Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake

Weird title, right? This one was inspired by my co-workers who were talking about an article they’d read in the Metro about using mayonnaise to create a chocolate cake. That article in turn linked to a piece on KansasCity.com which had an actual mayonnaise chocolate cake recipe and, well, curiosity got the better of me!

After converting the weird American volume units (cups? yuck!) into lovely metric weights I got cracking. Because you use mayonnaise instead of butter, it’s very easy to mix – no butter to beat in. But it’s a very odd recipe… it calls for a huge quantity of water to be added and the mixture was already very runny so I decided to deviate and use less than half the specified amount.

Another weird feature was that the recipe told you how to make two sponges but made no recommendations for what to ice the thing with, so I just went for a simple buttercream of icing sugar, salted butter and cocoa powder.

The last thing I found odd was the quantities. It uses a lot of cocoa powder, which is naturally quite bitter. To compensate it then uses a huge amount of sugar… a slice of this cake is nearly your entire day’s allowance of sugar!

The resulting cake is, admittedly, pretty good though! I wouldn’t say it was out of this world, but it’s a very nice, very chocolatey cake with a close but moist crumb. Don’t be put off by the idea of mayonnaise, it works really well here and nobody would ever even realise that you had used it!

Lancashire Hot Pot

I was born and raised in Lancashire (in fact, a bit of family history shows one branch of the family has been in the Preston area since the mid 1700s), so traditional Lancashire Hot Pot is something I was raised on and it always holds a soft spot in my heart. When I used to come home from University it was one of the first dishes my mum would make for me.

With that in mind, I decided to make one and settled on this recipe from James Martin. However, when it came time to actually cook it I realised it would take forever since it’s supposed to simmer for a few hours before you even add the potatoes. Therefore, still craving the taste of my homeland, I decided to wing it.

The other oddity with the recipe as printed on the BBC Food website was that the quantities looked wrong. Simmering something in 100ml of water for 2 hours seems like a recipe for disaster, so I adjusted quantities accordingly. The end list of ingredients was as follows:

  • 450g diced lamb
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1 beef stock cube
  • 1 onion
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 stick of celery
  • 1 tbsp chopped mint
  • 1 tsp cornflour
  • 500g potatoes
  • A few small pieces of butter

I browned the meat in a casserole dish with a bit of olive oil, then added the tomato puree, followed by about 500ml of beef stock made up using a stock cube. I brought this to the boil and simmered, covered, for about 30 minutes before adding the chopped carrot, onion and celery. This was all left to simmer, covered, for another 10-15 minutes before adding the chopped mint and the cornflour which had been mixed with a little water. Finally, slices of potato were put on top and the whole thing went into the oven, spotted with butter on top, for about 30 minutes. The oven was at 180ºC but I cranked it up a bit at the end to try and make the potatoes crispy.

The end result was super tasty and delicious. Maybe not wholly authentic (I don’t recall my mum using celery!) but very nice indeed!

One Year of Two Hungry Boys

It’s hard to believe, but we’ve been running this blog for a whole year now. It all began with some of Nigella Lawson’s Korean keema and today we’ve post two Nigella recipes – Italian roast chicken and her apple and walnut cake. It was Nigella’s books which first really got us into cooking in a serious way, and she remains a firm favourite. A clear highlight of the last 12 months was meeting her at a book signing!

We’ve also cooked an awful lot of Nigel Slater recipes – he’s a cook we’ve truly grown to love. I wasn’t really familiar with him before, but we’ve found his recipes to be consistently reliable and, despite their simple ingredients, incredibly tasty.

Over the past 12 months we’ve clocked up 284 followers on Instagram, 132 on Twitter, plus a few on Tumblr and Facebook and our website is getting a few hundred views a month. Our forays into YouTube have not gotten very far, but maybe we’ll give it another go sometime.

Thank you for visiting our site, and hopefully you’ve seen something you like… here’s to the next 12 months!

Apple and Walnut Cake

Rounding out the week with a bit of baking from that old reliable, How To Be A Domestic Goddess by Nigella Lawson.

It’s a bit of an unusual recipe, using walnut oil for the fat (although you can use olive oil) and then the resulting cake batter is very thick – and that’s before you add the diced apple, chopped walnuts and rum soaked sultanas. It takes quite a long time in the oven too – a whole hour.

The final cake is very nice, but I’m a bit concerned it could dry out as the week progresses. Fortunately we have ice cream in the freezer as an emergency “moist maker”.

Italian Roast Chicken

We always enjoy a bit of roast chicken, but for a bit of variety today’s recipe comes from Nigellissima and is an Italian take on the meal.

The chicken gets a lemon and some rosemary stuffed inside it and then sits in a roasting tin with some chopped leek, red pepper, and a few black olives – plus some more rosemary for good measure. The whole thing sat in the oven for about an hour and a half and then it’s done. Simple.

The only problem I had with this was that by the time the chicken was cooked, the veg was starting to burn a bit. Not enough to ruin it, but I think a bigger chicken would have bigger problems.

Comforting Potato Supper

What a way to round out the week – this is a super simple recipe from Appetite by Nigel Slater which produces something outstanding. Once again the list of ingredients looks to short to result in anything interesting, but Nigel knows best.

It’s a bit fiddly to make, mind, because you have to pan fry the potatoes and onion first, then combine in a big dish with chopped pancetta, a few sage leaves and chicken stock… and then you have to wait an hour whilst it cooks in the oven.

The finished product is worth the wait though – tasty and satisfying, and although you’ve not added any cream it almost has a creamy quality. Really delicious.

Creamy Pasta with Sausagemeat

It’s been bitterly cold today, so there was a desire for something warming and comforting. There’s a creamy pasta recipe to be found in Nigel Slater’s Appetite which is basically just pasta, cream, thyme and roast garlic. One of the variations recommended is to take the skin off some sausages, break up the sausage meat and fry it, and then mix that in too so that’s what I decided to do.

Roasting the garlic was fiddly and messy and didn’t work as well as I had hoped. As a result the end dish wasn’t as garlicky as I would have liked. The sausage meat worked well though, ending up a little like mince but not as dry.

The meal was really tasty, but a bit of a calorie overload. The remainder of the evening has been spent recovering with a headache!

Quick Lamb Curry

It’s been a while since I last made anything from Nigel Slater’s The 30-Minute Cook and whilst trying to think of something nice and spicy to cook for dinner I remembered we’ve had some other nice recipes from that book (most notably his quick chicken korma) and that led to this quick lamb curry recipe.

The recipe makes quite a dry curry and uses quite a lot of spices but the end result works. Perhaps not as tasty or authentic tasting as some of his other recipes, but certainly not bad. We mopped it up with supermarket naan breads – not too fancy, but does the job nicely.

One suggestion – Nigel says to add water to the recipe, but use stock if you have it available. We used water and thought it was a bit bland and added a fair bit of salt to the recipe. I suspect that if we’d used stock it might have reduced the need for salt and added a bit more depth to the flavours.

Fruit Scones

The fruit cake I made a couple of weekends ago seemed to last forever, but sweet supplies were running low today and when I asked Mark what he wanted me to make, he said scones.

Despite their simplicity, I’ve never made scones before. I went for a rummage through our recipe books and turned up two recipes – Nigella Lawson has a recipe in How To Be A Domestic Goddess but I was put off it because it needed a few ingredients (namely Trex and cream of tartar) which we didn’t have in the house. On the other hand, Delia Smith has a scone recipe in Delia’s Cakes which is incredibly simple. Butter, flour, a little caster sugar, milk, and an egg. Other than some dried fruit (we had sultanas in the cupboard), that’s it.

It’s actually like making pastry – rub the butter and salt together to make breadcrumbs and then add the dried fruit before combining with beaten egg and a few tablespoons of milk. Roll it out, cut out some discs and then make a few more from the remainder. These only take 12–15 minutes in the oven, so you’ve got a fresh batch of scones before you realise it.

The resulting scones aren’t spectacular but they’re lovely and light and a real treat. Delia recommends eating them when they’re fresh – an instruction which we decided to follow to the letter.

Afghani Style Stew with Pine Nuts

Recipes have been a bit thin on the ground this week because I’ve been ill. I had an ill fated attempted at cooking a Nigel Slater lamb casserole earlier in the week and I’m going to blame the illness because it was a disaster – possibly the single blandest meal I’ve ever had.

I’m on the mend now, but feeling the need for something healthy so where else to turn but good old Thrive on Five? Five portions of veg in one meal must help get me on the road to recovery.

This recipe isn’t the easiest – get all the chopping and prepping done first because it’s a tight turnaround between adding each set of ingredients, and if you don’t keep stirring the pan then things will burn and taste bitter. I thought I’d managed it but got caught out and half way through the recipe I tasted it and thought it was disgusting.

By the time I got to the end though, things had improved. The yoghurt helped balance out the bitterness and the end result wasn’t half bad. Lots of vegetables and lots of spice. We also followed it with a dessert of cherries, strawberries and banana so I think that’s 8 portions of fruit and veg just at dinner time… I’ll be back to full health in no time.