Monday, 26 January 2009

Nigel Slater's Ginger Cake

I don't think there is any cake as suited to winter as ginger cake, a slice of this dark, sticky, spicy cake is just what I want when it's cold and dark outside. Ginger cake is quite an old fashioned cake, the kind your Grandma might make. It doesn't look much, in fact it looks positively dull but looks can be deceiving, just wait until you taste it!This version by Nigel Slater contains both ground and stem ginger so it has a real spicy kick to it, the Golden Syrup is what makes this cake so sticky and delicious. What I really like about it is that it only gets better over time, it's hard to resist taking a slice right away but if you can I would recommend that you leave it at least one day in an airtight tin before cutting in to it.I would like to try this recipe again substituting the golden syrup for treacle/molasses to make an even darker cake, lemon zest would make a great addition too.

Recipe (Original here)

250g self-raising flour
2 level tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 level tsp bicarbonate of soda
a pinch of salt
200g golden syrup
2 tbsp syrup from the ginger jar
125g butter
3 lumps of stem ginger in syrup (about 55g)
2 heaped tbsp sultanas
125g dark muscavado sugar
2 large eggs
240ml milk

You will need a square cake tin measuring approximately 20-22cm, lined on the bottom with baking or greaseproof paper.

Set the oven at 180°C/gas mark 3. Sieve the flour with the ginger, cinnamon, bicarbonate of soda and the salt. Put the golden and ginger syrups and the butter into a small saucepan, and warm over a low heat. Dice the ginger finely then add it to the pan with the sultanas and sugar. Let the mixture bubble gently for a minute, giving it the occasional stir to stop the fruit sticking to the bottom.

Break the eggs into a bowl, pour in the milk and beat gently to break up the egg and mix it into the milk. Remove the butter and sugar mixture from the heat and pour into the flour, stirring smoothly and firmly with a large metal spoon. Mix in the milk and eggs. The mixture should be sloppy, with no trace of flour.

Scoop the mixture into the non-stick or lined cake tin and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until a skewer, inserted into the centre of the cake, comes out clean. Unless you are serving it warm, leave the cake in its tin to cool, then tip out on to a sheet of greaseproof paper. Wrap it up again in foil and leave to mature for a day or two before eating.

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Obama's chili

Not only is Barack Obama the President and a great politician, but it seems as if he can cook too, At least he can if his chili recipe is anything to go by.

I found this recipe over at Hopies Kitchen and was intrigued to find out just how good Obama's cooking is. The chili contains a couple of unexpected ingredients, turmeric, basil and red wine vinegar, I've never seen these in a chili recipe before but they didn't seem out of place in the finished dish, in fact they were a nice addition that I will use again.
I followed the recipe pretty closely the only changes being that I doubled the spices and herbs to add more flavour and I used an extra pepper. I also used black beans instead of kidney beans simply because that's what I had.

Recipe (Original from ABC News)

  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • Several cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pound ground turkey or beef
  • 1/4 teaspoon (each) of ground cumin, ground oregano, ground turmeric, and ground basil
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • Several tomatoes, depending on size, chopped
  • 1 can red kidney beans


  • Sauté onions, green pepper and garlic in olive oil until soft.
  • Add ground meat and brown.
  • Combine spices together into a mixture, then add to ground meat.
  • Add red wine vinegar.
  • Add tomatoes and let simmer, until tomatoes cook down.
  • Add kidney beans and cook for a few more minutes.
  • Serve over white or brown rice. Garnish with grated cheddar cheese, onions and sour cream.
I thought the finished dish was really tasty and well flavoured and well balanced, I'll certainly be making it again although next time I will add more vegetables.

Thursday, 15 January 2009

Tortilla Española

Last year I set out on a cycling trip across Spain following the ancient pilgrimage route to Santiago De Compostela, a journey of 550 miles crossing two mountain ranges along the way. The journey completely changed the way I view Spain, for one thing, I discovered (the hard way) that Spain is not always hot and sunny! I also found that the culture of the people changed significantly as I moved around, and that each region is fiercely proud of it's identity.

Food of plays a major part in Spanish culture and each region has it's own specialities, from the fantastic fish dishes in the north to the world famous paella in the south. Of course each region claims their food is the best and most authentic! It was all very confusing for me as I don't speak a word of Spanish, choosing what to eat at restaurants usually meant pointing at the menu and hoping for the best!

If there was one dish that could be found anywhere, was always the same and always delicious it would have to be Tortilla Española. It's strange how the simplest of dishes can taste so good and Tortilla is certainly simple. Onions and potatoes are fried in olive oil to which beaten eggs are added and cooked into a thick omelet which can be cut into wedges. It is very good hot but is more commonly served cold either in cubes as tapas or in bigger slices as a meal on it's own.
I think the trick to making a good Tortilla is to cook everything slowly, I cooked the onions over a very gentle heat for a whole 4 hours until they were deliciously sweet and soft, it's not necessary to cook them that long but you definitely want to take it slow. Cooking the eggs gently is also important to ensure that they don't burn but become wonderfully golden.
Tortilla Española recipe (serves 4)

  • 2 Large onions chopped.
  • A large handful of New Potatoes. (you could use any other potatoes chopped)
  • 8 Medium eggs whisked.
  • Olive oil.
  • Optional extras such as peppers, mushrooms, Chorizo or ham could be added if you wish, I added a red pepper.
  1. First boil the potatoes until fully cooked, drain and chop into disks.
  2. In a large frying pan fry the onions gently until they are fully cooked and soft but not coloured, Add any extras now as well such as peppers.
  3. In a large bowl mix the onions and potatoes with the beaten eggs, season with salt and pepper.
  4. Wipe out the frying pan, add a splash more olive oil (make sure there's enough to stop the eggs sticking) and pour in the egg mixture.
  5. Fry very gently for about 10-15 minutes until it's cooked at least half way through.
  6. To finish your Tortilla you can attempt to flip it like the Spanish do or play it safe and cut the pan under the grill for 5 minutes to cook the top.
  7. You could eat you Tortilla now or leave until it's cold, either way it's delicious!

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Just peachy

A Pithivier is a French pastry or pie with an almond frangipane filling, very similar in fact to a British Bakewell tart. Although it looks plain from the outside it contains a filling that is sticky, sweet, nutty and altogether delicious.

There are plenty of variations on the recipe both sweet and savoury, my own twist was to add peaches both for colour and to cut the richness of the frangipane. I was slightly worried that the juice from the peaches would turn my pastry into a soggy mess but I needn't have worried. The peaches worked brilliantly with the almond filling, my only regret is that I didn't add more!
I used this recipe by Wolfgang Puck as a guide, I simply added tinned sliced peaches (in the summer I would use fresh) in between layers of frangipane filling.

Thursday, 8 January 2009

Oven Baked Risotto

I don't know about you but I have a list of bookmarked "must try" recipes that seems to keep on growing. Whenever I come across an interesting recipe I bookmark the page with every intention of coming back to it and cooking it, the problem is I never do. Those recipes it seems are doomed to languish in my bookmarks folder for all time. So when I found an interesting recipe for making risotto in the oven I knew I had to make it right away or condemn it to the same fate.

I've written about risottos before, they are one of my favourite meals, something I make time and time again. The only downside is that stirring the pot for what seems like hours can become a bit tedious. When I found this recipe over at Anne's Kitchen for a risotto that is baked in the oven I just had to try it. No stirring, brilliant!
I really couldn't tell the difference between this and the conventional version, what's important is that it tasted great!

You can find Anne's recipe here, I changed it slightly by adding peppers and using chopped tomatoes, this recipe is very adaptable so use whatever you like, anything goes!

Sunday, 4 January 2009

Creamy Mango Cheesecake

I know I haven't been blogging that much recently, Christmas and new year has been busy with not much time to cook or do anything with my blog really, so if you left comments and I haven't replied I wasn't ignoring you I promise! things are getting back to normal now though and today I had time to do some baking.

I've mentioned before that I get a box of organic fruit and vegetables delivered every two weeks, during the winter when fresh fruit is a bit scarce they often send imported tropical fruit. This week we had two beautiful fresh mangos which I thought would make a great cheesecake. And they did!I chose to make a baked cheesecake rather than no-bake version, mainly because I wanted to cook the fruit within the cake, I served it with a simple sauce made by blending sugar and mango together. The result was a dense rich cheesecake that was perfectly contrasted by the fresh mango and tasted great!

For whatever reason it cracked as it cooled, I think I probably cooled it too fast, next time I'll turn off the oven and leave it there to cool gradually.
Recipe Ingredients
  • 175g/6oz digestive biscuits(If you can't get digestives another plain sweet biscuit would work, try shortbread)
  • 50g/2oz butter , melted
  • 600g/21oz cream cheese (e.g. Philadelphia)
  • 2 tbsp plain flour
  • 175g/6oz white sugar
  • 1 tsp Vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 150ml/1/4 pint Sour cream
  • 1 Mango peeled, stoned and diced
  • Preheat your oven to 350f/180c/gas4.
  • Place the biscuits in a plastic bag and crush with a rolling pin into fine crumbs, mix with the melted butter and press the mixture into the base of a 20cm springform tin. Bake the base for 5 minutes.
  • Beat all the remaining ingredients except the mango together with a whisk until smooth.
  • Add the diced mango to the cheese mixture and pour over the biscuit base, bake for 40-50 minutes. It should be just slightly wobbly in the centre when it's cooked.
  • Leave to cool completely in the tin then serve.