Lemon Drizzle 61 Revisited

 

Last Saturday it was my friend, and flatmate, Lauren’s birthday. About two months ago I had asked her what her favourite cake was; I thought I’d give it a while so she wouldn’t suspect anything and without hesitation she answered “Lemon drizzle!” So, early on Saturday morning I snuck out of the flat, bought eggs, almost forgot to buy lemons, and rushed back to bake. Sadly, she woke up before the cake was all done, but she was not allowed into the kitchen until it was all ready.

I found this recipe on the BBC GoodFood website but I decided to revise it slightly, using plain flour and baking powder and making it a little extra lemony for Lauren, whose famous motto about lemons is “the more, the better”. This recipe is easy to remember, as butter, sugar and flour are all the same quantity, and the final result is very lemony but not sour, as there is quite a lot of sugar in the drizzle.

One thing I’ve learnt is that, even though recipes suggest you to heat the oven first thing, that’s not a great idea. Anyone who tells you that a cake preparation will only take 10 minutes is living in denial. What about the weighing? How about the chopping, melting, washing and grating? Liars. By the time you are ready to stick that cake into the oven, you’ll have wasted a good 20 minutes of gas – feel free to call me stingy. It doesn’t take that long to heat the oven, mine is old and dreams of holidays in the sun, but it takes less than 10 minutes to heat up. Just turn it on when you know you’re 5 to 10 minutes away from being done with the preparation.

Without further ado, I give you… Lemon Drizzle 61 Revisited.

What you’ll need:

For the cake

  • 225 gr unsalted butter
  • 225 gr caster sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 225 gr plain flour
  • 12.5 gr (2 and ½ spoons) baking powder
  • Finely grated zest of 2 lemons

For the drizzle

  • Strained juice of two lemons
  • 115 gr caster sugar

Preparation:

Wash the lemons very thoroughly, dry them and grate the zest finely. Set it aside. In the meantime soften the butter until very soft, but not hot! Combine the butter with the sugar and beat them with an electric whisk until they have become a soft, pale cream. Add the eggs one by one and keep beating the mixture until everything is well combined. Now preheat the oven to 180°C/fan 160C/gas 4. In a different bowl mix together the flour and baking powder, making sure the powder is well distributed. Now sift that into the cake mixture and add the zest, mixing all thoroughly. Get yourself a loaf tin, grease it with butter and coat it with flour. Pour the mixture into the tin and then flatten it evenly with the back of a spoon. Bake for about 45 minutes (try the wooden toothpick trick – if it comes out clean, the cake is ready). While the cake is in the oven, get working on the drizzle. Squeeze the two lemons and sieve the juice into a bowl with the sugar. Mix well. When the cake is ready, prick it all over with the same toothpick and then pour the drizzle over the entire surface area, letting it sink into the holes. Let it cool and then, with a flat, butter knife detach the sides of the cake from the tin, being careful not to scratch the metal if you are using a non-stick tin. Remove the cake from it, place on a plate, slice and eat eat eat!

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Speedy Lunch: Gnocchetti al Basilico with Avocado and Tomatoes

As promised, here is the post about these cute little green fellas called gnocchetti al basilico (or basil baby gnocchi). Gnocchetti are essentially gnocchi, but smaller and of a slightly more tubular, non-fork-scored (oh dear) shape. These particular ones, which I bought from a main-stream Italian supermarket, have a rather strong basil flavour that makes them extra special. Because of their strong taste (and the fact that I didn’t have much time to make anything overly elaborate) I decided to accompany these gnocchetti al basilico with simply some fresh chopped tomatoes, avocado, extra virgin olive oil, salt and freshly ground black pepper. You can’t get any easier than this when making a main, or primo piatto like we say in Italian. This recipe is for two portions.

What you’ll need:

  • 500 gr gnocchetti al basilico (if you can’t find them anywhere you can either replace them with normal gnocchi and add fresh basil leaves to the recipe or follow Silvana Franco’s recipe on the BBC Food website)
  • 1 medium ripe avocado
  • 2 medium tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • A good sprinkle of Maldon salt
  • A generous dusting of freshly ground black pepper
  • A dusting of dried (or fresh) coriander

 Preparation:

Chop the tomatoes and avocado into small cubes of about ½ inch. Dress with half the oil and salt. Gently cook the gnocchi in a pot of simmering salted water for a minute or two, until they rise to the surface. Once they pop up, they’re cooked! Scoop them out as they rise with a slotted spoon making sure you drain as much water as possible off the gnocchetti and mix them with the tomatoes, avocado, the rest of the oil and the salt, adding pepper and coriander on the top. Done! Buon appetito.

Easy-peasy Wonderful Mince Pies

It’s Christmas! And as such it’s time for Yuletide baking. With this in mind, I decided to bake mince pies. Initially I wanted to make pastry and mince meat, but when I realised just how much of a fuss it is, and considering that I am pretty busy, I decided to buy two different mince meat fillings from Waitrose and see which one worked best. This recipe will yield I’d say about 20 to 22 mince pies but I made 18 and used what was left of the dough to make heart- and teddy-shaped soft cookies to hang onto my Christmas tree.

 

What you’ll need:

  • 225 g cold butter, diced
  • 350 g plain flour
  • 100 g caster sugar
  • A pinch of salt
  • 400 g mincemeat (you can find ready-made mincemeat in most supermarkets. I tried the Classic Waitrose Mincemeat and the Cranberry and Port Waitrose Mincemeat, which was by far the best)
  • 1 small egg, beaten
  • 2 teaspoons of cold water
  • icing sugar, to dust

Preparation:

Combine flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl. Mix the beaten egg and water and set aside. Add the butter to the bowl and knead well. It will look like there is way too much flour to begin with, but trust me, keep working the mixture and feel free to count this as part of your workout for the week! When the dough is almost ready add half of the egg mixture and knead a little more, until you have a smooth ball of buttery dough. Wrap in cling film and place in the fridge for at least half an hour.

 

Preheat the oven to 200°C/gas mark 6/fan assisted 180°C. Butter 18 holes of muffin tins and line them by pressing big walnut-sized balls of pastry into each hole. Spoon the mincemeat into the pies. Pick slightly smaller balls of pastry from your Mother Dough Ball and pat them out between your hands to make round lids. Top the pies with their lids, pressing the edges gently together to seal the pies. Brush the tops with the rest of the egg mixture and bake for 20 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes and then sprinkle with icing sugar. I made two paper templates, a star and a holly leaf and held them over the mince pies while dusting the sugar to make them look extra cute.