It was my birthday last week, and so slightly depressingly I had to update my ‘about’ page on this blog to aged 37. But getting another year older has great advantages, most particularly of the present variety. Oh how well my friends and family know me – almost every present was food-related, and every card had a cat on the front. I also received seven bunches of flowers which has meant the house has smelt gorgeous all week, although they are sadly coming to the end of their lives now and will probably have a meeting with Mr Recyling Man tomorrow.
Each year I think I won’t make a fuss of my birthday and will just have a meal with Andrew, and each year he convinces me to organise drinks or a meal with friends. This year he convinced me once again, and we decided to have a little party at the house. Obviously June is no guarantee whatsoever for fine weather, and so I didn’t even bother with the idea of a bbq. Instead, I took advantage of our local Turkish supermarket’s delicacies and bought their gorgeous loaves of bread, dips and olives.
Of course, it is literally impossible for me not to do some cooking of my own, and so I decided to make four different cakes, and some of my famous sausage rolls (when I say famous, I may be exaggerating their fame somewhat … in fact they are famous within these four walls only, but you never know the power of the blog so watch this space …). I also got the usual crisps, nuts, meat and cheese platters, and made a potato salad, green salad and coleslaw, as well as cooking up some cocktail sausages (you can never have too much pork product when Andrew’s in the house).
The cakes I decided to make were fairy cakes (as there were going to be a fair few kids in attendance, and anyway regardless of age, who doesn’t love a fairy cake?), chocolate cake shaped like Darth Vader thanks to my brilliant cake tin, lemon curd victoria sponge and the best brownies in the world ever. Unfortunately my brilliant Darth Vader cake tin didn’t have the force with it on this occasion and the cake stuck solidly to the tin when I tried to turn it out, so we were down to three cakes only.
The lemon curd victoria sponge (basically replacing the jam with lemon curd, and adding some lemon rind and juice to the sponge mix) was a lovely refreshing twist to the original and I was so pleased with it that I made it again for the birthday cake I took to work. Version 2.0 was almost a disaster because I burnt the sponge to such an extent that I had to scrape off the black from the outside of the cake. But that’s what icing is for, so I whipped up a lemon buttercream icing to go on the outside and decorated the top with some blackberries and no one was any the wiser. In my view, a good cook is one who hides her mistakes with copious amounts of sugar! A picture of mark 2 is included here.
The sausage rolls and the brownies are so incredibly easy to make, and so incredibly delicious, that it would be rude of me not to share the recipes on here. I say recipes, but the sausage rolls are barely a recipe to be honest. Whilst they may not yet be famous, they are the most delicious sausage rolls I have ever tasted.
Tracy’s famous sausage rolls – makes 16 small ones
500g ready made puff pastry, 450g premium sausage meat (I use gourmet pork sausage stuffing from Waitrose), eggwash
Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees and line a large baking tray with silicon (don’t use a baking sheet because fat oozes from these babies, and I find they stick to greaseproof paper, but silicon works perfectly to cook them). Roll out your puff pastry into a rectangle which is around the thickness of a pound coin. Slice into two lengthways so that you have two very long rectangles. Lay half of the sausagemeat mixture along the length of one of the rectangles, in a sausage shape. Eggwash one long side of the rectangle, and then fold the long end of the pastry over the sausage, and then roll it so that there are no loose ends of pastry. Cut into 8 small sausage rolls and cut a slit into the top of each roll. Brush with more eggwash and bake in the oven for at least 30 minutes. Check the bottoms of the sausage roll to ensure they are cooked and you don’t have a soggy bottom! Allow to cool on a cooling rack, or eat as soon as they are cool enough not to burn your mouth!
The best brownies in the world ever
These are from Nigella Lawson’s How to be a Domestic Goddess. I am yet to taste a better brownie. This makes a lot of brownies (I use a roasting tin lined with greaseproof paper to cook them), obviously how many depends on the size you cut them!
375g butter, 375g dark chocolate (70% is good, I use 400g simply because otherwise I would eat the rest of the packet!), 6 medium eggs, 500g caster sugar, 1 tsp vanilla extract, 225g plain flour, a pinch of salt, 300g walnuts (optional, I don’t bother)
Melt the butter and the chocolate in a large saucepan. Meanwhile whisk the eggs, sugar and vanilla together in a jug. Once the butter and chocolate have melted, pour the egg and sugar mixture into the saucepan and mix them well. Then add the flour and salt and mix until combined. At this point you could add nuts, although I never do as quite a lot of people I make these for are not huge fans of nuts.
Pour the gooey chocolate into a lined baking tin and cook in a pre-heated oven of 180 degrees for around 40 minutes. What you want is to see the top of the brownie start to go cracked and shiny, and when you press the top of the brownie it is solid but still has some give. I would be inclined to undercook the brownie because you want it to be fudgy and squidgy in the middle, so err on the side of caution, remembering that the brownie will continue to cook somewhat when you take it out of the oven. Allow to cool completely before cutting into squares, or scoop some out to serve immediately with cream or icecream. Utterly delicious. Thanks Nigella!
Lemon curd victoria sponge, with an icing to cover all errors
250g self raising flour, 250g stork, 250g caster sugar, 4 eggs, rind and juice of 2 lemons, juice of 2 more lemons, half a jar of lemon curd, 200ml double cream, 125g butter, 75g icing sugar, a punnet of blackberries
In a food mixer, mix the flour, stork, sugar, eggs and rind and juice of two lemons until well combined, light and airy. Bake in a pre-heated oven of 180 degrees for around 30 minutes or until a cake skewer comes out clean (you could cook in two sandwich tins for around 15 minutes). Once completely cold, turn out of the tin and slice in half through the middle to make a sandwich cake. Spread the lemon curd onto one half of the cake, and top with whipped double cream (which takes around 10 seconds to whip up thanks to my brand new Kitchen Aid hand whisk – thanks Andrew!). If you haven’t burnt the cake, then you could just sprinkle icing sugar on the top and you’ll be done. If you do need a little remedial work, whisk up the butter, icing sugar and lemon juice until light and fluffy and cover the top and side of the cake with the buttercream mixture. Top the cake with blackberries and it’s ready to serve.