White Chocolate Cigarello Birthday Cake

image

I have a lovely friend who is celebrating a birthday today. She’s one of those rare gems who is as beautiful on the inside as she is on the outside. She spends so much time looking after everybody and is so generous in every sense of the word she definitely deserves to be spoilt on her birthday. I wanted to make her a cake that reflects her: beautiful, elegant and very special. Cue the cigarellos…

image

These rolled chocolate straws instantly add a little sophistication to any cake. I used these from the Chocolate Trading Co.

image

I like making cakes that have three thin layers of sponge as I think they look lovely when cut, and allow for more filling (which incidently is very forgiving should you accidentally over bake them. The extra filling helps moisten the sponge). I just used a basic Victoria sponge recipe which you can find here, on the BBC Good Food website. If you’re doing three layers I suggest reducing the oven temp to 160oC, and the time to between 12-15 mins.

Once cooled, fill your cake with whatever you want. I used seedless raspberry jam this time.

image

Now you’re ready to proceed with the decorating. Make a generous amount of buttercream using a pack of unsalted butter, icing sugar, a couple of tsps of vanilla bean paste and a few splashes of milk to loosen. The consistency should be spreadable, but still fairly stiff. Secure your cake to the cake board using a dollop of buttercream. I find it easiest to pipe the buttercream onto the cake, starting with the gaps around the edges.

image

Once you’ve filled the gaps in, continue piping until the entire cake is covered with a thick layer. This doesn’t have to be neat.

image

Now take a palette knife and smooth the surfaces down. Again, don’t worry about getting perfect edges as it’s all going to be covered with the cigarellos and fruit.

image

Wipe away any stray smears of buttercream off the board. Now you’re ready to start attaching the cigarellos by gently pushing them into the buttercream, which is effectively used as glue to hold them in place. Start at the back of the cake if you’re adding any additional decoration to the front (a name on the board for example). You will end up with something similar to this:

image

I decided to top mine with strawberries and raspberries. Wash and hull them and dry well on paper towels. Take the largest strawberry and cut the point off the end. Push a candle in and add a dollop of leftover buttercream to the bottom before securing it to the middle of the cake.

image

Now add the rest of the fruit, strawberries first to avoid crushing the delicate raspberries. Crush a couple of cigarellos in your hand and sprinkle over the fruit as a final flurry!

image

The birthday girl was happy!

image

Baked Sweet Potato Onion Bhaji Kebabs

image

A couple of weeks ago a friend shared a Slimming World recipe for sweet potato onion bhajis with me. Baked rather than fried, I thought they were worth having a bash at and I’m so glad I did! Delicious moist, and not dripping in grease, these bhajis will certainly have you coming back for seconds.

I’ve been craving Persian style kebabs; the long, spiced minced meat ones on sticks, but wondered whether the bhajis would make a good vegetarian alternative. They did. Here’s the recipe (I changed it slightly from the original and obviously don’t use the oil if you’re following the Slimming World plan)

Slice 3 large onions and fry until soft with 4 minced cloves of garlic. Once softened add in 1 tablespoon turmeric, 1 tablespoon curry powder (I used hot madras) and a 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon chilli flakes. Keep on the heat for another couple of minutes to allow the spices to release their flavour.

Turn off the heat and allow the mixture to cool to room temperature. Whilst it is cooling, peel and grate 2 sweet potatoes. Add them into the onion mixture, and once cooled mix in two beaten eggs, a generous pinch of salt and a grind of black pepper.

Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper, take a large handful of the bhaji mixture and shape into a rough sausage shape on the tray. The mixture will be fairly wet, but don’t worry, just form it as best you can on the sheet. This mixture made 6 decent size kebabs. Bake at 170 fan for 30 minutes until golden and crunchy around the edges.

I served these on chapattis spread with a dollop of mango chutney, shredded iceberg lettuce, cucumber batons, finely diced red onion and chilli, a generous sprinkle of chopped coriander and a cooling drizzle of minty raita. Delicious!

Thai Inspired Crab Noodle Soup

image

Having just returned from my parent’s home in beautiful Pembrokeshire, my freezer is now stocked with a plethora of home-caught crustaceans courtesy of my fisherman father. He put the boat to sea for the season while we were there, and P and I were on board for the first lobster pot pull up! Here she is enjoying the ride.

image

I decided to dress one of the edible crabs as well as a spider crab to use some of the white meat in this humble yet incredibly satisfying crab noodle soup.

image

Firstly, dress the crabs. If you’re unsure how to do this Delia’s step by step photographic instructions will guide you through it. The most important thing to remember is don’t eat the gills, or dead man’s fingers as they’re more commonly known. Although not actually poisonous, they’re very tough and hard to digest.

Once you have a bowl of nice white flakes of meat in front of you you’re ready to proceed with the soup.

Firstly, I boiled the shells in a pan of water for a good hour to give me a nice light stock.

image

I drained the boiling stock, through a sieve and into a jug which had a bundle of flat rice noodles in it. The reason for soaking the noodles in stock rather than plain water is because, in my opinion, it allows them to absorb extra flavour as they soften.

image

While the noodles were soaking I fried off some finely minced lemongrass, galangal, garlic and shallots in a little coconut oil.

image

Once softened I added a couple of minced Thai chillis (don’t go overboard as you don’t want to drown out sweet and subtle flavour of the crab).  Once the noodles were soft, I fished them out of the stock and put them in a bowl before pouring the stock into the pan. At this point I added a tablespoon each of fish sauce, rice wine vinegar and light soy sauce, some lime leaves, a small chunk of rock sugar and about 100ml coconut milk. Simmer to allow the flavours to get to know each other before seasoning further with lime juice, salt and pepper. For extra protein I threw in a handful of frozen prawns (fresh would be best in this instance, but unfortunately I only had cooked in) and some of the crab meat.

Once I’d ladelled the broth over the noodles, Thai basil, chopped coriander, spring onions and a sprinkling of red chilli finished it off nicely. Delicious! Even our 5 year old enjoyed it!

image