Rice bowls have become increasingly popular over the past few years. Whether that is because of their instragramable appearance, their healthiness (content dependent of course) or even just because they are an easy meal which can be eaten hot or cold I do not know, but whatever the reason they are a fab dish to have in your culinary repertoire. As rice bowls only consist of a variety of toppings laid out over rice, they really aren’t that different from a standard rice dish but what sets them apart is how they look. The brightness and variety of toppings contrast with the neutral base colour of the rice, resulting in a dish which is beautiful and (if done properly) delicious to eat. I am not quite sure where the western notion of rice bowls came from but I would assume that it evolved from the Japanese dish donburi, where meat or fish are cooked with vegetables and then served over a bowl of rice, but this is entirely conjecture on my behalf.
The toppings on your rice bowl are a completely personal thing. Common toppings involve cooked meats (which are often roasted, glazed or fried in sauce), cooked or raw fish, tofu, cooked and raw vegetables, salad and often some sort of pickle to cut through the richness of the rest of the toppings. Beans can be used to help bulk out the dish so you end up with neither too much rice nor too much of the main topping – too much of anything can get boring and you want to enjoy your meal. I have also seen many rice bowl recipes which are topped with a fried egg where the yolk can be cut into and the runny insides mixed into the rest of the dish – almost like a ricey carbonara.
The topping which I am giving the recipe for this week is fried minced beef with onion, garlic, soy and lots of chili. If you can get your hands on Gochujang – a fermented, spicy Korean chili paste – I would fully recommend using it for the chili in this dish as this is what will give you the best flavour and is possibly the only thing that makes this “Korean Beef” as opposed to “Asian Style Beef”. Failing that, any hot chili sauce will work and if you want an extra hit of spice, adding fresh chili is a good way to go about that.
One of the best things about this dish is that you can eat it cold and it still tastes great. The one thing to remember is that when it is cooling, the sauce will separate, the fats and oils into one layer and the water based ingredients into another. A lot of this fat will have come out of the beef when cooking so do not be alarmed by the quantity and what it looks like when it has set – this can appear rather unappealing – but make sure to give everything a good stir when the meat has cooled as this will bring the sauce back together and ensure that the fat is evenly distributed throughout the dish. Try to avoid pouring off the fat as it contains a lot of the beefy flavour and it would be a shame to waste it.
Korean Chilli Beef
Time: 20 minutes
400g beef mince
1 medium onion
4 spring onions
2 tbsp vegetable oil
60ml (1/4 cup) soy sauce
50g (1/4cup) brown sugar
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp hot chilli sauce (gochujang/sriracha)
1 hot red chilli – finely chopped
Pepper to taste
Mix the sauce ingredients in a bowl and set aside.
Finely chop the onion and spring onion and set aside the green section of the spring onion for later.
Heat a large frying pan with the oil and add the onions.
Sautee until the onion turns translucent.
Add the beef, breaking it up in the pan with a wooden spoon.
Fry for a few minutes, stirring every now and then, until most of the beef has turned from red to brown and the fat has started being released.
Add the sauce. The pan will be hot so the sauce should bubble on contact.
Stir to coat everything with the sauce.
Continue to cook for another 3 minutes to make sure the garlic and chilli are both cooked through.
If the sauce is still quite runny, you can add a little cornflour mixed with water to thicken it up (breadcrumbs and matzah meal also work).
Once the sauce has thickened, stir through the chopped green section of the spring onions and remove the beef from the heat.
The beef can be served both hot and cold on top or rice, just remember to give it a thorough stirring if you let it cool as the sauce will separate and you will want to mix the fats/oils back into the sauce.
I hope you enjoyed the recipe! If you are a fan of Asian style foods, check out my recipes for ginger tofu and sticky salmon. If the salmon piques your interest, you should definitely check out Yanmin over at Yan and the Yums, she taught it to me several years ago and is a stunningly good chef with some fab recipes.
Have a good one and I will be back next week with a recipe for a delicious chocolatey treat.
As I have said several times in the past, there is a bizarre mystique that surrounds many baked goods causing people to believe that they are too difficult to make at home. The swiss roll is one item which has been given this reputation by nefarious rumours but is far simpler than you may imagine. They are surprisingly sturdy and once rolled, can be wrapped up in clingfilm or parchment paper and moved easily from one place to another without having to worry about them losing their shape.
The Great British Bake Off has helped bring swiss rolls back into fashion like so many other baked goods. The classic questions which arise when making a swiss roll are: how to prevent it from cracking? How to get a tight roll? I will address these one at a time but the answers are intrinsically linked as what both boil down to is how the cake batter is mixed.
When it comes to preventing a swiss roll from cracking, each backer has their own method which they swear by. I have tried a couple of different methods and will give you my opinion on them, but please remember that everyone has their own way and I can only judge the techniques from the results that I have had. There first of three main methods that I have encountered regarding the prevention of cracking is the pre-roll. This involves rolling up the cake while it is still hot and very soft. You let the cake cool in the rolled position before unrolling it, applying the filling and then rerolling the cake. This is meant to cause the cake to ‘remember’ the rolled-up shape so when the filling has been added, it is easier to roll up again. I do not like this method and, truthfully, I have had the most disasters while using it. Why would you handle a fragile cake more than you need to? You are rolling/unrolling this cake three times more than if you wait for it to cool before filling and rolling. The second method involves cooling the cake flat, still in its tin, under a damp tea towel. The tea towel prevents too much of the steam from escaping but also stops it condensing and being reabsorbed into the cake leading to a soggy mess, as would happen if the cake were covered with a hard object. This method seems to work, but you may have to remoisten the tea towel if it dries out from the heat as you want to keep the cake in a humid environment. The final method involves adding a little water to the recipe or simple syrup to the finished cake. The additional moisture in the cake gives it more flexibility allowing for a tighter roll as the cake can bend more without breaking.
If you want to get a tight roll, the easiest way to learn is by practice. Trying to avoid too much filling at the end of the cake where you start rolling is imperative, as if there is too much cream it will prevent the cake from folding over into a super tight swirl and you will end up with a cake more reminiscent of an arctic roll. The other thing to do is to make sure that you don’t underfold the mixture when you are adding the flour, if there is too much air left the cake will overinflate in the oven and will be too thick to roll properly – of course you must be careful not to overmix the batter and knock all the air out but, like I said before, practice is key.
Once you have mastered the swiss roll, you will see that it is a great last-minute cake as you can make the entire thing from start to finish in under an hour (assuming you aren’t trying anything ultra creative). The one given in the recipe is slightly more technically challenging because of the addition of the chocolate stripes but if you don’t feel like attempting them, you could always chop up some chocolate and sprinkle it over the filling before rolling to keep the chocolate flavour but avoid the faff of a second batter.
Tiramisu Swiss Roll
Time: around 2 hours
For the chocolate stripes:
50g icing sugar
2 egg whites
For the coffee cake:
125g caster sugar
120g plain flour
2 tbsp instant coffee powder
1 tbsp tepid water
Pinch of salt
For the syrup:
100g granulated sugar
½ tsp instant coffee
2 tbsp kahlua/tia maria/rum (optional)
For the Filling:
100ml double cream
50g icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
Make the stripes:
Cream the butter and icing sugar in a bowl.
Mix in the egg whites until completely incorporated.
Mix through the flour and cocoa.
The mixture should be a spreadable paste. If it is very thick, add water ½ tsp at a time until the paste is a little thinner.
Cut a piece of baking parchment the same size as the base of your swiss roll tin.
To decorate the outside of the cake you have a few options: you can pipe swirls etc across the sheet of parchment, you can cover the whole thing and use an icing scraper to scrape away sections to give perfect stripes or you can use Sellotape to cover areas of the paper to give you completely straight edges on your stripes when you have spread the chocolate mix over the gaps and then removed it.
Once you have decorated the paper, place it on a flat tray in the freezer for fifteen minutes to half an hour.
While the design is hardening up in the freezer, butter the edge of your swiss roll tin, this will help you remove the cake later as they can stick rather spectacularly.
Preheat the oven to gas mark 6 (200°C).
Sift the flour and coffee powder into a bowl and set aside.
Place the sugar and eggs into the bowl of an electric mixer with the whisk attachment fitted.
Whisk until the mixture has turned light, foamy and thick – around seven minutes. It will not reach the same stability as pure egg whites, the mixture will still flow but will be absolutely full of air.
Remove the bowl from the mixer and fold in half of the flour mixture along with salt.
When the first batch is mostly incorporated, add the remaining flour and fold it in.
Pour the water around the edge of the mixture in the bowl – if you pour it into the middle, it can deflate the mixture.
Fold the water through. This additional liquid will help give an even textured cake and prevent it from cracking when you roll the cake up.
Remove the parchment paper from the freezer and place it into the bottom of the swiss roll tin.
Pour the batter on top and gently spread it out. Be careful not to be too aggressive when spreading as you don’t want to disrupt the pattern on the base of the tin.
Bake for 10-12 minutes until the cake is just golden on top and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
While the cake is baking, make the syrup.
Combine the water and sugar in a pan.
Bring to the boil and stir to dissolve the sugar.
Add the coffee and stir again.
Pour the syrup into jug and set aside to cool.
After it has cooled for ten minutes or so, add the alcohol of your choice.
The syrup should be no more than slightly warm to the touch when you use it.
Remove the cake from the oven.
Lay out a sheet of baking parchment, which is bigger than the cake, on a flat surface.
Dust the top of the cake with icing sugar, loosen the edges from the side of the tin.
Flip the cake out onto the baking parchment so the base with the design is now on top.
Gently peel off the parchment which is on the designed side of the cake.
Cover the cake with a damp (but not wet) tea towel and leave to cool.
To prepare the filling, beat the mascarpone, vanilla and icing sugar until the mascarpone has softened.
Add the cream and mix again. The mixture will go very runny and then as the cream is beaten, it will thicken up again. Stop when the filling reaches a thick but spreadable consistency as you don’t want it to rip the cake apart when you add it.
To assemble the cake:
Gently flip the cake onto a new piece of baking parchment so the patterned side is down.
Lightly brush the top of the cake with syrup. This will help prevent cracking.
Spread the filling across the top of the cake leaving a centimetre strip filling free along both short ends of the cake.
Starting at one of the short sides, use the parchment to help fold the end of the cake up and over before rolling the cake up down its length. Make sure the seam is underneath the cake as the weight on top will prevent the cake unrolling.
Trim the edges to neaten them up and transfer the cake onto a serving platter.
I hope you enjoyed the recipe. If you are a fan of swiss roll style cakes, why not try your hand at a chocolate log (they aren’t just for yule) or if you would like a slightly simpler tiramisu, check out my recipe here.
Have a good one and I will see you next week with a spicy beef dish which is great for dinner and as a cold lunch the next day too.
Almost everything I cook (which is savoury) starts with the same two ingredients: onion and garlic. Garlic is everywhere. Its pungent smell and flavour make it a popular seasoning for food as comparatively little is needed to impact the overall flavour. What I find a shame, however, is how rare it is for garlic to get the opportunity to act as the main flavour of a dish. When I was an undergraduate, my housemate introduced me to a dish called garlic pasta. Now, I have always added a small amount of garlic to my pasta dishes but the idea of frying a large quantity of garlic in oil and using that as the pasta sauce (along with some cherry tomatoes/onion) was a bit foreign to me. This is an ultimate comfort food – right up there with tomato soup. That dish, along with Yotam Ottolenghi’s caramelised garlic tart and the recipe I am giving today, brings the total of garlic-centric dishes I know up to three so if you have any ideas, I would love to hear them!
Garlic is an allium – that is to say that it is in the same genus (family) as the onion, the leek, shallots and chives. It is used more as a flavouring than the base for a dish unlike the other members of its family (excluding chives as they are a herb). Smoked bulbs of garlic are an often used ingredient and black garlic has been increasing in popularity for a long time. Black garlic is created by heating normal bulbs to between 60 and 77°C for two to three months. This temperature allows our old friend the Malliard reacton to occur throughout the entirety of the bulb, not just on the surface. For those of you have not come across the Malliard reaction before, this is what causes food to brown when you cook it. It is a non-enzymatic reaction between reducing sugars and amino acids on the surface of the food. The conditions in which black garlic is created allow for this reaction to be more than surface deep.
As well as its culinary uses garlic has been used as a medicine for millennia (Sanskrit records date its use back 5000 years. In ancient Egypt, garlic was used as a form of currency; in Auryvedic medicine garlic is used as an aphrodisiac; in the bible, the Jews wandering in the desert complained to Moses about the foods they missed since leaving Egypt, one of which included garlic; and of course, one cannot talk about the appearances of garlic throughout history and folklore without mentioning one of the most famous of them all: the vampire. Garlic was believed to ward off demons, werewolves and vampires – a wreath of garlic flowers or even bulbs around the neck along with the rubbing of cut cloves of garlic around windows, doors and chimneys was meant to protect the inhabitants of the house form harm.
If there are medical benefits to eating copious quantities of garlic, then this recipe is the one for you. Much as I try to give a vegetarian alternative to my recipes, I am not sure how if I could do anything to make this less meaty so unfortunately, I’ll have to give that a miss this week. If you are a fan of chicken, I hope you like the recipe and if you aren’t, why not try it with a different roast meat? Enjoy, and I’ll see you next week with a dish that’s a little bit more vegetarian friendly.
Roast Chicken with 40 cloves of garlic
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 45 minutes per kilogram + 20 minutes
1 large chicken
2 heads of garlic
100ml olive oil
1 tsp salt
2 large onions
125ml white wine/vermouth
3 bay leaves (optional)
½ lemon (optional)
Separate and peel the cloves from one head of garlic.
Blend the garlic cloves with the olive oil and salt until smooth.
Optional: joint the chicken – removing the bottom, scaly parts of the legs from the base of the drumsticks and remove the wings. We use these for making stock at home but you can leave them on if you wish.
Cut out the oil glands at the base of the Parson’s nose and discard them.
Place the chicken into a roasting dish.
If possible – this will often require an extra pair of hands as one pair isn’t quite enough – try and pour half of the garlic oil underneath the skin. This will help the flavour infuse into the meat of the chicken.
Rub the rest of the garlic oil all over the outside of the chicken pouring any excess inside the body cavity.
Stuff half a lemon into the body cavity.
Cut the onions into eigths and spread the piece out around the chicken.
Pour over the wine/vermouth and add the bay leaves.
Separate the cloves of garlic from the second bulb but do not peel them! Just sprinkle them liberally around the chicken. The garlic will go soft and sweeten up in the oven.
Cover and leave until you wish to put the chicken in the oven.
To cook the chicken, preheat the oven to gas mark 6 (200°C).
Cook the chicken for 20 minutes plus 45 minutes per kilogram (eg, a 1.5kg chicken would cook for just a touch under an hour and a half).
For ultra-crispy skin, uncover the chicken for the last ten minutes of baking but be careful not to burn it.
This roast chicken is absolutely delicious and like any roast meat, goes perfectly well with super crispy roast potatoes – I like to cook mine for at least 75 minutes to get them so hard you need a small industrial jackhammer to cut them.
If you want to try roasting a chicken but don’t want to do something that prevents you from human interaction after eating the way this quantity of garlic will, leave out the garlic and oil and just replace the wine with cooking sherry for a more basic but still delicious roast dinner.
I feel that for my own health and safety, in what is quite possibly a vain attempt not to be taken out by the carbonara mafia, I should start this post by saying that THIS IS NOT A TRADITIONAL CARBONARA. I will explain how to make the classic version of this dish but, for those of you who have not come across it before, this is very much a vegetarian alternative. Also, I would like to make it clear now that I do eat meat and this post is in no way passing judgement on anyone for their food choices: meat, fish, vegetarian, vegan or otherwise.
The main aim of this recipe is to show that you do not need to use a meat substitute to make a delicious vegetarian version of a classically meaty dish. A lot of the time vegetarian food can come off as a poor imitation of meat-based foods but if you just do away with the pretence and accept that dish is going to be different from the meaty version then a lot of problems can be solved. By all means take inspiration from a meat-based dish as a lot of cuisines have iconic meat and fish dishes woven into their culture and it would be a shame to completely ignore these if you choose to go vegetarian (or vegan). However instead of trying to find something like chicken flavoured Quorn steaks or beef style soya mince to replace the meat, why not use something that can be proud of what it is instead of pretending to be something that it isn’t?
The most common complaints that I have heard from meat eaters about vegetarian food is that it lacks flavour or body – body as in substance, not as in the dead body of an animal. Items of food such as tofu are particularly good at getting around this problem by having texture (if it is pressed and cooked well) and can also absorb lots of flavour from whatever they sauce they are in. For this recipe, the mushroom is the star. The mushrooms are seared until all of the liquid has come out and they start to brown. This browning occurs as a result of the Maillard reaction when sugars and amino acids in the mushrooms react with each other. The result is a wonderful depth of flavour which makes the dish far tastier. Mushrooms have a very distinct texture (one which not everyone likes) but it is a texture none the less. By searing them, the mushrooms do not end up boiling in their own juices which would lead to them going soggy so they give a lot of body to the dish.
At the start I said that I would explain why this is not a traditional carbonara – and I’m not just talking about the mushrooms. A true carbonara sauce does not have onion in it but more shocking is the fact that there is no garlic. For anyone who knows me or has followed this blog for some time, you may have noticed that almost every savoury recipe I have starts with garlic – in fact, I will be providing you in a few weeks with a recipe which has two whole bulbs of garlic in it.
Back to classic carbonara, the only things in the sauce are olive oil, guanciale (pork cheek), egg, pecorino cheese and pepper (and maybe some salt – that depends on you). To make this, you first cut the pork into small cubes and fry it in the olive oil until all the fat has rendered out. You then whisk together the egg, cheese, salt and pepper. The still hot, cooked pasta is added into the pan with the pork followed by the egg mixture and everything is then stirred until the egg has thickened from the latent heat in the pasta and the pan. You can then serve the dish and garnish with more cheese, pepper and sometimes fresh herbs.
The recipe below is a great way to enjoy carbonara without the meat – great for vegetarians or people who don’t eat pork. There is an alternative to the classic carbonara, created by Roman Jews where the pork is replaced with carne secca, a cured, salted beef. Alternatively, you could just have the pasta with the egg and cheese sauce and forgo any sort of meat or veg if you do not want to meddle with the tradition too much.
I hope you enjoy the recipe as much as I did when I was making it. I discovered that a little goats cheese instead of some of the parmesan works wonderfully well with the mushrooms so why not give that a go too if you like this?
Time: 20 minutes
Cost per portion: around £1.25
3 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion
4 cloves garlic
1 whole egg
2 egg yolks
80g pecorino romano or parmesan cheese (I prefer parmesan myself)
1½ tsp salt
5-10 grinds of black pepper
1 tbsp chopped parsley (optional)
Place a pan of water onto the stove to heat. Add 1tsp salt.
Destalk the mushrooms before chopping them into quarters. Chop the stalks in half lengthwise
Heat a large empty pan for about a minute.
Add the oil to the pan. It should begin to shimmer immediately and coat the base of the pan.
Tip in the mushrooms and gently toss to coat with the oil.
Leave the mushrooms for around five minutes until they begin to brown. They will release liquid in this time which will boil off immediately. At this point, you should begin to cook the pasta in the water you heated earlier.
Gently stir the mushrooms to turn them over so they begin to brown all around.
While the mushrooms are cooking, finely dice the onion and slice the garlic thinly.
In a bowl, whisk the eggs and yolks before grating in the cheese and whisking again.
Add ½ tsp salt and the pepper to the egg mix and whisk again.
Once the mushrooms have browned, add the garlic and onion.
Stir while they are cooking to avoid the garlic burning. You don’t really want to brown, just cook them through.
Drain the pasta just before it is fully cooked as it will finish cooking with the mushrooms. Make sure to reserve a cup of water from the pasta before you drain it.
Add a quarter of this reserved water to the mushrooms. The water will boil immediately and deglaze the pan, lifting up all of the mushroom flavour that is stuck to it.
Tip the pasta into the pan with the mushrooms and continue to cook until all of the water is gone. Turn off the heat and leave for two minutes to cool a little.
Whisk one third of the remaining water (60ml) into the egg mix. This will temper the eggs so they do not scramble when they hit the hot pasta.
Tip the egg mix into the pasta and stir continuously for a few minutes until the liquid has thickened into a creamy sauce as the egg cooks. Make sure to stir across the whole base of the pan to ensure the egg doesn’t cook unevenly. If the sauce gets too thick, add a little bit of the reserved pasta water.
Stir in the parsley and serve.
I hope you enjoyed the recipe. If you are a fan of mushrooms and pasta, why not check out my mushroom pasta bake – it is one of the first things I posted on this blog; if you are vegetarian just ignore the chicken in it as the dinner works perfectly well without it. If you are looking for something a little bit more on the sweet side, why not make yourself some miniature almond cakes? They are divine.
Have a good one and I will be back next weeks with a deliciously flaky baked dish.
Petits fours are some of my favourite things to bake. Meringues, macarons and petits gateaux; there is just something about miniature baked items that is ultra satisfying. They are often layered or glazed and look so appetising that it’s lucky that they are traditionally served at the end of a meal when you are full, as if I wasn’t stuffed I could eat a whole plate of them myself.
The recipe for these cakes does not include any sort of raising agent. Instead, the butter, sugar and marzipan are vigorously beaten which incorporates tiny air bubbles into the mixture. The expansion of this air in the heat of the oven is what gives the cakes their rise. This is very similar to how pound cakes were made when the butter was beaten until it was soft and had increased massively in volume because air had been mixed into it. The natural rise means that, whilst light in texture, the cakes remain very moist and dense helping them cut cleanly and hold together when decorated.
What makes this recipe different from a standard sponge cake is the addition of marzipan. Marzipan is made of almonds, sugar and often egg whites. This is why the recipe doesn’t have the classic ratio of ingredients for a sponge cake but rather the flour, sugar and butter have been cut as they have been replaced by the ingredients in the marzipan. Ground almonds are a classic way of giving a cake a moist crumb so by adding not only those but also the egg white in the marzipan you can guarantee that the final product will have an amazing texture. The marzipan also helps weigh down the cake, fighting against the expanding air in the oven so the cake doesn’t rise too much.
The miniature cakes made from this recipe are the perfect end to a meal. They are not too heavy to eat and everyone gets their own individual cake. They would also sit beautifully on the final layer of an afternoon tea as, owing to their size, they can be eaten along with lots of other little things.
Let me know what you think of the recipe as it is a massive hit in my house.
Almond Cake Petit Gateaux
Time: 3 hours
90g cake flour
Pinch of salt
150g icing sugar
¼ tsp almond extract
1 tbsp milk
100g dark chocolate
100ml double cream
1 tbsp glucose syrup
Preheat an oven to gas mark 5 (190°C).
Line the base of a swiss roll pan with butter and baking paper.
Break the marzipan into the bowl of a stand mixer.
Add the butter and sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Do not worry if it feels a little grainy, this is from the marzipan and will melt out in the oven.
Mix in the salt.
Add the eggs one at a time and mix until fully incorporated after each addition.
With the mixer running on slow, mix in the flour.
Spread the mixture evenly across the base of the tin ensuring that it does not dome in the centre.
Bake for 15 minutes or until it is golden and slightly risen. A skewer or toothpick inserted into the centre of the cake should come out clean.
Leave to cool in the tin.
In a bowl, beat the butter for the icing until it is light and fluffy. It will go very pale and soft.
Sift in the icing sugar in three batches beating after each addition.
Add the almond extract and the milk and beat again until the buttercream is super soft.
Using a small, round biscuit cutter, cut as many circles of cake out of the sheet as possible.
If you do not wish to include a chocolate ganache:
Spread half of the cakes with buttercream and jam before topping them with another circle to make a mini sandwich cake.
Dust with icing sugar.
If you wish to coat with ganache:
Spread either jam or buttercream on half of the cakes and sandwich them in pairs.
Use a mini spatula to spread a thin layer of buttercream around the outside and over the top of the cakes.
Place them in the freezer for 20 minutes.
While the cakes are setting, roughly chop the chocolate and place it in a bowl.
Heat the cream and glucose in a saucepan until the cream is just about to boil.
Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and leave for two minutes before mixing it together into a smooth ganache.
Leave this to cool down.
Before you coat the cakes, make sure that the ganache is not warm to the touch otherwise it will melt the buttercream and slide off the cakes.
Remove the cakes from the freezer and place them onto a wire rack. Place this rack over a tray with raised edges as this will catch the ganache that drips off.
Pour the ganache over the cakes endure that it has flowed down all the edges.
Place the cakes in the fridge to set for at least half an hour.
You can leave the cakes like this or use any excess buttercream to decorate them.
I hope you enjoyed the recipe. If you are a fan of petits fours, check out my macaron recipe. I also have one for meringues, both French and swiss style (you may as well try them both – that would be the scientific way to decide which is better).
Have a good one and I will be back next week with a delicious pasta dish.
When I was younger, and to an extent still today, I would always choose fishcakes over battered fish. My main issue with deep fried fish was that the skin was incredibly slimy – which is gross. Why would I choose to have slimy fish when I could have delicious fishcakes? The main problem with commercial fish cakes is that they are basically all potato. It’s cheap to add to the mix and when it’s combined with flavour enhancers it is very difficult to know how much actual fish there is in the cake. When you make them for yourself, you know – in this case the fishcakes are about 30% fish and 70% potato, egg, onion and bread.
The history of fishcakes dates back 4000 years. A Chinese folk tale tells of a fisherman who fed his homemade fishcakes to Emperor Shun’s wives which cheered them up and returned their waning appetites to normal. According to the story, Shun was so pleased by this that he requested the fisherman teach others how to make the fishcakes and thus the fishcake became a popular dish in China. In both China and Japan surimi (a paste made from fish or meat) was used to make fishcakes and fish balls. It was often made using the fish that couldn’t be sold either whole or as fillets and so would have gone to waste otherwise.
Fishcakes are an excellent way of using up left over mashed potato. You might even go as far as to make a double portion of mash for your shepherd’s pie and use the excess the next day for a fishcake dinner. If you choose to use tinned fish (I would avoid tuna but tinned salmon is absolutely fine) this dish becomes ultra-fast to make. Just drain the fish, mix it into the potato with onion, seasoning and an egg and you are good to go. There is no rule saying you have to spend time coating the fishcakes in breadcrumbs – it’s mainly convention – but it is the best way to get a crunchy exterior.
The recipe below is a very basic one. Like with all food, there are hundreds of recipes giving tips and tricks for how to make the same dish but sometimes it is nice to have a good base case from which you can work upwards. As you will notice, I do not season the mashed potato. Some people will add milk and butter – if you are using left over mash from a previous meal, this is likely to be in there – and that is fine. The fishcakes will be a little bit softer but they will still work just as well. I used cod for these but any white fish will do – including smoked fish (though probably not kippers). You could even use salmon if you fancy being decadent. Additional ingredients like chives and leeks are common in fishcakes too and I have even seen Asian spiced ones which included ginger, chilli, turmeric and coriander. These really are perfect to use for experimenting with flavours.
For this recipe, I have assumed that you are starting with nothing prepared or precooked however if you are starting with premade mash or using tinned fish, the prep time will be drastically decreased. Enjoy the recipe and I hope you will discover just how simple these can be.
Time: 2 hours
Cost per portion: around £1.30
300g fish (I would use cod or haddock, perhaps even salmon if I was feeling decadent)
1 medium onion/ 6 spring onions
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1 clove garlic (minced)
¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
Salt and pepper
Panko breadcrumbs/medium matzah meal
Oil for frying
Cut the potatoes into small pieces and place in a pan of cold water on the stove. Add about a teaspoon of salt to the pan
Heat until the water starts to boil and let simmer for ten minutes until the potato is cooked – you should be able to insert a skewer into the pieces with very little resistance.
Drain the potato into a colander and leave to cool for five minutes. Do not remove the potato from the colander as more water will leave the potatoes as steam which will help prevent the fishcakes being soggy.
Mash the potatoes. If you have a Mouli or a potato ricer, this will give you the best result but a hand masher will work too.
Leave the potatoes to cool. I like to do this in a large bowl and spread the mash up the sides as this increases the surface area so the mash will cool much faster.
While the potatoes are cooking, place the fish into a frying pan and fill with water until it just covers the fish You could also add herbs (bay leaves for example) to the water to give a bit of extra flavour.
Cover the frying pan and bring the water to a simmer. Leave for about five minutes until the fish is cooked (there should be no translucent areas).
Remove the fish from the water and leave to cool for twenty minutes or so.
Finely chop the onions and place them in a large bowl.
Add the cooled mash, nutmeg, garlic, salt, at least five grinds of pepper and the egg.
Use your hands or a fork to gently flake the cooked fish. It should come off the skin when you do this. If you find any small bones, just remove them now.
Add the fish to the other ingredients and gently mix together. I prefer to do this by hand – it’s a little bit messy but it prevents the fish getting pulverised so there will still be small flakes in the finished product.
Pour around 50g plain flour into a wide bowl for coating the fishcakes.
Divide the batter into ten portions and shape them (by hand) into patties.
After shaping each one, place it in the flour and make sure it is evenly coated before placing it onto a board.
Once all ten have been shaped and floured, place them in the fridge for 20 minutes to firm up.
In a bowl, crack and beat an egg with a fork until it is no longer gelatinous. In a separate, wide bowl, measure out about 100g breadcrumbs/matzah meal. You can add seasonings to this coating too but be careful, spices are likely to burn in the oil if you add them here so it is safest to stick to a little salt and pepper.
Keeping one hand wet and one hand dry, take the fishcakes one at a time and lightly coat in the egg and then the breadcrumbs.
Place them back on the board after each coating. If any little bits of fishcake fall off, keep these for testing that the oil is the right temperature.
Add vegetable oil to a frying pan until it around 1cm deep.
Heat this until a small piece of fishcake dropped in starts to bubble.
Fry the fishcakes a few at a time until the base is golden, flip them and repeat with the other side. Keep flipping until the fishcakes are a deep brown colour (but not burnt).
The fishcakes can be frozen both pre and post cooking, if you want to do it before you cook them, shape and flour the fishcakes before placing them in the freezer on the board. After they have gone solid, you can place them all into a bag together but if you do that too early, they fishcakes will deform and stick together.
If the name fusarium oxysporum cubenese doesn’t strike fear into your heart, you are probably like most people in the world. When information about pathogens, whether they affect humans, animals or plants, is disseminated to the public, the full scientific name of the causative agent is rarely used – if it is used at all. This is because most people don’t care about the tiny fungus/bacteria/virus etc. as the science of the pathogen is irrelevant to them. What they want to know is what this thing does and how it can be treated – in the cause of fusarium oxysporum f.sp. cubenese, what is causes is Panama disease.
You are far more likely to have heard of Panama disease than the fungus that causes it. The name rolls off the tongue better, it’s short and it mentions a place that you probably recognise. It is also the biggest threat facing bananas. The fungus is resistant to fungicides and as it displays no symptoms on around 40% of growing stems and buds is easily spread when cuttings of the plant are taken. Banana plants are reproduced asexually – cuttings are taken and grown into new plants – so there is almost no genetic variation across the community. The most commercial variety is the Cavendish banana – the classic curved, yellow, sweet bananas you buy in shops – and the near identicality of the plants makes them highly vulnerable to disease. Genetic variation within the banana plants relies on random mutations which results in far less diversity than is gained by reproduction which requires two plants.
Panama disease has struck before. Back in the 1950s, it almost completely wiped out the Gros Michel banana – the variety that was most commonly available at the time – and banana farmers were forced to change to a new variety (the Cavendish banana) or face bankruptcy as their crops failed. There are currently some varieties of banana which are resistant to fusarum oxysporum cubenese Race 4, the type that affects the Cavendish banana, but these are not commercially available yet. Changing an entire species is an expensive thing to do, the plants take time to grow and there is always the threat that the fungus will mutate again to affect the new variety of banana at a later date.
The disease has been known about since the cultivation of Gros Michel bananas started in the late 1800s – this was fusarum oxysporum cubenese Race 1. The first formal identification was in Panama, whence the name derives, but the disease did not reach its devastating pandemic levels until the 1950s. When a plant is infected symptoms display first on the older leaves and sections of the tree before spreading to the newer growths. The fungus causes the equivalent of an immune response in the plant which causes it to secrete a form of gel into the xylem (the vessels which carry water around the plant – think of them like the veins of a plant). This gel forms a barrier inside the xylem that blocks it off preventing any flow along it. The plant gets the equivalent of thrombosis before the affected areas start to wilt and die.
There is still hope though. As I have mentioned, this has happened before and the banana survived so don’t be too afraid. There is a lot of ongoing research into new, resistant strains of bananas and of course, fungicides which will actually affect fusarum oxysporum. That being said, you should still definitely make this cake as soon as you can because it would be a shame to miss the opportunity. The cake takes the classic flavours of a banoffee pie and transfers them into a new form: banana bread style layers sandwiched with caramel buttercream and brûléed bananas. It simply must be tried to be fully appreciated!
Time: 4+ hours including cooling
200g caster sugar
90g unsalted butter
250ml double cream
For the cake:
290g plain flour
125g caster sugar
100g brown sugar
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 tsp vanilla extract
To fill between the layers, use the quantities below. If you want to cover the sides of the cake too, double the recipe.
300g icing sugar
A sprinkling of brown sugar
(you will need a cooks blowtorch)
To make the caramel:
Tip a third of the sugar into a heavy based steel pan – non-stick pans encourage crystallisation which ruins caramel.
Heat the sugar on a medium heat and as it starts to melt, use a wooden spoon to gently move some of the unmelted sugar into the melted areas. Move the pan on the hob so no area gets too dark when melting. You don’t want to burn the sugar. Turn the pan onto a medium to low light for the rest of this.
Once about half of the sugar in the pan has melted, sprinkle on half the remaining sugar and gently stir the melted areas. The sugar may start to clump but don’t worry!
As more of the sugar melts, sprinkle on the remaining sugar and continue to agitate the melted areas in the pan to prevent burning and to bring the unmelted sugar into contact with the heat.
Once the sugar has all melted, you should have a light caramel. If it is cloudy, that means not all the sugar has melted! Swirl the sugar in the pan a little to help stir it but at this point, do not use the spoon as it will make the sugar crystallise.
When the caramel is clear, continue heating slowly until it is a deep golden colour. Swirling it gently will help to mix it in the pan so it doesn’t burn.
The moment the caramel is a rich golden brown, turn the heat to minimum and immediately pour in the double cream. BE CAREFUL – the cream will bubble and steam vigorously so make sure you are using a big pan so it doesn’t spit out of the pan. Stir the caramel to make sure it is all mixed. The area with the cream may be thicker than the melted sugar as it is cooled a little but it will remelt and everything will mix together nicely.
Add in the butter chopped into small cubes or slices. Do this slowly and mix after each addition.
Leave the caramel to cool.
To make the cake:
Preheat the oven to gas mark 4 (200°C).
Line three eight-inch cake tins.
Peel the bananas and put them into a bowl. Using your hands or a fork (I find hands are much faster, more efficient and give you a better end result) mash the banana.
Pour in the buttermilk and stir it through.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugars until light and fluffy.
Add the baking powder and bicarbonate of soda to the flour.
Beat the eggs into the butter mixture one at a time. If the mixture begins to look curdled, add a small amount of the flour.
Slowly beat in the flour in three additions.
With the mixer on minimum, add the banana mixture and stir it through.
Divide this batter between the tins and bake for 25 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.
Let the cakes cool in the pan for ten minutes before removing them and leaving them to cool fully on a wire rack.
To make the buttercream:
Beat the butter until light and fluffy. I find this easiest with the whisk attachment on a stand mixer but you can use the paddle instead.
Sift the icing sugar and add a third of it with the mixer on slow as you do not want to cover your room in a cloud of sugar. Once the icing sugar has mostly been incorporated, switch the mixer back to high for a minute to beat everything together again.
Repeat with the rest of the icing sugar.
Add a couple of tablespoons of the cooled caramel until you get to your desired flavour. Remember that the caramel will soften the buttercream so don’t add too much if you want to do intricate pipework.
Once the buttercream has been made, you are ready to brûlée the bananas and assemble the cake.
Peel the bananas, slice them into 1cm thick rounds and lay them out snugly on a heatproof mat or surface.
Sprinkle with brown sugar until there is a thin layer over them.
Using a chef’s blowtorch, caramelise the sugar – it is ok if it burns in a few places!
Leave for five minutes to cool.
If your cakes are very domed, you may wish to level them but this step is up to you.
Place one layer onto your serving dish/cake board and spread a thin layer of icing over it.
Lay half of the banana on in a single layer on the top of the cake. You may wish to pipe a thin border around the edge to ensure they do not slip out but this isn’t strictly necessary.
Add another layer of cake, icing and the remaining bananas.
Add the final layer of cake and top with the rest of the icing.
Optional: if you also wish to ice the sides, spread a thin layer of icing around the sides and on the top. It is ok if you can see the cake through this as this is only a crumb coat. Refrigerate the cake for 30 minutes and then add the rest of the icing to the outside, smooth it with a bench scraper or another flat edge that is taller than the height of the cake. You can buy specialist tools for this if you so wish.
Decorate as you see fit. I decided that I wanted to dye some of the remaining icing yellow and ice it with the same design I would use for cream on a real banoffee pie but it is totally up to you. Yolanda Gamp at How To Cake It, where the idea for this cake came from, uses toffees along with banana and plantain chips to cover the outside and give another texture if you are stuck for ideas.