Sirloin Steaks with a Guinness Sauce

This is hardly a recipe. Consider it more like a suggestion to enjoy a good sirloin steak. And if it comes from someone who is not a massive meat lover, then it must be at least decent (overestimation here!). The sauce is very easy to prepare and you are free to cook the steaks to your liking. I have served this with a good buttery mash, but some greens would be just as good.

We bought out meat from Donald Russell and we are extremely satisfied. The meat is very good quality, lean and it cooks to perfection.

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Ingredients

  • 2 good quality sirloin steaks
  • 1 x bottle of Guinness (or any stout)
  • 2 tbsp light brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • mashed potatoes or greens, to serve

Method

  1. Put the stout, sugar and balsamic vinegar in a saucepan over a medium heat and heat until bubbling. Leave on the heat to reduce until the sauce has become a thick liquid. This will take between 10 and 15 minutes.
  2. Prepare the mash as you like or lightly poach the greens and keep them warm.
  3. When the sauce is ready, gently oil and season the steaks on both sides, then sear in a very hot pan and cook for about 2 minutes per side. Adjust the cooking time according to your preference.
  4. Plate the dish and drizzle the warm sauce on top. Serve with some chopped parsley.
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Lemon & Honey Biscuits

These are a new favourite of mine and a slight variation on the Orange & Honeycomb biscuits I posted in the past. It dawned on me that by changing a couple of ingredients, the result could be completely different. This time, I decided to ditch the honeycomb bar altogether and opt, instead, for the zing of lemon and the comforting sweetness and creaminess of white chocolate. The result is a very tangy and moreish biscuit which slightly resembles amaretti.

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Ingredients (for the biscuits)

  • 250g self-raising flour
  • 2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 50g golden caster sugar
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 115g unsalted butter, diced
  • 115g honey
  • 3 tbsp white chocolate shavings

Ingredients (for the filling)

  • 50g unsalted butter
  • 115g icing sugar, sifted
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp white chocolate shavings

Method

  1. Line three baking sheets with baking parchment and set aside.
  2. Put the white chocolate bar in the freezer to firm up before creating the chocolate shavings.
  3. In a big bowl, mix the flour, bicarbonate of soda, sugar and lemon zest. Add the diced unsalted butter and rub it in until you get a breadcrumb-like consistency.
  4. Now add the honey and mix that in. (To make things easier, I put my bowl on the scales and weighed the honey as I was adding it, then mixed it in with a rubber spatula. You need however to give it a final mix with your hands.)
  5. Using a teaspoon, measure out equal amounts of the dough, then roll it up between your hands and put it on the lined baking sheet, pressing gently with your hands to flatten it down. Create alternate rows as the biscuits will expand as they cook. Use all of your mixture, then refrigerate the biscuits for at least half an hour before baking.
  6. In the meantime, take the white chocolate out of the freezer and use a potato peeler to create the necessary amount of chocolate shavings. Put them in a bowl, then refrigerate them until needed.
  7. When the biscuits only need a couple of minutes more in the fridge, pre-heat your oven to 190C.
  8. Bake the biscuits for about 10 minutes, by which time they will have turned a nice golden brown. Make sure to rotate the baking sheet halfway through baking.
  9. After 10 minutes, remove from the oven one sheet at a time and sprinkle the white chocolate shavings on half of the biscuits in each batch using a teaspoon. Return to the oven for another 3 minutes, then remove and leave to cool on wire racks. Repeat with all of the baking sheets you have.
  10. While the biscuits are cooling, make your filling. In the bowl of a freestanding mixer (or in a bowl), mix the butter with the icing sugar, then add the juice and increase the speed to high to make the filling nice and fluffy. Transfer to a piping bag.
  11. When the biscuits have cooled down, take the halves without the white chocolate shavings on top and pipe a dollop of the icing on them, then sandwich them with one of the iced halves. Repeat with the rest of the biscuits.

Note

  • You can put the sandwiched biscuits in the fridge to firm up the filling before eating, but make sure you serve them at room temperature.

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Toscakaka (Tosca Cake)

When I’m stressed, sad or just generally feeling a bit down, I bake a cake. I found it has some very deep therapeutic effects on me and it instantly calms me down. And by cake I do not mean one of those fancy and intricate layered-sponge-cum-mousse masterworks a proficient patissier would find hard to pull off, but, rather, a very simple and traditional cake which looks hearty and warming. That’s when I laid my eyes on this Scandinavian cake, which I found on the Poires au Chocolat blog. I have in fact merely followed Emma’s take on it (the original recipe is in the Scandilicious Baking recipe book by Signe Johanson), although I opted for golden caster sugar rather than simple caster and used beurre noisette instead of standard butter.

This is a caramel sponge cake topped with a very soft and moreish almond layer. The name sounds very weird to Italian ears as ‘cacca’ is the equivalent of ‘poo’, and I find it very hard to associate it with baking. However, as it turns out, ‘kaka‘ is Swedish for ‘cake’ – incidentally (and very interestingly), the word ‘cake’ comes from the Old Norse kaka (Merriam Webster). As for ‘Tosca‘ , opinions vary: some believe the cake was inspired by Puccini’s opera, while others believe it comes from the almond cakes made in Tuscany (Toscana in Italian). Nevertheless, the cake is based on a standard genoise-inspired sponge and the caramel-like topping seeps into the cake as it bakes, creating a thick layer at the top which is generously sodden in butter and sugar. The almonds on the top soften while baking, creating an enjoyably tender caramel layer on top (you won’t break your teeth on this one!).

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Ingredients (for the cake)

  • 75ml buttermilk
  • 75g beurre noisette (see below)
  • 3 eggs
  • 150g golden caster sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 150g plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp fine sea salt

Ingredients (for the almond topping)

  • 150g flaked almonds
  • 125g butter
  • 125g light brown sugar
  • 50ml milk
  • 1 tsp chocolate extract (my addition)

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 160C and line and butter a 23cm round cake tin, preferably with a removable bottom or springform.
  2. If you prefer, you can toast the almond flakes either in the oven for about 10 minutes or on the hob in dry a frying pan, then set aside.
  3. To make your beurre noisette, melt unsalted butter in a saucepan, then increase the heat to medium until the mixture starts foaming and bubbling up. Leave to bubble away until it turns a dark caramel colour, by which point it will be done. Remove from the heat and set aside.
  4. In the bowl of a freestanding mixer, whip the eggs, sugar and vanilla together on high for 5 minutes, until the mixture is a pale and very thick. While it whisks, sieve the flour, baking powder and salt together.
  5. Add 1/3 of the flour mixture over the egg bowl, then gently fold in with a large spatula. Drizzle half of the buttermilk over the top and fold in. Repeat with the next 1/3 of flour, the rest of the buttermilk, then the rest of the flour. Finally drizzle half of the butter over the top, fold in, then repeat with the remaining butter. Be gentle but thorough, scraping the bottom and ensuring all of the ingredients are fully incorporated.
  6. Transfer to the tin, then tap on the counter once to remove any big air bubbles. Bake for 40 minutes, until golden and set (check for doneness with a skewer).
  7. Start making the topping 10-15 minutes before the cake is due to be ready. Mix all of the ingredients in a saucepan and stir as the butter melts. Keep on stirring over a medium heat. The mixture will bubble and slightly thicken. Remove from the heat.
  8. Remove the cake from the oven and set over a wire rack. Pour the caramel and almond topping over the cake, then spread with a palette knife right until the edges. Increase the oven temperature to 200C, then put the cake back in for another 10 minutes, until the top is bubbling.
  9. Remove from the oven, leave to stand for 3 minutes, then use a palette knife or a round bladed knife to run alongside the edges of the tin and to release the cake and the topping. Remove the cake from the tin and leave to cool completely. Serve at room temperature.

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Salmon & Lentils with a Chorizo and Balsamic Dressing

This is such an easy and yet rewarding dish to make. If you like fish, then you need to at least try this. The dressing itself can easily be adapted and, as a matter of fact, I have amended the original recipe (by Lorraine Pascale), as I found her version to be a bit too unctuous for my taste.

Contrary to what you might think, I do not keep bags of lentils in my kitchen. I find them really hard to cook with. If added to a soup, they tend to stick to the bottom of the pan when left unsupervisioned and ruin the whole thing. This time, however, I used the tinned variety (puy would be best, but green is also fine) and I was very happy with the result. The addition of maple syrup to a dressing might seem odd, although it works wonders here with the balsamic vinegar.

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Ingredients

  • 2 x salmon fillets, skin on (preferably, but mine were perfectly cleaned)
  • 100g chorizo ring, sliced in one-pound coins
  • 100g green beans, ends trimmed off
  • 400g tin of puy/green lentils, rinsed and drained
  • 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary, leaves only, finely chopped
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • pinch of mustard powder
  • salt and black pepper, freshly ground
  • 1 tbsp butter

Method

  1. Put a frying pan on a medium to high heat, drizzle some oil and lay the salmon fillets one next to the other. Preferably skin down (if they have their skin on). Cook for about 5 minutes on one side, then flip over and carry on cooking for another 4 minutes on the other side. Adjust your cooking time according to whether you prefer it slightly raw in the middle or well done. Cover the pan with a lid if you see the salmon is cooking only on one side as this will help spreading the heat more evenly.
  2. In the meantime, melt the butter in another frying pan (or in a saucepan), then toss the trimmed green beans over a medium heat for 2-3 minutes, until evenly coated and bright green. Add the chorizo, then reduce the heat to low and cook for about 3 minutes, tossing occasionally.
  3. Add the chopped rosemary and the lentils to the pan with the chorizo and beans and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring every now and then.
  4. Prepare the dressing in a jug by combining the extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, maple syrup, mustard powder and seasoning, then whisking together.
  5. Remove the lentils pan from the heat and spoon some over your plate. Lay the cooked salmon fillets on top, then drizzle with the balsamic vinegar and serve while warm.

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Horseshoe Shortbreads

I feel like I have unwillingly embarked on a trip to the past lately, mostly because these biscuits were (and still are) a staple of Italian bakeries. I remember seeing them behind the big glass counter as a kid and being slightly puzzled by their unconventional shape. They might be traditional shortbread biscuits shaped as horseshoes and then dipped in chocolate and yet, somehow, they are something more too.

Making them is a cup of tea: I would say the only challenging part is shaping them. The secret here is, unlike all other shortbread, to keep the pastry very warm, so that you can roll and shape them very easily. Don’t worry if they all come out differently, because unless you start weighing every single walnut-sized nugget of pastry, you won’t be able to get them all perfectly equal. And, I say, who cares? Life is difficult enough and they won’t taste any different. If you don’t like dark chocolate, you can choose to dip the ends in white chocolate, or opt for a more artistic choice and combine both. On that note, you could also decide to go for a stripey pattern, that is completely up to you.

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Ingredients

  • 500g plain flour
  • 150g icing sugar
  • 125g cornflour
  • 375g unsalted butter
  • 250g dark chocolate

Method

  1. Start with the pastry. Sift the flour, icing sugar and cornflour in a big bowl, then add the butter in small cubes and start rubbing it in. If you are unsure of how to proceed, check my tutorial.
  2. Once your butter is fully incorporated and your mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs, try and bring the pastry together by gently pressing it down and applying more heat with your hands. This will gently melt the butter and make your pastry clump together.
  3. At this point, you can either shape the pastry into one/two long logs and put them in the fridge to use later (as I did), or you can start straight away.
  4. Take walnut-sized lumps of pastry and gently squish them in your hands to warm them up. The texture should still be firm but it should mould easily. Gently press each nugget on a non-floured work surface and, pressing still, roll them backwards and forwards, trying to apply an even pressure with your hands. This will create a long snake-like little roll of pastry.
  5. Using a very sharp knife, trim the edges so they are straight, then gently bend the roll to a horseshoe shape. Place on a lined baking tray and proceed with the rest of the pastry.
  6. Before baking these, put them in the fridge to firm up for at least 1 hour (and up to overnight). Were you to try and bake them straight away, they would melt.
  7. Towards the end of the chilling time, pre-heat your oven to 180C.
  8. Bake for 25 minutes, but keep an eye on them as they burn easily. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack before proceeding. In the meantime, melt the chocolate over a pan of simmering water, then set aside to cool slightly.
  9. When you are ready, take a horseshoe biscuit and dip the extremities in chocolate, then let the excess one drip off the biscuit before placing it back on the baking parchment. Leave to cool until hardened.

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Stuffed Tomatoes

This is a perfect example of how you can re-use your pasta sauces to create something which is equally as delicious. Normally I would just make enough pasta sauce to dress the pasta I am cooking, but for whatever reason I was left with plenty extra when I made this, so instead of freezing it, I decided to add my own twist to it and use two very plump beef tomatoes I had peeping at me from the fridge to create a new dish.

I find ricotta to be a very versatile ingredients. This creamy yet dry cheese is perfect in both savoury and sweet dish as it doesn’t have a strong flavour on its own, but it adds this wonderful creaminess to whatever it is used in and it marries beautifully with herbs, black pepper and Parmesan cheese (for a sweet version, try it with honey or jams). I used sausages in this recipe, but the equal amount of beef/pork mince with added herbs would work just as fine.

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Ingredients

  • 6 good quality herbs sausages, skin removed
  • 2 shallots, finely sliced.
  • 250g tub ricotta
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • 50g Parmesan cheese, finely grated
  • ground black pepper
  • salt
  • 3 beef tomatoes
  • 100g creamy cheese, such as a mild cheddar, cubed

Method

  1. First, prepare the tomatoes. Use a sharp knife to remove the tops, then scoop the flesh out with a teaspoon and discard. Set the now empty tomatoes on a baking try lined with parchment, drizzle with some olive oil and roast for about 20 minutes in a 180C oven, until softened.
  2. In the meantime, put the shallots in a frying pan with a drizzle of olive oil and cook until softened, then add the sausagemat and brown all over, stirring occasionally. Add the tomato puree and stir again until fully combined. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.
  3. Tip the sausage mixture into a bowl, then add the ricotta, grated Parmesan, salt and pepper and mix to combine.
  4. Remove the tomatoes from the oven, then tumble 2-3 cubes of the creamy cheese inside and fit snugly at the bottom. Fill the tomatoes with the sausage filling, then top with the tomato top and roast for another 20 minutes, until piping hot.
  5. Serve with some salad or as a side dish.

S-Rust-a-fusi

This biscuit recipe is inspired from the ‘scroccafusi’ one, a particular confectionery they make in the Marche region over the Carnival period. Traditionally, these biscuits should be boiled first and only then baked, although there seems to exist different schools of thought on the matter. Also, the name itself, meaning ‘spaccadenti’ (tooth-breakers) is only used in a specific part of the Marche region and, faithful to a wide regional variety, these biscuits have different name within the same area. According to the lore, if a foreigner or a future relative were to enter the kitchen while these biscuits were being made, the lady of the house needed to spit on the floor three times and trace a good luck symbol with her foot to banish the evil spirits.

Needless to say, this is a very personal interpretation of the recipe (and with no saliva spillage involved). Their weird name explains itself by how similar these biscuits are to baby rusts, small dry cakes used in the United Kingdom during the teething period to comfort toddlers. They are dense and yet rewarding, with a subtle almond and caramel taste. Traditionally, these biscuits should have been made with a dash of liquor, possibly Mistrà, a wine and anise liquor typical of the Marche region. The addition of Marsala, a fortified wine, works just as good. Also, quite remarkably, these biscuits do not need any fat or butter at all, which definitely explains their weird texture. They are also very easy to make, so you definitely have no excuses whatsoever.

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Ingredients

  • 400g plain flour
  • 150g soft light brown sugar
  • 230g golden caster sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 tbsp Marsala
  • 5 tbsp ground almonds

Method

  1. In the bowl of a freestanding mixer, put the whole eggs and the sugar, then use the paddle attachment to beat them until foamy and increased in volume by at least 1/3.
  2. Slowly add the flour (in two batches), the Marsala and the ground almonds, until your mixture is still liquid, but very dense and thick.
  3. Pre-heat the oven to 180C and line two (or three) baking trays with parchment.
  4. Fill a bowl with some water and keep it next to you, then regularly wet your hands, let the excess water fall back in the bowl and take nugget-sized chunks of the mixture from the bowl, turning them round in your hands and then putting them on the baking tray. Repeat with the whole mixture. (The water here prevents the mixture from sticking to your hands). Leave some space between the blobs of mixture as the biscuits will expand in the oven.
  5. Bake for about 30 minutes, then remove from the oven and allow to cool to room temperature before eating.

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Red Wine Meringues

I don’t like meringues. They tend to be too sweet and it is a bit too much for me. Don’t get me wrong, I have a massive sweet tooth, but eating sugar on its own – albeit in a very delicate and artistic shape – is not my cup of tea. The same applies to pavlovas, which are in the end a massive meringue with cream and fruit on top. Anyway, I found this recipe in the Eat the Love blog, where Irvin uses it to make his Honey Lemon Olive Oil Whole Wheat red Wine Italian Meringue Coffee Cake with Dark Chocolate and Toasted Hazelnuts. Before moving any further, let us a wait a second while I rest my fingers after having typed such a big title.

Thank you. I made the cake (with a few amendments) and it turned out nice, but what struck me was the use a of a red wine Italian meringue, which Irvin then combined with cream cheese to create the filling. Pure genius. For those of you who don’t know, an Italian meringue is achieved by whisking egg whites and then, while whisking on high speed, pouring in a scolding hot sugary syrup. This achieves one main advantage: it cooks the egg whites, thus stabilizing the meringue and making it easier to work with as it will not deflate. So far I had made Italian meringue with a simple sugar syrup, but using wine (or indeed, any other liquid come think of it), is just awesome. The meringue retains much of the red wine scent and aroma (and colour!), creating a unique dessert. Please note that I do not have a sugar thermometer, so I cannot provide you with an exact temperature the syrup should be removed from the heat at. I have been doing it by pure instinct and it has worked wonders so far – in fact, twice today only!

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Ingredients

  • 125ml dry red wine
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 1 large egg white (about 45g), at room temperature
  • 1 tsp cream of tartar
  • pinch of salt

Method

  1. Start by measuring out the cream of tartar and salt in the bowl of your freestanding mixer. If you are doing the meringue with a hand-held electric whisk, then pour the ingredients in a bowl. I strongly advise you NOT to do this by hand as it would be a painstakingly exhausting exercise, not to mention you wouldn’t achieve the desired effect.
  2. In a saucepan, warm up the wine and sugar over a high heat. You are aiming for a rolling boil which spreads all over the surface of the wine mixture.
  3. In the meantime, pour in the egg whites in the bowl and turn on the freestanding mixer on a high speed, until the egg white is all frothy and starts whipping up into soft peaks.
  4. When the wine mixture comes to a rolling boil, leave it to boil for exactly one minute, then take off the heat and immediately pour the wine mixture into a jug or a container which makes it easier to pour it.
  5. Now, keep your freestanding mixer on high speed and slowly but steadily pour the wine down the sides of the bowl. You will see the meringue gradually changing colour and becoming pale purple. It will also increase in volume and become glossier. This is due to the combined action of the heat and the sugar. Pour in all of the liquid.
  6. Keep on whisking on high speed. If you touch the sides of the bowl, you will notice they are hot. You will need to keep on whisking until the temperature of the mixture comes down to room temperature. You will also notice that the mixture fluffs up and increases in volume even more as the mixer keeps on whisking it up. Turn off the engine of the mixer once the mixture has cooled down.
  7. You have now created your Italian meringue mixture. As I said, the meringue is already cooked, but you will still need to bake it to create a meringue. Therefore, transfer the mixture to a piping bag (with or without nozzle) and pipe on lined baking trays. I found that dusting them in icing sugar prior to piping the meringues prevent them to stick to the baking parchment. Bake at 110C for 1 hour, then remove from the oven, let cool to room temperature, remove from the baking parchment and serve.

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Chocolate & Mascarpone Cake

The idea from this beautifully rich cake comes from this post in the La Tarte Maison blog by Marina. Her creation is in turn derived from another food blogger’s chocolate cake, which you can find here. Independently from whomever first thought this recipe up, however, please make sure to try this cake. I added my own personal touch by mixing some leftover dulce de leche in the filling and the result is amazing.

It’s a 3-layered chocolate sponge cake with a mascarpone, cream cheese and dulce de leche filling, covered by a thick chocolate ganache and decorated with chocolate roses on top. The measurements you will find below for the chocolate ganache may sound a bit over the top, but believe me you will thank me when you have a bit of leftover ganache as you will need quite a lot to ice the entire cake and make the roses too. It is also a very big cake, therefore it is perfect for a celebration or a birthday.

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Ingredients (for the cake)

  • 375g plain flour, sifted
  • 4 large eggs
  • 125g cocoa
  • 500ml water, freshly boiled
  • 500g golden caster sugar
  • 250g butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder

Ingredients (for the filling)

  • 300ml double cream
  • 250g mascarpone
  • 250g full-fat cream cheese
  • 30g dulce de leche
  • 50g icing sugar

Ingredients (for the icing)

  • 650g dark chocolate
  • 400ml double cream
  • 50g apricot jam

Method

  1. First, butter and line a 26cm springform tin. Then, move on to prepare the sponge.
  2. Boil the kettle and measure out 500ml water, then mix the cocoa powder in and leave the resulting mixture to cool before proceeding any further.
  3. In the bowl of a freestanding mixer (or in a bowl, if you are doing it by hand), combine the butter and the sugar until you get a sandy texture, then mix in the eggs and the vanilla extract. In a separate bowl, combine the flour with the rising agents.
  4. Mix for a good 5 minutes at medium speed or until the mixture looks pale and fluffy. In the meantime, pre-heat your oven to 170C.
  5. Reduce the speed to slow, add half of the flour mixture then, as soon as that has been folded in, pour in the whole of the chocolate water mixture and fold well. Finally, add the rest of the flour mixture. Your batter should be fluffy and dark but not too heavy.
  6. Pour the mixture in the prepared tin, then bake for 1 hour and 20 minutes. Check whether the cake is ready with a skewer, then remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin. Ideally, once cooled you should transfer the sponge to the fridge and leave to set and harden overnight. However, if you are in a rush, just let it cool down at room temperature until stone cold, then move on to the next step.
  7. Using a serrated knife (or a really sharp one), slice the cake in three horizontally. Lay each layer on a piece of baking parchment and set aside while you prepare the filling.
  8. Mix the mascarpone with the cream cheese and the dulce de leche until you get a very smooth mixture.
  9. In a separate bowl, whisk the cream with the icing sugar until it gets very stiff, then carefully and slowly fold that into the cream cheese and mascarpone mixture. Cover the bowl with clingfilm and leave to rest in the fridge for at least 1 hour.
  10. Once that is done, you can start assembling the cake.
  11. Choose the least good looking cake layer and put that on the cake board/stand you will build your cake on. Use your best looking one for the top layer. Remove the filling from the fridge.
  12. Transfer half of the filling to a piping bag without nozzle, then snip the end off and carefully pipe on top of the first layer so as to cover it all (I did this in concentric circles starting from the outer one). Cover with the other sponge layer and repeat the procedure, using the rest of the filling. Cover with the last and third sponge layer.
  13. In a pan, gently warm the apricot jam, then spread it on top of the cake. This will prevent the ganache from being absorbed by the cake sponge and will guarantee a smooth finish as it will hold the cake crumbs together.
  14. Put the cake in the fridge and leave to rest for at least 1 hour.
  15. Last step, the ganache. Break up the chocolate and roughly chop it, then transfer it to a heatproof bowl. Pour the cream in a saucepan and bring to a simmer.
  16. Remove the cream from the heat and gently pour on to the chopped chocolate, then leave to stand for 3 minutes. Use a rubber spatula to combine it and to ensure all of the chocolate melts with the cream. Keep on stirring until the mixture is a dark brown colour and perfectly smooth. Leave on the side until cooled down.
  17. Once cool, put in the fridge to harden up for 10 minutes, then remove the cake and the ganache from the fridge and get ready to ice.
  18. Use a spatula to spoon about half of the ganache on the top and sides of the cake. Aim for a very smooth finish. Try and be quick as the ganache will harden in no time, especially if spread very thinly. Transfer the remaining ganache to a piping bag equipped with a star nozzle.
  19. Pipe small roses on top of the cake, then fill in any gaps with small stars. To pipe roses, make sure you hold the piping bag slightly above your cake, then pipe small swirls starting from the inside and slowly building on the outside. By being slightly away from the surface to be iced, you ensure the icing falls back on itself and gently turns, creating a small rose. You can pipe the roses in a circle and then fill the circle with more roses or opt for a more adventurous design.
  20. Dust the cake with some icing sugar for a more dramatic effect (optional). Put the cake back in the fridge for an hour before serving it.

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White Sausage Casserole

In a typical British way, when I mentioned to my partner that I was going to make a sausage casserole, he was expecting a very stodgy sausage stew with gravy, mashed potatoes and a few vegetables. This is not it! This is a very delicate and fennel-scented sausage stew/casserole with plenty of creme fraiche, which adds a summery touch. It is also very strange (says my partner), as it is very creamy and yet does not involve any gravy whatsoever.

The recipe comes from the July edition of the BBC Good Food magazine, but, as usual, I added a few of my personal touches here and there, mostly to adapt the recipe to our taste and use up what we had in our fridge. I don’t want to be the one telling you what to eat, but this is a really good dish as it contains plenty of vegetables and only a few sausages, not to mention you can freeze it and re-heat it as and when needed. Please don’t worry if the sauce looks very liquid as this is perfectly normal. make sure you sure you serve the dish with plenty of crusty bread to absorb the sauce and it will be delicious.

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Ingredients

  • 8 good-quality sausages
  • half a red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 fennel bulb, quartered and then finely sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 green chilli, finely sliced, seeds removed
  • 2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 2 tbsp plain flour
  • about 150ml white wine
  • 500ml chicken stock
  • 250g green beans, trimmed and halved
  • 200g broad beans, podded
  • 300g peas
  • 200g creme fraiche
  • 1 lemon, juice of
  • handful of coriander and dill, finely chopped, to serve
  • olive oil
  • salt & pepper

Method

  1. Heat the oil in a large pan. Add the sausages and cook for a few minutes until browned all over, then remove from the pan and transfer to a plate.
  2. Tip the onion and the fennel slices into the pan and cook for about 10 minutes, until softened. Add the garlic and half the green chilli, then cook for another 2 minutes.
  3. Stir the flour into the vegetables and move everything about for 1 minute, then pour in the wine and let it bubble. Add the chicken stock and return the sausages to the pan. Lower the heat and simmer for about 30 minutes.
  4. Add the green beans, peas, broad beans, the rest of the green chilli and cook cor about 2 minutes.
  5. Tumble in the creme fraiche, lemon juice, chopped parsley and dill. Season with salt and pepper, then cook for another 2 minutes. Remove from heat and serve.

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