Friday, 30 December 2016

Spiced Bundt Cake (plus Cupcakes!)

My belated Christmas gift to you.. This cake. This is a truly perfect cake. You know gingerbread men? Imagine them soft and moist and in cake form. Doesn’t that sound like something you need to have in your life right now?

I may have mentioned it before, but I love cakes. And I’ve never made a bundt cake before, but my boyfriend managed to find me a few cool tins at the house he grew up in in Sweden, and I was happy to take them!

This cake actually worked surprisingly well, the hardest part of a bundt cake is extricating the delicious (and soft, and fragile) cake from the tin. It took me a few scary moments with a plastic knife to get it out, but a well-greased pan in preparation really does do wonders.

I had intended to make just a cake, but I ended up with a LOT of mixture and a rather small tin, so I got about a dozen cupcakes out of it too. I baked them until golden, which took about 20-25 minutes. And for icing those, I just whipped up a simple buttercream icing, added a load of cinnamon to it, then piped and embellished in a festive theme. YUM.

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Chocolate Covered Marzipan

Christmas is just around the corner (and I love it, I love Christmas so much that I once wrote a song called “Hurry Up Christmas”) and it’s time to get your Christmas prep on.

Marzipan is a really Christmassy thing to me, and I use it quite a lot in my festive baking, like the absolutely delicious apple and marzipan pie, and the classic Stollen. I never really thought that 
marzipan would be easy to make, I didn’t even know if it was possible to make in a home kitchen.

And then GBBO had a marzipan task. Challenge accepted, Berry.

And it turns out it’s pretty easy, and it’s nice to work with. I’ll be making my own marzipan exclusively from now on. This is a win!

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Ham and Lentil Slow Cooker Soup

All right, we are doubling DOWN on Christmas cooking now. We're knee deep in the season, people.

For me, Christmas is about eating with family and friends. I have a really awesome family. We meet up all the time when I’m home and have a great time together. They’re also full of good ideas that I can pass off as my own.

This soup is a prime example. My aunt makes the best soup. She is the queen of soup. One day she came to my nanny’s house with her massive 15L soup pot full of lentil soup and put it on the stove. When it was ready to be served, she went into it with a massive fork and pulled out a large joint of ham.

That’s right, she cooked the ham right there in the soup.

Absolute genius.

And I’ve shamelessly stolen the idea and made it into a slow cooker meal, something I can put on in the morning and then all of a sudden at dinner time a wonderful meal appears. I don't add any salt because the stock and gammon are salty enough, but a little bit of pepper works wonders.

Perfect dinner. My boyfriend doesn't think soup is enough of a meal for dinner, so he gets a grilled cheese with his.

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Spiced Caramel Squares (and How to Make Caramel!)

It's a Christmas miracle!

This is a really momentus moment. Like, super exciting for me.


This is a big step for me. I’m ecstatic. And of course, the idea came from my cooking inspiration, my nanny.  As a kid, I’d remember looking though her cupboards, always searching for one thing – a can with its label removed (boiled off). And when I found that, the question I’d ask would always be the same- “...nanny, can we make banoffee?”

So, what my brilliant nanny does to make her caramel for banoffee is boiling tins of condensed milk. Basically, plop a few tins of condensed milk in a pan, and pour over enough water to cover. Bring to the boil, then cover and simmer for 2.5-3 hours. The longer you boil it, the darker and thicker it will be. The only thing to be careful of is not letting the tins boil dry – because then they will explode and there will be a huge mess. I was a bit paranoid the first time, so I was checking the tins every 15 minutes and topping the water up every 30 minutes or so, so that all the parts of the tins were constantly submerged. I’m renting, I cannot deal with caramel on the windows.

Once you’ve cooked for the allotted time, remove the tins from the water and allow to cool completely before using. I cooked 3 at a time because that’s the most that would fit in my pot- plenty to be getting on with! The cans should last for a few months, but really take a day of prep by the time you cook and cool, so just get them cooked whenever you have a spare few hours. These are an absolute cupboard staple for me now.

Bubbling away

And of course I had to try some caramel on a recipe that basically had my name written all over it. 

Caramel squares are my second favourite thing to get in a bakery back home (first is peppermint squares) and when I saw a recipe with a delicately spiced base it was love at first sight. There isn’t much more to say except these taste amazing and you’re welcome and let's get this festive season of baking underway with a bang!

Sunday, 4 December 2016

Sausage Cassoulet

Winter is well and truly here, and I don’t know about you all, but I need some pure comfort food. I’m talking meat, I’m talking root vegetables and I’m talking one-pot so you don’t have much cleaning to face afterwards, when you’re all full and cosy.

Well hello, cassoulet.

This is a cosy winter stew if ever I saw one. Except, it’s better than a stew (not a huge stew fan, sorry Ireland). It’s flavourful and colourful and warming and filling and only a little stodgy, in that good way that you need sometimes when you’ve come in from the rain and Christmas shopping and you’re all cold and hungry and in need of rejuvenation.

I basically threw in whatever veggies I had, and it made one really simple and delicious meal. For an authentic French experience (this dish has its origins there, after all) serve with a hunk of baguette.