Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Herman Friendship Cake

If you google Herman Friendship Cake it is basically all over the internet, there is even a whole website dedicated to it.  Basically it is a sweet sourdough starter used to make cake, you divide it into 5 portions - make a cake with 1 and distribute the rest to 4 lucky friends. I'd heard of it a while ago and a couple of weeks ago I got my hands on a bubbling pot of Herman starter from Vanessa.

I fed it with milk, sugar and flour, stirred it (not with a metal spoon, very important) and it stunk out the kitchen with yeasty smells for about a week. I've tried sourdough before, and whilst it was successful soon my starter started to smell of paint and it didn't make good bread anymore, so in the bin it went. Maybe my kitchen has the wrong atmosphere?

I wasn't intending on keeping this starter or passing it on as you are meant to (what can I say, I am greedy) - mainly because I'd never remember to feed this little floury pet every few days for the forseeable future. So about 1/3 went into a Herman friendship cake and the rest into a semi-sweet sourdough loaf (which actually didn't come out too well but let's not talk about that...).

I used this recipe here but substituted the oil for cooled melted butter, because you know, butter is better in a cake. I also added four chopped pink lady apples (and a few sliced up on the top) and a generous amount of vanilla extract. The resulting cake is very proper looking - homey, HUGE with a lovely crispy top. Had I had got around to making custard, I'd say it would be great with custard.

The cake has a yeasty taste which isn't as odd as it seems, to me it tastes a bit like a chelsea bun  - which is why I expect the original recipe contains raisins, I think some nuts would be great too.

I now kind of wish I'd saved the starter for more cake, I'll just have to make more friends with Hermans!

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Friday, 16 November 2012

Addicted to Instagram

Amazing doughnut dessert at The Hole in the Wall (doughnuts, ice cream, vanilla cream, cherry chocolate sauce) - oh my.

Miss Sue Flay's Apple Cake at Clandestine Cake Club

My cold/virus saviour - homemade chicken noodle soup

Cafe CouCou (Saffron Walden) - French Onion Soup

Migas - well my not too authentic version, with avocado and lavash bread

I am all too aware that I am neglecting this space at the moment, but I am still, as ever, addicted to Instagram - anything that can make a quick snap of my lunch/dinner/quick snack look better than my photography skills is good! Have been working too much and been ill too much with cold so not much except quick recipes, some treats in my favourite places and nourishing food.

Have got myself a sourdough Herman friendship cake starter, so hoping to be back soon with some more posts about that! Oh and I'm off to Paris in a few weeks, and I am looking forward to some major food tourism - bread mainly. 

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Monday, 5 November 2012

Margarita Cake & Clandestine Cake Club

Another day, another cake club! My favourite cocktail is a margarita, and I didn't have to think hard when asked to make a cocktail inspired cake for the next Clandestine Cake Club. Apart from anything else, I already had triple sec and tequila in my kitchen, all I needed was limes (oh and butter, sugar, flour...) and a spare evening.

I was also particularly excited because last night's cake club was my first as official co host. It was held at the lovely Greens Coffee in Cambourne, and a dozen cakes and guests settled around a long table filled with all kinds of cakes. We were also joined by the lovely Leanne from Cambridge News, more on that in a couple of weeks....

This cake gets all the flavour after baking - the sponge is a simple vanilla with lots of lime zest stirred in. After it comes out the oven a tequila sugar syrup is poured over the cake to soak in whilst it cools. Then it is topped with even more booze - in the form of a tequila, triple sec, lime and cream cheese icing.

Margarita Cake
makes 1 loaf cake

For the cake:
200g unsalted butter, softened
200g golden caster sugar
4 eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
zest of 2 limes
200g plain flour
1 teaspoon of baking powder

Preheat your oven to gas mark 4 / 160 c fan / 180 c conventional. Cream together the butter and sugar til light and fluffy. Then add in the eggs one by one til well combined. Add vanilla and lime zest. Add in all the flour and baking powder and gently fold in til just combined. Bake in a lined loaf tin for 25-30 minutes.

Margarita Syrup
2 tablespoons of icing sugar
1 capful of Tequila
1 capful of Triple Sec
juice of 1 lime

Mix all the ingredients together til the sugar is dissolved.
When the cake is cooked, leave in the tin for about 5-10 minutes, then remove and put on a plate. Poke small holes in the cake with a skewer and then evenly pour the syrup over the cake. Leave to cool.

Cream cheese icing
100g cream cheese
25g of butter, softened
1 tablespoon of Tequila
1 tablespoon of Triple Sec
juice of 1 lime
150g - 200g icing sugar

Cream together the butter and the cream cheese, then add in 100g of icing sugar and the spirits and lime. Add in more icing sugar as you combine til you have a thick icing, slightly thicker than custard - you want nice pourable icing. Refrigerate whilst the cake cools.

This cake is best iced just before you serve it - which I didn't think through very well because it meant I had to arrive at cake club with a tub full of it and a spoon ready to ice at the table. Just pour tablespoon fulls of it over the cake in a 'rustic' fashion! If you have some left it will freeze well and you can use it for another cake.

Our next Cambridge Clandestine Cake Club is the 24th November, sign up on the website.

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Thursday, 1 November 2012

Benares restaurant, London


 I think I've lost count of the amount of times I've seen Atul Kochar on Saturday Kitchen and said 'oh I really want to go to Benares.' Finally last weekend we made it there for our 3rd wedding anniversary. We booked it way back in late August so I've been looking back and forth at the menu for weeks and the anticipation was great.
 We started with little poppadoms with three chutneys - pineapple, tomato (my favourite) and mango & ginger, they were a good introduction to the style of spicing used at Benares, all very well selected, not too hot but with enough to leave you with a slight chilli warmth when you've finished eating.

My started was the 'Mumbai Pizza' - I guess they were trying to be lighthearted with the name but I think it didn't really sell the dish very well! It was tandoori fish kebab (made with the catch of the day which was Hake) on a sundried tomato naan with micro leaves, lovely pink pickled onion and black olives. The olives worked really well, surprisingly so, especially when you added some of the coriander chutney the dish came with. I would have preferred my naan to be a little crispier, the dish had plenty of oil which didn't make it taste oily but it did make the naan a little softer, but not soggy.

Mr had the roasted autumn vegetable pastries with plum chutney, I of course snuck a taste and they were lovely, possibly a little forgettable but I was concentrating on my starter instead!

For main Mr had the cottage cheese and apricot koftas, which came with herb rice and a tomato and fenugreek sauce, I loved these, a really innovative vegetarian main and despite neither of us being that crazy about cottage cheese or apricots, we both thought they were great!

My main was braised lamb neck fillet with masala turnips and a green peppercorn sauce. The lamb was as I'd hoped, super tender and the spices ran all the way through it. I could have broken into the kitchen and taken home a whole pan of it. Something I definitely want to recreate at home. As part of our mains we also got some tandoori bread, onion rice and gorgeous red dahl - all lovely and a nice touch to have something to share on the table which is so much a part of Indian food.

I'd also ordered some Bhel Puri, which is one of my favourite things to eat, but unfortunately it didn't actually turn up and both of us didn't actually realise this til we were half way through our mains so we didn't ask for it. We probably should have done, but given the quality of the restaurant you'd have hoped they would have remembered! Bit of a shame.

Desserts were chocolate mousse (Mr's) which was encased in a chocolate globe with raspberries both fresh and dried with extra chocolate sauce and orange. Mine was spiced poached pear with vanilla custard and some excellent pistachio kulfi. Both beautiful and just the right amount of spicing again without being over the top.

We also ordered tea - a light darjeeling tea for Mr and some masala chai for me, and happily we also received some perfect petit fours - possibly not entirely sticking to the Indian them but they were excellent - cinnamon shortbread (which were a lot like Nankhatai), peanut butter filled chocolate domes and raspberry rice crispie squares. Loved the fun element of the rice crispie squares, the raspberry flavour was really fresh and vivid.

The tea menu was extensive, with 6 darjeeling teas alone, many of which are exclusive to Benares. The masala chai was made traditionally, although with honey not sugar, and everyone knows masala chai needs to have plenty of sugar, but luckily I'd been provided with a little bowl of it - I guess they know too!

Overall the meal was fantastic and memorable, really interesting food which uses traditional recipes and techniques but gives them a bit of a modern / western twist. The service was a little slow at times - they forgot one of our dishes and we had to wait a while for the bill, so something to improve upon given they have a Michelin star.

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