19 Feb 2012

Gingerbread Cake with Lemon Icing

Recently I have been making 'proper cake' and decided to have a cupcake break. I made a fabulous iced lemon curd cake the other day, but it wasn't blog worthy, which was a shame. The cake was moist with a tender crumb, the lemon curd was perfect, but I didn't make enough icing for the topping. Not to be beaten I decided to make some more icing and add this to the icing already on the cake, it was too thin and dripped off the cake too much, in the meantime the lemon curd took on a life of it's own and decided to ooze out of the cake. Shame really because when I sliced the cake and put it onto plates it looked fabulous and tasted sensational, looks definitely aren't everything.

What has the above got to do with Nigella's cake? Well, I wouldn't describe this cake as a looker, but taste wise, it's got everything going for it, providing you aren't mean with the fresh ginger and you don't over cook the cake and dry it out.

I think the lemon icing is optional, even though lemon and gingerbread are a match made in heaven, the cake still tastes wonderful if you miss this out. The downside to icing the cake is the gingerbread discolours the icing after a day, and if you want to keep this cake for a few days to give it a chance to get even stickier, the icing will need to be cut off before serving. I've given twice the amount of icing specified in the original recipe because it was a bit on the mean side and the top of the cake shows through.

Slightly adapted recipe:

You will need: large roasting tin 30 x 20 x 5cm greased and lined with parchment paper.

For the cake:

150g unsalted butter, 125 dark muscovado sugar, 200g golden syrup, 200g black treacle, 2 teaspoons finely grated fresh ginger, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 250ml milk, 2 large eggs, 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda dissolved in 2 tablespoons warm water, 300g plain flour.

For the icing:

2 tablespoon lemon juice, 350g sieved icing sugar, 2 tablespoons warm water.

1. Preheat the oven to 170°C/Gas 3.
2. In a saucepan, melt the butter with the sugar, golden syrup, treacle, ginger and cinnamon. Remove the pan from the heat and add the milk, beaten eggs and bicarbonate of soda in its water.
3. Add the flour to a bowl and pour in the liquid ingredients, beating until well mixed. Pour into the tin and bake for ¾ hour to 1 hour (I baked mine for ¾ hour) by which time the cake should be risen and firm to the touch.
4. For the icing: Sift the icing sugar, add the lemon juice, then gradually add the warm water. The icing needs to be thick. Spread over the cooled gingerbread and leave to set before cutting into slices.
5. Store the cake in an airtight tin - if you opt for not icing the cake, the cake will get stickier with storing for a few days.

15 Feb 2012

Review: Stellar Easy Lift Cast Iron Saute/Server Pan

This fabulous 24cm glossy black cast iron saute pan from Stellar Cookware is both lightweight and sturdy. The range uses a unique manufacturing technique to produce a 'thrown' cast iron pan which produces a thinner but lighter weight body. It retains the outstanding thermal properties of cast iron without the usual heaviness that's associated with cast iron pans. Stellar 'Easy lift pans' are lined with durable enamel which will never wear out.

There are two generous sized riveted stainless steel handles, a glass lid with a steam vent (unfortunately I took the photograph with the lid the wrong way up - please refer to the photograph at the end of this posting to see the steam vent), is suitable for all hob types, oven safe up to 220°C and comes with a Stellar Lifetime Guarantee. Whilst the pan is dishwasher safe, I would hand wash to keep the pan looking at it's best. The pan will look good in any kitchen and is a modern, timeless classic.

I cooked a meal on the hob to test for hotspots and the pan cooked evenly. I cut a medium chicken into portions and the pan was sufficiently large enough to feed a family of four. I cooked chicken, shallots, smoked bacon, garlic and herbs in white wine for last Sundays lunch and the pan was a complete joy to use.

Glass lids are always useful and I like to take a peek to see how the meal is progressing rather than keep lifting the lid. I was able to take the pan to the dining room and serve the meal at the table which saves using more pots and means less washing up - which is always a good thing.

Cast iron pans always look good in the kitchen but as we all know they can be heavy to lift, especially when they are loaded with food. I found the pan to be sturdy, the handles secure and the food stayed hot.

24cm Saute pan/server £40.00 and is also available in other sizes. Please find your nearest Stellar stockist here.

The capacity of the pan/server is approximately 1.5L

Thank you to Stellar Cookware for my saute server.

12 Feb 2012

Jamie Oliver's Cauliflower Cheese Soup

Love cauliflower cheese? Hopefully cauliflower cheese soup which is made with a few extra added veg, a good quality cheddar cheese and a dollop of English mustard will become one of your favourites.

It has been so cold where I live, the snowman the children next door made last Saturday, has only just started to melt. I didn't make a snowman but made this fabulous soup instead in the warmth of my house. The soup is easy to make, extremely tasty and can't be found in a carton in your local supermarket! All you need is some good bread, preferably not the plastic stuff, and you've got yourself a lovely lunch.

I made some crispy bacon to garnish the soup but the majority of it sank to the bottom of the bowl whilst I was trying to set up the camera, it was no bad thing though because the crispy bacon went with the soup beautifully and added some texture.

The recipe comes from Jamie Oliver's Cookery Book Ministry of Food.

2 carrots, 2 sticks of celery, 2 medium onions, 2 cloves of garlic, 800g cauliflower, olive oil, 200g Cheddar cheese, 2 chicken or vegetable stock cubes, salt and black pepper, 1 teaspoon English mustard.

1. Dice the carrots, celery, onions and garlic. Cut the cauliflower into florets.
2. Into a large pan add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and put over a medium heat, add the diced vegetables. Cook for 10 minutes with a lid partially placed over the pan or until the carrots have softened and the onion is lightly golden.
3. Grate the cheese. Put the stock cubes into a jug and pour in 1.8 litres of boiling water from a kettle. Add to the vegetables in the pan. Stir and bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes or so until the vegetables are cooked.
4. Remove the pan from the heat and add the cheese and mustard, season with salt and pepper. Use a hand blender and pulse until silky smooth - if using a liquidiser let the soup cool down, never put hot liquid into a liquidiser.
5. Top with more grated cheese and some crispy bacon.

5 Feb 2012

Camembert Baked in a Box

I chose my Camembert because it has a small gingham cloth under the cheese and I thought how great it looked. Cooking the cheese this way is quick, easy, delicious and perfect for Valentine's Day or in fact any day of the year.

Not very long ago I bought a Camembert and it was so smelly I actually considered stopping the car and throwing it into the nearest bin, because it made my car smell worse than an old pair of slippers - it did the same to the fridge too. The cheese in the photograph was smelly too, and it too made my car smell horrible but I learnt from the previous one, I didn't put it in the fridge and cooked it the same day.

Preheat the oven to 200°C, take the cheese out of the box and remove the inner wrapper, place back in the box, rub the top of the cheese with a clove of garlic, cut a cross in the top and pour in some white wine. I poked a few sprigs of thyme into my Camembert and then replaced the lid. Place the box onto a small baking tray and bake for 20 minutes until the cheese wobbles.

Toasted ciabiatta, french loaf, hot new potatoes, tiny cherry tomatoes, asparagus or purple sprouting broccoli all make good dippers.