24 October 2007

The Hardest Button To Button...

...is the name of a White Stripes song...and it also describes how I felt about my jeans after last night's dinner. We had a bit of a feast because, well, yesterday marked two years since Tim and I started going out. Yay for us! We toyed with the idea of going out to dinner but (a) it would cost too much, (b) I like to cook too much and (c) we didn't want to make too big a deal of it. So instead, we splurged on some steak, which I marinated, Scandinavian-styles, in vodka, garlic, thyme and olive oil. This recipe comes via Nigella's Feast and is very simple. I did take a photo of the steak marinading in one of those bags you get at the bulk section at Pak'n'Save (which I always hold on to for this very purpose) but...it looked a little too unattractively like something out of "Silence of the Lambs" for my liking. For all of our sakes, it will not feature here.

I had a hankering to do something with white chocolate for pudding and found the perfect recipe in Nigella's Forever Summer: Blonde Mocha Layer Cake, so named for its pairing of coffee and white chocolate flavours. Sounds like hard work, but really it isn't. It is a coffee flavoured sponge sandwiched together with creamy white chocolate icing, and it's a doddle to make. So, while the steak was marinading fleshily, I got on with the cake.

It is based on a Victoria Sponge recipe, one that Nigella often adapts in her books. I creamed equal amounts of butter and sugar (225g) and added four eggs, 225g self raising flour, 1/4 cup strong black coffee and a tablespoon of milk. Dollop this into two buttered and lined 21cm caketins and bake at 180 C for 25 or so minutes. This recipe can be made plain - with all milk instead of coffee - and roughly halved (that is, 125g butter, sugar, and flour, 2 eggs, 2 T milk) it makes fantastically easy cupcakes, which you bake for about 20 or so minutes. Anyone passing through our flat earlier this year will remember my brief but torrid affair with cupcakes, which resulted in all sorts of creations (mostly Nigella's)...lavender cupcakes, orange cupcakes, carrot cake cupcakes, coca-cola chocolate cupcakes...The point is, it is all kinds of versatile.

Above: Two moons! Actually, the golden coffee flavoured sponges fresh from the oven. (incidentally, I found out that it was the place where I work that was behind the "Two Moons" ad all those years ago! It has been their most well received ad campaign ever apparently.)

While they were cooling I boiled the potatoes in preparation for another recipe from Feast, "Sticky Garlic Potatoes." While they were bubbling away I heated up some olive oil in a roasting dish in the oven, and chopped some garlic cloves. The idea is, once you have drained the boiled potatoes, you bash them up a bit with the end of a rolling pin or somesuch, tip them, with the garlic into the hot roasting dish, and roast them, the garlic and oil sort of "catching" the fuzzy bits and making it all crispy and delicious.

Once they were in the oven, I heated up the pan for the steak and put some frozen beans on to boil. Now I have to admit here that I forgot to scale down the marinade ingredients (Nigella's recipe feeds a lot more than two) so...the steak was a schmeer on the intense side. To be honest, I had to send it back for a second go in the pan in order to cook out all the vodka. I was a bit annoyed with myself because I'd made this before with great success. In the end it tasted great - and looked pretty good too.

Above: Say it with steak, not flowers, I reckon...the potatoes were all they promised to be: crunchy (but creamily fluffy within!) and garlicky. The beans were...well, they made our dinner look healthier.

Because the table was too covered in junk for us to eat on we opted for the lounge where we watched another installment of Season 2 Outrageous Fortune on DVD...before switching over to TV3 to watch the current season's episode. They should definitely be paying me for all the free advertising I'm giving them! In the ads I made the icing for the now-cooled sponges. It involved butter, (90g) white chocolate, (250g) sour cream (250g) and icing sugar (250g) in rather terrifying proportions. It was very easy to make though - melt this, stir this, sift that - and looked absolutely wondrous:

Above: Mmmmmmmm....There was actually rather a lot of icing, which made licking the bowl all the more gratifying.

I then thickly iced and sandwiched the sponges. It has to be said that the baked sponges look rather shallow and unimpressive, but once they are filled and iced it is another story altogether. I thought a dusting of cocoa on top might make it evocative of a cappucino...See?

Above: The finished Blonde Mocha Cake.

I have to say, it is an inspired flavour pairing. I think if I was having an actual espresso, I would rather have some dark chocolate, but for coffee in cake-form, white chocolate is the way to go. It's rich fudginess is the perfect foil for the smoky depth that the coffee provides, the slight bitterness of which means that the combination isn't at all cloying. Definitely not for everyday consumption though.
Here's to many more years of me cooking dinner and Tim eating it!


  1. Happy 2nd anniversary from 1/4 of your readership....

  2. Happy anniversary to a favourite couple, lots of love from another section of your readership. Today family, tomorrow the world. hugs,

  3. Wow! Two years, well done. Here's to many more anniversary dinners!
    Must try the pototoes some time, perhaps when your family comes over for a meal.
    Looking forward to catching up in Nov.