Cookies and Pate

Cookies and Pate
Once again I managed to turn a holiday into an excuse to spend 12 hours a day in the kitchen, this time with a rather perfect background of Jazz recording next door, intoxicating blue sky and for that matter intoxicating amounts of wine.

 Although I particularly enjoyed the saxophone production line assisting me when making 80 canapés for the concert, the most successful recipes turned out to be duck liver pate (only in france) and chocolate chip cookies of which I couldn’t make enough…
Disclaimer: Unfortunately I had no scales or measuring jugs etc so I did mot of the amounts by sight… but I’ve written roughly the right amounts

Cookies
These cookies may not look much like cookies, more like misshapen slabs but I have testimonials that the are pretty damn good.

Makes roughly 30-40
500g butter
500g caster sugar
1tbsp vanilla extract
4 eggs
500-600g flour (until you have the right consistency)
pinch of salt
200g chocolate chips

1. Cream the butter and sugar together till light and fluffy.
2. Beat in the eggs one at a time with the vanilla extract, you will need to beat pretty hard to combine.
3. Add the flour a bit at a time with the salt and mix hard. You want to have the consistency of a stiff cake mix, not quite as solid as your average biscuit dough.
4. Finally stir through the chocolate chips.
5. Scoop ice cream size balls of the cookie dough onto a greaseproof paper lined tray and bake in the oven for 12-15mins at 180oC until the dough has spread out and the cookies are golden brown, just starting to crisp up on the edges, you may have to separate the cookies. Leave to cool and harden up, serve.

Pate
I’m not sure yet whether this pate will work out of france because it is so very french, mostly duck livers and garlic… I also realise the prospect of eating duck liver might freak some people out so there is an equally rich mushroom pate recipe below which pretty much looks the same too. Usually you would use brandy or port for this but all I had was wine… Likewise for the really daring feel free to set the alcohol in the pan on fire (flambé) I was just a bit scared of burning down someone else’s house.

Makes A lot.
900g duck livers
400g butter
pepper and salt
thyme
6 shallots
10 garlic cloves
200ml white wine
200ml red wine

1. Heat 200g of butter in a pan and add the shallots, garlic, pepper and lots of salt. Sweat for 5-8mins or until soft. Add the thyme.
2. Add the duck livers and brown all over, add the alcohol and bubble it off as quickly as possible (here is where the flambé comes in)
– you may want to do this in batches depending on your pan.
3. Blitz the livers mix and the rest of the butter in a food processor till smooth, pour into a dish and leave in the fridge to set.

Mushroom Pate

Makes a lot
150g butter
4 shallots
2 leeks

12 cloves garlic
700g basic white mushrooms (mix this up a bit and add different mushrooms for different flavour)
salt and pepper
tarragon
200g creme fraiche

1. Sweat the shallots, leeks and garlic in a pan with the butter, salt and pepper until soft. Add the tarragon and mushrooms and bubble until most of the liquid from the mushrooms has gone.
2. Blitz in a food processor with the creme fraiche, then pour into a dish and leave in the fridge to set.

Beer Cake: The Yorkshireman

Beer Cake: The Yorkshireman

The Yorkshireman’s birthday approaches. I am invited to a lavish champagne (okay prosecco) drinks reception followed by a meal at Brown’s. So what to give him….. When I have time (unfortunately this is not the case for all of my friend’s birthdays so I apologise – if any of my friends are reading this I promise you, your time will come soon – ) I like to make a cake and/or chocolates. The Yorkshireman is another one of my keen organist friends but since I have already made the organ cake, I turned to the Yorkshireman’s other love, Beer. I made a sheet plain sponge, first time using the brand new bright red kitchen aid!


4 Large Eggs
225g sugar
225g butter
1 Tbsp Vanilla Extract
225g self raising flour
pinch of Salt 
milk to loosen

Beat the butter and sugar till fluffy, add vanilla and eggs. Add flour and salt (TOP TIP: beat on a slow setting first unless you want flour all over your work surface). Add milk until the mixture is still thick but is pale and light. Bake at 180oC for 30mins or until golden on top and cooked through (use a skewer, if it comes out clean.

before carving the sides to resemble a beer glass.  Then I made some salted caramel icing

200g sugar
2tbsp water
60ml cream
250g butter
300g icing sugar
Vanilla extract
2tsp sea salt (proper flakes)

Let sugar and water dissolve over a medium heat and  DO NOT STIR. Leave till it turns to a dark amber and is beginning to smoke, you can swirl it but DO NOT STIR. Take off the heat, leave for 30secs then add the cream and stir. Leave to cool till roughly room temp. Meanwhile cream the butter, vanilla and salt. Add the icing sugar (see flour tip) then half the cooled salted caramel, if too thick add water, refrigerate till needed. 

Then I smothered the cake with the remaining salted caramel before covering the whole thing in the icing. Finally I made some marshmallow frosting

1 egg white
100g sugar or 150g icing sugar

Beat the egg white till stiff peaks form. Slowly add the sugar and continue beating till stiff peaks form again and the mixture is thick enough to pipe, put in a piping bag.

Then I piped the icing on top to make the head. The final decoration was melted milk chocolate put in a piping bag which I piped on to try and emphasise the point…. Next time I promise it will be guiness made with Guinness chocolate cake






Fudge salted caramel brownies (ie orgasm in a tin)

Fudge salted caramel brownies (ie orgasm in a tin)

So I am writing this from my iPhone because my computer didn’t survive the weekend that needs 3 blog posts to replicate. I am strongly in need of an early night, liver detox and green veg but it was definitely worth it. This first post is solely for the cast of the magic flute many of whom have asked for the recipe and how I make them so gooey despite the fact they had to sort of be eaten with a spoon out of the tin ( although I strongly recommend anyone not in the magic flute to try making these too) I for one credit them with helping me get through the get out which lasted till 2.30am, not helped by my apparent hangover from lunch (see the next blog post on midsummer house). I also should admit that the success of these brownies wasn’t necessarily down to my skill at cooking, but partly due to the fact I over-bought in terms of chocolate and under-bought in terms of eggs, so the result was a fudgy gooiness which nevertheless proved pretty popular amongst the singers (although of course only after the show – they would never eat chocolate before singing……maybe) also I apologise there is no picture of these…they were eaten before I remembered to take one, it’s alright though because they were more tasty than pretty anyway

300g caster sugar
250ml double cream
2tsp salt (sea salt)
Knob of butter
600g dark chocolate (sainsburys basics is fine)
350g butter
6 eggs
300g caster sugar
Vanilla extract
1tsp salt
250g flour

1. Melt the sugar over a medium heat without stirring till it turns an amber colour WATCH it is easy to burn. Take off the heat and add the cream and salt mixing vigourously then stir in the butter, leave to come to room temperature.
2. Meanwhile melt the butter and chocolate till smooth, add the salt and leave to cool to room temp
3. Beat in the eggs one by one, then the sugar, add a tsp of vanilla then stir in the flour
4. Pour half into a lined rectangular deep tin. Top with caramel and then the remaining brownie mix
5. Bake in the oven at 180oC for 25-30mins
6. Meanwhile wash up, it will take a while

Organ lessons

Organ lessons

My friend (who happens to be an organist) turned 21 yesterday. His sole wish was to have champagne and smoked salmon on his birthday (you can probably see why we are friends). So of course I selflessly obliged him in drinking his champagne and going for both lunch and dinner with him (loch fyne and cote since you ask) and had a wonderful evening. But what do you give the foodie organist ? an organ cake of course.
Using the time in my latest Early music lecture efficiently I planned a cake with a little help from another organist for authenticity. I figured a proper large pipe organ was a little ambitious so went with a chamber organ. One thing I am struggling with at uni is the lack of food processor (I know, middle class problems) so my chocolate cake ended up with small chunks of chocolates rather than the smooth texture I was expecting but that was a surprisingly tasty addition which I could easily pass of as an intentional clever twist. After making my two square shaped chocolate cakes I cut one in equal halves, and one with a slightly small half so that there was a ledge at the bottom for the seat. Then I levelled each one so that they had flat tops and square edges and sandwiched the layers together with strawberry jam.

After that I covered the whole cake in strawberry jam which stops the icing from getting all crumby when you spread it over and also gives a nice tang to the cake (I didn’t necessarily realise this would happen but on tasting it was pretty good). Finally I covered the whole cake in buttercream chocolate fudge icing, added a Caramac? (me neither) as a music stand, a Twix as the seat, iced a keyboard and pipes on the back and it sort of looked like an organ. Although it’s a good thing my artwork gets eaten almost immediately

 

Il Tricolore: Red, White and Green

Another one of my favourite courses of the fat duck menu was one of the few seasonally changing ones. Heston has developed an amazing idea for the presentation of this course. A white chocolate picnic blanket with a check transfer which just before serving is gently melted with a blow torch before serving and it looks so delicious. Not only this but it tastes delicious, I’ve already posted about olive oil shortbread which on its own is a really surprisingly good (I would say better than butter….tentatively) but combining it with the strawberry flavours and white chocolate it is even better. Here is my version of the dessert (warning it is addictive and very very sweet) edible flowers are not required for the home version.
Heston’s


Il Tricolore: Red, White and Green


 Ingredients (serves 2)
Freeze Dried Strawberries
400g strawberries
Olive Oil Ganache
150g white chocolate
100ml cream
100ml olive oil
Olive Oil Shortbread
50g butter
50g sugar
100g flour
50g ground almonds
vanilla extract
salt
½ egg yolk
1/2tsp baking powder
50ml olive oil
black pepper
Strawberry Syrup
50g sugar
1tbsp balsamic vinegar
Macerated Strawberries
2tsp Cardomon pods
1tbsp sugar
coriander seeds
To serve
50g shelled pistachios, chopped
micro herbs


1.     For the Ganache, line a 18cm/18cm square tin on the base. Heat the cream on a medium heat, to the cusp of boiling. Chop the chocolate into very fine pieces, mix the cream and oil together and pour over the chocolate, leave for 1 min then combine. Pourinto the tin and place in the freezer for 1-2hours till solid.
2.     For the shortbread, preheat the oven 150oC. Cream the butter and sugar together. Then add the vanilla, salt, flour, almonds, oil, baking powder, egg yolk and a pinch of black pepper. Mix to form a soft dough, adding more oil or more flour depending on the consistency. Line a baking tray wit baking parchment and place the dough on top, cover with a layer of clingfilm and roll the dough out, with the rolling pin above the cling film to approx. 6mm thick.  Bake in the oven for 15mins until hard and golden brown at the edges, place in the fridge.
3.     For the freeze dried strawberries, thinly slice 5 strawberries, removing the husks for a flat edge. Place in a preheated oven at 100oC and leave for 30-40mins.
4.     For the syrup, puree 6 strawberries from the 400g and combine with the balsamic and sugar over a high heat will the mixture reduces and becomes syrupy, drain if possible and pour into a sauce bottle, refrigerate.
5.     For the Macerated strawberries, shortly before serving, cut 5 strawberries in half lengthways, removing the husks so they can stand on a flat base. Crush the cardamom pods and sprinkle over the strawberries with the sugar and leave to macerate for 5mins. Meanwhile crush the pistachios and turn the ganache onto the shortbread. Cut the shortbread and ganache with a short knife into rectangular pieces.
6.     To serve, squeeze a line of strawberry syrup onto the centre of the plate to stick the shortbread. Place the shortbread on top. Lay three freeze dried strawberry pieces on top and sprinkle over the crushed pistachios, pressing into the ganache and place a spoonful of pistachios in the top LH corner just above the shortbread. On the top RH corner above the shortbread position 3 macerated strawberry halves curling around the biscuit and different angles. Squeeze a line of strawberry syrup from the bottom strawberry to the edge of the plate downwards. Position 2 more strawberries along this line. Place a coriander seed on the tip of each strawberry and garnish with microherbs.

Birthday Brownies

Birthday Brownies

My birthday this year was all about food (you are only 21 once). Eggs Royale, Pain au Raisin and a surprise slice of strawberries and cream gateaux (soo bad for you) with a candle in the top is quite a good way to start the day. (Thank you U8,U4, U7 and the soprano) I have to say Patisserie Valerie was surprising amazing – I wasn’t expecting a chain to come out so well but their patisserie (the pastry and cake) were the best I’d had outside of france, the poached eggs were lovely and runny, the hollondaise was nice and salty and the brioche was a surprise interesting addition to the eggs royal, if only i’d been able to fit in some macaroons…. http://www.patisserie-valerie.co.uk

This cake was absolutely amazing – the sponge was really light, the cream was also light (whipped and sweet and the nuts added crunch. The cream on top was possibly a bit much but the whole thing just floated away in the mouth, sugary creamy fluffiness.

Barely finished breakfast when I had to move into lunch. It’s surprisingly difficult to keep eating when you let yourself eat everything you want, it almost becomes an effort (I say almost). but when the comedy girl took me out for a champagne lunch at Harriet’s tea room I couldn’t refuse. Harriet’s was upmarket pub food. The sweet potato fries were lovely if a tad under seasoned, the salmon fishcakes were good if a little overcooked but peas were a little boring. It was tasty food, and my grandma would have loved it but the food wasn’t the most exciting I’ve tasted. Having said this the company was excellent (I mean the comedy girl not the other couples average age 70), the staff were amazing – they suggested champagne and brought out a candle in the lemon meringue pie we shared for dessert without asking! Plus the meringue pie was pretty tasty and the menu was affordable and the atmosphere was quiet enough to chat. I would take parents (or get them to take you) for champagne tea there sometime. http://harrietscafetearooms.co.uk/cambridge-city-centre-tearooms/

For the final cake of the day I had made myself exactly what I wanted Cheesecake Brownies. Pizza Express may seem like a basic restaurant for a massive foodie to go on their birthday but great service, free bottle of prosecco for the birthday girl and 25% off mains is a bit of an incentive. Plus I can confidently say the Calabrese pizza is the best pizza on the menu – there is a reason it is the most expensive. Spicy Calabrese sausage D.O.P, hot soft n’duja sausage, finely chopped red chillies, roquito peppers, red & yellow peppers, mozzarella, rocket, pesto, oregano, grana padano. I had panicked about these brownies because I had cooked them in S staircase which meant running back and forth as I failed to work out how to use the oven twice…. But turns out the combination of a classic Nigella brownie base with basic cheesecake topping is a good one

Cheesecake Brownies

Brownies
375 g soft unsalted butter
375 g best quality dark chocolate
6 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
500 g caster sugar
225 g plain flour
1 teaspoon salt

Cheesecake Topping
300g low fat cream cheese
150g sugar
1tbsp vanilla extract 
1 egg

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C.
2. Line your approximatley 33 x 23 x 5 1/2cm brownie pan with foil or baking paper.
3. Mix the cream cheese, sugar and vanilla extract till smooth, beat in an egg

4. Melt the butter and chocolate together in a large heavy based saucepan.
5. In a bowl beat the eggs with the sugar and vanilla.

6. Measure the flour into another bowl and add the salt.
7. When the chocolate mixture has melted, let it cool a bit before beating in the eggs and sugar mixture, and then the flour.
8. Beat to combine and then scrape out of the saucepan into the lined brownie pan.

9. Top with the cheesecake mix and using the base of a fork, swirl for a marble effect
10. Bake for about 25 minutes. (this can vary on the oven)
11. When its’s ready, the top should be dried to a paler brown speckle with white splattering  but the middle still dark and dense and gooey.
12. Keep checking the brownies as they cook; remember that they will continue to cook as they cool.\


They taste good warm from the oven or slightly cooled…. In fact they just taste very very good


The Accidental Brownies

The Accidental Brownies
            On the last day of Croatia I was in using up mode. I saw eggs, chocolate and what I thought was flour and immediately thought of brownies. (Plus I had been told off earlier that day by one of the boys for not providing enough between meal snacks – you would have thought with all that food….-) I also saw some mascarpone so decided to add them in too. I melted chocolate, a little salt and butter together in a pan. Meanwhile I whisked the eggs with sugar and added in vanilla and the mascarpone. I mixed this into the chocolate mix. At this point I realised that the flour was not actually flour, but cornflour. I debated throwing the whole mixture away but decided it was a waste of perfectly good ingredients. So instead I added the cornflour tentatively. I was so nervous that I only cooked the brownies for 15mins at 140oC before checking every 5mins to see if they were done. 10mins later they passed my test and I took them out and let them harden up.
            They were a surprise success, more morish even than Nigella’s brownies (the recipe I would usually swear by). They proved useful again when my sister was baking for a gluten intolerant friend; I had accidentally invented my own recipe for the perfect snack for her. 

The Great French Adventure

The Great French Adventure
Rose Wine, garlic and other stories
            This summer I went on yet another choir tour (well choir tour is a relative term, it was more a cookery holiday with the odd bit of singing). I don’t think you can ask for much more than the gorgeous weather of the south of France, great company and a massive kitchen completely at my disposal. Luckily the choir was one to a part so they were quite lenient when I would spend most rehearsals leaving mid song saying ‘just got to check on the cookies’. (I think the fact they got to eat the cookie dough may have helped a little bit) All in all it was a rather good set up, the four singers (plus 2 extra tag alongs) and our hosts, all welcome recipients of my experimentations (even if they often turned out not necessarily as planned). Plus a huge herb garden, which I’m sure any chef will tell you is one of the ultimate luxuries, to be able to go out and pick anything you feel like adding to the dish. On top of all this we were able to give a little back with a small number of concerts we managed to fit in around the swimming, eating and cooking.
            My mantra in France was garlic, butter and cream, from there you couldn’t go much wrong. I would spend most days getting up and dragging people to the boulongerie/patisserie for some of the best croissant I have ever tasted (well it was France), before getting started on a routine of cooking with intermittent rehearsals. Of course I always had willing helpers (especially on the washing up front which was a godsend), the soprano was particularly talented at chopping garlic, the bass successfully whipped about 10 egg whites before I found the electric whisk and the tenor had a moment of spiritual revelation over whipping cream.  (There was also the time I set them shelling pistachios – I was not popular..) Then in the evening (sometimes following a concert), we would sit down to an aperitif (usually rose wine a la region though thanks to my influence Campari later made an appearance) followed by a three-course meal. Of course I made some obvious choices, the pea pesto for instance, but I also got to have a go at gazpacho (a little heavy on the garlic, what wasn’t) and snails. My favourite dessert I made that week was lemon meringue pie, although I learnt a few things
1.     Let the lemon curd cool completely before pouring in the pastry cases
2.     Don’t forget about the pastry cases in the oven – they will burn
3.     Cook the lemon curd for longer than you think (mine was liquid)
4.     Sage makes quite a nice addition to the curd
Another big fail of the week was the last night beef. We had a concert so I was determined that I would slow cook the beef in red wine, however I had failed to take into account that the cut we had bought had very little fat on it so the beef came out of the oven old and tough, luckily the amount of herbs I had shoved in the pot meant it tasted good even if the texture was wrong – note to self fat=tender.
            Another not so much fail, but definite disaster moment was the fish. There were eleven of us eating so I had bought 3 large fillets of some unidentifiable white fish which after flouring and seasoning, I fried using a large flat pan on the stove. Unfortunately not only did the kitchen fill with smoke which made my turning down of a cigarette earlier in the evening seem pointless, but also I almost set myself on fire several times. Is it bad that my first thought at this point was not ‘I almost died’ but ‘what will they do without an alto’…..
            Two of the more exciting desserts were the rhubarb tarte tatin and the peach clafoutis. The tarte tatin was simple. I made a caramel using about 3tbsp sugar and a knob of butter, 1tbsp of honey, a split vanilla pod, large sprinkling of salt and some cinnamon and ginger. Then I placed raw rhubarb into the pan before covering the whole thing with a sheet of puff pastry. I cooked for about 15-25mins or until the top was brown at 140oC, then I let it cool. I served this with an orange and basil infused custard. Once you’ve made custard you realise how surprisingly easy it is. You can add any flavour by infusing it in the cream that you heat up (here orange peel, vanilla seeds and basil), then you need lots of egg yolks, sugar whisked up and the key when you combine these two mixtures is just to heat it over a very low heat and don’t stop stirring. It will feel like it takes forever and you will want to leave it, but don’t. If you need to go to the loo, turn it off, if you need to check on a cake, turn it off, but whatever you do don’t leave it unattended.

            The peach clafoutis was a new dessert I’d always seen but never made, it’s a sort of giant, thick baked pancake. The key here is not to undercook it, add vanilla extract and lots of sugar on top to brulee the top. To make the pancake mix, you heat 125ml cream, 125ml milk in a pan with vanilla extract/ any flavours you would like in it (here I added a little bay leaf). Beat 4 eggs and 170g sugar together, then fold in 3 tbsp flour. Add the cooled milk/cream mix and whisk together. Halve peaches and place facing up in a dish (they add a lovely sourness within the sweet batter). Pour over the batter and dot butter over the top. Cook for 20mins at 180oC, take out of the oven and sprinkle over sugar, put in the oven for a further 10mins till the top has browned slightly. The custard I served with this was grand marnier flavour. For this I added grand marnier at the final stage, when I was slowly cooking the final product so that all the alcohol didn’t evaporate. Unfortunately at 9 in the morning when I decided to make this some of the alcohol did come off, I don’t advise starting the day steaming grand marnier, especially if you then have wine with lunch….. We also found with this custard that the grand marnier appeared to strengthen with age, when we had the leftovers the next day for lunch it was a lot more alcoholic than it had seemed the night before….
            By the end of the night, we were usually singing loudly (it was a good thing we could all actually sing) a wide variety of pieces. We managed to go from Rule Britannia in four part harmony, to a memorable rendition of you’re the one that I want from Grease complete with dancing, to Bruckner motets. We did ask some of the locals on the final night if our singing had disturbed at 1 in the morning, luckily the immediate neighbours assured us that they had enjoyed it and it was an advertisement for our concert rather than a deterrent. Luckily plying them with red onion and goats cheese tart was another factor in appeasing the neighbours.
            If anything can make a kitchen smell amazing, it is slow cooking caramelised onions. All you have to do is finely slice red onions and put in a pan with garlic, rosemary, thyme, salt, pepper, vinegar, butter and sugar and cook over a low heat, stirring occasionally till you get a lovely concoction of sweet smelling, sticky onions. Use this to top a sheet of puff pastry and add slices of goats cheese and you have heaven on earth. The French get a lot right.
            In fact other things the French clearly got right as seen from this holiday choir tour.
1.     Garlic (it basically makes you feel better however much you’ve eaten, dunk, sung)
2.     Croissant
3.     Lunch should take at least 2 hours, dinner 4
4.     Even the most basic ingredients in supermarkets should be nice
5.     Butter and Cream make everything better
6.     Baguettes really do make the best sort of bread
7.     Homemade pate is divine, flavours don’t have to be traditional and it doesn’t need to look pretty (e.g fig, chestnut, pepper..)
8.     Wine co-operatives are such a good idea (where anyone who earns a vineyard, donates their grapes to one co-operative, who make the wine and the profit is split. The community then fill up jerry cans from petrol pumps and it is cheaper, nicer and better for everyone)
9.     A little wine at every meal is so much better than England’s binge drinking society
10. If it’s not in season you will find it had to get hold of, even in a supermarket
11. Champagne and macaroons are the answer to everything

Ferraro Rocher Cupcakes

I admit that I do not post enough sweet recipes to this blog despite having an intensely sweet tooth (I would always pick pudding over starter). I love making desserts – desserts is my favourite part of the meal because they give you the scope to be the most creative. You can mix sweet and savoury, you can shape almost anything (see the cake section), there are never constraints what you have to put on the plate and most of all it can have chocolate in it. Desserts are works of art and taste bloody good – I’m afraid this is why I believe food is a much higher form of art than a one off effort on a painting in the Tate modern. Plus I am pretty sure someone will soon come out with proven scientific research that baking is the most effective form of stress release and antidepressant.  So here is a decadent cake for a chocolate lover, not only is it beautiful but it combines probably every good thing god created (minus peanut butter and champagne) plus it has gold leaf on it, who wouldn’t eat anything with gold leaf on it?

Ferraro Rocher
Vanilla Cupcakes, Filled with hazelnut cream, a layer of chocolate, boiled milk nutella frosting with hazelnut pieces, drizzled with white and milk chocolate, sprinkled with wafer and topped with gold leaf.
For the Cupcakes
225 grams granulated sugar
1 vanilla pod
175 grams cake flour, not self-rising (Available in the UK only from American food shops)
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
pinch of salt
57 grams unsalted butter, room temperature
2 large eggs, room temperature
75 grams full-fat sour cream
60ml vegetable oil
1Tbsp vanilla extract
160 ml whole milk
1.Preheat oven to 350 F/175 C.
2.In a small bowl, combine sugar and seeds from the vanilla pod.
3.Using the back of a spoon, move around the bowl and apply pressure
to break up any clumps of seeds and to better infuse the vanilla flavor into the sugar. Set aside.
4.In a medium-sized mixing bowl or bowl of a stand mixer, mix together
cake flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, and salt.
5.Add the vanilla sugar and mix until well combined.
6.Add butter and mix on medium-low speed for three minutes.  Because
there is so little butter, you’ll end up with a very fine crumb texture.
7.In a small mixing bowl, whisk together eggs, sour cream, oil, and
vanilla extract until smooth.
8.Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and beat on medium speed
until just combined.
9.Slowly add milk and mix on low speed until just combined.  The batter
will be liquid. 
10.         Fill cupcake liners just over 1/2 full.
11.         Bake for 14 minutes and then test to see if they are done. They
are done when a toothpick comes out without wet batter stuck to it.  The cupcakes should appear white with specks of vanilla bean. They should not turn a golden brown.  If they are not done, test again in two minutes.  If they are still not done, test again in another two minutes.
12.         When the cupcakes are done, remove them immediately from the
tins and leave them on a cooling rack to cool.

For the Filling
240ml Whole Milk
2.5 Egg Yolks
55g Sugar
55g Cornstarch
2 teaspoons Hazelnut Liqueur
1.    In a medium saucepan, whisk together milk, egg yolks, sugar and cornstarch.
2.    Place over a low heat whisking gently just until the mixture bubbles, about 15 minutes. Immediately remove from the heat. Strain through a fine mesh sieve into a large bowl. Stir in hazelnut liqueur.
3.    Press plastic wrap directly on the top of the cream and place in fridge to cool completely, approximately 2 hours.
4.    When cupcakes are cool, cut a small hole in the centre of the cake and fill with the filling.
For the Chocolate Layer
100g melted milk chocolate
1. When the cupcakes are filled, pour over a thin layer of melted chocolate and leave to set, meanwhile make the icing.
For the Frosting
240ml Whole Milk
3 tbsp Plain
A pinch of Salt
225g unsalted Butter
225g Granulated Sugar
1tbsp nutella
2tbsp hazelnuts, finely chopped
1.    Whisk flour into milk and place over medium heat in a small sauce pan. Cook mixture until thickened, whisking constantly.
2.    Remove from heat and whisk in the Salt.
3.    Pour into a clean bowl and cover with plastic wrap on the surface. (This will stop the cooking and the plastic will prevent crusting) Set aside to cool slightly.
4.    In a stand mixer, begin creaming the butter and sugar until fluffy.
5.    When milk mixture is slightly cooled; add 1 TB at a time to the creamed butter mixture while the mixer is running on medium speed. Slowly but surely the gluten will pull in the butter into a pseudo emulsion. Add the nutella and mix again.
6.    You should have an extremely fluffy, light and buttery frosting when completed
7.    Toast the hazelnuts dry. When cooled, stir through the frosting
8.    Place in a piping bag and pipe onto the set chocolate
To finish
Wafer crumbled
Melted milk chocolate
Melted white chocolate
Gold leaf
1.    Top the cupcake with the wafer pieces
2.    Drizzle the melted milk chocolate and white chocolate over the cupcake in lines
3.    Finally dab a piece of gold leaf on top

Pea Pesto and Billionaire’s Shortbread

The main issue with starting to have a reputation among your friends as a chef is that they tend to expect a lot from you when you cook for them. Earlier this summer I was staying with friends while working at a catering and events company. There were often up to 10 of us staying in the house all out working during the day, so the obvious solution to getting everybody fed at the end of the day was a food rota. When it came to my turn I was faced with the task of cooking not only for 10 people, but also a vegetarian. While I was perfectly happy cooking chicken for the majority, cooking a vegetarian dish (especially one that excluded quite a lot of cheese that I found out is in fact not vegetarian) pushed me out of my comfort zone. At this point I came across a golden recipe that I have used many times now to a great reception. It’s good with pasta, on toast and even just on it’s own.
Pea Pesto
180g Peas, defrosted
35g Pine Nuts, toasted
2 cloves garlic, crushed
handful mint
handful parsley
80ml olive oil
2 pinches sea salt
pepper
1.     Put all of the ingredients in a food processor and blitz till smooth
While working at my internship I relished in being incredibly busy all day, like my mother and sister I find it hard to stop once I’ve started moving around. So on my days off I usually had no idea what to do. Alone in someone else’s house is a bit disconcerting anyway but with the nearest town a train ride away I tended to get a little bored. So I decided to bake. However my baking was limited to the ingredients of the corner shop 20mins down the road. I decided in the end the best idea would be to combine some of my favourite flavours, shortbread, peanuts and chocolate and hope that it turned out alright. This time it worked and one of my hosts nicknamed it the Billionaire’s Shortbread.
Billionaires Shortbread
For the base
230g unsalted butter, softened
140g brown sugar
340g plain flour
½ teaspoon salt
For the topping
115g unsalted butter
200g brown sugar
115g honey
2 tablespoons heavy cream
140g salted roasted peanuts
60g unsalted cashews

100g milk chocolate chips

1.     Preheat the oven to 180oC and line a 9×13-inch pan with foil, leaving enough for a 2-inch overhang on all sides.
2.     Cream butter and sugar together till smooth. Add in flour and salt to make a crumbly dough.
3.     Press the dough into the tin, then prick the top with a fork.
4.     Bake for 20mins till golden brown
5.     Meanwhile combine the butter, sugar, honey and cream over a low heat and stir. Bring to a simmer and simmer for 1 minute.
6.     Take it off the heat and stir in the nuts.
7.     Remove the base from the oven and immediately pour the topping over.
8.     Return to the oven and bake for 20mins.
9.     As soon as you take it out of the oven sprinkle over the chocolate chips and leave to cool.
10.When cool chop into squares.