Sunday, 22 March 2015

Celebration Cake ?

I was recently asked to make the celebration cake for a family do. A dual Birthday and a Wedding Anniversary. In addition it needed to be able to cope with the 'does not like marzipan/royal icing/fruit cake/sponge cake requirements. An easy brief then added to by my insistence not to create 'the usual' style cake. The answer:

Blueberry and Pistachio Cake with Cardamom flavoured cream. I had seen a recipe online that seemed to fit the bill. Complicated in that it started with a whipped custard base but the idea seemed nice. A test bake proved not all that satisfying. The Cake was neither light nor moist so I decided to take the idea and modify the method.

Firstly, I took 8 egg yolks ( I needed a big cake so feel free to half the quantities), 500 g of caster sugar and 350 g of melted and cooled butter and mixed them together in the food processor. While they blended I whipped the 8 egg whites to soft peaks. I then folded the blended ingredients carefully into the egg whites. Finally I folded 170 g of ground unsalted pistachios and 150 g of fresh blueberries in before splitting it into 2 x 23 cm and 1 x 20 cm sandwich tins that I had lined with oiled baking parchment. Into a preheated oven at 180 C for 30 minutes (check with a skewer and let it cook a little longer if not cooked) .

I left the cakes to cool. Next I blended 200 g of unsalted butter with 400 ml of double cream, 400 g of icing sugar and the seeds from 12  cardamom pods, ground. The layers were sandwiched with this and the remainder put over the top before sprinkling with 400 g of blueberries and 190 g of roughly chopped pistachios.

An expensive cake, destructive to any diet but looked great and tasted even better.

I have listed the ingredients  for half the quantities below that should provide two 20 cm sandwich tin layers

4 eggs
250 g caster sugar
175 g of melted cooled butter
85 g of ground pistachio nuts
75 g of blueberries

for the decoration

100 g unsalted butter
200 ml of double cream
the ground seeds from 6 cardamom pods
85 g or roughly chopped pistachio nuts
75 g of blueberries

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Dehydrator snacks - Lemon Jeremys

I followed the crackers up selection of sweet dehydrator snacks. The first of these was a great success with my wife who took some in to work as an alternative to lunch. They are very filling and as they are basically raw seeds then the energy is released slowly keeping you feeling full for longer. In an e-mail telling me how much she liked them she asked what they were called. I flippantly replied that they were 'Lemon Jeremys' this has now stuck so all of my sweet dehydrator cookies are affectionately known as Jeremys.

The Lemon Jeremys are particularly satisfying with a great lemon taste and are so simple to make.

150 g Ground Cashew nuts or Almonds
150 g desiccated coconut or dried shredded coconut
Rind and juice of 1 Lemon
1 Tbsp of agave nectar

Mix these together in a bowl and when the mixture has pulled together take small balls of the mix and press onto a board to form 0.5 cm thick cookie shapes. Lift these carefully and place in your dehydrator. Dehydrate at 50 C for around 8 to 12 hours.

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Alchemy - Springtime, smoke and fire

A favorite tree died a year or so ago in the garden. It gave great shade during the Summer and stunning colour in the Autumn since we moved in. We finally decided to give up on any possible resurrection and so it was brought down and turned to logs and kindling. Today, being the first day we could spend in the garden this year, I decided to clean out the fire pit and use a few of the logs and burn off the twigs etc. to keep warm and to clear the rubbish. With a great bed of white ash and hot charcoal in the pit it seemed like a good time to begin the out-door cooking for 2015. I dug out my lodge pot and fixed it in the hot ash. In went some home made pancetta trimmings (the pancetta is drying in the conservatory and should be perfect by the end of March.)

Next, a half shoulder of lamb was seared on this very hot pan.

Next, I de-glazed the pan with 500ml of merlot, Added small onions, coarsely cut leeks, carrots and squash. sliced garlic, fresh herbs and seasoning.

500ml of stock and on with the lid for an hour or so. 

I had to top up the liquid a few times as the fire was hot. When the meat looked cooked (shrunk back on the bone) I steamed some sugar snap peas and purple sprouting broccoli ready for serving. The broccoli was placed in a vey hot oven for a few minutes with some grated cheddar and Parmesan long enough for it to melt. Meanwhile I added a tablespoon or two of maple syrup to the lodge pot to finish the sauce. The result was a wonderful, smokey meal and a great way to use the garden fire to create a memorable and tasty Sunday supper.

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Dehydrator snacks - Crackers for cheese

I used to enjoy my boxes from but now I have more time on my hands I thought I would create my own tasty and filling snacks at home. After research and a little trial and error I now have some great tasting recipes that are easy to put together and are very tasty. The first is a full flavoured cracker that goes well with a little soft cheese but is equally capable of supporting a strong cheddar.

You will need a dehydrator to dry the crackers or you could try drying them in a cool fan oven

Soak 1 cup of sunflower seeds (hulled) for 2 hours before running through a food processor until it forms a paste.
Grind 1 cup of golden linseed in a spice mill to a coarse flour.
Grind 3 tbsp of caraway and 1 tbsp of fennel seed
Coarsely chop two medium to large red onions.

Add all of this to a large mixing bowl and add 100ml of dark soy sauce and 150ml of basil infused olive oil.

Mix this all together and press onto parchment or Teflon baking sheet cut to fit your dehydrator. Place in the dehydrator for 12 hours at 50C. You can either make these into individual crackers or do as I do, make large round sheets of the cracker that I then cut into portions with a sharp knife.