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!

DSC05787

 

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).

DSC06066

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.

DSC06069

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.

DSC06071

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.

DSC06072

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.

DSC06073

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.

DSC06074

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.

DSC05794

 

 

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.

butter cream
Counter-clockwise from the bottom left: just after the butter and sugar come together, after two minutes of beating, after five minutes of beating.
DSC06050
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.

DSC06051
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.

DSC06052

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.

DSC06054
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.

DSC06053

 

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.

DSC06057
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.

DSC06058

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.

DSC06059

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.

DSC06062

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

DSC06064

 

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.

DSC05576
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.

DSC05976

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

DSC05977

Remove the Sellotape to reveal your pattern.

DSC05978

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.

DSC05979

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

DSC05980

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.

DSC05981

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.

DSC05982

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.

DSC05983

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.

DSC05988

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

DSC05987

 

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.

DSC05751

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

DSC05753.JPG

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

DSC05754.JPG

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.

DSC05755

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.

DSC05756
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.

DSC05759

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.

DSC05760
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.

DSC05762

 

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).

DSC05772

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.

DSC05780
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.

DSC05784
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

Cinnamon Buns

The smell of cinnamon buns baking in the oven is hard to beat. One of the best things about baking is that you can fill your house with the aroma of delicious sweet and savoury treats but within those smells there is a definite hierarchy. Bread, chocolate brownies and cinnamon buns have to be at the top of the list; I love cake as much as the next baker but the smell of cake in the oven doesn’t quite make me salivate and prepare to overeat in the same way that breathing in the scent of pure chocolate goodness or hot, sweet, fluffy buns does.

 

Cinnamon can be bought either as sticks or as a powder but, no matter how you try to disguise it, cinnamon is tree bark. There are several species from which it can be obtained but, in essence, it is the dried inner bark of trees of the genus Cinnamomum. This genus is part of the Lauraceae family, which also includes herbs such as bay leaves (bay laurel) and the classic millennial food: the avocado. Cinnamon is extracted by scraping the outer bark off freshly cut trees, beating what is left of the tree until the inner bark detaches from the rest of the plant and finally prying off the inner bark and leaving it to dry. After all of that work, only a thickness of around half a millimetre is actually used for the spice. The cinnamon trees are far thicker than the final cinnamon sticks which you can buy but as it dries, the bark curls up into the tight spirals which can be seen in the sticks (or quills). In Sri Lanka – one of the primary suppliers of cinnamon to the world – the tightness of the curls is used as a method of grading the product.

 

There are records of cinnamon dating back over four millennia, although some believe that what was recorded as cinnamon back then was actually cassia (native to China) – another species within the Cinnamomum genus but not true cinnamon (Cinnamomum Verum which is native to India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Myanmar). Cinnamon was highly prized and was gifted to leaders as well as being used as an offering in temples. Around 2000 years ago, the price of a pound of true cinnamon (about 1500 denarii) was roughly equivalent to 50 months labour for the average Roman. The price dropped rapidly from there as people started to use cassia which was far more available (a mere 125 denarii per pound) and tastes very similar. Nowadays cinnamon costs about £35 per pound for the standard own brand cinnamon sticks in a supermarket.

 

The primary constituent of the essential oil in cinnamon, and the one which gives cinnamon its distinctive smell, is cinnamaldehyde. This is what infuses your house when you bake cinnamon buns. As the boiling point of cinnamaldehyde is 248°C, baking will not drive off all of this compound so there will still be plenty left in the buns after cooking to give them the taste that you want. Obviously you can change the amount of cinnamon in the filling to suit your own taste but be careful not to put too much in. If you over cinnamon your buns, the filling can trigger pain receptors in the mouth giving a feeling akin to burning – this is what hot cinnamon sweets do. In the quantities given in the recipe, you won’t experience the burn and all you will get is cinnamon flavoured, yeasty heaven.

 

These things really are divine.

 

Cinnamon Buns

For the dough:

500g plain flour

80g caster sugar

1.5 tsp salt

10g instant yeast

2 eggs

60g butter

100ml water

80ml milk

 

For the filling:

100g unsalted butter

90g soft brown sugar (or white sugar if you don’t have any brown)

2 tbsp ground cinnamon

Pinch of salt

 

Glaze:

150g icing sugar

2tbsp milk

Pinch of salt

Optional: vanilla extract

 

 

 

In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together the flour, sugar, salt and yeast.

DSC05795

In a pan, gently heat the milk, water and butter until the butter has melted and the mixture feels warm to the touch but not hot.

Add the milk and butter to the dry ingredients along with the eggs.

DSC05797

Mix together slowly using a dough hook until a dough is formed – this will prevent you accidentally covering the kitchen in flour.

DSC05798

Switch the mixer to medium and knead the dough until it starts to come away from the sides of the bowl.

Turn the dough out into a lightly oiled bowl, cover and leave to rise for 30 minutes.

DSC05802

 

While the dough is rising, beat together the butter, sugar and cinnamon for the filling until it is very soft. You need to be able to spread this on the dough after it has been rolled out without tearing it.

DSC05801

Grease a large baking dish. I use a tarte tatin tin.

Roll out the dough to a 24×18 inch rectangle.

DSC05805

Spread the dough with the filling making sure to spread all the way to the edges.

DSC05806

Roll the rectangle of dough up lengthwise into a sausage shape.

Trim off the ends as they will be messy and not have as much filling.

Cut the sausage into twelve to sixteen little spirals.

Place the spirals into the baking dish making sure to leave an inch or so between them so they can rise.

DSC05807

Cover again and leave to rise for at least half an hour more or until the rolls have doubled in size.

DSC05808

 

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

Bake the cinnamon buns for 25 minutes. If they start browning too much, cover them with silver foil to stop them darkening any more.

Allow the buns to cool in the tray for about five minutes before turning them out onto a cooling rack. You may have to invert them onto a tray and then back onto the cooling rack as they are very soft and you don’t want to tear them.

DSC05810

 

 

Sift the icing sugar into a bowl.

Add a tablespoon of milk and mix to make a thick paste. If the icing sugar is too thick, you can add more milk but be careful not to make the icing too runny.

Spread of pipe the icing over the still warm buns. The heat will cause the icing to be absorbed more and flow into all the cracks and divots of the buns.

DSC05811

 

These can be served either hot or cold. They are so delicious however they are eaten.

DSC05814

 

If you are a fan of fun bread, why not try making some bagels? You can make them cinnamon flavoured too…

Have a good one and I will be back next week with a dish which is far easier to make than you would expect!

H

Jaffa cake… Cake

For those of you who have been following me for some time, you may remember a blog post from a little over a year ago in which I discussed the controversies surrounding the pronunciation of the word scone – and the additional arguments about the order in which the cream and jam should be applied. The thing about the scone debate is that, even though it still rages to this day, it has never made it into the court (as far as I am aware- please correct me if I am wrong). The same cannot be said for the Jaffa cake.

Jaffa cakes are a British snack created in 1927 by McVitie’s (originally McVitie and Price). They consist of a small cake layer and a thin circle of orange jam, topped with a layer of chocolate. Many supermarkets in the UK sell own brand Jaffa cakes as McVitie’s never trademarked the name and so, whilst the originals may still be the best-selling cake in England, you can find other varieties all over the place. I recently tried some similar style snacks from Poland some of which had raspberry jam and others blueberry.

The controversy surrounding Jaffa cakes arose because, in the UK, chocolate covered biscuits (for example: chocolate digestives and chocolate hobnobs) are taxed whilst chocolate covered cakes are not. The issue with Jaffa cakes was that they seemed to be created to avoid tax because they are eaten in the same manner and circumstance that you would eat a biscuit but are culinarily defined as a cake. It should be noted that McVitie’s have always classed them as a cake whereas HMRC wanted to class them as a biscuit to increase revenue from taxes which lead to the infamous court case.

The argument reached a climax in 1991 when it entered the court. There were many things taken into consideration before the final decision was given: Jaffa cakes are closer in size to a biscuit than a cake; they are advertised and packaged in the same manner as biscuits; they are displayed in the biscuit aisle of supermarkets and not with the other cakes; the batter for the “cake” contains egg, sugar and flour – it is a genoise sponge – and is closer to cake batter than biscuit dough; when they go stale, Jaffa cakes harden like stale cake and do not soften like a stale biscuit; the texture of a Jaffa cake is soft like a cake whereas biscuits are hard and can be snapped; and of course the product is literally called “Jaffa cakes” not “Jaffa biscuits”. The judge noted this final point and all but dismissed it saying that it was only a minor consideration. I still can’t make up my mind on which side of the debate I think the Jaffa cake falls but I definitely do eat them like a biscuit – then again I would never dunk one in my tea!

The cake in the recipe below is a Jaffa cake inspired cake. It is not meant to be recreating one but it should be reminiscent of a Jaffa cake. To that end, the top is designed to have the same shape as a Jaffa cake with the cake, jam and chocolate layers but it has been scaled up a bit. I would also recommend spreading the marmalade layer at the top of each piece over the rest of the slice unless you particularly enjoy eating a mouthful of marmalade (I don’t judge… peanut butter and Nutella are very eatable with a spoon…). The chocolate ganache replaces the actual chocolate on a real Jaffa cake because if you scaled up and had a proper chocolate layer, the cake would be uncuttable. It would be a messy nightmare waiting to happen.

I chose to set the jam with pectin for this as I find that vege-gel has a bizarre flavour and both real and vegetarian jelly are kind of wet meaning buttercream won’t stick. Frozen pectin set marmalade, on the other hand, adheres to the buttercream really well and gives a fantastic shape to the final cake.

I hope you like the recipe.

 

 

Jaffa Cake Cake

Cook time: 35 minutes

Total work time: 2 ½ hours

Setting time: as long as possible (overnight if you can)

 

Jelly:

1 jar of thick marmalade

Or

1 jar runny marmalade and 1 sachet pectin

 

For the cake:

335g (12oz). butter

335g (12oz.) sugar

6 eggs

335g (12oz.) self-raising flour OR plain flour with 1tbsp baking powder

Zest of two oranges

 

Buttercream:

Just to fill between the layers:

200g (7oz.) room temperature unsalted butter

300g (10 ½ oz.) icing sugar

25g (1oz.) cocoa

1 tbsp milk

 

Total coverage:

450g (16oz.) room temperature unsalted butter

700g (25oz.) icing sugar

50g (2oz.) cocoa

2 tbsp milk

 

Syrup (optional)

Juice of 2 oranges

75g sugar

50ml triple sec or other orange liqueur

 

Ganache:

Just the top:

100g dark chocolate

100ml double cream

 

Full coverage:

400g dark chocolate

500ml double cream

 

 

For the jam layer:

If using thick marmalade:

Line a six-inch cake tin with cling film and spoon the marmalade in.

Place in the freezer.

 

If using runny marmalade:

Line a six-inch cake tin with clingfilm.

In a pan, heat the marmalade until it has mostly melted but is not yet boiling.

In a separate pan, whisk the pectin into 60ml (1/4 cup) cold water. You may need to use a blender to get rid of all the lumps.

Heat the pectin water until it begins to slacken up.

Pour the pectin water into the marmalade and whisk it all together.

Heat the marmalade until It is boiling and allow to boil for one minute.

Turn the heat off and pour the marmalade into the tin.

Allow to set for an hour at room temperature before moving to the freezer.

 

For the cake:

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

Grease three eight-inch cake tins and line the bases with baking parchment.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

Add the orange zest and beat again.

Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition until the egg is fully incorporated. If the mixture looks like it is about to split, add a tablespoon of flour to bring it back together. If your eggs and butter are at room temperature, the mixture should not split at all.

Once all of the eggs have been added, beat in the flour in three additions.

DSC05715

Split the batter evenly between the tins, level it and bake the cakes for about 35 minutes or until they are golden brown on top and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

DSC05716

Allow to cool in the tins for five minutes before transferring the cakes to wire cooling racks to cool completely.

 

Optional: To make the syrup

Pour the sugar and juice into a pan.

Bring to the boil and allow to simmer for one minute.

Remove from the heat, stir through the triple sec and allow to cool.

 

To make the buttercream:

Beat the butter in a stand mixer with the whisk attachment until it is light and fluffy.

Add half of the sugar and beat until fully combined.

Add the rest of the sugar and the cocoa and beat again.

If the icing is very thick, add the milk and beat again to combine. This should result in a fluffy, soft icing which can be easily spread.

DSC05719

 

To assemble the cake:

Level the cake layers and lay the first on an eight-inch cake board.

Use a pastry brush to brush syrup all over the top of the cake.

Spread a layer of buttercream on the cake.

Add another layer of cake and repeat until all the layers have been stacked and covered in buttercream.

DSC05720

If you are covering the entire cake, remove some of the buttercream for later and use the rest to create a layer of icing down the sides of the cake. And over the top.

You do not need to crumb coat as the entire cake will be covered in ganache so this layer will not be seen.

 

Remove the marmalade from the freezer, place it in the centre of the cake and cover in the remaining buttercream smoothing over the edges so the top is reminiscent of a jaffa cake.

DSC05722

Place the cake in the fridge for at least an hour to firm up the buttercream.

DSC05724

 

For the ganache:

Chop the chocolate and place it into a large bowl.

Heat the cream until almost boiling (but don’t let it boil) and pour it over the chocolate.

Allow to stand for two minutes and stir together.

 

If you are only ganaching the top, gently pour the ganache over the centre and work outwards being careful not to let it flow over the edges of the cake. You can use an inverted cooling rack to get the lines across the top which a real Jaffa cake has in the chocolate.

If you are ganaching the entire cake, place the cake (on its board) on a cup or jar to raise it off the surface so the ganache can drip down the cake and off the sides. I like to do this over a baking tray so the excess ganache can be collected and used at a later date.

Pour the ganache in the centre of the cake and spiral outwards making sure to pour it so the ganache flows down the side of the cake and coats it evenly.

DSC05725

Allow the ganache to set for half an hour and then transfer the cake to a serving board. You can decorate the cake as you wish now. I like to do something to cover up the ragged edge around the base – this can be piping excess buttercream in a border or covering the base of the cake in mini decorations.

DSC05734

 

I would suggest when you serve this that people spread the marmalade in their slice over the whole cake and don’t just eat it as a separate layer but that’s just how I would eat this cake – you may know people who are happy to eat marmalade by itself.

 

I hope you enjoyed the recipe. If you a fan of the fruit and chocolate combination, you should definitely check out my Chocolate and Raspberry Layer Cake or maybe my White Chocolate and Raspberry Tart.

Have a good one and I will be back next week with a recipe for a delicious soup.

H

BBQ Pulled Chicken

The first thing to note when it comes to BBQ sauce is that the sauce itself does not need to be smoky. In fact, the original BBQ sauces would certainly not have been as they were, quite simply, sauces with which to glaze meat prior to cooking on a BBQ – this of course being where the smoky flavour comes from. Lots of BBQ sauces that you can buy have added smoke flavour (which I am certainly not against, I really like it) because they are aiming to recreate the flavour of a piece of food which has already been cooked. For this reason, I have left the choice of smoked/unsmoked paprika in this recipe up to you. You could also add liquid smoke if you like a particularly potent flavour.

Owing to the nature of what defines BBQ sauce it is very difficult to place a date on when it first appeared. It is very much an umbrella term for a wide range of sauces all with different ingredients and characteristics. The ‘classic’, western, tomato-based BBQ sauce that we know today appeared around the late 1800s / early 1900s, but before that there were plenty of sauces used for glazing and basting, many of which were butter based. These buttery BBQ sauces are still popular in several American states and are a pale gold  colour.

Although the regions and ingredients change a lot between different styles of sauce there is a common theme running through them. Almost all BBQ style sauces are sweet and tangy. This is normally achieved by combining vinegar and sugar. This combination transcends continents and can be seen in Asia with hoisin sauce. Instead of a tomato base this sauce is built upon fermented soybeans (giving a rich umami tang) and contains, among many other things, white vinegar, sugar and salt. Dark brown western BBQ sauce contains tomato (for the umami hit), vinegar, sugar and salt. Even the tomato-free sauces contain vinegar and some sort of molasses for the sweetness and colour. The notable exception is Alabama White BBQ Sauce which is a mixture of mayonnaise, mustard, horseradish and lemon. There are also vinegar free sauces which use citric acid (either crystals or from lemon juice) but the tang from the vinegar is distinctive of a BBQ sauce so these condiments are not for me – I am a huge fan of vinegar based sauces, can’t get enough of that sour, sour tang.

If you are making your own sauce for an actual BBQ, there are a couple of things you should note. Whilst in a slow cooker, you could happily swap honey (which has a very high fructose content) for sugar, this will burn over a BBQ as the fructose begin to caramelize at a lower temperature than sucrose (table sugar). For a real BBQ, I would recommend marinating the meat in the sauce but wiping as much as possible off before cooking to prevent it burning. You can start to baste the meat towards the end of the cooking as the sauce will change flavour as it cooks (our friend the Maillard reaction returns once again). If you really want to use honey in your sauce, try not to add any to the meat until the last second. Maybe give it a quick sear on both sides to caramelize the sugars but the fructose will burn if you are not careful – it may be safer to have the sauce as a dip for the meat once it is cooked.

BBQ sauce is one of those things that is unique to each person who makes it. Feel free to play around with the recipe – add more spices, take some out, mess with the proportions – because everyone has a different palate. The first recipe I used was simply far too sweet for me but some people like it sweet and other like it sour. Let me know if you change it up and how it goes – I would love to give your version a go!

 

 

BBQ Pulled Chicken

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 6-8 hours

 

 

4 chicken breasts (6 thighs or 8 drumsticks)

1 cup tomato ketchup – try and use a brand that isn’t too sweet, you can always add more sugar if you want it but you can’t take it out

½ cup apple cider vinegar

¼ cup brown sugar

1 tsp salt

1 tsp pepper

2 star anise

½ tsp cayenne pepper (or less if you prefer it less spicy)

2 tsp garlic powder (or 8 cloves)

2 tsp onion powder (or ½ medium grated onion)

2 tsp paprika (smoked or unsmoked)

 

Tip all of the ingredients except the chicken into a slow cooker and stir together.

61852683_717372292056618_3319816386150137856_n (1)

Add the chicken and cook on low for six-eight hours. You do not need to take the chicken off the bone.

61202749_331157710889757_8491024286901862400_n (1)

 

Once the chicken is cooked, remove it from the slow cooker and use two forks to pull the chicken into chunks. It will tear down the muscle fibres so you will get the best “pulled” chicken effect from chicken breast as it has the largest single chunks of muscle but if you just want BBQ slow cooked chicken, any will do. Any chicken that was on the bone will come off easily.

62060225_314763959445412_2863814554373062656_n

Put the pulled chicken back into the sauce and stir it through. Allow to reheat for ten minutes or so.

61797324_383872052226981_6225166121838837760_n

Serve in a bun with salad and cheese should you want them. I particularly like it with lettuce and spring onion. The pulled chicken can also be used to top nachos, potato skins or even rice bowls.

61595674_369650000336103_1842508706189672448_n (1)

 

Let me know if you want me to do more slow cooker and crock pot recipes, they are super easy meals and taste so delicious.

Have a good one and I will be back next week with a recipe for a delicious cake inspired by one of the most controversial confections in English history.

H