Last Wednesday I had the chance to go and watch Frances Quinn (Great British Bake Off Winner from 2013) doing a demo and a booksigning as part of the hugely popular York Food and Drink Festival. I have always been … Continue reading
As mentioned in my previous blog post I’ve got two recipes published in the latest Clandestine Cake Club Cookbook “A Year of Cake”. Along with my Welsh Honey and Camomile Bara Brith I also had my Coconut and Mojito Tres … Continue reading
Last year myself and the other Clandestine Cake Club members were invited to submit recipes to be included in a brand new cookbook due to be published in September 2015. It was to be called “A Year Of Cake” and … Continue reading
The second Clandestine Cake Club Cookbook was published last Thursday and is already proving very popular both with members and non-members. I have been a member of the Clandestine Cake Club for nearly three years now and I can honestly … Continue reading
A Year Of Cake is the eagerly awaited second book by Clandestine Cake Club founder Lynn Hill with contributions of lots of delicious recipes from Cake Club members from around the world. The book was published on 10th September but … Continue reading
This is a blogpost I’ve been meaning to write for ages now. Before I went away on holiday for a week I enjoyed watching the second week of The Great British Bake Off, which was biscuit week. For the contestants’ Signature Bake they were asked to bake biscotti. This is not easy, to get delicious flavours, the right amount of crunch and to make sure that each biscotti was exactly the same size.. well all I can say is I’m glad I wasn’t trying it out in the Bake Off tent.
I do love having a go at baking biscotti though. I hadn’t baked any for ages although it tends to be something I make for foodie presents at Christmas. I had to use ingredients in my baking cupboard rather than relying on one of the recipes for biscotti in the latest Great British Bake Off book “The Great British Bake Off Celebrations”. There is a delicious sounding recipe for Orange and Hazelnut Biscotti in the book. Now as I didn’t have any oranges or hazelnuts in, that was going to die a death. Instead I went for pistachio and cranberries and because I always think white chocolate goes well with cranberries, I used some white chocolate chunks as well.
This was the first thing I’d baked in a couple of weeks, what with our holiday and getting back into the swing of things. Hubby had gone away overnight and I was at home doing jobs with the kids. I knew that biscotti wouldn’t take me that long to bake but then realised that I should have waited to start baking. We were meant to be staying in catching up on jobs but I ended up having to nip out. So, as usual my baking session ended up being rushed.
Plain flour, caster sugar and baking powder was first put together into a big mixing bowl and combined. After this was done I added beaten eggs and finally the dried fruit, chcoolate, pistachios and grated lemon zest were mixed in. All formed into a huge ball of dough which was then split into two and rolled into two long logs. These logs were then baked on a greased baking sheet. They really expanded in the oven and thankfully didn’t stick together in one huge lump! Unfortunately I started to cut the biscotti up a bit too early, still a bit too soft and warm and this made them a bit difficult to cut up. Eventually I managed to get the separate biscotti pieces, I lost count of how many I cut up but they they did end up more or less the right size. Back into the oven they went to bake separately and to crisp up.
It took all of my willpower not to scoff one but when my husband got in from work, I caved in. My husband said he would have one with a cup of tea as it was going to be a while before our tea was ready. That was it, he was eating one so I had to join in. In fact he had two! They were delicious and I loved the flavour combination.
I enjoyed baking biscotti again and hope it won’t be too long before I can bake some more. I put all the leftover ones into a tin but because they were so moreish they didn’t last very long!
Love Sam xx
Forever Summer? Now wouldn’t that just be the ticket? As I look out of my kitchen window at a cold, wet and rainy landscape I can’t help thinking we have been just a little bit short-changed here in the UK when it comes to summer. I was lucky enough to escape to Ibiza for a week in August which was wonderful, even though we were blessed with rain and thunderstorms when we were there. But it wouldn’t be a British Bank Holiday if it wasn’t raining would it?
When I came back from Ibiza I was determined to hold on to the concept of summer. I am definitely a Spring and Summer person. I have much more energy and get up and go when the sun is out. To me, summer is a time when I can open up the patio doors, sit out with a drink and my cross stitch and to relax. Being a teacher in my day, this relaxation is very important to me in the school holidays when I’m not rushing around after my teenagers. To me, summer is also a time when you can eat simple but delicious food or even get the BBQ out. Though to be honest we have only had about 3 BBQs this year. The last one was nearly cancelled as the heavens opened when my husband pulled the BBQ out and got it set up!
Another thing I tend to do when I have more time is to cook from recipe books I’ve bought but not had time to do anything with. I love Nigella and use her recipes a lot but there’s one book on my shelf of hers that I’ve hardly used. To be honest it’s my brother’s book which I’m borrowing off him. He lives in Canada but he’d left two of his Nigella books at my mum’s house! So Paul if you’re reading this I hope you don’t mind, I’m looking after them for you and making good use of them! One of the books is Nigella’s “Forever Summer” and upon reading it you are immediately transported into a world of dinners and BBQs on a terrace, with the blazing sun pouring down as you chat and sip on a delicious cocktail. Instead I’m thinking it’s more like bangers and mash weather than bangers on the BBQ here.
But it is a shame that the UK climate and all our wishes of a gorgeous hot summer were dampened down this year. I’m determined to still enjoy some yummy food though. Over the last few days I have enjoyed testing out a couple of the recipes from Forever Summer in the vain hope that we might get some better weather to take us into September.
Last weekend we had a quiet Bank Holiday weekend at home and when it is like this you want to enjoy good food and great company of family and friends. For Sunday I attempted some Mint Chocolate Mousse which is one of the delicious dessert recipes in Forever Summer. Nigella says it “tastes best when made with the best quality mint chocolate”. I tend to use Lindt Mint Chocolate Intense bars as they have mint pieces and oil in it rather than a soft fondant. But when I was out meeting my friend for coffee we went to a local farm shop which didn’t sell any mint chocolate bars. There were some other gorgeous ones to choose from but I had my heart set on a mint mousse. In the end I bought good quality chocolate buttons and added some peppermint extract that I already had at home.
I was a bit nervous about making chocolate mousse as it involves separating eggs which I always muck up. Then I had to whisk egg whites. I managed though and the mousse turned out much better than expected. Shared out equally and spooned into rather retro looking sundae dishes, this pudding turned out to be a lovely decadent treat.
For Bank Holiday Monday I wanted to create a Strawberry Meringue Layer Cake. The picture in the book showed a mouthwatering sandwich cake. Each layer had the sponge cake and was then topped with a layer of chewy meringue and finished off with a sprinkling of flaked almonds. Well, it serves me right for not reading the recipe right. I did separate the eggs and whisk the egg whites in a separate bowl. But that’s where it ended. Instead of keeping the meringue separate, I wasn’t concentrating and threw the egg whites in with the rest of the sponge. That wasn’t meant to happen! So in the end I was left with a flatter version of a Victoria Sponge! I didn’t have any flaked almonds in either, so I sprinkled on some icing sugar hoping that it might make the cake half decent! We were far too full up after our gammon. and pineapple so the cake went in the fridge to eat during the week. It tasted ok and a small slice was very welcome when I got in from work absolutely exhausted after a long day.
For our Bank Holiday dinner I cooked a gammon joint. I usually boil gammon in a large pot on my hob so it takes all the salt out of it. This time I tried it in my slow cooker which didn’t turn out too well. It was still very salty and the meat instead of coming out in slices, fell apart like pulled pork! I attempted to make the accompanying pineapple salsa. None of my family liked it though, which was disappointing.
For me, summer conjures up beautiful coloured and tasty salads. One of my favourite salads is a well made Greek Salad so I was keen to try the version in Nigella’s book. Her version includes fennel though which I can’t stand as I don’t like anything with an aniseed flavour. I left it out. This version also includes some finely sliced red onion which was marinated in olive oil, red wine vinegar and sprinkled with black pepper. The salad was absolutely delicious, the feta cheese and olives were just delicious, a mixture of creaminess and saltiness in the same dish.
I have really enjoyed cooking from Forever Summer over the past few days. There are a lot of recipes in the book which my family won’t touch with a bargepole but I’m keen to dip in and out of it. Let’s hope we have a decent summer next year!
Love Sam xx