Saturday, 24 December 2011

Winter on the Farm - Matthew Evans

At the beginning of the month I was very lucky to win a competition by Murdoch Books and I was delighted when I received a beautiful selection of cookery books by famous TV chefs Bill Granger, Stephane Reynauld, Luke Nguyen and last but by no means least Matthew Evans, known from the TV series “The Gourmet Farmer”.  With a title of “Winter on the Farm” this stood straightaway out to me at this time of the year and looking through this book I was not disappointed.

It is packed full with heart warming recipes for the cold winter months. And with mouth watering titles like “French toast stuffed with poached pears” for breakfast,
through to exotic sounding “vodka-cured blue eye potato fish cakes” & more familiar “stout, beef shin and mushroom pie” for dinner topped by lovely cakes & bakes like “macadamia and golden syrup butternut biscuits” & “ date, honey & ginger cake” to go with a nice cup of tea it has something for everyone.
All recipes have a clear ingredient list and very easy to follow instructions.
With the festive season coming up I decided to make some party food: “cheese puffs”

The book is full with stunning photography by Alan Benson and it is a great addition to the collection of any cook who loves bold & beautiful recipes that warm the cockles of the heart.

The book is available in good book stores and on-line.

I have not been paid or requested to do a review of this book and the views expressed are mine alone.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Gevuld Speculaas (Filled spiced cake)

This is my first bake for the South Lancashire Clandestine Cake Club. The theme this time was "Secret Santa" and all the bakes were kept secret from the other club members.
For my bake I decided to go for a Dutch speciality, traditionally eaten on St Nicolas Day, the 5th December.
The recipe requires "speculaaskruiden" a special mix of spices typical for the "speculaas". It is a bit like mixed spice and you can easily make your own.


For the "speculaaskruiden":

20 gr cinnamon
5 gr cloves
5 gr mace
2 gr ginger
1 gr white pepper
1 gr cardamon
1 gr star anise
1 gr nutmeg

Use a spice grinder or pestel & mortar to grind all the spices together.
Every family probably has their own version of this, so you can adjust the quantities of the spices to suit your own taste.

For the marzipan (recipe from James Martin's "The Collection")

225 gr icing sugar
500 gr ground almonds
1 large free range egg (weighing about 75 gr)
3 to 4 teaspoons lemon juice

Sift the sugar into a bowl and mix in the almonds. Beat the egg well, then add it and the lemon juice to the dry ingredients. Using a wooden spoon beat to a firm paste, then knead on a work surface that has been sprinkled with icing sugar.

This quantity will be too much for this cake, but the marzipan will keep well in the fridge for a week or so or several months in the freezer. Note of warning for anyone in the vunerable groups, marzipan contains raw egg!!

For the cake

250 gr self-raising flour
pinch of salt
2 tablespoons "speculaaskruiden"
150 gr soft dark brown sugar
150 gr butter, in smallish cubes
300 gr marzipan
2 tablespoons milk
50 gr blanched almonds
1 egg yolk

Preheat the oven to 150C/300F/Gas 3
Mix the self-raising flour with the salt, speculaaskruiden and the sugar in a bowl. Add the butter and rub in. Then add the milk and knead to a soft dough.
Grease a 20 cm (8 inch) tin and push half the dough in the bottom, top it with the marzipan, making sure this approx 1 cm (1/2 inch) away from the sides.
Top with the remainder of the dough and decorate with the almonds.
Beat the egg yolk (you can a bit of milk to lighten it, if you like) and brush the cake all over.
Bake in the oven for 30 - 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and leave for 5 to 10 minutes before removing it from the tin.