Bulgar Wheat and Quinoa Salad with Feta and Sun-Dried Tomatoes

What is a salad? It sounds like a simple question but have a think. Does potato salad (cooled boiled potatoes in a mayonnaise/yoghurt based dressing with the occasional onion) have any relation to the recipe below other than the fact that neither are served hot? If you look on the internet for the definition of a salad, you will find many different answers. Personally, I like the description of pieces of food, ready to eat, that are small enough not to need any more cutting, with a dressing of some description. This happily encompasses most salads that I have come across in the past and also describes both this salad and the aforementioned potato one too.

Using bulgar as the base of a salad is something I would never have thought of doing until a couple of years ago when I helped with preparation for a party and was asked to make the recipe which this is based on – Mary Berry’s Herbed Quinoa and Bulgar Wheat Salad with Lemon and Pomegranate. That recipe is delicious and I would recommend trying it. The recipe below is close but not the same as I ate this quite a lot at university and ingredients like chives and pomegranate syrup (or molasses) were not easily available without driving out of the city. This led to a couple of ingredients being removed from the recipe, a few proportions being tweaked (because I love sun dried tomatoes and feta) and more dressing being included because I love this dressing. I also started substituting some of the olive oil in the dressing with the sun-dried tomato oil because I didn’t want to waste it and sun-dried tomatoes are not exactly student friendly when it comes to budgeting.

I feel as though I believed all salads were leaf based with lettuce, spinach, cabbage etc. forming the main constituent of the dish. I had ignored things like pasta and potato salad because I cannot stand mayonnaise and both of them tend to be coated with the stuff. It seems odd that I never thought much about this because I have known what Israeli salad is for a long time and I just classed the word “salad” as part of the name and not a description of the dish itself. Of course carbs like cous-cous or bulgar or barley (I’ve seen that one before) can be used as the base of salads. They turn the salad from a side dish into the main course as the carbohydrates help fill you up. They also tend to have lots of herbs and flavour which makes them wonderful to eat.

The recipe with today’s post does not contain either cucumber or raw tomato which is one of the reasons I like it so much. It proves you can have a delicious salad without either of them which is important as I feel that most people view both cucumber and tomato as staple ingredients in a salad. They do not have to be!

Let me know what you think if you try this one for yourself.

 

 

 

Bulgar Wheat and Quinoa Salad with Feta and Sun-Dried Tomatoes

Work time: 10 – 15 minutes

Cooking and cooling time: 2 hours

 

300g bulgar wheat and quinoa (most stores now sell these mixed but if you can’t find that, just mix the two together with a 1:1 ratio)

150g drained sun-dried tomatoes (keep the oil they come in as this will be used later)

150g feta

Seeds of half a pomegranate

2 tbsp chopped parsley

2 tbsp chopped mint

2 tbsp chopped basil

3 tbsp lemon juice

3 tbsp honey

1 ½ tbsp olive oil

1 ½ tbsp sun dried tomato oil

 

Cook the quinoa and bulgar wheat mix according to the packet instructions. Tip into a large bowl and leave to cool.

Roughly chop the tomatoes and add them to the cooled carbs.

Crumble the feta into the bowl and gently stir everything together.

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Sprinkle over the herbs and the pomegranate seed and stir again.

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In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, honey and both oils before pouring this all over the salad.

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Season with a little salt and pepper. Mix again and serve.

This can be stored for a few days in the fridge but make sure that the herbs don’t go off as they will be the limiting factor.

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I hope you enjoyed the recipe. I don’t have any other similar recipes to this uploaded yet but I hope to pup some more up in the future. If you are interested in other dishes that work well as a cold lunch, check out my recipe ginger tofu – it’s packed with flavour, is easy to make and if you follow a plant based diet, you will be happy to know that it is completely vegan.

 

Have a good one and I will be back next week with some sort of meringue-based treat.

H

Sourdough Pizza

I finally bought a pizza stone a couple of months ago after restraining myself for years. I had never cooked with one but they are supposed to make your pizza better and I had been having issues with a soggy and undercooked pizza crust for quite some time. The result? Crispy crust, quick cooking time, all round better pizza in my opinion.

Question: what is a pizza stone? Answer: it is a relatively simple way of recreating the conditions found inside a pizza oven without having to go out and build yourself a new, extraordinarily expensive piece of kit. The moment the dough hits the stone, it is exposed to a huge amount of heat which makes the yeast go crazy giving a super puffy, air-filled crust. The pizza stone retains its heat well so the addition of a (comparatively) cold pizza on top of it does little to lower its overall temperature. This causes the base of the pizza to cook fully and quickly, giving a solid, crisp base that will not be soggy. Any sections of dough which may be a little wet quickly dry, as the pizza stone is porous and thus pulls moisture out of the base of the crust again leading to a crispier base… I think there may be a pattern here. Basically, this can all be summed up as: the pizza stone ensures the crust is cooked quickly and properly and – most importantly – fully before the toppings begin to burn.

I have used metal trays for baking pizza and, while they do work, the best method I know still involves preheating the tray and then transferring the pizza onto it. Unlike the stone, metal is not porous, so any steam which may escape through the base of the pizza is trapped against the dough – causing it to be reabsorbed and softening the dough. Some methods of cooking use both a pizza stone and a metal sheet. The pizza goes on the preheated sheet and the stone rests on a wire rack directly above the pizza. Again, this is recreating the conditions of a pizza oven where extreme heat is being blasted at the pizza from all directions, the base of the oven, the roof, even the walls all help cook the pizza.

When it comes to hand stretching dough, I have found that the best way to learn is watching online tutorials. Written instructions are ok but it is so much easier when you can see what is going on. It may split the first time… or the second… or even once you think you know what is going on but this is fine – I just stitch it all back together and after the cheese is added, no one will be able to tell. Stretching the dough by hand, in my experience, is the best way to get a puffy crust on the pizza. When you stretch it, the dough from the centre of the pizza is slowly transferred to the outside. This can weaken the centre of the pizza though so make sure to keep an eye on it and if any bits seem dangerously thin, try and avoid stretching them any more than necessary.

Sourdough pizza (like normal sourdough bread) takes time and you need to plan ahead if you want to eat it. Luckily, the majority of the time needed is resting and proving so it is not too time consuming when you are actually making it. I prefer the taste of sourdough bases but let me know what you think if you try it. If you don’t have a sourdough starter, you can always make your own or you could get some from a friend. I am sure there will be someone in your local area with one who would be happy to donate a little to you.

 

 

Sourdough pizza:

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 10 minutes

Rest time: 16 hours

 

To reactivate the starter:

½ cup sour dough starter

1 cup strong white flour

1 cup water

 

For the dough:

75ml water

500g flour

2 tbsp olive oil

10g salt

 

For toppings: tomato passata, mozzarella, any other toppings of your choice

 

Mix the starter with one cup of flour and one cup of water. Cover and leave overnight. You can use the starter straight from the fridge, no need to warm it up as that is what this step will do.

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After sitting overnight, the starter should be very bubbly.

 

In the morning, add the flour for the dough, 25ml water and oil to the reactivated starter. Mix until it forms a shaggy mess – it need not all stick together at this point. Cover and leave to rest for 30 minutes to an hour.

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Sprinkle over the salt and the rest of the water and knead to combine.

Knead the dough for five to ten minutes until it is smooth and elastic.

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Cover and leave to rise for six or seven hours. I would set this up before work and leave it in a cool place throughout the day.

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About an hour before making the pizzas, split the dough into four and shape each quarter into a ball. Cover and leave again for half an hour to let the gluten relax.

 

Place a pizza stone into the oven and turn your oven to the highest setting (mine is gas mark 9 at around 250°C). ALLOW THIS TO HEAT UP FOR AT LEAST HALF TO THREE-QUARTERS OF AN HOUR.

Take one of the balls of dough and flatten it using your fingertips. Stretch the dough until it is the same size as your stone. This can be done by picking it up at the edge and rotating the dough so its own weight stretches it. This ensures the dough in the middle of the pizza is nice and thin and the edges are a bit thicker so you get a good crust. You could also use a rolling pin if it is easier for you.

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Spread the tomato paste out from the centre until it is half an inch from the outside of the dough.

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Grate/thinly slice the mozzarella and sprinkle it over the pizza. Top with your favourite toppings.

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Using a single, swift motion slide a peel underneath the pizza. (A peel is just a large, flat paddle. It might be worth practicing getting the pizza onto and off of the peel before you add the toppings (as in when it is just the base)). You cannot build the pizza on the peel as it will stick if it is left there too long. If you do not have a peel (like me) you could use a cake lifter or even make the pizza on baking parchment and slide this parchment from a normal baking tray onto the pizza stone.

By gently shaking the peel, slide the pizza onto the pizza stone and bake for five to ten minutes (depending on your oven temperature). When the pizza is done, it should be able to be tilted by lifting up one side as the base will be cooked and a little crispy.

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I hope you enjoyed the recipe. If you would like to have a go at normal, non-sourdough pizza, check out my recipe. The crust is super light and fluffy and it tastes amazing. I have been known to lightly brush the outer crust (without the toppings) with garlic oil and give it a sprinkle of sea salt for extra flavour.

Have a good one and I will be back next week with a delicious sweet treat.

H

 

 

Vegetarian Dumplings

The biggest issue I have faced when creating vegetarian dumplings is that the filling does not stick together. When meat is cooked, the pieces bind together as they cook but this does not happen with vegetables. You can buy an enzyme called transglutaminase which will bind meat together when it cooks and can be used to make some very Frankenstein-esque meals, but no such thing exists for vegetables (as far as I am aware). The best way I have come across to bind fillings together is by using egg and flour. Both of these will help prevent your filling from tumbling out of the dumpling after you take a bite.

These dumplings fall under the heading of potstickers. This means that have been steam-fried. The dumplings are first lightly fried on the belly (the plump base away from the pleats) before water or broth is added and they are covered and allowed to steam. Once all the liquid has been absorbed the dumplings are again cooked uncovered, allowing the base to crisp up again to provide a wonderful contrast of textures. The dumplings should be cooked in a non-stick pan because I can guarantee that, if they are cooked in a regular pan, they will stick and tear. You could also cook them in a steamer or plain boil them – both of these methods work – but I think they are far nicer if the base is crispy.

There is some disagreement about overcrowding the pan when making potstickers. If the dumplings are pushed up against each other they will lightly adhere to their neighbours. This means that you can flip out the entire pan of potstickers onto a plate and they will stay in their beautiful formation. The counterargument is that, when the dumplings stick together, they will then tear when you try to serve them. This has never been too much of an issue for me – I find that they generally come apart without tearing and you can serve the entire batch on a central plate and people can take what they want. I have even seen recipes when people add seasoned cornflour water to the pan which cooks and crisps up a layer on the base of the frying pan and dumplings, which really does stick everything together and results in a more “tear’n’share” kind of meal.

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Of course you can use any filling you like with this cooking method. I used to eat a lot of turkey dumplings at university because the minced turkey was often reduced in shops, meaning that the meal was incredibly cheap – we are talking one to two pounds per person. I am also partial to beef dumplings but I do find that the quality of the minced beef is really noticeable in the final product. Pork and cabbage or kimchi is another popular filling, as is shrimp, so you can see how versatile these dumplings can be.

Let me know how you get on if you try them as I love hearing about your cooking!

 

 

 

Vegetarian Dumplings

Prep time: 1 hour 30 minutes

Cook time: 10 minutes

 

400g firm tofu

2 bunches spring onions

5 garlic cloves

1 inch peeled ginger

1 medium heat chilli (or more if you prefer)

1 medium carrot

Half a cabbage

150g mushrooms

1 tbsp tomato paste

3 tbsp soy sauce

1 tbsp rice vinegar

1 tsp sugar

4 tbsp plain flour

1 egg

A couple of grinds of black pepper

1 tsp salt

Two packets of dumpling skins

 

Crumble the tofu into a sieve and then gently press on it to squeeze out lots of the liquid. You will get a good third to half a cup of liquid out of the tofu. Tip this squeezed tofu into a large bowl.

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Finely chop the spring onion, chilli and mushrooms and add these to the tofu.

Finely slice the cabbage, grate the carrot and add to the rest of the veg.

Grate the ginger and the garlic into the vegetable mix.

Whisk together the egg, soy sauce, vinegar, tomato paste, sugar, cornflour, salt and pepper.

Pour the egg mix over the vegetables and tofu and use your hands to mix until everything is coated.

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Fill your dumpling skins and pleat the edges. For instructions on how to pleat properly, see my recipe for beef dumplings. You can also just fold them over and crimp the edges with a fork if you don’t want to go to the effort of pleating the entire batch.

 

Pour a thin layer of a oil to the bottom of a non-stick frying pan over a medium heat. MAKE SURE THIS FRYING PAN HAS A LID FOR THE NEXT STEPS.

Add the dumplings to the pan belly side down. Try to pack the dumplings in so they are touching each other. Overcrowding is not an issue!

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Fry for three minutes until the base of the dumplings are a deep golden brown.

Pour in 100ml water and cover immediately. Be careful as this water will spit when it hits the pan.

Cook covered for about three to five minutes until the water is fully absorbed into the dumplings. The skins should have started to turn translucent. If they haven’t, add another few tablespoons of water and cook again.

You want to make sure the pan has basically boiled dry as this will allow the bases of the dumplings to crisp up again.

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To serve, place a large plate upside down over the pan and quickly invert the frying pan to flip the dumplings onto the plate.

 

For a delicious dipping sauce, allow people to mix soy sauce, rice vinegar and chilli sauce (I use sriracha) in a little ramekin to make their own personal sauce.

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I hope you enjoyed the recipe. If you are a fan of dumplings, check out my recipe for the beef variety and you can even use my turkey burger filling in them!

 

Have a good one and I will be back next week with a recipe for an absolutely stunningly good tart (and it’s even vegan – but you wouldn’t know from the taste).

H

Decadent Mushroom Pasta Bake

This post marks the end of the second year of That Cooking Thing’s existence. When I started back in August of 2017 I had no idea that I would still be creating weekly recipes two years later. Many blogs seem to fizzle out within a few months of their inception and, to be honest, that is kind of what I expected to happen with this one. I was going into the Master’s year of my undergraduate degree and really didn’t have the time to spend writing weekly posts and making pretty dishes for the Instagram but here we are – procrastination is a powerful motivator for things you do not have time to do. I am now coming towards the end of my second degree and even with the working life looming ahead I hope to continue this blog for the foreseeable future.

I thought that it would be nice to revisit an old recipe and jazz it up for the final post of the year. This recipe was the second savoury one I posted: a chicken and mushroom pasta bake. I like to think that I have come on in my techniques and cooking ability since then, and this updated recipe hopefully shows that. The biggest difference from the original recipe is that this one is vegetarian; there is no chicken to be found in this dish. You could, of course, add chicken if you so wished and it would still taste excellent, but with the growing number of vegetarians and vegans in the world I like to make sure that my recipes are as accessible as possible to as many people as possible. I still eat meat (although with the current political climate and possibility of a significant change in the UK’s food standards, I cannot say that this will not change in the near future) but lots of people don’t and I like to make recipes which do not come across as meaty ones that have just had the chicken or beef etc. removed. Vegetarian recipes should not need meat to be delicious!

Instead of a stock and cornflour-based sauce, the sauce for this bake is based around mushroom paste. The first thing you do is blend mushrooms until they are almost a puree (a far finer chop than you would use to make a duxelle) and then cook them to drive off all the liquid and really intensify the mushroom flavour. This mushroom paste, when mixed with cream cheese, will become the base of the sauce. It should be noted that this sauce can be put on anything you like – it doesn’t have raw egg or cornflour so you can just eat it as it is. You could even serve it as a mushroom pate! The remainder of the mushrooms are then cooked down and the liquid they release is collected and stirred into the sauce to slacken it. All this liquid will be absorbed into the pasta when it cooks in the oven giving it a far stronger mushroomy flavour. I went a bit wild and bought some posh woodland mushrooms for this as I wanted it to be a bit celebratory and didn’t want to use just the standard mushrooms but obviously the recipe does work just as well with those.

Cheese is an important part of this dish. Whilst most pasta bakes have a crust of cheese on top, this one also has chunks of mozzarella stirred into it so when the bake comes out of the oven and is served, all of the stringy goodness can be seen and it is really satisfying finding a big blob of cheese in the middle of your portion. Other cheeses could be added too: goat’s cheese works well with mushrooms, parmesan is always welcome in this kind of dish and cheddar is good too if you don’t want to go out and buy special cheese just for this. The final decoration on top of the cheese crust – finely chopped parsley and basil – is sprinkled over the bake after it comes out of the oven. This prevents the herbs from burning but also means that the aroma isn’t driven off during cooking. The heat from the pasta bake will wilt the herbs and cause them to release their fragrances before propelling the smell of fresh basil through the room as the herbs heat up.

I hope you have enjoyed the blog so far and that you use the recipes. If you do, let me know in the comments or tag me on Instagram @thatcookingthing – you could also use #thatcookingthing because I seem to have commandeered the hashtag. If you have friends who would like these recipes, let them know about the blog because I would love to help and inspire more people in the kitchen.

See you next week for the third year of That Cooking Thing!

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Decadent Mushroom Pasta Bake

Serves 5-6

Prep time: 30 minutes

Cook time: 45 minutes

 

Ingredients

750g mushrooms

1 large onion

50g cream cheese

20g parmesan

400g mozzarella

1 mushroom stock cube

4 tbsp olive oil

3 cloves garlic

30 ml milk (optional)

250-300g pasta

5 grinds black pepper (or more to taste)

3 large basil leaves & a few sprigs parsley

 

 

In the bowl of a food processor, blend 250g of the mushrooms with half an onion, two cloves of garlic and 60ml water until it is a thick paste (it doesn’t have to be fully pureed).

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Pour this out into a large pan and cook until the majority of the liquid has boiled off (about 10 minutes). It should be rather sludgy at this point.

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Tip the mushroom paste into a bowl and add the cream cheese. Stir to combine.

Finely chop the rest of the onion and sauté it in a pan with the remaining oil.

While the onion is cooking, chop the remaining mushrooms into quarters (or sixths depending on their size).

Once the onion turns translucent, add the mushrooms and another 60ml water. Cover with the lid of the pan and leave to simmer for five minutes. Give the mushrooms a stir and let them cook for another five minutes.

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While the mushrooms are cooking, start cooking the pasta. You want to take it off the heat and drain it about two minutes before the packet says it will be done as it will continue to cook in the oven and you don’t want it turn mushy.

Drain the liquid from the cooking mushrooms into the mushroom paste and stir it through. Taste and season with salt and pepper. This will become the sauce.

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Once you are happy with the seasoning, stir in the cooked mushrooms.

Grate two thirds of the mozzarella and chop the rest into 1cm cubes. Finely grate the parmesan. Set the cheese aside.

Drain the pasta and stir through the sauce.

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Allow to cool for a minute and then stir through the chunks of mozzarella, the parmesan and half of the grated mozzarella. Do not stir it too long as the heat of the pasta will start to melt the cheese. You just want it evenly distributed.

Tip the pasta into a greased dish and top with the rest of the mozzarella.

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Bake for 40 minutes at gas mark 6 (200°C) until the top of the bake has turned golden and crispy.

Finely slice some fresh basil and parsley and sprinkle this over the top once the pasta bake is removed from the oven. The heat of the bake will cause the herbs to release their oils and the aroma will come out without the herbs drying and burning as they would in the oven.

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I hope you enjoy the recipe. I have made this several times recently because it is just so good! I also take it for lunches because it tastes fab cold as well as hot. If you like mushrooms, you should have a look at my mushroom carbonara dish as it is amazing – you could even make your own fresh pasta for it.

Have a good one and I will be back next week with an amazing recipe for a truly celebratory cake.

H

 

Mocha Cake

With this cake, I have finally cracked two problems I have had whilst baking: how to get a level cake (which doesn’t dome) and how to get the cake to fill up the tin fully. Obviously these two problems are linked. The answer to how can you make the best cakes includes a healthy amount of chemistry along with a substantial quantity of thermodynamics.

In order to understand how to get the best end result, we must first ask ourselves the question: why do cakes rise? For a standard sponge cake (which is what I am addressing here) there are two raising agents. One is a chemical one (that is: baking powder) and the other is the air beaten into the cake. For the sake of simplicity, I am going to start with the baking powder. Traditional baking powder contains two ingredients: bicarbonate of soda and a weak acid (commonly tartaric acid which is also known as cream of tartar). There will normally be some kind of buffer (like cornflour) which will prevent the acid and the bicarbonate of soda from reacting with each other until the cake is in the oven. Once the temperature hits 60°C the baking powder activates. The acid and the base react to produce carbon dioxide and this gives the cake lift causing it to rise.

Most baking powders today have a second acid added to them. This causes a fast-acting reaction at room temperature with the bicarbonate of soda when they are mixed into the cake batter. The ratio of ingredients in the baking powder is designed so that there is a second reaction in the oven (like the traditional baking powders). These are known as “double acting” baking powders. This first (room temperature) stage is what helps give an even rise in the oven. When gas gets hot, it expands. In this case, if your cake goes from 20°C at room temperature into a hot oven, the gas will expand a lot. By the time the cake has reached 60°C and the second stage of gas release occurs, the gas produced by the original reaction will have expanded by 10%.

Flour begins to thicken and cook at 52°C; if you have a single stage baking powder the cake will dome in the oven massively. This is because the flour in the mix at the edge of the tin cooks before the baking powder releases gas so all of the rise is forced towards the centre of the cake. By using a double acting baking powder the gas in the cake mix at the edges of the tin will have already expanded quite a bit as it heats up, in the oven, before the flour begins to cook. By the time the flour has finished cooking, the gasses will have expanded by just over 20% giving a good rise to the cake.

When you take a cake out of the oven, you can see it steaming, so clearly if the steam is escaping, we can conclude that not all of the gas in the cake is trapped inside, some of it will escape which is why you want as much as much as possible in there at the start of the baking process. As well as using a chemical leavener, the other method to ensure a large cake rise is by beating the butter and sugar into oblivion. During the creaming stage, you beat in lots and lots of air which will expand in the oven when the mixture is baked. You want to do this with a K-beater and not a whisk attachment because it is very difficult to over beat the butter and sugar with the former. If you use a whisk and beat in too much air, then the cake will expand and rise in the oven too quickly as it will puff up, the gas will escape before the flour cooks and traps it and the cake will deflate in the middle and collapse. This is possibly the only thing worse than under-beating and ending up with a domed cake.

If you follow the recipe below, you will not have any problems with your cakes. You may need to alter baking times/temperatures a little for your own oven but I trust that you will know how to adjust that better than I would! Let me know how these cakes turn out for you if you have a go at them.

 

 

Mocha Cake

Work time: 30 minutes

Cook time: 25-35 minutes

Serves: 12

 

For the Cake:

8oz. (225g) unsalted butter

8oz. (225g) caster sugar

8oz. (225g) self-raising flour (or plain flour with 2tsp baking powder added)

4 eggs

2 tbsp instant coffee mixed with 1 tbsp boiling water

1 tbsp milk

Pinch salt

 

For the icing:

5oz. (140g) unsalted butter

7 ½ oz. (210g) icing sugar (sifted)

4oz. (115g) dark chocolate

1 shot espresso (optional)

 

 

To make the cake:

Preheat your oven to gas mark 3 (170°C).

Grease and line two eight-inch sandwich tins.

In the bowl of a stand mixer with the K-beater attachment, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy (at least five minutes). It is really important to cream these properly as the air incorporated now will help the cake rise. DO NOT SKIMP ON THE BEATING TO TRY AND SAVE TIME.

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Counter-clockwise from the bottom left: just after the butter and sugar come together, after two minutes of beating, after five minutes of beating.
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Look how obscenely light and fluffy this butter and sugar is!

Add the eggs one at a time beating each one until it is fully incorporated. Make sure your eggs are at room temperature as this will help them mix in. After the fourth egg, the mixture may split and curdle – this is fine as everything will come back together I promise.

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This is what curdled looks like…..

Add the flour (and baking powder) and mix together on slow until the batter is homogenous. You do this slowly to avoid overmixing the batter which would cause gluten build up from the flour and also knock the air out of the mix.

Pour in the coffee and milk and slowly beat again until it is mixed through.

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Divide the batter between the pans and bake for 25-35 minutes. My oven at home is a little temperamental so baking times can vary a lot. Knowing your oven will help will this but sometimes, you will just have to play it by eye. The cakes will be golden on top, nicely puffed up and a skewer inserted into the centre will come out clean when the cake is cooked through.

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You can see that the batter still looks a little bit curdled – THIS IS OK. It will sort itself out in the oven.

Remove the cakes from the oven, leave to cool in the tins for five minutes before turning out onto a wire rack and leaving to cool completely.

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For the buttercream:

Melt your chocolate and set aside to cool to room temperature (don’t worry, I assure you it will not go hard).

Beat the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer for five minutes until it is super light and fluffy.

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I contaminated my butter with a little chocolate which is why it is pale brown but imagine it being white in this picture. You can still see how creamy the butter has become.

Add half of the icing sugar and beat for another few minutes.

Add the rest of the icing sugar and beat in for another three minutes to make a super light and fluffy buttercream.

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With the beaters on slow, mix through the chocolate and then beat on high again once the chocolate is added to ensure it is mixed through evenly.

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If you want to add a little coffee, now is the time.

 

To assemble, sandwich the cakes together with half of the buttercream.

Spread/pipe the rest on the top of the cake to decorate.

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If you want, you could add a few coffee beans on top of the cake to jazz it up a little.

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I hope you enjoyed the recipe. If you are a fan of coffee, you have to try my coffee and walnut cake – it is wonderful.

The next two weeks mark the two year anniversary of this blog so expect some amazing food!

Have a good one,

H

Orange Swiss Roll

Now I know that I always say my recipes are delicious (it would be appalling self-advertising if I didn’t…) but this one is genuinely incredible. This super fluffy cake with a light orange flavouring rolled up around a creamy orange mascarpone filling and decorated with bright orange shapes turned out to be one of the most popular things that I have baked. It was originally a bit of an experiment when I was practising decorating swiss rolls as I had already made a tiramisu swiss roll with chocolate stripes and I wanted to do something that would display a beautiful swirling rainbow around the outside. Clearly a white background would be best for this to get a good contrast and so a plain swiss roll was the first choice. At the last minute, I chucked in some orange extract (zest is better but I wasn’t properly thinking as anything with whipped eggs is time dependent so long deliberations are not something you have time for) and then I baked the cake. I knew I was going to use a mascarpone filling and thought ‘why not make it super orangey?’. Luckily, the final flavour is easily identifiable but isn’t too much. It balances really well.

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The original orange swiss roll.

When you use citrus in baking, you traditionally only use the zest and the juice. The zest is the outer later of the skin which contains a lot of flavour and aroma carrying oils. You can see these spraying out when you zest the fruit so I would always do this directly into a bowl as then all the oils are collected and used in the final product. Directly beneath the zest is the pith. This is the thick, white layer before you get to the segments of the fruit. The pith does contain flavour however it is incredibly bitter and so you do not want to include this in your baking. When you make marmalade you use the entire orange, pith included. The fruits are juiced and the juice strained to catch all of the pips and fibres. A spoon is used to scrape out the remains of the pith (there will be some which comes out easily but there will also be a layer of white left behind – this is ok) which is combined with the pips and fibres from before. These contain a lot of the pectin which will be extracted during the cooking process. Don’t worry, these bits are normally wrapped up in a thin cloth or muslin (we use a J-cloth) so the pectin can be utilised but the unpleasant pithy flesh can be easily removed from the final product. Marmalade is different from jam as it usually contains chunks of peel. After juicing, the peel is sliced up thinly and boiled for a couple of hours before being added to the pot with the juice, pith and sugar before boiling commences.

Different types of citrus are used for different things. Seville oranges are usually used for marmalade as the pectin content is higher than other varieties so the marmalade will set better. Other varieties have been selectively bred to have super thin skins, making them easier to peel. Oranges themselves are a hybrid plant between the pomelo and the mandarin – pomelos being large, thick-skinned and a little bit bland which helps cancel out the sweetness of the mandarin. Lemons are far more tart than most other citrus so work in both savoury and sweet foods whilst grapefruit – the most acidic of the citrus fruits – can go to hell and stay there. OK… maybe grapefruit isn’t quite that bad and actually, it too is a hybrid (this time of the sweet orange – which we just call oranges – and the pomelo – again). There are sweet varieties grapefruit but usually they are rather bitter. This has led to its use in salads and as an accompaniment to seafood, and bizarrely avocado as the sharpness of the fruit cuts through the richness of the avocado. Grapefruit is also known to interact with drugs because of the enzymes it contains so make sure to check any prescription medication you have before you eat one!

Now back to the orange. As it is a sweet fruit, orange is usually used in sweet dishes as I have done in this case. It is very easy to make the swiss roll and I’m sure you will enjoy this recipe just as much as I have.

 

Swiss Roll with Orange Mascarpone

Time: 1 hour – 1 hour 30 minutes depending on decorations

 

Ingredients:

3 eggs

125g caster sugar

120g flour

1 tbsp water

Zest of half an orange

 

Syrup:

30g sugar

30ml water

25ml triple sec (or other orange liqueur)

 

Filling:

250g mascarpone

100ml double cream

15g icing sugar

Zest of one and a half oranges

 

Optional: stripes

1 egg white

25g butter

25g icing sugar

30g flour

Orange food colouring

(technically you want to use equal weights of all of the ingredients so the best thing is to weigh your egg white and use that weight of the others)

 

 

Optional:

To make the stripes:

Cream the icing sugar and butter until light and fluffy.

Beat in the egg white.

Beat in the flour.

Add food colouring until the desired shade is reached.

If necessary, add a little more flour to bring the mix together if the liquid from the dye causes it to split a little.

Cut a sheet of baking parchment to the size of the base of your swiss roll tin.

Version 1:

Lay the parchment onto a flat worktop and criss-cross it with Sellotape – you can make whatever pattern your heart desires but remember, the final design will be where there is no Sellotape.

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Use an offset spatula to spread a thin layer of the orange cake mix onto the exposed areas of parchment.

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Remove the Sellotape to reveal your pattern.

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Version 2:

Pipe the orange mixture into whatever pattern you desire across the baking parchment. Remember that any pattern will be reversed on the final cake!

 

Place the sheet in the freezer for twenty minutes.

 

To make the cake:

If you are doing the orange stripes/pattern, start this about ten minutes after the decorative pattern goes into the freezer.

If you are not doing a decorative outside for the cake, cut a sheet of baking parchment the same size as your swiss roll tin and lay it in the base.

Preheat the oven to gas mark 6 (200°C).

Tip the eggs and sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer with the balloon whisk attachment.

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Beat until light and fluffy – it will get really, really light and fluffy and voluminous.

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Turn the mixer off and zest half an orange straight into the bowl. When you zest an orange, lots of oils are sprayed into the air and if you do this directly into the bowl, the oils and flavours aren’t lost.

Beat this for another 30 seconds to make sure the orange is distributed evenly. The mixture will probably gain an orange tint when you do this.

Remove the bowl from the stand mixer and sift the flour directly into the bowl.

Fold the flour through until it all combined.

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Add the water and fold this through too.

If you are using the frozen decorations, remove the baking parchment from the freezer and place it into the base of your swiss roll tin ensuring that it is flat.

Tip the batter into the lined swiss roll tin and spread it out with an offset spatula. Be gentle and bake sure not to scrape the bottom of the tin as this will disrupt any pattern you may have created there.

Bake for 10-12 minutes until the cake is lightly golden on top and slightly springy.

Remove the cake from the oven.

Loosen the edges from the side of the pan and sift a thin layer of icing sugar over the top of the cake.

Lay out a piece of parchment paper on a flat surface and flip the cake over onto it.

Remove the parchment from the base of the cake to reveal your pattern.

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Take a tea towel and soak it in cold water. Wring out as much as you can and then lay this over the cake to stop it drying out as it cools. This will take about half an hour. If the towel seems like it is drying out, you can remoisten it.

 

While the cake is cooling, make the syrup.

Place the sugar and water into a pan and heat whilst stirring until the sugar is all dissolved.

Leave to cool and just before using, add the triple sec.

 

To make the filling, beat the zest from one and a half oranges into the mascarpone for at least thirty seconds – I do this with an electric hand whisk.

Beat in the sugar.

Pour in the cream and slowly mix together. At first this will slacken the mixture but as you beat it, the cream will begin to whip up and thicken again.

Stop when you have a filling that is spreadable but will hold its shape.

 

To assemble:

Flip the cake onto another piece of parchment so the pattern is on the base. Make sure that the nice end of the patter is away from you as the edge furthest away will become the outside.

Spread the top of the cake with the orange syrup mixture.

Spread the filling over the top of the cake in an even layer making sure to get all the way to the edges.

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Using the parchment paper, roll up the swiss roll from one of the short sides. You may have to get your hands in there at the start but once it starts to roll, the paper will do the rest of the work.

Tightly wrap the roll up (I use the parchment I rolled it with) and leave it in the fridge, seam side down, for fifteen minutes to set it fully in position.

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Remove the cake from the fridge, trim the ends and serve!

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This cake works wonderfully as a dessert but a slice of it is also always welcome with a cup of tea as a snack. If you fancy trying the tiramisu swiss roll I mentioned earlier, I have a great recipe for one or if you aren’t a coffee fan, why not have a go at the chocolate swiss roll wrapped in ganache to make a yule log?

Have a good one and I will be back next week with a great pulsey dish.

H

Fresh Egg Pasta

Pasta: the king of comfort foods. It doesn’t matter how bad a day you’ve had, pasta will always be there to make you feel better. As a staple food of the student diet, pasta was one of my main sources of carbs while I was doing my undergrad degree; but, as much as I love the easy to handle/buy/use dried pasta, it just wasn’t as good as the fresh stuff. Whilst I wouldn’t have made fresh pasta regularly if I had my pasta machine up at university, because – let’s be honest – no one has time for that, it would have been nice to have the opportunity when the cravings arose.

You can make pasta with basically any type of flour, but traditionally you would use durum wheat flour. Durum wheat is significantly harder than standard wheat (it is more difficult to grind up) and dough made from it doesn’t stretch in the same way that bread dough does. If, like me, you don’t happen to have durum flour (or pasta flour/ type 00 flour) lying around, you can simply use plain flour, which has a lower gluten content than bread flour. Egg pasta will be softer than the dried pasta you can buy and if you wish to have an end result which would be considered al dente, you would need to let the pasta dry out after you have cut/shaped it (it doesn’t need to dry fully but if you make it and boil it immediately, the pasta will come out very soft).

Pasta is one of the most famous things to have come out of Italy. In fact, so much is eaten there that the demand exceeds the quantity of wheat which can be grown in the country so flour has to be imported to produce enough pasta to feed everyone who wants it. Whilst there are mentions of Lasagna going back to the 1st century CE, the pasta and lasagne we know today did not emerge until around the 13th and 14th centuries. Dried pasta was incredibly popular owing to its ease of storage as it could be taken on voyages and long journeys without rotting. Unlike fresh pasta, dried pasta doesn’t contain any egg. It is comprised of flour, semolina and water so once it has been dried pre-packing, there is nothing left that could go off!

Like most doughs, pasta needs to rest before it is rolled. This allows the flour to fully absorb the water (from the egg). The resting also lets the gluten strands relax which gives the dough a smoother finish. In reality you should let your dough rest for at least an hour and then give it another quick knead before rolling but, using the method I outline below, you can just about skip this and reduce your resting time to about ten to fifteen minutes. I tend to find that the penultimate thinness setting on my pasta machine gives the best results as the thinnest setting results in soggy pasta without any sort of texture. Of course this will depend on the type of wheat you use, the resting time of the pasta if you wish to dry it a little before cooking and the ratio of ingredients and none of this even accounts for personal taste but, for me, setting five of six gives the optimum results.

 

 

 

 

Fresh Egg Pasta

Serves: 3 or 4 (depends on your portion size – serves more if you are making ravioli)

Work time: 30 minutes

Resting time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 3 minutes

 

Ingredients:

200g plain flour (type 00 pasta flour if you can get it)

2 eggs

2 tbsp olive oil

Pinch of salt

 

Bowl method:

Stir the salt into the flour in a bowl and make a well in the centre.

Add the eggs and olive oil and stir to combine.

When the mixture has mostly come together, pour it out onto a work surface and knead for five minutes. You do not need to knead the dough until it is completely smooth – this will come later.

Wrap the dough and leave to stand for ten minutes.

Table Method:

Make a pile out of the flour on a work surface (make sure to leave plenty of room around the outside.

Use your fingers to make a hollow in the centre and circle them outwards until you have a large ring of flour.

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Add the eggs, oil and salt to the centre of the ring.

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Use a fork to whisk together the eggs and oil and slowly bring in the rest of the flour from the edges.

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Once the egg and oil mixture starts to thicken as you slowly add the flour, stop using the fork and use your hands to bring the dough together fully.

Knead for five minutes. You don’t need to continue until the dough is smooth as this will come later.

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Wrap the dough and leave to stand for ten minutes.

 

Making the pasta:

Roll the dough through the widest setting of a pasta machine. You may have to slightly flatten one edge to get it to go through. Do not worry if it rips and is ragged.

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After the first pass through the pasta machine.

Fold the dough in half and repeat on the widest setting.

Continue to roll the dough through, fold once and reroll until the dough has become smooth and there are no tears.

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IF THE DOUGH STARTS TO BECOME TOO STICKY AND STICK TO ITSELF, DUST IT WITH FLOUR.

Move your pasta machine to one setting thinner (mine works upwards with higher numbers meaning thinner pasta but I do not know if this is true for all machines) and roll the pasta through.

Continue to decrease the distance between the rollers rerolling the pasta through each setting.

If the pasta sheet becomes too long, cut it in half and do each part separately. I find that this recipe gives about four or five pasta sheets as if I didn’t cut the pasta, it would not be manageable.

 

Lasagne:

Use the pasta sheets from the penultimate thinness setting and cut them to the size of your dish. Use instead of normal shop bought lasagne sheets.

 

Ravioli:

Take a sheet of dough on the penultimate thinness setting and cut it in half.

Make small dollops of filling in on one of the halves.

Make a ring of water around each dollop of filling.

Gently lay the remaining pasta over the top and press down around each section of filling to seal. You should try and seal as close to the filling as possible to ensure there is no air in the ravioli.

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These are stripey ricotta and lemon ravioli.

Use some sort of cutter (either a biscuit cutter or some sort of knife) to cut out the ravioli. Do not cut too close to the filling as you don’t want them to burst when cooking.

Cook the ravioli for three minutes in a pan of boiling, well-seasoned water.

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Linguini and other pasta shapes

Most pasta machines come with some sort of linguini or tagliatelle cutter on them.

Roll out the dough to the thinnest setting and then roll the sheet through the linguini attachment (or other).

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The moment the pasta comes through, dust it with flour and make sure each piece has a light coating to stop them sticking to each other. You can now leave the pasta to one side while you shape the rest – do not worry if it dries out as it will rehydrate in the cooking water.

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Pasta with garlic and chilli.

For other pasta shapes – follow the instructions on the machine that makes them. If they are handmade shapes, there are lots of videos on the internet which can help you.

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Spicy arrabiata pasta

 

This recipe is super easy to make and really versatile. There has been at least one occasion when I was craving pasta and the shops were shut so I made it myself at home. If you are a fan of pasta dishes, you should check out my recipes for beef lasagne and spinach and ricotta lasagne. If you are more of a fan of pasta with sauces, why not try a bolognaise?

Have a good one and I will be back next week with a new sweet treat.

H