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Week 52: Scottish Macaroons

Story location: Home / food_and_drink / recipe_a_week /
26/Dec/2013

I should have known that I was being a bit too ambitious with my Christmas recipe plans. After eating a stollen, a panettone and a couple of boxes of Christmas chocolates, I didn't feel like making any full sized cakes or puddings.

Emma found this recipe so after we made them I decided they could count as one of my new recipes. The filling was mashed potato mixed with icing sugar. Even after we had added all the icing sugar we had, it was still quite soft so it needed heavily chilling before it could be dipped in melted chocolate and rolling in coconut.

Scottish Macaroons

The centre was soft, not too sweet and you couldn't taste the potato. Overall they were very tasty.



Week 51: Panettone

Story location: Home / food_and_drink / recipe_a_week /
22/Dec/2013

My Christmas recipes continue with Panettone. I am a couple of days late with this because we didn't finish the stollen until today and I didn't want too many half eaten cakes in the house.

Panettone

The recipe I followed was based on several different ones and was also modified based on the ingredients I had open in the kitchen.

The dough was made by sifting 500g of flour, 100g of caster sugar, a teaspoon of yeast and a teaspoon of salt into a bowl (I used 400g of bread flour and 100g of plain flour

200ml of warmed milk, 1 tsp of vanilla essence and 2 medium eggs were beaten together then mixed with the dry ingredients to make a fairly sticky dough. This was left for several hours to rise until it had roughly doubled in size.

It was then time to mix in the butter (215g, a mixture of salted, unsalted and baking margarine) and dried fruits (240g, a mixture of sultanas, dried cherries and mixed fruit and peel).

I lined two round cake tins, with a round disk in the bottom and baking paper up the sides of the tins, standing at least 2 inches taller than the tin itself. This was an improvised panettone paper liner to support the cake as it rose.

I spooned the dough into the cake tins until it was level with the tops of the tins. I did not preheat the oven and put the cakes into the cold oven, on the middle shelf, and left them to rise, undisturbed, for several hours.

When they had started to rise again I turned the oven on to gas mark 7 and left them to bake for 35-45 minutes (the smaller one was ready first). Halfway through cooking, I brushed the tops of the cakes with melted butter and sprinkled some brown sugar on top. I then turned the oven down to gas mark 5 until the cakes were cooked and a skewer came out clean.

Panettone

This recipe was another success. It was trickier to make than the stollen, since lining the cake tins was a bit fiddly and the dough was sticky and difficult to work with, but the flavour and texture of the finished cake was good.



Week 50: Stollen

Story location: Home / food_and_drink / recipe_a_week /
15/Dec/2013

I don't think I'll be buying any supermarket stollen any more. While I have been a fan of stollen for several years, most bought ones tend to be a bit dry. When I decided to make one this year, I looked around for recipes and found several similar ones. The one I followed came from the River Cottage Cake handbook.

Stollen

I actually started making this yesterday but didn't get chance to bake it so it went in the fridge overnight. I took it out this morning and let it get to room temperature before putting it in the oven at gas mark 4 for 25-30 minutes.

Stollen

The first thing to do is to make the enriched dough. This had 500g of bread flour, 100g of melted butter, 175g of warm milk, 125g of caster sugar, 2 eggs and some yeast. This was mixed together, kneaded for a few minutes then left to double in size.

Meanwhile, 100g of dried cherries and 200g of sultanas were put in a bowl and mixed with a few tablespoons of sloe gin and the zest from an orange.

Stollen

When the bread has risen, it was knocked back and flattened to a rectangle. Some of the fruit was spread over it along with some flaked almonds. These were kneaded into the dough then the procedure was repeated until all the fruit and nuts were mixed in.

The dough was divided into 3 portions. The larger one had two marzipan 'sausages' in the middle, the smaller round ones had marzipan balls inside.

When the cakes were cooked, and while they were still warm, they were brushed with melted butter then dredged with icing sugar.

When I put the cakes in the oven I realised I had forgotten to add the cardamom but they tasted fine without. They certainly had a better texture than any shop-bought stollen I've had.



Week 50 part 1: Oven baked risotto

Story location: Home / food_and_drink / recipe_a_week /
10/Dec/2013

This is just a quick recipe and not part of the December/Christmas series of recipes, unless you count it as a possible use of leftover turkey. I've made many risottos in the past but always in a pan on the stove top. Tonight I decided to try an oven baked version.

I had already softened an onion and a leek in a pan before I decided to do this, so I put the rice, vegetables, half the grated cheese, the cooked chicken and stock in a pyrex dish. I added a pinch of salt and some chopped herbs, covered the dish with foil then put it in the oven at gas mark 6.

Chicken and leek risotto

It needed longer than the 18 minutes given in the recipe, closer to half an hour. I served it with the rest of the cheese and some freshly ground pepper.

The rice was well cooked but lacked the creamy texture which I normally get by stirring some soft cheese into the risotto right at the end (I didn't do that here because the pyrex dish wasn't big enough to safely mix it in without risking spilling). Next time I might try stirring some half-way through to see what it's like.



Week 49: Spiced Shortbread

Story location: Home / food_and_drink / recipe_a_week /
09/Dec/2013

I was unable to post a new recipe last week because I was too busy at the start of the week, and too ill at the end, but I managed to catch up today. Since we are now in december, I have decided to do some festive recipes in the run-up to Christmas.

The first is a nice quick one from the Hairy Biker's European baking book. Janhagels are a kind of spiced shortbread topped with nuts and brown sugar. I decided to have a go at making this using our new food processor, to speed up the mixing a bit.

I started with 300g of flour, 200g of light brown sugar, 200g of cold diced butter, a generous pinch of salt, a generous teaspoon of cinnamon and ½ a teaspoon of mixed spice. This went in the food processor and was pulsed until it had mixed together to form breadcrumbs.

This then got tipped into a bowl and a beaten egg was mixed in to form a dough. This got pressed into a greased and lined baking tin. The topping was made from 50g of sliced almonds and 50g of brown sugar, which was mixed together and pressed into the top.

Jan hagels (Spiced Shortbread)

The mix was baked at gas mark 4 for about 35 minutes. I'm not sure how similar these are supposed to be to traditional shortbread (which I do really like) but these had a slightly softer texture. The spice mix did give them a nice christmassy taste.

Now I've got last week's recipe sorted, I can start thinking about this week.



Week 48: Genoese Sponge

Story location: Home / food_and_drink / recipe_a_week /
27/Nov/2013

I've made ordinary sponge cakes before but this is the first time I've tried making a Genoese Sponge, where beaten eggs are used instead of baking powder to rise the sponge. I've felt that I should try making one since it's probably another cake method I should add to my repertoire.

Genoese Sponge

The recipe I used came from the River Cottage Cakes Handbook. It started with 125g of caster sugar and 4 eggs and these were beaten with an electric whisk in a bain marie until they had trebled in size. 125g of sifted flour was then folded in, followed by 75g of cooled melted butter.

The cake was baked for 25-35 minutes at gas mark 4 (the top layer was thinner and cooked faster). I think I should have reduced the cooking time because the cake had a slightly crunchy edge to it but, when eaten with the buttercream, it all went together well.



Christmas lights 2013

Story location: Home / Blog / coventry /
24/Nov/2013

The Christmas Lights were switched on in the city centre tonight. Unlike previous years, when they have had celebrity musicians present (such as Roy Wood last year and The Hoosiers a couple of years before that), this year the council tried to save a bit of money and had some local bands performing instead. As usual, the festivities took place in Broadgate.

Coventry Christmas lights 2013



Week 47: Polish Mazurka Cake

Story location: Home / food_and_drink / recipe_a_week /
21/Nov/2013

I think most people agree that the crumble topping is the best part of a fruit crumble, so a cake which is mostly crumble should be very good. My interpretation was based on two recipes but as usual I made a few changes.

Mixed berries mazurka

To make the crumble mixture, I put the flour, brown sugar and butter in a food processor and blitzed until they formed breadcrumbs. I then mixed in some ground almonds and dessicated coconut.

The fruit layer was made using a tub of berries from the bushes in our garden. This was a mixture of blackberries, blackcurrants, gooseberries and alpine strawberries. I put them in a pan with a tablespoon of water and slowly heated them to a simmer. I then added a couple of tablespoons of sloe gin mixed with cornflour and stirred this in until the fruit mixture had thickened.

I put half of the crumble layer in the bottom of a lined 8 inch tin and pressed it down. I then spread the fruit layer and finally topped with the rest of the crumble. The tin then went into the oven (gas mark 4) for about 45 minutes or so, until the top looked cooked.

I left the cake (or is it a biscuit?) to cool before slicing it and removing it from the tin.

I think that fruit crumbles work best when the fruit has a slightly sharp taste. This is probably why one of the most popular uses of rhubarb is in a crumble. Since my fruit mixture contained alpine strawberries and gooseberries (and no added sugar apart from the small amount in the sloe gin), the fruit layer had a good amount of sharpness to balance the sweetness of the crumble layer.

It's very hard to eat just one.



Windsor's Coffee Shop

Story location: Home / Blog / coventry /
14/Nov/2013

I do like a nice cup of coffee and in my last job I would regularly get a latte from the canteen and several filter coffees per day from the communal kitchen in the department. Since I'm not working at the moment, I thought I would investigate some of the coffee shops in the city centre, concentrating on independents and avoiding the big chains.

I sometimes go to Ikea where I can get a free drink using my 'family card'. I often buy a cake or a bar of chocolate (or if I am there during breakfast, a bacon sandwich) and sit and relax for half an hour or so but the coffee is fairly unremarkable and not really strong enough for my liking.

I occasionally walk down Far Gosford Street and most of the time I find myself popping into Windsor's for a take-away coffee. I usually choose either the americano or a latte. They are good value at under £2 and actually taste of coffee. The shop is run by a local charity (The Coventry Cyrenians) who provide assistance to unemployed or homeless people.

For many years I would avoid drinking coffee in cafés because it was rare to get a drinkable cup. Filter coffee would always be too weak and espresso machines weren't very common back then. I would choose a cup of tea instead. These days it is much easier to get a good cup of coffee, although a bad cup of coffee is still fairly common. There are some good independent coffee shops out there, such as Windsor's, and I'll try to make an effort to explore a few of them.



Week 46: Porridge Cake and Cauliflower Pizza

Story location: Home / food_and_drink / recipe_a_week /
12/Nov/2013

Now that we are approaching winter, I have started making porridge for breakfast. My usual approach is to put 1 cup of oats in a jug, add any dried fruit or other flavours (such as flaked almonds or shredded coconut), followed by 1½ cups of milk. I then leave this in the fridge overnight, ready to cook in the morning.

The porridge takes about 3 minutes to cook in the microwave. I don't add any sugar but I sometimes add a bit of honey.

I had spare porridge left over today (dried mango and coconut flavour). I thought I'd have a go at making a cake from it, following the same idea as the rice pudding cake. I had some 'cereal dust' from the bottom of a couple of boxes of cereal so I put that in too.

title

The end result was surprisingly similar to the rice pudding cake, with a moist, chewy and cakey texture. It's a good way of using up leftover porridge.

See more ...



Week 45: Yet more cake

Story location: Home / food_and_drink / recipe_a_week /
07/Nov/2013

It's probably wrong to make a cake only a few days after making baklava, when we still haven't finished eating it yet. I bought a couple of nets of tangerines which had been reduced to 20p because some had got a bit squashed. I took the damaged ones, put them in the food processor and used them to make Mary Berry's Spiced whole orange cake. We saw her make this cake at the Good Food Show in the summer and now was my chance to make it.

Spiced whole orange cake

I used 3 tangerines and only made a single layer. I halved the ingredients apart from the spices, since we always believe that cakes need more cinnamon than most recipes suggest. Sadly our food processor is only a tiny one so I had to make the cake by hand, blending the butter and sugar together before adding the rest of the ingredients.

Since Mary Berry is one of the judges on the Great British Bake-Off, you'd expect good things from her cake recipes. I certainly wasn't disappointed with this. If I was making this cake for more people (not just the 2 of us), I'd do it properly with the orange buttercream filling, but even without it the cake was very good.



Week 45: Pistachio and Date Baklava

Story location: Home / food_and_drink / recipe_a_week /
03/Nov/2013

I seem to be making a lot of things based on recipes from the Hairy Biker's books but that's probably because a) they are quite good books and b) I got 3 of them this year. This week's recipe is one I've been meaning to make for a while and is based on a recipe from their Pies book.

We both like baklava but don't eat it often because it is usually quite expensive to buy. They can be a bit labour intensive to make but they weren't very difficult. The main problem was handling the filo pastry without it falling apart.

Tray of Baklava

I made the filling with chopped mixed nuts, chopped pistachios and chopped dates. I cut squares of filo pastry to fit the tin then brushed the tin with melted butter. I brushed a square with melted butter, put another square on top and repeated until I had a stack of 5. I put these in the bottom of the pan, and them topped with a third of the filling.

I put a square of filo on top, brushed it with butter then a second square. I then repeated with another third of the filling and 2 more sheets of pastry and the final third of the filling.

The remaining sheets of filo were brushed with butter and stacked then put on top. I scored the top with a knife, to divide the baklava into 16 pieces. I baked it in the oven for about half an hour until the top looked crispy.

A piece of Baklava

I made a syrup using 100ml of juice from a tin of fruit, 200g of sugar and 2 tablespoons of lemon juice. After the baklava had cooled a bit I spooned the syrup over the top, pouring most of it down the score marks.

After a few weeks of cakes which have been ok but not spectacular, the baklava was a total success, tasting every bit as good as bought ones.



Week 44: Potato Bread and Tinned Fruit Cake

Story location: Home / food_and_drink / recipe_a_week /
31/Oct/2013

This week brings another bread recipe from the Hairy Biker's book. The German Potato Bread was made using equal weights of mashed potato and bread flour, with salt, yeast and a small amount of sugar added. Some of the water the potatoes were boiled in was kept back and used in the mix.

German Potato Bread

The dough was quite sticky to work with since the flour was added a bit at a time until a reasonably firm dough was achieved. The resulting bread had a good soft texture and didn't taste potatoey.

German Potato Bread

The second recipe was a bit of an experiment. I had bought a tin of apricots with the intention of using them in another recipe but I never got around to making it and the tin had been in the cupboard for several months. I decided to have a go at a simple all in one cake where the ingredients just get dumped into a bowl, mixed then poured into a cake tin.

I chopped the apricots and added them, along with the syrup, to a mixing bowl. I added just under a cup of sugar, 1 medium egg and enough self-raising flour to make a reasonable looking cake batter (this turned out to be around 1 and a half cups).

This was poured into a greased and lined cake tin and baked for around 45 minutes at gas mark 4, until a skewer came out looking clean.

Tinned Apricot Cake

The cake is very moist and has a reasonable taste. It takes next to no time to prepare - it would be much faster if a tin of chopped or sliced fruit was used instead. You could also leave out the egg since I've seen some similar recipes which don't include one.



Week 43: Rye Bread and Seasonal Fruit Cake

Story location: Home / food_and_drink / recipe_a_week /
24/Oct/2013

I did two new recipes this week. The first was a Norwegian Rye Bread from the Hairy Biker's book. Their recipe called for caraway seeds but I didn't have any of those. Instead I put some fennel seeds in the milk and strained them out when I added the milk to the flour.

Norwegian Ryebread

The bread was good, with a nice texture and flavour.

The second recipe was from the River Cottage Cake book. It was described as a seasonal Fresh Fruit Cake. It was packed with fruit and nuts: I used apples, plums, dried apricots and sultanas, and grated coconut, and a mixture of ground almonds and chopped mixed nuts. Along with the flour and oats, it's probably close to being a nutritionally complete cake.

Fruit Cake

The photo doesn't really do it justice but the cake did come out looking a strange purple/brown colour. The texture was a bit like a soft flapjack instead of being like a traditional fruit cake. The mixture was enough to make 3 cakes - I kept one out to eat, put one in the freezer and one in the fridge. I think the texture improved on the one which had been in the fridge for a couple of days.



Week 42: Sesame Slice

Story location: Home / food_and_drink / recipe_a_week /
18/Oct/2013

This week's recipe was based on a Lebanese sesame cake. It consists of a biscuit layer on the bottom with a cake layer above.

To make the biscuit layer, mix together 100g of honey, 100g of softened butter and 150g of wholemeal flour and press into a lined cake tin. Bake for 15 minutes at gas mark 4.

To make the upper cake layer, beat 2 eggs then add 50g of dessicated coconut, 50g of sesame seeds, 50g of brown sugar, some vanilla essence and seeds from a couple of cardamom pods. Add 100g of flour and mix to a paste. Spread this over the biscuit base and cook for another 15 minutes.

Sesame Slice

The biscuit base might work in a cheesecake but I was a bit disappointed by the overall flavour of the cake. It tasted a bit bland and could probably do with being a bit sweeter. A layer of sesame seeds sprinkled on top might also improve the taste.