Archive for February, 2008

Pirate Birthday

Tuesday, February 26th, 2008

Castle Birthday cake

I was given, well offered, the task of making a birthday cake for a little boy’s fourth birthday. I relished the task and, since it was a dragons and castles party, I started thinking about making a castle. Having made little effort to find something that I could get help and ideas from, I started baking. What a nightmare!!! The problem was that icing a tall round cake is very difficult and my icing leaves a lot to be desired anyway. In retrospect a square castle would have been distinctly less problematic.

Having spent hours trying to cover up and draw attention away from the crap bits I was finally reasonably satisfied with the result. Sadly on the way there I found out that the theme of the party had changed to pirates so the castle seemed a little out of place. Everyone seemed to like it, thankfully, which is a good job as they will probably be eating it for about a fortnight after I over estimated the amount needed to fill twenty hungry little mouths.

Harry as a pirate

Crab continued

Sunday, February 17th, 2008

Crab ravioli

I was wondering what to do with the rest of the fabulous crab I got in Devon so I browsed through the selection of cookery books I brought with me and found a crab ravioli recipe from Rick Stein’s Seafood book. I have never been terribly successful at at making ravioli as they are so fiddly and always seem to fall apart on me and I haven’t made fresh pasta in a while so it took me time to get to grips with the pasta machine again. I really need to invest in one of those ravioli tray things as they are supposed to be quite useful.

Apart from the fact that it took me the best part of two hours to make and some of them burst they turned out very nicely. The sauce in particular was simple yet very flavoursome and well worth the wait.

Fresh Pasta

225g Plain flour (type 00)

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 teaspoon olive oil

2 medium eggs

2 medium egg yolks

Put all the ingredients into a food processor and blend. Once it has come together, tip out onto a work surface and knead for about 10 minutes until the dough is soft and elastic. Wrap in cling film and place in the fridge for about 20 minutes.


175g fresh white crab meat

1 tblsp melted butter

a small sprinkle of cayenne pepper

Parsley and lemon butter

100g butter

2 tblsp chopped flat leaf parsley

1/2 tsp grated lemon zest

2 tsps lemon juice

2 garlic cloves very finely chopped

Mix all the ingredients for the ravioli together. Divide the pasta into three or four pieces and roll out in your machine or with a rolling in until quite thin. Keep dusting the pasta with flour to stop it sticking to the rollers. On one half of a sheet of pasta dot a teaspoon of mixture at 3inch intervals. Wet around each mound of crab with a little water, then fold over the other half of the pasta and starting from the inside out press down around the little mounds pushing out all the air so you have no bubbles in the ravioli. This is the complicated bit and would be so much more simple with a ravioli tray if you have one. Make sure that you flour each one well so that they don’t stick together as they will tear easily. Once your have used up all the mixture get some salted boiling water ready and add the ravioli. Cook for about three minutes, then drain.

While they are cooking make the butter dressing. Simply melt the butter with all the other ingredients, seasoning to taste and once the ravioli is drained and plated up, spoon over the top and serve. Then sit down for a well deserved rest.

Crab ravioli


Sunday, February 17th, 2008

Crab sandwiches

While I was in Devon I really wanted to get some fresh crab. Unfortunately crab wasn’t in season but I managed to get nearly half a kilo of frozen claw meat (although it cost me £10). The first time I tried crab I was about 10 years old and I remember not liking it, but for some reason I really wanted to try it again. I had some wonderful crab sandwiches last year in Arran, an island off the west coast of Scotland, which sparked my craving to get some when I was next near the sea.

I started off making a simple mayonnaise by whisking an egg yolk with a teaspoon of vinegar, Dijon mustard, a grinding of salt, zest from 1 lemon and a sprinkle of cayenne pepper (this can be done in a food processor but our accommodation didn’t have one so it was back to the arm aching old fashioned method) then drizzling in very slowly some light olive oil until the mixture was thick and wobbly. (If the oil is poured in too fast the mixture will curdle but it can be rescued by adding a teaspoon of boiling water and mixing vigorously to bring it together or by adding the curdled mayonnaise slowly to another egg yolk and whisking together.

Once the mayonnaise was made I added a handful of white crab meat and folded them gently together. The sandwich was assembled with thick slices of wholemeal bread and fresh rocket leaves, heaping the crab mayonnaise on last, delicious!

Ooh what a nice pear!!

Wednesday, February 13th, 2008

Jamie Oliver Pavlova

I was watching Jamie Oliver a couple of weeks ago and spotted this tray baked meringue. Incidentally I’ve just had a look at his new website and it’s worth a look. I always save egg whites when I’m only using the yolks and freeze them so I can whip up meringue really quickly and with a meringue not having many ingredients, it was ideal to make while we were on holiday in self catering accommodation last week. I love chocolate and hazelnuts so anything with those in is winner in my book.

Serves 6 to 8


4 large free-range egg whites

200g unrefined golden caster sugar

a pinch of sea salt

100g hazelnuts, skins removed

2 x 400g halved pears, in syrup

2 pieces stem ginger, thinly sliced

200g dark chocolate

400ml whipping cream (he suggests double but I just can’t bring myself to do it)

50g icing sugar, sifted

1 vanilla pod, halved and seeded

zest of an orange

Preheat the oven to 150 degrees centigrade and line a large baking tray with grease proof paper. Put the egg whites into a very clean bowl and whisk until it forms soft peaks (this is when it forms a peak but it flops over at the end, the eggs whites will not whip up properly if there is any grease or yolk in them). Keep the mixer on and gradually add the sugar and the salt. Whisk the eggs on full power until they are soft, silky and smooth. Heap the meringue onto the baking tray and spread out into a rectangular shape with the back of the spoon making sure you don’t spread it out too thin. Bake in the oven for about an hour until crisp and slightly golden. Whilst the meringue is cooking, place the hazelnuts on another baking tray and put in the bottom of the oven to cook with the meringue until golden brown (this should take the same amount of time as the meringue but keep an eye on them). Once cooked, remove from the oven and leave to cool

To make the topping softly whip the cream and add the icing sugar and vanilla seeds  (you get these by slicing the vanilla pod down the centre and scraping out the seeds with a sharp knife). Drain the pears and reserve the syrup from one of the tins. Add this to a saucepan with the ginger and warm gently. Take off the heat. Chop the chocolate and add to the pan stirring to combine.  I didn’t have any ginger but instead added a little pear brandy. Heap the whipped cream on to the meringue, tear the pear halves into chunks and place on top, scatter the roughly chopped hazelnuts, drizzle the chocolate and zest the orange over the top to finish. Perfect to revive you after a long walk along the beach on a very windy day.

Woolacombe beach