Sunday, 23 February 2014


Which in my best Japanese means if you do not enter the tiger's cave you will not catch its cub.

I.e nothing ventured, nothing gained

I like sushi. I love it. Hubby didn't. Until recently when I made him try one of those supermarket prepacked ones. Yes I know they're not as good as the real fresh thing but they're a decent enough attempt in my opinion.

I decided that I should therefore try my own as my diet had yet again fallen by the wayside for the week (back on it again tomorrow lol). I purchased a sushi mat on Friday (the Ching He Huang one which comes with bamboo spoon which is great for spreading the rice out).

Our large Tesco has an international aisle so I could get sushi rice and nori but sadly they had neither wasabi nor pickled ginger which I found disappointing for such a well appointed international aisle. Luckily Waitrose had both. Tick!

Sushi rice:
So many different ways to cook. Double the amount of water to rice? Enough water to cove the rice? 10% more water than rice? To rinse the rice beforehand or not?
I decided not to rinse and put in the pan with enough water to cover but even with the lid on it absorbed it all before it was cooked so I just added a bit more. It took 15 minutes. The rice was 95% cooked when I took it off the heat and added 1 tsp of caster sugar and 2 tbsp of rice wine vinegar. I left the rice to cool in the pan until I wanted to roll my sushi.

So to assemble, get your sushi mat and a sheet of nori. Oh my goodness, it stinks of fish food. I wasn't quite prepared for that!

There's a shiny side which needs to face the mat then spread enough sticky rice onto the seaweed, not too thick and leave an edge free at the top (I did at the bottom too). Add your fillings into the middle then roll the mat up tightly cupping round the roll as you go then leave for a minute rolled up before unrolling the mat and slicing 

You can use any fillings you want really. 

I also decided we'd have gyoza as well. We love gyoza. I especially love Wagamama's duck and chicken gyozas. The duck have a hard shell and the chicken are steamed so I thought I'd try a go at two ways of cooking them.

Unfortunately I didn't realise I'd run out of strong white bread flour so had to use just plain.
200g strong white bread flour
100ml boiling water

Mix together until a dough is formed, you might need to use more or less water. Knead for 5 minutes then cover for 30-60 minutes. Roll out and use a large circular cutter then add a teaspoon of filling and close. This quantity will give approximately 18 gyoza wrappers.

For the filling I used the following:
One pack of king prawns chopped
1 tbsp oyster sauce
Salt and pepper
One small chunk of ginger, grated
2-3 spring onions, chopped 

Mix all of these together in a bowl before filling the gyoza wrappers.

Wrapping them up was not my forte but I got the approximate shape eventually. You need to fold the wrapper over in half then pinch close a bit like making a pasty. YouTube some tutorials!

I cooked them in two batches. The first half I fried one side in a bit of oil then added 100ml of water and covered with a lid to create steam and steamed for ten minutes.

The second batch I fried on both sides and only steamed for a couple of minutes with only a dash of water. I preferred the longer steamed one, hubby preferred the fried ones.

But I'll definitely be making gyoza again and will make sure I have the proper flour in.

We served our dishes with soy sauce, pickled ginger and wasabi. Oh my, that wasabi was a hot hot hot one!! 

Douzo meshiagare

Saturday, 15 February 2014

Moley moley moley moley moley quoted by Austin Powers in Goldmember. We couldn't help ourselves but quote this repeatedly this afternoon while prepping tea.

So as you know I bake. I love to bake. But I also love to cook and recently coming up with new meals has just gone by the wayside with my seemingly endless dieting which hasn't really got me very far.

I digress. I actually fancy myself as a good cook. There I said it. Got to be proud of something in myself.

I digress further. 

I've wanted to make a mole for years but just never randomly got round to it. But it was finally time to bring the Mexican national dish to our kitchen (despite hubby not knowing really what it was or that it was a national dish of a country he's been to twice).

There are hundreds of variations on how to make a mole and the old traditional ways of preparing a mole would be very time consuming and laborious (thanks wiki!). But thanks to my blender it took very little preparation time in my modern day kitchen. With so many recipes to choose from I plumped for Good Food's version (with some alterations)

Good Food / Chele's Chicken Mole
2 chillies
Sunflower oil 
2 chicken breasts 
1 1/2 onions 
1 tsp cumin
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
3 garlic cloves
40g raisins
2 tbsp peanut butter
2 tbsp chipotle / jerk paste
400g tinned tomatoes
25g chocolate min 70% cocoa solids

Boil the kettle, pour enough water over the chillis to cover them and leave them for 20 minutes.

Heat some oil in a heavy based pan / casserole dish and brown the chicken breasts on both sides for a few minutes then remove. Fry the onions gently for 5 minutes until soft then add the cumin and cinnamon and cook for another minute.

Destalk and deseed the chillis and place in a blender with the garlic cloves, chipotle paste, raisins, 4 tbsp of the water you soaked the chillies in and tomatoes. Blend until smooth. Add the peanut butter to the pan of onions then pour over the chilli sauce you've just blended. Swirl out the tin of tomatoes, so you get all the leftovers, with cold water and add to the pan. Bring to the boil, add the chicken back in and turn to a low heat to simmer gently for an hour with the lid on. It should be a medium brown colour and fairly thick.

After an hour add the chocolate and break up the chicken breasts in the pan. Cook for a further 20 minutes with the lid off.  It will now be a dark brown colour and thick.

We served ours with taco shells and microwave lemon and coriander rice.

It was quite spicy leaving a very warm mouth so if you don't like things too spicy I would leave a chilli out and reduce the amount of chipotle paste.

* I couldn't find any chipotle paste so used jerk paste instead 

Buen provecho!

Monday, 3 February 2014

Nice day for a white wedding

Actually it was freezing. But the snow and rain held off.

My little brother got engaged last year, and bless, they asked me to make their wedding cake. Oh how I do love to bake and yes, I do dabble with decorating, but never profess to be any good, quite the opposite actually, but I was never going to say no to them!

Somehow I then seemed to be making the favours too. These bad boys took ages but I think they looked beautiful, especially all bagged and tagged up at each place setting 

Onto the cake. The design was discussed, a whole afternoon was spent calculating cake tin sizes (as due to the design a degree in maths was required) and flavours were chosen: Victoria sponge, devil's food cake, lemon and salted caramel 

A maths degree would have been so handy as I then had to calculate how much batter for each sized tin would be required. Brain freeze!!!!! Gah!

I made the Victoria sponge using my famiy recipe but I added a bit more flour. Lemon is made just the same as Victoria but with lemon zest and juice added. The devil's food is the same as I've blogged about a few times. But salted caramel was the challenge. I've never made a salted caramel cake and it was actually quite difficult to find a recipe as most are chocolate based. But I came across one on an American site for salted caramel cupcakes and having never used an American recipe, I decided to give it a go for a really important cake. Sensible huh?!

But it worked. Kind of! I made the cake, did wonder why the batter was so thick and the cake so dense but figured it was just meant to be like that. Until I opened the fridge two hours later and found a pint of full fat milk. We don't usually have full fat. Then it hit me. I'd missed it out!

So I remade the cake and we ate the old one. Have to admit I thought it tasted amazing. I will definitely be making this cake again. Here's the recipe:
190g plain flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
200g dark brown sugar
100g caster sugar
115g unsalted butter 
2 large eggs
120ml whole milk

Beat the butter and sugars together for about 2-3 minutes until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and beat until combined. Mix in the dry ingredients then slowly mix in the milk. Pour into either 12 cupcake cases or a 2 x 7" cake tins

I used a filling I made at Christmas for my chocolate salted caramel ombré cake 

I needed to cover the cake board, something I've never done before. When I did my cake decorating course we were only taught to cover with royal icing. But YouTube has loads of tutorials for covering fondant and I found it really easy. I'll be covering loads of boards from now on, I've always left them with the bright silver cake board showing. 

All cakes baked it was time to assemble. I'd already made the roses. All 100 of them. With 5 petals each that 500 petals I rolled out. But I do love fondant roses.

I colour fondant to the colour I need, roll it out to about 2mm thick and using a very small round cutter, cut out 5 petals for one rose. Roll one of the rounds into a cylinder, add a petal and wrap round, add another petal and wrap round etc. I'll have to do a tutorial one day. There's loads if you google but I can't find one which shows the way I do it.

I stacked the cakes to see how they may look 

Then the most nerve wracking bit for me. Covering with fondant is my nemesis. I'm getting better though. I think.
Crumb coating first though!

The base of the square cakes were covered with ribbon and the round cakes had the roses "glued" to them with royal icing. Then I piped royal icing dots on the square cakes

I decided to assemble the bottom two tiers, the top two, transport to the venue then assemble the two together.

That was the most stressful car journey of my life. 11 miles, 33 minutes, speed bumps, roundabouts. I held my breath over each bump. But it made it there. Phew!

All assembled the day before the wedding 

And the finished cake with flowers and birdcage

It was very stressful but I really enjoyed doing it. Congratulations Mark & Heather