‘Toad In The Hole’ with onion gravy

Toad In The Hole

Toad In The Hole

‘Toad In The Hole’ is a traditionally British dish of sausages bakes in ‘Yorkshire Pudding’ batter. Coming from a Chinese family in England, this dish is not something I actually grew up eating but I do love a good Yorkshire pudding! The origins of the name of this recipe is slightly unclear, check out what Wikipedia has to say…

I cooked this meal during a blustery Saturday. It was that kind of day when the weather gets you a little down, and all you need is some comforting food to keep you warm inside! I’m not a lover of traditional pork sausages, so I used both pork and turkey sausages in the recipe so that everyone could have a little something they’d like. As it turned out, the turkey sausages were preferred, so I’ll be getting them again! Yum!

Toad In The Hole

Toad In The Hole with Onion Gravy

I served the Toad In The Hole with an onion gravy and went for Cauliflower with Broccoli Cheese to go on the side.

So as you can see from the photos, the meal was very heavy as the Yorkshire Pudding was very dense! Since this is the first time I’ve made this dish, and the last time I had it was probably when I was in school, I’m not sure if this has turned out right?  Where the Yorkshire Pudding was quite thin, it was lovely and crispy and light… maybe too much batter? Any experts out there to give a little advice? Please! 🙂

 

 

Cauliflower and Broccoli Cheese Bake

Cauliflower Broccoli Cheese Bake

Cauliflower Broccoli Cheese Bake

This Cauliflower and Broccoli Cheese recipe was made to go along with the ‘Toad in the Hole’ and onion gravy, making an all round comfort eating dinner for a dreary British day! I’m not particularly good at cooking traditional ‘British’ foods, or a lover of them as I like lots of spice! However Good ingredients cooked well will always shine through, so I grabbed a couple of heads of broccoli and a cauliflower and got to work… I was attracted to this recipe as the broccoli is actually blended into the creamy cheese sauce, giving it a lovely vibrant colour and extra flavour. I also liked the idea of giving it a crispy top by using bread crumbs and almonds. (I decided to skip the breadcrumbs this time as the meal contained a lot of carbohydrate already!)

Cauliflower Broccoli Cheese

Cauliflower Broccoli Cheese

The cheese sauce has a lovely green colour as there is a whole head of broccoli blitzed into it. The toasted almonds on top added a nice nutty taste and some much needed texture to the dish too! 🙂

I’m not a big fan of cauliflower as I find it quite watery and tasteless as a vegetable. However I think it works as a carrier of flavours, and have recently seen some great  recipes for cauliflower curries. As you can see, I’m still leaning towards foods with lots of spice! 😉

Caramel Profiteroles: A stab at French patisserie

Caramel Profiteroles

Caramel Profiteroles: My attempt at recreating 

 

On a recent break to Nice in the south of France, I had the most delicious profiterole dessert from a local patisserie that was open until 10pm! Imagine if such an amazing thing existed in my home town?! I’d never have an emergency dessert baking moment again… Oh to dream!

So while in France, it’s obligatory to eat as much from the local patisseries as possible,from breakfast croissants to afternoon treats after a long day of sightseeing. Well that’s what I think anyway!

Caramel Profiteroles from Nice, France

This is a photo of the Caramel Profiteroles I had in Nice, France- doesn’t it look so perfect and delicious?

So as you can see this dessert was amazing and I haven’t seen it available anywhere since. The choux pastry was crisp and the creme patissiere not too sweet. The burnt caramel offset the cream perfectly and I was so sad to eat the last mouthful! Unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to go back and get another one as we left the next morning. So I have recreated it in my own kitchen as part of the Mother’s Day lunch for my family!

Caramel Profiteroles

Caramel Profiteroles

 

I have to admit that I don’t have a recipe to share as I kind of made it up as I went along, starting from a basic choux pastry mix and filling the profiteroles with creme patissiere. But here is a similar one if you want to give it a go yourself!

When working with the caramel, be very careful as I managed to burn my middle finger and a thumb on the burning hot sugar! Blisters alert! 😦

With only a photo of the original dessert on my phone to go by, I made a stab at reconstructing the dessert to look the same. The base is a disk of choux pastry that I had to squash down as it puffed up then I used some of the caramel to ‘glue’ three creme patissiere filled profiteroles onto the base. I decided that easiest way to do the profiteroles was to fill them first that dip them into the caramel, hence the burning of fingers as they were heavy and kept falling in! I topped the freshly whipped cream with some flaked almonds that I toasted then ground.

Caramel Profiteroles

Caramel Profiteroles- home made

 

I think I managed to capture the general essence of the dessert, not as neat I wanted but it was OK for a first attempt. Unfortunately I was pressed for time so was unable to take step-by-step photos. Maybe I’ll attempt this again and take photos next time! 🙂

 

 

Roasted Vegetable Terrine

Roasted Vegetable Terrine

Roasted Vegetable Terrine

Roasted Vegetable Terrine

I’ve never attempted a ‘terrine’ before. I like the look of all the layers of colourful vegetables and have seen it being done on cookery programmes so decided to give it a whirl as part of a Mother’s Day lunch…

I loosely based it on this recipe  for Roasted Vegetable and Goats Cheese Terrine but my mum isn’t keen on goats cheese so I went for mozzarella instead. I also went to town when buying vegetables so used ALOT of different ones. In hindsight it is probably better to stick to a few vegetables that you can repeat the layers with, less time consuming to prepare and allowing the flavours to shine through individually too…

I pretty much spent three hours individually roasting the slices of vegetables and pan frying some. I seasoned with salt and pepper as I went along and added extra flavour by using a layer of sun-dried tomato paste in the middle. You can use whatever takes your fancy! 🙂

So this is how it was constructed:

Vegetable Terrine- Aubergine Layer

Vegetable Terrine- Aubergine Layer

Vegetable Terrine- Sweet Potato Layer

Vegetable Terrine- Sweet Potato Layer

Vegetable Terrine- Sweet Potato Layer

Vegetable Terrine- Sweet Potato Layer

Vegetable Terrine- Red Pepper Layer

Vegetable Terrine- Red Pepper Layer

Vegetable Terrine- Mozzarella Layer

Vegetable Terrine- Mozzarella Layer

Vegetable Terrine- Sundried Tomato Paste Layer

Vegetable Terrine- Sun-dried Tomato Paste Layer

Vegetable Terrine- Portabello Mushroom Layer

Vegetable Terrine- Portabello Mushroom Layer

Vegetable Terrine- Courgette Layer

Vegetable Terrine- Courgette Layer

Vegetable Terrine- Artichoke Layer

Vegetable Terrine- Artichoke Layer

Vegetable Terrine-  Asparagus Layer

Vegetable Terrine- Asparagus Layer

Vegetable Terrine-  Final layer!

Vegetable Terrine- Final layer!

Vegetable Terrine-  Ready for the fridge

Vegetable Terrine- Ready for the fridge

 

The terrine needs to be made ahead so that it can be kept in the fridge for at least 8 hours to allow the flavours to infuse. I put a heavy bottle on top to squash the layers down so that the terrine holds it shape on turning it out.

Vegetable Terrine - The result!

Vegetable Terrine – The result!

I served the terrine with rosemary and garlic roasted chicken, garlic hassle-back potatoes, red cabbage coleslaw and ‘no knead’ oatmeal bread- all home made!

Roasted Vegetable Terrine, Roast Chicken, Hassel-back potatoes, Red cabbage coleslaw

Roasted Vegetable Terrine, Roast Chicken, Hassel-back potatoes, Red cabbage coleslaw

The different colours and layers looked great but did fall apart a little on cutting. The flavours worked well together, but I’d use more sun-dried tomato paste and cheese next time and fewer different types of vegetables… worth the effort for a special occasion! 😀

 

 

 

Bolani and Raita

Baked Bolani: A healthier cheats recipe using dumpling wrappers

Bolani and Raita

Bolani and Raita

I have previously posted about ‘Aushak and Bolani‘- what I know to be traditional Afghan dishes. Aushak are a vegetable filled dumpling, usually using green onions or leeks, and Bolani are a stuffed flat bread (usually vegetarian too).

These dishes are a little time consuming to make, especially if you are making the dough yourself, so I cheat by buying frozen dumpling wrappers from the Chinese supermarket! There are local Afghan restaurants that sell these dishes but they are quite expensive, for what is basically vegetables wrapped in dough! So I usually make them at home, having a stock in the freezer for when the taste buds are calling…

Baked  Bolani:

Bolani Wrapping

Bolani Wrapping- seal with some water around the edges. The filling is cooked mashed potato, green onions and spinach with chilli flakes and ground spices

 

Bolani

Bolani- finished and ready to cook straight away or freeze for a later date

 

Bolani

Bolani: sprayed with vegetable oil and baked in a hot oven for 10 minutes on each side

 

Bolani are more traditionally pan fried in oil and soak up quite a lot of oil in the process. By spritzing the Bolani on both sides with a spray oil, it is much healthier and the dough gets nice and crunchy around the edges. By using these dumpling wrappers, they are also ideal for a small starter or snacks for guests. Less messy that larger flat breads too… Serve with whatever chutney or sauce you fancy!

 

Aushak:

Aushak Wrapping

Aushak Wrapping- Filling of cooked spinach and leeks with various ground spices and sealing the edges with water

 

Aushak

Aushak- lined up ready for the freezer

 

Aushak can be served either steamed or boiled, with a lentil or ground meat based sauce. I didn’t get a picture of the cooked result this time though…

 

 

 

Goats Cheese, Sun-Dried Tomato and Pesto Tart

Goats Cheese, Sun-Dried Tomato and Pesto Tart

Goats Cheese, Sun-Dried Tomato and Pesto Tart

This was a quick last minute starter made for a casual dinner with friends. I has originally planned to make some soup but missed a vital ingredient off the shopping list. After a quick scout around the fridge and freezer I found some puff pastry and goats cheese, so the beginnings of the tart were born!

I made some basil pesto with half a bunch of left over basil, some toasted pine nuts and olive oil (no parmesan as I had none!). All were blitzed in the blender with a little salt and pepper to taste.

Basil Pesto

Basil Pesto

To assemble: Roll out the puff pastry onto a baking sheet (I didn’t line mine so it stuck a little, best learn from my mistakes!) then spread the pesto thinly onto the pastry leaving about 1cm border around the edge. Then add the toppings, I used goats cheese and sun-dried tomatoes with some extra pine nuts scattered over.

To bake: Stick it in a hot oven for 15 minutes but keep an eye on it after 10 minutes.

To serve: Cut up into slices and serve with salad (I halved some cucumber slices and cherry tomatoes and dressed them with left over pesto)

Et voila! A quick and easy starter enjoyed by adults and kids alike…

Chicken Tikka and Sweet Potatoes

Chicken Tikka and Roasted Sweet Potato

Chicken Tikka and Sweet Potatoes with yoghurt

Chicken Tikka and Sweet Potatoes with yoghurt

Another quick one-pot mid-week meal!

This is a really simple recipe using a few ingredients and made in advance ready for 45 minutes in the oven.

I bought a free range corn fed chicken and spatchcock-ed (is that really a word!) it so it would cook quicker. The tikka paste used was a shop bought ‘Pataks’ one that was rubbed all over the chicken once it had been slashed in the thickest parts (to allow the flavour to be soaked in as well as too aid faster cooking).

Chicken Tikka and Sweet Potatoes

Chicken Tikka and Sweet Potatoes

Then a few sweet potatoes were cubed and scattered around the chicken in a roasting tin. Salt and pepper added and a little cooking oil sprayed on the sweet potatoes to help crispen them up.

After 45 minutes in 180 degree C oven, check that the chicken in cooked through. Then chop it up and serve on a bed of sweet potatoes, some cooling yoghurt, and some green salad. This dish feeds two hungry adults for dinner with left overs for lunch the next day too!

Chicken Tikka and Sweet Potatoes

Chicken Tikka and Sweet Potatoes

Simple! 🙂

 

Novelty Duck Pond and Farm Animals Cake

Novelty 'Duck Pond' and Farm Animals Cake

Novelty ‘Duck Pond’ and Farm Animals Cake

I’m super excited about this cake, even after the event has been and gone… For my nephew’s 3rd Birthday my sister and I decided to try and make a ‘duck pond and farm animals’ cake as he is obsessed with ducks and farms animals!

A quick Google and scout around Pintrest and the ideas were flowing! I’m not a huge fan of icing and marzipan or buttercream on cakes, as I prefer ream cakes that are a lot less sugary. You may have already seen from my previous cake posts that I tend to reduce the sugar in cake recipes so they aren’t so sweet and the flavours of the cake itself are allowed to shine through.

With no children of my own, I obviously have a lot more time on my hands to bake and decorate birthday celebration cakes. However I have to admit that I have no artistic bone in my body! So my cakes are quite plain and have simple (of very messy) decoration. Obviously with children’s birthday cakes it’s all about the ‘wow factor’ as they are usually much more interested in the way it looks than the taste of it! Store bough party cakes tend to be fairly plain inside, going for a jam or buttercream filling…

Novelty 'Duck Pond' and Farm Animals Cake

Novelty ‘Duck Pond’ and Farm Animals Cake

With this cake I made a stand and decided that it needed to taste really good as well as look good! So using my mum’s Victoria Sponge recipe I made the lightest of lightest cakes, making a salted caramel cream for the filling. The outside of the cake was decorated using KitKat fingers (for the fence) and coloured whipped cream for the ‘grass’ and ‘water’. The pebbles, ducks and farm animals were all made from ready made sugar pastes.

Farm Animals

Farm Animals

I’m particularly impressed by these farm animals made by my cousin, they are so cute! The sheep especially as she rolled out each tiny ball individually to get the ‘woolly’ effect.

Ducks swimming and diving

Ducks swimming and diving

My sister made these little ducks, I especially love the baby ducks and the ones that have dunked their heads in the ‘water’ so only their feet and bums are showing!

For the cake recipe, see my previous post ‘Green Tea and Black Sesame Marble Cake‘ but skip the matcha powder and black sesame powder for a plain cake, or if you want flavoured sponge just follow the recipe as is!

For the salted caramel cream I used a made a basic caramel recipe (melted sugar in a pan and added cream once melted and a pinch of sea salt) then added it to whipped cream once it has cooled.

Duck Pond and Farm Animal Cake

Duck Pond and Farm Animal Cake

I’m very proud of our team effort on this cake. Although I have no patience and vision for modelling and crafting for novelty cakes, I know who to go to if I ever need to decorate novelty cakes again!

My nephew absolutely loved his birthday cake so all of the effort was well worth it. The adults also enjoyed eating the cake itself, leaving all the sugar paste animals to one side. Mission accomplished! 🙂

Raspberry and Double Chocolate Muffins and Loaf Cake

Raspberry and Chocolate Muffin

Raspberry and Chocolate Muffin

You know it’s been a long time since you’ve made cake when work colleagues start asking for them! Around the same time last year (just after Christmas when everyone was trying to shift a few pounds!) it was the opposite, we were all sick of the sight of cakes and biscuits in the office…

So I dusted off the muffin tin and rummaged for the muffin cases to try out this Raspberry and Chocolate Muffin recipe. This recipe current has 239 positive reviews so I chose to go with this one without even bothering to look at others, why would I ignore such a highly recommended recipe?!

Raspberry and Chocolate Muffin

Raspberry and Chocolate Muffin

First thing to note is that the recipe uses ‘cups’ rather than weighing out each ingredient making it very simple to throw together. I usually have some frozen berries in the freezer for emergency baking or fruity sauce making (yes there are instances of such urgent issues in my life). I also have quite a few blocks of chocolate left over from Christmas baking. I’m not a huge fan of eating chocolate on its own so they have gone untouched in case of other dessert making adventures.

The recipe itself calls for white chocolate but I didn’t have enough so I ended up using both white and milk chocolates, hence the ‘double chocolate’ element of the muffin. As with most cake recipes, I reduced the amount of sugar from 1 cup to 2/3 cup. I figured that with all that chocolate in it, it would be sweet enough. On taste testing the muffins (I had to have 2 just to be sure) I would even go for half a cup of sugar depending on how sweet your chocolate is!

Raspberry and Chocolate Muffins and Loaf

Raspberry and Chocolate Muffins and Loaf

I was quite surprised that there is only 50g of butter and 1 egg in this recipe. Relatively low in fat compared to other muffin recipes, an excuse to eat double the amount maybe?

Due to the expanding number of people working in my office I made two batches. The first batch went into a loaf tin and the second batch in 12 muffin cases. I have to say that sticking the the muffins is much quicker. They took 20 minutes but the loaf tin took a good 45 minutes to bake. However, having a cake to cut up is always more enjoyable when with a group of friends with a round of tea and coffee… There are pros and cons to both, but pretty much any cake is always a good thing!

So you can imagine that after baking such lovely cake and muffins for my work mates, I was looking forward to seeing their reactions when they took the initial bite and tasted the tart raspberries with the sweet chocolatey nuggets of goodness. Well something terrible happened, and not for the first time! I FORGOT to take the cakes with me in the morning! Can you imagine the horror when I realised half way into my one hour commute to work? I just dreaded having to tell them all that the cakes I had made especially for them were abandoned on my coffee table 30 miles away… The worst of it was that I wasn’t even due in the office the next day so couldn’t even give them slightly stale cake. Oh well, more for me! 🙂

Their wish has been left unfulfilled…

Green Tea and Black Sesame Marble Cake

Green Tea and Black Sesame Marble Cake

Green Tea and Black Sesame Marble Cake

image

Green Tea and Black Sesame Marble Cake

Green Tea and Black Sesame Marble Cake

Green Tea and Black Sesame Marble Cake

After gaining a little more confidence in my ‘cake marbling’ skills, I decided to attempt a ‘Chinese’ version for my family using the classic combination of Green Tea and Black Sesame! I have previously posted ‘Green Tea and Black Sesame Swiss Roll‘.

Using a ‘Victoria Sponge’ recipe that my mum passed onto me, I have tried to create a lighter version of the traditional ‘marble pound cake’ by using a ‘chiffon cake’ style method. This basically involves getting as much air in the eggs as possible and then folding in a small amount of flour to hold it all together. There is also less sugar which is typical of Chinese cakes.

Green Tea and Black Sesame Marble Cake

Green Tea and Black Sesame Marble Cake

 

Ingredients

  • 5 Medium Eggs
  • 120 g Caster Sugar
  • 90 g Self Raising Flour
  • 30 g Cornflour
  • 35 g Olive Oil
  • 2 tbs Ground Black Sesame Seeds
  • 1 tbs Matcha Powder (Food grade Green Tea Powder)
  • a pinch of black sesame seeds for decoration

 

Method

  • Beat the eggs and sugar together until pale and to ‘ribbon texture’
  • Sift in both flours and fold into the egg mixture (avoid mixing as it deflates all your hard work in getting the air in!)
  • Pour in the oil and stir until just combined
  • Pour half the batter into another mixing bowl
  • Fold in the ground sesame seeds into one half the batter and the matcha powder into the other half of the batter
  • Now carefully pour both batters into a lined and greased cake tin. This is difficult with this cake batter as it is very runny! The way I did it was to pour the batters into the corners and let them run into the middle so you get a chance to at least get 4 definite colour blocks.
  • Finally swirl a skewer or knife through the mixture a couple of times to create the ‘marble’ effect.

 

Matcha and Black Sesame Marble Cake

Matcha and Black Sesame Marble Cake

This cake was a hit with my family, not too sweet and very light in texture. A definite keeper!