Monday, 4 January 2016

Meal Planning Monday - 4 January 2016

It's been a long time since I joined in with Meal Planning Mondays but I'm determined to write more blog posts than I managed last year and this seems like a good place to start.

I don't think there's much in the way of Christmas food that we didn't eat over the last couple of weeks so the meal plan for the next few days includes a lot more fruit and veg and a lot less chocolate! I recently purchased Jamie Oliver's Everyday Superfood book so have included a couple of recipes from that plus I'm using it to give me inspiration for health breakfasts and snacks.

Monday - Turkey soup with granary bread

Tuesday - Omelette and Salad

Wednesday - Jamie Oliver's Seared Turmeric Chicken

Thursday - Jacket potatoes and salad

Friday - Jamie Oliver's Crumbed Pesto Fish

Saturday - Chicken & Leek Pie

Sunday - Turkey Risotto

If you would like to submit your own meal plan or find some more inspiration then have a look at Mrs M's blog, At Home with Mrs M, and add your own link. You can also find us on Facebook and on Twitter using #mealplanningmonday.

Monday, 30 November 2015

A Parcel of Christmas Goodies from DotComGiftShop

A few weeks ago I was delighted to find out that I had been included in DotComGiftShop's list of 25 Brilliant Baking Blogs. It's always lovely to hear that my blog has been noticed, especially as I haven't had the chance to add to it as much as I'd like recently.

Then, few days later, I received another email offering me one of their lovely recipe tins and a £30 voucher to spend on their website!

First to arrive was the recipe tin which is ideal for storing all of those random recipes you accumulate over the years and would make a lovely gift for someone. Or I might just keep it for myself!

After much deliberation I eventually managed to choose some goodies from the website. It was a tough decision though as there are so many lovely things to choose from, including some real bargains in the sale section. In the end I stuck to a seasonal theme and choose a lovely selection of things to help get the Christmas season off to a good start.

I chose...

A cute gingham print tea tray
A box of Christmas lights that will look perfect over the fireplace
A roll of red and white twine that will save us from untangling (again) the years-old card-hanging string we've put up with for years
A reel of ribbon to decorate the Christmas cake
A fold-out decoration
A mistletoe heart decoration
Two packs of gift labels
Two colourful pens for E&T's stockings (not in the photo)
And finally, a pack of paper chains to decorate the house with

A great selection I'm sure you'll agree. I should also mention that the parcel came well wrapped and was delivered promptly, less than an a week after I placed the order.

A big thanks to DotComGiftShop for the voucher. I'm really pleased with my Christmassy parcel and I'm sure I'll be visiting the website again in the future.

Disclaimer: I was kindly sent the recipe tin and voucher as a gift from DotComGiftShop and wasn't under any obligation to write about what I received.

Sunday, 29 November 2015

Nigella's Not-Just-For-Vegans Vegan Chocolate Cake

In a recent episode of her new series Nigella shared a recipe for her "Dark and Sumptuous Chocolate Cake" that she says "might just be one of the best chocolate cakes you have ever eaten". There's a challenge if ever there was one. Better than her Chocolate Marmalade Cake? Better than a Chocolate Guinness Cake? And vegan?? Hmmm.

I'm always up for a challenge though when it comes to sampling chocolate cakes so, for the benefit of anyone who happens to read this, I thought I'd give it a try.

Vegan, of course, means no butter and no eggs (or any other animal product of course). Instead the recipe calls for coconut oil and coconut butter. Luckily I already had some coconut oil and managed to find coconut butter in my local Holland and Barrett. Beware though, this stuff is not cheap. A 250g jar is over £7 but luckily I had a 20% of voucher to soften the blow a little. Add to that 150g of dark chocolate and you have a pretty costly cake.

So was it worth it?

In short, yes! Seriously, this is a pretty amazing cake. The cake itself is dark and moist but still light with just the vaguest hint of coconut in the background (but don't let that put you off if you're not a fan). Ultimately though, this cake is all about the icing. Obviously the fact that it contains 150g of dark chocolate is a big help and this, combined with coconut butter, sugar and instant espresso power, made for something pretty special. Overall it has a very dark, rich chocolatey flavour so if you like your chocolate cakes more on the sweet side then this may not be for you but it was a big winner for me.

You can find the recipe on Nigella's website here.

For the record...

* The expensive coconut oil and butter can be substituted for 90ml of any vegetable oil and regular butter or margarine.
* I was concerned that my cake tin wouldn't be watertight enough for the running mix so decided to line it with foil before greasing and lining the base with parchment. This worked just fine.
* It took around 15 minutes longer than the recommended time for mine to cook through to the centre.
*My icing was not very runny by the time the cake was cool enough but it was still spreadable so didn't cause me any problems.

Saturday, 14 November 2015

Lorraine Pascal's Twister Bread

I came across this recipe in Lorraine Pascal's book. I was planning to make the Broccoli and Stilton soup from the same book and this bread looked it would make the ideal companion.

Making bread can be very rewarding and I find that, if I follow the instructions, I generally end up with something pretty reasonable. Even a less-than-perfect, slightly-too-dense loaf tastes pretty good warm from the oven and slathered with butter.

I was really pleased with the way this one turned out though. I particularly liked this recipe as it only needs one rise and that only took around 30 minutes so you don't have to wait hours for the final result or spend too much time going to and from the kitchen to see how things are going. The end result looked quite impressive and tasted lovely. It went really well with the soup too.

You can find the recipe on the BBC website here.

Saturday, 24 October 2015

Clandestine Cake Club - Saturday 17th October 2015

This month the Bury St Edmunds branch of the Clandestine Cake Club returned to a previous venue - the Six Bells in Horringer, just a short drive south of the town centre.

The Six Bells is a lovely spot for lunch or dinner and are always very welcoming to us. This time we had a lovely big table in the conservatory at the rear of the restaurant which was a perfect spot for us and our cakes.

This time our meeting was a little bit different as we were celebrating the release of the second CCC book, A Year of Cake, so in addition to our usual cake sharing activities we also had a bit of party-style fun with some extra decorations and games.

The publishers of the book, Quercus, kindly sent me a bag full of goodies so we were able to decorate the room with bunting and balloons, plus we had some CCC paper plates and napkins for our cakes.

I also organised a couple of games (with one lucky person winning a copy of A Year of Cake!)...

...and everyone brought along a small prize for the lucky dip!

And then, of course, we had lots of cake!

Kate's Apple & Blackberry Harvest Cake

Rene's Apple & Cinnamon Cake

Helen F's Caramel Pecan Brittle Swiss Roll

Anne's Chocolate Orange Halloween Cake

Anne's granddaughter Gracie's Battenberg Cake

Mel's Chocolate Surprise Cake (We all tried and failed to guess the surprise ingredient. Mel eventually revealed that it was made with a can of tomato soup! It made for a delicious and incredibly moist cake)

Amy's Zesty Lemon Celebration Cake

My Opera Cake (from A Year of Cake)

Thanks again to the Six Bells for letting us use their space again. For details of Clandestine Cake Club events near you have a look here.

Saturday, 15 August 2015

Cinnamon Swirl Sour Cream Cake

This is one of those cakes that I tend to put in the category "plain cakes" which sounds a bit negative and unexciting but really isn't. It's just one of those simple cakes that are very easy to put together but even easier to eat. No layers, no icing, no decoration, just a straightforward one-tin bake.

I found the recipe when searching for inspiration for some leftover sour cream and discovered it in one of my Books for Cooks recipe books (compilations of recipes from the shop of the same name).

The cake itself is just a plain sponge, although sour cream is added to the usual ingredients, but the cake is well and truly brought to life by the layers of chocolatey, cinnamony nuts and raisins in the middle. No one flavour stands out; instead you have a lovely hint of the various ingredients mixed up in the slightly crunchy, slightly chewy layers. This is the sort of cake that is as perfect after dinner with ice cream as it is as an afternoon treat. P, who isn't keen on anything too sweet, really liked this one.

Cinnamon Swirl Sour Cream Cake
(adapted from Books for Cooks Favourite Recipes 7, 8 & 9)

For the mix
100g/3 1/2 oz walnuts or pecans
4 tbsp raisins
1tbsp ground cinnamon
1 1/2 tbsp cocoa powder
175g/6oz dark brown sugar

For the cake
250g/8oz plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
125g/4oz butter, softened
225g/7 1/2 oz caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 large eggs
250ml/8 fl oz sour cream

1) Heat the oven to 180c/350f. Grease and line a 24cm/9 inch cake tin.

2) To make the spice mix, put the nuts and raisins in a blender and pulse until finely chopped. Transfer to a bowl and mix in the cinnamon, cocoa and sugar.

3) Sieve the flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl and set aside. In a separate bowl, cream the butter, sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, adding a spoonful of flour with each one.

4) Add one third of the flour to the mix and fold in then add and fold in one third of the sour cream. Alternate with the remaining ingredients until all mixed in.

5) Spread one third of the cake mix over the bottom of the cake tin then sprinkle with half the spice mix. Carefully add another third of the cake mix by dropping spoonfuls over the spice mix and carefully spreading it with the back of a spoon. Repeat with the remaining cake and spice mix, ending with a later of cake. Rap the tin on a hard surface a few times to remove any air bubbles.

6) Bake for 1 hour or until the cake has begun to come away from the sides of the tin and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Leave to cool for 15 minutes before turning out.

Serves 8

Thursday, 6 August 2015

Bury St Edmunds Clandestine Cake Club - Saturday 25th July

This month we returned to The Cadogan Arms in Ingham, just outside Bury St Edmunds, for our July Clandestine Cake Club meet. As ever it was a great venue for us and the staff were very helpful and welcoming.

Our theme this month was "A Taste of Summer" and we had some really delicious cakes to share...

Hannah's Strawberry Sponge Cake

Sophie's Lemon Meringue Cake

Amy's Honey Cake

Kate's Pimms Cake

Sara's Persian Love Cake

Trish's Lemon Layer Cake

Rene's White Chocolate & Raspberry Cake

My Dark & Stormy Cake

Thanks again to The Cadogan for for being such great hosts. For details of events near you have a look at the website here.