Featured

Welcome!

 

macarons
Salted Caramel and Chocolate Macarons – a topic to breach around a festive period

Welcome to my blog! I am a fourth year sciences student who loves to cook but if you wanted to know about me, you would have visited the about tag!

This blog is designed for students and those who are less comfortable in the kitchen. It will be linked to the British academic year of September through to July and will consist of weekly updates of recipes. The content will be split into two halves, there will be “Cooking From Basics” as well as a Baking section.

Cooking From Basics will follow the academic year and aims to teach skills in the kitchen. It will start off with simple meals requiring little effort and will progress to teaching new techniques as the year goes on. As it is aimed at students, I will be providing a cost estimate per portion (based on my local shop’s prices) and also, where possible, I will explain how to make the recipe both vegetarian and possibly vegan!

Bread
Herb fougasse inspired by the Great British Bake Off. These little loaves caused more trouble than expected when the oven went out of commission last minute and the dough had to be carried to a friend’s house to bake!

Baking has been a passion of mine for a long time now. I love the creativity and freedom that comes with it and I always spend far too much time baking than I really should. The baking section of this blog will follow the things that I have been making and will provide recipes and if possible, troubleshooting for them.

cake 2
Galaxy themed mirror glaze cake with devil’s food cake inside. Created for a Promenade concert and inspired by Mahler’s Seventh Symphony – Night music

I will aim to alternate between the Cooking From Basics and Baking posts but some recipes may just fall into both!

I hope you enjoy the blog and I will be back with your first instalment next week!

Gingerbread House

Last week I promised I would return with a Christmassy treat. I hope that with this recipe I will have delivered!

Gingerbread has been eaten for centuries and has wormed its way into the traditions of many countries. In England we have gingerbread men and houses, in Germany, they eat Lebkuchen and in Sweden gingerbread has been used to help with indigestion since the 1400s.

Gingerbread is thought to have originated just before 1000CE however it wasn’t recorded in trade until some time in the 17th century as production had been controlled by the Gingerbread Guild for the previous 200 years. The biscuits would be served in monasteries and sold in apothecaries and were popular owing to the belief that the ginger had health giving properties. Since then, it has been proven that ginger is good at soothing the stomach and reducing nausea as well as having anti-inflammatory properties.

The first documented case of gingerbread men was from Tudor England when Elizabeth I would present her guests with a likeness of themselves made out of gingerbread. About 250 years later, gingerbread houses started appearing in Germany after the publication of Hansel and Gretel by the Brothers Grimm. These were made out of something closer to a ginger biscuit or gingernut than the traditional Lebkuchen as it was too soft to hold the weight – though the decorated gingerbreads are still called Lebkuchen to this day. The gingerbread houses are sometimes made with pepper instead of ginger to create Pfefferkuchenhaus.

Gingerbread houses can take any form from a traditional cottage to a castle. They are normally stuck together with royal icing or caramel though in some cases you can use chocolate. However this is risky as chocolate is very temperature limited and will soften and melt if it gets too hot. Royal icing is very similar to a meringue as it is primarily made from egg whites and sugar however instead of being baked in the oven, it dries in the open air to form a hard surface that can then be decorated upon. Combined with the hard biscuit forming the walls and ceiling, gingerbread houses can be very, very sturdy constructions.

My recipe for a gingerbread house gives enough dough so that the offcuts can be kneaded together and rolled out into other shapes. I had a go at making myself some gingerbread Christmas trees and also iced the cut-outs from the windows so none of it would go to waste. If you are using royal icing, I recommend decorating the sides of the house before you stick it together and let them dry for an hour so you can touch them without smudging the decoration. This is simply because if you decorate them when flat, you don’t have to fight against gravity!

Decorating the house can be a great thing to do with friends and family and the outcome is delicious! You can even use chocolate and sweeties on the outside for added effect. The house makes a stunning centre piece to a table and is a complete showstopper.

 

 

Gingerbread House

Prep time: 30 minutes              Cook time: 25 minutes

Decoration time: Anything from 20 minutes upwards

 

Gingerbread:

900g flour

3 tbsp ground ginger – this is quite a fiery recipe, for a slightly less intense hit, use 2 tbsp

1 tbsp bicarbonate of soda

300g dark brown sugar (muscovado)

325g Unsalted butter

¾ cup golden syrup

 

Royal Icing

3 egg whites

450g icing sugar (sifted)

1 tsp lemon juice

¼ tsp glycerine

 

Make your templates. The ones I used for this were: 8×5 inches for the sides, 8×4 inches for the roof and the front and back were a 5×6 rectangle with a triangle on top 5 inches long and 2 inches tall. You can either make your own or cut out the ones from my template below.

Gingerbread house template

Preheat your oven to gas mark 6 (2000C).

Mix the flour, ginger and bicarbonate of soda in a large bowl – make sure the bowl is big enough to hold the other ingredients too as they will be added later.

25346279_1794934813871549_1139667306_o

Put the butter, syrup and sugar into a heavy based saucepan and melt it together.

25271045_1794934720538225_880266681_o

Once the butter mixture has all come together (the sugar doesn’t need to have completely dissolved), pour it into a well in the centre of the flour mix and stir until it starts coming together.

Once the dough has mostly come together in the bowl, use your hands to knead it into a ball and mix in the last bits of flour round the outside.

Divide the mix into thirds and roll out to about 6/7mm thick.

Cut out two shapes of each template but do not remove the outside gingerbread. This means that the edges of the biscuit will burn but this is then removed leaving the gingerbread for the house perfectly cooked! You can remove any dough which is more than a centimetre from the edge of the house.

25270865_1794934727204891_1608600932_o
Make sure to leave a centimetre or so around the edge of the house to prevent it from burning.

Cut out windows and doors as you see fit – again, leave them in, just cut the shape into the house.

Bake each one for 11-12 minutes until golden (its fine if the edges start to catch as these will be removed)! I would offset the baking of each tray by six minutes. As explained in the next  step.

Once the gingerbread is removed from the oven, it will be very soft. Remove the baking sheet from the tray it is on and lie it on a table. The gingerbread will have spread a little in the oven and filled in all the cuts however they will still be visible.

25198712_1794934657204898_1352499272_o
The gingerbread has spread however the lines for the windows and edges are still visible.

Working quickly before the gingerbread hardens, cut along the lines with a sharp knife and separate the different pieces. Recut out the windows and door and remove these pieces.

Once it has hardened a little more on the sheet, transfer the gingerbread to a cooling tray to completely harden and cool down – this will take about an hour to make sure it is ready to be used in the house.

25271180_1794934770538220_824105529_o
Remember to hold back the pieces that made the doors as you want to put them back on the house once it is decorated.

 

For the icing, place all the ingredients in a bowl and whisk with electric beaters for around 8 minutes until the icing is thick and glossy and holds its shape when the beaters are removed – it can sag a little bit but shouldn’t return to a flat layer, you should still be able to see detail.

25270979_1794934737204890_1510593527_o
The bowl on the right has been beaten for an extra minute which makes all the difference.

Use your pieces of gingerbread to make sure your house will fit together properly and work out which pieces overlap with each other.

Once you know where everything is going, pip a thick line of royal icing down the edges of one of the walls. Use this to stick it together with the two pieces it touches. Hold them in place for 30 seconds of so and if you can, place something up against the wall to keep it in place. Wipe off the excess icing on the outside

Pipe lines of icing down the remaining wall and stick it to the rest of the house. Wipe of the excess and add another line on the inside the strengthen the connections

25271010_1794934697204894_783868027_o

Let the house sit for five minutes to give the icing a chance to dry a little before you add the roof.

Use a thick line of icing around the top of the house and add one of the roof pieces.

Pipe along the last exposed edge before you add the final piece of gingerbread (its ok if they overlap a little, we can cover this with icing)!

25198802_1794934690538228_1119369238_o
Don’t worry if it looks a little scruffy, a good layer of icing will cover a multitude of sins!

Pipe designs on the sides and the roof and let set for at least an hour if not more before serving. I left mine overnight as it lets the icing harden and the gingerbread soften just a little.

25317206_1794934750538222_1075450244_o

25317328_1794934687204895_1313268698_o

You can even use an electric light to illuminate it from the inside to make the house glow.

25198825_1794934673871563_1281652540_o

25198630_1794934810538216_425427407_o

 

I hope you enjoyed this recipe! If you fancy some more Christmassy flavours, check out my Chocolate and Orange Bread and Butter Pudding or for a lovely main course, have a go at making some Sticky Salmon!

Have a great week and I will be back next Monday with a simple take on a beef wellington!

H

Sticky Salmon with Pan Roasted Garlic Broccoli

 

I happily admit that salmon is by far my favourite fish. I find that it has the nicest flavour and texture and to top it all off, it is exceedingly healthy! The one downside is that salmon can be quite expensive when you are living on a student budget especially as unlike chicken or beef, it can be very difficult to make a single fillet last for multiple meals. Luckily, I have found that frozen salmon works just as well in this recipe and if I decide to treat myself, I will splash out on the fresh stuff!

This recipe actually comes from one of my best friends who I lived with for the past two years. To see the original version – check out her post on Super Sticky Salmon over at Yan and the Yums! She first made this for me two years ago and to be honest, I have raved about it ever since. I have changed the recipe a little to my tastes however the basic ingredients remain the same because this is just so good!

Salmon are a very interesting fish. Normally born in fresh water, they go to the ocean to live their lives and then return to fresh water, typically the same place they were born, to reproduce. They are native to rivers leading into the North Atlantic and Pacific Ocean. The name is thought to have derived from the Latin word salire meaning ‘to leap’ describing the way in which salmon swim up stream when returning to mate. The fish will literally leap their way up waterfalls to reach the areas in which they reproduce! After they reproduce, the salmon’s body releases large amounts of catabolic steroids which will cause the salmon to rapidly age before dying.

Luckily, this recipe is super quick and easy to make and doesn’t involve swimming upstream or anything that strenuous. You can do it from start to finish in half an hour and as you bake the salmon in the foil, it reduces the washing up because you only have to clear up after the sauce bowl, rice and broccoli pans – some of this can even be done along the way! The salmon is flakey and soft, the rice fluffy and the broccoli spicy and fresh. It is a perfect dinner in for one and is brilliant to whip out when entertaining friends as the salmon can be prepared in advance and once they have tasted it, they will keep coming back for more!

 

Sticky Salmon with Pan Roasted Garlic Broccoli

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 20 minutes

Price per portion: from around £1.75 depending on whether you use fresh or frozen salmon and what type of rice you go for!

 

Ingredients

1 salmon fillet

1 tsp peanut butter (heaped)

1 tsp tahini (heaped) – alternatively, just use another teaspoon of peanut butter

1 ½ tbsp. hoi sin sauce

¼ tsp soy sauce

60g rice

80g broccoli

1 large garlic clove roughly chopped

1 tsp chilli flakes – hot chilli sauce can also be used but doesn’t give such a crisp result (if using sauce, mix one teaspoon with a tablespoon of water)

Oil

 

Optional

½ tsp sriracha

½ tsp sesame oil

Chopped peanuts to garnish

One spring onion finely sliced

 

 

To make the sauce, put the peanut butter, tahini, hoi sin, soy sauce, sriracha and sesame oil into a bowl and mix together.

24623453_1787263324638698_2093219151_o

Place the salmon onto a sheet of foil and add half the sauce on top.

24740035_1787263264638704_333830786_o

Fold the foil around the salmon to make a tent and crimp the edges – this doesn’t need to be tight around the fish, it is just there to make sure the sauce doesn’t burn. To do this, bring the sides of the foil up and pinch together along the top edge. Then just scrunch up the open edges!

Place in the oven for 20 minutes (25 if cooking from frozen)

Start cooking your rice so it will be finished just after the salmon comes out of the oven.

When the fish has 10 minutes left, pour a little oil into a pan on a medium heat and add the garlic.

The moment the garlic starts to brown, remove it (but leave as much oil as you can) and place the garlic to one side

Add the broccoli to the pan and cook for five minutes making sure not to let it burn – if you are using the spring onion, add that too keeping a little back to garnish the dish.

The broccoli should have gone bright green by this point so add the garlic back in along with the chilli and continue to pan roast until the rice and the fish are cooked.

24650867_1787263301305367_406219995_o

Top the fish with some more of the sauce once it is plated and sprinkle with the chopped peanuts and the remaining spring onion to garnish.

24209556_1787263251305372_1554019918_o

 

Let me know if you try this at home or drop me a tag on Instagram if you are proud enough to post it – I love seeing what you guys make! Check out my recipe from last week for a chocolate and orange bread and butter pudding! It’s super delicious and a wonderful way to finish a meal however if you are looking for a slightly more savoury option, my mushroom risotto is a great way to fill yourself up to prevent snacking (though if no one sees you, then it didn’t happen)!

See you next week with a recipe for a christmassy baking treat!

H

Chocolate and Orange Bread and Butter Pudding

Wasting food is something which I try to avoid doing as much as possible and as a result, lots of the food I eat is made up of odds and ends lying around. Bread and butter pudding is a perfect example of this – it’s a very good way of using up the remains of a loaf of bread that’s starting to go stale. It’s also very easy to personalise as you can swap flavours in and out incredibly easily.

Traditionally, bread and butter pudding was made without the orange and chocolate I use in this recipe. Instead, the bread was buttered before being put in the tin and was then sprinkled with large quantities of raisins (which were often soaked in booze). The custard was also flavoured with nutmeg and vanilla along with other spices. Bread and butter pudding is the modern version of a dish known as whitepot which dates back from the 1500s. This was made with bone marrow instead of butter and sometimes the bread would be substituted out for rice which is what gave rise to rice pudding. This diverged from bread and butter pudding back in the early 1600s when recipe books started listing whitepot and rice pudding as different desserts. The first written recipe for bread and butter pudding didn’t appear until almost 100 years later!

Bread and butter pudding should not be confused with bread pudding although the two do have many similarities. They are both ways of using up stale bread and also both contain cream, eggs and dried fruit. Bread pudding starts to differ as instead of layering up the bread and pouring custard over it, small lumps of bread are mashed into the custard mix before adding brown sugar, lots of spices,dried fruit and peel. This gives rise to a much more homogeneous dessert which is denser than bread and butter pudding would be.

One of the best things about this dessert is its versatility. I have made it on several occasions for people who are lactose free and you can simply replace the cream and milk with dairy free alternatives (of course you also have to check that the chocolate spread doesn’t contain milk either)! If you don’t like chocolate and orange, you can just replace them with other flavours for example, swap the marmalade for strawberry jam and sprinkle fresh strawberries between the layers instead of chocolate. If you feel like splashing out, this can also be made with brioche or croissants instead of plain bread for a super rich, buttery dessert.

 

 

Chocolate and Orange Bread and Butter Pudding

Prep time: 20 mins – Rest time: 10 mins – Cooking time – 45 mins

 

 

1 large loaf thinly sliced white bread – crusts removed

Marmalade

Dark chocolate spread

150g dark chocolate chips (or finely chopped dark chocolate)

5 eggs

1 pint full fat milk

150ml double cream

150g sugar + more for sprinkling

Optional – orange zest

 

 

Preheat the oven to gas mark 5 (1900C).

Butter a large baking dish.

Cut the bread along the diagonal to get large triangles.

Spread a generous portion of marmalade onto some of the triangles – however many it takes to cover the bottom of the dish.

24135586_1779483845416646_953137265_n

Sprinkle over a couple of tablespoons of chocolate.

24133434_1779483825416648_2042660800_n
If you have any large gaps with no bread, just chuck a little bit into the them – it doesn’t have to look neat as everything is covered!

Add another layer of bread, this time with the chocolate spread.

24116715_1779483848749979_2007540671_o

Sprinkle over some more of the chocolate.

Repeat the above steps until the tin is full remembering to place the top layer in spread side down – do not overfill it as the pudding will over flow in the oven. Try to avoid squishing the bread down too much as the air pockets around will all be filled with the custard.

24140025_1779483842083313_674141373_o
Place the top layer, spread side down to give a nice even finish.

 

Put the eggs, milk, cream, sugar and orange zest into a jug and whisk them together.

Pour this over the bread slowly making sure none of the bread on the top is left dry! Try to leave a little room at the top of the tin as the pudding will puff up when baking.

24139887_1779483822083315_149455970_o
I mixed some marmalade into the custard for an extra burst of orange.

Sprinkle over a small amount of sugar which will caramelise on the top.

Leave to sit for 10 minutes so the custard can soak into the bread – you can add more if it is all absorbed!

Bake for 40-45 minutes until the top is golden brown and the pudding is puffed up – check it at halfway through and if the pudding is browning too fast, cover the top with some silver foil and return it to the oven.

24167232_1779483862083311_1304839390_o

This can be eaten warm of cold and heats up wonderfully in the microwave. Serve with cream, ice cream or chocolate sauce.

24139352_1779483808749983_1729434365_o

24138997_1779483838749980_936922650_o

Let me know if you try this at home as I love to see what you guys cook! Drop me a tag on Instagram @thatcookingthing. If you are looking for a warming savoury dish to precede this in a meal, look no further than my delicious mushroom risotto or if you fancy having a go at baking some other sweet treats, why not try your hand at my millionaire’s shortbread? Its bound to impress your friends!

Have a good one and see you next week with a recipe for a lovely salmon dinner!

H

Mushroom Risotto

From curry, to sushi, to risotto, rice is used around the world. It is one of the most versatile carbohydrates and this has led to its use in a myriad of dishes. The various varieties of rice display drastically different characteristics when cooked so there is a type of rice for almost any of your culinary desires!

Risottos are usually made with a medium grain rice where the grains are only just over double as long as they are wide. When cooked properly on a hob or steamed, medium grain rice comes out very soft and fluffy and the cooked grains stick together so can be moulded. If the rice is not washed beforehand, the starch in it comes out during cooking and makes the water cloudy (or in the case of risotto, makes the final meal ultra creamy). I find that Arborio is the easiest variety of risotto rice to get hold of however, any medium or medium/short grain rice will normally work for making a risotto. Medium grain rice can also be used when making sushi as the grains clump making the sushi stick together.

Short grain rice is normally used in rice pudding and paella. The grains are so short that they are almost as long as they are wide (whereas long grain rice is almost five times as long as it is wide). The starchiness of short grain rice is what gives dishes their creaminess. Long grain rice is far less starchy than its shorter grained counterparts and the grains do not clump when cooking. As a result, it can be boiled easily and then just drained and served.

Rice is becoming more and more popular as large numbers of people are trying to avoid gluten. This has led to the more unusual types of rice becoming increasingly available. These include wild rices and Chinese black rice. Most ‘wild’ rice is actually cultivated but it is still possible to find speciality shops that will sell genuine wild rice. Brown rice is very popular at the moment as it undergoes less processing than white rice. It has a nuttier flavour and a slightly different texture however there are concerns about it as the rice bran (which gives the rice its colour) contains arsenic leading to some countries having regulations controlling the types of brown rice sold!

Risotto is a rather labour-intensive dish. It requires constant stirring (though I have found that it can be left for 30 seconds or so) to prevent it catching on the bottom of the pan and parts being overcooked while others are raw. It has a wonderful creamy texture which can be achieved without using any dairy at all so is perfect for those with lactose intolerance.

It is however delicious and is bound to wow anyone you cook it for – even yourself. The versatility of risotto is astounding. You can flavour it with almost anything. I usually use mushrooms and sometimes chicken though I have also made it with smoked salmon which surprisingly, works incredibly well!

 

Mushroom Risotto

Serves 3 Prep time 15 minutes  Cooking time – 30 minutes

Cost per portion: around £1.10

 

Ingredients

500g Mushrooms

200g Risotto rice

500ml stock (ideally mushroom but vegetable or chicken both work)

1 medium onion/half a large onion

50g grated fresh parmesan (or cheddar if you prefer the taste)

3 tbsp oil

 

Optional

Parsley

2 tbsp double cream

Truffle oil

 

Chop the mushrooms to your desired size – I tend to quarter them unless they are particularly big or small.

Add them to a large pan with half of the oil and a third of a cup of water (80ml) which will help stop them burning. Place over a medium heat for around 15 minutes.

23768955_1772473559451008_1596028843_o

Chop up the garlic and add the mushrooms after about 5 minutes.

23798159_1772473522784345_1641292213_o
The mushrooms have shrunk and are releasing all the liquid held inside of them

While the mushrooms are cooking finely dice the onion and add it to another pan with the remaining oil.

Cook the onions until they are translucent – at this point they will start to get a bit sticky and come together while you stir them.

23798526_1772473586117672_1693851541_o

Drain the liquid off the mushrooms and keep it! I tend to get about a cup out of 500g mushrooms. Place the mushrooms off to one side

Add the rice to the pan with the onion and stir through.

Add the mushroom liquid and cook on a medium heat until it has all been absorbed by the rice. Make sure you keep stirring.

23768904_1772473549451009_886972968_o
The grains are still very small and uncooked. All the liquid that has been added so far will be absorbed!

Add half the stock and keep cooking the risotto.

23770038_1772473546117676_858081885_o
Once the risotto is thick enough to hold its shape and there is no running liquid, add the next potion of stock

Once that has been absorbed slowly add the rest of the stock stirring after each addition.

If the rice still isn’t soft, just keep adding more water a bit a time and waiting for it to be absorbed until the rice is cooked.

Add the grated cheese and stir through.

For a super creamy risotto, you can add a small amount of double cream and stir it through at this point.

Add the mushrooms and return to the heat continuing to stir until the mushrooms are fully heated again.

23798650_1772473539451010_351639102_o
Garnish with cream, parsley, some of the mushrooms and sometimes even a little olive oil

Let me know if you try this at home, I love seeing things you guys cook. Give me a tag on Instagram @thatcookingthing. If you fancy treating yourself, why not try having a three course meal of risotto, beef lasagne and millionaire’s shortbread for dessert!

Have a good one and I’ll see you next week with a recipe for my orange and chocolate bread and butter pudding. It’s super creamy and perfect for a long winter night in!

H

Millionaire’s Shortbread

Success in the kitchen. One of the things that you learn very quickly when you have a blog or Instagram is the importance of aesthetics. There are many things I bake which are never mentioned outside my house as they look terrible, didn’t look right or even just tasted plain disgusting. You don’t get anywhere without a decent amount of trial and error.

Of course, over time you learn different food combinations and what works or what doesn’t, but this often comes from making a dish that you regret ever thinking of the moment the first bite touches your lips. While this becomes less common, I do still occasionally make food, get halfway through it and decide it just isn’t palatable. Things like this are never mentioned again and kept secret for fear of people realising that like them, you are just another mere mortal in the kitchen. One thing that they do find out about is when food goes wrong. I have been reduced to tears over something I have made several times.

Once was because I managed to get boiling sugar on my hand which is not a pleasant experience and should be avoided at all costs. Another was because a cake I made stuck in its tin. The cake had multiple layers which needed to set which would have been fine if they hadn’t then stuck to the tin and flowed into the lip at the base rendering the cake almost impossible to remove. In the end, two of my friends managed to help me get the cake out using four knives and fish slice. I learnt a valuable lesson that day. Anything can be covered by a good layer of icing. The battle armour on the cake made it almost impossible to know of the horror that was the outside of the cake where all the layers has mixed into a mess – the cake still tasted fine in the end.

23584326_1765443073487390_1599956348_o
A decent layer of decorations covers a multitude of sins on this chestnut and chocolate cake

The first time I made millionaire’s shortbread, I messed up. I had no idea what I was doing and tried to boil a tin of condensed milk poured into a pan. Unsurprisingly, it did not set. It was a long time before I tried again and in that interim, I learnt how to make caramel properly which very much helped. My other main kitchen disaster was my first attempt at Macarons. They flowed over the tin in the over and set rock solid through the baking parchment onto the metal below. To this day, I have no idea what happened to them or where I went wrong but it took two days of soaking to remove them and make the tray useable again. Things go wrong and you learn. Many recipes you find have been tried and tweaked and tried and tweaked until the person making it is fully happy with the result. Even then, you will still plan as you get to know how the food cooks and will make minor changes to suite the oven or the temperature outside or even a new tin!

Success in the kitchen comes with time but following written recipes always helps to reduce how long it takes to understand what is going on. I hope that this recipe will stop anyone having the issues I had with making millionaire’s shortbread and will serve you well!

 

 

Millionaire’s Shortbread

This recipe makes about 15-20 shortbreads if you cut them relatively large or over 30 if you cut them small.

Prep time: 45 minutes – Cook time: 15 minutes

 

Shortbread:

250g plain flour

175g butter

75g caster sugar

 

Caramel (this gives a very thick layer of caramel. You can half this for a thinner layer):

300g brown sugar

300g butter

2 tins condensed milk

 

300g chocolate (I used 200g dark and 100g milk)

Optional – White chocolate to decorate

 

Preheat the oven to gas mark 4 (1800C)

Line an 11-inch x 11-inch tin with baking parchment – or a tin/tins of equivalent size. If you have a one-piece tin, make sure to line the base and the sides. If your tin has removable sides you only need to line the base.

Rub the butter into the flour – once it looks like breadcrumbs, keep rubbing it in and the mix will start to come together.

23600361_1765442200154144_1415202812_o
The mix has started to come together but you have to keep going!

Once the butter and flour mix start coming together, add the sugar and stir through with a fork to make sure it is evenly distributed.

Pour the mixture into the tin and spread it out evenly. Compact it down and bake for 15-17 minutes turning the shortbread halfway through the cooking

23558201_1765442156820815_1168170385_o

23558060_1765442130154151_1402974420_o
Try to compact it down with a square object to avoid the ridge in this photo. The ridge can catch and burn in the oven which is not what you want

Remove from the oven and let cool in the tin.

 

 

To make the caramel, melt the sugar and butter in a large heavy based pan.

Once the sugar has dissolved or the mixture has started to bubble, add the condensed milk.

23558220_1765442196820811_1531498696_o

Stir together over a high heat and bring the mixture to the boil stirring constantly.

Cook for a couple of minutes until the caramel has started to thicken.

23584954_1765442180154146_1666188301_o
You can see the caramel sticking to the sides of the pan and when you let a small amount drop back into the mix, it sits on top before sinking back in

Remove from the heat and pour onto the shortbread.

Leave to set in the fridge for an hour

 

Melt the chocolate and pour over the shortbread.

Lightly tap the tin on a table to smooth out the chocolate.

If you want to decorate this, use a fork to scatter lines of white chocolate on top of the dark and then use the tip of a knife or a skewer and swirl it through the chocolate to get a professional finish.

23627152_1765442203487477_564305228_o

Leave in the fridge to semi set (so the chocolate isn’t hard but also will hold its shape when cut)

Remove the shortbread from the tin. Mine has removable sides so I didn’t line them along with the base. If you do this, use a hot knife to release the caramel and chocolate from the sides of the tin.

Cut the shortbread into pieces and place into the fridge to fully set – if the chocolate is a bit hard and the caramel is oozing out when you cut it, fill a tin with boiling water and heat the knife in it before each cut. Make sure to not push down too hard and just let the knife melt through the chocolate!

23558086_1765442166820814_1111589698_o

23584046_1765442133487484_2139600950_o
Arrange the shortbread on a plate before serving to hide the stress of making them

 

I hope you enjoy making it. Let me know how it turns out for you and give me a tag on Instagram @thatcookingthing if you have a go yourself! If you liked this, why not check out my last baking recipe which also has a decent chocolate layer – my boozy tiramisu or if you are in the mood for something a little more savoury, my beef lasagne is perfect to keep you warm as winter approaches.

Have a good one and I’ll see you next week with a recipe for some delicious risotto – including how to tweak it for different dietary requirements. It truly is versatile!

H

Beef Lasagne

Batch cooking is a wonderful thing. It’s how I survive at university. The more food I can make in one go, the less effort I have to expend cooking over the next week which is ideal as the term starts to get harder. Like the majority of the recipes in my Cooking to Basics section, this lasagne a number of meals (depending on how hungry you are)! It’s very simple to make and even better, if you happen to have some bolognaise sauce in the freeze, you don’t even need to go to the effort of making the filling.

This is not a traditional lasagne. For a start, there is no béchamel sauce. This isn’t out of convenience, I just don’t particularly like it as I find that the lasagne ends up rather sloppy with a béchamel sauce and I don’t really like super sloppy foods. Instead, I have replaced it with a thin layer of seasoned tomato puree which does the trick very well and also reduces the time it takes to make the dish. Of course, should you really like béchamel sauce, you can just substitute this in instead of the half tube of tomato paste in the recipe. The lack of the béchamel sauce also makes it very easy to turn this recipe dairy free as you can simply substitute the mozzarella with a dairy free cheese (or even just leave it naked with the tomato on top)

If you are vegetarian, it is very simple to just substitute the beef for some form of soya mince or you can bulk out the sauce with mushrooms and other veg of your choice to make a wonderful veggie lasagne. I will often put a layer of spinach in mine as if I am using pre-made bolognaise sauce for the filling, it reduces the amount I need to defrost!

 

Beef Lasagne

Prep time: 30 minutes, Cook time: 45 minutes (excluding the filling)

Serves: 4-6                                                           Cost per portion: around 80p-£1

Ingredients:

250ml tomato passata

2 cloves of garlic

One large onion (or two small onions)

One carrot

One box beef mince

One box lasagne sheets

Half a tube of tomato paste

Mozzarella

 

Optional:

A glug of sherry or red wine

Basil

1 tbsp tomato ketchup

1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

Chilli

Salt

Pepper

 

Follow the instructions of my bolognaise recipe to make the filling of the lasagne.

20861080_1675327695832262_2091887734_o

Lightly oil a deep dish.

Place a layer of the lasagne sheets over the bottom and add a thin layer of the filling.

Repeat this, alternating layers of the filling and pasta sheets until there is about 1 cm from the top of the dish (make sure the top layer is the pasta).

23376931_1758587340839630_426813349_o

Dilute the tomato paste down with water until it is still thick but you can spread it over the top of the lasagne (at this point, you can add pepper, chilli, garlic, or whatever spices you would like on your lasagne).

23423587_1758588997506131_880229380_o.jpg

Grate the mozzarella and sprinkle and even layer over the top of the dish.

Bake at gas mark 5 (1900C) for about 45 minutes to make sure the pasta sheets are cooked!

23314482_1758587400839624_1031743797_o

The lasagne freezes really well which is ideal if you just want a quick meal slightly later in the week. Just wrap up individual portions and pop them into the freezer!

Let me know if you try this at home – give me a tag on Instagram (you can find me @thatcookingthing). If you fancy trying out some lovely warming, soup as the weather gets colder, check out my butternut squash soup or if you are looking of a quick and easy dessert, my tiramisu would be perfect for you!

Have a good one and I’ll see you next week with a recipe for millionaire’s shortbread!

H

Boozy Tiramisu

Let’s take a minute to talk about booze. Specifically, let’s talk about booze in food. From red wine in bolognaise to rum in a ganache to sherry in soups, alcohol gets used a lot in cookery. It helps to enhance the flavour of the dish and whilst the alcohol itself is often cooked off, the depth it adds to the taste remains and while I hate that I am about to use such a cliché phrase, it really does take the dish to another level.

This week, I was lucky enough to receive a commission for a tiramisu for a friend at university who did her year abroad in Italy. I did a little digging on the history of tiramisu and discovered a couple of interesting things including that alcohol is a relatively recent addition to the standard recipe (or at least as relative as it can be for a dish that was only invented in the 1960s)! Normally you would use Madeira, dark rum, brandy and some sort of coffee liqueur however people have also been known to add Malibu (coconut rum) and Disaronno (almond liqueur). The recipe that I use is an egg free recipe however people are also known to add egg yolks to the filling as it makes the dessert far richer. While I don’t do this myself, if you wish, you can beat egg yolks and sugar over a pan of simmering water until the mixture is thick and creamy – this also helps cook the egg so you don’t have to worry about food poisoning. This mixture would then be folded into the mascarpone mix before the tiramisu is assembled.

Owing to the shape of ladyfingers, tiramisu is often made in a square dish as they will tessellate to cover the entire surface whereas if you use a round dish, you will end up having to cut several of them to size to cover the base. The other benefit of this is that it makes serving the tiramisu easier, especially in restaurants as they can give everyone an identical portion with none left over. It is also common to serve tiramisu in martini glasses so everyone gets a portion to themselves. I tend to prefer making tiramisu in a large cake tin and lining the sides with ladyfingers as you get a stunning finish to the dessert and also everyone gets a little bit more coffee!

23131219_1751689624862735_1750953355_o
The layering on a square tiramisu looks amazing

The recipe can be amended for people who don’t like coffee too. A couple of months ago, I received a commission for a birthday party which included a fresh fruit tiramisu. In this case, I replaced the coffee and such with a mixture of fruity beverages including Chambord (raspberry liqueur) and a raspberry vodka. Instead of chocolate in the layers and on the top, I filled the middle with diced up fresh berries and the spent far longer than necessary arranging the berries on top to look beautiful including fanned strawberries!

23107148_1751695721528792_1255256693_o

 

Boozy Tiramisu

Prep time – 30 minutes, Chilling time – 4+ hours

Ingredients:

3 packets ladyfingers

350ml cold coffee

250ml coffee liqueur

100ml white rum

750g mascarpone

300ml double cream

1 tsp vanilla extract

100g icing sugar

400g dark chocolate

 

Chop up the chocolate into medium to small chunks and set aside

 

Place the mascarpone in a bowl and beat it until soft.

23023202_1751689524862745_554962936_o

Add 50g of sifted icing sugar and the vanilla and beat again.

Add the cream and slowly beat until a smooth thick mixture is formed. Be careful not to overwhip as the mix can become stiff and grainy.

23030787_1751689514862746_1381116351_o

 

Mix the coffee, rum and liqueur together

 

Place the ring from a nine or 10 inch springform tin onto your serving plate to use as a mould.

Take the ladyfingers and dunk each one into the coffee mixture for a few seconds and then place them vertically against the edge of the tin with the sugared side facing inwards. Repeat this with more of the fingers until you have gone around the entire ring. If you are using ones which have writing on them, try and make sure the writing goes the same way on each of he fingers for a more professional finish!

23112910_1751689561529408_1709030052_o

Line the bottom of the tin with a single layer or ladyfingers dunked in coffee – you don’t need to fill in all the gaps as they will continue to expand as the coffee soaks through them.

Spread a layer of the mascarpone mix onto the ladyfingers. I tend to find this is easiest using a piping bag to pipe on a layer and then spread it out.

23107601_1751689504862747_1811678965_o

Sprinkle on just under a third of the chocolate.

23023069_1751689528196078_1572806191_o

Add another layer of dunked ladyfingers, mascarpone and add just under half the remaining chocolate.

Add a final layer of each of the filling ingredients and make sure that the chocolate on the top covers the whole of the cream layer – if you don’t have enough, you can sprinkle some drinking chocolate on first to make sure any gaps don’t stand out!

23030509_1751689568196074_508490946_o

Chill in the fridge for at at least 4 hours so the filling can set.

Remove the tin and serve – you can always wrap a ribbon around the outside to jazz it up if you feel like it!

 

You can also make this in a large dish or individual martini glasses where you don’t need to line the outside. If you do this, the desserts only need to be chilled until they are cold as they don’t need to set or alternatively, you can serve them immediately!

23131397_1751689571529407_1164292394_o

This keeps for a few days in the fridge – just make sure it is covered!

23107262_1751689638196067_835345633_o

 

Let me know if you try this at home! Give me a tag on Instagram if you have a go as I love seeing what people have made! If you enjoyed baking this and are looking for a bit more of a challenge, why not try out my Battenberg cake or check out last week’s recipe for butternut squash soup to help get you through this winter – this morning was the first day where the grass outside was frozen.

Have a good one and I will see you next week with an amazing recipe for lasagne!

H