Orange and Almond & Lemon Cake

When I started at my current company, I was the tenth employee. We have now doubled in size, so when everyone’s in the office, one cake isn’t enough.

As I had some Seville oranges left over from making marmalade, I decided that I wanted to make some sort of orange cake. A quick look at the The Observer’s The 20 best cake recipes and there was a recipe for Claudia Roden’s classic Orange and Almond Cake.

I didn’t fancy making two of them, so decided to find a complimentary cake. As oranges and lemons are made for each other, I plumped for Rose Elliot’s Lemon cake from her book Fast, Fresh and Fabulous (which has since been renamed the Low-GI Vegetarian Cookbook). The two cake recipes are pretty much identical, except for the citrus fruit used.

There is only one downside to these recipes, which is the boiling of the fruit, it takes ages. Other than that, they’re pretty easy to make. A quick dusting with icing sugar when they’ve cooled and they’re ready to go, accompanied by a pot crème fraîche.

You’ll notice, however, that they didn’t look the same. Claudia Roden’s Orange and Almond Cake had way more volume to it before it went into the oven. It promptly collapsed when it came out and cooled, and stuck itself to the side of the buttered and floured tin. Rose Elliot’s went into the tin and came out of the oven at exactly the same level, no rise but no sinkage either. It had come away from the sides of the tin though, so turned out without any issues.

Not much left...

The appeared to go down quite well, with the lemon cake looking like the favourite out of the two. I’m not sure if this was because I’d used Seville oranges, rather than a sweeter variety, or that the texture on the lemon cake was maybe slightly better. Either way, it meant that I had a few slices to have for breakfast on the Saturday and Sunday.

Breakfast...

Patatas Bravas

Patatas Bravas is a Spanish tapas dish, of fried potato, with a spicy sauce.

Having decided to have a go at patatas bravas, I needed a recipe. Step forward Felicity Cloake and her How to cook the perfect… in the Guardian. I’m starting to think it’s probably worth buying a digital subscription. It would be worth it just for her column alone, let alone all the Yotam Ottolenghi and Anna Jones recipes too; it’s a great resource.

I followed the recipe, with a couple of changes. I don’t have any sherry vinegar for instance, so used red wine vinegar instead. I also hadn’t bothered to buy any chives. Other than that, it was straight down the line.

Having grown a few chillies this year, I decided to use one. I should’ve used more than one, as it turns out that they’re not as hot as last year. The tomato sauce had no heat to it what so ever. Which meant that it tasted very similar to the rich tomato sauce from The Geometry of Pasta.

Where the tomato sauce had been distinctly lacking any zing, the aioli had enough zing to raise the dead. It also made a lot. By a lot, I mean enough to slather on double the recipe and still feel like you’ve overdone it a bit.

This all made for a bit of a disappointing dish. Lacklustre tomato sauce, overly pokey and rich aioli, I was struggling to see why people rave about it.

Patatas Bravas, first attempt

In a twist of fate, I ended up having to buy another bag of Charlotte potatoes. So decided to have another crack at the recipe a few days later. I decided to change a few things.

Out when the homegrown chilli and in came homegrown chilli flakes, I know they’re hot. Rather than roasting the tatties at 200°C, I followed Yotam’s method for the potatoes in his Batata Harra recipe; so 240°C to get them good and crispy.

I also cooked the tomato sauce for longer, really reducing it to intensify the flavour and make it thicker. As I mentioned above, there was a lot of aioli left over, so I didn’t have to make any more of that.

This was almost a different dish. The heat and spiciness of the tomato sauce, the crunch of the tatties and the cool of the aioli. I can see why people rave about it.

I’ll definitely be making this again. Just have to think of a few other veggie tapas dishes to go with it…

Not Quite an Omelette Arnold Bennett

I was watching MasterChef: The Professionals the other night, when some of the competitors were tasked with making an omelette Arnold Bennett as a skills challenge. A flat omelette, topped with poached smoked haddock, parmesan and then slathered in hollandaise sauce, what’s not to like?

As a vegetarian, the omelette Arnold Bennet has a couple of obvious drawbacks, namely the smoked haddock and parmesan. Vegetarian hard cheese is easy, but what do you replace smoked haddock with? I didn’t think that smoked tofu would really fit the bill, especially not that Cauldron stuff you get in the supermarket. It just so happened that we had some spare Jerusalem artichokes in the fridge, so I decided to replace the smoked haddock with those and make one for my dinner one evening last week.

Poaching Jerusalem artichokes

There just happened to be some milk in the fridge too, so I slowly poached the Jerusalem artichokes in that until they were cooked. Rather than going all out with a six egg omelette and four egg yolk hollandaise, as Marcus Wareing appeared to on MasterChef when demonstrating the dish, I decided to go with half quantities. Which I’m rather glad I did, as this is one hell of a rich dish.

Making a hollandaise sauce

So once the artichokes were done, I whipped up a flat omelette, topped it with the artichokes, veggie hard cheese and then drowned the whole lot with a hollandaise sauce, before flashing it under the grill. It looked pretty good sitting in the frying pan, slightly less good when it had slopped out onto the plate though.

Making a flat omelette

It was as you’d expect, utterly delicious, but bordering on the unfinishable; I could feel my arteries furring up as I ate it. I did feel the need to sit down for a bit after polishing it all off, I’ve no idea how Arnold Bennett, or anyone else for that matter, managed to get anything done if they ate one that was twice the size, for breakfast.

Jerusalem artichokes and hard cheese on top...

The only disappointment was the Jerusalem artichokes, they were pretty anonymous. I can see why a smoked fish, like haddock, would be perfect in a dish like this, just providing a layer of lightly smoked flavour to counter all the richness. If I ever make one again, I’ll have to think of some way to treat the artichokes so they don’t get lost, or maybe some smoked tofu would do the job…

Ready to be flashed under the grill...

If you fancy making one yourself, then check out Felicity Cloake’s How to make the perfect omelette Arnold Bennett.

Ready to be devoured...

Taleggio and Spinach Brioche Couronne

After watching the final episode of Paul Hollywood’s Bread, I really wanted to make his Savoury Brioche Couronne, but as it’s not vegetarian, I wanted to use a different filling. Step forward Yotam Ottolenghi and his Taleggio and Spinach Roulade from his new book Plenty More.

Making the brioche dough was pretty straight forward and it went into the colder of our two fridges to spend the night. Unlike the brioche that I’d made a couple of weeks before, I put this dough into a large enough container. Even so, it still ballooned enough to touch to the clingfilm that I’d placed over the top of the bowl.

The following morning the dough came out of the fridge a few hours before I knew that I was going to need to bake it. If I’m being honest, I could probably have got it out a little earlier, as the couronne didn’t see to rise that much once it was made. The dough was still quite soft, even though it had been in the fridge all night. The top had formed a little bit of a skin, so I might need to oil it a bit more next time, although it didn’t seem to affect the dough once it had been rolled out.

I had to use quite a bit of flour to stop the dough from sticking to the work surface and the rolling pin. It wasn’t as easy to handle as Paul made it look on the telly either, every time I tried to pick it up to turn it round I nearly put my fingers through it, as it was quite floppy. For some reason I didn’t get my measuring tape out, so I definitely rolled the dough out too large. It was supposed to be a 40cm x 50cm rectangle, but I went over on both dimensions, especially the width. This made the dough a bit on the thin side, which became a problem when it came to rolling up.

I was a bit worried about Yotam’s filling, as you have to slather some crème fraîche over the dough before adding the rest of the fillings. I was a bit worried that this would stop the dough from cooking properly, but given Paul’s recipe calls for four mozzarella balls, which are renown for outputting large amounts of liquid when melted, I figured that a little crème fraîche would be probably be fine. It was.

As I’d made the dough a little on the thin side, rolling it all up meant that the tomatoes and lumps of taleggio wanted to burst through the dough. In retrospect, I could have squished both flat with my hand, before scattering them across the dough. Eventually though, it was all rolled up and rolled out into long thin sausage. As I don’t own a Scottish Scraper, I just used one of my big Global knives to shop down the middle of the dough and split it in two.

When you see Paul twisting the two sausages of dough together on the telly, it looks relatively easy. In reality it wasn’t quite that simple, as the two sausages of dough just weren’t robust enough to be picked up and thrown about like that. You picked up and end and the dough just started to stretch, there was no way it was going to wrap itself into a nice looking twist with just a few flicks of the wrist.

Not to be deterred, I somehow managed to twist the two strands together and form the whole thing into a kind of ring shape. I did struggle trying to join the two ends, as can clearly be seen in the photos. Once it was successfully on a baking sheet, it was put into a polybag and left to rise for about an hour. I think it would have benefitted from a slightly longer prove, as it didn’t seem to have risen that much at all. After a bit of an egg wash, it was into the oven.

While it was cooking, I knocked up a couple of salads to go with it. One was just a simple rocket, olive, tomato and feta affair with a simple white wine vinegar and olive oil vinaigrette. The second, was a chicory, mulled pear and taleggio salad, with a honey mustard dressing.

I was a bit unsure about the chicory salad, as it’s not something we really use. As we don’t have a griddle pan we can use on our induction hob, I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to char it enough to soften it. I needn’t have worried though, a stinking hot frying pan did the job and the salad was really nice. A perfect use for one of the Kilner jars of mulled pears that didn’t seal.

Taleggio and Spinach Brioche Couronne

So what was it like? It was really nice, if maybe a touch on the doughy side, in my opinion. I’m not sure if I thought it was doughy because that’s just what’s like, or if it would have benefited from a longer final prove, or slightly longer in the oven. Never having made one before, it’s hard to know what the outcome is actually supposed to be like.

It appeared to go down well with everyone though and the leftovers I had for the lunch the following day were pretty tasty too. It’s definitely something I would do again, maybe with a slightly longer final prove though.

Gugelhupf

After seeing various Gugelhupf on the Great British Bake Off over the years, I had to have an attempt. As I’d been given a bundt pan for my birthday, I now had the perfect excuse to give one a go.

Originally, the bundt pan was for having a crack at an Angel Food Cake, although by the look of the internet, those pans are slightly different. I had a burning desire to bake a Gugelhupf though, one that had wormed its way into my brain and wouldn’t depart, so Mary Berry’s Angel Food Cake would have to wait. The first thing to do was try and track down a recipe, which was harder than it sounds.

I was under the impression that a Gugelhupf was made from an enriched bread dough, with the addition of booze soaked dried mixed fruit. Some of the recipes I stumbled across though, had you separating the eggs and whisking up the whites, before folding in all the other ingredients. Sorry, but that’s a cake, not an enriched bread. One of the problems with something like a Gugelhupf, is that everyone has their own recipe and they’re all subtly different. A bread book... What I was after was a reference recipe, one based on some tradition, that would give a known good result. I’m still looking.

Getting a bit frustrated with the internet, I asked my wife if she could pick me up a bread book from the local library while she was there one day. I was hoping that she’d come back with one that happened to have a Gugelhupf recipe in it, lo and behold, the only one in the local library, just happened to have one. I’ve no idea how authentic the recipe in The Bread Book by Sara Lewis is, but as I didn’t really have another one, I decided to give it ago. I was a bit disconcerted by it taking about the dough as a batter, as that’s more of a cake thing as far as I’m concerned.

I wanted to go with a mix of dried fruit, but only had some old mixed peel and sultanas. I remembered that I’d bought some barberries as Yotam uses them in his new book. I was a bit worried about them being too sharp and clashing with the other fruit, but as I didn’t have anything else, into some brandy they went. The dough, sorry batter, was pretty easy to make, bung everything into the KitchenAid and mix, then prove, knock back, shape into the bundt pan and leave to rise.

After baking, I left it too cool and the following morning, liberally doused the top with some icing. As you can see from the photo at the top of the page, I maybe should have made the icing a bit thicker, but I quite like that effect. Gugelhupf! The colour on the outside was quite strong, which I think might be down to me buttering the inside of the tin before adding the dough, it’s what the recipe said to do.

I’ve also cooked Mary Berry’s cherry cake in this bundt pan and it too had significant colour on the outside, even though it was only just cooked. Again the pan was buttered before the batter was added. Both the cherry cake and the Gugelhupf fell out of the pan when it was inverted, so I may not butter it next time, just to see what happens. The pan does has a rather heavy non-stick coating on it, so I’m assuming that buttering it as well is maybe a bit too much.

The only problem with the bundt pan, is that it’s not really a Gugelhupf pan, it’s too wide and not deep enough, so you don’t get that classic Gugelhupf shape. That’s not to say that what came out of it wasn’t tasty though, it was and the whole thing disappeared in a couple of days. The next step with this kind of enriched bread, utilising the bundt pan, is a friends Rosinenstuten (raisin bread) recipe.

Pommes de Terre Duchesse

While browsing the list of potato dishes on the source of all that is right and correct on the internet, I stumbled upon the page for Duchess potatoes and knew instantly that I had to have a go at making them. As luck would have it, there just happened to be three egg yolks in the fridge, so rather than waiting, I headed home to make some.

My only real worry, was the piping of the mashed potato, as I’ve never piped anything before. As it turned out, it wasn’t too difficult, although the end result left rather a lot to be desired in the consistency stakes. I’m not too disappointed though, as consistency in something like piping, is only achieved through lots and lots of practice. So I might have to start piping the mash onto the top of things like Shepherd Pie to gain the necessary experience.

As the Wikipedia article was a bit vague on the length of time these should be cooked for, I decided to pop them into the oven, with the fan on and the temperature set to 220°C. Duchess potatoes fresh from the oven... I took them out after twenty minutes, as they looked nice and brown and the outside and felt dry and solid to the touch.

If I’m being honest, hey weren’t that great. They were far too dry and were crying out to be slathered in some sort of gravy or sauce. I’ll put that down to baking them for too long, maybe you’re just supposed to do it long enough that they take a bit of colour. Maybe that’s why the temperature was stated to be 240°C, get colour on them quickly, then get them out while they’re still moist and a bit squidgy. It’s certainly something to bear in mind if I ever do them again, which I might very well do…

Brioche

Brioche

I’ve been baking a lot of bread recently, at least one loaf per week, sometimes as many as three. All of them have just been my usual mix of 400g of Strong White, along with 100g of Rye, which I quite like. I wanted to try some sort of enriched bread though, something like a Gugelhupf or a Panettone, but as I had neither a Gugelhupf or a Panettone tin, I decided to have another attempt at some Brioche

I hadn’t realised that it had been so long since I’d last attempted some Brioche, nearly two years, so was keen to try again. Rather than use the recipe from Bread: River Cottage Handbook No. 3, I decided to use the one on Paul Hollywood’s website. I’m not sure what it is, but I’ve found that I’m getting better results using Paul’s recipes, rather than Dan’s. Brioche dough trying to escape... It might just be that I’m not over proving my bread anymore, either way, Paul’s recipes just seem to produce nice bread.

I mixed up the dough and stuck it into the fridge before going out for the evening. I popped back to the house to pick something up a few hours later and opened the fridge to check on the dough, it had decided to try and break free from its shackles and was almost out of its container. There was me thinking that yeast doesn’t work at low temperatures, the Allinson dried active baking yeast that my wife accidently bought (it was supposed to be the Doves Farm quick yeast) certainly seemed happy enough to keep going for a couple of hours at least.

The following morning I shaped the dough, which was still quite sticky and pliable, into a ball and popped it into our 23cm springform tin and left it on the work surface to rise. I was a bit worried that the yeast might have exhausted itself in the fridge the night before, so after a couple of hours of inactivity, I put the tin onto a bit of work surface that had sunlight on it. Hey Presto, it’s Safeway, an hour later the dough was peeking over the top of the tin, so into the oven it went.

It required a few minutes longer than the time stated in the recipe, but then the tin I used was also an inch smaller, so presumably the Brioche was a bit thicker and needed a few extra minutes to finish. Brioche, with mulled pears, sour cream and pomegranate molasses... It came out of the tin with no issues and was left to cool while we all went down the pub for a few halves of Oakham Green Devil IPA. I must have been going on and on about it down the pub, as I ended up coming home and cutting a few slices to share around the pub garden.

The end result was fantastic, if I do say so myself, the kids must have thought so too, as they were even asking for it in the mornings before school. As I had a kilner jar of mulled pears that hadn’t sealed, I toasted some of the Brioche and had some of the pears, with some sour cream and pomegranate molasses for my breakfast. Any day that starts with a slab of toasted Brioche has to be a good day.

Leek and Goats Cheese Frittata

Leek and Goats Cheese Frittata

Sometime you get an itch that has to be scratched. Once I got it into my head that I wanted a Leek and Goats Cheese Frittata, then that was it, it had to happen.

My wife and I had been in London for a comedy gig at the O2 and had stayed overnight in a nearby hotel. Sitting on the train on the way back the following day, we were discussing what to have for lunch, when I suddenly decided that I wanted a leek and goats frittata. So we popped into Gog Magog Hill Farm Shop, as it’s sort of on the way home from the station, I could pick up a leek and some soft goats cheese, my wife could get one of their Scotch Eggs.

Once we were home, I softened the leek with some butter in one of our small frying pans, before adding three lightly beaten eggs. After mixing it up a bit, I dotted the goats cheese over the top and whacked it in the oven for twenty minutes. Yes, I’m aware that this isn’t quite the traditional way to make a frittata, but it’s quick and easy.

While it was nice to eat, it was missing something. That something being a bit of crunch, or some texture other than soft. As a starting point it was fine, plenty of room for experimenting with differing cheeses and what not. I just need to figure out what else to add to it, so it’s not so one dimensional in the texture department.

Chard and Saffron Omelettes

Chard and Saffron Omelettes

I’ve been meaning to post about this Yotam Ottolenghi Chard and Saffron Omelettes recipe for ages. It’s more of an observation than anything else, but possibly the continuation of a rant I started when going on about Maria Elia’s Ginger Beer-Battered Stuffed Tofu with Asian Mushy Peas.

I get quite annoyed when I follow a recipe and what I produce is nothing like the photo in the book. As far as I’m concerned, if I’m following a set of instructions, what they result in, should look like the end result that is displayed in the book. My current annoyance is with fillings, as I’ve absolutely no idea how you’re supposed to fold these omelettes into quarters and keep either the filling inside them, or stop them falling to bits.

I’ve made this recipe more than once and either the omelettes disintegrate the moment you try and fold them, or you can’t fit anywhere near a quarter of the filling into them and then fold them into a quarter. It might just be my overly perfectionist nature, but that really pisses me off.

Other than that, these are plenty tasty, especially when made with chard out of the garden.

Pimping Beans on Toast

Beans on toast...

I’d been at the gym after work on Tuesday and by the time I got home, it was far too late to cook anything but a snack. We all know that beans on toast is quick and easy, and all those beans aren’t too bad for you when you need a bit of protein after a workout. The only issue with beans on toast, is that it’s a bit boring, so I decided to pimp mine with a few extras.

I added a teaspoon of homemade harissa to the beans, for a bit of added kick. Once the beans were on the toast, I ground a load of pepper on top and added a sprinkling of grated cheddar cheese. Finally, two fried eggs were placed on top, and drizzled with some homemade saucy haw harissa sauce.

Granted, that poached eggs would have been better for me than fried, but at half ten at night, I went for the quick and easy option. Tasty, tangy and filling, it hit the spot; I’m not sure I’ll ever have plain beans on toast again.