Gooseberry and Port Pie

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

When somebody mentions Gooseberry Pie I always imagine a cottage in the wood, chimney smoking and freshly baked pie sitting on the window sill. Am I thinking of Snow White? Possibly...
Another image is Bree Van de Kamp of Desperate Housewives knocking at my door with a steaming pie covered by a red Gingham check cloth. Both images, I like. I like the thought of offerings of pie and  can think of nothing better than serving up a warm dish of sweet fruit with a buttery, crumbly pastry top to family. Here, enters my own gooseberry pie. My Mum had grown a crop of gooseberries last year and I couldn't resist the opportunity to make my first fruit pie for the blog.
So, here we are. I adapted a recipe by a Greg Wallace that you can find here, and went on to enjoy a very lovely afternoon in the kitchen.

For Gooseberry and Port Pie you will need:

For the filling:
900g gooseberries
180-220g caster sugar (add to more or less to your taste)
2 tbsp port

For the pastry: 
90g soft, unsalted butter
65g caster sugar
3 egg yolks
200g plain flour

To begin, make the sweet pastry, or pâte sucrée. Start by creaming the butter and sugar together.

Separate your egg yolks from the whites and beat together.

Add the eggs in gradually and combine until the mixture is smooth.

Add in the flour in and mix together with a spoon until a ball of dough is formed.

Wrap the dough in clingfilm and chill for at least 30 minutes.

Whilst your pastry is chilling, focus on your gooseberry filling.
Gooseberries are underrated, if you're on the fence - try this pie. I certainly was not disappointed with their ability to wow.

Put the gooseberries in a saucepan and pour in the sugar. Mix together and put the heat on.

Add the port. I like the smell of port, if you do too, give it a cheeky sniff.

Add the two tablespoons of port in now and stir through.

Simmer until the fruit is soft and sweet to your taste.

Now roll out the pastry. You're only making a pie lid so you don't need to split the dough.
At this point, you need to preheat your oven to 190c.

Empty the fruit into a pie dish that is about 25cm wide.

Top with the pastry, crimp the edges with a fork and decorate with any spare cuttings of pastry. Slice a cross in the middle of the pie to release steam and sprinkle the whole thing with sugar.
Bake for 30 minutes until the top is crisp and golden.

Serve with cream or just with a fork and a solitary sitting!

Forgive the Bree pose, I'm just practising...!

Coming of Age Cake.

Friday, 25 January 2013

This past week, I've spent my time at home.
In the days I would bake and read and in the evening I would make dinner for my parents and we would talk, laugh and eat a lot. It was a very lovely, very relaxing week. It was the transitional period between my two semesters and I spent my time recuperating from the stress of essays and growing back into my love of reading. And of course, extending my ever-growing love of cooking.

Whilst at home, I finalised a few personal goals that I’d been outlining in my head over the past month. I wouldn’t call them New Year’s resolutions as I hope I won’t begrudgingly be renewing them next January, as is the case with most resolutions made in that vein. Instead, these are a set of personal and significant goals that I hope to guide my year and this part of my life to prosperity and happiness. They do have some relevance to this post, so bear with.
  1. To begin, continue to work at and be happy with all that I do. Ensure that it gratifies me and fuels my desire to achieve.
  2. Don’t force the passion that I think should be woven through my writing. I believe it will come, as it is now at 22.56pm as I sit cross-legged on the floor in my pyjamas and new, rather beautiful hat. Just be patient.
  3. Remember what I am driven by. Try not to lose sight of that, or what is important to make it a reality. Translate: remember to work hard.
  4. Be patient, grateful and loving to all those who support me. Continue to make them cake on a regular basis.
  5. And finally, although this isn’t as philosophical it is important to my own personal growth. Number five is to buy proper face makeup and learn how to apply properly! Yes, this one is a little vain. However, it makes me feel like I’m taking myself a little more seriously. And I’ve already made headway with this. My Mum and I went out and purchased the makeup and the lady in Clarins made me look like a treat. Now all I need to do is learn to replicate the results… 

So I feel like I'm entering a new stage in my life and this is reflected in my blog. As my readership grows I'm starting to take it more seriously and now with a new design I'm very proud of it. I hope it continues to flourish over the coming year.
So in a roundabout way, inspired by my personal ramblings above, here is my Coming of Age Cake with a lot of chocolate and a handful of strawberries. 

For my Coming of Age cake you will need:

For the cake:
150g soft butter
250g caster sugar
150g self-raising flour
125ml sour cream
4 medium eggs (at room temperature)
50g cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
few drops of vanilla extract to taste

To decorate: 
100g dark chocolate
550g icing sugar
250g really soft butter
2 tbsp milk
1 small punnet of strawberries
1 flake

A long recipe, but this is a celebration cake, so on this occasion it's alright not to skimp.
This one was inspired by the lovely Lorraine Pascales's Let Them Eat Cake, Cake that you can find in her book

To begin, sift all the dry ingredients into a large bowl. So that's the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt.

Add in the sour cream (don't be scared, this ensures the cake isn't dry and crumbly), vanilla extract and beaten eggs. Also add in your butter. Make sure this is soft or you'll have issues with whisking.

Whisk. I opted for the hand whisk and a work out. But an electric whisk will get the job done much quicker.

Pour into two pre-lined and greased 20cm circular cake tins.

Bake in a oven preheated to 180c for 25-30 minutes.

Clean bowl with tongue. Chuck spatula away if it's slowing you down.

 This is for you too...

Once baked and cooled, make your icing.
If you are doing this by hand, prepare for a work out. Especially if your butter won't really soften because you live in a student house/ice box.
Begin by sifting the icing sugar into a bowl. Cream in the butter and add the milk to loosen up the mixture. Once you have a smooth mixture, melt your chocolate and stir in.

This can get messy.

You should end up with something like this.

Spread a generous layer of icing between the two cake layers and then pile more icing on top of the cakes.

Spread round the cake and make as even or uneven in pattern as you like (or can be patient with). I went for a textured look. Hopefully in this phase of my life I'll acquire a pallet knife.

I've decorated with sliced strawberries, leaves still on and a crumbled flake on top. 

Colours, flavours, love.

So there we are. A layer or two of love, hard work, mistakes and passion. My Coming of Age Cake certainly seems like a poignant turning point for my blog and myself. But failing all of that, it is just simply gorgeous with a cup of tea.   

Fish Tacos

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

It's only been recently that I've really started to appreciate the internet food community. There are so many amazing food blogs I can escape to and be inspired by. This particular post is an adaptation from The Londoner, who's original recipe you can find here. So with this inspiration and the growth of my blog and skills in the kitchen (both delightfully surprising) I'm really starting to want to put the work in to my posts. I've chosen this recipe because it has a few rewarding components - they are easy so don't be intimidated, and it gives absolutely brilliant results.
The recipe also reminds me of my time in Barbados.

The salty fish with a zing of lime and punch of chilli takes me straight back to the beach where the fishing boats would dock and then cook their fresh catch straight away. 
I love this dish, it's bursting with flavour and memories of the sun. All good. Lets go. 

For Fish Tacos you will need (makes 4): 

2 river cobbler (or any white flaky fish) fillets
2 handfuls of coriander
2 limes
2 red chillies
1 avocado
6 tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoons sour cream
2/3 tablespoons ketchup
4 handfuls of salad leaves. 
4 tortilla wraps 
Salt and cracked black pepper

To begin, make the fish marinade. 
Use a pestle and mortar to grind up a handful of the coriander leaves, a pinch or two of salt and the juice of one lime.

Slice and chop half a chilli, add in and grind down a little. Need a bigger pestle and mortar, right?

Transfer to a jug, add 6 tablespoons of olive oil and mix well together. Put the fish in the pan (but not yet on) and pour on the marinade. Leave to soak in the marinadey-goodness for a few minutes.

Soaking in situ.

Now lets make sauces. Start with the guacamole. De-stone and peel the avocado. Put in a bowl and mash down to a paste.

Finely chop the other handful of the coriander and mash that into the avocado.

Squeeze in the juice of half a lime. Wrap the other half in clingfilm and use at a later date. I suggest in a chilly glass of gin...

Now slice, deseed and finely chop a whole chilli.

Add to guacamole, and mash in. Season to your liking with salt and a little pepper if you're feeling it.

Before you start your next sauce, put the heat on your fish. Cook on one side for about 5 minutes and then flip.
Now for your other sauce. I ran out of bowls so had to use a Jack Daniels glass. Student: resourceful. Put in all of your sour cream and ketchup. Mix until you have an even colour.

Chop the other half of the chilli that we used earlier in the fish marinade and add to your taco sauce.

Once your fish as spent five minutes frying on both sides split in half and take off the heat. 

Now lets assemble.
By all means set this out on a table and let your eaters assemble themselves. But heres a little how-to guide.
In the middle, lay out a handful of salad.

Spoon on a good tablespoon or two of your guacamole.

Then on goes the fish in the middle.

Taco sauce over the top.

And finally, a teaspoon of the juices from the pan. Packed with flavour so don't chuck away!

Wrap up, tuck in.

There ain't nothin' wrong with you.

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