Sunday, 26 February 2012

Chocolate orange cake

With the arrival of T’s birthday last week came a new cake request – this year, the boy wanted it to be all about chocolate and orange. However, it was a surprising struggle to think of what to do with that. Chocolate cake with orange flavouring, or orange cake with chocolate? Layered? Traybake? All of the above? Plonk a Terry's Chocolate Orange down in front of him?

My staple ‘need to bring a dessert that looks nice but won’t take long to make’ recipe is a chocolate cake with lemon curd in the middle, so I eventually decided to do a fancier take on that with orange curd and chocolate ganache. It tasted great, but took most of the day to do because I also got it into my head to make the orange curd. This is a whole other post’s worth of fun to share, however…

Chocolate cake ingredients:
¾ cup (170g) butter
1 cup (270g) sugar
3 eggs
1 ½ teaspoon vanilla
1¾ cups (325g) flour
1 cup (125g) baking cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 ½ cups (355ml) light (single) cream
½ cup (75g) dark chocolate chips (optional)

Chocolate ganache ingredients:
3.5oz (100g) dark chocolate
1 tbsp cocoa powder
cup (75ml) heavy (double) cream

Other ingredients:
Orange curd
Mandarin orange slices

1. Start by making the cake. Heat the oven to 350F (180C). Grease two 9in (23cm) round cake pans.

2. Cream the butter and sugar, then add the eggs and vanilla.

3. Mix the dry ingredients together in a separate bowl, and blend into the batter in portions along with the cream.

4.  When all ingredients have been mixed in and batter is smooth, pour into prepared cake pans and sprinkle chocolate chips evenly over the top of each.  Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.

5. Let the cakes sit for about 10 minutes, then remove them from the pans and place them on wire racks to cool.

6. When completely cool, start to put the cake together. Spread orange curd on top of one cake layer, then carefully place the second layer on top. Fill in any ‘holes’ with remainig curd to get an even finish.

7. Next, make the ganache. Melt the chocolate over very low heat, mixing in the cocoa powder thoroughly when melted. Stir in the double cream.

8. Spread evenly on the cake immediately. If desired, add mandarin orange slices on top (from a can or similar, but patted dry to remove any excess juice). Let the ganache set.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Smoked fish lasagne

(About to follow is a paragraph of grammar/language commentary that you may want to skip)
Even if my day job did not require me to care about grammar and consistency in text, I’d have to anyway because of the really geek-like interest I have in languages. After starting this blog with a desire to keep it American – like the title says – and spell things sans u, I decided that because I’m in England I should spell as they do. Hence, the u returns, and z is largely banished.

All that to say, I’m keeping to the the ‘UK rules’ rule and spelling lasagne the British way because it has been made in the style that Brits tend to do. Oh yes, they do indeed have their own style. As lasagne is not a complicated concept, I’m sure there are parts of Italy that make it the same way, but I stick to my Italian grandmother’s lasagne recipe as my own authentic definition of southern European cuisine. If I ever make something based on that, it will be called lasagnA.

When T makes lasagne, he uses a white sauce rather than ricotta cheese. It makes for a much gooier, melt-in-your-mouth dish that’s perfect for coupling with garlic bread for a fondu-type approach. This lasagne holds together a little better on day two than it does fresh out of the oven, so be careful when serving the first couple of pieces that you don’t scoop out the filling from the middle in the process.

2 small filets of salmon
2 x 320g packs of smoked fish pie mix (from Sainsburys)
2-3 cloves crushed garlic
About 2 cups (175g) of baby corn, optional
Ground pepper, to taste
Uncooked lasagne noodles
About 2 cups (150-175g) of grated cheddar cheese

White sauce ingredients:
½ cup (113g) butter
½ cup (65g) of plain flour
¾ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon thyme
4 cups (945ml) milk

1. Make the white sauce first. Melt the butter over low heat, then add the flour, salt and thyme. Stir constantly until the flour is mixed in smoothly, and the sauce begins to bubble. Turn off the heat, and stir in the milk. Turn the heat back on low and keep stirring until the sauce comes back up to the boil. Let it boil for one minute, stirring to prevent it burning to the bottom of the pot.

2. Lightly saute the fish in butter and garlic, seasoning with pepper. Add the baby corn, if desired. The fish will crumble and flake together. Stir in three-quarters of the white sauce to the cooked fish.

3. To assemble, start with a layer of half of the fish mixture, and top with one-third of the grated cheese. Place a layer of uncooked lasange noodles on top of this, then add the rest of the fish. Top this with another portion of grated cheese, as before. Add a second layer of lasagne noodles, then spread these with a thin layer of the remaining white sauce. Top with the rest of the grated cheese.

4. Bake according to the instructions on your pack of lasagne noodles.