Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Baking Sunday: Over the Top Passionfruit Sponge

This is a beauty of a cake and is best made for a special occasion or when you really want to impress folk. It's a mahoosive three layers of sponge with a cream, full of tangy passionfruit and lemon curd filling. It also has whipped cream, strawberries and is topped with passionfruit butter icing dripping over the sides. It is ridiculous and magnificent and surprisingly easy to make.

The sponge layers are incredibly light and airy and this is mainly due to the eggs being whisked for a ridiculous amount of time. I would really recommend using a stand mixer to make this as the eggs need to be beaten for at least 25 minutes. It is worth the effort though - the sponges don't sink and are feathery soft. The time used to whisk the sponge layers can be used making or arranging the other components and so the cake is really relatively quick to put together.

Putting the cake together can be as simple or as fancy as you like. The sauces can be made in advance but store-bought substitutions can easily be used to save time. I think it's worth piping the whipped cream around the edge of the cake as it adds to the cake's prettiness with the strawberry halves peeking out inbetween rosettes. If you don't have the time or inclination though, the cream could also just be spread out onto the edges of the sponge and dripping down along with the passionfruit sauce and sliced strawberries would look equally luxurious.

Because the sponge is fat-free, the cake doesn't keep especially well nor does it freeze as well as some other cakes but it can be frozen for up to two weeks. And if that's not an excuse to finish up that final piece, I don't know what is!

Note: The recipe requires cup measurements. As it's an Australian publication, there's no variation between UK cup sizes.

Sponge Layer cake
6 eggs
1 cup caster sugar
½ cup plain flour
½ cup self-raising flour
¼ cup cornfour
¼ cup custard powder
1. Preheat oven to 170 C. Lightly grease three 20 cm round layer cake tins.
2. Beat the eggs for 1 minute using an electric mixer on medium speed. Beat for a further 15 minutes on high speed.
3. Gradually add the sugar, beating after each addition until dissolved. Once you have added all the sugar, beat for a further 10 minutes, until light and fluffy.
4. Combine flours and custard powder by sifting together three times. Using a slotted metal spoon, fold the flour mixture into the egg mixture until just combined.
5. Divide the mixture evenly between the three tins. Bake for 20 minutes, or until the sponges have come away from the sides of the tins.
6. Remove from the tins immediately and cool on a wire rack or 30 minutes before filling.

2 cups whipped cream
½ cup lemon curd filling (recipe below or bought lemon curd)
¼ cup passionfruit sauce (recipe below or equivalent bought thick passionfruit sauce)
1 quantity passionfruit icing (recipe below)
Fresh strawberries, halved
Cachous, fresh berries or flowers to decorate
Piping bag and star tip #11
1. Place one of the sponges onto your serving dish. Place half of the whipped cream into a piping bag fitted with star tip attached and pipe large cream rosettes around the outside top of the sponge. Pour half of the lemon curd on top of the sponge and spread over with a small offset palette knife. Pipe some more cream rosettes over the lemon curd to create a flat layer for the next layer to sit on. Using a tablespoon, drizzle some Passionfruit Sauce over the rosettes. Place half of the strawberries, flat-side down, in between the piped rosettes around the outside edge of the sponge.
2. Place a second sponge layer on top and repeat this process with the rest of the lemon curd, cream, Passionfruit Sauce and strawberries.
3. Using a large offset palette knife, spread the passionfruit icing over the top of the third sponge layer, allowing some of the icing to dribble over the sides. Sprinkle with gold cachous. Place this final layer on top of the previous two.
4. Top the cake with fresh berries or flowers to decorate.

Passionfruit Sauce

Ingredients: (Note: odd measurements as it is halving a recipe)
1/3 cup passionfruit pulp (about 2 large passionfruit)
1/8 cup orange juice
3/4 tablespoon of caster sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons cornflour
1 tablespoon water
1. Combine the passionfruit pulp, orange juice and sugar in a heavy-based saucepan over a medium heat.
2. In a small cup combine the cornflour and water and stir until smooth. Add to the saucepan and stir continuously with a flat-bottomed wooden spoon until thick and bubbly and allow to cool before using.

Passionfruit Icing
50g softened butter
1/2 cup fresh passionfruit pulp (about 4 large passionfruit)
4 cups icing sugar
1. Combine the butter, passionfruit and half of the sifted icing sugar in a bowl. Stir until smooth.
2. Gradually add remaining icing sugar and combine until smooth and of spreadable consistency.

Monday, 20 June 2011

My Home Supper club: Sunday Roast

There seems to be a growing presence of Edinburgh foodies online - new blogs springing up, plenty of social networking about the latest events and places to try, so it's no surprise I first found out about My Home Supper, Edinburgh's newest supperclub, via Twitter.  After hearing some good reports, I was looking forward to visiting and was particularly pleased to book a Sunday roast dinner, one of my favourite meals.  My Home Supper is run by Aoife and her husband Damian and they are warm and welcoming hosts who cook and serve meals in their beautiful home.  As we arrive we're greeted with a glass of elderflower fizz and talk away to them as we settle into our seats and wait for the other guests to arrive.  It's a smaller table of eight for today's meal, a size which works well for a good chat and happily everyone gets on well.  The table is made up with fresh flowers and beautiful cutlery and there is a lovely relaxed atmosphere without a hint of stuffiness which is ideal for a Sunday afternoon.  

Onto the food! Aoife emailed the guests the menu in advance and I am eager to tuck in.  Luckily I don't have to wait long and after everyone is seated and introductions are made, the first course soon arrives - potted shrimp and walnut crostini. The potted shrimp is served in a wee pot with a lemon wedge which cuts right through the buttery dish and enhances the great flavour of the brown shrimp. The toasted walnut crostini rounds were a perfect light accompaniment to spread the shrimp and butter onto.

Next up was the roast lamb, served with potato gratin dauphinoise and honey glazed carrots.  The lamb was a hefty shoulder joint and Aoife called upon us guests to carve up.  Gareth manfully volunteered and cut a few slices (action shot below) before Aoife took it to another table to get stuck in and carve up for us.  Two large plates of gratin dauphinoise and bowls of carrots were placed at both sides of the table and guests could help themselves.  It was a really nice way to serve up and in keeping with their friendly relaxed style.  Not only is it a great way to get guests chatting about food, us greedy folk can decide if and when (ha, I said if!) we want seconds.

The slow roasted lamb was cooked to just off the pink which was the ideal compromise between those who like their meat rarer and those who prefer it well done. It was perfectly cooked to my liking anyway and the meat was moist, succulent and beautifully seasoned, and served with gravy. The gratin dauphinoise was topped with parmesan and had the crispy-at-the-sides-creamy-in-the-middle combination that makes a great dauphinoise dish.  It was rich and tasty and utterly more-ish. 

A light dessert was very much appreciated after the substantial main course and the elderflower fool, poached gooseberries and shortbread biscuits was spot on. The flavours and textures of the semi-sweet fool sat on top of the soft tangy gooseberries complemented each other well.  I loved the use of seasonal fresh produce (right now is the perfect time to use elderflower) and it really gave the menu a touch of summer.  The thought that clearly went into the menu elevated the meal from a good roast dinner to a real dining experience.  

Sadly, this was to be the last of My Home Supper club's Sunday roast dinners, apparently folk are not as keen to go to daytime events. Aoife wrote an interesting blog post on why this might be and of course I can understand why they are ending for now, but nevertheless it's a real shame.  One of the lovely things about supperclubs is meeting people who you may not have anything in common with but a love of good food and I completely agree that it's a good thing for people to step outside their boundaries once in a while.  I really enjoyed meeting other people's parents there and I'd have loved the opportunity to bring my dad along - he loves yakking to pretty much everyone and I know he would have had a great time (and loved the food!).  

But anyway, My Home Supper club have some more evening events running and two very special summer events - a molecular spectacular and an Indian vegetarian summer feast.  It's fantastic to see a bit of collaboration and experimentation and I'd recommend booking soon as events this special in Edinburgh don't happen often enough.

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Koyama Japanese Restaurant

One of the many things I love about Edinburgh is its sense of identity. This manifests itself in many ways and if you're a foodie, you are spoilt for choice in terms of local produce available and the variety of shops, cafes and restaurants which are all locally owned. Of course there are concessions to the trappings of the homogenisation of the high street and there are a number of Starbucks, Pret A Manger, et al in town but I'm proud to say that these don't clog up the streets of Edinburgh like they have in other places. So it is with a small touch of sadness that I recently read that super noodle chain Wagamamas will be opening their first store in Edinburgh on Lothian Road. The truth is, I actually like Wagamamas and would normally have welcomed the news, right up until last weekend. Which is when I visited Koyama Restaurant, a newly opened Japanese restaurant which heavily features sushi and noodles on their menu. Of course the city can sustain the opening of one little Wagamamas alongside other similar and nearby restaurants, however as I ate my meal at Koyama (which was not even a quarter full on Saturday lunchtime) my heart went out to the charming and eager staff whose business could potentially be taken away by the super chain. So don't get me wrong, I am not against superchains opening up in Edinburgh but for me it's the diverse and distinctive local restaurants and cafes that make the city special and I know I'll keep going back and want to support them.

I'll get off my soapbox now and onto the food! Koyama is located near the Meadows on Forrest Road and is a light, cheerful space with colourful touches such as bright blue painted tables. The staff were wonderfully friendly, attentive and eager to help with the menu - they have just opened after all. Their menu has an extensive sushi selection with some interesting sounding choices. Not all of these had descriptions so it may well be wise to seek advice before ordering (I'm still not sure what a white golden roll is). There are some reasonably priced sushi sets available too, ranging from a 16 piece maki set costing £11.95, up to £24.95 for a 21 piece maki, nigiri and sashimi set.  My dining companion had some beautifully presented salmon nigiri as a starter, which cost £3 for 2 large pieces, and was proclaimed "very fresh and very good."

Noodles are their other specialty with a large range of wok-fried and soup based options, and a choice of udon, ramen and soba noodles. My dining companion had chicken katsu yakisoba (£9.90). There was a large piece of tender chicken with a crispy topping and a generous drizzle of katsu sauce on top of tasty noodles and vegetables.

I decided to have the the sushi bento box, comprising of 3 salmon and tuna maki rolls, teriyaki chicken, salad, rice and miso soup. for £12.50. The bento arrived in a traditional black lacquered box which the waitress unveiled at the table. It was quite possibly the largest bento I've had - the maki rolls were fat and juicy, a proper size rather than a 'bento' portion. The teriyaki chicken was delicious and moist - their own sticky sweet teriyaki sauce had a great flavour and I would love to try their hot-plate teriyaki on my next visit. Bento boxes are a great choice for someone who wants a bit of variety and this was a perfectly balanced selection.

There are some other favourites available too - tempura (from £4.50), yakimono (chargrilled skewers, from £4), rice sets and gyoza (£5.50). There's such a great range on the menu, and I'm already planning what to have on my next visit. Koyama have an opening deal of 10% off food running through June so pay them a visit if you'd like to support local business and want try some delicious Japanese food.

20 Forrest Road
Tel: 0131 225 6555
Web: http://www.koyoma.co.uk/

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Baking Sunday: Courgette, walnut and cinnamon cake

I have loved the Hummingbird Bakery for many years now and their first cookbook is a favourite of mine.  Their cupcake recipes are great but it's their recipes for nutty apple loaf, lemon poppy seed cake, raspberry cheesecake brownies and chocolate fridge bars which make it a baking essential.  Their cupcake images became a little ubiquitous - appearing on all kinds of stationery, mini cookbooks and greeting cards so I was really pleased to see that they've followed up their first cookbook with the inventive and beautifully photographed Cake Days.  This book has a larger range and features recipes divided into sections of seasons and events: Easter, Halloween, Christmas, Valentine's, Summer afternoon tea, spring weekend breaks and rainy day treats.  Each section has its own mix of sweet and savoury recipes rather than grouping recipes together by type. I actually quite like this as it's enjoyable to browse and find inspiration for certain events and it does has a comprehensive index if you're looking for something specific. There is also a section at the back with baking and frosting tips which is worthwhile reading even for the more experienced baker.  

The range of treats is more creative in this book: chocolate Guinness cake, pistachio loaf, corn muffins, spiced apple cake with brown sugar frosting, strawberry and cream cheesecake - and plenty more.  I decided to make the unusual sounding courgette, walnut and cinnamon cake. Like most of their cakes, this makes three layers and as I didn't require such a large cake, I halved the recipe and just added this to one 8 inch tin (with no need to adjust the baking time).  The recipe reminded me of carrot cake with the spices that it uses and the light brown sugar.  I wanted to enhance the brown sugar flavour and added some caramel syrup instead of vanilla essence to the mix and also added some to the frosting.  The cake, whilst quite homely looking, was very moist without a hint of courgette but a deep caramel flavour which complemented the spices deliciously.  This is a perfect cake to have with a cuppa and I will definitely make it again.

Courgette, Walnut and Cinnamon Layer Cake
Serves 10-12
Requires three 20cm (8inch) loose bottomed sandwich tins

For the sponge:
3 large eggs
300ml sunflower oil
300g soft light brown sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla essence (Note: I substituted this for caramel syrup)
300g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
300g peeled and grate courgettes
100g chopped walnuts 
(plus 10-12 extra walnut halves for decoration if desired)

For the frosting:
240g unsalted butter, softened
1.5 tsp ground cinnamon, plus extra for dusting
750g icing sugar
75g plain greek yoghurt
Note: Instead of greek yoghurt, I used a tablespoon of creme fraiche. I also added a teaspoon of caramel syrup. As this was less than the 75g yoghurt, I was able to use a far less amount of icing sugar.

1. Preheat the oven to 170 degrees Celcius, and line the bases of the sandwich tins with baking paper.
2. Using a hand-held electric whisk or a free-standing electric mixer with the paddle attachment, mix together the eggs, sunflower oil, sugar and vanilla essence until they are all combined.
3. Sift together the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and the ground spices. With the mixer or electric whisk running on a low speed, add these to the eggs, sugar and oil in two batches, beating well after each addition until all the ingredients are incorporated. Lastly, add the courgettes and chopped walnuts to the batter, mixing them in thoroughly.
4. Divide the cake batter evenly between the prepared cake tins and bake for 35-40 minutes or until golden on the top and springy to the touch. Allow the cakes to cool in the tins for a few minutes before carefully turning them out on to a wire rack to cool completely.
5. While the cakes are cooling, make the frosting. Mix together the butter, cinnamon and icing sugar using the electric whisk or freestanding mixer with the paddle attachment. Keep mixing until the butter is fully incorporated and the mixture is sandy in consistency. 
6. Add the yoghurt and mix on a low speed until the ingredients are combined, then increase the speed and beat until the frosting is light and fluffy.
7. Once the cake layers have fully cooled, place the first layer of sponge on a plate or cake card and top with 3-4 tablespoons of the frosting, smoothing it using a palette knife and adding a little more if needed. Sandwich the second layer of cake on top and add another 3-4 tablespoons of the frosting, then add the final layer and use the remaining frosting to cover the top and sides of the cake.
8. To finish, you can make a swirled pattern in the frosting using the tip of your palette knife. Dust with a little ground cinnamon and decorate with walnut halves, caramelised, if you wish.