I was browsing some of my bookmarks this morning, trying to find some easy drinks party recipes. I think I may have found my girl. The lovely Thane Prince from thaneprince.com has many many recipes which are just the ticket. This is *not* a blind recommendation; two of my very favourites are the Parmesan and Harissa Madeleines and the Blue Cheese Sesame Biscuits. A word of caution: they are so good that you will want to eat them all by yourself. Thank you Thane!
As I have said in previous posts I rarely write about recipes the minute I try them out, so this one will break my record. Reason being that with the Olympics and the Queen’s Jubilee coming up, classic British food is all the rage. Imagine last year’s Royal Wedding times a hundred. So instead of the chicken recipe I planned to write about today, I give you this recipe for Victoria Sponge. I made it in a rush but it turned out OK.
I remember the very first one I made (around ten years ago…whoa!) didn’t taste all that great. My dreadful mistake was easy to spot: instead of using baking powder I added bicarbonate of soda into plain flour. You can stop there…again, major disaster! What was I thinking? No baking powder in the pantry, that’s what. We had friends over for dinner that evening and boy was our friendship tested! They *all* had a slice of the sponge and still said it was good. When I insisted on feedback they admitted that it was “soapy”. Poor things! (On a serious note I dislike people who snobbishly, *not* for health reasons of course, refuse good food cooked for *them* when they are invited over at your home. This has happened to me and I’m sure it has happened to you.)
I have finally made a sponge which I really like. It’s very very simple. All you need though are two 7 inch sandwich tins or one 7 inch cake tin. If you only have a different size you could always try it out as I have previously done. It will work but don’t give it more than 15 minutes (per sandwich tin). I recently made one using a different recipe for the top and bottom layer to try things out, like a rebel! Ha!
There are two main versions of Victoria Sponge – one with jam and whipped cream, which is perfect when gobbled up in one sitting by you and your many friends, and the jam minus cream one, like the one I like to make, great for fewer people, assuming that you won’t eat 5 slices each (or so we hope). With the Great British Summer on our doorstep (yeah..right) this is just what we need! Enjoy.
- 125g butter, softened
- 125g golden caster sugar
- 125g self-raising flour
- 2 eggs
- Raspberry jam (or strawberry)
- Heavy cream for whipping (This tastes much much better than the pre-made stuff!)
- Preheat the oven to 170ºC – 180ºC/325ºF/Gas mark 4-5 (depending on type: gas or electric).
- In a medium mixing bowl beat the butter and sugar preferably with an electric whisk until fluffy and light (turning almost white in colour).
- Beat in the eggs, one by one with a tablespoon or two of the flour after each egg. Then gently fold in (don’t beat) what remains of the flour.
- Pour the sponge mixture into greased sandwich tins and bake for around 20-25 minutes in two tins, or 35-40 minutes in one.
- When sponge is done, place the tins onto a wire rack and leave for a few minutes to cool down. Remove the sponge from the tins to cool completely. Spread one layer with good raspberry jam and whipped cream. If the jam you are using doesn’t have enough chunky fruit pieces it would be nice to add some fresh berries. Then place the other layer on top and sprinkle as much icing sugar as you want!
It’s Mothering Sunday this month in the UK. I get so confused: in Malta it’s in May. The first year we moved here I sent my cards really early and our mums were so surprised. I have a reputation of sending greeting cards a month before someone’s birthday, but this broke all records! Lately people have been messaging me saying that I have not been writing about sweet things for the past few posts. That’s very true, reason being that I have not been baking much this past month or so. I will rectify this now, although the following recipe goes back quite a while.
These are difficult times for almost everyone, so instead of spending all your precious pennies I’m sure that a little bit of baking would go a long way instead. How about some cute fairy cakes with pink icing and loads of sprinkles for the special lady, maybe wrapped up in a pink box? Or perhaps the following chocolate lovelies…They are so simple to make. One thing to pay attention to has to do with convection oven. These tend to be too powerful for baking small cakes, so preheat the oven 10 to 20 degrees C lower. If you have a fan oven then preheat it to 160ºC here. This recipe is for 12 muffins and takes about 35 minutes or so. Happy Baking!
- 150g unsalted butter, softened
- 150g golden caster sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 175g self-raising flour
- 25g good quality cocoa powder
- Preheat the oven to 180ºC (for convection ovens see my note above). Line or grease a muffin tin for 12 cakes.
- In a large bowl mix in the butter, golden caster sugar, eggs and vanilla extract. Place a sieve over the same bowl and in it tip the flour and cocoa powder. Sift the two ingredients into the liquids.
- Using a whisk beat everything together well but not too much. Some lumps in the mixture is fine. It will turn out better!
- Divide the mixture in the tins and bake for 15 minutes, or till a knife comes out clean. Keep an eye on them as they can burn easily!
- Take them out of the tins after 5 minutes on a wire rack and let them cool.
If you want to make some buttercream to make them tastier, try mixing 150g unsalted butter, 300g icing sugar and 2 tablespoons milk in a bowl. Make sure you spread this on the muffins after they are completely cool, otherwise the buttercream will simply melt. Not nice. Happy Mothering Sunday to all you lovely mums!
I think that comfort food does not necessarily mean fatty food. Fish cakes are packed with good energy without the heaviness of any meat. Not that I don’t like meat patties once in a while, but these are a great alternative, and can be eaten in summer and also during the dreary winter months. I love them and hope you do too. This recipe makes around 14 100g cakes. However you can make them as small as you like for parties and picnics. Here’s what you need:
- 750g potatoes (cooked, mashed with 15g butter and cooled)
- 550g white fish (I used pollock)
- 200g breadcrumbs
- ¼ teaspoon chilli powder
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- grated zest of 1 lemon
- 1 egg for binding
- Place some flour in a small bowl. Mix all the ingredients well in a large bowl.
- Flour your hands to avoid extra stickiness and using a ½ cup measure if you have one (or measure 100g per patty) spoon the measured mixture into your hands to form one fish cake. Then dip this into the flour to coat.
- Pat each cake to remove the excess flour, place on a plate or flat dish and repeat until all the mixture is used up. Cover the fish cakes with cling film and place in the fridge for around 30 minutes to help them cool and firm up. This will help them remain whole in the frying pan and in the oven after that.
- At this stage you can preheat the oven to 170ºC. Place about a tablespoon of oil and a small knob of butter into a shallow pan and fry the cooled fish cakes on both sides, giving them around 5 to 6 minutes per side. Put them into a lined baking dish and finish them in the oven for 15 minutes, or until they turn golden brown on top.
Serve with a green salad and some Halloumi cheese, but my favourite way to eat this is in between some fresh wholemeal bread with a light spread of mayo!
Hummus is a mixture used as a dip mainly made out of chickpeas, tahini (sesame paste), olive oil, garlic and lemon. J is a big fan of all Middle Eastern food and is a huge fan of the stuff. It’s healthy and makes a nice snack. This is our version; it’s not authentic I know, primarily because we don’t use tahini. There are no speciality shops nearby, and when we did manage to find it once the quantity was too much for what we needed. And you know the drill here – the jar stayed in the fridge forever. What we do add is some sesame oil to give the spread a nutty flavour. If you omit the tahini, as in this recipe, you will undeniably end up with a drier mixture, but otherwise the taste is great. The depth of flavour comes from the cumin. To be honest I don’t like cumin too much, but in this recipe it seems to work pretty well. All you need here is a food processor, blitz everything together and you will end up with something tasty for yourself or for your guests.
An important note for this recipe: before you start bear in mind that dried chickpeas need to be covered with cold water in a bowl overnight, and boiled rapidly for 10 minutes and simmered for 30 minutes the next day. Then place in a colander or sieve and cool them down with cold water.
When you have completed the above step, place the cooked and cooled chickpeas into your food processor and add:
- 4 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
- 1 teaspoon coarse salt, crushed (you really need it here I’m afraid)
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- juice of 1 lemon
- ¼ teaspoon cumin
- ¼ teaspoon paprika (optional)
- around 200ml cold water, and add as necessary
Blitz all the ingredients together and serve with pita bread, crackers or anything you like. You can serve in a big bowl and decorate with a little bit of lemon zest. Just enough zing for freshness. Enjoy!