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So we’re just over halfway through lent now, thank goodness. I’ve given up cake and biscuits, after the now infamous eight pieces of cake in one day episode a few weeks ago. It’s going relatively well, especially as I’m basically just replacing cake with chocolate, but I miss baking. It got to the point where I made cakes that I couldn’t eat, which was very upsetting. But today I turned to savouries, and made these delicious chorizo savoury muffins, to keep me going for a while.

I got this from here, a good recipe but intensely annoying use of cups. I did one and a half cups of self raising to one cup of wholemeal, because that’s just how I roll.

Chorizo and spinach savoury muffins

Half a chorizo ring, finely chopped
1 red chili, seeded and finely chopped
2 cups thinly sliced spinach
1 1/2 cups self-raising flour
1 cup wholemeal flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup grated cheddar (or manchego if your local sainsbury’s stocks it)
1 egg
1 cup milk
125g melted butter, cooled

Fry the chili and chorizo together, then remove from the pan and wilt the spinach. Put the flours and baking powder in a bowl and add the spinach, cheese and chorizo, mix well. Beat together the butter, egg and milk and add to the mixture. Put into muffin/cupcake cases and bake for 25 minutes at 200 degrees c. Try not to eat too many of them at once.

 

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Another good recipe for a cold morning when you’ve got a glut of vegetables from the weekly veg box. I’m currently working my way through three bags of potatoes, and the more I cook, the less keen I become. But a sticky savoury cake like thing that tastes amazing covered in butter, and I’m sold. Especially in a room where the radiator only works if you’re sitting on it and the olive oil has gone cloudy because it’s too cold.

Potato bread

500g potatoes, peeled and cubed1 cup of flour (by which I mean mug, not your crazy American cup)
Pinch of salt

Boil the potatoes and then mash them with some butter. Gradually add the flour with the salt in it until you have a dough that isn’t too sticky, then roll it out onto a floured surface, adding more flour as you roll. Cut into vaguely potato bread shaped objects, and cook over a high heat in a dry frying pan. They are done when browned on both sides. Put a little bit of butter on them as you take them off the heat to keep them moist, then add lots more butter when you eat them. You’re aiming for melted butter running down your hand, fyi.

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Brandy snaps are the sort of thing you read about in novels that you pick up on a rainy (snowy) day for comfort when everything seems bleak. I’ve never known exactly what they are, though, but I was given for Christmas a recipe book full of vintage-y recipes, and the picture made them look effortlessly impressive, which is always what I go for in a recipe. Needless to say, they weren’t effortless, mainly due to my incurable habit of starting new things approximately half an hour before I’m supposed to be going out, and recklessly promising myself to walk everywhere. But they are impressive, and delicious.

Brandy snaps

4oz butter
4 oz Demerara sugar
4oz golden syrup
1 tspn ground ginger
4 oz plain flour
1 tspn lemon juice

double cream

Melt the syrup, sugar, ginger and butter together until the sugar has dissolved, then stir in the flour and lemon juice. The mixture is amazingly sticky. Then put about 5 teaspoons at a time onto a greased baking sheet and bake for 6 minutes at 200 degrees – be careful not to burn them, because they burn easily. When you get them out, leave them for a minute or two on the sheet to cool and solidify, then, with a palette knife, lift them off and curl them around the handle of a wooden spoon. They are really easy to bend in this state, but harden quickly, so small batches is best. Then whip the cream and pipe into the middle of the snaps. Be warned, these don’t last long before they get soft, a day at the most, so eat quickly. Not that you need telling to do that, obviously.

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Happy New Year! If you’re anything like me you’ll have had quite enough of the succession of brown foodstuffs that you’ve eaten over the last couple of weeks and be dying for a change. However, on New Year’s Day I was once again called upon to make the pudding for the family gathering, so I submitted to once last lot of zesting to make this lovely shortbread, courtesy of Abel and Cole.

I altered the recipe by adding in the juice of the zested clementine, because I had trouble getting the dough to come together, especially with the threat not to over-knead echoing in my ears.

150g butter, soft75g caster sugar
150g plain flour
75g cornflour
zest of one clementine
.5 tsp ground cinnamon
pinch ground cloves
pinch ground ginger
extra sugar and cinnamon for dusting
The juice of the clementine if the mixture looks too dry

Beat the butter, then add in the sugar, zest and spices. Sift the flour and cornflour into the mixture and stir until it comes together, using your hands if necessary, but don’t over-knead. Roll out the dough on a well floured surface. You can either press it into a lined circular baking tray, or use cutters to make new year themed shapes. Bake for 20 minutes at gas 3 until lightly coloured, then dust with extra sugar and cinnamon.

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I spent most of Christmas this year sitting in a chair, while my limbs remembered what it was like to not be on the move all the time. As I’m living with my grandmother, whose house is the traditional venue for the Christmas feasting, I ended up doing far more of the Christmas tasks than I usually do this year, the ham, the cake, the pudding, the mince pies, the blinis, the trifle, the sauces and the brandy butter. While the ham in coca cola was, frankly, a triumph, I think the Creole Christmas cake was a credible success as well, given that several self-confessed Christmas Cake haters admitted to enjoying this cake. Possibly something to do with the week’s worth of soaking in four different types of alcohol. That and the fact it’s Delia’s recipe, of course.

Creole Christmas cake

To soak

3 tbpns rum
3 tbspns brandy
3 tbspns port
1.5 tspns Angostura bitters
.5 tspn ground cinnamon
.5 tspn ground nutmeg
.5 tspn ground cloves
.5 tspn salt
1.5 tspns vanilla extract
1 tspn vanilla extract
2 oz glace cherries, chopped up
1 level tablespoon molasses sugar
1 lb raisins
4 oz pitted prunes, chopped up
8 oz currants

Cake:
9 oz self-raising flour
9 oz demerara sugar
9 oz butter, at room temp
5 large eggs

Soak all the pre-soak ingredients for one week before you want to make the cake. Store in a airtight container, in the fridge. When you’re ready to make the cake, sift the flour with the sugar and beat in the sugar, then the eggs. Then add the dried fruit mixture and mix thoroughly Place into a lined baking tin about 9 inches across and bake at gas mark one for three hours without opening the door. After the three hours have passed, over the top with a layer of baking parchment and bake for another hour. Cool and wrap in baking parchment. If you leave it for up to a month, it apparently improves, but if you are as time strapped as me, eating it the next day or two will be fine.

 

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Oh bitter irony that I have only got time to put up my Christmas recipes long after the festival is over, and the pile of discarded Christmas trees outside on the streets grows ever larger. Of course, Christmas isn’t actually over until the 6th when I’ll be making gallette des rois again, but most people don’t seem as keen as I am to keep the festive season going. Even if some people are lucky enough not to be back to work until the 7th. At any rate, if you’re as nostalgic as I am, then you’ll enjoy my Christmas ham recipe at least.

It was a big responsibility, and my choice to experiment with Nigella’s infamous ham in coke recipe might have been a bit risky. But Nigella is a trusty sort of person and the ham turned out amazing, although about half the size it was when it went in for 4 hours of boiling in coke. I tweaked it a little by adding molasses sugar, bought for the cake, instead of Demerara, to the glaze.

Ham in coca cola

5kg gammon
2l coca cola
2 onions

Glaze:a few cloves
2 tablespoons black treacle
4tspns mustard powder
4 tbspns molasses sugar

Put the ham skin side down into the pot, then add the onion and all the coke. Bring to the boil, then put a lid on and simmer for four hours – 1 hour per kilo, but a bit less if you run out of time and are keen to go to bed didn’t do any harm. Preheat the oven to gas 9, 240 degreesWhen it’s done, let it cool a little, then strip off the skin leaving the fat behind. Score the fat into diamonds and put a clove into the heart of each. Drizzle over the treacle and add the mustard and sugar over the top to make a sticky glaze. Then bake for 15 minutes until the glaze looks bubbly. Nigella instructs to not throw away the cooking liquid, but to use it to make black bean soup. I haven’t quite got round to it yet but perhaps I will.

Clearly a shared 20th and 54th birthday call for cake based extravagance, but I have to say I didn’t realise quite how much I’d be taking on with this cake. It took 4 hours altogether, from start to finish, and 14 eggs. It went down well though, and looks lovely, so it was probably worth it.

The fraisier cake calls for a light sponge made by heating the eggs and sugar together while whisking. If you’re feeling lazy, however, I’d imagine it would work pretty well with plain Victoria. I followed Mary Berry’s recipe to the end, all 34 steps, except I left the lemons out, because that’s just how I roll. I had my doubts about her creme patissiere recipe because I think using cornflour is cheating, really. I also had to make 2 cakes, instead of splitting one, because my original cake didn’t rise that well.

Fraisier cake

Cake:
350g caster sugar
8 eggs
350g self-raising flour
100g unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly

Creme patissiere
I would use this recipe, if you prefer a cornflour free version

Plus a basic lemon syrup made with the juice of one lemon and 75g of caster sugar, and 4 tablespoons of water.

Plus marzipan

Plus strawberries

Heat the eggs and sugar in a bowl over a simmering pan of water, and whisk until doubled in size and golden coloured. Then remove from the heat and sift in the flour, stirring with a metal spoon. Add the melted butter, and pour into a loose bottomed cake tin. Bake for 30 minutes.

Make the creme patissiere as per my previous recipe, given above. Then chill for 30 minutes.

After you’ve cooled the cakes, line the tin with cling film and lower the cake into the tin and press down. Brush with the lemon syrup. Halve about 15 strawberries and put round the edge like a crown, cut side out. Then fill the middle of the cake with creme, and pipe in between each strawberry to the top. Put some strawberry halves in the centre to raise the cake, then cover the whole lot with creme – you should have none left. Place the second cake on top and push down. Brush all over with the remaining syrup, then place a marzipan circle on top, and dust with icing sugar.

I made chocolate letters to decorate the top, which is remarkably easy, just drizzle chocolate in the desired shape over some baking parchment and leave to dry.

Fair warning: don’t tell people how many eggs its got in til they’ve already eaten it.

I’ve been awol for a while – apologies to regular readers (hi Dad). I’ve been moving house and new jobbing, but this month I’m doing NaNoWriMo, which as anyone who knows it knows, is an excellent excuse for procrastination – and therefore updating the blog. I’ve still got 1660 words to go today, and so far I’ve rung the bank, done my laundry, made fridge cake and watched the whole of Obama’s victory speech, even though the webpage only updated every 30 seconds so I just got stills of his face with words over the top. Totally worth it. Still at least today I can write in bed with a cup of tea, rather than slaving over a desk which my legs don’t fit behind.

So! Rye and honey soda bread. Easiest thing ever, laughably easy, just involving putting the wet ingredients into the dry ones and baking.

Rye and honey soda bread (adapted from Hugh’s recipe in the weekend’s Guardian)

250g rye flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
¼ tsp salt
100ml plain yoghurt
100ml whole milk
50g runny honey
1 tbsp vegetable oil

Mix the dry ingredients together. Then whisk the yog, honey, milk and oil together until no longer lumpy. Pour into the dry ingredients. It will be very sticky – but here’s the best bit, you don’t have to knead it! So it doesn’t matter. Turn out onto an oiled baking sheet and cut a cross in it, then dust with flour. Bake for 40 minutes at gas mark 6.

Then I had it for lunch with cavalo nero pesto. Sometimes I think I’m becoming a parody of myself

This one is a result of my realisation that eclairs always look a bit rubbish, actually, because the wonky line of chocolate fondant on the top to me screams amateur. So in order to get around that, I made mine circular, in a way that, I accept, does look a lot like a profiterole. But profiteroles are always disappointing too, because who would choose plain old whipped cream over chocolate flavoured creme patissiere? Sso the marraige of the two could hardly be better. Plus it’s a bit show-offy, ideal for entertaining friends. Choux pastry is actually by far the easiest pastry I’ve ever made, and tastes indistinguishable from the real thing.

Choux pastry

60g/2.5 oz strong plain flour
1 teaspn caster sugar
5 fluid oz water
50/2 oz butter, cubed
2 large eggs, beaten

Melt the butter in the water on the stove, then turn off the heat. Tip the flour and the sugar into the water in one quick movement, beating with an electric mixer at the same time. Then, when the mixture has coalesced and leaves the side of the pan clean, add the beaten eggs slowly, a bit at a time, beating the mixture as you add. The mixture will be a bit gloopy and a bit shiny. Run a greased baking sheet under a tap then shake off the excess water – this provides steam to help the buns rise. Measure out the mixture into teaspoon amounts. Bake at gas 6 for 10 minutes, then turn it up to 7 for another 15 until golden brown and not stodgy. Pierce them to let excess steam out and cool.

Creme patissiere (from Nigella’s Domestic Goddess)

125 ml milk
125 double cream
1 tspn vanilla extract
3 large egg yolks
50g caster sugar
15g plain flour

Warm the milk and cream together until boiling, then leave to cool for 10 minutes. Whisk yolks and sugar together, then beat the flour in. Add the milk to the sugar mixture and heat gently until it thickens, which it will, astoundingly.  At this point I added in some melted chocolate, about half a bar. A good tip from Nigella is, rather than refridgerating, put a wetted piece of greaseproof paper over it to prevent it forming a skin.

Assembly

Get the old piping bag out again, and, slicing the profiti-clairs down the middle, pipe in a decent amount of the pastry cream. Cover with more melted chocolate and devour

 

Another GBBO inspired recipe, I’m afraid, although I didn’t go the whole hog and do the 8 plaits, it looked much too much like maths for my liking. I’m not that great at bread usually, it always turns out a bit too claggy and dense, mainly because I’m lazy with the kneading, and something to do with my kitchen being too cold for dough to rise properly. This morning though, my boyf left for work at 7:10, leaving me unnaturally awake and keen for something to do that would fill the house with the smell of baking. My parents were confused to say the least when an hour later they came down to find me roasting garlic.

Maybe I’m more patient with kneading in the early morning, but this bread turned out really delicious, light in the middle, crispy on top, and the combination of garlic and rosemary works really well. Something about creating something so delicious and that looks so great is extremely satisfying. I used a recipe from Cook Eat Live Vegetarian, but adapted it slightly, using strong white flour instead of spelt.

Garlic and rosemary loaf

1 head of garlic
1 tsp olive oil
1 tbsp finely chopped fresh rosemary
450 gr (3 cups) strong white bread flour
1 tbsp sugar
1 sachet of quick action yeast
1 tsp salt
75 ml milk
75 ml water
3 tbsp olive oil
1 egg, lightly beaten

Cut the head off the garlic and roast at gas 7 for 35 minutes, with a sprinkling of rosemary. Then mix the flour, sugar, yeast and salt together. Heat the milk and water and olive oil together until warm, then add to the flour mixture. Squeeze the garlic cloves out of their skins, and mash with a drop of water. Then beat in an egg until it’s all well mixed together.

Add the garlic into the flour and milk mixture. You’ll end up with a very sticky dough, but that’s ok. Knead for 10 minutes on a very floury surface (DO IT!). Then set aside for 10 minutes. Divide into three balls, then roll out to make three ropes of dough. Plait them, tucking the ends in to make it look neater. Leave for an hour to double in size. Bake for 15 minutes at gas 4. Brush with olive oil, sea salt and rosemary, then put back for another 12 or so minutes. Extract and leave to cool.

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