Saturday, 21 January 2012

Mary Berry's Iced Chocolate Traybake

I thought I would be a good housewife and do some baking while Jewhurst was out at hockey today. Any excuse to use my beautiful KitchenAid after all...! We were given Mary Berry's Baking Bible for a wedding present and I have to say it's one of those cookbooks I would happily read for pleasure not just for baking. I love her old-school style, the way she loves precision, and the fact she is not precious about using organic, expensive, speciality products.

The name of this cake confused me, because where I come from a tray bake doesn't have to have been made in a tray - it's more defined by being bite-size and the fact you have it with a cup of tea - things such as coconut balls, fifteens or top hats. Tray bakes in NI are the key components of a summer camp, church tea or birthday party. However in this context a traybake seems to be a cake made in a sheet pan rather than a round tin. So I was interested to see how it would turn out.

Mary is well known for her precision baking and so I will be writing the recipe in the traditional style of ingredients then method, rather than my more informal style in previous recipes. I don't know about you but even though I like a more relaxed, "slap dash" approach to cooking, when it comes to baking I like to have all my ingredients out and ready, so I know I am following the recipe to the letter.

Iced Chocolate Tray Bake

Ingredients - for the cake

4 level TBSP cocoa powder
4 TBSP hot water
225g softened butter
225g caster sugar
275g self-raising flour
2 level tsp baking powder
4 large eggs
1 TBSP milk

For the icing
4 TBSP apricot jam (I used raspberry and there was no difference in taste)
150g plain chocolate such as Bournville (39% cocoa solids)
6 TBSP water
350g sifted icing sugar
1 tsp sunflower oil


1. Preheat oven to 180deg/Gas Mark 4. Grease a large brownie or swiss roll tin and line the bottom with baking parchment

2. Blend together the cocoa and hot water, and leave to cool. Put the remaining cake ingredients in one bowl or freestanding mixture, pour in the chocolate mixture, and beat until well blended. Turn the mixture into the tray and level the top

3. Bake in the pre-heated oven for 35-40 mins (I actually took it out earlier because it was done after 30 mins) or when the cake springs back when touched and has started to shrink away from the sides. Leave to cool in the tin.

I actually let it cool then tipped it onto a wire rack to cool. Shhh, don't tell Mary!

4. To make the icing, warm the jam in a tiny saucepan or a bowl in the microwave, and brush over the cake

You *could* skip this step I reckon. To my mind, it didn't add anything to the recipe, as you are using soft icing rather than fondant which needs to stick. It's up to you, but I will just say that 4 TBSP is too much - I had loads left.

5. Break the chocolate into pieces and melt gently in a saucepan with the water. When smooth and melted, mix in the oil and then leave to cool slightly before mixing into the icing sugar.

6. Pour over the cake and smooth gently with a spatula or palette knife dipped in hot water. Decorate with chocolate shavings from the remaining Bournville (Mary's suggestion) or Malteasers (my suggestion!)

This photo was taken on my phone so apologies for the quality, but it gives you a good idea of the size and consistency and my ridiculously bad icing skills.

It tasted lovely - light, "springy" (Jewhurst's words) and really chocolatey.

Cheers Mary!

post signature

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Recipe Shed - Chicken and Ham Pie

Recipe Shed

It's pies this week on Reluctant Housedad's Recipe Shed, which worked perfectly with our plans for a chicken and ham pie that we'd been thinking of making for a few weeks!

My mum did us a joint of ham at Christmas - my mum's Christmas ham is legendary. She roasts it with honey and cloves, and then makes the most incredible lentil soup with the stock. Unfortunately (or not, depending on how you look at it) she made rather a lot and we had quite a few slices left over even 5 days later. So we threw them in the freezer and set about finding a way to use them up.....and discovered this. It's a Good Food recipe, tweaked a bit to suit our tastes and storecupboard.

Chicken and Ham Pie
(serves 6)

Put 6 cubed chicken breasts in a large pan, along with 3 or 4 cubed potatoes, and a variety of veg (we used frozen peas and sweetcorn but carrots, broccoli or celery would work as well). Add 800ml hot chicken stock, dried herbs, and seasoning. Bring to the boil, then simmer for 15 minutes.

Place a colander over a large bowl and drain the contents of the pot. Reserve 1 pint of the hot stock and put the chicken and veg to one side. Rinse out the pot and melt 50g of butter. Add 2 chopped onions and cook out for 5 minutes. Stir in 50g plain flour then begin to add the hot stock a little at a time to make a smooth thick sauce. We used the full pint but on reflection it made the sauce quite watery so perhaps don't use it all. Add 300ml milk and simmer for 5 minutes.

Take the pot off the heat and stir in the juice of a lemon. Put the chicken and vegetables in a large pie dish, along with as much cooked ham as you fancy (we used 4 large thick slices) and cover with the sauce, allowing to cool for a while.

Preheat the oven to 200degC. Take a 500g pack of ready rolled shortcrust pastry (or be really virtuous and make your own) and place it over the top of the pie dish. Add a few steam holes and decorate with pastry leaves, if you are so inclined!

Bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes. We had this on its own but to make it go further you could serve it some more veg, or (Jewhurst's suggestion) chips....!

Isn't it a beaut? It tasted AMAZING. The clove from the ham gave it a nice warmth without overpowering it, the chicken was tender and the potatoes gave an interesting texture to the filling. I also thought that perhaps the filling could be made in the slow cooker to really intensify the chicken and vegetable flavour.
Have a look at some other pies on Reluctant Housedad's blog. What's your favourite pie?

I have also linked this up to Mrs M's Recipe Link Party
post signature

Friday, 6 January 2012

Recipe Shed: Healthy New Year

Recipe Shed

Time to hook up with the Recipe Shed from Reluctant Housedad again, and what better theme to kick off the new year than the healthy stuff! We can all admit to over indulging a bit over Christmas but going healthy is always so much easier when the recipe is a tasty one which is interesting to make and attractive to the eye.

My contribution is from Slimming World, a recipe I nabbed from my mum's SW book. I have no idea about the Syns/points/calories etc., but I am guessing that the absence of fats or dairy products, not to mention the presence of healthy fillers like rice and pulses, means that it's a safe bet for a healthy diet.

Rice-filled Peppers
Serves 1

Chop one red pepper in half and scoop out the seeds and white membrane. Leave the stalk intact to help keep the filling in the pepper (not to mention making it look pretty!). Meanwhile fry a small onion in a little oil - I used coconut oil which is a healthy option - and add 1/4 tsp each of chilli flakes, paprika, and dried mixed herbs. Cook out until the onion is soft. Add a portion of cooked rice, a small tin of kidney beans, and some sweetcorn. Taste for seasoning - I added some Ludlow sauce for tanginess but Worcestershire sauce or soy sauce would also add nice flavour. Spoon the rice mixture into the peppers and bake in an oven for 40 mins at 180 deg.

(Funny story behind this photo - I managed to upend one of the peppers transferring it to the plate. Literally upside down pepper with filling everywhere. You can see a few rogue grains of rice I missed with the kitchen roll...)

If you want to gather a few more ideas for healthy food to balance out the Christmas splurge then head over to Keith's blog and check out the entries!

post signature

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Mars Bar Trifle

Trifle. Love it or hate it? I am not the biggest fan, although I wouldn't say I *hated* it, but I tend to only like the cheap ones with not a lot of fruit or alcohol in them, which kind of defeats the purpose. I saw this recipe in my December edition of Essentials magazine and knew I had to try it immediately. However when there are just 2 of you in the house it is slightly ridiculous to make a pudding that would serve about 6 people, so I saved it for Christmas Eve down at my mum's. I promise you, when you eat this, you will die and go to Heaven....

Mars Bar Trifle
(serves 6... maybe more if you are conservative with portions!)

Slice 12 Mars Bar mini rolls and layer them along the bottom of your trifle bowl. Then pour over 1 tin of caramel - like Nestle Dulce du Leche or similar - and smooth over with a hot spoon. Meanwhile, heat 1 regular sized carton of Ambrosia chocolate custard in a saucepan, then dissolve 3 gelatin sheets which have been soaking in cold water for a few moments into the custard. Pour the custard over the caramel and chill in the fridge for 20 minutes. Whip up 200g whipping cream, and spoon over the custard. Finish off with chopped Mars Bar (2 is enough) and drizzle with chocolate sauce.

Apologies for the spectacularly crap picture. I had to use my phone and the light in my mum's kitchen was poor. Do you like the retro trifle bowl? My mum's, obviously.......... ; )

There are a few changes I would make to the recipe next time. First of all, I would do individual portions, unless I knew I was feeding a crowd. It is a delicious recipe but too big for just 4. You need to give small portions because it is so rich. Secondly I don't know if I would bother with heating the custard and adding gelatin. It made the custard very solid and I didn't like the texture when I was eating it. I guess it is to make a more stable base for the cream but I reckon it would be fine just to chill it, or just add the one leaf of gelatin.

Let me know if you make it and what you thought of it!

post signature