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Week 12 - Pancake
Pancake With Blueberry Eyes.
There's more to this batter making than meets the eye. I'm scooping giant breadcrumbs out of the Kenwood bucket. Not a good sign... I should have a thick paste.
I flick through the Kenwood book to find advice on batter. I find a new method. All I need to do is to add half the milk immediately to flour and eggs and then whisk at a speed not exceeding 3. Then I need to add the remainder of the milk gradually. Well, that sounds okay...I'll give it a try.
Flour sieved, I put the jug of milk into the microwave and warm it to room temperature. Then I follow the new instructions… Yeah, that's more like it! At last I have a smooth batter.
Using a ball of greaseproof paper, I spread butter thinly and evenly over the bottom of my non-stick pan. As I pour the batter in, I move it slowly from side-to-side so a thin layer covers the bottom. Nearly flippin' time. Brace yourselves! I flick the first pancake upwards; it soars majestically through the air and returns with a slap into the waiting pan.
But it's decorating the pancakes that's the real fun. I smear one side with a layer of lemon cheese mixture and scatter a handful of blueberries and decorate the top with whipped cream and blueberries. Mmmmm... yummy!
Finally I pop one pancake onto a plate decorated with lemon butterflies, lemon mint leaves and blueberries. For the first time I notice a pair of captivating, sad, blueberry eyes staring at me from a lemon cheese head. My pancake has turned into a cute insect!
Week 11 - Toad in the Hole
Toad in the hole - A sizzling success
The funny thing about Toad in the hole is...er...that it looks nothing like a toad in the hole. Just as well, I suppose. I don't really fancy chewing any long-legged amphibians of the ribbiting kind, I much prefer the idea of sausages sitting in the middle of a golden-brown, puffy Yorkshire pudding.
I prick the sausages and plonk them into in the baking tray. Then I pop them into the oven and wait for them to change colour. One minute passes....no change. Two minutes ... no change...still pink. I check the recipe. Hmmm! Why aren't they changing colour? I prod a fork in the nearest one and lift it up to peer underneath. Oops...s-o-o-o that's the side that changes colour. I flick over the twelve sausages quickly. That's one disaster avoided!
Then it's time to whip up a batch of batter. I pour the batter into the middle of the baking tray. The oil is smoking hot. I'm ready for it to react...maybe spitting out the batter or worse...but there's no reaction. I plop the sausages into the centre of the batter. Quick! No time to waste! This batter needs to go back in the oven as soon as possible.
What's that? No opening the oven door or the batter won't rise. Okay, better not... I don't want to find a frog in a bog instead of a toad in the hole.
Next, I make the onion gravy at a more leisurely pace. I add the stock and wine. Pity to waste it! I pour myself a glass of left-over wine.
Twenty five minutes later, I fling open the oven door to discover twelve toads surrounded by a puffy Yorkshire pudding.
I share the dish with friends. We agree it's very tasty and the onion sauce is amazing.
It's a sizzling success!
Week 10 - Macaroni Cheese
Macaroni Cheese With A Twist
Where shall I start? I'm reading out loud to myself from the foot of the recipe..."Serve macaroni cheese immediately with a fresh salad." Okay...I'm going to start with salad. I'm feeling a bit adventurous today, so I make two side salads of wild rocket with slices of avocado and juicy strawberries.
I follow by grating the stale bread and cheese. Hang on a minute... I stop and clean my glasses. Am I reading this recipe right? Yeah...it definitely says garlic. I mix in a clove of garlic and oregano into the breadcrumbs. Well, that's a new twist on the macaroni cheese I know!
Then it's back to the beginning of the recipe. Five minutes later, I'm whirling both arms around like a windmill. There is a wooden spoon in each hand as I stir the contents of two saucepans ...one continuously and one occasionally. But the good news is that I stir my way to a smooth cheese sauce and the macaroni doesn't stick to the saucepan.
What next? Really! Oh well if that's what it says! I scatter the slices of tomato under - and not over - the breadcrumbs. Quarter of an hour later, my oven gloves are wrapped around a pretty decent looking Macaroni Cheese.
Time to dine in the garden. Here we go! Oh, wow, that cheese sauce is creamy and yummy. I like the texture that the breadcrumbs bring and the salad adds an interesting dimension.
Oh my goodness! Did I really write that! Must have been watching too many cookery programmes of late! Make note to self - "You're a disaster chef, not a food critic."
I'll end on that note
Week 9 - Leek & Mushroom Pie
Pie - I'm Sorted
I'm causing quite a stir. My wooden spoon is swirling around the saucepan. I add the last of the milk...still no lumps. It simmers for five minutes and ....wait for it...I have a smooth white sauce.
The Kenwood mixer deftly shreds the leeks and mushrooms into a delicious mixture. So time to move on to the pastry. A problem arises when I brush beaten egg on to the rim of the pie dish and try to secure the strips of pastry to it. They won't stick.
I go for plan B and brush the egg over the strips of pastry and plonk them onto the rim. Yep, that works! Then I cut out a "K" and "W" for "Kenwood" from another strip and glue them onto the pastry lid with the egg.
While the pie is cooking, I pick out a large, green leek and cut it into a flower for garnish. It looks elaborate, but now I have got the hang of it, it's as easy as... uh... pie!
Talking about the pie, it takes forty five minutes to cook….
Later a friend comes to test it. Verdict: It's delicious with lots of interesting flavours.
So, I guess I'm Sorted?!
Week 8 - Victoria Sponge
Pretty Pink Cakes
Iced cakes...summer on a plate...s-o-o-o I'm going for pretty and pink!
I begin at the end of the recipe and make ten small cakes. Does this mean I'm still in upside down mode after last week’s recipe? No…definitely not...it's just that I need to try out decorating ideas before I make the four cut out cakes.
So here I go...swishing, shaking and swirling. And before long I have a variety of decorated pink cakes. Yeah, this is fun!
Time for the Victoria sponge cakes. The tricky part is rolling out the pink icing, I try not to press too hard on the rolling pin. Then I drape the icing over the cakes with help from my rolling pin. Finally I fiddle around, cutting off surplus pastry, tucking in ends and coaxing out creases. Job done! I can now return to my new favourite pastime of decorating. I scoop up a handful of pink and white hearts and zoom into action. Unfortunately my pink ribbon is too pale and insipid, so I move swiftly on to plan B and decorate the sides of the cakes to match the tops.
I'm delighted! All the cakes look pretty and as for me...I'm tickled pink!
Week 7 - Upside Down Plum Cake
Upside-down cake! Hey, this brings back fond memories of my inside-out roulade!
I make the cake mixture with one eye on the Sorted video. Next it's time to line the baking tin. I try to make a paper aeroplane. Oh, no! I peer down at a pile of screwed up balls of baking paper. Never in a month of Sundays am I going to do this origami stuff. You may as well ask me to make a paper chain of dancing hippos. I take a pen and circle around the base of the tin. Yeah, that's okay!
After half an hour in the oven, I test the cake with a knife. Oooh,er...it's nowhere near ready! In fact it takes over 45 minutes (instead of 30) to cook. Oh, the joys of a fan oven! Not only do recipes fail to give fan oven temperatures, but several of the numbers have actually worn off my cooker (due to cleaning, not cooking). This means I have to work out where to plonk the oven dials with the aid of my cooker manual diagram. Blimey! Not only do I need the cooking expertise of Nigella, but also the maths skills of clever Carol Vorderman.
But when I turn my sponge upside-down, the colours looks amazing... golden sponge and deep purple plums.
I plonk it onto a dish with a dollop of Cornish clotted cream to give it a local flavour. Now for the taste test. There's only one word to describe it... Ansome!
Week 6 - Sunblush Tomato, Rosemary and Garlic Rolls
Second time lucky
Fast action yeast...yeah, like the sound of that! I flick the box over and read the instructions on the back. Oh, this is easy! The yeast does not need to be reconstituted in water first - simply added straight to the flour. What can be simpler than that? Except...the recipe says to mix the yeast with 100mls of warm water. Hmmm! I am not sure as to what type of yeast the recipe envisages. Does it relate to fast action yeast? I toss a coin into the air...heads or tails. Heads...so I follow the recipe.
When I retrieve the dough from the airing cupboard it is fine, but not fine for long. As I add the three juicy, chopped tomatoes (with garlic and rosemary) my dough becomes very soggy. Ugh! My hands are covered in this gooey sticky mess that used to be my dough and what's more, it's all down the front of my Kenwood apron. What can I do? This stuff is seriously wet...adding a little flour is not going to revive it. There is only one thing to do...start again!
I make a new lot of dough. This time I only use two tomatoes. I scoop out the insides...and put them in the fridge. I'm not using those! Then I partially dry the tomato skins with kitchen towel before chopping them up. This time I mix them into the dough and add a little flour. I knead away. Yeah, I'm happy with that.
When the rolls come out of the oven, they vary a little in size. I like the taste, although I would probably put in less rosemary next time as that flavour is quite strong. I am left wondering if there is another way of dealing with the tomato juice problem. But apart from that, it's a great recipe and I shall definitely make these again, although perhaps next time I will try sundried tomatoes.
Week 5 - Vegetarian Pizza
EASY PEEZY PIZZA
That's the fellow! I scooped up the pirate hook ready to go.
Then I carefully measured out two tablespoonfuls of yeast (as it turned out later that's probably enough to raise the roof off the house). I glanced further down the list of ingredients and discovered in time that tsp is short for teaspoon and not tablespoon, phew!
Making the dough went smoothly. Then I hotfooted it upstairs and plonked the bowl into my warm airing cupboard. When I retrieved it one hour later it had expanded to twice the size.
The next stage was the fun part...crushing garlic...scooping the innards out of a red pepper. But suddenly tears trickled down my face. No, it's not a disaster...only me slicing the red onion!
When the pizza came out of the oven, the colours of the topping were amazing...purple onion mingled with red pepper and green baby spinach leaves. It tasted good too. Brilliant recipe!
My verdict is making this pizza was easy compared to last week. After sending off last weeks blog on my roulade I made a big discovery. My roulade was inside out. No kidding! The white sticky layer on the outside should have been inside and the golden firmer layer should have been outside!! After discovering this, I proceeded to stockpile no less than 47 egg yolks before I finally made a decent roulade. Pretty eggs-hausting!
S-o-o-o that is why this week I'm calling it easy peezy pizza.
Week 4 - Peach Melba Roulade
"I don't believe it!" By the way, that's not Victor Meldrew...it's me. I'm peering at my meringue base in disbelief. Not a pretty sight, all crispy and brown, but it looked fine when I plonked it into the oven. I timed it so carefully...exactly fifteen minutes at 180°. S-o-o-o what went wrong? I can't ask the audience (thankfully there isn't one), so I phone a friend.
Perhaps I should explain at this stage that I was under the mistaken impression that my bottom oven (a fan oven) didn't work, until I became a Disaster Chef contestant. But with real cooking about to take place, I asked a friend to check it out and by pressing a combination of buttons at the same time, it miraculously came to life.
But turning back to the present disaster, it appears that ever since discovering my fan oven works I've been cooking at the wrong temperature. The same friend advises me that I should not have preheated the oven to 180° as per the recipe. Really! Surely 180° applies to all ovens? Apparently not! Since it is a fan oven I should be deducting 20° and cooking my meringue base at 160°. It's news to me...no wonder I've been over-cooking everything!
I start again and this time the meringue base is cream. It's a happy moment. However, it's not long before other disasters strike. When I try to roll out the meringue it clings to the edge of the baking paper. I cut it free with a knife and start to roll. It does not roll easily...it is a bit delicate! Actually, I'm feeling a bit delicate myself by now. Oops! One end collapses (of the cake - not me). Believe me, it's no easy feat to move it from the baking tray on to a large plate. Later a neighbour comes around to test it. The verdict... it tastes delicious...but maybe I need to work on my presentation. Yep, I have to agree!
Week 3 - Eaton Mess
"I am soon layering meringue and strawberry rippled cream into large wine glasses. Then I scatter extra strawberries on top. It looks amazing! If you have a sweet tooth like me it tastes yummy...summerlicious."
Week 1 & 2 - Four Cheese Quiche & Sausage Plait
My first cookery task is to make a four cheese quiche. It's a big challenge for someone who has never made shortcrust pastry before. I watch the Sorted tutorial five times and decide to set up my laptop in the kitchen to follow it as I cook.