A very Jamie dinner party

I really enjoyed Jamie Oliver’s recent series of five ingredient, easy to cook food. I’ve made loads of the things from the show, but some of the recipes called for larger quantities and feeding a crowd – so I decided to invite some friends around just so I could cook the food and try to get them to drink some of the weirder things from the liquor shelf that have been hanging around for a while.

No starter for once, just nibbles and some of the last of the basil wine, which for all its worrying in the fermentation stage has actually ended up delicious.

The main was slow cooked lamb – almost a tagine, with its ras-el-hanout and preserved lemons and an unorthodox and worrying way of cooking chick peas which seemed to work out OK.

You do wonder, with the limiting yourself to 5 ingredients, if it would have been a little better with 6 or maybe 7?  Cooking lamb without garlic?  In the final dish, the flavour of the ras-el-hanout and preserved lemons don’t come through particularly well. I wonder if this would work in the slow cooker?  The recipe calls for a 2kg lamb shoulder for 8 servings – I was feeding four, and Sainsburys only had a joint slightly over 1kg and it just about went far enough. I didn’t reduce the other ingredients at all, so have ended up with massively more lamby chickpeas than anyone can use!

Final lamb with fattened chickpeas

I wasn’t sure if the one-pot would enough to feed us all by itself, so made a side of small hasselback potatoes. I’m glad I did as they were delicious, and a good avenue for garlic and salt.

Main in serving plates - lamb, hasselback potatoes, chickpeas and tomatoes

The dessert was frozen banoffee cheesecake, moderated from the original. I used half the ingredients and made it in a 1L  / 1lb loaf tin. There was enough leftover mix to make a few ramekins as well so those can stay in the freezer till an appropriate time.  The idea of piling the chopped chocolate on the top is brilliant – it looks pretty rough and ready straight out of the freezer and slightly clumsy greaseproof lining left it misshapen as the grease creases ate into the sides. But the extremely simple garnish, a work of 90 seconds, made it look awesome and it got a nice ooh! as I brought it to the table.

Frozen banoffee cheesecake

I do like to try and do some chocolatey things – nibbles for the digestif as well as the aperitif – so I had made white chocolate salami and homemade after eight mints.  Both straight forward to make, but slightly trickier to slice!

White chocolate salami and home made after eights

In all one of the least stressy dinner parties I’ve ever done. The dessert and chocs were finished two days ahead in just over an hour; the main went on seven hours before the start time and essentially looked after itself, as well as making the house smell awesome after the first few hours. Some very enjoyable cooking and company.

More photos on flickr here.

Advertisements

Disaster cakes

Preheat an oven to… what was it last time? I think I did it at 180 but I can’t remember if that was too high or too low? Try 160 just to be on the safe side

Weigh three eggs, and add the same weight of fat, self raising flour and sugar to a bowl. I use vegetable oil to save having to faff with getting butter to room temperature without melting it, at a fraction of the cost and without too much taste compromise. I was supposed to be using caster sugar but somehow someone put granulated in the caster pot last time it was refilled so I suppose that will have to do.

Zest a lemon – cripes, that one’s in a bit of a state, oh well, it’s what we have. Joe Public won’t be able to taste it by the time it’s cooked – into the mix and stir until well incorporated.

Spoon the batter into 12 cake cases, realising towards the end that whilst this mix usually does 12 easily, this time it looks a bit hit and miss and there’s only really enough for 9. Oh well, the first six were a bit over full and will probably spill in the oven so I can spoon two tea spoons out of those into the remaining cases. Oh drats, the case came away with the batter and now there’s bits of cake mix all over the tin. That will be a bugger to get off later.

Cook for I dunno 15 minutes? 20?  Check they’re not burning after 20 but they’re nowhere near done so turn the oven down, or maybe up? after that and put them back in. They’re done when a skewer – where the heck have all my skewers gone? Oh there they are – comes out clean.

Leave to cool while you watch Only Connect.

Put a pointy nozzle in a disposable piping bag and place inside cocktail shaker. Spoon in a few dollops of home made lemon curd. Pff, yes of course shop bought will do. Pipe the curd directly into the centre of the cupcakes with a firm pressure and oh god there’s lemon curd everywhere, all over my hands, oozing over the top of the bag, and out around the nozzle instead of through the hole at the end.

Neatly use a teaspoon to cut holes in the remaining unruined cakes and spoon the curd in before placing the top of the cake back on and hoping the crumbs don’t make too much of a mess.

Juice the lemon you zested earlier and add icing sugar to make a fruit icing. Not that much icing sugar you dolt! Eek, this is very firm, it won’t spread at all. Oh, well, it will be fine. Normally it’s too runny anyway. Spoon the icing over the cakes taking care not to… oh… the bit you cut out might come away a bit. Yes, there will be a horrid mix of icing and crumbs and it will look awful.

Garnish with jelly lemon slices, which for no good reason are not on sale in Sainsburys any more and don’t seem to be found for love nor money anywhere other than Evil Amazon. These jelly lemon slices were actually ordered before the summer holidays and have been sitting in my pigeonhole for six weeks, but they don’t seem particularly harmed and are still well within their date so meh.

Select six of the least worst looking cakey horrors and pack them in a box for work tomorrow.

Disaster cakes

Eurovision hors d’oeuvres

We’re taking finger food to a Eurovision party this year, so I have made devilled eggs and puff-pastry pack two ways.

Eurovision hors d'oeuvres

Devilled egg recipe here. Glut of teeny eggs from newly laying small hens, so used them up in this. Quite faffy, hard to transport and not the sort of fiddly work my clumsy fingers are any good at. I should probably stop even trying anything with piping in it.

Then a block of all butter puff pastry is divided – this time I did 1/3rd tartlets 2/3rds croissants.

Preheat oven to 200 deg C

Roll the pastry, cut rounds. Halve cherry tomatoes and optionally pre-roast them a little in the preheating oven. Stick each tomato half to a pastry round with tomato purée and top with a sprinkling of grated parmesan. Bake until crispy, about 10 minutes.

Eurovision hors d'oeuvres

Roll the remaining pastry and cut into triangles, either from a large circle of rolled pastry, or less wastefully from rectangles. You are looking for very tall isosceles triangles. Place a small piece of cheese (camembert, goats, etc) and half a spoon of interesting chutney (I’m using something from the Garlic Farm) on the wider part and roll them up to form a croissant. Brush with beaten egg and bake for 10-15 minutes until golden.

Eurovision hors d'oeuvres

Serve with Meg Pickard’s Eurovision Bingo cards [PDF] .

Pudding club: sticky toffee pudding

I last made this some years ago, when Simon Hopkinson’s cookery programme was on TV. But it seems I didn’t write about it at the time, so here’s a quick post to put things right.

I made it exactly as per this BBC recipe.

It’s a truly delicious recipe – as you’d expect for something that includes over a pint of cream and most of a block of butter, along with a variety of interesting types of sugar, one of which I’d never used till the recipe sent me hunting for it.

The recipe says “serves 4” but even someone as sceptical of serving sizes as I am would think this recipe comfortably feeds 6.

Sticky toffee pudding for tomorrow's pudding club. Two toffee sauces for assembly.

The other reason this one sticks in the mind is that two years ago when I made it and photographed it and put it on Flickr, some wazzocky company took me to task for using the phrase “pudding club” in the description because they thought they owned it. Fools!

My decadent week of cake

Various things – friends visiting to see our new chickens, the last opportunity for Pudding Club before term starts again and a new found fatalism on the weight front (yeah, topping 100kg again!) has meant I have been cooking an awful lot of cake this week. I made…

Mary Berry’s Victoria Sandwich.

All the icing sugar in the world can't hide the fact the cakes are split and burned!

Which I burnt. Things I learned: a four egg mix is a good amount for my sandwich tins. 2oz of buttercream is not really enough to fill it and it takes an awful lot of jam. I need to turn the oven down. It’s really enough to combine the mix quite loosely – I would normally cream the butter with the sugar quite vigourously before adding the eggs and flour. This recipe calls for all the ingredients to go in at once and only basic mixing. And it’s fine for it.

Coffee flavoured cupcakes

Coffee cupcakes for sister in law visit.

Things I learned: a one egg sponge mix is ample to fill all four of the dinky new cupcake moulds I got for my birthday. Two spoons of instant coffee for the buttercream and two in the cake mix is about right for my taste but a bit too strong for everyone else. I need to work on my two tone icing technique and on icing more generally.

Mary Berry’s Chocolate Roulade

Oh noes! Multiple cracks! But it still looks rouladelicious!

Things I learned: this is easier than it looks. It uses a lot of eggs (might be a good thing once the birds start laying!) No flour! I turned it into a sort of Schwarzwaldkirschroulade with half a bag of frozen cherries turned into a simple jam by boiling with sugar and bits of port and kirsh I had knocking around. I make sure the sponge was good and damp and boiled some of the left up juice to a slightly stiffer set to make a drizzling jus for presentation:

And black forest roulade served with a cherry and port jus.

Dan Lepard’s cinnamon buns

An old favourite. I don’t think I’ve ever made them without burning them a little, however – in this case, although they looked blackened they didn’t taste burnt at all.

What I learned: the recipe fits neatly in my large rectangular roasting tin – I’ve always used my round 9″ cake tin before. If you leave them to prove whilst ringing for a wedding, they will likely go over the top of the tin.

Massively over proven cinnamon buns waiting for the oven to get to temperature

But they will still taste delicious and wonderful anyway.

Brownies

This recipe is a good’un and came out with the desired highly squidgy interiors. The recipe is extremely detailed, and I might have glossed over the finer points.

I had to pop off to Dunelm to buy a new tin for making the swiss roll needed for the roulade, and whilst I was there, bought a square tin for brownies and tray bakes, which I have felt I needed for a while. This recipe fills it really well.

Even more cooking for chicken visitors!

The picture shows afternoon tea with tuna and yellow pepper sandwiches, a small plate of cucumber sandwich bites, strong black coffee, and brownies and cinnamon buns for after.

Perhaps the main thing I learned is that my mobile phone takes horrible food pictures!

Summer of smoothies

So this summer, we have been making a lot of smoothies.

I’ve resisted them for years, because I assumed they relied on using those punnetts of expensive soft fruit, often flown across the world, and out of season. But somewhere on the internet, I got given the idea that bags of frozen berries work just as well, and can go straight into the blender from the freezer.

The frozen fruit is far cheaper than the fresh Class I stuff at the front of the supermarket, and so for the last couple of months I have kept my freezer stocked with berries and the blender in almost daily use.

My supermarket has a variety of berries, and we have mostly been using frozen cherries and a blueberry/strawberry mix. The black forest bags look like they ought to be delicious, but they are chock full of seeds from raspberries and they get stuck in my teeth.

The average smoothie is made with about 80grams of frozen berries, a banana, a small spoon of oats, and enough milk to get the consistency right. There’s two of your 5 a day right there! All of the ingredients can be room temperature, so long as the berries come right out of the freezer, and it still makes a nice cold smoothie without the need for ice.

I have been using these remedially when I am conscious that my diet has been poor and that I am nowhere near getting enough fruit and veg in. In extremis, some days I’ve been making 4-fruit smoothies by adding in canned fruits – the cheapest supermarket basics in the tinned pear and pineapple ranges. Since they’re going to be bashed into pieces, it doesn’t matter what size is in the tin.