Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Marmalade & Vanilla Layer Cake


After a couple of flights and two nights in Malaysia, I've now settled in Australia. For a year or two anyway! With that in mind, for the next leg of travels or like any celebration, it calls for cake. The cake of choice, marmalade and vanilla layer cake.

How often do you actually finish a jar of marmalade? Rarely is probably the answer. It's tangy, full of flavour and vastly underused or rated. This recipe is the ideal one to scrape your jar clean (or, quite possibly persuade you to even get one).

Two sweet vanilla sponges and a light fragrant buttercream help to sweeten the familiar tartness that the marmalade brings to the party. Which there being a range of marmalades out there, this recipe is open to all interpretations, orange, kumquats or calamansi the list goes on.

When it comes to decorating you can be as creative as you like. Mixing in a few drops of food colouring carefully can really make the difference. You get this wonderful streaks all the way through which looks superb.

Recipe

Ingredients:

Cake
150g unsalted butter
185g caster sugar
2 large eggs
250g cake flour
7g baking powder
1-2 tsp vanilla extract
120g milk

Filling & frosting
3-4 Tbsp marmalade, orange or calamansi
80g unsalted butter, softened
240g icing sugar
1/2 orange zested
Few drops of food colouring

Method:
  • For the sponges, cream together the butter and sugar until light. Add the 2 large eggs and gently combine. If the mixture starts to split add a little flour from the recipe.
  • Sieve the flour and baking powder into the cake batter. Beat into the mix lightly but not fully mixed through. 
  • Add the vanilla extract and cold milk. This will loosen the whole mixture up into what you will recognise as a cake batter. 
  • Pour into two 14cm tins. With a piece of baking parchment at the bottom. Other sized tins also work I like the height and shape of the overall cake with this size tin. 
  • Bake in a preheated oven at 170°C for 20 minutes approx.
  • Check with a skewer to see if cooked. Once cooked remove from the oven and let cool in the tin for 5-10 minutes before removing to fully cool. 
  • For the frosting, in a mixing bowl beat the softened butter until light and pale in colour. Sieve in the icing sugar and beat through until smooth and light once again. Add the orange zest before one last mix. Place about 1/2 into a piping bag.
  • Add a couple of drops of food colouring to the remaining. I used some red and yellow, carefully mixed to leave vivid streaks and contrasts. 
  • Pipe the plain buttercream into a circle on one of the cooled sponges. Fill the centre with your favourite marmalade and place the second sponge on top to seal it together.
  • Coat with the remaining plain icing and the coloured icing to decorate in your desired style. I used some of the leftover orange so not to waste anything and spare icing. Adding some chocolate would work great for the flavour combination as well. 

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Friday, 13 October 2017

Chaiyi Night Market

Almost 2 weeks ago I embarked on my travels around Taiwan. For the majority of my stay I lived, explored and ate in either Taipei or Hsinchu and Taoyuan, Miaoli and Taichung on the weekends. Basically, the north/ west coast. So come the 2nd October it was time to see the rest. First stop, Chaiyi.
Night markets are an incredibly budget friendly and tasty way of trying lots of treats that are on offer. With each night market offering different things to the other there is a wealth of foods on offer. Typically the larger night markets are to be found in Taipei. I wanted to buck the trend and let you know what I enjoyed about the not so familiar ones. 
Honey Aiyu
First up let's start with dessert. This quick refresher was one of my favourites. I could have easily knocked back a few more bowls given the chance. A delicious aiyu, finely crushed ice, fresh local honey (was to die for), and a gentle squeeze of lemon. Perfectly light and cold with subtle flavours. 
Above is the aiyu. It's made from the seeds of a specific type of fig, which happen to be found mainly in Taiwan. The best way to tell if you have a good natural aiyu is that water from the jelly will seep out slowly over the course of a few days, as in the picture you can see that happening.   
If you get the chance to come to Taiwan be sure to give this a try. Costing just 30NTD/ £0.75 it's a no-brainer. 
Duck Wraps
Wherever you go duck wraps are likely to be popular. Chaiyi night market it is no different. Delicious duck, cucumber, pickles, sauce, crispy skin all bound together in a light wrap, it's hard to go wrong with these. Using a wrap skin similar in style to a gua bao, it gave the whole affair a much lighter and softer feel. 
Once again only setting you back 50NTD / £1.25 they are an absolute steal. If only night markets were open during the day I could devour some for lunch as well.  
Sweet Potato Cake - Cheese or Pepper
Time for something related to a vegetable. In an effort to try and eat a balanced diet... Who am I kidding? That's not what this trip is about! These sweet potato cakes are wonderful. Light, seasoned crushed potato, with either cheese or pepper, encased in crisp bread shell before being topped with sesame seeds. 
I can't vouch for the pepper cake as by this point I was getting rather full, bearing in mind these are not in the order of eating. The key to these I think is to order the most golden one you can, the flavour was so much somewhat increased from the bread. Costing 45NTD / £1.10 I just had to go for 2.
Oreo Imagawayaki
These aren't exactly a traditional night market food in the sense, more an up to date cutsie version. Who can resist an Oreo filled cats paw? Imagawayaki is a delicious Japanese treat I've covered before and a general favourite of mine. 
Being an Oreo lover, Imagawayaki fan and having a collection of the "sweet tooth", I thought these would be right up my street. Sadly, not so much. Personally, I think these need a wet filling or at least some moisture. They were a little on the dry side, not in a completely overcooked way, more a sense of the cakeyness draws all the moisture from your mouth kinda way. Like a marketing ploy to get you to buy a drink as well. 
Luckily my partner was quick to swoop in and take them for herself. Not to be disheartened they sell lots of other flavours as well and for 4 cutsie cats paws the price of 50NTD / £1.25 it's something sure worth trying out.
Chicken Kebab Bun
Last on the food agenda was these scrummy buns. Walking back to where we were staying you'd get wafts of meats and sweet treats. This one happened to cut through the rest. It would have almost felt like a crime not to try one.  Juicy chicken, crisp cabbage, ketchup- of a kind, a heavy sprinkle of curry powder, a couple of slices of "fake cheese", crammed into a toasted bun. 
Full of flavour and perfect for the short walk back to the hotel. The joys of choosing your hotel based on being close to the night market. Truth be told I can't remember how much it cost, I was more interested in chowing down on it. All I know is I paid in change. Probably around the 50-60 NTD mark. / £1.25 - £1.50. Rarely does anything exceed that.
In need of a drink? Like the majority of Taiwan, Chiayi is littered with tea shops, whether it be chain or independent. There are various stalls amongst the food selling papaya milk, soy milk drinks or even star fruit juice. All of which are sublime! My partner's favourite shop - Dayung's. Fresh fruit juices, teas, blends almost any combination you can think of. If you find one give it a try.
Here are some extra pictures I didn't delete or not, not use.

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Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Spiced Walnut Scones

It's crazy to think that just two weeks ago I was trying to use up everything in the store cupboard before I left to travel around Taiwan. These scones were part of that attempt. They are a great way to use up spare milk or flour.

Scones are nothing new or revolutionary by far but they will always be a quick and easy bake that you can make at home. These shouldn't take you any longer than 20-30 minutes, which in baking terms is rather fast for anything. Deliciously studded with walnuts, fruits and possibly even a hint of mixed spice if you have some, make these the perfect autumn treat.

Just the smell of these as they are almost baked gives off a rich, warm aroma you'd imagine would come from some pretentious candle. All the wintery spices, toasted nuts and sweet fruits are all salivating, leaving you longing for one oven fresh. Smoother with thick clotted cream, a dowsing of strawberry jam or even cranberry jam or marmalade, as it's autumn after all. Making these a welcomed sight to any dinner table.

Recipe

Ingredients:

200g self-raising flour
10g baking powder
1tsp mixed spice (optional)
50g butter
50g caster sugar
120g milk
50g walnuts, crushed or chopped
50g dried fruit - raisins or sultanas work well
1 small egg, beaten

Method:

  • Sieve the flour, baking powder and mixed spice into a mixing bowl. To this add the butter and rub into the flour. Rub until all combined. 
  • Add the sugar to the mix and stir through. Start to add the milk, mixing with one hand until you form a soft dough. (You may not need all the milk so refrain from adding all at once).
  • Add the fruit and nuts. Give the nuts a crush or chop before adding though.
  • Mix well till evenly distributed and place onto a floured surface.
  • Roll out the scone mix until around 2cm thick. All depends on how high you'd like the finished article.
  • Cut out the scones using a cutter. I went for a straight edged 6cm ring but feel free to choose otherwise. You could even cut with a knife into shapes.
  • Place onto a baking tray with baking parchment. Brush with the beaten egg onto the tops of all the scones. 
  • Bake at 200°C for 10-15 minutes. Once golden brown remove from the oven and leave to cool before serving. 
  • I enjoyed mine with some lovely clotted cream and strawberry jam.

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Friday, 6 October 2017

Banoffee Chocolate Truffles


If you love banoffee pies, these banoffee chocolate truffles are likely to blow your mind! Packed full of flavour and textures, you may not be willing to share.

Anything banoffee will catch the eye of most people. Sweet nutty toffee, a hint of an oaty biscuit all held with banana. Let's be honest, "it's the closest fruit to not being a fruit"- NCIS.

With a caramel chocolate truffle base, a mixture of milk and dark chocolate really does help to balance the sweetness. If you're using banana liqueur you'll be in for a treat. It works so well with chocolates. Add to that a centre filled with toffee sauce and mouths begin to water.

Recipe

Ingredients:                                                                                                            (Makes 28-32 truffles)

Ganache
125g caster sugar
1 tbsp glucose
200ml cream
60g salted butter
90g milk chocolate
90g dark chocolate
1 shot banana liqueur (optional)
2 bananas, small to medium sized, chopped up
6 digestive biscuits, crushed
50ml toffee sauce

Coating
125g milk chocolate

Method:
  • Gently bring the sugar and glucose to a caramel in a heavy based saucepan.
  • Once there's a deep caramel colour, deglaze with the cream and butter. 
  • Cook out until the caramel has fully dissolved into the cream mixture. 
  • Pour over the two types of chocolate and whisk until smooth. Leave to cool completely before continuing. 
  • Once cooled fully give the ganache a beat with the chopped banana to loosen the mixture and puree the banana into the mix. Stir in the banana liqueur if using. 
  • Add the crushed biscuits to the ganache and stir until fully combined. Leave to cool and firm up once more.
  • Portion into sized balls. Make a dent in the centre almost all the way through and add a dollop of toffee sauce.
  • Gently smooth over the sides to fully en capsule the sauce in the centre. Leave to cool in the fridge once more until set.
  • Melt the chocolate for coating over a bain marie. Dip the truffles one by one until they are fully coated. Leave to set on a piece of baking parchment. 
  • Garnish if and how you please.


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Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Calamansi Marmalade

Calamansi marmalade sure sounds interesting, looks lovely and has a wonderful flavour profile. Calamansi is a small green/yellow fruit, a cross between a kumquat and a mandarin. With less of a sour hit than you'd get from a kumquat and fresher orangey notes, they are a wonderful fruit to try if you can get your hands on them.

This recipe will also work perfectly using kumquats instead. Simply swap the same quantity of kumquats for calamansi and voila. You can enjoy this marmalade on your toast, in a cake or any other way you enjoy traditional marmalade. You will love this version! It's tangy bitter-sweet goodness, a wonderful helping of calamansi bits to chew on and can all be made in less than an hour. Perfection!

If you have any leftover calamansis', why not freeze them and use them as ice cubes in drinks? They release their delicious flavours subtly and are just the right size. Do remember you can eat the whole fruit, including skin, the same as you would with a kumquat. Well... minus the seeds.

Be sure to look out for some more recipes using this delicious fruit in the future.

Recipe

Ingredients:

200g caster sugar
100g orange juice
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
200g calamansi, stoned, sliced thinly

Method:

  • In heavy-based pan caramelise the sugar over a medium heat. Shake the pan to move the sugar. (Don't stir)
  • When the caramel is a deep golden colour deglaze with the orange juice and vinegar.
  • Give it a good stir to dissolve all the caramel. 
  • Add the thinly sliced calamansi to the liquid. 
  • Leave to cook on a low-medium heat for at least 5-10 minutes until it starts to thicken a little. Stir regularly.
  • Pour the marmalade into sterilised jars, seal and leave to cool. 
  • Store in a cool dry place. Once open keep in the fridge. 

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Friday, 29 September 2017

Coffee Eclairs


To celebrate international coffee day, I've rustled up these scrumptious coffee eclairs. From the choux pastry to the light and creamy coffee filling, these will blow your friends away. If you get the chance to try them!

These coffee eclairs are a welcome break for coffee in the kitchen. Usually used in cakes, ice cream or tiramisu, it's rather unused. Chocolate pieces are always welcome, whether it be a crumble of a chocolate bar or just the remaining chocolate from making your own chocolate truffles.

For the choux pastry I've made it with 50/50 water and milk. You can change this to just water if you like. I personally like using some milk as it gives a little extra flavour and colour from the sugars in the milk when baked.

Not a fan of coffee? Not a worry! Instead, you can swap it out for some vanilla, citrus zest or even add a quantity of cocoa powder for a delicious chocolate version.

Full recipe below.

Recipe

Ingredients:                                                                                                                 (makes 8-10)

Choux pastry
55g unsalted butter
75g boiling water
75g milk
90g strong bread flour
2 eggs

Filling/ topping
185ml milk
6-8g fresh ground coffee, quantity varies on strength you'd like
2 egg yolks
40g caster sugar
25g cornflour
200ml whipping cream
25g icing sugar

Method:
  • For the pastry, melt the butter in a medium saucepan with the milk and water. Once butter is melted turn up the heat and bring to the boil.
  • As the liquid mixture comes to boil stir in sifted flour and a pinch of salt. 
  • Continue to stir and cook out over a medium heat until the dough forms a ball in the pan.
  • Remove from pan and press out into a mixing bowl, spreading out to cool gradually.
  • Once the dough is just warm to the touch add to a stand mixer. (Can also mix with a spoon by hand, just harder.).
  • Start to slowly beat the dough and add the eggs slowly till fully combined. 
  • The recipe can vary. You're looking for a consistency that just drops off the spoon. Once achieved don't add any more egg or it'll be too wet.
  • Pipe into long fingers (roughly 12cm) onto a parchment lined baking tray. 
  • Bake in a preheated oven at 200°C for 15-20 minutes. Oven dependant. Cook until golden brown.
  • For the filling, bring the milk to the boil with the coffee grains. 
  • Whisk the egg yolks and the sugar together in a mixing bowl. When light, add the cornflour to the egg yolks.  
  • Pour the boiling milk over the eggs whilst whisking. Return to the pan and cook whilst whisking on a medium heat. You'll notice lumps will form at the start, persevere, keep whisking and cooking. Soon you will be left with a smooth, lump free pastry cream. 
  • Remove from the pan, cling film the top to avoid a skin and refrigerate until fully cold.
  • Press the pastry cream through a fine sieve to remove any large pieces of coffee and to loosen it.
  • Whisk the cream and icing sugar until firm peaks. Fold the cream into the pastry cream in 2 stages. Spoon into a piping bag with a nozzle of your choice.
  • Pipe the filling onto or into the choux pastry. If onto, cut the pastry in half. Decorate with garnish of your choice. I went for some left over chocolate I had and some cocoa powder. 

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Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Ingredient Insight | Matcha


Renowned for its vivid green colour and numerous health benefits. It can only be matcha. Perfect in so many desserts, chocolates and drinks, there's no reason it shouldn't be a cupboard staple. Find out everything you need to know about matcha in this post (and stick around for some superb recipes to use it in at the end).

Where can I find it?

It's a question asked more than you'd imagine. You may see matcha cakes, drinks and ice cream everywhere, but have you ever seen it in your usual supermarket? I doubt it. The easiest way to get some is probably online. There are many companies dedicated to the sale of matcha out there. Choose one with a good reputation. Don't forget Amazon. You name it, Amazon almost always sells it. Failing that, head to a good Asian food shop, ideally Japanese or Chinese. The chances are if they don't sell any, they can certainly give you some good information on where you can get some.

What about the varieties? Which do I buy?

Matcha can generally be bought in 3 or 4 varieties (grades). Ranging from cooking/culinary grade, all the way to ceremonial grade. For a first time user of matcha for cooking be sure to get the cooking grade. It's not as vibrant green but you'll save yourself a healthy amount of money. Cooking quality matcha is best suited to its purpose. It has a slightly bitter taste compared to the premium, but when combined into cakes or other foods it helps to blend the flavour so it's more palatable.

Premium quality is great for lattes or drinking as matcha tea. Of course, cooking is always an option for this grade but matcha of almost any quality is considerably more expensive when compared to other teas. Premium quality is a much healthier alternative, it is full of antioxidants and vitamins. This is definitely the choice for the daily drinker.

Lastly, there is the ceremonial grade matcha. The brightest and greenest matcha available. It's used in Buddhist temples, ceremonies and by tea connoisseurs all around. Only using the finest leaves from tea bushes, grown in a period of darkness, resulting in leaves rich in amino acids. Not used for cooking, only for drinking as a traditional tea. It would take an experienced drinker to recognise the difference between premium and ceremonial grade matcha.

Storage

You now have a pouch or tin of matcha. You'll be unlikely to use it in a few days. Cooking and drinking with matcha is not something you use large amounts of. Generally used by weight and measured in the smallest of gram measurements, you could see yourself hanging onto a bag for a long time.

Whatever you do, keep it in a cool dark place. Don't be tempted to transfer into a lovely Kilner jar and have it on show in your kitchen. It may well look fancy but all that sunlight will not be doing it any favours.

Storing in an airtight container or a zip seal bag is a must. Matcha is prone to oxidisation, even after production. Plus, keeping the moisture at bay helps with dreaded clumps and lumps.

Using matcha

It's an ingredient that the culinary scene is seeing grow and grow. With its delicious clean flavour, subtle tea aroma, health benefits and photogenic style, this is an ingredient that I don't think will be a phase. It's around for good. It's taken its time to be truly appreciated, having been around for centuries. However, over the last year or two has it become more appreciated.

Used for flavour and for its colour in many foods from mochi, to ice cream and drinks, it's a flavour profile you must try. The ceremonial grade, when made into tea, is said to have tones of  "unami". Just remember to not go overboard, especially when using with other flavours. Like with everything - you can have too much of a good thing.

Now, for some tried and tested recipes you can enjoy with the whole family. Check them out and be sure to tell me what you think once you've tried them.





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Friday, 22 September 2017

Lemon Shortbread & White Chocolate Truffles


I don't always cater to my girlfriends tastes, but on this rare occasion she actually had an idea for what to make. Roaming the aisles of PX Mart, she saw some biscuits out of the corner of her eye and with chocolate in her hand, it was only a matter of minutes before we knew what the next recipe would be.

Shortbread is delicious and lemon and white chocolate are a winning combination, sure to please even the fussiest of tastebuds. A silky smooth lemon and white chocolate ganache accompanied by melt in the mouth lemon shortbread covered by a crisp white chocolate. It's lemony heaven. We could have easily eaten them all in one sitting. As it were, they only lasted two days with us, but if you're in more civilised company, they might last even longer for you.

If you are not in the chocolate mood or just fancy a lovely crumbly biscuit, this lemon shortbread on its own is the perfect way to satisfy the urges. Take it from me, the recipe amount of shortbread won't be going into these truffles. It would be rude not to sneak a piece beforehand.

For more delicious truffle ideas and recipes, check out this link 

Recipe

Ingredients:                                                                                                         (Makes 40-45 Truffles)

Shortbread
110g butter
60g sugar
1 tbsp cream
110g plain flour
2 lemons, zested

Ganache
125g cream
1 lemon, zested
250g white chocolate, chopped

Coating
125g white chocolate
Garnish of your choice

Method:
  • For the shortbread, mix all the shortbread ingredients together until combined and comes together in a ball.
  • Press into a lined 18cm/18cm tin. Bake at 160°C for 15-18 minutes.
  • For the ganache, gently the bring the cream and lemon zest to the boil. Pour over the chopped chocolate and whisk until smooth. Leave to cool in a fridge.
  • When the shortbread is cooked and cooled, chop into small pieces. 
  • Beat the set ganache to make it more pliable. Add the shortbread pieces, mix till combined. Leave in the fridge once again to firm up.
  • Divide the ganache into sized balls. Rolling in your hands to create a round ball. (Cold hands are preferable so not to melt the ganache.) Leave in the fridge once again before continuing. 
  • Melt the chocolate for coating. 
  • Dip the ganache balls into the chocolate, let the residual drip off before placing on parchment paper.
  • Either roll using a fork to create a spiky outside or leave to dry smooth. 
  • If drying smooth, add some lemon zest to garnish or even some flicks of dark chocolate for contrast.

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Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Street Food: Imagawayaki

Originating from Japan these imagawayaki's can now be found all over. Delicious pancake/ waffle batter stuffed full of delicious fillings, there are few street food snacks I enjoy more whilst on the go.

Value for money these can go right at the top. 1 piece set me back $10 Taiwanese dollars which is roughly 25p or 32 cents. Can you even get a Freddo for that nowadays?!

How they're made.


Imagawayaki is made in a unique pan that's just for them which full of 2cm deep circles. Of course, they are now available in almost any shape. From Spongebob to Hello Kitty! 
The sweet batter is then poured into these moulds, brushed up the sides and left to start to cook. After around 30 seconds the filling of choice is added. With most sellers having huge pans they can have up to 60 halves on the go at any one time.
 After the fillings are heated through 2 halves are joined, more batter is used in a squeezy bottle to seal them together. A short sealing time later and they are ready to enjoy.
The flavours.


Predominantly you will find imagawayaki filled with red bean paste or a vanilla custard. Whether there are stools amongst the street markets, on a street corner or even at an event, these two flavours will certainly be there. Having only seen a limited selection you can only imagine my surprise when stumbling upon a stool with 3 extra flavours. Especially that they were savoury aswell! Having only seeing sweet it was time to give them a go. 

They are as follows.

Red bean imagawayaki.

The traditional flavour and one of my favourites in truth. The sweet red bean filling is perfect, there's enough flavour from the beans so it's not boring with the right amount of sweetness to wolf down a fair few. P.S, if you get too many this flavour is yummy cold as well. 
Vanilla custard imagawayaki.

No matter what culture vanilla custard is sure to crop up. Perfectly gooey with the right amount of "stodge", which coats your mouth perfectly with flavour. If you're lucky there are a few stools with chocolate sauce too, the addition to this flavour is superb. 

I'm well aware for the next three flavours my naming of them may not be entirely correct. I'm sure they will have a name for the flavour but I've named them based on flavour.

Spicy garlic chicken and spring onion imagawayaki.

From the first bite, you get this wonderful hit of garlic and fresh chilli. Followed swiftly by a touch of sweetness from the spring onion and fragrance from some ginger. Add that to the meatiness of the chicken and it was just right. The addition of cabbage to help bulk these out and keep them moist hit the spot.
Fragrant chilli chicken imagawayaki.

Next up was the fragrant chilli chicken. Instantly there's an aromatic bouquet of ingredients. Very clean on the palette with a light heat from some chilli flakes at the end. Quite possibly my favourite savoury imagawayaki.
Fish and tomato imagawayaki.

Possibly the biggest surprise. After munching down the four previous imagawayaki's I was certainly hitting a roll full of flavour. I was soon stopped in my tracks. Don't think I didn't like it, it was more of a shock, biting in and finding an intense fishy flavour. I must say the filling was incredibly flaky and moist which made it enjoyable. 
No matter what there is bound to be a flavour out there for you!

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