Chocolate beetroot cake

Autumn is one of my favourite times for cooking. I have really started to enjoy making the most of all of the seasonal produce, especially since moving to Yorkshire where local produce is fantastic. Even beetroot haters (of which I am one) will adore this cake. The cake is lovely and soft, the beetroot adding a richness – it adds an extra dimension and the cake has a fantastic texture. (Plus the chocolate and marscapone icing is delicious and naughty).

To make this cake you will need

150g grated raw beetroot

200ml nut oil or vegetable oil (I used hazelnut oil)

200g caster sugar

50g soft brown sugar

3 large eggs

3 tbsp milk

200g self raising flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 heaped tbsp very good quality cocoa powder

 

For the icing

50g dark chocolate (I used more for reasons below)

1 tsp beetroot juice

300g icing sugar

250g marscapone

 

For decoration

A Cadbury Flake

 

Preheat the oven to 170°C. Line 2 cake tins. Whisk the sugar and the oil together. Separate the eggs and put the whites in a separate bowl. Add the yolks to the sugar and oil mix and whisk further. Whisk in the milk.

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Before adding the grated beetroot to the mixture keep back some of the liquid to make the icing.

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Stir in the beetroot.

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Finally sift in the flour, baking powder and cocoa powder.

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In the separate bowl use a (clean) whisk to whisk up the egg whites until they form stiff peaks, and are the consistency of shaving foam.

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Add the whites to the other mixture a quarter at a time.

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Separate this mixture between the two lined baking tins. Bake for 35-45 minutes, or until a skewer comes out of the cake clean.

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Now here comes my schoolboy (or rather schoolgirl error). When you make the icing you’re supposed to add the melted chocolate to the bowl containing the marscapone and other ingredients. I melted the chocolate in the bowl and it had hardened by the time everything was added.

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Anyway. to make the marscapone to a small mixing bowl.

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Sift over the icing sugar and add the beetroot juice (this adds a bit of colour to the icing.

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Beat the mixture together with a fork. Melt the chocolate and add to everything and beat further.

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Sandwich together the two cakes with half of the icing. Top with the rest of the icing. Use a paddle knife or a butter knife to make sure everything is smooth.

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Crumble over the flake to add a bit of extra chocolatey decadence.

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I took this cake to my Uncle’s where it was consumed within minutes. A true test of most baking is to take it to a family dinner. if everyone goes quiet, you know you have a great recipe!

 

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Baking Club week 2 – chocolate biscotti

This week at baking club we made a variety of tray baked goodies – date flapjacks (recipe to come in a new post soon!), raspberry and white chocolate brownies and chocolate biscotti. As I have already blogged raspberry and white chocolate brownies before here is a picture (and a new tip)

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Put the raspberries on the tope, so its easier to serve! Much prettier this way too.

Anyway, for some reason chocolate biscotti look really unappealing when you’re making the dough. Something to do with the general brownness. However, once you cut into them, its a whole different story. Biscotti are one of those fantastic biscuits that go marvellously with a cut of tea or coffee. They will also keep for weeks in an airtight tin. However, we took the flapjacks, brownies and biscotti into work and they were gone within the day, so there was really no way of testing this!

To make chocolate biscotti, you will need:

125g whole almonds

100g chocolate (it should really be plain chocolate but we used Galaxy Counters)

250g plain flour

2 tbsp cocoa powder

150g caster sugar

1 tsp baking powder

3 eggs

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Grease and line a baking tray. Roughly chop your almonds and chocolate (if the chocolate is in a bar)

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We’re all nuts here

Mix all the ingredients except the eggs in a large mixing bowl.

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Lightly beat in the eggs until your mixture starts to form a dough.

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I actually had a problem getting all the ingredients to combine so I stuck my hands in!

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If your dough gets a bit sticky sprinkle in more flour. Ball your dough. Separate into two and make loaf shapes about 3cm high and 20cm long. Bake for 20 minutes.

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Remove from the oven and allow to cool. When the loaves are cool, make slices of the biscotti, then bake on one side for 10 minutes and 5 minutes on the other.

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Leave to cool and serve with a cup of tea. It’s definitely going to be reappearing in my biscuit tin soon!

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Baking Club week 1 – Chicken, mushroom, leek and bacon pie

So a couple of my friends and I have started a baking club. We all love to bake, but have experience in different areas of baking and having regular baking sessions gives us all a chance to learn from each other (and also have girl time).

This week, in line with the Great British Bake Off we made different types of pastries. The main (and by far most delicious) thing we made was a big savoury short crust pie. This pie is a wonderful thing to bake as the weather gets colder and wetter and you want something warm and filling for your evening meal. The pastry can be made in advance, or you could use ready made pastry – I think there is something nice about making your own though. This pie isn’t exactly quick to make, so you might want to make it when you have a few hours free. The sensational flavour and texture of the pie makes it well worth waiting for though (and your kitchen will smell wonderful).

To make this pie you will need:

For the pastry

500g plain flour

A pinch of salt

250g chilled unsalted butter

4 egg yolks

100ml cold water

For the filling

6 skinless, boneless chicken thighs

4 chicken breasts

250g mushrooms

900ml chicken stock

60g butter (plus extra to grease your pie dish)

3 tablespoons oil

1 finely diced onion

2 large leeks

2 cloves of garlic

2 finely chopped celery sticks

1 tablespoon dried tarragon

300g panchetta or any other type of bacon

40g plain flour (plus extra for dusting the pie dish)

150ml white wine

200ml low fat crème fraîche

1 egg to glaze (we just used the whites leftover from the pastry making)

Salt and pepper

 

Put the flour, butter and salt into a large mixing bowl and rub together to form breadcrumbs.

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The beautiful Miss B pastry making

 

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Add the egg yolks and mix in with your hands. Slowly add the water and mix until a dough has formed that leaves the side of the bowl clean.

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Tip the pastry out onto a lightly floured surface and shape into a ball. Wrap in cling film and leave to cool until needed.

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Cut the chicken into chunks (2.5cm) and set aside. Prepare all of the vegetables and place to one side.

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Would you trust Miss M with a knife?
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Note – the broccoli didn’t go into the pie, we just cut it along with everything else

Put the mushrooms into a large frying pan. Add 400ml of the stock, bring to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes. Strain and reserve the mushrooms and cooking liquid separately.

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Wipe out the frying pan. Melt the butter with a tablespoon of the oil. Add the chicken pieces and cook until slightly browned on every side. Do this in batches so as not to overcrowd the pan. Remove from the pan and put to one side in a bowl.

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Add the remaining oil to the pan and cook the onion, leek, celery, garlic and tarragon. Cook gently until soft but not brown. Remove from the pan into a bowl.

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In the frying pan cook the bacon in the frying pan until browned. Remove from the pan and put to one side.

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Add the wine to the frying pan and bring to a simmer. Deglaze the pan by stirring and scraping the base of the pan. Return all the ingredients back into the pan (or put everything into a larger saucepan) cover everything with the flour, add the stock and mix well. Cover and cook over a low heat for approx. 35 minutes. Preheat the oven to 180°C.

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During this time cut your pastry in half. Roll out one half for the base of your pie dish. Grease your pie dish and dust with flour. Place your rolled out pastry into the pie dish and allow to rest for a few minutes to prevent the pastry shrinking. Trim the pastry to the size of your pie dish, line the bottom of the tin with baking beans and blind bake for 10-15 minutes (to prevent the fabled soggy bottom).

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Going back to your pie filling, remove the meat and vegetables from the pan using a slotted spoon and put into the pie dish. Reduce the liquid in the pan by half. Add the crème fraîche, whisking gently with a balloon whisk. Pour this sauce into the pie dish.

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Roll out the other half of your pastry. Top your pie with it, remember to cut steam holes into the pie to stop it exploding in the oven. Seal the edges of your pie by washing the edges with egg, then press the edges together with your thumb. Decorate the pie with the excess pastry then glaze with the eggs prior to baking. pie 18

Bake in the preheated oven at 180°C for 25 minutes. Turn the oven down to 150°C and bake for a further 20-25 minutes until golden brown.

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Serve with the vegetables of your choice. Feel instantly warmed and comforted.

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Cinnamon Buns (sticky buns)

Since making pizza (and therefore having dried yeast in my cupboard) I have become more enthusiastic about breadmaking and using yeast as a raising agent. These cinnamon buns are made using what I believe is an enriched dough and are absolutely lovely still warm from the oven with a cup of tea. These would also be a fantastic breakfast or brunchtime treat – leave out the glaze if the idea of eating sweet things so early turns your stomach. In fact, if you’re not a fan of overly sweet baked goods (like my friend Miss M) this is the perfect recipe if you forget the glaze altogether. However, if you’re a bit sugar crazy (like myself) you will love it in all forms.

Also, it needs to be said, when these are baking in the oven your kitchen will smell fantastic.

To make these sticky buns you will need:

For the dough

25g caster sugar

1 sachet dried yeast

300ml whole milk (slightly warmed in the microwave)

500g strong white flour

85g butter

1 tsp salt

 

For the cinnamon filling

80g softened butter

80g soft brown sugar

1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1 large egg

 

For the glaze

50g softened butter

125g cream cheese

300g icing sugar

 

In a jug or small bow mix together the caster sugar, milk and yeast. Leave for around 20 minutes until it becomes frothy.

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While you’re waiting for your yeast to activate sift your flour and salt into a large bowl. Add the butter and rub together to form breadcrumbs.

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Make a well in the centre of the breadcrumbs and add the yeasty milk mixture. Use a large wooden spoon to mix the ingredients into a dough.

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Turn your dough out onto a floured surface and knead until smooth and slightly elastic. Return to your bowl, cover the bowl with cling film and leave in a warm place to rise until it has doubled in size. This should take around 40 minutes.

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To make the cinnamon filling mix together the brown sugar and cinnamon.

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When your dough has risen knock it back. Return it to the floured surface and knead again. Shape into a rectangle and roll out until it is just over 1cm thick. (I know my rectangle is horrible, but in my defence the dough is very soft!)

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Spread the butter on the dough and sprinkle with the sugar and cinnamon mixture. Roll the dough up lengthways into a long sausage shape.

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Slice the dough into 16 pieces. Place into a large cake tin (or 2 smaller cake tins) lined with baking parchment. Make sure the cinnamon rolls are nicely squashed in. Allow to rise in a warm place for 20 minutes. During this time preheat your oven to 180°C

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While you’re waiting for the buns to rise for a second time make your glaze by beating together the icing sugar, butter and cream cheese.

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Before you put your cinnamon buns into the oven beat the egg and use a pastry brush to cover the buns. This will add a nice brown sheen to them as they bake. Bake the cinnamon buns for 10-15 minutes or until they a nice golden brown colour.

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Allow to cool slightly and cover with the glaze.

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These are best enjoyed on the day you make them, so they’re good when you’re expecting a crowd.

Malaysian style chicken noodle soup (slow cooker style)

Chicken soup is, in my humble opinion, a remedy for all things. Hangover, stress or heartbreak. It also works particularly well on colds – handy for me as I have been making everyone around me jump with my (embarrassingly loud) sneezes.

I used my crock pot again to make this. Feel free to email if you want to just do it on the hob.

To make this soup you will need:

A medium sized whole chicken

1 onion

1 5cm piece of root ginger

3 garlic cloves

Salt and pepper

Rice noodles

1 tbs soy sauce

1 tbs fish sauce

250ml vegetable stock

2 pak choi

A large handful of green beans

A large handful of sugar snap peas

Spring onions (to serve)

Peel and quarter your onion and peel and slice the ginger. Crush the garlic. Put the chicken upside down in the slow cooker and add the onions, ginger and garlic. Season with the salt and pepper. Pour over enough cold water to cover the chicken. Cover and cook on a low heat for 6-8 hours.

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Remove the chicken from the slow cooker and allow to cool until you can handle it. Remove the skin and then strip the chicken of the meat (I just used my fingers for this bit).

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Chicken licken

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Use a sieve to strain the liquid from the slow cooker. Add to this the soy sauce and fish sauce as well as the vegetable stock. Add the chicken meat and start heating.

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Add the noodles, beans and sugar snap peas.

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Your kitchen will smell amazing

Once the noodles are soft add the pak choi and cook for another couple of minutes.

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To serve, top with the spring onions.

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Comfort food at its best

I felt much better after my chicken soup. A straightforward and healthy way to cute a multitude of problems. (However, if you are feeling really poorly you should really get someone else to make it for you!)

Slow cooked pulled pork

From my previous post of slow cooked lamb stew you will know that I am a fan of cooking with a slow cooker. It’s a bit like having a 50s housewife with none of the commitment. You get to come home from work to a nice, home cooked meal but you don’t have to pay for her shoes! (The downside is there is nobody to clean your house for you either, a slow cooker can only do so much!).

Anyway, the people at Appliances Direct part of the Buy It Direct company very kindly offered to send me the small appliance of my choice as long as I reviewed it for them. I got very excited and chose a Crock Pot slow cooker as I have been looking for a bigger slow cooker for months. When browsing the site I was amazed at how good value everything seemed to be. I will definitely be ordering future kitchen appliances from them!

Here is a picture of me with the slow cooker. (They remind me of when you show off your presents for the camera on Christmas morning!)

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The very first thing I made in my lovely new slow cooker was some pulled pork. I wanted to make it before, but my old slow cooker was very small, too small for pork shoulder.

To make the pulled pork you will need:

1.2kg – 1.5kg pork shoulder

1/2 a bottle of barbeque sauce

250ml Coca Cola (not my beloved Diet Coke)

A good pinch of salt

Chilli Flakes

If you prefer brown the pork shoulder before cooking by lightly frying. I personally didn’t (I was running late as usual) and it came out fine. Place your pork shoulder in the slow cooker. Cover with the barbeque sauce, the Coca Cola and the salt and chilli flakes. Switch the slow cooker onto the low heat setting, cover and leave to cook for 6-8 hours.

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I got local, Yorkshire pork specially
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For a while my workmates used to joke that I had become obsessed with Diet Coke, oh how they’ll laugh that I’m cooking using the real thing
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Bye bye pork, it’s time for work!

  After cooking remove the pork from the sauce and gently remove the fat and pull apart the pork and place in a serving tray or bowl.

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You don’t need a sharp knife for this as the meat falls apart

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Keep back the sauce and reduce by cooking on a high heat until the sauce is more sticky and viscous. For all you Coca Cola haters out there – this sauce does not actually taste like Coke, it’s really sticky but savoury.

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Pour the sauce over the meat and serve. Pulled pork is particularly nice in a burrito but Miss S and I loved it just as much with guacamole and salad in a sandwich.

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We both managed to get covered in the sticky barbeque sauce. What a pair!