Monthly Archives: April 2011

Easy Almond Cake

I first whipped up this cakefrom Nigella’s H.T.B.AD.G.  for my mum’s birthday last week and then made it again for the Royal Wedding.  It does exactly what it says on the tin, it’s easy, almondy and, um, cake!  The best bit about it is that you make it in a food processor, normally I have a preference for mixing by hand… I have no idea why but that is what I tend to do.  This cake really rather needs the food processor to break down the marzipan. 

The end result is deliciously moist and almondy.  For mum’s birthday I iced it with a lemon and marscapone icing but I sort of invented that on the spot and don’t quite remember how I did it. (A tub of marscapone, some cream, lemon zest and juice and beat, beat, beat sums it up.) Then pressed flaked almonds onto the top, grated some lemon zest in the centre and a few flowers. 

For the Royal Wedding party I split the cake (which was very easy, I’ve had problems splitting cakes before) and filled it with lemon curd then wrapped it in marzipan.  Then I had my first experiment with fondant icing. I made up the fondant icing sugar with lemon juice and then worked to pour/smooth/drizzle/encourage the icing to cover the cake.  It’s not the best job I’ve ever done but considering the difficulty rating I was quite happy with the end result… the coloured drizzle on top took it back a few notches but I was sort of aiming for informal and kitchy… just not quite as informal, ha ha!

Serves 12

250g unsalted butter
250g marzipan
150g golden caster sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla essence
1/4 tsp Amaretto (or almond essence)
6 large eggs
150g self raising flour

– Heat the oven to Gas Mark 3/170C  and grease a 23cm springform cake tin.  Line the top with baking paper. 
– Put the butter, marzipan and sugar in the food processor and blend until smooth. 
– Add the vanilla and Amaretto and process again
– With the motor running break each egg in down the funnel and blend until all smooth. 
– Add the flour, blend until combined. 
– Pour and scrape the batter out into the cake tin. 
– Bake for 50 minutes, checking from 40.  The cake should be set with no wobble in the centre.  A skewer inserted should come out clean. 
– Leave to cool completely in the tin then remove and decorate as you will.

1 Comment

Filed under Cakes, Easy

Royal Wedding

First up, congratulations to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge!  Second, OMG THAT DRESS!!!!!!!!!  I am so in love with it! It was absolutely perfect, the lace, the train, the veil, all absolutely spot on!  Days like today make me so proud to be British and part of such history.  Since this is, ultimately, a food blog we need to mention the cakes here, I’m so curious about the McVitie’s one, I suspect I know the kind but the mystery excites me! And the wedding cake, classic, gorgeous and so so skillful! Which rather sums up the whole occasion really!

This is how I watched the Royal Wedding:

Sitting at home with my family in front of the telly. I confess, I cried! You can see the edges of my bunting there, I am so proud of myself, I finished making that at midnight last night!

After the ceremony while waiting for them to appear on the balcony we tucked into a modest spread:

I admit, there was supposed to be more but in all the excitement I totally forgot about the sausage rolls etc. languishing in the freezer but we just had those for dinner instead!

I’d made plenty of sandwiches in any event, cut in triangles for my vegetarian sister and rectangles for we meat eaters! I wanted to keep the whole thing fairly traditional, finger sandwiches, cake, crisps, jelly, sausage rolls, just old school British party food. 

This cake was my first experiment ever with using fondant icing… it was very tricky, and does look a bit like I iced it with ketchup, but no matter, the red, white and blue icing with the wonderful addition of edible ball bearings to add some sparkle worked a treat! I’ll be posting the cake recipe for you  tomorrow hopefully. 

And finally, I too stuck with the theme of red, white and blue. (Red shoes and a red and white bow in my hair.)  I had a great day and it will be one I’ll always remember.  It all struck exactly the right note, it all looked amazing and there were some killer hats!  The perfect wedding in my book!

Leave a comment

Filed under Not Food, Teatime Treats

French Crust Pizza

I don’t know if such a thing as French Crust Pizza already exists but I have christened this crust thus because I was trying to recreate the types of pizza crust I have in France… alas, I can’t replicate the fantastic pizza ovens they have so my attempt was doomed to fall short from the beginning.  I need a pizza oven!!!  This dish also goes by the name of 30 minute pizza as it takes about 30 minutes, which is delightfully quick and simple!  And for a final confession, I don’t usually make this as pizza, I switch the tomato sauce for creme fraiche and have flammekueche! 

So, it’s probably not french, it takes about 30 minutes to make and it’s not a pizza… any other questions?

Oh! You want to know what it tastes like? Well, the edge is delightfully crispy but no matter what I do I just can’t get the middle to crisp up due to not having the aforementioned pizza oven I think.  However, it is still delicious and, frankly, easier to eat, so I’m not complaining!  As I said I like to stick to flammekueche as I always have creme fraiche but rarely have even passata in the fridge.  My prefered topping for anything, pizza or flammekueche is “Reine” aka ham and mushrooms! I also slice some onion and scatter that over. 

Serves 1

50g plain flour
1tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp water
pinch of salt

– First of all, before you do anything, even get the mixing bowl out, crank up the oven to the highest temperature.  If you have a pizza stone, great, get that in.  If not then a baking tray will do. 
– Then put all of the ingredients in a bowl and mix them together with a spoon.  It should come together into a dough fairly swiftly. 
– Gather the dough into a ball with your hand a knead inside the bowl a little bit.  Leave to rest for 10 minutes. 
– Slice your chosen toppings and get everything ready to go. (1 teeny tiny onion,2 mushrooms, a slice or 2 of ham and creme fraiche for me).
– Roll out the dough onto a sheet of baking paper.  Roll it very very thin, 1mm or less. 
– Spread the sauce on first (a pinch of salt works wonders too), then the toppings then grate over some cheese!
– Lift the baking paper onto the pizza stone/baking tray.  I use a splatter guard as a “peel” to slide it in. 
– Bake for 10-15 minutes until the cheese is melted and browning and the edges of the crust are browning too. 
– Slice and Serve. 

Here, have a cute pic of the puppy!

Leave a comment

Filed under Basic, Easy, Mains

Crab

I have no idea what happened but I actually wrote this post back in February but never posted it… sorry about that! Better late than never!

Last week I was walking through Newgate Market in York and spied the fishmongers.  Now, I often flirt with the idea of fish but Japan spoiled me a bit coz everything there was perfect.  One of my favourite izakaya dishes was a simple crab salad.  Crisp iceberg lettuce, a tangy citrus dressing and the body and claws of what I have since been informed were Spider Crabs.  The crab I bought off the market was just a common or garden crab, but still, one crab is much the same as another in essentials!  I named my crab Claude. 

As for what to do with your crab, well, yes, you can buy a crab ready taken apart and dressed… my way is a lot more fun!  The best advice I can give you, however, is to google “how to dress a crab” and watch a few different videos.  Seeing how it’s done a few times will be much more helpful than anything I could write here.  Unfortunately I wasn’t able to make my own video or even a step by step.  However, I did want to document the process here as a point of reference if nothing else. 

So, without further ado let’s get to it!  This is a bit of a fiddly job and rather messy so leave yourself plently of time and space.  Crab shell is also exceedingly sharp and your hands will get damp and soft so watch yourself and try not to cut yourself too badly… a few little nicks are inevitable I’m afraid!

Serves 2 if you serve it as a salad, or you can do any number of things with the meat. 

– 1 whole cooked crab.  Ask your fishmonger to remove the “dead man’s fingers” as they are poisonous. 

– With the crab on his back, twist/pull his legs and claws off.  Set aside. 


– Turn your crab over onto his front with his tail facing towards you.  Get your thumbs and press up against the body of the crab to separate the upper and lower halves.  NB. If you have had the “dead man’s fingers” removed then it should already be cracked open a bit.
– Take the upper half of the crab and again use your thumbs to press against the mouth parts (under his eyes) and push until it snaps back, peel back to remove the stomach too. 


– Take a teaspoon and scrape out the top half of the shell to remove the brown meat.  Set aside the brown meat in a bowl. 
– Take a very sharp large knife and cut the lower body of the crab in half, then in half again if you want. 
– Using a fondue fork (or special crab stick things) pick out the chunks of white meat found in all the nooks and crannies, again, set aside in a bowl.  This is tricky and fiddly so take your time.  You want to get all of the stringy meat out.  If it feels hard then you don’t want it. 
– Now for the claws!  Get your claw and place it on a board.  Cover it with a teatowel.  Bash it with a rolling pin to crack the shell.  You should be able to crack it with one good blow.  You don’t want to smash it to smithereens but you need a reasonable amount of force behind the blow.  Crab shell is sharp so the teatowel stops bits of shell from flying everywhere. 


– Bash all of the joints in turn so you can get in there with your hands and break the legs apart.  Remove the bigger bits of white meat with your fingers, pulling it off the central clear spike.  The thinner parts can be removed with your fondue fork/crab stick. 
– Once you’ve done all of the legs and claws and got every bit of meat out then you can do what you wish with it!

Leave a comment

Filed under Basic, For the Keen Cook