Easter Cakes

These gorgeous little cakes are the Easter version of my usual vanilla cupcakes. The recipe is simple, and always makes moist, tasty sponge and creamy icing - they taste divine, I promise!

To make the cakes (about 12-18 depending on case size!):

Mix 80g softened unsalted butter, 280g caster sugar, 240g plain flour, 1tbsp baking powder and 1/4 tsp salt in a mixer until like breadcrumbs.  In a separate jug mix together 240ml full fat milk, 1/2 tsp vanilla essence and 2 large free-range eggs.   With mixer on a slow speed, gently add the milk mixture to the dry mix until blended then give it a quick whizz until the batter is smooth.  

Pour the batter into muffin/cake cases, about 2/3 full.  Bake for about 12-15 mins at 190ºC (170ºC fan oven) but do check according to how your oven bakes!  I turn my trays around halfway through for even baking, but that's up to you.

Cool on wire rack.

To make the icing:

Mix 500g icing sugar with 160g softened unsalted butter until like breadcrumbs.  Slowly add a mix of 55ml of whole milk and 1/2 tsp vanilla essence.  You can add a drizzle more milk if you like - find the consistency you want.  When the cakes are cool, pipe a swirl of icing on top.  I like to use the Mr Whippy nozzle, but again - up to you!  Decorate with Smarties mini eggs - these are bright and shiny and look great on these cakes.

Eat, enjoy and impress your friends.  Well, your friends' kids anyway!

Spanish Chicken - Olé!

It's fiesta time in our house tonight!  Well, not exactly.  It's been a long day and I needed to cook something easy, quick and very tasty.  This recipe is all of that - shove the ingredients into a roasting tin and pop it in the oven for an hour.  Out comes the delicious flavours of Spain!  

I halve the recipe and modify it to fit with what is in the fridge, so here is how I made tonight's Spanish Chicken (based on the Nigella recipe in 'Kitchen').

Add a slug of olive oil to a roasting dish and add 4-6 chicken thighs/legs.  Rub them in the oil and place them skin side up.  To this add one large onion roughly chopped, 225g of baby new potatoes, 100g of chorizo cut into 4cm chunks and a sprinkling of dried oregano.  Then sprinkle the zest of one orange over the top and bake at 220ºC (or 200 fan) for about an hour.  I baste the mixture every 20mins to keep it moist.  Serves 2.  You can have it with a green salad, but usually we just eat it as is, or with some crusty bread.  Oh, and a nice glass of rioja of course!

I almost choked on my museli this morning as I discovered I have been shortlisted in not one, but TWO categories of the Britmums Brilliance in Blogging Awards!!  SOOO chuffed and a little bit proud of myself which, let's face it, doesn't happen very often.

Anyway, this is my shameless plea to please vote for Hello Wall in the Fresh Voices category and What Would Nigella Do? in the Tasty category.  Especially Hello Wall though, as it has been a sanity-saver to me these last 7 months....

Link is below and voting is anonymous and takes about 30 secs.  If you could spare me 30 seconds of your time I would be very, very grateful.

Click here to vote for me  *offers cupcake but NOT as bribery, no never....*

Pick yourself up. Dust yourself off. And start all over again....

Housework is the bane of my life.  My husband and I have more arguments about the state of the house than anything else.  He, I believe, would like to live in a show home.  I point out we have three kids and two dogs and with all the will in the world, show homes are bland, Stepfordesque ideals.

I am not a natural housewife.  I struggle.  I find better things to do.  My house is clean, it's just a bit muddly.  Lived in.  Has personality.  

I should be:
  • clearing the washing basket daily
  • hoovering with aplomb
  • joyously flicking my micro fleece duster around the lounge
  • not nurturing sneaky cobwebs
  • replenishing the pot pourri at regular intervals
  • successful in my removal of weetabix from every kitchen surface
  • hoovering the light shades
  • wiping the skirting boards

I am not.

I am ignoring the best of it, dealing with the worst of it and all the time thinking....What would Nigella do?

Drink a large glass of wine and cook something delicious, I reckon.

I'll do that then.  Much better option.....

Mushroom Ravioli

Well, tonight the pasta machine was in full use again!  Not only did I rustle up some tagliatelle for the kids but I made mushroom ravioli for me and the old man.  I used the same pasta recipe as before but I based the filling and sauce on a recipe in the Masterchef Cookbook.  For my first attempt, I thought it was pretty good.  The ravioli were maybe a bit more shallot than mushroom, but the sauce was so rich with porcini that it actually worked really nicely together.  My presentation was awful...as you will see in the last photo.  John Torode would be champing his chops at the sloppy sauce - when I saw the photo even I wanted to grab some kitchen towel and wipe around the edge but alas, by that time I had scoffed the lot!

To make the pasta, I took 400g OO flour4 eggs & 1tbsp oil and blended the ingredients together in the mixer until they looked like breadcrumbs, then I switched to the dough hook and kneaded it for about 4 minutes.  I wrapped the dough in clingfilm and rested it for half an hour at room temperature.

The filling for the ravioli was 3 large shallots and 2 large chestnut mushrooms, all finely chopped.  I sweated the shallots in 25g of butter until they were soft, then I added the 'shrooms for another 5 minutes.  Then I added 60ml of double cream, brought it to the bubble to bind it all together, then set aside for later.

The sauce was made by soaking 25g dried porcini mushrooms for 15 mins.  During the wait I boiled 400ml chicken stock until it was reduced by half.  Then I added the porcini and any juices and a slug of sherry.  I reduced it by half again and added 75ml of double cream.  I simmered this until it was reduced to a nice silky sauce.

I feel there should be some herbs in there somewhere, but my ignorance of ingredients defies me knowing which ones to add and to what, so any suggestions welcome!

However, it was a very yummy Saturday night supper...and would make a nice dish for friends with some crusty bread to mop up all that lovely sauce!

All set and ready to ravioli...
Mushroom humps!

Little 'shroom spaceships

Sloppy presentation, but delicious

My 5 Favourite Recipe Books

Joining in with Kate Takes 5 Listography I am sharing with you my current 5 favourite recipe books (in no particular order):

1.  Recipes from My Mother for My Daughter - Lisa Faulkner
A very recent publication and fast becoming a favourite of mine.  Scrummy, accessible recipes with the personal touch of the gorgeous Ms Faulkner.

2.  Home Cooking Made Easy - Lorraine Pascale
Just like her first book, all the recipes in here are delicious, and indeed, fairly easy.

3.  Hummingbird Bakery:  Cake Days
Yum.  Yum.  YUM.

4.  Feast - Nigella Lawson
I have all her books, this was my first and remains my favourite.

5.  At Elizabeth David's Table
I don't cook a lot from it, but love reading it and soaking up everything about this amazing woman.

The Pleasure of Pasta

I am very excited.  Stupidly so.  All because of a pasta machine.

For my birthday I asked Husband to buy me an Imperia Pasta Machine.  I had been reading up and this seems to be the king of domestic pasta-making.  Despite the fact I have always sworn that the purchase of a kitchen appliance for my birthday would be grounds for divorce, I ate my words (and my pasta) when I gleefully unwrapped my coveted equipment.

I did have a pasta machine once, but it was a cheap one that twisted when you wound the handle and despite pasta dough going in, it seemed to get stuck around the cogs and not really come out.  Certainly not in a thin, beautiful sheet.

However, this is a different matter, and last night I cooked Nigella's Linguine Tagliatelle with Lemon, Garlic & Thyme Mushrooms FROM SCRATCH!

I did use my second fav cook's recipe for the actual pasta dough - Lorraine Pascale's cracked black pepper pasta - without the pepper.  But the rest of the recipe was all Nigella.  It is delicious, easy and swish enough to serve to friends.

Anyway, I digress.  My pasta machine performed beautifully and the tagliatelle tasted amazing.  I always thought that once I started making my own pasta, nothing else would be good enough.  And I fear this may be true.  However, it is so quick and easy to do that it's not a problem and feeding the pasta through the machine is actually quite therapeutic.  As is having it hanging around the kitchen.  

Recipes from Nigella's 'Nigella Express' and Lorranie Pascale's 'Home Baking Made Easy'.