For a sub-lime (ha ha) slice that’s perfect with a G&T…
…Not that I’m allowed an ice cold gin and tonic at the mo (see previous post). I mean I’ve got a bottle of non-alcoholic gin that’s absolutely lovely – but it’s just not the same, alas. At least I can still load up on plenty of cake – and this little lime number really hits the spot on a hot afternoon when you’re looking for a bit of a zing in your doorstop wedge.
Although not technically a Key Lime Cake since you’d need to use special Swingle Limes from the Florida Keys to own that title, it’s definitely a bit of a love note to one of my favourite places on the planet and to the massive slices of Key Lime Pie I like to scoff when I’m lucky enough to be there. The sponge is buttery and moist – thanks to a good dollop of sour cream – with just enough of a hint of lime, while the icing’s where the punch is packed thanks to plenty of zest, juice and boiling down the lime leftovers for an added flavour boost (I bet you could add a shot of gin too if you were feeling a bit frisky... 😉 ). The perfect summer, afternoon cake – and it’s dead easy to make.
Easy Lime Cake
For the cake:
2 large eggs, whisked
130g softened butter
130g caster sugar
130g self raising flour
2 tbsp sour cream
zest and juice of half a lime
1 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
For the icing:
200g icing sugar
zest and juice of half a lime
leftover lime skin
candied limes (optionl)
Set your oven to 160C (fan) and grease a 15cm cake loose -bottomed cake tin.
In a large bowl, cream together your butter and caster sugar – then pour in the whisked eggs. Stir to combine.
Next, sift in the flour, followed by the baking powder and salt.
Stir in the sour cream to create a soft, airy batter. Fold in the lime juice and zest(save the skin – you’re going to use it!)
Pour the batter into your greased baking tin, then bake for 40 minutes until golden brown.Leave to cool.
Whilst the cake is baking, pop your lime skin in a saucepan with 100ml of water and bring to the boil. Leave to simmer on a low heat for around 20 minutes.
Once the cake has cooled, whip up the icing. Combine your icing sugar, lime juice, zest and lime water. Ice the surface of the cake and then decorate with halved, candied limes if you like. If you’ve never made candied peel before then check out this post.
…Oozing with plenty of homemade strawberry jam and Chantilly Cream…
When it comes to summer cakes, you just can’t beat the basic (but beautiful)Victoria Sandwich. To paraphrase the famous glutton Mr Joeseph Tribbiani, what’s not to like? Cream, good! Jam, gooooood! It’s a classic; the kind of cake that’ll please everyone if you turn up with it at a picnic or at your Mum’s front door on a sunny Sunday afternoon. I mean you’ll be hard pressed to find anyone who doesn’t like a plain sponge cake, sweet cream and strawberry jam. Better yet, it’s very easy to make – even if you’re a bit of a baking noob. The classic, base recipe involves weighing your eggs first, then matching up with the exact same quantities of butter, caster sugar and self raising flour – but I’ve experimented and come up with a slightly more refined recipe with a little added baking powder and buttermilk for a buttery, moist but airy sponge. Sandwiched with a layer of slightly runny homemade strawberry jam (easier to make than it sounds and absolutely worth the added effort) and some piped Chantilly Cream (fancy pants for double cream whipped with a bit of powdered sugar and vanilla – yum yum), you just can’t go wrong. 🙂
Picnic Perfect Victoria Sandwich Cake
For the cake:
175g butter (softened)
3 medium eggs, whisked
175g self raising flour(sifted)
70 ml buttermilk
pinch of salt
1 tsp baking powder
For the jam:
100g fresh strawberries (pitted)
100g jam sugar
1 tbsp caster sugar
1 tbsp lemon juice
For the Chantilly Cream:
200ml double cream
50g icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
The night before baking, prepare your jam strawberries; remove the leaves, slice them and then pop them in a bowl. Sprinkle with caster sugar, then leave in the fridge overnight.Sounds odd, but while you’re at it, put a small plate in your freezer – it’ll come in handy later.
Set the oven to 160C (Fan), and grease your baking tin of choice. (I like to use a deep, 10cm loose-bottomed tin and then slice the cake in half once it’s cooked. But two 20cm sandwich tins will work just as well.)
Cream together the butter and sugar, then stir in the eggs.
Stir in the sifted flour, salt and baking powder. Gently fold in the buttermilk.
Pour the batter into the baking tin and bake for around 40 minutes if you’re using a deep tin, and 25 minutes if you’re using sandwich tins – either way, an inserted skewer or knife should come out clean.
Once the cake is cooked, leave it to cool. Meanwhile, start making the jam; pop your juicy, pre-prepared strawbs in a saucepan and then either blitz them with a hand-held blender, or mash them. Add the jam sugar and lemon juice to the saucepan, and then gently heat the mixture on a low heat until the sugar has dissolved completely.Resist stirring!
Turn the heat up to a roaring boil and leave the jam to bubble for up to 10 minutes. Remember that plate in the freezer? That’s going to give you a helping hand in working out when your jam has cooked. Every couple of minutes, take a small teaspoon of jam and drizzle it onto the ice cold plate – when you turn the plate vertically, if the jam runs then it’s not quite done. If it sticks in a blob and doesn’t seem in any hurry to go anywhere, then it’s ready! If like me you prefer your jam a little runnier, take it off the heat when it runs slightly, then sets on the plate.Once you’ve reached that stage and the jam is cooked, take the saucepan off the heat and pour it into a ready sterilized jar to cool and set.
Once both the cake and the jam have cooled, you can whip up your Chantilly Cream – which is as simple as throwing the cream, icing sugar and vanilla bean paste into a bowl and then whisking them together until thick and airy.
To assemble the cake, sandwich the two halves with a layer of jam and a layer of Chantilly Cream – then decorate with some extra cream, icing sugar and fresh strawberries.
I cannot tell you how much I’ve been missing my local pub these past few months. It’s a tiny local boozer, but honestly, great things come in small packages; it’s blessed with a brilliant chef – and best of all? It’s pretty much right on my doorstep. Under normal circumstances (remember normal?) when I take Bungle for his evening walk, the smell of chips and pub curries and steaks (you know, proper pub grub) escaping from its walls and windows is just in-credible… and so it’s been kind of sad walking past these last few months and gazing at its dark windows and closed doors with the air completely unscented. I’ve missed it. SO much! And I can’t wait for it open its doors again. Unfortunately, it looks like it’s still going to be a while; although England is set to reopen pubs, cafes and restaurants in early July, Wales is a little but further behind when it comes to loosening lockdown.
So, craving a bit of good old pub grub, I tried to replicate one of my all time favourite bar orders at home. Good old Gammon, Egg and Chips. Instead of using Gammon Steaks, however, I picked up a Gammon Joint and slowly cooked it for an hour in cola and various other cupboard ingredients to make sliced gammon that’s both juicy, sweet and smoky (nothing chewy about this hunk of meat). The dregs make for a fabulous cola ketchup, and this pub plate wouldn’t be complete without a side of chunky homemade steak chips. Any leftover gammon and ketchup keeps well in the fridge for 5 days and makes for some tasty sandwiches. 😉
Pub Style Gammon and Chips with Cola Ketchup
For the Gammon and Cola Ketchup:
750g gammon joint
2 shallots, roughly chopped
1 clove of smoked garlic, mashed
2 tbsp olive oil
2 large tomatoes
1 litre of cola (non diet)
1 tbsp tomato puree
1 tsp soy sauce
2 tsp worcester sauce
1 tbsp maple syrup
1 tbsp cornflower
For the Chips:
4 large maris piper potatoes, peeled
2 tbsp sunflower oil
1 tbsp coarse sea salt
Fried Tomato halves
Add the olive oil and garlic to a large, deep pot and lightly fry on a medium heat until golden. Add the chopped shallots and fry them until they soften and start to brown. Add the tomatoes, frying lightly until they soften and start to burst.
Remove any wrappings and trimmings from the gammon and then add it to the pot. Brown the gammon – turning it regularly to colour and seal every surface.
Next, add the Cola, tomato paste, soy sauce, worcester sauce and maple syrup. Bring to the boil – stirring around the gammon (lightly puncture and press the tomatoes to release their juice) – then turn down the heat and reduce to a simmer. Pop on the lid and leave everything to cook for one hour.
While the gammon’s cooking, prepare your pub style chips. Slice the peeled potatoes into chunky chip shapes, then chuck them in a saucepan with plenty of cold water and salt. Turn the heat up and bring the pot to the boil – allowing it bubble for 5 minutes. By that time the chips should be soft but still hold shape.
Transfer the chips to a foil lined baking tray with the sunflower oil and sea salt.Toss them, coating them in the oil and salt and then spread them out evenly and leave to cool.
Once the gammon’s got 15 minutes left on the clock, pop the chips in the oven for 30 minutes at 200°C.
Once the gammon times out, remove it from the pot and leave it to rest under some foil for 15 minutes before carvingand serving.
To make the cola ketchup, blitz the remaining ingredients in the pot until smooth. Whisk in a tablespoon of cornflower to thicken it up over a low heat, then leave to cool.
Serve the gammon and chips with fresh peas, pineapple, fried tomatoes and a fried egg. 🙂
No deep frying necessary, perfect for French Toast…
When my husband (…and long suffering Guinea Pig) hears pots and pans bashing around in the kitchen or gets a whiff of something cooking he’ll suddenly appear behind me, peering over my shoulder with a look of terrified curiosity as he asks, “Oh God, what are you making now..?” He hasn’t trusted me in the kitchen since the Slow Cooker Chilli Chocolate Chicken incident ten years ago – the memory of which still has us crying tears of laughter (…although at the time the tears had a lot more to do with the 200g of bird eye chilli peppers I chucked in – seeds and all). Nowadays when I tell him what I’m up to he’s more likely to hum and ask when it’s going to be ready than reel in horror, but I still get the odd raised eyebrow and the occasional “YOU’RE FILTH” when I come at him with something excessively gluttonous (like Cream Egg-filled Doughnuts for example…).
To be honest, those are the recipes I get really excited about because they either turn out to be absolutely banging or disastrously bonkers (but a blast to mess around with either way) – and as soon as I decided that I fancied creating a Jam Doughnut-flavoured loaf of bread that would be just perfect for French Toast, I knew it was going to be one of those make it or break it days in the kitchen.
Thankfully, it was a make it day; the loaf came out perfectly and – even better – made my house smell of jam doughnuts. The enriched dough turned out a soft, pillowy loaf (a lot like brioche, but not quite as buttery) with that well-loved sugary, cinnamon seaside doughnut flavour, marbled with slightly sour and sticky raspberry jam. Delicious either warm from the oven with a bit of butter, or toasted for a bit of crunch – it was even better a few days later when it was slightly on the stale side and made some pretty epic French Toast. Filthy, but fabulous. 😉
Jam Doughnut Brioche Loaf
150ml warm milk
2 tsp dried active yeast
4 tbsp caster sugar
2 beaten eggs
50g cooled melted butter
pinch of salt
300g plain flour
2 tsp ground cinnamon
340g seedless raspberry jam
In a small bowl, stir together the warm milk, caster sugar and yeast – leaving it for ten minutes for the yeast to activate (you’ll know it’s worked if you get either a foamy surface or can see tiny, pinprick bubbles forming – if not, your milk was either too hot or too cold and you’ll need to start again).
Pour your beaten eggs and cool, melted butter into a large bowl – then add the yeast mixture. Sift in the flour, salt and ground cinnamon, then stir to create a sticky, wet dough.
If you’ve got a bread maker, go ahead and use your dough setting to take the hard work of kneading out – if not, pour the dough onto a floured surface and knead for ten minutes until soft and pliable (it’ll be a sticky, messy affair from start to finish – but persevere and you’ll be rewarded in the end! 🙂 ).Pop the kneaded dough into a lightly oiled bowl, cover with clingfilm and then leave to prove somewhere warm for an hour.
Once the dough has proved, knock it back and then roll it out into about a 2cm thick rectangle. Spread the surface generously with raspberry jam, then tightly roll it along the long edge (like a Swiss Roll).
Line a 1lb loaf tin with baking paper, then roughly twist your roll of dough and pop it in the tin (tucking the ends underneath – bit like a Babka). Leave to prove somewhere warm for another hour.
Glaze the surface of the loaf with a little milk (or a beaten egg for a glossy, golden finish), then bake for 35 minutes at 180°C.
Blimey, it’s been a while! Back at the start of Lockdown (have we seriously been doing this since March???) I was buzzing with creative energy and had the full intention of knuckling under and making the most of being holed up at home for the foreseeable. I had plans, man. Big plans. I was going to finally sit down and write the book I’d been researching and planning during February, I was going to redecorate and reorganize half the house, I was going to whip up a storm in the kitchen and create lots of new and exciting recipes… and yeah that didn’t really happen, the reason being – among a couple of other things – that I thoroughly underestimated how hard being isolated from the world and “normality” (whatever that is going forward) would be. And while I’m luckier than most in that I’m not really alone – I’ve had my husband and Bungle for company – and a garden where I’ve been able to enjoy the hot weather (I honestly can’t remember the last time Wales went without rain for so long), and I’ve been able to see my Mum and Dad every week when I drop off their shopping, being stuck at home for weeks on end hit my mental health in a way I really wasn’t expecting. In between some really positive, productive days where I’ve reorganized the kitchen cupboards, mucked out in the garden, learned to cook proper chips and revamped some IKEA Billy shelves, I’ve done my fair share of moping around on the sofa and binge-watching box sets (if you’d told me at the start of Lockdown that my crowning achievement was going to be watching seven seasons of Mad Men in less than three weeks then I’d have been pretty bummed given all my grand plans). And with each week that dragged by where I felt like I’d accomplished absolutely nada, I became harder and harder on myself – and that didn’t do my mental health any favours either. In fact, it made things even worse.
Then, a couple of weeks ago I decided to give up on my grand plans and just go with the flow – to enjoy the sofa time (that I’m probably never going to get again) and the down time and to just take each day as it comes and this weird pause in “normal life” for what it is. The truth is, it doesn’t matter how you’ve spent the past few months – or what you’ve accomplished or not accomplished in that time – what does matter is that you’ve made it through this far. And if your way of making it through has involved a lot of sofa time, then that’s absolutely okay.
Anyway, now that there seems to be an end (of sorts) to Lockdown on the horizon I’m feeling a lot happier and a bit more myself, and have been back in the kitchen experimenting. 🙂 If there’s one thing I’ve really enjoyed during the past few months, it’s been lunch time. Having a little bit more time in the middle of day meant that very early on Sunny and I decided to switch our main meal to lunch time. We’ve had some amazing lunches out in the garden in the sunshine, and then snacked our way through our favourite TV shows at night. A definite winner that emerged from this new and improved meal routine was definitely this very easy recipe for Sticky Miso Chicken. Sweet and salty, and perfect served up on some steaming egg fried rice – it’s one of those dishes that can be prepped ahead of time, then cooked and plated up in under 20 minutes (plus, the marinade makes for some cracking BBQ kebabs). I’ve been making up the marinade and rice after breakfast, then by the time lunchtime pounces, all I have to do is cook it all up in a hot wok. Yum!
Sticky Miso Chicken
2 chicken breasts, diced
Handful of chopped spring onions
1 tbsp vegetable oil
Chopped parsley to garnish
Sesame seeds to garnish
Egg fried rice to serve
For the marinade:
2 tbsp runny honey
1 tsp ginger paste
1 tbsp sesame oil
2 tbsp white miso paste
1/2 tsp garlic paste
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp rice wine
1 tsp chilli flakes
Combine all the marinade ingredients in a bowl to make a sticky, runny paste – then stir in the uncooked chicken, coating evenly. Cover with clingfilm and leave in the fridge to marinade for a couple of hours.
When you’re ready to cook, gently heat your wokwith the vegetable oil then add both the chicken and the marinade. Cook the chicken on a medium heat until cooked through, then crank up the heat right up at the end for five minutes to create a caramelized, sticky finish.
Take the chicken off the heat and stir though the chopped spring onions and sesame seeds. Serve up with egg fried rice and fresh parsley.