Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Sunken Honey Cake

This month I have made this cake twice!  The reason?  Well its very very yummy.  However.... both times I have made it, it sank in the middle.

I have never had a cake sink on me like this before.  It still tastes great and it is cooked all the way through... just sunk.  The first time I made it, it had to wait a little while for the oven to get to temperature before baking, so I thought perhaps that was the issue.  The second time I made it the oven was ready to go and it still sank.

My only explanation now is that I am using a cake tin about an inch smaller than that recommended by the chef... would that cause the cake to sink?  I don't have the correct sized tin.  I don't usually let things like that put me off and I don't often have failures.  The other explanation could be that I am using the Spanish equivalent of Self Raising Flour - It says on the front that it is 'with yeast' but from the recipe on the back of the pack it is likely that this flour contains bicarbonate of soda because the basic sponge recipe (also on the back) calls for a teaspoonful of vinegar and you often find the two (sometimes yoghurt is used which is also acidic) go together as a raising agent.

Well my cake has risen you can't fault it on that... and I have used this flour to make other cakes that call for Self Raising flour and had no failures with them.  Mind you I can't really say this is a failure because it tastes so good.

If anyone would like to have a go: (do let me know how it turns out won't you).

Honey Cake by James Martin

170g clear honey, 140g butter, 85g light muscovado sugar, 2 eggs beaten, 200g self raising flour sieved, water (tablespoon).
Icing (which I didn't do) 55g icing sugar, 1 tbsp clear honey, hot water.

Preparation Method
Preheat the oven to 180C and butter and line the bottom of a 18cm (7 inch) cake tin.  measure the honey, butter and sugar into a large pan.  Add a tablespoon of water and heat gently until melted.  Remove from the heat and mix in the eggs and flour.  Spoon into the cake tin and bake for 40 - 45 minutes until the cake is springy to the touch and shrinking slightly from the sides of the tin (or sunk in the middle !!).  Cool slightly in the tin before turning out onto a wire rack.  While the cake is still warm, make the icing by mixing the sugar and honey together with 2-3 teaspoons of hot water.  Trickle over the cake.

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Stretch that Chicken!!

I defrosted two chicken breasts (admittedly they were large ones.... the kind that you would expect to be able to cut in two) and I made them last and last and last... what did I do?  First I made a fairly ordinary chicken casserole...

This is a picture of the leftover chicken casserole cut up... I initially made it with the breasts cut only into two pieces each.  This is how I did it...Fry off some onions and garlic until soft and then dance the chicken breasts into a plate of plain flour with some salt and pepper and mixed herbs then brown them in the same pan.  Turn up the heat and add some red wine (couple of wine glasses full).  Add two teaspoons of mustard (any kind) some salt and some pepper.  Pop the lid on and turn the heat down really low and simmer away for about 30 minutes - or until they are cooked through.  Enjoy with mashed potatoes and some veg.  Yum yum.

The next day I chopped up the chicken that was left and added some poached carrot and red peppers (the only veg I had in the fridge).  I then made pastry in 33 degrees Cenigrade heat...

12 oz plain flour, pinch of salt, 2 oz lard, 4 oz butter and a splash of iced water.  Apologies for the ounces rather than grams but I'm an old fashioned girl in some things and ounces and pastry just seems to work better for me.  Rub the lard and butter into the flour at lightning speed and then mix to a dough with the icy water and bung it in the fridge really fast!!!!!

While you roll out the base of the pie (or pies in this case) put the pastry for the tops back in the fridge.  I had difficulty with the size of my pie tins... I forgot that the last time I did this I used a plate to cut out the pastry so after cutting out with my largest ring I found that the pies were actually quite a bit smaller than they should be... no problem... I made six... and I have enough pastry and filling left to make another three at least.

Brush some beaten egg onto the top of the pies before you bake them.

 Put the uncooked pies back into the fridge if your oven has not yet reached 200C... when it is at temperature you can pop the pies in and set the timer for about 30 minutes... it depends upon your oven and only you know your oven well.  Keep an eye on them... the filling is already cooked so you just need the pastry to be golden in colour and they are ready.

The only drawback is that working so fast means a real mess in the kitchen....

No worries... a G&T helps the cleaning up process no end!

 Now... how frugal am I?  Well the first saving was when we bought the chicken whole and butchered it ourselves, freezing whatever we were not ready to use straight away.  It is always cheaper to do this than to buy chicken breasts ready prepared.  So with the chicken breasts we had a casserole, then we had two pies each with some extra veg, then we froze five pies which will make another main meal or perhaps two lunches with the addition of cheese and bread. The chicken legs were last Sunday's roast.  The wings are usually kept frozen until I have a few of them which I roast to make a special chicken gravy for celebration meals such as Easter or visitors coming to eat.  The carcass makes stock and any meat left on the bones is picked off and added to a risotto which is a perfect light lunch or late tea.  The stock of course makes soup which usually last two days... So altogether I made a 5kg chicken do 7 meals for 2 people.  ALWAYS buy a large chicken and S-T-R-E-T-C-H-I-T!!  It's more economical than buying a small one.

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Julia Child

Last night I re-watched what is turning out to be one of my most favourite films Julie and Julia.  The first time I saw the film I had no idea who Julia Child was.  Such a legend in the USA but hardly known at all in Britain.  I can speculate why, given her very exuberant personality and the very restrained British temperament of that era.  Perhaps now, we Brits are ready for Julia Child?  Inspired by the film I bought copies of two of her cookbooks.  Mastering the Art of French Cooking Vol 1 and II.

The recipes are not arranged quite as we have come to expect from modern day cookbooks and in spite of the fact that they are aimed at novice cooks, with limited knowledge, some of the recipes stretch over several pages, being quite daunting at first glance.  Do not be afraid!!

The reason for the length of the recipes is the amount of detail that has been included.  The recipes are broken down into sections, with the ingredients and the various stages of preparation in the order in which you need them and if you actually take the time to follow exactly what they say... you are guaranteed success.  I kid you not!!

I love them!  And I take a huge hat off to Mrs Child for the enormous undertaking and say Thank you, Thank you, Thank you... it is so rewarding to have a meal turn out really really well.

“I would far prefer to have things happen as they naturally do, such as the mousse refusing to leave the mold, the potatoes sticking to the skillet, the apple charlotte slowly collapsing. One of the secrets of cooking is to learn to correct something if you can, and bear with it if you cannot.” 
― Julia Child  (That's my kinda cook!!)