I got me mates Kirsty, Keith and Thom over for a quintessentially English high tea for Bank Holiday Monday, and made some nice cakes. I did ( #52) Sponge Cake I (of two) and (#53) Ginger Cake, as well as some biscuits – I still had some dough left in the freezer from when I made (#29) Elegant Sugar Thins way back in February. We had an ace laugh., but fell pretty sick. I’ve still got some of the ginger cake, and probably will do for a few more days! Kirsty and Keith got me some ace pressies – the best being the Chinese tea set with green gunpowder tea. There’s some recipes that have gunpowder tea in it too – I had no idea what it was (and still don’t – is it the same as normal green tea?) but will find out in due course.
Sponge Cake I was pretty easy and Greg and I enjoyed making it – I’m trying to get him baking, but there is some resistance. Simply whisk together 3 ounces of caster sugar and eggs until they are all whipped up and pale in colour; this takes a while even using an electric mixer. While you’re waiting sieve 3 ounces of plain flour along with a pinch of salt, and fold it into the eggy mixture carefully using a metal spoon. (Apparently the friction of the wooden spoon pops the bubbles). Divide the mixture between two 7 inch sandwich tins that have been greased and sugared and bake for – 12 minutes at 180 degrees Celsius. Keep an eye on it if you’ve got a fan oven like me though, it does keep the oven dry (I shall use the water in the bottom of the oven trick next time). Turn them onto a wire rack, sprinkle with sugar, and allow to cool. Fill with whipped cream and raspberry jam.
The ginger cake was easy too. It’s one of those dense treacly ones that sink in the centre and weigh a ton – at least in comparison to the sponge cake. Start by creaming 4 ounces of butter, then add 4 ounces of Demerara sugar and beat that in too. Next, mix in 2 eggs and 10 ounces of black treacle (it sounds like a lot of treacle, and it is!). Sieve together 8 ounces of flour and a generous teaspoon of ground ginger and mix into the butter and treacle. Then, weigh out 2 ounces each of sultanas and chopped preserved stem ginger and mix them in too. Finally warm ½ a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda and 2 tbs of milk in the microwave and stir them in. Pour the mixture into a 7or 8 inch cake tin that has been lined with greaseproof paper and bake for an hour and a quarter or more depending on the size of the tin at 160 degrees Celsius. Grigson reckons it gets better if you leave it. We shall see…
FYI: ginger is both a stimulant and a muscle relaxant due to it’s antispasmodic properties. It also does you wonders if you’ve got the shits. Plus, it is an essential seasoning for whale meat, according to Larousse Gastromonique!
#52 Sponge Cake I – 6/10. A nice sponge cake, but I’m used to a Victoria sponge with butter in it, and I’m not used to this super-spongy, like actual sponge, texture. This may be down to my new oven of course drying the bugger out. However any cake is nice by me, especially when it’s filled with cream and jam. We shall have to see what sponge cake II is like!!
#53 Ginger Cake – 7/10. I preferred this cake, although it was more of a treacle cake, than a ginger one. It reminds me of a stickier version of Yorkshire parkin, which is usually dry and crumbly. It’s definitely a wintertime heavy stodge cake, rather than a summery light teatime cake. The addition of the ginger pieces and sultanas made it very moreish. I reckon I would be nice warmed up and served with vanilla or ginger ice cream.
The Grigson recommended getting another meal out of the shin of beef stew by simmering the stew away until nice and thick and stirring through some chopped parsley, so that’s what I did! Well I have to re-think my previous mark of 8/10, because this was absolutely gorgeous. It was a thick super beefy sauce with a good hit of red wine behind it, and the beef was so unbelievably tender I didn’t even have to chew. I think that this is one of the best meals you could make yourself. All it requires is time. I’m not sure if it’s nicer than the game pie I made recently which I gave full marks…oh bugger it:
#51 (part II) Shin of beef stew – 10/10 Completely brilliant. Go out and make it right now!
I have heard people talk of the shin cut of beef, and knew it is supposed to be very tasty but very tough – the legs being a well used part of a cow and all. This means long, slow cooking, and after the tough-as-old-boots braised brisket I’d done a while ago, I thought I’d get this recipe wrong too…but how wrong I was! I tell you what I did first…
I trimmed the fat and the very sinewy parts of the meat before cutting them into big chunks and tossing them in three tablespoons of seasoned flour, then I browned them in dripping in a stockpot. You can have your gas turned up to the max here -don’t be shy! When browned, I added enough beef stock to cover the pieces of meat and added one sliced onion and two good sized sliced carrots. For extra flavour, I also added a bouquet garnei of parsley, thyme and bay leaves, a glass of red wine and 3 cloves of garlic (left whole). All this was simmered for two hours and allowed to cool so that the fat could be skimmed off. That was it! Serve with some more veg – I did potatoes and turnips.
#51 Shin of beef stew: 8/10. Simple, cheap and very tasty. I know the red wine is extravagant, but this would still be lovely without. The meat was wonderfully tender and the not at all gristly (I only got one chewy bit!). Because I don’t eat meat that often, it’s such a treat to get some good quality properly treated meat like this. That butcher in Levenshulme is a keeper!
There is plenty left over, and today I am about to eat the rest! The original recipe doesn’t mention doing anything else to it, but Jane mentions that it is best eaten the day after, and also it can be reduced down to a think unctuous gravy. It is bubbling as I type! Reducing the stock to make it a sauce is definitely the right way to go. See this future post to see how it turned out….
…the mice gorge themselves on meat!
I awoke very late on Saturday morning with a stinking hangover. I was supposed to be at work by ten o’clock, and it was almost twelve. Oh dear. I was secretly happy that I didn’t have to go in though. A small snooze later and I felt fine, and since I was at Greg’s flat in Manchester Centre (I was far too drunk to bus it home the night before) I thought I would get something nice and meaty from the Arndale Market and get Joff round.
On arriving, I found that there’s only a cheap butchers there now selling massive trays of meat for £2 a pop. Not good. The fishmonger there is excellent, and so I had a look round. I bought a couple of nice Manx kippers (I don’t like buying fresh fish on a weekend as it’s usually been there since Monday). Wasn’t sure what to do about the meat, and I’d promised meat to Joff.
I arrived home and though I’d have a look in the butcher’s shop in Levenshulme expecting it to be similar to the one in the market, but how wrong I was! I briefly talked to the chap inside, and he said that they get most of their stuff in whole and butcher it properly on site. They were getting ready to shut up shop, but the beef laid out looked very rich and red, not like the strange translucent pink meat you see in the supermarkets. I bought some shin of beef whilst I was there.
Now I had the main ingredients for a two-course feast: (#50) Kipper paste and (#51) shin of beef stew.
Went to Withington Hospital for my assessment today; I have to have all four wisdom teeth out! I only thought I’d need two. Bugger. Luckily I don’t have to worry about it until September because of the giant waiting lists. I’m having a general anaesthetic too, so I won’t know anything until it’s all over.
Greg goes away on his holidays today. He’s off on a cruise. I’ve been excited about it for him all day, but now I fear I will miss him lots. I will have to comfort eat for next 10 days…
It seems I’m not having my teeth out now, a mistake on the letter; ‘Oral Surgery’ should have read ‘Outpatient’s appointment’! I’m just off for X-rays.
Well May is a sorry effort for doing Grigsons, and I’m busy at work at the weekends at the minute, I don’t know if I’ll get any done. Ho-hum, back to collecting data from my experiments…
First off all I should apologise for my total blog tardiness of late; I have been very busy at University recently and so I’ve been working and cooking tried and tested recipes from (sharp intake of breath) OTHER cookbooks. I feel like I’ve been unfaithful to our Jane…
Today found out that I will be having my wisdom teeth out on the 15th May, which is the day Greg goes on his cruise and is also my Mum’s birthday, so I don’t know if I’ll have anyone to go with me! Not being able to eat however, will somewhat hamper my cooking, so expect a reduction in blog action! I am calling for help from you, the beloved blog reader – I need recipes for food that requires no chewing. I will obviously be making good use of my ice cream maker next week.
Any road, I did do some cooking – or, in fact, baking – again at the weekend. I am all enthusiastic about bringing back the old tradition of high tea. There was a spot on the BBC’s Breakfast programme with Prue Leith talking about how people don’t know what Eccles Cakes or parkin and other British fayre are, never mind not baking them themselves! I am on a one-man mission to bring it back. I shall open up a lovely tea shop…
I did (#49) Orange cake and invited Joff round again. I had an orange in and wanted to try the pound cake again from last week; the recipe is exactly the same, except the grated zest of an orange and the juice of half is added to the mixture. This time I baked it for only 30 minutes and it came out perfect. I suppose no one – not even Jane Grigson – is perfect. The best bit of the cake-making was the butter cream. 4 ounces of sugar and the juice of the other half of the orange were boiled until the sugar had reached the soft-ball stage. I didn’t have a sugar thermometer, but managed to do it by dropping small amounts into cold water and feeling it between my fingers. Easy. Thank goodness for my ever useful Larousse Gastronomique. This was whisked into 2 whipped egg yolks until thick and fluffy. When warm, 4 ounces of very soft butter was whipped in until even more thick and fluffy. Yum. Hopefully Greg and Joff think I have improved on the previous ones – hopefully they’ll mark it highly!
#49 Orange cake – 8/10. A fine cake indeed! I’m not going to mark it higher, because, although very good, more extravagant cakes, like the parsnip cake or divine treats like sticky toffee pudding beat cake hands down! I think I’ve nailed the pound cake now!