Chocolate Orange Cake with Popping Candy Shards and Candied Orange Slices

Lily Vanilli Chocolate Orange Cake

Lily Vanilli Chocolate Orange Cake

I made this cake with my friend as part of a special NYE meal – it took us an evening to make and mere minutes to demolish and both the baking and the eating were fabulous fun  The recipe is taken from Lily Vanilli’s book Sweet Tooth.

Recipe to follow, but for now I just wanted to share the photo (as I’m quite proud of the cake)!


Beef Wellington

20130102-191420.jpgBefore I first made this, I always thought of Beef Wellington as another name for a beef pie. How wrong I was. The first clue is the fact that Beef Wellington calls for prime beef fillet, and if you’re making this for 4 (hungry) – 6 people, 800g of prime beef fillet will set you back about £30. Most definitely not your average meat pie. That said, if you are prepared to fork out for top quality meat, this is well worth making for a special occasion – it is truly delicious! The pastry takes in the flavour of the meat juices and the saltiness of the ham and earthiness of the mushrooms work very well together. The key however is the quality of your meat – buy the best you can afford and you won’t regret it. The better the meat, the more tender and it won’t try out in the cooking.

I made this receipe for a New Year’s Eve dinner this year and it went down a treat (the leftovers were also delicious cold the following day). This recipe is taken from Gordon Ramsay.

8006 prime beef fillet
400g closed cup mushrooms, finely chopped/whizzed up in the food processor
3 table spoons english mustard
6-8 slices parma ham
500g ready-made puff pastry
2 egg yolks beaten

Rustic (skin-on) roast potatoes with garlic and thyme
Green beans

1. Start off by making the mushroom paste to coat the beef. Whizz up the mushrooms in the food processor and then season with sea salt and black pepper and cook in a dry fry pan on high heat, tossing frequently, to remove the moisture. It’ll probably take about 10-15 minutes to remove all the moisture, a good way to test how much is left is to use a slatted spatula and press down on the mushrooms. They will be done when they are a nice brown colour and limited water comes out of them when squeezed. When the mushrooms are ready, spread onto a plate to cool
2. Season the beef fillet with sea salt and black pepper and then sear all over to seal in a hot fry pan with a little olive oil – this will only take 30 seconds on each side, to give a light brown colour. Once sealed, leave the fillet to cool
3. When cool, liberally spread the English mustard over the fillet and leave to stand
4. Lay a sheet of cling film onto the kitchen bench and carefully lay out the parma ham slices so that they overlap slightly – the number of slices you will need depends on the size/shape of the beef fillet, as the idea is that they will completely envelop the meat.
5. Spread the mushroom paste in an even layer on top of the parma ham. Now place the beef fillet in the middle of the ham and use the cling film to help you carefully roll the ham and mushroom layer around the beef, so that you are left with a tightly wrapped parcel containing the mushroom and ham covered fillet. Place the fillet in the fridge to chill for 15 minutes so that it retains its shape and sets the mushroom and ham in place.
6. Meanwhile you can prepare the pastry. Lightly flour the workbench and roll out to around the thickness of a £1 coin. When the beef is ready, remove from fridge, carefully unwrap and position in the middle of the pastry. Brush the pastry surrounding the fillet with beaten egg yolk and carefully wrap the fillet up to form a parcel. Use extra egg yolk to seal the ends – rather like a giant pastie. Glaze the parcel with egg yolk all over and return to the fridge to rest for a further 15 minutes.
7. Heat the oven to 200 Celsius. Remove the meat from the fridge, score/pin prick the pastry and glaze with a further layer of egg yolk all over (this gives the pastry an extra shine and crispiness when cooked) and then place on a baking sheet and cook at 200 degrees for 20-25 minutes. Then turn the heat down to 180 degrees and cook for a further 10-15 minutes. Remove the meat from the oven and leave to rest for 15 minutes before serving.

The tricky bit with the cooking is to ensure that the meat is sufficiently cooked through, but not over-cooked, which is hard to tell when it is encased in pastry and also depends on your oven. You could test the meat with a meat thermometer, or just keep a careful eye on it and ensure you alter cooking times if you alter the amount of meat.

I always serve the Beef Wellington with little roast potatoes (with a fresh thyme and garlic) and green beans or fresh green salad. The combination is simply delicious!



Warm Aubergine & Courgette Salad with Chermoula

Chermoula is like the Moroccan equivalant of pesto. A mixture of ground coriander, lemon juice, cumin, chilli and garlic, with olive oil, all ground up using a pestle and mortar to form a thick green paste. It’s great to make your own, but if short on time, Belazu also makes a great pre-made version which is available in any of the large supermarkets.

It’s amazingly simple to make, but the addition of the chermoula makes it that little bit more exotic and interesting-sounding. I served this as a side dish with my Moroccan leg of lamb, but you could easily serve it as part of a BBQ, together with grilled meats and fish. I think it is best served at room temperature.

Ingredients (for 4)
2 large courgettes (chopped into 2-3cm chunks)
1-2 augbergines (i.e. 1 large aubergine or 2 smaller ones)
3 tablespoons of Chermoula (I used belazu pre-made chermoula – I do have a recipe though, which I will post separately)

1. Blanch the courgettes and aubergines (separtely) in boiling water until just tender (use a skewer or knife to check)
2. When ready, drain and rinse for a couple of minutes under cold water to cool and standaside to drain
3. Toss with 3 tablespoons of chermoula and serve