Monthly Archives: July 2011

Battles: silicon bakeware vs. traditional

More and more these days I see silicon bakeware for sale in hardware shops and department stores. I am completely drawn to it as it is always manufactured in an array of exciting colours, but the time has come to answer the burning question: its certainly pretty, but is it as good as a good old baking tin?

The Contenders:

An old 1lb loaf tin that I bought when I started University.

A reasonably new 2lb silicon loaf tin in a deligtful shade of lilac kindly given to me last christmas by Tom’s Mum. 

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The Test:

For this battle I have chosen to bake a cappucino cake, made from a recipe found in what is, in my opinion, the best little cake book in the west, 101 Cakes and Bakes. It is a straightforward recipe flavoured with cocoa powder and coffee. Simple, but effective. I baked each cake for the required time, so the 1lb cake came out a little before the 2lb cake. This was the result…

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The cake baked in the traditional tin came out perfectly. The sides were not too burned – something that can be a problem with metal cake tins as they get so hot. As you can see below, the corners were sharp, just as they should be, and the cake held its shape brilliantly.

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Unfortunately, I cannot say the same for the silicon case. the mixture could spread more easily as the case is far less firm, leaving the corners ill-defined and the cake far flatter. The sides were cooked perfectly, but this is not a cake I would serve to the Queen!

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Well, there you have it. Silicon bakeware is very pretty and really efficient to store, but if you want a well turned out cake, a good old-fashioned metal tin is the best bet. I personally will stick to a mix of the two – metal for presentation cakes and silicon for cakes for my fella. That way I can keep my cupboards looking pretty.

Enjoy!

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Linlithgow Palace

Greetings to you all! It has been a while. The end of term has been upon us and life has been a blurry haze of assessments, reports, classroom moving and farewells. I have missed taking time to retire into this little blogging world. I have so much to share with you! Cooking, crocheting and holidays have been occuring behind the scene amid the mayhem!

Hubby and I recently took a trip up to Edinburgh to visit his dad, so I would like to invite you to peek inside the photo album! We wanted to make the most of this holiday as we are not going away this summer so we took the opportunity to visit attractions nearby. Our first trip was to the charming town of Linlithgow (above) in which stands the rather spectacular Linlithgow Palace. We love old buildings, particularly castles and palaces. As I walk around I am transported back in time, hearing the ghosts of those hundreds and thousands of people who called this building home.

Linlithgow is a particularly large palace and I could fill pages with images of the intricate stonework and gravity defying arches, but I shall be selective…

The modern crown adoring St. Michael’s Parish Church, evocative of Christ’s crown of thorns, replaced an older stone crown above the steeple that had to be dismantled in the nineteenth century.

This palatial abode sits alongside a rather charming loch which was dotted with multiple fisherman rocking wildly in tiny boats. Not exactly my idea of fun! Whereas I’m sure those houses have a wonderful view on a sunny summer day, it must be rather bleak in the middle of a cold, dismal winter. I’m such a city chick!

This incredible fountain held pride of place in the central courtyard so could be viewed through the stone arches along the corridors and balconies at all levels on all sides. I felt like lady of the manor, walking along the eerie darkness, gazing down imperiously! I rather like Historic Scotland’s description of it as ‘a beautiful three-tiered wedding cake structure’.

This palace has the most amazing collection of staircases and fireplaces with really ornate stonework that has survived the centuries. I loved this fireplace because of its simplicity. Admittedly the ceiling is largely absent in the upper stories but, feeling the wind blowing through the rooms, I imagine that even these gigantic fireplaces probably failed spectacularly at heating this cavernous space!

My hubby is a very practical man, nicely complementing my total lack of such skills. Consequently, I am always in awe of people who can design and create monuments and buildings. Structures such as Linlithgow are even more incredible when you imagine how little mechanical assistance the builders and architects had. It makes the scale and intricacy all the more jaw dropping. Just imagine the man hours that it must have taken to construct this section!

I love birds. They really are a passion of mine. Not just strange or unusual birds but any feathery friend sitting about the place and this speckled beauty I thought was especially cute…

And three more sunbathing, how sweet!

I am the sort of person that requires regular feeding! Well in advance I like to know when the next meal is coming and from where. Outings and holidays are often characterised for me by the quantity and quality of food consumed! After a year of wedding and house buying, budgeting is a necessity. Therefore all food this week was cooked at home and had to travel with us. Sausage and egg pie, sweet and juicy cherry tomatoes, crunchy apples dribbling down your chin – yummy!

Mr Jackdaw did a good job finishing off the pastry crumbs! 

Although there were periods of radiant sunshine, the weather could only be described as bracing. When out in the open it was literally impossible to stay up straight! However, when sheltered by the walls there was a feeling of peace and serenity that was truly special.

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Love food, hate when my freezer breaks down!

So my freezer broke down. Forget the fact that it isn’t even five years old. Forget the fact that  not 4 moths ago I had a special plug point wired into the garage in my new house for the specific use of the freezer. Forget the fact that I paid an electrician £100 to do this. It broke, the floor got wet, the food defrosted. Get over it, it happened, its done.

But now I have all this food to save. Most of it is done for – I wouldn’t touch a defrosted prawn to save my life, not that such a thing could save my life, nor would it have any incentive to try since it is already dead itself, and probably jealous of my still breathing status. the sausages, however, look ok, so since I cannot afford to scrap perfectly good food, I have decided to cook and refreeze them in the form of a pasta sauce.

Recipe I just made up:

1 pack of newly defrosted sausages that you don’t want to eat just yet

1 garlic clove, crushed

1 red pepper

1 red onion

1 white onion

2 tbsps tomato puree

1 tbsp ketchup

2 tsps mediterranean spice mix (I use Australian Bush Mix from Oil and Vinegar, and think its wonderful, but any mix will do – even just mixed herbs)

4 tbsps cold water

Directions:

De-skin all eight sausages and form into meatballs, then add to deep frying pan or wok with a teaspoon of oil. Sausages have so much fat in them that you don’t need any more than this. Brown meatballs for three to four minutes, then strain off as much fat as you want to.

Roughly chop the pepper and onions, leaving the pieces as large as the meatballs, and add to the frying pan along with the garlic. Leave to simmer for about twenty minutes. Mix the Bush mix with the water and also leave this for about twenty minutes. Add the tomato puree and ketchup to the mixture, along with the bush mix mixture.  Stir.

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Leave until completely cold (best to decant the sauce into a bowl, cover, and place in the fridge), then spoon into a freezer bag and freeze. When you are ready, serve with whatever you want, although I favour penne pasta and lots of cheese.

Enjoy!

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Sweet sweet potato pie

When Tom’s parents visited a couple of weeks ago, I aksed him what he wanted me to bake them for dessert? He immediately decided that he wanted his all time favourite, Sweet Potato Pie. This was fine with me, I was in the mood for pie baking (my favourite baking task) and I love sweet potato pie too. It is an odd pie, I’ll admit, but its super easy to make, very effective and because its made out of vegetables, really chep to bake. I’d probably suggest it more for a winter dessert, but if you can’t wait, then just serve it cold and it will do just fine.

Quintissentially American, sweet potato pie is exactly what it sounds like, pie, made with sweet potatoes. Don’t let this put you off, it’s no more unusual than carrot cake, and much tastier. It is also nothing like the disasterous pumpkin pie your mum made one halloween out of a jackolantern! Sweet potato pie is delicious, squidgy comfort food that reminds you of autumn leaves, fireworks and mittens. One taste and you will be smitten.

The recipe I used is, again, from my favourite book of Pies, Julie Hasson’s The Complete Book of Pies. Again, this book is American so I have made a few changes.

First, bake the sweet potatoes in their skins in a hot oven (about 200c) for an hour – just put them on a baking sheet and throw them in the oven, no ceremony needed. You will know when they are done as they will be soft, oozing and they’ll smell like christmas! Mash the potatoes until they are smooth, and blend with the other ingredients. I would add a lot more cinnamon (at least double) than Hasson suggests, but then, I really like cinnamon. Leave the mixture to cool, and use the time to make a pastry base. Hasson suggests using a store bought crust. I suggest you make Delia’s shortcrust pastry (foolproof) from Delia’s Complete Cookery Course(if you don’t have this, buy it, buy it now) and blind bake for about ten minutes. when both parts are cooled, spoon the mixture into the pastry case and sprinkle a generous helping of cinnamon on top.

Whip up a carton of double cream with icing sugar and vanilla (quantities to taste) until you have stiff (but not rigid) peaks. Spoon on top of a warm or cold pie (not hot, never hot) pie.  A word to the wise, if you spoon cream onto a warm pie, insure that this is because you intend to serve the pie warm. If you don’t, the cream will melt. Sprinkle with a mixture of light muscavado sugar, cinnamon and gold glitter, and serve.

The great thing about this pie is that it will keep about as long as the cream on top will, so if you are just making it for you and your family, feel free not to top the pie. Just serve cream alongside it, or serve with ice-cream or custard. It won’t look as fancy, but who cares.

Enjoy!

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Garden Salad and Garlic Toast

This basket of green loveliness was picked from our garden by my wonderful hubby this weekend. So much luscious tastiness! How our pretty little salad has grown. From these little lettuces…

 

they have grown…

 

until we had a bed full of mouth watering greenery. So many lovely leaves!

Well, if I am honest, SO many leaves! Lesson learnt for next year – don’t plant all of your lettuce at once.

Salad time, me thinks. In our house we get through plenty of lettuce on sandwiches but I can’t say we regularly have a salad for dinner (it isn’t normally met with great enthusiasm by the other half!). However, I do occasionally insist on a dinner of greenery, though with other yumminess added in.

This salad always reminds me of holidaying in a mobile home with Becca and her family a decade ago (how frightening – I think we both still feel 15 sometimes!). One evening her mom made a bacon and egg salad. I don’t know if it was the situation, the recipe or her mom’s wonderful cooking but this salad has always stuck in my mind.

Egg and bacon served on a bed of lettuce (with our yummy salad beet), add in some other salad treats (pepper, carrot, onion – the choice is yours!) and then drizzle in a warm dressing of mustard, honey and oil. I have used wholegrain but different mustards work well. Delicious!

 

Finally, no salad in our house is complete without a round of garlic toast! We are big fans of this pungent bulb, but garlic bread in all its buttery goodness is a rare treat. However, I learnt a trick when on German exchange that has become a staple food stuff for us.

Grab a piece of toast and rub a garlic clove over it before buttering as normal (warning – do not put the knife back in the butter unless you want some flavoursome marge!). Always a winner, though you might want to make sure everybody in the house eats some.

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Filed under Dinner, Food, Gardening, Recipes