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Week 12Pancakes

Tara pancake

It is with a heavy heart that I write my last blog. K-fed and I have built quite a relationship.

So onto my final blog. I was dubious about making pancakes but this could not have been simpler! As always, the Kenwood made the job of mixing the batter easy. And I have now discovered the most dangerous food in the world; lemon curd mixed with mascarpone cheese! In two years time I may have to cite this as the reason why I weigh 300 lbs! The pancake making itself even went without a hitch; my new found patience meant I waited for the butter in the pan to heat, thus the pancake actually lifted off the pan and was easy to turn.

Smothering it with the deadly lemon curd/mascarpone mix and the blueberries made for one of the nicest desserts I’ve ever tasted, let alone made. And then I ate the remainder of the lemon curd/mascarpone with a spoon!

A great end to a really fun experience. I’ve had some shaky experiences (sausage plait – enough said) but I’ve also had the chance to cook some dishes I would never have attempted and (dare I say it) actually gain enough confidence to try more.

From Disaster Chef to Master Chef? Not quite, but I’m certainly inspired to keep cooking, and my trusty Kenwood will be with me.

Week 11Toad in the Hole

Tara toad

A hole in one!
I LOVE toad in the hole! But everything about the recipe goes against my beliefs! Well, actually, the part about allowing the oil in the pan to get hot before sticking the batter in goes against my beliefs as one of the world’s least patient people. I have tried this before and it was a complete failure; sausages sat in a pool of flat, soggy batter!

Thus, I was determined I would NOT deviate from the recipe. The end of the competition is drawing close and the stakes are higher! I cannot allow a disaster of the sausage plait proportions at this stage in the game! Plus I’ve read the other blogs and am concerned about the competition levels!!!!

I wasn’t sure about the difference between beating and whisking, and was a bit freaked out by the instructions of “a cup of this and a glug of that”, but armed with my favourite mug I set about things.

I was particularly proud that I allowed sufficient time to get my oil hot! My mixture and the sausages went in and after 10 minutes I checked it.

It worryingly didn’t seem to be rising, at which point my Mum said: “Why is the oven turned off”? Queue the usual weekly panic and the oven temperature being whacked up quickly!

I was assuming total failure and spent the next 20 minutes stomping around the house in a huff!

And then something magical happened!!! Like a phoenix from the flames, that pesky Yorkshire pudding rose spectacularly.

It looked good and with the gravy recipe, it tasted divine; the best of lazy Sunday comfort food! I could quite easily live on this, but suspect that might not be the best idea for the sake of my waistline! Actually, who cares about my waistline! I am going to live on this!!!!!

Week 10Macaroni Cheese

Tara mac cheese

Macaroni cheese - My least exciting blog yet
For anyone looking for excitement and drama, stop reading! I almost feel guilty reporting that this recipe worked and there were NO, I repeat NO, dramas!
I had been looking forward to this week as I love macaroni cheese. Fantastic comfort food, which I have only ever made in microwave-meal form!  For a planned night in with films this is ideal.
However, I hate to announce that this might be the most boring blog I have written yet as I actually think this recipe might be idiot proof. From whizzing up the breadcrumbs in the Kenwood food processor to making the béchamel sauce, it was all pretty straightforward. I left the tomatoes out because I’m not a fan, and in a bold move, I decided to deviate slightly from the recipe and add some mozzarella to the top!
After 10 minutes an amazing smell started to waft out of the kitchen and by the time it was ready I was officially starving. I think I could have put in a few less breadcrumbs but, in general, this turned out great. It was so easy that I would definitely make it again.

Week 9Mushroom & Leek Pie

Tara pie 

Mushroom & Leek Pie - Or The reason why having an oven with a dodgy thermostat can be a good thing!
In all honesty, this recipe looked like a pain! BUT….. I now have a new favourite part of the Kenwood Chef (which I have taken to calling K-Fed, in tribute to Britney Spears ex-husband). That new favourite part is the slicer. I found it alarmingly satisfying to throw whole leeks and mushrooms into this little devil and watch it do all the work.

The béchamel sauce was pretty straight forward. There were a few near misses where it went a bit lumpy, but I was a woman on a mission and soldiered on, ironing out the lumps with milk and stirring it like a friend.

I added the lightly fried vegetables into a pastry dish and then set about attacking the puff pastry. I was dubious about this part, as I’ve never attempted anything with puff pastry before. But I rolled it out, laid it on top of the pastry dish, put it in the oven and sat down to watch the TV.

The alarm went off 25 minutes later, so I turned it off and then promptly forgot it had just gone off! 10 minutes later my boyfriend said “Tara – how did that pie come out?” And for the second week running I legged it into the kitchen whilst swearing loudly!

Luckily I think I have a cooker with a dodgy thermostat, as the result resembled a pie!!!!!

I was so pleased with this one. It actually looked like it was meant to AND tasted good! Now I just need a timer which also gives me an electric shock or something!

Week 8Victoria Sponge 

Tara sponge

Victoria Sponge - or "why it is never clever to try to multi-task"

This was, on the face of things, the easiest looking recipe. I enjoy baking so I was feeling quietly confident. However, being tarred with the Disaster Chef brush seems to have affected ALL my cooking skills.

I think I got cocky with this one. And when I get cocky problems occur. The cake was mixed to perfection and went in the oven for the allocated 25 minutes. But when I put a skewer in the middle, it came out covered in egg, so I put it back in for another 10 minutes.

Whilst waiting I decided to do some chores. Then I decided to have a shower, all memory that anything was in the oven completely wiped from my mind! Upon entering the kitchen 30 minutes later I though “Hhm – why is the oven on? Oh  #@%!!!!!”

The resulting cake was a LITTLE solid but (I felt) edible. The main problem I had was putting the sugarpaste onto the cut out cakes! For some reason my sugarpaste did not want to free itself of the surface onto which it had been rolled!  After much bad language I managed to get at least one looking worthy (ish) of being photographed! This one will be getting practiced prior to the grand final which is looming worryingly close!

Week 7Upsidedown Plum Cake 

The dessert I tried, but failed, to hate!

Tara upsidedown cake
My parents bravely charged me with dessert duty for their summer BBQ. Obviously this was the best time to debut a spectacular Upside Down Plum Cake, along with a reprise of the Eton Mess and Raspberry Peach Roulade.
Sadly the Roulade died a painful death as I set fire to the baking paper when it was going into the oven (apparently I had turned on the grill rather than the oven). The Eton Mess looked good though and I dispatched my boyfriend to the shops for a cheesecake, which left me to tackle the Upside Down Plum Cake.
This seemed too easy; it literally took minutes to make, following the recipe and using my Kenwood Chef. It took about 15 minutes longer in my oven to cook, which worried me a bit, but it looked fine, if a little on the brown side. This was where I discovered the delight of the upside down cake; the slightly well done parts were hidden when I turned it upside down!
I wasn’t convinced about it though. I hate the idea of plums in cakes so had no intention of trying it myself. However, loads of my parent’s guests did and the complements flooded in! Everyone who had it, loved it. I was even enticed to try some myself and had to concede it was really nice; moist sponge with a lovely flavour.
Something weird is happening to me during this process. If we forget the flammable roulade and the horrendous sausage plait (which people are still talking about), I think I’m actually getting better at this cooking lark!

Week 6Sunblush Tomato, Rosemary and Garlic Rolls

Sunblush Tomato, Rosemary and Garlic Rolls by Tara Syed

An Olympic Gold in Rolls

At this stage in the competition I'm beginning to feel a little more confident that whilst my attempts at the recipes aren't necessarily pretty – they taste (I assume) like they're meant to!

With an Olympics closing ceremony BBQ planned I decided that my input would be the Sunblushed Tomato, Rosemary and Garlic Rolls. A bold move I felt, since I hadn't a clue if they would work.

Nonetheless, I attacked the ingredients with my Kenwood Chef and dough hook and hoped for the best. Alarm bells started ringing a bit when I added the water and yeast to the dry ingredients. I ended up using about three times the recipe amount to get the dough to bind. But it seemed to look at least a little like I imagined it should so I soldiered on, left it to rise and then added the rest of the ingredients and divided the dough into rolls.

By this point I was being attacked by hunger. Thus the biggest problem I found was waiting for the dough to rise AGAIN. One of my largest defects kept surfacing; impatience. My boyfriend kept having to wrestle the rolls out of my hands as I kept attempting to put them into the oven before the allocated dough rising time was up.

Eventually I was granted permission to put them into the oven and 25 minutes later we were faced with some of the ugliest rolls I’ve ever seen, (again, impatience during the rolling process might have played a small part). However, they smelt heavenly and tasted great so as far as I'm concerned they were a complete success!

Week 4  - Peach Melba Roulade

Tara Peach Melba Roulade

Who needs a timer anyway?

When I received the roulade recipe, I emailed it (along with the one for Eton Mess) round my colleagues. Responses ranged from “no way am I attempting the roulade” to “Hmm – I’ve never made one of those work”!

This concerned me somewhat but I set about the task nonetheless. Roulade is another thing I have never attempted, so I was not even really sure what it was meant to look like.

I think I would happily make meringue after this competition. That part seems quite easy, and the Kenwood Chef whips it up in seconds. It went into the oven and I set my timer for 15 minutes. Unfortunately I forgot to then press start so when I looked at it after a bit and it still said there were 15 minutes left I was a little concerned.

I guesstimated when 15 minutes was up (never a great idea from past experience). The meringue seemed rather puffed up so I wasn’t convinced that it would be possible to roll it as I thought it would have a crunchy texture.

I ploughed on! Cream was whipped and spread on the roulade, and fruit was sprinkled over it.

I think my meringue was possibly a little underdone; it stuck to the greaseproof paper a bit and seemed very soft. What I was left with slightly resembled a large, stuffed omelette. I have no idea if it was meant to look like this, but it tasted great and I’ve even been informed I should attempt this one for guests! Definite progress! 

Week 3 - Eaton Mess

"I’m pleased to report that meringue is a million times easier to make than pastry! After my previous disasters I was determined to follow the instructions to the letter...and everything went to plan! The icing on the meringue was that the rain stopped and my family all got together for a BBQ followed by Eton Mess that got demolished in record time."

Week 1 - Four Cheese Quiche & Sausage Plait

And then it all went horribly wrong! I left it in the fridge overnight and next day was faced with pastry that could break a window as my fridge was too cold! I remade it and the next dramas began. It took me five attempts to roll out the pastry into the case.