Blood orange pain d’epices

Blood orange pain d'spices cake, with star anise and cinnamon sticks. recipe by Ink Sugar Spice

It may be January, and sure, I’m off to a slow start but there are many things to love about this time of year. Days are already getting longer and there are buds stirring on trees and shoots pushing their way eagerly through the ground. There are even some early daffodils brightening up hedgerows and verges.

Once of the joys of January is the glut of blood oranges imported from sunnier climes. Of course, I’d prefer to use fruit and veg that hadn’t had its share of air miles, however that intense colour and flavour is truly a gift in grey January. I’m very thankful that these lovely citrus fruits are around at this time – I hope you find something to make this time of year enjoyable.

Notes

If it is out of the season for blood oranges, other good quality orange varieties such as Jaffa or navel can be replacements.

This recipe uses heart healthy olive oil rather than butter.

Equipment

  • Saucepan
  • Large bowl
  • Small loaf tin
  • Greaseproof paper/parchment or cake liner
  • Sieve
  • Grater/microplane
  • Juicer/citrus reamer

Ingredients

  • Milk – 60g (don’t used skimmed milk)
  • Pinch salt
  • Star anise – 2
  • Cinnamon sticks – 2
  • Soft brown sugar – 150g
  • Plain flour – 275g
  • Baking powder – 1 1/2 teaspoons
  • Eggs, large – 2
  • Light olive oil – 70g (I used Filippo Berio Light and Mild)
  • Ground cinnamon – 1 teaspoon
  • Mixed spice – 2 teaspoons
  • Mixed candied peel – 60g
  • Blood oranges – 3:
    • Blood orange juice – juice of 1 blood orange
    • Blood orange zest – zest of 2 blood oranges
    • Additionally, some slices of orange for decoration from one of the zested blood oranges

Method

  1. First of all, pour the milk into the saucepan and add in the salt, cinnamon sticks and star anise
  2. Warm the milk over a mid-heat, ensuring it does not come to the boil, and then leave to infuse for 15 minutes
  3. While the milk is infusing, turn on your oven to 180 *C fan / 200*C conventional
  4. Grease and line your loaf tin
  5. Slice one of the zested blood oranges and select 4-5 of the nicest slices and set aside
  6. Weigh out the remaining dry ingredients into the mixing bowl
  7. Sieve the cinnamon sticks and star anise from the milk, and add the milk into the bowl and lightly mix in
  8. Now mix in the eggs, oil, peel, orange juice and zest
  9. It will take a little gentle mixing to incorporate the oil and juice fully
  10. Pour into the prepared loaf tin and place the slices of orange on top, arranging them as you wish
  11. Place the prepared cake in the centre of the oven
  12. Bake for 45-50 minutes. The top will be well risen, and a skewer will come out clean when inserted for testing
  13. This is a lovely cake on its own, but it is especially delicious with a little softly whipped cream or a vanilla ice cream (and even spread with a little marmalade first!)

Thai flavours parsnip soup

img_0316Parsnips are not native to south east Asia, but they are growing in popularity in Thailand, and are now both a farmed crop and an import product. I find it interesting that one foodstuff can be pedestrian and common place in one continent can be seen as an unusual treat in another. I wouldn’t go as far as saying anyone thinks a parsnip is exotic however… I’ve seen them on sale in Thai markets next to more traditional veggies like kale and galangal roots, so parsnips + Thai flavours is not as crazy a combination as it may first sound, and it is a really fabulous flavour pairing.

This is a delicious alternative to make as a change to a typical curried parsnip soup. Although I love curried parsnip soup when it’s done well (which, let’s face it isn’t that hard), sometimes it can be a disappointment in a cafe when it’s just plain old boiled-down parsnip with some curry powder lazily tossed in. I’ve combined some authentic Thai tastes here, but I’ve tried to balance it so that you get the Thai flavours without overwhelming the parsnip. It’s all to easy to pile on flavourings and mask the main ingredient when you’re making a veggie soup, but parsnips have a lovely sweet, warming flavour and are deserving of a more delicate touch on stronger spices.

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Some photos from our last trip to Thailand

Notes

  • If you’re not worried about keeping this vegetarian you can use chicken stock, rather than vegetable stock
  • Remember that not all chillies are created equal, even in the same variety the heat can vary between plants. Two chillies bought in the same batch could be very different, so judge how much chilli you are using if you don’t like it very hot. I can give you two tips on chilli heat: tip one is to cut the chilli and lightly rub it on your lip and see how tingly it is – if it’s going to really upset you, you’ll be able to judge this way. Tip two if you’re less terrified is to blend in only half a chilli at a time before tasting: you can always add all two (or even more chillies) eventually, but taking away heat is not so easy as adding a little more in!
  • Can’t get a fresh coconut? Then a box of coconut milk powder is an awesome thing to keep in your kitchen cabinet: I use this in a number of my recipes. You can buy these ‘fairly’ easily now in the world food aisle in your bigger local supermarket or find a Caribbean store or market stall (brand names I’ve used are Maggi and Tropical Sun – I tend to pick up mine via an awesome local Caribbean market stall). Alternatively, you can use a tin of coconut milk, but drain out the liquid and use this as part of (not in addition to) the 1 litre stock content.

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Info

Serves about eight portions (this is large, but I’ve given this amount so that you can batch freeze), takes about 45 minutes to prepare and cook


Equipment

  • Large, deep saucepan with a lid (or cover with a plate)
  • Stick blender or stand blender

Ingredients

  • Parsnips – about 5 large parsnips / roughly about 900g
  • Vegetable (or chicken stock) – 1 litre
  • Banana shallot or red onion – 1
  • Garlic – 3 cloves
  • Fresh ginger – about a 1 cm piece, peeled
  • Red chillies – 2 (you need to adjust this according to your preferred heat level!)
  • Lemon grass – one fresh stalk
  • Oil, a plain olive oil or rapeseed oil – 1 tablespoon
  • Coconut, either freshly grated or use coconut milk powder – 1 cup/around 90g
  • Juice of ½ a lime
  • Salt – ½ teaspoon
  • Fresh ground pepper – ½ teaspoon
  • Ground turmeric – ½ teaspoon
  • Coriander or spring onions to garnish
  • Additional chillies to garnish

Method

  1. Chop the shallot/onion, the garlic and the (peeled) ginger – they don’t have to be finely chopped as, of course, they’re going to get blended later
  2. Fry the shallot/onion, garlic and ginger in the oil over a low heat until they are starting to soften
  3. Peel the parsnips and chop them into medium-sized chunks
  4. Add the parsnips to the saucepan and turn up the heat to medium-hot and fry off for two-three minutes until the parsnips are nicely coated in the oil and vegetables
  5. Pour in the stock, add the salt, pepper and turmeric and turn up the heat until it all starts to bubble gently
  6. From the bulb end of the lemon grass stalk, make a long cut along its length but don’t cut it into half – so you’ve split it but it’s still joined by about 2cm at the thin end
  7. Place the lemon grass stalk in the pan
  8. Leave to simmer very gently for about 20 minutes, with the lid on
  9. Chop the chillies
  10. When the parsnips are soft (but before they’re mushy) add in both the coconut and the lime juice and stir until the coconut is melted in
  11. Add in the chillies (or half of them if you want to test the heat level) and turn off the heat
  12. Using a stick blender, whizz up the soup in the sauce pan, or decant into a stand blender
  13. Taste test – add more chillies (or chilli powder) to your soup if it’s not hot enough for you
  14. Serve hot, decorated with more chillies (if you love it hot as I do) and a chopped handful of coriander leaves or spring onions (or even both). other ingredients that are nice sprinkled over this soup are more coconut, crispy fried onions or toasted peanuts/cashews

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Anzac biscuits with hazelnuts

Anzacs-LandscapeNamedToday is Anzac Day: the 25th April. This day originally marked the Australia and New Zealand Army Corp who fell at Gallipoli in Turkey during WWI, but (like our own commemorative events) has since come to represent remembrance for all Australian and New Zealand war dead, injured and survivors. Very sad that these remembrance events seem to keep having to expand to incorporate ever new and terrifying conflicts.

These biscuits are supposed to have been made to raise money for the front line men, rather than be sent out to them. They are rather hard and somewhat ‘municipal’ if you follow the original recipes. So I’ve taken a recipe from the 1940’s book that I had and added some extra nuts and some additional butter and golden syrup to make them a teeny bit more chewy.

I have also kept to wholemeal flour (many modern recipes stipulate all white or 50:50) and I’ve swapped granulated for demerara which complements the nutty tang of the hazelnuts.

Makes about 30 x 4cm biscuits

Equipment

  • Saucepan
  • Bowl
  • Lined baking sheets

Ingredients

  • Demerara – 120g
  • Wholemeal flour – 100g
  • Dessicated coconut – 50g
  • Golden syrup – 1 1/2 tablespoons
  • Unsalted butter – 100g
  • Bicarbonate of soda – 1/2 teaspoon
  • Chopped hazelnuts – 30g
  • Water – 1 tablespoon
  • Salt – a pinch

Method

  1. Turn the oven on to 160C fan, 180C conventional
  2. Gently melt the butter and golden syrup together
  3. In a bowl add the flour, nuts, bicarbonate of soda, salt, sugar and coconut
  4. Pour the melted butter/syrup in and add stir to combine
  5. Add in the water and bring the mix together with your hands
  6. Roll a tablespoon-sized amount together in your hands (you have to crush it a bit to get it to stick – this isn’t a very tacky mix)
  7. Pop this ball of biscuit dough down on the prepared baking tray and flatten it into a disc with your hand
  8. Repeat for the whole mix
  9. Bake in the oven for about 18 minutes
  10. Leave to cool on the tray

Eating the East End

Well, I did say in January that one of my resolutions was to open the blog up further than my recipes and the occasional instructions and tips. I also wished to get one of my recipes into print somewhere, and I’ve been totally amazed to already have had my spring onion bhajis appear in The Telegraph.

So, in my first alternative post I’m covering the East End Food Tour I was lucky enough to go on (April 2016). I need to confess that this was a ‘prize’ of sorts from Kenwood and some wonderful people I have meet through social media (via Kenwood bringing us together and including some from Kenwood itself) over the past year were there too. Amazing how social media can enrich your life: much, much more than just exotic travel photos and funny cats. I don’t think this is something I’d have ever chosen to do myself  – or perhaps normally be able to afford myself – however I’ve been totally converted. What a great idea to learn about an area.

This is a three and a half hour tour, though the guide indulged us and took a little longer. We were joined by an American family that included a wheelchair user and the tour slowed to accommodate their difficulty in getting across cobbled streets and up kerbs. Interestingly, they were over in the UK to retrace the grandmother’s heritage as she was brought up just over the ‘border’ in Essex, had married an American and hadn’t returned since. They were all having a great time, although the father was definitely living the tour through his camera. The ramble was run by Eating London Tours (more details below) and our guide was Harry. We got the impression Harry was quite new and he did confess this. It doesn’t mean he wasn’t a good guide, just he couldn’t yet remember everything – and there was a lot to remember. We met in Spitalfields market and the route didn’t veer more than about half a mile away although we must have done about three to four miles of walking.

I’ve given comments of each stop on the tour, then the tour experience itself followed by some of the street art and architecture we encountered.

I have only taken photos with my (very old) iPhone and so apologise for the variable quality – it was also chucking it down and very grey at times which didn’t help. I missed a few photos of certain venues or the food itself. Some of my friends have stepped in to provide these for me – I have marked these and linked to them where they feature, otherwise a few of the things we tasted are missing.

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St John Bread and Wine – 94-96 Commercial Street E1 6LZ

If you’ve followed British cooking at all in the past few years, you’d have not failed to have come across a mention of the owner at least once; Chef Fergus Henderson. One of the pioneers of ‘nose-to-tail’ eating where all of the animal is used, wasting little and really thinking about the animal that has been butchered. Well, not quite as much as a vegetarian! We stopped to try his oak smoked bacon sarnie which was served in on-site baked bread (nice thick toasted doorstops) and their own homemade tomato ketchup. This was billed as the best bacon sandwich you’d ever eat. I’m not sure that it was that good, but it was pretty close!

The decor inside was beautiful – clean Victorian tiles, uncovered wooden tables and a kitchen you can see into. Very much the look I really like. This was high up on the list for the day and a great first stop. We were asked to try and guess what the unusual ‘added ingredient’ was in the St John’s homemade tomato sauce. I’m not going to spoil it and tell you, in case you do go on this tour, but one of our group is a real foodie and I’d have laid money on her guessing correctly – she did!

www.stjohngroup.uk.com/spitalfields/

T: @StJBW

Reservations: 020 7251 0848 or  reservations@stjohnrestaurant.com

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The English Restaurant – 50/52 Brushfield Street E1 6AG

I walked past this restaurant (which is also a pub) on the way to meet the group for this event and thought it looked gorgeous. Our second stop here seemed odd timing as we called in for bread and butter pudding, at just after 11am. No matter: this pudding was so sublime it wouldn’t have mattered what time of day it was. This was my utter favourite from the day. I have made bread and butter pudding myself several times (though not for over a year I’d guess) and thought I did a fairly good job, but this is something else. Buttery soft in the middle, with a rich custard and a crispy sugar crust. It’s made me want to remake bread and butter pudding!

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The interior is wonderful too – it looks like it’s always looked like that (the building is dated from around 1670), but apparently much of the interior is salvage from the nearby church during its last refurbishment. We liked this place so much some of went back after the tour finished to stay and chat over a bottle of something fizzy until we had to catch our trains.

www.theenglishrestaurant.com/home.html

T: @EnglishRest

Reservations 020 7247 4110, info@theenglishrestaurant.com or www.theenglishrestaurant.com/reservations.html (online booking form)

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The House of Androuet – 10a Lamb Street, Old Spitalfields Market E1 6EA

This isn’t a restaurant (although it has a ‘cheese bar’ at the back) unlike the rest of the tour, it’s an artisan cheesemongers. However, it’s an absolute cheese lover’s dream and has an incredible array of choice. Beautifully laid out too; it’s easy to find cheeses by type and the staff are incredible knowledgeable and very willing to help and offer advice. Set up by two French ex-pat brothers the shop has been on the site since 1909 and has its own maturing room and a selection of wines to buy to match the cheeses.

We were given two cheeses to taste, the first a cave-aged cheddar from Somerset and a Stilton. The cheddar was absolutely gorgeous – I went back later and bought some to take home. Rich, nutty, intense yet without that eye-watering tang you can get from other vintage cheddars, it also had a really dense but smooth texture. Unlike any cheddar I’ve tasted before. I loved it. The Stilton that was passed made me raise a wry smile – as it was Long Clawson Stilton. I live in the area that’s allowed to make Stilton (Notts, Leics and Derbys) and some people we’re friends with actually live in Long Clawson itself almost next door to the manufacturers, so we’re well used to getting our mitts on this cheese – it’s in every deli and even supermarket here. I can see how it’s good enough to be put on their cheeseboard and it’s woken me up to not be so blase about being about to get this cheese easily.

 

www.androuet.co.uk/

T: @AndrouetLondon

No reservations, but contact the shop at 0207 247 7437 or lg@androuet.co.uk

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Poppies Fish and Chips 6-8 Hanbury Street E1 6QR

Billed as the best fish and chips – quite a claim by the tour guide! This retro diner-styled fish and chip shop and restaurant was definitely busy. It was packed in there already, then they squeezed the twelve of us in. I was sat on the end of a table and couldn’t move my elbows in and out without hitting someone or something.

Still, the fish and chips were lovely. And I think it was a good stop-off for the the American family we were with. Most had said they were looking forward to fish and chips, and not having any others to compare it to I think they were very satisfied!

The fish was so very fresh and the batter was light and crisp – definitely one of the best pieces of battered fish I’ve ever had (though possibly not the actual best – it’s difficult to remember and it all depends on how hungry you are!) I normally don’t eat the batter either, but I tried some here and it was really very good and not at all greasy. The chips weren’t quite up to the same standard however: I’ve had plenty better from ordinary fish and chips shops. Not terrible, just not as nice as the fish. It was all served with a bowl of mushy peas. Can’t tell you about that – I kept well clear!

poppiesfishandchips.co.uk

T: @popsfishnchips

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Pride of Spitalfields – 3 Heaneage Street E1 5LJ

No messin’ this is an old style pub that concentrates on serving beer and its customers. Not often now do you go into a pub and it’s still got carpet on the floor. Also there were air conditioning units above the bar that were clearly originally installed to combat cigarette smoke before the ban, then never taken out.

Don’t get me wrong: I loved it in here. It was raining outside by the time we got to the door and the wood fired stove was on making it warm and cosy and Lenny the resident cat was stretched out in front of it. It had a familiar feel, as often these unchanged, un-chained pubs have.

We tried a bitter and a cider – don’t panic for those of you (like me) who aren’t big drinkers, it’s about a quarter of a pint each. There is non-alcoholic to be had too (thankfully as the American family had three children with them!) However, if you are a drinker you’ll possibly feel a little short changed. I personally thought the bitter (a Truman) and the cider (a Sharp) weren’t that nice, but then I’m not claiming to have a good palette for beers or even to have drunk a lot to compare.

No website, but there is a Twitter account for the cute pub cat. Meow.

T: @LennyThePubCat

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Aladin – 132 Brick Lane E1 6RU

Well, I’m not sure how you pick a curry house from the vast array in Brick Lane, especially as all of them looked pretty good to me.

Aladin proved to be a good choice though – spotless and welcoming and the three curries they laid out before us looked delicious. We had a mild vegetarian bhuna, a medium-hot lamb pathia and a hot chicken madras. Soaked up with a plain naan and washed down with a welcome glass of water.

The bhuna was delicious and rich with chickpeas, I confess I didn’t try the pathia (I won’t eat baby anything if I can help it – I’d have tried it if it was hoggett or mutton) and the madras was gorgeous. I’d have been happy to have been left with a plateful of that all afternoon to myself. Some in the group found the madras too hot.

aladinbricklane.net/

Bookings: aladinbricklane.net/booking.html or 0207 247 8210

beigel-bakery

Beigel Bake – 159 Brick Lane E1 6SB

I was getting full now, even though at each location we’d only tasted a small amount at a time. This place is apparently a 50+ year-old institution and the queue was out the door when we got there as if to confirm that. Happily out of two bagel shops within a few feet of each other this one was chosen for the tour – I say happily because in the window of the other bakery was a massive display of technicolour bagels. A psychedelic mound of baked goods the like of which I have never seen nor want to again – there must be a ton of artificial colouring in there.

Unfortunately for me when our guide asked if anyone didn’t like mustard he didn’t hear me and the bagels came slathered in the stuff so I didn’t try one. I love mustard in food, just not on it – hope that makes sense!? No, I don’t like horseradish either. Eurgh.

Those that ate the salted beef and pickle-stuffed bagels (beigels) were making a lot of ‘mmmm’ noises and, coupled with the long queue of customers, I guess that means they were lovely. Harry clearly loves them as he walked off with several stuffed in his coat pockets!

Actually I confess I was pleased I had a break as I was getting full and we had just been informed the last stop was dessert…

t: @BeigelBake

Pizza East – 56 Shoreditch High Street E1 6JJ

Harry explained what we were all thinking when we rocked up outside a pizza restaurant – odd to not be eating pizza but eating dessert here. He explained that on Trip Adviser the salted caramel and dark chocolate ganache tart we were going to sampled was No. 3 on the list of best desserts in the capital. That, I’m afraid, raised our expectations a bit high!

This is a fantastic converted warehouse with huge bench tables and reclaimed seats – it looks amazing and the attention to detail is clear. The tart itself didn’t impress me as much – maybe I was expecting a lot from it?

The caramel tasted great but was really toffee – I was worried about my teeth and it was hard to cut in to. The chocolate ganache layer on top was really bitter. I know it’s supposed to be a dark chocolate, but some are bitter and some are more rich with a nice fruity tang to them – it needed the latter. The tart really divided the group: I’d say those of us who were bakers or confessed to having a sweet tooth weren’t so keen on it as others. It did look beautiful those and was clearly well made: the pastry was thin and crisp and the ganache so smooth. Just not for me taste-wise and because it was so hard to get through.

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Photo courtesy of Sarah Thorley t: @anglesay42 and anglesey42.blogspot.co.uk/

www.pizzaeast.com/

Bookings for Shoreditch restaurant www.pizzaeast.com/shoreditch

T: @PizzaEast

 

Eating London – the tour company

www.eatinglondontours.co.uk

T:@EatingEurope #eatinglondon

 

Overall experience

What a great few hours – I did think before I went that I was disappointed in it only being three and a half hours. However, by the end it was clear this was enough: there’s a lot of walking, chatting, eating and a whistle-stop guide to some of the East End history. Any longer and you might either burst from food or just have too much to take in.

Throughout the tour Harry explained the history of the ethnic immigrant groups that moved in, then subsequently out of the area and who have left their culinary mark: the Hugenots, Jewish and Bangladeshi’s as well as the English food weaved throughout it all.

Street art

This part of London is now richly decorated in wonderful street art.

Belgian artist Roa’s work (he draws large scale black and white animals endemic to the area (I like his work as his style is not dissimilar to my own sketching technique)

Invader – no one knows much about this artist apparently, but they leave mosiacs or paintings of space invaders. Awesome

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Ronzo, from Germany leaves 3D monster sculptures across London. We all loved the dinosaur as it we thought it was like a prehistoric pet cartoon dog. Ronzo’s work is brilliant and full of humour

Jonesy – various rumours are around about Jonesy, from him being quite young to almost retirement age. His work is usually bronze castings attached somewhere high up so only those who care to look around them properly will notice (unless they’re pointed out of course). Exquisite work – I suspect this is the work of a real artisan with year’s of practice and possibly the money and studio space to indulge in producing some free art for public spaces. They really are treasures

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Several other street art we saw that I haven’t been able to put a name to:

Architecture

Only a few houses and points of architecture were noted:

The Jewish soup kitchen on Brune Street

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The Hugenot houses on which are often the backdrop for period films and TV programmes (especially No. 4 which has been purposely kept in its ‘natural’ state) on Princelet Street.

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Gun street, Artillery Lane – where Henry VIII built military practice areas
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Spring onion and shallot bhajis

opnion and shallot bhajisWe eat curries a lot – usually at least once a week and my children have loved curries from quite small. My husband is great at cooking these from scratch and my contribution is usually a couple of side dishes, one of which is always these bhajis. The base recipe came from a friend (her family recipe) and I’ve just, over time, come to use my own ratio of spices and switch it from a simple onion recipe to incorporating spring onions and shallots.

Notes

Makes about 10-12 bhajis

Equipment
  • Smallish, high sided saucepan for deep fat frying or a deep fat fryer
  • Bowl
Ingredients
  • Gram flour – 80g
  • Rice flour – 40g
  • Spring onions – about 6
  • Shallots – about 6
  • Lemon juice – 1 dessert spoon
  • Melted butter (or ghee if you have this) – 25g
  • Bicarbonate of soda – 1 teaspoon
  • Garam masala – 2 teaspoons
  • Cumin seeds – 1 teaspoon
  • Fresh chopped chilli or chilli flakes – 1 teaspoon
  • Turmeric – 1/2 teaspoon
  • Garlic – 1 clove, crushed
  • Salt – 1/2 teaspoon
  • optional: fresh coriander finely chopped – about a tablespoon-full’s worth
  • Water – enough to bind
  • Rapeseed oil (or your choice of oil) for deep-fat frying
Method
  1. Cut the spring onions and shallots into very fine slices, then cut these into about 1 – 2 cm shards
  2. Put both flours, the bicarb and the spices and salt into a large bowl
  3. Mix the onions and shallots into the dry mix and ensure it is covered
  4. Add the lemon juice, the butter (or ghee)  and one or two tablespoons of water to bring it together – it will be quite a sticky batter but you do not want it at all runny
  5. Leave it to rest while you warm up the oil over a medium heat
  6. Test the temperature of the oil by dropping in a tiny bit of the mix. It should start to go brown within about 20 – 30 seconds
  7. Take a dessert spoon size blob of the mix and gently and carefully drop it into the oil – repeat with a couple more (leave enough space in the oil for the bhajis to move about a bit)
  8. Turn the bhajis while they cook to ensure they are browned all over
  9. Cook for about three minutes each, and take them out when they are a nice medium brown all over
  10. You will need to fry these in batches to do them all
  11. Dry them on kitchen paper to catch the excess oil

Cherry Lamingtons

Lamingtons

Umm, these little Australian cakes are delicious, but wow are they messy to make. If you’ve got little children I can imagine they’d have tons of fun with these – no wonder Lamington drives and bake offs are very popular in Australia and New Zealand.

I’ve made these twice before (a traditional recipe and a white chocolate ‘snowball’ version) and swore I’d never attempt them again as basically I got plastered in icing and dessicated coconut each time. Well, this month for the Daring Baker‘s challenge, Marcellina from the ‘Marcellina in Cucina‘ blog chose them for us all to try.

So, here’s my third ever batch of Lamingtons. I think maybe that now this won’t be my last as I have definitely improved at making them in a less messy way. I’ve also found that using a thicker ganache rather than a traditional chocolate glaze seems to coat the cakes better and gives the coconut something thicker to cling on to.

It’s a typical Lamington recipe except I’ve substituted some of the flour for dried coconut milk powder and added some finely diced glace cherries to the mix. The addition of the dried coconut milk enhances the dessicated coconut, and then I crowned each with a cherry as a finishing touch.

These are reputedly named after Lord Lamington, Governor of Queensland from 1896 to 1901. It’s disputed whether they were a happy accident (cake dropped in chocolate, then covered in coconut to stop messy fingers) or whether Lord Lamington’s chef invented them or one of any number of rather bizarre other suggestions. There are many recipes for the sponge used and some are split and filled with either jam or cream but all are coated in a chocolate glaze or ganache and rolled in coconut.

Notes

It’s gonna get messy – give yourself some space and don’t worry about tidying up as you go along as it’s been almost impossible.

Equipment

  • Bowls – including a large one for the coconut (I actually used a large plastic tub as it was flatter)
  • Cranked or plain palette knife (a smaller one is better)
  • Square baking tin -20 cm x 20 cm
  • Soft spatula
  • Balloon whisk, electric hand mixer or stand mixer
  • Saucepan
  • Cling film
  • Wire rack and a baking tray for it to sit on – line the baking tray with foil as this is to catch drips
  • Fork and spoon

Ingredients – sponge

  • Eggs, medium – 4
  • Caster sugar – 200g
  • Plain flour – 170g
  • Dried coconut milk powder – 30g (find this in the world food aisle in your supermarket)
  • Unsalted butter, softened – 110g
  • Baking powder – 1 1/2 teaspoons
  • Lemon juice – 1/2 teaspoon
  • Glace cherries, very finely diced – 40g

Ingredients – chocolate ganache

  • Milk chocolate – 300g
  • Double cream – 125ml

Additional ingredients

  • Dessicated coconut – 200g
  • Cherries for decoration

Method – sponge

  1. Line or grease and flour your baking tin and put the over on to 170C fan / 185C conventional
  2. Cream the eggs and sugar together in a bowl or with a stand mixer
  3. Put all the dry ingredients together in a bowl (flour, dried coconut milk and baking powder)
  4. Crack one egg into the mix and add 25% of the the fried ingredients and mix until combined
  5. Repeat with the other eggs one at a time and the dried ingredients until all eggs and all dried ingredients are combined. Remove the whisk/take the bowl off the stand mixer
  6. Add the lemon juice and the finely diced glace cherries and mix gently with a spatula – don’t whisk
  7. Pour into the prepared tin
  8. Bake in the centre of the oven for about 30 mins until it’s golden on top and a skewer comes out cleanly
  9. Leave to cool in the tin and when cool it’s useful (although not totally essential) to pop it in the freezer (wrapped in cling film) for about 20 mins until slightly firmed

Method – choc ganache

  1. Break up the chocolate into a large heatproof bowl (it needs to be large as you will be holding the cakes over this later so you need the space)
  2. Pour the cream into a small saucepan and bring to just under boiling – when it first bubbles
  3. Pour the cream over the chocolate and mix until all the chocolate is melted thoroughly
  4. Leave to cool completely

Method – assembly

  1. Retrieve the cake from the freezer (if you’ve done that) and cut into 16 squares
  2. Empty the dessicated coconut into either a large plastic container, such as a tupperware or click-lock box, or a large bowl
  3. Get the wire rack and baking tray ready
  4. Get the bowl of ganache ready
  5. Have a fork and spoon to hand for the dessicated coconut
  6. Pick up one of the cakes and hold it flat on your fingers (I’ve found this to be the easiest) and using the palette knife pick up and spread the ganache over the top and all four sides of the cake
  7. Set the cake onto the wire rack – this will catch any drips from the ganache
  8. Repeat for all the cakes
  9. Once covered in ganache, pick up a cake with the fork as a lifting device – the cakes will be extremely gooey now so if you try to pick them up with your fingers you’ll stick to them!
  10. Drop it gently in the dessicated coconut. Use the spoon to ‘pour’ over the dessicated coconut and flip the cake over in the coconut to cover all five sides that have the ganache on
  11. Flip the cake upright and using the fork put it gently back on the wire rack
  12. Repeat with all the cakes
  13. Position a cherry on each of the cakes
  14. Leave them to ‘settle’ and harden a little before you eat them as this allows them to be picked up more easily

Pão de Queijo recipe – Brazillian Cheese rolls

Pao de queijo - Brazillian cheese rolls
Pao de queijo – Brazillian cheese rolls

Notes on the recipe

Pão de Queijo (pão is bread and queijo is cheese) is a Brazilian bread alternative. It uses tapioca/manioc starch so is gluten free. I halved the original recipe as I bake so much I wasn’t sure we’d eat enough to make a full batch worthwhile (plus if it went wrong I had enough flour to try again!)

I baked these three times – they really did not want to come out quite as puffed up and rounded as those in the original recipe. There was nothing wrong with the bakes other than this; they tasted nice, and they were light and airy inside – the only one thing I did alter was the amount of cheese after the first try. I used a cheddar which is much stronger than the original Monterey Jack and the first batch was VERY cheesy (I loved it but it was a bit too much for some others who tried it) so I reduced the amount of cheese – if I’d used a milder cheese I’d have stayed with the same amount.

Still, rise or no rise, they were lovely made up into cream cheese, bacon and rocket and spinach salad rolls.

Update 4th June 2014

I ordered some more flour, this time labelled as manioc and re-tried. Apart from the new flour, the only two differences were that I spooned the mix into small muffin cases and I made sure the milk/butter mix was fully cool before incorporating. Hey presto – not sure if it’s the flour, the case, to cooling or all of them, but they came out perfect. I’ve amended the recipe below recently to include baking the rolls in muffin cases.

Tapioca – manioc – cassava – flour or starch?

I’d managed to get hold of tapioca flour from a local organic food shop, but, because the consistency was identical to cornflour (to me that wouldn’t be good enough for a well-risen bake) I wondered if labelling up of the product was different here in the UK and it meant I did need the ‘starch’ rather than ‘flour’ to get that nice rise. I looked up the starch and it started getting confusing..

Manioc, cassava and tapioca are names for the same thing – they are all derived from the yucca/cassava/manioc shrub apparently (the UK company Real Foods has some info and products).

Some places online stipulate that flours and starches are different and there is a good explanation on Leite’s Culinaria blog. This is aimed at a US audience and it’s possible labelling is different again in the UK as I’ve also seen sites which say tapioca flour is arrowroot while tapioca starch or cassava/manioc flour is what it should be. I am not sure this is true – the product is very fine, very white and has the consistency of cornflour. I bought manioc flour from Real Foods (link above) but it can also be bought from most local organic supermarkets (under any of the three names).

Pão de Queijo (makes about 30 – 35 mini rolls)

Equipment

Small muffin/fairy cake cases or 2 greased muffin pans
Baking tray (if using cases)

Ingredients

250g tapioca/manioc/cassava flour/starch (see notes above: don’t get the tapioca flour which is arrowroot)
125 ml milk
20g butter
1/2 tsp salt
80g grated strong cheddar (or 120g of a mild grated cheese)
2 small eggs

Method

  1. preheat the oven to 200°C conventional / 185°C fan and have a couple of baking trays ready
  2. in a pan over a low heat, melt the butter into the milk and bring it all to just boiling. Remove from the heat and let it cool down (alternatively do it in a microwave but make sure it doesn’t boil)
  3. place the muffin cases on the baking tray or prepare your muffin tins with a little grease and flour
  4. measure out the tapioca flour and add the salt. Pour on the cooled milk and butter
  5. mix in with a fork – it will go clumpy
    the tapioca flour after the milk/butter has been added and mixed in
  6. mix in the cheese and the egg until it is evenly distributed – be careful as you may not need quite all of the 2 eggs: the mix should be a little on the loose side, rather than dough-like but not fully runny
  7. spoon the mix into the cases or the prepared tins
  8. bake in the oven for about 25 mins but don’t take them out just before they go brown (the rolls are traditionally supposed to be light in colour and puffed up)
  9. eat warm as they are, or cool and use for canapes and snack rolls
    Air pockets inside make the rolls light and airy