Monday 17 August 2015

Other blogger's dishes

Blogging's a funny thing really. Obviously I've been doing this for long enough to see a few changes. It used to be that if you read a blogpost, you'd probably leave a comment, and the blogger would almost certainly reciprocate. It was how blogging relationships were formed. The interactions now are quite different. I can see that people are pinning my posts on Pinterest, but few of those people have commented on the recipes they have pinned. I don't pay an enormous amount of attention to the statistics but as far as I can tell the number of views each post gets is pretty consistent, but I get fewer comments than I ever had before. Even if I've entered a post for a blog event, it's unusual for the other participants to leave comments - except for the I Heart Cooking Clubs crew - they are excellent at commenting. Or people will comment on twitter or facebook but not actually on the blog. Which can make it feel a bit like shouting into the wind sometimes.
Mince pie flapjacks
Of course, I am guilty of it myself. I don't leave nearly as many comments as I used to. But I still like to acknowledge the blogs I read and the bloggers whose recipes I follow. I've been meaning to do this post for ages - some of the dishes go back to last November - but I couldn't find most of the pictures. I knew I'd taken them, but turns out the pictures were all on Paul's computer. I found them last week, so finally here we are.
Leaning tower of mince pie flapjacks
Firstly and most tardily, mince pie flapjacks from Dom at Belleau Kitchen. I used homemade cherry mincemeat, and some desiccated coconut instead of ground almonds. Because I had a fresh and extremely aromatic bag of ground cinnamon I halved the quantity, but I have to say it was still a bit too cinnamony for me. Not the recipe's fault; that bag of cinnamon was lethal.
Nutty sour cherry flapjacks from Mainly Baking's recipe
Looking almost identical but honestly quite different were these flapjacks from Sue at Mainly Baking. It's her basic but very adaptable flapjack recipe and it's extremely good. I used a mix of 100g dark muscovado and 50g caster sugar and added 110g mixed hazelnuts, pistachios and sour cherries. I thought there were more sour cherries in the bag but somebody had apparently been snacking. If you like your flapjacks chewy and a bit sticky rather than crisp and crunchy, and I most certainly do, this is a very good recipe.

I only made the baked bean component of Helen Graves' pulled pork, boston baked beans and pickled fennel, although all the bits looked delicious. We just had them with sausages. Really fabulous - definitely one to make again.

Boston baked beans and sausages
I'm still not 100% happy with my chapati making, although some friends have reassured me that it's totally normal to play "what country does this look like?" with wonky chapati. And Paul seems to like them. Which is good, because I still have about 4kg of chapati flour left from the 5kgs I bought by mistake. I'd been planning to make plain chapati to accompany a keema mattar, and then I saw Brian tweet his recipe for chapati with cumin seeds so I made them instead. They were very good! And almost round.

Wednesday 12 August 2015

Seville orange Madeira cake for a blogoversary

On this day in 2007 I started this blog. I think eight years of blogging is deserving of a piece of cake! Unfortunately I have grave doubts as to whether I will get a piece of this one. You see, Great British Bake Off is back. Last year I made a couple of the bakes featured on the show, and sent them in to Paul's office. They went down well! And he said that if I wanted to do any baking this year, they would also find it acceptable. The first week's "signature bake" was a Madeira cake, which is absolutely in Paul's cake wheelhouse - quite dense and plain with a bit of citrus, good with a cup of tea.

I've posted my great grandmother's first prize certificate for Madeira cake before, but I've never actually made one that I can remember. Some other bloggers that I know and love have made GBBO-inspired Madeira cakes (Miss Whiplash got hers out the day after the show aired, which was impressively speedy) and they all looked wonderfully inspiring. Jassy at Gin & Crumpets based her lemon and fennel flavoured cake on Nigella Lawson's mother-in-law's Madeira cake - which seemed like a good pattern to follow.  

My "twist", because the signature bake always needs a twist, was to use the zest and juice of two Seville oranges instead of the traditional lemon. "But wait", I hear observant readers cry, "it's August!". Well yes, these oranges are part of a stash in my freezer from January when the lovely bitter oranges are in season. The microplane zests them beautifully while they are still rock-hard, and then when they thaw the cells have broken down enough to get maximum juice out of them. The smell of the grated zest filled the whole house deliciously.

Based on the Bake Off judging last week, I now know that one of the things you have to look for in a Madeira cake is the long crack down the top. So even if I don't get to taste my cake, or get meaningful feedback from the gannets who eat it, I am still quite satisfied that this was a very successful bake. Worthy of an 8th blogoversary.

Saturday 1 August 2015

Lamb chops

A few days ago, I asked Paul a serious question. He was shocked. He couldn't believe I would spring something so momentous on him without prior warning. I asked whether he preferred lamb cutlets or lamb loin chops.

As he absolutely refused to answer, I decided - for science! - to get a pack of each and do a direct comparison. Now, I accept that two people's opinions aren't statistically significant, and to be a genuine comparison they'd need to have been cut from the same sheep, but I still thought it would be worthwhile. Delicious, and worthwhile.

Both the chops and the cutlets got the same treatment - brought to room temperature, rubbed with salt, pepper and garlic powder and grilled over charcoal.

And both were delicious. But we agreed that the loin chops just had the edge. Paul likened it to the difference between fillet and rump steaks - one has the edge on flavour and one has the edge on tenderness. The cutlets were very slightly more tender, the loin chops had a slightly more robust flavour. We might have to repeat the experiment to be on the safe side though.


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