Saturday, March 20, 2010

Marmalade Cake

The weather is warm, the sun is shining and I have been happily having fun times in the kitchen making salsa verde, caramelized onion tart and marmalade cake. My house smells gorgeous, the aroma of a cake baking cannot be beat. I sit here with a cup of tea not only wishing I was having a huge slice of my marmalade cake but thinking about lighter menus for this spring season. Salads, tarts and lighter dishes will be replacing the stews and soups which have been abundant this winter. I can picture Ian and I sipping on ice cold white wine tucking into seasonal dishes.

Anyway enough of my day dreaming. I was lucky in inheriting a work colleagues cookery book collection, mainly a collection of Nigel Slater's cook books. Although I knew of him I can't say that he would be a cook/chef I would automatically think of if I had to relay who inspired me. Having spend some time reading through his books I can say that I love his ideas and style of cooking. He like me wants to use fresh seasonal ingredients and believes that less is more. The only one thing I prefer to do is make some things from scratch but this is only because I like to experiment, but if in a hurry I would definitely buy pre-made items.

There were quite a few recipes that I wanted to try and today I wanted to make cake. I really am not much of a cake baker. I can make one chocolate sponge cake and a variety of muffins and thats about it, so I chose a marmalade cake from Nigel Slater. Like him I used his recipe as a guide and added a few different ingredients. The cake turned out awesome, light and airy with some yummy chewy pieces of marmalade dotted throughout. Mmm mmm, I was impressed with my creation.

Marmalade Cake
(Adapted from Nigel Slater|)
11/2 Sticks Butter
3/4 Cup Granulated Sugar
1 1/2 Cups All purpose flour
3 large Eggs
1/2 Cup Chunky Marmalade
1/4 Tsp Baking Soda
1 Tsp Baking Powder
1/4 Tsp Vanilla Extract
1/4 Cup Orange Juice plus extra for icing
Icing sugar

Firstly grease a loaf tin or line it with parchment and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Meanwhile using an electric mixer cream together the sugar and butter until light and fluffy. In another small bowl break the eggs and whisk with a fork lightly. Once done add in stages to the creamed sugar/butter mixture and mix well on a medium speed between each addition. Then add the marmalade and mix to combine. Fold the flour, baking powder and soda in using a spatula until no flour can be seen, then fold in the Orange Juice and vanilla. Pour into the loaf tin and bake for approx 30 -40 minutes. Check the cake after 30 minutes of baking by poking a scewer into the middle of the cake. If it comes out clean it is cooked. Once cooked remove from the oven and allow to cool then turn it out of loaf tin. When fully cooled make the glaze by combining some Orange Juice into some icing sugar. The icing should fall into ribbons when lifted up with a spoon. Spoon the icing over the cake allowing it to drip down the sides. Once set cut and serve.

I got to eat this cake with a cup of tea and it was superb. 

Monday, March 15, 2010

Granola Bars

We are going on another road trip and we are so excited. This is no ordinary road trip though, we are going to investigate where we want to live and set up our first home together. As I said we are so excited that we are acting like a couple of crazy teenagers. It's all fun, if not hard work!!!

Traditionally whenever we set up for a road trip we always go to Denny's to have a huge breakfast but this time we have decided to have breakfast on the go....well a breakfast picnic. This got my mind going into overdrive about what we could eat. Obviously we couldn't have anything warm as we couldn't maintain the heat. The other thing I didn't want to do was to have lots of bread as we were also going to have a lunch picnic. I basically decided that I would do a brunch style of picnic where breakfast and lunch items were interchangeable, so we could eat anything at anytime. After racking my brains and scrolling through the internet my decision was made. Boiled eggs, banana bread muffins, fresh fruit salad, BLT picnic sandwich, granola bars, coffee and fruit juice. Sounds perfect!!! I was happy knowing that I could prepare all food needed but I did want to practice making the granola bars. Last year I made some granola bars that tasted great but didn't look like they were supposed too. This time I tried a different recipe adapted from Betty Crocker and they turned out awesome. I've had to put them straight in the freezer to stop nibbling at them. How naughty am I?!!!

Granola Bars
2 cups Oatmeal
2 cups Granola
1/2 Cup Dried Cranberries
1/2 Cup Of seeds (I used pumpkin seeds, you can also add chopped nuts)
1/2 Cup plus 1 Tbsp Honey
4 Tbsp Brown sugar
1 Tsp Vanilla extract
2/3 Cup Crunchy peanut butter

Start by preparing a baking sheet by covering it in a layer of foil and grease the foil, then set aside. In a large mixing bowl mix all the dry ingredients together apart from the brown sugar.In a pan and over a medium heat melt the sugar into the honey until dissolved and add the peanut butter and vanilla extract. Stir together until well combined. Pour the hot honey mixture over the granola and mix until all the granola and oats are covered. You will need to be quick as this will start to set. Pour the combined mixture into the baking sheet and press it down with the back of a spoon packing it together tightly and evenly.. Allow to cool, then slice into bars.

These taste amazing they are slightly chewy and go perfect with a cup of tea. The best thing about this recipe is that you can use pretty much anything you want as long as the total amount of dry ingredients are the same.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Mac n' Cheese

Not much to say today apart from, mac n' cheese is great for hangovers.

Mac n' Cheese
2 Cups Pasta
2 Tbsp All purpose flour
1 Tbsp Butter
3/4 Cup Crushed Tomatoes
1 Cup Grated Cheese (Cheddar/Parmesan)
 3 Sprigs of  Thyme
1/2 Cup Milk/Cream

Firstly boil the pasta until al dente, the reason for this is that this pasta will also get baked together with the sauce so it doesn't want to be fully cooked. Meanwhile start to make a rue in a heavy based pan by melting the butter and stirring in the flour to form a thick paste. Stir the milk into the paste to make a thick sauce (This will be very thick), once combined add the crushed Tomatoes and continue to stir. If the mixture is too thick add some more milk. The sauce needs to be thicker than what you would expect. When you stir the sauce you should see the bottom of the pan where the spoon has just been. Add the cheese, thyme leaves and S&P to taste and combine until cheese has melted. Drain the pasta and pour it into the sauce and mix well. Pour this into an oven proof bowl and sprinkle breadcrumbs, thyme leaves and cheese over top. Bake in a 350 degree oven until the topping turns brown and crispy. Voila the perfect mac n' cheese.

Friday, March 5, 2010


THE BOOK......Where do I start!! Guilt. That's what I felt about it this am. It has been pushed to the the back burner for a while and although I had set goals for it they were drifting off into the distance. I can now say they are in sight. I got a push forward in the right direction this morning by Ian's sister, who wants to buy a copy and I think she is eager to do so. This is good though as she keeps me motivated. (Thanks Moira xxx) So this morning after wallowing in my guilt and just being lazy I got up and fired up the frying pan and started to make pancakes with blueberry sauce. Once made I arranged them decoratively on a plate and set the scene for the photograph. They looked awesome if I do say so myself.

The photos were quickly added to the book.

Whilst working on the book I began to read through the chapters and admire the work I had already done. When I came to the dinner chapter I started to hesitate and think maybe there wasn't enough recipes or variations. Could someone pick up my book and want to cook any of my recipes? Would they think that these recipes were to simple? or boring? or not exciting enough? The panic began to set in. I began to justify what was in there. I had recipes including chicken, beef, lamb, sausage, fish, pork ranging from European to Asian themes. After the panic died down I decided that I would add one more Chicken dish. I have to remember this is my first book. Maybe I am being too critical.. I just want it to be perfect, is that too much to ask? 

Now that Spring is arriving its salad season for me and as I have no salad pictures.....

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Patatas Bravas

Wow, isn't it amazing what you can create with nothing. I open my fridge and to me I see lots of potential but to others it would look bare and the ingredients wouldn't match up to much. From a few basic ingredients I managed to make a gourmet feast with a Spanish tapas theme.

I was very impressed if I do say so myself. I was particularly impressed with my patatas bravas. Originally I was going to buy some Italian sausages but the supermarket had run out so I opted for honey mustard sausages, which actually worked quite well, but to get the authentic flavor, Italian or chorizo sausage would have been better. But hey ho you can't win em' all!!!

I originally had patatas bravas in Barcelona. I went to my first tapas restaurant and I fell in love with this dish and style of eating. On return from Barcelona a friend and I couldn't get  enough of  tapas, we found an awesome restaurant in Putney, London called La Mancha, which we often frequented and patatas bravas was a regular. 

My version of Patatas bravas
Handful of new potatoes cooked and sliced thickly
2 Sausages
1 Large Tomato chopped
I Tbsp Tomato Paste
1 tsp Paprika
1 tsp Smoked Paprika
Pinch Salt
Pinch sugar
Pinch Red Chilli Flakes
1 tsp White wine vinegar
Chicken Stock
Garlic clove crushed

Firstly heat some oil in a pan and cook the sausages until they have browned. Remove from the pan and slice into1/4 inch pieces. In the same pan fry the sliced potatoes until browned and remove from pan. Add some more oil to pan if need and add tomatoes, garlic, tomato paste, vinegar, sugar, spices and salt. Mix these together in the pan to combine. When the tomatoes begin to soften, crush them with the back of a spoon into the sauce. If the sauce is to thick add some chicken stock to loosen it up. Return the potatoes and sausages to the pan and warm through. Add further salt if needed. Then serve....

Tuesday, March 2, 2010


Oh my, what a productive day I have had and to top it off all my cooking creations have turned out great. Not bad considering I am working nights and have one more to go. I don't know why but I always get creative in cooking when on nights. I must admit though last night I finished reading a biography on Julia Child so maybe that gave me the inspiration.

This afternoon I have managed to whip up a huge bowl of chicken caeser salad with roasted garlic and home made croutons, a batch of biscuits and a cinnamon rice pudding. Oh yes..... and not forgetting my foodie shopping spree. Phew!!!!

This blog post is going to be focused on the biscuits I made as I am so proud of how they turned out. For those of you in England a biscuit in North America is not what you dunk in your mug of tea. It is more like a savoury scone which you have alongside meals.When Mum and Dad came over to visit us last year we went for dinner at Mum's Godmothers in Abbottsford. Marjorie had made a huge plate of biscuits to go alongside a lovely lunch she prepared. Mum thought it was strange when everyone tucked into her so called scones (in my mum eyes) with their lunch After a quick explanation it wasn't long before mum started tucking in. The only difference I find between a biscuit and a scone is that biscuits are a lot lighter than that of a scone.

Having made these biscuits I am so going to experiment with them to make different variations (maybe some additions of sugar or fruit). Who knows the list is endless. I will have to keep you up to date with the variations that work. The best thing about these biscuits are that you only need 5 ingredients, the downside is that they are packed with fat... but who cares right!!!! (Another day of running for me).

2 Cups All purpose flour
Pinch of salt
1Tbsp Baking Powder
1 1/4 Cups of  cold whipping/ Heavy Cream (Mum you should use double cream xxx)
Melted Butter

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Sift all the dry ingredients together into a large bowl, then begin to fold in the cream with a spatula. When all the ingredients are combined mound the dough together to form a ball (do not kneed, just combine) and pour out onto the counter. If the dough is a little dry add some more cream until it combines. The dough should feel cool and silky (I found this very satisfying!!).  Press the dough down to a thickness of 3/4 inch and using a cookie cutter cut out the biscuits. With the remaining dough, gather it together to make further biscuits. This recipe should make about 10 biscuits. I made 9 and 1/2 this time. Place the biscuits on a baking sheet and brush the melted butter generously over the top of each biscuit. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes until they begin to turn brown on top. I find that they do not brown evenly in my oven so after baking I brush more butter over top before placing under the grill to brown them more evenly. And voila, the perfect biscuit.