Donal and Me (Part 3 of Julie and Julia)

As described in my post: Working-Mom Problem No.1: Feeding the Hoard this winter I have decided to work through my hoard of cookbooks in an attempt to find new family recipes that I can cook quickly in the evenings that are both delicious and nutritious.

One thing is very clear – the Donal Skehan of 2011’s Kitchen Hero and the Cathy Clarke of 2015 live very different lives. Donal’s book which hopes to bring the cooking back home is not for a family feeder like me, it’s for the people who are hoping to bring the party back home. He has many hip little recipes for nibbles, quaint twists on lunch bites, but I had to combine at least 3 of his suggestions to make an actual meal that would fill an adult from dinner to breakfast the next day – there will be no midnight feasts on my watch.

vodka penne

The first one I took a swing at was the Vodka Penne, and it was delicious. On the negative side there was the unpleasant moment where the vodka was being burnt off and my kitchen smelt like a junior disco, and I had to add chicken because there was no meat, but on the positive side the toddler could feed himself and the adults were very curious as to what the heck I was serving them for dinner, which prompted them to wander into the kitchen which allowed me to assign them tasks, so even that alone gets an extra bonus point. It was a good meal that tasted very nice the next day for lunch and will definitely go into my family favourites list.

I’d give this a score of 8/10.

fish cake

But that was the only ‘meal’ I could find, so I started to combine others. I tried the Zingy Thai Fishcakes with Sofies’s Squashed Potatoes, and my own recipe for Mediterranean vegetables. The potatoes were fine, nothing to write home about, but grand. I added pine nuts to give them a bit of texture. The fish cakes were a whole different ball game – these were a disaster. I could not get them to stick together – I think I should have used two eggs maybe? So I ended up with fish lumps on day 1, and then what looked like minced fish on day 2. A disaster.

lemon spuds

 

Cocktail Cupcake: Southern Comfort and Coke

 

Cocktail Cupcake: Southern Comfort and Coke
Cocktail Cupcake: Southern Comfort and Coke

 

Topic: Cupcake, Alcoholic, Hens, Bachelorette, Baking, Party

 

Nothing says “I have come to party, but in a controlled, safety-switch-on sort of way” like an alcoholic cupcake, but what says “I may even loosen my hair bun and unbutton my shirt collar” is chocolate alcoholic cupcakes.

One of my favourite recipes is an adaption of the Cookie Girls Jack Daniels from her Eat Me book. Jack Daniels is Cookie Girl’s hubby’s (say that three times fast!) favourite tipple, unfortunately I had an “incident” with Jack back in my college days and I now can’t stand the taste of it, so instead I use Southern Comfort. I think the Southern Comfort adds a smoothness which the dark chocolate compliments very nicely. And there is a bit of coke thrown in so people don’t realise I’m an alcoholic.

Cocktail Cupcake: Southern Comfort and Coke
Cocktail Cupcake: Southern Comfort and Coke

Ingredients

Batter

  • 200g plain flour
  • 250g golden caster sugar
  • ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 egg
  • 100ml milk
  • 30g yogurt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 110g unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 2 tbsp Coke (full fat, this is no time for Coke Zero, we need the sugar)

Icing

  • 110g icing sugar
  • 1 tbsp Coke
  • 3tbsp Southern Comfort
  • 5 tbsp of black food colouring
  • 100g dark chocolate

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 170/Gas 3 & line your 12 hole baking tray with paper cases
  2. Mix flour, sugar and bicarbonate in a bowl.
  3. In another bowl mix egg, milk, yogurt and vanilla.
  4. In a large pot melt the butter. Add the cocoa and Coke.
  5. Pour the butter mix into the flour mix and mix.
  6. Add the egg mix and mix.
  7. Pour into cupcake cases so they are 2/3 full, to allow space to rise
  8. Bake for 20-25 min
  9. Once the cupcakes are baked and cool, begin making the icing
  10. Sift the icing sugar and add the Coke, Southern Comfort and food colouring.
  11. Melt the chocolate and stir into the icing
  12. Working quickly before the icing solidifies, pour over cupcakes. Then decorate.

I was asked to bring some cupcakes to a sporting event recently, so I mixed these dark boozy cupcakes (for the grown-ups) in with a milk chocolate Nutella cupcakes (for the kids). They went down a treat. Although some of the kids were a little too partial to the Southern Comfort cupcakes – ones to watch in the future!

Cocktail Cupcake: Southern Comfort and Coke
Cocktail Cupcake: Southern Comfort and Coke

 

Cocktail Cupcake: White Maria

 

Cocktail Cupcakes: White Maria
Cocktail Cupcakes: White Maria

 

Topic: Cupcake, Alcoholic, Hens, Bachelorette, Baking, Party

 

Rolling into the Christmas Party season, with everyone praying for a White Christmas, I thought this little stunner might be a great addition to the festivities.

This is a variation on the White Russian, the famous cocktail which was named at the end of World War 1 after the anti-Bolshevik group,of the same name, so called because they stood against the ‘Reds’ which were the communists. The drink got its name because of its main ingredients Kahlua (for the White) and Vodka (for the Russians). However, vodka is one of those flavours that just doesn’t work well in cake, so this recipe does not call for any. Instead we have the creamy white coming from the white chocolate and sour cream, and the dark coffee flavouring of the Tia Maria, to give us the White Maria.

 

 

Cocktail Cupcakes: White Maria
Cocktail Cupcakes: White Maria

 

 

Ingredients

Batter

  • 110g unsalted butter
  • 110g caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 110g self-raising flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 6 tbsp Tia Maria

Icing

  • 55g white chocolate
  • 110ml sour cream
  • 3 tsp Tia Maria
  • 225g icing sugar

 

Cocktail Cupcake: White Maria
Cocktail Cupcake: White Maria

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 180C/Gas4 and line a baking tray with paper cases
  2. In a large mixer cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
  3. While still mixing add eggs one at a time.
  4. Sift in flour and baking powder slowly.
  5. Mix in Tia Maria
  6. Spoon into paper cases and bake for 20 min
  7. Leave to cool
  8. For the icing: melt the chocolate. Add the sour cream and Tia Maria
  9. Mix in icing sugar
  10. Allow to cool so that it gets tacky. Spread over cupcakes

Cocktail Cupcakes: Margarita

 

Cocktail Cupcakes: Margarita
Cocktail Cupcakes: Margarita

Topic: Cupcake, Alcoholic, Hens, Bachelorette, Baking, Party

 

 

“Can I have two shots of tequila, I’m baking.”

“You don’t need to make an excuse, if you want tequila at two in the afternoon you can have it.”

“No, you misunderstand. I would like two shots of tequila, which I will not drink, but instead put into this flask, so I can bring it home and bake with.”

The barman glanced at the three other punters in the place, who were sitting behind half empty pints watching the horse racing, to make sure he was not missing a joke of some sort here. They looked away from the telly in the corner to return his confused stare. He turned back to me.

“Tequila in a cake? That’s gonna be muck. What you want is brandy. Like at Christmas. I’ll get ya brandy.”

 

 

So before you even start these, let me tell you, there is no need to go out and buy an expensive bottle of tequila, but it might be quicker and raise less suspicion. By the time I left the bar, with two tequila shots safely in my pretty Cath Kidston flask, the barman had the feeling that I can only assume hardware owners have after selling rope, shovel and balaclava to known criminals who say they want to do a bit of gardening in the cold. He didn’t know what I was up to, but he was pretty sure it was not baking, and it probably wasn’t legal. I toyed with the idea of bringing him back one of these cupcakes to show that my intentions were pure, but I doubted if he would eat something he suspected had criminal intent.

 

 

The recipe I am using is an adaptation of Cookie Girl’s Margarita cupcakes. And by adaptation, I mean I’ve discovered a few short-cuts!

 

Cocktail Cupcakes: Margarita
Cocktail Cupcakes: Margarita

Ingredients

Batter

  • 110g unsalted butter
  • 110g sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 110g self-raising flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 3 tsp lemon essence

 

Filing

  • 85g butter
  • Juice & zest of 2 limes
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 large egg yokes
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 2 tbsp of tequila

OR (as I found out later) you can instead use

  • 1 jar of lemon curd
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • 2 tbsp of tequila

 

Icing

  • 110g unsalted butter
  • 110g cream cheese
  • 450g icing sugar
  • 1 lime – juice & grated zest
  • 1 tsp Triple Sec
  • Green food colouring

 

 

Method

  1. Preheat oven 180C/Gas 4 and line baking tin with paper cases
  2. In a large mixer, cream the butter and sugar until fluffy.
  3. Add eggs, sift in flour, baking powder and lemon essence. Mix until smooth.
  4. Fill paper cases 2/3 full to allow rise.
  5. Bake in oven for 15-20 min
  6. Filling: take three or four large spoon of lemon curd and mix in lime juice and tequila to taste
  7. Once cupcakes are cooled, core and fill with filling
  8. Icing: in a large mixer mix butter and cream cheese. Add icing sugar and mix. Add lime juice, zest, Triple Sec and colouring. Mix well.
  9. Spread icing over cupcakes & decorate

 

Cocktail Cupcakes: Margarita
Cocktail Cupcakes: Margarita

 

 

Cookbook Review: Alcoholic Cupcakes from Cookie Girl’s Eat Me

Eat Me Cookbook

 

Topic: Cupcake, Alcoholic, Hens, Bachelorette, Baking, Party

 

Nothing says I have come to party, but in a controlled safety-switch-on sort of way, like an alcoholic cupcake. They are perfect for hens/bachelorettes, birthdays, afternoon tea; events of any sort really, where there will be plenty of alcohol on hand but possibly not much soakage. These cupcakes are a way of slipping in a little safety net for those who can’t drink like a hobo at Christmas, but like to think that they can. They work well at the start of the festivities when people are sipping the classy wine, heels and hair intact, discussing political events in a sophisticated way. They are less effective if the flip-flops are on, makeup askew and the words ‘And Another Thing’ have been uttered more than once. At that stage, just start laying tarpaulin.

 

However, alcohol in food is a delicate balancing act (excluding jelly-shots which I categorise as solidified alcohol rather than a food product). Unlike a liquid which races through your mouth and is only on your palette for seconds, food is chewed and swirled around your mouth for a few minutes. So something that is delicious as a drink can be overpowering as a food no matter how much you like the flavour. If these cupcakes are to succeed you must remember one simple rule; food is not the medium through which to consume alcohol; if you want to get drunk I suggest stop eating and start drinking. Do not be tempted to add extra shots into recipes to get everyone drunk. The result tastes so disgusting it is inedible which makes the action self-defeating,

 

My favourite recipes are some I have modified from Cookie Girl’s Eat Me cookbook. For those that don’t know Cookie Girl is a lady otherwise known as Xanthe Milton. Ms Milton got into baking professionally while taking a break from acting. She began selling baked goods to West London office workers, before setting up a stall in the Portobello Market, and then going on to supply Selfridges nationwide.

 

In her Eat Me cookbook she has 4 alcoholic recipes – Jack Daniels, Kahula White Russian, Malibu Pina Colada and Margarita. Myself and the Cookie Girl have different tastes in alcohol, so rather than going out and buying an expensive bottle of liquor only to use a few tablespoons, I instead modified her recipes in order to use alcohol I did have in my house. The results work very well so long as you substitute similar flavours. So for instance, I don’t have Jack Daniels but I do like the occasional Southern Comfort and coke, so I exchanged shots of Jack for Sunny C. I don’t have Kahula, but I do have Tia Maria, this exchange works quiet well.

 

However, sometimes exchanges are not possible. Nothing tastes like tequila. It is unique. However, it would be a shame to have to fork out about €40 for a bottle only to use 2 tablespoons, so instead bring a flask down to your local pub and buy two shots for closer to €5. The barman might give you a funny look, and the bar flies might think that you are more pissed than they are, but really, if it means the success or failure of your cupcakes do you really care about their opinions?

 

Another tip is to be careful of the decoration that you propose to use. Most of Cookie Girl’s recipes rely on the action of both the cupcake and the icing together to make the flavour, so if you plan to use rolled icing or some other decoration, make sure you have a strategy to add it on top of the flavoured icing in the recipes. I find that little cocktail umbrellas are a great way to decorate these cupcakes, because nothing says sophisticated fun like a little umbrella.

 

However, if you have all the ingredients that she calls for, these are simple recipes that are easy to follow and have great results.

 

Guest Blog: Maire Brophy with Vegan Afternoon Tea

Afternoon tea is a delightful way to add a touch of class to any party. We are big fans of it here at A Home Made By Committee and it is something that we have discussed previously in our coverage of Galentines Day. However, the task of hosting such an event is made a little more difficult if your guest of honour has strict dietary requirements, such as being vegan. Some creativity and inventiveness is required to fulfill these requirements without losing the look and feel of a traditional Afternoon Tea. Here is how Maire rose to the challenge …..

 

As a special celebration for a vegan friend of mine, I decided to make us some afternoon tea.

 

Menu

Finger sandwiches with hummus, rocket and red onion

*

Bruschetta

Basil and plum tomatoes

Roasted red peppers and avocado

*

Raspberry scones with coconut cream and jam

*

Pinwheel cookies and chocolate brownies

*

Tea and Prosecco

 

 

Vegan Finger Sandwiches and Bruschetta

As a baker I knew there was plenty of recipes that would work. The hardest thing, as it happens, was to find the fillings for some lovely finger sandwiches. I think these ones are much superior to the traditional cucumber sambos. Make these just before serving.

Vegan Brushetta

  1. Spread hummus on to two slices of fresh white bread, add leaves of rocket and thin slices of red onion. Cut the crusts off and cut into finger sandwich sizes
  2.  Get some fresh, Italian bread, or some other crusty bread, cut into bite size servings (we’re being civilised here remember). Toast lightly.
  3.  In a bowl mix diced fresh tomatoes with some finely chopped red onion, finely chopped fresh basil, a couple of tablespoons of olive oil, a pinch of salt and half a teaspoon of sugar. Spread this on half of your toasted bread, and heat briefly under the grill.
  4.   Chop some avocado into small cubes, mix with roasted peppers and add some olive oil and a pinch of salt. Spread on to the other half of your toasted bread and grill briefly. Serve warm.

 

Raspberry Scones

My usual scone recipe is egg-free anyway, so this was just a matter of substituting the regular milk to soy milk

scone Collage

Ingredients

  • 450g self-raising flour
  • 120g dairy-free margarine (stork or similar)
  • 100g sugar
  • 300ml soya milk
  • small punnet of fresh raspberries, washed

 

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 180C
  2. Rub the marg and flour together, or just use a mixer… I used a mixer. Stick it on for a bit and check that the flour and marg are evenly mixed together – and there aren’t any large lumps. Then add your sugar and mix again.
  3. Next add the soy milk and mix. When the mixture is uniform, you can add the raspberries. The raspberries are fragile and will break as you mix. If you want large raspberry pieces, don’t mix for too long.
  4. Flour a clean work-surface and put your mix on it. Knead the mixture gently until it forms a smooth dough, this should only take a minute or two. The fresh raspberries will make your mixture wetter so you might need to use a bit of extra flour at this point.
  5. Flatten it out to about 1 or 2 cm thick and use a glass or cutter to cut out the size you want.
  6. Put your scones on floured baking trays and bake for about 15 minutes – until they’re turning a little golden on top. The cooking time will depend on how big your scones are. Larger scones will take a little longer
  7. This mix makes 10-12 medium to large scones. Cool on a wire rack.
  8. And then have at least one just to check that they’re ok, and not because you want to have greedy scoffingtons.

 

 

Pinwheel cookies

vegan pinwheel cookies

Ingredients

  • 275g plain flour
  • 200g dairy free margarine (stork or similar) room temperature
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder

 

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 190C and grease some flat baking trays.
  2.  Cream the butter and sugar together – again I just through them in the mixer. It helps if you leave the margarine out for a few hours before using it. Add in the flour and mix into a manageable dough.
  3.  Divide the mixture roughly in half and add the cocoa powder to one have.
  4.  Roll out each mixture between two sheets of greaseproof paper or parchment. Try to make them roughly the same size. When done place one on top of the other. Trim the edges to make a rectangle (trimmings also make delicious cookies), roll it up ala a swiss roll and then put it in the fridge for half an hour or so.
  5.  When it’s had a chance to chill and harden a little bit, take it out and slice it to give you the pinwheel cookie shape. Place on the greased trays and bake for 10-12 minutes.
  6.  When out of the oven leave to cool on the trays for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack.

 

 Vegan brownies

These are very good, although they do lack the chewy edges you get from usual brownies. The original recipe called for 250ml of oil, although I saw a suggestion that you could lower the amount oil by using apple sauce or chocolate pudding. I found vegan chocolate pudding in my local supermarket, and so replace 100ml of oil with two chocolate puddings.

 

Ingredients

  • 250g self-raising flour
  • 350g brown sugar
  • 65g cocoa powder
  • pinch salt
  • 250ml water
  • 150ml vegetable oil
  • 2 vegan chocolate puddings (or just use 250ml oil)

 

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C and line a rectangular baking tin with parchment
  2. Mix all the dry ingredient together and then add the wet ingredients and mix until everything is combined.
  3. Pour into your tray and bake for 20 – 25 minutes, until the top is no longer shiny. Allow it to cool in the try before cutting it into squares.

 

Obviously taste one… quality control you know.

You might have to have a second one, just to be sure.

 

Vegan Tea

Make sure you scald the pot first (that’s not especially for vegans, that’s just being a civilised human being!)

Use soya or almond milk instead of cow’s milk

 

Vegan Prosecco

Just use regular prosecco…. add some fruit, because you know, 5 a day and all that.

 

 

 

End results:Scoffingtons!

vegan tea the end

Galentine’s Day: Beginners guide to throwing an Afternoon Tea party

C28. GD 3

Inspired by Leslie from Parks and Recreation, this bespoke day is an annual celebration of your female friendships, which is supposed to take place the day before Valentine’s Day. However, I think such a wonderful idea should not be limited by calendar dates, but instead be allowed run free throughout the year, to land of any day of your choosing. The day of my choosing was last weekend, when I threw an afternoon tea-party for six of my very favourite gal pals.

 

Now, it’s all very well to decide to throw afternoon tea, but as the date drew closer and the realisation dawned on me that not only would I have to feed these people without giving them food poisoning (I and my husband have built up a digestional resistance to my cooking but I worry when I have to inflict it on the innocent) but they would also be in my permanently-partially-decorated home, free to roam and open doors and drawers at will. This required a strategy.

 

Food:

First thing was the menu. I need something that I could easily prepare, would earn me a shot at the domestic goddess title, without actually requiring too much effort. The golden rule from Ms Delia Smith is that you should buy something and make something, so I decided on:

  • Three types of sandwich cut into triangles

These are easy, make as normal, cut into triangles held together with toothpick, arrange nicely on display stand

  • Scones with jam, cream and butter

For the scones you could make from scratch, but I bought a ready-mixed Odlum QuickMix packet and added what was needed. My special touch was using my heart shaped scone cutters to make heart shaped scones – so cute. Jam, cream and butter I just served in cute little dishes

  • Croissants

Bought a Bake-it-fresh JusRol pack, rolled and popped in the oven

  • Brioche

This I just bought in a packet from Tescos. Took from packet and placed artistically on plate, job done.

  • Brownies with cream and strawberries for dessert

I bought a ready-mixed packet and once I had cooked them, I simply arranged on a pretty plate

  • Tea
  • Champagne with strawberry icecubes

C28. GD 2

 

 

Getting Ready. The Timeline:

 

Three or Four Days before G-Day

  • I cleaned the house top to bottom. I scrubbed bathrooms, hovered, cleaned and put away clothes, emptied bins: the works. I gave it the full mother-in-law-about-to-visit treatment.
  • I also did the shopping, and got in all the supplies that I needed.

 

Night before G-Day

  • Cleaned again, but this time it only needed a light spruce, the heavy work having been already completed.
  • Made heart-shaped strawberry ice-cubes, by dicing strawberries into a heart-shaped ice-cube tray.
  • Picked out and tried on clothes for tomorrow – when you are in a rush it is not the time to discover your skinny jeans no longer fit.
  • Make sure you have enough display plates and stands for the amount of food you will be serving, and that you have enough delph and cutlery for all the courses, and all your guests.

 

G-day morning;

  • Up out of the bed at 7am.
  • Set alarm to 12pm, two hours before arrival time of 2pm.
  • I started cooking at 8am by turning on the oven to preheat.
  • I checked all the cooking instructions, and the first things made were the scones as they took the longest to cook.
  • While they were cooking I made the sandwiches.
  • Once the scones were done, I put them on the cooling rack and started the croissants: they were rolled and put in the oven.
  • While they were cooking I set the table and laid out the brioche and sandwiches.
  • Once the croissants were ready they went onto the cooling rack and the brownies were next.
  • As the brownies cooked, I finished laying the table.
  • Then I cleaned dishes and started to clean the kitchen when alarm went off – 2 hours to go. I decided to finish cleaning the kitchen, which took a half hour, before going and getting washed and dressed myself.

Point to note: It is always better to be dressed long before guests arrive, in case somebody arrives early. You can always get an early bird to help you with the set-up, you cannot invite them to help you apply your makeup. And you certainly don’t want to run over time and have all your guests arrive when you are only half dressed.

  • Once dressed, I laid out the scones and croissants on the table, and put the brownies to one side for later.
  • I cleaned dishes again (because I did not want the dishwasher whirling away while we were eating), and was just pouring a glass of champagne when bing-bong, the doorbell rang to signal the arrival of the first guests.

 

C28. GD 1