Many of the ingredients Mum had brought over from England for me but I had overlooked a couple of the ingredients such as mixed spice and self-raising flour so I had to make my own. I just used normal flour and added about a 1/4 teaspoon of baking powder. I found the following mixed spice recipe on the BBC Good Food website, which I used to make up my own mixed spice (I had to leave out the mace as I didn´t have this spice and it´s not a spice that´s easy to find in Spain but it hopefully shouldn´t make too much of a difference).
These Halloween cupcakes are well overdue now as I made them on Halloween itself for our Halloween party. They are slightly adapted from my cupcake calender and despite the decorating part being a bit fiddly, they went down a treat. With the cupcakes containing pumpkin puree and the addition of spices such as cinnamon and allspice, they are definitely a taste of autumn and Halloween!
Ingredients (makes around 16 medium sized cupcakes)
1 300g jar of pumpkin pieces (it´s very difficult to find here in Spain, I found it in Aldi but nearly ended up having to leave the pumpkin out which wouldn´t have been the same!)(use all pumpkin pieces but only added a little of juice from the jar)
1 1/2 cups plain flour
1tsp ground cinnamon
1tsp baking soda (bicarbonate of soda)
1 tsp baking powder
1 1/4 cups sugar (preferably caster)
1/2 cup olive oil (mild is best so doesn´t affect taste of cupcakes)
2 lightly beaten eggs
1/2 cup milk
orange & black fondant
Halloween cookie cutters
1. Puree the pumpkin pieces with a little of syrup/juice from jar in a blender-should make about 1 cup.
2.Preheat oven to 350ºF (175ºC) and place cupcake cases in muffin tray.
3. Mix all dry ingredients together.
4. Beat oil, eggs and milk in a large bowl and add pumpkin puree.
5. Gradually add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and stir till well combined.
6.Spoon into cupcake cases and bake for 20-30 mins (depending on your oven).
7.When cool, brush with apricot jam. Cut out black and orange fondant circles using cookie cutters and stick on top of cupcakes.
8. Using Halloween cookie cutters cut out Halloween shapes in orange and black fondant. Brush with apricot jam and stick on top of fondant circles and voila you have some cute, scary(ish) Halloween cupcakes!
I used some Halloween cookie cutters I got at Target when I was in the USA, which were great for this project.However, it was a little fiddly as you had to cut out the eyes, nose and mouth with a knife so patience was definitely a virtue! Also, the cupcakes didn´t rise very much so I´m not sure if this was due to using olive oil but they tasted great,which is the main thing!
I then covered the top of the cake with the yellow buttercream and then with a chocolate icing pen I had, I piped the outline of the face, the eyes, mouth and eyebrows. I then used chocolate hundreds and thousands/sprinkles to fill in the hairline. Not an easy job as they tended to fall wherever, not where you wanted them to fall! Using a piping bag, I outlined the mouth with the red buttercream and then coloured in the mouth. I then completed the face with large jelly beans for the eyes ( looking back really I think they were too big for the irises!), a marshmellow for the cheek and a blackberry sweet for the nose. The ears were a bit tricky to assemble too. I used 3 digestive biscuits for each ear,which I tried to stick together using the chocolate icing. I also tried to stick a toothpick between the biscuits which I then inserted into the cake, which didn´t work too badly but not as well as I had hoped!
I made this awhile ago but just haven´t got round to blogging about it until now. Unfortunately, I only have the one photo as we were starving and it was all we could do not to gobble it up, then and there! This is a recipe adapted from quite an old book, which I found in the library, called Miss Read´s Country Cooking and I think it´s a British recipe.
Ingredients: (to serve 2)
1/2 lb (around 230g) pork fillet/tenderloin,cubed
1/2 green pepper, chopped into thick squares
about 2-4 canned peach halves, quartered
1/8 pt peach juice (from canned peaches)
4-6 button mushrooms
1/8 pt water
juice from 1/2 lemon
1/2 tbsp of soy sauce
salt & pepper to taste
1/2 tbsp cornflour/cornstarch
4 wooden skewers
1.Soak skewers in water to prevent them from burning. Chop all ingredients.
2. Blanch mushrooms and pepper in boiling water for about 5 mins.
3. Thread pork, peach halves, pepper and mushrooms onto skewers. Brush with olive oil and place in oven under the grill for about 20-30 mins. During this time baste with oil frequently and turn kebabs to cook them evenly.
4.Heat peach juice, water, lemon juice & soy sauce.
5. Mix cornflour with a little water and peach juice to make paste.
6. Pour peach & soy sauce mixture into paste and mix, then return it to the pan and cook for 5 mins, stirring continuously till sauce thickens. Season with salt and pepper.
7. Serve kebabs with rice or potatoes and vegetables and drizzle peach sauce on top of the kebabs.
Until I discovered, Shan Cocina Asiática restaurant that is! Shan restaurant can be found in the city centre on Avda de la Mancha 5 in Ciudad Real. It is a spacious restaurant, very clean and nicely-decorated. It is an Asian restaurant, as opposed to a Chinese restaurant, which means that as well as the usual typical Chinese dishes, it also does some dishes from other Asian cuisines, such as sushi, Thai red curry, Vietnamese spring rolls etc.
All the food is of good quality, flavourful and authentic tasting. Our favourites include the restaurants speciality dish of chicken or beef in Thai red curry, beef in Tien-Ban sauce, ham knuckle or hock Shan-style (with a lovely tasting sauce made from five-spice I think...it reminds me a little of crispy duck too),Wok-style rice noodles (with a lovely spicy Thai-style sauce). We went last night for dinner and ordered some of our favourite dishes, the Vietnamese spring rolls as a starter, fried and bursting with mince pork, carrots, cabbage, Chinese mushrooms, agar-agar, served on a lettuce leaf with a sweet-sour sauce. Then, we had the Thai Wok-style rice noodles to follow and tried a new dish, Sizzling Duck of the house. The Sizzling Duck consisted of a lovely tender and juicy duck breast cooked to perfection, with crispy skin in a brown sauce and onions, served on a sizzling hotplate. Absolutely delicious!Even my husband, who is not that keen on duck, thoroughly enjoyed this dish. We have never had a bad meal or dish at this restaurant.
I´d reccomend fried ice-cream for dessert if you fancy something sweet. The restaurant usually throws in free prawn crackers and an after-dinner chupito (shot). Service is very good, the waiters/waitresses are very friendly and the food is very prompt. It is also very reasonably priced with dishes costing between 4.45 euros to the speciality dishes and duck ,which although slightly more expensive are still very reasonable, from 8.25 -10.95 euros. If you prefer to eat at home, you can also choose to get a takeaway or order it over the phone and have it delivered to your door!
My only concern is that this wonderful restaurant is often empty, which I cannot understand as it is definitely the best Chinese/Asian restaurant I have eaten at in Ciudad Real and maybe even in Spain! Do people just not know about it or is it too authentic tasting for Spanish palettes?I really would find it a great shame if this restaurant were to close.
Last week I took part in my first fondant cake decorating course held at Fabricando Delicias. The course was held on Wednesday evening from 5pm to 9pm and Saturday morning 10am -2pm for four hours. It was well worth the money as it cost 50 Euros for the course although you had to pay for the materials apart. Luckily I had quite a few of the decorating equipment & tools already so I didn´t have to spend a fortune.
Unfortunately I had to work on Wednesday evening so missed the first two hours of the course during which they made a snail and a frog....I intend to make these myself at home to practice. We then made a dog and an angel but time flies so quickly when you´re having fun that we didn´t have time to finish the angel and give her wings and hands. We also ran out of time to make the clown, which we could do at home if we wanted. Here are my efforts:We made the figures out of modelling paste and it was a lot more difficult than I imagined because the modelling paste kept cracking and drying very quickly so you have to work as quickly as possible and keep kneading it to keep it soft and supple and more like Plastaline. I think they look quite cute, don´t you? Obviously I need a lot more practice though! It took me ages to colour the modelling paste at home and even though I wore gloves I still ended up with icing food colour all over my hands and my clown became a little smudged. He looks a bit like a snowman as he´s so white...I still need to give him a hat and a tie and maybe give him some more colour or stripes on his body so he looks less like a snowman!
On Saturday morning we learnt how to make fondant roses, a daisy like flower and a carnation. I think the rose and the daisy turned out well but the carnation was a disaster. More practice definitely needed! We also had to bring a cake to decorate and as I didn´t have time to make one I just bought the sponge bases from the supermarket. We learnt about different fillings you can use in the cakes. I just used raspberry jam to fill my sponge layers like a traditional Victoria sponge cake and then covered the cake in apricot jam to stick the fondant. We also learnt how to work the fondant before rolling it out, how to roll it out and cover the cake. One of the biggest problems was that the fondant tended to stick to the Roll n´Cut Mat and because of this my fondant seemed to tear or crack more easily. However, I think for a first attempt it was not bad. Here´s a photo of my cake with the rose, the daisy (you can just make it out) and the angel on it.
Below is another of the student´s cake decorated with her clown, which was very good and artistic.
The course was very informative and the teacher was very helpful. I´d definitely reccomend anyone interested in cake decorating to do a course. I´m looking forward to the next one about buttercream, which I´ve already signed up for!
Ingredients (for 2 people)
1 loaf of rustic bread, cut into two rounds or 2 rustic bread buns
200g minced lamb
1/2 small onion, finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
a pinch of salt & pepper
1-2 tsp of frozen or dried parsley
1/4 tsp dried rosemary, crushed
about 1/8 cup of fine breadcrumbs
half a beaten egg
flour to coat/bind
4 slices of Manchego cheese
2-4 tbsps/dollops of ready-prepared or homemade asadillo (if you can´t buy asadillo where you live, I´ll try and post the recipe asap although I used store bought asadillo to save time)
abundant olive oil for frying
1. After chopping the onion and garlic, add to mince.
2. Add salt, pepper, parsley, rosemary,breadcrumbs and egg and combine.
3. Form into two patty shapes about 1-2 inches think. It will probably be a bit sticky so roll in flour to coat till patty is firm.
4. Fry in abundant olive oil till burger is cooked through.(this could also be grilled maybe to make it more healthy)
5. While burger is cooking, toast buns/ bread rounds.
6.Place burger on bun, place 2 slices of Manchego cheese on top and then 2-4 big dollops of asadillo.
6oz (about 170g) crushed digestive biscuits
2oz (about 56g)hazelnuts, chopped
2oz (about 56g) seedless raisins
2oz (about 56g) plain chocolate
2tbsp golden syrup
3oz (about 85g) butter
1. Melt chocolate, syrup and butter in pan over a low heat as shown in the photo:
2. Take off heat, add biscuits, nuts and raisins and stir till combined.
3.Press into a square 7 inch tin, cut into squares, place in fridge and leave to harden.
I think you could maybe try using different types of nuts, dried fruit eg cranberries and different biscuits as variations of this recipe.
The recipe called for a round cake tin of 20cm but even though I looked everywhere could I find one, could I heck so had to settle for a 26cm cake tin. In order to save time, I used a bought Swiss roll for the arm of the six and only baked the round sponge. I then made a simple buttercream, reserving 1/2 cup of it, and experimented with food colouring to make a nice green colour and iced the cake. I ran out of buttercream though and had to make up some fresh buttercream, then use more food colouring till it was the exact same colour as the first. I started to rush towards the end as the party had already started and I still hadn´t finished the cake so it got a bit sloppy towards the end, it wasn´t as smooth as I´d have liked!
I also cut off part of the Swiss roll for the snake´s head. I then used dyed 2 teaspoons of the 1/2 cup of remaining buttercream violet (although it looked more black) and used the piping bag to pipe the eyebrows. I then dyed the remaining buttercream a lighter green and again using the piping bag(for the first time in my life!)piped a kind of V shape for the snake´s scales. They were a bit blobby in places but not too bad for a first attempt. I then used liquorice sweets for the eyes, tongue and for further decoration.
The cake seemed to be quite a success even though I´m not sure if my niece tried it but some kids went back for seconds! There wasn´t much left of it so it must have been ok! It took me almost all day to make it and I was exhausted by the time I´d finished it!!The kitchen also looked like a bomb had hit it!!
We also visited My Son, the ruins of an ancient Cham temple and the Marble Mountains. On route we stopped at a farm where they made rice pancakes and the owner showed us how she made the pancakes and we were even given the opportunity to have a go!
I chose steamed chicken with lime leaves-the meat was lovely and tender and the overall dish had a nice taste although I wasn´t too keen on the lime leaves which seemed to overpower the dish a little.
My husband chose a beef dish, hot and sour I think (sorry I´m so bad with the names!!) which was delicious and I actually preferred it to my dish!
We took the waiter´s advice for dessert and chose lotus seeds and dried longans in a syrup . The lotus seeds had a nutty, almost white chocolatey taste which wasn´t too bad and the longans were a bit like raisins.
After a couple of days in Hanoi, we made our way to Halong Bay, a UNESCO World Heritage site. We stayed aboard a typical junko and took in the breathtakingly beautiful scenery of more than 2000 rocky islands jutting out of the sea.
As the food on the boat was mainly fish and seafood which I´m not that keen on we ordered something different for me. I got mainly meat dishes but one dish in particular looked a bit green around the edges but tasted fine. Unfortunately that night I started with bad stomach pains and both me and my husband, who had also eaten some of this meat, spent the vomitting and with diahorria!
A new shop has recently opened in my city called Fabricando Delicias which sells all things connected to cakes, baking and cake-decorating, my new-found passion. Someone has already beaten me to it as I had the idea of opening a cake shop but with no business sense and not being totally convinced if this kind of shop would be successful in a little town I didn´t risk it. They have a wide range of silicone and metal cake moulds, muffin cases, cake racks and other baking and decorating equipment. They also sell prepared fondant, sugarpaste, vanilla extract, glycerine etc from the well-known American brand, Wilton. I was very surprized to find this shop where I live as I didn´t think fondant cakes, cupcakes etc were very well-known here so am hoping that it does well and doesn´t go out of business!I have already bought some Wilton´s Pure Clear Vanilla Extract and some Wilton´s Gum-Tex! Although the shop is really handy, its products are fairly limited and tend to be a bit on the expensive side compared to shops in England (mainly because there´s more competition I think!)so will still be getting quite a bit of stuff online.
They also are going to do some cake-decorating courses, one about Buttercream and another about Fondant/Pastillage. I´ve signed up for both but am waiting for other people to sign up too although with August coming up, the city tends to be a ghost town as everyone is on holiday and lots of shops close. Unfortunately, this is when I have more time so I hope I can still do the courses as if they end up being in September, I might not be able to do them because of work obigations.
This is the meal we chose as our wedding dinner:
Appetizers: Mini regional tartelets filled with pisto (the Spanish version of ratatouille)
Mini regional tartelets with Lomo de Orzo (pork loin in olive oil)
Mini cornets of cod brandade
Chinese style tuna
Drinks: Choice of Beer, Wine, Soft drinks, Cava & orange or Martini cocktails
Three-dimensional starter: Octopus kebab with cream of cauliflower soup
Mini salad of goats cheese & cured venison
Cod Carpaccio with hake sushi
First Course: Lobster salad with truffle vinaigrette & tropical fruits
Main Course: Choice of: Roast suckling pig confit served with roast apple & chestnut purée
Sea bass loin in a Jerez sherry sauce
Dessert: Pineapple Carpaccio with tropical fruit and yoghurt ice-cream
After-dinner: Coffee, Cider, Cava and Liqueurs
Wine Cellar: Requiebro Verdejo
As I am a fusspot and I´m not keen on fish or seafood, I had a special menu apart, which differed only slightly: in the three-dimensional starter I had the goats cheese salad, mini cornets of paté, porcini risotto and for my first course I had ricotta cheese and spinach ravoli. Everything was delicious but unfortunately due to nerves or excitement, I couldn´t really eat much!
She started off the lesson by showing us all the equipment and explaining what it was for and why we needed it. You need a hell of a lot of equipment especially if you want to make sugar flowers so it is quite an expensive hobby is all that I can say!
At one point I asked if it helped to be an artistic person as I don´t really have an artistic bone in my body. Amalia´s reply was that she couldn´t draw but later she showed us this beautiful ostrich egg which she had decorated-it was amazing!! My arse, she can´t draw!!!
I´d love to say that I made the flower above but unfortunately the course wasn´t as hands-on as I´d hoped but it was still very interesting! We took some icing sugar and an egg and Amalia showed us how to make our own flower paste. I didn´t get to take many photos as my hands were too dirty after preparing the flower paste plus I was too busy trying to take notes about making a rose bud. Amalia showed us and explained how to make a rose bud and other tips about making flowers. Three hours flew by! I had thought we were going to start with more basic things like different types of icing and how to make them, icing a cake and piping but it looks like we´re just jumping straight into the more advanced stuff of flower making, which is fine by me. Now I just need lots of practice and patience although I can´t do anything until I have all the tools!! Amalia also recommended a book called Sugar Flowers which explains how to make different flowers with the help of illustrations!
As this was my first attempt at making English muffins, I followed Delia Smith´s recipe (I took the recipe from her Complete Cookery Course book but this is almost exactly the same)to the dot. The only difference is that I used normal sugar as I´d run out of caster sugar and I didn´t use 2 0z of lard...I only used the tiniest amount just to grease the frying pan. The recipe turned out to be a great success (as you can see in the photo below!) so I will definitely be making them again!
1. Milk, water, sugar and yeast mixed to form frothy head
2. Forming the dough
3. After kneading (top-left
hand corner) 4. Risen dough (top-right
hand corner) 5. Muffins covered in clingfilm to rise
The finished muffins after light frying! Delicious!
Black Cherry sauce (adapted from Weight Watchers Made to Measure)
Ingredients (Serves 2)
383g pitted cherries and juice
about 3/4 of 1/4 cup of red wine (roughly about 45ml)
2 inch piece of cinnamon stick
2 inch strip of lemon peel
2 tbsp water
1/2 tbsp cornflour
Vanilla Mascarpone Cream (for 2 people)
leftover mascarpone cheese (about 100g roughly?)
1/4 tsp vanilla essence
1 tbsp sugar
1. Place cherries & juice in a saucepan with the red wine, cinnamon stick and lemon peel (as shown in the photo above), cover and simmer for about 10 mins on a medium/high heat.
2. Stir in sugar and remove from heat.
3. Mix the cornflour with the water to make a paste, stir into the cherries and put back on the heat.
4. Bring to boil ,stirring all the time and boil for a minute (as shown in the photo below),then remove from the heat.
5. Leave cherry sauce to cool and chill. Remove lemon peel and cinnamon stick before serving.
Vanilla Mascarpone Cream
1. Whisk mascarpone cream till fluffy, add vanilla essence and sugar and beat till combined and has a creamy texture.
Serve cherry sauce with a dollop of vanilla mascarpone cream and you have a fairly light and easy dessert to use up the leftovers. Unfortunately, I don´t have any final photos because it wasn´t the most attractive looking dessert I´ve ever made!
The DVD is hosted by Jenny Harris and Sara Carter, who are both International Gold Medal Winners. They show you a variety of basic skills and techniques needed for cake decorating which includes marzipanning and coating a cake in sugar paste, crimping, piping, etc. Their explanations are clear and very informative, almost as if a friend were giving you a class in their own home. This DVD is a great starting point for those who want to learn how to decorate cakes as a hobby. I can´t wait to get started and try out all the things I´ve learnt from this DVD although some things seem quite complicated even though they´re supposed to be basic skills!! Plus, it looks like you need a lot of equipment for decorating!
The only down side to the DVD is the filming seems to be quite amateur. It almost seems more like a homemade video production than a professional production due to its poor quality. That being said, I´d still recommend it as you can´t beat the price and it is a great place to start if you are a novice cake decorator like me! It´s much cheaper than doing a cake decorating course!
Ingredients: (serves 2)
around 250g penne pasta (I just guessed the right amount for 2)
1/2 red onion,finely sliced
about 1/3 cup white wine
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
about 1/2 cup of tomato sauce (I used all that had been left over from another day)
3-4 sun-dried tomatoes, finely chopped
leftover salami, around 20-30g? (preferably containing fennel) (finely chopped)
1tbsp olive oil
salt & pepper to taste
1. Place pasta in pan of salted,boiling water and cook until al dente.
2. Fry onion and garlic in olive oil until tender.
3. Add sun-dried tomatoes and salami and cook for 2-3 mins.
4. Add wine, tomato sauce and salt and pepper to taste and cook for a further 3-5 mins.
5. Serve the tomato sauce on top of the pasta with garlic bread and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.