Wednesday, April 30, 2008

#47 Pound Cake and #48 Buttercream II

As well as the lovely orangeade, I thought I'd make a cake. As much as I love cooking and cake, I don't often make them. So I thought I'd go for the basic plain sponge cake - a pound cake being the easiest because so you put all the ingredients in a mixer in one go. What could possibly go wrong with that!? The parsnip cake was very good, but seemed very easy; I reckon the only way to tell if one is a good baker is to make a basic cake very well. My favorite filling for sponge cake is butter cream, and I've always used my Mum's recipe, which is simply icing sugar and butter (in fact, being a child of rationing in the UK, she uses margarine). There are two butter cream recipes in English Food, but the first requires a sugar thermometer and since I don't have one of those (but if anyone fancies buying me one...), I went for (#48) Butter cream II.

The whole idea behind the original pound cake is that the ingredients all weigh a pound EACH! This is of course overdoing things in the modern home, I think the original recipe must have been for housekeepers making cakes for households. Therefore, nowadays all the ingredients weight a pound altogether: 4 ounces each of softened butter (if you keep it in the fridge, put it in the microwave on a medium setting for 45 seconds), sieved self-raising flour and vanilla sugar (see previous entry), along with 2 medium eggs (which should be 4 ounces). Add a pinch of salt and a tablespoon of ground almonds, which apparently make the final cake more moist, plus a level teaspoon of baking powder. Put all the ingredients in a food mixer and beat until a smooth mixture forms. An early recipe from Hannah Glasse in 1747, says that beating the mixture by hand takes an hour! No thank you, lady. Add to a lined 23cm long loaf tin and - here is where I may disagree with Grigson - bake at 180 oC for one hour and 5 minutes. When I baked mine I checked after 45 and it was overdone! I think that 30 minutes may be enough, though my loaf tin, although 23cm long, does seem quite wide.

The butter cream is a custard-based one, which sounded very nice. It was quite easy too, now that I'm sufficiently experienced in the art if custard-making. My amounts differ to Jane's because I didn't have enough butter, or the right sized eggs, but it made enough for a middle and top layer to the cake:

In a food mixer, whisk 2 egg yolks and 2 1/2 ounces of sugar until it becomes fluffy and very pale. Meanwhile boil 90 mls (a generous 2 fluid ounces). When it comes to a boil, beat it into the egg mixture. Quickly return to the pan and stir on a low heat of a couple of minutes - it should thicken very rapidly. It was hard to judge as the was so much foam; however, as it cooled and the foamy bubbles began to pop, it became noticeably thicker. When the whole thing begins to get cooler, but it still warm, gradually whisk in 5 ounces of very soft butter cut into small cubes. I then added a few drops of vanilla extract. When it is properly cold, use as required!

I simply cut the cake lengthwise in half and added a thin layer of raspberry jam and a thick layer of the butter cream and sandwiched the two halves together, then I spread the rest of the gooey cream on the top.

#47 Pound cake - 6/10. Little disappointed in the cake. It was very tasty, but rather dry. However, this may be my own fault as I haven't got used to my new oven yet. The vanilla sugar that I'd made a cuople of weeks earlier, also gave the sponge a nice, sweet scent.

#48 Butter cream II - 8/10. A lovely creamy, but not overly sickly alternative to normal butter cream. I loved it, and shall be definitely doing it again!

Monday, April 28, 2008

#46 Rich Orangeade

I have had a single Seville orange sat in my fruit bowl for about a month, Saturday was nice and sunny so I thought I'd make (#46) Rich Orangeade so that I could get Greg and Joff round and we can drink nice cool drinks and perhaps have some cake. In fact, have a proper Sunday high tea. It did of course piss it down all Sunday, natch.

The Seville orange was a little manky; it had done what fruit tend to do - go bad from the bottom up, but half of it was usable! To make the orangeade there was a three step process: thinly pare the zest from a Seville orange (in my case half, plus the peel of half a lemon to make up for it) and 6 normal sweet oranges. Put the peel in a litre of cold water and bring to a bare simmer for 5 minutes - the water shouldn't boil properly because the bitter pithy flavour will be drawn out of the peel - then allow to cold. Meanwhile, do step two: boil 8 ounces of sugar with 3/4 pint of cold water for three minutes, then allow that to cool also. Step three: squeeze the juice from all the oranges, and when everything is cool, stir together. Finally add a little orange flower water (I added about 1/4 teaspoon and that was just right for me) and lemon juice - I used half a lemon. Allow to chill properly before being eaten.

Greg says:
The Orange-ade is simply Enid Blyton in a glass, if that doesn't sound too graphic. Lashings and lashings say I! Once you taste that lovely floral kick that the blossom and lemon adds to it you can see the flavour that cheap cordial manufacturers have been harking after all this time, and failing to grasp. It's lovely. Will be even better when the sun comes out. Come on . . . COME ON! 8/10

FYI: I noticed that the orangeade comes from a Victorian recipe and doesn't require fizzy water. So what make an 'ade', I wondered...according to the Oxford English Dictionary, the suffix '-ade' means: "The product of an action, and, by extension, that of any process or raw material; as in arcade, colonnade, masquerade, lemonade, marmalade, pomade." So it seems that turning any fruit into a drink makes it an 'ade'. Everyday's a school day!

#46 Rich Orangeade. 8.5/10. A delicious summertime drink - the perfumed taste and aroma of the peel, the Seville orange and the orange flower water transforms it from just sweet orange juice into something pretty special!

Friday, April 25, 2008

#44 English Game Pie, #45 Cumberland Sauce

I invited Clive from work to help me finish off the last of the game I got from Bury Market last night in the form of (#44) English Game Pie. Looking through the 'Stuffing, Sauces and Preserves' chapter of English Food for something to go with game, I found (#44) Cumberland sauce. I've never had it before, and had no idea what it was. Everything was straight-forward, though the pie had lots of preparation. Anyways, here's what I did...

The day before I simmered a brace of pheasants and a pigeon (essentially everything I had!) in a very light chicken stock along with a good seasoning and a bouquet garnei of parsley, bay leaves and thyme springs. Jane recommends between 2 and 4 birds. It took an hour and a half for the meat to become tender enough for me to pull the meat from the bone with relative ease. I cut the meat into chunks and kept them in a sealed tub topped up with the stock so it didn't dry out over night and reserved the remaining stock.

Next day I arranged the meat in one large dish, and a smaller, as I made an extra one for my PhD supervisor too. Then hard-boiled and quartered three eggs and tucked them between the pieces of meat along with small rolls of grilled bacon (though not in yours Jason, don't worry!), and chopped parsley. Next, I fried a large onion and about 8 ounces of mushrooms in 2 ounces of butter until they were golden. A tablespoon of flour was mixed in to the mushrooms and onions and stirred around so that the butter got absorbed, and then stock was added a ladelful at a time until a thick sauce had developed - about the thickness of double cream. Make sure the sauce is seasoned very well. It was simmered for about 5 minutes, and I added extra stock whenever the sauce thickened too much. The sauce was poured over the meat and then a puff pastry covered the pies. The large pie was cooked at 200 degrees for 20 minutes and then the oven was turned down to 170 for a final ten.

The Cumberland sauce was very easy. Make sure you make it in advance as it should be served cold. Whisk together a jar of redcurrant jelly and a teaspoon of Dijon mustard in a pan over a low heat. Meanwhile blanch the thinly pared peel of a lemon and an orange that have been cut into matchsticks for 5 minutes, then drain. Once the jelly has melted, add the peel, the juice of the two fruits, 5 tablespoons of port, plenty of black pepper and salt and ground ginger to taste (I used a scant teaspoon). Pour into sauce boat. Easy peasy.

FYI: Cumberland sauce is, in fact, German - the recipe was brought over with the House of Hanover in the late Eighteenth Century, and is named after George IV who was the Duke of Cumberland.

#43 English Game Pie - 10/10. This is my first full point dish I think! It was absoluely delicious. Although I'd never had it, there was something very familiar and comforting about it. It was also, for me, the epitome of English Food. The meat was beautifully tender, and he sauce had turned into a delicious gravy and the salty bacon added an extra dimension. The full flavour of the pheasant and pigeon coped very well with the rich Cumberland sauce...

#44 Cumberland Sauce - 8/10. A perfect complement to the game. Although it was very rich and sweet, the savory additions such as the pepper and mustard allowed you to add loads. All in all a fantastic meal!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

#43 Parsnip Cake

According to the Grigson, she tried putting parsnips rather than carrots in a carrot cake, and according to her, parsnip cake totally shits on carrot cake. We'll see...carrot cake is my favorite of all cakes, so I'll be a harsh critic.

The cake itself was easy - a carrot cake recipe with the carrots replaced weight-for-weight with the parsnips. Proper American frosting made from cream cheese, icing sugar and butter is the filling. Hopefully the oven's worked ok because I've made it for cake day this afternoon; where a member of the Evolution group at the University take it in turns to make a cake. It's the first one we've done in a while, so don't let me down Grigson!
Mix together 12 ounces of peeled and grated parsnip with four ounces of chopped hazelnuts in a bowl. Next make a cake mixture using an electric beater from 13 ounces of caster sugar, 8 ounces of flour, 2 teaspoons each of baking powder and ground cinnamon, a teaspoon of salt and 8 fluid ounces of oil (use a mixture of walnut or hazelnut and sunflower). Beat in 4 eggs individually and stir in the parsnips and nuts plus a teaspoon of vanilla extract. Divide between two buttered and floured 9 inch cake tins and bake for 40 minutes at 180⁰C. Allow to cool on a rack. Make a filling by beating together 8 ounces of full fat soft cheese, 4-6 ounces of softened unsalted butter, 4 tablespoons of icing sugar and a teaspoon of vanilla essence.

FYI: The parsnip was our main carbohydrate staple before the potato was brought over from the Americas. Also, it was thought that it was an aphrodisiac - careful if you try to pick a wild parsnip though, as it's almost exactly the same as hemlock!
#43 Parsnip Cake - 8/10. Phew! Neither The Grigson or the oven let me down. A lovely moist cake, though I'm not sure if Jane's Claim of it being better than carrot cake. There is however a recipe for her carrot cake - so there's only one way to find out!!
Greg says...
"Mostly I made the parsnip cake actually. I pressed all the buttons and everything. It went round and round and out came a cake! Well done me. I gave Pugling a bit of the filling and he made this noise: bleep! I wasn't allowed a slice until next day but it was worth the wait. Helen tried it too. We made this noise: mmm, ooohhh, mm, ng! Really really good. You would never guess it has parsnips in though. 9/10."

Kitchen - Phase 2!!

It really has been a dry month of cooking! The fact the kitchen wasn't done has been the main factor. However, all is well as it is now fitted! Hooray! Got to do the floors and walls, but the main thing is I have an oven that works (hopefully!) and gas hobs. I can finally say 'Goodbye' to that awful old kitchen.

I'm testing the oven by making a cake. It is cake day at work today so I have made (#43) Parsnip Cake. Hopefully it won't be a giant biscuit - it takes a while to know one's oven, dontcha nar!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

#42 Soft Fruit Ice Cream

Since Greg had tonsillitis, I simply had to make some ice cream! Greg chose (#42) Soft Fruit Ice Cream (or Soffru, as Vic and Bob would say). It's a great recipe and very different to the ginger ice cream I made last month; it doesn't require any custards, so although there are several stages, it's quite easy because you can take your time without the worry of your custard turning into scrambled eggs. If you've never made ice cream, this is probably the best place to start I reckon.

The main problem was finding soft fruits in April in Britain! It's easy to buy strawberries, but they are so insipid unless they're in season. I had a look in the greengrocers and saw some lovely ripe peaches and snapped them up. I knew I had raspberries frozen at home as a back up, and they are prefect with peaches - a la peach Melba.

To make the ice cream start by liquidising a pound of soft fruit along with the juice and zest of an orange in a blender, add about 4 ounces of icing sugar to sweeten it (you must use icing sugar as it dissolves instantly). This was folded into half a pint of double cream and a quarter of single single cream that had been whipped and sweetened, again with icing sugar. The mixture was poured into the ice cream maker. Meanwhile, I whipped two egg whites, and when the ice cream was softly frozen, I folded it into the whites, along with three tablespoons of Cointreau. Then I scoffed a load of it the next day. Oink!

#42 Soft Fruit Ice Cream - 8/10. This is a lovely fresh ice cream, very different to a custard-based one. It could have been improved by the addition of a more appropriate liqueur, such as creme de framboise, seeing as I used raspberries. However, I shall be practicing this one loads whenever I see some nice fruit in the summer!

#41 Mushroom Omelette

Well, well, well, it has been a while since I've updated the old blog. I've been busy and skint in equal measure so far this month. It's gruel for me for now on, I think. Inamongst the business, I have managed to get a couple of dishes done at the weekend. Greg hs been quite ill with tonsillitis, so I was only allowed to make soft food, so I did (#41) Mushroom Omelette. I don't know why I hadn't done it before. It's interesting that the omelette is considered English, as it is is obviously French, but we always see them in the English section of any Indian restaurants menu. The recipe that Jane Grigson gives here is very much an English omelette. Whenever I make one, it is always more French, i.e. pull the cook egg into the middle and don't let it colour. I use eggs, a dot of milk, salt and pepper, plus butter to fry it in of course.

This recipe is enough for 6, so decrease – or increase – the amounts as you see fit. Cook a chopped medium onion in 2 ounces of butter until it softens, then add 12 ounces of good mushrooms that have been sliced – e.g. the dark-gilled Portobello – the juices will come out after a few minutes, so turn uo the heat so that just a small amount of the cooking juices are left. Make the omelette itself beat together 9 eggs very well, season and add a tablespoon of chopped herbs – parsley and chives are recommended by Jane – and pour a third of the mixture into an 8 inch omelette pan that had been heated with a knob of butter. Cook until the underside had set and turned slightly golden. Spoon a third of the mushrooms down the centre of the omelette and fold it over. Keep the omelettes warm as you cook them, or serve individually. Don’t worry if the eggs are a little runny – they will continue to cook, and should be a little moist..

#41 Mushroom Omelette - 7/10. The dish was very nice indeed - not as light as a French-style omelette, but the centre was perfectly cooked - still creamy as it should be. The dense mushroom mixture complemented it perfectly. I will do my omelettes in the English style from now on and see if I can improve on it.