Sunday, 31 March 2013

Easter garlic lamb cooked in hay

Easter Sunday lunch: roast lamb studded with garlic cooked in hay with all the trimmings

My parents came to stay over Easter which I thought was a good opportunity to cook a decent sized roast (I'm usually cooking for one so it isn't worth it). I don't cook lamb very often either as my boyfriend doesn't like it, but roast lamb is a traditional Easter dish and something that I love.

I saw a recipe in the Mail on Sunday's You magazine for lamb cooked on a bed of hay, which I thought looked intriguing- and I do have access to plenty of hay. Say hello to Moo who kindly let me have some of her eating hay for this recipe.

The recipe is quite simple and doesn't use many ingredients. I had a 2.1kg leg of lamb; I made small cuts all over it with a sharp knife and sliced five cloves of garlic, then inserted the slices into each cut. Drizzle with oil and season.

Then surround the lamb with hay but don't cover it. Cover the whole thing tightly with foil.

The hay gives off a little bit of smoke but it didn't burn, and two and a half hours later we had this:

After lifting out the lamb to carve I removed as much of the hay as possible.

I'm not sure how much of a flavour the hay gave to the lamb, but it was beautifully cooked and you could taste the garlic. My mum was in charge of the roast potatoes and gravy and we had a great Easter Sunday lunch.

Saturday, 30 March 2013

Easter Egg Surprise Cakes

The surprise when you crack open one of these eggs is.... there's cake inside!

I can't take credit for this idea at all. I saw it on Ros's blog The More Than Occasional Baker last Easter, and immediately bookmarked it for next year; though she says she got the idea from another website and it may have come from somewhere else before that!

I've been carefully breaking eggshells by using a spoon to make a hole at one end every time I've used eggs recently, so I could wash out the shells and keep them relatively intact. Today I set about making the cake to go inside. Ros made multicolour cakes but said her mum had made the suggestion of putting small balls of marzipan inside to look like a yolk. When I saw that, I remembered I had bought some white cake mix when I was in America; I'm not usually a fan of packet mix but I wanted to see how this would turn out. The white cake would contrast perfectly with the yellow marzipan and make pretty realistic eggs.

You just add some water, oil and three egg whites to the packet cake mix, it only took a minute to mix together. It tasted incredibly sweet though, and was much more runny than the cake mixture I would normally make.

I could only get hold of 'white' marzipan rather than yellow; it was still slightly yellow in colour but not that much so I added some Dr. Oetker yellow gel colouring and kneaded it in (this is the before picture).

 I rolled several small balls of marzipan, though some of them turned out to be too big so I broke them in half and made two.

Here are some of the egg shells I saved and washed out. The holes aren't particularly neat but that doesn't really matter.

I put the cake mixture into a piping bag and piped some in to each shell, then placed a ball of marzipan inside, then filled in the shells with some more cake mixture. It was quite messy as it was so runny!

They only took 15 minutes in the oven, though I obviously overfilled the shells as a lot of the cake came out.

I learnt how to do it better on the second batch and the cake only spilled out slightly.

Here's a very unassuming box of eggs... I plan to take them into work and offer them around, which will get me a few strange looks!

Until people start peeling the shells off, that is! I was pleased the white cake mix genuinely did come out white unlike 'normal' cake which is more of a golden brown in colour. I guess they do that by bleaching the flour somehow.

Here's the cake 'egg' nestling in the egg box

When you cut it in half, the marzipan really does look like an egg yolk!

I'm really pleased with these; they were easy to make though messy to fill the eggs. But I think they will make a great Easter surprise!

I'm sending these to Calendar Cakes, hosted by Laura of Laura Loves Cakes and Rachel of Dollybakes, as their theme this month is Easter.

I'm also sending this to Bookmarked Recipes, hosted by Jacqueline of Tinned Tomatoes.

Friday, 29 March 2013

Nigella Lawson Easter Simnel Cake

A Simnel cake is a fruit cake with a layer of marzipan in the middle and one on top, that is traditionally made at Easter. It's usually decorated with eleven balls of marzipan to represent the apostles (minus Judas). Apparently the name Simnel is most likely to come from the Latin word 'simila', meaning 'fine flour'.

My parents came to stay with me over Easter and I wanted to do some baking. I've never made or indeed even eaten a Simnel cake before - I'm not usually a fan of fruit cake or marzipan! - But tastes change and I'm willing to give it a go, and it's the sort of cake my parents would definitely like. There are plenty of recipes around for Simnel cake and variations on the cake, e.g. turned into cupcakes or muffins, but as this was my first Simnel cake I wanted to stick to something traditional - so I turned to my copy of Nigella's Feast, which has sections covering all the major holidays including Passover and Easter.

I adapted the recipe slightly, to leave out the glace cherries (which I don't like) and I also used less marzipan than recommended.

You need:
175g butter, softened
175g caster sugar
zest of 1 lemon
225g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
25g ground almonds
3 eggs
splash of milk
500g mixed dried fruit
about 1 kg marzipan - I used less but it will depend on the size of the cake tin you use and how thick you like your marzipan layer
icing sugar for rolling out the marzipan possibly - though I didn't use any and it was fine
1 tbsp apricot jam, melted
Nigella also recommends brushing the top of the finished cake with 1 egg white then using a blow torch to give it a burnished look, but I don't have a blowtorch so I didn't do this.

Preheat the oven to 170C. Cream the butter and sugar

Add the lemon zest and beat again

In a separate bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger and ground almonds

Nigella recommends adding one egg at a time with 2 tbsp of the flour mixture each time and beating. Repeat three times, then mix in the rest of the flour and the milk.

Fold in the fruit

Pour half the cake mixture into a loose-bottomed cake tin; I sprayed Cake Release into it first.

Roll out a piece of marzipan

 Use the cake tin to cut out a circle of the correct size

Place the circle of marzipan onto the cake mixture

Spoon the rest of the cake mixture on the top and level off

Bake the cake for half an hour in the preheated oven the turn the temperature down to 150C for another hour and a half. I turned the temperature down to about 120C as my oven always seems to cook fast but the edges of the cake still came out a little darker than I would have liked.

Roll out another piece of marzipan and again use the bottom of the cake tin to cut around. Warm some apricot jam and brush on top of the cake and place the circle of marzipan on top. Roll 11 balls of marzipan to represent the apostles

Using more apricot jam stick the marzipan balls to the top of the cake

I'm sending this to Calendar Cakes, hosted by Laura of Laura Loves Cakes and Rachel of Dollybakes. Their theme this month is of course Easter.
I'm also sending this to Forever Nigella, where the theme this month is also Easter. The challenge is hosted this month by Jen at Blue Kitchen Bakes and was started by Maison Cupcake


Thursday, 28 March 2013

Easter Cards 2013

I decided to make a selection of Easter cards and rooted around in my craft box (OK, my dozen or so craft crates, it's lucky I have a convenient alcove in my bedroom!) to see what I could find. I came across a couple of packets of padded Easter stickers and some Easter-themed ribbon so using a selection of pastel-coloured card blanks I made a quick selection.

The odd card out in the photo below uses a piece of Easter-themed printed paper and a couple of stickers from another packet (a 'happy Easter' and a flower).

I wonder if many people still send Easter cards these days, or for the non-religious among you, is it all about the chocolate eggs?

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Alphabakes Roundup - March 2013 - I

We had another slightly more difficult letter again this month - and since we actively discouraged merely a cake with icing for 'i' I know that made it harder for some of you! So thanks to everyone who entered; read on to the end to find out who won the prize we had on offer this month, a selection of baking goodies from Dr. Oetker.

First up we have my own entry – something I’d previously made in a cake decorating class but not posted on my blog yet, so this seemed like a great opportunity! I made insect cupcakes – cakes decorated to look like ladybirds, bees and dragonflies. These would be fun to make for a spring or summer-themed party and they are also really easy to make so children could have a go.

 I also submitted an older entry I made last summer – ice cream conecupcakes. You need to buy the flat-bottomed rather than pointed ice cream cones, and you bake the cake mixture inside them. Finish them off with a swirl of buttercream and a Flake!

 We decided not to accept cakes that merely had some sort of icing on top as an entry for our ‘I’ challenge, but we did have to make an exception for this. Icing is practically the main ingredient in this cake and the fondant decoration is really the most prominent thing about this cake. I think it’s absolutely amazing! Here’s Elizabeth from Elizabeth’s Kitchen with her AngryBirds Birthday Cake

When I was a child I used to love iced gems – and I still eat them now – so I was pleased to see this entry from Olivia at Liv A Little Bakery. They look just like the real thing!

Here’s my third and final entry this month- Idaho Potato Cake. OK, so I didn’t make it with potatoes from Idaho, but I have been there, and this is the name of the recipe. You can’t taste the mashed potato in it, I promise!


In the same geographical vein, Eira from Cookbooks Galore found this recipe for an Israeli Date and Pecan cake. She says it is a lovely nutty cake, not to sweet, and works well as a dessert with crème fraiche or ice cream. It looks tasty!

Ros at the More Than Occasional Baker – my cohost for the Alphabakes challenge – made these cute ice cream cake pops. They would be great for a children’s party, and I love the mini doughnuts she made at the same time too.

Suelle from Mainly Baking made this delicious Italian pine nut tart which has a layer of chocolate hazelnut spread inside.  Suelle also suggests some alternative flavours and fillings which I think would work really well.

These Irish Cream Brownies from Susie at Fold in the Flour look very more-ish and would make a lovely dessert. I imagine they would also taste good made with the different types of Baileys you can get e.g. caramel and mint. Yum!

Our first savoury recipe this month comes from Jean at Baking inFranglais, who treated us to this Italian sausage and bean stew. It’s hearty and filling and is the perfect mid-week meal when you’re cold and hungry.

Jean also sent us an Italian bread pudding, which uses stale French bread and has a layer of apples.  Definitely a good way to use up leftover bread!

Jacqueline made this Irish log, which bears a striking similarity to a Swiss roll, but it has peppermint flavouring – and if you wanted to make this for St. Patrick’s Day, which fell in March (how’s that for good timing?) then you could even colour the cream filling and topping with green food colouring!

This roasted Italian sausage with potatoes and mushrooms looks like a lovely winter warmer; Elizabeth from Law Student’s CookBook says it was easy to make and full of flavour.

Claire from Under The Blue Gum Tree has introduced me to idli – South Indian steamed savoury cakes. She made these polenta idli using dariole moulds, and says that while they came out quite dense (I doubt that many people have idli pans lying around) they were beautifully spiced.

If you remember the square blocks of ice cream that the ice cream van used to sell and place between two flat wafers, you’ll love these ice cream sandwiches from Fiona at Sweet Thing You Make MyHeart Sing. Here she sandwiched vanilla ice cream between peanut cookies – this definitely brightens up a cold wintery day with thoughts of summer!

Choclette from Chocolate Log Blog came across a Delia Smith recipe for an Iced Honey and Spice cake; she adapted it to add cocoa and chilli and made it for a friend’s 60th birthday party. She also used some honey she was sent by the New Zealand Honey Co. and found this bake showcased its distinctive flavour.

The timing of this entry from Jen at Blue Kitchen Bakes was perfect – she used a semicircle cake pan to make an igloo cake – it’s a coconut sponge covered in white sugar paste. I saw this entry while I was on holiday in Lapland actually staying in a glass igloo, I wonder if Jen is psychic?! Anyway this cake is really cute and would go down very well at a seasonal party.

I was hoping the iced buns I loved as a child would make an appearance in this month’s Alphabakes and Dawn at WildAbout Baking does not disappoint. Dawn says she does not usually make bread so this was a little outside her comfort zone, but I’m glad she gave it a try as they turned out really well!

Dawn sent in a second entry – instantespresso cupcakes. They are from a Nigella recipe and she also made some coconut macaroons, which you can see in the same blog post.

Coffee was also the ingredient of choice for Dom from Belleau Kitchen, who made this Italian Blend Coffee and Walnut Cake. It’s from a Nigel Slater recipe; the cake batter itself contains walnuts and there are also walnuts on top to decorate the cake.

Mel from Sharky Oven Gloves made Irish coffee and walnut brownies, in between writing a 40,000 word thesis. These look lovely and gooey and would be the perfect accompaniment to an Irish coffee.

Finally More Than Occasional Baker Ros – and my co-host for this challenge- sent in these Italian mixed nut and chocolate chip biscotti. I think the grated lemon zest in the recipe would give it a lovely zing.

Thanks everyone for your hard work and all your entries this month. So without further ado, the winner of this month’s prize, a selection of baking goodies from Dr. Oetker, is…..

Olivia at Liv A Little Bakery

Olivia, we will be in touch to send your prize.

Thanks everyone for entering…. Especially for bearing with us while we have had a couple of particularly tricky letters in succession! You can find out which letter we are baking with in April on TheMore Than Occasional Baker on April 1st…. and you’ll be relieved to know the letter is a bit easier, so I look forward to seeing your entries!