Delicious Magazine’s Rhubarb & Amaretti Cake with Orange and Rosemary Glaze

Two things. I have no truck with recipes and menu items which list every bloody single ingredient in the headline, as Delicious Magazine does with today’s post. Chrissake, ‘Rhubarb & Amaretti Cake’ would do, and the orange and rosemary hoo-haa will come as a nice surprise. It happens on shows like Masterchef too;  some poor idiot presents ‘Lamb Chops Grilled Over Coal with Locally Sourced Wild Garlic Pesto, Half-Decent Carrots Glazed With Honey, Some Random Mini-Herbs and A Sauce Made of Hope and Desperation. Oh, And Salt And Pepper’. Menus that bang on about ‘Hand-Gathered Heart of Veal With Tear-Infused Milk Sauce And New Potatoes Harvested by Artisan Pickers, Devastated Smear of Something Red Seasoned with Cuticles and Diner’s Regret’.

No. I will not have it.

Second thing is I hate Amaretti. I can’t bear the almondy-ness of it, and I can trace this directly back to a trip I took to Dresden and surrounds back in 2001, spent with a German friend and her family, and where the drink of choice for her (and thus for me) was Amaretto and apple juice. All weekend. Non-stop. Literally one meal all weekend, but litres of alcoholic almonds. Cannot bear the stuff now and the stench of Amaretti biscuits just takes me back to the weekend of sugary booze and constant hunger.

Despite all the above I made the cake anyway and it was good. Even I, legendary Amaretti hater, managed to down a good slab of it. It’s quite a nice thing to eat whilst rhubarb is in season though I will call Delicious Magazine out on headlining the rhubarb content as it is essentially just decorative rather than offering anything that might reasonably be called ‘rhubarb cake’.

I sound grumpy, huh. I shouldn’t be. I’m just back from the pool and so I smell deliciously of chlorine. It’s over 20C and there are only three mobs of builders working concurrently on three separate houses in my immediate vicinity. It’s practically silent around here with just the sound of one pneumatic drill and three jackhammers on the go.

Right.

Gather:

225g unsalted butter, softened

200g golden caster sugar

1 teaspoon good vanilla extract (I used vanilla paste)

4 medium eggs, beaten

Grated zest of 2 oranges

200g ground almonds

50g plain flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

8 Amaretti, broken into chunks (I used soft Amaretti – they were fine)

1-2 sticks of rhubarb, trimmed, cut into 6cm pieces, then halved lengthways to give you 12-16 lengths or so WHATEVER DOESN’T MATTER DO WHAT YOU LIKE I DON’T CARE

Granulated sugar, to sprinkle

For the glaze:

Juice of 1 orange

1 fresh rosemary sprig

20g granulated sugar

Squeeze of lemon juice (I didn’t use)

Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan and grease a 23cm loose-bottomed tart or cake tin, lining the base with baking paper.

Rhu0

Put the butter and sugar in your mixer and beat until it’s light and fluffy. If it’s not going light and fluffy just add the vanilla early on and it’ll help push things along.

Rhu1

Add the eggs one by one, the recipe says, which is fucking annoying as they also want them beaten. I just chucked the whole eggs in and whazzed the mixer up to warp speed. Was fine, Looked like sick, as demonstrated below, and as all good cakes should at some point in their journey towards death by teeth and stomach acids. Just make sure you beat well between eggy additions, get them incorporated nicely and don’t leave any swirls of yolk or white floating in the mix.

Rhu2

Then take the bowl from the mixer stand and gently incorporate your flour, orange zest, ground almonds and baking powder.Rhu3Then add the Amaretti chunks. Should look a bit like the below.Rhu4The recipe then says ‘pour the mix into the cake or tart tin’. If you can get a mixture that looks like the above to pour then great for you but I had to fuss and push and cajole the bastarding stuff into my tart tin. And I had enough left over for a whole other cake.

Anyway once it’s in, however you managed it, level the top and gently push in the rhubarb pieces in some kind of pattern. Leave about two-thirds uncovered as they should sink a bit when in the oven.

Chuck the whole thing into the oven for 35-40 mins or until a skewer comes out clean.Rhu5Whilst it’s in the oven make the syrup by chucking all ingredients into a little saucepan, bringing to a simmer and bubble it quite rapidly for 4-5 mins till it thickens a bit.  Rhu6Let the cake cool, once out of the oven. Rhu7Drizzle over the syrup. Might take a few goes to do this as nothing’s boiling hot and thus at peak permeability. Just be patient, yo.Rhu8Below is NewHuman demonstrating his best effort at the ‘hide’ part of Hide and Seek. I’m hoping for excellent sporting skills as general academic cleverness is looking increasingly out of reach.Rhu10And below you’ll find the idiot dog who this morning managed to open up her front leg in the most dangerous way yet incurred a miniscule actual skin-slice of approximately 7.5mm in length. Looks like nothing, is something quite serious. And expensive. And she’s mad at me for the cone of shame but she has no self control when it comes to licking said pricey wound so bugger her, she’s staying coned up till I say so.Rhu11

Below is cake. Almondy. Served with vanilla cream. Eat. Enjoy.

Rhu9

Potted Shrimp

Hullo there. I’ve been your absent friend. Or maybe just your absent. Who knows. Anyway, excuses are as follows:

(i) Laziness – two categories: In General and In Respect of the Blog

(ii) Lack of Things to Blog – I had a load of pics ready to blog cauliflower cheese but then I changed my mind on blogging that and didn’t cook anything blog-worthy for ages

(iii) Australia. Spent most of March and a little bit of April back home, traipsing from West to East and ending with some delicious time in Coolum after an unusual (in Aussie terms at least) inland trip driving from Sydney through the middle of NSW, the Narrabri plains and the Darling Downs of Queensland before ending up on the Sunshine Coast.

(iv) Laziness. Again. Post-return.

(v) Australia, MK II. I had to head home rather fast for a short trip about two weeks after getting back.

(vi) Lovely weather in England. OMG CAN YOU BLOODY BELIEVE IT.

Anyway here I am and here is a recipe for potted shrimp. Potted shrimp is something I spent my first ten years in London avoiding (yesterday having been my FIFTEEN YEAR anniversary of moving here, Jesus Christ), the congealed clarified butter on the top somehow offputting in perceived mouth-feel in the same way peanut butter can hijack your palate by superglue-ing your tongue to the top of your mouth.

Clearly I eventually got over my stupid self and tried some potted shrimp and they are a thing of simple beauty. I don’t know what baby brown prawns you’d use in Australia – do we even bother with prawns that small? No idea. Maybe a nicely chopped normal prawn treated the same way might do? If you try, let me know.

Regardless, this is a really really easy and really really nice thing to do if you’re having people over. As it can all be done the day before you just whip the shrimp out on the day, with some fancy toasted brown sourdough on the side, and absorb the compliments faster than the UK Tory government does tax evading business partners.

I looked at a few recipes online and kind of made this one up as an amalgam of them all, using Felicity Cloake’s always-amazing Guardian column as the main resource.

Right.

To serve 4 generously, gather:

200g unsalted butter
Juice of around 1/4-1/2 lemon, to taste
¼ teaspoon nutmeg, grated
¼ teaspoon white pepper (I didn’t have so used finely ground black)
Around 200g cooked and peeled brown shrimps
Cayenne pepper, to serve (I didn’t have, so didn’t use, I sprinkled a tiny amount of sweet smoked paprika on instead. Was nice).

In a saucepan melt the butter over a gentle heat till it comes to a simmer.
As you can see above, it starts kind of golden and opaque, creamy even. Keep going. Keep an eye on this as if you let it burn you’ve ruined it.

Don’t let it burn, yo. Above is how it looks when done – less golden yellow, slightly darker and the vaguest hint of dark flecks in the liquid. It took mine about ten minutes to get to this stage. Ten minutes of watching more carefully than I do NewHuman when he scales some local feature of great height.

Strain it through some muslin or a couple of pieces of kitchen towel.
Isn’t it pretty? Congratulations – you just clarified butter!

Pour about two-thirds back into the saucepan (which you’ve carefully wiped out), reserving the rest. Add the lemon juice, grated nutmeg and a pinch of salt and simmer VERY GENTLY for 5 minutes or so.

Let it cool a bit.

Put your shrimp into your pots/ramekins. Pat them down quite firmly, possibly more firmly than they might like. When the butter is still just warm but not set, spoon it over the shrimp and press down again. You really need to press them down with a spoon quite nicely as otherwise you leave too many gaps and tunnels for the clarified butter topping to escape down.

Stick ’em in the fridge for about 30 minutes.
Then add the reserved butter on top, equally divided between pots. Back into the fridge till set! This was literally the road to Hanging Rock, near Nundle, NSW. I love Nundle. I loved it the moment I met it. If you ever go that way, drop in.

Anyway, the boys walked to Hanging Rock and they even made it back alive which is something I believe isn’t guaranteed so hey ho and woohoo and all that.
Oh, beloved Coolum…..*dies of longing*

Ok – below is the done deal, halfway through being consumed. Bloody delicious. Perfect for English spring weather. Get potting.

Bill Granger’s Brownies

We’ve had better weeks, to be honest. NewHuman has an infection and is subject to regular attempts by me to push foul, fluorescent-yellow ‘banana’ (banana my ass. It’s no more banana than Trump’s preferred shade of hair dye) flavoured antibiotics into him. He was sent home from nursery today looking very sorry for himself so has been packed off to bed. Again. Spends a lot of time there at the moment. He wants to perk up soon, we are due to leave for Oz in just over a week and I will NOT countenance any delay to our departure.

Worse, oh worse, has been the dog, who had an odd lump biopsied and which came back as BAD TERRIBLY BAD LUMP from the lab, so was (relatively) rushed into surgery yesterday and had it removed. She’s achieving impressive levels of sooky la-la and is enjoying her soft-food diet and painkilling drugs. I can’t stop cuddling her.

Anyway, bring on the holiday and sunshine.

Also, bring on the non-diet period of time during which I’ll eat whatever the hell I want. Speaking of, I had a weekend off Hell Diet and lunch guests coming both Saturday and Sunday. As usual I left it rather late to decide what to cook when, last minute, a friend (hiya Riri!) posted a recipe on Twitter advocating World’s Best Brownies. I was determined to test the theory.

They’re bloody amazing. Seriously. Obviously cause they’re Bill Granger and, thus, Australian. My parochialism gets noticeably worse the closer to a trip home I get.

Either way, make these. Literal piece of piss to bake and crazy delicious. I should say I had a go at cooking these on the convection setting of the microwave (the oven being otherwise occupied by a disconcertingly large porchetta). They came out great despite that, so imagine the glory if you did them properly. Go on.

*drools*

Right. Preheat your oven to 160C.

Gather:

350g caster sugar (I used 300g)

80g cocoa powder (I used 50g cocoa and 40g drinking cocoa cause I ran out of proper cocoa)

60g plain flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

200g butter, melted (unsalted, preferably. I used salted)

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

4 eggs, lightly beaten

200g dark chocolate, roughly chopped

Grease and line a square tin, about 22cm square or so.Combine the flour, cocoa, sugar and baking powder. Give them a whisk together.

Melt the butter

Chop the chocolate

Lightly beat the eggs and vanilla
Mix the eggs and vanilla into the dry ingredients, then mix through the butter.Then stir through the chocolate.
Cry a little bit for the dog, the NewHuman and that new, unexplained bump on your face that must basically be an age-wart.Pour into your greased and lined tin and chuck it in the oven for 40-45 mins. This seems a long time to me, but then again the oven temp is fairly low and even with the mental microwaving I involved myself in it never dried out. Meh, what do I know.
Take the done thing out of the oven and let cool in the tin before slicing.Dog now looks like a Kray twin. Suppose it’s not a bad look for a dog who needs to live a successful life on the hard streets of London.

Anyway below is a brownie, covered in double cream (half fat, of course, I’m not entirely stupid, only mostly stupid). Rapturous. Riri was right.

Cheat’s Shortbread (Australian Women’s Weekly)

It’s half-term here in England, some weird thing where kids get ANOTHER week off during term time and still get holidays at the end of term. I’ve never understood it. It’s mostly packed with activities (and activity places packed) as a result of the desperate planning of hordes of parents who are forced to waste their holiday allowance on the bloody thing, and who fear the consequence of 5 days of non-school based boredom. Because we are wankers and send NewHuman to a private nursery school which observes this mad tradition, despite the children there not actually being at school and being under the age of 5, we suffer the same.

This morning I’ve walked NewHuman about 1km to the bus stop, holding my hand the whole way. Sounds easy. Isn’t. Then I got him to wait for the right bus without getting on the previous 3 that went by first, then I hauled him off after only pressing the bell 3 times and THEN I marched him to the dentist where all my endless prep (‘The dentist is fun! His name is Dave! He has a big chair! He’ll count your teeth!) totally paid off. Then we walked to the taxi rank where I wrangled him into a cab despite him having a monumental shitfit in a nice solid pile of bird crap because the taxi we were getting into wasn’t yellow.

Then I kept him locked down in a seatbelt despite further shitfits because he’d tossed his matchbox car in temper and now no longer had it. Then I finagled my way into his father’s office (also his grandfather and grandmother’s office) in Soho and he took a tour of the wider staff population whilst I enjoyed 5 quiet minutes to myself having a very long wee in the staff loo. He exited the office munching on a chocolate biscuit. Good post-dental practice.

Then, this time with his father’s help, we managed to get him through the mean streets of Soho into an establishment serving food where he sat in a seat, not a highchair, and pretty much ate enough to qualify for lunch, ruining only his father’s jeans in the process. My ambitious plans for riding the bus home from Regent Street took a backseat, much like we did as we bundled him into his second cab of the day – lucky sod – and we finally got home again about an hour after naptime was due to start.

I have, not at all unrelatedly, decided today is the day to test run the magic medicine that should help him sleep on the plane home to Oz in March. He’s just had a dose and I’ll go up and check when this blog is done. Right now I can hear him singing endless verses of ‘Wheels on the Bus’ so hopes are not high.

So, I get points for taking him to the dentist and actually being able to be examined, and for accessing multiple forms of transport (not counting the various tubes we caught yesterday) and for a trip into town. Lost points for cabbing there and back and for being too tired to get him home on the bus. And for what is, essentially and hopefully, drugging him to blissful sleep.

Evens out in the end.

Anyway, he’s been increasingly involved in the kitchen whenever I’m cooking as far as I let him. This shortbread is a good thing to let kids help with as it is hard to ruin, although we did manage to ruin it this time, and is easy, fast, and pretty delicious without the usual faff that shortbread requires.

It’s Australian Women’s Weekly, of course. They call it ‘melt and mix’ shortbread. I call it cheat’s.

Pre-heat your oven to 180C (170C fan) – a moderate oven – and gather:

  • 250g butter
  • 13 cup icing sugar
  • 13 cup cornflour
  • 14 cup sugar (I used caster)
  • 12 teaspoon good quality vanilla extract
  • 2 13 cups plain flour

Melt the butter in a small saucepan and let cool. It says to let cool. I just let the heat die off a little.
The above is a great book. Full of shit recipes for stuff you’d never make but I truly do love it. Right. Having mixed together your sugars (icing and caster) and cornflower, then vanilla, drizzle in the melted butter. This is where we ruined the shortbread. I lost at least 50g of butter through dint of NewHuman ‘helping’. You really do need the whole amount. Please don’t spill it.
You mix and mix till it goes kind of thick. See? It’s kind of roux-y but then settles back to smooth if you don’t agitate it. Get it to that stage and you’re good to go.
Then mix in the flour.After a good spin by the electric mixer it’ll look something like the above.
Using a metal spoon, bring it all together till it looks a little like the above, albeit ideally very slightly less dry. In a well-buttered tin of around 20cm x 30cm or so – no need to be too specific – press it down well. Usually it isn’t lumpy, it presses down lovely and smooth.

Not this time. Not my fault.
Score it lightly but properly into squares, and then use a fork as seen above.

Into the oven for about 30 minutes till it’s a light golden colour all over.

Take it out and, whilst it is still warm, cut properly along the score lines.

Let it cool in the tin.

If you want you could sprinkle some caster sugar over the top whilst it’s still warm. I didn’t bother this time. Above is NH enjoying his piece. The rest went to the boyfriend’s office, bit embarrassingly as it wasn’t as good as it should be.

Still tasty. V good thing to make if people call and say, ‘just nearby, fancy a visit?’ and you don’t but can’t say no and don’t have anything but slightly rotten rocket leaves and one sad leftover Xmas chocolate left in the house. For example.

Bloody kid is still awake up there, having moved onto Old McDonald’s Stupid Farm. Can’t be much fun, farming stupid.

Ricotta Fritters a la Jamie Oliver

Morning.

NewHuman is a scabby mess but, importantly, is no longer contagious so has been unceremoniously packed off to nursery with an arguably indecent level of haste on my part. My work in the West of England has finished and I’m now at home, Doing Chores, until we take off for Australia in March. The washing machine is beeping rudely at me, indicating it wants emptying, and the dog is currently looking at me with eyes so liquid with desire for a park run that she may well flood the sitting room with tears.

My contract ended at exactly the same time as the neighbours began a loft extension so my days at home are now soundtracked by thumping, crash-bangs and builder’s farts. It’s not that different to a day spent at home with NewHuman, to be fair.

On hell diet (which is, btw, only vaguely successful despite me eating not a great deal other than flavoured air most days, bastarding malfunctioning metabolism) I am constantly on the lookout for new ways to eat not-much. These fritters are yum, a recipe from Jamie Oliver’s over-ambitious ’15 Minute Meals’ regime, and he serves them with a grated courgette salad and a spicy tomato sauce. You can google both those if you want, but I’m only blogging the fritters cause (i) they’re pretty damn good, (ii) I’m a lazy cow, and (iii) I think they go with lots of other things, not just what Jamie decrees.

Gather:

  • 1 large free-range egg
  • 400 g ricotta cheese
  • a quarter of a whole nutmeg, for grating
  • 1 lemon
  • 40 g Parmesan cheese
  • 1 heaped tablespoon plain flour
  • olive oil

You’ll also want a frypan and maybe a warmed plate with a piece of kitchen towel on it, at your disposal.

Oh, and seasoning. Lots.

Into a bowl dump the ricotta and the egg and mix well. It’ll go surprisingly, pleasingly yellow considering the ratio of cheese to egg. That’s assuming of course you’ve used an egg from a happy, free-range chicken and you aren’t some bastard who still (HOW DARE YOU) uses caged chicken eggs.
Then grate in the nutmeg and the lemon zest. I dialled down a little on the zest front as I was keeping NewHuman in mind but really I didn’t have to. He was all over these fritters like a rash. A RASH. HA. *pox-themed cries* Then tip in the cheese. No harm getting generous in respect of the grams advised by the recipe. I did. Was good.
Then add the flour. Beat it well. Beat it like the pointless crush you had on that dickhead back in 2000. Should look like the above.

In a pan over a medium heat drop in some olive oil and dollop the mixture. It should make about 8, according to JO. I made 9. Hell Diet has me making everything smaller except my ass and my thighs.
Fry till golden and then VERY CAREFULLY flip. They’re not the most robust of fritters. They’re all soft and fluffy and have less backbone than an American Republican.

I found the below lemons in the fridge. All at once. We have a problem with half-cut lemons.

I wish I were half cut. OK OK – the courgette salad is literally as many baby courgettes as you can be bothered to grate, a chopped red chilli, some chopped mint, salt (a good amount), pepper (cracked, black, same goes), lemon juice and olive oil. Basically season, lemon juice and oil all to taste.
Below are the fritters, half-done. I didn’t take a photo of the done deal. Was too busy hoovering them up.

If eggs are your thing, I can testify (oh Jesus, oh Amen, oh Holy Spirit, etc etc those religious types go on a bit) that a fried egg on a reheated fritter the next day is a thing of beauty.

Enjoy.

Smitten Kitchen’s Chewy Oatmeal & Raisin Cookies 

Good morning, campers. And Happy New Year!

You may want to stand back a little. We are The House of Pox. Sadly it’s not some kind of good, war-going Game of Thrones-style family House with an unresolved feud and a taste for bloody murder but rather a boring and rather inconvenient case of chicken pox on the part of NewHuman.

Obviously this has given me ample opportunity to rail against Stupid England (trademark pending) as in Australia these days a vaccination against the pox is standard issue. Here in the UK they, on official websites, have lots of lovely sensible reasons as to why it’s not on the regular timetable of vaccinations but they are also happy for you to cough up £150 for it, if you want, so clearly it’s totally a money issue. I meant to pay for it. Life just got in the way, and by life I mean me, being shit.

I remember having pox when I was about 8 years old. And I remember both my younger sisters getting it at the same time. And I remember getting mumps pretty much straight after. And both my sisters getting mumps, too. And I have no idea how my mum didn’t lose the plot at the time. Maybe she did. Did you, mum? We were living in Queensland’s Darling Downs, in a lovely old clapboard house with a green roof (93 Patrick Street, if I remember rightly), and I mostly recall being in bed and having no discernable neck by the mumps stage. And I remember having baths in water flavoured with porridge oats and being turned pinky-purple by copious Calamine lotion application.

Anyway it’s all much less exciting this time around. NewHuman has pox in places I never thought pox would be interested in going, and I’m certain he’s going to be a giant pox-crater once the blasted things have all disappeared. At least he’s getting it in time to be recovered for our trip home to Amazing Australia (trademark pending) in March.

Right. I’m on hell diet so can’t eat anything nice. I need to be on hell diet in order to avoid having to buy a second airplane seat for my arse alone. In the interests of good hosting, when some unsuspecting friends came over with their children for a playdate and we unwittingly exposed them to the pox (the guilt is awful), I made these biscuits.  Smitten Kitchen is usually really reliable. This time around – not so much. Having said that, I must claim some responsibility for not following the recipe completely but pretty much I did, and I don’t rate these biscuits so highly.

You try, let me know.

Preheat your oven to 175C.

Gather:

115 grams unsalted butter, softened (I used salted, as is standard, and mine was cold-hard from the fridge, for reasons to be revealed)
125 grams light brown sugar, packed
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
95 grams plain flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon table salt  (I didn’t use, absolutely no good reason as to why not)
120 grams rolled oats (I used porridge oats, same diff really, don’t think it matters)
120 grams raisins (I used sultanas. Absolutely does not matter)
65 grams, chopped (optional) (I didn’t bother) In a large bowl, cream together the butter, brown sugar, egg and vanilla until smooth.

Yeah. So. As you can see below, ‘smooth’ isn’t something I achieved. It’s hard to manage ‘smooth’ when you start with rock-hard butter. The reason I started with rock-hard butter is I didn’t have time to chill the mix, as the recipe later recommends, and so I wanted to make some time up by having the mix a bit cold by using said rock-hard butter.

This experiment may not have worked.

It looks reassuringly like vomit, though, which is a stage all good bakes seem to go through.
Smitten Kitchen says to whisk the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt together in a separate bowl.  I didn’t.  I just stirred them into the butter/sugar mixture as below.Stir in the oats, raisins and walnuts, if using them.

It’s a stiff bitch of a mix, stiffer than the back of a recently offended middle manager on a compulsory work outing.
It’s at this stage that SK recommends you chill the mix, whether in the bowl or having already been laid out in cookie-sized lumps on the trays.

I didn’t, as previously mentioned.  She says if you don’t the cookies will end up slightly less thick. THAT IS A LIE. If you don’t chill, in my experience, the cookies end up like the recently evacuated poops of an organically fed rabbit. But hey, what do I know. After dropping heaped teaspoons onto lined trays, chuck into the oven for 10-12 minutes or till the edges start to brown.

NewHuman below,  24hrs before the pox made themselves known. As you can see, he was trying to tell me. I didn’t listen.

Right. Below the finished product. What did I tell you? Rabbit poop. Obviously some kind of Notting Hill rabbit, fed only on WholeFoods produce, but still. Rabbits.

‘Enjoy’.

GUEST POST – Clotilde Dusolier’s Very Chocolately Fudgy Cake

Morning.

God I’m lazy. Here I am, soliciting guest posts from people when it’s Christmas and what I should instead no doubt be doing is frantically baking  up mince pies with double butter shortcrust (NO BECAUSE MINCE PIES ARE FOUL) or feeding a Christmas Pudding I made three months ago (NO BECAUSE CHRISTMAS PUDDING IS MASSIVELY OVER-RATED) or just getting stuck into the cooking sherry as I concoct some kind of foul trifle (NO….WAIT! I MEAN YES! TO BOTH COOKING BOOZE AND TRIFLE). I should be doing all these things and add them to cornucopia of Christmas-themed posts currently flooding the internet.

Anyway, I’m not doing any of those things. In passing, chatting to a friend, she mentioned she’d been baking and I barked, ‘Oh fancy doing a guest post?’ at her for no good reason. She kindly said yes and, thus, below you have L’s version of a bloody delicious, never-fail chocolate cake-that-isn’t-quite-a-cake-but-is-delicious.

L usually blogs about fashion, particularly fashion for those of us who no longer live in the realm of twenty-somethings. Or thirty-somethings. If you like you can go visit her much more stylishly designed site at The Stylopedia where there’s a lot of less to make you fat and a lot more to make you glitter.

I’ve gone relatively full Christmas this year, I think partly in an attempt to quell the nauseating homesickness I’m experiencing. I’ve done Decorating The House and had Carols on the Telly. It’s worse than ever, the homesickness, and I long, really really long, for a hot Christmas and the beach and seafood and drinking white wine in the sun (as described by fellow Perth-person Tim Minchin here).

Christmas in the UK is usually very pleasant, mostly spent in a reclining position at the in-laws’, being fed never-ending food and booze. I’ve nothing to complain about – well, other than this year’s Christmas lunch menu of Lasagne. I mean, what? IT IS NOT CHRISTMAS FOOD – and complain I musn’t. I will, however, miss home.

Stupid sunny, good, beachy family and friends Australia.

Stupid.

Right. Here’s L with a reassuringly sweary post. I’m off to cry in a corner for a little bit. I’m at work, so that will no doubt go down really well.

Oh – Merry Christmas!

———————–

Usually I blog about clothes and style, so I’m sailing into virgin water here on a food blog, but here goes…. It turns out they’re not so dissimilar anyway; it is all about putting shit you like together and hoping it works!

Everyone needs to have a basic little black dress that can be dressed up or down for any occasion.  It requires zero thought; you just put it on, and the right one looks like you’ve made more effort than you actually have.  It looks suitable.  Appropriate.  Maybe even kick-ass on a good day.

Everyone also needs to have the dessert equivalent of a little black dress. The chocolate cake recipe below is exactly that.  It is an easy yet gasp-inducing cake that you can wheel out for a fancy dinner party, a family gathering, a child’s birthday party, or when every other dessert seems like a hassle. This cake is, in fact, my favourite thing to eat in the whole world.  If I feel like it (I usually do) I toss in a generous handful of toasted pecans in the batter.  If I am on a diet and I want to make sure that I don’t eat it, I add raspberries, because everyone knows that raspberries are disgusting as fuck, far too sour, furry, and usually full of black mould precisely three minutes after you bring them home from the grocery store, and thus would ruin what would otherwise be an amazingly dark, dense, perfect chocolate cake. (Editor’s note: L is very wrong about raspberries. Very, very wrong).
Ok, maybe everyone doesn’t know that, but now you do.  Shockingly, the original recipe calls for (read: is ruined by) the addition of 200g of fork-mashed raspberries, but I am going to leave those out in order to preserve all that is right and good in this world.  You can still add them if you like raspberries and don’t know any better.  Another good reason to omit raspberries is to avoid the burning shame and crippling guilt of buying raspberries, a summer fruit, in the middle of winter in England. (Editor’s note: I do this. I buy raspberries in winter in England. I know it’s bad and I still do it).  Still, we will press on and make Gateau Chocolat Framboise/ Chocolate Raspberry Cake (mais, sans raspberries) in Clotilde Dusolier’s amazingly yummy cookbook Chocolate and Zucchini (See?  Clotilde even has to go and defile chocolate with zucchini.  She can’t help herself. Leave the chocolate ALONE, Clotilde!  Mon Dieu!)
Anyway, since this is the run up to Christmas, we’re going to put a slight Christmassy spin on this perfect cracker of a cake.  O Come all Ye Bakeful and assemble (joyfully and triumphantly) the following six ingredients:

225g unsalted butter, plus a pat to grease the pan (I used salted.  No one died).

225g good-quality dark chocolate, chopped into pieces (70% is perfect, don’t go much less, but you can definitely go darker).

200g sugar
4 large eggs (don’t be a dick; buy free range organic ones)
40g plain flour (so little flour it’s practically gluten free!)
1 tsp of crushed Maldon salt flakes, or 1/2 tsp of fine sea salt (absolutely crucial to the overall deliciousness of this cake)
Preheat the oven to 180C and grease a 25cm springform pan with a pat of butter.  Even better, line the bottom of the pan with baking parchment and it will prevent it from sticking like a bastard, breaking apart, and ruining your afternoon.  And still grease both pan and parchment with butter though.  Always with the butter.

Melt the chocolate and the butter in a a double boiler, or in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water, stirring from time to time to combine.  I don’t do this.  I just melt the butter and chocolate on a verrrrry low heat, and comply with the instructions to stir now and then. Add the sugar, and stir with a wooded spoon.  Let cool for 5 minutes.  (I did not use a wooden spoon, sue me).Add the eggs one by one, stirring well between each addition. Tip in the flour and the salt (Clotilde says to sift the flour.  I have never bothered, and the cake hasn’t suffered), and stir until well combined.  This is the part where you can add in the roughly chopped toasted pecans (I did today) or the 200g of fork-mashed raspberries (shudder) or whatever else takes your fancy.  A generous pinch of cinnamon if you want to go all Mexican.  Sometimes my husband adds in a slosh of rum.  He thinks everything is better with a little alcohol added, and that probably includes me.
(Yes, there is an Elf On The Shelf in crash position in my fruit bowl).

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 30 minutes.As you near the 30 minute mark, circle around your kitchen like a goldfish, and check it every minute, since ovens all vary.  Mine needs 32 minutes exactly on the middle shelf.  Do the usual thing of inserting a toothpick or knife in the centre (Editor’s note: L is American so I’d like to give her some credit her for spelling ‘centre’ properly) to make sure it is cooked through.  Do not overcook and let the edges get overly browned, or you will lose the lovely almost gooey and wet texture of the finished product.  A dry cake is the worst.  The worst.  No point really.   Chuck it in the bin.

Whilst the cake is in the oven, either lick the bowl and spoon yourself, or even better, give that job to your child… simultaneously garnering the Best and Worst Mother of the Year awards in one fell swoop.  The Best, from your delighted child, of course.  And The Worst from your child’s dentist and all the Calgary Avansino type Moms out there.  Google her if you don’t know her; you’ll want to kill yourself.

B often has photos of her family and dog on here, so I will do the same so you feel at home. Meet Pippa, the Dog’s stand-in for this post.  B and I met each other through our whippets, true fact.

Once baked, transfer the pan to a cooling rack, run a knife around the edges to loosen the cake, and unclasp the sides of the pan.

  Let it finish cooling before transferring to a plate.  This is the part when you will thank me for bossing your into using the parchment paper because it makes this process SO MUCH EASIER.  You’re welcome.

The original recipe says to cover the cake tightly with plastic wrap, and to refrigerate it for 8 hours or overnight, removing it from the refrigerator half an hour before serving.  I never do this.  I do cover the cake with a cloche (Oooooo!  Get me, so French with my fucking gateau under a cloche) and try my hardest not to eat more than two pieces in a row.

Now, for the fun part.  If it is just you and family at home, or if you are going to a barbecue or something, serve the cake au naturel.  If you are having people over, then go mad and fancy it up a bit.  At first I thought I’d accessorise with some berries and a holly leaf that I nicked from the wreath on our front door…

  …but  then I changed my mind and went for the dusty-snowflake-with-icing-sugar effect instead.  If I had some edible silver glitter, I would probably sprinkle a touch of that on as well.  Probably.  Accessorise however you like.  It isn’t a particularly beautiful cake (hence the accessorising) but what it lacks in beauty, it makes up for in flavour.
This cake is not quite a brownie and not quite a ganache; it is something in-between.  Equal parts butter and chocolate will do that!  Can you see how squishy and gorgeous it is?  A slice of unadulterated chocolate heaven, I tell you.

Smitten Kitchen’s Favourite Chocolate Chip Cookies. Biscuits. They’re Biscuits.

You might not think there’s a big difference between cookies and biscuits. There is. I haven’t really had to define it IN ACTUAL REAL LIFE WORDS until now but I’ve always consciously been very clear there is a difference.

I think it goes like this:

Cookies

Quite big. A lot big. Like, hand-sized big

Flat

Chewy, albeit often crunchy outside

American in style

Massively sugared

Bikkies

Smaller, like no bigger than palm-sized, and even a palm-sized bikkie is verging on cookie

Less sugar in the mix

Crunchier

Not-American. Unless you’re talking scones, which is what Americans call biscuits. Donald Trump is clearly not their biggest problem.

I don’t know how you feel about my very scientific classification. Truthfully I’m not sure (i) I give a shit, and (ii) it matters. It’s probably one of those really personal things, like whether you bunch or fold loo roll.

BUNCH YOU FOOL, BUNCH.

Anyway. The below recipe is from Smitten Kitchen. Again. She might become my new Donna Hay-type habit. We shall see. They are nice biscuit-cookies. Bisookies. Cookuits. Dunno. Some weird merge of the two. You should make them.

We are recently returned from a quick trip to Stockholm. We dragged NewHuman there with us as it’s a city famously friendly in respect of toddler-themed amusements and, obviously, we were going to hit up the cinnamon buns and saffron Christmas buns really hard. That was the plan until the Boyfriend and I arrived at Sinus-Pressure-Exploding-Head-Snot-Factoryville pre-trip so had to work quite hard not to weep with the full strength that being-in-a-foreign-land-with-a-shithead-2.5 year-old-whilst-properly-ill lends itself to.

Still, we survived, and it was actually mostly fun. I ate elk.

Elk is nice. So are cloudberries and cinnamon buns and Stockholm in general. Could totally live there.

Right. Biscuits. MAKE THEM.

Preheat your oven to 150C (this is what Smitten Kitchen says. I did that then bumped up to 160C for the second lot. Was fine, and better).

So, yeah, preheat your oven to 160C.

Gather:

100 grams caster sugar (I used 150g of golden)
130g firmly packed light brown sugar (I used 50g of muscovado)
115 grams unsalted butter, cold, cut into 1cm pieces
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (I used 2 teaspoons)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
175g plain flour
200 grams dark chocolate chips (I used 100g)
1 packet of dried sour cherries, around 60g, chopped into 3 or 4 pieces each

(Smitten Kitchen lady says to use 130g of chopped walnuts or pecans. You can do that but you’d be insane to when sour cherries are an option).

  I chopped the cold butter to only very approximately 1cm pieces, as evidenced below. Was fine.
  Cream together the sugars and butter until smooth. This takes a little while cause the butter is cold when you start. Use this time to chop up your sour cherries. By the time  you’re done chopping, the mix will be smooth. Baking is magic.  Add your baking powder. Half a teaspoon is a very controversial measurement. Is it heaped or not? Is it half across or lengthways. HOW DO WE KNOW?

I did the below.
  Also then add your vanilla and egg. Mix well.

Then add your flour – you can keep it all in the mixer for this, no need to use your actual hands.

Once combined and kind of dry – it’ll take a minute or so of high-speed whizzing in the mixer – add your choc chips and sour cherries. Or nuts, if you’re using them. DO NOT USE THEM.

  Then plop about 2 teaspoon’s worth of mix onto a tray, leaving a good amount of room. Don’t, like, compress them or roll them into balls or anything, ok? Just leave them be, unmolested.
  Into the oven for 18 minutes. Smitten Kitchen lady says to take them out when ‘pale golden brown’. That’s how I like to describe NewHuman’s hair, when it is in fact ginger.

Below is this year’s Xmas tree effort. Could be worse. Is usefully a few feet off the ground so NewHuman can only grasp the jingle bells which dangle temptingly from the lower branches and I get to say, ‘Dude, no. NO. I SAID NO!’ a lot. Is fun for all.

  OK here are the done biscuits.

I did try to take a picture of one I’d taken a bite out of, to show you the inside, but the photo was far too fuzzy for public consumption.

I’ve come away to the West of England without bringing some of these with me, a fact I’ve only just realised. I am stupid and also now I’m angry.

How To Prepare A Meat Pie For Mastication

There’s only one proper way to introduce sauce to a meat pie. This is it.

Take one meat pie, heat it up as per instructions on the box.  This is no place for fancy homemade pies.   Take a sharp knife and carefully slice off the lid of the pie. Yes, the lid.

It should look like the below. If it doesn’t, you’ve done it all wrong. Take your sauce of choice. Tomato is the best and most obvious one.

Squeeze the required amount of sauce into the meaty juicy casserole filling.
  Stir it in with a fork. Or a spoon. Or your finger. I don’t care which.

  Replace the lid. It’ll basically look like nothing untoward has ever happened to this pie, even though you just basically undressed it and had a swill around.
Eat.

Eat well. Then eat nothing else all day due to guilt, albeit happily replete guilt.

Smitten Kitchen’s Upside Down Cranberry Cake

I find I’m as saddened and appalled, in these times of regular tragedy and ill-informed mass murder, by the response of many people to said events as by those who commit them.  It’s too easy to fuel my little version of annoyed anger at those amongst us who respond so terribly to these tragedies, who spray revenge-flavoured rhetoric, calling for  separation of peoples and for closed borders. I find myself shocked by what people say about those in need, about people fleeing violence and war that we, in our comfortable and privileged positions, cannot even begin to comprehend. Like, really.

I know this isn’t really cooking blog fodder but I’ve kept quiet on social media about it all as I wanted to take some time to figure out what I thought outside of the maelstrom of noise emanating via Facebook and Twitter. I don’t think anything particularly sophisticated as it happens, but I do feel appalled that such a common and popular response to fear-fuelled terror and murder is to recommend pretty much the same in revenge. A very flawed approach to my mind. And listen, I’m sure all my thinking on this is flawed but at least I’m trying to think about it. I’m trying hard not to just respond but to consider, and learn, and review, and reflect. It’s tough to do when emotional response is such a strong motivator for opinion.

On a less serious note, I follow Smitten Kitchen on Instagram and the lady posts multiple recipes daily. Christ knows how she does it, although I know she cleverly posts stuff from her archives (which are long and fruitful). One such archived thing is the Upside Down Cranberry Cake. I fancied making it. I have never made an upside down cake before. After I made this one Boyfriend informed that upside down cakes had, actually, been his speciality. We have been together … wait. I just counted. I get 8 years. Can that be right? Surely it can’t be right.  Maybe 7 years. Shit. I should remember, shouldn’t I? Anyway it’s been  A LONG BLOODY TIME and has he cooked me an upside down cake, ever? No. Never. Never even mentioned it. Rude.

I’ve just looked at Facebook to track photos down to when Boyfriend began to appear. 2008. So, seven years and nearly a half more. CHRIST.

Last year I made a delicious cranberry sauce thing, I’m pretty sure I posted it on here actually. Is this the point, were I a proper blogger, I’d link back to that post? Probably. Instead I’m going to recommend you put ‘cranberry’ into the search engine on this page and there it’ll be, along side this post. Easy. This year, on the cranberry front, I tried something different.

This cake is a minor faff, and quite puddingy in the finish – a good option if you’re having people over for lunch or supper and want to serve something tasty, doused in cream. It’s also quite nice the next day. What it’s like after that I don’t know as I foisted the remains of the one I made onto a friend and, I trust, she hoovered it all up. I’ve had no reports of food poisoning so I figure all was well with it.

Right.

Gather:

170g unsalted butter, melted (I used salted. Was fine)

140g packed light brown sugar (I used golden caster sugar. Was fine)
1 tablespoon  molasses (I used golden syrup. WAS BLOODY WELL FINE, JEEZ)
240g plain flour
200g sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt (I didn’t use, was fine)
3 large eggs, at room temperature (mine were cold from the fridge. No-one complained)
240g sour cream
230g fresh or frozen cranberries (I used more like 260g, frozen

1 teaspoon vanilla extract or paste

1

Preheat your oven to 180C, or 190C if not fan. I used a 19cm round springform tin. Go for that, or you could equally as comfortably go for a slightly larger one if you fancied a not-so-tall cake. I think I will, next time. Also, don’t be beholden to the idea of a springform. You’ll see why soon enough.

In one bowl sift the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt together. Or, as I always advocate, whisk them all around a bit in lieu of actual sifting.

2

In a medium saucepan, over a medium heat, put about 60g of the melted butter, brown sugar, golden syrup/molasses and 1/4 cup water (American cups) and bring to a boil.  Once it’s come to the boil just set it aside. Grease your cake tin and line the bottom with parchment. Then, on the outside, cover the bottom and sides with foil and place onto an oven tray, if you’re using a springform. DO AS I SAY.

In an electric mixer, with the whisk attachment (electric hand beaters would do fine here, either way you want/need to harness the raw power of electricity as your puny human arms do not have the strength to get the job done) beat the eggs and sour cream until blended. Add the vanilla, beat, add the remaining butter, beat. Make sure the sides are well scraped down. Then add the dry ingredients and beat till nice and smooth.

5

You’ll have three pots/bowls of things on the go, plus the cake tin. See? I told you. Minor faff.

Pour the hot sugary syrupy mix into the bottom of the cake pan.

4

Add the cranberries, making them into as even a layer as you can manage. Or be bothered to.

7

Then dollop on the batter. It’s quite thick so be careful to gently smooth it, as if you’re managing the hurt feelings of a misogynist boss after you outranked him on an IQ test.

6

Shove it in the oven. It’s supposed to take 45 minutes. Mine took an hour and even then I wasn’t convinced it was done. It’s done when a skewer comes out clean – in essence I think because it’s quite a heavy mix it takes a while to come together.  Smitten Kitchen lady suggests you check earlier and then consistently thereafter as overdoing this cake would not be a good thing.

The leaves have been falling faster than ill-informed opinions, on our street. NewHuman has been taking full advantage. Or, rather, he did until the council, in a fit of efficiency, came by last week with the World’s Biggest Leafblower and a special Vacuum Truck of Magic to scoop them all up. Now there’s no romance left in Autumn, it’s merely a straight run down towards Winter. It must be embraced else it kills us.

13

I had vague thoughts about entering the dog for the Melbourne Cup. She’s fast enough but her jockey just didn’t seem to have his heart in it.

14

Let the cake cool in the pan for a bit, a good 15 mins or so at least, then run a knife around the edge and turn out CAREFULLY – PRETEND IT IS LIKE A BIGGER AND SCARIER KILLER TARTE TARTIN onto a large plate.

Don’t, as seen below, get the foil caught on a bit of the stovetop as you lift the cake tin from the oven tray, thereby dumping the lava-like caramel from the stupid bloody springform tin onto the hob rather than having it soak nicely into the done cake. My finished version was, thus, slightly lighter on soaked-in caramel-cranberry goodness than might otherwise be ideal. When this volcanic tragedy was occurring I was yelling, ‘Boyfriend! Boyfriend! Help!’. This is unlike me. I never ask for help. I cannot think what was going on that I thought needed help. It has been preying on my mind.

8

Below are two shots of the done thing. In whole form, in close up, and cut. See how dense it is? More dense than the frontal lobes of those calling for closed borders.

It’s not gorgeous-looking, this cake, but it is good.

11

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