Idiot-Proof Victoria Sponge with Sour Cherry Jam

I’m back! For the first time in a month I have energy to spare and time on my hands. Plus, a fabulous recipe to share for anyone who – like me – dreams of bringing out a cake-plate full of a glorious, moist, classic Vicky Sponge and wowing her friends, but is a bit clueless and terrified, (and so far only has the cake plate. Ahem.)

Well, this was me last week. And this week, I’m feeling all smug. Except for the disaster I’ll confess to at the end of this blog. Here goes:

Shopping List:

For the sponge:
2 large eggs. Weigh them, and then measure out the same weight in:
Caster sugar
Self-raising flour
Soft-tub margarine
Plus:
1tsp Vanilla essence
1 and a half tsp baking powder

It’s alright, it looks like this:

For the filling:
Sour cherry jam
AND for the buttercream:
2 oz butter
4 oz icing sugar
1tsp vanilla essence

How to Make it:

1. Shove everything for the sponge in a big bowl and give it a whizz with your favourite electric mixer. Don’t stop ’til you get enough it’s all light and fluffy.
2. Grab the nearest pair of lined and greased tins, and dollop half the mixture right in the middle of each one.
3. Using the back of a big spoon, gentle press the mixture towards the edges of the tin. Try not to make a mess of the sides, as then it’ll look all pretty. Like so:

4. Chuck it in a pre-heated oven (160 degrees for a fan-assisted, 180 for the rest) for 25 minutes, or until it’s all golden.
TOP TIP: Check it’s done by plunging a skewer into the middle. If it comes out clean, you’re onto a winner. If not, shove it back in the oven.
5. While you make your nommy filling, leave the beauties to cool. Doesn’t it looks awesome:

6.  Plonk the butter, sugar and vanilla essence in a bowl and beat with a spoon until your arm aches. Or until the mixture’s nice and firm and looking tasty.


7. Geeeently flip one of the sponges over and spread the buttercream all over it. Lightly splurge the jam on top, making sure to lick all the spoons when you’re finished.

8. Go all arty and sprinkle the top with caster sugar. Feel free to take a photo at a jaunty angle.

And there you have it. it’s all pretty and eatable, but do try and save it for a tea party.
I had a dinner ‘do the very next day. It started out with me being all foodielicious and shopping for all the freshest fare to make my show-off Quinoa Tabbouleh. Pepper, mozzarella, herbs, lemon juice, all sorts of yum. It looked a treat:

The downside is, it tasted mostly of lemony mint and disappointment. FAIL, recipe. My guests and I gallantly attempted at least four forkfuls before we caved and admitted it was making us feel a bit queasy. What to do?! It’s 9pm and  we’ve all been patiently awaiting our quinoa for an hour. There was nothing for it. I rustled up a quick mélange of crumbly breaded chicken portions and a frites tower, with a ‘shore’ of tomato jus:

Or… chicken dippers and chips. But it was bloody lovely.

Then came my face-saver in the form of old Vick. She matched the teaset pretty good I reckon.

We all came back for seconds.

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49. NOM: Sultana de Fleur by Nonno Papa

My Grandad Papa was a whizz in the kitchen. His spag bol is still legendary, and he and Nonna knew how to do a mean roast, but heck quite frankly even the jelly with tangerine pieces in it was a firm favourite in my youth no matter how simple a notion it was.

And yet that was not the only pudding for which he was well-loved. He also liked to invent them left, right and centre, and – a la Del boy – name them pretentious French names even if he had no idea what they meant. It always made us laugh. Sultana de Fleur was perhaps the best – and when I eat it now, even four years after he passed away and twelve years after Nonna – I still remember being in their warm little kitchen having a laugh and watching them argue about who was going to do the washing up. If we were really good, we got a sweetie from the bowl after ‘n’all.

Ingredients

8oz self-raising flour
4oz margarine
3oz caster sugar
Pinch of salt
6oz sultanas
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 pint of milk

Method

1. Rub the marge into the flour.
2. Stir in the caster sugar, salt and sultanas
3. Stir in the beaten eggs and enough milk to make a slightly looser mixture than a scone-type dough
4. Place in greased pie dish and sprinkle with caster sugar
5. Bake on 180 for about 30 minutes.

Et voila!

Obviously, it’s pretty imperative to serve this with warm custard and good conversation. Bonnet de douche! God bless ya, Grandad.

45. RECIPE: Lemon Lovecake

Oh, alright, for those of you who are in love this Valentine’s, or who are at least in love with cake, here’s a cute little recipe I got from Mama. I think it’s a variation on one she got when she was cooking at a school once, so I’m sorry I can’t credit it properly. Now shut your cakeholes and eat.

Ingredients

300g plain flour
15g baking powder (roughly 2 tsp)
150g margarine
150g sugar
2 eggs
Pinch of salt
Lemon curd

Method

1. Place all ingredients except the lemon curd into a processor and mix well.
2. Roll 1/2 the dough out and place into a greased tin. Cover the dough with lemon curd.
3. Roll the remaining dough and place on top of the lemon curd.
4. Pinch the edges and mark a criss-cross with the tip of a knife on top.
5. Bake on 150C, 300F or gas mark 2 for 30-40 minutes or until lightly golden.

Picture taken from carolyn.will‘s photostream.

7. NOM: Mama’s Spicy Chicken and Rice

Okay, okay – the picture isn’t actually of the dish in question. We haven’t made it in ages and so I don’t have a photo to  hand, but it’s a lot saucier and finger-lickin’ than this photo. Still, it’s as close as I could find, and I wanted it to look all appetising.

Finding a picture of an empty plate would do just as well because believe me it won’t hang around for long once you’ve made it: it’s probably the only food I’ve seen that makes all my male relatives react like Scooby Doo when he sees a really big sandwich.

This is one of Mama’s creations, and is especially good for Friday night munching: a beautifully wholesome meal of chicken thighs in a gorrrrrgeous, flavoursome sauce. Best with rice and veg, so you feel at least a bit healthy.

Ingredients

Marinade:

2 tbsp oil
1 crushed garlic clove
1 tsp chilli powder
3 tbsp soya sauce
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp soft brown sugar
2 tbsp tomato puree
1 tbsp wine/Balsamic vinegar
1 large sliced onion
1 tbsp clear honey

8 chicken thighs, boned (yes, feel free to giggle)

Serve with rice, with peppers, onion and any other mixed vegetables you fancy thrown in.
We also add a packet of Dolmio Sundried tomato stir-in sauce. MMMMMM.

Method

1. Marinade the chicken for at least an hour (a perfect opportunity to wander off and watch a few episodes of Snog, Marry, Avoid, or similar.)

2. Line a tin with foil and empty the marinade and chicken into it.Cook in the oven on 190 degrees for about thirty minutes, or until golden and cooked through.

3. Cook rice. You know… the usual way.

4. Fry the onion until soft and golden, and all stinky in the good way.

5. Add the pepper and vegetables, and cook until soft and sizzly.

8. Stir in the rice, and heat through.

9. Shovel it down your gob while emitting lots of encouraging noises.

Picture nicked from jayneandd‘s photostream. Recipe copyright Mama Vickers, innit.

Day 39: Buck Your Ideas Up, LJ

Day 39.

Well, this is all a bit out of the blue. After all, I only blogged yesterday. It’s just: this morning, my very cool friend Allan set up his first blog. Being the resident blogger, I got a call of ‘Help meeee Laurrraaa’ across the office.

Ever thankful for my little Ego Boost of the Day (“Someone actually needs MY help! I CAN DO STUFF.”) I bounded over there with the kind of “LET ME SHOW YOU!” attitude you’d expect to see from someone who actually has a clue what they’re doing. It turns out, I’m a bit shit at showing people how to set up a blog, (but he managed it anyway – link to follow), but in trying to help him – and using my blog as an example – it made me realise how stale the last few entries have been: packed full of stresses about writing but with very little substance.

So, basically: sorry.

While showing Allan my blog, I was reminded of this part of my ‘About Me’ section:

“Weekends and evenings are when I really come alive, doing the stuff I wish would pay my rent. Currently, (as well as trying to always be vintage chic, baking new things, and looking for little snippets of awesome on the internet), I am writing my first novel.”

I’ve realised that in all the recent stress, I’ve forgotten to do this. And that makes me unhappy. And unhappiness makes me less productive. And being less productive means I do even less, including my novel.

So, I’m going to shut up now, and show you what I’ve just made for tea. It’s great for using up leftover veg and meat at the end of the week before ‘the big shop’, and especially good if you want something delicious but really can’t be bothered to try. Tada:

‘Whatever’ Risotto Or Something

Serves: 4

You’ll need:
10 oz rice (whatever really – we used basmati and it’s yum.)
500ml water (crumble a stock cube in if you fancy)
500ml Passata (we get the cheap stuff from Aldi)
1 onion, chopped up untidily
Plus whatever else you want to chuck in.

1. Brown an onion.
2. Chuck in the rice.
3. Chuck in whatever else: we used some mushrooms, peppers and last night’s roast gammon leftovers cut into cubes. Chicken and bacon works really well too.
4. Pour in the passata and the stock.
5. Cover and leave it to fizzle about a bit for around 15 minutes (or until it has reduced.)

Serve it, and feel all smug that you’re eating something super-super-tasty which only took five minutes. Because that’s literally all it takes. I even had time to write this blog while it cooked. And it is seriously YUM – full of flavour and fills you up on these cold autumn evenings.

No, I’m not Nigella. But I have got my motivation back. 🙂

NOMNOM: Mama Vickers’ Raspberry Brulee Cheesecake

So, I’ve decided that as I have a horrendous tummyache and it’s nearly midnight, this would be the perfect time to blog about a recipe of heavenly badness that I enjoyed last weekend.

The best part is it’s easier than eating biscuits. Easier than painting your nails. Easier than making a paper aeroplane out of an old shopping list. I’ve tried all of these today, so I know.

Stuff you’ll need:

For the base:
200g digestive biscuits
175g melted butter
1 tbsp golden syrup (Oh go on, have another one.)

For the filling:
15g sachet of powdered gelatine
375g Philadelphia soft cheese
3 eggs
75g caster sugar
575ml double cream
3 tsp vanilla extract
2 punnets of raspberries. No, you can’t have one yet.

For the topping:
3-4 heaped tbsp golden caster sugar. It’s okay, it’s calorie free.

Oh, and you’ll probably need a very funky blowtorch. We, of course, used a dragon.

How you get there:

The Base

1. Whizz the biscuits in the food processor until they’re crumbs.
2. Stir in the melted butter and golden syrup. Get a bit sticky.
3. Press over the base of a 24cm loose-bottom tin and put it in the fridge to chillax, all the while thinking about how funny the name ‘loose-bottom tin’ is. Just us? Oh, right.

The Filling

1. Sprinkle the gelatine over 3 tbsp cold water. Leave until it goes a bit soggy.
2. Microwave it for a few seconds until it’s all melty, then stir until it becomes clear.
3. Put the soft cheese, egg yolks and sugar into a bowl and whisk until smooth.
4. Whip the double cream until stiff. Ditto the egg whites with a whisk.
5. Stir the cheese mixture and vanilla extract into the cream, along with the gelatine. Fold until everything is all blendy.
6. Fold in the egg whites.
7. Take the base out of the fridge (loose-bottom and all. We amuse ourselves, that’s the main thing.) Chuck the raspberries on it. If you like it all fancy-looking, make sure there are raspberries at the edges so when you present it to people they all go ‘Ooh.’
8. Pour the cheese mixture over the raspberries, make the top all smooth and pretty, then leave it to chill in the fridge overnight.

The Topping

9. If you manage to refrain from eating it in the middle of the night then well done – you are a better person than us. Sprinkle the caster sugar over the top.
10. Use the blowtorch to melt the sugar until it goes all bubbly. Laugh manically as you do so – it makes you feel like a Bond villain.

Leave it to set in the fridge until ready to eat. If you can last more than five minutes, the sugar will go all crispy crunchy. Et voila:

Mama claims this serves twelve, but I think really it’s an ideal meal-for-one. What are you still doing reading this? Go and make one. NOW.

Images are all mine, baby.

NOMNOMNOM: Recipe – Exotic Fruit Shortbread

Remember that recipe I promised you two blogs back? Well, here it is.

Yes, I KNOW I said it would only be a couple of days. And I KNOW that was a week ago. But SHUT UP whinging and DROOL.

It is courtesy of my Mama, and resulted from her forgetfulness: she only added the exotic juice because she’d neglected to buy the orange juice when she got the rest of the ingredients. The coconut was more of an afterthought. Still, it’s one of the tastiest afterthoughts I’ve tried in a while, so here you are:

Exotic Fruit Shortbread

4 tbsp Pineapple and Coconut juice
4 oz raisins
6 oz plain flour
2 oz caster sugar
4 oz butter
Some dessicated coconut (however much you fancy, basically.)

For those of you living in the 21st century, the first step of this recipe may be to find out what the hell an oz is. Metric shmetric.

1. Fling juice and raisins into a saucepan, and slowly bring to the boil. Pour it into a glass dish and leave it to cool. Stir occasionally, if you can be bothered to remember. You probably better preheat the oven as well or something.

2. Shove flour into processor and whiz for a few seconds. Add sugar and butter and whiz until like breadcrumbs. Add coconut, and whiz some more. To pass the time, marvel at how fun it is to say the word ‘whiz’.

3. Pour it onto the side and bring it all together with your hands to form a dough (ooh, messy. We like.) Cut it in half.

4. Roll the dough out to fit a flan ring and lift it onto a baking tray. Roll out the second half to fit the flan ring as well.

5. Plonk the raisin mixture into the centre of the pastry a quarter of an inch from the sides, and carefully put the lid on.

6. Pinch the sides to seal all the way around. Prick all over with a fork. Refrain from making screechy noises like in the film Psycho.

7. Bake on 150 degrees for about half an hour until light and golden. Keep an eye on it – basically, if it goes more of a marmitey colour then you’ve gone too far, stupid.

8. Remove from oven, sprinkle with caster sugar (Yay! Snowing!!), and leave until cold. No really, try.

If it hasn’t all been scoffed before you’ve even had time to wonder why shortbread is called shortbread, then Top Cat simply isn’t the indisputable leader of the gang. And he is. So… you get my point. Nomnomnom.

Image pilfered from Sparkly Kate‘s photostream, after I managed to stop marvelling at the awesomeness of the name Sparkly Kate.