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Monthly Archives: July 2012

Sometimes in life, the simplest things are the best. Of course, I love playing around with food, creating new taste sensations like my Rosemary Syrup Cake with Lime Frosting. But sometimes, a simple sugar cookie dusted in cinnamon sugar and baked until chewy, crumbly and melt in the mouth is just as satisfying. Snickerdoodles are the ultimate easy cookie – thrown together in a bowl, chilled and rolled in sugar. Sometimes we like chocolate chunks and orange zest in a cookie. Sometimes even a smidgen of coffee powder. But a dot of vanilla paste is all that’s needed here to create a tasty snack to go with an afternoon cuppa. Or why not try sandwiching two together with ice cream for a fun pudding? Whatever you fancy, it’s your simple cookie prerogative. Just make sure to take some to work, school or uni or you run the risk of a snickerdoodled belly. Not that there is anything wrong with that of course…

 

Adapted from Joy the Baker Cookbook

 

Makes Roughly 2 Dozen Cookies

 

You Will Need

225g butter (Stork is fine)

337g caster sugar

2 eggs

1 ½ teaspoons vanilla paste

412g plain flour

2 teaspoons cream of tartar

1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

¼ teaspoon salt

 

For the Cinnamon Sugar

75g caster sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar together with a hand mixer until pale and fluffy. Add each egg one at a time until fully incorporated.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula and stir in the vanilla paste. In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, cream of tartar, bicarbonate of soda and salt. Add to the butter, sugar and egg mix and whisk in gently with the hand mixer, then finally by hand using the spatula. Cover the bowl with clingfilm and chill the dough for at least 30 minutes.

When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 180oc/160oc fan/ Gas Mark 4. Line a baking tray with baking parchment and set aside. Mix together the sugar and cinnamon in a bowl, then scoop heaped tablespoons of cookie dough, roll in the cinnamon sugar and place on the baking sheet, spaced well apart. Bake in the oven for 12 minutes or until golden. Cool slightly on the baking sheet then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Everyone in my family has their own ‘thing’. Something that, should the occasion, celebration or the occasional Sunday call for it, can be whipped up without fear of catastrophe, sinking middles or soggy bottoms. For my sister, her thing is Focaccia. She can whip up a mean rosemary-spiked and salt slathered creation in no time, perfect for dipping in oil and balsamic. My Mam, although fab at generally everything, has perfected the dessert table with her chocolate nut slab. A showstopper at my graduation party, it is the epitome of die-and-go-to-chocolate-heaven.

My Dad however is the brownie master. I gave up long ago trying to make brownies; always left with cakey, dry attempts that were frankly unrecognisable as the fudgy American dessert/cake crossover. Dad’s brownies are soft, chewy and filled with a burst of…beetroot. Yes, it sounds strange, but mix shredded pink beets into a thick chocolate batter and you will be left with a gorgeous pudding that is perfect with a dollop of ice cream and a glass of vino to end a meal.

So it feels like something of a betrayal for going against the Brownie Holy Grail and making this marmalade and walnut-filled version. The usual suspects are all there; crisp, cracked top, fudgy middle and soft outsides. A snip of nuttiness from roughly chopped walnuts, a semi-sweet bitterness from the plain chocolate and the utter decadence of using real butter (don’t use Stork here kids, its just sacrilege). But the inclusion of tangy marmalade adds a denser texture, a zingier taste and a hint of Terry’s Chocolate Orange. A simple piped white chocolate daisy finishes the brownie off, becoming a pretty little dessert that packs a hell of a taste punch. Sorry Dad, but you could make my signature Lemon Meringue Pie and we’ll call it quits, kay?

 

Adapted from delicious.

 

Makes 16 Brownies

 

You Will Need

3 eggs

150g soft brown sugar

150g plain chocolate, broken into pieces

100g unsalted butter

25g walnuts, chopped

100g self raising flour, sifted

3 tablespoons coarse orange marmalade

40g good quality white chocolate

Preheat the oven to 180oc/160oc fan/ Gas Mark 4. Grease and line a 20cm square tin with baking parchment and set aside. Using a hand mixer, whisk together the eggs and sugar until well combined and frothy , then set aside. Add the chocolate and butter to a clean bowl and microwave for two minutes, stirring halfway through. Add to the eggs and sugar and stir well. Mix in the walnuts, flour and marmalade then pour into the prepared tin. Bake for 25-30 minutes then cool in the tin for 10 minutes. Remove the brownie slab from the tin and cool completely on a wire rack before cutting into 16 squares.

Melt the white chocolate in a bowl in the microwave for 2 minutes, stirring halfway through, then spoon into a paper piping bag. Snip off the end and pipe simple daisy shapes onto baking parchment. Try to create more than 16, as a few will inevitably break. Place the daisies in the fridge to set, then carefully peel or lift off the baking parchment and place on top of each brownie.

Serve with tea, coffee or a glass of Prosecco for a decadent afternoon tea.

Yes, after weeks of asking for votes, having a self appointed PR team (Thanks Mum and Dad!) and some bribery in the form of butter and sugar, my blog Victoria Sponge Pease Pudding has been shortlisted for the ‘Best Food Blog’ at this year’s Cosmo Blog Awards! Quite frankly, I am a jittery mess writing this, as this is what I have been pushing myself to achieve over the past few weeks since nominations opened. I am extremely grateful to all my readers, friends and family who took the time to put me forward for this award and I am going to do my best to make you proud! Unfortunately that means baking more cakes, cookies and scones to keep you all interested! My poor waistline…

So if you would like to vote for me to win (eek!) this award, please click HERE and choose Victoria Sponge Pease Pudding – I’m right at the bottom of the list so I need all the help I can get (silly first name being at the end of the alphabet!) Please share this post, like it, love it, pin it, whatever you fancy if you think I deserve the award! Thank you all so much, I’m away to chill down some champers…

P.S Congrats to all the other shortlisters, especially Lottie’s Little Kitchen and The Londoner, you all rock!

P.S.S Sorry for all the exclamation marks, I’m just so excited!!! (Ok, I’ll stop now)

Days like these (endless rain, thick muggy air, the looming mud bath at T in the Park) have me craving an indoors hide out. A thick blanket, comfy jim jams, a mug of coffee and a pack of jammie dodgers. Sometimes I wish my doctor could prescribe me these things after 5 long shifts at work in a row. Forget ‘making the most of my day off’, after a considerable amount of ice skating all I want to do is stick lovefilm on repeat and make my way through some trashy-but-loveable films (Princess Diaries anyone?).

The traditional accompaniment to movie days and nights is popcorn, but recently I discovered an alternative to my usual salty snack. Shutterbean, one of my go-to food blogs, recently made an inspiring take on a Jamie Oliver popcorn recipe, which was slathered with spiced butter, lime juice and a good dose of salt. Still savoury, but packing a whole lot more punch than the usual sodium chloride.

This popcorn recipe is a beaut. Not only because it tastes like popcorn was always supposed to taste, but it is the first outing of my hand me down Le Creuset pan from my Grammy. The thick set pan allows for some serious poppin’ and less chance of charcoaled corn, but any old lidded saucepan will do really. Hot melted butter is toasted with colourful paprika, unmistakable cumin and herby oregano. Add a good splash of fresh lime and the sauce is a fiery blend of flavour. Quickly toss in freshly made popcorn to coat each pop and stir through some homemade lime salt, which is a simple way to add flavour to your typical seasoning, adding zest with each bite. On a miserable day, a bowl of this with a cold beer is like a little tropical paradise on your sofa. Give your popcorn a makeover with some spice. Anne Hathaway may be a princess, but this popcorn is king. Ole!

 

Adapted from Shutterbean and Jamie Oliver Magazine

 

You Will Need

3 tablespoons vegetable or sunflower oil

1/3 cup popcorn kernels (or 75g if you don’t have measuring cups)

1 teaspoon rock salt

1 lime, zested and juiced

3 tablespoons butter

1 teaspoon paprika, smoked if you have it

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon dried oregano

Set a heavy based pan over a medium heat and add the sunflower oil. Put 3 kernels in the pan and cover with a lid until the popcorn starts popping. Pour in the remaining kernels and keep moving the pot to avoid burning. Once the popping has slowed down, almost to a stop, remove from the heat and set aside.

To make the lime salt, rub together the lime zest and salt with the back of a spoon to release the oils until smashed and fragrant. Set aside.

Melt the butter in a frying pan over a medium heat and add the spices, cooking for one minute. Add the lime juice and quickly pour over the popcorn evenly and stir quickly to cover each piece. Sprinkle over the lime salt and serve in bowls with a beer.

After four years, countless essays, a lot of all-nighters, a few pro plus, some tantrums and tears and one BIG DISSERTATION PROJECT, I have finally graduated from the University of Stirling. Writing this feels very strange, considering this university has been my life for the past four years and the thought that my academic career has come to an end is terribly scary. Considering just a few short months ago I was desperate to leave, determined to start a new chapter with a new job in a new city – having now donned the robes and smiled for the photos, that thought now seems VERY real. It means I won’t get to see my hilarious friends every day, cursing essay questions, pulling our hair out about lecturers or just generally prattling on about the bloody snow. It seems more hyper-real than leaving school; because you know that this is it, the time has come to be a proper grown up.

Being a (bit more) grown up and looking back at my time at university, there are probably three things I learned the most. Not academic advice, but life advice. University is a big adventure and the amount of lessons you will learn will be extraordinary. But these three pointers are the most valuable that I will take with me on my next venture. (WARNING: potentially soppy material ahead)

Firstly, not everyone will have the same uni experience as you. You may have a billionty friends that will streamline down to three by the end of first year. You may stick with the same people for the whole course. You may only start chatting to your classmates because you have an assignment which requires a LOT of communication (hello 32 page newspaper!). These scenarios are all cool. It will all work out. The friends that are worth their salt will stick around. They are the ones who will eat your Cappuccino Cookies, slurp your smoothies and high five you for some awesome homemade Nandos chicken. You might drink a whole box of wine together and dance to Steps videos at 2 in the morning. That’s… a little uncool, but that’s friendship.

Secondly, figure out your hobbies. Join a club. I wish I had done more of this. I would love to have four years of trampolining club under my belt, be the president of the Art and Design club and have Saved the Children like my friend Victoria. I learned this lesson a little too late. Thankfully, I did find Brig and I will ever be in debt to people like Dan Nunan who helped me discover food writing. Not only did Brig ignite a passion in me I didn’t know existed, I made some ridiculous friends who are all mental but so loving and welcoming at the same time. It sounds sappy, but being part of a club where everyone has a shared interest, puts their heart and soul into everything and most of all knows how to party will always make you feel better. Even when everything seemed like it was going wrong for me, writing about Lemon Meringue Pie and Tuscany helped me reassess what I wanted from my degree and I got it. Plus, I have some awesome memories of nights out.

And thirdly, remember who your rocks are. Your family, your home friends, your boyfriend or girlfriend or even your dog. They will keep you going. They are invaluable. They will tell you it like it is, make you stop moaning and push you towards finishing that essay. They will help you pack up your things when it’s time to move, they’ll listen when it’s all going wrong and they will cheer you when it’s all going right. And at the end of it all, they will sit proud as punch in the graduation hall, in a cafe watching the ceremony on the internet or be sat next to you, cracking jokes to cut the tension of 600 graduates desperately trying not to fall on stage. Those people aren’t going anywhere, and remember to say thank you. Whether it’s with Mother’s Day Millionaires Shortbread with Rosemary Scented Salted Caramel, the Ultimate Chocolate Birthday Cake or an impressive Anniversary Cake, say it with butter and sugar. Or of course, you can always say it on your blog, because they have supported you from day one with it, become your publicity team and always enjoy the cookies. Mam and Dad, you’re awesome. Don’t ever change.

To celebrate learning these three life lessons, making some brilliant friends and gaining a 2:1(!) in Journalism Studies, there is only one thing to do – party. And my god, do Peases know how to do this one right. Uni has taught me a lot of things, but my family have been educating me how to let my hair down for 21 years and this isn’t going to change anytime soon. Of course, as food is the common denominator in our household career of choice, the edible stuff was always going to be good. I take my hat off to my Mother; she knows how to put on a spread.

As this is a food blog, I should be talking about how to make Chocolate Nut Slab or the perfect Potato Salad, but truth be told, all I did was pitch up, put some rocket in a bowl and drink a lot of fizz. My Mum and Dad did an insane job of creating a gorgeous seafood buffet and dessert party. My sister made some amazing bunting from wrapping paper and wrapping ribbon. My Granny grated those carrots within an inch of her life. And my Granda brought the humour. The perfect package I would say.

So, in true spectator fashion, what should one prepare for a graduation buffet, or indeed any old party? The trick, as I have learned time and time again is to prepare in advance. The salads were created the night before and simply needed tipped into serving bowls. The salmon just needed slicing and the bread buttered, which was done beautifully by my Uncle Dan. The cake was a simple affair; a Victoria Sponge (of course, which you can find the recipe for here) filled with buttercream and jam, slathered with more jam and smoothed over with fondant. My mum created a little mortar board out of black sugarpaste and tied a red ribbon around a twirl of white sugarpaste. So simple and yet so effective, that there is really no need for piping, OTT decorations or sparklers (although we did have a ‘2:1’ arrangement in stripy candles).

And of course, the cake stand was littered with pre-prepared goodies; microwave tablet (easy and delicious), frozen profiteroles (sorry, who has time for choux?) and my mother’s signature Chocolate Nut Slab. Dense, full of cherries, biscuits and nuts and drizzled in a whole manner of chocolaty hues, this thing is a spectacle to behold. Served with a scoop of ice cream and a few fat strawberries, dessert was the height of culinary sophistication and a lesson in cookery and bakery time management. Lessons noted family.

I think that partying in this manner is potentially the best way to celebrate leaving university. There are no set menus, no pondering over wine lists and elbows off the tables. However, there are emergency chairs, non-matching tablecloths and an old family cake stand. There’s a lot of wine, century-old wooden bricks to play with, and a comedy mortar board for epic photograph-taking. A relaxed family do where 11 people can come together to celebrate a pretty cool achievement. Thanks guys, you all made it spectacular.