Meels’ Birthday Cake – Present of Profiteroles

Last year I discovered Emma Gardner’s baking blog which quickly became a huge favourite of mine (see here and prepare to be inspired…)  Her honesty on what does and doesn’t work is incredibly refreshing against the backdrop of a recipe blogging world that can be a little bit on the smug side, and her recipes are beautiful.  I first came across it looking for ideas for my sister in law’s birthday cake – her birthday is on Christmas day so it was also going to be pudding for Christmas dinner.  My original plan was for a croquembouche, and Emma’s “present of profiteroles” took the tower of choux pastry to more of a fun and modern level and bought in a bit of birthday novelty.  My friend Amelia’s 30th was a great excuse to give it another whirl.  For the Christmas version I used orange infused chocolate as the sauce, for Amelia’s I used caramelised salted white chocolate (recipe here).  The method is definitely a bit more Blue Peter than Great British Bake Off at times, but actually quite fun and the end result is worth it.  Most of the time intensive parts (making the profiteroles and making the ribbon) can be done in advance and frozen if needed, it took me about an hour to crisp up the profiteroles on the day, fill them and assemble in the box (adding the bow took 5 mins before serving).  Method, recipe and construction guidelines below – I followed Emma’s method quite closely, but have added a few tips I used on the chocolate work to make it easier the second time around, and use a slightly different recipe for the choux pastry.  Pics below of both this one and the Christmas version (we only managed to get one slightly blurry snap last night before the focus turned to eating…)  S

Recipe (serves 20):

Profiteroles (100):

Recipe from Helene Dujardin at (adapted from Baking With Julia

600g flour (sieved and placed on a baking sheet)
330g butter (cut into cubes)
375ml water
375ml whole milk
5 tsp golden caster sugar
1.5 tsp salt
10 eggs & 5 egg whites

600ml cream, whipped
1 vanilla pod
440ml caramelised salted white chocolate (recipe here, requires 400g white chocolate, I used Green & Blacks)
200g milk chocolate (I used Callebaut)

Blue Peter accessories:

Cardboard box (mine was from Paperchase, size medium 18cm x 18cm)
Baking paper
Plastic sheets
4 paperclips
Elastic band
Empty shoebox
Blue tac
Piping bag & nozzles

Profiteroles Method:

Preheat the oven to 200°C (190°C if fan assisted), place a baking tray at the bottom of the over under where your profiteroles will cook

Step one: Place water (375ml), whole milk (375ml), butter (330g), salt (1.5tsp) and sugar (5 tsp) into a large plan and bring to a rolling boil

Step two: Using the baking sheet as a chute, pour the 600g of sieved flour into the mix above all in one go, stirring vigorously until it comes together (don’t worry if you see lumps, keep stirring and they will go)

Step three: Once combined, stir on a medium heat until the mixture is a smooth ball that comes away from the edges of the pan


Step four: Remove from the heat and allow to cool for a couple of minutes (you can speed this up by transferring into a separate bowl of whirring on low in a mixer with a paddle attachment)

Step five: Add the eggs one by one, beating after each addition until the egg is fully combined.  You can do this in a mixer with a paddle attachment or by hand).  Again the mixer will come apart at points – whip whip whip and it does come back together

Step six: Stop when the mixture is the consistency of a very thick mayonnaise, and holds a “v” shape from the mixer



Step seven: On a baking tray covered with baking parchment, pipe 1 inch rounds leaving a little room for the balls to expand.  Flatten the tops of the choux pastry mounds using your finger dipped in water (this stops the top from having a small point which tends to burn)



Step eight: Fill a mug of boiling water.  Open the oven and quickly pour the mug of water into the dish at the bottom of the oven, place the profiteroles on the tray above and quickly close the door.  The steam from the water tray will help the profiteroles to rise (I did batch one without the water tray and the others with it and there was definitely a difference).  Cook for 17 minutes until they start to go golden without opening the door



Step nine: Turn the temperature down to 160°C and cook for a further 15 minutes

Step ten: Open the door and turn the profiteroles over, pierce the underneath with a skewer.  Wedge the oven door open (I used a wooden juicer for this) and cook for a further 10 minutes, or until the insides are cooked fully. The profiterole shells can be used when cooled or frozen unfilled.  I stored mine overnight and they softened a bit, but 15 minutes at 160°C in the oven the next day crisped them back up easily.




Filling Method:

Step one: Using an electric whisk (or by hand if you are feeling sporty), whisk the cream (600ml) and vanilla (one pod) until just before the stiff peak stage


Step two: Either pipe into your profiteroles or cut in the middle about 3/4 of the way through and fill with a spoon (I started with the former and ended up on the latter as I was a bit pressed on time)


Ribbon Method:



Step one: Take your plastic sheet and fold over the box, bending to mark the edges.  Remove the sheet and fold along those edges to make the plastic into a “u” shape


Step two: Cut the “u” shape into strips around 2 inches wide (or however wide you prefer your ribbon).  Place over the box to check it fits.  These will be the chocolate ribbons going around the box.

Step three: Find an object (i used a shoe box) the same size as your “u” shapes that they can sit in to set.  Place the “u” strips inside the box and secure with blue tac


Step four: Cut two strips the same width as your “u” shape, and around 3 inches long.  These will be the ends of your bow

Step five: Cut one strip the same width as above and around 2 inches long.  Roll into a cylinder and secure with an elastic band.  This will be the centre of your bow.

Step six: Cut two strips the same width as above and around 6 inches long (depending on how big you want the bow).   Have two paperclips handy for securing the ends together for when you cover with chocolate


Step seven: Melt milk chocolate (200g) over a pan of boiling water



* For the next part, remember in the final result you want people to see the shiny part of the chocolate (i.e the piece that is up against the plastic), so this dictates which side you put the chocolate

Step eight: Starting with the ends of the bow (they are easiest) brush the chocolate onto the strips and place in the freezer.  I leant the ends of mine against the side of the freezer to give them a bit of curve.



Step nine: The bow… take the strips from step six and your paperclips.  Brush the strips with chocolate and then fold the plastic so the chocolate spread is on the inside of the loop you have made.  Secure with two paperclips per loop and place in the freezer





Step ten: The centre of the bow… Take your little cylinder of plastic from step five and spoon some milk chocolate inside.  I spread it around using my finger to get all of it covered.  You can alternatively brush onto the strip and roll it after, but that can be a bit trickier.  Place in the freezer
Step eleven: The box ribbon… Taking the shoe box with the “u” shapes sitting inside it, brush the u shapes with chocolate  and quickly put in the freezer.  Once it has set I just ran a knife along the edges of the plastic to unstick any overspill so the neat “u” can be quickly removed.



100 profiteroles (filled)
440ml melted caramelised white chocolate (reheated in the microwave or over boiling water)
Any spare melted milk chocolate can also be used here

Step one: Take your box and place one strip of baking paper cut to the inside width vertically and another horizontally.  These make the finished box a lot easier to remove


Step two: Dip each profiterole in the sauce and start to place in the box, using the sauce to stick the profiteroles together (note the bottom layer will be the top of your box once turned out).  If you like you can do different sauces for the inside and outside, I would stick to something lighter in colour than milk chocolate for the outside so you get a contrast with the bow.



Step three: Place in the fridge to set for at least 30 minutes

Step four: A few hours before serving, remove and place the box upside down on a plate to come to room temperature.  I keep the box on top to hold the shape, but you probably don’t need to.


Step five: Before serving, remove the box and peel away the baking paper.  Remove your chocolate work from the freezer and carefully peel away the plastic sheets and put into place.

iPhoto Library

Lamb with Mint & Elderflower – Saturday Spring Supper


Despite a distinct lack of Spring-like weather (or at least not the sort I had in mind) it was about time to get a bit more involved in some of the food of the season – which to me means roast lamb. I usually make a mint and redcurrant sauce to go with it, but wanted to have a bit of a play around bringing elderflower into the mix.  In the interest of full disclosure, this took a couple of runs.  The first time around I started with a tried and tested mint and redcurrant recipe (courtesy of Delia) but made an elderflower jelly to use in place of the redcurrant – the taste was good but the sauce didn’t thicken back up in the same way as the original, the colour wasn’t overly appealing – I also missed the redcurrant in there a lot more than I thought I might.  When I made it again I kept some of the redcurrant jelly but replaced half of it with elderflower cordial which was a much better balance, with all the good bits from the original and a kick of freshness from the elderflower.  Recipes and menu below… S


Bloody Mary tomatoes & celery salt here
Avocado & yoghurt dip here
Pea, mint and spring onion soup with parmesan crisps here
Shoulder of lamb with mint & elderflower
Apple tart fine with salted caramel sauce and vanilla ice cream here


Recipe: Shoulder of Lamb with Mint & Elderflower (serves 8)

3kg leg of lamb
4 garlic cloves (each cut into three)
10g rosemary
Olive oil

For the sauce:

8 tbsp elderflower cordial
9 tbsp red wine vinegar
6 tbsp redcurrant jelly
6 heaped tbsp chopped mint

Step 1: Heat red wine vinegar with redcurrant jelly until the redcurrant jelly melts.  Add the elderflower
Step 2: Add the mint and stir well.  Set aside and reheat gently when ready to serve.

For the lamb:

Preheat the oven to 180°C (fan)

Step 1: Bring the lamb out of the fridge around 2 hours before cooking so the whole joint is at room temperature.  Rub with olive oil, make incisions around 1 inch apart all over the lamb and fill with a slice of garlic or sprig of rosemary.  Sprinkle with salt and set aside

Step 2: Place the lamb in the oven for 15 minutes at 180°C, turn the oven down to 160°C and cook for a further 1h 30 (for pink lamb)

Step 3: Remove and rest for around 15 minutes before carving.  Serve with the elderflower and mint sauce.


Apple Tart with Salted Caramel Sauce


The sweet and salty obsession still alive and well, this time with my apple tart.  The tart recipe is pretty standard (and more assembly than anything else) but the salted caramel sauce takes it up a notch.  This sauce is a favourite of mine – all made in one step and easily prepared in advance and reheated (it also freezes super well, hence the larger quantity shown here).  This is the first time I have added salt – I used 4 pinches but taste as you go.  Also a winner on brownies or in apple crumble.  S

Recipe: Apple tart fine (serves 6)

Rough puff pastry (recipe here)
8 Braeburn apples (cored, peeled and very finely sliced – of the slices make sure you have at least 8 circular rings)
25g unsalted butter
20g caster sugar
Squeeze of lemon

Preheat the oven to 180°C

Step 1: Take your puff pastry (bought or made) and roll out to the thickness of a £2 coin.

Step 2: Cut individual tarts (mine were 10cm diameter) and place on a baking tray.  Prick all over with a fork to stop the pastry rising.


Step 3: Cover the pastry to the edge with your slices of apple
Step 4: Melt the butter and squeeze in the lemon.  Brush over the tarts and sprinkle with sugar.

Step 5: Bake for around 15 minutes, remove and leave to cool (can be reheated when required later on)


Serve with the warm salted caramel sauce and vanilla ice cream.

Recipe: Salted caramel sauce (serves 10)

150g golden syrup
120g light brown sugar
50g unsalted butter
125ml cream
1 tsp vanilla
Heat the above ingredients gently in a pan, stirring until combined.  Remove from the heat and stir in salt.





Pea, Mint & Spring Onion Soup with Parmesan Crisps


Recipe (makes 1.5l, serves 6)

900g frozen peas
1l chicken stock (heated)
10g mint
10g oregano (chopped)
1 clove garlic (quartered)
3 spring onions (chopped)
200g finely grated parmesan (for the crisps)

Step 1: Bring a large pan of water to the boil and add the mint.  When bubbling add your peas and boil with the lid on for around 8 minutes


Step 2: While the peas are boiling fry off the oregano, garlic and spring onion in a pan with olive oil


Step 3: Remove the peas from the heat, drain (reserving the water for later), and place in a bowl of ice – this will keep them green

Step 4: Place the peas, oregano/garlic/spring onions in a blender and slowly add 1l of hot stock and c. 250ml of the reserved water, depending on how thick you like your soup.  Blend until smooth

Step 5: I ran mine through a sieve, but it is fine served as above.  I added back in a couple of tablespoons of the thicker mixture remaining in the sieve to keep a little  bit of texture
Step 6: Cool and store in an airtight container.  When ready to serve, heat on the hob until piping hot.  Lovely with a drizzle of white truffle oil, or a scoop of Crème fraîche.


For the parmesan crisps:
Step 1: Preheat the oven to 180°C, place 1.5 tsp of parmesan on a flat baking tray for each crisp (i use a round pastry cutter to keep them a similar size).


Step 2: Bake for around 7 minutes until almost see through and remove with a palette knife.


* You can make these into curved “pringle” shaped crisps by draping the circles over a rolling pin as soon as they come out of the oven, or into little nests for canapes by placing them over the end of a small bottle – You just need to move quickly or work in small batches if you plan to shape them as they harden very very quickly as soon as they are out of the oven.








Bloody Mary Tomatoes with Celery Salt


For all the bloody Mary lovers out there, a super easy canapé that isn’t too filling.   The recipe below is easily tinkered depending on how you like your BM (i’m all about the horseradish), you just need to leave yourself  time for them to absorb all of the flavours.  Really colourful too so a favourite of mine for Christmas parties (215 sleeps to go, but who’s counting).  S


200g cherry tomatoes (with a small x cut into the top of each one)
200ml vodka
1 tsp celery salt
6 drops tabasco
1/2 tsp horseradish
1/4 tsp mustard powder
2 tbsp worcestershire sauce


Mix all of the ingredients (apart from the tomatoes) above with a whisk or in a cocktail shaker and add your cherry tomatoes.  Place in a container for at least 6 hours (ideally overnight) and drain when ready to serve.  Serve with a pot of celery salt to dip.



Baked Churros & Caramelised Salted White Chocolate


Churros from the Spanish restaurant at the end of my road replaced sticky toffee pudding as my favourite dessert last year. While the baked variety doesn’t hit the same notes as fried churros, they have a charm of their own – somewhere between a doughnut and a cake, and with the same sugary cinnamon loveliness on the outside as the real deal. The recipe below is adapted from a really good one I found on Erica’s Sweet Tooth blog here (i added more milk to make them a little more moist and reduced the cooking time, other measurements below just switched to grams/ml). Traditionally these are served with dark or milk chocolate, but having recently discovered caramelised salted white chocolate (thank you Food 52) I jumped at the opportunity to bring that into the mix. Any spare chocolate sauce can be kept in a jar and reheated as soon as you can think of another excuse to use it (on ice cream is simple, but yummy – the Food 52 suggestion of eating it in between two biscuits is firmly on my to do list). S

Churros Recipe (makes 30):

190g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
110g caster sugar
75g unsalted butter (slightly soft)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 large egg
130ml milk

For the coating: 50g butter, 200g caster sugar and 3 tsp cinnamon (you don’t use it all – I bulked this up to make the coating easier)



Preheat the oven to 170°C

Step one: Sift the flour, baking powder together with the spices and salt and set aside

Step two: Beat together the sugar and butter until pale and fluffy (pics below when it first comes together and then a couple of minutes later so you can see the colour change you are looking for)



Step three: Add one egg and beat until combined

Step four: With a spoon, stir in the flour mix and milk alternately. Mix until just combined taking care not to overwork the mixture


Step five: Take a mini cupcake tray (around 1 inch diameter) and lightly grease with butter and rub over with a paper towel to remove any excess

Step six: Using a teaspoon, spoon the mixture into the cupcake tray (they will rise so you do not need them to be as big as you think, around the size of a brussels sprout)

Step seven: Bake for 12-14 minutes until risen (they should spring back to you when you lightly press the top when cooked).

Step eight: Remove from the tray and cool on a wire rack. At this point I panicked a little bit that they didn’t really look like churros, but they transform when sugar coated. If making in advance I would store them like this in an airtight container and do the final step on the day you use them.

Step nine: When cooled, set up a little production line of a tub of melted butter, and a bowl of sugar and cinnamon. Using a pastry brush, cover the outside of the churro in butter and dip in the sugar mix, tossing to coat evenly. Serve with chocolate sauce (recipe below).



Caramelised Salted White Chocolate Recipe (makes 2 x 220ml):

4oog white chocolate (I used Green & Blacks)
Salt (to taste – you can see in the picture roughly how much I used)



Preheat the oven to 125°C

The method is fairly simple but a little bit time consuming – I was worried about the temperature getting too high so this probably took a bit longer than it needed to (1 hour, stirring every ten minutes). I took quite a few pictures so you can see the colour change – It took a while to get going but once it did it step changed quite quickly.

Step one: Break the chocolate into pieces in a baking tray and place in the oven.

Step two: Every ten minutes, remove to stir. I may clump together a bit but you can loosen it again easily by stirring when you take it out. Again for the first few stirs mine looked pretty similar apart from the clumping when it came out, stick with it…






Step three: When you have the desired colour, add salt and stir. I did two lots of the salt shown below – taste as you go.

Step four: When you are happy with the flavour, pour into a jar and leave to cool. Reheat when ready to serve, or whenever you think of an excuse.








The Best Guacamole – Courtesy of the Hairy Bikers


Guacamole is a massive favourite of mine – with tortilla chips, with chilli, on ryvita, on its own… you get the picture.  The problem is finding the right one.  The Hairy Bikers’ “real guacamole” recipe is the best I have found.  I use a little less onion and a touch more lime but apart from that follow it almost to the letter.  Pics below, you can view the original recipe here.  S

Recipe (makes three bowls):

6 avocados
8 chillies (half red half green)
1 red onion
1 large bunch of coriander
4 medium sized tomatoes
2 limes


Step one: Pulse the onion and chillies gently in a food processor (or chop very finely by hand).  Add into a bowl with the chopped avocado and tomatoes

Step two: Mix together with a pestle, adding the lime juice and coriander to loosen.  Set aside with the avocado stone in the bowl to prevent from browning.





Roasted Tomato Salsa


In general I am in no way a dip snob, but salsa is one of the few that I don’t like the taste of pre made.  I find it overly sweet and    it never seems to taste of the things that you can see are in it.  There are a lot of recipes to choose from (I rule out anything involving removing tomato skins on principle) and having tried a few, the one technique that I thought made a difference was roasting the vegetables first.  I made this one in a bit of a hurry but roasting the vegetables slowly and for longer would bring the flavours out even more.  Serve with tortilla chips or inside corn tortillas as a sauce.  S

Recipe (makes 900ml):

1.5kg cherry tomatoes (halved)
6 green chillies
8 cloves of garlic
Salt & pepper to taste


Preheat the oven to 180°C

Step one: Place the ingredients in a baking dish (I put mine in one, doing again I would spread across two).  Bake for two hours (I baked at 190 for 40 minutes – It tasted fine but the slower cooked version I did last time was better)


Step two: Remove from the oven and blend in a food processor.  Set aside until ready to serve.


Picked Red Onion

Super easy, but still a new one on me – Place the onion (I used three large red ones, thinly sliced) in a bowl with 1 cup of red wine vinegar, 2 tsp of sugar and a pinch of salt.  Because of the quantity I split into two bowls so only one shown below. Leave to soak for around an hour and drain before serving. S

IMG_1896 IMG_1901

Chilli & Beer Braised Pulled Pork

The first attempt at this tasted good, but was definitely not “pulled”.  This time around I cooked it at a lower temperature and for longer, used a bit less cumin and let it rest for far longer before serving.  I served this with tortillas, sour cream, salsa and  guacamole, but this would be just as good on its own with a green salad (this was my master plan for the next day but we got through the entire thing…)  S

Recipe (serves 12):

5kg bone in pork shoulder
12 green chillies
4 tbsp brown sugar
1 lime
3 white onions
6 garlic cloves
4 bay leaves
4 tsp oregano
4 tsp ground coriander
3 tsp cumin
1 tsp all spice
700ml dark beer (I used Sierra Nevada)


Step one: Pulse 12 green chillies with 4 tbsp brown sugar (go gently so it doesn’t produce too much liquid)


Step two: Stir in the juice of one lime and rub on all sides of the pork.  Cover and set aside for an hour or two

Step three: Around nine hours before you plan to eat, place the pork in the oven at 125°C (it cooks for seven hours)

Step four: While the pork is in, heat vegetable oil, onions, garlic cloves, bay leaves, oregano, ground coriander, cumin and all spice and cook until the onion has softened.  Add the beer and bring up to the boil.

Step five: Remove the pork from the oven and transfer into the dish with the beer mixture.  Return to the oven for the remainder of the cooking time

Step six: After around seven hours, remove the pork (careful taking it out as it falls away from the bone very easily).  Cover with tin foil and set aside until ready to serve.  It only takes around ten minutes to pull apart the whole thing.  Spoon some of the sauce in the dish over the top and/or place in a small jug at the table.


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