Thursday, 25 September 2008

Marmalade Cupcakes

There is a bit of a tale to this recipe. A friend of mine broke her leg. Her mum, being the caring sharing type, decided she couldn't stay in Australia with her daughter suffering a broken leg in Switzerland, so she flew across.

And what does a worrying mum do with herself during the day when her daughter is stuck on the couch? She makes marmalade of course! So how does this connect to me and marmalade cupcakes? Well my friend moved back to Australia and kindly donated to me the unused contents of her cupboards - including a lovely jar of marmalade.

Inspired to bake one day, I created these delicious cupcakes; only wish my friend was here to try one.
  • 125 butter
  • 1 cup caster sugar
  • 2 cups of flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon bicarb soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup orange marmalade
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. If, unlike me, you have a muffin tin, put the paper cases into it, otherwise, just lay them out on a tray.

In your mixer, beat the butter and caster sugar until light fluffy. One by one, add the eggs, beating well between additions. While the mixer is still going, add the marmalade.

In another bowl, combine the flour, bicarb, salt and baking powder.

Now, alternating between the milk and the flour mixture, add to the mixer, until combined (but don't overbeat).

Fill the paper cups with the mixture and then bake for around 20 minutes until risen and golden.

The special joy of these cupcakes is that the marmalade makes little pockets of marmalade toffee, which are just delicious. I topped them with a simple icing made of marmalade, icing sugar and cream cheese but actually I loved them just as they were. I took them to work and they were inhaled with gusto.

This recipe made about 2 dozen cupcakes

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

A compound Salad

A few months ago I helped cater a renaissance feast for 138 people. I have realised that I have neglected to share with you my recipes! How terrible am I?

People often ask me, when I tell them that I cook medieval and renaissance food "what did people eat apart from big joints of roasted meat?". Well, here is a wickedly lavish salad that proves that there was SO much more to the renaissance palate than lumps of flesh!

Compound Sallet [The English Hous-wife, 1615]:

To compound an excellet Sallet, and which indeed is usuall at great Feasts, and upon Princes Tables, take a good quantity of blancht Almonds, and with your shredding knife cut them grossly. Then take as many Raisins of the Sun clean washt, and the stones pickt out, as many Figs shred like the Almonds, as many Capers, twice so many Olives,and as many Currants as of all the rest, clean washt, a good handfull of the small tender leaves of red Sage and Spinage: mixe all these well together with good store of Sugar, and lay them in the bottom of a great dish. Then put unto them Vineger and Oyl, and scrape more Suger over all: then take Oranges and Lemmons, and paring away the outward pilles cut them into thinne slices.Then with those slices cover the Sallet all over. Then over those Red leaves lay other course of old Olives, and the slices of well pickled Cucumbers, together with the very inward heart of Cabbage lettice cut into slices. Then adorn the sides of the dish, and the top of the Sallet with more slices of Lemons and Oranges, and so serve it up.

An actual recipe with quantities isn't really necessary with this dish; as you can see, it is basically a great mixture of different ingredients.

  • Almonds
  • Sultanas (raisins)
  • Figs
  • Capers
  • Olives
  • Red Sage
  • Currants
  • Baby Spinach leaves
  • Pickled cucumbers
  • Sugar
  • Vinegar
  • Oil
  • Cabbage
  • Lemon and Orange slices (for my salad I actually used pickled lemon slices)
I wonder if this salad counts as a recovered recipe? Recovered Recipes is hosting a fun foodcomp, challenging people to scan in an old recipe card and make the dish. This certainly is an old recipe eh?

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Morroccan lamb tartlets

This delicious canape is again quite simple (but then again, ultimately most cooking is!) and all of the parts can be prepared in the days before your event, allowing you to simply assemble on the night.

There are three parts to this recipe
  1. Cases
  2. Lamb
  3. Hommous
1. Let's start with the cases. Buy a loaf of sliced white bread. Lay slices out on a board, and roll them with a rolling pin to flatten them. Using a cookie cutter (in this case I used a star), cut out shapes from the bread. A cookie cutter that will allow you to get four pieces out of one slice of bread will make bite sized canapes. Brush the shapes with melted butter, and push into the holes of mini muffin tins. Bake at 180 degrees until crisp and golden.

Cool and keep in an airtight container - these will easily keep for up to 4 days (and actually as I write I am munching on a few left over cases that are now a week old and still crisp and yummy).

2. Time for the Lamb.

I rubbed lamb fillets with Ras el Hanout (A north African spice mixture containing all sorts of things, but typically cardamon, cloves, cinnamon, chili, cumin, coriander, pepper and turmeric) and put them in a container in the fridge overnight in the fridge to marinate. The next day I pan fried the lamb fillet - you want the lamb to be nicely browned on the outside but still slightly pink and juicy on the inside. As you cook it, you can feel when you press on it, the meat getting firmer as it cooks.

Once cool, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate. Leave as whole fillets until you are just about to assemble the canape.

3. Hommous

Do have a try at making your own hommous - Rosa at Rosa's Yummy Yums has a great recipe or you can buy some but make sure it is a good quality fresh hommous.

So now you have all three parts, its time to serve these up! Slice the lamb fillet very thinly on the diagonal. Pipe or spoon some hommous into the bread cup and arrange a slice of lamb on top, and perhaps garnish with a little fresh coriander. Simple, and totally delicious!

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Dinner for one... figs three ways

Tonight is the least glamorous night of the month for me: my fortnightly access to the laundry in the basement. A night of tedium waiting for one load to finish before loading up the next. The plus is that it is a night that I get to spend at home alone, in my own space, which always inspires me to cook! As my dear friend Cate calls it, it's "darling self" time.

A quick meander around the shop brought me my inspiration for the night. It's the season of figs... those gorgeous plump purple fruits with their sensuous gem-toned flesh. There is something incredibly sexy about the look, the texture and the taste of this glorious fruit. I decided to spoil myself for dinner alone tonight... figs three ways.

Firstly, a whole fig split and roasted slowly until tender and juicy, then gorgonzola tucked into it, going soft and melding with the sweet juices of the fruit. Drizzled with honey or just as it is... fabulous.

Melted and soft to be picked up and eaten with the fingers, just to give an excuse to lick the lush nectar up.. or spread over bread still warm from the oven.

Second, cut up into chunky jewells and wrapped in jambon cru and slow roasted until the jambon starts to crisp up and a glorious mingling of ham and fig juice dribbles out from underneath. Served with a balsamic vinegar reduction, this is simply irresistable.

I baked these on a silicone sheet, and between you and I, when the liqueur cooled, I licked it all up!

Then finally time for dessert... Simple and sweet... a fig sliced in quarters, cooked with port and honey and served with a dollop of creamy rich greek yoghurt.

Utterly content with dinner alone.

Monday, 15 September 2008

Quick and pretty canape

I was hired to cater a small reception for 40 people. A nice simple function of 5 different dishes.

Dish number one: Cherry tomato, basil and baby mozzarella skewers.

It doesn't get much simpler than this for a canape! I marinated the mozzarella in pesto and then skewered them. The hardest part was figuring out how to present them!

Monday, 8 September 2008

Eating with the Vikings

One of the more fun mini-chain restaurants in Finland is Restaurant Harald. The one we went to was in Turku. Decorated up on a Viking theme, the waitresses wear Viking gear, and you can order dishes served up on shields or spitted on swords. Terry and I thought it might be fun to go to the one we saw in Tampere, but had our dinner in the tower instead, so when we got to Turku and found another "Harald", we couldn't resist!

The buffet table, or is it the bar?

For entree, I was seduced by the idea of moose salami, lingonberries and sprucetip syrup, so my choice was:

Game delicacies of Finland
Smoked reindeer sausage, delicious moose salami, grilled beef breast, smoked
garlic, red onion marmalade, lingonberries with spruce tip syrup, smoked almonds,
Rieska (soft flatbread), carrot bread, all served on a slab of slate.

My dinner partner didn't want an entree, but I knew he would 'throw himself on the grenade' and eat some of mine, and indeed he did.

Then for the main course I chose:

Sausage Pan
Wild boar sausage, reindeer sausage, pheasant meatballs, mustard seed sauce,
smoky cheese potatoes, creamed beetroot.

A hearty dish, this was probably a poor choice for me, as it was far more than I could possibly eat, but I really was in the mood for a sausage, and so even just having a mouthful of each was a pleasure. Terry helped out again as he still had room after his:

Blacksmiths Wild Duck
Wild duck breast, malt sauce, smoky cheese potatoes, marinated beans,
creamed beetroot, port wine marinated nuts, red onion marmalade.

I had a teeny taste of the duck which was pleasant, though not amazing by any means.

At this point in time, I was feeling pretty full, but Terry was rather keen on the idea of dessert, and we decided we really had to have something served on a shield... how could we possibly resist this indulgent platter?

Asgot the Red's Ending Shield
Caramel chocolate ice cream, chocolate cake, apple sorbet, Viking style pancakes,
Hulda’s berry dessert, blackberry compote, port wine marinated nuts,
carrot compote.

The caramel icecream was great as was the apple sorbet. The viking pancake was pretty ordinary but much better with the berries on top, and the chocolate cake was absolutely fantastic and although I was groaningly full I wouldn't let Terry have a crumb of my share!

I thought that Restaurant Harald was fun: the atmosphere and silly stories on the menus are very amusing, and if you are in Turku, Tampere or Kuopio, go on... try it... definitely worth 1 visit.

The entry to Harald

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

A little bit of silliness - deconstructed potato salad

I have canapes on my mind at the moment because next week I am catering a small cocktail reception for 40 people. Anyway, I had this thought about raclette potatoes. If you aren't familiar with raclette potatoes, they are golden, buttery and totally delicious. Boiled, they taste like they have been soaked in melted butter. They also keep their shape really well when cooked, which makes them lousy for irish stew but excellent for samosas and, I theorise, for cocktail food.

My thought was to do a sort of deconstructed potato salad... potatoes sliced skewered and layered with mustard mayonnaise. But this alone, while tasty, would be texturally dull as dishwater, and equally boring to the eye.

So what to do? How about a sliver of cucumber, to add some colour and texture... not bad, not bad at all.

Completely coincidentally, tonight's little invention fits into the Recipe Remix food challenge - to rethink a traditional summer "cookout" food. Now to be truthful I am not entirely sure what a cookout is (I am thinking it is what we Aussies call a "barbie") but potato salad is one of the dishes listed as a dish to be played with, so this becomes my little contribution to the fun!