Monday 27 March 2017

Meal Planning Monday 2017 - Week 13

Another fairly last minute meal plan as I've been busy with work as usual and also making loads of cakes (well, four) in the space of two weeks! I was away at the weekend for Mother's Day so had to pack everything I would normally do into half the time. So I haven't spent a lot of time pouring over recipe books for this week's meal plan!

Lunch - sandwich as I will be back too late on Sunday to prepare anything
Dinner - leftover fish pie and cottage pie

Working from home
Lunch - macaroni cheese on toast
Dinner - chicken enchiladas I was going to do last week in the slow cooker but didn't

lunch - bacon and mackerel salad I was going to do last week but didn't
Dinner - out with friends

Lunch - meant to be out with a friend but we've realised we probably don[t have time to get somewhere between our two offices, have lunch and get back again, so I might take a packed lunch and we can just meet for a coffee instead!
Dinner - chicken chargrill for him, lamb grillsteak for me that I was going to do last week but didn't

Friday - day off to make my husband's 40th birthday cake
Lunch- something easy as I will be up to my ears in baking
Dinner - out for dinner at my husband's favourite restaurant

Saturday - my husband's 40th birthday
Lunch - out with the family
Dinner - with the family

Lunch - bacon sandwich (my husband's favourite)
Dinner - roast chicken or something from the freezer if we go out - we are considering a second day out for my husband's birthday

This is a blog hop, join in!

Saturday 25 March 2017

Strawberry and White Chocolate Unicorn Cake with a Surprise Inside

unicorn cake for Comic Relief

Scrolling through the messages on my Blackberry on a day off, I spotted a message about a bake sale at work for Comic Relief the following week. I always bake cakes when there is a charity bake sale and occasionally there has been a competitive element. I won the work bake-off two years ago with this floating malteser cake:

The following year I made this 'surprise inside' Mini Egg ombre piñata cake, but was out done by one of the other entrants (my sponge was a bit dry)

Easter showstopper mini egg ombre pinata cake

This year I wanted to make something special again and spent a while browsing the internet to get ideas and find out what current cake trends were, and decided to make a unicorn cake. I chose a strawberry cake recipe, bought some of the ingredients, spent time planning exactly what I was going to do... and when I got back to work and read the email properly, I realised that while all cakes were welcome for the bake sale, there were three competitive categories: tray bake, savoury cake, and chocolate cake. And I wasn't going to make any of those.

I considered scrapping my plans and making a different cake entirely but still wanted to do this one, and hit upon an idea: I could make a strawberry cake with white chocolate. I had a feeling that the other chocolate cake entries would all be milk chocolate or plain chocolate so having something with white chocolate might be a nice change.

In the end there weren't that many entries in the chocolate category after all so I won the bake off hands down! The cake tasted delicious, was really light and moist and I hid some white chocolate covered strawberries in the centre, which tumbled out when the cake was cut. It wasn't actually that difficult to decorate either and if the comments I received are anything to go by, it was definitely worth doing!

I didn't want the strawberries to overpower the white chocolate but also didn't want them just in the filling, so I decided to puree the strawberries in a blender and swirl it through the cake mixture in the tin before it was baked. To make sure the white chocolate flavour came through, I made a white chocolate buttercream for the filling and a white chocolate ganache to coat the outside of the cake before covering it with fondant.

Strawberry and white chocolate cake - an original recipe by Caroline Makes

I used a 6-inch cake tin (which is pretty small) as I wanted the cake to be tall but not too large and heavy as I had to carry it into work. This quantity makes four layers of a 6 inch cake.

450g butter, softened or margarine like Stork
450g caster sugar
8 eggs
450g self-raising flour
200g white chocolate, grated
50ml milk
227g punnet strawberries (or roughly that amount), hulled, chopped and blended in a food processor until pureed

for the strawberry centre:
75g strawberries
50g white chocolate

for the buttercream:
175g butter, softened or margarine like Stork
350g icing sugar, sifted
100g white chocolate, melted
pink food colouring
PME Cake Release or butter/marg for greasing the cake tins

for the ganache:
60ml double cream
120g white chocolate

to decorate:
about 1kg fondant - I find it easier to have extra for rolling out
PME gold edible lustre spray
black food colouring or a black edible ink pen
a wooden dowel or similar, about 8 inches long
star-shaped piping nozzle and piping bag

First if you want to fill the cake with chocolate-dipped strawberries you need to start by making these. The other thing I'd recommend using for the centre of the cake is Rainbow Drops - I had been planning to use these as I thought I had some in the cupboard but then couldn't find them!
Image result for rainbow drops

If you are using strawberries: Melt the 50g white chocolate in a small bowl in the microwave or a bain marie and dip in some chopped strawberries and leave on a wire rack to set. I actually did these the night before I needed them, though they don't take that long to set.

Preheat the oven to 180C and grease two loose-bottomed 6-inch cake tins. or spray with Cake Release.
In a large bowl, cream together the butter and the sugar then beat in the eggs. Fold in the flour then grate in the white chocolate, then carefully stir in the milk.

Spoon a quarter of the cake mixture into each of the two tins (so you will fill four in total).

Take a few spoonfuls of the strawberry puree and swirl through the cake mixture in the tins. Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes, until the cakes are cooked through but still fairly soft.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tin, then turn out onto a wire rack.

Wipe out the two tins, grease or spray again and spoon the rest of the cake mixture into the two tins. Bake for 20-25 minutes and leave to cool as before.

Make the buttercream by creaming the butter and the icing sugar and stirring in the melted white chocolate.

Make the chocolate ganache by heating the cream in a small pan until simmering. Remove from the heat and add the white chocolate and stir until melted. Set aside until it has cooled and thickened to a spreadable consistency.

When you are ready to assemble the cake, carefully level the cakes - if they have risen unevenly, slice a thin amount off the top of the cakes so they are flat.

Place the bottom cake on a cake board. Then take the next two layers and using a round cookie cutter, cut out a circle from the middle of both cakes. Spread some buttercream on the bottom layer, place the second layer on top and spread buttercream on top, leaving the hole free; place the third layer on top and repeat. Reserve a little of the buttercream to make the unicorn's hair.

You will now have a three-layer cake with a hole in the middle and a solid bottom layer. Pop your chocolate-dipped strawberries or sweets or whatever you are using into the hole, and place the solid top layer of cake on the top.

Spread the white chocolate ganache around the outside and on top of the cake.

Roll out the fondant on a mat dusted with icing sugar until it is large enough to cover the cake. Lift by draping it over a rolling pin and place on top of the cake. Smooth down the sides and trim the bottom.

Using the offcuts, roll two thin sausage shapes and twist one over the other, tapering as you get to the end - this will be the unicorn's horn. If you want you can use flower paste and the horn should stand up on its own; I used fondant which is too soft, so I poked a wooden dowel into the horn, leaving about an inch and a half at the end, which I later used to insert into the cake.

Place the horn onto newspaper or kitchen paper and spray with PME gold lustre spray. Leave to dry.

Using more of the fondant offcuts, shape two ears - I made these quite thick so they would stand up. Colour a small piece of fondant with pink food colouring and cut two flat pieces to stick inside the ears. I then used a cocktail stick inside each ear to attach them to the top of the cake.

I bought an edible ink pen by Rainbow Dust which has a thin end and a thick end; it took me about ten minutes to get the lid off one end and the other one wouldn't budge at all! So I could only use the thin end. It would have worked better if I'd waited for the fondant covering the cake to fully dry but it was already 11pm so I drew on the eyes, with the nib of the pen cutting into the fondant more than I would have wanted, and I would have preferred a thicker line, but it looked ok.

Add a little of the pink food colouring to the rest of the buttercream and using a piping bag and star nozzle, pipe some hair on top of the unicorn's head. Finally take the horn when the gold spray has dried and fix onto the top of the cake.

When you cut into the cake, the strawberries inside will tumble out, which is a nice surprise - you can just about see the strawberry swirl through the cake as well.

This cake would be lovely for a little girl's birthday I think - and of course it won the Comic Relief bake off!

I'm linking this up with Cook Blog Share, hosted by Eb at Easy Peasy Foodie.

Hijacked By Twins
I'm also sending it to We Should Cocoa, hosted by Choclette at Tin and Thyme.

Wednesday 22 March 2017

Puff Pastry Cheese, Bacon and Spring Onion Tart

This is an easy meal idea that is great for an informal dinner with friends, as it can be assembled before your guests arrive and then can go in the oven 20 minutes before you want to eat. You can play around with the toppings as well to use whatever you fancy - it's a good way of using up odds and ends in the fridge as well.

Simply take a piece of ready-made puff pastry - around 200g per person should be plenty, and I made each person their own - and roll out on a lightly floured surface into either a circle or square shape (or something in between!). Place onto a lightly oiled baking sheet.

Chop a few rashers of bacon and fry along with some chopped spring onions. When cooked, remove from pan and allow to cool.

Spread the pastry base with garlic and herb-flavoured soft cheese then scatter over the bacon and spring onion. Grate some cheese - Cheddar works well - and sprinkle over the tart. I also added some crumbled blue cheese.

Bake in a pre-heated oven at 180C for 20 minutes or until the pastry has risen and is golden. Serve with a green salad.

I'm sending this to Cook Blog Share, hosted this week by Easy Peasy Foodie.

Hijacked By Twins

Monday 20 March 2017

Meal Planning Monday 2017 - Week 12

It's Mothers' Day this weekend so I will be making my first cake in a while!

Lunch - was meant to be out with a friend but it got cancelled on Sunday night so I will make a sandwich (I wasn't eating bread otherwise!)
Dinner - chicken chargrill for him, lamb grillsteak for me

Tuesday - working from home
Lunch - tuna pasta bake using packet mix
Dinner - slow cooked chicken enchiladas

Lunch- leftover tuna bake
Dinner - my husband is out so I will have chicken miso stir-fry with cauliflower rice from this recipe

Lunch- mackerel and bacon salad based on this recipe
Dinner - spaghetti with prawns for me, spaghetti Bolognese for him

Lunch- mackerel and bacon salad based on this recipe
Dinner - chicken dippers and chips for him, fishfingers for me

Lunch- croissant French toast I was going to do a couple of weeks ago but didn't
Dinner- fish pie for me, cottage pie for him from this recipe

Lunch- with my family for Mothers' Day
Dinner - something easy from the freezer as I might be back late

Join in the blog hop!

Thursday 16 March 2017

Congratulations Baby Girl Card

A friend of mine was getting close to her due date and I realised I had a new baby card suitable for a boy but didn't have one for a girl. I didn't want to buy one, but I also didn't have a lot of time to make one.

I still had a box of pre-printed card blanks, if that's not a contradiction in terms - these are cards with different patterns but no pictures or wording that you can add a few embellishments to and personalise how you like.

I used one with a yellow and pink flower pattern as I thought this fit the new baby theme. Taking a pack of silver outline stickers, I stuck a bear and a rocking horse outline onto bright pink paper and cut around them, and stuck them onto the card. I used a 'congratulations' sentiment from the same sticker sheet on pale pink paper which I then mounted onto the bright pink paper and stuck on the top of the card.

Finally as I happened to have a small packet of brads to hand from another project and I spotted a couple of pink flowers in there, and decided they would add the perfect finishing touch. All ready now for my friend to have her baby!

I'm sharing this with Path of Positivity for this week's blog challenge which has the theme 'birth of new beginnings'.

Wednesday 15 March 2017

Restaurant review: Pitt Cue, London

If you've heard about the amazing ribs they serve at Pitt Cue - smoky barbecue ribs sitting alongside pulled pork burgers, served on a tin tray with a stack of napkins - then you're in the wrong place. Pitt Cue is an upmarket restaurant in Spitalfields that is a far cry from the original food truck, which unfortunately I didn't realise when I decided to go there!

I was meeting a friend for lunch in the area and unusually for me, hadn't spent any time looking up local restaurants as I'd been really busy. I popped onto Google Maps about half an hour before we were due to meet, and spotted Pitt Cue. Remembering what I'd heard about their ribs, I immediately suggested we go there.

When I arrived in Devonshire Square and entered the restaurant, which is somewhat industrial in style but posh-industrial rather than actually-on-an-industrial-estate industrial, I did wonder if it was the same place I'd heard about. The moment I looked at the menu I realised it wasn't!

This restaurant is less ribs and pulled pork and more smoked eel and ox tongue. There were only a few choices on the lunchtime menu, with a couple more options on the specials board, and I was at a bit of a loss as to what to order. I went for the cured and smoked jowl - I'd never had jowl, or pig's cheek, before so didn't know what to expect. It turned out to be a circular piece of meat, that gave me quite a surprise when I cut into it - literally the top half was a kind of jellied fat, with the pork a sort of slow-cooked melt-in-the-mouth layer underneath. That part was very nice, but I hate eating fat - even though this was probably one of the big draws of the dish, I actually found it deeply unpleasant and scraped it off the top!

It came with what I think was apple sauce but by this point I wasn't sure. I had some mashed potato with it and the only option was bone marrow mash - something else I've never had before, and was not particularly keen on.

I think this restaurant is aimed at people who know their cuts of meat and are either very traditional or very adventurous or a bit of both. Located just off Bishopsgate it's got a bit of a 'city boy' vibe -
I can imagine the meals being washed down with whisky. The meat is undoubtedly good quality and the menu speaks of its provenance, but give me some barbecued ribs and a pulled pork burger any day over cured jowl and bone marrow.

Tuesday 14 March 2017

Slow Cooker Thai Chicken Soup

I just wanted to quickly share this recipe with you as I've been making a lot of soups for lunch lately and this one is really good. It's a Betty Crocker recipe which you can find here; one of the things I like about it is that you put everything into the slow cooker and don't even need to stir.

It has quite a few ingredients (I left out the mushrooms as I don't like them) so you do have to do a little bit of prep; you also need to sear the chicken in a separate pan first unless you use chicken that is already cooked, which is what I did. Once you've done all that you pretty much just leave it to cook in the slow cooker.


There's definitely a kick to this from the ginger and curry paste; I would probably make it a little more mild next time. The chunky veg and pieces of chicken make this a meal in itself and I enjoyed it for my lunch at work over a couple of days.

Monday 13 March 2017

Meal Planning Monday 2017 - Week 11

Finally this week things should be getting back to normal...I've finished my coursework (hooray!) and had booked a day off on Friday but might cancel it now I don't need it for coursework - depending on how busy I am at work. I've certainly got plenty of other things to be getting on with at home!

Lunch: chicken salad
Dinner: fishcake with poached egg for me, gammon with fried egg for him

Tuesday- working from home
Lunch: jacket potato
Dinner: sausage, mash and cauliflower cheese

Lunch: salmon salad
Dinner: chicken parmo, similar to this recipe, with chips

Lunch: chicken salad
Dinner: chicken chargrills for him, bubble and squeak patty for me

Friday - got a day off work booked today
Lunch: whatever I can rustle up from the fridge or store cupboard
Dinner: burger and chips

Lunch: eggs benedict on waffles from this recipe - might miss out the marmite!
Dinner: individual pastry tarts based on this recipe with a side dish of green beans with blue cheese from this recipe and sweet and sour carrots from the same page, and potato of some kind for my husband who doesn't like either
Dessert: cookie cup with biscuit base, filled with some concoction I haven't created yet

Sunday - going to a birthday party for one of my husband's nephews over lunchtime
Brunch: scrambled eggs with bacon on toast for him, poached eggs, smoked salmon and toast for me. That's a lot of eggs this weekend but it's good for you!
Dinner: toad in the hole I was going to do last Sunday but didn't

This is a blog hop, join in!

Sunday 12 March 2017

Slow Cooker Butterscotch Pudding

I use my slow cooker quite a lot but never really for desserts. I have a book called The Slow Cooker and it has a section at the back on cakes and desserts and decided a little while ago to try a butterscotch pudding.

It's not very healthy - full of sugar and cream - but as an occasional treat I think it would be OK! I reduced the quantities to serve two, and definitely wouldn't have been able to get six ramekins into my slow cooker at the same time. You cook the puddings in a water bath so they set like a custard - they taste really good.

To serve two, you need:
1 tbsp. butter
pinch of salt
137g soft brown sugar
150ml double cream
85ml milk
2 egg yolks, beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract

Melt the butter in a small pan and mix in the sugar and salt. Pour in the cream and milk and heat until just simmering but don't allow the mixture to boil.

Put the egg yolks into a bowl and pour in the cream mixture slowly, whisking as you go. Stir in the vanilla extract and pour the mixture into two ramekin dishes.

Put the ramekin dishes into the slow cooker and carefully pour water into the slow cooker, taking care not to get any water into the puddings, until the water comes half way up the sides of the ramekins.

Cook on low for about two hours or until the puddings are set.

Cool the ramekins on a wire rack for 15 minutes then cover with clingfilm and refrigerate for 2 hours.

Top with whipped cream to serve

These are very sweet as you might imagine and I could only eat half of one- but I couldn't have made them smaller as these were the only ramekins I have! My husband had no problem polishing one off anyway!

I'm sharing this with the Slow Cooked Challenge, hosted by Lucy at BakingQueen74 and also Treat Petite, hosted by Stuart at Cakeyboi and Kat the Baking Explorer.

Friday 10 March 2017

Slimming World Coronation Chicken Jacket Potato

One of my favourite lunches for when I am at home is a jacket potato. I hardly ever do them at weekends, because I just don't get out of bed organised in time, plus my husband isn't that keen on them, but often do one if I have a day off or am working from home. They are ideal for "wfh" lunches as you can put the potato in the oven, come back to it an hour later and just slater some butter onto it, grate over some cheese and you're done.

Of course, there are loads of more interesting jacket potato fillings than cheese (though if you haven't tried grated cheese and chopped tinned hotdogs, put that on your meal plan now!). I recently made coronation chicken as a filler, from the Slimming World 100 Extra Easy Days book. It's a good way to use up leftover cooked chicken as well, if you have some left over from a roast or another meal.

You could also use Quorn chicken-style pieces or a similar meat-free alternative to make this a vegetarian recipe.

Adjust the quantities you need to taste - the chicken depending on how many people this is for, the red pepper and spring onion to personal taste (I don't like red pepper that much) and the same with the fromage frais and mayo - some people like their baked potato fillings quite 'wet' for want of a better word than others.

Simply mix together some cooked chicken pieces, some diced red pepper, diced mango, lime juice and zest, chopped spring onion and chopped fresh coriander. Season and mix in mango chutney, a little bit of curry powder, some fat free natural fromage frais and some extra light mayonnaise. Stir everything together and spoon into your jacket potato.

I'm sharing this with a new blog challenge, Desert Island Dish. Jacket potatoes would be one of my desert island desires but the theme for this challenge this month is actually fruit - there could well be mango growing on my desert island anyway but if not I'd like to have some! The challenge is hosted by the Good Egg Foodie.

I'm also sending this to One Potato, Two Potato - a new link-up for potato recipes, hosted by Family Friends Food.
one potato, two potato

Wednesday 8 March 2017

Red Velvet Cheesecake for Valentine's Day

I spent my first Valentine's Day with my husband at his mother's house - our boiler had broken down and luckily we were able to move in with her for a week. It did mean that my planned Valentine's dinner got postponed to some extent - I had wanted to make a nice dessert but didn't really want to make a mess of her kitchen!

So I waited until the following weekend when we were back in our house where I could make as much mess as I wanted, and finally made my husband his Valentine's dessert. I had fancied making a red velvet cake as I don't think I'd ever made one before, then while searching for a recipe online found this Eric Lanlard recipe for a red velvet cheesecake. It's a cross between a cake and a dessert so great for after a meal or in the middle of the afternoon on a weekend with a cup of tea.. any time really!

This cake-cum-cheesecake is absolutely amazing. It was pretty easy to make and tasted so, so good - the creamy filling in the middle was much better than buttercream!

You can find the recipe on the Baking Mad website; the only part I didn't manage to do was the cream cheese frosting around the sides. I made my frosting following the recipe but it was far too runny, and also slightly yellow in colour rather than white; I decided that I actually preferred to leave the sides of the cake exposed so you can see the depth of the filling inside.

I levelled the cake and crumbled up the part I sliced off, and spread the top of the cake with whipped double cream and then sprinkled the cake crumbs over the top; I'm not really sure that made a lot of difference to the appearance, taste or texture, but it did mean the crumbs all rolled off when I ate a slice of cake!

Did you know that when you make red velvet cake, it's not exactly a chocolate cake but does have 2 tbsp. cocoa powder in the mixture?

And the red colour originally came from the way the cocoa powder reacted with the acidity of baking soda, buttermilk and a dash of vinegar. But these days the cocoa powder that is commonly sold doesn't have such an acidic Ph level so you won't get the same kind of red colour any more. So most of the time when you see red velvet cake the colour has come from food colouring - which is exactly what I did here.

Spooning the cake mixture into the tin and levelling the surface.... yum

The cake came out of the oven with a fair dome to the top and a couple of cracks but that doesn't matter as I was going to level it.

Making the filling was fairly easy though involved a few steps. First you beat together the cream cheese, sugar and lemon juice then dissolve the gelatine and mix that in. Finally whip some cream and fold that in.

Here's the levelled cake, sliced in half - there is definitely a red tinge to the chocolate!

The way to get the filling to set properly inside the cake is to place a large piece of clingfilm in the loose-bottomed cake tin you used to make the cake (when it is cold of course). Put the bottom layer of cake into the tin onto the clingfilm and thickly spread the cream cheese filling over the top. Place the other layer of cake on top and wrap the whole thing in the clingfilm by bringing the film over the top. Put in the fridge overnight.

Carefully lift the cake, still in the clingfilm, out of the tin and unwrap. You have a delicious looking cake with a very deep layer of cheesecake in the middle.

I spread some whipped cream over the top and sprinkled over the reserved cake crumbs as I mentioned before.

I decided it needed something else - having decided that I wasn't going to or couldn't do the cream cheese icing around the sides and on the top, so piped on rosettes of double cream all around the top.

It looks quite pretty I think!

The cake and cheesecake combo was absolutely delicious and definitely something I would make again - I might try in a different flavour next time!

I'm sharing this with We Should Cocoa, hosted by Choclette at Tin and Thyme.

I'm also sending it to Cook Blog Share, hosted by Kirsty at Hijacked by Twins.

Hijacked By Twins