Thursday, 31 January 2013

Foodie Penpals, January

This month I finally got to try out Foodie Penpals for the first time! It's a brilliant idea where one lovely foodie sends you a parcel, and you send one on to someone else. All the info can be found over at, and the writer of that blog, Carol Anne, organises the whole thing. So lots of thanks to her!

I first found out about it months ago, but it was impossible while I was living in Japan. The icon has been tempting me from my bookmarks bar for ages, and so I was so happy I could finally join in this month!

Sending me my parcel this month was Em, a food blogger from Bristol. She has an amazing website (, with LOADS of info about restaurants, food events and bars in Bristol, along with recipes and a blog. I can't look at it in too much detail because it makes me want to jump straight on a train and Bristol is a long way from Suffolk!

I didn't give her much info about my likes and dislikes, but she managed to come up with a fantastic parcel for me, full of an eclectic mix of goodies!

This is what I'm most excited about in the parcel! I love rice noodles, and this sounds like such an interesting combo. Now I just have to decide what to cook with it! 

And here's the rest of the parcel! 
Moroccan couscous, flavoured with nuts, dried fruit, cinnamon and mint. It looks really yum, and a great way to make an easy, tasty dinner.
Tom yam paste. Em said this makes one of her favourite midweek meals, but it's not something I've tried making before. I look forward to giving this a go.
Bilatong. I didn't even know what this was until my Mum told me (it's dried salted beef for the education of anyone else as ignorant as me)! It's not something I ever would have picked up for myself, but Foodie Penpals is all about trying new things. 
Tempura Batter Mix, to help prevent Japan homesickness. I'm a bit scared of deep fat frying, but I know John will happily make this for me. 

Thank you for a lovely parcel, Em!! 

I sent my first parcel to Thea, in Dublin. She doesn't have a blog, so here's a quick picture of the parcel I sent her. 

Nibl cajun style beans, udon noodles, colmans mustard, nanami togarashi (Japanese spice mix), mochi sweets, raspberry ruffles and some homemade spicy peanut furikake (recipe here)

I hope Thea enjoys my parcel as much as I'm going to enjoy Em's!

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Bake Off Challenge: Latticed Treacle Tart

When I showed my Dad the list of things I had to make for the Great British Bake Off Challenge, straight away he requested the treacle tart first. Just like me, he has a real sweet tooth, and any recipe that includes 400g of golden syrup has to be good!

I had a lot of fun making this recipe. It was fairly easy actually; I think the bakers got off lightly this week. I've made a treacle tart before, so the only bit that was worrying me at all was the woven top. Some of the bakers made a real mess of it, so I was surprised how easy it was. But then, I did have the luxury of watching Mary Berry make hers on the masterclass before I had to attempt it! 

And, of course, it was delicious! There was more lemon in it that I expected, which gave it a much fresher taste than some treacle tarts I've tried. Served warm, with a bit of custard or clotted cream, it was YUM! 

Recipe for Woven Lattice Treacle Tart (from the BBC food website)

For the pastry:
250g/9oz plain flour
130g/4.5oz butter plus extra for greasing
3 tbsp cold water (I had to use a bit more than this)
For the filling:
400g/14oz golden syrup
150g/5.5oz fine breadcrumbs
2 lemons, zest and juice
1 egg, beaten, to be used as an egg wash.

1. First make the short crust pastry: measure the flour into a large bowl and rub in the butter with your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs (alternatively, this can be done in a food processor). Add about three tablespoons of cold water and mix to a firm dough, wrap in cling film and chill in the fridge for about 20 minutes.
2. Grease a deep 18cm/7in loose-bottomed fluted flan tin with butter.Remove about 150g/5½oz of pastry from the main ball and set aside for the lattice top.
3. Roll the rest of the pastry out thinly on a lightly floured work surface and line the prepared flan tin with the pastry.Prick the base with a fork, to stop the base rising up during baking.
4. Place the reserved pastry for the lattice top on cling film and roll out thinly. Egg wash the pastry and set aside to chill in the fridge (the cling film makes it easier to move about). Do not cut into strips at this stage. Do not egg wash the strips once they are on the tart as it will drip into the treacle mixture.
5. Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6 and put a heavy baking tray in the oven to heat up.
6. To make the filling, heat the syrup gently in a large pan but do not boil. Once melted, add the breadcrumbs, lemon juice and zest to the syrup. (You can add less lemon if you would prefer less citrus taste.) If the mixture looks runny, add a few more breadcrumbs.
7. Pour the syrup mixture into the lined tin and level the surface.
8. Remove the reserved pastry from the fridge and cut into long strips, 1cm/½in wide. Make sure they are all longer than the edges of the tart tin.
9. Egg wash the edge of the pastry in the tin, and start to make the woven laying lattice pattern over the mixture, leave the strips hanging over the edge of the tin.
10. Once the lattice is in place, use the tin edge to cut off the strips by pressing down with your hands, creating a neat finish.
11. Bake on the pre-heated baking tray in the hot oven for about 10 minutes until the pastry has started to colour, and then reduce the oven temperature to 180C/350F/Gas 4. If at this stage the lattice seems to be getting too dark brown, cover the tart with tin foil.
12. Bake for a further 25-30 minutes until the pastry is golden-brown and the filling set.Remove the tart from the oven and leave to firm up in the tin. Serve warm or cold.

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Great British Bake Off Challenge

I'm currently back at home for a few months, having left Japan and waiting until I know what university I'm going to go to in the autumn. Like most of the country, I am rather addicted to The Great British Bake Off, and, like the two years before, really enjoyed last years series (although Brendon, smug git that he was, did deserve to win and Ryan was a complete idiot). So, with some spare time on my hands, and having an oven again (hurrah!), I have decided to work my way through as many Great British Bake Off challenges as I can.
Since there are some I don't actually like, I'm not promising to make all of them, but once I get going, my stubborness will probably mean that I do make them all!

To start me off, here's a list of all the technical challenges. Series 1 is definitely a lot simpler, I've made most of them before, but it'll be fun to give them all another go. They get a bit more dodgy as they head through series 2 into 3, but I'll give it all a go, and I promise to post all my results on here, however awful! I'm not going to cook them in order, but will bake the ones I feel like or have time for, whenever!

Series 1
Cakes: Victoria Sandwich
Biscuits: Scones
Bread: Easy White Bread
Puddings: Souffle
Pastry: Cornish Pasty

Series 2
Cakes: Coffe and Walnut Battenburg
Tarts: Tart au citron
Bread: Foccacia
Biscuits: Brandy Snaps
Pies: Pork Pies with Quails Eggs
Desserts: Chocolate Roulade Completed (blog post) 7th April 
Patisserie: Iced Fingers
Final: Sachertorte

Series 3
Cakes: Rum Babas
Bread: 8 Stranded Plaited Loaf
Tarts: Treacle Tart  Completed 5th Jan
Desserts: Creme Caramel
Pies: Hand-raised Chicken and Bacon Pie
Puddings: Queen of Puddings
Sweet Dough: Jam Doughnuts
Biscuits: Chocolate Teacakes
Patisserie: Frasier Cake
Final: Fondant Fancies

So, that's my list! I started today, with the treacle tart. More about that tomorrow!