Cherry Bakewell Sponge

If you can’t be bothered to make frangipane (but enjoy cherry Bakewells), then you may be interested in what I have to offer.

Makes approx. 20 small (but fat) slices:

  • 210g unsalted butter (at room temperature)
  • 210g golden caster sugar
  • 210g self-raising flour
  • 210g ground almonds
  • 3 medium-sized eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • Flaked almonds to decorate

For the jam:

  • 200g pitted cherries (fresh or frozen)
  • 150g raspberries (also fresh or frozen)
  • 125g caster sugar

First and foremost, pre-heat your oven to 160°C if it’s fan-assisted, or 170°C if you’re stuck in the dark ages. Line a square/rectangular tray with baking parchment in preparation (the one I used was roughly 13 x 9 inches).

You’ll ideally need to have your jam made before you start mixing the cake batter, so I’ll list this in incredible detail as it’s basically rocket science. Weigh out your fruit and caster sugar (not the golden stuff), stick it in a saucepan and place it on a medium-high heat. You’ll need to boil this until it thickens up slightly (about 10 minutes). Be sure to taste the jam before you proceed with the next step – you may need to add some extra sugar if the fruit is particularly bitter.

When it reaches this stage, I would recommend straining this through a sieve (unless you like having raspberry seeds in your jam, in which case I won’t judge you too hard for skipping this step).

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This tastes better than it looks

Set this aside for the moment, as it’s time to either wash-up or make the cake. If you have a mixer, you can add all of the cake ingredients in at once and stir it a bit until everything’s nicely incorporated. If you’re like me and you don’t have access to this next-gen equipment, cream together the butter and golden caster sugar. Add in your eggs and mix the monstrosity until it looks slightly less monstrous.

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This is what butter and sugar looks like in its least natural form

Next, add everything else (except for the flaked almonds) and mix until it’s all incorporated.

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Almonds were harmed in the making of this blog post

Measure out half of your cake mix (roughly 500g) and spread this out evenly into your cake tin – using a metal spoon or your fingers is best. This will have an effect on how ‘normal’ your cakes will look when they’re cooked, as this will affect the ‘jam line’ (excuse the scientific term). You’ll then need to take your jam and spoon it over the sponge as evenly as you can – don’t worry if you missed some spots, you won’t notice this when you’re eating it as this will spread out somewhat while baking.

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I didn’t kill anyone, I promise

Now comes the horrible part if you’re a self-confessed perfectionist. Distribute the rest of the batter on top of this as evenly as you can. It will be very difficult to even the sponge out without mixing some of the jam in with the cake mix – this however won’t really matter once it’s baked. Sprinkle as many flaked almonds as you like onto the surface – it’s up to you how crazy you go.

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Place your soon-to-be cake in the centre of the oven for 40 minutes. It should come away from the sides of the pan, but you may need to test it with a skewer to be certain if you’re not confident.

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Mr Kipling would be furious

Allow your cake to cool before slicing – I decorated mine with a touch of icing sugar, but this isn’t completely necessary. If you would like to have your cakes be more uniform, you can turn it upside-down while cooling to flatten the top a little. I wasn’t feeling it, so mine are uneven – sometimes rustic is best.

Creamy Pasta with Chicken and Bacon

Do you like bacon? Cool.

You will need to buy or scavenge (Serves 4):

  • 250g Chicken Breast
  • 150g Smoked Bacon (back or streaky, your preference)
  • 375g Fusilli Pasta
  • 300g Double Cream
  • 1 Small White Onion
  • 200g Chestnut Mushrooms
  • 2 Cloves of Garlic
  • 60ml White Wine
  • 1 tsp Parsley (preferably fresh)

 

First things first, I should say that the above recipe is to only be used as a guide. This is a somewhat obvious statement, but I should let you know that most (all) chefs don’t weigh out ingredients for recipes like this one. You’ll see from the pictures below that I used slightly different ingredient amounts because I only need to cook for 2 people – you may need to adjust to suit your household.

Prepped Onions
Start by preparing all of the ingredients before you start cooking. As with most pasta dishes, you can get everything cooked in less time than it would take most people to chop vegetables.

Stick a pan of salted water on a high heat (you’ll need it at boiling point, so start this early on). You’ll then need to finely dice the onions, mushrooms, and garlic. If you can’t be bothered to chop the garlic, you can instead use a cheese grater to achieve a similar size. Stack the rashers of bacon on top of each other, cut into long, thin strips and finely dice this too. Back bacon would be better to use as there’s less fat to trim (I used leftover streaky bacon, so don’t judge). I’m not going to describe how to cut chicken, I hope you can figure this out on your own.

Place a large saucepan on a high heat, drizzle a little oil in the pan and wait. Once it starts to ‘smoke’, add your bacon in and cook until the fat renders down. Add in your chopped veg and meat then continue cooking until everything is adequately cooked through.

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Normally you would need to brown off your chicken, but as it’s cut small there’s no need to waste time on this step.

Once you’ve brought the pan of water up to boiling point, add in the dried pasta and cook per instruction on the pack, minus 2 minutes. Once the pasta is ready to come off the heat, run cold water over it to stop it from overcooking. Drain the pasta through a colander and reserve until you need it later on.

The next step is to deglaze the pan with the white wine. I went with a cheap Pinot Grigio that I bought from Sainsbury’s about 5 months ago – you wouldn’t be able to tell. Don’t get roped into buying expensive wines to cook with, the difference in quality is negligible after the alcohol is cooked out. Once the liquor has reduced, you’ll need to add in most of your cream. It’s worth reserving some in the event that your sauce ends up too thick, just add in extra if this is the case – it’s a lot easier to add than it is to take away.

Add in your parsley, and season with salt and a touch of black pepper if you wish. I used dried parsley for convenience’ sake, although fresh is always better. It’s worth noting that your cream sauce will become thicker once you add in the pasta because of the starch content, so keep it looser than you think you’ll need it at this stage.

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Note: If I find you sprinkling chopped parsley around the plate for decorative purposes, I will hunt you down.

To finish off, you’ll need to add your (now cooled) pasta into your sauce. Remember that it’s currently al dente, so you’ll need to reheat it for a couple of minutes to finish off the cooking process. Check your seasoning and make sure the pasta is cooked, then serve.

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Congratulations, you made a thing.

The Idea

Hello theoretical audience. I feel like an initial blog is something I don’t really need, but this site made it look like I needed to write one – so here it is. I suppose it could be useful to give anyone who may be reading this a little bit of a backstory into why this page now exists.

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Note: This was the first dessert I ever created for a restaurant. First blog post, first dessert?

Reason Number 1: Boredom

I used to be a chef and I like to eat and cook. That sentence couldn’t have been more boring if I tried, but long story short, that is the biggest reason for why I’ve decided to write about food. My plan is to update this blog every now and then with pictures of food, recipes of my own, and give some tips and techniques that I’ve learnt from my time in the industry.

I was going to write more reasons, but really that’s the gist of it. This isn’t going to be another food blog that you see online that takes itself incredibly seriously, I’m not about that. Cooking is relatively straightforward when you understand the basics and my hope is to maybe help some readers think the same way a chef does.