I’m making a wedding cake for two of my colleagues on Thursday. Well, on Wednesday and Thursday, really, though Wednesday is just the baking phase and shouldn’t be too tricky. I’ve been asked for a chocolate and raspberry cake, a big cake rather than cupcakes, because they want something that looks ‘weddingy’, and if I could make some cupcakes or something that are egg-free that would be really good.
Monthly Archives: March 2012
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This really did get delayed, didn’t it? Part of the problem is that I find it difficult to think of many things to say about Timon at all. It feels rather stylised to me, as though it is an allegory … Continue reading
Ever since the weekend, I’ve been thinking about purple carrot cake. Whether purple carrots would make purple cake. How to maximise the purpleness of the cake. Whether a vegan carrot cake (lacking alkaline egg-white) would get me a better purple cake than one containing eggs. Whether adding orange juice, as some recipes suggest, would counteract the egg-white, and drive the cake over the line into pinkness.
What I really want to do is set up a series of purple cake experiments, in which I test the various variables and see what colours the cakes come out. But that’s a lot of carrot cake for two people to get through, and even amusing colouring will grow old if you have four dozen carrot cupcakes to get through. So I decided instead to start by focus on making the most purple carrot cake I could. Not blue – I wanted to do some vegan (ish – these plans work better if you actually have soy yoghurt in the house) baking for a change, and besides, egg-whites can drive cake over the edge into green, and I’ve already done that. And not pink. Pink is far too easy. So purple it would be, then.
Not to put too fine a point on it, I failed. My batter wound up an alarming (but nonetheless entertaining) shade of deep blue-grey, which I thought was rather promising, but the cooked cake was just a particularly deep brown in colour. Clearly, using brown sugar was a mistake. On the other hand, the flavour was excellent. Hence this blog post – because really, these are some of the nicest carrot cakes I’ve had. And they are very nearly vegan (and dead easy to veganise, as you will see)!
Your Shopping list1/2 cup brown sugar 1/3 cup canola oil 1/3 cup sour cream or soy yoghurt 1 tsp vanilla extract 2/3 cup plain flour 1/4 tsp baking powder 3/4 tsp bicarb of soda, which should make everything more blue! pinch of salt 1/4 tsp cinnamon 1/4 tsp ginger about 2 purple carrots, peeled and grated (you should end up with about a cup of grated carrot) 1/4 cup dried cherries 1/4 cup dried blueberries 1 tbsp cacao nibs (optional) 60 g cream cheese (or soy cream cheese), softened 60 g butter or margarine, softened 1 1/2 cups icing sugar zest of one lemon blue food colouring, if you like
So I kind of accidentally got captured by the internet last night and then it was 8pm and I hadn’t really thought about dinner, except that it needed to include corn, and all my cookbooks were useless on the subject, so I had to randomly make up this stew, which I didn’t think was going to be all that good. Only then it was really good, so I had to write down the recipe and take bad photos of what was left in the pan, which is why the photos in this blog post are less than stellar. But I promise you, the stew itself is lovely.
This meal is a very simple sauté-turned-stew of the kind of late-summer vegetables that I associate with the Americas. I suspect it is vaguely Mexican, but I only suspect that because I know nothing about Mexican cooking… Anyway, it’s very easy to make, and also terribly healthy, as well as being gluten-free, vegan and low-GI, but it’s basic purpose was to do something with the corn I had bought at the Farmers’ Market as soon as possible, since corn is one of those vegetables that loses flavour within minutes of being picked (or so I am told – I’ve never grown corn, which means, I suppose, that I don’t actually know what it should taste like, really).
Also, it’s very pretty! Look at all those lovely colours!
Your Shopping Listolive oil 4 cloves garlic, crushed 2 red onions, chopped (I cut them in half through the root, then in half again across the equator, then I slice them into what would be half-moons if it weren’t for the equatorial slicing) 1 red chilli, finely chopped 1 tbsp cumin (or thereabouts – I wasn’t measuring) 1 tbsp oregano 1 tsp ground chilli 1 pinch of ground fennel seeds salt, pepper 3 capsicums, all in different colours, chopped 1 sweet yellow chilli, chopped kernels from 3 cobs corn 6 little zucchini, some yellow, some green (about 3 normal-sized zucchini, I should think), sliced 150 g cherry tomatoes, halved 2 tins chopped tomatoes 1 tin black beans small handful coriander, chopped guacamole, corn chips or cornbread, and grated cheese (to serve)
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Today’s market visit was made a bit more exciting by realising just when we were about to leave that the car wouldn’t start. I’m beginning to suspect that this is our personal annual harbinger of autumn – the flat car … Continue reading
I promise there will be a Timon post in the next day or two, but I’m still rather bushed from the last few weeks, and photo posts always take me hours, so you will just have to make do with a recipe for the time being (not an actual recipe for ‘the time being’, though. I’m not sure what that tastes like, and I haven’t written the recipe for it at any rate). Oh, how you suffer!
Don’t be intimidated by this recipe. It’s time-consuming and a little fiddly, certainly, but if you take it slowly it’s actually very easy. And it’s delicious and keeps for days, so it’s worth making the time to make it.
Two tips for filo pastry without tears (of either kind, in fact): first, never buy the frozen version – defrosted frozen filo pastry is unbelievably fragile and will fall apart if you so much as look at it cross-eyed (and after ten or so layers, you will definitely be cross-eyed). Seriously, I’ve given up buying the stuff because it always makes me cry – if it’s a choice between frozen filo pastry and cooking something different for dessert, I will cook the something different every time. Get the stuff from the fridge section. Trust me on this.
Tip two is that olive oil spray is inauthentic but awesome – I don’t, in fact, use it in this particular recipe, but there is nothing to stop you doing so, and I’d certainly use it for this if I were in a hurry or feeling generally impatient. I do use it for a lot of other things. It’s awesome for so many reasons I can hardly count them. For one thing, spraying a layer of olive oil onto filo pastry is much, much faster than brushing it with butter, and lowers your chance of tearing the pastry significantly. For another thing, it’s a bit lower in fat (you use much less of it), and of course it’s also vegan. Olive oil-brushed filo is a bit crispier than the buttery kind, and you might even find you prefer its lighter flavour.
This recipe is lightly adapted from one in Tessa Kiros’s book Food From Many Greek Kitchens. Pretty much my entire feast yesterday came from this book, and it was all lovely, so I can heartily recommend it.
What are you waiting for?
Your shopping list360 g white sugar 2 tbsp honey strip of lemon peel juice of half a lemon 2-3 cinnamon sticks 150 g almonds 150 g pistachios 2 tbsp caster sugar 2 tbsp cinnamon 22 sheets filo pastry (1 packet should do it) 150 g butter, melted (or your trusty olive oil spray!) 30-50 whole cloves
Just as a little tease, though, here’s my menu from today:
Dips: Tzatkiki, Melitzanosalata, Skordalia, spicy feta
Veg: Tomato and oregano salad, cucumber, lemon and mint salad, marinated peppers, olives
Hot things: cheese cigars, spinach triangles, chickpea balls, tomato fritters
Turkish Delight (Greek, in this case)
Baklava (which caused a riot when brought to the table)
Greek Honey cakes
There was enough food.
And there was *definitely* enough sugar.
And I make a very good baklava, if I say so myself.
And so to bed.
I’m in mad cooking mode for Shakespeare tomorrow. At this very moment, something that I hope will turn into Turkish Delight is glooping away, jellyfish-like, in a saucepan, so imagine, if you will, that this post is punctuated by mad dashes out to the kitchen to see if the mixture has achieved ‘very thick and golden’ yet. Since we’re doing Timon of Athens, it would actually be appropriate to just serve hot water and rocks, but that would be mean, and I can’t bring myself to be quite that evil. Besides, I have much, much nicer friends than Timon does, so they certainly don’t deserve Timon’s feast.
So we’re having a lot of Greek food, and also rock cakes, and, as you have possibly guessed by now, Rocky Road.
The trouble with commercial Rocky Road is that people always put pointless stuff in it, like peanuts, or really bad jelly lollies, or marshmallows that don’t even taste like marshmallows. And they don’t use proper chocolate, either. This is where it becomes really pleasing to make your own Rocky Road, because you can put whatever you like in it! Also, it takes about ten minutes to make, and most of that time is waiting for the chocolate to melt.
This is, in my view, the best ever Rocky Road. Of course it is. I made it precisely to my taste – inasmuch as the shops would let me. I was hoping for a lot more freeze-dried fruit, preferably raspberries and apricots. But you know what? That just means I can make this even more perfect next time…
Your Shopping List500 g really good dark cooking chocolate. This is all about the chocolate, so you might as well go Lindt 75% 150 g marshmallows. The ones which actually have a bit of flavour to them. 85 g roasted unsalted almonds. Need I say more? 50 g glacé cherries. But if you can get glacé pineapple instead, I say go for it! 50 g freeze-dried fruit. The snappy, crunchy kind. Trust me, this is an absolute winner, especially if you can get something good and tangy, like strawberries or raspberries. 50 g good quality turkish delight, or better still, pectin jellies! Did I mention I still have some mis-shapen ones left over from Christmas? Well, now I have 50 g fewer…
Still drowning in grants, but the last of this lot is due on Thursday, after which I will be able to *sleep*, hopefully without dreaming about grant applications. It was Andrew’s birthday recently, and we had his family around for lunch on Saturday. I rang Andrew from work at about 7pm and asked him to look up Nigella’s recipe for Grasshopper Pie, on the grounds that it was chocolatey and minty (his favourite flavours) and, being Nigella, it was unlikely to be too tricky for my tired brain.
Despite the unlikely ingredients, it turns out to be absolutely gorgeous (and rich), with a lovely light texture from the marshmallows (yes, I’m eating marshmallows even though it’s Lent. This is very bad, I know, but I really am not feeling sufficiently imaginative to operate around them just now). The only drawback is that one is then left with about 150g of pink marshmallows (since one really cannot use pink marshmallows for a bright green mousse, and all the packets come variegated in pink and white), and must therefore think of something suitably pink to do with them.
Fortunately, my lovely potato man is still selling his strawberries at $10 for 3 punnets, and for once I have a use for three whole punnets of strawberries. Of course, that would make Nigella’s filling far too wet to set, so I added a block of white chocolate to help stabilise things, and then threw in some raspberry liqueur, because why not?
The results are quite pleasing – while this looks very cheesecakey, it’s much lighter in texture (though certainly not light in any other sense), and the strawberries really shine through. It is a little on the sweet side for my taste, and I think next time I would serve it with a really tart raspberry sauce to add some acidity, since I don’t think one can add lemon juice or vinegar to that amount of cream and have good results. Just be warned – this is one rich dessert. And this quantity will make enough for at least twelve people, maybe more. I suspect I will be feeding leftovers to hungry scientists and stressed out grant officers come tomorrow…
Your Shopping List300 g choc wheaten biscuits, or chocolate ripple biscuits, or just granitas and add extra chocolate 50 g dark, dark chocolate 75 g butter, softened a bit and cut into cubes. 3 punnets (approx 750 g) strawberries 2 tablespoons (4 ml) milk 180 g white chocolate 250 g pink or white marshmallows (mini marshmallows probably work best, but I used a mixture of both) 60 ml raspberry liqueur, or kirsch, or cassis 450 ml double cream
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This will be another short, pictorial post, because grants season at work is reaching its hideous climax, with everything falling due on Wednesday or Thursday this week. I’m still working crazy hours, and dream of grant writing by night… but … Continue reading