Category Archives: Parties

Milk shake mix-ins

This is a great way to use up scrappy bits of ice cream ‘n’ bits you may have, or just to amuse yourself for five minutes in the kitchen – it’s permissible to buy ice cream just to make these, too.

I got the idea from an ice cream shop in Aldeburgh called The IceCreamery – which is well worth a visit if you are in the area. Here you select your ice cream ‘base’ – vanilla, chocolate, strawberry etc., then add a ‘mix in’. And here’s where it gets fun, and slightly diabetic-inducingly crazy.

The mix-ins can be M&Ms, Jaffa Cakes, Oreos and a million other alternatives, and these get added/crushed into your ice cream to give you a custom-made ice cream.

Or you can have it made into a milk shake.

My eldest chose vanilla and Oreos and my youngest chose chocolate and M&Ms. I watched, in awe/horror as about four scoops of ice cream were put into a mixer and then – in the case of the M&Ms – a WHOLE PACKET of M&Ms were put in. I would never, in a million years, let my youngest (who is tiny) eat a whole packet of M&Ms in one go, let alone with four scoops of ice cream.

But I had to metaphorically shut my eyes and switch off my inner mummy-OMG-ness and just go with it.

The milk shake was amazing, I hesitate to say the best ever as of course the best ever milk shakes were those my dad made for me in his cafe, when I was a child. But aside from that:

BEST EVER.

The vanilla and Oreos was particularly memory-hogging.

So when I got home I sought to recreate these but using less ice cream and less mix-ins and the way I make them isn’t more calorie-laden than a regular ice cream in a cone, I put two scant ice cream scoops in my Nutribullet, with some milk and some mix-ins (like one cookie if it’s an Oreo, maybe one and a half) and blend the whole thing together.  So far we’ve done:

Strawberry ice cream with fresh mint

Strawberry ice cream with Milky Way Magic stars

Chocolate and fresh mint

Coffee ice cream with Oreos

Vanilla and Oreos

Vanilla and Milky Way Magic stars

Vanilla and jam ‘doughnut’ sponge crumbs (these were left over from some Nigella jam doughnut muffins which my eldest made which stuck to the tin and I scraped out and froze and I add them straight into the mix and it works beautifully).

Chocolate and peanut butter……you get the idea.

Of course I had to buy the special cups and lids and straws.

26 July 2016 update: I made raspberry cheesecake milkshakes today: vanilla ice cream, frozen jam doughnut sponge crumbs, fresh raspberries, milk and a dollop cream cheese. DELICIOUS. I didn’t have one (just tasted it) otherwise I’d be the size of a house come the weekend with all the milk-shaking we have going on..

 

 

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Pomegranate and rose lemonade

I tried making lemonade a few years ago. It was a faff and nobody really liked it. But recently I tried this, from the Waitrose magazine and it was not only really easy, everyone likes it, it’s luridly (but naturally) pink, and you make a basic syrup which you then dilute. So it makes tons. Perfect for a summer party. It’s not overly sweet, either and I’m sure it works out that it has less sugar in than shop-bought. You can also make this with your children. Supervise the sugar boiling bit of course, but that bit only lasts a minute.

Ingredients

150g caster sugar + 100ml of water

200ml pomegranate juice – make sure you by juice and not the drink which will already have sugar in it

The juice of about 5 lemons – you need 200ml of juice

Pared zest of one lemon

1 teaspoon of rose water

Ice cue and sparkling water to serve. You can dilute with still water too, if you like, but sparkling is more fun, if worse for your teeth and bones…

Method

Put the caster sugar with 100ml of cold water into a medium sized saucepan and heat it gently until the sugar has dissolved. You can stir. Once the sugar has dissolved, bring it to the boil for one minute, then turn it off the heat. Do take care around boiling water/sugar as it’s very hot.

Add the lemon and pomegranate juice and pared lemon zest and leave to cool. Once cool add the rose water and then pour into a clean (supposed to be sterilised, but straight out of the dishwasher will do) bottle/container and store in the fridge. You can keep the pared zest in if you like (I do) but bear in mind the longer it stays in, the more lemony/sour it gets.

To serve, pour 60ml of the syrup into a glass, top up with sparkling/still water, ice cubes and drink!

Sonia’s Swiss crescent biscuits

Growing up, my mum made friends with a woman called Sonia, who worked in the dry cleaner’s kinda opposite our flats. The dry cleaning would be wrapped in this lovely navy blue paper, the like of which we seemed to have at home for years afterwards (I guess she gave us some).

We didn’t have a car, growing up, but we used to go out with Sonia and her husband, who drove a red VW Beetle. We would go to the airport and watch the planes take off, in the days when this was still possible. We also went to Windsor castle. I loved our trips out as they were the only car-trips out we had as children. (This isn’t meant to sound sad, we went to Italy a lot and I had a great childhood.)

I have a picture, of us at Windsor castle, me with a right sulk on (I peed on my mum’s lap on the way home, I think I might have done it on purpose, the shame), wearing a very flash red coat and a rabbit fur hat, Sonia and my mum looking really glamorous, but in a totally nonchalant way.

One of the things Sonia used to bring with her were these amazing little hazelnut crescent biscuits. She would have them, layer upon greaseproof-paper layer, in a tin, and as you opened the tin, the smell of them – they were coated with vanilla sugar – would hit you. They were not like any biscuits we could buy, or that my mum made.

Because they were so occasional, they were especially delicious. Sonia also used to bring  a flask of coffee, which I would drink (I was an early caffeine drinker).

When I was seven, my mum and dad opened up a coffee shop on London’s Bayswater Road. I started making cakes and biscuits for my dad’s shop. I started baking. I tried to recreate Sonia’s biscuits but I never could. For some reason I didn’t dare ask her for the recipe, or perhaps I didn’t want to because I didn’t want to make them less special.

Occasionally, these days, I will go to my mum and dad’s house, and Sonia will have been, bringing with her a box of her special biscuits. And just opening the lid of the biscuit tin (she always brings them in a biscuit tin) will transport me back to being a very little girl, sitting in a red VW Beetle, watching planes taking off, treading that fine line between showing my appreciation for her biscuits and eating a fair few, but not toppling over into greed. It’s still a line I struggle with balancing on.

The other day, I saw Sonia and I plucked up the courage to ask her for the recipe. I don’t know why it’s taken me four decades to do so. Amazingly she had it written down (none of that “oh I do it from memory”) and she gave it to me, and, here it is:

250g plain flour

200 butter, unsalted, fridge cold

100g ground hazelnuts (I buy the chopped, toasted version and then grind them, it really makes a difference, but you can use pre-gound hazelnuts or almonds, but it won’t be *quite* as good as if you toast and grind them yourself)

80g icing sugar

5g vanilla sugar (Sonia says you can buy these in little packets but I leave this out and just add a tablespoon of vanilla essence)

Pinch of salt

Caster sugar for after (vanilla sugar if you have it)

In a food processor, pulse the butter and flour until like breadcrumbs. Add the sugar, salt and nuts and then pulse until it comes together in clumps. Don’t over mix. It will work out I promise. Of course you can do this all by hand, but I’m lazy.

If you’ve made it in a processor take it out now and, by hand, bring the mixture together. Chill for 20/30 mins.

Preheat oven to 190C

Take small bits and roll into crescent shapes. I weigh each one to make sure I don’t end up with tiny/huge biscuits, roll into sausage shapes and taper the ends, curve into crescents. If you’re interested, I do them so mine weigh about 21g in raw dough.

Put on a parchment lined trays and cook for 10 mins. Cool and then coat in vanilla caster sugar if you have it, (I put a vanilla pod in a jar of normal caster sugar and just keep it there for, like, ever) normal caster sugar if you don’t.

Then don’t eat four whilst you’re writing a blog post, because that will make you feel really, really sick.

Store in a biscuit tin, each layer interleaved with greaseproof paper.

(Sonia calls these traditional Vienna biscuits but as she’s from Switzerland, I call them Sonia’s Swiss crescent biscuits.)

Tiramisu cheesecake

Tiramisu, for those that don’t yet know, mean’s ‘pull me up’. The English equivalent is ‘pick me up’.

Although I don’t know anyone in Italy who uses tiramisu as anything other than a delicious, indulgent dessert. Zabaglione was used, maybe still is, if you felt a bit under the weather and needed a pick me up. Presumably the warnings about not using raw egg (traditionally an ingredient in zabaglione) hadn’t reached the members of my family who used this as a salve for sick children who were too poorly to go to school.

My dad (from Parma, NE Italy) would sometimes feign illness – something he never does as an adult – as a child in order to stay off school and have zabaglione made for him by his mamma.

Anyway, this is a tiramisu cheesecake. If you don’t like coffee or cheesecake then there is nothing for you in this cheesecake. I think the base is absolutely inspired, but, again, if you don’t like amaretti biscuits (and in truth I don’t, on their own, but somehow they work here) you may not like the slightly bitter hit. But this is a really excellent cheesecake, classy, different, complex. Just don’t be left alone with it. Oh and, once chilled, it’s really the most excellent if you take it out of the fridge for half an hour before eating.

If you plan to make this for an ‘occasion’ – say a special lunch or a dinner – then I really recommend you make it the night before and leave it sitting chilling in the fridge until you serve it. One less job to do, plus with the chilling of the base and the chilling of the cake etc, it does take quite a long time from start to finish. So don’t get caught out.

This was originally from Delicious magazine.

For the base:

275g amaretti biscuits, crushed

75g unsalted butter, melted

For the cheesecake:

700g mascarpone at room temperature. I use a mixture of 500g mascarpone, cream cheese, ricotta, depending on what I have in the fridge. But I wouldn’t go lower than 500g mascarpone

150g caster sugar

3 large eggs, separated

45ml dark rum

30g plain flour

half a teaspoon of vanilla extract

175g plain chocolate, chopped (of course I didn’t chop mine and just broke up the pieces, because I am lazy like that)

1 tablespoon of finely ground espresso coffee powder – I just use something I have in a dusty jar from the supermarket, even though I have a full on, fuck-off coffee machine which freshly grinds my coffee for me. Next time it will maybe be even more awesome if I used freshly ground espresso powder

3 tablepoons of coffee liqueur. I use Kahlua which is lovely, incidentally, in an after dinner espresso, to make it espresso corretto.

Icing sugar for dusting. I was so greedy and impatient, I forgot this bit

Put the biscuit crumbs in a food processor and pulverise. In a bowl, introduce melted butter to the biscuit crumbs and let them do their thing. Press the crumbs into a 23cm spring form tin (I parchment line the base) and as far up the sides as you can get them (I didn’t do them up the sides and it was fine). Chill for 30 mins or even overnight.

When you are ready to make the cheesecake, preheat the oven to 200C; melt the chocolate in a bowl, atop some simmering water and then leave to cool. Put the mascarpone/cheeses into a bowl and beat until nice and smooth, then beat in the sugar, then the egg yolks.

Now divide this mixture into two bowls.

Into one of these bowls stir in the 30g plain flour, the 45ml of dark rum and the half a teaspoon of vanilla extract. Set aside for a moment.

Remember the melted chocolate? Into it, stir the espresso powder and coffee liqueur. Now stir the chocolatey/coffee/coffee liqueur into the second bowl of cheese mixture.

Put the egg whites into a bowl and whisk until soft peak stage, and now fold half the egg whites into each of the bowls – so half into the flour/rum/vanilla cheesey mix and half into the chocolate/coffee/liqueur mix.

Now dollop alternate spoonfuls of the mixture into the cake tin, give a swirl to gently mix and bake for 45mins to 1 hour. I lowered the temperature of my oven for the last 15 minutes or so only because my oven is fierce. Just keep an eye on it after 45 mins. It should be golden brown but still soft in the centre. Not liquid soft but softly soft, like a bit jelly on a plate.

Turn off the oven and leave the door ajar and leave the cheesecake until completely cold. When cold, chill in the fridge for several hours then it’s ready to be taken out and eaten, either fridge-cold or leave it to warm up a bit at room temperature.

Dust with icing sugar and revel in the calorie count. It’s high.

 

White chocolate and berry cheesecake

I’m mindful, at this time of year, of having lots of people to cater for at once, and also the value of being able to Do Things In Advance.

I made this at the weekend, for a lunch party at a friend’s house where I was asked to bring pudding. The value of this is that it feeds lots – easily 12*. It not only can, but has to be made in advance. It looks good, but can also be brought out after a meal, to sit on the table for many hours without spoiling and be picked at (‘I’ll just tidy it up’) as guests get drunker and drunker.

I didn’t have a tin big enough, so I made this in one large rectangular Mermaid tin and a smaller tart tin. But this cheesecake is so good that I think it’s worth buying the right size tin for it as I will be making it again.

A few notes:

I put in 300g of frozen mixed berries as that’s the packet I had, and didn’t see the point of keeping back a handful of berries.

Yes you do put the berries in frozen.

Do build the crust up to a good height at the sides, although this mixture didn’t (for me) rise up, there is a lot of it and if your sides aren’t high enough, you’ll be at a dam-bust situation.

It may be an idea to put the tin on a baking sheet to catch any drips – I didn’t have any but see my point just above.

It definitely took an hour in my oven, maybe a few minutes more.

That’s it. This is a good one to keep up your sleeve for party season and the other great thing about it is that * you can cut the slices as thin or thick as you want, so it could feasibly feed may, many more than the predicted dozen.

Here is the recipe.

One giant Twix (tart). Gluten, dairy, sugar and fat full

I like this tart for bringing to people as a present. I’ve yet to meet a grown up, or child, no matter how posh or spoiled and used to presents, who doesn’t love this (unless of course you hate Twixes). But it also makes a good dessert when you really can’t decide what to make to please everyone. And just a small slice is really enough.

I can’t overstate this. It is pancreas-bustingly sweet. A bit too sweet for me if truth be told, it sets my teeth on edge. I want to play around with the recipe next time to try to resolve this. That said, a small slice (or even cube) is a treat. But, like the Wagon Wheels I made last year which set off a sort of crazy reaction, proceed with caution

The caramel making is a faff, I won’t lie. A thermometer is a must (I can hear you sighing). I have very similar to  these, which is brilliant. You can use it to probe meat with, take the temperature of a child, use it to make confectionery – it’s great because you just have a probe sticking into the hot caramel, with the actual body of the thermometer somewhere out of the way. I stick mine above where I’m working, to the extractor fan hood (it has a magnetic back). Obviously you do need to remember to clean the probe between child and caramel.

Anyway, this recipe was from Delicious magazine some time ago. I made a fundamental change to the timing of the caramel/temperature, because the first time I made it, taking it up to 115C meant the bottom of the caramel burned, so you had burnt/darker bits. It didn’t affect the taste, but it was annoying. I now stop the last bit of the caramel making at 111C – precision is all in caramel making – and it’s fine: chewy, golden and just before it starts to burn. I also changed the way you make the chocolate ganache.

This is what you need:

For the base

225g shortcake biscuits

75g unsalted butter, melted

For the caramel

125ml double cream

90ml condensed milk

125ml golden syrup

110g caster sugar

30g unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

For the chocolate topping

200g good quality milk chocolate (I use Green and Black’s Cooking chocolate at 37% cocoa solids)

75ml double cream

Small knob of butter

 

What you do:

Heat the oven to 170C. Put the biscuits and melted butter in a food processor, then pulse until all amalgamated. Line a loose bottomed tart tin, mine was 35cm x 12cm the biscuit crumbs. You can lightly oil the tin first, if you are of a nervous disposition.

Press the crumbs down and up the sides,  chill for ten minutes then cook it for 15 mins. Let it cool, then put back in the fridge. You’re done with the oven now, so switch it off.

To make the caramel, put the 125ml of double cream in a sauce pan with the condensed milk and heat up very slowly. I do this at the same time I’m making the caramel, cos I’m ‘ard and can multi task. If you do it separately it’s important it’s kept warm-ish as otherwise, if you introduce it to the caramel – such as you will later – cold, it might split.

Now put the golden syrup and caster sugar in a separate pan with 30ml of cold water, trying hard not to think of the glycaemic index of these two ingredients combined. Heat it gently until the sugar melts, stick the thermometer in, bring to the boil and then bring down to a simmer until the thermometer reads 120C. This may take a while (5-10mins). When making caramel, the temperature rises, then seems to stall, then rises again, then leaps. Be careful here, a caramel solution at 120C is very, very hot. Don’t have small children wondering round. Don’t leave it unattended.

When it reaches 120C, take it off the heat and stir in the chopped butter, then add the still warm cream/condensed milk mixture. Stir stir stir, (take out the tart base from the fridge in its tin), and put the caramel mixture back on the heat and bring back to the boil – this will take a while – until the mixture is at 111C. When it reaches this temperature, pour the caramel into the biscuit crumb lined tray and leave to cool completely. When it’s cool, put in the fridge.

Then, make the chocolate ganache: put a bowl atop a saucepan of simmering water. In this bowl put the milk chocolate, the 75ml of double cream and the knob of butter. Stir until everything has melted. This is the chocolate ganache. You now pour this over the caramel filled tart and as it cools, make wavy patterns, just, you know because.

Leave to set. Keep in fridge. Eat slowly and in small portions. No-one wants diabetes for Christmas.

Simple sushi for the beginner

My eldest and I used to make sushi from her children’s cookery books and whilst it was okay, it wasn’t great. This however, from the Maisie Makes series in the BBC Good Food magazine makes for really delicious sushi, thanks to the addition of a few key ingredients that other, simpler, recipes leave out; such as the Japanese mayonnaise – which is absolutely essential I think. I do understand about simplifying some recipes for children, but if they leave you with a lesser product, I don’t really think they give an accurate picture of what children can achieve.

Anyway, nothing here is hard. But it does take a bit of practise and do get all the ingredients because it really makes a difference, and if you like sushi I think this will become a regular thing and the cost of each make will go down… The sushi shown here was made entirely by my ten year old and she took it in her school lunch box. Her father and I had the rest for our lunch, with lots of wasabi (I am slightly addicted to the stuff) and soy sauce.

We don’t have access to sushi grade fish here, and my daughter doesn’t like pressed sushi, so we make only the rolls.

Here is the recipe, although if you can get hold of the January 2014 BBC Good Food magazine, I’d recommend you do as there are pictures which makes this much easier!

Do give this a go. It makes for a terrific packed lunch, we make the rolls the night before and it makes that whole packed lunch thing much easier the next morning. And when you are quaffing eight of these rolls for your own lunch, you can marvel at how much you would pay for them if you bought them out.