Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Lemony Delight

I am a complete sucker for fairy cakes and these little lemony explosions are no exception.

They're such dainty little things without looking too fussy or "worked at".

As usual I stuck with my Simply Sponge Recipe.

I started with two eggs which weighed 110g still in their shell. I added 110g each of self raising flour, butter and caster sugar. I then added two heaping teaspoons full of lemon curd.

Preheat oven to 180C (350F)

Before beating with my hand held beater until the batter was light and pale. This takes a minute or two, but it beats the 20 solid minutes of bicep bashing it would take to do it by hand.

You'll end up with quite a thick batter, which can be very easily spooned into a lined bun or muffin tin. I used my small bun tin which produces little two or three bite sized buns. This recipe will make fourteen buns of this size. It will make eight or nine muffin sized buns. You'll have to excuse the slightly battered bun tin. I've had it years and I've grown very attached to it. I do have a silicone muffin pan, but I can't stand silicone.

Once you have all of your batter divided amongst the liners, put them in the oven and bake for 12 to 15 minutes. You don't need to test these with a skewer although if you prefer to by all means do. I find it much easier with small cakes to just press the top of one of the cakes slightly. If it bounces back its ready

These little cakes are feather light and have a delicious subtle lemony flavour.

I always prefer buns with a good golden colour to them. Its the reason no silicone will ever be harmed in the making of any baked goodies in my kitchen. I find that silicone produces a very patchy, insipid looking colour on baked goods. Its handy for some things, just not baking.

Don't they just look too good.

Not too good to eat obviously. This one had to be sacrificed for the sake of a good photo and it quickly became the cook's treat.

I made a very quick little icing to cover these fairy cakes.

Just about two thirds of a cup of icing sugar, with a teaspoon of the lemon curd and enough lemon juice to make a thick icing. It is roughly the consistency of toothpaste for desperate want of a better word.

I used slightly less than a teaspoon of icing to cover each bun, gently swirling the back of a spoon over the icing to push it towards the edges.

And enjoy.

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Golden Scottish Shortbread

I love homemade shortbread and I have a recipe which I have used for years, however when I went to make my usual recipe this week I realised at the last minute that I was short on icing sugar.

So I tinkered.

And it was better.

I tinkered a little more.

And it was great.

I give you the new improved recipe.

125g plain white flour
30g rice or corn flour
50g caster (fine) sugar
100g regular salted butter or 100g unsalted butter and a pinch of salt.
Preheat oven to 160C (300F)

Place all ingredients in a bowl and either rub the fat into the flour and sugar or, if like me you have a life, simply grab your little hand held electric beater and let that do the work for you.

It doesn't come together as a dough but you should end up with something resembling breadcrumbs or wet sand.

Once you get to this stage, tip the contents of the bowl into a 8 inch loose bottom cake pan, give it a quick shake to level it slightly and then press the crumbs into the bottom of the cake pan. Don't press too hard, you don't want to lose any of the lovely lightness, but be firm enough that it will hold together. Best of all, you don't need to bother preparing the pan in any way. No lining, no greasing, nothing at all.

Once you have it pressed into the pan, bake for 15 to 20 minutes. It took exactly 20 minutes in my oven, but bear in mind that my oven is getting on in years. If your oven is newer check it from from about 13 to 15 minutes.

Once the shortbread is baked, remove it from the oven and place it, still in the pan, on a cooling rack for about 5 or 10 minutes.

You'll notice that there really isn't that much colour change. It's a very pale golden colour all over with slightly more colour just at the very edge.

After about 10 minutes, the shortbread will have had a chance to firm up ever so slightly. At this stage, sprinkle the shortbread with a teaspoon or so of caster sugar. I tend to throw it on in a haphazard fashion and then shake the pan from side to side to cover the top of the shortbread with a thin coat of sugar. Then cut the shortbread into either 8 or 16 wedges whichever you prefer. I tend to cut mine in 8. I find if I cut into 16 I still eat two pieces, although those long slender wedges do look a bit more impressive.

Once cut, leave the shortbread to cool completely in the pan before turning out, drooling all over the camera because you had to photograph it and then enjoy a dense crumbly wedge with coffee, ice cream, dipped into fool or mousse or just naked as it is.

Sunday, 8 March 2009

Fifteens - No bake recipe

Fifteens are delicious but beware they are sweet and a bit rich.

It is one of the simplest tray bakes to prepare.


Fifteen digestive biscuits, crushed,
Fifteen large marshmallows, quartered,
Fifteen glace cherries, halved or chopped,
One small can of condensed milk (160ml)

Mix these ingredients together in a large bow until you have a soft dough like consistency.

75 g flaked or desiccated coconut

Spread out a layer of coconut on a sheet of aluminium foil or greaseproof paper and using your hands form the dough into a long sausage shape, short and fat for big portions or long and thin for bite sized pieces. Roll the dough back and forth until reasonably well coated in coconut and then use the foil or greaseproof to wrap the sausage.

Chill for at least an hour or overnight and then slice into pieces about an inch thick.


Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Guinness Cake

Forget Nigella's "throw chocolate in and people will buy it" attitude. This is the original and best (IMHO) Guinness Cake.

8oz softened butter
8oz dark brown sugar
4 large eggs
10oz plain flour, sifted
1-2 teaspoons ground mixed spice
8oz each of raisins and sultanas
4oz chopped glace cherries
4 oz chopped mixed peel
4 oz chopped walnuts
1/4 pint Guinness

Cream the butter and sugar together until creamy.

Beat in eggs one at a time.

Fold in the flour, mixed spice, fruit, nuts and peel and 4 tablespoons of Guinness.

Pour into a greased and lined 8inch cake tin and bake at 160C (325F) for one hour, reduce oven temperature to 150C (300F) and bake for another 1.5 hours.

Cool in the pan and then turn out onto a flat surface.

Prick the base of the cake and feed with the remaining Guinness.

Store in an airtight container for at least 10 days before eating. It produces a dense, moist fruit cake.

A good recipe to make a couple of weeks before Christmas to serve to guests.

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Grilled Red Herrings

This isn't much of a recipe, but it is a great way to prepare herrings.

Soak whole herrings in cold beer, drain then grill until the fresh pulls away from the bones easily.

Serve with mashed potatoes or on hot buttered toast and sprinkled with cayenne pepper.

Oh and another tin of that beer to wash them down if you happen to have one handy.

Monday, 2 March 2009

Ballymoney Oyster Soup

Nothing says "special occasion" like oysters. Luckily we have some fantastic suppliers of beautiful oyster in Ireland. I usually buy mine from Sean Keown in Bangor or occasionally the husband will stop off at Dundrum Bay Oyster Fisheries and pick some up. While in season they're actually pretty reasonably priced.

This is a good recipe for those who have maybe never tried oysters or don't like the idea of eating them raw.


2 large potatoes, cooked until tender
4oz belly of pork or streaky bacon if the belly is hard to come by
1.5 pints of hot milk
36 fresh oysters
1 bouquet garni
salt and pepper
1-2oz butter.

Open the oysters and reserve the liquor, a good fishmonger will do this for you but its easy enough once you get the hang of it.

Dice the belly or pork or bacon and fry gently until cooked without colouring too much.

Mash the potatoes with the hot milk, add the herbs and seasonings and bring to the boil.

Add the pork, oysters and liquor and simmer for a few minutes.

Add butter and serve hot.

This makes about four good sized portions. The soup shouldn't really be made in advance as the oysters will become tough when reheated. Feel free to make up the soup a day ahead and when ready to serve, bring the soup to the boil and add the oysters and liquor at that stage.

Sunday, 1 March 2009

Simply Sponge

I have a simple, completely fool proof method for making sponge. Whether it be cakes, cupcakes or fairy cakes you want this recipe will get the job done.

Take the required number of eggs, two for an 8 inch pan, three for 10 inch, four for 12 inch and so on...

Now weigh your eggs still in their shells and put the same weight of self raising flour, butter, caster sugar and finally crack in the eggs. Beat well with a whisk or hand held beater and use in any recipe calling for sponge.

Whether it be Victoria sponge cake, cobbler or little fairy cakes it always produces a lovely light sponge.