Quick and Easy Chocolate Cake

Rich’s company keeps on growing and therefore I must keep on baking…

I was meant to be having some drinks with the team  on Friday evening to take requests, but as I have a nightmare project at my work, by the time I got to the bar almost everyone had gone. Therefore I have had to believe that Rich has spoken to his team and this cake represents their requests. The direction I was given was chocolate.

As always, I opened my copies of Nigella and went to her chocolate section – when I did carrot cake she was unfortunately lacking. It was a toss up between her Malteser Cake from Domestic Goddess¬†or her Old Fashion Chocolate Cake from Feast ; both looked amazing but the icing on the latter won me over. My favourite chocolate icing has been the sour cream one from Delia’s classic complete cookery course. Anyway, I could go on forever about my favourite cook books but I should really get on with the recipe!

 

Welcoming Stephen to the Company

Recipe: Quick and Easy Chocolate Cake

Ingredients: The Cake

  • 200g Plain Flour
  • 200g Golden Caster Sugar
  • 1 tsp Baking Powder
  • 1/2 tsp Bicarbonate of Soda
  • 1 Pinch Salt
  • 50g Cocoa Powder
  • 175g Butter – Room temperature and very soft
  • 2 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 150ml Sour Cream

Instructions

  1. This is super easy.
  2. Preheat the oven to GM 4 (180 C) and grease & line 2 circular 20cm cake tins with plenty of butter and grease proof paper.
  3. Either, add all of the ingredients to a cake mixer and quickly mix or put them into a bowl and mix with a whisk – the electric sort makes it a lot easier! The batter that you get is quite thick but don’t be alarmed, it makes a lovely cake.
  4. Split the batter between the two cake tins and then put into the oven. Cook for about 25 minutes, test and if it’s not ready (ie bounces back when you touch it) put it back in for another five minutes.
  5. Once the cakes are done, leave them to cool on wire racks.

Recipe: Sour Cream Icing

Ingredients: The Icing

  • 75g Butter
  • 175g Chocolate – I use 65%
  • 1 tbsp Golden Syrup
  • 125ml Sour Cream
  • 1 tsp of Vanilla Extract
  • 300g Icing Sugar

Instructions

  1. On a very low heat, in a heavy pan, melt the butter and the chocolate; keep an eye on it and don’t let it get hot so that nothing goes wrong!
  2. Sieve the icing sugar into a large bowl to get rid of the lumps.
  3. Add the golden syrup to the chocolate – to get the syrup out I find it easiest to heat a tablespoon over the gas and then put that into the syrup and it slides off the spoon. Don’t heat it too much as it might ruin chocolate!
  4. Next, add the sour cream to the sweetened chocolate and then the vanilla.
  5. Whisk in the icing sugar so that the colour lightens and texture smooths.

To decorate the cake put one third of the icing on to the bottom layer and then add the next layer on top.

Add the rest of the icing on to the top of the cake and gently work it down the sides with a knife.
Decorate the top of the cake with bits of fudge or chocolate shavings or nothing.
Eat the cake ūüôā
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Nelson the Spider

Nelson on One of His Midnight Web Making Missions

Just a really really quick (and slightly pointless) post about Nelson, our spider.

We haven’t seen him for a few day but I would like to thank him for all of the fun that he gave us whilst he was making his web. For anyone that doesn’t like spiders watching them at their work is amazing, plus Nelson was a bit of a character. Here are a few pictures of him and his work.

Nelson's Work in the Morning Dew - Fabulous!

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Carrot Cake

Rich has just had another member of staff join him at the Gadgetplex, so to celebrate I thought that I would make the team a cake. I asked Rich for inspiration and he choose carrot cake – it was meant to be the team but I guess that he’s the boss!

It was then that I realised that I don’t think that I have ever made a carrot cake – I have eaten plenty but it does tend to be one of those cakes that you eat when you are trying to be good; carrots are a vegetable after all. I did a search online and found a lot of recipes that play around with the basics – marscapone instead of cream cheese, coconut, pineapple, the list goes on…The thing that I was looking for is that¬†cinnamon infused, faintly bicarb tasting, moist cake with hidden surprises of¬†raisins and walnuts topped with an incredibly rich icing – or should I say frosting?

I realise that this looks like a lot of ingredients – something of a running theme on in my recipes – but it’s actually really simple; mix the dry ingredient, mix the wet ones, add them together, cook it, mix the icing, waiting until everything is cool, put it together and eat.

 

This is what happens when you don't chill the icing enough - lesson learnt

Recipe: Carrot Cake

Ingredients

  • 100g Raisins
  • 50ml Sloe Gin
  • 175g Plain Flour
  • 2 tsp Baking Powder
  • 1/2 tsp Bicarbonate of Soda
  • 1 tsp Ground Cinnamon
  • ¬Ĺ tsp Ground Cloves
  • ¬Ĺ tsp Ground Nutmeg
  • 200g Soft Brown Sugar
  • 150ml Rapeseed Oil
  • 2 Large Eggs
  • 150-200g Grated Carrot – about 3 small ones
  • 75g chopped Walnuts
  • 1 tbsp Tahini
Icing
  • 200g Cream Cheese
  • 100g Butter Soften
  • Zest of an Orange
  • 1 tbsp Orange Juice
  • 1/2 tsp Vanilla
  • 250g Icing Sugar

Instructions

  1. Preheat your over to gas mark 4.
  2. Grease and line two 9 inch cake tins.
  3. In a pan, bring the gin and raisins to the boil; simmer for about 5 minutes and then leave the raisins to soak up the liquid. FYI you can easily use rum or tea but I often have sloe gin…
  4. Sift the flour, baking powder and bicarb into a bowl and add the dried spice.
  5. In another large bowl, mix the sugar and oil.
  6. Add the eggs to the sugar mix, one by one, then add the carrot, walnuts, tahini and raisins.
  7. Gentle fold in the spiced flour and then split between the two cake tins. Put in the oven and bake for about 20-25 minutes until the cakes are cooked.
  8. Whilst you are waiting for the cakes to cook get on with the icing.
  9. Beat the orange zest, cheese and butter until it’s smooth.
  10. Add the vanilla and orange juice to the cheese mix and then gradually beat in the icing sugar.
  11. Once all of the sugar is mixed in out the icing into the fridge for about 10 minutes to firm up slightly.
  12. When the cakes are cooked – they should spring up when you press them and be slightly coming away from the sides of their tin – place them onto a wire rack to cool.
  13. Ice the cakes generously in the centre and on the top, if necessary let the icing slip down the sides (make sure that the cake is on its serving dish if you do!). Decorate with walnuts and serve – as Rich would say “om nom nom nom…”

Quick notes

This recipe is based on Dan Lepard’s “How to Bake” Carrot Cake with a couple of tweeks

Variations

If you don’t like raisins leave them out, same goes with walnuts. I think that this is one of those recipes that’s pretty tolerant – next time I make it I’m going to try adding banana

Preparation time: 25 minute(s)

Cooking time: 25 minute(s)

Diet type: Vegetarian

Number of servings (yield): 8

My rating 4 stars:  ????? 1 review(s)

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Focaccia

The last time I had focaccia was when Rich and I were in Italy, last year, and it was made by an Italian Mama outside a trulli on a Puglian hillside. The first thing that struck me about it was how wet her dough was; it was basically like a cake batter! It was cooked in a traditional pizza oven and was amazing. The sort of bread that you can’t (and don’t) want to stop eating.Suffice it to say, I didn’t really fancy making it.
Then, when I was watching the BBC’s “Great British Bake-Off” one of their technical challenges was to make focaccia. For anyone that has not seen the TV genius that is GBBO, this is when the contestants are given the outline of a recipe and they need to use their knowledge to fill in the gaps. It was amazing how many people didn’t add all of the water as they thought it was already wet enough. But to me, even those that did use all of the water didn’t have a wet enough dough. After watching it on the telly I decided that I should make focaccia and see what all of the fuss was about – so here is my recipe!

This is a bread waiting to go into the hot oven

Recipe: Focaccia

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp Dried Active Yeast
  • 3 tbsp Olive Oil – Extra Virgin please…
  • 400ml Hand-Hot Water
  • 1 tsp Sugar (or honey)
  • 500g Strong White Bread Flour
  • 2 tsp Salt
  • Addition Olive Oil
  • Sea Salt (as always I use Maldons)

Instructions

  1. With the yeast that I use you need to bring it back to life by warming it up and giving it some food. Therefore in a bowl add the water, sugar and yeast. Give it a stir and then leave it in a warm place to “wake-up” for about 15 minutes. Once there are bubbles over the surface you are ready for the next bit.
  2. Weigh out the flour and then mix in the salt in a large bowl. Give the yeast mixture a stir and add to the flour with the olive oil; mix everything thoroughly.
  3. Then you need to kind-of kneed the dough/batter which is easiest to do in the bowl using the sides to draw the mixture in.
  4. After about 10 minutes of this you will notice that the batter has changed consistency and feels silkiey – although it will never form one of those satisfying balls that normal bread turns into.
  5. Leave the mix in the bowl covered in a tea-towel or oiled cling film in a warm place for about an hour until it has doubled in size.
  6. Knock the dough back and kneed for about five minutes on a thoroughly oiled surface – make sure that your hands are also oiled.
  7. Shape the mix into a well oiled roasting tin. I used my large shallow one which is about 12 inches by 20.
  8. Leave in a warm place to prove for about another hour.
  9. After this time poke at the dough with your fingers to make the characteristic dimples, drizzle with yet more oil and sprinkle with salt.
  10. Put it into an oven at GM 7 for about 20 minutes, until it is golden brown.
  11. Serve with a tomato salad and east as soon as possible

Quick notes

Use a really good olive oil for this and you won’t be disappointed the flavour really comes through.

Variations

Add a sprinkling of chilli or herbs

Preparation time: 3 hour(s)

Cooking time: 20 minute(s)

Diet type: Vegetarian

Number of servings (yield): 8

Culinary tradition: Italian

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Sun Dried Tomatoes

This is a great way to use up the glut of tomatoes that are inevitable at the end of the growing season. I believe that if you cover them in oil in an air tight container they will keep for several weeks but to be honest mine have never lasted long enough to test this!

Tomatoes - Ready for the drying in the oven

Recipe: Sun Dried Tomatoes

Ingredients

  • Tomatoes
  • Garlic Cloves
  • Olive Oil

Instructions

  1. Preheat a low oven about gas mark 2, 150 C or 300 F.
  2. Slice the tomatoes in half if they are cherries or quarters if they are larger.
  3. Place the tomatoes, cut side up, in a roasting tin, drizzle with olive oil and scatter garlic cloves halved.
  4. Put the tin in the oven for about an hour until the tomatoes have decreases in size and lost the majority of their water.
  5. When you are ready to eat them, season the tomatoes with salt and pepper. Serve with fresh Italian bread such as focaccia.

Quick notes

I haven’t put any quantities in as it really depends on the amount of tomatoes that you have and the size of your tin.

Variations

You can add herbs to this such as thyme or oregano.

Preparation time: 5 minute(s)

Cooking time: 1 hour(s)

Diet type: Vegetarian

Culinary tradition: Italian

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Italian Grand Prix

Trulli Castagno Puglia - a perfect place for a holiday

At last the Grand Prix has left the realms of Northern Europe and heavy foods. So back into the sunshine and the endless possibilities of Italian food. As you can probably tell from my blog I am  into Italian food Рin a big way. I love their use of few ingredients to make combinations of  bold flavours.

Rich and I were entertaining our vegetarian¬†friends for the race which meant that the menu had to deviate slightly from anti pasti, pasta, meat and dessert formula that any decent Italian meal follows. But being vegetarians, our friends are very into their cheese (personally I don’t understand how you can eat rennet but not meat but hey-ho!). Italian cheeses are perfect for cooking and I managed to get one into each course. The vegetables that I grow in my garden are also perfectly suited to Italian cusine and our tomato crop this year has been a bumper one.

Italian Vegetarian Feast

Anti-Pasti

Primo

  • Trofie Pasta with Cavelo Nero

Secondi

  • Borage and Ricotta¬†Cannelloni

Dolce

  • Amaretti & Raspberry Marscapone
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Pig Paradise, Wiltshire

For our anniversary Rich bought me a very special treat. I love pigs Рnot in the same way as the crazy cat girl but enough that I have a collection of pigs including a life size piggy bank. We spent the day yesterday learning how to look after pigs at Pigs Paradise in Wiltshire. It was an absolutely amazing day in which we could cuddle piglets and also learn how to look after them properly. Tony and Carron, the people running the course, have a vast knowledge and love for pigs which was awe inspiring.

The course consists of a mix of classroom and practical where you learn how to vet your pigs and save yourself a lot of money. It also gives you an idea of how much it costs to own a pig for its potential life time of 20 years! ¬†The cost could be as much as ¬£50k and that’s not even for organic feed! I have to admit at this point that Rich was the only one in the class who got anywhere close to the price as he actually costed it out – that’s what being a company director does to you.

 

 

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Malaysian Grand Prix

As we are currently having our Grand Prix summer break I thought that I would try to catch up on some of the¬†cuisines¬†that I haven’t blogged about earlier in the season.

I started my Grand Prix dinners before I started the blog so I have recipes for the Turkish (an amazing Turkish breakfast/brunch) Spanish (Spanish chicken which I repeated for the European GP) and Monaco (decadent¬†Proven√ßal¬†style tapas). The problem was that I didn’t take any pictures, which was a complete over sight!

Last weekend I thought that I would try Malaysian food; for last year’s race a made beef rendang so I thought that I would try another typical Malaysian dish. I am a huge fan of south-east Asian flavours and in Malaysia, as they are a trading island, almost all of the spices imaginable are present. I decided to make chicken curry kapitan which is a typical example of nyonya¬†cuisine. The spices in this dish reflect this melting pot with fice spice from China, lemongrass from Thailand, cinnamon from Sri Lanka and the holy trinity of garlic, ginger and chilli from India.

Kota Bharu Market, Malaysia

image credit: exfordy

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Malaysian Chicken Curry Kapitan

Recipe: Chicken Curry Kapitan

Summary:¬†This looks like a long list of ingredients but if you have a mini food blender it’s really easy. If you don’t, it will require a lot of pounding in a pestle and¬†mortar.

Chicken Kapitan with an Asian Tomato Salad

Ingredients

  • 1 tsp of Dried Chilli Flakes
  • 250g Onions – about 2 Medium
  • 10 cm Ginger
  • 8 Garlic Cloves
  • 2 tsp Five-Spice Powder
  • 2 tsp Turmeric
  • 4 Lemongrass Stalks
  • 1/2 tsp of Shrimp Paste
  • 2 tbsp Oil – Vegetable or nut, just make sure it’s flavourless
  • 8 x Chicken Thighs – On the bone and skinned
  • 1 Tin of Coconut Milk
  • 2 Cinnamon Sticks
  • 2 tsp Palm Sugar
  • 2 Peppers Sliced
  • 100g of Beans – I used runner beans as my garden is full of them
  • Juice of 1/2 Lime
  • Coriander

Instructions

  1. The first thing to do is make the paste – once this is done the recipe practically cooks itself! Add all of the paste ingredients into a food processor and blend into a paste. If it’s a bit stiff add a little water.
  2. Add the paste to a heavy pan on a medium heat; this is a perfect dish for cooking in a le cresuet. Cook for at least ten minutes until the paste begins to colour; the more you cook this out the darker your finished dish will be.
  3. Into the paste, add the chicken, cook for a couple of minutes then add the coconut milk, cinnamon sticks and palm sugar. Bring to the boil and then reduce the heat and cook for about an hour – this can be done in the oven on a low heat.
  4. After an hour your house will be full a beautiful heady aroma of coconut and spices. Next add the peppers and beans and cook for another 30 minutes.
  5. Finally add the lime juice and most of the coriander.
  6. Serve with rice, an Asian style tomato salad and garnish with coriander.

Quick notes

As with most curries this dish is better the day after its been cooked as the flavours have developed.

Variations

The peppers and beans are not exactly traditional but they add a nice bit of colour and texture; leave them out if you like.

Preparation time: 15 minute(s)

Cooking time: 1 hour(s) 30 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 4

Culinary tradition: Malaysian

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Tomato Pasta Sauce

In my garden I always grow tomatoes. One of the reasons that I grow them is because they are relatively easy but also because so often you find the supermarket ones kept in the fridge. It seems crazy to me to buy a tomato that has been in the fridge as putting them in the there fundamentally changes their texture. They get that nasty cotton wool like texture which completely ruins my enjoyment.

Anyway, one of the issues with growing tomatoes is what to do when they all become ripe. I always sew too many, it doesn’t matter how much I try to stop myself I simply can’t resist growing at least two varieties; this year Gardeners Delight an easy cherry and Sungold a golden cherry both suitable for ripening in the English sunshine or lack there of. Obviously you can make a tomato salad but this sauce makes something more substantial and can easily be made in 20 minutes.

Sungold & Gardeners Delight Tomatoes

Recipe: Tomato Pasta Sauce

Summary: Simple fresh pasta sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 Tin of Anchovies
  • 400g Fresh Tomatoes
  • Dried Pasta – 60g per Person
  • 1 Clove of Garlic
  • Pinch of Chilli Flakes (optional)
  • Handful of Basil Leaves
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Instructions

  1. In a shallow pan (I use my big sautéing pan which is a bit like a flat bottom wok) on a gentle heat melt the anchovies.
  2. Add the tomatoes, roughly chopped. Cook for about 5 minutes until the tomatoes break down. There will be a lot of juice that comes out of the tomatoes which will reduced and create an intensely tomatoey sauce.
  3. In a pan of boiling, well salted water add the pasta shape of your choice – for me it really depends on my mood and what I have in the cupboard.
  4. Add the garlic and chilli to the tomatoes, reduce the heat and cook until the pasta is ready. If your sauce becomes a bit dry add a little of the pasta water to loosen it.
  5. Just before you are going to serve add the torn basil leaves and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. I am currently using a peppery one from Puglia in the south of Italy.

Spaghetti with a Tomato Pasta Sauce

Quick notes

This tomato sauce is the starting point for so many of the traditional sauces. In fact by adding the chilli it goes from a simple pomadoro to arribatta.

Preparation time: 5 minute(s)

Cooking time: 15 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 2

Culinary tradition: Italian

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