Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Happy Birthday Allstar, Part II [The Cooking]


Ok, so I started off by making the chocolate version of the birthday biscuits, with which I wanted to decorate Al's birthday cake. These are the same as the birthday biscuits which I made for DG last year, but with the addition of 1 tablespoon of cocoa.


tray of bix

There’s really nothing too complicated about these biscuits, so there's nothing much to say about them. Apart from the fact that they taste good, they’re easy, and I absolutely LOVE using my Living Kitchen cookie cutters!


274. Greek Lamb Stew (Cooking in Advance)

On Friday morning, I made the Greek lamb stew, in full quantities. With Nigella’s advice that “this should be plenty for about 10”, I knew that a full batch of this stuff would be enough to feed my mother and I that night, with enough left to tide me over for the weekend, and to keep my parents satisfied back home.

The method of making this stew is the normal one – brown bits of meat in a pan and set aside, cook vegetables and herbs in the same pan, re-add the meat to the pan along with a lot of liquid, and let simmer until tender. The meat in question was lamb shoulder, the vegetables were carrot, onion, garlic, the herbs were thyme and oregano, and the liquid was water and white wine. But actually, I didn’t use white wine. It was 30 degrees that day, too hot to walk to the bottle shop, and the only white wine I had in the house was my dad’s Cloudy Bay. Hah! No way I’d use a bottle of that just for a stew! So, out of laziness, I threw caution to the wind and decided to use a cheap bottle of sparkling wine which I had sitting around.

champagne and tomato stew

While this was simmering, I got on with the proper party food.

275. Birthday Cake (Feeding Babies and Small Children)

The birthday cake. It is an ordinary sponge, which Nigella suggests making in a food processor for ease and stress reduction, at the expense of the cake not getting very high. I had the luxury of time, so I made it using the traditional creaming method, which results in a higher cake. It’s a pretty big one too – 275g each of butter, sugar and 5 eggs – which you cook in a 25cm tin. I used my 25cm Living Kitchen springform tin, which I also received as a gift last year.

cake mix in tin

It takes about an hour in the oven, during which time I iced the chocolate cookies with a mixture of icing sugar, cocoa and water.

cooked and iced – cookies

This is what the cake looks like when it comes out of the oven.

baked cake

276. Cheese Stars (Feeding Babies and Small Children)
As it was cooling, I made a double batch of cheese stars, which are fabulously easy to make. Simply stir together grated red Leicester cheese (being Australian, I had to resort to “red Leicester-style” cheddar), parmesan, flour, cayenne and butter and roll it out. The mixture is quite dry, but it comes together easily if you clump it with your hands.

cheese star mixture

They take about 8 minutes to cook. Nigella says that you’ll get 25 4-cm stars out of a single batch. With a double batch, and using the small star cutter from the Living Kitchen set of cutters, I got about 90. (Warning: No matter how many you make, it will never be enough. These cheese stars are addictive, compulsive, and amazing. See the next post for the verdict from my friends).

baked v non baked - check out my cheap champagne in the background

To ice the cake, I made a buttercream icing (butter, icing sugar, food colouring), because marzipan, roll-out icing, and all other packet icings are evil. (I’m also not mad on water-based icings for sponge cakes). I dyed my icing a lovely shade of feel-good blue.

cake w icing

finished cake

As I mentioned in the previous post, I had been planning on making jam tarts and periwinkles as well, but by this stage, I could not be fucked. Besides, it was time for a much-needed shower and then dinner.

stew bubbling

The last stage of cooking the stew is to add a packet of macaroni and let it cook in there. I absolutely adore stews in which pasta is cooked – they just taste sooo fabulous. Incidentally, they’re wonderful served with chili oil and are perfect salvation from hangovers. Nigella suggests serving this one sprinkled with a mixture of feta and fresh oregano. Again, I must admit to laziness – I didn’t feel like going to the shops, so I didn’t bother with fresh oregano.

I was afraid that substituting sparkling wine for white wine would make the stew taste munting, but luckily, it did not munt at all. In fact, it rocked!

stew w feta

Just as expected, I totally loved this stew, as did my mum. In honesty, I could have done without the feta, as it made the dish very rich, but the sharp saltiness was more than welcome.

And check it out… here’s my food, packed up and ready to go…

ready to go


Gemma said...


That all looks amazing. How do you get the letters to come out so neatly? I made the biscuits for Valentines Day and really struggled to get the letters to look good.

Gemma x

Sarah said...

Hi Gemma!

Thank-you very much. I do find the letter cutters a bit difficult to work with. I used a skewer to gently press the dough out of the cutter. Unfortunately this meant I got little spikey-hole dent things in them, but they were fine once covered up with icing.

If I weren't icing them, I'd probably just take my time and be very very careful pressing out the letters to avoid making marks on them.

xox Sarah

Lisa said...

Great feast, and I am impressed with the organized pack-up ready to go! You must really love Alistair b/c you didn't even spell anything naughty on his cake. Beautiful!!

Gemma said...

Thanks, I'll try the skewer trick next time and ice them. I had flu last week and in a fit of madness on Valentines Day decided to make these as I didn't have the energy to go out to get a card but my energy didn't extend to icing so I just shook some caster sugar over them while they were still warm. Thankfully the OH was impressed with my GL 4 CD (tacky!)cookies!