Thursday, August 30, 2012

Orange Cranberry Cake

There are times when baking a simple, uncomplicated cake seems so right. 

I never did like cooking or baking when I was young.  But I do remember having to help my mum cream butter and sugar whenever she made her chocolate cake.  We didn't own a cake mixer in those days and cakes were always made by hand ... a good old fashion wooden spoon and a big mixing bowl did the trick! 

The very first oven my mum had was a big round stove top type made of aluminium with a glass window. She would place the oven in the corner of the dining room whenever a cake was being baked.  Many years later we managed to purchase a stove built-in oven and this oven lasted us for years.



Orange Cranberry Cake


170g unsalted butter, softened
260g caster sugar (reduced from original recipe)
3 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp orange zest
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4  tsp salt
1/2 cup light sour cream (or you could use greek style yogurt)
2/3 cup dried cranberries soaked in 2 Tbsp orange juice for 15 minutes


1) In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in vanilla and orange zest.. Combine flour, baking powder and salt; add to creamed mixture alternately with sour cream. Fold in cranberries.

2) Grease and line an 8" round cake pan with parchment paper.  Bake in preheated oven of 350° for 40 - 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pan to a wire rack to cool completely.


cran orange 4


Thursday, August 23, 2012

Chicken and Mushroom Pie inspired by Maggie Beer

My sister had told me to try out Maggie Beer's pie pastry a long while back.  I had totally forgotten about it and thought that it would be just another pastry recipe ... how good can it be?  One fine day I happened to chance upon a food blogger post mentioning the same recipe.  She had tried it out and swears that it is the best ever pie she has ever tasted! 


I must say that this is the longest ever chicken pie recipe I have come across.  Not only that, it had so many steps to putting the final product out.  It had better be good otherwise I would have wasted one whole afternoon.  And true enough it was fantastic.  The sour cream pastry was ever so moist, flavourful and crispy at the same time.  The base was only slightly soggy.  I have to say that the pie was great and the sour cream pastry recipe is even better - one that you could use in any savoury pies or tarts.



Chicken and Mushroom Pie
Recipe Adapted from "Maggie Beer's Pheasant Pie"

Marinade for the Chicken:

1 medium sized chicken about 1 to 1.2 kg weight
1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 orange zested and juiced
8 sprigs fresh thyme
4 bay leaves, fresh (if using dried, use only 3)
Salt and black pepper to taste

Pie Filling:

60g unsalted butter
3 garlic cloves, crushed and roughly chopped
1 small onion diced
2 Tbsp rosemary chopped
350g portobello mushrooms diced into cubes
1 tsp salt flakes
30g flour
100ml white wine + extra 2 Tbsp
100ml chicken stock (unsalted) or water
80g thickened cream
50g walnuts roasted and rubbed, roughly chopped
1 lemon zested
Pinch of salt and ground black pepper to taste

1 Batch of Sour Cream Pastry (recipe below)


1 egg yolk
1/2 tbspn milk

Method for the Filling:

1) Preheat the oven to 200°C.

2) To prepare the chicken.  Remove the wing tips.  Cut the chicken along the breast bone side in half. Spread open the chicken and using the back of your palm, press hard against the back-bone.  Make a cut on each side in between the leg and the breast and dislocate each leg at the socket by bending them back.  Twist the legs 180 degrees, so the breast of the chicken and the skin side of the legs are facing up, then cut through to the back bone to remove the legs from the body. Remove the back-bone and discard. You should end up having the chicken in quarters.

3) Combine all the marinade ingredients into a large flat dish and mix well. Place the chicken in the marinade for a minimum of 20 minutes.

4) Line a baking tray with parchment and place the chicken skin side up.  Pour the marinade over the chicken pieces.  Roast the chicken for about 30 - 40 minutes depending on the overall size of the chicken.  Mid way through the cooking process, turn the chicken around.

5) Check  by inserting a skewer into the thickest part of the breast to see if any pink juices show, if so a few more minutes cooking is required. To rest, remove from the oven and turn the bird so that the breast and legs are facing down in the roasting pan.  Splash the chicken with 3 Tbsp of white wine and rest until cool enough to handle.  Once cooled, remove the flesh from the bones and set aside.

6) Roll the pastry to the desired thickness and cut into two circles, one x 27 centimetre and one x 21 centimetre for the lid. Line the fluted base with the larger circle and place the smaller circle on a plate and refrigerate.

7) Start to make the pie filling. Place a frying pan over high heat, melt the butter, fry off the garlic, onion and rosemary and then add the mushrooms. Sauté until the mushrooms are soft and half reduce by half their amount. Season with salt and pepper whilst the mushrooms are sautéing. Then add the flour to the pan to make a roux, cook out for 3 minutes, then pour in the wine and stock. Bring the mixture to the boil and stir in the cream.. Reduce to a simmer, cook the mixture for 15 minutes, check the seasoning and allow to cool in the fridge. Once cooled, stir in the shredded chicken meat and set aside.

8) Make the glaze quickly by mixing the egg yolk and milk together.

9) Take the pastry from the fridge and spoon the cooked chicken mixture into the base and cover with pastry top. Crimp and seal the edges. Brush glaze and make a pattern if you wish. If pastry warms in this process put back into the fridge for 5 minutes. Remove from the fridge and place in a 200°C preheated oven for 30 to 40 minutes or until the pastry is golden and is cooked through.  Serve with a side salad for a tasty lunch.


Sour Cream Pastry


125ml sour cream
250g plain flour
200g unsalted butter chilled

1) To make the pastry, dice the butter, then pulse with the flour in a food processor until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.

2) Add the sour cream and continue to pulse until the dough starts to incorporate into a ball.

3) Wrap the dough in plastic film and refrigerate for 20 minutes.

Roll the chilled pastry out until 3 mm thick and cut to suit your chosen recipe.



Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Salmon Teriyaki with Lemon Pomegranate Cous Cous

This is an absolutly simple, delicious and flavourful meal when you are really rush for time.  I had made this for dinner after work one evening and dinner was served in less than an hour - and this is including prep time as well. 

If you are even more rush for time, forget about making your own marinade.  Bottled eriyaki sauce is easily available in most Asian grocery shops.  It's great on fish, BBQ, roast chicken and I even drizzle a bit of it on my cold tofu dishes.

salmon pom4

salmon pom1

Salmon Teriyaki with Lemon Pomegranate Cous Cous
Serves 4
Recipe Adapted from BBC Goodfood

Ingredients for the Salmon Teriyaki:

4 pieces of salmon fillets
4 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp mirin
2 Tbsp sake (or substitue with Chinese wine) 
1 Tbsp brown sugar 
4 cm root ginger , grated and squeezed to give 2 tsp juice
Pinch of black pepper


1) Heat the grill to high. Mix together the marinade ingredients, put the salmon in a shallow dish and pour the marinade over. Leave for 20 minutes.

2)  Heat a little oil in a large frying pan and cook the salmon, skin-side-down, for 4-5 minutes until the skin is crisp and the salmon almost cooked through. Spoon over a little leftover marinade and slide under a hot grill. Cook until the surface is glossy brown.

Ingredients for the Lemon Pomegranate Cous Cous:

500 g couscous
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 lemon, juice only
500 ml boiling chicken stock or water
1 tsp salt and black pepper
3 tbsp chopped mint or coriander
1 pomegranate, cut in half, seeds removed

1) Place the couscous in a bowl and add the olive oil and lemon juice, and mix well.

2) Pour over the boiling stock or water and season with salt and pepper.

3) Leave on one side to sit until all the liquid has been absorbed - about 5-10 minutes.

4) Stir in the chopped herbs and add the pomegranate seeds.

salmon pom2

salmon pom3

salmon pom5

Monday, August 6, 2012

Bacon and Leek Tartlets

I really must apologize for being so slack with my postings.  To be honest I have not done much baking or trying out new recipes for a while now.  And I think the longer I stay away, the more slack I have gotten. 

However my blog is always at the back of my mind and I hope to pick up from where I have last stopped.  I made these tartlets quite a while back and they are extremely delicious.  You can even freeze them and then reheat them back in your oven whenever you feel like having a quick lunch or snack.

leek tart 1

leek tart 3

Bacon and Leek Tartlets
Recipe Adapted from
Ingredients for the Pastry:

2 cups plain flour
150g butter, chilled and cut into cubes
1 egg yolk

Ingredients for the Filing:

20g butter
1 large leek, trimmed, halved, washed, thinly sliced
160g rindless shortcut bacon, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
4 eggs
1/2 cup fresh milk
Pinch of dried mixed herbs
Salt and pepper to taste


1) Combine flour and butter in a food processor. Process until mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.

2)  Add the egg yolk and process until dough just comes together. Turn pastry onto a lightly floured surface. Shape into a disc. Wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for about 30 mins until slightly firm.

3) Meanwhile, prepare the filling. Melt butter in a frying pan over medium-low heat. Add leek and bacon.  Cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 to 12 minutes or until leek is soft. Remove from heat. Stir in parsley. Leave aside to cool. 

4)  Roll out pastry between 2 sheets of baking paper or cling film to form a 30cm circle. Line base and side of of tart moulds with pastry, trimming excess. Prick the tart shell and freeze for about 15 minutes.

5)  Preheat oven to 180°C/160°C fan-forced.  Place tart shells and bake blind for about 10 minutes. Remove baking paper and rice or weights and bake for another 10 minutes or until pastry is golden brown. Cool tart shells for 5 minutes.

6)  Beat the eggs lightly, season with salt and pepper.  Add in the grated cheese and the leek/bacon filing.  Spoon into tart shells and bake for about 20 mihnutes until top is golden brown. Serve tartlets with a side salad.

leek tart 2

leek tart 5

leek tart 4

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