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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.

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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

Another year, another coffee and walnut cake

Coffee walnut cake

My husband celebrated his birthday on Saturday, which, of course means one thing: Coffee and walnut cake.

I was running around on Saturday morning, making a nice birthday breakfast, getting ready to take my daughter to a birthday party, wrapping presents, brushing teeth and negotiating the time it would take to bake the cake. Thankfully, I had blogged last year sending a message to Future Me about the ease of cooking this Nigella Lawson recipe and Past Me was entirely correct.

It was a breeze to make. 10 minutes prep. 25 minutes in the oven. Then boom! Done.

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So hi, hi, American pie

Apple pie

I did something very American last weekend. I baked some apple pie.

I’m not a pie maker, but the whole autumn-ness of this season struck me and I decided I needed to eschew crumble for something doughy, flaky and piping hot. My husband picked up some really good pie crust from the Co-op – so much better than Pillsbury (hey, don’t judge me, I don’t judge you) and it proved to make all the difference.

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Hot cross bun pudding

On this Good Friday, I present to you one singular vision. Yes, I’m talking about hot cross bun pudding, found on The Pretty blog. I never have uneaten hot cross buns, just laying around, getting stale for such a dish, but if I did, I think this would be the way to go! Thanks to Ally from A Girl and Her Fork for the tip!

Hot cross bun pudding

New year, new pasta

Trish MarsomHappy 2014 to you! I hope you had a wonderful holiday break!

We traveled down to Southern California to visit some of my family and friends before Christmas, enjoyed Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day here at home, and then headed to Lake Tahoe for a few days of R&R with friends! It was sadly snow-free, but still splendidly beautiful! We were able to do some ice skating, tubing and sitting in front of a roaring fire drinking hot chocolate. Idyllic!

I decided to kick off the new year by cracking open some cookbooks and finding a new lunch recipe that the kids might enjoy: Nigella Lawson‘s Spaghetti with Marmite recipe sounded deviously simple so I gave it a try. “I haven’t as yet found a child who doesn’t like it,” she wrote in “Nigella Kitchen” and I was sold.

What a recipe! It is so savory and great! My son had three helpings! I had two! My daughter had one! And my husband, who hates Marmite, enjoyed a bowl and couldn’t detect Marmite in the flavor (although he did comment that the kitchen smelled a little Marmite-y). Try this recipe for a quick, no-nonsense pasta dish that kids (and grown-ups alike) will love!

Spaghetti with Marmite


Spaghetti with Marmite

Serves 4-6, depending on age and appetite

12 ounces dried spaghetti
3 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tsp Marmite, or more to taste
freshly grated Parmesan cheese, to serve

Cook spaghetti in plenty of boiling salted water

When the pasta is almost cooked, melt the butter in a small saucepan and add the Marmite and 1 tbsp of the pasta water, mixing thoroughly to dissolve. Reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water; then drain the pasta and pour the Marmite mixture over the drained spaghetti, adding a little reserved pasta water to amalgamate if required. Serve with plenty of grated Parmesan cheese.

Cauliflower bake with hazelnut crunch crust

A few months ago, we got “The Little Paris Kitchen” cookbook by Rachel Khoo and after a long summer of not feeling terribly interested in spending time in the kitchen, I’ve finally gotten around to cooking from it – Cauliflower bake with hazelnut crunch crust.

I like the simplicity of her recipes and the French flair (Khoo is a Brit who now lives in Paris and adds some Britishness to her French dishes). It’s seasonal, fresh and easy and the results speak for themselves – my cauliflower bake was gone in a day and it was a great recipe to get the kids to eat their veggies.

If you haven’t seen Khoo’s show before, it’s currently on the Cooking Channel in the states, showing every Friday at 12:30 p.m. EST.

Cauliflower bake with hazelnut crunch crust

3 lbs heads cauliflower, trimmed and separated into florets
1/3 cup hazelnuts, finely chopped
1 slice of extra crunchy toast, roughly chopped

Mornay sauce
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups milk, slightly warmed
1/4 onion, skin removed
1 clove
1 bay leaf
1 pinch salt and pepper
1 pinch nutmeg
7 ounces gruyere cheese, grated (can also use Comte or Parmesan)

To begin with, steam the cauliflower in a colander fitted inside a pan. Steam for around 15 minutes so the cauliflower still has some bite left in it.

Cauliflower Bake

For the sauce, melt the butter in a medium sized pan. Add the flour and stir hard until a smooth paste is achieved. Take off the heat and leave for a couple of minutes. Slowly add the milk, mixing all the time. Place it back on the heat and add the clove, bay leaf and leek. Simmer for 10 minutes, constantly stirring. Remove the leek, bay leaf and clove. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Cauliflower Bake

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Stir the cheese into the warm sauce, saving a bit to sprinkle on top. Mix the cauliflower into the sauce and give it a good stir. Pour into a baking tin.

Cauliflower Bake

Sprinkle on the remaining cheese and top with the crushed hazelnuts and broken up pieces of toast. Bake for 20 minutes and then place under the broiler for a few minutes to get a golden and bubbling crust.

We dug in so quickly after I took it out of the oven that I later realized that I had forgotten to take a photo of this golden brown and bubbling goodness! Trust me when I say it looked and tasted divine!

The secret ingredient to perfect scones

Maybe it was hearing this story on NPR’s “Fresh Air” last week, but I’ve had “America’s Test Kitchen” on the brain and wanted to test drive one of their recipes.

This weekend, I decided to try a new current scone recipe and why not see WWATKD (What Would America’s Test Kitchen Do?)

Their cream scone with currants recipe proved to be ridiculously amazing and even better than the Epicurious recipe that has been my go-to scone recipe for the past year. Scone agnostics need to check this out.

Cream scones with currants

The secret ingredient? Cream. I know. It’s not very British. But tasting is believing!

Cream Scones with Currants

2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for the counter
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes and chilled
1/2 cup currants
1 cup heavy cream

1. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 450 degrees. Pulse the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt together in a food processor to combine, about 6 pulses. Scatter the butter evenly over the top and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal with a few slightly larger butter lumps, about 12 pulses.

2. Add the currants and quickly pulse once to combine. Transfer the dough to a large bowl. Stir in the cream with a rubber spatula until the dough begins to form, about 30 seconds.

3. Turn the dough and any floury bits out onto a floured counter and knead until it forms a rough, slightly sticky ball, 5 to 10 seconds. Press the dough into a 9-inch pan. Unmold the dough and cut into 8 wedges. Place the wedges on an ungreased baking sheet.

4. Bake until the scone tops are light brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for at least 10 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

IMG_1477

One American’s English trifle

Strawberry Trifle. Photo credit: Susan Jones.

Strawberry Trifle. Photo credit: Susan Jones.

Did anyone else hear the summer trifle story that was featured on NPR’s “All Things Considered” this week?

As part of their Taste of Summer recipe contest, they asked readers to submit their favorite “found recipes” and Indiana resident Susan Jones submitted this recipe for strawberry trifle, which she found on a country walk one day. (Presumably someone had thrown out lots of recipes and this was among the stack). It turned out to be a winning recipe for Jones.

One look at the recipe would make any Brit shudder. It’s a completely Americanized version of trifle, made with – horror of horrors! – Cool Whip and cream cheese. And having said that, I should add that I haven’t made it, but I can also nearly guarantee that it is absolutely delicious. Cool Whip + strawberries + angel food cake = an instant winner, no matter how you cut it. Blasphemous but true!


Recipe: Strawberry Trifle

16 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
12 ounces whipped cream or Cool Whip
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 angel food cake
3 quarts fresh strawberries
1/4 cup sugar
Fresh mint

Mix cream cheese and powdered sugar until creamy. Add whipped cream and vanilla. Cut angel food cake into small squares. Slice all but 3 or 4 strawberries. Gently mix sliced berries in bowl with 1/4 cup sugar; let sit for 15 minutes. Cover the bottom of a large trifle dish (clear, stemmed bowl) with a layer of the cake squares. Follow with a layer of cream cheese mixture, then strawberries. Alternate, ending with the cream cheese mixture on top. Garnish with reserved whole strawberries and mint leaves. Refrigerate for an hour before serving.

Jam tarts

When we visited my mother in law in Devon, she made a lovely pie for dessert and had some extra pastry. What did she do with it? She whipped up a batch of jam tarts!

IMG_0731

The kids loved them. All you need is some pastry and a dollop of strawberry jam (or really any flavor you like). Easy peasy! Aren’t they pretty?