Monday, 10 February 2014

Nick 'n' Mix Cake

This weekend I popped up to Birmingham for a friend's birthday, a friend that just happens to love all things sweet, particularly the childhood favourite pic 'n' mix!

So a friend and I spent Saturday making this cake for him based on a very basic (but pretty damn good!) Victoria sponge recipe adapted from the Love Food Cakes book (published by Parragon Books) and some decorating inspiration from Google images! This little cake book is perfect if, like me, you aren't a brilliant baker but every now and again need a simple recipe for a tasty cake that you can't get too wrong

So anyway, we made this hilarious cake which went down a treat, and as the birthday boy is called Nick, another friend then came up with a fantastic name for it... the 'Nick 'n' Mix' Cake!



350g plain flour
2 tbsp baking powder
350g unsalted butter, softened
350g caster sugar
6 eggs, beaten
2 tsp vanilla essence
a little milk if necessary

To decorate
strawberry jam
icing sugar
ready to roll icing (enough to cover the cake)
a pack of flat strawberry strips
a large cup of pic 'n' mix
writing icing

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Grease two rectangle cake tins (the recipe is for two 8inch round tins but I've doubled it for this cake, so if the long side of your tin is about 8-12inch then it should be about right) and line with baking paper.

Sift the flour and baking powder then add all of your cake ingredients and beat until completely smooth (much easier with an electric beater!). I would advise that you do this by adding your ingredients a bit at a time unless you have a huge bowl as we got in a real mess... like splattered cake mixture on the other side of the kitchen kind of mess!! If the mixture is a little thick then add a few drops of milk, but we didn't need to.

Then divide between the two cake tins and bake for about 30-40mins or until risen, firm and golden brown (we had to cook ours for over an hour because I only had one tin and not enough time - any baker will tell you this is not how to cook a cake - but it did work alright so its up to you!) However you do it, just make sure that you can stick a knife in the middle and it comes out clean, then you'll know it's cooked through. Leave the cake/s to cool on a wire rack.

While the cake is cooling you can make your butter icing - I haven't given any quantities because I just keep mixing the icing sugar into a dollop of butter until it tastes good, but most icing sugar boxes will give the quantities. Add a couple of drops of vanilla essence while you are still mixing.

Once cool then use a bread knife to carefully saw through the middle of the cake (if you've done one big one) and to cut off the dome of the cake - you are aiming for a completely flat surface on the top of both halves. You also want to cut the sides of the cake at a slight diagonal, so that one half of the cake (the top end of the bag) is wider than the bottom.

Thinly coat one of the halves with jam and the other with butter cream, then pop one on top of the other. If you've made enough butter cream then coat the cake in a thin layer to stick the icing.

Next roll our your icing and drape over the cake. Fold in the bottom for a paper bag effect, then cut all the way round three sides with a pizza cutter or sharp knife, leaving an overhang on the top end of the cake (the wider end). We also used a pair of scissors to get the zigzag effect along the top edge.

Heat up a bit of jam then spread a thin layer along one side of your strawberry strips to stick them to the cake in stripes.

Roll out another little bit of icing to write on, cut into an oval shape and stick this on top of the stripes. Finally, pour out your pic 'n' mix and stack up next to the cake, making sure that the icing bag goes around the top of the pile. Then pop in the candles and get singing!!

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

A really very tasty (and also kind of healthy) lamb kebab!

I just made a totally yummy sort of lamb kebab for dinner and it was SO BLOODY GOOD that I'm blogging it before I forget exactly what I did! Unfortunately, I can't take all the credit because it was inspired by Jamie - I was watching his money saving meals thing the other day and he did a kebab that is probably EVEN BETTER than this one so you may as well search for that instead - but I've made this my way and it's probably a little simpler than his and kind of healthy too!

As I've just cooked this for me with left overs in the fridge for tomorrow, this recipe is for two, but everything in it is so easy to double or triple in quantity and I think it would be a brilliant help-yourself-around-a-table/finger-food dinner to make for friends!

For the kebab
2 flame baked chapattis (or whatever kind of flat bread type thing you can find!) 
about 250g/half a standard supermarket pack of lean lamb mince (we're not cooking in any fat so if you get a good quality mince then it really is pretty healthy!)
a tea spoon of garam masala (or a combination of warming spices, like cumin and coriander)
salt and black pepper

For the tasty bits
1/2 white cabbage, sliced finely
1/2 red onion, sliced finely
a couple of glugs of white wine vinegar
a tea spoon of sugar

about 250g/half a pot of low fat natural yoghurt
a handful of fresh mint, chopped
juice from 1/2 lemon
1 tiny garlic clove, chopped finely/crushed (or a bit of garlic powder if you prefer)

For the extras
a red chilli, chopped
a handful of fresh coriander, roughly chopped
1/4 cucumber, sliced
a handful or two of sweet gem lettuce, chopped

Preheat the oven to about 180 degrees and pop in your flat breads. Cook these according to packet instructions and make sure they're not piping hot when you serve up because you're going to want to be able to pick them up!

To make your kebabs you literally need to mix the spices and a good few twists of salt and pepper into the mince with your hands. Then split into four and roll each one into a kind of sausage shape - there's no need for it to be neat! If you've got some skewers then wrap the sausages around them, but I didn't bother and they still worked brilliantly (they'd be dead good barbequed but we've only just hit Feb so I think that might be a bit ambitious!)

Then get a griddle pan over a medium-high heat and pop the kebab straight onto it. Leave for several minutes on one side before turning - you're aiming for it to almost blacken with the fats inside the meat just sizzling away on the pan - and then turn until the whole sausage has been cooked. Remove onto a piece of kitchen roll to soak up any excess fats and then these are good to go - I made all of the other bits and bobs while the kebabs were cooking so the meal literally only took as long to make as these tiny sausages took to cook!

So while the lamb is on the hob, mix together the cabbage, red onion, white wine vinegar and sugar in a bowl and scrunch all together. The quantities here are too much for two people but this should keep pretty well so you could use it in another meal later in the week! In another bowl mix together the yoghurt, mint, lemon, garlic and a couple of twists of salt.

Make sure you've got all of the extras prepped and then dish up! I don't think there is a good way to eat this but I went with one hand and one fork and it went down pretty well...

Enjoy! No, seriously, you are really going to enjoy this!!

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Ridiculously Tasty Pizza!

One of my favourite memories of birthday parties as a child was making our own pizzas... Mum used to buy a selection of toppings, a load of cheese, some pizza bases and tomato puree or BBQ sauce, and we'd all pick our favourite bits and make our own pizza. So the other day when I was wandering down the supermarket aisle and saw some pizza bases I just thought it would be nice to do it again!

I then decided to get a pizza mix, instead of a base, so that I could roll it out nice and thin to get a gorgeous Italian style base. Then I bought a load of different toppings and put them on with a pesto base... easy and ridiculously tasty!


pizza base mix
1 tablespoon green pesto
1 tablespoon sour cream
1/2 red pepper, sliced
1/2 red onion, sliced thinly
a small handful of walnuts, chopped (optional)
1 chicken breast, cooked and ripped into pieces
a few pieces of chorizo or salami
parmesan shavings
a handful of mixed green leaves (or just go for some rocket)
balsamic syrup

Mix the pesto and sour cream together (you might want to double the quantities if you're pizza is quite large).

Mix your pizza base according to packet instructions and roll out nice and thin. Pop it onto a piece of baking paper on a tray, then coat thinly all over with your pesto mix.

Build up your pizza with all of the toppings (except the leaves and balsamic). The order doesn't really matter but I would probably go veggie stuff at the bottom, then meat and finally scatter the cheese over.

Then pop in the oven for about 10 minutes, or until the base is lovely and crispy and the cheese is bubbling away.

Add the leaves and a drizzle of balsamic - a pizza and salad in one! Then serve it up with a glass of cold white wine (still on the baking paper if you fancy a rustic style dinner), cut it into pieces and dig in with your fingers!