“Oh my God, YES!” recipes

This weekend has not ended according to plan. I woke up on Sunday feeling rotten, a few hours before friends I hadn’t seen in ages were coming for lunch. Given I’d cooked everything already and wasn’t physically dying, there was no way I was cancelling. By the evening I cancelled going to the film quiz at The Bear at appalling last minute (I later got a text saying my team won – amazing! Clearly the ingredient to winning is Not Me) and now I’m missing  a post-Mother’s Day trip to Hampshire to see my mum and Grandma.

I should probably stop going “I’m never ill! Constitution like an ox” because this is the second time I’ve been bed-bound this year. The cat is stalking me across my bed using a large cushion as cover and Virgin Media has randomly stopped streaming old Call The Midwife episodes. As my day off isn’t going to provide anything particularly fruitful,  I’m thinking back to three really super things I cooked this week.

1) Hazel’s hot cross baked cheesecake with salted caramel sauce

Hot cross baked cheesecake with salted caramel sauce

Easter on a plate – sans lamb

One of my greatest loves is the hot cross bun. It’s only around Easter that I feel the tragedy of not owning a microwave (no room in my little kitchen), because a truly great joy is to whip up an enormous cup of tea, slice two hot crossers in half, jam in a slice of butter, and then microwave them until the butter’s melted,  and the bun is soft and unctious.

Hazel is one of Domestic Sluttery’s biggest hitters in the kitchen – her recipes are always inventive, always well-tested and  invariably accompanied by gorgeous, saliva-inducing photography. If you want a truly good food perve, bookmark her wonderful recipe blog,  It’s Not F***ing Rocket Science.

Her hot cross baked cheesecake was absolutely delicious. No buns involved, just lots of spices and raisins and I made it on Saturday evening and bar the cooking (10 minutes for the based,  one hour for the actual cake) it took almost no time at all, with minimal faffing. In fact, it took so little faffing that I decided to give her sea-salted caramel sauce a go as well.

Now, being that my go-to cake and sweet recipes are BBC Good Food’s madeover carrot cake and my mum’s fudge, both of which require FIENDISH amounts of faff, I nearly cried with joy at how incredibly easy to follow Hazel’s were. The caramel was basically “Put stuff in a pan. Don’t bother stirring it. Enjoy eating it with a spoon.” My friends went insane for it, and adored the hot cross cheesecake, so both are strongly recommended, particularly for Easter.

2) Mary Berry’s Wiltshire pork casserole

There’s no picture because it’s always impossible to make casseroles and stews look delicious unless you are a food stylist or a magician. This is an absolutely foolproof *dish though, and completely delicious. My mum gave me this recipe, taken from her ancient Mary Berry’s Complete Cookbook which was reprinted last year,  when I was looking for something to cook for New Year’s Eve that wouldn’t lock me in the kitchen away from my friends and the Booze.

Ingredients (serves 8 big main helpings)

Two tbsp sunflower oil
1.5kg shoulder of pork or lean pork tenderloin fillet
40g plain flour
450ml chicken stock
Four tbsp white wine viegar
Three tbsp clear honey
Two tbsp soy sauce
250g mushrooms
250g pitted prunes
salt and pepper

Chop up the prunes with scissors, and slice the mushrooms.

Put the oil in a big casserole and seal the pork. Stir in all the other ingredients. Cover and cook in preheated oven for three hours. 160. Check after 2.5 hours. That’s it! Magic!

I served this with jacket potatoes and a big dish of honey roasted little carrots.

* This recipe really is foolproof, because when it comes to cooking, I can be the biggest fool. This weekend’s foolery was buying well over 1.5kg of shoulder (probably more like over 2kg) and just cooking it the same. I ended up cooking it in the oven for two hours on Saturday, 1.5 hours on Sunday, and then popping it on a hot hob to reduce the liquids. The lovely melt in the mouth pork turned to distinctly less melty pork as a result of this treatment, but everyone adored it and had seconds so really, there is nothing that Mary Berry cannot do.

Monica Galetti’s salmon with chorizo and peppers

Monica Galetti's salmon with chorizo and peppers

Salmon, motherfucker

I’d not watched either of the Masterchef series until an old boyfriend got me into it in late 2011. I don’t know what I did with my life before then but it must have been a dull and shallow time. One of the designers at work had a copy of Monica “Facial Expressions” Galetti’s new cookbook Monica’s Kitchen and very kindly let me have it.

I had a look through and chose this salmon recipe on p22, partly because it looked great and partly because it was one of the few main meal recipes that even the laziest of people could work up on a Sunday.

I don’t own kitchen tweezers though, I’m sorry Monica.

Ingredients serves 2
The book recipe caters for four – I halved everything and left out a green pepper because they are the worst pepper, and still had plates absolutely groaning with food

Two salmon fillets
One cooking chorizo
One red pepper
One yellow pepper
One peeled shallot
One tbsp pine nuts
Olive oil
Six cherry tomatoes
One tbsp white wine vinegar
Sea salt and pepper
Balsamic for drizzling

Remove skin from chorizos and chop. Peel skin off the peppers, slice off tops and bottoms and discard the usual bits then cut flesh into strips. Slice shallots into fine rings. Think about Monica’s childhood growing up  on Western Samoa, feel a bit gutted about growing up in Raynes Park.

Heat frying pan over medium heat and toast pine nuts until coloured all over then remove and set aside.

Cook the peppers in 1 tbsp olive oil for one minute, add the shallots and cook for another minute. Add the chorizo and cook for two minutes. Stir in the cherry (cheery) tomatoes and stir through the white wine vinegar then take the pan off the heat and put to one side with the pine nuts stirred in.

Salt and pepper the salmon. Heat another pan to medium-high and add a drizzle of olive oil, then pop in the salmon, skin down. Cook for two minutes then turn the salmon over and remove the pan from the heat. Leave to stand for two minutes while the salmon finishes cooking – Monica prefers it for one minute, but this still left it nice and sashimi-like in the middle while being a bit more “Ooh look, I’m salmon, I’m cooked”.

Divide the pepper mixture between plates with the salmon on top. Now, this is where Monica confused me – “trickle a little balsamic vinegar around the plates.” Ok, I really tried here. I knew it would look terrible – Monica must have a kitchen pipette – so I did my best with a spoon. It was not successful. My balsamic vinegar was more like an accident than plate dressing. But it tasted really good so neither of us particularly minded.

I’ve added all of these to my “Oh my heavens these are so easy but make me look like a CULINARY GODDESS” folder. 

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Pinstrosity Challenge: Shaun the Sheep cake

Smart Mama's Shaun the Sheep cake

How gorgeous is this?

As with so many things that bring me joy, it started with Buzzfeed. 17 Pinterest fails, before and after shots showing the delectable craft/bake dream, and the hilariously godawful reality.

My lust for schadenfreude required more,  and so I found Pinstrosity, an amazing blog that provides both the from-the-gut walrus mirth honks I require from my craft fails, as well as providing helpful tips on why they have gone wrong and how to remedy it for next time. (90% of problems are because the crafter/baker didn’t follow the instructions to the letter). Continue reading

It’s a mince pie fudge-off!

Many of my friends are fantastic cooks, often intimidatingly so. I’ve lost count of the number of amazing meals, treats and quickly thrown-together (mouthwateringly delicious) suppers that I’ve been lucky enough to entertain my chops with over the years. Friends have rescued my own meals with a well-placed orange,  and one is so talented that she has even gone pro, but my friend Helen takes the biscuit, and possibly all biscuits for her enormous enthusiasm and skill for baking.

She and our friends Olly, Corrie and I make up a highly competitive karaoke quartet, and as it was our Christmas outing at Lucky Voice last week she was challenged to make mince pie fudge. It was a completely throwaway comment in an email, but Helen duly arrived in Soho armed with some of the most delectable fudge I’ve ever had.

IT WAS AMAZING.

Image

I asked her for the recipe, and immediately plotted to try it with my mother’s fudge recipe for Domestic Sluttery (you can only post original or highly tinkered-with recipes). I’m in the middle of that now, but in the meantime, here is Helen’s quite delicious version in her own inimitable writing. It is based on a recipe from a Christmas book by a cook called Darina Allen, who I assumed to be American (her fudge recipe is called Doreen!) but turns out to be an Irish chef with the most monumentally brilliant assortment of spectacles.

I will report back with news of the other, which is currently cooling down from Vesuvian temperatures in my kitchen, and large quantities of which have already burned my face and mouth. Class.

Helen O’Hara’s Mince Pie Fudge

As detailed by the good lady herself:

“So I made a Darina Allen recipe called Doreen’s fudge. If memory serves you:

– Melt together 225g butter, 450g sugar, I tbsp. golden syrup. Once melted, simmer for 5 mins

– Add in one tin (about 400g) condensed milk. Bring back to the boil and boil for up to 20 mins until it’s golden brown. I only did 15 mins last night because I am a maverick who lives by her own rules. You need to stir it this whole time or it can stick, but you can do it one-handed while reading a book. If you do it too long it’ll still be fine but might be more toffeeish.

– After the 20(ish) minutes, stir in 1tsp vanilla essence and 1tsp vinegar. Yes really – I think that’s what makes it so pleasantly textured.

– At this point I crumbled in four cheapish mince pies. In retrospect, might have been better to add all six. In future, might experiment by adding in a bunch of mince, preferably quite strongly flavoured, and some crumbled shortbread biscuits instead just to give it more of a kick.

– Pour it all into a lightly greased (with flavourless oil) pan to cool and set and cut up.

– Sit back and accept adulation.”

UPDATE:  this is my recipe for Domestic Sluttery using mum’s classic recipe. It went down a storm in the office.

mince-pie-fudge