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Category Archives: Food

Gin and tonic crisps?

Leave it to the Brits to come up with this:

Gin and Tonic Flavored Crisps

What do you reckon? Would you give them a try?

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Victoria Sponge success

Ages ago — ages and ages, long before kids, the Kardashians and the invention of cronuts — I loved Nigella Lawson’s cookbook, “How to be a Domestic Goddess.” It was a great cookbook, filled with recipes for breads, cakes, cookies and puddings.

And then I made her Victoria Sponge recipe and it made me rethink everything that I once believed to be true. I don’t actually remember why it was so bad. I just remember not even eating it and throwing it away. I made a small note at the top of the recipe “BAD 😦 ” and haven’t tried making this cake again.

Fast forward all of these years and my daughter wanted to have high tea at home so a cake was in order. I looked for a recipe – so many British recipes were still in British measurements and I didn’t have the energy or inclination to do the conversions. So I found one on Food.com that got nearly 5 stars and took a gamble.

As it turned out, then gamble paid off. The cake was so moist and delicious and ridiculously easy to make. The only adjustment I made was to double the recipe since my cake tins were larger than 8 inches (how large? I have no idea – again, I didn’t have the energy to measure them).

VICTORIA SPONGE CAKE

INGREDIENTS

3 large eggs, weighed in their shells
butter or soft margarine
caster sugar
self-rising flour
raspberry jam (or jam, jelly or curd of your choice. I used Bonne Maman’s Four Fruits preserve)
powdered sugar to dust on top

DIRECTIONS

The measurements for this recipe are equal amounts of sugar, flour and fat to the weight of the eggs. Weigh the eggs first – if the eggs weigh 8 ounces, you will use 8 ounces of sugar, 8 ounces of butter or margarine and 8 ounces of flour. If the eggs weigh 6 ounces, all the other ingredients will be 6 ounces – easy!

Set oven Gas 4 160C (fan oven), 180C or 360F: grease and base line the bottom of 2 x 8” sandwich tins – cake tins.

Cream margarine or butter together with the sugar, until light and fluffy.

Beat the eggs, and then add them to the mixture, gradually and beating well after each addition.
Sieve the flour and fold into the mixture with a metal spoon.

Divide equally between the 2 prepared tins and bake for 25 minutes in the middle of the oven.
Remove and allow to cool for 1-2 minutes.

Remove from the tins and fill with raspberry jam when cold, to avoid the jam seeping into the sponge.

A light dusting of powdered sugar on the top will finish it.

Place on an attractive cake stand or plate, and serve in dainty wedges with freshly brewed tea.

If you use butter remove from the fridge to soften before using. This is not necessary with soft margarine.

If large eggs are used they may weigh 7 ½ ozs/210g. If so make sure you use this weight for the other ingredients.

A smaller sandwich cake can be made with 2 medium eggs. Weight about 4 oz/55g. If so, use 2 x 7” sandwich tins and the cakes and the cakes will need less time in the oven – probably 20mins.

Serves 6-8.

The Great British Bake Off

Great British Bake Off is Back

Have you seen The Great British Bake Off?

This is the first year that we’ve been watching it (you can find most episodes on YouTube without much delay) and I love it – love the challenges and the recipes and the Britishness of it all.

Where else can you see home bakers create things like this:

Lion bread

Gingerbread fire truck

And even this…

Black Forest Gateau gone wrong

Yes, it’s high drama and hot kitchens and creative handiwork. Check it out, if you like a good bake off!

Basil, Pea and Pancetta Tart

Basil, Pea and Prosciutto Tart

Is this stock art? Sorry, but yes. We dived into the one we made minutes after taking it out of the oven, before thinking of taking a photo. But for the record, it did look this good.

This weekend, we had a lovely lunch at home with a friend that I haven’t seen in quite a while. I always love a good catch up – especially when it’s accompanied by some delish food!

We made a basil, pea and pancetta tart (and by “we,” I mean the royal “we,” in which my husband did all the cooking and I did the hard part of going to Whole Foods and purchasing the ingredients required.)

The recipe comes from BBC Good Food and will certainly join the summer tomato tart in our summer cooking repertoire (and by “our,” I mean the royal “our” in which I helpfully suggest delicious winning dishes, and my husband kindly does the cooking. Are you sensing a pattern?).

I’ve tweaked a bit of the recipe for American purposes but some of it was eyeballing and guesstimation while the royal “we” went along, and “we” did use scales for weight.

INGREDIENTS
284ml pot double cream
large bunch basil
1 pack shortcrust pastry (or make your own)
plain flour, for rolling out
175g frozen broad beans, defrosted and podded
1 bag frozen petits pois, defrosted
105g thinly sliced pancetta (we used cubed prosciutto instead)
3 eggs, plus 1 yolk
50g parmesan, finely grated, plus shavings to serve

Bring the cream to the boil in a small saucepan, then take off the heat and drop in half the bunch of basil, making sure all the leaves and stems are fully immersed. Leave to infuse for at least an hour. Transfer to a lidded container and chill once cool, if preparing the day before. Meanwhile, roll the pastry out on a floured surface to about the thickness of 2 x £1 coins and use to line a 23cm loose-bottom tart tin. Chill on a baking sheet until ready to use.

Blanch the broad beans in a pan of boiling water for 1 min. Add the peas, bring back to the boil for another min, then drain and cool quickly under the cold tap. Drain, then dry on kitchen paper. Set aside. Heat grill to medim and cook the pancetta until it is crisp and golden, setting aside on kitchen paper to absorb any fat. Can be prepared up to this stage a day ahead.

Heat oven to 400 degrees F and put a second baking sheet in the oven. Line the pastry case with parchment and fill with baking beans. Slide the tin onto the hot baking sheet and bake blind for 15 mins, then lift out the paper and beans and cook for 5 mins more, until the pastry feels sandy. Meanwhile, strain the cream through a sieve, pressing the basil against the mesh with a non-metallic spoon or spatula to extract as much of the flavour as possible.

Turn oven down to 300 degrees F. Beat the eggs into the cream, stir in the parmesan and season to taste. Tear the pancetta and sprinkle into the case, along with the peas and beans. Pour in the egg and cream mix. (You may have a little left, depending on the depth of your tin.) Bake for about 50 mins-1 hr or until the custard is just set in the middle. Serve warm or cold, topped with shavings of parmesan and the remaining basil leaves.

Recipe from Good Food magazine, April 2006

Rachel’s English trifle in real life

Okay, who remembers Rachel’s English trifle from “Friends”?

Well, someone in the U.K. has made it – with beef sautéed with peas and onions. And the sight of this might be one of the highlights of my day.

Rachel's English trifle

If you missed seeing that winning episode the first go round, here is a snippet!

The snackers guide to British cakes

Americans have funfetti. German chocolate cake (which is not actually German, go figure!). We can even count New York cheesecake under the banner of “Proud Cakes from the USA.” But we’ve got nothing compared to the Brits.

I love this infographic, designed by Flokkcreative, and the sheer variety of British cakes with amazingly quirky names like eccles (pronounced eckles) cake, Battenburg cake or Victoria sponge. What’s your favorite British cake?

Snackers Guide to British Cakes

Happy Pancakes

Making crepes

I don’t think Pancake Day really became a part of my life until I lived in the U.K. I thought it was a sweet, whimsical holiday that the Brits invented (they didn’t, by the way. More info on the origins here). But very quickly, it became an annual thing. And then after our kids were born, it became a tasty tradition — one that annually takes us by surprise (I actually didn’t realize it was Pancake Day until yesterday morning), but part of the tradition includes that fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants scramble to get ingredients on a school night and pull this thing off.

I’m happy to report we had success yesterday — and even better, my husband made the pancakes this year.

Read the rest of this entry

Crisp sandwich, anyone?

crisp sandwich

Leave it to the British masterminds who created the chip butty (fries in a roll) to also attempt the crisp (translation: potato chip) sandwich.

Yes, crisp sandwiches are now being sold at the Stock Exchange Bakery in Bristol. The bakery offers patrons the choice of granary bread or a white bun (baked fresh on the premises! and I’ve blogged before about how granary bread is the Best Bread on the Planet!) and a choice of 20 different crisps (the Brits have so much variety in flavors from roast beef to prawn cocktail and everything in between) to put inside. All this for £2.50 each. The Bristol Post reports that they’ve had queues around the block!

Not since this sandwich have I been so intrigued. Sigh. Will someone report on this from across the pond? Is it as good as it sounds?

The chewy joy of wine gums

Wine gums

When I first moved to the United Kingdom nearly 20 years ago, I discovered the Maynards Wine Gums and being a Haribo convert and loving anything gummy, sweet and black currant flavored, I became an instant fan.

And then the whole Mad Cow Disease broke and there was rumor/conjecture/fact that wine gums were made out of gelatin (made from those mad cow’s joints or muscle, bones or gristle, I’m not quite sure) and they fell out of favor with me. I stopped buying them (I was a vegetarian at the time and did think it would be tragic and also ironic if I got Mad Cow Disease, not from eating cheap burgers or sausages, but from these blissfully nearly blameless fruit candies), but that decision did come with anguish every time I spotted them in the grocery checkout aisle.

Fast forward to this past year and I started thinking about those wine gums again. When my mother-in-law was packing her bag to visit us in November, I asked her if she could bring some. It only took a couple of bites into the black and red (the only flavors worth mentioning, in my opinion) and I was transported to those days at uni. I love the density of them. The hearty chewiness of them (not weak and loose in bite like some excessively jubbly candies you can buy). The black currant-y smell of them. They don’t stick to your teeth or make you worry that you’ll loose a filling. They’re just a burst of sweet berry joy and I can’t compare them to anything here in the U.S. Needless to say that packet of wine gums went quickly.

My sister-in-law came to visit us this month and also brought a box of wine gums along with Percy Pigs (more on this delicacy in a future post…) and it was again like a tasty reunion of memories and nostalgia, wrapped in animal gelatin and black currant flavors (or lime, lemon or orange, if you prefer the green, yellow or orange, which I don’t touch).

Have you tried wine gums? What do you think of them?

British sweets

Fiona's sweets

Have you heard of Fiona’s Sweetshoppe? They do a line of imported candy from the U.K. in the U.S. My husband got a few different types for his birthday and I’m excited to try it – particularly the sherbet lemons, which I’ve never tried, but sounds so very Harry Pottery, I can’t wait.

What’s your favorite British candy?