Saturday, 23 October 2010

Carrot and Lentil Soup

This is my favourite soup - very quick and easy to make, very tasty - and filling too because of the lentils.

Fry onion, celery and garlic in a little oil for a few minutes, then add carrot and fry for a bit longer until it's warmed through.

Pour in vegetable stock, red split peas and some pepper, and give a good stir. Bring just to the boil then simmer gently, covered for 20-30 minutes.

When the carrots are soft and the soup is pulpy, it's ready.

I ate mine with a slice of butter on top. Tonight I reheated some of the leftover soup (it always tastes nicer the next day) and added a blob of sour cream and some fried mushrooms. Very tasty!!!

1 onion, chopped
1 celery stick, chopped
3 large carrots, peeled and sliced or chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
70 g split red peas, rinsed
700 ml vegetable stock

Serves 2 generously

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Choc Mint-topped Chocolate Cake

My middle son asked for a chocolate birthday cake topped with cream and mint chocolate. I thought a simple cream topping needed a cake that was a bit more rich and moist than my other chocolate birthday cake.

I used a recipe from 'Apples for Jam' that I hadn't tried before called simply 'Chocolate cake with icing' but skipped the icing part.

Melt the butter in a pan, then add chopped up dark chocolate and cocoa powder and stir until all melted together. Remove from heat.

In a medium bowl beat the egg whites until creamy and stiff.

In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks until creamy, then beat in the sugar. Add the melted chocolate mixture a little at a time, mixing until smooth.

Carefully fold in beaten egg whites, mixing until completely incorporated.

Scrape out into buttered and floured 24 cm springform pan (I buttered and base-lined my tin, and mine was 22 cm) and cook at 180 C for 30 - 35 min.

Cool the cake completely in the pan before turning out. I'm not sure if mine puffed up as much as it should have - I'm never very good at folding in whipped egg whites - but it was nice anyway!

I topped it with beaten cream and roughly chopped mint Aero. Yum!

180 g unsalted butter
50 g dark chocolate
30 g cocoa powder
3 eggs, separated
180 g caster sugar
125 g flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
3 tbsp milk

24 cm springform tin

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Chocolate Cake with Strawberries and Cream

A variation on the chocolate birthday cake - this is my little son's birthday cake for his actual birthday (rather than his party cake). It is the same recipe as the Chocolate Cake with Hundreds and Thousands but this time I cut it in half horizontally and put cream and strawberries in the middle. Then I topped it with chocolate icing and some halved strawberries.

It was very nice, but in future I would use a different recipe for slicing in halves, at this was difficult to cut without it falling apart. Because of the generous cracks in the top. Thank goodness for gooey chocolate icing that glued it all back together!

Friday, 8 October 2010

Chocolate Cake with Hundreds and Thousands

It's birthday cake-making time here, this was the birthday party cake for the smallest boy in the house. A chocolate cake with chocolate icing and hundreds and thousands (a bit like a huge chocolate freckle).

This is the recipe I usually use if I'm asked to make a chocolate birthday cake. It uses cocoa powder, is quick and easy and not expensive. You just put all the ingredients in a food processor or mixer, then whizz it all up.

If you don't have a mixer or food processor, put everything in a big bowl and beat everything together by hand - that's how I always used to do it. Just make sure the butter is very soft or you'll be there for weeks.

All combined...

...ready for the cake tin (buttered and base lined). My tin is 22 cm. Cook at 170 or 180 C depending on how fierce your oven is.

After about 55 minutes (stick a skewer or sharp knife in the middle part to check it's cooked right through) take it out of the oven and leave to cool.

This cake always gets cracks in the top especially if you use a food processor, I've found. I choose to see this as a good thing, because it means that the icing gets right down into the cake. It's best to use a thickish icing so the cracks don't show.

I spread on some chocolate icing, then decided to get fancy and try a baking paper cut-out number. This was all done while eleven 6- and 7-year-olds rampaged around the house, so I was a bit crazy.
It took me about an hour to decorate the cake as I kept having to go and supervise children and tell them to stop running etc. Luckily it was ready just in time!

Putting hundreds and thousands on a dome-topped cake is a very tricky thing to do. They all roll and bounce around the place. I'm going to be finding them all over the house for months to come.

The cake was a big success...

Where did it all go?

185 g butter, very soft
330 g (1 1/2 cups) caster sugar
3 eggs
225 g (1 1/2 cups) self-raising flour
110 g (3/4 cups) plain flour
50 g (1/2 cup) cocoa powder
250 ml (1 cup) warm/hot water

Chocolate icing
65 g butter (ie the rest of the 250 g block)
3 tbsp milk
25 g cocoa powder, sifted
22g g icing sugar, sifted (or use icing mixture and skip the sifting)

Place butter and milk in a small pan and heat gently until butter is melted. Pour into a large bowl and blend in cocoa powder. Stir in icing sugar and beat until smooth. Either use immediately to give a smooth, glossy finish or allow to thicken for a buttercream-type finish. If it gets too thick, add a little more milk. (For a cake with cracks, like this one, make sure the icing is thick enough to fill in the cracks before spreading over.)

Saturday, 4 September 2010

Chocolate and Coconut Slice

I recently found Brittany's blog Les rêves d'une boulangère because she kindly left a comment on one of my posts. There are lots of recipes on her blog I would love to try, and this is the one that I could easily make straight away because I had all the ingredients.

Combine butter, brown sugar, egg and vanilla extract in a bowl. Sift in flour and cocoa.

Stir it all together with the desiccated coconut.

Spread the mixture into a lined 19 x 29 cm pan - mine was a little smaller. Put in a 180 C oven (Brittany uses 160 C fan forced) for around 30 minutes - I took mine out at 25 minutes.

Leave to cool then make some icing by sifting cocoa and sugar into a bowl, adding melted butter and a little hot water and stirring it all together.

Spread icing over the the slice and sprinkle on some extra coconut.

Cut into slices and share around! Not overly sweet or chocolatey, just perfect as a little treat with a cup of tea. I have to admit I ate more than my fair share of these!

125 g butter, melted
1 cup brown sugar (packed, although I didn't pack mine in to reduce sweetness)
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract (I missed this out)
1/2 cup plain flour
1/4 cup self-raising flour
2 tbsp cocoa powder
1/2 cup desiccated coconut
1 cup icing sugar
2 tbsp cocoa powder
10 g butter, melted
1 1/2 tbsp hot water

Here is Brittany's original post for this recipe

There's another chocolatey slice recipe here on my blog that's also pretty good.

Sunday, 29 August 2010

Cheese and Onion Omelette

I cooked myself lunch again! This is inspired by another Sophie Dahl recipe, and is nothing particularly adventurous, but I have to admit to never having before made a fluffy omelette with a filling.

The sprig of jasmine is in the photo because - hooray! spring must be on its way - the jasmine is blooming at last. I had to put it outside after lunch because I had started sneezing. Spring brings warmer weather, but unfortunately hay fever too....

Gently fry some chopped red onion in some olive oil, then remove it from the pan. I'm using my mini frying pan which I bought really cheaply at the supermarket.

Beat the eggs and add salt and pepper. Add a tiny bit of oil to the pan and pour in the eggs. Let them sit there for half a minute, then add grated or broken up pieces of cheese.

As the cheese starts to melt, add the cooked onion then carefully fold the omelette in half with a spatula.

Oops! not particularly successful, but never mind - I'll just turn it over again and cook the other side in a minute.

Cooking the other side now - I don't like runny egg.

Ready to eat - a hot and filling lunch.

Original recipe from Sophie Dahl...

half a small red onion
2 large eggs
salt and pepper
50 g Red Leicester cheese or any sharp, hard cheddar
mustard to serve if liked

Friday, 6 August 2010

Tofu and Cabbage Stir-Fry

This was a day of 'firsts' for me - I cooked tofu for the first time, and I also cooked myself some lunch for the first time (I usually have a toasted cheese sandwich, but I don't think that counts as cooking!).

I used a Sophie Dahl recipe - Lily's stir fry with tofu - as a guide.

Heat sesame oil or other stir-fry type oil in a large pan or wok. Add shredded cabbage and onion and fry for a few minutes. I find sesame oil a bit pongy, and I have since used peanut oil with good results - maybe the dish loses a little flavour but I prefer the low-smell option.

Add chopped tofu, then a splash of soy sauce, another splash of mirin or apple cider vinegar...

...some grated carrot and some green veg - I didn't have any other vegies, so I used parsley instead.
Add some sesame seeds and some coriander if you have it.

I really enjoyed this - so tasty and quite filling too. It had never occurred to me to make a stir-fry without rice or noodles. A really quick and easy lunch.

Original recipe, serves 2...

2 tbsp sesame oil/peanut oil
1 cup shredded cabbage
1/2 cup chopped onion
150 g firm tofu, cubed
1 tbsp tamari or soy sauce
1 tsp mirin or apple cider vinegar
1 cup coarsely grated carrot
i cup coarsely grated zucchini
1 cup snow peas or bean sprouts
1 tbsp sesame seds
handful of chopped coriander

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Old-Fashioned Chocolate Cake

Birthday cake time again, and this time it's Nigella's Old-Fashioned Chocolate Cake. I hadn't ever made this one before, and wanted to try it out.

Put the cake ingredients in a food processor (flour, sugar, baking powder, bicarb, cocoa, soft butter, eggs, vanilla and sour cream) and whizz them all up.

Before I had a food processor I used to hate it when recipes said things like that ('Thanks - I don't have a food processor!') but you can make it without one - see the recipe on Nigella's website.

Mine became a very thick mixture - so I added a couple of tablespoons of milk and blitzed it again.

Still very thick but a bit more smooth-looking. I'm not sure why it was originally so thick - maybe something to do with sour cream in Australia being very solid?

Divide mixture between two greased and base-lined cake pans and spread out as evenly as you can. Cook at 180 C for 20 minutes or so. The recipe says 25 to 35 minutes. Mine took just over 20 minutes.

When cooled down, remove from pans. One of my cakes was a bit bigger than the other, but never mind!

For the icing, melt chocolate and butter in a bowl over a pan of simmering water. When it's cooled down a bit, add the golden syrup, sour cream and vanilla, then mix together.

Put the chocolatey mixture into the food processor with the icing sugar and whizz it up.

(For non-food-processor-owners, sift the icing sugar into the choc/butter/cream mixture and beat it all together.)

Icing ready to spread on the cake.

Spread about a third of the icing on the first sponge, then put the other sponge on top.

Use the rest of the icing to cover the top and sides of the cake. The 'lines' on the top was my middle son's idea - he also decorated the cake with Smarties.

(Smarties are 'old-fashioned' enough for this cake I think - although I always forget how dull the colours are now that they've stopped using artificial colours. I think they should sell both types so people like me can use them for colourful birthday cake decorating!)

Ready for the birthday celebration...

Wow the icing is full-on! I know many bloggers have made this cake before, and I'll be checking to what others thought of the recipe.

Everyone in my family enjoyed this cake (it's chocolate cake after all) but I'm not sure I'd use this recipe again. I feel I could have made a similar cake using a more basic recipe using cocoa powder and no sour cream, but maybe this is down to a combination of my cooking abilities and personal taste!

I much preferred the Honey Bee Cake and Malteser Cake and would definitely make either of those again.

I suggested to everyone that if I made this cake again I would use half the amount of the icing - my husband agreed (and he is a real sweet-tooth!) but my children were horrified by the thought!

The recipe for the cake is here on Nigella's website.