Friday, September 17, 2010

Delia's Baked Cannelloni

This is the kind of recipe that is equally useful as a midweek family meal or for when entertaining.  It can be done in advance and reheated to serve and is fabulously tasty.  It does require a bit of effort as there are a few steps, but I love the idea of using lasagne sheets for cannelloni, it is both easier and tastes great.  The bechamel sauce is one I now use regularly when making other dishes, infusing the flavours into the milk first is absolutely worth the effort for the extra dimensions in adds to the taste.  I can't recommend this recipe enough! It also freezes well! I added a tin of chopped tomatoes to the recipe, just to break the whiteness/creaminess.


 8 fresh lasagne sheets (weighing about 6 oz/175 g)
 5 oz (150 g) Mozzarella, diced
 1½ oz (40 g) finely grated Parmesan (Parmigiano Reggiano), plus a little extra to serve

For the filling:
 8 oz (225 g) minced pork
 1 dessertspoon chopped sage leaves
 3½ oz (95 g) mortadella or unsmoked bacon
 2 level tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan (Parmigiano Reggiano)
 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
 3 oz (75 g) white bread without crusts, soaked in 2 tablespoons milk
 1 large egg
 a little nutmeg
 salt and freshly milled black pepper

For the b├ęchamel sauce:

 1 pint (570 ml) milk
 2 oz (50 g) butter
 1¼ oz (35 g) plain flour
 1 bay leaf
 good grating of whole nutmeg
 2½ fl oz (65 ml) double cream
 salt and freshly milled black pepper

First make the filling by placing all the ingredients into the bowl of a food processor and blending everything on a low speed until thoroughly combined. If you don't have a processor, chop everything as finely as possible with a sharp knife and blend it with a fork. Wrap in clingfilm and chill for about 30 minutes to firm up.

Next make the sauce by placing the milk, butter, flour, bay leaf, nutmeg and seasonings into a medium-sized saucepan over a medium heat, then, whisking all the time, slowly bring it up to simmering point until the sauce has thickened. Then turn the heat down to its lowest setting and let the sauce simmer for about 5 minutes, then remove the bay leaf, stir in the cream, taste to check the seasoning, cover and leave aside. Now pre-heat the oven to gas mark 4, 350°F (180°C), then cut the lasagne sheets in half so that you have 16 pieces.

Next divide the meat mixture in half and then each half into 8, then lightly roll each of these into a sausage shape about 3 inches (7.5 cm) long. Place each one on to a piece of lasagne and roll it up, starting from one of the shorter edges. As you do this, arrange them in the baking dish with the join underneath – what you should have is two rows neatly fitting together lengthways in the dish.

Now pour the sauce over and scatter the Mozzarella cubes here and there.

Finally, scatter the Parmesan over the top and place the dish on the centre shelf of the oven to bake for 40 minutes, by which time it should be golden brown and bubbling. Then remove it from the oven and let it settle for about 10 minutes before serving. Finally, sprinkle a little extra Parmesan over.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Lemon Yoghurt Cake

It seems when baking I tend to go chocolate or lemon.  It is difficult to determine which is my favourite! Maybe because I love good coffee, but also love freshly brewed tea that I hedge my bets and go with what suits! Lemon cakes and good tea are a gorgeous combination, but then coffee and chocolate- well, that takes some beating! What I love about this recipe is how ridiculously easy it is to make. Because it uses oil it is a lovely moist cake that keeps well, and of course because there is no creaming the butter and sugar it is so quick to make.  It is perfect for whipping up in a hurry, or for when you need to put something in the tins for lunchboxes but can't be bothered going to much effort.
I used some of the cute tins I got from Lakeland (again transported home by my sister from the UK!).  They worked beautifully, I sprayed them with baking spray and they fell out of the tin with ease. I topped the cakes with a simple lemon drizzle of lemon juice mixed into icing sugar, done to a nice pouring consitency.  The perfect afternoon tea treat and lunchbox filler!

Lemon Yoghurt Cake

2 eggs
1/2 c greek yoghurt (unsweetened)
1/2 c whole milk
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 cups self raising flour

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 tablespoon grated zest of lemon
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 180° C (350° F), line the bottom of a round ten-inch (25cm) cake pan with parchment paper and grease the sides. In a large mixing-bowl, gently combine the yoghurt, milk eggs, sugar, vanilla, oil and lemon zest and juice.  Add the flour into the yoghurt mixture, and blend together -- don't overwork the dough. Pour the
batter into the prepared cake pan, and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the top is golden brown and a cake tester comes out clean. Let stand for ten minutes, run a knife around to loosen, and turn out on a rack to cool.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Ace Toad in the Hole

Well, just the name of this recipe had me hooked! I adore Toad in the Hole, and have mostly used Delia Smiths recipe until now.  When I saw this recipe in the lead up to the release of Nigella's new book
Kitchen: Recipes from the Heart of the Home
and just knew I was going to have to try it.  What I like about it is the idea of smaller bits of sausage, and the copious amounts of yorkshire pudding batter.  To be fair, this almost had too much batter, and I think next time I might adjust the quantities a bit.  I also found that there was enough fat in my sausages for cooking them and that the extra fat was too much.  I suppose that depends on what sausages you use- I used some I had bought from our local farmers market, and they were utterly delicious, so next time I use these sausages for this recipe I won't add the extra fat!
The other thing I loved about this recipe was the stove top to oven aspect of it.  Starting on the hob then transfering to the oven made this such an easy meal to prepare, it is perfectly possible to do this mid week.  The onion gravy was also great, I made it up while the toad was in the oven, simmered it down to give extra flavour.
All in all, a delicious and easy meal which I will absolutely be making again!

Nigella's Ace Toad in the Hole


    * 350ml full-fat milk
    * 4 large organic eggs
    * pinch salt
    * 250g plain flour

    * 400g good pork sausages (6 in number)
    * 1 x 15ml tablespoon goose fat, vegetable shortening or oil
    * 4 sprigs fresh thyme, plus more for serving if wished


1 x round roasting tin approx 28cm diameter, or small rectangular roasting tin approx 30cm x 20cm

   1. Preheat the oven to 220C/gas mark 7. Whisk the milk and eggs together with the salt, then whisk in the flour, beating to make a smooth batter. I find this way round makes for a lighter batter.
   2. Press the sausage meat out of its casing (you may need to nick the skin with a knife), half a sausage at a time, rolling it in your hands to form a ball and then squash gently to make a little, fat patty. You should get 12 patties from the 6 sausages.
(I just cut the sausages into four pieces, skin and all, and it worked fine!)
   3. Heat the fat or oil in a heavy-based, flame-safe roasting tin on the hob and brown the patties for about 1 minute each side: you need do no more than make them look enticingly brown.
   4. With the patties and oil still hot, pour in the batter and quickly drop in the sprigs of thyme. Absolutely immediately put into the oven for about 40 minutes or until the edges of the batter have risen and turned golden, and the eggy middle has set.
   5. Serve immediately, scattered with a thyme sprig or two or just a few leaves and with gravy (for example, the onion one below) if you feel you can only properly enjoy Yorkshire pud when it’s sauce-sogged.


The batter can be made a day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. The sausages can be formed into patties a day ahead. Cover and refrigerate until needed.


Warm 2 tablespoons of fat or oil and then cook 2 onions, peeled, halved and very finely sliced, until soft (about 10 minutes). Add 2 teaspoons sugar, and let the onions cook, caramelising a little, for another 3 or so minutes, before stirring in 4 teaspoons flour then 500ml meat stock. When thickened and hot, add a glug of marsala to taste.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Cupcake Crazy

My dear sister made space in her suitcase for a ridiculous amount of cake decorating paraphernalia when she recently visited the UK.  I am a sucker for all things cupcake so took the opportunity to truly stock up on all manner of toppers, sugar flowers, sprinkles and cachous.  The range and price certainly made it worthwhile, moreso because my sister was able to cut out the freight!!! I have had such fun making bits and pieces, here are a few of my latest creations.

I am also completely in love with the Hummingbird Bakery recipe for buttercream frosting.  It whips up beautifully and makes decorating so pleasurable.  In case you want it, here is the recipe again!!!!

Hummingbird Bakery Vanilla Frosting 

    * 250g icing sugar, sifted
    * 80g unsalted butter, at room temperature
    * 25ml whole milk
    * a couple of drops of vanilla extract

   1. Beat the icing sugar and butter together in a freestanding electric mixer with a paddle attachment (or use a handheld electric whisk) on medium-slow speed until the mixture comes together and is well mixed.
   2. Turn the mixer down to slow speed. Combine the milk and vanilla extract in a separate bowl, then add to the butter mixture a couple of tablespoons at a time. Once all the milk has been incorporated, turn the mixer up to high speed.
   3. Continue beating until the frosting is light and fluffy, at least 5 minutes. The longer the frosting is beaten, the fluffier and lighter it becomes.

I also recently made these cupcakes - I piped white chocolate dolphin shapes onto baking paper and then used them for toppers!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Pea and Prawn Risotto with basil and mint

This has to be one of my favourite Jamie Oliver risotto recipes.  I love the way he gives you the basic recipe and then suggests all sorts of variations- this has to be the one I make the most.  It is ridiculously simple and DELICIOUS! This recipe is from Jamie Oliver's second book "The Return of the Naked Chef" 
The Return of the Naked Chef


Prawn And Pea Risotto With Basil And Mint


Approximately 1.5 litres of chicken stock
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 shallots or 2 medium onions finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
400 g risotto rice
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 wine glasses of dry white wine (1/4 litre)
50 g butter
60 g freshly grated Parmesan
3 good handfuls of frozen peas, defrosted
1 knob of butter
450 g of raw prawns, peeled (about 12 big prawns)
1 handful of fresh basil, chopped
½ a handful of fresh mint, chopped
juice of 1 lemon

Before starting, Boil the peas in a little stock. Cook until tender.

Stage 1.
Heat the stock. In a separate pan heat the olive oil, add the shallots or onions and garlic, and fry slowly for about 4 minutes. When the vegetables have softened, add the rice and turn up the heat.
Stage 2.
The rice will now begin to fry, so keep stirring it. After a minute it will look slightly translucent. Add the wine and keep stirring.
Stage 3.
Once the wine has cooked into the rice, add your first ladle of hot stock and a good pinch of salt. Turn down the heat to a highish simmer so the rice doesn't cook too quickly on the outside. Keep adding ladles of stock, stirring and allowing each ladle of liquid to be absorbed before adding the next. This will take around 15 minutes. Taste the rice - is it cooked? Carry on adding stock until the rice is soft but with a slight bite. Don't forget to check the seasoning carefully.
Add the peas and the prawns and simmer for 2 minutes.
Stage 4.
Add the lemon juice and the herbs and stir.
Remove from the heat and add the butter and Parmesan, if using. Stir gently. Place a lid on the pan and allow to sit for 2 to 3 minutes. This is the most important part of making the risotto as this is when it becomes outrageously creamy and oozy like it should be. Eat as soon as possible while the risotto retains its perfect texture

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Double Chocolate Cookies

Is it possible for a cookie to be too chocolately? Well if you are after a really serious chocolate hit, these will certainly do it for you, extremely rich and decadent, they disappeared mighty soon after they were made.  A nice easy recipe too, this one comes from The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook, The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook  a book that is becoming a bit of a bible for me - especially for all things cupcake.  There are a few more recipes I am very keen to try yet, but what I have tried is delicious.  Their cupcake frosting recipe is light and fluffy and a real winner!

Double Chocolate  Cookies (from the Hummingbird Bakery)

Makes 12
50g unsalted butter
450g dark chocolate, roughly chopped
2 eggs
170g soft light brown sugar or light muscovado sugar
¼ tsp vanilla extract
85g plain flour
½ tsp salt
½ tsp baking powder
2 baking trays, lined with greaseproof paper

Preheat the oven to 170°C/gas 3. Put the butter and half the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water (do not let the base of the bowl touch the water). Leave until melted and smooth.
Put the eggs, sugar and vanilla extract in a freestanding electric mixer with a paddle attachment (or use a handheld electric whisk) and beat until well mixed. Pour in the chocolate mixture, beating on slow speed until well combined.
Sift the flour, salt and baking powder into a separate bowl, then stir into the chocolate mixture in 3 additions, mixing well after each addition (scrape any unmixed ingredients from the side of the bowl with a rubber spatula). Finally, stir in the remaining chocolate until evenly dispersed.
Arrange 6 equal amounts of cookie dough on each prepared baking tray. Make sure that the cookies are spaced apart to allow for spreading while baking. Bake in the preheated oven for 10-15 minutes, checking regularly after 10 minutes. They are ready when the tops start to crack and look glossy. Leave the cookies to cool slightly on the trays before turning out onto a wire cooling rack to cool completely.

Monday, September 6, 2010


Here are some of the array of gorgeous bits and pieces I recently got from the UK!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Old Fashioned English Custard Tart

This is a recipe I have made several times and was prompted to make it recently for our friend Morrie, who is quite partial to Custard Tart.  We have had many discussions about what makes a good custard tart, for me it absolutely has to be a custard made from scratch, I have yet to taste one better than this one I have to say. This is a trusty Delia Smith recipe, from her book "Delia's How to Cook: Bk.1".  This is a well used book in my cookbook library, in fact I decided recently to buy the combined volume Delia's Complete How to Cook: Both a Guide for Beginners and a Tried and Tested Recipe Collection for Lifewhich is the 3 books in the series and I am so glad I did, it is such a versatile and useful book!                  

For the shortcrust pastry:
 5 oz (150 g) plain flour, plus a little extra for dusting
 pinch of salt
 1 oz (25 g) softened lard
 1½ oz (40 g) softened butter                                                                                                                           
For the filling:
 3 large eggs, plus 2 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
 1 pint (570 ml) single cream
 2 oz (50 g) caster sugar
 ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
 1½ whole nutmegs, freshly grated
 1 level teaspoon softened butter
 3 large eggs, plus 2 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
 1 pint (570 ml) single cream
 2 oz (50 g) caster sugar
 ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
 1½ whole nutmegs, freshly grated
 1 level teaspoon softened butter

To make the pastry, first of all sift the flour with the pinch of salt into a large bowl, holding the sieve up high to give it a good airing. Then add the lard and butter and, using only your fingertips, lightly and gently rub the fat into the flour, again lifting the mixture up high all the time to give it a good airing. When everything is crumbly, sprinkle in about 1 tablespoon of cold water. Start to mix the pastry with a knife and then finish off with your hands, adding a few more drops of water, till you have a smooth dough that leaves the bowl clean. Then pop the pastry into a polythene bag and let it rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, pre-heat the oven to gas mark 5, 375°F (190°C) and pop the baking sheet in to pre-heat on the centre shelf. After that, roll the pastry out into a circle on a surface lightly dusted with flour, giving it quarter turns to keep its round shape; it's a good idea at this stage to put the tin lightly on top of the pastry – the size needs to be 1 inch (2.5 cm) bigger all round. Now transfer it, rolling it over the pin, to the tin, and press it lightly and firmly around the base, sides and rim. Now take a sharp knife and trim the overlapping pastry. Then press the rim of the pastry so that about ¼ inch (5 mm) overlaps the edge. Next, roll the trimmings and cut out about 24 leaves, making veins in them with the blunt side of the knife. Now brush the whole surface of the pastry case with some of the beaten eggs, arranging the leaves all around the rim, overlapping them. Brush these, too, with beaten egg. Now prick the base of the tart with a fork, then place it on the baking sheet and bake on the centre shelf for 20 minutes, until the pastry is crisp and golden.
Check after 4 minutes to make sure that the pastry isn't rising up in the centre. If it is, prick it again a couple of times, pressing it back down with your hands. After 20 minutes, remove it from the oven, leaving the baking sheet there, and reduce the temperature to gas mark 3, 325°F(170°C). Now place the cream in a saucepan and bring it up to a gentle simmer, then whisk the beaten eggs and sugar together in a large heatproof jug using a balloon whisk – but not too vigorously because you don't want to make bubbles. Then pour the hot liquid over the beaten eggs, add the vanilla extract and half the nutmeg and whisk briefly again. Now place the pie tin back on the baking tray with the oven shelf half out and have ready the rest of the grated nutmeg on a piece of foil. Carefully pour the filling into the pastry case (it will be very full) and scatter the rest of the nutmeg all over, then dot with the softened butter and bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes, until the filling is golden brown, firm in the centre and slightly puffed up. Serve either warm or, as I actually prefer it, cold.