Chocolate and coconut layer cake

Last year one of my colleagues, a lovely speech and language therapist, gave me this Christmas cookbook. It was a lovely surprise and a perfect gift, and it has sat for a year on my bookshelf doing very little. I am going through a baking frenzy at the moment, spurred on by the cold weather and a desire to improve my baking skills and repertoire. It being December, the only real option is Christmas related bakery.

I sat down on Thursday evening and flipped through the whole book. I picked seven recipes and I thought I would start with chocolate and coconut layer cake. I have never attempted to make anything like this before so it seemed like a challenge.  The first hurdle was finding a Swiss roll tin (25 x 38 cm). I did not even know they existed. So I did a little Google search and found out I could buy one in Lakeland. However, that never happened and I ended up using a (25 x 32 cm) baking tray which seems to be just fine.

This was the initial result.

My husband’s verdict “underwhelming but I bet it tastes nice”

It sat in the fridge overnight and the icing set and in the morning I decided to cut off the sides to make it look a little bit more like the cake, it thought it was supposed to look like, and to fit a tupperware container.

My husband to this to work to share with his work colleagues. Verdict – delicious!

Chocolate and coconut layer cake

Sponge
40g self-raising flour
50g cornflour
6 large eggs, separated
200g golden caster sugar
220g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids), melted

Preheat the oven to 180oC/160oC (fan)/gas mark 4.
Lightly grease a Swiss roll tin (25 x 38 cm) and line with parchment paper
Sift the flours into a bowl and set aside.
In another bowl, beat the egg yolks and half the sugar together until the mixture is pale and has a ribbon-like texture. Pour in the melted chocolate and gently fold it in with a spatula.
In a clean bowl beat the egg whites and remaining sugar together until the mixture is shiny and reaches medium peaks. Fold a third of the mixture into the chocolate and egg yolk mixture.
Add the flours and gently fold in with a spatula.
Add the remaining egg white mixture and fold gently again. Be careful not to knock out too much of the air from the egg whites.
Pour this mixture into the tin and spread out evenly.
Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 10 – 12 minutes, until an inserted skewer comes out clean. Leave in its tin for about 5 minutes, then remove and transfer the cake (including the paper) on to a wire rack to cool completely.

Coconut and White Chocolate Icing
90g unsalted butter, at room temperature
200g icing sugar, sifted
80g desiccated coconut
50ml coconut milk
100g white chocolate, melted and cooled

Place the butter, icing sugar, desiccated coconut and coconut milk in a bowl. With an electric mixer, beat on a low/medium speed until the mixture is smooth. Add the white chocolate and beat for a further 30 seconds.

Assemble
To assemble, slice the sponge into 4 equal rectangles. Placing a layer of coconut icing between each slice of cake, stack to make a rectangular layer cake.

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Carrot and parsnip soup

Another wintery creation…

This time, spurred on by a desire to eat carrots.

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Interesting taste and not what I expected…

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but made for a great lunch at work with a small freshly baked roll.

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INGREDIENTS

1 pound of carrots – peeled and cut into 1 inch slices

1 pound of parsnips – peeled and cut into 1 inch slices

1 medium yellow onion – peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks – I used half a large onion.

3 cloves of garlic – unpeeled

2 Tbs olive oil

8 twists of black pepper

4 cups of vegetable stock

INSTRUCTIONS

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Toss chopped carrots, parsnips, onion and garlic (garlic should be unpeeled so it won’t burn) with 2 tbs of olive oil and black pepper. Toss to combine and spread out on a baking sheet and put in the oven.

Veggies will roast for 40 minutes but give them a stir every 10 to 15 minutes so they don’t burn. You want them caramelized – not burnt.

Meanwhile, heat 4 cups of stock in a stock pot.

When vegetables are done, squeeze garlic from its peel and add back to the veggies. Discard peel.

Add vegetables to stock – scrape the pan to get every last bit of veggies.

Puree vegetables and stock in a blender a bit at a time. Only fill the blender about ⅓ full and remove the little cap (blender lid insert) and cover with a kitchen towel. If you fill it up more than half and leave the little cap on – you’ll have a blender soup explosion – not fun at all!

Pour soup into bowls and serve – serves 2 to 4 depending on size of bowl/cup.

 

Chorizo hash with fried egg

Winter is definitely here. I am so cold and I am so tired all the time! All I can think of is curling myself up into a ball until summer. Is that what bears do? Anyway, I do not have that option and I probably would not take it if I could, there are too many wonderful things to enjoy. Standing at the tube station waiting 20 minutes for a train, has been one of the delights of the past few days. Oh dear, I am being a little bit negative. Anyway, yes, it’s cold, get over it and move on…

So, as you know, I am never happier than when I am in the kitchen and on Tuesday evening I decided that I needed to eat something with fried egg on the top. Where this random desire came from, I do not know, but I decided to go with it. While sitting in a prized seat on the tube on the way home, I mentally when through the contents of my fridge and decided that the chorizo and peppers needed using up and the potatoes that have been sitting forlornly in the vegetable basket needed a better home.

 

The result: chorizo hash with fried egg. A mix of onions, peppers, garlic, potatoes, paprika chorizo and topped off with a fried egg.

reconfortante…

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Twas, very tasty…

 

The left overs make it to my packed lunchbox on Wednesday and made for an even nicer lunch.

 

INGREDIENTS

150g chorizo sausage

1 small red pepper

1 round teaspoon hot paprika

1 medium onion, roughly chopped

275g Desiree or King Edward potatoes

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 fat clove garlic, peeled and crushed

2 large fresh eggs

METHOD
1. Firstly halve and deseed the red pepper, slice it, then chop it into 1 cm pieces. After that, peel the skin off the chorizo sausage and cut into pieces roughly the same size as the pepper.
2. The potatoes need to be washed and cut into 1 cm cubes, leaving the skin on. Then place them in a saucepan and pour enough boiling water from the kettle to almost cover them, then add salt and a lid and simmer for just 5 minutes before draining them in a colander and covering with a clean tea cloth to absorb the steam.
3. Next heat 1 tablespoons of the oil in the larger frying pan and, when it’s fairly hot, add the onion, pepper and garlic and cook for about 6 minutes, until softened and tinged brown at the edges. Then remove these from the pan, add the chorizo and, keeping the heat fairly high, cook for about 2 minutes, again, till nicely browned at the edges.

4. Next, return the pepper mixture to the pan add the paprika and stir everything together, then remove the whole lot to a plate. Now add another tablespoon of oil to the pan and, still keeping the heat high, add the potatoes and seasoning.

5.Toss them around in the hot pan for about 3 minutes, keeping them moving, until they begin to crisp and brown at the edges, then return the chorizo, onion and pepper to the pan and, using a pan slice, keep turning the mixture over.

6.Carry on cooking the whole thing for 5-6 minutes, until it’s all really brown and crispy. Then turn the heat down to its lowest setting and, in the other pan, fry the eggs (see below) in the remaining oil.

7.Serve the hash divided between the two warmed plates with an egg on top of each.

Brexit – the beginning of the end

She believed that all their problems began when Brexit was announced. Well at least that was the story she was telling herself. However, the problems were there way before 17 million people decided to vote them out of the European Union. She remembered feeling physically sick when she looked at her phone on the ‘morning after’.

Brexit.

She woke her husband, breaking the rule, that he should not be woken at all costs before the time he had chosen to arise. “Look,” she whispered. “We’re out!”. He was less than impressed, but mainly because she had woken him up an hour earlier than needed. As sense of unease followed her all day as she was subjected to images of Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson opening and shutting their mouths all day. Everybody was shocked. Then followed days and weeks of political fallout. A demand, a petition for a  second referendum. The Labour Party tore itself into shreds, many of the shadow cabinet resigning and starting a leadership contest. David Cameron, having lead us down this murky path, duly bowed out and left the dirty work for somebody else. Michael Gove stabbed his fellow Brexiter, Boris Johnson, in the back. And Nigel Farage, Nigel Farage tipped his hat, waved goodbye and sailed off into the sunset.   

In the meantime her own little shock to the system was on its way. They literally crashed into what turned out to be the beginning of the end.  

Fault Lines 

The language of blame entered into the dialogue.  

She was brushing her teeth and he was asking, no telling her that he was not sure, if it was her fault that he was waking up at 6am every morning. She was not sure either, she did wake up at 6am but she tried to be as quiet as a mouse. Over the years, she tried to slip seamlessly from dragging herself out of bed and leaving the house, without a trace of her existence. She had long stopped giving him a goodbye kiss in the morning because he said he wanted to sleep. She stopped using her perfume and deodarant in the room in the morning, it all seemed reasonable and considerate. She would select her clothes the night before and lay them out on the sofa, ready for the morning and iron and change into her work clothes in the living room. She never really knew what she looked like because the full length mirror was in the bedroom. It all seemed pretty reasonable, if he wakes he cannot get back to sleep and there can be at times, two hours difference in their waking times.  She was a considerate wife.

Self love 

One day she ‘found’ herself eating a cheeseburger in the carpark. It has been a long day at work and she has a few errands to run before she gets home. Eating in her car felt like a forbidden and elict activity, it was bad but it tasted so good. When she finally got home, tired and fed up, she put on the new duvet covers that had arrived in the post. Not the softest material in the world, maybe it would improve after a few washes. However the bright colours – give the room a warm and inviting look and lifted her mood a little, just a little.

Her husband returned home just as she was taking some of the old duvet and pillow covers out to the garden shed, the storage place for things that will eventually leave the family home. He was looking tired. When she returned to the house – they lie on the bed and half snooze and talk. He tells her he is tired and he cannot bear the thought of standing up in the kitchen to make dinner. So she gets up and makes him a chicken and tomato sandwich. The smell of the warm bread as it comes out of the oven, makes her dizzy with delight. As she puts his sandwich together, her mouth waters and her stomach growls, she briefly reflects on the fact that he gets this homemade wonder and she got a burger in the car park. 

She needs to treat herself better. She needs to make better choices.

Heartbroken 

It feels like her heart has been torn into two. 

It feels like something very terrible has happened to he. She is in shock and she spends her days stumbling around in a pretence of living. 

Intimacy  

And the there are moments of delicious intimacy 

Before she made the sandwich for her husband, they lie on the bed, with the new bright duvet and pillows covers and melt. A quiet dance of hand holding, sweet kisses and caresses . She lies under his chin and rub her cheek across his beard. He lifts her shirt and runs his hand slowly up and down her back. She smile, he smiles. She chuckles, he chuckles. 

Detour 

And so she made a detour because she was just too sad to write. Seeing the words dance across the page displayed her despair in curved and right angled black and white glory. No, she decided, this is not the way it plays out, this is not how the ship goes down, there will no white flag. 

Instead there will be a rebellion. A stand against the status quo.