Friday, July 31, 2009

Bakewell Cake

It has been a very social fortnight with not one, but two big parties held at my flat. Though we haven't quite had the 'barbecue summer' we were promised, Mother Nature was kind enough to turn the taps off on the both occasions. The day of our engagement party was a little nerve-wracking. We were expecting around thirty for a barbecue in the garden. It poured on and off all morning and we spent the time setting things out and then racing out to bring them all in again. Fortunately, the afternoon was largely dry and we had a great day.

My cousin's hen party was a week later and we were even blessed with a few rays of sun - quite a bonus!

On both occasions, I'd been busy in the kitchen. The flower-sender did the barbecuing, but I did all the salads and a serious amount of baking. Strawberry cupcakes and chocolate brownies were popular, but my personal favourite was a deeply almondy Bakewell Cake. Like Bakewell tart, only in cake form. I made it for a friend whose birthday happened to fall on the day of our party and she seemed pretty chuffed with it. Of course, I gave the leftover cake to her to take home but I have to confess I was rather sorry to see it go. I think I'll have to bake it again soon.

As with so many of my favourite recipes, this came from BBC Good Food. I made a couple of adjustments though. I much prefer raspberry jam to cherry so filled it with this. I also chose to ice the cake so it looked more like my idea of a proper 'Bakewell tart'. Despite what the picture at the end of this post might lead you to believe, it was wonderfully moist and sticky in an amost marzipanny sort of way.

Bakewell Cake

Based on this recipe from BBC Good Food


200g butter, softened (plus extra for greasing)
200g golden caster sugar
100g ground almonds
100g self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp almond essence
4 large eggs, preferably free-range

1/2 jar good quality raspberry jam
175g icing sugar
approx 5 tsp lemon juice
5 glace cherries

1. Pre-heat oven to 180C. Grease and line the bases of 2 20cm round cake tins.

2. Using an electric mixer if you have one, cream together the butter and sugar until pale. Add the ground almonds and eggs, one by one. Fold in the flour and baking powder. Add almond essence and mix well until you have a smooth batter.

3. Spoon into the two tins (equally) and try to smooth the tops as best as possible.
Bake in the oven for around 30 minutes until the cakes are springy on top. DO NOT be tempted to open the oven to check on them until at least 25 minutes has passed!

4. When cooked, cool cakes in their tins for a few minutes before turning out onto wire racks to cool completely.

5. Once cool, sandwich together with the jam. Sieve the icing sugar into a large bowl and mix with the lemon juice until smooth and thick. Spread icing over top of cake - it doesn't matter if it drips down the sides a bit. Decorate with halved glace cherries.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Pork tenderloin with a mustard and herb crust

What a long time without posting! I can only mumble feeble excuses and try to win you back with promises of pork tenderloin, bakewell cake and a great paella.

The past few weeks seem to have been a whirlwind. I had never realised that getting engaged would be such a social activity! So many friends have invited us to dinner, plus we've been busy organising our engagement party. Added to this, we've been dealing with the insurance companies trying to get back the money for the items that were stolen on holiday. So far we've been completely unsuccessful. Much as I could now embark on a long rant about the insurance blighters, I think it is best for all of us that I keep my feelings to myself.

Despite the problems, we have bought a new camera. Not the SLR we're saving up for, but an interim point and shoot that seems to be doing the job reasonably well. It is taking me a while to adjust to the new device so apologies all round if my photos aren't up to scratch over the next few posts! I'll get there in the end.

I rarely cook pork.

Actually, this isn't entirely true. I have something of an unbridled passion for sausages. It verges on the shameful. Fortunately, a cure may be to hand. Following our engagement barbecue at the weekend, we have a grand total of 50 sausages lying in wait in the freezer. I fear I may be sick of sausages come the autumn... Never knowingly under-catered. That's my motto...

But pork in its pure, untouched form? I rarely cook it. Yet I always thoroughly enjoy it. I'm training myself to experiment more with this deeply satisfying meat, especially as it is reasonably good value.

This is a Delia recipe. I followed it to the letter and I have to say it was really rather good. Pork fillets rolled in a mustardy, herb crust and served with an onion and mustard sauce. It looked impressive for a dinner party but was actually a cinch to make after work. Easy as pie. I served it with new potatoes and greens - we all agreed it was very tasty.

Roast Tenderloin of Pork with Mustard and Creme Fraiche Sauce
From Delia Smith's 'Pork' recipe book
Serves 4


2 good sized pork fillets
1 large egg
1 tbsp wholegrain mustard
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
2 cloves garlic, peeled
large handful curly parsley
4 heaped tbsp white breadcrumbs

For sauce:
1 dessertspoon each of wholegrain and Dijon mustards
1 tbsp creme fraiche
knob of butter
1 onion, finely chopped
11 fl oz dry white wine

1. Pre-heat oven to 190C. Trim the fillets of as much fat and sinew as you can.

2. Beat egg together with the mustards and pour into an oblong dish, long enough to hold the pork fillets.

3. Chop the garlic and parsley together finely. Add breadcrumbs, salt and pepper and then spread out onto another long dish.

4. Roll the pork fillets in the eggy mixture first until they are entirely coated. Then roll them in the herby crumbs before setting each one onto a greased baking tray.

5. Roast the fillets in the oven for 30 minutes (or until cooked through). Remove from oven and rest for 10 minutes.

6. Meanwhile make the sauce. Melt the butter in a small saucepan and cook the chopped onion for around 10 minutes until soft and golden brown. Add the white wine and bubble for about 10 minutes to reduce slightly.

7. Add the creme fraiche and mustards and simmer very gently for a further 5-10 minutes.

8. To serve, carve the pork into thick slices and pour over the sauce.


Sunday, July 05, 2009

Strawberry and marzipan tartlets

Am back from holidaying in Tuscany and Lake Annecy in France. We had a wonderful time though it sounds like the weather was much better here than in chilly, windy and frankly rather damp Tuscany! I'd love to be showing you photos of the fantastic scenery and, more importantly, the superb food we enjoyed but alas, we fell prey to some rather greedy burglars who broke into our apartment one night and stole (amongst other things) both our cameras from our bedroom whilst we slept!

Despite this somewhat traumatic incident, we had a cracking couple of weeks. Much of it was spent either in the cucina or at the table, feasting on the best of Italian produce and indulging in some superb French restaurants. I'm stuffed!

Sadly, the incident means that it may be a short while before I'm back up and posting regularly. We've the insurance to sort out and then the purchase of a new camera. We hope to get a point-and-shoot to tide us over before hopefully investing in a proper grown-up SLR. I'd be interested in any recommendations!

In the meantime, here is a simple yet tasty summer tart that I made before we left. The night, in fact, that the flower-sender proposed.

It hardly warrants a full recipe as it is so simple. Basically, all you do, is buy some ready-made puff pastry. Roll it out and cut into little squares or rectangles. One per person. Using a knife, lightly score a line around half an inch in from the edge all the way around. Prick the pastry lightly with a fork.

Roll out some marzipan and lay a slice over the centre of each tart. Arrange sliced strawberries on top, then brush the lot with melted butter. Sprinkle with caster sugar and then bake at 200C for around 25 minutes.

Lovely served with ice cream, or just regular cream.