Friday, 22 June 2012

Japanese sauces

I have been back in my Wagamama cookbook, making up batches of sauces to keep in the fridge. It's a nice feeling to know that when we use sauces they have been homemade, and the ones I made today are dead easy too.

Yakitori - Made using sake, light soy sauce, mirin and sugar.

Teriyaki - Made using sugar, light soy sauce, sake and dark soy sauce.

My own noodle sauce (enough for 3 portions of noodles)

2tbsp light soy sauce
1tsp runny honey
1/2 tsp dark soy sauce
ginger, to taste (I use chopped, frozen ginger or even ground)
1/2 tsp sesame oil

Teriyaki pork skewers

I immediately put the teriyaki to good use, as a marinade for strips of pork to be made into skewers. My children love teriyaki pork, beef or chicken, I guess it is because it is a reasonably mild yet sticky and sweet flavour. For some reason, they also love eating food off a stick, I think this is true of most children, I must take advantage of this fact more often!

I tend to use the same method to cook whichever meat I happen to have at the time, today it was pork loin. I cut the pork into strips about 1.5cm wide, then left the strips to marinade in the teriyaki sauce for a couple of hours (sometimes more, if it fits into my day to make it earlier). I then threaded the pork onto bamboo skewers and baked them in the oven at 180c for about 20 minutes.

I served these with noodles (served with my noodle sauce and toasted sesame seeds) and steamed edamame beans. There was not a scrap left at the end of dinner. Job done.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Fig Rolls

My mum always used to buy us fig rolls when we were little, or that's how it seems to me now. I loved them, even though I didn't like fresh figs. My sister believes that dad told us we didn't like fresh figs so he didn't have to share the ones from his fig tree with us. Cynical? Possibly, but now I know how good home grown figs are, I am inclined to agree - I am very possessive of my fig tree.

Anyway, I digress. Fig rolls seemed like a great idea for a new bake, as dried figs are a good source of calcium and iron. If the girls like them I can feel a bit less guilty putting these in their lunch boxes (chocolate chip cookies don't have much goodness in them, methinks). I had a large number of egg yolks left over from my (appallingly bad) attempt at meringues today, so these were put to good use in the pastry.


250g plain flour
150g soya margarine
65g light brown soft sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 egg yolks

150g soft dried figs
A little lemon juice

Rub the flour and margarine together to make crumbs, then stir in the sugar.
Mix the vanilla and egg yolks together, then add to the crumbs, mixing to make a soft dough.
Chill in the fridge for at least 1/2 hour.

Cut the hard stems off the figs and place in a saucepan with 100ml water.
Simmer until the figs have absorbed the water and softened, a good 10 minutes. Let cool.
Add a squeeze of lemon juice to the figs, then put them in the blender to make a thick paste.
Roll the chilled dough out into a long strip about 15cm wide, then split it into 2 strips with a sharp knife. Spread half of the fig paste on each strip and roll together to make a long sausage. Cut into about 12 biscuits and place on a lined baking tray. Cut 2 slits in the top of each biscuit with a sharp knife. Repeat with the other strip of pastry and paste. Bake at 190c for about 15 minutes, then cool on a wire rack.

They tasted right, but the pastry was a little thick - I was expecting this, as it was very fragile and difficult to roll out. Not bad though.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Chipwich cake

A couple of days ago, I saw a post from Go Dairy Free where they made a chipwich cake, and my brain started whirring - what a great idea. The chipwich is something I had never heard of, but it would seem that in the US, it is a well known treat. Basically, you take 2 chocolate chip cookies and sandwich ice-cream between them, then roll the edge in chocolate chips. Great, huh?

Well, Go Dairy Free had gone a couple of steps further and not only taken the dairy out, but had scaled up the whole thing and turned it into a cake. It seemed like a great idea for a summer birthday cake, and I thought I'd try it out to see if I could do it.


Make a batch of dairy-free chocolate chip cookie dough.
Line two 7 inch, round cake tins and two baking trays
Spread the cookie dough into the round tins so it covers about 2/3 of the base and is about 2cm thick.
The remaining cookie dough will make around 14 normal sized cookies on the baking trays.
Although the cookies take about 15 minutes to cook, the giant cookies easily take twice that, but keep checking them, they are cooked when the tops look crackly, not smooth.
Leave the giant cookies to cool for a bit in their tins, then cool completely on a wire rack.

I made a half cake, by cutting one cookie in half and using it as the top and bottom, as I realised I didn't have enough ice cream to make a whole one.

I put the cookie back into the cake tin, then dolloped dairy free ice cream on top and pushing it to the edges, when there was enough ice cream I put the other cookie on top.

I then rolled the whole thing in chocolate sprinkles and then put it in the freezer until we needed it.

Everyone loved it. It is definitely on the cards for a summer birthday cake!

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Pasty Pasta

I got the Creative Moments For Kids cards back out yesterday. The girls both wanted to do this one, so I did my best with what I could find in the cupboard.

I managed 4 shapes of pasta and puy lentils. I think I need to branch out in my dried pasta selection. I set the table up with a little pot of white glue and a paint brush each, paper plates to create the pasty pasta creations on and bowls of pasta shapes in the middle. I then let the girls get to work...

Emma spent a lot of time arranging the different shapes into a pattern, even though it looks like she just threw a handful of stuff on to see what would stick. Charlotte carefully drew a picture of a rabbit, then worked out which shapes to use where before glueing it all down. Here are the results, drying on the windowsill. Next, they want to paint them.

Friday, 8 June 2012

Ginger and lemon cookies

I have been making apple, oat and cinnamon cookies for a while, and although they are delicious, I thought I might try a new twist on them today. We are going to see some friends tomorrow, and I thought a batch of cookies would be a nice gift for them. I decided to substitute the apple and cinnamon for ginger and lemon, and here is the recipe:


100g soya margarine
70g golden granulated sugar
50g light brown soft sugar
1 egg
140g plain flour
50g oats
1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
4 pieces of ginger in syrup
1 lemon


Cream the sugars and margarine together, then add the egg and mix well.
Add the flour, oats and bicarb and mix to form a soft dough.
Drain the ginger and chop it finely.
Use a sharp knife to carefully take the top layer of skin from the lemon, trying not to get too much of the white pith from underneath. Chop the pieces of skin up really small.
Add the ginger and lemon to the dough and mix well.
Dollop 24 blobs of the dough onto lined baking trays and cook for about 13 minutes at 180c.
Leave to cool slightly on the trays, then transfer to a wire rack to cool.
When cool, sprinkle icing sugar over the biscuits.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Baking essentials

I probably should have been through this earlier on, but with all the baking I have been doing for the Jubilee parties recently, I realised just how useful certain implements are when I bake. There are certain things that I would not be able to bake without, and this is a quick guide to them.

Firstly, baking tins. I have a few basics that I use a lot. My 12 bun cupcake tin, 2 lb loaf tin and 7" square tin are all used very regularly. I also use 2 loose bottomed 7" round tins for sandwich cakes and 2 large flat trays which each take a dozen biscuits. I rarely use any of my other tins, they spend most of their time cluttering up my cupboard and falling out when I open the door.

I have a few bits and bobs which I always seem to be using. I can tell, because they are always at the front of the cupboard within easy reach.

These are:
1. Scales, with 1g increments.
2. Flour sieve (on the scales), with a removable top and bottom. Leave the bottom bit on so it's like a jug to weigh out the flour. When you are ready to use it, the bottom comes off and the flour can be shaken through the integrated sieve.
3. Flour/sugar duster (little white, domed cup), perfect for flouring a surface before rolling out dough or dusting bakes with icing sugar.
4. Measuring spoons and cups. A friend brought me these from the US, and they make it a lot easier than trying to work US measurements into weights.

1. Flexible spatula for scraping cake mix out of the mixing bowl.
2. Silicon whisk, can be used in any bowl or pan, even non-stick ones. I use it a lot when making cake mix, even though I have an electric whisk.
3. My large spatula was bought when I decided a few years ago that I was going to get into chocolate making. Short lived hobby! I use it to ice and fill cakes and to pick up fragile cookies to transfer them to a baking tray. It's also good for releasing cakes that are a bit stuck.

I tend to use my huge plastic mixing bowl for most mixing, I'd be lost without it (and probably much messier when whisking!). Apart form that, most other things that I use are general kitchen bits. I have collected all these things over the past few years from supermarkets, Steamer Trading Cook Shop, The Pampered Chef, Lakeland and online baking suppliers.

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Jubilee biscuits

Yesterday, I thought I'd make something quick to tide us over until the big cake making session on Monday. We will have our village tea party on Monday afternoon, so I need to provide something special for that. I wanted biscuits, but couldn't be bothered with the hassle of rolling out dough, so this recipe was perfect.


300g plain flour
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground mixed spice
125g soya margarine
100g light brown soft sugar
80g dark brown soft sugar
50ml hot water
1 tbsp golden syrup

Juice of 1 lemon
Icing sugar


Rub the flour, bicarb, ginger, mixed spice and margarine together to make crumbs.
Stir in the 2 sugars.
Melt the golden syrup into the boiling water and then stir this into the crumbs to make a soft dough.
Using a dessert spoon, dollop around 24 balls of dough onto lined baking sheets and flatten slightly with your fingers.
Bake at 180c for about 15 minutes, then leave on the trays to cool for a bit.
Mix the lemon juice and icing sugar together to make a thick paste.
Put the biscuits on a wire tray to finish cooling, then spread a layer of icing on top and finish with some sprinkles.

Friday, 1 June 2012

Jubilee school cake sale

It was the monthly cake sale at school today. I decided to go all out and make a Union flag cake and some chocolate crunchie cakes.

Union cake method

Make a 5:4:4:2 cake mix, using 3 eggs, so it becomes 7.5:6:6:3 with 1 tsp vanilla extract added.
Pour into a 9"x7" lined baking tin and bake at 180c for around 30 minutes until a toothpick poked in comes out clean and the cake is light brown on top.

Make a batch of icing, using 3 tbsp cream cheese, 1 tbsp butter, 1 tsp vanilla and enough icing sugar to make a soft consistency. Split the icing into 3 bowls and add blue food colouring to one and red to another. Use icing bags to pipe the icing into the flag design once the cake is cool. I used a flat icing nozzle to make the icing lines reasonably neat and flat.

Chocolate crunchie cake method

Make up a batch of simple chocolate cake mix and add about 100g of dairy-free "milk" chocolate chips.
Spoon the mix into 12 large cupcake cases and bake at 180c for around 18 minutes, until cooked through. Leave to cool in the tin.
When cooled, melt together 100g dairy-free "milk" chocolate and 50g dairy-free dark chocolate.
Spoon a dessert spoon of melted chocolate onto the top of each cake and sprinkle honeycomb pieces on top.