Quick and easy sausage rolls

In 1946 George Orwell described the bar food in his ideal pub in the essay, The Moon Under Water: “You cannot get dinner at the Moon Under Water, but there is always the snack counter where you can get liver-sausage sandwiches, mussels (a speciality of the house), cheese, pickles and those large biscuits with caraway seeds in them which only seem to exist in public-houses.”

I’m not offering mussels to my local pub but I seem to be doing well with my other savoury snacks… like the pork pies or scotch eggs I made a few weeks ago and the sausage rolls that I baked last Saturday.

They are really easy to make and take hardly any time:

You will need:

ready rolled puff pastry sheet
Cumberland chipolatas
fresh thyme leaves, salt and black pepper
beaten egg yolks

How many of the above you’ll need depends entirely on how many sausage rolls you want to make. One sheet of puff pastry is enough for 10 rolls.
Preheat the oven to 200°C/Gas 6.
Unroll the sheet and put on a floured surface. Slightly roll the pastry with a rolling pin into a bigger rectangle. Cut it once in the middle lengthwise, then cut both smaller rectangles into five equal sections. You now have 10 rectangles in total. Brush one end of each rectangle with a little of the beaten egg, lay a sausage at the other end, then season the sausage with salt and freshly ground black pepper and sprinkle with thyme leaves.
Roll the sausage up in the pastry to enclose and repeat with all the sausages.
Put the sausage rolls in the fridge for 20 minutes for the pastry to harden. Once the pastry is hard, remove the sausage rolls from the fridge and score the tops with a sharp knife for decoration. Brush well all over with the the beaten egg yolks and bake in the oven for about 35 minutes or until the pastry has turned golden-brown and looks crisp. Remove from the oven and leave to cool slightly before serving.
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Red Velvet Cupcakes with Mascarpone Cream Cheese Frosting

Ever since I made a four layered red velvet cake for my friend Mim and forgot to add enough red food colouring I wanted to make this cake again just to see if it really turns out red. Then I thought why not make cupcakes?

They turned out a bit too buttery for my taste but that’s just me, so far everyone else liked it!

For the Cupcakes you will need:

60g unsalted butter, at room temperature
¾ cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
2½ tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
3 tablespoons red food coloring
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup buttermilk
1 cup + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
1½ teaspoons distilled white vinegar

For the Cream Cheese Frosting:

50g butter, at room temperature
100g mascarpone cheese, at room temperature
100g cream cheese, at room temperature
2½ cups icing sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to Gas mark 4/180°C. Line a standard muffin/cupcake tray with paper cupcake cups.
On medium-high speed, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy for about 3 minutes. Turn the mixer to high and add the egg.
In a separate small bowl, mix together the cocoa powder, vanilla extract and red food coloring to make a thick paste. Add to the batter and mix on medium speed until completely combined.
Reduce the mixer speed to low and slowly add half of the buttermilk. Add half of the flour and mix until combined. Add the remaining milk and flour. Beat on high until smooth.
Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the salt, baking soda and vinegar. Turn to high and beat for another couple of minutes until completely combined and smooth.
Fill the cupcake liners to about 2/3 and bake for about 20 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the center of the largest cupcake comes out clean.
Cool for 10 minutes and then remove cupcakes from the pan and place them on a cooling rack to cool completely before frosting.
For the frosting simply whisk together the vanilla extract, butter, cream cheese and mascarpone cheese and beat for about 5 minutes until all is completely smooth. Slowly add the icing sugar and whip for a few minutes until the frosting is light and fluffy. Then get creative with a piping bag and sugar sprinkles!

By far the easiest chocolate muffins I’ve ever made

I saw the recipe at the Pink Whisk and as I had just bought the tulip wrappers there was no way I could resist baking these chocolate muffins, even though the recipe asks for two different kinds of flour! I did make a few changes to the recipe; I used 200g of caster sugar and 100g of vanilla sugar.
They are so easy to make and I was impressed by the creaminess of the batter… 
The recipe is for 12 muffins but I actually got 16 out of the batter! Maybe I was too careful filling my wrappers!
165g butter, softened


300g caster sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 eggs, large
70g self raising flour
200g plain flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
70g cocoa powder
225ml milk
25ml malt vinegar
100g good dark chocolate broken into chunks

and for the filling you will need

150ml double cream
150g dark chocolate chopped into small pieces

Measure out the milk and add the vinegar to it. Set aside. Preheat the oven to 160c Fan/180c/Gas Mark 4. Prepare your muffin tray by putting the tulip wrappers into each hole. Cream together the butter and sugar, then add the eggs and vanilla. Mix well. Put all dry ingredients into a bowl, give it a good stir then add to the wet mix. Finally pour in the milk/vinegar mixture and whisk until smooth. Fill your tulip cases about two thirds full. Sprinkle the chocolate chunks on top of the muffins.
Bake them in the oven for about 25 minutes or until done.
Take the muffins out and allow them to cool for a couple of minutes. Take a thin, sharp knife and stick it through one of the cracks into the muffin. Wiggle it around a bit to make space for the chocolate filling. Let the muffins cool completely. 
For the filling simply heat the cream in a sauce pan until it nearly boils, then take it off the heat and add the chopped dark chocolate. All the mixture to stand for a few minutes, then stir it all together until you have a smooth and glossy ganache. Leave it for about 15 minutes, then fill your injector (a big syringe with a long metal needle at the end) with the chocolate ganache and fill your muffins where you earlier made a cut with the knife. Stop injecting when the chocolate oozes out of the top.

Cooking yes, but baking?

I never had any desire to cook while I was at home but as soon as I moved out I had to learn how to cook and I did so by reading cookbooks. Well, not just reading, following the recipes, too 😉
I started working in the catering industry when I was around 17 years old and over the years have learnt an awful lot from work colleagues and also friends who happened to have their own restaurant. Eating out also helps of course and I don’t have a problem spending quite a bit of money in a fancy restaurant as long as the food is good. And yes, I am one of those people who sometimes take pictures of their food even though Giles Coren hates it (and I like Giles Coren).
Learning by doing has always been my preferred method and often my friends were guinea pigs for new recipes; I would “lure” them into my home with the promise of a six course menu and try out things like stuffed goose neck or young pigeons with sour cream or unusual flavour combinations and I’d say that most of the time it all turned out well. I cooked in unusual locations (in the great hall of a moat castle or at festivals for example) and I continued to entertain friends with my cooking when I moved to Fiji. Of course, there I had to deal with the challenge of finding certain foods but at the same time I learnt how to cook local stuff like duruka (dubbed the Fijian Asparagus) and ota (young wood fern). My kitchen utensils moved with me from Germany to Fiji and then to England, so some of them are over 20 years old and they still work.
And of course I’ve continued the trend of cooking for my friends in the UK and my blog title stems from one Sunday evening where my friend Paul thanked me for the frantastic food I cooked that day.

When it comes to baking however, that’s a totally different matter. I never baked because the women in my family were excellent bakers. Both my mother and grandmother, my sister, my aunts, they all bake and at weddings, confirmations, funerals etc. they would showcase traditional cakes that looked like out of a fancy bakery. They would taste wonderful, too!

Then last year I started to watch the food channel and came across some easy baking recipes and thought, why not try that out? The rest is history as they say. Baking is immensely satisfying. You see your cupcakes or your bread in the oven slowly rising and the smell wafts through the house… of course the real pleasure comes from baking for someone else, like I did for my friend Aggie, who when she saw the cake I baked for her daughter’s birthday went “Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God, look at this cake!”… that’s when you know you did a good job!

Cheese and Onion Bread

This is a recipe by Ruth Clemens, from the Pink Whisk. I got to know Ruth from the Great British Bake Off, which I loved watching. They are now doing a second series and for a split second I thought about applying to partake but then I thought I am nowhere near as good as any of the great bakers who featured in the last series so I left it!

The Cheese and Onion Bread is really easy to make and while it takes a while (the dough needs to rise and then rise again) it is totally worth doing!

Ingredients:

1 onion, diced
25g butter (1 knob)
450g strong white plain flour
200g mature cheese, grated
1tsp salt
1tsp caster sugar
1tsp fast acting dried yeast
200ml milk
100ml water
25g butter, melted
Cayenne pepper

Sautee the chopped onion gently in a pan with the butter until soft. Place the cooked onion in a bowl to cool to room temperature. Grate the cheese and split in half. To a large bowl add the flour, salt, and sugar.

Measure out the liquids, it needs to be tepid so if you use milk straight from the fridge top up with water from a boiled kettle. In a small bowl place the dried yeast, add a couple of tablespoons of liquid from the jug and mix them together. This gets the yeast activated. To the flour mixture add 100g of the cheese and the cooled onion. Give it a good stir. Make a well in the centre and add the liquid and the yeast. The easiest way to work it all together and forming a rough dough is by using your hands. Of course, you can use a machine as well but I haven’t got one (yet).

Knead the dough for a few minutes. You shouldn’t need any extra flour on the work surface, the dough may seem a little sticky to begin with but as you work it together it will stop sticking to you and form a smooth dough. After kneading the dough will be much smoother and elastic.

Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with clingfilm and leave to rise for an hour or until doubled in size. It will need to be somewhere fairly warm otherwise it will take longer than an hour.
After it has doubled in size tip the dough out onto your work surface and knock it back. A quick pummel with your fists and fingers does the job nicely and you will feel the air puff out of it. Knead the bread for a couple of minutes. Then split the dough into 16 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a smooth ball. Take a square shallow baking tray, approx 9″ square is ideal, and grease well. Place all the balls of dough into the tray.

Cover with a tea towel and leave to rise again somewhere warm for an hour or until the balls are nice and puffed up. Preheat the oven to 220°C/Gas Mark 7. Melt 25g of butter and brush liberally over the dough.

Sprinkle with the remaining 100g of grated cheese and sprinkle some cayenne pepper over it.
Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes until beautifully golden brown and cooked through.