Lola and Finn's Mum

Lola and Finn's Mum

Monday, 15 February 2016

A seventies cake for a seventies chick - Black Forest Victoria Cake

Retro. That’s me. And that being the case, it was only fitting that my birthday cake of choice would also be, like me, of a seventies vintage, the Black Forest Gateau. I don’t care if it’s naff, the combination of chocolate, cream and cherries is, quite frankly, lush, and I thumb my nose to all you dinner party aficionados who think it a gastronomic crime to serve this after your prawn cocktail and your duck a l’orange… (I lurve duck a l’orange by the way…)
I was flicking through some cookery books for an idea as to what to indulge myself with (and force upon others) for my birthday and when the book fell open on this cake I thought to myself, bingo… I have all the ingredients, so no visit to the supermarket (a dangerous business when you are in the midst of ‘healthy eating’ and feel like eating your own arms…) and I like chocolate. And cherries. And cream. And more chocolate. If I am abandoning my current pastime of living virtuously, albeit temporarily, then this is a beautiful way to do it.
This recipe is from ‘Gorgeous Cakes’ by Annie Bell. A completely apt title if you ask me. I made some adaptions, like adding some vanilla extract and salt to the chocolate cake mix, for chocolate likes vanilla and needs salt for that chocolatey ‘hit’. I brushed the warm cakes over with some kirsch because I don’t believe that you can ever have too much of a good thing, and I sweetened the cream with some vanilla and a little icing sugar. Because I can.
The other nice thing about Black Forest Gateau is that you can make it look as pretty as a picture. It didn’t need the 42 candles that should have gone on it. Just as well really as I imagine that such an amount of candles constitutes some kind of fire hazard.

Black Forest Victoria, adapted from ‘Gorgeous Cakes’ by Annie Bell
Makes a 1 20cm cake with sides of 9cm deep, (but I divided the mixture into three 18cm sandwich tins)
For the cake -
225g unsalted butter, at room temperature
200g golden caster sugar
1 tbsp golden syrup
1tsp vanilla extract
200g self-raising flour
2 tsp baking powder
25g cocoa powder, sifted
4 medium eggs
100ml milk
Pinch of salt
10 – 15ml kirsch, for brushing over the cake
For the filling –
Half a jar of black cherry jam
1 tbsp kirsch
350ml double cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp icing sugar, sifted
To decorate:
Approx 50g of grated chocolate (Should have used dark chocolate, chose to use milk due to fussy children!)
Cherries (I used some from a jar)

Preheat the oven to 180c and prepare tins by greasing and then lining the bottoms with greaseproof paper.

The original recipe recommends putting all the ingredients together and creaming them until combined. Rightly or wrongly I did it the way mama taught me, that is, creaming the butter with the sugar, then added the syrup, the vanilla and the eggs, one at a time, putting a spoonful of flour into the mix after each egg to stop the mixture from splitting. Then I added the flour alternately with the milk and mixed to only just combined. Lastly, I added the salt and then for the final mix together I used a spatula to ensure that all the mixture was combined.

Pour the mixture into the tin(s). If using the sandwich tins then bake for about 20 mins, until the cake is firm to the touch and has shrunk away from the sides of the tin. If baking in the recommended tin, bake for about 55 mins or until a toothpick placed into the centre of the cake comes out clean).
Once the cakes come out of the oven and whilst still warm, brush a little of the kirsch over the top of the cake(s). If you are making one cake then you will need to cut the cake into layers.
To make the filling: Whip up the cream with the icing sugar and vanilla until it forms pretty stiff peaks which will hold whilst piping. Do not overbeat.
Put the jam into a bowl and loosen with the kirsch. Grate the chocolate.

To assemble. Once cool, spread jam over the layer and then pipe some cream on. Place the next layer onto the cake and then repeat the process.

On the top layer, brush the jam over the top and then cover the jam with grated chocolate. Once the top is completely covered in chocolate, pipe the top decoratively. Adorn the cake with pitted cherries.
Don your bell bottoms and Cuban heels and then serve to all and sundry.

Saturday, 13 February 2016

LET ME EAT CAKE, I SAY (Just like Marie Antoinette) Spelt and Olive Oil Cake with Blood Orange

I don’t really know whether Marie Antoinette was into ‘healthy eating’ or not really. If she was anything like me she needed to be, as when I am in France I tend to eat my own weight in croissants, camembert and crusty ‘baguette’ and then wash it down with Madiran, and whilst red wine is meant to be REALLY good for you, I am not sure the rest of it is. Anyway, the damage is done for me and before our next jolly to La Belle France in July (Annecy and the French Alps, plus a foray into Northern Italy – very excited) I want to be healthier. But I want cake.
Here is the compromise.  I bought some spelt flour yonks ago because I bought a recipe book (yes really) which raved on about it. I made a recipe from the book for a lemon tart and it was horrible and I thought, ‘Spelt? Nah…’ and put it back in the cupboard. Fast forward to the purchase of another cookery book (yes really…) called ‘Grains as Mains’ and after a couple of successful meals made, no doubt coming to a blog near you soon) I happened upon a recipe for olive oil and spelt cake, with blood orange. I lurve blood orange. I lurve cake. This doesn’t sound as unhealthy as ‘normal’ cake. I opened the cupboard and out came the much maligned spelt flour. 
The alterations I made for this recipe were down to the fact that I like a cake that looks semi appealing, and I had an idea that this might not. Plus I did not want to waste any of my blood oranges so I upped the zest to the zest of two oranges as it took two oranges to produce the juice required to make the cake. I also decided to slice my remaining orange up, after removing the peel and a pith with a sharp knife, and put it on the cake. Then I thought that the slices might dry out and look a bit shrivelled so I strew a tablespoon or so of Demerara sugar over the cake in the hope that it would caramelise over the orange slices and make them look like huge jewels.
As the cake came out of the oven, I brushed over a luscious syrup made of orange juice and icing sugar to give it that ‘French Patisserie’ look.  Marie Antoinette would definitely be up for this cake. I am sure of it.
Spelt and Olive Oil Cake adapted from ‘Grains and Mains’ by Laura Agar Wilson
Serves 12, apparently…
120ml extra virgin olive oil plus extra for greasing the tin
225g spelt flour
100g ground almonds
Grated zest of one orange (I used two)
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 eggs
150g light brown sugar
To decorate the top
A blood orange, peeled with the pith removed
1 tbsp Demerara sugar
To glaze:
1 tsp blood orange juice
35g icing sugar


Preheat the oven to 180c – grease and line a 23cm round cake tin.

Mix the dry ingredients (not the sugar) and the orange zest together until well combined.

In a separate bowl, mix the wet ingredients, plus the sugar, together.

Add the wet and dry ingredients together and mix until only just combined. Do not overmix.
Place the cake mixture into the prepared pan.

To prepare the decoration, slice the bottom and the top of the orange so that it sits flat. Using a sharp knife, cut the peel and pith away from around the orange, starting at the top of the orange down to the bottom. When you have removed the peel and the pith, slice the orange into thin slices and place them onto the top of the cake. Strew the Demerara over the cake and then place it into the oven.
Whilst the cake is baking, make the glaze. Mix the orange juice and the icing sugar with two teaspoons of water until everything is combined.

Bake for about 40 minutes, until a skewer/toothpick in the centre comes out clean. Brush the glaze over the cake.
This is best served warm.

Friday, 5 February 2016

Bloody Great! Chicken with Marsala, Olives and Blood Oranges

So, here I am continuing to bore you with my new found virtuosity. I have no idea whether this recipe is truly healthy, whatever that means, but my word… it made me feel good. In fact, the fact that I was able to muster this up on a school night is testament not only to my new found energy (well…actually, I don’t know whether I would take it that far. I merely decided to swerve the marking of year 9 books in order to eat because I was that hungry I could have eaten my own arms) but also the ease in which this amazing tasting dish can be created. Yes, even on a school night.
This divine tasting dish is from Diana Henry’s ‘A Bird in the Hand’. It is likely, due to amount of chicken that is being eaten in the household lately, that I will be cooking my way through this frankly fabulous tome of chicken recipes. I haven’t read one yet that I know I wouldn’t like. This recipe uses that seemingly rare beast, the blood orange, which is a particular favourite of mine, their sanguine juice and flesh slightly acidic tang adding colour and flavour to anything and everything. I got mine from the local farm shop, Windy Arbour, in Billinge.
I used chicken breasts on the bone for this one, instead of jointed chicken pieces. Personally I’d have been happy with any part of the chicken but I seem to be surrounded by people who don’t want to deal with too much in the way of bones, so chicken breasts it is. What I will say though is the way of cooking this kept the chicken incredibly moist and seemed to infuse flavour into what I think is sometimes the blandest cut of the bird. Anyway, happy bubs, happy Phill, happy me.
I served this cooked with spelt which had initially been sautéed with onions, and then braised in chicken stock, finished with a sprinkling of parsley. All together it was seriously delish and it’s one that I will be cooking again, as soon as the blood oranges make their welcome appearance.

Chicken with Marsala, Olives and Blood Oranges from ‘A Bird in the Hand’ by Diana Henry

Serves Lola, Finn, Mum and Dad, twice (4 – 6 people)

1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium British free-range chicken, jointed into 8 (I used chicken supremes)
2 small red onions, halved and cut into crescent moon-shaped slices
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
100ml dry Marsala
Juice 1 blood orange, plus 2 blood oranges
8 fresh thyme sprigs (I used 1 ½ tsp of dried thyme)
1-2 large handfuls good quality green olives
A little caster sugar

Heat the oven to 190°C/fan170°C/gas 5.

On the hob, heat the olive oil in a broad, shallow casserole or ovenproof pan in which the chicken joints can lie in a single layer (I used my oval cast iron casserole) Season the chicken with salt and pepper, then brown on both sides, skin-side first, over a medium-high heat. Be careful not to turn the chicken pieces over before they come away easily from the base of the pan, otherwise you will tear the skin. Transfer to a plate.

Drain off all but a couple of tablespoons of the oil, then add the onions to the pan. Cook over a low-medium heat for around 5 minutes or until the onions begin to soften. Add the garlic and cook for another 2 minutes.

Add the marsala to the pan and scrape up all any flavourful sticky bits on the bottom. Add the blood orange juice. Return the chicken – and any meat juices – to the pan, skin-side up. Season, then add the dried thyme. Bring to the boil, then take the pan off the heat and put it in the oven for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, cut a slice off the bottom and top of each whole blood orange so they have a flat base on which to sit. Using a very sharp knife, cut the peel and pith from each orange, working around the fruit and cutting in broad slices from top to bottom. Slice the oranges into rounds and pick out any pips.

Take the chicken out of the oven, then add the olives and lay over the sliced blood oranges (the oranges should stay on top, out of the liquid). Sprinkle the orange slices with a little sugar, then return the pan to the oven and cook for another 20 minutes. The juices should have reduced, the orange slices should be golden, even caramelised in patches, and the chicken should be cooked through.
Spoon over some of the juices, then serve immediately. I served this with pearled spelt, cooked with onions in chicken stock.


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