Gastronomically Terrific

January 31, 2014

Battenberg Cake

Filed under: Cake — Tags: , — lawsonanna @ 7:36 pm

And so, that was the end of the Christmas recipes. But not the end of the baking. I had a break for a couple of weeks, but was back to it by mid January. My first bake was battenberg cake – not something I would normally think of baking, but I was inspired by the baking calendar my parents had bought me for Christmas.

Battenberg cake and in distanceNothing about this was particularly special. It tasted OK (like most battenberg cakes do), and it was OK to bake, but a bit of a faff for the final result. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not really the colouring of the cake that’s the faff – that just involved splitting the batter in half and adding pink food colouring to one half. The faff is in cutting up the cake to make the different coloured squares once the cake has been baked. This worked OK, but I probably had more of a split in the middle of the cake than I really should have. Covering it in marzipan also didn’t work as well as it could have – it looked alright, but I didn’t wrap it quite as tightly as I should have.

This isn’t something I’m likely to make again – the reward isn’t worth the effort, and you do waste a lot of cake cutting it into the right size and shape squares. The fact that Dan and I happily ate the extra bits in one sitting is, of course, irrelevant.

Who made it: Anna

Recipe: Home Baking 2014 Calendar

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January 30, 2014

Christmas Puddini Bonbons

Filed under: Cake, Christmas, Sweets — Tags: , , , , — lawsonanna @ 9:42 pm

I’m really sad that we don’t have a photo of these, because they looked amazing. I wanted to make them last Christmas as a gift, but never got around to it. This year I knew we had a few spare days between finishing work and seeing people for Christmas, so I made sure they got made – and them gave them away as a gift. Not before I’d made sure I’d tried one though!

These bonbons are basically little truffles made from (mostly) Christmas pudding and chocolate, which you then decorate to make look like miniature Christmas Puddings. You do this by melting some white chocolate over the truffle, then adding green and red glace cherries to get a holly and berry effect.

Now, I don’t care what my myriad of recipe books say (this isn’t the first time I’ve tried to get hold of them), but green glace cherries do not exist in most major supermarkets. Perhaps they do in specialist cook shops, but I’m yet to find any. So, to get the holly leaf effect I cut up tiny strips of marzipan which I then coloured green. Green royal icing probably would have worked here too, or green jelly sweets (which you can usually find, but for some reason had gone on a hiatus for Christmas 2013).

The truffles tasted OK, but to be honest they were mostly like very rich Christmas Pudding with some chocolate added. Which is exactly what they were. I was mostly proud of these because of the way they looked – which is why I’m sad there’s no photo!

Who made them: Anna and Dan

Recipe: Nigella Christmas, pg. 246-248

January 29, 2014

Santa’s Little Helper

Filed under: cocktail — Tags: , , — lawsonanna @ 9:36 pm

Amaretto and glassThis is the title of one of the cocktails in Nigella’s Christmas cookbook. It sounds lovely (if strong) – just a mix of brandy, amaretto and Cointreau.

Well, it’s not. It’s far too strong and far too sweet for my liking. There’s not a lot else to say about this – I had to mix it with Coke, and it was still way too strong for me. And I like my alcohol. If you know me, you know I’m not shy about my drinking. But I don’t want this again. I’d be much happier with a plain old glass of brandy. Or whisky. Or wine. Or anything else really.

Who made it: Anna and Dan

Recipe: Nigella Christmas, pg. 6

January 28, 2014

Chocolate Pudding for Christmas Pudding Haters with Hot Chocolate Sauce

Filed under: Christmas, pudding — Tags: , , , — lawsonanna @ 7:29 pm

The title of this chocolate pudding is Nigella’s title for it, not mine. I love Christmas Pudding, but didn’t fancy making any this year – and also knew I was going to get plenty of it in a week’s time. So this was really Chocolate Pudding for Lazy Bakers who Knew They Were Going to Eat Too Much Christmas Pudding Soon.

I wasn’t really expecting to become a convert. Don’t get me wrong, I love chocolate. But I also love Christmas Pudding and have no desire to replace it with an alternative…

.. but this tastes amazing. OK, so it didn’t look great (no photo, but I’m guessing you’ll take my word for it), but it tasted so good we ate the entire thing in one day. Between two of us. We got so fat. There’s nothing in this that isn’t horribly unhealthy for you (except perhaps for the natural yoghurt). Which is probably why it tasted so good.

PS You have to make the chocolate sauce for this to work. The pudding’s nice, but without the sauce you just won’t get that amazing chocolate high. Or fat enough.

Who made it: Anna

Recipe: Nigella Christmas, pg. 140-142

January 27, 2014

Vegetarian Christmas Roast Dinner

Filed under: Christmas, main — Tags: , , , , , — lawsonanna @ 6:48 pm

In ord28 Veggie Xmas dinnerer to get Dan to agree to the effort of cooking our own roast dinner on our Christmas Day, I sneakily suggested that we have a vegetarian roast dinner rather than a meat one. Turns out it wasn’t that sneaky, because I didn’t get to eat any meat. Ah well, I got plenty a week later.

Our vegetarian Christmas dinner consisted of three recipes from Nigella’s Christmas – roast stuffed pumpkin, gingery tomato sauce, and Christmas sprouts. We supplemented this with our roast potatoes and parsnips, which we know taste good because we cook them lots!

We couldn’t get hold of a pumpkin, so we substituted this for a butternut squash. This actually worked quite well – once we’d figured out how to make the squash hold the rice mixture and stand up in the oven (it involved a fair bit of tin foil…). The butternut squash and the gingery tomato sauce worked really well together, and the sauce was really easy to make – it’s mostly ginger and passata.

Unfortunately, it didn’t go so well with the rest of our roast dinner, which was a lot more traditional. In fairness to the recipe book, it suggests that the stuffed pumpkin and sauce should be served with red cabbage and a salad, which would probably work much better. That’s not a Christmas dinner now though, is it?

I do love the taste of brussel sprouts with chestnuts and nutmeg though, and have done it before. I personally think it’s much tastier than simple old brussel sprouts. I did go a little overboard with the chestnuts here though, so the brussel sprouts got a bit drowned.

So, whilst I enjoyed both making and eating the stuffed butternut squash, I wouldn’t choose to make it for a main Christmas dinner again. I think a nut roast works much better, and if you make it yourself they can actually taste pretty good. Still not meat though, is it?

Who made it: Anna and Dan

Recipe: Nigella Christmas, pg. 132 (Christmas Sprouts), pg. 165-167 (Stuffed Pumpkin), pg. 168 (Gingery Tomato Sauce)

January 26, 2014

Pussyfoot

Filed under: cocktail — Tags: , , — lawsonanna @ 6:42 pm

27 Pussyfoot mocktail This is one of the mocktails from Nigella’s Christmas. As we were having our Christmas Day at home with our young son, we didn’t want to drink too much alcohol too soon. So a mocktail seemed like a good drink to go with our Christmas lunch.

Pussyfoot consists of pink grapefruit juice, orange juice, lime juice and Grenadine. Whilst it was fun to mix together, I can’t say I was overly keen on the taste. I’ve never been a big fan of grapefruit juice, and this didn’t really change my mind. The recipe book suggests adding vodka if you’re not particularly pro mocktails; I have a suspicion this would have improved the taste. But I’d still be much, much happier with a glass (or jug) of Poinsettia.

Who made it: Anna

Recipe: Nigella Christmas, pg. 12

January 25, 2014

Seasonally spiced nuts

Filed under: Christmas — Tags: , , — lawsonanna @ 6:42 pm

This is the second year in a row I’ve made this recipe, because it’s much tastier than just eating unspiced nuts. It’s also the second year we’ve entirely failed to take a photo of them, so you’ll just have to imagine what they look like. Basically it’s a selection of nuts, covered in spices. Funny that.

All you do is dry fry some mixed nuts (or whatever nuts take your fancy) in garam masala (a brilliant easy blend of spices, which I love now I’ve discovered it), celery salt (don’t use too much), oil and brown sugar.

It’s simple, and it’s tasty. I suspect this is going to be a permanent addition to my Christmas menu. It’s also a great snack for the morning when you have to wait ages for your Christmas roast, and you don’t want to start on the chocolate.

Who made it: Anna

Recipe: Nigella Christmas, pg. 21

January 21, 2014

Christmas Morning Muffins

Filed under: breakfast, Cake, Christmas — Tags: , — lawsonanna @ 12:03 pm

And here’s another Christmas-themed bake. These muffins (no photo I’m afraid – something was always going to get overlooked) were made as something to eat for breakfast on our Christmas Day at home, as the recipe books suggests. I say ‘our’ Christmas Day, because it wasn’t actually Christmas Day. We celebrated at home five days early, because we were going back to see family for Christmas itself. But our son had so many gifts we figured it was easier not to take them all away and then bring them back home again. So these Christmas Morning Muffins are the first of our Christmas Day recipes.

Hubby was skeptical that muffins for breakfast was a good idea, as they are usually quite heavy. But these muffins are actually much lighter than normal, and worked really well as a Christmas morning breakfast. They were certainly much lighter than the toast we would otherwise have eaten. I suspect the reason for this is that the only fruit in these muffins is dried cranberries and a clementine – everything else is spices and normal baking ingredients (sugar, an egg etc). It seemed to work though, and they were certainly tasty enough to be made again.

Who made it: Anna

Recipe: Nigella Christmas, pg. 214-215

January 20, 2014

Yule Log

Filed under: Cake, Christmas — Tags: , — lawsonanna @ 3:52 pm

35 Chocolate yule logAnd so, onto the second of my Christmas-themed bakes. I’ve made a variety of different swiss rolls, chocolate logs and roulades in the past, and really enjoy making them. Some come out well, some go wrong, and some come out amazingly. Obviously, I’m pretty proud of the ones that come out best.

I wasn’t expecting this one to come out particularly well, especially after I’d baked the roulade and it looked a bit, well, flat. I have a tendency to mess this up – one of my favourite recipes incorporates a small amount of flour, making it much easier to get right. Of course, this is cheating and not a ‘proper’ roulade, but it guarantees (at least for me) a better result. Nigella’s recipe, however, is a proper roulade – no flour, billions (well, 6) eggs, 150g caster sugar and 50g cocoa powder.

But the thing about a roulade is that it can look like it’s gone horribly wrong… and then you ice it. Unlike the cake, the icing and filling (which, here, are the same thing) seemed to work really well. Once I had filled the cake, rolled it up to make the log, and covered it with the chocolate icing, everything was looking a lot better. However, even at this point I reached the conclusion that I preferred to make different Chocolate Logs, because this one was a lot of very similar flavourings (to me, chocolate, cherry conserve and cream sounds better than chocolate, chocolate and more chocolate)…

… That was until I tasted this. Yes, it is very rich and very chocolately. But it tastes so good. And with a sprinkling of icing sugar to make the snow effect, looks pretty good too. It’s not the only Yule Log I will ever make (I still love the other varieties I make), but it’s definitely being added to my list of all-time favourites.

Who made it: Anna

Recipe: Nigella Christmas, pg. 191-193

January 19, 2014

Traditional Christmas Cake

Filed under: Cake, Christmas — Tags: — lawsonanna @ 10:19 pm

Although I’ve been baking and cooking a fair bit in the past month, I haven’t updated this blog very much. That’s because a lot of things I’ve been making were for the Christmas period, and whilst I may have made them some time in advance, they didn’t, on the whole, get eaten until Christmas. Now Christmas is well and truly over, expect a slew of Christmas-themed posts. Ah well, there’s only another 11 months to go until you have to do it all again…

26 Xmas Cake

The first of the Christmas-themed bakes was as, Nigella labels it, a Traditional Christmas Cake. In many ways, she’s not wrong. It involves baking it at least 3 weeks in advance (so you can periodically feed the cake with brandy, or whatever alcohol takes your fancy), covering it with marzipan and then icing it a week later. However, in other ways this cake veers away from the standard Christmas cake I would normally bake. There are a lot less dried fruits in this (just raisins, currants and glace cherries – and lots of them. The recipe also calls for pecans or walnuts, but I’m not a massive cake and nut fan so I left these out), and a lot more alcohol than I’m used to adding (400ml for a 23cm round tin).

However, the end result is pretty good. Surprisingly, it doesn’t taste too boozy, and you don’t notice that you’re only really eating a small variety of fruit. I guess once the marzipan and icing are added to a Christmas Cake, they are a pretty big feature of it.

Nigella’s Christmas Cake is no easier, or harder, to make than most traditional Christmas Cakes, and tastes just as good. I’m not sure it would replace the standard Christmas Cake I make – but that’s not because it doesn’t taste as good. It just doesn’t really taste any better, and I enjoy making other varieties of the cake a little more as I love mixing all the fruits together. But if you want to do something traditional and make it slightly easier on yourself, this isn’t a bad choice at all.

Who made it: Anna

Recipe: Nigella Christmas, pg. 172-176

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