Category Archives: Cooking

It’s all about the cheese!

What is it about cheese that makes everything all right with the world?cheese

SC loves cheese, the stronger the better and as long as I generously sprinkle it over his food, I can pretty much hide the fact he’s eating the dreaded vegetables – mostly!

Much as I love my cake, I have to say if there was a choice between cake and cheese it would be a tough call but the cheese would win – unless it was cheesecake of course 😉

If I’m feeling a bit blurgh my favourite go-to food would have to be cheese on toast, and I’m sorry to say I like putting baked beans on the top.

SC’s favourite food, in fact he would eat it every day if I would let him is cheesy pasta – just cooked pasta with grated cheese stirred and melted in. One quick, easy and filling supper – for the record I do add the dreaded vegetables to mine!

And yes, one of my favourite Monty Python sketches is the “Cheese Shop.”

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Recipe – Cinnamon and Carrot Cake

I got this lovely recipe out of “Sarah Brown’s Vegetarian Kitchen”, a book I bought seriously years ago. It has been languishing in the drawer in the kitchen for a while (most of my recipe books, are actually taking up a cupboard’s floor space (and some) in my bedroom…) and I decided last week to try something a little bit different instead of coffee & walnut cake, and this was one of them.

Ingredients

  • ½lb (225g) Plain Flour (this can be normal, wheatmeal or wholemeal)
  • 1 tablespoon Cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon Nutmeg
  • ½ tablespoon Baking Powder
  • 4oz (110g) Butter (or Margarine)
  • 4oz (110g) Honey
  • 4oz (110g) Sugar
  • ½lb (225g) Carrots, peeled and finely grated

Method

  • Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 3 (325°F, 170°C, 150° (Fan));
  • Grease a 1lb (450g) Loaf Tin;
  • Mix all the dry ingredients together in a bowl (flour, cinnamon, nutmeg and baking powder);
  • Put the butter, honey and sugar in a saucepan and melt over a low heat;
  • Pour this mixture into the bowl with the dry ingredients and mix well until everything is combined;
  • Stir in the finely grated carrots;
  • Pour the mixture into the tin and pop in the oven;
  • Cook for 60-80 minutes until the mixture feels firm to the touch and a skewer, when inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean;
  • Leave the cake in the tin for 10 minutes, the turn out onto a cooling rack;
  • Enjoy!

What happened when I did it!

  • Well, the first thing, is I clearly didn’t read the recipe clearly enough (must use my glasses more often) as I only added ½ teaspoon of baking powder, not ½ tablespoon – that could be the reason it felt very ‘heavy’!
  • I also always use light brown sugar instead of caster sugar. I also think that if you want to use fruit sugar, it would work just as well just remember to only use 2/3 of the amount).
  • I didn’t have any nutmeg in the cupboard – or rather I did but it was seriously out-of-date, so it got binned – so I replaced this with 1 teaspoon of ginger.
  • 1 tablespoon of cinnamon does make for a very heavily spiced cake – so if cinnamon is not a particular favourite, you could always use half the cinnamon and replace the remainder with mixed spice, or ginger! Cinnamon does have an enormous range of health benefits, so this could be said to be a ‘healthy cake’ – would one of those really exist?
  • An alternative – which is the route I took – was to top the cake with an orange buttercream frosting (recipe below). This actually helped to cool down the spiciness of the cinnamon, and it tasted great 😉

Orange Buttercream Frosting

  • 35g Butter (or margarine)
  • 20ml Milk
  • 1 teaspoon orange extract (or orange juice)
  • 166g Icing Sugar

These are approximate guidelines, as I reduced a recipe by a third!

Chuck everything into a bowl and mix with an electric beater – or a spoon, until smooth and creamy 😉

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Cut and Come Again Cake Recipe

When I need my stress levels reduced…I bake.baking

When I feel stressed, worried, anxious, a bit low, or any combination of these and others I find it helps to bake a cake.

Or in the case of today 3!

Wow!

I have a lot on my mind at the moment!

Anyway – I more than replenished the cake supply, so hopefully there should be no grumblings in this house for a while!

But I digress.

I made a simple fruit cake – called a “Cut and Come Again” cake.

I had had this years ago at a friend’s house and she gave me the recipe which I long since lost, but today I thought I would try something different to cupcakes and managed to find a recipe posted onto Saint Delia Smith’s website by someone – it is not a Delia recipe.

It was seriously easy to make, smells amazing and tastes fab 😉

So, here you go recipe for “Cut and Come Again” cake:

Ingredients

  • 12oz (340g) Self-Raising Flour
  • 1 teaspoon Mixed Spice
  • 6oz (170g) Soft Margarine
  • 6oz (170g) Caster Sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 6oz (170g) Sultanas
  • 4oz (113g) Currants (or chopped nuts if you prefer)
  • 4oz (113g) Raisins
  • 3 tablespoons Milk

Method

  • Pre-heat the oven to 180°C / 160°C (Fan) / Gas Mark 4 / 350°F
  • Grease and line a 20cm/8inch round cake tin
  • Measure all the ingredients into a large bowl, or food mixer
  • Beat well until thoroughly mixed
  • Pour mixture into tin and level the top
  • Bake for about 1-1¼ hours (until skewer comes out clean)
  • Leave to cool in tin for 10 minutes then turn out, peel off paper and cool on a wire rack.
  • Make a cup of tea and enjoy!

My Findings on Making the Cake

  1. This was a seriously easy cake to make – anyone can do it – from measuring out the ingredients to pouring into the cake tin literally took less than 10 minutes!
  2. I never use Caster Sugar in baking I always use soft brown sugar – only because I believe it is less refined and therefore slightly healthier – big emphasis on the slightly, after all it is still sugar! (I have tried fruit sugar alternative when I made cupcakes, total disaster, but that might work better with this recipe as well)
  3. I mixed all the ingredients, EXCEPT the fruit, first with my electric whisk for about 3/4 minutes, and then I added the fruit and mixed for a further minute – for me this seemed more logical, as you can see that everything has been mixed easier than if you have small dried fruit bits floating about!
  4. I put the cake in for 1 hour initially, then checked with the skewer, then I cooked for a further 5 minutes and the skewer came out clean. Everyone’s ovens are different and I would advise 1 hour first and then 5 minute intervals. For those that don’t know about the skewer test, it is purely to see if the cake is cooked – put a clean skewer into the middle of the cake, down to the bottom – if the skewer comes out with cake mixture on you can see that the mixture is still not quite cooked, if it comes out clean your cake is ready.
  5. This cake tastes extremely good when you are sat down with your feet up and a large mug of tea 😉

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Cooking Pasta

It’s supposed to be the simplest thing in the world to cook, so why does my pasta always take longer than the cooking time indicated on the packet?

It’s not that I’m an atrocious cook – I take pride in being able to whip up a 3-course meal, but this just beats me every single time!

Pasta the other day said “cooks in 5 minutes.”

I followed the instructions to the letter, and lo 5 minutes later the pasta was still far too ‘al dente’, it was like eating chewy toffee but without the stickiness, just the chewiness. 15 minutes later and it was just passable.

What state is one supposed to eat pasta in?  Chewy toffee state, mush state, or some happy medium in between?

Someone said that I could be cooking the pasta too fast! With a 5 minute cooking time and instructions to bring water to boil, add pasta and keep boiling for 5 minutes, what part of that would be cooking it too fast?

Also, why whenever I cook pasta and replace the lid when cooking does the water always bubble up and spill over so I literally am sitting watching a pot boil (as opposed to a kettle)?

If anyone has any hidden gems about these matter they would be gratefully received.

Maybe it’s the pasta I buy, maybe it’s just me 😉

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Happy Cakes

Since the last entry “Cupcake Disaster” I have reverted to using the Primrose Bakery Vanilla Cupcake recipe.

I think I have mastered the art of not over-beating the mixture, although I do still tend to hover around the oven whilst they are cooking to see if they are rising. When I see they are, I do heave a huge sigh of relief.

Anyway, a couple of batches after the disaster SC tries a cake and says “Mummy, these are delicious! What did you do to make them so scrummy?”

To which I replied, “I made them with love and happiness!”

He loved that explanation, so we have renamed them happy cakes, and every time he tries one from a new batch he always says they are good happy cakes 😉

Happy cakes it would seem go down well in this house – by George, I may have cracked the basic cupcake recipe.

Maybe it’s time to take the cupcake making to the next level?

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Cupcake Disaster!!

The weekend saw my first major-league cupcake DISASTER!!

I had used a new recipe 2 weeks ago – the Primrose Bakery vanilla cupcake recipe.

It was a good recipe and resulted in a good textured cupcake. More akin to the shop-bought cupcakes than I have managed to get in my attempts so far.

I’m not sure if it was because the recipe used a larger quantity of all-purpose flour in relation to self-raising flour, or because when it came to adding the flour and milk the recipe said “beat”, so I dispensed with the folding technique and just carried on using my electric beater.

Anyway, I used the same recipe again at the weekend.

I thought when I was spooning the mixture into the cake cases that it didn’t look, or feel right. Then the cakes didn’t rise as much as normal.

I had no inkling anything could be wrong.

But the cakes were so YUCK, even SC couldn’t eat them. He took one mouthful, look puzzled, then took a smaller mouthful, before spitting it out and saying “YUCK! These are disgusting!”

I was at a loss. I had used the same recipe, what could possibly have gone wrong?

I narrowed it down to 2 possibilities:

1.  I had used different sugar. I replaced my light brown sugar with fruit sugar – natural sugar where you need to use one-third less.

or

2. I had done something wrong in the mixing process.

I had also made a batch of rock cakes that morning using the fruit sugar – yes, Saturday is a good morning. The kitchen always smells scrummy!

The rock cakes had turned out fine, and tasted good.

So, I don’t think it could have been the use of a different sugar.

Where had I, then, gone wrong in the mixing process?

The only thing I could think of that I had done differently was to keep the beater on whilst adding the flour and milk. I must have over-beaten it. I had no idea this was even possible to over-beat a cake!

When I was adding the last remnants of milk into the mixture it did keep clinging to the beater. I guess that should have given me a clue that something was wrong.

Still, we live and learn. One batch of bad cupcakes is not a total disaster, just a learning curve.

Note to self, don’t over-mix next time.

I did make another batch on Sunday morning, still using the beater but making sure I turned it off between flour and milk additions, and the cakes turned out perfectly 😉

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Cupcake Trials #4

Well, I made another batch.

Now, when I was young a supermarket used to sell cupcakes, nothing as fancy as todays standards, but just sponge with an icing top. The cakes were very dense in texture, but light at the same time. How?

I had a teeny, tiny, blip when adding the flour and milk. My mind had wandered off and I just weighed out the self-raising flour straight into the mixture, and was about to do the same with the plain flour, when I realised, what I had done.

So the mixture had self-raising flour added and folded in, then some milk, then half the amount of plain flour, some more milk, the remaining flour and then the remaining milk.

This oversight on my part has not, thankfully caused any difference to the cakes. They are still edible 😉

I just can’t get the texture of ones you get at the bakery (and I’m not talking cupcake specialists here). They still just have the consistency of a  slightly denser Victoria sponge.

Could it be that I should only use plain (all-purpose) flour and dispense with the self-raising aspect and add a small amount of baking powder, to assist with the rising?

Also I use pure vanilla extract, and I still can’t taste it. Is vanilla essence stronger, even though it’s not as ‘pure’?

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