The Great British Bake Off Technical Challenge: Sachertorte

It´s been awhile since I did a Great British Bake Off technical challenge so it was about high time I did do one and with my husband´s Saint´s day and my birthday looming up, it was the perfect excuse to make this Sachertorte, particularly as my husband is somewhat of a chocoholic!

I have made a Sachertorte once before to a German recipe I´ve got so I wasn´t too fazed with this particular technical challenge as it is much easier than it actually appears. The thing I dreaded the most was piping the word Sacher across the cake as my piping skills are somewhat lacking to say the least!

Mary Berry´s Sachertorte recipe is easy to follow and results in a delicious and professional looking cake,which is lovely and moist.The cake is fairly straightforward to make. Things you have to watch out for is overmixing the flour,I think I did this but I´m not sure how as when I cut into the cake it had various air bubbles in the sponge which has never happened to me before with any cake.Also,the recipe tells you to whisk the egg whites till stiff but not dry so I was a little uncertain as to what this meant and whether I whipped the egg whites to the correct stiffness!

I practiced piping the word "Sacher" a couple of times onto greaseproof baking paper but a plastic wallet would be ideal too before finally piping it onto the cake when I was happy with it. As you can see, it´s not 100% perfect but I was quite pleased with the end result as it´s ain´t half bad for an amateur baker like myself!


Cooking England County By County: Berkshire: Poor Knights Of Windsor

Before coming to Spain, I´d never tried French toast or Eggy bread or the Spanish equivalent torrijas, but once I tried torrijas there was no going back and they are now a firm favourite of mine. So when to my surprise, I discovered that there was a British version that was typical in the Berkshire region, I couldn´t wait to try it. The British version goes by the name of the Poor Knights Of Windsor. Pardon? Poor Knights of Windsor? What´s that? I ´d never heard of it before either!!

The origins of this dish are a bit unclear but apparently many similar dishes are referred to as"poor knights" throughout Northern Europe. It is also thought that it could refer to the "Poor Knights", who were military gentlemen who were financially ruined by having to ransom themselves after the battle of Crecy, and were given pensions and lodgings in Windsor Castle by Edward III.Whatever its origins, Poor Knights of Windsor is a tasty yet simple dish that does not disappoint, and which is great for a weekend breakfast treat.

I used the following recipe from the lovely Lavender & Lovage blog which is well worth visiting. The only thing I would note is that I used normal bread and it got quite soggy after dipping it in the milk mixture and egg and was very difficult to turn over without it breaking so I would reccommend using thickly sliced bread or baguette style bread to prevent this from happening. Jammy, eggy fried bread with a slightly boozy touch to it and a sprinkling of sugar and cinnamon...bring it on! What more do you want? I love discovering all these regional British dishes that I´d never heard of or tried before!


Cooking Spain Region By Region: Aragon: Aragon style Lamb Chops/Chuletas de Cordero a la Mañica

My daughter has just fallen asleep and I am feeling far too tired to write this so am sitting here staring at a blank screen...searching for some inspiration.

I love lamb and I´d even go so far as to say that it´s one of my favourite meats along with duck, and lamb dishes feature quite frequently in Aragon gastronomy so when I saw this dish, I just had to make it. I often order lamb chops at restaurants but I´ve never had lamb chops cooked this way before and it is a tasty way of preparing them for a change but I have to admit I actually prefer them the traditional way even if they are plainer as you can taste the meat a lot more.I served it with sauteed potatoes and carrots. This recipe is taken from the book Nuestra Cocina: Aragon

Ingredients (for 4 people)

1kg lamb chops
6 tomatoes
2 eggs
2 -3 cloves of garlic,minced
1 cup of  ready- made breadcrumbs
olive oil


1. Remove skin from the tomatoes and grate them.
2. Place the lamb chops in a bowl with a little olive oil and the minced garlic for at least 30 minutes.
3. Beat the eggs and coat the lamb chops first with egg and then with breadcrumbs till they are well covered,then fry in sufficient oil till they are a golden brown colour.Remove and keep warm.
4.Fry the grated tomato in the same oil after it has been strained and serve the breaded lamb chops with the fried tomato.

I hope you enjoy it!


Cooking England County By County: Berkshire: Brown Windsor Soup

I had to put this off for awhile over the hot summer months as I really didn´t fancy making hot soup,let alone eating it but as it´s beginning to get colder, I thought it was about time and got all prepared with all the ingredients...only for it to warm up again!

Finding cream sherry seemed to be quite a task...I looked in at least four supermarkets and were asking all my friends where I could buy crema de jerez(I didn´t know what the Spanish translation for cream sherry was, so translated it literally!) They hadn´t heard of it before. Eventually I came across it in LeClerc amongst the sherries and it actually had Cream printed on the label(see right hand corner so you know what you´re looking for if ever you need cream sherry in a recipe when you´re in Spain!)

The origins of Brown Windsor soup is unclear but I had never heard of it or tried it before looking into British regional recipes.
I´m not really much of a soup person but I quite liked this soup although it wasn´t much of a hit with the rest of the family. However, it is tasty with a bit of bread to soak it up and great for warming you up on a cold winter´s day. I used the following recipe,taken from The Independent and didn´t make any changes, just cut down slightly on the amount of beef stock used but hopefully you are starting to discover that British food is much more varied and tastier than it first appears!


Cooking Spain Region By Region: Aragon: Malenas: Aragon-style Magdelenas

"Rain, Rain,go away, Come again another day" as the children´s nursery rhyme goes but to tell you the truth I don´t actually mind the rain....too much! This weekend has been pretty overcast and rainy and it appears as if summer is coming to an end and autumn is approaching. However, I for one am glad that the summer heat is over. I like rainy days,spent indoors with your family,cuddling up together and watching TV with a blanket round you and drinking hot chocolate and tea. It also is much more appealing to bake especially if it´s raining...perfect baking weather!

 I wasn´t convinced as to whether I´d like this particular Aragon delicacy, Malenas or Aragon-style Magdelenas, as I´m not a big fan of two of the main ingredients, honey and orange blossom water but I decided to give them a go, only to be pleasantly surprised. They are very distinct-tasting buns with an exotic but tasty flavour and have a lovely, spongy texture.As they don´t contain sugar but are sweetened naturally through the honey, they are not oversweet and are probably a bit healthier too! They are also very simple and quick to make,however I have made them twice nice and have failed to achieve the peak that magdelenas usually have...not really sure as to why but peak or no peak they still taste good!

Malenas (Aragon-style magdelenas) Makes about 12
150g plain flour
150g honey
75g unsalted butter
2 eggs
1 tbsp orange blossom water

1.Preheat the oven to around 180ºC and line a cupcake mould with paper cases.
2. Separate the egg whites from the egg yolks, then mix the egg yolks with the honey.
3. Add the butter and orange blossom water and mix till combined.
4. Add the flour gradually, mixing after each addition till all the lumps have gone and the batter is smooth.
5.Whisk the egg whites till they reach the stiff peak stage and then carefully fold it into the batter taking care not to knock the air out, till it looks spongy.
6.Spoon the batter into the cases filling them till they are just over the half full mark, lower the temperature to around 170-160ºC (I made these twice,first time I baked them around 160ºC and I think they turned out to be more spongy,the second time I tried baking them at a slightly higher temperature to try and get more of a peak but I think it overbaked them slightly as they seemed a little drier...the original recipe doesn´t give a temperature but says to bake them at a medium temperature)
7. I only baked them for between 15-20 minutes as I thought they were ready despite the fact that the recipe said 35 minutes...they should be a golden brown and a toothpick should come out clean when inserted.

One thing I have to warn you about is that they don´t stay spongy for very long and soon start to dry out so either eat them all the day you bake them or freeze half a batch to eat another day.


Cooking England County By County: Berkshire: Eton Mess

Time to move onto the next county, Berkshire, which I´ve never visited.I decided to kick off Berkshire by cooking the renowed pudding,Eton Mess, although surprizingly enough,it´s yet another dish which I haven´t tried before!This is an ideal summer dessert as it´s served cold and strawberries are in season (at least in the UK anyway!). It´s also great for those of you who have never made meringue before as it doesn´t matter if the meringue goes wrong,as it´s going to get broken up anyway!! Also, it´s a fairly simple and quick dessert to prepare and you can even use ready made meringue nests if you are short of time.It´s definitely a winning dessert and I shall be making it again although my daughter unfortunately wouldn´t try it!

However, it definitely lives up to it´s name...Eton Mess by name, Eton Mess by nature. It´s quite difficult to make this dessert look presentable!Eton Mess was served in the 1930s at Eton College in the tuck shop and orginally consisted of strawberries and bananas mixed with ice cream or cream..meringue was a later addition. It is now served annually at the Eton College cricket game against Harrow School although it has gained popularity throughout Britain.I used the following Delia Smith recipe but used less cream! Enjoy!


Almond Rissoles

It´s feeling hot, hot,hot! Yes, the temperatures have risen, holidays are almost here and cooking lunch seems so much more of a chore as turning the oven or even the hob on in this heat,just makes you swelter even more!

Today was my daughter´s last day at nursery as she will start school in September and I have a bittersweet feeling about it. I can´t believe how fast the past two years have flown by...she´s growing up way too fast!

Anyway, on to the recipe,this is the second time that I´ve made this recipe and we really enjoy it so thought  I´d share it with you. It´s great as it´s vegetarian so it´s ideal for non-meat eaters and as my daughter is a bit fussy with vegetables, this is an excellent way to eat a vegetarian meal(even if it doesn´t really get any more veggies into her!) plus she likes it,which is also a bonus.YES, it DOES have nuts in it and it is advised not to give nuts to under-fives but as there are no allergies in my family and my daughter hasn´t shown any sign of any food, or more importantly nut, allergies, I don´t see any problem in giving her these rissoles.It´s also a great summer recipe even though you do have to fry the rissoles on the hob, and it´s quite a light dish, especially accompanied with a salad. Here, I accompanied it with an apple & rice salad.The recipe is taken from "The Dairy Book of Home Cookery".

Ingredients(serves 4)
100g ground almonds
175g white breadcrumbs (I made this with less the other day, around 145-150g and they still turned out well!)
1 small onion,grated
3 tbsp frozen or fresh parsley
1/2 tsp mixed herbs
1 egg, beaten
25g butter,melted
pinch of salt & pepper
about 1-2 tbsp milk

1 egg,beaten
prepared breadcrumbs
1-2 tbsps (roughly) olive oil
50g butter(I didn´t bother weighing,just put a knob of butter in the pan)

1. Place ground almonds & breadcrumbs in a bowl and add grated onion,parsley and herbs.
2.Add egg and melted butterand mix until combined.Season with salt & pepper.
3. Add milk till mixture comes together and starts to stick,then form into 8 rissoles or little hamburgers.
4. Dip in beaten egg and breadcrumbs till well coated.
5. Place oil and some butter in frying pan and when hot, fry for about 4-5 minutes on both sides or until golden brown on both sides.
6. Drain on kitchen towels and serve.

I think these rissoles are tasty just as they are but adding garlic or some cheese(particularly Cheddar) would maybe just give them an extra dimension! Next time I make them I´ll try it and let you know what I think!

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