Jam and cream and all things nice: Victoria sponge

This was the first cake I ever made; for a long time, it was the only cake I ever made. It’s perfect for a beginner: pretty much foolproof and reliably delicious despite its simplicity. My boyfriend requested it for his birthday this year, and it’s my Dad’s favourite too. If you’ve never had it, you need to make it soon!

There are of course many similar recipes out there, but this cake goes back to first principles in that it’s the same weight of everything (except the vanilla essence, but that’s optional anyway), and mum uses a method designed to account for differing weights/sizes of eggs. At home we had a pair of those old fashioned scales which use tiny weights on one side and a removable metal dish on the other; this method was devised with that in mind, but the same principles apply with any other type of scale.

In the ‘old fashioned’ way, you put your eggs (I used three this time, but you can use two depending on how big you want your cake to be) on the part where the weights would go, and then use their weight to measure all of the other ingredients. If you’ve got any other type of scale, weigh your eggs and then measure out the same amount of everything else. In my case, three large eggs weighed 200g, so I used 200g of the other main ingredients too.

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Ingredients

For the cake

Sugar

Butter or margarine

Eggs (2 or 3, see above)

Self raising flour

A splash of vanilla essence

A little icing sugar (for dusting)

For the filling

Double cream (as much as you like)

Jam (any kind, I used strawberry)

– Preheat the oven to 180c (160c fan), then grease two 20cm sandwich tins and set aside

– Cream together the butter and the sugar using a wooden spoon, or an electric whisk if you’re feeling fancy

– Add the eggs one at a time, with a tablespoon of flour each time, mixing after each addition

– Splash in the vanilla essence

– Sieve in the rest of the flour and fold in until the mixture is smooth

– Divide the mixture between the two tins and spread into a fairly even layer.

– Bake for 20- 25 minutes, or until golden brown and a skewer comes out clean (with a few moist crumbs)

– Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

– Meanwhile, beat the double cream until stiff – when the cakes are cool, spread the underside of one with the cream, and the underside of the other with a generous helping of jam.

-Sandwich together and dust the top with icing sugar – the easiest way is to put a few spoonfuls of icing sugar into a sieve, hold it about 10cm from the top of the cake and gently tap the side until you have a light layer of powdery goodness.

– Slice generously and serve.

Because it contains fresh cream, you need to keep this in the fridge unless you live somewhere really cold! It’s not ideal as it can make the sponge really hard, so each time you want some more try to remember to lift the cake out about half an hour  before to allow it to return to room temperature. Because of this, the cake is really best devoured as soon as possible – I don’t think you’ll have too many problems persuading people to eat this rapidly though.

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Listening to Beat me Daddy (Eight to the Bar) by The Andrews Sisters, New York, New York Medley by Mel Torme, That Old Black Magic by Ella Fitzgerald, Night Club by Mose Allison — I’m going through a serious jazz phase… It’s genetic.

This recipe is one I learned from my mum – it’s one that’s been around forever, seemingly. All other content is © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2015.

Bubble & Squeak: My new (old) favourite thing ever

When I was still at primary school, whenever we went out for dinner, it was to the same pub. It was called The Grapes, at a tiny village near where we lived called Wrea Green. In Year 3 we went on a geography trip there to see an example of a ‘typical’ village. As the officious seven year old that I was, what I remember most from that trip were the bright red clipboards, and the difficulty I had filling in my worksheet neatly on them. Seven year old troubles, eh? I must have been a ball as a child… But I digress. Whenever we went to The Grapes, I had Bubble & Squeak. A food surely named for children, and completely unrelated to what it actually is, of course! Leftover mash, plus lots of yummy veg and some stuff to bind it all together, fried until golden in butter. I loved it every time. Then we moved house, stopped going to The Grapes, and I promptly forgot all about Bubble & Squeak.

Then recently I rediscovered and made it myself, and it was as yummy as I remember.

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Arty Stack. Perfect Fried Egg. Win.

 

Ingredients

(Very flexible: you can throw most things in, that’s kind of the point)

– 2 medium potatoes

– 1 carrot

– 1 onion

– About half a leek

– 4 or 5 leaves of cabbage

– 1 tbsp flour

– 1 egg

– Salt and pepper, to taste

– Oil or butter, for frying

Directions

– You can of course use leftovers, in which case the veg would already be cooked, and you can skip the first few steps, but if you’re starting from scratch:

– Prep the potatoes and carrots as you prefer, then simmer in a big pan of boiling, salted water for about 20 mins or until they’re soft

– While they boil, chop up your other veg (I favour the onion, leek and cabbage combination) pretty finely, and saute in a different pan using oil of your choice

– Once the potatoes and carrots are cooked, drain and tip them back into the pan. Add the other veg and give it all a thorough mix/mash.

– Add the egg and the flour, as well as salt and pepper to taste, and give it another thorough mix until everything is combined.

– At this point, it’s best to refrigerate the mix to firm it up (I learned this the hard way…! It’s fine if you fry up the patties straight away, but you’ll have to make peace with them falling apart somewhat.)

– Once you’re ready to fry, heat some oil or butter in your pan (no need to wash after frying up the veg in my opinion…) and scoop in a burger-sized dollop of the mixture. Press it down gently with the back of a fish slice or a fork until golden and crispy on one side. Then carefully flip and cook the other side until that’s golden too. (Unless you have a million pans and hobs, you’ll probably need to do this in batches)

– Wahoo. You’re done. I’ve made these quite a few times now, and can thus say from experience that they are amazing with a fried egg. I’ve also had them with sausages, and once with bacon. But whatever else you choose, I’d say that tomato ketchup is absolutely essential.

This recipe is very slightly adapted from A Girl Called Jack; Jack Monroe is a very cool lady and a fab food writer specialising in yummy budget recipes. Definitely check her out if you haven’t already!

Everything else is © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2015.

The Breakfast Club: Banana, blueberry & almond smoothie

Everyone loves a good smoothie. The beauty of the smoothie is that you can bung most things (within reason) into the mix and it’ll taste fine. However, all smoothies were not created equal, so here’s the yummiest combination of classic smoothie ingredients I’ve found. The Greek yoghurt, almond milk and honey give this one the creamy edge of luxury, while the banana and frozen blueberries keep it tasting fresh. It’s so simple that I do kind of feel cheeky calling it a recipe though…

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Oh, and it’s a pretty colour too

Ingredients

1 banana, in chunks

A handful of frozen blueberries

2 tablespoons Greek yoghurt (optional, I guess, but it makes it oh-so-creamy)

4 tablespoons Almond milk (you could use another type of milk, but I like the subtle almond taste)

1 teaspoon honey

Directions

–  Add all of your ingredients to your smoothie creator of choice (I use a handheld blender and jug combo) and BLITZ AWAY until your smoothie is… well… smooth.

– Now drink your smoothie. That’s it. I told you it really was embarrassingly simple.

All content is © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2015.

Caramel {Millionaire’s} Shortbread

When I was in sixth form I once tried to make caramel shortbread when my parents were away. Yes, I was the teenager who embarked on ill-planned and over-ambitious baking in the absence of my parents. Crazy parties? Nope, flour in every corner imaginable and slightly ruined baking tins were more my style.  Anyway, it went quite wrong. I can’t really remember why, I think it got stuck in a tin which I wasn’t meant to be using anyway or something. Anyway, I thought I’d try again. Not to take this too seriously or anything, but with caramel shortbread it’s all about ratio. Ask any self- respecting lover of this traybake, and they’ll happily go into great detail about how much of each mouthful should be shortbread, how much caramel, and how much chocolate. Shop bought versions tend to be woefully uneven in this respect: think, a massive wedge of shortbread and comparatively inconsequential layers of both caramel and chocolate. A travesty. This recipe, on the other hand, gives you the perfect levels of caramel vs. chocolate and shortbread. Also, they’re super tasty. Well, I think so anyway.

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Glorious layers

 

Ingredients

For the shortbread

50g sugar

150g butter (unsalted technically, but I basically never have it in and salted was fine)

250g plain flour

 For the caramel

175g butter (again, should have been unsalted but I used salted and it was fine)

175g sugar

4 tbsp golden syrup

397ml condensed milk (standard tin size)

For the topping

300g chocolate (I used a mix of milk and dark, because that’s what I had lying around. I think all dark would be fine, but you might want to avoid all milk since it might tip these over from deliciously sweet to downright sickly)

– You’ll need the oven at 160 (fan 140, gas mark 3). Line a standard rectangular tin with greaseproof paper, making sure that there is some overhang at the edges – it’ll come in handy when you come to lift the traybake out later.

– Make the shortbread. Place the sugar, butter and flour into a large bowl – mix it all together, and then get your hands in and rub the fat into the flour/sugar until all of the lumps of butter are gone and you’ve got a soft breadcrumb type mix. It should hold together if you squeeze together a clump in your palm. (If you have a food processor, use that – I don’t though, and the hand mix option worked fine!)

– Tip the mixture into the lined tin, spread it out and use your fingers or the back of a spoon to press it down gently; you want it to be even and smooth.

– Now pop the tin in the fridge for about twenty minutes to harden things up, before baking for around 35 minutes, or until golden. Leave to cool.

– Next, make the caramel. Place the butter, sugar, condensed milk and golden syrup in a small saucepan over a low heat— heat gently and stir to combine all of the ingredients.

– Once the butter has melted and the ingredients have combined, you’ll need to keep stirring right to the bottom of the pan to make sure that the caramel doesn’t stick or burn. Bubble for about 5- 8 minutes, or until the mixture has thickened considerably – it’ll be thick, but still of pouring consistency.

– As soon as it’s ready, pour the caramel over the shortbread, and spread into an even layer if need be. Leave to cool.

– Melt the chocolate however you like – you could use the bowl over a saucepan of boiling water trick, but I favour the microwave. This works just fine as long as you cover the chocolate vessel and check/ stir it regularly to avoid burning.

– Pour the melted chocolate over the cool caramel, and spread it out into an even layer.

– Now just leave it all to cool. Once the chocolate is set, use a sharp knife to mark out and then cut into squares.

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Arty angles

 

If you write a blog, now is the time to wander around your flat looking for the best natural light. Once you’ve found it, you’ll want to put something vaguely attractive in the background; probably not that pile of receipts/bills or that tin of baked beans. Anything pastel or crafty is probably a good call. Even better if you have things that are pastel AND baking-related. If you’re truly dedicated, sprinkle some chocolate chips around about. Now, arrange your baking in an arty way, and take ridiculously-angled photographs until it looks pretty. Ignore the sceptical glances of anybody you may live with, surely they should be used to this by now?

If you have no need for arty and beautifully presented images of your creations, then feel free to just eat them. Much more sensible.

This recipe is adapted slightly from BakingMad.com. All other content is © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2015.

Foodie Adventures: The Haberdashery, Crouch End

Last weekend, my lovely friend Helen came to stay. We share an ardent appreciation of all things vintage, pretty and higgledy-piggledy — we spend a lot of time exchanging links to beautiful tiles and extravagant baking projects. Mainly on Pinterest. You get the picture. And so when she arrived off the train at King’s Cross from my home town, I really wanted to make the most of having her in London and go somewhere adorable and awesome. A quick Google search of something along the very predictable lines of ‘cosiest cafes in London’ yielded The Haberdashery: the name had me instantly hooked. It was only an easy half hour bus ride from where we were to Crouch End, so off we went.

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I didn’t manage to get my own photograph of the amazing interior; this one is from the cafe’s website

We loved it! The interior is stunning; vintage and chintzy in all of the best ways with excellent use of Victorian fireplace tiles and coffee bowls (yep, we saw people getting hot chocolate in what looked like breakfast bowls, heaven) hanging eccentrically behind the till. Our drinks came in glass bottles, and our food arrived on charmingly mismatched vintage plates. AND our butter came in an ancient looking ceramic tub that once contained ‘Sainsbury’s Freshly Made Bloater Paste’, which it turns out (thanks, Google) is a kind of fish paste made from Bloater fish, which is traditionally eaten on toast for afternoon tea. No actual fish paste on offer, sadly, so I had a Breakfast Roll with bacon and egg. The bread was lovely —  exactly the right level of toasted — sweet and chewy. The egg was fresh and cooked to perfection — the bacon just as good. I know, I know, it’s an egg and bacon sandwich. But that just seems like a massive understatement: it really was unlike any I’ve ever eaten.

I also had a yummy Elderflower Soda Jar, which of course came in an actual chunky jar with a handle. Again, it was like Elderflower cordial I’d had before, but just somehow better. The cakes looked amazing, but we were just too full after our delicious mains to sample any! I have vowed to return for afternoon tea very, very soon. Here’s the website: if you ever find yourself in Crouch End, definitely pop in. Actually scrap that, it’s worth making the journey especially, if only just to avoid another soul- destroying “Oh, I suppose we’ll just go to Starbucks, then” moment. I’ll certainly be back!

The Breakfast Roll of destiny

The Breakfast Roll of destiny

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Elderflower Cordial in a handy-handled jar

Helen with 'The Colonial' Juice: apple, cucumber, lime + mint

Helen with ‘The Colonial’ Juice: apple, cucumber, lime + mint

All content is © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2015. Except the first photograph, which is from The Haberdashery’s website here.

Five signs that you’re a twenty-something home for the holidays

1. You’re suddenly drinking a lot of tea. On average 30 cups a day. Every self respecting Proper Home has tea constantly on tap. In my house, a mug just somehow appears in front of me every 15 minutes.
2. You know those sibling(s) that you get on really well with when you’re living in different houses and have actual adult conversations with about your lives via phone? Well as soon as you’re back under the same roof you’ll soon find yourselves reverting to squabbling like you’re 11 again. And wrestling. And pouring huge vats of mincemeat over each other.*
*not really
3. All of the skills and abilities that allow you to survive normally evaporate as soon as you pass the threshold of your family home. ‘I’m pretty sure I have no idea how to actually use a washing machine… Do I have to put the powder in before I turn it on, or…?’
4. You have a really weird miscellaneous collection of your possessions still in your bedroom; a combination of things too big or too random to make it into the thingstotaketotheonebedroomflat pile. The same goes for clothes. ‘Oh it’s fine, I won’t take many clothes back, I have loads still left there.’ Yes, yes you do. But they’re all things that you didn’t take with you when you moved out for a reason. Mainly bobbly jumpers and misshapen leggings, bras six sizes too small and those brightly-coloured tights you thought were a good idea when you were 14. They’ll look great at that family dinner party.
5. You’re eating foods you’d unthinkingly filtered out of your diet. Roasted meats? Things that require a food processor? You mean you can fit more than one baking dish in that oven? THREE DIFFERENT VEGETABLES FOR DINNER?

All content is © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2015.

Ginger & Eggnog: two Christmas drinks recipes

The days between Christmas and New Year are often a little bit of a weird time; some might even say they’re anti- climactic. It’s almost as though when Christmas day itself is over everyone remembers that December is, on the whole, cold and grey and (in Britain) also often quite rainy. In the build up to the 25th, it’s like all of the sparkle and mince pie making and carols have distracted us from this otherwise evident fact. So to fend off that strange Christmas-is-over-but-it’s-still-winter melancholy, here are two recipes for Christmassy drinks to raise your spirits. We’re only technically on the 5th day of Christmas, after all. And one of my favourite things about the Christmas period is having the time and the excuse to potter around in the kitchen. And I’d recommend some well- timed pottering to all feeling the after-Christmas blues.

Eggnog

Mum and I wanted to try making something that we’d never made before. And we chose the most stereotypical Christmas drink we could think of. There are a lot of variations on the eggnog recipe. We went for one where you make up the thin custardy part first, and then you can experiment with which alcohol you want to add to each glassful. We preferred brandy in the end.

Ingredients

1140ml/2 pints whole milk

6 free-range eggs

50g/2oz sugar

1 vanilla pod, split (or a decent glug of vanilla extract, which is what I opted for and went fine)

Brandy and/ or rum

Cocoa powder, for dusting

Directions

– Lightly whisk together the whole milk, eggs, sugar and vanilla in a large bowl.

– Pour into a large saucepan and heat gently on a low heat until the mixture is thickened. Stir continuously, and don’t let the mixture boil.

– Once the mixture is thickened, take it off the heat but keep stirring as it cools down to stop it sticking or burning. (Remove the vanilla pod if using rather than extract). I poured it into a large bowl in order to stop the cooking and cool the mix down. Stir occasionally to stop a skin from forming.

– Chill the mixture in the fridge.

– Once cold, pour some into a glass and add brandy or rum to personal taste. Dust lightly with cocoa powder if you’re feeling fancy (I forgot!).

Eggnog!

Eggnog! And a mini glass! And some ivy!

 

Ginger Christmas Cordial

And a non- alcoholic alternative. This is a recipe which my Northern Irish Nana always made at Christmas time, and my Mum still makes it when she can get hold of the ginger essence which is the most important ingredient, but which is a bit elusive in England. This year she found it in a health food shop. This is gingery and spicy and perfectly festive! In pretty bottles it also makes a great gift.

Riddle's Ginger Compound. Sounds a little bit sinister.

Riddle’s Ginger Compound. Sounds a little bit sinister.

Ingredients

– One sachet blackcurrant jelly

– 900g/2lbs sugar

– 4 pints/2.4 liters boiling water

Directions

– Dissolve the jelly and the sugar in the boiling water.

– Cover, and leave to go cold.

– Stir in the ginger essence, and pour into bottles.

– When you’re ready to drink it, dilute it as you would cordial. It’s great with either water or lemonade.

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The finished product

And there you go. Two drinks perfect for any New Year’s Party. Or family gathering. Or, you know, drinking alone watching Bridget Jones’ Diary.

All content is © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2014.

The Friday Frame {10} Let your heart be light

Here are a series of Christmassy frames for Boxing Day (which is also a Friday, of course). And, as Judy Garland first sang in ‘Meet me in St Louis’: Have yourself a merry little Christmas.

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Snowman Christmas tree decoration; this was my favourite when I was little

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One of the cupcakes I baked for a Christmas gathering with friends

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Santa sledging

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Ballerina on the tree

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My mum’s tin of retro Christmas decorations

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Dates stuffed with marzipan

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Baubles and sparkly lights

All content is © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2014.

Baking is good for the soul

So it seems I am no longer a student. The proof is everywhere: I am the reluctant owner of an Oxford alumni card, I spend most days trawling the internet in search of an Actual Real Job and the government no longer gives me any money. And to cope with the lethal combination of little idea of what the immediate future holds, and a huge amount of time to dwell on that uncertainty, I’ve been trying to keep myself busy. So, today I did something for the first time, I baked bread from scratch AND it was edible. It’s amazing the sense of achievement I got from making these french bread rolls, but I guess it’s the little thing in life.

I followed a recipe from the lovely Mel at Mel’s Kitchen Cafe, a blog which I’ve become addicted to recently. This lady knows a hell of a lot about everything cooking related, and she has become like my cooking experiment fairy godmother. Within the post on the french bread rolls which you can find here, she has also linked to a tutorial on yeast which I found invaluable being a bread beginner, and with her expert guidance I am now the proud creator of 12 admittedly imperfect but incredibly beautiful bread rolls. (Well, 11 now.)

Russian proverb: ‘With bread in your hand you’ll find paradise under a pine tree’. I guess all I need to do now is find a pine tree.

All content is © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2014.