Monday 30 July 2012

Meal Planning Monday

Meal Planning Monday
I was missing last week. I wasn't being lazy, I was (as Joe Mangle would say...) crook. I was a horrid, festering pile, and had no energy for Meal Planning Monday. It also meant my taste buds were shot, so I wasn't that hungry anyway. However, I've been a bit of a pig this weekend, so it's now time to try and eat a little better this week.

Monday: Not sure yet. It depends what time the delivery man comes with my replacement KitchenAid. Yes, really. I am now on my fifth pink mixer since March. All with different faults. Let's hope this is the last... I'll probably end up having a bigger lunch and having some cereal at silly-o'clock.
TuesdaySteak and frites with broccoli.
Wednesday: Chicken, vegetables and low fat coleslaw. Boring but necessary.
Thursday (Friday Eve): Yay! We're going back to Solita with Wayne and Vicki! Excited as a bugger! Deep fried coke here we come! If I am talking in riddles you really must investigate...
Friday: Probably something quick and easy (code for take-away from Chicco's...) because I'll be making teeth from sugarpaste. That's right. Teeth. I'm making more monster cupcakes...
Saturday: I will be baking the cakes and decorating them on Saturday afternoon before they are collected for Ewan's party. I'm sure I will be overcome by sugar fumes at this point and want something savoury. I think I might make St John's Welsh Rarebit as we've plenty of ale in!
Sunday: Nothing planned for the first time in ages! Possibly out for tea. Who knows!?

Sunday 29 July 2012

Cider and Cinnamon Cake

Cider and Cinnamon Cake
Yesterday our friends Wayne (@Brazly) and Vicki (@MrsPetticoat) came round for tea. This means two things:
  1. I will make enough food to feed an entire army. 
  2. I wait until everyone has just lost that 'full as a bugger' feeling, then I pounce with cake!

Vicki shares my enthusiasm/obsession for cinnamon. This means I can really go to town with the stuff! I decided to make one of my old faithfuls for last nights soiree. I call it an old faithful, yet I have never made it the same way twice. I generally look for inspiration in the supermarket booze aisle! This cake is so easy to adapt it's ridiculous. It's also exceptionally easy to make and behaves very well in the oven. Granted, it's not the prettiest cake in the world, but it packs a punch with flavour. 

It has a lovely soft crumb and retains moisture well, but the addition of wholemeal flour adds a little texture to the cake. I generally serve this as either a wedge with a cup of tea, or (as I did last night) with a little vanilla ice cream.

Cider and Cinnamon Cake

Serves 6
  • 100g unsalted butter - softened
  • 100g golden caster sugar
  • 2 medium eggs - beaten
  • 100g self raising flour
  • 100g wholemeal plain flour
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 3 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1.2 tsp mixed spice
  • 170ml cider (feel free to substitute with pear cider, ginger beer etc). I used Magner's Spiced Apple with Honey.
  1. Preheat the oven to Gas 4/180 C
  2. Grease and line a 7 inch cake tin
  3. Cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy
  4. Beat in the eggs a bit at a time (add a tablespoon of the flour if it curdles)
  5. Add the flours, bicarbonate of soda and ginger to a bowl
  6. Sift in in 3 batches, alternating with the cider. Fold into the mix gently
  7. Put the mix into the prepared tin and bake for 50-55 minutes in the centre of the oven.
  8. Allow to cool in the tin for 15 minutes before turning out onto a cooling rack.

Herman the German Friendship Bundt

Herman the German Friendship Bundt
A few weeks ago I made Herman the German Friendship Cake for the first time. Since then a few portions of Herman have been doing the rounds at work, and I found myself in possession of a 'spare'. I love nothing more than to tinker with recipes, and I couldn't help but feel my first Herman was a bit safe. I had bundts on the brain...

I cultivated the spare Herman and then took the plunge. I made an Apple and Cinnamon version this time, as I had a cake tester/colleague who was most militantly opposed to sultanas, but everyone thought apple was the way forward.

I made the cake in exactly the same way apart from I used two portions of Herman instead of one. This also means doubling up the ingredients on day 10 (see below). I was a tad concerned that this cake mix just wouldn't tollerate a bundt tin, and that it may stick a little. It does take longer to cook because of the size, but I adjusted the oven temperature so the top wouldn't burn. I stayed with the simple fluted tin design to minimise stress...

It worked perfectly! I just left it in the oven until the edges started to shrink from the sides of the tin, and it came out quite easily. If you get a Herman starter, try something a little different!

Herman the German Friendship Bundt Instructions:
Day 1: Take Herman home and decant him into a big bowl. Leave him on the worktop (not the fridge - it's chilly in there) covered with a tea towel.
Days 2 & 3: Stir well.
Day 4: Feed him with 200ml milk, 200g caster sugar and 250g self raising flour. Stir well.
Days 5-8: Stir well.
Day 9Feed him with 200ml milk, 200g caster sugar and 250g self raising flour. Stir well and split into four equal portions. Split into three portions where one portion is half of the mix and the other two are the remaining quarters. Give the two quarter portions away.
Day 10: Feed him with 300g self raising flour, 6 beaten eggs, 300g caster sugar, 4 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp mixed spice, 2 tsp baking powder, 300g finely chopped apple and 200ml sunflower oil. You can substitute the combined fruit with your own favourite fillings! Spread him into a greased and floured bundt tin. I used a 10 inch tin. Bake him for about 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 hours on gas 3/160 C.
Herman the German Friendship Bundt

Sunday 22 July 2012

Solita, Manchester

Solita - Northern Quarter, Manchester
If you've ever read my blog before, you will know I am a right nosy parker. For the last few weeks the team at Solita have been tweeting pictures of their amazing test dishes. Then one day, they posted that picture. They had pulled pork on the menu! The pulled-pork-o-meter was flashing ten to the dozen. I then somehow managed to forget about this image for a few days, probably because I have been busy with the fete and cake club. Then, like a kipper to the chops my friend Mrs Petticoat blogged about it. Boooom! I was back in the room.

Today we had planned to go to Brewdog for a burger. It was only on the train into Manchester that we rescinded! We got there about 12pm and scared the life out of the poor staff who were still eating their breakfast! Within a flash they were gone and our drinks order was taken. The first thing you notice at Solita is that all the staf are really friendly, and I don't mean in a 'HI GUYS!' way either. Our waitress seemed genuinely excited about everything she described to us and gave good advice when I couldn't make up my mind (too many nice things on the menu for a greedy guts like me...)
Solita - Northern Quarter, Manchester
Solita - Northern Quarter, Manchester
I hadn't intended having a starter. But there it was (cue the 'drumset music' from Step Brothers...) Pulled Pork Sundae... pulled pork in sundae form. It's like they knew I was coming... My husband got all giddy when he saw Rooster Scratchings too! Expectations high and energy levels low, we waited for our starters. We had a chat with Dom, one of the owners while we waited. What a lovely chap! He told us about his experience in the restaurant industry, and how his father had a restaurant in Westhoughton in the early eighties. My favourite story was the one about him being shipped off to Sardinia every summer as a young chap. He explained that it was because he was a 'little bastard' and his dad knew the family would sort him out! Haha! Anyway, this chap knows his stuff. 

Scratching of any variety are not my thing, but my husband assures me that they were 'epic'. The pulled pork sundae was everything I had hoped for. Soft pork with crispy edges in a thick barbecue sauce covered in two piped mounds of their famous 60/40 mash (60% potato, 40% butter). The portion size was perfect, as I was a little worried that I might get full before my main even arrived.
Solita - Northern Quarter, Manchester
Rooster Scratchings
Solita - Northern Quarter, Manchester
Pulled Pork Sundae
My husband ordered the burger because the description contained two words that are like a red rag to a bull; bone marrow. This addition makes the burger so much richer. It came with a side of triple cooked chips and we ordered an extra side of Chow Chow Slaw. This is similar to coleslaw but with no mayonaise. It's a tangy mix of vegetables with an acidic dressing. Perfect with any meaty dish.
Solita - Northern Quarter, Manchester
Classic Burger with added bone marrow and cheese. Side of Chow Chow Slaw.
I was between the burger on the specials menu and the Hanger steak. I was intrigued as although I've seen this on American menus, I've never seen it here. Our waitress explained that it's a very tender cut that is a bit of a butchers' favourite. It's rarely served here as it's a bit tricky to cook, but their Inka oven makes it much easier. She was so right! It's like the soft bits of a ribeye but the shape of a long fillet. It was gorgeous, only made better still by that barbecue sauce. Bloody hell fire I could eat this on everything! It's tangy, smoky, a little bit spicy and 100% delicious.
Solita - Northern Quarter, Manchester
Hanger Steak with Bourbon BBQ Sauce
The dessert menu had us a little puzzled. Deep fried coke? How and what the hell? We had to sample this. They are like churros with coke syrup served with ice cream. The only thing that would make these better is a mountain of cinnamon sugar on top, but I understand that most normal people's sweet tooth doesn't go as far as mine...
Solita - Northern Quarter, Manchester
Deep Fried Coke
I opted for the Inka roasted pineapple, marinated in rum and molasses and served with coconut ice cream. This was the perfect ending to a beautiful meal on a hot day. Wonderfully refreshing but sweet enough to tick a box.
Solita - Northern Quarter, Manchester
Inka Roasted Pineapple
We were genuinely wowed by Solita. We expected decent food but were greeted with really great dishes. We pondered if there was anything that could have been improved. My husband suggested that perhaps one of his chips wasn't as crispy as the rest, but it was negotiable. That's as far as we got. It's one of the best meals I have had in ages.
Solita - Northern Quarter, Manchester
A 'smoke poofing' Inka Grill!
We have eaten everywhere from the best restaurant in the world to local cafes. The 'level' of food really has no bearing on dining experience. This was a great experience. Manchester's restaurant scene is a little lack lustre, and has been for some time. I have to agree with my friend Mrs Petticoat that this is an exciting new venture for Manchester. It's obvious that a lot of effort has gone into creating and tweaking these dishes. The menu is small but perfectly conceived, and is supplemented with daily specials. We'll definitely be going back here! Something tells me it won't be that long until we do...

Please leave your comments below x
SoLita on Urbanspoon

Saturday 21 July 2012

Clandestine Cake Club Bolton - Sweets For My Sweet

Clandestine Cake Club Bolton
They just keep getting better. Every month I organise the Bolton Clandestine Cake Club with a different theme. This one was suggested by member Lucie; Sweets For My Sweet. The idea was to make a cake based around your favourite sweet shop treats. My my, the members came up trumps this time!

We held our meeting at Suzanna's, in Blackrod. It's just off the beaten track and surrounded by fields. With wonderful views from every window, lots of space, beautiful decor and good coffee, it's the perfect venue for a gathering of cake fans. The staff were great too. When I got there they had already set up a long table for the cakes and sorted plates and cutlery. They were on hand for our every need! There was a buzz of excitement from the kitchen when all the cakes started to arrive...

The theme meant no 'classics' appeared this month. Everything was a custom made marvel! At last count I saw 25 cakes, all in varying sizes, shapes, colours and some even had sound effects! I don't think I have ever seen such excitement at the club. The cakes included:

  • Sherbet Lemon Cake
  • Strawberries and Cream Cake
  • Pear Drops Cake
  • Chocolate and Liquorice Cake with Marzipan All Sorts
  • Bubblegum Sparkle Giant Cupcake
  • Liquorice Cake with Sherbet Dip
  • White Chocolate Jazzie Cake
  • Chocolate Lime Cake
  • An Explosion of the Woolies Pick n Mix Counter Cake
  • Midnight Magic Cake
  • Walnut Whip Cake
  • HumBIG Cake
  • Curly Wurly Cake
  • Naturally Sweet Cake
  • Frosted Marshmallow Cake
  • Coconut, Raspberry and Marshmallow Cake
  • Coconut Mushroom Cake
  • 'Sugar for My Honey' Chocolate Honey Cake
  • Strawberry Jelly Cake
  • Bassett Fruit Salad Cake
  • Limoncello Lemon Bon Bon Cake
  • Popping Orange Cake
  • Love Heart Special

Clandestine Cake Club BoltonClandestine Cake Club BoltonClandestine Cake Club BoltonClandestine Cake Club BoltonClandestine Cake Club BoltonClandestine Cake Club BoltonClandestine Cake Club BoltonClandestine Cake Club BoltonClandestine Cake Club BoltonClandestine Cake Club BoltonClandestine Cake Club BoltonClandestine Cake Club BoltonClandestine Cake Club BoltonClandestine Cake Club Bolton
Clandestine Cake Club Bolton
Clandestine Cake Club Bolton
Clandestine Cake Club Bolton
Clandestine Cake Club Bolton
Clandestine Cake Club Bolton
Clandestine Cake Club Bolton
Clandestine Cake Club Bolton
Clandestine Cake Club Bolton
Clandestine Cake Club Bolton
Clandestine Cake Club Bolton
Clandestine Cake Club Bolton
Clandestine Cake Club Bolton
Clandestine Cake Club Bolton
Clandestine Cake Club Bolton
Thank to everyone who came and made so much effort! Roll on next month! August's theme is Americana (currently fully booked) and September's is Back to School. Please click here for more information.

Please leave your thoughts and comments below...

Pear Drops Bundt Cake

Clandestine Cake Club Bolton
I do this every month. I announce these ace themes for cake club, then worry about what I will make later! The theme for July's club was the brainchild of my friend Lucie. Sweets for My Sweet asked members to take inspiration from their favourite sweet shop goodies. 

I decided to do a pear drops cake for two reasons; I loved them as a child and I thought the colours would look fantastic in a cake! I got the idea when wandering round Marks and Spencer's one lunchtime. They have a fantastic range of retro 'pops' in glass bottles... one of them being pear drops! The taste is perfect! I decided to test my hair-brained idea earlier this week, and use my work buddies as guinea pigs! I wanted a double layered cake in pink and yellow, but I wanted the batters to marble slightly. It had to be bright too! However, because this was for cake club it had to taste amazing and have good texture too.

On Tuesday I set about the test cake. I had no idea if it would work, or even taste right. My aim was to have a hint of the pear drops taste rather than something that overpowered the entire thing. It worked a bloody treat. Here's what I did:

  • 225g unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 100g solid vegetable fat at room temperature (Trex or Cookeen would be perfect)
  • 650g golden caster sugar
  • 5 large eggs
  • 460g plain flour, sifted
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 250ml M&S Pear Drops fizzy pop
  • Pink and Yellow food gels

  1. Grease and flour a large bundt tin (about 10 inches in diameter).
  2. Preheat your oven to Gas 3/160 C.
  3. Beat the butter and vegetable fat together until creamy.
  4. Add in the sugar and beat on a medium speed for about 5 minutes.
  5. Add the eggs one by one on a slow speed.
  6. Add the flour and salt to a separate bowl.
  7. Add 1/3 of the flour to the batter and fold in.
  8. Add 1/2 of the fizzy pop.
  9. Alternate with flour and pop until it is all incorporated. It may look a little curdled. Worry not bundt fans! It's the pop being a bugger. Yes, that is a very technical culinary term.
  10. Give it a whizz for about 10 seconds on a medium speed.
  11. Split the mixture into two bowls - roughly half in each.
  12. Add a pea sized amount of pink food gel to one, yellow to the other. Mix well until the colour is evenly spread throughout the mix. Take care not to overmix.
  13. You are left with two vivaciously vibrant batters. 
  14. Spread one of the mixes into your prepared bundt and smooth out.
  15. Repeat with the other.
  16. Using a skewer or spoon handle, make a wiggly pattern through the two batters. This will create your marble effect.
  17. Pop the cake in the middle of a preheated oven for about 1 hour 30 minutes. If it's not shrinking away from the sides of the tin, leave it in for another 10-15 minutes. This is a big cake so will need to be cooked for a long time on a low heat. Long and low is the way to go. Don't worry if the crust looks brown. It should be. That's the caramelised sugar and tastes fantastic!
  18. Leave the cake to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack.
  19. When the cake has cooled decorate however you please. I made a simple runny glace icing using about 200g of icing sugar mixed with a little of the fizzy pop and some pink food gel!
  20. Cut into your cake amid many 'oohs' and 'ahhs'!

Pear Drops Bundt Cake
Yellow mix...
Pear Drops Bundt Cake
Pink mix...
Pear Drops Bundt Cake
Layer it up...
Pear Drops Bundt Cake
Swirl it...
Pear Drops Bundt Cake
Can you see what it is yet...? 
Pear Drops Bundt Cake
Marbled inside
Pear Drops Bundt Cake
The finished product is a wonderfully moist cake with a subtle pear drops flavour. Let's hope the cake clubbers like it!

Post Cake Club Update...
So today was cake club! I amended the frosting slightly so there was more of it and therefore the cake had a stronger 'pear drops' flavour. Seemed to go down well and the glaze looked nice and shiny!
Pear Drops Bundt Cake
Pear Drops Bundt Cake
BloggersPlease respect the fact I am sharing my own ideas and recipe. Blood, sweat and many tears have gone into getting this right, so you may enjoy a perfect bundt. If you wish to re-blog a recipe from these variations, please credit my blog and link to this original post rather than pasting the recipe on your own page. 
Please see my Creative Commons Copyright information for more details. Thank you.

Please leave your comments below... x
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