Thursday, 18 April 2013

Rainbow Cake

So I sat here for about 10 minutes writing and then re-writing the perfect intro paragraph to what, I feel, is one special recipe. I came at it from a few different angles, but nothing seemed to stick. And then it hit me - some things simply need no introduction. This is a freaking rainbow cake. Isn't that enough? It's basically the happiest thing you can think of, baked into the tastiest thing you can think of. It's like magic. Happy, tasty magic. I hope you enjoy it.
There's no rocket science here, just your basic vanilla sponge cake recipe. Start by preheating your oven to 160C and lining a cake tin, preferably spring-form, with greaseproof paper. In a large bowl cream 225g unsalted butter with 225g caster sugar, using a electric hand mixer to get a smooth mixture. In a separate bowl combine 210g self-raising flour, 25g cornflour and a teaspoon of baking powder. Add four eggs to the butter mix, one at a time, alternating with the dry ingredients. Finally add about a teaspoon of vanilla extract and three tablespoons of milk. Fatboy prefers whole milk.
Be careful you don't overbeat the mixture or your cake will have no air left in it and it will be RUBBISH. Separate into six different bowls, for six different colours, you dig?
Everyone remember the rainbow song? No me neither. I remember ROY G BIV though. Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet. Indigo and violet...they're pretty much the same thing right? That leaves us with six colours. This is some powerful stuff, a teaspoon of each should do the trick.
A bit of blue and a bit of yellow = a bit of green. Note the Fatboy modelling the men's version of his very own apron. Shoutout to the 190 boys for a very awesome engagement gift.
Blue on blue. How about that?
How about that for 6 bowls of beautifully coloured batter? You know what this stuff reminds me of? You ever see that scene in Hook when the Lost Boys have to use their imagination to fill their plates full of food, and then they have a big food fight and it's basically this colourful gooey stuff? Yeah, no my girlfriend hasn't seen that movie either. Watch it, trust me on this. RU-FI-O!
And all you gotta do now is dump (not so much of a cooking term) the batter in layers on top of each other. Look at that red. Look at it pop.
A bit of orange for you? Eh? You like that?
Yellow. Bright. Shiny. Yellow.
Green. You're beginning to get the picture now I'm guessing...
Blue. We're almost there, don't worry.
And to top it all off a nice bit of purple. Purple. Nothing rhymes with purple. Mad ey? No. Not really.
Run your spoon through the cake batter to give it a nice swirly, marbled effect. Just look at all of those dirty dishes. Someone's going to have to clean those you know. So bake in the oven for about 25 minutes or so - you'll know it's done when a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.
Let the cake cool and then whip up a simple buttercream icing. Mix together 110g unsalted butter, 60ml milk, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and 250g icing sugar until you've got a nice smooth mixture. Add another 250g icing sugar and beat well until you've got a big bowl of smooth, creamy awesomeness. Dollop on the cake, spread and rejoice. Your rainbow in a cake is complete.
Check out those multi-coloured crumbs. There's definitely nothing better than showing up to a party with this cake, then slicing it open to reveal the rainbow inside. Magical.

For the sponge...
225g unsalted butter
225g caster sugar
210g self-raising flour
25g cornflour
1 teaspoon baking powder
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons milk

For the icing
110g unsalted butter
60ml milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
500g icing sugar

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Sea snails and sausages

So France was awesome. Great to see my parents and their incredible new house, sleeping in late and spending evenings drinking red wine and eating our body weights in cheese. I even got to spend a glorious afternoon cruising around my parents' 3 acres on a ride-on mower. Perfecto. 
There's very little in this world of ours that will make me happier than an afternoon spent wandering around the food markets in a foreign country. There are just so many exciting smells, sights and sounds you've never encountered before. Even the things that are the same are different. Sure we've got radishes back home. But not these radishes, these are French radishes.
These were cabbage leaves, steamed and then stuffed with beef and pork. They smelled amazing. Anyone with an interest in cooking, looking for some inspiration should get themselves down to their nearest market. And invite me. 
 Not a cheddar to be seen. And that's ok.
Homard de Chausey. (or 'lobster de chaucey' to you and me)
At €1 a pop I felt like I was robbing this poor guy. The salted caramel macaron was a thing of French beauty. My fiancee tried to make macarons once. And I'm a good person so I'll leave it at that.
Ok so that's Italian, but we'll let them off because it looks so damn pretty.
My parents have been bringing me back big bags of sea salt from Brittany for a few years now and I totally swear by it. Get some good salt in your life, trust me on this.
Jams. All of the jams.
You'd think this might be an unsafe way to balance several dozen bottles of wine, but no, the French have it covered I guess. Cheap as chips this stuff, and tastes just as good too.
The French enjoy a sausage. The Bretons particularly enjoy the Andouillette Sausage. It is...interesting. We'll come back to that guy...
'Like a calzone!' - Monsieur Pastry Chef shouted at me. A mega-calzone. These things were loaded with minced pork and vegetables and mushrooms. A master tradesman at work.
It's nice to see misshaped fruit and vegetable getting pride of place at the market. They might be a bit fugly but you know they're the best tasting.
All different shapes and sizes of oysters, cheap as you like and sold by the side of the road. Ask my Dad to tell you his oyster story. don't, actually.
A wedge of goats' cheese, melted on some crusty bread and stuck on a bed of salad. Simple food, done perfectly. God bless the French.
THAT is how you cook a duck. Beautiful. And the most incredible raspberry vinaigrette. It took all my strength not to raid the kitchen in search of the recipe. 
Les boulots. Sea snails. My only issue with these was that they came pre-cooked so you ate them cold. Which gave them time to...firm up. Otherwise, you dunk something in enough aioli and it's going to taste decent enough. The missus wimped out.
Remember those sausages? So they're made of intestines. The smell has been described as that of a dirty men's bathroom. The texture is also a bit tubey for my taste.
How about something a bit nicer? There was nothing wrong with these little pastries...
We went to this incredible farm shop, full of fresh local produce. Dirty carrots are trustworthy carrots.

L'escargot, obviously.
So I'll leave you now with a duck in a jar. Why not? I miss France already.