Wednesday 20 February 2013

Birthday Mango Cake for Big'Un

We are currently a house of sickness, and I wasn't sure if I'd manage to give Big'Un a decent 11th birthday, but we just managed a day out, and came home in time to cook her fave supper of yorkshires and sausages.

While I had the yorkshires in the oven, I used the Bosch to make a quick cake mix, which I baked while we ate dinner.

I did an enriched sponge mixture - 3 of everything, - eggs, ounces of flour, caster sugar and butter, plus a spoon of baking powder. I spooned some mango puree from a can into the mix also, and baked it into my heart shaped silicone cake form.  I think that takes a normal 3 egg sponge mix, looks too small to fit a 4 egg mix.

When the cake was done, out and cool, I used the Bosch again to whip up some double cream, which was done beautifully in minutes, and then I swirled through some more mango puree*.

I splodged the cream onto the cake and served the excess cream alongside for extra dolloping.  We had received some fresh mangos from my aunty and also a couple from Abel and Cole, so Godpapa peeled the ripest one and we ate slices of the sweet fruit with the cake. They were the less sugary South American mangoes, so made a lovely fresh accompaniment to the cake.

Needless to say, it was a success!

*A note about mango puree - it's available from Indian shops in quite large tins.  I had opened the tin and used about 2 thirds the day before to make mango lassi.

Tuesday 12 February 2013

Shrove Tuesday something different

I knew that we'd be going to the church pancake party at 5pm for our helping of lemon and sugar filled gorgeousness, and in fact I'd agreed to make a batch for serving to the families, and so I thought I'd get the kids to at least try to eat something savoury and more nutrient dense first, and I thought Papa and I could always eat a backwards supper and have our savoury course once the kids were in bed.  I also wanted to minimise the work for myself, so I decided we'd have savory pancakes - with a twist.

First off I sliced up some nice organic chestnut mushrooms and fried these in a pan with some butter and a glug of garlic oil.  I sprinkled in some tarragon after a while.  I left these slowly frying towards intense umami deliciousness.

I then made a triple batch of the following recipe which I have used for nearly 20 years, from the Good Housekeeping cookery book.  My cookery bible which was a 21st birthday pressie and is still my most reached for reference book.

4oz plain flour
pinch of salt
1 egg
half a pint of milk.
drop of veg oil.

As I did a triple batch, I used a mix of full-cream and semi-skimmed milk, and water.  It worked absolutely fine.  I usually either whisk this by hand in a big jug, or whizz it up in the Bamix and its jug.  But for this large a batch I did it in the Bosch, though I wouldn't say it was especially quick or smooth. Perhaps I should have tried doing it in the blender attachment.

In the meantime I microwaved 6 or 7 lumps of frozen chopped spinach and put them in the Bamix jug. Once the batter was mixed, I took about a third out and added it to the spinach and then blitzted it all together.

(The rest of the batter was used to make the pancakes for the church pancake party.)

I then made 2 pancakes at a time for speed, just like ordinary pancakes, using a small ladle to measure out the right amount to coat the pan not too thickly, on a medium heat so it doesn't set so quickly that you can't tilt it to coat the base.

No, I didn't toss them. I have very weak wrists and need to save my strength in them for typing these blog posts or knitting! ;oP

I served these up with some of the mushrooms and a dollop of soured cream.

I won't pretend every one loved these, but I certainly did, and I'm sure many of my readers will too.  Yes, I know it's Lent, but who actually gives up the ingredients of pancakes in Lent anyway??!!

Cookies galore!

Yes, obviously, I've been baking a bit more than usual.  Cookies were the first thing I wanted to do, as the mixture is much stiffer than cake dough, which has meant I've avoided making them for a while.  My Bosch has made this all possible again so I wanted to test out cookie recipes to find some I could always come back to as reliable.
Here are my 3 best cookie recipes. I adapt them to suit what ingredients I have to hand or fancy trying.
Using a couple of these I created some rather popular marshmallow cookies.  The secret is to roll a ball of dough around a mini marshmallow, flatten slightly and then bake.
100g raisins
175g butter
175g light brown sugar
1 egg, beaten
125g plain flour
1 teaspoon salt
half teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
half teaspoon cinnamon
250g rolled oats
about 25-30 mini marshmallows
Beat the butter and sugar together until pale and creamy. Stir in the egg and raisins. Add the flour, salt, bicarbonate of soda and cinnamon. Stir well, then add the oats. Using a teaspoon to measure the dough if you prefer, take a small piece of dough, push a mini marshmallow in and roll in the palms of your hands until marshmallow is covered. Place on lined or greased baking tray and flatten slightly, leaving plenty of space between cookies. Bake in a preheated oven at 190 degrees, for 15-20 minutes. Leave on sheets for 2 minutes before putting to cool on a rack.
Kids and grown ups love rolling these!
I also usually use about 50-75g of whole oats to replace some of the rolled oats, to give it a bit more texture.
Basic cookie dough to make your own signature flavoured cookies.
125g softnened butter
75 g light brown sugar
1 beaten egg
175g self raising flour
half teaspoon baking powder
 175g *something to flavour*
You can do plain choc, or half white choc half cranberries, or you can do half chopped nuts & half milk choc, or whatever you want to add.
Beat the butter with the sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg and and beat well. Add the flour, baking powder and flavour addition to make a stiff dough. Place spoonfuls spaced slightly apart onto 2 greased or lined baking sheets and bake at 180 degrees for 15-18 minutes. Leave to cool for 2 minutes on the trays then transfer to a wire rack.
Butterscotch Oat (Marshmallow) cookies
I've also baked this next recipe and I seem to recall we used butterscotch pieces in one of the batches.
125g softened butter
125g sugar
75g soft brown sugar
1 egg
135g plain flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
half teaspoon baking powder
half teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
85g oats
250g chocolate chips (which I did with half choc half butterscotch in one heavenly batch)
Put butter, sugars and egg in a bowl and beat with an electric whisk until smooth. Add flour, cinnamon, baking powder and bacarbonate of soda and mix well until well combined. Stir in the oats and choc chips. Take a tablespoon of the mixture and form into a ball, flatten on the cookie sheet, repeat until all is used (we did the marshmallows with this recipe once too)
Bake for 5-10 mins at 190 degrees. Remove and leave to cool.
A hint - these are SO good slightly warm... Make many batches and give away to people. These make people HAPPY!

Wednesday 6 February 2013

garlic tofu and veg

Chinese food has always been a problem for me.  I love to eat it, especially good authentic Chinese food, having spent time in Hong Kong and Singapore, and also having grown up with a family friend who was a Hong Kong Chinese chef, and regularly entertained our family with lavish feasts.  However, I have had no concept of the basics of how to cook this particular cuisine, and so it has remained a bit enshrouded in mystery to me.  Last year I watched a good few episodes of Gok Wan's series on how to cook Chinese food, and although his premise was to "healthify" many of the traditional dishes, it still gave me an insight into the very different methods used to create the flavours and textures required.  Taking his basic advice and adding in a little experience from my recent Indo-Chinese experiment, I devised this ultra quick and tasty meal which was thoroughly enjoyed by all!

1 pack tofu
1 tbs cornflour
2 tbs garlic oil
2 tbs kikkoman soy sauce
1tsp salt
ground black pepper
2 heads pak choi
1 cup of soy beans
handful of mushrooms

Start by dicing the tofu and placing in a dish to marinade.  Pour the garlic oil over and season with soy sauce, salt and some freshly ground black pepper.  Mix the cornflour with 5 tbs water in a cup and then pour this over the tofu too.  Leave to marinade.  10 mins is fine, longer won't hurt.

Chop the mushrooms and the pak choi, separating the green leaves from the white stalks.

Heat some more oil, groundnut or more garlic oil, in a wok and  using a slotted spoon to drip off excess marindae, fry the tofu in batches until crispy on some of the sides.  You can be careful and crisp all the sides, or just crisp some and move on, depends how much time you have, or what texture you are going for.  Remove with a slotted spoon when done and reserve on a plate.  Do not pour away the marinade though!

Next fry the mushrooms, soy beans and whites of the pak choi for a few minutes, and then add the leaves of the pak choi.  Once these are wilted, pour in the whole of the marinading liquid.  The liquid will thicken up and look glossy very quickly.  Stir it all around and switch off heat when desired thickness of sauce is acheived.

I preferred to keep the tofu separate, some for nibbling and some placed on top of all the veg.  I had steamed some rice simply to accompany this.

Big'Un scoffed 2 big bowlsful, Littl'Un made a valiant effort given she isn't very well anyway, and Tiny scoffed every soy bean he could find and even ate some of the crunchy pak choi stalks.  Naturally he loved the rice, and he even ate a bit of tofu, but he's never been a big protein eater in the evenings.

A big hit all round, and took around 20 minutes to make from start to finish.

Monday 4 February 2013

Oriental inspired chicken burgers and crispy noodle salad

I won't at all take the credit for this salad, my sister-in-law fed it to Big'Un when she went to Singapore last year, and she raved about it.  It was a hit with our lovely friend who came to tea and supper yesterday, and the Littl'Un loved it too, even though I was worried it might be too spicy for her.
The burgers were a hit with everyone, and Tiny ate more than Littl'Un, which was a great surprise!

I was given money for my big birthday this weekend, so I treated myself to a couple of new kitchen gadgets I'd been hankering after, so this meal was partly an excuse to play with them, to be honest!

Firstly I minced up a pack of chicken breasts (I had bought them in a multi-meat discount purchase, 3 for £10 or similar) and then I added in some shallots and spring onions (if I'd had more spring onions I would have just used those) and whizzed them up together. For this I used the SliceSy attachment for my Bamix, and it was amazing, I did cut each breast in half  and only processed 2 at a time, because I wasn't certain how it would cope, but I needn't have worried, I had perfect mince in seconds.

I enjoyed the lifting plate design to empty the SliceSy, and put the meat and onions into a pyrex bowl.  The blades really are sharp, I managed to cut my finger when really carefully drying the chopping blade! The kids luckily ignored my colourful language!  I'm glad it comes with a blade guard for storage.

I then added 2 tbs cornflour, 1 tbs dark soy sauce and 1 tbs kikkoman soy sauce and 1 tbs shao xing rice wine and mixed really well with a spoon.  I left this to marinade a little while I made the salad.

Using the shredding attachment on my Bosch Mixer, I very easily shredded up a mini white cabbage and 3 large carrots. My Sis-In-Law also suggests using mushrooms, red cabbage and spring onions too, but I didn't have them to hand, and it was still delicious.  I put about a third of the carrot/cabbage away in the fridge to make coleslaw later in the week, and put the rest in a salad bowl.  I called in Big'Un and made her smash up a pack of noodles, the kind that has a sachet of soup base or seasoning, I used this one which is actually marketed as to be eaten dry as a snack, but any would work the same.

The smashed up noodles were then emptied out into the veggies, and mixed in, and the sachet was opened and put in a small jug.  I then added olive oil, sesame oil, soy sauce, lemon juice, sugar and pepper to the seasoning to make a dressing.  This is then poured over the salad shortly before serving.  Not so long that it makes the noodles (or doondles as our household calls them) soggy, but long enough for the flavour to soak in.  Mix well and garnish with toasted almonds and/or sesame seeds.

While Big'Un was smashing out her troubles, I got on with frying the burgers.  I used 2 metal spoons to dollop and flatten portions of mix into a preheated oiled frying pan, turning after a few minutes.  I like these patties to be thin so they cook well but try not to dry them out.

I served this all with pitta pockets.  Some people stuffed salad in with their patties, others kept the salad for separate eating, some did both!