Monday, 28 May 2007


You can't help wanting to cook a biscuit with a name like this - Nigella Lawson

She's absolutely right you know. In December last year, the Samurai Knitter was in the middle of a baking frenzy for Christmas. On her extensive list of biscuits (ok, cookies, she's American) were these things called Snickerdoodles. The name makes me giggle. As it should. I found myself humming Yankee Doodle while making them. I've meant to make them ever since. So thank you Nigella, for reminding me to get off my butt and do it.

As a side note, Wikipedia says the name may be derived from a corruption of the German name for 'snail noodles' or Schneckennudeln. Ah, that makes more sense. And sounds better too. I might just call them that from now on.

The Verdict
You know, I'm half inclined to just post the recipe with two words. Make them. They're that good. Nigella describes them sort of half cake, half donut. I think these are about as close to perfect a biscuit as I've ever had from my own kitchen. When I was telling my sister about them on the phone, she said something like, 'oh that is so Nigella. I bet she just deep fried Snickers, didn't she?' Not quite, but I wouldn't ever put it past her.

Unusual or substituted ingredients
None. Just flour, sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon, eggs, butter etc. I did find I had to add about 2tbs more butter. The mixture was supposed to be like a batter. It was more like breadcrumbs.

Special Utensils or cookware
None at all.

Put it this way, because we each took a few to work today (I shared mine; a certain husband didn't), we're running low on snickerdoodles now. It's only because I'm blogging now and have a fair amount of knitting I want to do tonight that I'm not baking another batch.

Rich, buttery, cakey, cinnamony sweetness. You can't beat it.

Overall Pleasure Level
Without a doubt, 10 out of 10. I believe my husband had a mouthful of one himself just now when I called out, 'I'm giving the snickerdoodles a 10. Do you agree?'

He nodded and looked more than a little sheepish.


Friday, 25 May 2007

Sweet and Salty Peanut Biscuits

If greed alone were the spur and measure, these would be my favourite biscuits - Nigella Lawson

Well, it has to be said, I think Nigella has a little case of hyperbole when it comes to these biscuits. I mean they are perfectly good biscuits, but they wouldn't be my first choice if greed alone were indeed the spur and measure. They wouldn't be my first choice even if it wasn't! But yes, acceptable afternoon tea (or in our case, coffee) fare.
The verdict
Unusual or substituted ingredients: Despite Nigella loving the charm of the "trailer-trash Trex" (vegetable shortening, or Copha as we call it in Australia) because it makes these biscuits light, I can't say I share her admiration in this case. I used the recommended amount of copha, but I think if I was making these again, I'd probably just use butter instead (even though Nigella warns against it). For me, the biscuits were too light, too crumbly, and I blame the copha!!
Special utensils or cookware: None - you can beat by hand or use mixer (which is what I did - cooking for the lazy person here!!). I do recommend ensuring the copha isn't too hard when you use it as it is quite hard to mix it in - if you look closely at the photo below you can see some unmixed bits of copha.
Repeatability: As mentioned already, not the best biscuits I've ever had. But they are still good, nice and easy to make, you can whip up a batch fairly quickly. Husby seems to like them, as the number of biscuits left in the container is steadily getting smaller each day!
Sauciness: Nope, none at all. Even Nigella's talking up of serving them with ice-cream or as an ice-cream sandwich doesn't make these saucy for me.
Overall pleasure level: Hmmm. I think these can be no more than a 5.

Wednesday, 23 May 2007

Blueberry Boy Bait

Aromatic custardy sponge, sweet gooey fruit and meringue, sugar-crisped - boy-bait Brit-style.' - Nigella Lawson

I'm assuming there's some corny story behind the notion of a boy bait pudding. To me it screams 1950s America with girls baking this dish for the dream boy they longed for. A quick google search told me the dish dated back to the 1920s, although Nigella says it was the result of a teenage girl's entry for a baking contest. Anyone know for sure?

Either way, it seemed appropriate as a dessert to cook on a night when we were having a celebratory, romantic night in. Sean got steak with blue cheese sauce for mains, then blueberry boy bait for dessert.

The way to his heart? I think so.

The Verdict
I had two enormous servings of this marvel. My God. I'd say 'words defy me' but let's face it. We all know that would be a lie.

I have to say I was curious to make this pudding, but more than a little skeptical. A base of eggs, milk and breadcrumbs? I was imagining a gooey, sodden lump. Oh no, no. I was so wrong. This one's a winner in every sense.

So what is it? It's, as I said, a base of breadcrumbs, egg yolks (5), caster sugar and milk. You bake that layer first while preparing the fruit and meringue. You make a jammy mix of blueberries for the middle layer and top it off with sweet (very sweet) fluffy egg whites. Heaven.

Unusual or substituted ingredients
I was skeptical about a base made by mixing fresh breadcrumbs into milk and eggs. Nothing unusual about those ingredients as such, but the combination made me unsure. I needn't have been. They're like a bready cake at the bottom and not overly sweet (unlike the rest of it!).

I used frozen blueberries instead of fresh. No problem there.

And don't be put off by the meringue top layer. I've never made meringue before but there's nothing to it, I now know.

Special Utensils or Cookware
Nope. Nothing in particular. As long as you can blitz bread for fresh breadcrumbs, you're going to be fine.

You know what? I'd do this for a dinner party with friends or again for just us on a weekend. It's old fashioned and amazingly so. It's a pudding in every sense of the word. I'd probably cut back on the sugar though next time. It's intensely sweet. Especially the bucketloads that are added to the blueberry mix in the middle. That's just blueberries, lemon and sugar. Cut back a little on the sugar there and in the meringue, and it's perfect.

Oh boy. You can't beat it. Decadent and delicious - and it's got real fruit in it so it can't be all bad!

Overall pleasure level
An absolute delight. Sean loved it. He gave it an 8 out of 10. That slightly crispy, golden meringue topping is the real surprise. I didn't expect that to turn out nearly so well.

And around the edges, later, when you're supposed to have finished gorging yourself, those extra crispy edge bits....well, there weren't many of those left!


Sunday, 20 May 2007

New York Cheesecake

I ate a cheesecake just like this in New York once - Nigella Lawson

Wanting something that husby's family will like (for our mother's day lunch) I decided upon cheesecake. Husby's mother has made it in the past and I know his brother likes it too, so this was a safe option (although m-i-l doesn't make a baked cheesecake but rather a refrigerated one, if that makes sense).

looks a little dark on top I know - it wasn't that dark in real life!

The verdict
Unusual or substituted ingredients: Nothing unusual, except I have to say, I was slightly grossed out when I realised that the recipe calls for over 1 kg of cream cheese/sour cream/double cream all together - oh my that's a lot of dairy and a lot of fat...and that doesn't even count the butter used for the base!!!
I did choose low fat cream cheese and low fat sour cream, and just used thickened cream (my corner store didn't have double cream at 7pm on a Saturday night, which is when I did the shopping for this!). Fortunately, it did have proper digestive biscuits - they aren't really an Australian thing - I usually use Arnott's Marie biscuits, but in this case, used actual digestives, and I think it really did make a difference to the base, which was not crumbly at all (which has been my experience in the past with cheesecakes).

Special utensils or bakeware: You do need a springform tin for a cheesecake, make sure it is the right size, as this is a big cheesecake - my tin was full to the brim of mix once I got that kilo of cream cheese mix into it!
I used an electric hand mixer to mix the filling. Do leave yourself enough time to make it though (I had to get up at 7.30am on a Sunday - a SUNDAY! to make this and I still couldn't leave it in the oven for the suggested cooling time (1.5 hours to cook, 2 hours to cool with oven door shut, 1 hour to cool with oven door open)). It's best made the day before I think if that is possible.

Repeatability: I would make this again. It is, for a baked cheesecake, incredibly light and fluffy. Nigella says the secret is in the whipping of the egg whites (shhhh don't tell!) and folding them into the filling mix.
Sauciness: There are a few dishes with this one, separate bowls for making the base, the filling and the beating of the egg whites. In terms of the eating, it is not too rich, and not too solid or dense (as some baked cheesecakes can be). My 9 yo niece (who "doesn't like cheesecake") loved it - yay!
Overall pleasure level: Hmmm. I think this is an 8.5. Pretty much everyone likes cheesecake so you can't go wrong. Would be good served with berries or coulis (heh, coulis!) or both, and is equally delicious on its own.

Thursday, 17 May 2007

Store Cupboard Chocolate Orange Cake - mark II

Bells Bells Bells ... For every swing, there's always a roundabout!

While I do agree this is not an attractive cake (even Nigella warned about that), a little dusting of icing sugar can hide most sins.

Bells has given the verdict, so I won't go into that again but read on for an alternative experience with this recipe!

I can agree that mine was not a complete success, as it did stick to the bottom of the (alleged) non-stick cake tin. I used one of those silicone flexible cake tins - and of course, the high jam/marmalade content made it stick to the bottom, as I should have foreseen if I'd given it any thought. If I make this again, I'll be using a well-greased and possibly floured and lined springform tin. Like Bells, though, I probably won't repeat it. Just because there are so many other options out there, not because it was horrible! My brother and sister-in-law liked it so much they had seconds!
A highlight for me of this cake is the easiness in making it - you will have most, if not all, of the ingredients already in your pantry, and it is mixed in a saucepan using a wooden spoon (or in my case, a spatula) - no need for mixer, handbeater or 5 different bowls. Excellent for shopping and washing up efficiency! You melt the butter, add the dark chocolate until it is soft then remove from heat and stir stir stir. Then you add caster sugar, eggs, pinch of salt and the jam. Then last of all, SR flour. Mix mix mix then bake.

And hey, if you don't like marmalade, you could always substitute another jam - wouldn't raspberry be delicious!

Wednesday, 16 May 2007

Store Cupboard Chocolate Orange Cake

Even if you don't like marmalade, you should try this: all you taste is orange - Nigella Lawson

I'm going to declare my hearty disagreement with Nigella on this one.

I actually made it a long time ago and blogged it then, so what you're getting here is a re-hashing of old material, but in the new format of this blog. I always annotate my recipes and all i wrote in the corner of the page on this one was a bold horrible. Let's see why.

The Verdict
I am neither a fan of marmalade, nor of fruit cakes (my mum makes a good one though), so what possessed me to make a cake that contains a whole jar of marmalade, I don't know. Look at the photo. It doesn't even look nice. The thing sank in the middle and burned around the edges and was just disgusting. You're lucky I'm even posting this. My husband laughs at me the way I hide all evidence, usually, of culinary failures. If I think something is truly awful, the whole lot will be binned before you can say 'I feel slightly ill.'

Special Utensils or Cookware
None. Just cake stuff. Whatever you have.

Not a chance in hell. I'm not even prepared to take Rose Red's verdict on this one that it was great. I think she should do a post of her version of the cake that worked out, just in the interests of balance, because I ain't making this pile of poo again.

Sorry Nigella. Not even you waxing lyrical about it being gorgeously aromatic is going to convince me this cake was a good idea. I think it's fair to say that Page 170 in this book will never be looked at again.

Overall pleasure level
This was a definite low point in my culinary experience. Heavy, burned orange flavour and an hour or so of my life I'll never get back. Disgusting.

I am happy to report though that in my years of cooking Nigella recipes (since about 2001) this is the only failure I've experienced. Given the number of snooty foodies I know who bang on about how none of her recipes work (she's not a real chef, you know), I don't think that's too bad. So I'm just going to write this one off as momentary glitch. Let us never speak of it again (except for in the comments).

I've also included a new label for 'failures' just so we can easily keep track of what worked and what didn't. It'll be interesting to see how many we have!


Tuesday, 15 May 2007

Dense chocolate loaf

... it is the essence of all that is desirable in chocolate... - Nigella Lawson

Oh that it is, hoo boy! If you want a chocolately chocolate cake, then this is the one for you! It is truly dense, truly chocolately and yes, truly a loaf. And unlike most cakes, it gets better with a bit of age (well, a day or two) although it rarely lasts that long.
The verdict
Unusual or substituted ingredients: Again with the dark muscovado sugar. Does Nigella have shares in a muscovado sugar factory?? I discovered that CSR now makes "dark brown sugar", which is pretty much exactly what dark muscovado sugar is! Hurrah!

This is the pre-flour and water mix

Special utensils or cookware: None for this cake. I used a handheld mixer to cream the butter and sugar, and then the rest is mixed by hand - somwhat laboriously towards the end - mix in one tablespoon of flour then one tablespoon of hot water, repeat until all flour and water mixed in. Urk. I usually put in 3-4 tablespoons at a time, or else it would take an hour to mix the cake! Do make sure you grease, flour and line your loaf tin though - it is a fairly sticky cake. This is the post flour and water mixture

Repeatability: A big tick on this one - I've made this cake quite a few times, in fact I think it is probably my most-made recipe from HTBADG (followed closely by these). It is the perfect chocolate lover's cake, and very easily transportable (fits my rectangular tupperware container perfectly) and delicious on its own or with berries and cream or ice-cream. I haven't tried it spread with cream cheese as Nigella suggests, but I imagine this could be quite the taste sensation!
Sauciness: Oh yes. Yes yes yes yes yes!
Overall pleasure level: It's a 10. Yes, my first 10! (see sauciness!)

Friday, 11 May 2007

Cheese, onion and potato pie

This is picnic food of fondest imagination, although actually we eat these for ordinary tea in the kitchen fairly often. I say 'we': that's to say I make them for the children, then snaffle down a couple myself - Nigella Lawson

Lest you think that I only cook sweet things and Bells only does the savoury things, I present you with, admittedly my first savoury from HTBADG, cheese, onion and potato pies!
I was having two of my best friends over for lunch, and so that presented the perfect opportunity to make these pies. Pastry from scratch (not my first time on that one!) and a variety of cheeses (mmmm cheese). They are made with spring onions too, which give a lighter oniony flavour than ordinary onions (and also don't make me cry when chopping them!)

The verdict:
Unusual or substituted ingredients: The recipe calls for creme fraiche to bind the filling (which is basically boiled cubed potato, grated cheddar, red leicester and parmesan cheese and chopped parsley). My local supermarket didn't have creme fraiche when I did the shopping, so I used the same amount of light sour cream instead, and I think it worked just as well.
Special utensils or cookware: I made the pastry in my magimix (mmm magimix) food processor - it is fabulous! But you can do by hand, it's just a bit messier (although perhaps more authentic?). Nigella bakes the pies in yorkshire pudding moulds. Yorkshire pudding is not a big thing in Australia and I wouldn't know what a yorkshire pudding mould looked like if it hit me in the face. I used individual pie/flan tins (the ones where the bottom pops out). These worked perfectly.
Repeatability: I would make these again, but next time would probably add a bit of meat, perhaps bacon. I found them just a little bland. (That may also be because I forgot to add salt and pepper to the filling...). But they are a good vegetarian (not vegan though) option, and as Nigella suggests, they taste good cold as well as hot, so are very good for picnics and the like.
Sauciness: Anything that requires you to make and roll out pastry is going to be a bit messy, but I kinda like the whole rolling out and cutting involved. Although as you can see from the pic, I'm not a great roller. I can only rarely achieve a nice smooth-edged piece of pastry. Oh well, just means I need to practice more!
Overall pleasure level: I'll give these a 6. Worth making and worth making again, but the real pleasure is in the making of these - you can't get much more domestic goddess-y than by making pastry and using a rolling pin (especially if you made the rolling pin yourself in your year 8 woodwork class!) (Ok, you got me there, my woodwork teacher made most of it for me...Hey, a lathe is a dangerous machine! But I sanded it really well!)

Tuesday, 8 May 2007

Carrot cupcakes with cream cheese icing

I wanted something luscious and sweet and treaty: a cake not a breakfast scourge - Nigella Lawson
Well, I would definitely not describe these as a "scourge". Sweet and treaty yes, scourge no. Although I have to say, the mix, before it is cooked, looks a bit, well, to use my husband's analogy, "like something the cat vomited up" (apologies to any readers who may be eating whilst reading this!!).
But honest, while it doesn't look like much when mixing, they do taste delicious. Particularly with the icing - just a hint of lime in the cream cheese icing - which gives these a little extra tang.

The verdict
Unusual or substituted ingredients: The recipe calls for grated zest of an orange or a satsuma. Have no idea what a satsuma is (well, I do now, I googled it and it's a tangerine, in the same family as a mandarin) so I just used an orange. Boy was it hard to zest. I really must get myself a zester (and stop saying zest. It just sounds like a wrong word now!). The recipe also uses light muscovado sugar. As I discovered with the gingerbread, this is just ordinary brown sugar. Walnuts are also supposed to be added, chopped, to the mix. I don't like them much, so I just left them out. And the suggested walnut halves to decorate the top of each once iced, I also ignored. They look just a little bit too much like cockroaches to be used as a decoration!

Special utensils or cookware: None. I used a hand-beater and that was fine. See above re investing in a zester though - the recipe uses both orange and lemon zest.
Repeatability: I would make these again - especially for a morning tea or similar - sometimes individual cupcakes go down better than a whole cake. The recipe is supposed to make 12, I only got 9. For some reason, I never get as many muffins or cupcakes out of Nigella's recipes as she suggests. Either the UK pans are a different size, or I put too much mix in each...not sure which!

what do you think? Too much mix in each pan?

Sauciness: These are quite "vanilla" in their sauciness - but a good option for a fussy crowd. Slightly healthy option (well, when compared to, say, dense chocolate loaf - stay tuned for that one!). A fair amount of mess while cooking, but not too much.

Overall pleasure level: I'll give these a 7, for all the reasons described above. Not decadent, but quite luscious. Very eatable.


And for the observant among you, you may have noticed the striking similarity of the first photo of these cupcakes and one of our buttons - see over there on the right...Well, clearly it is because it is the same picture, made very beautifully into a button by Jae - a knitblogger we've never met but who so kindly answered our plaintive plea for assistance on button making with great enthusiasm and who did a fantastic job capturing the look and feel of our blog on these buttons! Thanks Jae - a little thankyou package will shortly be winging its way across the Pacific Ocean to you - unfortunately, it will not contain potato bread!

Monday, 7 May 2007

Bread, hey!

Heh! Who says I won't make bread?? - Rose Red

What's that, Bells?

Make bread from scratch? Not in a bread machine? But the bread machine is so easy, you can put the ingredients in the night before and wake up to yummy warm bread.

Oh - it's better the real way, and you know, stress relief. And just plain good to do.

Ok then, I'll give it a go...

But not before one more gratuitous shot of the perfectly acceptable breadmaker bread....mmmmm warm yummy bread.

Sunday, 6 May 2007

Potato Bread

'...there's a certain chewiness about it, an almost waxy softness.' - Nigella Lawson

Does that sound like bread? Waxy? I wouldn't have thought so, but now, I know what she's talking about.

Until a friend taught me to bake bread at Christmas, I studiously avoided the bread section of How To Be a Domestic Goddess. Once shown the steps, I was an immediate, evangelical convert to the art of bread making. You just can't beat it. I'm so enamoured of it now that when I'm in a grumpy mood, my husband tells me to go and bake bread. He knows the good that comes from it.

So to potato bread. Nigella says to save both the water you've boiled your peeled potatoes in, as well as 300g of cold potatoes (that was about 4 small potatoes).

Elsewhere in the book, Nigella advocates putting potato water in any bread, not just potato bread. She seems to suggest it improves the longevity of the bread. I don't care. If the bread I made today is any indication, longevity isn't going to be much of an issue. The loaf is half gone before we've even reached the middle of the afternoon!

The verdict

Unusual or substituted ingredients:
You can use fresh or instant yeast. I'm pretty happy with instant. It's all I've ever used. I suppose one day i'll try fresh. And it's kind of gross to think of water you've boiled potatoes in as edible, but trust me, it's worth it.

It's worth noting too I used about half the salt Nigella suggests. I've found her 1tbs in other breads too much in the past so I use about half a tablespoon now.

Special Utensils or Cookware: Nigella talks about using a dough hook, if you have one, although elsewhere in the book she extols the virtues of kneading by hand. I think that's because this bread is heavier and wetter than others but I managed fine without a dough hook. I do love kneading, though.

She also suggests using a potato ricer to mash up the potatoes before adding them to the mix. It just so happens I have one, left over from my first flush of love for Nigella. I bought a lot of stuff she said to buy. I used it once and tossed it aside as useless.

I thought it would be perfectly useful for the texture you'd need for this bread though. However, it was tough and stiff and the potatoes were hardened from a night in the fridge so I had to get Sean to do this bit for me. He was cursing it within seconds too. I say, just mash them with a masher or a fork.

Repeatability: I happily make bread all the time but sometimes veering away from standard bread isn't so good. This is not one of those times. I'll never look at potato water or cold, grey potatoes in the same way. This is a delicious, slightly unusual bread. Not in the least bit heavy and not overly flavoured with potatoes. You can taste them, but they really just add to the flavour, rather than defining it.

Sauciness: Bread is less saucy, more earthy, to me. I was kneading away happily when I declared to Sean, hey, I am making bread from scratch with potatoes I grew myself! He could see how my mind was working and said, 'No Bells, we are not growing our own wheat as well.' Damn.

Overall pleasure level: There's certainly a level of smug self satisfaction that comes with making your own bread. I highly recommend it. It's worth it just to be amused/thrilled by the sight of your dough growing at a steady rate in a warm spot in the kitchen.

Now, I'm on a campaign to convince RoseRed to make bread. There are plenty of other recipes for bread in the book and I'm not making them all!

Maybe use the comments to back me up and convince her she needs to give it a go? :-)

Friday, 4 May 2007

American Breakfast Pancakes

These are those thick, spongy American pancakes that are often eaten with warm maple syrup and crisp fried bacon. I love them with the syrup alone, but if you do want bacon, I think streaky is best: you want a crisp salty ribbon of it here - Nigella Lawson

Leading into the weekend, what more do you need than the perfect easy breakfast/brunch recipe. While I do love pancakes (or waffles) with maple syrup and bacon - there is just something about sweet and salty that I can't get enough of, I usually do these with blueberries or banana (or sometimes strawberries). I can usually get at least 8 pancakes from the recipe - enough for Saturday and Sunday for husby and I, as the mix keeps well overnight in the fridge.

The verdict:
Unusual or substituted ingredients: None - you can't get more straighforward with this recipe - flour, salt, sugar, baking powder, eggs, butter and milk.

Special utensils or cookware: Nigella suggests the easiest way to make these is to bung everything into a blender and blitz. If you don't have a blender, they are easy to mix by hand (well, a spoon, clearly not your actual hand!!) in a bowl. Use a jug to pour into the pan. Nigella likes to use a blini pan. I don't have one of those (I'm not entirely sure what a blini is!!) so I use my smallest frypan, which is pretty much the size of these pancakes.
Repeatability: Oh yes - I have made these quite a number of times - Sunday brunch - perfect!

Sauciness: Not too messy, especially if you use the blender and jug to pour. Can be messy when eaten - all that maple syrup dripping everywhere!
Overall pleasure level: For me, these are a 9 - a simple pleasure, but pleasure all the way

Wednesday, 2 May 2007

a big job

I think RoseRed and I have figured out that this whole idea of cooking our way through How To Be A Domestic Goddess is going to be a huge task.

Preliminary conversations went along the lines of:

Wanna do this?
Shall we start a new blog?
Why not?
And we'll each cook different recipes and blog about them?
Ok, let's do it.

And now here we are.

We haven't counted how many recipes there are but at a guess, over two hundred.

So if we do one each a week at a minimum (because let's face it, how much time in a given week do either of us have to make pastry from scratch or bake a pie or let bread rise) that means this blog's gonna be around for a while.

So, in the interests of keeping the momentum up, we'll be trying a few things in between recipes. We've each written about recipes from the book on our own blogs so we'll copy those posts, in the relevant format, onto this one in quiet times.

And we'll address some comments made too.

On my blog, George left a comment about Nigella's reputation.

"I admit to being somewhat over Nigella's very distinctive "style" (maybe its jus the annoying camera work and too many shots of her licking her lips on the telly program) but have enjoyed her recipes and obvious passion in the past."

I think Nigella is over her finger licking, pouting at the camera style too, George. I read an article the other day, quite a recent one, in which she said she doesn't want to be a blow up kitchen s*x doll. Love it!

My impression is she didn't have a lot of control over how she was marketed in the beginning and by her own admission didn't realise how saucy she was on camera until she saw the first series of Nigella Bites on TV. I haven't seen more than one episode of her Feast program, but she still seems to me, from that one episode, to be pretty sensual when she gets in the kitchen. It's probably just how she is. A woman with appetite, passion and a face that the camera loves is going to be hard pressed to be sterile in the kitchen and less face it, would we watch someone who was sterile? We might as well watch Delia.

So, stay tuned. We're planning our next choices from the book and will be posting them soon!