La Tarte Tatin

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Tarte Tatin

Tarte Tatin

I made this a couple of months ago with a friend and didn’t get round to blogging it so I had to make it again as this is a sublime dessert. It’s one of those desserts that’s really easy to make but definitely impresses.

What you will need:

An oven proof pan
4 apples
100g sugar
100g butter
1 sachet of vanilla sugar (usually 7.5g)
1 tsp cinnamon

Short crush or puff pastry

Heat your oven to 180C. Peal your apples and remove the core and slice into 8 or 12 slices. Put your oven proof pan on a medium heat and add the butter, sugar, vanilla sugar and cinnamon. You want all the ingredients to turn into a caramel, continuously mix the ingredients so that they don’t burn or over-boil. Once you have a caramel add to it the apples slice around the bottom of the pan. Cook the apples on a medium heat for about 10 minutes. When the apples start to soften they are ready. Take the pan off the heat.

Roll out your pasty and cut a circle a little bigger than the pan. Place the pastry over the apples, you can have a bit of pastry going up the side of the pan but make sure that the pastry is slightly tucked in and air tight.

Place the pan in the oven for 30 minutes. Remove and let the tarte cool. Then use a plate to place over the pan and flip over and ta-da there you have it, a tarte tatin a la francaise.

I had a little pastry left so I rolled it out, added parmesan, sliced and then fried leek with chopped parma ham on top and put it in the oven for 25 minutes. A great little addition to our salad based meal before having our yummy dessert.

Enjoy
Mel

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An unusual jacket potato

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An unusual jacket potato

An unusual jacket potato

I came across this on Pinterest and had never thought of doing a jacket potato this way. So I gave it a try and loved it. It’s a mix between a jacket potato and crispy oven sliced potatoes.

I used butter and garlic but you can just use olive oil if you prefer.

What you will need:

A large potato
1 garlic clove
2 tsp of butter
Salt and pepper

Heat your oven to 220C

Start from one end of the potato and create slices all along the potato – leaving 1 cm at the bottom. The thinner the slice the crispier the potato, My slices were about 3mm wide.

In a bowl mix thinly chopped garlic and butter together. Then cover the potato with the butter trying the get some garlic into the slices.

Place the potato into an oven proof dish and into the oven for 40 to 45 minutes.  Half way through the cooking if your potato looks like it’s getting a bit dry you can add a bit of butter.

I had my potato as a side with chicken and some green beans. It’s an easy and unusal side.

Enjoy
Mel

Crispy Chicken Fajitas – KFC style!

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KFC style chicken wrap

KFC style chicken fajita

I love fajitas, I find them so practical and they are good whether you decide to use chicken, mince or opt for the veggie option. What I find always makes a good wrap are some fried/ roasted peppers, onions, tomatoes, lettuce and grated cheese – I’d say those are always my staple ingredients in a fajita. I love crispy chicken and as I walked past KFC the other day it made me really want a chicken fajita! So I decided to try and make it at home. Once you have made you crispy chicken breast then it’s super easy and you can also make your own breadcrumbs. Slice you chicken and add your other ingredients to the wrap. Otherwise you can make a simple and delicious wrap that’s great when you’ve got a few friends round.

Here’s how to make a typical fajita.

What you need:
4-5 Wraps
Meat of your choice
1 onion sliced
2 peppers
1 – 2 tsp paprika
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp tumeric
Chopped tomatoes mixed with thinly chopped chilli & shallots
Sour cream
Grated cheddar cheese
Lettuce leaves

Chicken wrap

Crispy chicken fajita

When I make fajitas with normal chicken chunks or mince I fry the onion first then add the meat and spices and a few minutes before it’s ready add the peppers. These spices are also very similar to the ready-made fajita kits you get but are much healthier!

Put the wraps on a plate covered with tin foil and place in a low heated oven for 5 minutes before serving.

In seperate bowls put the meat, the tomatoes, sour cream,, cheese & lettuce leaves. Place wraps and bowls on table and start filling the wraps with your favourite ingredients.

Enjoy!
Mel

Chocolate madeleines

Chocolate madeleines

Chocolate madeleines

Prep time: 20mins
Cooking time: 15 mins at 240-220C

What you will need:
3 eggs
150g sugar
100g melted butter
50ml milk
Handful of chocolate chips
½ tsp of baking soda
Madeleine moulds

Melt the butter in the microwave, it should take about 30 seconds. In a bowl whisk the eggs and sugar until have a creamy colour and then add 40ml of milk. Mix the flour and baking soda together and add to the mixture. Then add the butter and the rest of the milk and whisk. Finally add the chocolate and mix evenly.

Butter the madeleine moulds and add the mixture, but not to the top as they will rise!
Put in the oven at 240°C for 5 minutes and then lower the oven temperature to 200°C and leave for 8-10 minutes. Make sure you watch the oven closely as they can easily burn.

Remove from the moulds as soon as they come out of the oven.

Enjoy!

Brie and Bacon Chicken Breasts

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Brie and bacon chicken

 

What you will need:
(for two)
2 skinless chicken breasts
4-6 slices of bacon
4 thin slices of brie
1 garlic clove
Mixed herbs or pesto
Half an onion (optional)
Pepper and NO salt (the bacon has enough of that)

Serve with a side veg and either pasta or potatoes or even a nice green salad.

Pre-heat your oven to 200C. Slice the chicken horizontally but make sure you don’t slice all the way through and leave one side attached.  Open up the chicken so it looks a bit like a heart and place two slice of brie, half of a chopped garlic, herbs and pepper. Close up the chicken and wrap it with 3 slices of bacon. The bacon will act as a plaster round the slit chicken so that the brie stays in the chicken as much as possible.

Place both chicken breasts in an oven dish.

If you decide to add some sliced onions (does make it yummy) then add just a little olive oil to the onions and with your hands make sure it covers all the onions (this will stop them burning). Then add a tiny bit of water (so it covers about a millimeter of the dish), you don’t need much with this dish as bacon now a days always seems to be full of it.

Place in the oven for about 30 minutes, check on the chicken half way through.

This shouldn’t take more than 10 minutes to prepare. It’s a very easy meal to make and is really full of flavours.

Enjoy!
Mel

Organising a Great BLF Bake Off

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Great BLF Bake Off

Great BLF Bake Off

As part of the British Lung Foundation’s (BLF) Christmas celebrations we organised the first ever Great BLF Bake Off. There were some fantastic submissions so I thought it would be nice to share some of the recipes. It a great way to get into the Christmas spirit and can also be a festive fundraising event.

The overall winner of the Bake Off was the fantastic cake ‘Santa’s Coming to Town’ by lovely and talented, Cat Holland. For a full recipe please click here.

Santa's Coming to Town!

Santa’s Coming to Town!

My Homemade Chocolates won Dr Penny Woods’ special prize of most impactful and outreaching. Click here for the full recipe.

Homemade chocolates

Homemade chocolates

Beautiful Homemade Chocolates

Homemade chocolates

Homemade chocolates

Every Christmas I like to try and make something different for presents, last year it was chutney and jam, this year I thought I’d try making chocolates. They are fun and not too hard to make, though a little fiddly but are incredibly luxurious tasting presents.

Homemade chocolates

Homemade chocolates

I’ve been testing them on my colleagues at the British Lung Foundation (BLF) so I can make the perfect ones for Christmas. We had the first ever Great BLF Bake Off, the ideal opportunity to try and make some impressive chocolates.

There are two parts to making chocolates, you have the ganache and the melted chocolate.

Homemade chocolates

Homemade chocolates

What you need:

To make about 18 chocolates

250g of the best quality dark chocolate you can find (at least 70% cocoa content)

Ganache
80 ml double cream
100g good-quality 70% dark chocolate

Equipment
Silicon chocolate moulds
Heat resistant spatula
Saucepan
Heat resist and bowl

Making chocolate filling ganache
Ganache is a fantastic way to get different flavours into your chocolates – this is when you can let yourself be as creative as you want. I have made a few different flavours so far which include vanilla, rum, chilli, walnut and peanut butter.

Break up your chocolate in a bowl. Add your double cream to the saucepan and heat the cream – but you don’t want it to boil. Just before the cream comes to a boil add about half of it to the chocolate and stir – the cream’s role is to melt the chocolate. If the rest of your cream has cooled down reheat it and slowly add to the chocolate and continuously stir it to make sure it all melts.

If you want different flavours for your fillings separate the ganache into separate bowls and then add the different flavours. Add as little or as much as you like of each (though if you are adding a liquid be careful not to put too much or it will be too liquidy).

When you have added your flavours cover each bowl with cling film and put in the fridge – this will help it harden.

Your ganache will last for about 2 weeks in the fridge.

Making your chocolates

The trick to tempering your chocolate

Tempering chocolate

Tempering chocolate

The most important thing when making chocolates is tempering (melting) your chocolate properly. If the chocolate over-heats your chocolates won’t have a glistening colour and snappy texture, and with gradually develop a white film over them – which is very disappointing after all the effort that goes into making chocolates.

I’ve never been very good at tempering chocolate and think it is a little down to my lack of patience but after a disappointing batch of chocolates I am prepared to wait as long as I need to ensure my chocolates shine!

Melt your chocolate in a bain-marie (water bath), a technique used to slowly melt the chocolate at a low temperature. In the past my bowl has touched the boiling water but I have found it’s better to have your bowl sitting in the pan and not touching the water, so that only the steam is heating the bowl and chocolate.

Some people use thermometers to ensure their chocolate doesn’t go past a certain temperature but my little trick is to boil water in a kettle add it to the saucepan and add my bowl of chocolate and not turn on the heat. I leave the chocolate to slowly melt and stir. Once the water temperature stops melting the chocolate, remove the bowl, turn on the heat and re-boil the water, then turn the heat off and put the bowl over the water again – continuously stir your chocolate with a spatula. The chocolate should be smooth and silky and not gluppy or lumby.

Filling the sides of the moulds
Now that your chocolate is melted you want to fill the bottom and sides of your moulds – the shell of the chocolates. I use a small spoon for the bottom of the moulds and then a tooth pick or wooden skewer for the sides – dipping it in the chocolate and then covering the sides. You don’t need the chocolate to be too thick.

Fill bottom of mould

Fill bottom of mould

As you fill the bottom of your moulds, gently hit them on your kitchen surface. This will remove any trapped air in the chocolate.

Chocolate on the sides of the moulds

Chocolate on the sides of the moulds

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Leave your moulds at room temperature (my kitchen is usually the best and coolest room) to cool.

At no point do you want to put your chocolate in the fridge – this will make them whiten.

Filling your moulds with ganache

Add the ganache

Add the ganache

Once your chocolate has set – this can take around 30minutes to an hour – you can add your ganache. Use a spoon or pipe (I use a small spoon) and fill them about 3/4 of the way.

Completing your chocolates
Re-melt your chocolate – this shouldn’t take long and a boiled kettle should be enough.

Fill the moulds

Fill the moulds

Using a spoon or pipe fill your moulds and continually hit on your kitchen surface to remove trapped air.

Remove all the air

Remove all the air

Once filled leave your filled moulds at room temperature to harden. They should easily pop out of the moulds when done.

Making a Christmas present
Cut a small square/ rectangle of cardboard, cover with some Christmassy material, I use cello tape on the bottom. Place chocolates on the cardboard. Cover with transparent plastic paper – using a little cello tape again at the bottom to hold. Then tie a pretty bow around it to give that finishing touch.

Enjoy!
Mel

Santa’s Coming to Town!

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Santa's Coming to Town!

Santa’s Coming to Town!

Special guest blogger, Cat Holland, explains how to make her fantastic ‘Santa’s Coming to Town’ cake.

Icing figures

Icing figures

Icing figures

The figures need time to dry and harden and so it’s best to make these a couple of days before you make the whole cake.

If you haven’t made icing figure before there are lots of YouTube clips out there so I recommend you watch a few to give you an idea of what to do and what you need.

To make these figures I used white ready to roll fondant icing and coloured them using icing colour paste. I made each of the body parts and constructed the figures using cocktail sticks, water and a paint brush. You can use edible glue but the icing becomes quite tacky when it’s being handled and so water is enough to hold the icing together.

Gingerbread House

Gingerbread house

Gingerbread house

I used my favourite gingerbread biscuit recipe for my house. There are lots of recipes out there and so I suggest using one with the right balance of flavours for you.
Using a ruler, pencil and baking paper I drew and cut out the shape of the house including windows. Have a think about the size and style of the house and roof you would like for your house before drawing.

When your ginger bread biscuit mixture is rolled out, (to approx. 5mm thick) place the baking paper cut outs on top and cut around then shapes using a pizza slicer for ease. Make sure you leave an extra 5mm around the roof triangles to makes sure they are big enough to fit together.

Lay the cut out ginger bread on to a baking tray cover with baking paper and put into the oven until they are golden brown, approx. 18 mins, depending on your recipe and the thickness of your ginger bread.

When it is baked, leave it to cool.

Check that the pieces will fit together and then get making the icing and butter cream.

To stick my house walls together I used icing sugar and water and piped it on to the edges. After a couple of hours I used a stiff, coloured butter cream, put into a piping bag with a star nozzle to stick the roof together and on to the house. The butter cream has a pretty finish, is strong and can cover up any gaps you may have between the biscuit.

Once it is dry and stable you are free to decorate the house as much as you would like. I decided to go for a simple house, but did add brown icing onto the roof to create a tilling affect.

The sponge cake

Layered cake

Layered cake

I wanted my cake to have Christmas flavours as well as a Christmas design and so I decided on the following; chocolate & cinnamon with dark chocolate chunks and a orange flavoured sponge.

For most of my recipes I use a basic mixture:

2oz unsalted butter
2oz caster sugar
2oz self-raising flour
1 egg

I then double/ triple this mixture depending on how much I need and then add the flavour I want.

For this cake I added:
2 teaspoons of cinnamon
2 tablespoons chocolate powder
100g of broken dark choc chunks
1-2 tablespoon of milk
The peel of one orange
½ the peel of a lemon
The juice of half an orange

To make the inside look Christmassy, I used my Christmas silicon pop cake mould to bake green mini trees. I then placed these in to the cake tin with the chocolate mixture before going into the oven so that the mixture would rise and bake around the already baked Christmas trees.

To make the orange flavoured sponge Christmassy I split the mixture between two smaller tins and added red bake safe colouring paste to one and green to the other.
Both cakes went into the oven for approx. 20- 40 minutes.

The icing

To cover the cakes before icing them with rolled fondant icing, I made a stiff butter cream flavoured with the juice of half an orange. Covering the cake with butter cream ensures that the rolled fondant icing has a smooth finish.

I wanted the outside of the cake to tell a story and to use blues and whites to represent winter and snow.

The bottom tear was wrapped with a blue plaited icing and covered with a flared white icing. The top tear was covered with plain white icing all over and trimmed neatly.
To create the plaited blue and white icing I added icing colours to two balls of icing to create different shades and left one ball white. Using an icing smoother, I rolled the balls into long sausage shapes. These three sausage shapes were then plaited together.

With a rolling pin I flattened and rolled out the plait to create a bonded patterned icing to wrap around the sides of the bottom tear.

Using plain white icing, I rolled it out and then cut a circle using the tin it was baked in and placed it on top of the bottom tear, scalloping the edges to give the wavy effect.
I then placed the top tear on top.

With a circle nozzle I piped blue butter cream around the edges of the cake to create a clean finish.

When the main cake complete you need to decide how you want your cake to look. I placed the ginger bread house on top, painted a pathway, and used green butter cream to ice on a Christmas tree, and grass.

And that’s how I made my “Santa’s Coming to Town” Christmas cake.

Enjoy!
Cat

Chimichurri BBQ beef

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Chimichurri beef

Chimichurri beef

Now this dish is perfect for a BBQ! I first had this when I was in Nicaragua and ended up having it nearly every single night I was there it was so delicious. So obviously when I got home I tried it and it is really simple.

chimichurri blender

chimichurri blender

What you will need:

A big piece of sirloin steak sliced in half (other cuts of beef are also ok)
3 large handfuls of fresh parsley
Chopped chilli (to taste depending how hot you want it)
2-3 chopped cloves of garlic
½ cup olive oil
2 tbsp vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

In a blender add all the ingredients (except the beef) and blend. Put the beef in a bowl and a third of the chimichurri mixture to marinate. You can do this the night before or a couple of hours before depending on the time you have. Keep the rest covered in the fridge.

When it’s BBQ day cook the meat. You’ll have to decide on your timings depending on how hot your BBQ is and how red you want your meat but it really doesn’t take long – about 5 minutes on each side (medium rare for me!).

Once your meat is cooked cut it into slices on a large plate and cover it with another third of the chimichurri sauce and serve. The other third is for anyone who might like to add some sauce.

This is definitely a must try dish!
Enjoy!
Melanie