The Great British Bake Off Technical Challenge: Victoria Sponge Cake

 It´s back....The Great British Bake Off Technical Challenge and even better, we have another person who´s decided to participate in this challenge...my good friend,Amélie from Amélie Cuisine. We decided to meet up and bake the technical challenges together and to start with opted to do a Victoria Sandwich cake using the very same recipe that the Bake Off contestants had to follow. I hadn´t realised that a Victoria Sponge cake was one of the technical challenges and as I have made Victoria Sponge cakes before, I found it quite an easy technical challenge. Probably the most difficult part is avoiding the cake from rising unevenly when baking, so you have a level cake.
We followed the recipe to the letter, put it at 170º in a fan assisted oven and cooked for the amount of time the recipe stated. We left the cakes outside on the window sill to cool while we made and ate our lunch, brown bag fried chicken (very delicious),chips and vegetables. We had a little trouble getting the cakes out of the tin,despite having greased them, as they stuck a little and one sponge broke a little. We decided to add some fresh fruit to the original recipe to jazz it up and for decoration so we placed some halved starwberries on top of one layer, then piped some whipped cream on top of the strawberries, then placed the top sandwich on. We piped more whipped cream on the top layer, then decorated it with a ring of raspberries then blackberries, another ring of raspberries and halved strawberries,stood upwards, then sieved icing sugar over the berries.You couldn´t even tell that one of the sponges was a little damaged! We were so proud of our Victoria Sponge cake....I think it´s one of my nicest looking cakes so far!! Amélie made the bunting, which is a great touch to add to any cake....I´m definitely going to have to learn how to do that too!!

Finally, we got round to trying it and it was delicious. The sponge was light and spongy, the cream,jam and fresh fruit really complemented it and made for a really delicious cake. It was so good that I even went back for seconds....between the four of us we almost ate the whole lot! It must have been good as my daughter doesn´t always eat or even try cakes etc but she tucked in and ate quite a lot too! It´s my new favourite Victoria Sponge cake recipe...definitely worth giving a go and surprizingly not that difficult to make.Here´s a link to the recipe:Victoria Sandwich. Enjoy!


Cooking England County by County: Bedfordshire: Bedfordshire Clangers

One thing that has always irritated me a little and is probably what started off my foodie obsession...is the fact that everybody says that British cuisine is bland and boring and that the British can´t cook. So I´ve decided to cook England county by county to prove to people that English food is more varied and tasty than they think.Also, it gives me the opportunity to discover and try out food from my own country that I´ve never had before and also provide us with a more varied diet!

The first county I´m starting off with is Bedfordshire,which is renowed for the Bedfordshire Clanger,something which is completely new to me. Bedfordshire Clangers are very similar to Cornish pasties(again something which surprizingly I´ve never eaten!!)which have a savoury meat filling at one end and a sweet filling at the other end. The idea of the Bedfordshire Clanger was so that miners or agricultural workers could take it to work with them  for their midday meal as they didn´t have time to come home for a big lunch and in this way they could have a main meal and a dessert all rolled into one.

I wasn´t sure if I would like Bedfordshire Clangers as they sounded a bit strange and I´m not sure if the recipe I used is a traditional one but whether it´s traditional or not, it is very tasty.Even my 2 and a half year old ate it!!Here´s a link to the recipe I used: http://uktv.co.uk/food/recipe/aid/513570. The only thing I did was to halve all the ingredients....the recipe says it serves 2 but even when halved, there was plenty....in fact I think I overfilled my Clangers, which is why one has split open a little and I also had leftover filling. It managed to feed 2 of us plus my toddler! The most fiddly bit was making the wall to seperate the two fillings.
I really enjoyed this dish and will be making it now and again in the future!


Cooking Spain Region by Region,Andalucia, "Pollo con aceitunas" Chicken with Olives

Ok, you´re probably thinking that I´d completely forgotten about my plan to cook Spain region by region but you´d be wrong...I´ve just been struggling to find time to blog about it as per usual and I have to admit not having much success with some of the dishes. I´ve tried a couple of other dishes from Andalucia but didn´t have much luck with them, such as Rabo de Toro, Conejo con salmorejo & alboronia. Finally, I tried this dish and at last I stumbled across a hit recipe!Although it means I´m bringing you another chicken dish, "Pollo con aceitunas" or in other words, chicken with olives.

I´m not a olive lover, in fact I don´t even like olives but my husband and daughter adore them so thought I´d try this dish out and actually it turned out to be pretty tasty (I just didn´t eat the olives!!).I don´t remember the name of the book the original recipe is taken from but it´s something like Gastronomia Andaluza...here is my slightly tweaked version.

Ingredients ( for 3-4 people)
4 chicken drumsticks
1/2 onion,chopped
2 cloves of garlic,minced
a good glug of olive oil
12-15 pitted olives
about 1/3 cup (90ml) of brandy
about 1/4 cup (60ml) of sherry (I used Pedro Ximenez)
1/2 tbsp plain flour
about 1/4 cup of water
juice of 1/2 lemon
Yolk of 1 boiled egg,chopped
1/4 tsp dried mint
1/4tsp of frozen parsley
pinch of black pepper
pinch of salt

1. Season chicken drumsticks with salt & black pepper, then brown in olive oil to a golden colour and leave to one side.
2. Get rid of excess oil and then in remaining oil fry onion and garlic.
3. Add brandy and sherry and cook till the alcohol has evaporated,then add the flour and stir till sauce thickens and to avoid lumps forming.
4.Add the chicken to the sauce and the water,cover the pan and cook till chicken is cooked through.
5. When the chicken is nearly cooked,add olives,mint and parsley,egg yolk and lemon juice. Cover and cook for a further 15 minutes.

I decided to accompany this dish with pasta although I´m not really sure it´s the Spanish or traditional way but I think you could also possibly serve it with rice or potatoes....whatever you want really!!


Mincemeat & Apple Crumble

Firstly, I apologise for my absence in blogging but there has been a whirlwind of activity going on what with moving house, Christmas and then the usual reasons so I just can´t seem to find time to fit in blogging!!Secondly, I have to apologise for posting a very similar recipe to my last post!!

I thought you might like it though as it´s a delicious way to use up any leftover mincemeat after Christmas (we had a humungous jar!!).It´s based on a Delia Smith recipe which I tweaked to fit with the leftovers I had and because I wanted to make a smaller portion.Also this recipe is so quick and simple you could make it with your children. I tried to get my daughter to join in especially with making the crumble but she didn´t want to...I think she didn´t want to get her hands dirty!!She did help me put the crumble topping on though and flatten it out with her hands,which she seemed to enjoy doing!!I think she thought it was like playing in the sand!!

Mincemeat leftovers(I used about 215g as that was all I had left)
1/2 cooking apple (Bramley or Reineta)(peeled and chopped)
1/2 Ambrosia apple(peeled and chopped) (I think there was around 150g apple in total)
37g butter(at room temperature)
37g caster sugar
117g plain flour

1. Mix apples with the mincemeat and place in greased shallow pie plate or dish.
2. Place flour in a large bowl and rub the butter into the flour with your fingertips as if you were making pastry.
3. When all the butter has been rubbed in and the mixture looks like breadcrumbs,add the sugar and combine.
4. Sprinkle the mixture on top of mincemeat and apples and cook in a preheated oven at 180ºC for 30-40minutes or until a golden colour.Serve hot with cream or custard!Delicious!


Individual Apple Crumbles

 Blogging seems to be taking rather a backseat at the moment as I can hardly find a spare minute to write,particularly as my daughter very often doesn´t go to sleep till after 11.30pm!!
I have been baking loads recently though but again finding time is difficult...I have to get up extra early and try to finish before my daughter wakes up. I had a lot of surplus apples so decided to make apple crumble to try and use some of them up but instead of making one huge apple crumble,which would mean a lot of eating up, chose to make smaller, individual ones,based on the following recipe:
 http://irreverentbaker.wordpress.com/2012/06/30/mini-apple-crumbles/. I also chose to use wholemeal flour and oats to make the dessert just that tiny bit more healthier and surprizingly enough you couldn´t tell the difference.It was just as tasty as traditional apple crumble,if not more!! Also as the apples from my tree are very small, I probably used between 8-10 apples!!Try it, I´m sure you´ll enjoy it and it´s so easy and quick to rustle up this family favourite dessert!


Healthy Banana & Oat Muffins

I´m on a bit of a healthy eating mission at the moment and when I saw these muffins, I knew they´d be perfect as they are very healthy and full of goodness. Even more to the point, I thought they might tempt my daughter to eat some breakfast as she has become rather picky at breakfast. These muffins are an ideal wholesome breakfast and a great way to get some fruit and cereal down your children and what´s more they don´t even contain any sugar....although I have to say, it didn´t quite work with my daughter. She nibbled at them but didn´t tuck into them in quite the way I was expecting and hoping!!!

 I got the recipe from "365 Recetas para bebés y niños en edad preescolar" and I pretty much followed the recipe to the letter. Unfortunately, I myself don´t like banana so I don´t know how they actually turned out but both my husband and a friend seemed to enjoy them, even if my daughter didn´t.

Here is the recipe for about 8-10 small muffins:


25g unsalted butter
3 tsp of clear honey
2 large,ripe bananas
100g flour
50g rolled oats/porridge oats
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
75ml milk
1.Preheat the oven to 190ºC and fill a muffin/cupcake tray with muffin or cupcake cases.
2. Heat the butter and honey on a low heat till melted.
3. Mix all the dry ingredients together.
4. Mash the banana up with a fork and add to the honey mixture, then add this and the milk to the dry ingredients.
5. When well-combined, pour the muffin batter into the cases and bake for 25 mins (Note: temperature and time may vary depending on your oven....I baked mine at 180º for 15-20 mins) or until muffins are a golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean when inserted.


Green Papaya Salad with Prawns and Meat

About two years ago upon my return from my honeymoon in Vietnam, I promised I was going to share with you some Vietnamese recipes but basically it went out of the window and I´ve hardly cooked anything Vietnamese since. One reason being that it´s difficult to find the ingredients where I live and the other being that I just haven´t got round to it.

I have cooked this salad before and enjoyed it so decided to make it again for my mum. It´s a lovely, refreshing salad, ideal for a hot summer´s day,which takes me right back to my honeymoon and the flavours of Vietnam. This salad is a bit of a faff to make though so I don´t do it on a regular basis but it´s great if you want to impress someone or for a special dinner party. This recipe is based on a recipe from the book Delicious Dishes from Vietnam.

Ingredients (for 2-3 people)

1 green papaya (about 450g)....if you can´t get a green papaya,a normal papaya will do
100g -150g pork belly
150g prawns (I think I used slightly less prawns as am not overkeen on prawns)
1 carrot, finely grated
a pinch of chili flakes or 1 jalapeño pepper,seeded,1/2 grated,1/2 minced
2 shallots, thinly sliced and soaked in vinegar for 10 minutes
2 tsp crushed garlic
50g roasted peanuts, crushed
2 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp fish sauce (if you can´t find fish sauce, use soy sauce)
4 tsp salt
2 tbsp lime juice
1/4 cup coriander, chopped
fried shallots or crispy fried onion
1/4 cup vinegar
bag of ready-prepared prawn crackers


1. Peel papaya,remove seeds and grate,add the grated carrot to the papaya.Sprinkle 2 tsp of salt on the carrot and papaya and squeeze out the juices,then rinse and drain well.
2. Wash prawns. Mix 1/4 cup of vinegar with 1/4 cup of water and 1 tsp of salt.Place prawns in a saucepan and boil in the vinegar mixture for 5 mins. I used frozen prawns but still cooked them in this way...if using fresh prawns, peel shells but leave the tails on.
3. Boil belly pork in 1/2 litre of water and 1 tsp of salt  for about 20 mins. When cooked, slice into 3cm long pieces.
4. Mix fish sauce, chili flakes, lime juice,garlic and sugar together.
5. Mix papaya, carrot, prawns, meat,shallots,coriander together with the fish sauce dressing.
6. Sprinkle salad with fried onions and peanuts and place prawn crackers around the salad attractively and enjoy the taste explosion in your mouth.

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