Friday 30 March 2012

Easy Stuffed Mushrooms

I planned to make stuffed mushrooms this week...and when it came around on the meal planner...I couldn't find my flipping recipe.  I think it might have been in a recent Waitrose Weekend, or maybe in a delicious magazine...I don't know. 

I had a whole bunch of ingredients...cherry tomatoes, spring onions, breadcrumbs, chilli, ricotta, parsley, cooked chopped spinach and of course some gigantic mushrooms.  I roughly guessed what might fit into two large mushrooms...mixed it all together...crammed it into the mushroom and then wrapped it with a piece of bacon and baked until the bacon was crispy(ish).  

I still can't find the recipe.  

Wednesday 28 March 2012

Wholewheat moving in...

For those of you keeping tabs, I haven't posted about my Sourdough adventures in a while...but I promise something is coming soon.  Things have been a bit too busy for the sloooooow sourdough recently.  For now, though, I have put poor Morag at the back of the fridge to sleep.  

This weekend (and tonight) I turned my kneading hands to wholewheat bread.  I've been nervous about mixing my flours, I am not convinced I've entirely "got" bread making yet...but I've been practicing a lot and trying different recipes so I thought...why not!? 

Dan Lepard's Wholewheat recipe in Short & Sweet is for a proper 100% wholewheat loaf...I wasn't exactly ready to attempt that monster.  I say monster only because I have read about the heartaches of baking wholewheat loaves...loaves that come out of the oven like bricks...I didn't think I was emotionally strong enough to cope with that.  So, instead I took advice and adapted my regular white loaf.  I substituted 1/4 white flour with wholewheat and upped the yeast to 1-1/2 tsp.  I also needed about 70ml more water.  

I am really happy with the result.  I know I say this a lot...but it constantly amazes me how wonderful my bread tastes, and feels and looks.  I haven't bought a loaf from the supermarket in months...and I really don't want to.  

Monday 26 March 2012

Dinner excuse for making a huge dessert! (like I needed one)

After the tart-a-thon on with the Edinburgh Cakes Ladies last week I had vowed to stay away from the desserts...for a while. I know it sounds awful but this past month has been one foodie event after another and "moderation" is not something I am good at.  I am a greedy guts...FACT. 

Well everything went down the drain when I remembered that we were having friends over for dinner on Saturday night.  Friends who have recently had a baby.  Friends who needed to be pampered. So...what better than a gigantic pavlova? Meringue, Cream and Strawberries...piled high high high. 

I've not actually made a pavlova before, but when I was debating what to make I remembered that I had 4 egg whites in the freezer just screaming out to be used.  I did some research on the internet and realised that I didn't have cream of tartar or cornstarch or white vinegar...ingredients that were claimed to be integral to the making of a proper pavlova.  

Than I came across Delia's recipe...just egg whites and sugar. Simple.  

Sunday 25 March 2012

Random Recipes: Lucky Number 17

When Dom over at Belleau Kitchen announced that this month's theme was Lucky Number 17 (the 17th cookbook on the shelf) I immediately thought that there was no way I had 17 cookbooks...turns out I have 22.  Scanning and counting the two piles of books I discovered that number 17 was the Williams Sonoma Bride & Groom Cookbook.  This cookbook claims to cover everything a young couple needs to know about setting up a kitchen and embarking on a life cooking is sweet and was given to us as an Engagement gift by a friend in Canada....and is totally fitting for this month since it is our anniversary month! 
Anyway, the recipe was for Gougeres, or as I like to call them...cheese puffs (not to be confused with cheesies or whotsits).  Two immediate worries about the recipe...I had never made choux pastry before and I didn't really have an appropriate occasion to make them for.  Worry number 2 was solved when David invited some pals over for dinner...worry number 1 never really went away.  

In some bazaar twist the hosts at the supper club I visited last week served them as canapes...and as I was stuffing them in my mouth I thought there is no way I can do this.  Gougeres are such a lovely treat, and once you know what you are actually doing they are a really easy nibble to make (and even easier to eat). 
Batch 1 was a disaster...well not entirely...but it wasn't salvageable....I blame Willams Sonoma.  The recipe wasn't written very well.  I made the roux bit no problems...then it said remove from heat and add eggs one at a in with the first egg and SCRAMBLE! Blooming recipe should have said let cool slightly.  Thankfully all that was wasted was an egg and some flour and butter...luckily I had more butter and eggs and hadn't ruined the cheese! 
Batch 2 mixed up nicely (after slightly cooling) but I had to divide the batter between two trays and then didn't know if it the second tray would be ok to in they both went and when they came out the ones on the bottom tray didn't really puff up properly.  But they tasted great so...who cares! 
A true challenge Dom! 

Thursday 22 March 2012

The Edinburgh Cake Ladies Get Tarty

Last night I hosted the Edinburgh Cake Ladies at the newly renovated Mimi's Bakehouse in Leith.  Our theme this month was tarts.  I'll confess now I was the one who chose the theme...casually one day I mentioned that it might be fun.  Turns out it was stressful! Not the organising bit...the pastry bit.  But, we Cake Ladies love to challenge ourselves and as everyone turned up...some apologising for their tarts (the needn't have) it was clear that this group of ladies is all about the love of baking (and eating).  It is clearly not a competition...

I ate 8 petite slices last night

Sophia's Raspberry Lemon Frangipane

Fiona's Pumpkin Pie

Alison's Chocolate Orange

Wendy's Blood Orange

Pam's Maple Walnut 

Lea's Passion Fruit Meringue

Amy's Onion and Mustard Tart  (which I also just ate for breakfast) 

and Lisa's Bacon, Brie and Glodcrest Tomato Rocket Tart 

The mix between the savoury and sweet was really nice...and made it easier to plough my way through all 8.  I am sorry that I didn't manage more, true Edinburgh Cake Ladies fashion I've got a tin of slices to keep me going over today and tomorrow.  

Check the Edinburgh Cake Ladies Blog for more tartshots (eeek once I've managed to get them up!)  

Oh...I almost own

Rhubarb Custard tart from this month's issue of delicious magazine.  

Tuesday 20 March 2012

Toad in the Hole

I love yorkshire pudding...but I am really picky about it.  I like it pudding-y...thick and stodgy with just the slightest crisp to the outside.  Of course it has to be cooked through, but it can't be a know the crisp outside with not a smidgen of puddingy goodness in the no that will not do for me.  It has to be because yorkshire pudding has always been cooked in a loaf tin in my family...we fight over the middle bits...the stodgiest bits.  Anyway...because of that I am always dubious of a toad in the hole recipe not in a loaf tin.  

I've been thinking about (and then forgetting about) making Nigella's recipe from Kitchen for a while now.  There were a few things that caught my eye ages ago...rolling the sausages in to patties, cooking in a round baking tin...and of course the food styling in the book.  But for some reason I've just not made it...

Until last night, that is.  I only had about 250ml of milk in the house so the batter was slightly thicker than Nigella's recipe calls for...but much closer to the proportions my parents and grandma use.  I was really impressed with my attempt and the perfect balance between stodgy and crispy.  

Sunday 18 March 2012

My first proper Supper Club experience

March has been one of those months where everything seems to happen at once.  It is almost like my social life went into hibernation over the winter and decided it was time to wake up now that the days are getting longer.  

Last night I attended my first proper supper club.  Supper clubs are as hot as pop-ups right now and judging by the popularity and flurry of frantic emails it takes to get tickets these new dining experiences are here to stay.  

I've been a bit nervous about going to a supper club.  I love the idea of really awesome and well thought out menus served up in someone's's the not knowing people bit that's freaked me out a bit.  I mean you go to a restaurant not knowing anyone but your dining companion, and other than the staring at fellow diners' plates you don't need to/aren't expected to interact.  But at a Supper Club it is like being invited along to the friend of a friend of a friend's house for a dinner party.  Interaction is part and parcel of the whole experience.  Luckily, last night I was in good company...those infamous Edinburgh Cake Ladies.  

I joined 18 other ladies at Kitchen Porter last night, run by Mark and Mary Porter, in a secret location in Edinburgh.  I was in good company, I was in good spirits and I was ready to eat!

Jerusalem Artichoke Soup 

Red Mullet on Fennel Puree 

Duo of Scottish Border Lam with mash

And for dessert Mark served up a deconstructed carrot cake.  I don't have a picture of it.  I was too busy eating it...and the half my neighbour couldn't finish...and the other small piece brought out as extras...2.5 pieces and didn't manage of picture.  Just before Mark served up dessert I wandered through into the kitchen to get my dessert beer...a Chocolate Porter...where Mark confessed that he was nervous serving up cake to Cake Ladies...but he needn't have worried.  It was spicy and moist and the carrot sorbet and candied carrots were wonderful.  

A great first supper club in my books! 

Saturday 17 March 2012

My Scandinavian Love Affair...takes hold in the kitchen

For the past few months I have become increasingly obsessed with everything "Scandi" shows, cooking, interior design...and I have finally turned my infatuation into something in the kitchen.  I'll admit it took me watching the Hairy Bikers baking in Norway to finally roll up my sleeves and get stuck in...but boy am I glad I did!

This Scandinavian Rye Bread has filled a big fjord (see what i did there...not sure if it actually works) in my bread baking repertoire...rye bread.  I've been adding the odd dash of rye into loaves and cakes over the last few months but this was the first predominantly rye loaf I've made.  The proportion of rye to white flour is pretty much 50/50 making the loaf rise pretty easily and keeping it light and soft.  It was super easy to make and tastes amazing, especially slathered with goats cheese, topped with sliced cucumber and sprinkled with pepper and salt.  

I've got gravlax and flatbreads on my to do list next...

Wednesday 14 March 2012

Bake Sofi's Bar

Last night I built up my baking courage a visited a new baking club in Edinburgh, at the totally quirky Sofi's Bar in Leith.  Run by Steph, who works at Sofi's, this bake club brings together new and experienced bakers in a totally relaxed environment.  

Sofi's Bake Club meets once a month and is a themed bake. This month the theme was icing.  Icing is something that I am not very confident with, in fact I am not really an icing kind of gal anyway.  Don't get me wrong I go gaga for a good ganache and a really soft buttercream can get me drooling...but for the most part I find icing tends to fall flat.  It is often too sugary or grainy or well...there is just too darn much of it.  But one of the great things about Bake Club is that it is an opportunity to try new things, to attempt something be brave. 

I wasn't brave.  I didn't do anything new. Instead I thought it was about time the Edinburgh baking community was introduced to the incredible delight that is The Nanaimo Bar (the ICING is the middle layer).  

This is a Canadian food staple.  Along with the buttertart and maple syrup this beautiful little square just screams the True North Strong and Free.  Graham cracker and coca base with a custard icing middle topped with silky smooth dark chocolate...Oh Canada, indeed!

oh those gorgeous Sofi's chocolate cakes...they were Steph's! 

Sunday 11 March 2012

2 easy weekday meals...that I ate on the weekend!

I don't know why I do this...all the time...plan out my meals without really reading the recipes and end up slotting in super easy dishes on the weekend (when I've got the time to chop, stir, braise, rest...). 

This weekend I tried my hand at two new dishes: Prawn Tom Yum Soup, and Corn Fritters (not together, of course).  Both recipes came from the speedy supper section of some magazine, and now that I think about it the clue that they were speedy was right there on the page...staring at me...but of course I only noticed that when I actually dug the recipe out and got organised, oops! 

This Prawn Tom Yum Soup was so simple to make/adapt.  I rammed it full of veggies, noodles and prawns to make it a substantial meal...which took me back to the awesome Tamarind Broth rustled up by Tony Singh at the event I went to on Monday.  Not that I am comparing my thai broth to his, it was more the spice, noodles, ginger and meaty prawns that I was comparing. is this for simple...boil a litre of chicken stock, stir in 2 tbsp of tom yum paste and then chuck in your veg (sliced green beans, frozen peas, frozen corn, sliced ginger) and simmer until tender, then in with rice noodles and cleaned prawns (I used cooked prawns cause they were on sale) simmer until prawns are cooked...serve up and devour! 

The corn fritters took a bit more preparation...grating 2 medium potatoes and then squeezing the water out of them...but other than that you mix the potatoes with a cup of thawed frozen corn, a chopped red chilli, 2 tbsp sweet chilli sauce, tbps flour, handful chopped coriander, and an beaten medium egg.  All you have to do is pan fry spoonfuls of the mixture in a little veggie oil until brown on each side! We ate them with a green salad and some sweet chilli sauce.  

Easy Peasy

Saturday 10 March 2012

My First Sourdough...a lesson in patience

This post is a long time coming, I've been meaning to write it all week but one thing has lead to another and it has taken until this morning to get a chance to sit down and actually put pen to paper...or fingers to keyboard in this case. 

While I say this is my first sourdough...that isn't technically true...I did attempt to create my own starter back when we lived in Chelmsford.  For some reason it never really did anything, it smelt horrible and had zero bubbles so...down the drain it went.  Ever since then I have felt seriously defeated.  

As most of you will remember, before Christmas David rolled up his sleeves and got seriously stuck into bread making.  One of his gifts was The Handmade Loaf by Dan Lepard, and inside there is a step by step guide to creating your own leaven.  I've been biding my time to get it started and...about 2 weeks ago I finally got started.  As for the book...I don't know if David has even been able to look at it (it has been my bedside reading for 2 months)!

6 stressful days of caring for, feeding, nurturing my starter later I set aside a Sunday morning to carefully prepare my dough...softly kneading it every 30 mins or 1 hour until it was soft and ready to shape. Sourdough takes patience, it takes planning...but every bite is worth it. 

The recipe I used was straight out of The Handmade Loaf.  Dan Lepard's Mill Loaves are a combination of white, wholemeal and rye flour and instead of round loaves he suggests shaping the dough into batons.

The instructions are very clear for the shaping, and the dough was surprisingly soft and pliable.  I have to admit that the thought of turning those lovely round discs into batons freaked me out.  I was so worried I was going to do it wrong, that for some reason the dough would just spread and spread OUT instead of up.  I was reluctant to leave my bread to rise (for 4-6 hours!) but I had a delicious tea to attend.

After the 6 hour rest and rise the loves were turned out onto a baking sheet and baked one at a time.  Out they came and, while looking totally bizarre, smelt amazing.

I've got some practice to do on my shaping but I think that they look rustic, they look handmade...and they taste amazing! We've been munching away on one loaf all week and I put the other in the freezer.  I have to say that I am beyond proud of myself.  It seems silly, but this really was a lesson in patience and in faith.  

The only downside...the recipe called for 500g of starter and that turned out to be all I had! But never fear...another batch is quietly bubbling away on the countertop as I type.  

Tuesday 6 March 2012

Burgher Burger 2...pop up burgers in the "Burgh"

Still stuffed to the max with the luscious cakes from my Afternoon Tea on Sunday, David and I trundled off  last night to another of Edinburgh's hot new pop-up events, Burgher Burger.  Picture this...well known chef meets the not-so-humble burger in a secret location...add in 40 or so greedy diners, ample amounts of Innis and Gunn beers (specially matched to each course) and you have the guerilla dining experience. 

We arrived a little haggard after our lightening paced walk up Leith Walk, to the totally fitting Punjab’n de Rasoi, and were met with the hustle and bustle of a party already in full swing...even though only about half the diners had arrived.  The atmosphere was fantastic, as was the service...and the menu? Well the menu was fierce!

Last night's chef was the charismatic Tony Singh (I have a little crush on him from last year's Great British Menu) and trust me...this menu summed up what I saw on tv.  It was fresh and inventive and man did it pack a punch! 

The Tamarind Broth was a really nice way to start the meal.  It was spicy and full of veggies, noodles and meat.  I thought it was a hearty dish for something billed as a broth, but oh so yummy.  I could have easily eaten a slightly larger bowl as my whole meal.  In fact, I'd love the recipe.  

The Bhangra Burger...I don't know what to say except that it was the biggest burger I have seen in my life.  Spiced potato, lamb and mint patty, slow cooked lamb, sauce, pickle AND a bun.  I need to have this again...need to! 

Finally, the black forest samosa...I am ashamed to admit that it was my downfall.  I could only eat half of it, and that was a struggle.  It was just as good as the other two courses, but I was fit to burst! 

We weren't able to get tickets to the first event last month, but our dining companions raved about it as well.  With a different chef (and style) at each event I can only assume Burgher Burger will turn into a competition of one-up-manship...a competition well worth attending, again and again and again.  

Monday 5 March 2012

Afternoon Tea (mostly an opportunity to stuff my face)

Yesterday I had my first proper pop-up dining experience...and it was awesome.  Pop-ups are really hot right now...and I don't think the fad will fade anytime soon.  They are fresh and fast and blink...and you'll miss it (if you even knew anything about it in the first place).  I've been pretty slow off the mark for a few events and have been left sniffling at my computer when tickets have sold out, or I've discovered event only AFTER it has happened. 

You can imagine my joy and excitement when some awesome gals I'd met though the Edinburgh Cake Ladies mentioned that they were starting a Pop-up Afternoon Tea event, aptly named Tealicious, in a secret (and totally fitting) location in Leith.  They kindly released tickets to the first event early to fellow Cake Ladies and I was over the moon to snag a spot.  

Each afternoon tea event is going to be themed and yesterday 10 of us greedy cake lovers were treated to an extremely generous selection of Floral creations.  Everything was perfectly presented, it was dainty without being fussy, and it was obvious that loads of time went into the planning and preparation of the whole afternoon.  As one of my fellow eaters remarked "there is love in these cakes".  

Each table was set out for two, but the intimacy of the room made the whole experience much more of a group event. The Tealicious ladies know their stuff and on top of the fabulous sweet offerings we were also treated to savouries to start.  

I am not ashamed to say that I am an afternoon tea junkie and I have to say I am in danger of becoming a Tealicious groupie.  I've already booked to take my mum next month when she is over visiting and will most likely find excuses (like I need any) to stuff my face on other occasions.  

This pop-up gets two big clotted cream covered thumbs up from me! 

Saturday 3 March 2012

Sweet little snails

I found half a block of puff pastry in the needed to be used...needed to (like I NEEDED an excuse). So I rolled it out into a rectangle, doused it with sugar, cinnamon and grated dark chocolate.  Then rolllllled up realllllly tight, cut into rounds and baked until puffed and brown.  

Oh...and then...devoured!

Friday 2 March 2012

German Friendship Cake: Baking from a starter

When Fiona over at Made By Fi told me she was getting her hands on a portion of a sweet starter I couldn't wait to hear all about it (especially as it came all the way from London).  Fiona's starter, called Herman, is part of a friendship cake those chain letters you did as a kid...and has been passed on and on and on for who knows how long.  

I was chuffed to bits when she offered me a portion of her starter and have been nurturing it for the last 10 days.  I have never baked with a starter before, especially a sweet one, so I was really really excited to give Herman the German Friendship Cake a shot.  

For 9 days Herman sat on my counter top in his bowl, being stirred and fed and frothing more and more each day.  On the 9th day I divided him up into 4 portions (3 to pass on and 1 to bake with) and on Thursday night after my night class I stirred good ol' Herman up...fed him some flour, sugar, eggs, oil, baking powder, raisins and apples...tipped him into a cake tin and baked!

Dies ist gut! (apologies for my attempt at the German language) This cake is moist and has a really subtle taste of yeast.  In fact, I liked it so much, I kept one of the 3 sharing portions back for myself to make again in 10 days! oops!

If you want to start your own Herman he's got his very own website! If, like Fiona, you fancy making something other than the suggested apple cake, check out her post for a sweet bread recipe!