Friday 28 September 2012

Vanilla Toffee

The second gift that I made for the Ndali Vanilla Gift Swap was inspired by the old rusty toffee hammer that my cousin found when we were clearing out my granddad's toolshed a year or so ago and rescued for me.

Obviously, the first thing I did on getting it home was to (google a recipe, and) make toffee to hammer with it.

It turns out that homemade toffee is both simple and delicious. AND you get to hit it with its own special tool - big win!

So - when I heard about the gift swap, I immediately started scouring eBay for a good toffee hammer so that I could make vanilla toffee - good gift, no?

I melted 225g salted butter (you could use unsalted and add a sprinkle of salt) and a cup (apologies for the silly US measurement, but that's how it goes) of butter in a little saucepan and then slowly brought it to the boil, stirring all the time.

I boiled the mixture until it reached 'soft crack' stage - 153oC at which point I took it off the heat and stirred in a tsp of vanilla powder (the powder really comes into its own here - liquid would be impractical) and poured it onto baking parchment to set.

At this stage, for one of my batches, I sprinkled dark and white chocolate chips over the slab while it was still hot and they melted on in a very pleasing way.
You could easily add other toppings here - I am quite partial to flaked almonds and Maldon sea salt.

Super easy - see!

Obviously then you should hit with a hammer to break it up into edible pieces. Yum!

Autumn Ice Cream

When I was invited to the Ndali Vanilla Gift Swap by the lovely (and extremely energetic) Vanessa Kimbell and found that I needed to make something vanillaey, the first thing that sprang to mind was ice cream.

But, of course, ice cream is a pretty impractical gift to take along to an afternoon tea party, so I had to rethink and I came up with the seemingly geniustastic idea of ice cream flavoured fairy cakes.

I raced off to the supermarket in a haze of geniosity to buy ice cream cones, only to find that, not only was I not the first person to think of cooking fairy cakes in cones, but that the cone packet actually had a wee recipe link on it suggesting that you do so...

Ah well - I was not to be put off - not necessarily as original as I had originally imagined, but fairy cakes, ice cream stylee still seemed like a pretty good idea.

I weighed three eggs and then measured their weight in butter and sugar, which I threw into Kenwood with some vanilla powder and creamed, till it was light and fluffy.

I added the eggs gradually, along with a tsp or so of vanilla powder (the powder is a bit of a revelation - I've only ever seen extract or paste before - the powder is dry, obviously, so can be added to all kinds of things that might have been destabilised by liquids) and kept beating till all incorporated.

I added the same weight of flour and a splodge of baking powder and folded it in.

I two thirds (or thereabouts) filled my lovely flat bottomed ice cream cones with the mixture and put them in the oven (at about 180) in a fairy cake tin for 25 minutes.

While they were cooling, I whipped up a quick vanilla buttercream by frantically beating 120g butter with 380g icing sugar until combined, mixing in 40ml milk and some more vanilla powder and beating for a further 5 or 10 minutes (thank goodness for stand mixers) until it was super super fluffy.

I piped the buttercream onto the cold fairy cakes and added flakes for extra 99iness.

They turned out really well - I might add red syrup (such as the ice cream man uses) next time, but generally I was pleased with the effect.


The whole idea of spiced ice creams - the theme of this month's BSFIC - was a slightly weird one for me. When I first saw it, all that came into my head was cinnamon, nutmeg and Christmas spices, which actually are not my favourite thing.

However, when I suggested it to husband, he had lots of good ideas and all sorts of suggestions of spices, both sweet and savoury, which I really love and eat all the time.

So we started with saffron - I love saffron, with its beautiful colour, tangy taste and overtones of luxury and decided to try and make something nice with saffron and yogurt, which seemed like a good mix, combining a number of the things that I've learnt over the course of these ice cream blogs.

I stuck a pinch of saffron strands into a glass with a teeny tiny bit of boiling water and left it to stand for ten minutes or so.

I whipped up (as far as such things can be whipped) some Greek yogurt, until it was a bit fluffy.

I added half a tin of condensed milk and a little bit of lemon essence for added tang and whisked a bit more, before mixing in the (now cool) saffron and water (by then, a pleasing orange colour).

I poured the mixture into my magnum-type moulds and stuck them in the freezer overnight, et voila - saffron yogurt lollies- kind of like posh mini milks :)

Delicious - lemony, saffrony and refreshing - these turned out really well.

HOWEVER, I was also keen to utilise my lovely new zoku (it arrived a day or two ago - I am VERY excited about it), so I also knocked up some strawberry and black pepper lollies...
No pictures here, but it was dead easy - I liquidised some strawberries, mixed in cracked black pepper (quite a lot) and stuck them in the pre-frozen zoku to freeze.

Very very easy, and just as yummy as the saffron - next time I shall be going for the lazy option first :)

This is my entry for this month's Bloggers Scream For Ice Cream event over at Kavey Eats.

Lunch and Frozen Stuff

Here's my lunch today.
The leftover chicken is pretty much done now, so maybe some more interesting things to see next week...

Non lunch related, but, for various reasons, we need to "eat down" some of the contents of our freezer.

There are lots of lollies (which should pose no problems), some stock (which might), various bits of leftover cake and eggwhites (does anyone want any cake pops or meringues?) and, probably most critically, an entire ox heart, not to mention a couple of his kidneys.
Now, I have a few nice things in mind to make with these, but, when I bought them, I perhaps didn't really realise quite how, well, large they would be, so what I'm after from you clever and lovely people is ideas for things to do with them that don't involve inviting over everyone I've ever met for a heart* eating party...

So - please provide ideas! I can reward you in meat.
Or cake pops ;)

*Kidneys perhaps a wee bit less problematic - you can't really go wrong with a nice steak and kidney stew/pie/pudding or three, can you?

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Some Things and a New Toy

So I have an exciting new phone upgrade.
This probably doesn't really impact you lovely people very much, except that I believe that the new one has a much improved camera...
The photos certainly look prettier to me, but that could just be the shiny new screen.
In any case, it's all still basically just hurried pictures of my lunch, so don't get too excited :)
Lunch yesterday - noodles, leftover roast chicken and carrot ribbons.

And last night's dinner - venison stew (which I cleverly made the night before - I was SO pleased to have done this when I got back yesterday evening) with slightly oversteamed cauliflower, due to my trying to multitask my cooking and showering duties...

And finally, lunch today - leftover roast chicken with carrot and cauliflower...
Look familiar?

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone
- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Tuesday 25 September 2012

Quite a Lot of Things

Recently, I have eaten some chicken livers with tenderstem broccoli;

Observed this rather bizarre wallbread;

Eaten some noodles, salad and cottage cheese for lunch;

Eaten some bacon, black pudding and tomato "stuff";

And a burger that was genuinely too fat to fit into my mouth (even with squashing).

I also drank some of these

And ate this - roast chicken and veggies.

And finally, some posh snacklets - more on these later...

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Monday 24 September 2012

Tesco Real Food Baking

Last week, I was invited to an afternoon tea themed masterclass hosted by Tesco in honour of their Real Food Baking Challenge, which you should all enter to win some awesome prizes!

We all schlepped along to the rather lovely Food at 52 cookery school (which I shall definitely be investigating further when I'm feeling a bit richer) which was rather like stepping into someone's house. Someone slightly eccentric, with a suit of armour in their living room...

After a bit of welcoming (and welcome) prosecco in the parlour, we headed down into the kitchen and split into groups, where we baked up some tasty treats.

My group made caramel shortbread, black forest cupcakes and some totally cheaty but very successful fruit tarts (recipes here, here and here).

The other group made a sandwich cake, a collection of gorgeous little bakewell tarts (I'll definitely be recreating these at home) and some jammy, creamy scones.

We had a lot of fun baking, gorging ourselves on our creations (and some magical sandwiches) and drinking and, though I'm not certain I learned a lot of new baking secrets (I think the class was maybe aimed more at non bakers), I certainly took away some lovely cake and pastry ideas, as well as an awesome Real Food goody bag and a yen for bakewell tarts!

Thanks to Tesco Real Food for the masterclass and photographs.

Thursday 20 September 2012

Some Lunches What I Have Eaten

Crab based lunch from yesterday.

And egg based lunch today.
My eggs were actually in the shape of eggnimals, but you can't really tell that from this picture and I've already eaten them now, so I can't take a more enlightening picture.
Next time perhaps.

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Tuesday 18 September 2012

A Roundup of Some Things

Mackerel with broccoli, courgette and samphire.

Weekend sherry.

Outdoor charcuterie (actually husband mostly ate this, but I thought it was pretty, so am sharing it with you anyway).

CHIPS! With anysauce (a mix of curry sauce, mayo and bits of chopped onion) - weekend treat.

Bavette and squash.

Monday desklunch.

Similar, but not actually the same Tuesday desklunch.

And some partridge with vegetables-that-we-found-at-the-bottom-of-the-fridge.

Oh - and - tentatively related to Rosh Hashanah - I made a honey cake.

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