Skippy

Hitting the new year resolutions head on. Felix is studying Australia at school at the moment so it seems fitting to cook him some kangaroo.

I’ve eaten it in Australia before, but I don’t believe I’ve ever actually cooked with it.

We’ve managed to source some leg steaks and the plan is to give them 3-4 minutes each side on a stinking hot griddle pan. Most importantly, the steaks are going to get a good rest for 5-10 minutes under foil as I’m expecting the meat to be relatively tough due to all the work those muscles do.

High in protein, low in fat and just a touch gamey (I’d say it has the slightest ‘liver’ flavour to it).

Surprisingly good and a definite thumbs up from all the family.

Felix eating Kangaroo

Given we’re on the Australia theme we may as well do it properly and open a bottle of Peter Lehmann Shiraz. Stunning, stunning wine that certainly stands up to Skippy.

Barossa Shiraz

Foodie New Year Resolutions

A little late, but at least it’s still January.

2016 feels like a good year already. My foodie resolution is to keep pushing myself and really add to the repertoire. I’m going to make sure that I cook lots of new dishes and use ingredients that are yet to grace my chopping board.

There’s certainly still lots of dishes I love that I’ve never actually made before:

Welsh Rarebit, Terrine, Focaccia, Lemon Meringue Pie and Macaroons.

I’m going to cook with Tema Artichoke, Skate/Ray, Kohlrabi, Guinea Fowl, Kangaroo, Salsify, Heart and Pearl Barley (obviously not at the same time)

… and I’ll be documenting all of it here for your entertainment.

I expect the list to grow; feel free to make suggestions!

 

#FoodRevLoves

 

The Reluctant Baker

It’s always such a lovely feeling when people show faith in you. I was particularly touched when my good friend Tom Forman asked me to bake cupcakes for his wedding to Miss Amanda Goodwin. Me? cake? I think not. The rather public nature of the ask did however take the decision out of my hands..

I hate to admit it, but I don’t even like cake! Bread is a bit of a hobby for me, but there’s just something about baking and all things sweet that doesn’t float my boat.

Scared? Yes. Up for a challenge? Always.

I had about a year to master the cupcake, so naturally I waited a good ten months or so before giving it any thought.

Sure I’ve made cupcakes before: once or twice a few years ago for my wife’s colleagues in Australia. I even bought a ‘Bake & Take’ for her to ferry our 24 treats to her office. Producing 120 perfectly formed and beautifully presented cakes for someone’s special day is however a slightly different level of pressure.

Where to start? The internet and trial & error of course. Man I hate faffing with the mess of baking! Too late to back out?

Luckily, I have a colleague who qualified as a pastry chef at Le Cordon Bleu in London. Apparently the success to such cakes is in the weighing of the eggs. This I can assure you is paramount. Breaking it down and contemplating the science certainly focuses my mind and provides clarity within any problem space.

Maybe I could get into this baking malarkey? My first attempt at piping looked like the aftermath of a playschool food fight, but a few YouTube videos, new nozzles and disposable piping bags soon fixed that. I might even go as far as to say it’s quite good fun and somewhat satisfying.

attempting cupcakes

The next great tip: ‘Quatre quarts’ – This literally translates from French as ‘Four Fourths’. Weigh your eggs (in their shells as their weight is negligible) and then weigh out your flour, butter and sugar to match.

ingredients ready for mixing

Magically simple; happy days. It must be time for another curve-ball. Tiffany Blue..

A little research reveals that the US colour trademark prevents anyone producing the required food colouring. Sigh.

So the trial & error process begins once more, much to the delight of my trusty taste-testers. Matching against a genuine Tiffany & Co. jewellery box, I’ve concluded that a mix of 2 parts Wilton Teal to 1 part Sky Blue is ideal. The gels are incredibly potent and you literally only need to use a cocktail stick to transfer the colour to your frosting mix.

Tiffany Buttercream Frosting

French butter makes all the difference, and given they’re for a wedding, it would be rude not to go free-range and organic too. #TheyAreWorthIt

I swear that the lady on the till in Waitrose thought that I had some form of butter addiction.

13 packs for french butter

Here’s a thought: how exactly am I going to bake and frost 120 cupcakes, and then safely transport them to the wedding…?

A combination of disposable cardboard cupcake boxes, the loan of a KitchenAid stand mixer, and a day off work did the trick. A word of warning – some of the boxes you can buy aren’t spaced very well and won’t fit larger decorated cupcakes.

The stand mixer was a godsend for which I am eternally grateful. They take some getting used to as you can’t ‘feel’ the consistency of the mix, but they save you so much time.

KitchenAid Stand Mixer

I baked a batch of 12 cupcakes every 15 minutes whilst prepping the next batch to maintain control of the mix. My tip for making sure they’re all exactly the same is to pipe the cupcake mixture into the cases on a set of scales. 50g makes for a generous cake that’s just proud of the case.

full cupcake case

All of the cakes were boxed up after cooling and then frosted with the Tiffany Blue buttercream in one go to guarantee a consistent colour.

the final product

These delicate little filigree cases added the final touch for the big day. They’re not cheap, but they do make the finished product that bit more professional.

filigree cases for cupcakes

Ingredients:

(for 12 cupcakes)

  • 180g Eggs
  • 180g Self-Raising Flour
  • 180g Unsalted French Butter (room temperature)
  • 180g Caster Sugar
  • 1 tsp Vanilla Extract (or other flavouring)

Buttercream Frosting:

  • 140g Unsalted French Butter (room temperature)
  • 280g Icing Sugar
  • Splash of Milk
  • Food Colouring of your choice (optional)
  • ½ tsp Vanilla Extract (or other flavouring)

Method:

Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Mix in the eggs one by one. Add the vanilla and then carefully fold in the sifted flour. Pipe the mix into cupcake cases. Bake at 160°C (fan) for 15 minutes and cool on a wire rack.

For the frosting, beat the butter until soft and then mix in the icing sugar, a little at a time. Add the flavouring, colour and a splash of milk to thin the mixture if required. Pipe onto the cupcakes once they have cooled.


 

I’m really grateful for this experience; I’ve learnt lots of new skills and have an almighty appreciation for baking. I’m still not a fan of eating cake though!

Making cupcakes

120 cupcakes

Finally, congratulations to the happy couple and thank you for letting us share your special day with you. We wish you happiness and joy for your future together.

Family H-L

Tom & Amanda

 

Why We Do What We Do

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and all that jazz.

Since changing jobs, I’ve been putting some effort into new initiatives to connect my day-job with the volunteering work for Jamie’s Food Revolution. Just little steps of course; wouldn’t want to bite the hand that feeds me..

Little tiny actions can really make a difference. The following is an email that I received yesterday from a colleague that really struck a chord with me.

“I’d just like to mention that due to your enthusiasm for eating well I have invested time in cooking again. I had got out of the habit of cooking meals from scratch and our evening meals had become quite boring. Whilst on leave I’ve cooked stews, chilli, roasts and curries and am really enjoying both the cooking and the eating.

Your positive messages on eating healthily have been very encouraging. I’m considering putting together a team recipe book and selling it for charity.” 

Now, that’s what I call success.