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Friday 16 December 2011

Lemon and Poppy Seed Cake

If only I still had some of this cake left...

Despair is subjective. What proves devastating to one person might not even register on the sadness scale of another.

I know this having recently had a long conversation about the film 'The Pianist' with some friends, in which none of us could agree on the most awful scene. I'm not going to talk about that in depth here, because I feel that connecting a movie about the holocaust with lemon-poppy seed cake would be in rather poor taste (and you might all disagree with what I think is the saddest scene, which would probably make me feel argumentative and as though you didn't respect my right to an opinion or ability to have one). So instead, I'm going to relate it to the film 'Pretty Woman', starring Julia Roberts and Richard Gere, which the more eagle-eyed and elephant-memoried of you will know is my favourite film.

(Is prostitution more palatable than WW2? Well, there's only one way to find out... We're on shaky ground today, friends.)

Back to the subjectivity of despair. On the whole, 'PW' is quite a happy film. You might even call it a rom-com, if you were a film critic in 1992. But it is not without its upsetting moments. Some of them are skirted over, quick as a flash (the death of 'Skinny Marie' for instance, is awarded little time - 'She was a flake, she was a crack-head. Dominic was trying to straighten her out for months.), and some of them linger.

I have a good friend who practically sobs out loud every time Edward and Vivian have big fight at the end and he tells her he has never treated her like a prostitute. ('You just did.')

I personally don't care about that scene though. For by that point my heart has already been broken; it breaks when, at the polo match, Edward, spurred on by jealousy at seeing Vivian (in that gorgeous sundress and hat) laughing and smiling with David Morse, tells Stuckey that she is in fact a prostitute he met on Hollywood Boulevard.

It is at this point that, each time I watch the scene, I break down and my faith in the power of love and its ability to conquer all shatters.

Why do it, Edward? WHY? You already know you love her.

Readers: this is the power of jealousy. The root of all despair! Honestly, Pretty Woman is like a modern day 'Othello'. (But don't tell my secondary school English teacher I said so!)

This does connect to cake. Promise. You want to know how?

Flour. Specifically cake flour. It's only available in the States, and let me tell you, is something that I feel very jealous of indeed. I have a whole book of recipes telling me to use only it, and that unbleached flour (read 'the only flour available in the EU) will not give anything like the same results. Yep: I have my own green eyed monster and he lives in the pantry on the flour shelf. He's caused me some major despair in my time, let me tell you.

I remember at the time thinking that the yellow on white in this photo was beautiful.
Now, I just think 'What the hell did you take that for?'

I did, when in the US on honeymoon, pick up a box of cake flour, and have noticed a difference in the texture of my cakes. (I didn't make it to Hollywood Boulevard, mind you, but I did get my picture taken outside the Reg. Bev. Wil.) But since you, my wonderful UK readers, cannot get hold of the stuff, I have taken it upon myself to adapt the first recipe I made with the cake flour I brought back, to use the plain flour you can get at the supermarket.

Say 'thank you'.

I didn't do a side by side comparison of this cake and the original recipe from 'Rose's Heavenly Cakes'but from memory, the result is almost the same. It's moist and lusciously lemon flavoured, given its soaking with a sharp-tasting lemon syrup after baking; it has a soft, tender crumb, thanks to the cornflour I used to replace some of the plain; it is jam-packed full of poppy seeds which add great interest to each bite.

I love this cake stand!

I do admit that the cake is a little darker than the cake flour version, but plain flour has higher protein content, which explains that right away. There's also the fact that I had to answer the phone and missed the alarm telling me to take the cake out of the oven, which negated my using yogurt instead of sour cream to attempt to further lower the protein levels. But still: a perfect cake nonetheless.

According to those who know about such things, new season lemons are now in the shops. So this is actually a great example of seasonal eating. And a slice makes perfect accompaniment to any film you end up watching while sofa bound. You know which one I'd suggest.

And no. Not 'The Pianist'.

Lemon and Poppy Seed Cake

You will need:

3 eggs
200g natural yogurt
2 tsp vanilla extract
200g plain flour
50g cornflour
250g caster sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
a pinch of salt
finely grated zest of a lemon
50g poppy seeds
200g unsalted butter, at room temperature

100g caster sugar
juice of one lemon

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees Centrigrade. In a large bowl, mix the flour, corn flour, 250g caster sugar, leavenings, salt, lemon zest and poppy seeds together using a wire whisk. Or you could use a stand mixer.
  2. In a separate bowl, mix together the eggs, all but 3 tbsp of the yogurt, and vanilla together. You just need to break up the yolks, so it should only take about 20 seconds with a fork to do this.
  3. Add the remaining yogurt and the butter to the dry ingredients and mix together using an electric beater or stand mixer until everything is moistened. Scrape the sides of the bowl and then beat on high speed for about a minute.
  4. Add the wet ingredients in two parts, beating on medium for 30 seconds after each addition.
  5. Pour the mixture into a well greased 10-cup (2.5 litre) capacity bundt tin and bake for about 40 minutes, until golden brown.
  6. While the cake is baking, heat the sugar and lemon juice together to make a syrup. Do not let it boil!
  7. When the cake comes out of the oven, immediately make holes all over the top (which will later become the bottom) with a skewer or cocktail stick, and brush over half of the syrup. Cool in the tin for 10 minutes on a wire rack.
  8. Invert the cake onto a serving plate and brush the rest of the syrup on to the top while still warm. For best flavour, make the cake a day ahead, and serve sprinkled with icing sugar in generous slices.

Tuesday 6 December 2011

Honey-Cinnamon Peanut Butter

My condiment addiction.

I feel as though I live my life trying to catch up with myself. I spend my time away at work making lists of urgent things that I'll need to do when I get home and then never have the time to do them. It is a race to get everything done on the last of my days off.

I am never up to date with the laundry. This makes me feel especially inadequate because I am the son of a woman who always has an empty wash basket and freshly ironed clothes. Even raising three children never stopped her from getting it all done on time. How ashamed she must be.

I can't even watch television programmes on time. Thank God for that ugly digital box thing that sits under the TV set and means that I can watch 'The Killing' after everybody else has already seen it. You know, when it was actually broadcast. (We don't get BBC4 at 33, 000ft, and even if we did I can't imagine the passengers would be too impressed if I sat down to watch Sarah Lund get thrown off of another case. I feel for her. I really do. Though quite frankly, I feel for myself too.)

I'm playing catch up with the blog today as well. In two ways! We're making peanut butter - people have been doing that for years, I'm hardly being original - and also, posting this recipe and video was number one on my list of things to do this week. I can tick that off now. Or would if I could find my Sharpie. It's a start at least.

I know making peanut butter seems crazy when you can buy it in the shops. But you can't buy Cinnamon-Honey Peanut Butter (at least, not in Cardiff...), and I had to use my Allure 3-in-1 Hand Blender. Do me a favour and try this out. But get help shelling the nuts. Hell. On. Earth.
Cinnamon-Honey Peanut Butter

You will need:

325g roasted peanuts
2 tbsp oil
1 tsp salt

  1. Basically, chuck the lot in the processor and set it to work. For more detail, watch the video!

Thursday 24 November 2011

Snow Queen

If I told you this was taken at night with the kitchen light on,
you'd be able to believe me, wouldn't you? This is white as snow, honestly.

I have to be quick. I have so much to do. But I wanted to share video number 3 for the Russell Hobbs Allure Challenge. Yes, that is Mr. Other P shirking around in the background of the video. He's never far away when there's a cocktail being blended.

One confession I have is that I stole this recipe - shamefully and shamelessly - from my favourite local cocktail place years ago. They don't do it anymore, you can only get something called a Coconut Daiquiri (which is not the same thing). So it turns out my theft was both timely and fortunate. Lovely.

If you hate coconut, then this is not for you. But for the rest of us, this is officially the best cocktail out there.

I'm pretty much fighting a losing battle in this competition. But I hope you're enjoying the videos, since all this really is is a bit of fun!

I have some non-competition posts coming up too shortly, so stay with...

Snow Queen

You will need:

1 measure Malibu
1 measure vanilla vodka (I use Absolut)
1 measure sugar syrup
2 measures coconut cream
good squeeze of lime juice
ice to taste

  1. This is one step deliciousness. Just chuck it all in a blender and whizz. Amazing stuff.

Thursday 17 November 2011

Banana, Sour Cream and Golden Syrup Cheesecakes

Plastic pandas in their natural habitat - the banana cheesecake. Honestly: who needs David Attenborough?

My second video for the Russell Hobs Allure Challenge is now online. You can watch (and 'like'!) it here. If watching me make little Banana, Sour Cream and Golden Syrup Cheesecakes is your thing, that is. It's amazing what you can watch on the Internet these days.

And by the way, that's my favourite T-shirt (I identify heavily with Linus, though am perhaps more of a Charlie Brown, truth be told.). Please appreciate.

OK, enough self promo. Time to apologise to Paris. I have been overly harsh in previous posts and feel I should make amends. It's going to be difficult: there's no 12 Step Programme for this. It's just that as I write from my hotel room here and I remember the lovely day I spent walking around the 15th yesterday, all I can think of is how bad I feel about my previous slatings.

Walking down Avenue de Souffren in the late afternoon sun (freezing though it was!), it struck me how beautiful this city is. I know that area is not exactly a tourist hot spot, being as it is so close to the various ministries and administrative buildings, but I don't care. It was beautiful. The old buildings, fading sun and falling leaves were, dare I say it, semi-romantic. If only Mr. Other P were with me. We could have shared a vin chaud.

I even had a little day dream about living here for a while, but a glance into the estate agency's window brought me straight back down to Earth with a crash, bang and wallop. (As did grazing my hand on a rusty rail while brushing against it: do I now need a Tetanus? Oh God. The worry...) You would not believe how expensive flats are in Paris. I'll make do with Cardiff for the time being.

I'm going to rush round the market later and buy some goodies to take home. This new found liking for things French will mean that my inner Julia Child needs to be sated, even if it's only with quince jelly and unusually flavoured tisanes.

To the task in hand: cheesecakes. I'll be honest. These were VERY delicious. Definitely on my list of If-People-Reading-This-Have-Any-Sense-They-Will-Actually-Make-These dishes, though maybe not in pole position. That spot is still accorded to these. But whatever: here's how to cheesecake.

Banana, Sour Cream and Golden Syrup Cheesecakes

You will need:

5 hobnob biscuits (optional)
150g cream cheese
75g caster sugar
1 egg
squeeze of lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla
pinch salt
150g sour cream
1 banana
golden syrup to taste

  1. Whisk together cream cheese and sugar until smooth (for about 2 minutes). I used the Russell Hobbs Allure Hand Mixer, and in all honestly, was really impressed. This thing has LOADS more power and is much sturdier than the old mixer I have in my cupboard.
  2. Add the egg, lemon and salt, and beat again until just incorporated.
  3. In a separate bowl, mash the banana, sour cream and vanilla together; add this to the other mixture and beat well.
  4. Prepare the cheesecakes: put a hobnob (can be made without if you prefer a crustless cheesecake) into each of 5 little ramekins. Top with the mixture and bake in a bain marie at 180°C for 20-25 minutes.
  5. Chill in the fridge and top with syrup before serving.

Thursday 10 November 2011

Crab Apple Jelly

Hey everyone! Do you want to make crab apple jelly? Brilliant, me too. Let's get started.

You'll need a big bag of crab apples. Good luck with that; they are a bit of a pain to harvest. If you don't live near a tree, you can just use cooking apples from the greengrocer, but your jelly won't be the same beautiful claret-y pink colour. I know that sounds unfair, but it's best you're prepared for the shattering truth.

Wash your crabbies well. Outside is not as clean as we like to think.

I got my apples from my friend Rowanne's garden by the way. I've said I was going to make crab apple jelly with her under appreciated pommes for the past two years and this year I finally got around to it. Someone somewhere is applauding me, I just know it.

Chop the apples up roughly and put them in a large pan with a few cloves. Just barely cover them with water and turn on the heat.

Cook them gently until the fruit is pulpy. I warn you that this takes about 40 minutes. Having expected it to take 10, I was rather annoyed at this point. That's half an hour I'll never get back.

Now everything gets rather busy. You need to strain the pulpy fruit through a jelly bag for about 4 hours. Or through muslin. Or, if you're me, an old Ikea tea towel. Before using it, boil it in a pot of water for a minute or so. Cleanliness is next to Godliness, after all.

Look at the beautiful pink juice! Can you bear how pretty it is? (I can't.)

It all gets a bit exciting at this point, and I didn't have time to take pictures. But basically, you need to sterilise some jars. I used regular old jam ones, and did it the simple way: washed them in hot, soapy water, rinsed them and dried them off in a low oven.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, measure the juice you collected. For every 600ml, weigh out 450g granulated sugar. Heat the juice in a large pan, and when it boils, add the sugar, stirring until it dissolves. Then boil rapidly for about 8 minutes without stirring, until setting point is reached.

I hear you thinking, 'Wha..?'. Don't worry. This is easy. Pop a saucer in the fridge to chill before you begin, and when the 8 minutes are up, drip a little jelly onto it. If it gels (and it surely will, because crab apples are Pectin Kings. If the fruit garden had a fitness scene, the crap apples would be the guys working out on Muscle Beach), you've reached the setting point. Pour the hot jelly into a jug, then into your waiting (still warm) jars. Seal immediately with clean lids, which you can sterilise by boiling in water for 10 minutes.

Serve with cheese or roast meats.

That was free deliciousness I just showed you how to make there. Hope you liked it.

Sunday 6 November 2011

Chocolate Marshmallow Pots

Until you have eaten one of my chocolate pots with a hot pink melamine
teaspoon, you cannot have truly known happiness.

And that's just a fact, friends.

I have some exciting news. I have been asked, by the good people at Russell Hobbs, to road test some of their Allure appliance range. I'm taking part in their cookery challenge, and submitting four (count them!) videos and recipes. My first video, for these luscious Chocolate Marshmallow Pots, is available to view here. Please do NOT mention how awful I look, and how messy my kitchen is. I am no professional TV chef!

Please DO 'like' or tweet about how much you like my video, using the link provided. There'll be another each week for the next four weeks, and I'll be counting on all of you lovely lot to make sure that I get at least two 'likes'. I don't mind losing though. Having you all come back here regularly makes me the happiest loser in town!

Now: the recipe theme for this first challenge was Bonfire Night. I'm not really a fire and smoke kind of a guy to be honest. I mean, I love a sparkler under the right circumstances, but only if there's a bucket of water nearby for me to drop them into afterwards. I remember those terrifying firework safety campaign videos. I was an Eighties child after all.

Chocolate pots don't scream 'Guy Faulkes'. But give a moment to explain myself. I got the idea from the hot chocolate and marshmallows that saved me from icing over at the firework display we went to four years ago in Cardiff. We were 'on time' for the 7pm start. A mistake, friends. The organisers hadn't even lit the fire yet. We had to wait until 9pm in the cold, dark fog. I wanted to die I was so cold, and had it not been for Francesco and his kind purchase of marshmallow topped cocoas, I probably would have. It is now my November beverage essential, and thus the inspiration for my recipe. (Though only the video has the full, marshmallowed and sparklered version - I forgot to take photos of those.)

(Which also should have been for a condiment or dip, but hey: I'm a rule breaker!)

My Lady Grey tea packaging reminds me on a daily basis that Noel Coward once said it would be awful to live in a country where people didn't drink tea. Noel - you're a man after my own. But really, it would be even worse to live in a country without HC and M. Especially on Bonfire Night.

These are so easy to make. Watch.

Hot Chocolate and Marshmallow Pots

You will need:

175g plain chocolate
250ml single cream
1 egg

  1. Heat the cream until it is about to boil (but don't let it!).
  2. In a chopper or food processor (I used the Allure Mini Ball Chopper , process the chocolate until finely chopped. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and leave for a minute to melt.
  3. Process the mixture for a few seconds.
  4. Crack the egg into the mixture and process for thirty seconds.
  5. Pour into small pots or jars, and chill until set. Garnish with marshmallows, though this is optional. Pink melamine spoons are not.

Wednesday 19 October 2011

Frangelico-Infused Genoise Cake

Bundt cake! For 'I Like Big Bundts 3', why ever else?

We all make mistakes sometimes. (Don't worry, I'm not talking about getting married.)

Once, I dusted and polished the entire upstairs of my house with a can of Raid ant poison, thinking it was Mr. Sheen. I consider it a miracle that we didn't die and have actually only recently (as in within the last 6 months) stopped worrying about possible health problems we could end up facing.

I also once accidentally tipped a waiter in Chambéry around €20 for bringing us the hugely difficult to remember order of a citron pressé and coffee (which came to about €6). I am actually appalled that he didn't give me the money back to be honest, but hey: you'll never be able to call me a bad tipper

The mistake I made today was dancing for too long in the kitchen when the good light (for taking photos) was available. I'm sorry readers, I just couldn't help it. I'm powerless to resist the charms of a well timed pop song on the radio. This could all lead to a new career change though: I reckon I could be one of Britney's dancers. I've been told I am all shoulder (in terms of style), so would fit right in to her video anyway. Look. Specifically at 2:03. I could do that. And make genoise cake at the same time.

I just wouldn't be able to photograph it in decent light...

I know that, really, a plain cake like this should have some sort of garnish. But it's for a dinner party and is going to go with some Frangelico whipped cream and raspberries. I'm so not mucksying up my beautiful cake stand with that lot just to get a photo of it now. They're more of an 'on the side when you actually eat it' type thing. The obvious choice - that's flowers from the garden to those who don't know - is not an option in freezing Cardiff today, so, searching around for something else to brighten up my pages with, I decided to snap a quick portrait of my Doraemon hand wash dispenser. Enjoy.


Oh, and thanks for all your lovely comments and well wishes. I feel very happy indeed. Maybe I'll post a few more photos of the day when I get a chance. And the cake!

Frangelico-Infused Genoise Cake
adapted from Rose's Heavenly Cakes

You will need:

50g clarified butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
5 large eggs
125g caster sugar
66g plain flour (cake flour, should such be available)
60g grams cornflour

For the syrup:

65g sugar
160ml water
45ml (3 tbsp) Frangelico, or liqueur of your choice (please not Jägermeister)

  1. This recipe is for a regular 10-cup bundt tin, such as those made by Nordic Ware. Please grease the hell out of it before proceeding. If you can get hold of baking spray oil, then please do. Heat the oven to 180­°C.
  2. Follow the method given in this post to make the genoise batter. Bake for around 25 minutes, and immediately unmould the cake onto a wire cooling rack and allow to cool completely.
  3. Meanwhile, make the syrup: heat the sugar and water in the microwave until dissolved; add the liqueur when cool.
  4. Brushing the cake with the syrup (and all of it) is essential. It will take a few minutes, but make sure to apply all of the syrup. Set the cake aside for at least 12 hours, ideally more, to allow the syrup to distribute and flavour the sponge.
  5. Serve with cream and berries.

Monday 10 October 2011

You might well all be thinking, 'Where the hell has Mr. P gone?' (If indeed there are any of you left. I haven't updated for so long that I'd be surprised if anyone ever came around here anymore...)

I have been taking it easy after a busy few months. I didn't mention it before, but one of the reasons that my posting has become so infrequent is that I have been so pre-occupied with other projects and just haven't had the time to maintain my blog as well do everything else.

I say 'other projects'; I think it is pretty obvious from the above photograph that I am talking about getting married. I think it's a rather good reason for letting one's writing schedule slip a little though, don't you?

Normal service will resume. It might just take me a while to get into it.

Photograph courtesy of Dave Fletcher Photography.

Tuesday 6 September 2011

Gujarati Dry Mungbean Curry

You know, anyone who bakes a lot (guilty!) is likely to have a shelf (or several shelves) cluttered with 'essentials' that they didn't really need at all. I notice this everywhere. More so than with enthusiasts of other types of cooking, bakers in particular hoard flours, spices, extracts and chocolates as if they were gold ingots. They spend huge sums on ridiculous items (jasmine extract anybody?), convincing themselves that said product will change their lives and make them better at their chosen hobby.

They are delusional. The only people worse than them are the cake decorators. My God: they could fill entire rooms with all manner of strange shaped, food safe plastic made apparatus. And for what? Sugar flowers that nobody eats.

(In fairness, I have used the jasmine extract three or four times.)

One of the 'essentials' I bought a while ago - a super-sized bag of ground cinnamon from my local Indian grocer - has, though, made the leap from baking shelf to my actual food cupboard. By that, I mean the one above my work space, next to the mugs and glasses. We're talking the prime real estate location of my kitchen, the Zone 1 of Number Eighty-Seven. And it's not because I like to make cinnamon toast. Although that's actually a blast from the past that needs revisiting at my earliest convenience (not going to happen for a while though - finding myself in a hotel room with neither grill nor cinnamon, I'm filing that thought under 'next time').

No, it's because of my lentil addiction, which I touched on briefly in my previous post. I just can't get enough of those damned dals! Or daals. I am never sure how to spell that one.

Have you ever tried cinnamon with lentils? The combination is going to drive you crazy. I'm not going to take any credit for it, mind you. I got this recipe from Ko Rasoi, so it's Sanjana we'll be giving thanks to. As I said last time, I cook from her blog all the time (at the moment, weekly). and this curry is my favourite so far. I just can't get over the ease with which it all comes together (Sanjana posted this during her finals, which tells you everything you need to know), and how exotic and adventurous I feel cooking with curry leaves.

There is also the excitment of the mustard seeds popping. Special attention must be drawn to that.

I am not going to give the recipe here. You can go to Sanjana's blog to get it, and others. I will, though, tell you a few things about me and this curry.

  1. It has twice been voted 'the best thing on the table' when made as part of a selection of curries for friends I had round.
  2. I never add the asafoetida, but only because I haven't ever bought any.
  3. I like to keep a little back when I make it to eat the following day for lunch, in wraps from my local Middle Eastern shop, with corriander and yoghurt. It's probably an inauthentic way to eat, but it's delicious.
  4. It saves me from eating badly when the bank balance is too frightening to look at. You shouldn't be paying more than a pound or so for a big bag of mung beans. This means you can have the expensive shoes (I recently had the expensive shoes) and dinner as well. How perfect can life be?
Go. Make. Eat.

Wednesday 17 August 2011

Sindhi Style Chickpea Curry

I have just returned from a weekend of what can only be described as 'bareback' camping, in a friend's valley. (Yeah, my friend has a valley. What of it?) There are no facilities in the valley. It was an interesting (and sobering) experience, and I learned several things about life, myself and what we shall call 'the human spirit'.

Firstly, running water and modern sewerage systems are a blessing. I give thanks for all of us here and now. Washing up in cold stream water in the rain is a chore that would cause most people to contemplate suicide seriously (which is why I am particularly thankful to Rish - Mr. R - for doing most of it), and when the lavatory is a shovel and a quiet spot in the woods near the slate quarry, well, let's just say that I was quite happy to get home a few days ago.

Secondly, positivity and happiness can be achieved by looking for the good points in the numerous evils which we face daily. In the context of bareback camping, this means giving thanks for the acrid, woody and black smoke emitted from the enormous campfires (Mr. Other P and Julia are a little over-zealous where log and flames are concerned) in front of your tent. Yes, it gives you red eyes and makes everything smell horrendous, but it does keep away the dreaded mosquitoes. Vile little bastards, I wish death upon thee.

I also learned that Coca Cola cleans grease and filth off of extremely dirty frying pans simply by being heated inside them. People of the world: stop putting this stuff into your bodies. I mean it!

It's not my first time in the valley, and it definitely will not be the last, but we certainly had less than ideal weather conditions this weekend and I can safely say that I am more 'The Call of the Mild' than full-blooded outdoor enthusiast. Still, we are all of us Campers Who Cope and I loved it. So thanks guys for a great time, if you're reading.

(You better had be.)

Now: back to the matter in hand - my curry. I made this a while ago, and wasn't going to post it, since it doesn't contain any sugar and I know what my readers want. But it was so good that I ended up taking this picture of the leftovers and filing it away for when I had time to write about it.

I make a lot of Indian food (and yes, I am perfectly aware that Sindh is a province of Pakistan, but the recipe is from 50 Great Curries of India, so leave me alone), and love curried lentils and pulses. A good dal is one of the most amazing things to eat in the whole wide world, and the fact that they cost next to nothing to make is all the more reason for gleeful indulgence and hysteria.

This chickpea curry is savoury and well-spiced, and was just delicious with some brown basmati rice. I have adapted it slightly here, purely because my spice cupboard doesn't run to amchoor (dried mango powder). I wouldn't normally dare make a change to a cuisine I don't fully understand but I have been spurred on by a recent run of successes.

Usually, I follow the lead of my beloved Sanjana. I have cooked my way through a good five or so of her recipes and never had any problems. If you fancy trying some Indian dishes in your own kitchen, you'd do far worse than start off with something from Ko Rasoi.

But recently, I realised (while, unable to sleep, I was flipping though Camellia Panjabi's book) that I'd never made a curry (or anything at all for that matter) with real, proper chickpeas, the kind that come dried, in a packet, and need soaking, instead of ready-to-go canned ones.

Well, readers, until several years ago when I first went to the valley, I'd never had a bath in river water either, but the fact is that there is a first time for everything, and this was it for me and dried chickpeas. The fact that as curries go this one could scarcely be easier leads me to suggest you make it your first time too. And if you manage that successfully, well, who knows? You might even be ready for bareback camping.

Sindhi Style Chickpea Curry

You will need:

250g dried chickpeas
3 large onions
a thumb sized knob of fresh ginger
4 cloves garlic
400g tin chopped tomatoes
2 black cardamoms
8 cloves
2 bay leaves
15 peppercorns
1 tsp cumin seeds
4 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp ground coriander
salt and pepper

  1. Soak the chickpeas overnight in cold water.
  2. Chop two of the onions roughly, and the third very finely with the garlic and ginger.
  3. Put the soaked and drained chickpeas into a cooking pot with half of the roughly chopped onion, the black cardamom, the cloves, bay leaves, peppercorns, cumin seeds and a teaspoon of sea salt. Cover with cold water and bring to the boil, before simmering the mixture for 50 minutes or so, until the chickpeas are softened. Drain, reserving the liquid (you can through away the spices now).
  4. In another pot, heat the oil and sauté the remaining chopped onions slowly for about 20 minutes or until browned. Add the finely chopped onion, garlic and ginger, then cook for another 10 minutes.
  5. Now add the turmeric, garam masala and coriander, stir for a minute or so, and then add the tomatoes and chickpeas. Add as much of the reserved cooking liquid as you like to make a gravy (it can be thick or thin, whichever you prefer), and cook for a few minutes until everything is warmed through. Season well.

Wednesday 3 August 2011

Coconut and Mango Macarons

The top left mac has cellulite, but if you don't tell him, I won't either...

I know I'm not supposed to have favourites, but when it comes to macarons I do, and these are, definitively, them.

I feel this is OK because of all the people out there who whine that they don't like coconut. Someone has to, and that someone is me. You're all missing out!

I was in Taormina, Sicily, recently for a wedding (which was amazing - congrats again, Sam and Jen), and ate really well. The local cakes of choice are cassata (which is going to get made, so we won't be talking about it here), and canoli, which are little tubes of fried pastry, filled with creamy ricotta cheese and topped with candied orange peel and chopped pistachios. They are delicious, but presented a huge problem when competing for a place on Delicious Delicious Delicious: I have a 'Just Say No' policy when it comes to deep frying.

This is not because I am fat-phobic (as if - these macarons are filled with Swiss meringue buttercream!). It is because I never know what to do with all the oil afterwards. Wouldn't keeping it be gross?

I digress. I was at home for all of about five seconds after Sicily before I had to come back to work, so there just wasn't time to get a cassata made and photographed. Well, actually, that's not strictly true, but I would have had to leave the whole cassata in the fridge for Mr. Other P to eat while I was away working, and that seemed a little unfair to me. I mean, I love the man dearly, but a whole cassata? Hell no.

So I decided to craft a macaron recipe (we've not had macarons for a while, and too much of a good thing can be wonderful) that would take all of my favourite Sicilian flavours and combine them with a little Parisian chic to make a quick little petit four to wow and dazzle. I know that coconut and mango are neither of them Sicilian in any respect, but you're going to have to work with me here.

The thing about Taormina is that it's best by night. It's too hot to be in town during the day, which is why we spent almost all of our time on the beach. But in the evenings, when it's a bit cooler, the Corso Umberto and little streets that run off it are startlingly beautiful. Everywhere you go, the night air carries the sweet fragrance of jasmine and orange blossom, and flowers of all colours decorate the church steps and square; it is truly one of the most lovely places I've ever been.

Now. I went as far as buying the orange blossom extract. But when it actually came to making the macarons, I just wasn't feeling in the mood for it. My bottle of coconut extract was giving me the old puppy dog eyes, and when I found some mango buttercream in the freezer I knew I was good to go.

Yes, jasmine-scented macaron shells filled with orange blossom infused white chocolate ganache sound wonderful, but only a fool would make ganache when there's ready-to-go Swiss in the freezer. I am no fool. And I had less than 12 hours at home.

So Taormina will have it's time on these pages when I get round to that cassata. In the mean time, let me introduce you to my favourite macarons...

Coconut and Mango Macarons

You will need:

110g icing sugar
50g ground almonds

1 tsp coconut extract

2 egg whites (60g), aged for 24 hours (just leave them on the kitchen counter, uncovered)

40g caster sugar

Mango flavoured Swiss meringue buttercream - follow the recipe here, using mango purée instead of strawberry. You'll need about a quarter of the recipe; freeze the leftovers for up to 6 months.
  1. Sift the 110g icing sugar into a large bowl, and mix in the almonds.
  2. In another bowl, whisk the egg whites until frothy, then slowly whisk in the caster sugar until you have soft peaking meringue. Add the coconut extract and carry on whisking until stiff peaks form. If you want to add a colouring to your macarons, I recommend the gel type, and you should add it with the extract.
  3. Add the almond and sugar mixture, and fold in. You are supposed to do this in exactly 50 strokes, and turn the bowl 45° after every tenth stroke. I don't think it's of paramount importance - you should just have a smooth mixture. Thick is good here. If you spend too long folding in, you'll get a too-thin batter and your macarons won't stay in pretty little rounds.
  4. Put this mix into a piping bag with the end snipped off, and pipe circles about 2 inches in diameter, well spaced apart on a lined baking sheet. You should have between 28 and 30 blobs of mixture. Let's call it 29.
  5. Let them sit for 30 minutes while you pre-heat the oven to 150°C.
  6. Bake for 12 minutes on the bottom shelf. Cool completely on the sheet, and then remove using a pallet knife.
  7. For the filling: use the Swiss meringue buttercream to sandwich the mac shells together. If you don't fancy all the work of a Swiss, you could use strawberry jam and sprinkle in a little dessicated coconut for extra texture. It would be delicious, and I'd be happy to taste them for you.

Thursday 7 July 2011

Orange-Glow Chiffon Cake

I know it looks scrappy, but this is actually the best cake you'll ever taste.

You can see that I may have treated myself to a chiffon cake pan since I got one year closer to the big three zero a week or so ago. I even took a photograph of it, which has since been misplaced, but let's just say I ♥ my Wilton and every inch of its diameter.


Before we go any further with this chiffon appreciation, mind you, I just want to say something very serious and quite outside of my usual gently-negative, if-this-genoise-doesn't rise-then-I'm-going-to-blinking-well-kill-myself register.

I want to say how proud I am of my mother.

She is a woman who has worked incredibly hard every day of her life to make sure that we (my two siblings and I) have wanted for nothing. She has gone without to make sure that we get plenty; put everybody else before herself and carried on smiling. She is beautiful, selfless, open-hearted and caring.

Unsurprisingly, these sorts of attributes have allowed her to carve out a very successful career in the years since she returned to work after having had children. Without wanting to go into much detail (I'm scared of being sued!), her work situation got pretty shitty a few days ago. My mum is at the top, yet her first thoughts were of the people she manages. Her team, and their teams. People who depend on her, however indirectly.

Mum, I know you don't really read Delicious Delicious Delicious, and especially not right now, but I just want to say I love you. You are amazing, inspirational and can do anything. Now go get 'em.

And he's back...

So, this chiffon cake. It's pretty good. The neighbour's new housemate said it was so soft he wanted to use it as a pillow when we took some around to eat in their garden. (See, this is why I always tell people they should live in friendly old Cardiff. It's like an episode of 'Cheers', only there's no bar. And no Ted Danson.)

Getting the cake out of the tin is a little unnerving, mind. Rather like the first time you have a manicure and can't believe that you're actually paying someone to torture you in this way (Anyone else bleed? Thank you, 5th Avenue bitches!), it is an uphill struggle to cut the cake out of its aluminium casing without tears or a quickened heart rate.

In fact some of mine stayed in the tin. But with a texture and flavour such as this cake has (Hello there orange! Nice to see you again!), I don't really mind the less than perfect presentation. Besides, those pieces which stay behind are there for a reason: so you can eat them to make sure the cake is perfect. And it will be. This is another Rose Levy-B cake, after all.

I have waxed lyrical about chiffon cake enough on these pages, and I hate to repeat myself. But I will tell you one thing. The small cost of a Wilton tube pan is going to give you a lifetime of forties Hollywood glamour. Worth it. I say here's to Harry Baker!

Orange Glow Chiffon Cake

I watched Rose Levy Beranbaum make this cake in a video posted on Youtube. It seems silly to reprise the recipe here when you can see her do it herself. The video is here, and the recipe, here. Enjoy!

Thursday 30 June 2011

Chocolate and Hazelnut Brownie Torte

I think chocolate doesn't need much styling. You want this.

Well, the jet lag has set in. Not delicious.

I have been thinking about what to write for you tonight for a while, and most of what I have come up with in my tired and cranky state wouldn't really be considered suitable for a blog post.

I thought about telling you how sorry how I am to have been away for so long, but I didn't think you'd want to hear my excuses. I know you know I am a slacker. And it would go against my new policy of trying to stop beginning every post with a 'Sorry I've not been posting much recently...' rehash.

Then, I wanted to tell you about this ridiculous situation that occurred at work, but to do so would go against my policy of ensuring other people's privacy (which is devastating: it was truly hilarious, and I know how much people love airline stories).

Next, I thought about telling you about this creepy experience I had recently with a taxi driver who tried to pick me up (in the figurative sense: he did actually take me to the station) at about 5am in the morning, but that would go against the very same policy. (And the 'No Defamation' policy I sometimes - sometimes - operate under.) Plus, making a connection between a chocolate brownie torte and an awkward and difficult situation I didn't relish might make you feel like you wouldn't want to make said torte. And you should.

(Don't get your hopes up by the way. This is a torte in the sense of 'I made brownies in a round pan.' It's delicious, but not fancy.)

So, given that I seem so restricted by my own self-inflicted rules, I thought I'd tell you about my policy on chocolate cake (for this is a chocolate torte after all). It is to say no.

You have read correctly.

When I was on that TV show (which we don't speak about - another of my policies), the researchers were shocked when I said I thought chocolate cake was boring, and possibly the worst desert ever. But it is true. I'd almost always rather have something else, even if it were something lame like a fruit salad.

Well, maybe not a fruit salad; I mean, come on. But the fact remains: chocolate is overdone.

You know, before we talk more torte, and why exactly I went against my own policy in making it (spoiler: it was quick and easy, and I was tired and short of time), I think I'd like to tell you some more of my policies in life.

I may say 'no' to chocolate cake, but I never say it to Champagne. Ever. Lily Bollinger had it right.

I never say 'no' to moisturiser, and am currently a fan of the little blue tub. Yes, that one. Call me low rent, but it's the perfect night cream and more the fool you if you pay more. (Sorry Elemis - I still love you).

That's all I can think of right now. I am jet lagged after all. Maybe you have some better ideas you can share.

Anyway, the chocolate. Well, we had people to stay at relatively short notice, and macarons were out of the question. Plus, most of the world seems to be of the opinion that to say 'no' to chocolate cake is madness, so I knew I would please the crowd.

Apologies for duplicating a brownie recipe you've already had, but that's how this cookie is crumbling today. Brownies, btw, are really forgiving, and can be made with pretty much whatever flour you have on hand. So if you only have self-raising in the house, or even bread flour (makes a great, chewy brownie), you can still pull this off.

Chocolate and Hazelnut Brownie Torte

You will need:

1 batch of brownies, made from this recipe and baked in a 20cm round tin (leave out the spices)
1/2 cup Nutella
a handful of hazelnuts to decorate

  1. I think it's pretty obvious what I did here, but for those who disagree: bake the brownies, then cool and remove from the pan without slicing.
  2. Ice with Nutella.
  3. Decorate with the nuts.

Friday 10 June 2011

Coconut and Vanilla Bean Chiffon Cake

I feel like it needs more...

That's better. Strawberries can make all the difference.

Let me tell you of my new new obsession. The one that sits alongside coconut. It's chiffon cake. I know. You've no idea what I'm talking about, do you? (UK readers that is.) Well, let me enlighten you.

My beloved Rose tells me that chiffon cake is an All-American creation, invented by a caterer called Harry Baker in Los Angeles in 1927. His recipe was allegedly a closely guarded secret until he sold it to Betty Crocker (who isn't even real btw - still not over that) in the late forties, and I read somewhere (and now can't find the web page) that it was so popular among Hollywood stars of the time, who ordered it for parties, that he'd often make up to 48 chiffon cakes in a single day, and make the equivalent of $900 doing it.

I haven't quite got that far yet.

Betty Fake Crocker heralded the chiffon as the first new type of cake in more than a century, and that may well have been true. I certainly had never made a cake with this method before now. It's like making a genoise but with separated eggs and added baking powder.

Betty liked to steal Harry's glory...

I have no idea why it has never really caught on in the UK. I've eaten chiffon cakes in Japan, Malaysia and Hong Kong, so am guessing that it's well known all over Asia, and maybe us Europeans have just been missing out. I think this situation needs to change, and that's why I'm posting this recipe. My Coconut and Vanilla Bean Chiffon Cake has a texture like clouds, and the flavour of the tropics. If you don't like it, well, you probably don't like anything.

Not even lying. Look at the flecks of vanilla!

A real chiffon needs a real chiffon cake tin, the likes of which are unavailable in Europe. I know this for a fact, because I've searched EVERYWHERE for one. I think this may be the real reason the cake never caught on in Britain; people grew tired of looking for the correct bakeware. I can't blame them. But Rose, in her fabulous book, has a method for baking chiffon as a layer cake, in a regular cake tin.

I could tell you all about the foam structure of chiffon cake, and why this has proven to be such a difficult dessert to bake in a flat layer cake pan, but frankly, you can just go and buy the book for that. I am more interested in getting you to bake the cake itself, using my re-vamped and coconutted recipe and a method which I have simplified even further from Rose's original. (Which involved insulating the pan with strips of silicone and suspending flower nails in the batter. I tried it, and it worked, but my way works too, thanks to the coconut. No need to get busy here, readers.)

This is the lovely Mr. Other P's current favourite cake. I think it's the name. What's not to like?

Coconut and Vanilla Bean Chiffon Cake

You will need:

115g plain flour
150g caster sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
60ml vegetable oil (I use rapeseed)
5 egg whites
4 egg yolks
90ml coconut milk
40g dessicated coconut
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 tsp cream of tartar

  1. Heat the oven to 160°C. Have ready a deep 23cm springform cake tin. Do not grease or line it. If you have a 'not nonstick' (for want of a better description) one, so much the better.
  2. In a large bowl, mix everything except for the eggs whites and cream of tartar together using a wire whisk, or wooden spoon. Beat everything well until you have a thick, smooth mixture.
  3. Beat the egg whites until foamy, then add the cream of tartar and beat until stiff peaks are formed. Fold this meringue into the coconut and flour mixture, and transfer to the cake tin.
  4. Bake for 35 minutes, until the cake is well risen and a cocktail stick inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.
  5. Immediately invert the cake, till in its tin, on a wire rack and leave to cool. When it has completely cooled (give it a good hour or so), run a knife round the edge of the pan and un-clip the tin. Remove the base (you'll need to use your knife here too - chiffon cake sticks to the pan!), turn the cake the right way up and serve in thick slices with whipped cream and berries.

Wednesday 1 June 2011

Butter Crisis Cupcakes

Some of the people who ate these think I am the kind of guy who arranges small blue discs of wafer to resemble roses on top of iced cakes. I hate to shatter dreams... But I ordered them online.

Oh my gosh, it's been ages.

And it's going to be pretty brief since it's late and I should really be going to bed. Work tomorrow and I need to sleep off a bad mood, since what should have been, and started out as, a wonderful day rapidly soured when I made the mistake of getting my hair did by someone other than the guy who normally does it. Some lady cut all my hair off! I am angry, upset and frustrated all at the same time. I haven't felt this bad since I watched Lust, Caution (which by the way, I really feel should have been named 'Death in a Quarry' instead).


Anyway... Tomorrow may yet be better.

I have a cupcake recipe for you today. It's one that has been around the web already, but I thought I'd share it since it's wedding season now, and there may be some of you out there who are planning on making wedding cupcakes for somebody, as I did recently. And I don't have anything else to post, so if you were hoping for duck à l'orange, you'd be better going elsewhere today.

It might really help you out though, since the recipe's yield is high considering the ingredients needed. The recipe I would normally use is made up of an equal weight of flour, sugar, eggs and butter. This one more than halves the butter and uses only one egg per dozen cupcakes in place of the usual two. It is the cupcake of mass caterers, and, Honey, it is going to save you a fortune.

Let's face it: the UK butter crisis is never going to get the sort of front page coverage it deserves, but it seems like the days of reasonably priced butter are long gone. On DDD, I couldn't let this pass without a mention. Frankly, I feel I should be wearing a black arm band. It is a sad day indeed when you have to consider the baker's margarine option. This recipe should push thoughts of trans-fats to the back of your mind though. What's more, even the buttercream icing has much less butter in it than the one I normally use. In fact, the more I think about it, the more I feel I should be screaming 'Home Bakers take note!'

Full disclosure (for you deserve no less): I made 138 frosted cupcakes and an 8 inch frosted and filled layer cake for less than £48 with this recipe. That included £8 worth of fancy pants cupcake wrappers, and a cake stand that cost £15.

You want to try it out for yourself, don't you? Be my guest. Just promise to let me lick the bowl.

Lemon Cupcakes with Vanilla Icing
(adapted from The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook)

You will need:

120g plain flour
140g caster sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
zest of one lemon, grated
40g soft butter
125ml milk, at room temperature
1 egg

  1. Heat oven to 170°C and line a 12 bun muffin tin with liners.
  2. Mix the flour, sugar, baking powder and lemon zest in a large bowl. Then add the butter and three quarters of the milk and mix with an electric hand mixer on medium speed until all the ingredients are moistened. Turn the speed to high and beat for a further minute.
  3. Add the egg and remaining milk; beat in on high speed for 45 seconds.
  4. Divide the (quite runny) mixture between the paper cases and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the cupcakes are well risen and golden brown.
  5. Remove from oven and allow the cakes to cool on a wire rack. Then make the frosting.
250g icing sugar
30ml milk, at room temperature
40g soft butter
1 tsp vanilla extract

  1. Simply beat all the ingredients together for 5 minutes on high speed, until creamy and fluffy. Use to ice the cakes.
(Special thanks to Dave Fletcher Photography for letting me use the top photo.)

Tuesday 10 May 2011

Coffee Cake and Cookery School

One of the cakes I made from the book.

I should be sweeping the front yard. I know, just know, that it is going to rain shortly, and I need to get rid of the grit and compost that re-doing out flowerpots this weekend created.

Oh well, too late. The skies just opened. I guess it'll have to be tomorrow.

Instead, I shall use this time semi-productively and get on with a book review I was meant to do ages ago.

I was sent (about ten thousand years ago) by the very kind people at Michael Joseph a review copy of Cookery School, which is a companion book to a Channel 4 TV series that was on a while ago. I didn't actually watch the programme myself, so I can't really tell you much about it, other than it was presented by Richard Corrigan and Gizzy Erskine.

I know who Richard Corrigan is, and if we're judging by appearances (which I know we're told not to, but still...), I would definitely attend a cookery school that he was teaching at. The man clearly likes a plate or two of food. This in mind, I was quite interested to see what delights lay within the book when it arrived. But more on that later.

Miss Erskine, I have discovered since reading the book, has in the past worked with Harry 'puts vegetables in cakes instead of butter and pretends it's normal' Eastwood, which made me feel quite vomitous to tell you the truth. But I also read somewhere that she used to be a body piercer, so I'm going to award her 5 Fierce Points and let her off for the Eastwood misdemeanor (for now).

(Maybe I should give Harry Eastwood a break.)

It doesn't really matter who the chefs that fronted the programme are actually, since very little of their personalities seem to shine through in Cookery School. Gizzy's sections (tips on topics such as cheese, meat and herbs) are quite conversational in style, but seem rushed (she repeats herself often and relies on the word 'brilliant' too much to describe food). They could have been much better arranged on the page, particularly the herbs feature. She singles out sorrel, for example, as being underrated and encourages readers to look out for it growing wild, but there is not an accompanying picture to show you what to look for.

The lack of clear explanation (and assumption that readers already possess a certain level of knowledge about cooking and food) continues in Richard's recipes. Ingredients I had never heard of, such as lardo, are routinely listed in recipes without footnotes. Perhaps most people already know what lardo is (did you?), but I fail to see how a book that dedicates two whole pages to a step by step process of how to peel and core apples and pears can logically assume it's readers will have a knowledge of foreign ingredients but be unable to properly cut fruit.

Perhaps I am being overly negative. But the subtitle of the book '- where anyone can learn to cook' is, I feel, misleading. It makes it sound like this is a volume for absolute beginners, which it most certainly is not. It is a collection of cheffy dishes made with expensive ingredients.

There were some things I did like about the book. It is divided into clear sections: basic, intermediate and advanced. I must admit I like the idea of a challenge to work through, and it certainly ties in with the idea of a cookery school, but again there seems to have been a strange system of classification in place for the recipes themselves. Roast chicken is apparently 'super advanced' (as is trifle), whereas guinea fowl hash with fried quails eggs is considered basic. Really, Richard? Where am I even going to get guinea fowl?

In the interest of testing out the book on its own terms, I made the coffee cake from the advanced chapter, and considered pork chops, but couldn't be bothered with all that apple and cream rubbish. I had them with cinnamon instead.

I should say up front that I did, despite my lack of love for the book overall, learn a thing or two from the process. For example, that using cold espresso in butter icing gives you amazing coffee flavour (put that Nescafé down), and how to French trim a pork chop.

If you are a cook who wants to learn how to do cheffy things in your kitchen, Cookery School might be a good book for you to consider. But if you really want a basic course in home cooking, get this or this instead. Both also happily Channel 4 tie-ins.

I didn't go in for all the piping kerfuffle, which may have been the reason it was in the advanced section. I also didn't caramalize any nuts. But here's the recipe in case you want to make an advanced coffee cake like I did.

Advanced Coffee Cake

You will need:

300g unsalted butter, room temperature
300g caster sugar
5 eggs
300g self raising flour, sifted
1 tsp baking powder
60ml cold espresso
milk, as needed

200g soft butter
400g icing sugar
60ml cold espresso

  1. Grease and line two 22cm round cake tins. Heat the oven to 180°C.
  2. Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, then add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each one goes in.
  3. Fold in the flour and baking powder, followed by the coffee, and if needed, milk, to lighten the mix.
  4. Divide between the tins and bake for 30 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.
  5. Cool in the tins for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack. When cool, fill with the icing, which is very easy to make: beat the icing sugar, butter and coffee together until creamy and thick.

Thursday 5 May 2011

Pretty Much Perfect Coconut-Raspberry Cake


Mauritius... Merely a happy memory. A vanilla- and coconut-scented paradise island, with sandy beaches as white as the freshly laundered shirts hanging on my washing line, that are even as I type being pelted with the best Spring rain South Wales can muster.

Still. I wouldn't have it any other way. For just this very morning - just! - I decided to take a risk and throw my lovely (but grubby) dry clean only (oh whatever) white trousers in to the washer with the multiple short-sleeved white shirts of this here flight attendant. And do you know what? They came out fine. Better than fine. Pristine even. So today, even the bad weather making me wish I were still in Mauritius isn't going to put me in a bad mood. I have just discovered I can save myself an absolute fortune in dry cleaning bills. I think that's what's known as a turn out for the books.

Today's glass, readers, is half full.

Oh, and have a look at this too. Happiness indeed. Thank you Channel 4. Mo konten twa. You didn't know I spoke Creole, did you?

(I don't.)

Fortunately, you don't need to speak Creole to make something this yummy...

I think it's absolutely one of the worst things in life (scabies and natural disasters notwithstanding) to taste something beyond perfection when travelling and know that you'll never be able to recreate it yourself when you get home. I still dream about the banana leaf curries I ate in Ipoh, Malaysia, and the fancy restaurant fare we splurged on in Sydney. I didn't think Mauritius was going to be that kind of a holiday. Yes, the seafood was beyond amazing, but give me some fresh fish and a barbecue in the Summer and what we make in our back garden will do just as well. We ate freshly prepared roti and daal in the market in Mahébourg, and they were wonderful, but I make a pretty mean roti myself, so I'm not going to be losing sleep there either.

No. What Mauritius did to me is unforgivable, and it happened over dinner. The chefs in my hotel made a coconut cake that was so light, fluffy and heady with the scent of freshly cracked coconuts that I almost had to be forcibly removed from it. Topped with a marshmallow-soft icing and strands of freshly sugared coconut, seriously, I could have eaten the whole cake.

This marks a new chapter in my life. In the past, coconut has never really been my favourite flavour. But now I am a new man. A man who eats both halves of the Bounty by himself (sharing is not caring in this case).

I knew that I would have to attempt to recreate this holiday wonder cake in my Cardiff kitchen, and considered my options carefully. Life is often cruel, as anyone who has ever dealt with a fresh coconut will know: why is it so hard to get to the precious white stuff inside? I decided that my coconut wherewithal would have to come from a tin of coconut milk instead of the actual nuts. The last time I got friendly with a coconut was too much of a work out for my liking, and in addition, the kitchen is no place for a hammer.

So I went back to my beloved Rose's Heavenly Cakes, and had a look at what The Beranbaum had to offer. She had a lot; I added some extra coconut milk to one of her stars, and the result is this coconut flavoured layer cake, filled with raspberry mascarpone cream. In the unseasonally hot Spring we've been having (until today!), I decided a completely covered in frosting type cake would be a bad idea, and besides, some Spanish raspberries seduced me in the Co-Op. Nobody is saying no to those crimson little sluts.

It's not what I set out for it to be. But it's pretty much perfect anyway.

Pretty Much Perfect Coconut-Raspberry Cake

You will need:

400g plain flour
400g caster sugar
5 tsp baking powder
225g unsalted butter, softened
5 egg whites
400ml coconut milk
2 tsp vanilla extract

250g mascarpone
1 small punnet raspberries (about 150g)
3 tbsp icing sugar, or to taste

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C. Grease and line two 24cm cake tins.
  2. Put the flour, sugar and baking powder in a large bowl. Mix together well to distribute the baking powder using a wire whisk. Add the butter, cubed, and two thirds of the coconut milk. Using an electric hand mixer, beat the ingredients just together. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and continue to beat on high speed for 2 minutes.
  3. In another bowl, mix the egg whites, remaining coconut milk and vanilla together; add this mixture in batches to the flour mix, beating well after each addition.
  4. Divide the mixture between the tins and bake for around 40 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the centre of the cakes comes out clean.
  5. Cool in the tins for 10 minutes and then unmould onto a wire rack to finish cooling.
  6. Mix the filling ingredients together roughly. Check to see if it is sweet enough - you may want more sugar, or some vanilla. Use to sandwich the two sponges together. Serve in fat wedges.
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