a plate of cinnamon oysters
Food, Recipes

Cinnamon Oysters

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These are the most delicious, light as air little cakes that ever flew off a plate and into your mouth. Delicately spiced with cinnamon and ginger and filled with softly whipped cream, they retain that slight golden syrupy chew when they’re fresh from the oven, before melting into marvellous nothingness.

This recipe is from Lois Daish, published in her 1989 book Good Food, so it’s completely reliable.

They’re speedy to make so you could have them on the table within 30 minutes if you had to produce a last-minute dainty. If you’re organised and have cast-iron willpower you can make them the day before you need them. Fill straight away and pop in the fridge overnight. Or you can fill them and store them in the freezer ready to pull out for a future treat.

Cinnamon oysters

2 eggs
1 tablespoon golden syrup
100g castor sugar
70g flour
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch baking soda
cream, icing sugar

Preheat the oven to 200C.

Lightly butter and flour 16 round bottomed patty pans (the flour helps, trust me).

Whisk the eggs, golden syrup and castor sugar together until the mixture is very high and light. Sift the dry ingredients together and fold in carefully.

Divide the mixture between the tins and bake for 6-8 minutes (original recipe calls for 8-10 minutes but 7 is usually about right if you’re using a fan bake).

Remove from tins while still warm. When they are cold split the oysters halfway through using a serrated knife. Fill with lightly whipped cream and sprinkle with sifted icing sugar.

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I love how they really do look like oysters.

When you serve these, at least one person will sigh with delight and say something along the lines of, “Oh, my nana used to make these. I haven’t eaten them for years.” And then you will point them to this post for the recipe, and they will make them for someone else to sigh over. Hooray!

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Food, Recipes

Lead me into temptation

Banoffee Pie - sex on a plate

Banoffee Pie – sex on a plate

Auckland baker Jordan Rondel’s first book, The Caker, is an abandoned romp that will tempt you to indulge in the sins of the flesh.

It is, of course, a book about cakes. But oh my! What cakes.

There’s nothing prissy here. No slick and sickly icing, fake flavouring and disappointing conveyer belt perfection. Instead there are seductively simple ingredients and alluringly clever combinations. Honestly. There’s a whole chapter given over to syrups and fillings and toppings that will make you go, Ooh! Including a method for a Black Doris Plum Icing that is nothing short of revelatory.

Teetering layers, tumbled with fresh flowers, these cakes promise nothing but pleasure.

Fruit features heavily. Caramel and Apple Upside Down Cake, Double-Layer Raspberry White Chocolate Cake with Rosewater Creme Icing, Dark Chocolate, Pear and Pistachio Cake with Ganache… Why, I don’t mind if I do.

The photographs, by Babiche Martens, are fashion mag stunning. A gorgeous young woman with bedhead hair bites her lip, a raven-haired beauty runs her fingers along a seemingly bloody blade (on closer inspection, it’s the reflection from a bunch of crimson roses).

As for the food styling… these cakes are positively wanton. They ooze cream, bleed raspberries, drip caramel and chocolate… Frankly, they’re begging to be devoured.

The book itself is a slim paperback volume. Unlike cookery collections destined for the coffee table, it’s light enough to take to bed. Perhaps that’s the point?

Within the covers you’ll find lust, desire, naked greed. And a whole lot of gratification. Talk about sex on a plate.

Let yourself be lured. And, if my words can’t convince you to go out and buy the book, well, let the pie do the talking.

The Caker’s Banoffee Pie

For the caramel
100g butter
100g caster sugar
400ml condensed milk (1 tin)

For the banoffee pie
150g gingernut biscuits, blitzed in a food processor
230g pecans or walnuts, halved
75g butter, melted
3 large, not overly ripe bananas, chopped
250ml cream, softly whipped
cinnamon for dusting

To make the caramel, place the butter and sugar in a non-stick frying pan over a low heat, stirring until the butter melts and the sugar dissolves.

Add the condensed milk and slowly bring to the boil, stirring continuously, to make the caramel. As soon as the mixture thickens and begins to smell of caramel, remove from the heat and allow to cool.

Meanwhile, place the crushed biscuits and half of the pecan or walnut halves into a bowl. Add the melted butter and stir well. Transfer the mixture to a 22cm diameter tart dish. Press the biscuit base evenly over the base of the tin, packing it down.

Add the chopped bananas to the caramel mixture and combine well. Spread the mixture over the biscuit base andchill for 30 minutes.

Remove from the fridge and spread the whipped cream evenly over the top of the banoffee layer. Place the remaining pecans or walnuts in a circular arrangement on top, and dust with cinnamon.

To store, cover well with plastic wrap and keep in the fridge for up to a week.

The Caker

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Food, Recipes

Devilish dark chocolate and ginger cookies

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These chewy, American-style cookies are sweetly sinful. They’re seductively spiced, studded with fiery candied ginger and hand carved chunks of dark chocolate. Defiantly adult, they have a powerful kick. If you’d like them to be more devilish still, replace the syrup with treacle or blackstrap molasses.

Makes 24 large biscuits.

⅓ cup + 1/2 cup white sugar
21/4 cups plain white flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
3 teaspoons ground ginger
170g softened, salted butter
⅓ cup dark brown sugar
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup golden syrup
2 tablespoons chopped stem ginger (or crystallised ginger)
100g dark chocolate, cut into shards (I used Whittaker’s Ghana, which is 72% cocoa)

Preheat the oven to 180C. Place half a cup of sugar for dipping in a shallow dish.

Sieve together flour, baking soda and spices.

In an electric mixer, beat the butter, brown sugar and remaining white sugar until light and fluffy – about three minutes. Beat in egg yolk, vanilla, then golden syrup.

Carefully add dry ingredients and beat on low until just mixed.

Scoop out heaped tablespoons of the dough, roll into balls and then toss in the sugar.

Place 5cm apart on two trays lined with baking paper and cook until browned, about 11 minutes. The edges will be slightly set but the centre should still be soft.

Set on trays for five minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool before storing in a tin.

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Food, Recipes

Lemon drizzle cake

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This lasted about three minutes at morning teatime…

For the cake

180ml vegetable oil
2 eggs
1 tablespoon lemon zest
2 tablespoons lemon juice
280g Greek yogurt
385g caster sugar
300g self-raising flour

For the lemon drizzle

120g granulated sugar
60ml lemon juice

Preheat your oven to 180C. In a bowl mix the oil, eggs, lemon zest and juice, yogurt and sugar, and whisk to combine. Sift in the flour and stir until smooth.

Pour the mixture into a well-greased 24cm fluted ring tin and bake for 35 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. While the cake is still hot remove from the tin and place on a plate.

To make the lemon drizzle, gently stir together the sugar and lemon juice. Spoon it over the warm cake and leave to set.

Addendum

I made two of these: one in a fluted silicon tin; the other in a 30cm loaf tin. The silicon just peels off, making the cake far easier to turn out while it’s still warm. Plus the combo of pattern and added height made it look more impressive.

If you’re using a loaf tin, your cake will take at least 10 minutes longer to bake (you may also need to turn down the oven towards the end of the cooking time, so the top doesn’t get too dark – alternatively, cover it with a sheet of greaseproof).

Stupidly, I didn’t line the loaf tin with baking paper. The vigorous thumping didn’t help, either…

However, the topping was better. I used normal white sugar rather than castor sugar, so it cracked and set rather than melted. This was definitely prettier, crunchier and yummier.

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Food, Recipes

Afternoon delight

“Cheesecake should be the most mellow mouthful of creamy sweetness that ever stuck your tongue to the roof of your mouth. Lusciously thick yet feathery light, with a hint of vanilla and a vague rumour of citrus, just enough to set your tastebuds wondering.” Terry Durack.

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cheesecake
1 250g tub cream cheese (full fat!)
1 cup double cream
1 cup sour cream
3/4 cup caster sugar
4 eggs
juice and zest of 1 lime

 

First prepare the pan. I use a 7″ springform tin – it’s easier to unmould that way. Butter it thoroughly then wrap foil tightly around the outside of the tin to prevent the batter seeping out on to the bottom of the oven.

 

I don’t think a crust is necessary. Often, it’s all you end up tasting, rather than allowing your fork to cut swathes through tender, unctuous, creamy cake. If you want to give a bit more definition to the finished cheesecake, add a coating of sponge or biscuit crumbs or very finely chopped nuts to the tin after greasing it. Using half a cup of crumbs, shake them gently, turning the pan to get an even coating.

 

In an electric mixer or food processor, beat the cream cheese until it is soft and creamy; blend in cream and sour cream; beat in sugar bit by bit; then the eggs, one by one, followed by the lime juice and zest. Finally, scrape the batter into the pan and rotate it in several quarter turns to settle the mixture and release any air bubbles.

 

Bake in a pre-heated 150C oven for 1 hour or until the cheesecake is just set. Check it by giving the tin a slight shake – the cake should still have a faint quiver in the centre. It will continue to cook after you take it from the oven, so don’t let it over-bake. Cheesecakes bake best at lower temperatures and for longer times, rather than vice versa. If it seems to have risen alarmingly during cooking, don’t worry – it will sink, but should do so uniformly, settling down evenly as it cools.

 

Remove it to a wire rack and let it rest for an hour before releasing the springform sides (the cake itself will indicate its readiness by starting to pull away). Then put it in the fridge to chill a few more hours before serving.

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Food, Recipes

Let them eat cake

When the going gets tough, the tough start cooking. At least I do. There’s nothing quite so calming as chopping and stirring. And if the world feels really out of control, I bake.

It’s alchemy of the best kind. Baking uses simple, relatively inexpensive ingredients: butter, eggs, sugar, flour; there’s no need for shaved truffles here. The cooking process is transformative, and the result always more than the sum of its parts.

It charms me, too, to be producing food my grandmothers would have cooked, from ingredients equally familiar to them – and to their grandmothers before them. Baking makes me feel connected to this long line of women.

Plus, giving cakes to other people brings them pleasure too. It’s a win-win situation.

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Jaffa cake: This is Nigella’s store-cupboard chocolate-orange cake, from How to be a Domestic Goddess. It’s plain but dense and aromatic and, I think, really rather wonderful. It’s a cinch to make; there’s not even any creaming required, so no need for beaters or any other special equipment. Just stir it altogether and bung it in the oven.

125g butter
100g dark chocolate, broken into pieces
300g fine-cut marmalade
150g caster sugar
2 large eggs, beaten
150g self-raising flour

Melt the butter in a pan over a low heat, turn off the flame and add the chocolate. Once that’s melted too, stir in the marmalade, sugar and eggs, then beat in the flour, bit by bit.
Spoon into a greased 20cm springform pan and bake for 50 mins at 180C. Leave to cool a little in the tin before turning it out onto a wire rack.

A few weeks ago I made a fruitcake for a couple of friends who were getting hitched. It had to travel to Amsterdam in my hand luggage so couldn’t be too weighty. That ruled out my usual simnel cake recipe, but I did quite fancy the idea of marzipan, so… Nigella to the rescue again.

The only trouble with giving cakes away as presents is you don’t always get to try them. This one smelled so divine while it was cooking though, curiosity got the better of me, and I made another upon my return. Now I can confirm it’s a sticky, rum-sozzled treat.

I wrapped it in baking parchment and stowed it away in a tin for a week before cutting into it. Once I did, it didn’t last long. It was the perfect accompaniment to my current read: Hilary Mantel’s novel Wolf Hall. There’s something about the Tudors that makes you (well, me) want to tuck into almonds and dried fruit. I’m not sure whether it was the cake or the writing that I found so beguiling, but I have to confess to falling head over heels for Thomas Cromwell.

marzipan fruit cake

150g sultanas
100g natural-coloured glace cherries, halved
150g dried pears, chopped
100ml rum
250g marzipan
50g ground almonds
zest of 1 lemon
175g plain flour
100g castor sugar
100g butter
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon orange-flower water

The night before, mix the dried fruit in a bowl and cover with the rum. Dice the marzipan and put in the freezer. Leave both overnight.

When you come to make the cake the next day, preheat the oven to 140C and grease and line a 20cm deep tin.
Beat together the almonds, lemon zest, flour, sugar, butter and eggs. Add the drained fruit, orange-flower water and the frozen marzipan.

Put the cake mix into the tin, levelling the surface and making a slight indent in the middle to get an even surface when cooked. Bake for 2-2.5hrs or until a cake tester comes out clean.

Cool in the tin before rewrapping in parchment and foil to store for about a week. Feed with more rum before wrapping (puncture the top of the cake a few times and slowly dribble a few spoons of rum over).

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