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Week 12 - Pancakes

Annabelle pancake

Pancakes with lemon curd and mascarpone

This week I carefully planned when I should make the pancakes so I could flip them and eat them hot!

After smashing the jar of lemon curd, I went out to buy another and pondered what cheese on a pancake would be like….. we usually stick to the squeezed lemon and sugar but myself and everyone else was really up for trying this new “design”.

I mixed the batter mix and made sure there were no lumps. I then let the butter melt and bubble in the pan. To my surprise, the first pancake was quite thick and gloopy so I added more milk and whisked again.

I mixed together the mascarpone and lemon curd and tasted, WOW it was lovely - sweet and sour and just exciting!

The second pancake went down a treat and we all started flipping!

I pasted the pancakes with the lemon mixture and added whole blueberries, as I thought that would be more fun.

We had three each for three of us (the last ones were tiny!) and we each flipped and enjoyed the tang of the lemon. The pancakes were amazing and the reviews were “better than just old lemon and sugar”.

Week 11 - Toad in the Hole

Annabelle toad

Toad in the hole

This week….a piece of cake, well not so much a cake but a nice sausage dinner. Luckily for me, the weekend before I had made sausage and mash for my partner and I. This resulted in a swift and desperate phone call to my mum to check, “how long do you put a sausage in the oven for?” She went into great detail of how to cook a sausage and other methods and varieties of cooking.

So this week, I felt I had an advantage: been here done that!
I browned the meat in the oven, and added the oil.

Then I used my Kenwood Chef to beat together the egg, flour and milk and seasoned the batter. I added it to the hot oil I had heated in the oven and placed the sausages on top of the batter. I was patient and made sure I didn’t peak, as I wasn’t allowed to ruin the rising process.

I fried the onions and rosemary with (a little more than) a splash of red wine and added the stock to make a gravy. This was so exciting I’ve never tasted or made home-made gravy that didn’t start as a granule!
Finally, I put the peas in the microwave and served a meal to four hungry people who were thrilled, particularly with the gravy! (And so was I!)

Week 10 - Macaroni Cheese

This week was hands down my favourite. I found the instructions easy, I followed the recipe without any problem, I was able to multi-task, slice things, blitz things whilst things boiled and I stirred.
I really enjoyed making this dish as I knew it would be an easy evening meal to prepare for family and friends, and it smelt great.

I made the sauce in the pan, stirring, adding, stirring, adding and formed a lovely bubbling white sauce. Draining the pasta I consulted the recipe once again to see what needed slicing, I grated some cheese (probably more than a handful) but added to the sauce and watched the cheese melt in.

I set up my Kenwood Chef and used the grater to form a pool of perfectly grated cheese, nicked a bit and transferred out of the bowl. I rinsed and now added the garlic cloves (two small ones rather than one) and blitzed with oregano and bread. I was so incredibly proud of myself to have made breadcrumbs, how simple it had turned out to be and how excellent it looked.

I transferred it all into the dish and sliced the tomato on top. Floured on the breadcrumbs and baked….the taste, the smell, the success. Macaroni cheese was lovely!
I served and we all enjoyed although…. a little garlic-y.

Week 8 - Leek & Mushroom Pie

Annabelle pie

This week I was really looking forward to making something savoury as all the whipped cream had become a bit sweet…

At last, I was able to use my slicer and dicer attachment of the Kenwood Chef this week and slice up the leeks and mushrooms; I have to say this device gives me more pleasure than the cooking itself. Every slice was perfect and exactly the same as the other.

Then came the béchamel sauce, the recipe ingredients listed two portions of the butter and flour so I thought I’d just go for it following the instructions precisely, but make the quantities up myself. I was melting the butter and adding the flour, making the sauce smooth before adding more milk each time, for something that is talked about so often in cooking I got the hang of it so quickly. I tasted my sauce, which I thought pretty much tasted of, well floury butter! But I was chuffed, it was smooth, runny and about as much as I needed.

I fried off the leeks and mushrooms, added the béchamel and marvelled at my work, then I (misread) the TSP for a TBS and added – a little too much wholegrain mustard which I found out in the taste test!

I opened the pastry (breathing a sigh of relief it was already prepared) and cut a slice to put around the edge of the dish, I poured in the mixture and pondered why there was no base, I was quickly assured this is how pies like this are served - the pastry is more of a lid! So I baked it in the oven and smelled the deliciousness.

Upon clearing up, I noticed… an un-used, un-opened pack of bay leaves….whoops, I think I missed those out but I re-read the instructions and nothing jumped out at me. The taste test was a PASS! Everyone loved it although a little grainy on the mustard side!

Week 8 - Victoria Sponge

Annabelle sponge

This was long awaited and everyone was excited, it happens to be my family favourite so I baked it in the afternoon ready for the cake to be served in the evening. I had previously made two batches of the plum cake so the cake mixture I was quite confident about. I mixed all the ingredients, adding the splash of milk at the end and admired my creamy pale cake mixture. I poured it into the tin and baked for 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, I whisked the cream in the bowl until it was stiff and – now I realise stupidly – mixed in the jam with the cream. I had planned on spreading a layer of jam and adding the now, jam flavoured cream, in between the layers to sandwich the two together but the cream went runny once I’d added the jam! Fail! So I started again, whipped the cream, (which if you remember I HATE!) and left the jam separate.

While I was still waiting for the sponge to cook I made the icing, never have I heard of let alone seen liquid glucose so I added it to the icing sugar with the egg white and dyed it all pink, then…….disaster struck, no amount of mixing, stirring or waiting would make my icing go firm for me to be able to roll. I re-assessed the instructions and decided to wait to see if the icing would go hard.

…….. it didn’t, I tried again and the same thing happened, I decided my icing would have to be more of a drizzle and a thick layer of ‘perfect quilt’. I halved the sponge, added the layer of cream and jam and drizzled my drizzle! I portioned out the cake into 10 slices and served to a very happy audience, everyone loved the cake, the icing and the filling, although they weren’t too taken with the silver balls!

Week 7 - Upsidedown Plum Cake

Annabelle plum cake

I have to say this week was pretty drama and burn free!

The only struggle I did have was delicately removing the stones from the plums. I thought I could do it how they do on the TV but my particularly ripe plums were just leaking all over my hands!

Instead of trying to be posh, I sliced each side of a plum until I reached the stone and just used one more than the recipe to make up for the wasted bit.

I set up my Kenwood chef and measured out the ingredients for the sponge, combined the mixture and waited for it to “pale” although it already looked pretty pale to me! When I was happy I added the egg, then the flour, egg then the flour periodically and concentrated while the mixture bound together.

Naturally as always I had to literally measure a baking tray to find the correct 18cm cake tin as I am useless with a) kitchen implements b) measurements! I found one which mostly resembled what I wanted and lined.
I arranged the plums, skin down, although the skin was kind of at the side but it looked cute, and poured over the cake mix. I smoothed down and cooked for the time. The knife test was spot on first time and came out clean, and the spongey-vanilla-plum warm smell filled the kitchen…we waited as long as we could and ate the cake still slightly warm. I must say, my best, sweetest, most delicious creation yet.  Mmmmmmm

Week 6 - Sunblush Tomato, Rosemary and Garlic Rolls

Sunblush Tomato, Rosemary and Garlic Rolls by Annabelle Bezant

I was looking forward to this recipe the most as me and my family all enjoy garlic bread and for it to be homemade, a crowd had gathered for the taste test.

I made the dough and waited for it to rise. I had to leave it in a warm place for an hour to double in size, much to everyone’s amusement. I put it on a shelf of the BBQ for 20 minutes and watched the process time be slashed!

I followed the instructions carefully and only made some very minor changes… We all love garlic so the recipe wanted me to finely chop two cloves. I chopped six and hoped everyone would love the warm bread mixed with fresh garlic. I kneaded the dough with the rosemary, tomatoes and extra garlic and again left the mixture to rise. My crowd were looking forward to the outcome, although the BBQ had been and gone in the time I waited for rising to occur and all the food had gone!

I made the mixture (which was now a little wet what with the tomatoes) into balls and placed into the tray with the baking paper. The rolls rose and browned on the edges and although I couldn’t work out what the hollow sound I was looking for would sound like, sure enough when I tapped the bottom of the rolls, I could tell exactly what the recipe meant.

The crowd all burned their fingers trying to eat the rolls direct from the oven! So we broke the bread and waited for it to cool. The tomatoes were very prominent and the taste test began. We loved the garlic, we loved the bread's crunchy edge and fluffy middle but for next time, we agreed fewer tomatoes or dried as the bread was a bit soggy wherever there was a slice of tomato.

I really enjoyed making the bread and I have to say it’s a lot easier than I thought, and everyone makes out! It just tests my patience for waiting, which usually isn’t much!

Week 5 - Vegetarian Pizza

Annabelle Pizza

Homemade vegetarian pizza

I was so excited to make bread, pizza to be precise - it is just the waiting part that I’m not so good at!
I made the mixture in the bowl and mixed the yeast and had to wait for it to activate. This time I made the recipe in the presence of my chef friend who had promised not to intervene!

I left the covered dough mixture near the oven and waited for it to double in size, don’t worry I’m not suddenly a masterchef, but my friend told me it would!

When it had and I had busied myself for over an hour waiting, I emptied the mixture onto flour and kneaded, it was actually quite surprising to see how it changed shape and dried out. Then came the stretching part, I attempted to whirl the pizza base on my fist, just like in the movies and actually managed to catch it before it flipped onto the floor.

I made my own stuffed crust edges and located the largest oven tray I think I’ve ever seen! Then I tried to move the perfectly rounded base onto said tray……..oh dear! Dough, by the way, stretches, breaks and strings into pieces when you try to move it! So I re-kneaded and stretched the dough into a square and loaded the fried up topping, it looked and smelt lovely.

I cooked the pizza and became easily distracted and my friend had to shout at me to remind me to take it out the oven. My freshly cooked homemade pizza was lovely. The few comments were my base was a little bit thick but the crust and the topping melted in the mouth!

Week 4 - Peach Melba Roulade

Annabelle Peach Melba

Firstly I will update you on my burn log, only a minor one today on the tip of my finger, which happened straight after the tray had come out of the oven. So no hospital visits yet, result! But naturally, today started in a drama! I couldn’t quite picture a roulade and what sort of thing I should cook it in so after unloading several tins from the cupboard and my mum saying “no, too small”, “no, too big”, “no, don’t be stupid”, she finally got up herself and chose me the perfect size tray.

I made the meringue and pondered as to why today I was cooking for only 15 minutes when the last meringue took 2 hours! I got over it pretty quickly though, made the glossy meringue and layered it into my carefully selected tin. I baked it for the short time and it looked LOVELY!

I wanted it to cool pretty quickly so I put it on the windowsill and waited. I whisked the double cream (which I don’t like so I had someone else taste) and the meringue was still really hot…so I put it in the garden! After no time at all the slab had cooled and in the mean time I sliced and de-cored my peaches. The layering of the fruit and the sprigs of mint went so well. The whole thing looked lovely, until I rolled…

Yes…I rolled it, peeling it away from the grease proof paper. The whole thing left me flustered with sticky white fingers and I have to say it did not look great - it was large, quite fat and a little broken, but everyone was excited. The taste test proved popular, the meringue was sticky, sweet and chewy so there were lots of happy faces! I might add that I personally didn’t like it, the mint tasted of grass and the meringue…..of, erm, egg! But we’ll put that down to my taste buds obviously and not my cooking!

Week 3 - Eaton Mess

With the daunting task of separating yolks from whites, I must be honest, the only reason I knew how to even attempt this was from watching Come Dine With Me! I caught the yolks in the shell and let the whites to drip into a mug - all went swimmingly until egg number four's yolk crept into my mug of whites!! I started over and began to whisk.

After 5 minutes I called my friend and said, "my peaks are not stiffening", and she assured me just wait and all will be well.

They "stiffened" and I weighed out the sugars, added them all in at once, and watched the Chef patiently whirling around, whisking….again my peaks were not stiff, they were runny.

I realised it perhaps would have been better to add the sugar slowly, as dumping over 200g of sugar onto something made partly of air would flatten the mixture, a tip for next time!

I dolloped the mixture onto the tray and waited the long 2 hours for the meringue to cook.

Then I whisked the cream and hunted around the house for glasses that would do the marble effect justice.... Mum's "special occasion" champagne glasses, (this to me, was a momentous occasion!)

I blitzed the strawberries, layered the cream, crumbled the meringue on top of one another and admired my masterpiece.

Usually I don’t like cream but I made an exception and joined the family in tasting my delicious, successful, just long-awaited mess..... which I'd like to re-name "work of art".

Week 1 - Four Cheese Quiche & Sausage Plait

My first faux pas was before the cooking even began; when I was told I would have a Kenwood Chef to help me in the kitchen, I was delighted as I told friends a family a real life professional chef was coming out to my house to help me! So there I was, waiting (with a nice hair ‘do) to meet Mr Ken Wood, my Chef only to find when I answered the door, he was a box full of titanium machinery!