal ingredient was apple, more specifically Russet apples.  I was very fortunate to be given a huge bag of Russets by a friend when I went to visit her at her family’s farm outside of London and I have been slowly using them up over the course of the last couple of weeks.   Russet apples are good to cook with as they tend to hold their form which is great if you bake them in a cake and have a wonderful tangy flavour.

This afternoon I used some of the apples to make a spiced apple cake.  I used a combination of fresh and dried spices to make this cake, simply because I have fresh ginger in my fridge at the moment however using all dried spices in the recipe would be fine and if you can’t get your hands on Russets, then use any other variety of tangy eating apple to make this cake.

This cake is great for afternoon tea, however I would also say that it would also make a fantastic pudding served with some cream or crème fraiche.  This cake has a lovely warmth from the spices, but the overriding flavour comes from the tanginess of the apples.  This recipe is well worth a try -enjoy!

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Spiced Apple cake

Ingredients:

  • 3 Russet apples (peeled, cored and sliced)
  • Juice of ½ a lime
  • 3 tbsp honey
  • 1” fresh ginger (peeled and finely grated) (If using dried ginger use 1 tsp)
  • 150g soft margarine
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 175g plain flour
  • ½ tsp nutmeg
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 1 or 2 tbsp milk
  • Icing sugar for dusting

Steps:

  1. Preheat your oven to 170C Fan.
  2. Line the base of a 20cm cake tin with baking paper.
  3. Spoon the honey into the cake tin and spread around the base of the tin.

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  1. Prepare the apples then place in a bowl with the lime and ginger and mix together gently.
  2. Place the apples carefully in the base of the tin in a decorative fashion.
  3. Prepare the cake batter using the ‘all in one’ method. Place the margarine, sugar, eggs, flour and spices in a bowl.  Using an electric whisk beat the mixture together until you have a smooth thick batter with a consistency of clotted cream (use the milk to loosen the batter as needed).
  4. Pour the batter into the cake tin and level it out gently using the back of a spoon.
  5. Place the cake in the oven and bake for 35-45 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted into the centre of the cake.
  6. Once cooked, remove the cake from the tin and place on a wire rack to cool.
  7. Just before you serve the cake sift over a little icing sugar.

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Chocolate brownies

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I’ve had a couple of dinner parties lately mid-week and I’ve found that the best way to stay stress free is to do as much preparation in advance as possible, consequently, last Sunday afternoon, when I returned home from sailing, I made brownies.  They didn’t take long to make and were prepared and cooked in under an hour and made enough to feed 16 people for pudding comfortably.

I have read a lot of recipes that say you must use the very best chocolate when making brownies, however, I have found the cheap and cheerful chocolate from supermarket works really well and as such I’m disinclined to splash out on ridiculously expensive chocolate.  I would recommend trying different types of chocolate to see what works best for you and what you prefer.  My personal preference is anything with 70% or more cocoa.

What makes these brownies stand apart from others that I have made is that they are wonderfully gooey in the middle whilst retaining a slight crust. They are a perfect amount of decadence to finish off a meal.  I tend serve with a mixture of summer berries and either ice cream or soured cream depending on what I have available, but they are also excellent on their own.

Chocolate Brownies (makes 32)

Ingredients:

  • 200g dark chocolate
  • 200g butter
  • 3 large eggs
  • 200g granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 50g white chocolate (roughly chopped)
  • 50g walnuts (roughly chopped)
  • 50g cocoa powder (sifted)
  • 85g plain flour (sifted)

Steps:

  1. Preheat your oven 180C / 170CFan.
  2. Line a 20cm square cake tin.
  3. Melt butter and dark chocolate in a bowl above a saucepan of barely simmering water.
  4. Whilst the chocolate and butter are melting, whisk eggs, sugar and vanilla until trebled in volume.
  5. Pour in the chocolate mixture and continue to whisk until fully combined.
  6. Then gently fold in flour, cocoa, walnuts and white chocolate.
  7. Pour into the pre-prepared tin and bake in oven for 20-25 mins. Remove the brownies from the oven when they have a slight wobble but a firm crust.
  8. Leave to cool completely in the tin, once cool cut into roughly 32 triangles.
  9. Dust with icing sugar and serve.

Note:  These brownies keep for over a week if stored in an airtight container in a cool place.

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Prawns and steamed samphire

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I am back in France at the moment at my parent’s house and it is bliss, not only has the weather been magnificent but a lot of fruit and vegetables are in season at the moment which means every meal has been a delight!  I think lunchtime is my favourite meal as it always starts off with a little melon served with some of our home reared cured ham, followed by a huge salad a cheese board that is to be envied and to finish apricots picked straight from the tree. Food does not get much better than that!

As it is the perfect weather for a BBQ yesterday morning I headed to the market to see what I could find to cook for supper.  I ended up coming back with various bits and bobs but the two things that I was most pleased about were the prawns and samphire which I was going to use to make a very simple starter. For those of you who have not come across samphire before it is a sea vegetable that grows abundantly on shorelines.  It has a crisp texture and a delicate salty yet slightly buttery flavour which means it works beautifully with seafood.

The idea of this starter is to let the prawns and the samphire do all the talking and to keep it very simple.  Provided your BBQ is hot and ready to cook on this starter takes roughly 10 minutes to make and there is really nothing to it all you need is a few skewers and a little tin foil.

BBQ prawns with steamed samphire (serves 3)

Ingredients:

350g raw prawns
150g samphire
a knob of butter
3 wedges of lemon (to serve)

Steps:

(1) Wash the samphire and then place on a sheet of tin foil with the butter, create a parcel out of the tin foil and set to one side until you are ready to place it on the BBQ.

(2) Wash your prawns then place them on to a wooden skewer (2-3 prawns on each skewer).  Note: always soak wooden skewers in water for about an hour to stop them burning when you place them on the BBQ.

(3) Once your BBQ is hot enough to cook on, place your tin foil parcel on the BBQ and let it cook for 5 minutes before you place the prawn skewers on the BBQ, cook on each side for about 3 minutes or until the prawns have turned pink.

(4)  As soon as your prawns are cooked, serve the prawns and samphire with a wedge of lemon.  Enjoy!

Lemon cake with mascarpone icing, lemon curd and summer berries

photo 2With my brother’s wedding fast approaching I thought I had better try out another cake idea that I have had for his wedding.  As it was my birthday and it is tradition at work to bring in cake I thought I would take the opportunity to try this cake out on a lot of people.  In the end I think around 40 people ended up trying the cake with a number of people sneaking back for seconds…

As I mentioned in an earlier blog (An idea for a wedding cake) my brother and his fiancé have decided to have a “bake off” at their wedding and are encouraging their guests to bring a variety of baked goods.  It is my understanding that the cakes will be judged on both creativity and presentation.  At the moment I am thinking that this is going to be the cake that I bake as I think will all the colours of the summer berries it is visually very pleasing, however, I think that I am going to have to make a few refinements to the cake to make it more structurally sound as ideally I would like to make the cake several tiers higher.

I ended up icing and decorating the cake at work as I could not face the idea of taking the finished cake onto the London underground.   I popped into the work canteen at around 8.30am and put the cake together within about 10-15 minutes.  All in all it was a stress free process as the beauty of this cake is that is does not matter how messy the cake looks after you have iced it because the berries will cover any mishaps that you may have.

So, why do I think that this is going to be the cake that I make for the bake off?  Well, as the wedding is at the end of August and we are all crossing our fingers that the weather is going to be lovely, I felt that a light cake that has a beautifully creamy filling which is countered by the sharpness of the lemon curd and summer berries would be the type of cake that people would want to eat.  However, we shall just have to wait and see how it turns out.

I would definitely say that this is a cake to try.  If you do not want to make such a large cake, then halve the recipe and bake the cake in a 10″ tin and you will have a lovely cake for either afternoon tea or a summer pudding that your guests will love.

photo 1Lemon cake with mascarpone icing, lemon curd and summer berries

Ingredients:

For the cake:

8 eggs
400g soft margarine
350g caster sugar
400g self raising flour
zest of 2 lemons
1tsp baking powder
1-2 tbsp milk

For the mascarpone icing:

250g mascarpone
150g- 200g icing sugar
zest of a lemon

For the filling and toppings:

1-2 heaped tbsp lemon curd (per layer of sponge)
1 punnet strawberries
1 punnet blueberries
1 punnet blackberries
1 punnet raspberries

Steps:

1. Preheat oven to 170C and line a 10″, 8″ and 6″ round cake tin with baking paper.

2. Beat together in a bowl the soft margarine and sugar until light and fluffy.

3. Add the eggs, flour, zest, baking powder and milk, then beat together using an electric whisk for 1-2 minutes.

4. Divide the cake batter up between the 3 tins and bake for around 15-20 minutes for the 6” and 8” tins and 35-45 minutes for the 10” tin or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted into the centre of the cake.

5. Leave to cool completely before cutting each of the cakes in half.

6. Make the mascarpone icing by beating the mascarpone in a bowl until soft, add the lemon zest and a little of the icing sugar at a time until you get a consistency of a smooth butter cream.

7. Place one half of the 10” sponge onto a plate then smooth over a little of the mascarpone icing, add 1-2tbsp of lemon curd on top and smooth over with a palette knife. Repeat the process until all of the sponges are stacked on top of each other. (Make sure you don’t use all of the mascarpone icing as you will need some left over to act as the glue to stick the fruit on the cake.)

8. Once the cake is stacked up, then spread the remainder of the mascarpone icing all over the cake before decorating with the berries.

Tip:  If you want to make the cake more special decorate with roses and sprigs of mint interspersed between the berries!

 

Chocolate celebration cake

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My middle brother, Alex, is getting married in August to his lovely fiancée, Jayne, and I cannot wait!  Over recent months there has been much talk of dresses, flowers and of course cakes…  Jayne and Alex have decided to hold a “bake off” at their wedding and have sent the following message out to their guests:

 Wedding Bake Off

We like cake. 

We really like cake, a lot. 

In fact we like cake so much, one wedding cake just won’t be enough… We’re dreaming of a whole table of different wedding cakes, with afternoon tea to follow the ceremony.

We know we have a lot of friends and family members who are amazingly talented bakers.  Can you help us to make our cake dreams come true?

Join our great wedding bake off, and battle it out to be crowned the best wedding cake baker! 

There will be a very democratic judging process on the day…and the favourite wedding cake will be the one that we save and cut in the traditional wedding way.  There are no rules for what to bake or how it is presented, the more creative the better! 

 Not being the type of person to shy away from a challenge I have donned my apron and started testing out a couple of ideas I have had for a  wedding cake to see if: (a) it tastes good; and (b) looks presentable.

At the moment I am in two minds about the flavour.  Our family loves a good chocolate cake and the one that I am going to share with you today certainly ticks that box.  However, as the wedding is in August and will hopefully be on a beautifully hot and sunny day, I am of the view that a lovely light lemon cake would go down much better.  The other option is of course to do multiple cakes… but this might be a step to far as I suspect in the days building up to the wedding things are likely to get a little bit busy.

So, about this cake, as I mentioned it is a chocolate cake.  I suppose you are wondering why I think it is worthy for a wedding cake?  Well… it is not just a chocolate cake, it is three layered super light chocolate cake, filled with a rich chocolate mousse and covered in a white chocolate and sour cream icing, decorated with raspberries…

If you like chocolate, I would recommend trying this cake as it is rather decadent!

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Vanilla and lemon panna cotta

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A few months ago one of my friends cooked me supper, the whole meal was absolutely delicious however the pudding was exceptional and I have been wanting to try to make it ever since.  The perfect opportunity presented itself a few weeks ago as I was cooking supper to celebrate my birthday with friends and family.  Given that panna cotta needs to set I made it a couple of days in advance which meant I didn’t have to do anything other than wash the berries on the day.

Thanks to my French housemate my kitchen is packed full with every cooking utensil and serving dish that you could possibly want which meant I was able to serve the panna cottas in individual cocottes which was quite fun and very easy for presentation purposes.  So if you can get your hands on mini-cocottes then all the better, otherwise,  ramekins would do the job just as well.

The flavour of the panna cotta is delightful and is a nice balance of sweet, tangy and creamy.  By serving it with raspberries it adds a slight sharpness that cuts through the panna cotta complimenting it beautifully.  This is a brilliant summer pudding good for special occasions or as a bit of a treat.

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Vanilla and lemon panna cotta served with fresh raspberries (makes 6)

Ingredients:

  • 400ml double cream
  • 400ml yogurt
  • 3 gelatine sheets (softened in water)
  • ¼ vanilla pod and seeds
  • zest of 3 lemons
  • 100g caster sugar

To serve:

  • 1-2 punnets of fresh raspberries
  • juice of 1 lemon
  •  1-2tbsp caster sugar

Steps:

  1. Place the yogurt, lemon zest and vanilla seeds in a bowl and stir together.
  2. Put the cream and sugar and vanilla pod into a pan and heat until the sugar has completely dissolved.
  3. Add the gelatine to the pan, and cook until the gelatine is dissolved.
  4. Sieve the cream and sugar mixture into the yogurt (this is to ensure your panna cotta is completely smooth).
  5. Stir the mixture together and then carefully pour into 6 mini cocottes.
  6. Leave to set over night.
  7. Before serving, mix together the fresh raspberries, lemon juice and sugar in a bowl and serve with the panna cotta. Enjoy!