Sunday, 30 September 2012

basic vanilla cupcake recipe

This recipe is borrowed and adapted from Dan Lepard's excellent book, Short and Sweet. The batter smells amazing while cooking and the mixture makes 8 decent sized cupcakes.

125g caster sugar
125g unsalted butter, very soft
2 eggs
2 tsps vanilla extract
150g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder

1 quantity of your chosen frosting.
  1. Preheat your oven to 180C/160C Fan/350F/Gas 4 and place 8 muffin/cupcake cases in to your muffin tin. 
  2. Using an electric mixer beat the sugar, butter, eggs and vanilla extract for around 3 minutes on the highest speed until light and fluffy. 
  3. Next sift in the flour and baking powder and beat for another 30 seconds or so. You will end up with quite a thick batter. 
  4. Put a dollop of the batter into each of the paper cases so that they are about 2/3 full then place the tray in the over for around 20-25 minutes until golden brown and firm. 
  5. Let the cupcakes cool completely before decorating with the frosting.

mint (choc chip) frosting

125g unsalted butter at room temperature
300g sifted icing sugar
couple of drops of peppermint extract
Couple of tbsps milk
50g dark chocolate, chopped (optional)
  1. With an electric whisk, beat the butter until it is smooth and creamy.
  2. Bit by bit beat in the icing sugar until it is thoroughly combined.
  3. Add the peppermint essence and beat in.
  4. If needed beat in a little milk to make the consistency a little smoother. 
  5. Stir through the chopped dark chocolate if using. Chill the frosting for at least 20 minutes before using.

mint choc cupcakes with mint choc chip frosting

Inspired by one of my all time favourite ice cream flavours, how could these cupcakes be a bad idea. Next time you want a childhood treat you should definitely try these. I originally wanted to use Junior Mints but couldn't easily get hold of them so substituted mint Poppets instead. Any soft centred, chocolate covered mint should work here. These are great with a cup of strong coffee.

90g dark chocolate
100g unsalted butter
50ml water
100g self raising flour
15g cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking powder
150g light muscovado sugar
2 eggs
150g chocolate covered, soft centred mints

1 quantity of mint choc chip frosting

Makes 12 cupcakes.

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C fan oven. Put the paper cases in the muffin tray and fill a large oven proof dish with water and place in the bottom of the oven. The steam that is produced will help the cakes to rise and be lovely and light.
  2. Put the chocolate, butter and water in a saucepan and melt together over a low heat.
  3. Sieve together the dry ingredients then stir in the chocolate mixture and eggs until thoroughly combined.
  4. Stir through the chocolate covered mints then put a dollop of the mixture into each of the paper cases.
  5. Bake in the oven for around 20 minutes or until when a skewer comes out clean.
  6. Allow to cool completely before decorating with the frosting.


Saturday, 29 September 2012

gołąbki - polish stuffed cabbage rolls

I love gołąbki (pronounced ga-womp-kee) and I'm yet to meet anyone who doesn't enjoy them in either this meaty version or the equally delicious vegetarian version where the meat is substituted for mushrooms and vegetable stock is used instead of beef. Every Polish person will have been fed these at some time and no doubt have their own way of making, seasoning and serving. This recipe is how I like to make them.

There is nothing about this recipe that is particularly difficult, however it can be a little time consuming. The effort is definitely worthwhile, especially if you freeze the left overs as individual portions for a tasty homemade ready-meal on a busy weekday. This recipe is for a large quantity of gołąbki, I got about 25 or so little parcels in the end. If I end up having lots of left over cabbage I usually put it in the fridge and use it the following morning to make bubble and squeak topped with a poached egg.

Whole cabbage
800g minced meat (I used a mixture of beef and pork) or the equivalent of cooked, chopped mushrooms
400g cooked long grain rice
salt and pepper
pinch of ground allspice
500ml beef stock
400g tin chopped tomatoes
2 onions finely diced
  1. Cook the rice and set to one side.
  2. Core the cabbage then place in a large saucepan. Cover with hot water from the kettle and boil until the leaves are soft and can be separated. Put the separated leaves in a colander and rinse with cold water so that they can be handled.
  3. Using a paring knife remove the thick part of the stem on each leaf. This is the most tedious part of making gołąbki but has to be done otherwise they're difficult to roll.
  4. Chop up the smaller leaves from the cabbage that are too small to be stuffed, and place in the bottom of your ovenproof dish ready for the gołąbki to sit on top.
  5. Next heat up a frying pan, add the butter and cook the diced onion until it is golden brown.
  6. Preheat the oven to 180C fan, 200C.
  7. Put the mince meat into a large bowl, add the cooked and cooled rice, the browned onion, salt, pepper and allspice and mix together until everything is thoroughly combined. Be generous with the salt and pepper.
  8. Place one of the cabbage leaves on a board with the stem facing away from you, put in a dessert spoon of the meat and rice mixture then wrap the leaf firmly around the meat. Place in the bottom of the ovenproof dish on top of the chopped cabbage.
  9. Continue this process until all the meat mixture and cabbage leaves have been used. Pack the gołąbki tightly in the dish to help prevent them unwrapping during the cooking process.
  10. Once you have made all your gołąbki mix together the stock and chopped tomatoes and pour on top, ensuring even coverage.
  11. Cover the gołąbki with foil and/or the lid to the dish then cook in the oven for around an hour until the meat is cooked.
  12. Serve with mashed potatoes and some of the cooking juices. If you're feeling fancy add a dollop of soured cream.

greek fish - ryba po grecku

This is definitely one of my most favourite Polish dishes. As far as I know any actual connections of this recipe with Greece are minimal and long ago forgotten. It is most often served at Christmas eve as part of Wigilia but my family happily eat this any time of year. Personally I prefer to eat it at room temperature with some crusty bread and a fresh green salad, some chopped tomatoes and maybe some proper potato salad on the side. I would probably want this as my last meal. It's awesome.

Ingredients Makes approx 4 servings
600g skinless, white fish fillets such as tilapia, haddock, pollock etc.
Salt and pepper
50g plain flour
2 tbsp oil for frying

2 tbsps oil
2 large peeled carrots
1 stick of celery
2 onions, finely sliced
2 allspice berries (optional)
5 or 6 bay leaves
4 tablespoons tomato puree (or more to taste)
Squeeze of lemon juice
Salt and pepper
  1. Preheat a wide frying pan over a medium heat.
  2. Season the flour generously with salt and pepper and put on a plate. Cut the fish in to bite size pieces and dredge in the flour.
  3. Add the oil to the pan then carefully add the dredged fish. Don't over crowd the pan, you may need to do this in batches depending on the size of your pan.
  4. Once the fish is golden brown on both sides, remove from the pan and drain on paper towel. Set to one side while you prepare the vegetables.
  5. Either using a box grater or a food processor, coarsely grate the carrot and celery.
  6. Heat a large frying pan, add the oil then saute the carrots, celery and onion, stirring frequently, until they have completely collapsed. If the pan is getting too dry before the veg has completely softened, add a little water to help it along. The longer you take to do this stage, the sweeter the resulting vegetables will be.
  7. Add the allspice, bay leaves and tomato puree. Stir thoroughly and simmer until all the vegetables are tender and the liquid has evapourated. 
  8. Remove the bay leaf and allspice, then season with salt, pepper and the lemon juice.
  9. On a large plate or other serving dish, cover the bottom of with a generous layer of the vegetable mixture. 
  10. Place the fried fish pieces on top then cover with the remaining vegetable mixture.
  11. Garnish with some chopped, fresh parsley.
  12. You can serve immediately and it will taste great, however I prefer to leave it for at least a couple of hours to allow the flavours to mix together. 

make your own praline

Don't be scared of making your own praline. It's actually incredibly easy, you don't need any specialist equipment and once you've mastered the technique you can make endless variations by adding different nuts to the sugar. You can use this praline in my praline and amaretto frosting recipe.

1 cup of caster sugar
4 tbsp water
100g toasted flaked almonds

  1. Line a baking sheet with baking paper and set to one side.
  2. In a thick bottomed pan gently heat the sugar and water until the sugar is completely dissolved.
  3. Increase to a high heat and boil the sugar mixture for around 5-7 minutes, without stirring, until it has turned to a golden brown colour. Remove from the heat and allow the bubbles to stop. Add the almond and stir through, then pour the mixture out on to the baking tray. Do not touch the mixture - it will be very hot for quite a long time and will give you a nasty burn if you're not careful. Hot sugar hurts!
  4. Once the praline has cooled and set hard break into shards and store in an air tight container until ready to use.

rum mini cupcakes with praline amaretto frosting

A grown up, sweet treat that is perfect in this smaller size. The cakes are great with or without the frosting. If you choose not to frost the cakes they would be wonderful as a dessert covered in extra, warm rum syrup and a dollop of good quality vanilla ice cream. Yum...

You can use any standard plain cake batter as your starting point. This is my usual version from Dan Lepard's Short and Sweet. I find it is sturdy enough to stand up to the gooey syrup. If you can, use a silicone cake mould to make the cakes - it helps when you come to pour the syrup over them cakes. You can use paper cases in a standard tin but it just ends up being a bit more messy.

125g caster sugar
125g unsalted butter, very soft
2 eggs
150g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder

Rum Syrup
1/2 cup caster sugar
1/2 cup dark rum

  1. Preheat your oven to 180C/160C Fan/350F/Gas 4 and place 12 cases in to your tin if using. I used a silicone mini cake tray that you can see in the pictures below. In the picture below I had only made a small quantity of the mixture so didn't fill the whole tray.
  2. Beat the butter, sugar and eggs together until they are light and fluffy and well combined. This will take around 3 minutes with an electric whisk.
  3. Sieve in the flour and baking powder and beat the mixture again until it is thoroughly mixed together.
  4. Spoon the mixture into the your cake cases or moulds. 
  5. Bake in the oven for around 20-25 minutes until a skewer comes out of the mixture clean.
  6. While the cakes are in the oven prepare the syrup by gently heating the rum and sugar in a thick based saucepan until the sugar is completely dissolved.
  7. Remove the cakes from the oven and allow to cook slightly, around 5 minutes or so, then if you are going to frost them, pour over the rum syrup while the cakes are still in the tray then leave to cool completely. (If you are serving them as a dessert remove from the tray before pouring over the syrup and cover in syrup once they are on your serving plate.)
  8. Once the cakes have cooled completely you can pop them out of the silicone mould and frost.

praline and amaretto frosting

This frosting is very grown up and goes brilliantly with my mini rum cupcakes. If you want to give this frosting to children by all means substitute the amaretto with almond extract.

This is enough to frost 12 mini cupcakes
125g unsalted butter, at room temperature.
250g icing sugar
50g praline. For my method look here.
2 tsp amaretto
pinch of salt

  1. Break the praline up into smaller pieces then place in a food processor and pulse until it is broken down into a fine powder. Don't worry too much if you're left with some slightly larger pieces - they will add a nice crunch to the frosting.
  2. With an electric whisk beat the butter until it is smooth and creamy, about 1-2 minutes should do it.
  3. Next sieve in the icing sugar, a little at a time, beating thoroughly after each addition and taking care not to cover your kitchen in clouds of sugar!
  4. Now add you amaretto or almond extract and beat in.
  5. Finally add the powdered praline and the salt and combine thoroughly. Chill slightly before use.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

berry frosting

I had a bag of frozen berries in my freezer that needed to be used so I created this tasty topping for a recent batch up these cupcakes. You can use any type of berry you like but may need to adjust the amount of sugar depending on their sweetness.

120g butter, at room temperature
240g icing sugar, sieved
approx 120g berries, (thawed weight)

  1. Strain the berries through a sieve so that you remove the pips and tough bits of skin. You will find this is easier if you use a spoon or spatula to help push it through into the bowl below.
  2. In a separate bowl, use an electric mixer to beat the butter until soft.
  3. Gradually add the sugar until thoroughly combined, smooth and creamy.
  4. Next, a spoonful at a time beat in the berry puree. You may not need to add it all but keep going until you have your desired colour, flavour and consistency. If the frosting looks like it might separate, add a little more sieved icing sugar and beat together. 
  5. Chill for at least 30 minutes before using.

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