Monthly Archives: November 2015

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

12

Brown Butter Tea Cake

I’m going through a disgruntled few days. I have no real reason for it. Work is under control, NewHuman is being cute, Boyfriend is being lovely, Dog is being affectionate even though we sent her to the vet last week to get her teeth cleaned. Which, by the way, cost the same as it would to whiten my teeth; that is, so much that when I had a quote for mine I said, ‘oh no, too expensive’. But here we are, the Dog having enjoyed a general anaesthetic and being returned to us with gleaming gnashers and wonderfully fresh breath.

Yesterday was full of people being shit at their jobs, or just being shits. I am hopeful for better things today but have descended to full self-pity as rather than recovering from last week’s cold I am, instead, apparently steaming full ahead into a new one. POOR ME. Disgruntled of Average Baker.

We had some leftover Granny Smith apples and over the weekend I knew I wanted to use them in something. As is usual I stood in my handsome, bankrupting kitchen looking at all the lovely cookbooks on the shelves there, then turned to hunch over my phone like a baking Quasimodo and went straight to the Australian Women’s Weekly website for inspiration. They have approximately a million recipes for tea cake, apple cake, and everything in between. I had some bits and pieces to use up and so I decided, which one should never do in baking, to freestyle the recipe. I did some strange shit. I mostly mean I used self raising flour AND ground almonds. I’m not sure I can recommend you do the same, but regardless the cake turned out a very good version of the kind of thing you want by your side as you sip a hot drink. Not tea. Tea can do one. I don’t get tea. I drink it maybe once a year, around mid-winter, generally after a bracing walk in the Welsh hills. Then I think, ‘Tea, huh? Waste of space’ and don’t drink it again for another year.

When I mean hot drink I pretty much mean coffee.

I have a thing for burnt, or brown, butter, so I decided to melt my butter and brown it a bit, before using, to try give the cake some yummo flavour. It worked, I think. Recommend. So below I will set out what I THINK the recipe should be. I haven’t, like, triple-tested it or anything proper. I made it once. It was fine. Good, in fact. A prosaic kind of cake. The kind of cake who will just sit quietly with you when you’re feeling disgruntled and not try to make you feel better with platitudes or fancy icing or, god forbid, try to be a bloody cupcake.

Dependable, therapeutic cake. There you go.

Preheat your oven to 170C (fan) and grease a cake tin. You could go 20cm round. I went slightly larger square. I’m sure you could use a couple of small loaf tins, too. This cake will not get mad if you experiment with shapes.

Gather:

around 3 apples, peeled and sliced (I did this at the last minute to avoid the whole going brown thing)

2 eggs, separated

around 3/4 cup of milk (don’t use this in one fell swoop – trickle it in as you’ll need to stop when consistency is right)

50g butter

good slosh of quality vanilla extract

100g almond meal

3/4 cup caster sugar

1 cup SR flour (use plain, go on – let me know how it turns out)

And then for when the cake is cooked you want:

20g or so of melted butter. More is fine but less is not fine.

1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon

1 tablespoon caster sugar

  K. This first bit is a slight pain and may not be necessary, specially if you’re using SR flour. If you’re using plain flour then definitely do it.

Put the eggwhites in a bowl and with an electronic mixer whisk them till firm peaks form. See below for what I mean. If you’re feeling all He-Man then by all means go for it with a hand-held whisk. Good luck with that.
  Then whilst it’s whisking add the sugar, about a tablespoon at a time, till it goes all glossy. Then beat in the egg yolks.

Below you’ll see what I ended up with. Grainy, shiny meringue. It was fine.

  Whilst all that is going on have your butter gently melting in a small saucepan. Then once it’s melted let it continue to bubble away. It’ll stay a buttercup-urine-yellow for a long time and then quite quickly it’ll start to change. It’s hard to get a picture of this to show you the colour so below is the best I could do. I swirled and photo’d. Welcome to brown/burnt butter, y’all.
  With a big metal spoon gently fold through the flour, almonds, milk, butter and extract in alternate goes, beginning and ending with the flour. You may find it’s a bit runny if you use all the milk upfront so remember what I said. If you think it’s too runny just add a little more flour. It’ll look like nursery school glue, with a slightly softer consistency. Tastes ok, though.  Scrape the mix into whatever crazy cake tin you’ve decided on and layer on the apples. You’ll see below that I was a bit parsimonious. That’s not at all like me, I don’t know what I was thinking. Be generous. Sprinkle over with a little caster sugar and shove it in the oven. Should take around 45 mins but test with a skewer from 30 mins and if the skewer comes out clean it’s done.
  Boyfriend did a sterling job of pumpkin carving this year, helping me with any of the latent homesickness guaranteed to descend around this time of year. Shame it rotted before the actual night itself and we instead stuck up a hastily-cut-out version of the same and stuck to the front door with dodgy sellotape. We are nothing if not classy.

Right. When the cake is done turn it out onto a cooling rack and put the cooling rack over some kitchen towel. Whilst the cake is still warm, melt your butter and using a pastry brush feed the cake with it. Use it all. Use more, if you think you should. Mix the sugar and cinnamon together and sprinkle it over the cake whilst the butter is still wet.

  See below for the done thing, uncut, and cut.
   It looks such an odd texture but eats really well. Baking, eh? Wizardry.

I’m going to do some proper work now, sitting in my corner of this offensively open-plan office with a face like, as I described to someone yesterday, Maggie Smith having just sucked on a particularly bitter lemon.