Saturday, 30 March 2013

Hot Cross Buns (Delia Smith's)

Happy Easter!
Easter and you think of sun and blue skies; April Showers (rain); young lambs frolicking in the fields; fluffy chicks; new beginnings; lots of chocolate and my favourite of all - Hot Cross Buns.
My mum enjoys these too and I remember making these when I was younger - they often turned like rocks the next day though.  Large supermarkets have in-store bakeries that churn out stacks and stacks of these buns so it's cheap and easy to buy them these days.

I saw something intriguing on another blogger's post, it was Cook Like A Star where a celebrity chef is chosen and participants cook any dish by the said chef.  This occasion it's the turn of Delia Smith in the spotlight.  I have watched Delia Smith on TV cookery programmes from when I was a child and some of my favourite cake recipes are in fact from one of her books.  So what better excuse to look up recipes to cook and join in the blogging and cooking fun!
(Thank you Anncoo for your delicious post on Chocolate Drop Mini Muffins with Red Noses - as that is where I saw the Cook Like A Star blog hop event!)

Hot Cross Buns (recipe adapted from Deliaonline - Hot Cross Buns)

450g strong bread flour
50g caster sugar
5g salt
7g easy-bake yeast
125g dried mixed fruit (raisins, sultana, currant & mixed peel)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
50g butter
1 egg
50ml milk
150ml water
3 tsp plain flour
3 tsp water
1 tsp honey
2 tsp warm water

Sift flour, salt and cinnamon into a mixing bowl and add the sugar, yeast and dried mixed fruit. Stir to mix everything together and make a well in the centre.

Melt the butter in a jug, add the milk, crack the egg in and mix together.  Pour this into the dry ingredients, add most of the water (saving a couple of tablespoons back in case dough gets too wet), mix with a spatula until a dough begins to form, then put your hand in to squeeze and bring everything together.

Transfer dough to a clean surface and knead until it feels smooth and elastic - about 6 minutes.  Pop it back into the bowl, cover the bowl with a lightly oiled sheet of cling wrap and leave in a warm place to double in size (it will take about an hour).

Turn it out and knead lightly until it has returned to original size.  Divide dough into 12 equal pieces and roll them into balls.  Place them on a lined baking sheet leaving room for them to rise.  Cover with the oiled cling wrap and leave to rise again (about 25 minutes).

Preheat the oven to gas 7 / 220 C / 425 F.

Mix the plain flour with the water in a small bowl to a smooth paste.  Use this to gently pipe crosses onto the risen buns.

Bake the buns for about 15 minutes.

Mix the honey with the warm water and brush the buns when they are hot from the oven to make them shiny and sticky.

Transfer to a rack to cool.

This is my submission to the blog hop event Cook Like A Star (March 2013) organised by: Zoe (Bake For Happy Kids), Baby Sumo (Eat Your Heart Out) and Mich (Piece of Cake)

Friday, 15 March 2013

Chocolate Sandwich Cake with Chocolate Butter Icing

This cake is quick to whip up and is extremely light and crumbly.  Bit too crumbly but not dry.  I made a Victoria Sandwich Cake this afternoon as we were going to pop over to a friend's and say "Hello."  I had told Mr Leaf (hubbs) we would have the cake to look forward to when we came home.  I actually changed my mind, wrapped it up and gave it away to friends.  I thought the boys would enjoy chocolate cake more anyway.

Chocolate Sandwich Cake

Ingredients (Cake)
115g margarine (I used Stork)
100g caster sugar
2 large free-range eggs
25g cocoa powder
90g self raising flour
1 level teaspoon baking powder
30g butter (soft)
15g cocoa powder
60g icing sugar
2-3 teaspoons milk

2 x 7" sandwich tins, greased and base lined with baking parchment

Pre-heat oven to Gas 4/180C.

Beat the margarine in a large mixing bowl for a few seconds until it is soft and smooth.  Add the caster sugar and cream until pale, light and fluffy.

Crack an egg into the mix and sift in the cocoa powder, lightly mix until it is all combined.  Add in the remaining egg and sift in the flour and baking powder.  Fold it all together until combined.  Do not beat the mixture as you may make the cake tough and dense.

Spoon into the prepared cake tins and level.  

Bake in the pre-heated oven for 15-20 minutes.  (Mine took 18 minutes.)  The cake should begin to shrink from the edges of the tin when it is ready and the centre feel springy to the touch when pressed lightly with your finger.  A skewer (or toothpick) should come out clean when inserted in the cake.

Turn out on to a wire rack to cool. 

To make the chocolate butter icing, put the soft butter in a bowl and beat until smooth.  Add in the cocoa powder and icing sugar.  Slowly cream the butter with the sugar and cocoa until it has all combined.  Beat until it is smooth and fluffy.  If it seems to stiff and dry add a little milk to the mix and beat well.

When the cake has cooled place one layer onto a plate flat side up.  Spread the chocolate filling on the base before topping with the other cake (domed side up).  Dust with icing sugar to serve.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Happy Mother's Day (UK)

Happy Mother's Day!

Mother's Day differs around the world.  Here in UK it usually falls in March and before Easter.  Some countries have Mother's Day on the second Sunday in May - no idea why there is a difference in dates.

Anyway, thought I'd take this opportunity to share with you both my babies...

We had an addition to our "Leaf Family" on 21st Februrary.  Chung was born at 2:10pm at a weight of 3.080kg (6lb 12.5oz).  He was 6 days early and was considerably lighter than his big brother when he was born.

Now I REALLY have my hands full! :p

Happy Mother's Day to you all Xxxx

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Tea Loaf Cake

I don't often buy shop-bought cake whether it is a mass-produced branded one or supermarket own brand. I find them a bit dry, a bit sweet for my liking.  Hubbs (Mr Leaf) likes them though.  When they come individually wrapped in slices they are convenient for him to take to work and on special offer - well, I treat him :p  They do a light fruit cake one which has notes of mixed spice and is rather delicious if I may admit!  I tried creating my own...

Tea Loaf Cake

150ml boiling water
1 Earl Grey Tea Bag
250g mixed dried fruit
200g soft butter
75g caster sugar
75g soft light brown sugar
3 large free-range eggs
1 zest of an orange
40g ground almonds
210g self-raising flour
1 level teaspoon baking powder
1.5 level teaspoon mixed spice

Put fruit into a small bowl, tuck in the tea bag and pour on the boiling water.  Leave the fruits to swell and soak up the liquid.
Preheat oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4

Grease and line 2 small loaf tins.  I used a rectangular aluminium foil container and a 2lb loaf tin.

Cream the butter with the sugars until light and fluffy.

Add an egg into the mix along with a spoonful of your measured flour, mix until the egg has been incorporated.  Repeat with the remaining eggs.

Tip the fruits along with any liquid into the cake mix, give the tea bag a good squeeze. I emptied the bag of it's leaves into the cake mix as I thought it might improve flavour.  Add the grated orange zest and the ground almonds and fold in.

Sift the flour, baking powder and spice into the bowl, fold to combine.

Spoon into the greased tins and bake.  My loaf tin took 45-55 minutes and the smaller aluminium container took 35-45 minutes.  If the cakes brown too much, lower the heat slightly.  When you are checking the cake, give the tin a shake.  If the mixture wobbles, cake is not ready and may need another 10 minutes before you check.  Use a skewer to test the cake in the centre any gooey wet mix indicates cake is not ready and may need a further 5-10 minutes.
Sprinkle a little caster sugar on top of the cake when done, or dust with icing sugar.  Leave cake in tin for 10 minutes before cooling on rack.

*** Verdict
Not the same as the mass produced one which is lighter in colour (I suspect the tea leaves in my cake give it a richer colour) and I think if I stuck with one flavour instead of Earl Grey Tea and orange with the mixed spice it might resemble the bought-cake.  Nevertheless, my mummy friends all enjoyed the cake and at least I am happy eating something I know I made (even if hubby eats the plastic wrapped version!) :)

Friday, 15 February 2013

Tomato and Mozzarella Pizza

Taken From "Healthy Food Guide" Sep 2012
(serves: 4)

Tomato and Mozzarella Pizza
250g passata
275g plain flour (or gluten-free plain flour)
7g sachet fast action dried yeast (easy bake yeast that does not require reconstituting in water)
1 tsp caster sugar
1 medium egg, beaten
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp sugar
Handful of basil leaves
2 x 125g reduced-fat mozzarella balls, drained, sliced
350g large vine tomatoes, sliced and drained on kitchen paper

Put flour, yeast, 1 tsp caster sugar in large bowl
Mix egg with 125ml warm water and pour into the dry ingredients. (* I add about a tbsp of olive oil in as well)
Mix well and knead lightly to make a soft dough, adding more water if needed.
Divide in two and roll out thinly. (* I try not to use too much extra flour and use a little veg oil to spot it sticking - and roll as big as the tin/tray I'm cooking it on)
Transfer to baking trays, cover with cling film and leave in a warm place for 30min (*GREASED TRAYS! or they stick!)
Preheat oven to Gas 6 / 200C / Fan 180C. 
Heat passata, oregano and 1 tsp sugar in a pan for 5 mins until thick. Add torn basil reserving a few leaves
Top each base with the tomato sauce, then the mozzarella and tomato slices.Season with black pepper and cook for 25-30min until crusts are golden and the cheese has melted. Garnish with the reserved basil.
*** I make my own tomato sauce.
1 400g tin toms (can be chopped or whole)
1 onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
dried herbs
tom puree
1 tsp sugar
salt, pepper
Put the onion, garlic in a pan with 1 tsp (or so) oil and cook gently for a few mins until soft.
Add the tinned toms (if whole, chop up with spatula/wooden spoon - I don't mind chunks of tomato), add in the dried herbs (oregano / basil / mixed herbs - whatever is in cupboard), add in sugar and a squeeze of tom puree (about a tbsp). Cook on a gentle blip until excess water has evaporated and sauce is thick. Season. Cool slightly before topping pizza.
Does make extra sauce which you can freeze and use in pasta sauces...etc...

I made the above dough and made 3 pizzas:
a small 6" Cheese and Tomato pizza for my son (watch it when cooking as it may not need as long in oven - I think I cooked for around 15 mins).
a medium sized Pepperoni and Red Onion Pizza for Mr Leaf
a medium sized Veg Pizza for me (red onion, green pepper, mushroom, fresh sliced tomato and once cooked,  topped with wild rocket leaves) 

The dough is quick and easy to prepare, and is wonderfully light and crispy.  I have made it using gluten-free flour too and it works brilliantly!

You can adapt the pizzas anyway you like, Ham & Pineapple; Cooked Chicken and Pesto Sauce; Goats Cheese and Red Pepper; Bacon, Mushroom & Tomato....the permutations are endless :)

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Happy Valentine's Day

Happy Valentine's Day !

Almost didn't have one - both boys been terribly ill here past 2 weeks and although it was nice to prepare what I wanted to eat to begin with.  Watching the boys hardly eat, drink and just nap all day soon sapped my appetite from me.
So hard to find inspiration to cook when people have diminished appetites :(

Hoping they are now on the mend and so I cooked Mr Leaf's favourite food - Duck Breast.  As we were going to have it on rice, I made the sauce a Chinese inspired one with Chinese 5-Spice and Honey.

Both my boys are chocoholics.  What better dessert than Hot Chocolate Sponges?

Hope you had a good evening with your loved one if you celebrate Valentine's Day :)

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Happy Chinese New Year!

Wishing you all a very Happy Chinese New Year!

May the Year of the Snake bring much prosperity, happiness, success and good health!!!



Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Upcycling: Making New from Old ~ Drawstring Bag

I haven't made a bag for some time.  I think last items made on the sewing machine were phone pouches about 18mths ago.  I often have ideas in my head or at least aspirations to make things but they do not often come to fruitition.

Hand drawn felt letters

Having enrolled son into Pre-School, I decided to dust off the machine to knock up a little drawstring bag.  They do have nylon material ones available to buy from the preschool for £2 but I thought I would make Minh a special personalised one.  Opening my sewing box full of patterns; fabrics; odds and ends, I came across a scrumpled old work shirt.  I put my creative head on and started planning...
I used the front of the shirt including the button front as it wouldn't be wide enough otherwise.  I just sewed the flaps down after cutting the material so even if the buttons were undone (or fell off) the bag would not open.

Button flaps stitched down in place
The bag needs to hold son's nappies, wipes and nappy sacks as well as a spare change of clothes.  No, we've not toilet-trained him yet.  With this in mind I thought about making a Flat-Bottomed Bag.  The contents could sit at the bottom nicely without tumbling about.

Flat bottom helps bag contents stayin one place!

I had to refer to this book Lisa Lam's Bag Making Bible - to remind myself how to do it.  I love this book as it's got great ideas how to customise bag's you are making to have features that you want as well as some projects for you to tackle.  (Lisa Lam also has a fabulous Bag Making Blog  ~ U-Handblog as well as a shop ~

The shirt material is quite flimsy so I gave it reinforcement with some heavy sew-in interfacing and also made a lining from some calico fabric.  I could have made drawstrings from the same material as the shirt but as time was against me, I found some light blue ribbon to thread through as ties instead.

I am really pleased with the bag as the interfacing has made the bag look more substantial, the lining makes it look classy.  The design I think is quite cute and I love how the lettering turned out! 

A label added in last minute!

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Post Christmas Feasts

After some Christmas Feasting at my mother's house - a yearly tradition for Christmas Day Turkey lunch and Boxing Day Chinese Feast (lobster/crab in Spring Onion and Ginger, Chinese Roast Duck, Roast Crispy Pork are definite contenders), we were lucky enough to be invited to two other feasts over the weekend.

I recently learned that one of my cousins will be going away to work in February and it's been long talked of having a Steamboat Feast.  One of our other cousins hosted the meal at their place and as I like to bring a little something along, I baked a Green Tea Chiffon for dessert.  Post for that one is here.  I have discovered that I omitted to take photos of our feast :(   But I will tease you by telling you that we had three different kinds of noodles; 3 different greens (pak choi/cos lettuce/chrysanthemum greens); 3 different meat balls (fish/pork and beef); thinly sliced beef rolls; fresh prawns; fresh clams; mushrooms (brown chestnut and golden needle-enoki).  The Steamboat pot was split in two compartments and we had two types of broth, one was a herbal tonic, the other plain.  The herbal one was delicately flavoured with nutmeg, cardamon, and dong quai.  It was a delicious and filling feast indeed!

Sunday, we went to visit Mr Leaf's family.  We went out for lunch at a Vietnamese Restaurant, Loong Kee on Kingsland Road, Hackney.  It's one of the few places that serve Steamed Rice Rolls Bánh cuốn which is a favourite with Mr Leaf.  They are similar to Cheung Fun but the rice skins are thinner, more translucent and not as soft.  The filling was a scarce scattering of minced pork and minced black wood ear fungus.  Was not very flavourful on its own and needed the Nước chấm sauce to give it some life.

Mr Leaf's brother likes Frog's Legs so we ordered a starter of Fried Frog's Leg's with Salt and Chilli.  The frog meat tastes between fish and chicken.  

Mr Leaf and his brother always eat this noodle salad dish Bún Thịt Nướng which is topped with grilled pork.  It's rice vermicelli with shredded salad, herbs and whatever topping you select and sprinkled with roasted crushed peanuts (which they did not have in this place.) You moisten it with Nước chấm  mix it up and chomp away.  This is not where we usually go for our Vietnamese meals and Mr Leaf reported the pork not the same cut and taste as his usual choice of restaurant.
I opted for stir-fried rice noodles with mixed meat.  Expecting Ho Fun wide, flat rice noodles like I would in a Chinese Restaurant I was surprised to get very thin rehydrated noodles.  It had a pleasant chew to them and I had all manner of different vegetables stir fried with it (no bad thing in my book).  Son managed to eat a few mouthfuls too so that was a bonus as he is a very discernible diner.

Sister in Law (Mrs Leaf) had Beef Phở.  Noodle Soup in a beef broth with sliced onion, herbs, thinly sliced beef.  It's served with a plate of accompaniments, herbs, raw beansprouts and a lemon wedge.  

In the evening we went to my SiL cousin's house for a pre-New Year Dinner.  We had Coquille St Jacques to start (oops - no photo) which is a French dish of scallops in a white wine sauce served in the half shell topped with mashed potato and grilled. Mains were Steak or Thai Chicken Curry.

Here are a few photos I did remember to take!

Pan-Fried Steak with mixed salad and mashed potato.

I had the Thai Curry, there was Red and Green Curry and I had a little of both.  The Green Curry was particularly fiery hot but wonderfully fragranced with kaffir lime leaves, I couldn't tell you how the Red Curry tasted as my mouth was on fire after that!

We had Christmas Cake for dessert (which I had made and decorated) as well as Strawberry Gateau (I believe it was a shop-bought frozen dessert).

I hope you all had a lovely time celebrating the festivities with your nearest and dearest!  

The hostess pictured with my son and his cousin. 

(Apologies for poor photo quality - my camera phone does not perform well.)