Builders' Cuppa: Victoria Sponge

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

We are building a porch and the front wall at home. It has been four weeks of hell: dust, debris, plaster stains, cement powder, dirty builders' boot marks everywhere, the house is cold and dirty and my kitchen completely uninviting! Everything is covered with a fine layer of dust! Living, or attempting to live, while builders are in your house is a nightmare! One thing I can't get over, is the amount of tea breaks our builders take! Every time there is a break, the kettle has to be boiled, tea bags, sugar and milk for a "cuppa" (cup of tea) must be ready and the mandatory biscuits' tin has to be presented! Alan and I are putting on weight with so many cuppas throughout the day!
Work cannot possibly commence before a cuppa, then the elevenses cuppa, the cuppa after lunch, the 3 pm cuppa, the four-ish cuppa, the six-ish cuppa and the cuppa before he goes home! I have used more tea bags and milk in the last 4 weeks than in the entire 5 years we've been in the house! Enticing my builder to work harder, I baked this cake, my old time favourite treat for a cuppa, last week and it got eaten between the elevenses and lunch.
This luscious Victoria sponge cake filled with fresh raspberries and whipped cream with a lightly dust of caster sugar is my idea of heaven on a plate!  The recipe came from Nigella Lawson's wonderful book ''. I've twicked it a tiny little bit, by adding some lime zest and with my choice of filling, but her basic recipe is by far the best victoria sponge cake I've tried: it's quick, simple to make and the whole thing tastes amaizing! I halved her recipe as I like the petitte 7" sandwich tins I have, but if you have bigger tins, double the recipe. For the one on this photo I used fresh raspberries with a sprinkle of caster sugar as they were in season, but I love it with raspberry jam and cream as well!
A word of advise; all ingrediens must be at room temperature and the butter must be very soft. Cold ingredients will affect the texture and airiness of your cake, so take them at least 3 hours in advance or the night before. Enjoy!

Gone Bananas!

Thursday, 28 October 2010

I think I'm going bananas in my old age! I entered Cully & Sully's Chef Factor Competition!! The two entries with the highest votes go through to the final along with a wild card picked by Cully & Sully! I need votes, so as sad as it sounds, please, please, please vote for me!! My entry looks like the photo below and it is called "Lily's Mexican Stuffed Chiles" (you can find me under the Dublin entries!). Gosh! I know how the X-Factor & American Idol contestants feel on results' night! :)



Roasted Butternut Squash & Red Pepper Risotto

Sunday, 30 May 2010

I absolutely love vegetables! I couldn't live without my 5 a day. However, as odd as it sounds, I could never become a vegetarian! I like meat too and it's good for you as well. It provides vital protein for the body and although nuts and seeds also provide protein, they could never replace meat on my tastebuds! I am a health concious eater, that is until a big piece of chocolate cake or the infamous chipper gets on my healthy concious way! So I do try to vary my foods as much as I can and try not to eat the same meat or vegetables every day. I read somewhere that the more colours on your plate the better, so I go for loads of colour with a bit of protein rich meat, poultry or fish. It's all in the variety!

Once a week, I go vegetarian. I cook a meal without any sort of red or white meat. I feel it is nice to detox from animal protein once every week. I found this recipe a couple of years ago in a weightwatchers' book called Pure Points 2. It is one of my favourite vegetarian dishes as it is not only delicious, but also healthy and low fat, so you can't go wrong with that. I have, as usual, fiddled with the recipe a little. The original is made with pumpkin & peppers only, but unless you can get your hands on a really good pumpking, forget it!

Some of you might say this is not a Mexican dish, I should point out that butternut squash is a Mexican vegetable and so are peppers; they're now grown in other parts of the world, but you have us little Mexicans to thank for them in the first place! So enjoy my Mexican take on a classic Italian. Happy cooking!

Arroz con Leche

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

I opened my e-mail today to find not one, not two, but three Happy Cinco de Mayo e-cards sent by non-mexican friends! It really puzzled me. Why is this trend growing? I only got one last year! It left me thinking... What does Cinco de Mayo mean to me? I wracked my brains and heart to look for something there, but shamlessly I must admit that it does not mean anything! I even had trouble remembering what the actual Cinco de Mayo battle was all about! My primary school days sitting in "sociales" class (history) are long, long gone! As far as I can remember, Cinco de Mayo commemorates the battle of Puebla in 1862 where the Mexicans defeated the French Army. That's about it. Even the Mexican Embassy in Dublin has no mention of this in their facebook page! So not sure what all the fuzz is about in the States and here, maybe just a nice day to have a margarita and a couple of tacos apparently, but to this Mexican, Cinco de Mayo really doesn't mean anything. Am I alone out there? Are there any other Mexicans living abroad whose sentiments are stronger than mine about Cinco de Mayo? ..... nope? .... noone? Thought so.

Cinco de Mayo is just another day, unless you're still in primary or secondary school where it is celebrated like many other minor dates in our civic calendar, with a mentioned by the teacher, perhaps an assigment to research the battle details and its political consequences, but that's about it! It's not a Mexican national holiday. We don't even get the day off. We place a stronger meaning to Mothers Day, May 10th, than to May the 5th. So, I won't be throwing a Happy Cinco de Mayo party like the White House is this year, but what I will do, is to share a simple recipe for Arroz con Leche, a rice pudding recipe I promised to post for a friend a long time ago! Enjoy Cooking!

Chicken Salad... Picnic Perfect

Friday, 16 April 2010

I am a sucker for a good picnic. In my neck of the woods in Mexico, picnics are close to impossible to have, it's way too hot and unless you have them under a good shade, they're even dangerous as sunstroke is not a thing to take lightly.  When I moved to Ireland I was starved of picnics, so the first few years I had as many as I could,  although I soon realised that the idilic picture of a picnic was quite impractical: the basket, the foods, the drinks, the blanket, the sweet treats, the ice bucket, the views... you would need a legion of carriers up the steep hill of Wicklow Mountains for that! My back is not what it used to be, so sitting on the floor for long periods is close to impossible... our picnics now are much easier, much more improvised and practical, but there is one thing I can never skip from a picnic: the Chicken Salad.

Ensalada de Pollo, or chicken salad, has a very retro feel for me. It has an evocative 1960's ring to it and it is super tasty. It is perfect for the hot days of summer as you can have it in sandwiches or with crackers; it  has the added benefit of being quite simple and easy to make. It keeps really well in the fridge and every time I have it, I feel nostalgic and a little homesick for my childhood. My version of it isn't one hundred percent traditional, but it is the way my mother always made it. I love its creaminess and freshness. I make it quite a lot in Ireland as it is handy for packed lunches and of course for picnics!