Ombre Unicorn Cake

Who doesn’t enjoy a good birthday? The only thing I struggle with is what to get my friends as presents. I always want to get something meaningful that is not single. Sometimes people drop hints, which is fantastically useful, but other times I am stumped. My solution in this scenario is cake. A good cake shows that you have put effort in, you have thought about what they would like flavour wise and can also be made to look beautiful. A good cake will be remembered.

While I was at university I made many birthday cakes. They are great gifts when you are on a budget, as a basic cake can be made for around £10 and will be far better than most things you can buy for that amount in a shop. Birthdays are fun, but birthdays with a homemade cake are just a little bit better. Everyone will enjoy the food more and the overall atmosphere will be just a little bit happier – of course, if you don’t have time to bake something, a bought cake is not going to ruin the day. My view is that if someone provides me with cake, I am going to eat it!

Of course the most important part of a birthday is not the cake, it’s the people. If you are busy with university or work, it can often be hard to find time to meet up with friends but birthdays are a perfect time to come together and celebrate throughout the year. It can be a nice break from the stress of day to day life and regular catch-ups with friends are always good fun.

This week’s cake recipe can obviously be made without the added unicorn features to create a standard ombre cake or, vice versa, you can use the unicorn instructions to turn a normal sponge cake into a beautiful masterpiece. I made this for one of my best friends. She loves rose gold and pink so I went with an internal pink ombre and decorated with a gold horn and pink and purple swirls. You can obviously customise the colour to whatever you fancy – you could even do a rainbow inside!

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Photo creds to A Whimsical Rose for whom this cake was made. You should definitely check out her blog as she makes some great content!

I hope you enjoy making this cake as much as I did. It was definitely a labour of love (I mean come on, I lined eight tins for this – if that doesn’t show that I was willing to do whatever it took to make this cake amazing, I don’t know what will). Either way, I think a multi-layered, colourful cake is something that everyone should try at some point, even if it is only to say that you have done one, and if you are putting all that effort in then you can easily elevate it to unicorn status with very little extra effort.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ombre Unicorn Cake

10 oz. unsalted butter

10 oz. sugar

10 oz. self-raising flour or plain flour mixed with 2 ½ tsp baking powder

5 eggs

60ml milk

1 tbsp vanilla extract

 

For the syrup (optional but prevents the cake from being to dry):

3 tbsp sugar

3 tbsp water

25ml liqueur (optional) – I like to use raspberry

 

For the Icing:

400g salted butter at room temperature – I find that salted butter gives a much better tasting buttercream as it prevents the icing from being too sickly sweet.

600-650g sifted icing sugar

1 tbsp vanilla extract

Gel food colouring

 

Extras:

A small block of fondant icing

Black food dye

Paint brush

Gold lustre dust

A small amount of rosewater or vodka

One wooden dowel (for the centre of the horn)

Two cocktail sticks.

 

 

 

Cream the butter with the sugar and beat until light and fluffy.

Add the vanilla extract and beat again.

Mix in the eggs one at a time followed by a tablespoon of flour.

Once the eggs have been mixed into the rest of the batter, tip in the remaining flour and beat until completely combined.

Finally, add the milk and beat one last time.

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Preheat the oven to gas mark 3 (160°C)

Split the cake mix into eight parts and add a small amount of food dye to each one increasing the quantity of dye each time.

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Butter and line as many 6 inch baking tins as you have and bake for 18-20 minutes.

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While the cakes are baking, place the sugar and water for the syrup into a pan.

Heat and stir until all the sugar has dissolved.

Remove from the heat and stir  the liqueur.

 

To prepare the icing, place the butter into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Using the whisk instead of the K-beater allows for a much lighter, softer buttercream.

Whisk the butter until it is soft and the colour begins to pale.

Turn the mixer down to its minimum speed and add half of the icing sugar. The slow speed prevents you from covering the entire kitchen in a cloud of sticky sugar.

Once the first batch of icing sugar has been beaten in, add the vanilla extract and turn the mixer to high and whip the icing for another minute to soften it up again.

Turn the mixer back to a slow speed and pour in the rest of the icing sugar.

Slowly beat it in and then return the mixer to a high speed before beating it for five minutes to give an incredibly pale, soft icing. If the icing seems a little stiff, you can always add a tablespoon of milk.

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Remove a third of the icing and set it aside for decoration later.

 

 

To assemble the cake:

Take the darkest layer of cake, level it and stick it to the cake board with a small amount of icing.

 

Use a pastry brush (or a teaspoon if you don’t have one) and brush the top of the cake with syrup.

Spread a thin layer of the icing over the cake and repeat with the next darkest layer.

Continue adding layers to the cake until you have the white layer left for the top.

When you place the final layer, place it upside down so that its base becomes the top of the cake providing a flat surface to work on later.

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The levelled tops of each cake displaying the colour gradient inside

Use the remaining icing that was not set aside to cover the entire cake in a layer of frosting. If you have time, use a small portion to make a crumb coat but otherwise, you can get a smooth, clean layer of icing by being careful.

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The crumb coat

 

Take the fondant and remove two balls about an inch across.

Flatten these out and mould them into ear shapes about an inch across and an inch and a half high. Insert the cocktail sticks into the base of each ear.

Roll the remaining fondant out into a long snake making one end thicker than the other.

Starting with the thin end, coil the fondant around the wooden dowel making sure to cover the tip. Leave a good two inches at the base of the dowel for it to stick into the cake to support the horn. Place the horn and the ears onto a tray and set aside to dry for half an hour.

 

Divide the remaining icing into thirds and colour each of them to your desired colour. I like having a dark version and a light version of the same colour along with a different colour for contrast.

Load the icing into piping bags fitted with star nozzles and pipe rosettes and kisses all over the top of the cake. Decide where you wish the front of the cake to be and pipe a rosette over the edge at the centre of the face.

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Use the black food dye and a brush to paint eyes onto the face of the unicorn. I like them to be about two thirds of the way up the cake. It looks very good just to paint on winged eyeliner for the eyes as it shows where they are without being super fiddly to do which can mess up the cake (you only get one chance to do these).

Use the remaining icing to pipe a mane of rosettes and kisses down the side of the cake as if they are hair which is overflowing off the top.

 

To finish the horn and ears, place a small spoon of the lustre dust into a bowl and add a tiny amount of either vodka or rosewater. Mix this together to make a thick gold paint. It should have the consistency of single cream.

Brush the centre of each ear and the entirety of the horn with this gold paint.

Using a pair of scissors to support the base of the horn (these help with grip as well as preventing the horn sliding down the dowel), place it slightly to the front of the centre of the cake.

Stick the ears into the cake just next to the base of the horn.

Repaint any sections which may have been smudged during transition and voila, you have just finished your ombre unicorn cake!

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This cake is a real showstopper and is sure to draw in lots of attention. As the icing prevents you seeing any of the layers inside, no one will expect the colourful interior and you are guaranteed to be remembered by anyone who has the privilege of eating this.

If you love cake, be sure to check out my chocolate and orange drip cake or, one of my personal favourites to both bake and eat, my coffee and walnut cake. If you are looking for something a little bit more on the savoury side, why not treat yourself to some delicious soup? My coconut and sweet potato soup tastes great and is also incredibly vibrant – it’s sure to bring a smile to your face.

Have a good one and I will be back next week with a recipe for a fantastic curry with homemade curry paste. It is so much easier than you think.

H

Basic Bagels

If I were to have to choose a last meal, fresh bagels with smoked salmon and cream cheese would definitely be in the final shortlist. There is something about fresh bagels that no other bread comes close to matching; they are simply divine. A tiny bit of crunch on the outside and a chewy, satisfying filling make bagels some of the most delicious baked goods you can get.

Originating in Krakow, Poland, bagels have been around for just over 400 years. The name was derived from the Yiddish word beygal from the original German word beugel meaning bracelet, reflecting the shape of the bread. The ring shape not only helped with an even bake but also provided bakers with a way to promote their goods as the bagels could be threaded onto string or dowels for display in shop windows. Bagels were bought to England by Jewish immigrants and the Brick Lane district in London has been known for its fantastic bagel shops since the middle of the 19th century. In the early 20th century, bagels made their way to America. Introduced by Polish Jews leaving Europe, bagels didn’t really become popular until towards the end of the 20th century when the Bagel Bakers Local 338 (a local trade union which controlled the making of bagels) came to an end after the invention of the Thompson Bagel Machine which could make bagels far faster than humans.

Ignoring all the differences in toppings and flours, there are two distinct types of bagel which are separated by their method of cooking: the boiled bagel and the steamed bagel. Bagels are traditionally boiled which is what gives them their classic appearance, texture and taste but for mass production, the steam bagel was far easier. By removing the need to boil the dough, the speed of production was massively increased allowing steam bagels to be created in numbers much greater than bagels produced the traditional way. The injection of steam into the oven creates the smooth, glossy finish that most readily available bagels have and gives them a far lighter, fluffier texture.

The recipe below is for boiled bagels. They are definitely a little bit more work than steamed ones but really, they don’t take very much longer than plaiting a loaf of bread or even super artistic scoring. I hope you enjoy making them as they are great to break out for guests or even if you just want to treat yourself a little.

Bagels

Prep time: 30 mins

Rising time: 90 minutes

Cook time: 20-25 minutes

Total time: around 2 hours 30 minutes

500g strong white flour

350ml water

1 sachet (7g) instant yeast

1 tbsp sugar plus 3tbsp for the boiling later

2tsp salt

Place the flour, salt, yeast and one tablespoon of sugar into a bowl.

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Add the water and stir until everything starts coming together.

Turn out onto a surface an knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic – around 10 minutes.

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Place the dough back into the bowl and leave to rise for 90 minutes or until doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to gas mark 7 (210°C).

Heat a large pan of water and add the remaining three tablespoons of sugar to it.

Split the dough into eight pieces and roll them into balls.

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Using the end of a wooden spoon or one of your fingers, poke a hole in the centre of each dough ball.

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Stretch the dough until the hole is around three centimetres across. A common way of doing this is by spinning the dough around the handle of a wooden spoon.

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Once the water is boiling, add the bagels a few at a time (no more than three or four) and boil with the lid on for 90 seconds or until a skin has formed.

Use a slotted spoon to remove the bagels and place them onto a lined baking tray before repeating this with the rest of the bagels.

Bake the bagels for 22 minutes until golden brown and the base sounds hollow when tapped.

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Let the bagels cool before cutting as they retain heat incredibly well and whilst delicious, they are not worth burning yourself for!

I hope you enjoyed the recipe. If you love making bread, why not try out some vibrant, artisanal, vegetable bread or if you are looking for something a little bit more savoury, why not treat yourself to a butternut squash and sweet potato crumble? It’s easy to make, vegetarian and packed full of flavour.

Have a good one and I will be back next week with a soup recipe which will keep you warm as winter approaches.

H

Ginger Tofu

Herbs and spices enhance a dish in a way that nothing else can. Spices add layers of flavour whilst herbs provide a freshness that lifts a dish to another level. The difference between a herb and a spice is the region of a plant where they are found. Herbs are the leaves of a plant (like basil or mint) whereas spices can be the root (ginger), the seeds (caraway) or the bark (cinnamon). Some species of plant can provide both herbs and spices like coriander from which we use both the leaves and the seeds. The powdered coriander you buy is made by grinding the seeds.

While herbs and spices are found mostly in savoury foods, there are several which are used in sweet dishes too. People are often afraid to use herbs in desserts which is understandable, herbs have relatively strong flavours and you wouldn’t normally put leaves in a pudding but sometimes it just works. Basil pairs beautifully with white chocolate, peaches, strawberries and mango; mint pairs with dark chocolate; sage and thyme work wonderfully with citrus flavours; saffron gives an incredible yellow colour to a dish and of course, sweet tea flavoured dishes – especially matcha green tea with white chocolate – are very in at the moment. Spices, on the other hand, are used all the time in sweet treats without anyone batting an eyelid: chilli chocolate, gingerbread, cinnamon rolls and pfeffernüsse immediately come to mind. Of course we cannot leave out one of the most common spices used today, in fact this item is so common that it is never really considered a spice, cocoa. Chocolate comes from the seeds of a plant making it a spice!

One of my favourite spices is ginger. It has grown on me a lot over the past few years and now I love it. It’s such a versatile flavouring, you can use it dried or fresh in dishes to give them a spicy kick without making them too hot or just use a little to pack a dish full of flavour. The ginger that we know and love is the root of the plant Zingiber Officinale. It is related to galangal (which it can be substituted for in recipes) as well as turmeric – a spice which provides a vibrant yellow colour at a more affordable price than saffron – and cardamom although we only eat the seeds of the cardamom flower. The zingy nature of ginger makes it a delicious flavour to pair with garlic and chilli. Many of my dinners at university were flavoured with some combination of these three, the proportions adjusted depending on how I was feeling at the time.

The recipe below has ginger as a dominant flavour and when mixed with the soy, honey and sesame oil, creates a sauce which is incredibly more-ish. This dish is amazing both hot and cold so can be whipped up for dinner and then the leftovers can be taken to work and eaten for lunch the next day.

Quick disclaimer: Whilst people get very worked up about reheated rice or eating it cold, they never seem to worry about it when eating sushi and other such dishes. Of course there is a chance that reheated rice can give you food poisoning, there is a chance that any type of food could give it to you. The main issue with rice is a bacterium which lives on the surface of dried rice and isn’t killed by cooking – in fact, it’s the cooling cooked rice that it feeds best on so the moment the rice is cold, place it into the fridge and you should be alright for a few days. I wouldn’t advise keeping rice for more than two days but if you do, make sure you reheat the rice fully until it is steaming. I have never had a problem with rice but it never hurts to be careful.

Enjoy the recipe. This sauce can be used for chicken and beef too if you aren’t a fan of tofu, just substitute them in when cooking and make sure to cook all the meat through properly.

Ginger Tofu

Time: 30 minutes

Servings: 3

Cost per serving: around £1.50

40g peeled ginger

2 cloves garlic

1 tbsp soy sauce

1 ½ tbsp sesame oil

1 tbsp honey

400g firm/extra firm tofu (not silken)

2 ½ tbsp vegetable oil

1 tsp cornflour mixed with 1 tbsp water

1-1.5 cups rice

1 onion

1 carrot

80g edamame/soya beans

Salt and pepper to taste

1 tbsp Sushi vinegar mixed with 1 tsp sugar and ¼ tsp salt (optional)

1tbsp chilli oil (optional)

Place the rice into a saucepan and rinse a few times by half filling the saucepan with water, swilling the rice around until the water turns cloudy and then draining it.

For one cup of rice, add one and a half cups of water to the pan (scale this up for more rice) and bring to the boil over a high heat. Turn the heat down and simmer the rice, covered for about 15-20 minutes.

(If using a rice cooker, rinse the rice and put it into the cooker with the instructed amount of water and turn the rice cooker into cook mode – if it finishes early, it will keep the rice warm.)

Drain the tofu and place it between two boards. Press down on the top board and drain off any excess liquid that comes out of the tofu.

Cut the tofu into small cubes, I tend to do one horizontal cut through the block and then several along each edge giving me around 40 small pieces.

Heat two tablespoons of the oil in a large, non-stick frying pan. It is important to use a non-stick pan as tofu can be a real pain to cook in stainless-steel.

Add the tofu to the oil and leave to fry – I like to add salt and pepper to the tofu while it is frying to season it.

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While the tofu is cooking, grate the garlic and the ginger into a small bowl.

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Stir the honey, soy sauce and one tablespoon of the sesame oil into the ginger and garlic mix.

Once the tofu turns golden on the base and starts to go crispy, turn it over and cook the other side. It will take about five minutes per side to start going crispy.

While the second side is cooking, finely slice the onion into half moons. Thinly slice the carrots into two inch long thin strips. A julienne peeler is ideal for this.

Once the top and bottom of the tofu are crispy, add the sauce mix along with one quarter of a cup (60ml) of water. Be careful as it will spit when you add it to the pan.

Allow the mix to bubble for a minute to cook the garlic and ginger before pouring in the cornflour slurry and stirring to coat the tofu.

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Pour the tofu into a dish and use a spatula to scrape out as much of the sauce as possible.

Add the remaining vegetable and sesame oil to the frying pan and heat.

Tip in the onion, carrot and edamame beans and fry until the beans are cooked. This will ensure that the onion and carrot still have a little crunch.

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I like to add a tablespoon of chilli oil at this point to give the vegetables a little kick.

When the rice is cooked, drain off any water that may be left, place a lid onto the saucepan and allow to steam for a minute to make sure the rice is dry.

Stir together the sushi vinegar, salt and sugar. It may be necessary to heat this in the microwave for ten seconds or so to help everything dissolve.

Pour the seasoning over the rice and gently stir it through.

This can be eaten hot or allowed to cool and then taken for lunches at work or on the go. The seasoned rice will keep in the fridge for a few days (long enough to eat it all safely) and the tofu and veg will also keep in airtight containers. Cold tofu tends to have a slightly firmer texture than warm tofu; personally I prefer the former.

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All packed up in a lunch box and ready to go.

I hope you enjoyed the recipe. If you like tofu, check out my delicious tofu curry – the tricks in it can be applied to any curry to make them vegetarian/vegan or if you would like something a little bit sweeter, check out how to make some delicious, crumbly shortbread.

Have a good one and I will see you next week with a recipe for an annual favourite – the honey cake.

H

Chocolate and Hazelnut Tart

In the words of RENT, “525,600 minutes, how do you measure, measure a year?” One way for me has been this blog. With the 52nd recipe provided in this post, I have reached the end of my first year as a blogger. I will admit that there have been times when I have seriously considered giving up – there are few things more demoralising than realising at 3pm on a Sunday afternoon that I have to cook and write a post before heading out to orchestra rehearsals. However, even with all those struggles, it has been incredibly rewarding.

A couple of times this year, I have been chatting to someone and they will drop into conversation that they read my blog and have tried out a recipe or two – occasionally they even send a photo – and it is very satisfying to know that people are enjoying this. I had been thinking about starting thatcookingthing for a good two years before it became a reality and one of my main concerns was that no one would read it, so knowing that some people are reading the weekly posts and interacting with me is especially exciting. One of my main motivations to start writing was the decision that I want to go into media production. I will be starting a Masters course in Science Media Production in a couple of months and although this clearly isn’t a science blog, you may have noticed my passion for science slipping into the introduction to the recipe every now and then.

I wanted to finish this year with a bit of a showstopper. I know tarts are not very tall but they are definitely some of the most beautiful foods around. They are incredibly versatile – I have only given recipes for sweet tarts on here however I am partial to a caramelised onion and goats cheese tart or even a garlic tart when I don’t want any contact with people for the next week. The chocolate tart recipe below gives a crisp, slightly nutty pastry filled with a smooth, silky chocolate filling and topped with a gorgeous shiny glaze. The glucose in the glaze is what give it the lustre – rather like in a mirror glaze – so is an vital ingredient. This tart is beautiful to look at and tastes absolutely divine!

 

Hazelnut and Chocolate Tart

Prep time: 30 minutes

Cook time: 40 minutes

Serves: 12

 

For the pastry:

100g hazelnuts (75g for the pastry and 25g for decoration)

200g flour

100g butter

1 tbsp caster sugar

1 egg yolk

2 tbsp iced water

1 tsp vanilla extract

 

For the filling:

170g dark chocolate

85g sugar

115g butter

80ml water (1/3 cup)

1 tsp vanilla extract

Pinch of salt

3 eggs

 

 

For the glaze (optional):

2 tbsp glucose syrup

50g chocolate

25g butter

50ml boiling water

 

To prepare the hazelnuts:

Preheat the oven to 180°C (gas mark 4).

Place the hazelnuts onto a baking sheet in a single layer and toast for fifteen minutes, stirring every five.

Remove the hazelnuts from the oven. If they were already blanched and have had their skin removed, leave them to cool and skip to the pastry making step.

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If the hazelnuts still have their skins on, pour them onto a tea towel and wrap them up in it – it is easiest to do this by lining a bowl with the towel and then pouring the hazelnuts into the bowl.

Let them steam for a minute  and then massage the tea towel with the hazelnuts still inside. The steamy environment created by wrapping up the nuts will loosen the skins and rubbing them together will cause the skins to flake off.

Once the majority of the skins have come off, remove the nuts from the towel and leave them to cool.

 

To make the pastry:

Once your hazelnuts are cool, place them into a food processor and coarsely grind them. Measure out 75g and place it back into the food processor whilst keeping the last 25g for later.

Add the flour to the food processor and blitz it for around 30 seconds to grind up the last bits of the nuts to make sure the pastry is smooth.

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Cube the butter and add it to the processor. Pulse this until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.

Add the sugar and pulse to combine.

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Place the egg, water and vanilla into the processor and mix until the dough starts to come together.

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When the dough becomes sticky, pour it out onto a surface and squeeze it together with your hands to form a ball. Wrap this in cling film and leave to rest in the fridge for at least half an hour.

 

Roll out the pastry to a couple of millimetres and drape it into a nine to ten inch flan tin.

Press it into the edges of the tin and trim off the excess pastry.

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If you have excess pastry, just make some mini tarts too!

Prick the base all over with a fork and place the tin back into the fridge for around ten minutes. This will help prevent the pastry shrinking too much in the oven.

Preheat the oven to 190°C (gas mark 5) while the tart case is resting.

Line the inside of the tart tin with baking parchment or foil and pour in baking beads to weigh down the pastry in the oven. If you don’t have baking beads, rice or lentils also work but you cannot use them for normal cooking after this.

Bake the tart for fifteen minutes.

Remove the baking beads and bake for a further 5 minutes to help dry the inside.

After five minutes, reduce the oven to 150°C (gas mark 2).

 

 

Once you have removed the baking beads, start to make the filling.

Heat the water, butter, salt and sugar in a saucepan until it is boiling.

Break the chocolate into a bowl and pour the water and butter mix over it.

Leave the mix for two or three minutes for the chocolate to melt, add the vanilla and stir together to create a smooth water ganache.

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Lightly beat the eggs in a bowl to break down their structure and then whisk them into the chocolate mix. It may thicken up and go a little gelatinous but keep beating it and it will smooth out again.

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Remove the tart tin from the oven and pour in the filling. Make sure there is enough room on top of the tart to add the glaze later.

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Bake for 15-20 minutes (at the lower temperature) until the tart is set about three inches from the edge but the centre is still a little wobbly. This is good as the residual heat will cook the centre of the tart.

Remove the tart from the oven and leave to cool.

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If you wish to add a glaze, place the tart in the fridge for at least an hour so it is fully set.

Heat the glucose, butter and water in a pan until it is boiling.

Chop the chocolate into smallish chunks and place into a bowl. This is because you are only making a little glaze so it will lose heat quickly and you want to melt the chocolate with the hot water.

Pour the liquid over the chocolate and leave for two minutes for the chocolate to melt.

Whisk the glaze together. If it is very thick, add a tablespoon of boiling water to help thin it down again. The glaze should be able to flow so it can be spread over the top of the tart.

Remove the tart from the fridge and pour the glaze onto it through a fine mesh sieve. This will remove any air bubble from the glaze giving the tart a completely flat top.

Tilt the tart to ensure the glaze fully covers the top and then leave it on a flat surface to set.

Use the hazelnuts set aside earlier to decorate the tart. You can also use raspberries, strawberries or any fruit of your choice!

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You can serve this with cream to cut through the chocolate but I like it just as a slice of tart on a plate.

 

I hope you enjoyed the recipe! Let me know if you have a go making it yourself – obviously you can just use normal shortcrust if you don’t like nuts and the glaze is another optional extra but I love to know how my recipes turn out for you guys! If you like this, then you are sure to love my quadruple chocolate and salted caramel tart too. If you are looking for something a little bit more on the savoury side, you should check out my recipe for a delicious salmon curry. It’s packed full of flavour and is incredibly fast and easy to make.

Have a good one and I will be back next week with a meatball recipe which not only tastes great but keeps really well and can be batch cooked and frozen.

H

Salmon Curry

Curry powder is a wonderful thing. It makes life a lot easier when you can buy a premixed spice blend to make dinner with but sometimes it just isn’t quite the right ratios for what you are looking for and you have to make it yourself.

Unlike most curry powders, the spice mix I’ve used in this recipe doesn’t contain either pepper or ginger but instead replaces them with tamarind paste giving a slight tang to the curry which goes perfectly with mango chutney. Tamarind paste is one of my favourite ingredients in cooking. It gives sourness to dishes which provides a depth of flavour otherwise lost if you replace the tamarind with lemon or lime juice.

Tamarind grows in pods with a fleshy interior and large flat seeds. The young fruit are very sour and are used in savoury dishes and as a pickling agent owing to the high concentration of tartaric acid in the flesh. As the fruits age and ripen, they become significantly sweeter and start to be used in jam and desserts instead. One of the most eaten dishes which uses tamarind as a primary flavouring is Pad Thai. The sauce uses both tamarind and sugar along with several other seasonings and this mixture of sour and sweet is almost impossible to stop eating.

The recipe below doesn’t use tamarind as a primary ingredient but the addition of it gives the curry sauce a hot and sour flavour which pairs beautifully with a slightly sweeter accompaniment like dahl. The coconut milk gives a creamy, velvety mouth feel to the sauce helping offset the aggressive flavours in the curry without taking away from the taste. Of course depending on how spicy you like your curry, you can add more dried chilli or even fresh chillies during cooking to take your meal from a gentle warming feeling to melt your face off hot. One of the best things about this dish is how quick it is to prepare. The whole thing can be done in about ten minutes. I use a rice cooker at home and I tend to let it finish cooking the rice before I start cooking the salmon for this. The speed of this dish makes it perfect for a weeknight dinner especially if you are getting home late and don’t want to spend ages slaving away over a hot hob.

As always with this kind of meal, you can exchange the salmon for chicken or another choice of meat or fish or even make a tofu or vegetable curry. Just make sure to cook everything first before you add the curry sauce as the sauce cooks very quickly. If you want to cut time even further, you can make up a large batch of curry powder by premixing the spices and just taking a tablespoon as and when you want to make this dish.

Salmon Curry

Prep time: 5 minutes

Cook time: 10 minutes

Serves: 2

Cost per serving: around £2

½ tsp turmeric

½ tsp chilli powder (or more if you like it spicy)

1 tsp tamarind paste

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp ground coriander

3 large cloves of garlic – minced

½ tsp salt

200ml coconut milk

2 salmon fillets with the skin removed cut in half width-wise

2 tbsp vegetable oil

Mix the turmeric, chilli powder, cumin, coriander, garlic, salt and tamarind in a bowl with 160ml water (2/3 cup).

Heat the vegetable oil in a large non-stick frying pan until it starts to glisten.

Place the salmon fillets into the pan careful not to get splashed by hot oil. Place the fillets with the side that the skin was on upwards.

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Sear the salmon for around four minutes until the underside starts to go golden.

Flip the pieces of salmon and pour in the spice mix. This will bubble a lot so be prepared for a large quantity of steam.

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Let the mixture bubble for about two minutes to cook the spices and then add the coconut milk into the pan and stir this through.

Allow the salmon to cook for another few minutes until it is your desired doneness. This takes around three minutes for softer, flakier fish or five minutes for fish that is a little drier.

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Serve with rice and your choice of sides. I like to have this with dahl and mango chutney.

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I hope you enjoyed the recipe. Salmon is my favourite fish and the more ways I learn how to cook it, the more often I can eat it without getting bored. If you aren’t a fan of curry, my pan seared salmon with lemon cous-cous is also a super quick dish and is probably slightly healthier than this one as it doesn’t have coconut milk in it. It you are looking for something a little bit more on the sweet side, check out how to make yourself a peach galette. It’s a sweet pastry covered which doesn’t require any tins – all you need is a baking tray!

Have a good one and I will be back next week with a recipe filled with chocolatey goodness.

H

Peach Galette

Sometimes you don’t have a dish in which to cook a pie. In situations like this, the galette is a perfect solution. As a freeform pie, it isn’t cooked in a dish or a tart tin giving it a unique and rustic shape. There is no designated pastry for galette but the ones most often used are puff pastry or a pastry made with a mix of plain and whole wheat flour (as given below). Galette can also be used when referring to a large, savoury buckwheat pancake. These originated from the French region of Brittany where they became popular after the discovery that buckwheat would grow well in the poor soil conditions there. These are also known as Breton galette to distinguish them from their pastry counterpart.

One of the problems with an open galette is finding a filling which is sturdy enough to hold up under a long cooking time in a hot oven. This is more of an issue with sweet galettes than savoury. Most berries, as well as apples and other fruits, start to turn to mush when in the oven for too long but peaches are strong enough to hold their shape during the cooking. An open top allows liquids to evaporate but even then, a galette with too much filling can overflow in the oven and the juices can burn. Tomatoes are a popular filling for savoury galettes as they hold their shape during cooking and also come in several colours so you can give your pie a beautiful appearance.

When you come to make a galette, you are presented with two choices with regards to the edges. You can fold and crimp or you can pinch. I am a big fan of folding as I feel that it is less likely to open up in the oven and spill the filling everywhere. Folding requires you to go around the edge folding the excess pastry up towards the centre until the filling is pushing at the outer edges of the tart. You have to be careful not to make the pastry too tight as it can split and you must ensure that the folds overlap to create a barrier to hold in the juices during cooking. The pinching technique involves creating a vertical barrier around the outside of the tart. The pinching itself reduces the length of the pastry to that it is pulled upwards. The finished barrier is created by selecting an area of pastry around the edge and taking a section around two centimetres long and pinching it together. You then proceed to move around the outside of the galette pinching as you go until the barrier is formed.

The recipe below will give you a galette about a foot in diameter or if you would like to make a smaller one, just half the recipe and that will make a galette about eight inches across. This is a particularly good recipe if you like circular patterns – I find them very satisfying to create and I hope that, after this, you will too.

 

 

Peach and Blueberry galette

Prep time: 1 hour

Rest time: 1 hour

Cook time: 1 hour

 

 

185g plain flour

90g whole wheat flour

225g cold unsalted butter

2 tbsp sugar

¼ tsp salt

2 eggs for the pastry and 1 egg for an egg wash (optional)

1 tbsp milk

 

 

Filling:

8 peaches

40g plain flour

400g caster sugar

1 tsp ground cinnamon

150g blueberries

 

To make the pastry:

Cube the butter and add it to the flour.

Rub the butter into the flour until the mixture starts to resemble breadcrumbs and starts to stick together.

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Stir through the salt and the sugar.

In a jug, beat the eggs with the milk until the mix is homogeneous.

Make a well in the centre of the flour mix, pour in the eggs and stir with a blunt knife until combined. The knife will prevent you overworking the dough.

Once the dough starts to come together, pour it out onto a work surface and squeeze it together to form it into a ball. You want to avoid handling the dough more than necessary.

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Wrap in clingfilm and place in the fridge for at least an hour.

 

ALTERNATIVE METHOD – FOOD PROCESSOR

Place the dry ingredients into a food processor and pulse to combine.

Cube the butter and add it in.

Pulse the mix until it resembles fine breadcrumbs

Add the milk and eggs and pulse again until everything starts to come together.

Pour out onto a work surface and quickly knead the mix together until it has combined. The moment it has come together fully, wrap in clingfilm and place in the fridge.

 

To make the filling:

Quarter the peaches and remove the stones.

Cut each quarter into three wedges and place the cut peaches in a large bowl.

In another bowl, combine the flour, sugar and cinnamon.

Sprinkle half of this over the peaches and gently stir them around.

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Toss the peaches in the remaining flour and sugar mix until everything is coated evenly.

 

 

Preheat the oven to gas mark 5 (190°C).

Take the pastry out of the fridge.

Roll it out to a 15 inch circle. I find that it is best to place the pastry onto the baking parchment it will be cooked on before rolling it out as that way you don’t have to try and move a very large, fragile dessert.

Starting an inch and a half from the edge, lay the slices of peach in a circle around the pie overlapping them very slightly.

Once the first circle is complete, continue to lay out more slices of peaches inside the first circle and repeat this until the galette is filled. If there is juice left at the bottom of the bowl, do not pour this over the tart as it can cause it to overflow.

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Fold up one edge of the pastry over the outside peaches.

Continue to fold up the outside pastry until all the edges are folded in and the galette is ready.

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Sprinkle half of the blueberries over the top of the galette.

Slide the baking parchment from your work surface and onto a baking tray.

Brush the outer edges of the galette with the egg wash and sprinkle with a little granulated sugar.

Bake the galette for one hour turning halfway through.

While the galette is baking, make the blueberry coulis.

Place the remaining blueberries into a small pan with a tablespoon of water and cook with the lid on for 5 minutes.

Liquidise the blueberries and pass the resulting mix through a fine sieve to strain out the skins.

 

Allow the galette to cool for 10 minutes before sliding it onto the serving plate to cool completely.

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Serve with whipped cream and the blueberry coulis.

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I hope you enjoyed the recipe. If you are looking for a more savoury pastry, check out how to make this hot water crust chicken pie or if you fancy something a little less fruity, why not treat yourself to some chequerboard biscuits.

Have a good one and I will be back next week with a recipe for a delicious fish curry. It’s not too spicy but it’s absolutely packed with flavour.

H

Smoked Salmon Risotto

Smoked salmon is definitely a delicacy. It’s relatively expensive which isn’t ideal because I can easily sit down and eat an entire packet in one go. The trick with smoked salmon is making it go further and putting it into a risotto is a fantastic way to flavour a large amount of food without needing too much of the fish itself.

Smoking food became popular as a good way of preserving it. Upping the salt content and decreasing the moisture makes it very hard for bacteria to grow in the food helping it keep longer before spoiling. The process of smoking food has probably been around since humans evolved. Food would be stored off the ground to keep it away from pests but the lack of ventilation in the dwellings led to the build up of smoke at the top of the houses – where the food was stored – and thus the food was smoked. Once people realised that smoked foods lasted far longer than those which were unsmoked, smoking became a widely used preservation method. As it was functional rather than for flavour, large amounts of salt were used to draw out the moisture and the smoking time was often days long. As infrastructure improved, food could be stored in fridges and cold houses. As a result, the quantity of smoke and salt used to preserve foods declined leading to what we have today.

There are several different methods of smoking; the most common types being hot and cold smoking. The process of cold smoking does not cook the meat and because of that, brining and curing must be done before the food is smoked. This is what gives us the classic smoked salmon that you see in a supermarket, thinly sliced and still a bright pink colour. In contrast to this, hot smoking cooks the fish. This means that the food is safe to eat without further cooking as may sometimes be necessary with cold smoking.

The first time I tried this recipe, I was having dinner at a friend’s house and we ended up cooking together. I must admit I was a bit dubious as the idea of placing smoked salmon into a hot saucepan of rice worried me greatly; surely the salmon would just go hard and leathery and lose its flavour? That is the beauty of this recipe. If done right, the latent heat in the risotto should cook the chopped salmon just enough to change its colour whilst still allowing it to remain soft. The remaining salmon is served on top of the risotto keeping it from the heat and therefore preventing it cooking.

This dish really is a treat so I hope you enjoy it.

 

Smoked Salmon Risotto

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 20 minutes

Serves 2

Cost per portion: around £2.40

 

1 small onion finely diced

1 clove of garlic minced

175g risotto rice (I like to use Arborio risotto rice)

750ml vegetable stock

Zest of one lemon

Juice of half a lemon

1 tbsp chopped parsley

60g mascarpone

100g smoked salmon

1 tbsp oil

 

Sautee the onion in the oil for five minutes until it starts to soften and goes translucent.

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Add the garlic and rice and fry for another minute.

Pour in half of the stock and stir everything together. Wait for the rice to absorb the stock stirring regularly.

Once the stock is all absorbed, add half of the remaining liquid and stir it through.

Repeat with the remaining stock.

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After the first addition of stock vs. after the risotto is cooked.

If the rice isn’t fully cooked at this point, add another tablespoon of water and continue to cook over a medium heat stirring regularly to ensure that all the rice is cooked evenly.

Once the rice is almost cooked through, add the mascarpone, lemon juice, zest and the parsley and stir through. Cook for another minute.

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Remove the risotto from the heat and cover.

Chop about three quarters of the smoked salmon into small pieces.

Stir these through the risotto, the remaining heat should cook the salmon but not make it leathery.

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Serve the risotto immediately and top with the remaining salmon.

If you so wish, garnish the risotto with parsley and lemon zest.

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I hope you enjoyed this recipe. It’s a luxurious meal yet still quite light and doesn’t leave you feeling bloated. If you fancy a bit of a more fiery dinner, check out how to make my spicy enchiladas or if you are looking for something a little sweeter, why not make a carrot cake? It’s big, moist and packed full of flavour.

Have a good one and I will be back next week with a slightly more basic recipe for some delicious biscuits!

H