Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Blue Velvet Cake

Hi again,

So as you know, My cake for the January Clandestine Cake Club meeting was a Blue Velvet cake.

I was quite worried, given the disastrous attempt at blue velvet cupcakes, about how this cake would turn out. But it turned out to be very fun to make (although not quite as fun to clean up the kitchen afterwards)

Mixing the blue and violet colouring with the cocoa

the mixture in the tins waiting to go in the oven... The colour is really quite disconcerting.

I cut each cake into half to make 4 layers

And some little sugarpaste robins to decorate the top of the cake.
And a piped quotation from the film...
And the finished article is complete:

In case you haven't seen Blue Velvet, and you're wondering "why robins after Christmas?" it's because of a famous key moment in the film, where Laura Dern says to Kyle Machlan

I had a dream. In fact, it was on the night I met you. In the dream, there was our world, and the world was dark because there weren't any robins and the robins represented love. And for the longest time, there was this darkness. And all of a sudden, thousands of robins were set free and they flew down and brought this blinding light of love. And it seemed that love would make any difference, and it did. So, I guess it means that there is trouble until the robins come

At the end of the film, of course the robins do appear.

Moe cake clubs pics to follow...

Black Forest Bake-Off

Those of you who have been following the blog for a while will know that, on weekends when we're not together, boyf and I will often have baking competitions, which are then judged by picture alone by independent judges.

We couldn't decide what to bake, but the lovely Lisa suggested black forest gateau. Neither of us have ever made black forest gateau so it seemed like a good challenge.

I chose a recipe out of one of my reliable old cookbooks and away we went to produce our masterpieces. Mine ended up looking like this:

I learnt 2 main things in the process: 1. applying chocolate sprinkles to the outside of a cake is hard and 2. Kirsch is very tasty. 

And here is boyf's effort, a very worthy affair with some expert piping. And particularly worthy considering he later admitted to never even having seen or tasted a black forest gateau.

The independent judges (my mum and dad and grandma, and boyf's mum and dad) agreed that mine was more "black forest gateau"-like and mine was therefore pronounced the winner :D


Curry Night In

Hi all,

Expect a glut of posts today... I'm feeling a bit under the weather so am firmly planted on the sofa with a blanket, and catching up with blog posts seems like a nice thing to do to cheer me up on a poorly day.

I tend to binge cook. So, on a night when i'm not doing anything, i'll usually make some large batches of stew or a curry, then portion it off and freeze it all then have it for my lunch at work or as a quick and easy tea when i get in from work.

This is one of my favourite curry recipes that i wanted to share with you. It's actually quite healthy (adapted from a Slimming World Recipe) and whilst it's probably not quite as delicious as a takeaway curry it's very satisfying and best of all, it will make your kitchen smell absolutely wonderful as it's cooking. Because I'm lazy, I love to use Very Lazy products and I always have a stock of their red chilli, garlic, and ginger to hand.

Fry- Light
1 onion, peeled and chopped as chunky or as small as you like
4 cloves
6 cardamom pods
2 tsp Very Lazy red chilli
1 tsp Very Lazy ginger
2 tsp Very Lazy garlic
2 dried Chipotle chillies
1 tbsp hot curry powder (ideally Madras powder, but normal curry powder will do)
900g beef fillet, cut into chunks, with any fatty bits removed.
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
250ml beef stock

1. Spray a wok liberally with Fry light over a medium heat. Add onion, cloves, and cardamom and stir fry for 3-4 minutes.

2. Add the Very lazy chillies, garlic, and ginger, and the dried chipotle chilli and stir fry for a further couple of minutes.

3. Add the curry powder and beef. Stir fry for 6 minutes or so until the beef is browned and sealed nicely. Add the coriander, cumin, and stock and bring to the boil, Then simmer gently over a low heat for 1-1.5 hours until the meat is tender.

Perfect served with pilau rice and chappatis.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Tonight is Cake Club!

Tonight's the night folks,

It seems like ages since the last Clandestine Cake Club. But now, the cake is baked, the venue is known, and in a few hours I shall be in a gluttonous sugar- induced coma of cakey joy.

I have many blog posts to catch up on, as per usual. A Black Forest Gateau Bake off is not least of these... They will *hopefully* not take me too long to get uploaded.

Speak soon,

Hayley xxx

Friday, 13 January 2012

Greige Velvet Cakes

Hi folks,

So this month's Clandestine Cake Club's theme is "inspired by the silver screen"

So, a while ago I got to thinking about cake inspired by film. It seemed to me that you either had to do something clever including cake in a film name, or find a film in which a cake is prominent and attempt to copy said cake. As a self-professed film snob, I also had to make sure that it was something that the Good Dr Mark Kermode would be proud of.

Citizen Cake? Then, along came some inspiration... Blue Velvet.

That's right people. I am going to recreate the 1986 David Lynch neo-noir film about sexual violence in cake form. Obviously, by producing a blue velvet cake with some sugarpaste robins and possibly a sugarpaste human ear.

As I've never made any form of velvet cake, I thought I'd better have a bit of a practice. So, as it was my friend Hesther's birthday party, I thought we could have a go at making some blue velvet cupcakes to have a try at some different colour combinations.

However, disaster struck as the paste food colourings I'd ordered (as recommended by every recipe i'd looked at) hadn't arrived. So I had to make do with liquid food colouring, which i don't really like using.

Still, two bottles should do it, right?


Not even a turquoise appeared. Instead, the mixture just because a mushroomy colour which I can only describe as "greige". Not the most appetizing of  tints, I must admit.

I don't even have a picture of them at the moment. I think i'm too embarrassed to show you. We did pull it back however with a clever covering of bright blue buttercream. With cupcakes, copious buttercream covers a multitude of sins.

We now just have to hope and pray that the actual cake turns out rather better.

Steak and Mushroom Pie

At the moment, my life appears to revolve around one thing.


Pie has become the epicentre of my very being. You can read all about the exciting goings on in team Private Pie here.

Meanwhile, Boyf and I are attempting to plough through the Hairy Biker's Perfect Pies book to get some serious pastry-based experience in.

So, last weekend we made a hearty steak and mushroom pie from their book. Bear in mind that I was rather hung over after drinking an awful lot of wine the night before, and the recipe entails using a fair amount of red wine. Luckily, Boyf was willing to stand in at that point to take over and to limit the amount of alcoholic fumes i inhaled. 

Now, if you ask me, an ideal pie has some sort of decoration which reflects what's inside it. It turns out that all of my bento-ing experience seems to be coming in handy for this purpose. For the pastry  mushroom, I used an idea from Cute Yummy Time, with a punched- out nori happy face. Meanwhile, Boyf had responsibility for  producing the cow. 

Of course, a little bit of basic maths never goes amiss either when considering pie decoration. And who could argue that steak + mushroom = yum?


Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Quick catch up

Hi all,

Just to say a quick "I haven't forgotten about you, I promise".

I have a few things that I need to post about at some point. I shall hopefully get round to it tomorrow night, so hang on in there, as I know you are all simply dying to know more about what is going on in HayleyVille :)

Speak (type) soon,

Hayley xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Monday, 2 January 2012

Chicken Pie Is a Drug

I got a lot of pie-related goodies for Christmas, what with being a co-founder of Private Pie and all. Santa seems to approve of this new venture of mine, as I got a new pie dish, a pastry server, a blackbird funnel, and both the Pieminster Cookbook and the Hairy Bikers' Perfect Pies book.

The latter was a present from Boyf, so we decided to make a pie together on New Year's Day. We went for the first recipe, a creamy chicken, ham, and leek double-crusted pie.

The recipe was really simple to make, and my goodness, it smelt wonderful when it was baking. We probably spent longer decorating the pie that we did actually preparing it!

Chicken! Cos it's got chicken in the pie, you see!
One beautifully baked narcotic pie
Pig! because of the ham content!

Plate of Pie Joy. The warm, creamy filling doesn't make for perfect presentation

We each had a slice and it was really scrumptious. So we each had another slice. And we instantly felt pleasantly happy and sleepy. Much napping on the sofa ensued... This pie appears to have opiate-like effects on the central nervous system. I suspect it may also be as addicted as morphine. 

Hayley xxx

UPDATE: Today I woke up with a really sore, stiff neck. I can confirm that, having consumed a slice of this pie, my pain rating has decreased. Big Pharma should be investigating this. I would be a willing participant in any clinical trials.

Cooled pie makes for much more presentable slices.

What to do on Boxing Day?

My boxing day last year was really rather rubbish, so this year i wanted to do something fun... And so i did a bit of research, only to discover that there is a grand total of three options for Boxing Day Fun in Newcastle:

1. Get up at 4am, then stand in a queue for 2 hours waiting for the Next sale to open. Then get black eyes and numerous other injuries whilst buying clothes you don't need in the wrong size.

2. Buy a half price sofa.

3. Do the Boxing Day Dip.

Of these options, I decided that number 3 would be the most symbolic and impressive activity. I roped in 2 other friends, but we missed the deadline to register for the official dip, so we decided we would just do our own instead.

We wanted to all wear matching outfits, (and were all very frightened of freezing sea-skin contact) so we attempted to buy some christmassy onesies, but there were none to be had anywhere in Newcastle two days before christmas. So instead, we thought we would just go with a pyjama theme. Off we went to the wilds of Northumberland, where we expected there to be no-one about to witness our pyjama-ed hypothermic frolics. However, it turns out that many people want to go walking along the coast on a blustery boxing day... all warmly wrapped in their sensible layers and hiking boots....

Cue three pyjama-clad, hip flask swigging girls appearing on the horizon!

Anyway, we all did a dip, and to be honest it was an amazing feeling. We were dead proud of ourselves, and i think we amused a number of passers-by, who gave us some shouts of encouragement... I think we may have even inspired someone else to get dipping!

Unfortunately though, this is the only picture which shows me entirely submerged... A pesky wave got in the way.

Of course there is only one antidote to the freezing cold North Sea, and that is copious amounts of cheese. I had a lovely Ploughman's lunch at Barter Books in Alnwick, while my friends had soup and a very delicious looking Northumbrian rarebit.

Same time next year, methinks.

Hayley xxx

Finally, the Christmas pie recipe you've all been waiting for!

Hi there my lovelies,

Finally, I'm getting round to catching up on some blogging. Not sure how useful this here Christmas pie recipe will be to you, now that the festive season is over and done with for another year, but here it is in all it's glory, ready for you to print out and frame to put above your mantel piece :)

It's a surprisingly easy recipe, but really well-loved by all who try it. It makes for a perfect Christmas Eve tea. You can just use frozen shortcrust pastry if you're short of time, but the basic recipe i use is so easy to make it seems daft not to whip up a batch of your own delicious pastry. This recipe is based on one from BBC Good Food magazine from years ago, but over the years i've made a few tweaks which i think improve it quite a bit. The other great thing about this pie is that it can be made well in advanced and frozen- i usually make a couple at a time- one for work, one for christmas, and this year, one for pie club!

For the pastry, I use the BBC Good Food basic shortcrust recipe... So easy, but it's best to double up the quantities to make sure you've enough for this substantial pie. I also add a tablespoon or so of paprika, which makes the recipe my own and means the pastry has a lovely deep colour when it's baked.


-2 tbsp olive oil
- knob of butter
- 1 finely chopped onion
-500g sausagemeat
- dash of lemon juice
-100g fresh white breadcrumbs
-85g dried apricots
-60g canned or tinned chestnuts, chopped
-2 tsp fresh thyme. dried will do if you can't get fresh, but the smell of fresh thyme is so delicious it's a shame to miss out!
-100g dried cranberries
-500g turkey breast, diced into bite sizes pieces
-beaten egg to glaze

Pre-heat the oven to 190 degrees (170 degrees for a fan oven)

1. Heat the olive oil and butter in a frying pan or wok and gently fry the onions and turkey until nicely browned and cooked through. Leave to cool down for a bit

2. In a large bowl, combine the sausagemeat, lemon juice, breadcrumbs, apricots, chestnuts, thyme, and cranberries. Add the onion and turkey pieces and mix using your hands.

3. Roll out 3/4 of the pastry and cover the bottom of the pie dish. Now, squidge all of the christmassy goodness filling into the case. Brush the edges with beaten egg.

4. Roll out the rest of the pastry and cover the filling. Either pinch the edge or use a fork to seal the edge.

5.  Brush the pastry with the beaten egg to glaze. Use the off-cuts to decorate in any way you wish... christmas cookie cutters are always a good option. I quite like to glaze the top of the pie, but not the decoration, which gives a nice contrast.

6. Bung your lovely pie in the oven. Bake for between 40-60 mins depending on your oven, until it has turned a lovely brown colour.

Enjoy. Delicious served warm or cold!