Thursday, September 29, 2011

Pot Roasted Pork with Tomatoes

This came about one evening when I was "fridge clearing" and trying to use up everything we had before going out and buying more food.  It's amazing what comes out of such expeditions...  I had some beautiful pork chops from James Whelan Butchers in Clonmel and some lovely cherry tomatoes, so I decided to sear the pork and then pot-roast it with the tomatoes, some onions and a bit of stock.  Pan-fried gnocchi and some steamed green beans completed this store cupboard supper.

Pot Roasted Pork with Tomatoes

2 Pork Chops
200g Cherry Tomatoes
2 Onions, thinly sliced
200ml Stock (chicken or vegetable).

Preheat your oven to 200c/Gas Mark 6.  Heat a griddle pan, season the pork and fry for 1 minute on each side until the pork has started to colour.  I like to sear the sides as well, just to crisp up the fat

Put the onions & tomatoes into a casserole dish, add the pork and stock.  Don't forget to pour over the juices from the griddle pan... loads of flavour there.

Bake for 15 minutes until the tomatoes have burst and the pork is tender.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Chocolate & Vanilla Marble Cake

Every Tuesday evening, I make sure that nothing happens between 8 & 9pm because my favourite baking programme The Great British Bake Off is on BBC2.  I absolutely love it - especially when King Paul Hollywood (the Silver Fox) and Queen Mary Berry watch, taste and comment on everybody's efforts.  Mel & Sue the presenters always have me in fits of laughter with the sometimes snide but always witty asides.  So far, all the men have been eliminated, leaving just a few incredibly talented women to fight it out for the honour of winning and becoming the next Edd Kimber.  I'm going to be on holidays for the next two weeks and will be missing GBBO.  I will find a way to watch it though... I need my fix!

This cake is based on a Mary Berry recipe and is topped with a chocolate frosting which is a world apart from the usual buttercream topping - it's glossy and glacé and gorgeous.  This was actually the last cake I made for work (in fact, I made three of them) and nothing but crumbs remained.  The original recipe was made in a 2lb loaf tin, but for ease of feeding hungry work peeps, I also made it as a traybake.  It stays moist for at least 5 days in an airtight tin - but good luck with that one...  Oh, did I mention that "somebody" broke a plate in her hurry to get a second piece???

Finally, you'll see a new prop in these pictures - the Finance Team in work bought me the most beautiful cake stand for my birthday and I have to show them that I've used it or they will beat me!

Chocolate & Vanilla Marble Cake

225g Butter, softened
225g Caster Sugar
275g Self-Raising Flour
2 tsp Baking Powder
4 Large Eggs
2 tbsp Milk
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
1½ tbsp Cocoa Powder
2 tbsp Hot Water
Chocolate Icing 
25g Butter
15g Cocoa Powder
1-2 tbsp Milk
100g Icing Sugar

Preheat the oven to 160°C/Gas Mark 3. Lightly grease a 900g (2lb) loaf tin & line with a wide strip of non-stick baking parchment to go up the wide sides and over the base.  Or you could just use paper liners...

Put the butter, sugar, flour, baking powder, eggs, milk and vanilla extract into a food mixer for 2-3 minutes until well blended. Spoon half into another bowl and set aside.

In a small bowl, mix the cocoa powder and hot water together until smooth. 

Allow to cool slightly, then add to one of the bowls of cake mixture, mixing well until evenly blended.

Spoon the vanilla and chocolate cake mixtures randomly into the prepared tin until all of the mixture is used up, and gently level the surface. 

Bake for 50 -60 minutes, until the cake is well risen, springy to the touch and starting to shrink away from the sides of the tin - I'd recommend using a skewer to check that the cake is cooked through. 

Allow to cool in the tin for a few minutes, then turn out on to a wire rack, peel off the lining paper and leave to cool completely.

To make the icing, melt the butter in a small pan, add the cocoa powder, stir to blend and cook gently for one minute. Stir in the milk and icing sugar, then remove from the heat and mix thoroughly. If necessary, leave the icing on one side, stirring occasionally, to thicken. Spread the cold cake evenly with the icing and leave to set.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Babaduck in the Weekend Examiner

A few weeks ago, I got an email asking me if I would be interested in talking about my own experience of food blogging for the Examiner.  I had a great chat with the journalist Claire Droney & she told me that the piece would be hopefully published at the end of September.

Fast forward to yesterday - myself & The Hubs flew to San Francisco for Part 1 of our Big Holiday, eventually found the key for our rental apartment and connected to WiFi.  All of a sudden, my Twitter was full of comments from people who had seen the article and I discovered that I was in very fine company indeed with the lovely Niamh from Eat Like a Girl (author of the wonderful Comfort and Spice) and Clare from An American In Ireland who were also featured.  There was also a gorgeous photo of Niamh to illustrate the article.

By the powers of internet, I was able to have a look at the article, so with thanks to The Examiner's Digital Download service, here's some images of the article

Right, it's 3am San Francisco time so I think I should get some sleep or poor The Hubs will be dealing with a sleep-deprived grumpbag in the morning!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Singapore Laksa Chicken Noodle Soup

After making the Spicy Asian Chicken Noodle Soup, I was on a roll... I was browsing in Marks & Spencer and saw a jar of Singapore Laksa paste which was billed as being perfect for soup, being full of lemongrass, galangal, fish sauce, chili & anchovies. Yes, I could have made it myself but I'm a bit of a lazy article and who am I to argue with M&S - they never normally get it wrong!  So, I armed myself with a giant armful of veggies, a pack of rice noodles and a freshly roasted chicken to make a giant vat of Singapore Laksa Chicken Noodle Soup.

One chicken made not only 3 litres of soup but made huge Chicken Tricolore sandwiches for dinner and fajitas the next day : not a shred of meat was wasted and it all tasted amazingly good.  This soup takes longer to assemble than it does to cook, and it freezes really well.  When you're reheating it, add some extra fresh veggies to keep the colour nice and vibrant and add a bit of extra texture to the soup (try some shredded bok choy, celery or spring onions).  To get the carrots sliced thinly, use a vegetable peeler... trust me, it does work!

Singapore Laksa Chicken Noodle Soup

2 litres boiling water
2 tbsp liquid chicken stock
1 jar Singapore Laksa paste
2 Red Onions, finely sliced
3 Carrots, sliced into long strips
400g cooked Chicken, shredded
200g Rice Noodles
200g Chestnut Mushrooms, finely sliced
150g Sweetcorn
150g Mangetout, trimmed & sliced

Bring the water to the boil, add the stock and laksa paste, and stir well.

Add the onions & carrots and simmer for 3-4 minutes.

Now add the rest of the ingredients and cook for 5-6 minutes until the noodles are cooked through.

Serve in a warmed bowl & don't forget to slurp your noodles!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Italian Sausage & Vegetable Bake

I'll be honest, this is not the prettiest of dishes but what it lacks in supermodel looks, it more than makes up in flavour.  It's a perfect "throw it in the oven" dinner while you relax on the sofa with the Sunday papers and as it's cooked in one dish, it's very handy for cleaning up afterwards as well.

I used beautiful Italian sausages from James Whelan Butchers in Clonmel (I won a voucher from them earlier in the year for my now award-winning Pork, Onion & Herb Stuffing) and spent it on lots of delicious meat.  I take the sausages out of their skins & form them into little meatballs, scattering them around the dish like little Italian flavourbombs.  I use a mandolin to slice the potatoes as thinly as possible - it's faster than slicing by hand, but if you don't have one, just use your sharpest knife and remember that the thinner the slices, the faster the dish will cook.

I'll apologise in advance for the lack of a photo of the cooked dish - we were so hungry that we'd scoffed half of it before I remembered!  We can assure you that it is delicious though...

Divine Italian Sausages from James Whelan

Italian Sausage & Vegetable Bake

4 Sausages, removed from skins & formed into balls
2 Potatoes, peeled & finely sliced
2 Leeks, trimmed & finely sliced
1 Onion, finely sliced
200g Mushrooms, finely sliced
1 Savoy Cabbage, shredded
500ml Vegetable Stock
Salt & pepper

Preheat your oven to 200c/Gas Mark 6

Using a lidded oven-proof dish (I'm using my trusty Le Creuset), layer the half of the vegetables, seasoning well, then add half of the sausages, repeat - finishing with a layer of potatoes.

Pour over the stock - it should just about come to the top of the potatoes.

Cover and bake for 50 minutes or until the potatoes are tender and allow to cool for 5 minutes before serving.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Birthday Competition Winners

As you all know, I ran a competition last week to celebrate my birthday (I had a fantastic time, thanks for asking...).

The competition closed at 6pm tonight and I immediately called Lulu from her 99th watching of Pirates of the Caribbean to pick four numbers between 1 and 59...


Lulu chose the following numbers

10  Colette from
12  Darren from
59  Seashell

I'm allocating the prizes at random, so drop me an email (babaduck at gmail dot com) with your postal address and the prizes will be winging their way to you!  If I don't hear from you by Thursday night, I'll post them out in mid-October when I'm back from holidays!

Congratulations to you and many thanks to everybody who commented.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Strawberry & White Chocolate Cheesecake

The summer is drawing to an end (actually, what summer?) and so is my time in work as my contract is up in just over a week.  During one of our many lunchtime discussions about food, one of my colleagues was asking if I had ever made cheesecake as it was his favourite.  I felt really guilty because I've made it loads of times & brought it into the office - he just wasn't working there then.  So, Robbie, this one's for you!

The last of the strawberries are in store right now and I'm using gorgeous Irish Camarillo strawberries from Keelings in North Co. Dublin - they're bright red, very juicy and have a gorgeous ultra-intense perfume.  Oh, they taste pretty good as well! After taster feedback from the Baby Berry Cheesecakes, I'm making this base using 50/50 digestives and ginger nuts which I'm baking for 10 minutes for extra crunchiness.  It's still the same 2:1 biscuit butter ratio though and this makes your base perfectly crunchy and set.  I'm using white chocolate because it's what Robbie prefers - personally I'm a fan of "the darker the better" so feel free to change the chocolate to suit your own personal taste.  The chocolate acts as a setting agent, so you won't need gelatine.  It's also very sweet, so there's no need to add extra sugar.

These quantities make a very large 12 inch cheesecake so simply halve for a small group - I'm feeding a gang of 20 in work, so I always make more than the average person would eat in a week!  If you don't have a loose-bottomed cake tin, invest in one - they make baking things like this an absolute breeze, and mine gets used for all my cake baking, so they're very versatile too.

If you're a cheesecake novice, fear not because there's a list of handy tips in a previous post...

Strawberry & White Chocolate Cheesecake

125g Digestive Biscuits, crushed  
125g Ginger Biscuits, crushed  
125g Butter, melted
300g Full Fat Cream Cheese
250ml Cream
200g Strawberries, crushed

200g White Chocolate, melted and cooled

Preheat your oven to 180c/Gas Mark 4

Using brute force, or a food processor, bash the digestive biscuits until they disintegrate into a sandy mass.
Melt the butter in a pot & add the crushed biscuits.  Stir well until the butter has been absorbed by the crumbs.  
Pour into your loose-bottomed cake tin & bake for 10 minutes.  Remove from the oven & allow to cool completely before adding the filling.

I was watching The Goddess That Is Ina make a Chocolate Espresso Cheesecake this morning & she definitely doesn't do her own clearing up - she melted the butter then added it to the food processor.  Two greasy items to wash up... not in this house!

Now melt your chocolate - either in a bain marie or a microwave.  I'm personally very comfortable using a microwave - break it up into squares, stick it in a glass bowl or jug & melt 1 minute at a time at 50% power.  Stir every time & it should take about 3 minutes.  Allow it to cool for 20 minutes while you crack on with the filling.

Whip the cream until it's between soft peak & very stiff as it needs to hold its shape.

Whisk the cream cheese (this breaks up any lumps) and fold in the cream.

Puree the strawberries and fold into the cream and cheese.

Finally, fold in the cooled melted white chocolate, mixing very well.

Pour the cheesecake on top of the biscuit base, level out* and chill for at least 4 hours.

*Yes, that is a scrupulously clean ice scraper you can see in the photo - it's small enough to get into the edges of the tin, unlike a palette knife.  Also, wrap a piece of kitchen paper around your finger & wipe the inside edge of the tin so you get a really clean finish.  It takes 2 seconds and makes the cheesecake look really professional