Category Archives: Vegetarian

Q: What to do with left-over Shortcrust?

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I get asked this question quite a lot, especially after posting the recipe for shortcrust pastry. I have one quick solution for you. Roll out the remaining pastry into a sheet and cut it into thick strips. Shallow-fry them in a little bit of vegetable oil and when they puff up and turn golden brown remove them from the pan. (Don’t be absent-minded here as they will burn easily. Happened to me countless times!) Place on some kitchen paper, sprinkle them with a bit of sugar (white or brown or whatever you choose) and a splodge of honey or golden syrup. They are yummy. Great for a pick-me-up or whenever you need some cheering up! Short but sweet.

Enjoy!

Rob x

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Oven-baked Potatoes with Mushrooms and Herbs

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I tried this quite a while ago while cooking with my mum in her kitchen a few weeks after Christmas. We turned simple potatoes into something nice, served with a juicy steak. I love cooking with my mama, and I’m happy to cook something for her once in a while. It’s the least I can do after so many wonderful meals she cooked for me. We made quite a few, had plenty of leftovers and gave some to my aunt who liked them so much that she ate one cold from the fridge. These keep well when cooled and is great for eating outdoors.

The quantities for this recipe are approximate; tastes differ from one person to another and not everyone likes loads of herbs or cheese or even mushrooms. So add or subtract whatever you want and experiment with different ingredients. Then you’ll end up with your personalised recipe. It’s very easy and you can figure out what I did from the photo. But here’s a guide. For the best result it’s better to get the largest potatoes you can get from the market. You need:

  • around 6 to 8 potatoes, boiled al dente (meaning ‘with a bite’, not ‘to the teeth’! Yes I’ve heard that!) and cut in half.

For the filling:

  • 2 small onions, chopped
  • 6 mushrooms, sliced
  • 4 slices of bacon, chopped (you can use pancetta for a stronger flavour)
  • any herb that you fancy: I used some freshly chopped parsley
  • pepper, to taste
  • around 2 tablespoons of butter
  • around 2 tablespoons of milk

For the topping:

  • 12 slices or so of emmental cheese

In a pan prepare the topping by gently frying the onions, bacon and mushrooms in a little olive oil for a few minutes. Don’t cook them too much; the oven will do the rest of the cooking later. Set this mixture aside in a mixing bowl.

Once cooled, slice the cooked potatoes in half and scrape the middle into the same bowl, and add the parsley (or any herb you prefer). Add some pepper but no salt. You get plenty of this from the bacon. Add the butter and milk and mix. This is like making a fancy mash.

Once the mixture is ready and you are happy with the seasoning, scoop this into each half and top with the sliced cheese. Bake in the oven at 180ºC till everything turns golden. You can grill them if you prefer. Serve with steak or chicken and salad.

Enjoy!

Rob x

Very Chocolatey Chocolate Loaf Cake

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Please don’t tell me that I made a mistake. I purposely emphasised the extreme chocolate-ness of this cake because I really wanted to make it clear that this is serious chocoholic business. This loaf cake is definitely good but it’s not for everyone. It’s not that I want to discriminate – far from it! It’s just that it’s very dense. I would suggest serving it with something else, like for example some berries for some tartness to make up for the sweetness provided by the chocolate and sugar in the recipe. This cake could easily be a chocoholic’s dream. Oh and also: please don’t comment on the photo – I had some extra chocolate icing to spare and wanted to use it!

This recipe is taken from Nigella’s How to be a Domestic Goddess with minor variations. So for this gooey, moist cake you need:

  • 225g unsalted butter, softened
  • 200g dark brown sugar
  • 175g light brown sugar
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 100g dark chocolate, melted and slightly cooled
  • 200g plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 250ml boiling water

Preheat the oven to 190ºC/374ºF/Gas mark 5, and grease and line your loaf tin.

Whisk the butter and both sugars together till they form a creamy consistency, then add the eggs and vanilla extract and continue whisking.

Add the slightly cooled chocolate and fold it gently into the eggy mixture, trying not to overbeat. This cake should be dense so you don’t want a fluffy consistency here.

In a small bowl combine the plain flour and the baking powder, and add this to the cake batter, one spoon at a time and mix gently with the boiling water until the batter is smooth and somewhat liquid, but not too much.

Pour this into the lined loaf tin and bake for 30 minutes at 190ºC; then turn the oven to 170ºC/approx 340ºF/Gas mark 3 for 25 minutes. Always keep an eye on it to prevent any burns and check the cake with a skewer or sharp knife, although here you’re looking for a gooey cake so the knife should not come out squeaky clean.

And as always…enjoy!

Rob x

Easy cupcakes

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I’ve been really busy these past few weeks and haven’t had time to bake. After moving and a few other hassles, I went down with a small bout of fever. No time to think and definitely in no mood to work. My mind couldn’t stop thinking about what to do next though and this morning I remembered that I had this cupcake recipe in line for ages now. When I was young a cupcake-making day was always exciting, so for old-time’s sake here is one I found on Nigella Express (page 187). I didn’t follow through with the coloured cream though, since I had some leftover chocolate icing in the fridge and used that instead. Here’s the recipe.

  • 125g soft butter
  • 125g sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 125 plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. Preheat the oven to 200ºC/392ºF/Gas Mark 6. Line a 12-muffin tin with muffin papers of baking paper.
  2. In a bowl if mixing by hand, cream the butter and sugar until the mixture is light and fluffy and changes colour to a pale yellow.
  3. Add the eggs one at a time and continue beating. Fold the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and vanilla extract.
  4. Divide the batter evenly into the muffin papers and bake for 15-20 minutes or until the little cakes turn golden. Tip the cupcakes onto a wire rack and leave to cool. Cover with any icing you prefer.

So easy to make and perfect for these summer evenings, when you still feel the urge to bake but you know you won’t cope with the oven for very long. Enjoy!

Rob x

Tea time cakes Continued: Banana Bread

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I like to try two similar recipes using one base ingredient and compare tastes and textures. The reason is simple really: this happens because usually I have one ingredient I buy too much of. The idea for the cake in the previous post and this one here came from having a couple of unused fruit lying around.

The following is taken from Nigella’s How to be a Domestic Goddess, which as I think I have said before, it is a must for all home bakers to have. But I will not go into that again, don’t worry! What I will tell you now is that on page 33 there’s a recipe for Banana Bread. Nigella has adapted it from Jim Fobel’s Old-Fashioned Baking Book: Recipes from an American Childhood and it’s very similar to the first banana loaf recipe I wrote about. There’s some alcohol in it in the form of bourbon or dark rum as she suggests. I had neither on hand so I used some brandy. It is simple, delicious and ideal for sharing. You will end up with a heavier cake but adding the alcohol plumps up the sultanas and makes them tastier. You will need:

  • 100g sultanas
  • 75ml bourbon or dark rum (or brandy)
  • 175g plain flour
  • 2 teaspooons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt (optional)
  • 125g unsalted butter, softened
  • 150g caster sugar or soft brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • Around 300g (without the skin) very ripe bananas, mashed
  • 60g pecans or walnuts, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. Place the sultanas and the alcohol in a small pan over the heat. As soon as it starts to boil, remove from the heat and let it soak for around an hour or until the sultanas have absorbed most of the alcohol. Drain using a sieve.
  2. In the meantime preheat the oven to 170ºC/338ºF/Gas Mark 3 and grease and line a loaf tin (23 x 13 x 7cm).
  3. In a medium-sized bowl put the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt and stir everything together well.
  4. Now mix the melted butter and sugar in a large bowl and whisk together; then add the eggs one at a time and continue whisking.
  5. Add the mashed bananas, walnuts, drained sultanas and vanilla extract. Mix lightly and start pouring the flour mixture slowly. Add half and beat, then add the other half and beat again.
  6. Pour the completed cake batter into your loaf tin and bake in the middle of the oven for around 1 to 1¼ hours, always keeping an eye on it. When ready the skewer or knife used to check it shouldn’t come out clean because you want a gooey cake. Don’t worry because the cake will continue to cook when you take it out of the oven while cooling. Leave to cool for a while in the tin, then take it out on a rack. If you line the cake with overlapping baking paper (see my lemon cake from a while back) handling it will be super easy.

Nigella’s variation of this cake, which I still have to try would be to replace 25g of the plain flour with good quality cocoa powder and adding 100g of dark chocolate chunks or chocolate chips. I’m sure I will like it!

Enjoy!

Rob x