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Well, if I'd known how popular a supper club at the Cat would be, I'd have organised one a long time ago. 
The Autumn Feast in celebration of the Autumn Equinox has not only sold out but sadly several people have missed out. This is because we've decided to limit the numbers to 20 only. So sorry... we'll let you know as soon as tickets for the next event go on sale. In the meantime, we're look forward to the Feast.
 
 
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I love cheesecakes; baked cheesecakes in particular. They are at the decadent end of the cake making spectrum; if they're made properly with good quality real ingredients that is. A basic lemon cheesecake is easy, easy, easy and yet some I've tasted have just been horrible, horrible, horrible. Ok, so we don't all have time to zest and juice lemons in which case use Lemon oil/extract but definitely NOT Lemon essence. Lemon essence... well apart from being truly disgusting... tastes like throat lozenges. There is no excuse for using it really when lemon oil extract is so easy to find and it is that lovely scented oil extracted from lemon skin, you know that stuff you get all over your fingers when you start grating a lemon. 

Anyway, after lemon cheesecake, which if made properly is a thing of exquisite beauty and taste, my next favourite is White chocolate and passionfruit cheesecake. Passionfruit always reminds me of New Zealand where they practically grow wild. And wrinkled is ripe, wrinkled is good. Wrinkled is not old and past it! It was great for a while because supermarkets tried to sell them off at half price when the skins got all wrinkly. Not any more sadly, they've wised up. 

Here is a recipe for the simplest and tastiest baked ...

White chocolate and passionfruit cheesecake

Grease and line the sides (make sure you take the baking paper quite a way above the side of the tin as this cheesecake will rise quite a lot before settling down and you don't want it all over the bottom of your oven) and base of a 23cm springform cake tin. Preheat the oven to 160 deg C or 140 deg C fan oven.
Ingredients: 


Crust:
250g digestive biscuits, crushed finely
100g melted butter

Cheesecake
400g white chocolate
400ml double cream
200g cream cheese
4 tablespoons sugar
200g mascarpone
1/2 cup passionfruit pulp
4 eggs

Mix the crushed biscuits and butter together and press into the bottom and up the side of the cake tin. 

Heat 200ml of the cream but don't let it boil. Break up the white chocolate and put it into the warm cream to melt. Stir after a few minutes to make sure the chocolate has melted into the cream, and leave to cool. 

Beat the cream cheese, mascarpone and sugar together until smooth. Slowly add the remaining 200ml of double cream and beat until thick. 

Add the eggs one at a time. 

Gently fold the melted white chocolate and cream into the cheese mixture along with the passionfruit pulp. 

Bake for approximately 1/2 - 3/4 hour or until the mixture wobbles a bit like jelly. Turn the oven off and leave to sit for another hour or until the oven is cool. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or preferably overnight. 

Enjoy





 
 
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I love quince: the look, the fragrance and taste. And here is a bit of history, which as a historian in a past life, I always like to dwell on. 

Along with the fig, the quince is one of the oldest fruits in the world. Known as the “golden apple”, quince was mentioned as far back as 600 BC in Greek writings.  It was originally cultivated in Mesopotamia, the area now in Northern Iraq between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. Indeed in ancient references that which was translated as "apple" may have actually been a quince. 
 It was revered as a symbol of love and abundance. In ancient Greece, a quince was a ritual offering at weddings as it was believed that it was sacred to Aphrodite as it was given to her by Paris. The bride would also nibble a quince to sweeten her breath before entering the bridal chamber. 
In Rome, quinces were commonly eaten stewed and sweetened with honey.
There is even a debate among Biblical scholars that Adam’s downfall in the Garden of Eden was not Eve’s apple but a quince!

Ok, I don't know much about the actual growing of quinces but I do know there are a number of varieties and they seem to ripen at varying time: from late summer to late autumn.The season is short lived particularly in the UK and as a result can be very expensive. I am lucky enough however, to have an uncle and aunt in Ely who have a couple of trees in their garden. At the end of every summer, they phone me to let me know they have picked a couple of bags for me. The following are just a couple of recipes that I make for the cafe. 

QUINCE CAKE with VANILLA SUGAR SYRUP
For poaching the quince 
Ingredients
1 large quince to give approximately 300g poached fruit
2 teaspoons vanilla extract (the pure vanilla extract with the vanilla seeds preferably but any 
good quality vanilla extract is fine)
½ cup caster sugar for poaching the fruit
Water
Method
1. Peel the quince and slice the flesh from the core with a sharp knife then cut into small 
slivers. Heat caster sugar with about a cup of water and the vanilla extract in a pan. Boil 
until the sugar has dissolved and then add the quince. Make sure the liquid covers the 
quince and if it does not then add more water. Make sure the pan is covered and simmer for 
approximately 8 or so minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool. 
For the cake 
Ingredients
150ml good fruity olive oil
200g caster sugar 
3 eggs
350g plain flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
100g ground almonds
Method
1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan). Grease and line a 20cm springform cake tin with nonstick baking paper. 
2. Whilst the quince is poaching, beat the sugar with the olive oil. Add the eggs, one at a time 
and beat until the mixture has increased in volume.
3. Sieve the flour and baking soda together and fold gradually into the oil and sugar mixture, 
using a metal spoon. At this point, the mixture will be very stiff.4. Strain the quince from the poaching liquid and add to the mixture along with the ground 
almonds and some of the poaching liquid - you only need enough to loosen the mixture so 
that it is not stiff but it does not need to be as soft as cake mixture usually is. 
5. Bake for approximately one hour but check after 45 minutes. A skewer should come out 
clean. Pour the vanilla sugar syrup over the hot cake and leave to cool. 
For the vanilla sugar syrup
1. Pour approximately a cup of the remaining poaching liquid over a ½ cup of caster sugar. Do 
not dissolve the sugar but make sure the sugar and liquid are thoroughly combine. 
2. Pour evenly over the cake. The liquid will seep through the cake while the sugar crystallises 
on the top. 

For the pdf version




QUINCE and PISTACHIO CAKE
For the poached quince 
Ingredients
¾ cup caster sugar 
½ cup orange 
1 cup water 
2 cinnamon sticks, crushed
3 medium quinces 
Method
1. Peel and quarter the quinces. Remove the core and slice into even segment. 
2. Combine sugar, juice, the water and cinnamon sticks in medium saucepan; stir over a low
heat, without boiling, until sugar has dissolved.
3. Add quince and simmer uncovered for about 1 hour or until quince is soft and liquid is 
almost absorbed. 
4. Leave to cool. Remove the cinnamon sticks.

For the cake
Ingredients
90g butter
2 teaspoons grated orange rind
1 cup caster sugar
3 eggs
½ cup self-raising flour
1 cup plain flour 
¼ teaspoon baking
½ cup sour cream 
¼ cup orange juice
½ cup toasted pistachios, chopped
Method
1. Preheat an oven to 180°C (160°C fan). Grease a deep 23cm round cake tin and cover the
base with non-stick baking paper.
2. Beat butter, rind and sugar until pale and creamy. Beat the eggs together and slowly add to 
the mixture beating thoroughly after each addition. Gently fold in the sifted flour, soda along 
with the cream and juice. Fold in the pistachios. 
3. Arrange the quince slices over the base of the tin and cover with the cake mixture. 
4. Bake for approximately about 1 1/4 hours or until a skewer inserted in the centre of the cake 
comes out clean. 
5. Leave the cake to cool in the tin for about 15 minutes before turning onto wire rack

For a pdf version


 
 
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Always a popular one this but a bit fiddly. When I make it for the cafe, I have to prepare the salted caramel the evening before so that it is cool and thick enough to spread over the base. 

Ingredients: 
Biscuit base:
300g plain chocolate digestive biscuits
2 tablespoons dark cocoa
¼ cup sugar
125g butter, melted
Salted caramel:
450g granulated sugar
½ cup hot water
125g salted butter
150ml double cream
1 tsp good quality sea salt
Chocolate Ganache Toppin:
200ml double cream
200g dark chocolate
To make the Salted Caramel:
1.  In a heavy based saucepan mix the sugar and water together.
2. Stir until the sugar has dissolved completely.
3.  Cook until it becomes a golden caramel colour – this can take up to 15 minutes but keep watching it and stirring occasionally to stop the bottom burning.
4. Working quickly to prevent it burning, add the salt and butter.
5.  Then carefully pour in the cream. Stand back while doing this as the resulting steam is VERY hot. Whisk until the butter has melted and cream incorporated. Leave to cool and thicken.
Base:
1. Melt the butter.
2. Crush the biscuits as finely as possible.
3. Put the crushed biscuits in a bowl and stir in the cocoa and sugar.
4. Add the melted butter and mix together.
5. Press into the base and up the sides of a tart tin (I prefer the smooth edged ones rather than fluted but I guess you can use either)
6. Leave in the fridge or freezer until the base is firm.
7. Pour in the cooled salted caramel and put back in the fridge or freezer until cold.
8.  Cover with chocolate topping
Chocolate Ganache Topping:
1. Heat the cream until just below boiling point (it is ok if it boils but it does affect the smoothness a little.
2. Break the chocolate into the hot cream and leave for several minutes to melt. Stir until smooth.
When cutting the tart, it helps to use a hot knife!

Download a pdf version 

 
 
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Today, I made a sponge based on the Edmonds Cookbook Classic Sponge. Sorry but I forgot to take a photo. I was going to write a blurb on the Edmonds Cookbook but Wikipedia has already done it better than I could: 

The Edmonds Cookery Book is the quintessential guide to traditional New Zealand cuisine. It was first published as The Sure to Rise Cookery Book in 1908 as a marketing tool by a manufacturer of baking powder, but it is now known as a Kiwi icon. (Edmonds has since become a brand within Goodman Fielder.) The front cover shows the old factory on Ferry Road in Linwood, Christchurch (since demolished) and their slogan "Sure to Rise". Only two copies of the first edition are known to survive. The cookbook has gone through many editions in its 100-year history. In 1955, a "De Luxe" edition was introduced, and had gone through 57 reprints by 2006. The book has been described as "as much a part of New Zealand kitchens as a stove and knife," and at one time it was "sent unsolicited to every newly engaged couple in New Zealand." 

 Yep that sums it up.  Anyway, the beauty of this sponge recipe is that it is virtually impossible to mess it up and you can make it entirely gluten freed. It is literally Light As Air. 
This is my adaptation: 

Ingredients
5 eggs, separated
3/4 cup caster sugar
3/4 cup cornflour
1 1/2 teaspoons gluten free baking powder
1/2 teaspoon lemon oil extract (optional) 


Method
  • Heat the oven to 190°C. Grease the base and sides of 2 20cm sandwich cake tins and line with baking paper. 
  • Beat egg whites until stiff, gradually add the sugar. Beat in the egg yolks. Add the lemon oil. Sift the cornflour and baking powder into the egg mixture. 
  • Gently fold through making sure you don't beat out the air. 
  • Bake at 190°C for 20 minutes or until cake springs back when lightly touched.
  • Leave in tin for 5 minutes before turning out onto a cooling rack.

I usually fill with a mixture of mascarpone and double cream, whipped together until firm. Or I use homemade lemon curd instead of mascarpone and stir it into whipped double cream. I usually top with lemon flavoured glace icing which has the advantage of setting quite firmly making it easier to slice the sponge. 

Glace icing is made using icing sugar and a little boiling water to melt the sugar thoroughly then by adding more water gradually, by the teaspoon, stirring after each addition until you’ve reached the desired consistency. Bear in mind that it’s easier and more economical to thin glacé icing by adding more water than to thicken it by beating in more icing sugar.

Enjoy. 


 
 
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I grew up on a farm in a fairly isolated part of Northland, New Zealand in a place called Mararetu. To get to our school 10 miles away in Maungatoroto, my sisters and I would catch a school bus. The route went along treacherous unsealed roads - and oh how we sneered at the "townies" who would drive the long way around, an extra 30 miles because they could do most of it on sealed roads. We only knew the luxury of sealed roads when we took the occasional trip to visit family in Auckland or go on the rare shopping trip to the nearest largest town, Whangarei.

Maungatoroto District School was a country school typical of its time and every year it held a school Fair. As country and farm children, we would bring our pet dogs, cats, lambs, piglets or calves to be paraded around and judged. But another competition was a baking one. I remember the first I entered. I was 6 years old and I made pikelets. I came First! This was the beginning of my serious interest in baking. I immediately dropped chocolate fudge as my pièce de résistance because, well I had moved on. I could now make first prize winning pikelets.

For those of you who don't know, a pikelet is a kind of pancake common in New Zealand and Australia but they are somehow lighter and more delicate than pancakes. They are cooked, put on a tea towel and then eaten warm with butter and jam. Well, they were when I was a child. In recent years, however, they've had a bit of an international revival and even Jamie Oliver and Nigella Lawson include pikelet recipes in their repertoire. Now we sometimes eat them for breakfast and serve them hot like pancakes (hotcakes in the US) with syrup and fruit. I eat them either way but there is something about the taste of them eaten the traditional way, slightly warm with butter and jam that immediately invokes that sense of childhood and growing up on a farm in 1960s New Zealand along memories of my mother making butter in a churn and the hot smell of wild blackberry jam simmering away in the preserving pan before being poured into jars to set.

Here is the recipe, my mother's recipe - originally my grandmother's. I have tried others but somehow I always come back to this one. 

Pikelets

Ingredients: 

1 tablespoon golden syrup
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup plain flour
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda (bicarbonate of soda)
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 egg
1/2 - 3/4 cup milk

Melt the butter and golden syrup together and set aside for a few minutes to cool. 

Sift flour, cream of tartar and baking soda into a bowl. Add the sugar and salt. 

Beat the egg with the milk. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients, pour in the egg and milk mixture along with the butter and golden syrup. Stir gently to combine. Don't beat as this will knock out the air. It's ok if it looks a little lumpy. The mixture should be a little thicker than double cream but not doughy. 

Heat a lightly buttered non-stick pan on a medium heat. Drop a tablespoonful of the mixture into the pan (but don't overcrowd the pan as it will making turning them over difficult). When they've bubbled on the top, turn and cook the other side. 

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Remove from pan and keep warm in a clean tea towel.

Serve warm with butter (or cream) and jam for afternoon tea. Or for breakfast/brunch with fruit, maple syrup and yoghurt.
Watched Come Dine With Me last night; yes I do enjoy it usually because it's always the person who thinks...no, believes truly and utterly that they're the best chef and yet more often than not they almost always come last, or rarely first anyway. That aside, I did notice that one of the desserts was Pikelets! I also heard them being described as a kind of crumpet. Hmmm ...

 
 
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There's nothing like a warm, freshly made crumpet eaten with jammy butter oozing through the bubbly holes. As regular customers at the Cat will know, I've made these occasionally over the years and put them on the menu as a Sunday brunch special served with a plum, blackberry or blueberry butter.

I've tried a number of different recipes over the years but always come back to this one, a variation of Bill Granger's crumpet recipe.

Ingredients
1 1/2 cups milk
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
5 grams dried all purpose yeast
375g plain flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
200ml water

Method

Heat the milk until tepid and stir in the sugar and yeast. Make sure the milk is not too hot otherwise it will kill the yeast. Leave to stand for 10 minutes or so until the yeast has started to rise and bubble.
Sift the flour and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer. Make a well in the centre and gradually add the yeast and milk. Beat until completely smooth. Cover and leave in a warm place for an hour or so until doubled in size and very bubbly.
Mix the bicarbonate of soda with the water. Using the electric beaters, add to the yeast batter.
Heat a heavy based frying pan over a medium heat. Grease the pan with melted butter then grease 3 or 4 metal rings (the number depends on how many you can easily fit into the pan without them being too crowded). Lower the heat to low.
Pour approximately 1/4 cup of the batter into the rings and cook very slowly for 5 minute or so until the surface is full of large bubbles.
Remove the rings and turn the crumpets over to cook the other side. This should only take a minute or so.
Place on a clean tea towel and cover to keep warm.