Sunday, 30 March 2008

Daring Baker March 2008 - Perfect Party Cake

Tall and Proud.

A sea of coconut...

This month I’m back as a Daring Baker, with a tall, fluffy, creamy, fruity, delicious cake from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking From My Home to Yours.


This is the first four layer cake I’ve made, so far one and two layers reigning supreme. It was a fun cake to make, and a beauty to look at – I even managed to leave it as is, not a sugar flower or sprinkle to be seen! Cakes, raspberry jam, icing, coconut, done! I’m going to keep the text of this post to a minimum, as I know so many of us like to see what everyone else has done.
Yum, and it'd be really good with fresh raspberries too I think.

Thanks to Morven of Food Art and Random Thoughts for choosing this months enjoyable challenge and click Daring Bakers to see more cakes. For any UKers, like me, I used plain flour for the cake flour in the recipe.

A bite?

Pretty cake, and see all my markers sticking out of Baking!

Sunday, 23 March 2008

China Modern

Here is a savoury post, an Oriental food one, with a real hit of Umami (thank’s Cynthia!). I am a real fan of Ching-He Huang, and think her book China Modern is fabulous. She fuses recipes so very well. It’s not just the food I love though, I like the pretty fabrics and bowls and plates too with the beautiful Chinese patterns.

Here are three dishes from China Modern, firstly a restaurant staple – egg fried rice, I have tried many recipes for this in the past, trying to find just the taste I was looking for. This is it, and I can only think that it is present here because of the Char siu pork in it.

I made this dish, Char Siu pork with sweet honey-orange Sauce and Pak Choi a couple of weeks ago, and it was lovely. Then I came upon another recipe further along in the book for the same pork; but instead of making a separate sauce, the marinade ingredients are brought to a boil, and they provide a sauce that gives just the exact flavours that I crave when I long for Chinese food.

The recipe for the pork with the orange sauce is here, but just keep the marinade and bring it to a boil (to make sure there are no raw pork juices in the gravy) to give the pork in the first picture. Ching’s East – West plate, also involves some parsnips roasted with oil and thyme, red onion cooked in a bit of butter with seasoning and a spoon of brandy plus some brussel sprouts. This is seriously one of my very favourite meals that I have made at home, and the pork is so tender. You do need a few bottles to make the marinade, but there isn’t anything that a well stocked store cupboard wouldn’t have. Particularly if you tend to hoard things like me!

She has a new book out about more traditional Chinese dishes in the Summer Time, and I am looking forward to it so much. Though, expect another Ching-He post before then =)

Also I would like to say Thank You to Margaret of Kitchen Delights who ran a competition with Hotel Chocolat to win an Easter egg – and I entered and won =).Thank you also to the nice people at Hotel Chocolat, your egg is absolutely gorgeous!

Happy Easter everyone.

Saturday, 15 March 2008

100th Post and 1st Birthday

Chocolate Whisky Raisin Cake

Cooking the Books first year was at the end of February, but I only realised it had been a whole year when I read some similar first birthday posts from friends blogs, and thought …wonder when I started blogging? I could hardly believe a year had passed, but it has, and it seems good to have it on my birthday and century post.

I made this Dorie cake for my Hubby for our recent Wedding Anniversary, and it was a good choice because he loved it! The recipe comes from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking From My Home to Yours, and it’s in the ‘playing around’ part next to the recipe for Chocolate Armagnac Cake – The Cake That Got Me Fired. If you have Dorie’s book, and don’t always read all the stories, do read the one on the purple page next to the recipe, it’s a funny and touching story.

The raisins are steeped in whisky overnight, and it means that they retain their flavour and taste even after baking, there are ground almonds too to give extra taste and moistness. I’ve made chocolate and whisky cakes before, and it’s surprising how well they go together, the chocolate calms down the fire-breathed whisky and the whisky in turn deepens the chocolate. Some whipped cream is a good addition for dessert, but it’s actually good in the afternoon with a cup of tea as well, in fact the Whisky-raisin taste comes out more that way. I used a Malt Whisky, because that’s what we mostly have in the cupboard, and coming from the land of Whisky itself it’s easy enough to come by a wide selection here. Another winner from Dorie! Now I’ve put the Chocolate Armagnac Cake (with Armagnac soaked prunes and ground pecans) on my list to try as well.

Happy 1st Birthday!

Sunday, 9 March 2008

Chocolate with Mint Two Ways

I can never decide if my favourite chocolate pairing in baking is chocolate with mint or chocolate with orange, I think it swings back and forth. Here are two chocolate mint recipes, one form Dorie and one from Nigella.

Dorie’s Brrrrrownies have been a must make for a while now, they are a brownie batter with mint patties floded through before baking. In the UK mint patties have to come overseas, so it took me a little while to source them, and receive them. I did though and have now ordered more, because I will have to make these again! They were gooey, a little chewy, chocolate and oh so minty. Another great Dorie Recipe! It comes from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking From My Home To Yours. I found them very addictive, and they got the thumbs up from an American gentleman at hubby’s work – which I thought was a good thing =)

44. Chocolate Mint Cookies
Should minty brownies not be your thing here is the second - chocolate mint cookies from Nigella Lawson’s Nigella Express. These are a more a subtle dainty minty mouthful. Chocolate cookies with the mint in the icing. I may have to add a little more peppermint extract to the icing next time. They were a pretty cookie, even though they are all brown, with the drizzle of icing over the tops. Nigella suggested them for after dinner, we just had them in the afternoon with tea and coffee.

For anyone who has Nigella Express, I made the White Chocolate and Mint Mousse, I make a lot of different mousses (mice? lol) and hubby declared it as the very best mousse yet. No picture, unfortunately, but worth a mention for sure the recipes is here.

For anyone who didn’t know before Christmas I was doing a Nigella Blogging project to cook 40 recipes from Nigella Express, I’m actually up to about 70 something, but I wasn’t taking pictures during my break, so I’ll just carry on numbering the ones that have pictures.

Also for any new visitors no recipes here as, everyone should have Baking! and because Nigella Express is an ongoing project I couldn’t post half the book in recipes, and this wasn’t one I could find a link to!

Monday, 3 March 2008

Slow Cooked Beef Stroganoff with Pilaff Rice

Slow Cooked Beef Stroganoff with Pilaff Rice

Now that we are into March the weather here is quite changeable, not that we can complain really it has been pretty good here for most of the past few weeks. As a cook I’ve been pleased to see colder spells as I can cook hot, long-cooked and deeply savoury dishes to warm, nourish and comfort when it’s cold outside.

I saw Rachel Allen make this dish on TV in January, and it’s taken me a while to get round to it, but I’m glad I did. I had actually been looking at the recipe for it in her third book Rachel’s Favourite Food at Home for a year or so, but as the recipe reads, there is not really that much liquid in it, and we like gravy, so I was torn. Had I not actually seen her make it and seen for myself that there is plenty sauce I’d still be just looking at it.

It is a gorgeous savoury beef stew with the added bonus of mushrooms and a divine sauce, and the rice just compliments it so well. Rachel did her pilaff with kale in it, but I gave that bit a miss and did some other green vegetables on the side. I’m keeping this one up my sleeve for entertaining friends! It’s not cheap to make, but we thought it was worth it once in a while for a lovely treat.
I don’t always brown the meat, just toss it around a bit, and it’s just as good I think. I sometimes also add in a bit more roux depending on who it eating it. I’ve cut both the recipes in half, but double it up again for more people. The beef serves 5-6 and the rice 3-4, but this is what seems to work for us allowing for some seconds. The beef reheats well the next day too.

Slow Cooked Beef Stroganoff with Pilaff Rice
From Rachel Allen's Rachel's Favourite Food at Home

Serves 5-6

250g mushrooms, sliced
1-2 tbsp olive oil
1.5 kg stewing beef, cut into 3cm cubes
75ml chicken or beef stock
1½ very large onions, sliced
2 to 3 garlic cloves, crushed
75ml white wine
100ml brandy
165ml single cream
1 ½ tbsp roux, (see below)

1.Preheat the oven to 160C/gas 3.

2. Heat a large frying pan and lightly fry the mushrooms in batches in the olive oil until pale golden in colour. Tip onto a plate and set aside. Brown the meat in the same pan in small batches. When all the meat has browned, pour a small amount of the stock into the frying pan and bring to the boil to deglaze the pan and conserve the flavour.

3. Put a large flameproof casserole on the hob over a medium heat and pour the stock from the frying pan into it. Add the mushrooms, meat, sliced onions, garlic, wine, stock and brandy. Cover with the lid, transfer to the oven and cook for about 1-1 ½ hours, or until tender.

4. When the meat is cooked, strain the liquid into a saucepan. Add the cream and boil, uncovered, for a few minutes until it has a good flavour, then season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

5. With the liquid still boiling, add 2-3 teaspoons of the roux and whisk in until the juices have thickened slightly, adding more roux if necessary. Pour the sauce over the meat, stir and keep the stroganoff warm until you are ready to serve. Cook’s notes: to make a roux, stir equal quantities of butter and plain flour into a paste and cook for a few minutes on the hob. Use hot or cold.

Pilaf Rice
Servings: 3-4
25g butter
1 small onion, chopped
150g basmati rice
375ml chicken or vegetable stock

1. In a large saucepan, melt half the butter, add the chopped onion, put on the lid and cook on a low heat until the onion is soft – about 10 minutes.

2. Add the rice and stir on the heat for about 2 minutes. Add the stock and some salt and freshly ground black pepper. Bring to the boil, then turn the heat right down as low as possible and simmer on top of the stove, or in an oven at 150C/ gas 2, for about 10 minutes, until the rice is just cooked and all the liquid absorbed. Cover and keep warm until needed.