Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Fishy spaghetti

Back in 2008, I broke up with a boy. Now I won't bang on about it, because we've all been there, haven't we? Well, if you haven't, you should really give it a go. Once you get past the whole snot-streaming-down-your-face-constantly-wearing-jogging-bottoms-only-eating-sticky-toffee-pudding phase, it really is quite character forming. Anyway, this parting of ways meant leaving life as I knew it behind and moving back home, which, at 24 years old, hadn't really been part of my life plan. Suddenly I was back in a world of dial-up broadband, twice monthly public transport and remembering to take my shoes off on entering the house. And watching a lot of Gilmore Girls.

The major up-shot of this return to the nest, however, was that I was fantastically fed (a blessing and a curse, because we all know that when you break-up with someone you're meant to get all thin and heroin chic). My step father, Keith, should really have been a chef (he has all the right qualities - being pretty good at cooking and having an excellent repertoire of swear words) but he is far too sensible and opted for a 'proper' job, regular hours and a pension. The advantage of this sensible streak (asides from job security, comfortable retirement etc) is that his time is spent cooking for us, rather than a bunch of paying customers. Night after night, my mother and I had a host of delectable morsels placed in front of us, yet the dish we repeatedly requested - pair of comfort seeking philistines that we are - was this: fishy spaghetti.

It pretty much does what it says on the tin; it's spaghetti and it's fishy, and there's some tomatoes thrown in for good measure. The thing which makes it noteworthy though, is the inclusion of mint, which may seem like a dubious choice over the classic basil or parsley, but trust me it works. It's a great dish for when you want a bit of a carb fest but don't want lashings of cheese and other frowned-upon things. So shovel it in, compadres, there be only good fats here.

Fishy Spaghetti

Serves two
200g spaghetti/linguine
1 tin chopped tomatoes
2 cloves garlic
Pinch chilli flakes
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp sugar
1 tin mackerel fillets
Small bunch mint, chopped
Slug of oil

Fry your garlic briefly in the oil. Once starting to brown add in your toms, vinegar, sugar, chilli and seasoning and simmer for about 15 mins, until the sauce is quite thick and reduced by about half. Then cook your pasta. At the last minute add your mackerel and mint to the sauce then when the pasta is done, combine and serve with more mint sprinkled on top.

Friday, 18 May 2012

Turkey Koftas (with feta and mint yoghurt)

Through doing a little bit of narcissistic blog re-reading, I have noted that I apologise for the state of nearly all the photos I take on here, usually with an excuse of lack of time, extreme hunger or cat intrusion.  However, I am gradually coming to the realisation that I'm actually just a rubbish photographer.  Frankly I blame my parents for convincing me to take useless A levels, like English and Psychology, instead of Art; and what the hell have I done with those! (apart from a degree in psychology and occasionally writing some words and stuff).  But I'm pretty sure at least 89% of you weren't that obedient, so why don't one of you with an AS in Arty Farty come round for dinner and teach me how to use my own camera? 

It's a fairly decent camera too - one of those fiddly SLRs - but in the 5 years I've had it I've only ever used the basic settings, with an occasional foray into manual focusing.  If you suggest the RTFM technique (read the fucking manual), then my response to you is YAWN. And I lost it anyway, so bore off.

With the above, however, I don't think the blame is entirely mine, because when it comes to kofta - let's face it - they're always going to look like a grilled turd.  I mean, no matter what your skill, a picture of Kate Moss is always going to look better than one Boris Johnson - you need your basic materials to start off with. 

But I promise they don't taste like faeces.

Turkey Koftas

500g free range turkey mince
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 spring onions, finely sliced
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tsp chilli flakes
1 tsp ground coriander
Grated zest of one lemon
Good pinch of salt and pepper
1 free range egg

For the yogurt
About 100g plain/greek yoghurt
Good sprig of mint leaves
About 70g feta cheese, crumbled

To serve - wraps and salady stuff

(If you're using wooden skewers, soak them in warm water before you start so that they don't burn). So take all of your kofta ingredients and mix together well in a bowl.  Then form them into little kebabs on your skewers (as discussed, they come out looking a bit like a poo so you won't go far wrong if you keep that in your head as a sizing basis (although you might get a bit grossed out)).  Place them on foil in a shallow grill pan and grill on a high heat for about 10-15 minutes, turning regularly.  As we're dealing with poultry here it's worth cutting into one before serving to make sure they're cooked through. 

Whilst grilling mix your yoghurt with the mint and feta.  Make a base of salad on your wraps and top with the yoghurt and koftas. 

Monday, 14 May 2012

Cookies 'n' cream cupcakes

Sorry I've not posted for a bit.  My excuse is that Ben's been on tour, and while he's away I tend to survive on spaghetti, cheese and peanut butter.  Nobody needs to see that.  Now he's returned looking malnourished, so we'll probably just be eating broccoli and goji berries for the foreseeable.  Actually, who am I kidding, his band aren't famous enough for us to be able to afford superfoods.  They should be though - see below - there's a book and some words and a tune and stuff.   Every single you buy gets us one step closer to the wholefoods shop.

Anyway, on to the case in hand...

My mother has recently complained that, despite being my creator and often sponsor, she has not yet had a mention here.  Well, Mummy dearest - even though your main comments on this blog so far have been, 'that's not how you spell joie de vivre' and 'I feel a bit sorry for you, you've only got six followers' (HINT, people) - this one's for you. 

My mother taught me to make cake; a skill which has put me in pretty good stead in life so far.  These cakes of my youth were by no means fancy professional things (although I do remember a pretty spectacular fairy princess castle, aged 4), but to this day, nothing tastes better than a home cooked Victoria sponge.  And those basic sponge proportions (accompanied by hundreds and thousands, bowl licking and maximum mess), taught to me as a whipper snapper, were the basis from which I started my own business, The Cambridge Cupcake Company, twenty-odd years later.

(Logo by Alex of We Thr33 Club)

It is rare in life, I think, to find an occasion which is not improved by cake.  Whilst this may sound like the sort of motto you'd find embroidered on a revolting pinterest-pinned cushion, it is none the less true; births, marriages, roller discos, the list is endless.  A disproportionate amount of this occasion based cake eating takes place in the workplace - cake for getting a job, cake for leaving a job, cake for getting fired from a job - and if you happen to mention to your colleagues that you once made cake for a living, there is a strong likelihood that you will be called upon in the aforementioned scenarios. Last week my lovely team mate Sian moved to a different (less good) team, somewhere in the midlands or something, and so she was the recipient of this little batch of C&Cs.

Now I think I've mentioned before my love hate relationship with the little sugary gremlin that is the cupcake. Nowadays - and I'm going to go out on a limb here and say - cupcakes are becoming, well, a bit passé.  Every housewife and their nextdoor neighbour has a cupcake business on the side, and the majority of these enterprises are utterly balls.  Dried out little sponges with a mound of sickly icing splothered on top and doused with glitter; the use of sprinkles apparently negating the requirement for any form of decorative finesse.  Each time I see another 'Pamela's pretty cupcakes' type page go up on facebook I want to punch myself in the kidney. 

So, why did I start a cupcake business? Well this was back in 2008, before the cupcake invaded these shores like the grey squirrel and jostled out our traditional favourites.  It was a novelty, and whilst I can't claim to be the first, I was certainly a minority .  There were only a handful of cupcake bakeries around, largely in London, and they were all doing it properly; none of the style over substance that you get now (or, 'all fur coat and no knickers' as my step father would put it).  And that's where my defence of the cupcake comes in: they don't have to be shit.  If done right, they should be just as good as your layer cake, just more compact and intricately decorated.  Pretty icing should not be an excuse for making a substandard cake.  Whilst me, my piping bag and sugar flowers became BFFs I didn't lose my childhood sweethearts, the staple sponge and good old buttercream. 

Reading this you'll probably look at the above photo and go, 'well yours may taste good but they look a bit cock, you massive hypocrite', and I would have to agree with you, because let's face it, the cookies 'n' cream cupcake, whilst delicious, definitely has a face for radio - that's its charm.  Plus we all got a bit carried away eating them and I forgot to take a proper picture.  But I promise you I can do pretty ones too, I'll show you one day.

In conclusion, whilst I'm kind of over the cupcake, they still put a smile on your colleague's faces. 

The lovely Emily, Fiona and Sian (ship jumper) of CRUK.

Cookies 'n' cream cupcakes

Makes 12 regular or about 20 mini
3 free range eggs
6oz stork/butter
5oz self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
6oz caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
About 2oz cocoa powder

Heat your oven to gas mark 3. Shove all your ingredients, except the cocoa, into the mixer and beat until well combined.  Then add your cocoa a bit at a time, until your ideal chocolatiness is achieved. Spoon into your cake cases and bake until a fork inserted into the cake comes out clean.  Timings will depend on what size you are making but I suggest about half an hour, checking after the first 20 mins.

For the icing
200g cream cheese
50g butter, softened
500g icing sugar
10 oreo biscuits, roughly crushed
Mini oreos to decorate

Beat together the icing sugar, butter (it needs to be very soft to avoid lumps) and cream cheese till combined, then stir in your crushed oreos.  Spoon onto the cooled cakes in a haphazard nature and top with a mini oreo (and some edible glitter, if that's your thing). I would recommend leaving them in the fridge overnight, as it gives the oreos a chance to go soft.