Friday, 19 February 2010

Cakes for Haiti

I'm making cakes for a fundraiser on Sunday at the Liverpool Palm House in Sefton Park. It's to raise money for Haiti. If you are in Liverpool on Sunday, pop in and support them, between 1pm and 4pm on the 21st February 2010. I've made 2 dozen little lemon cupcakes, iced and decorated (which is NOT my forte but they'll taste nice!).



250g butter, softened
250g caster sugar
grated zest of 1 lemon (unwaxed or scrub it first)
4 eggs
300g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder

For the lemon icing:
150g butter, softened
350g icing sugar, sifted
grated zest of 1 lemon (unwaxed or scrub it first)
juice of 1 lemon

Preheat the oven to 180C/GM4. Line a bun or fairy cake tin with cases. Either, cream butter and sugar together until thick and creamy and then add eggs, zest of 1 lemon and beat well. Fold in flour and baking powder. Or, stick the lot in a food processor and whizz together. I usually add a splash of milk to make a nice dropping consistency. If using fairy cake cases - this amount will make about 2 dozen. If you are using muffin cases - this amount will make about 1 dozen. Divide your mixture into whatever cases you are using and then put into the oven for approximately 15 minutes for the small cases and 20 for the large ones. I usually judge it by how golden they are and whether they have a nice springiness when pressed. Turn out on a wire rack and leave to cool.
Meanwhile cream butter (by hand or processor), then add zest and start sifting in the icing sugar, mixing well. Add the lemon juice and cream well. Once the cakes are cool, add the icing in nice dollops and then decorate as you please. I used little lemon jellies but sugar flowers would be very pretty.

Make some for your fundraiser or just for your friends!

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Comfort Food

What's your ideal comfort food? Mine invariably involves cheese and carbohydrates in one form or another. Tonight it's macaroni cheese with leeks and ham, made with the odds and bits from the cheese box in the fridge. Topped with sliced tomatoes and baked til golden, I can kid myself that with the leeks and the tomatoes it's almost good for me!

For the sauce:
750ml/ 1pint 7 floz milk
50g/ 2oz unsalted butter plus extra for greasing oven dish
50g/ 2oz plain flour
175g / 6oz of strong cheese (cheddar or whatever's in your fridge!), grated
1/2 tsp English mustard
salt and white pepper
a grating of fresh nutmeg

300g/10oz macaroni
4 sliced ham, diced (or you can use bacon)
4 leeks, halved and sliced thinly
50g / 2oz butter
2 tomatoes
50g/2oz Parmesan, grated

Heat oven to 200C/400F/ Gas 6. Fill a large saucepan with water and put on a high heat to boil. Make the cheese sauce - I favour the all-in-one method - combine milk, butter & flour together in a pan and slowly bring to the simmer while whisking. Allow to simmer gently for 5 minute to cook out the flour, stirring to prevent it catching. Season well with salt, pepper & nutmeg. Remove off the heat and stir in the grated cheese and mustard. Set aside. The water should be boiling for the past now, add a good pinch of salt and the macaroni and cook for about 8 minutes, so it is still al dente. Rinse under cold water to prevent sticking and drain well. Heat remaining butter in a shallow pan and add leeks. Saute for 5-6 minutes until the leeks soften and start to turn gently golden. Add ham and cook for another minute. Stir into cheese sauce and add macaroni. Combine well and then turn into a shallow, greased ovenproof dish. Scatter with Parmesan and layer over sliced tomatoes. Put in the oven for 20 minutes until golden and bubbling.

Serves 4.

I served this with a watercress salad, which my Dad managed to avoid eating....still it was very comforting on a cold and dreary February evening.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Pancake Day

Been a quiet on the blog front lately - all sorts of life changes including moving house, going part time at work, looking after my dad etc etc. BUT, now I'm back and ready to share lots of lovely recipes. Today is Shrove Tuesday, the last feast day before Lent and an opportunity to use up all the naughty goodies in your larder before 40 days of fasting. For most folk these days that means giving up alcohol or chocolate rather than the more puritanical abandonment of fats, eggs and meat. However, it's always a good excuse for a pancake! So many cultures and cuisines have pancakes in their repertoire, the Russian blini, French crepe, Korean pajeon and so on. Old fashioned but classic, the British pancake remains my favourite.

Take 110g / 4oz plain flour and sift into a bowl with a pinch of salt. Make a well and add 2 eggs and start to mix together. Start adding the liquid - 200ml/7fl oz milk mixed with 75ml/3fl oz water (I like to add soda water if I have it in - adds more air to the mixture), whisking well. Don't worry about lumps, they will disappear as you whisk. You should end up with a smooth thin cream. At this point I like to set the mix, covered, aside for 30 minutes. Melt 50g/2oz butter in a 7 inch frying pan and then once melted, pour into a bowl and set aside to use to lubricate the pan before making each pancake. Now, get the pan really hot, then turn down the heat to medium. Add a ladleful of pancake mix - this is the tester and so can be eaten by the cook! Swirl the mixture around the pan to coat the base evenly. It will only take half a minute and you will see the batter forming a skin on the visible side. Flip the pancake - with a palette knife if you're not feeling brave or go for the full toss! Cook for another 10 seconds or so and then transfer to a warm plate. Continue the process, layering up the pancakes with greasproof paper or kitchen towel. Serve each pancake sprinkled with sugar and a squeeze of lemon and rolled up. Yum! Makes about 12.