Tuesday, 28 June 2011

When good cakes go bad...

I learnt a lesson this weekend.  It's quite an obvious one.

Icing + hot day= runny icing that won't stay on your cake.

Not rocket science.

Cake Club was last night, I knew yesterday was going to be another scorcher so took my chances and baked on Sunday.

The cake itself was a triumph, I had a piece this evening and it was delicious.  It was just the icing that let me down...

I mixed the required amount of butter with the icing sugar.  This resulted in a runny mess.  I added more icing sugar.  Still a runny mess.  I repeated this about 4 times then tasted the icing.  So sweet it made my teeth want to drop out then and there... I decided to add some lemon juice.  This evened the flavour up, but still it wouldn't thicken.  In went more icing sugar, then more lemon, then more icing sugar.  Finally it went into a semi thickened state.

I took my chance and gingerly spread it on the bottom cake.  Immediately it started to run.  I started scraping it off the sides but in the end gave up.  I decided to go for a distraction technique and threw some strawberries on.

Still the icing ran, so I quickly spread the jam on the bottom side of the other cake and sandwiched it together. With lightening speed I added a small amount of icing to the top, some more strawberries and then my sugar pearls and silver balls, all the time battling with the ever running icing.

I got it straight into the fridge and uttered a small prayer to Saint Delia that it would set, and no more of it would run.

I took myself off to sit outside with a calming glass of wine.

Yesterday morning I opened the fridge with much trepidation.

Saint Delia did not answer my prayers, I'm actually thinking of defecting and joining the Saint Nigella school of domestic goddess worship...

Almost the entire of the buttercream from the middle and run out and had formed a lovely moat around my cake, some strawberries had deigned themselves to float merrily in the icing stream too.

This anguished me greatly, but alas I had to take myself off to earn a crust.  Upon telling my work colleagues of my latest baking woe I was encouraged to do six hours work and then go home to try and fix it, or bake another, whichever was most feasible given the time.

I took their advice...

Monday, 27 June 2011

Guest blogpost: Swillington Farm Delivery Scheme

In the first of what I hope will be many guest posts by different people, the wonderful Elizabeth (@artemisfoul1812) is here to tell you about Swillington Farm Delivery Scheme.

Swillington Farm Delivery Scheme

Having grown up with parents for whom organic food was big on the agenda, I am no stranger to the fact that organic farming is less damaging to the environment, and is most likely, better for our health. My parents grew many of their own vegetables (Bob Flowerdew was something of a hero of theirs) and were members of the Soil Association from the late 70s onwards (long before organic became mainstream) and bizarrely, we also had a family that sold organic vegetables from their garage who lived around the corner from us! Eating meat was never a huge deal in my family; only consuming it about once or twice a week. Part of the reason for this was financial; we certainly couldn't afford to eat vast quantities of meat, and as my mother always liked to keep her finger on the pulse when it came to nutrition and food awareness, she has long been aware of the raised health risks of eating too much meat. Additionally, organic meat was much harder to come by than
organic vegetables, therefore some of their meat purchases did come from the supermarket, with the odd joint of beef or lamb from a farm several miles away. Overall, however, most of our family meals were meat free.

The idea that a meal doesn’t need to revolve around meat has always stuck with me. I would only buy and eat meat very infrequently at university and beyond, with many of my meals being vegetarian – and they still are to this day. As I’ve gotten older, my interest in the origin of my food has grown – in particular, concerns about where my meat comes from. It worries me that there are some people who eat meat every day, who delight in buying 3 packs for £10 at the supermarket, and give no thought to a) where it has come from or b) how it was raised. 

More than ever is the health of our food an issue for us. One of the most recent and most worrying issues is the practice of regularly giving livestock antibiotics – a practice necessitated by the prevalence for farming on a massive scale. Animals are bred on an increasingly vast scale and kept in such close proximity that the introduction of any sort of disease to a herd would potentially be devastating, sweeping through it like wildfire. See Johann Hari’s recent article in the Independent on this issue: http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/johann-hari/johann-hari-cheap-meat-mrsa-and-deadly-greed-2298567.html.  Fortunately, the introduction of so-called ‘mega-farms’ has so far been vetoed in this country, but elsewhere in the world this worrying trend exists. It is a terrifying thought that antibiotics could soon be rendered useless in fighting bacteria, as more and more bacteria adapt and become immune to them.

When I met @RachATheMachine, nearly 3 years ago, she was a pescetarian and had been for many years. Despite me technically being a carnivore, we had a shared pleasure and interest in cooking, in particular fish and vegetarian Asian food. Early on in our relationship we discussed the reasons why she had rejected eating meat and she admitted that she was open to the idea of eating meat again, as long as she knew the origin of the meat and that it had been raised organically and could be bought locally. Imagine our delight when a few words typed into Google led us to discover the existence of Swillington Farm. An organic farm, practically on our doorstep! Low impact farming, minimal food miles and the ability to visit the farm and see the livestock we would be eating, to see for ourselves the conditions in which they were raised became a reality.

We’ve been customers of Swillington Farm for about 2 years now, with the occasional trip to the farm shop and fairly regular collections from the various Farmers Markets around Leeds. I was really thrilled to discover they were planning on starting a delivery service. For me it seemed the easiest way to budget the monthly household grocery bill, together with the convenience of having it delivered right to your door.

The ordering process was very simple. There are 3 different sizes of box, based on the size of your household + one medium sized box for those that have a gluten free requirement. Being a household of just 2 we opted for the smallest box costing £49.95 including delivery. You select your box, create an account at checkout, and I opted to pay via Paypal as this was easiest for me. The date of delivery is based on your Leeds postcode. Being a resident of LS10 I could easily find out on the website that this would be on the evening of the 3rd Thursday of the month. Deliveries are always on a Thursday, this being the day they do their butchering – this ensures that the meat is as fresh as possible. And deliveries are on an evening for convenience.

So, I spent the next few weeks getting excited about our forthcoming delivery, mentioning it on Twitter a couple of times, leading to @ComedinewitRach asking me to write a guest blog on the experience. Having never written a blog post before, I agreed with some trepidation being somewhat out of the habit of writing anything of any length, or coherence! 

Our delivery arrived soon after 6pm on Thursday 16th. The box was of white folded cardboard; of the kind we refer to as a ‘cat box’ at work (we use them for transporting books!). 

My first thought on receipt of the box was “Blimey! That’s heavy!” With excitement, R and I emptied out the contents onto the kitchen table. On top of all the packing material was a free copy of book about local food called “Yorkshire’s Own Kitchen”, a lovely addition to the whole package (although I was concerned to discover that this book on local food didn’t mention Swillington Farm anywhere in it!) and some leaflets about Swillington Farm.

Delving deeper into the box, we found nestled amongst the environmentally friendly packing insulation and an ice pack was a delightful selection of meats. 

1 x pack of organic beef mince

1 x pack dry cured back bacon

3 x organic beef frying steak

2 x free range pork chops

1 x rare breed pork and herb sausages

1 x pack of organic diced lamb

It was exciting to receive a more unusual cut of meat. On this occasion it was the beef brisket.

Apparently a more unusual cut will be included with every box, to encourage people to sample a wider range of meat cuts. I’m unsure as yet what we’ll be cooking with this – possibly some sort of pot roast. If anyone has any suggestions I’d love to hear them! 

After taking a few pictures for the blog, we loaded up the freezer. Our tiny freezer compartment was soon jam packed full of meat, with little room for much else! As there was no chance that the chicken would fit in the freezer, we decided to have that at the weekend. As I’m completely clueless when it comes to jointing a chicken (I am determined to learn this skill at some point however) we opted to cook a whole roast chicken. I can safely say that it was one of the best roast chicken dinners I’ve ever eaten. The bird was juicy and flavoursome and the skin crisped up a treat. There was adequate meat to have fed 4 people. As there were just the 2 of us partaking we managed to make the meat stretch to 3 meals by adding it to a Thai green curry the next day which yielded 4 portions. 

As we’re thrilled with the service we’ve received this first time round, we are more than likely going to order a meat box on a monthly basis. We’ve worked out that the box scheme enables us to eat meat roughly twice a week. This for us is more than enough. I’d say for us we consider eating meat to be something of a luxury, certainly not a necessity – and without a doubt, not an entitlement.

Huge thanks to Elizabeth for this blogpost.  If you'd like to find out more about Swillington Farm they have a website, and are also on Twitter.  

If you'd like to do a guest post on something foodie you're passionate about then I'd love to hear from you!

After reading the blog post Swillington Farm told Elizabeth they aren't featured in the book because they weren't part of Deliciously Yorkshire at the time of publishing, but will be featured in the next one!

Saturday, 25 June 2011


It's Clandestine Cake club on Monday evening and I'm at a loss of what cake to make.  I did a trial cake a couple of weeks back, but I know another attendee is making a chocolate cake, so I want to do something different.

I'll be using the sugar pearls and silver balls to decorate, that's as much as I know.  But what cake to make?!

I wondered about a simple Victoria Sponge, but that's a bit boring.  Perhaps a coffee cake, but then that doesn't really go with my decoration.  Neither does a fruit based cake.

I'm all of a dither.

I have a tiny idea of maybe a golden syrup loaf cake, and trying to do a lines of the pearls/silver balls down it - but how would I get them to stick?

I really should have thought about it before now, but with all the stress I've been under sorting things for the move I just haven't been able to do any baking.

If anyone has any tips of how I could stick the balls on without using icing then I'd be grateful - sugar syrup maybe? A top layer of golden syrup?


Tuesday, 21 June 2011

(Late) Meal Planning Monday

Apologies to Mrs M for my offering to Meal Planning Monday being late!

I didn't actually do any meal planning last week, it was a bit chaotic and we just had whatever we fancied on the day - expensive shopping week...

I had lasagne, quiche with salad and potatoes, spicy tomato and mushroom pasta with tarragon chicken and then noodles from the take away on Friday.... But I've been eating lots of lovely berries all week to try and keep healthy.

So, onto this week.....

w/c 20th June

Monday - carvery
Tuesday - Prawn linguine
Wednesday - chilli
Thursday - stir fry
Friday - herb crusted haddock, potato wedges, mushy peas
Saturday - curry - one meat, one vegetarian
Sunday - steak

What are you eating this week?

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Loch Fyne, Leeds

With moving out I won't be able to afford to eat out as much as I have done, so I'm aiming to only have one meal out per month.

My meal out for June was with my good twitter buddy Chrissie who suggested we go to Loch Fyne.  It's one I've never been to in Leeds and I love fish so I was really looking forward to going.

To start I had Whitebait, which came with a lemon mayonnaise.

They were tasty, I've never had whitebait before so I was a bit perturbed at eating the whole fish, but soon tucked in with gusto.  The portion was a bit much for a starter for me, I got a little bored of eating the same thing.

Chrissie had Mackeral Pate, which would have been my second choice of starter.

I loved the jar it came in but thought if I'd had it I would have wanted more oatcakes to eat it on.

For main I had the Monk Fish and King Prawn Thai curry.

It was delicious, the prawns were lovely and the pieces of monkfish were nice and big.  It was just the right size portion for me too, and I loved that it came with prawn crackers too.  I don't normally eat them but made an exception last night.  

Chrissie went for King Prawns and Scallops, which I was very jealous of.  I loved the presentation of it.

Having consumed 2 pints and half a bottle of wine at this point I declined to have a pudding. But Chrissie bravely took up the pudding challenge and ordered a sticky toffee pudding.

That wasn't what arrived though.  Instead she got served a chocolate brownie.

We both looked questioningly at it, wondering if this was some strange sticky toffee pudding the likes of which we'd never seen before.  Chrissie tried it and declared it definitely to be chocolate, but liked it so we never mentioned the error to our waiter.

I enjoyed eating at Loch Fyne, it was early evening so not too busy, we had good service (apart from messing up the pudding order), good company, good food and the building itself was lovely.  I'd have loved to have had something exotic like the Lobster, but my purse couldn't stretch to such an expense!

Any tips on where my July meal out should be?

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Bero Book Chocolate Cake

I was fancying making a chocolate cake for the next Clandestine Cake Club event, so had a practice on Sunday.  I used the bero book recipe, but added some vanilla essence.  My cake also doubled up as being one for my Dad's birthday.

75g SR flour
100g marg
100g caster sugar
25g cocoa powder
2 eggs
couple drops vanilla essence

Butter Icing:
100g Icing sugar
50g marg
25g Melted chocolate

75g melted chocolate


Heat oven to 180. Grease 2 cake tins.
Cream marg and sugar, then add each egg, with a little bit of flour with each.  Then add the remaining flour and the cocoa powder, do this pretty gently, mixing too vigorously will take out all the air.  Then add the vanilla essence.
Pour into the cake tins and bake for 20 mins if using fan oven, 25 if not.

The cakes came out OK, but were a bit flat - I think I mixed with a bit too much of a heavy hand.... 

While they were cooling I got on with the buttercream filling.  

Mix the marg with the icing sugar, it might help if the marg is slightly melted.  While you're doing this have the chocolate melted in a bowl over a pan of boiling water.

Then pour in your melted chocolate, mix and smooth on top of the bottom layer of your cake.

Squish on the top layer and scoop up any overspill.

I then poured on top the remainder of the melted chocolate and drew criss cross lines.  I filled these grooves with sugar balls, and added a silver ball in the middle of each.  These balls remind me of the pearls I use when doing jewellery making, which is why I thought they'd be good for the crafting theme of cake club.

It isn't perfect, but it wasn't a bad first attempt!

Monday, 13 June 2011

Humongous cookies...

My Mum's bero book is 28, nearly 29 years old.  Coincidentally the same age as me.  I am very attached to it, and use it as often as I can.  I bought my own bero book whilst at uni, it's packed away with other kitchen bits and bobs awaiting me moving.

On a whim on Thursday night I decided to make biscuits for work.  A colleague said he liked chocolate chip cookies the best, so after finding a forlorn pack of chocolate chips at the back of the cupboard I decided to make him some.

Now, I came to the conclusion that men like big manly biscuits.  So I made big manly biscuits...

I used the chocolate chip cookie bero book recipe - the one they have online is different to the one that's in my Mum's bero book, probably to sort out some of the problems I encountered...

Firstly I didn't have brown sugar, so used caster sugar.  Secondly my chocolate chips were dark chocolate.  Thirdly the size I made them was utterly ridiculous...

They were edible - but more like chocolate chip scones.....  We came to the conclusion that dipping them in tea is the only way to eat them.

Back to the drawing board if I want to impress him with my cookies....

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Not a good week for cooking...

I've been left to my own devices this week.  I really struggle to have the motivation to cook proper meals just for me, something I'm going to have to work on...

Monday I had a bad day at work, and truly did not care to cook.  I had a chicken risotto ready meal and some garlic bread.  It wasn't nice.  Shame on me for eating a ready meal...

On Tuesday I had a stir fry, trying out some of a bag of frozen stir fry veg with some added mushrooms, in a sweet chilli sauce.  It was OK.  Nothing wonderful.

On Wednesday I had chorizo fajitas - strange combination I know.  I used up half a pack of old el paso spice, and some tortillas that were lurking in the freezer, with some peppers and onions, and of course the chorizo.  It was pretty tasty, especially laden with cheese.

Thursday I really excelled myself cookingwise and ate scampi and 2 potato waffles, but I did bake some cookies and some ginger biscuits.  More to follow on them this week.

Friday I had Indian Fish Pie which I'd watched Simon Rimmer cook on Something for the Weekend.  On paper it sounds delicious, fish pie itself is lurverly, throw in some spice and it's got to be a winner, right?


It took me two portions to make a decision on if I liked it or not.  It's comforting, warm, has fish and potatoes and spinach... but then spicy and coconutty.  I didn't like it.  It didn't like me either....  I'm also annoyed at the cost of this dish, the coconut milk alone was £1.88!  It's certainly not a dish I can afford to make when I move out in three weeks.

Yesterday I was out late on an evening bike ride.  After having some booze during our half way stop I was ravenous when I got back, so threw a jacket potato in, grated up a whole lot of cheese and heated up a full tin of beans.  Yes, a full one.  Yes, I am a little piglet.

Today we're having lasagne for tea, I've already cooked the base for over an hour, that's sat waiting to go in an oven dish with my (shop bought) lasagne sheets, and topped with creme fraiche and low fat cheese.  I'm going to do some sweet potato wedges with it.

For pudding we're having this cake.

I think learning to cook for one again is really going to be a struggle for me.  I'm just not motivated to make nice meals just for me.

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Lotsa Leftovers....

On Saturday last week I made a huge pot full of Spicy Bean Chilli and a pan full of rice.  There was only two of us in the end for tea, so I was left with a large amount of leftovers...

I made a chorizo fried rice, stir frying off some chorizo, then adding in a bucket load of sweetcorn and then added the left over rice and poured in some egg and stir fried it all up.  I reheated some of the chilli and served it all in a big pasta bowl.

For lunch the next day I decided to do a bit of a version of enchiladas, I added some of the spicy bean chilli to some tortilla wraps, folded them up and placed in a baking dish.  Then added some parmesan into some creme fraiche and poured that over the tortillas, with extra parmesan grated on the top. Then baked in the oven at 200 for 20 minutes.  Absolutely delicious lunch!

After 2 meals with it I was slightly chilli'd out, so the rest went in the freezer...

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Blackberry Cake

On Sunday I whipped up a blackberry cake using some blackberries I'd got from Leeds Kirkgate Market.

I got out our trusty Bero book and made a basic Victoria Sponge, adding just a touch more sugar to take off the edge of the tartness of the blackberries.

I did go a little bit overboard with the amount of blackberries in it, so when I make this again I'll use less.  It was delicious served while still warm with some cream - but equally as scrumptious the next day.

I try to use Leeds Market as much as I can when I'm in Leeds on a weekend, I wanted to get all the ingredients I needed from there - but couldn't find a tin of mixed beans or a ciabatta loaf. I did the the fruit, some peppers and an onion, and some lovely goats cheese too.