Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Quick, Let's Go On Holiday!

We're off to the exotic east. Enjoy "winterval". See you all in 2009,
isn't it.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Winter Collection: Yule Log

This is one of those really old-fashioned cakes that I've not made since domestic science at school and thought would be easy, but actually, there's a lot here that can go wrong.
But as we're going to be away for Christmas and we were having a little neighbours' tea party yesterday, I thought I'd give it a go. I like to have everything sorted the day before but this really has to be eaten on the same day. I didn't enjoy the risk of making it on the morning of the party and although it was a bit of a faff and me and melted chocolate don't get on so well, it was a big hit and the icing covers a whole lot of cracks! Have a go!

Serves 12
75g self raising flour
50g cocoa
1 tsp baking powder
100g golden caster sugar, plus a little extra for sprinkling
5 large eggs
250g mascarpone
icing sugar, to taste
splash of double cream
200ml double cream, broken into pieces
200g dark chocolate

1 Preheat the oven to 190C / Gas 5. Line a 30x40cm Swiss roll tin with baking parchment and rub with a little butter.

2 Sift the flour, cocoa and baking powder into a bowl. In a second bowl, whisk the sugar and eggs until thick and airy – they should roughly triple in volume. Sift over the flour mixture and gently fold in, making sure there are no pockets of flour hiding in the bottom of the bowl.

3 Pour into the tin as evenly as possible then bake for 10 – 12 minutes until just firm to the touch. Sprinkle some sugar onto a sheet of baking parchment and turn out the sponge. Peel off the paper then roll it up with the new sheet of paper inside. Leave to cool completely.

4 Make the icing. Pour the cream into a small and bring to the boil. Add the chocolate and stir to melt. Leave to cool completely then chill until thick enough to spread – keep your eye on it as it cools - it’s runny for ages then suddenly changes from runny to thick to too-thick-to-spread in quite a short time.

5 Make the filling: beat the mascarpone with a wooden spoon to soften a little then add icing sugar to taste – it may be a little to thick to spread so a little cream to soften.

6 Open out the sponge and spread with the mascarpone mixture, if you like, grate over some chocolate then roll up. Cut a diagonal slice off and place next to the log to look like a branch. Spread with the chocolate icing in a wood-like pattern and leave to set. Dust with icing before serving.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Vintage Magazine Joy Friday

Situated over this side of the internet, some kind soul has scanned in years and years and years worth of old Radio Shack catalogues. He - I'm assuming it is a "he" - calls them "catalogs" because he's out of the Americans, but let's not quibble. The point is this, if you can't get, say, an hour's solid pleasure from looking (adoringly) at 40 year old tape decks, then, frankly, there's something wrong with you.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Winter Collection: Soft Roast Potatoes

I like my potatoes roasted this way, they get a nice sticky bottom and some crunch on the top. They're best made with my current obsession, Bartlett rooster potatoes but desirees will do.
Enough for 6

small knob of butter
2 tbsp olive oil
2.5kg rooster potatoes, peeled and cubed
200ml hot chicken or vegetable stock
grated rind and juice of 1 lemon
2 garlic bulbs
1 tbsp dried oregano

1 Preheat the oven to 180ÂșC, gas mark 4. Heat the butter and oil in a large roasting tin. Add the potatoes, stock and lemon juice and cook for 30 minutes, turning once or twice.

2 Separate the garlic cloves but do not peel. Add to the pan with the lemon rind and oregano and toss well together. Roast for a further 30 minutes, without turning until the potatoes are golden brown, the garlic is tender and the stock has disappeared

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

This New Record Is Literally Quite Good

Baskery: Harsh (Glitterhouse, 2009)
I don't know what it was that first attracted me to the Bondesson sisters, the Swedish triplets that make up Baskery, but the fact the one on the right looks like Becky from Coronation St doesn't hurt. Anyway, my goodness, whatever it was, I'm pleased to report they play nice music as well. Harsh is from their rather wonderful album Fall Among Thieves. They play stand-up bass and banjos and snare drums and they holler sweetly and they seem like perfectly lovely young ladies. I hope I never hear of anything that will rob me of this illusion.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Paramount: Loving London All Over Again

Had a night out in Paramount last week. It's an absolutely amazing place 32 (and 33) floors up the Centrepoint tower. It looks good from Bedford Square:

and London looks so good from the viewing gallery that I - and everyone I was with - spent almost the whole night gazing out of the window going, "Blimey..." and cooing about how good London looked from, literally, the sky. This, I feel, can only be a good thing.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Winter Collection: Chocolate Brownie Cake

A bit squidgy in the middle and crumbly on the outside. With so many nut allergies around I swapped the usual chopped nuts for sultanas.
Serves 12
225g unsalted butter
350g dark chocolate
4 large eggs, beaten
1 tsp vanilla essence
350g light muscovado sugar
225g plain flour
75g small sultanas
small handful chocolate buttons
cocoa powder for dusting

Preheat the oven to 180°C, gas mark 4. Grease a 23cm and line a 23cm loose-bottomed cake tin.

Melt the chocolate and butter together in a small pan. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar and vanilla until pale and airy. Stir in the chocolate mixture, flour and sultanas and pour into the tin. Scatter over the chocolate buttons.

Bake for about an hour until risen and craggy. Shake the tin gently, a slight wobble in the centre is good. Leave to cool in the tin for a while. Dust lightly with cocoa before slicing.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

It's Indie-Pop O'Clock

The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart: Young Adult Friction (Fortuna Pop, 2009)
It has come to my attention that The Pains' new album is, literally, the greatest record ever made (as long as your idea of truly great records hovers around the greatest hits of The Razorcuts and very early Slowdive). It's like acid house never happened! Happily, on mornings like this one - - that combination works for me just fine. Their album doesn't really exist on the internet yet, but here's a handy Amazon link to check sometime in January (it's out in February - the one on this link is an import copy).

Monday, December 01, 2008

Winter Collection: Afternoon Apple Cake

Serves 6 - 8
150g golden caster sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
150g butter, room temperature, pus extra for dotting
2 large eggs, beaten
250g self raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground mixed spices
2 Bramley apples
100g small sultanas

Preheat the oven to 180°C, gas mark 4. Grease and line the base of a 1kg loaf tin.

Whisk together the butter and sugar until creamy then beat in the eggs, flour, baking powder and spices – it’s quite a stiff mixture.

Peel the apples and dice one and half of them. Thinly slice the remaining half. Stir the diced apple and sultanas into the cake mix then spoon into the tin. Smooth the surface them arrange the apple slices on top. Dot with butter, sprinkle with sugar and bake for 50 – 60 minutes – turn the oven down a bit if it starts to get too dark.

Leave to cool in the tin for 5 minutes then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.