Mid way through november and I am beginning to get nervous that the ‘blue’ ones expectations over my cake making skills are somewhat misguided. Naturally I can make a cake but a ‘knights castle’ with a dragon, princess and several knights on horses really is going to be rather testing. I think a little trip to Jane Asher and her rather special cake shop on Chelsea Green is in order – not to buy a cake, merely to kit me with lots of exciting paraphernalia to help me make ‘Sir. Walters’ rather grand castle cake.
Like so many aspects of cooking, icing and cakes is an art in itself. I have a friend who has turned her eye and hand to this and creates the most magical, bespoke cakes. I look with envy at her gallery of handiwork, mind-boggling as to how many hours, love and attention went into making them. The thing is, there is something rather special about planning a 3 year olds’ party, in particular the cake – given that I like to think I can cook I do believe I must have a stab at this, and not default to the ‘work of art’ option, tempting though it is. Previously I have been primed with making a tractor cake – that was last year and not bad, a rocket, that was not so good, and that is where my creative icing experience ends, so a castle is going to be quite a challenge, watch this space by next week said castle should have been created.
That however is next week and at this precise moment in time I am relishing the peace and tranquility of Heathrow airport without the much adored little people. A flying visit to Sweden for an old friends important birthday is the reason, but frankly I’d be happy to hang out here all weekend, it is just so calm and quiet! Almost like the calm before the storm particularly with next weeks ‘knights’ party looming. The ‘little people’ are thrilled as they have the doting grandparents wrapped around their fingers to keep them entertained, so everybody is happy. Two nights of sleep for mr and mrs p, and no sleep for granny and grandad!
On that rather spoiling note I am strangely not going to share ‘The Weeks’ latest recipe, ‘Vegetables cooked with autumn leaves’ , straight from the world-renowned restaurant ‘Faviken’ in Sweden, though that clearly would be very appropriate, but instead encourage you to try my ‘Roasted butternut, pomegranate and feta salad’. It requires no foraging around the woods for leaves but does use some quintessential seasonal produce. Glistening, pink and pretty pomegranate seeds, maple roasted butternut, roasted hazelnuts and intriguingly, toasted butternut seeds and pomegranate molasses in the dressing. Warming, earthy, colourful and healthy, and hopefully more appetising than those leaves, though I’m very tempted to try them as well, particularly as the recipe gives very specific instructions as to what leaves to use, “6 handfuls of autumn leaves from last year (check carefully for insects)” ! I am not entirely sure if I am qualified to tell which leaves are last years, anyhow maybe my trip to Sweden will reveal all.
Maple roasted butternut salad with pomegranate and feta
1 butternut squash, cut into wedges, keep the seeds
1 pomegranate, de-seeded
1 packet of feta cheese
2 handfuls of hazelnuts or walnuts
2 large handfuls of mixed salad leaves, rocket, watercress, red chard, washed and spun dry
1 tablespoon maple syrup
Dressing: 1 tblsp of Pomegranate molasses, 3 tblsp olive oil, 1 tsp honey
Turn the oven on to 180
1. Cut the butternut into wedges and place in a roasting pan with a good splash of olive oil, 1 tablespoon of maple syrup and a good pinch of Maldon sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Roast in the oven at 180 for 30 minutes or until slightly caramelised and soft.
2. Meanwhile deseed the pomegranate, carefully removing the white pith.
3. Place the hazelnuts in a pan and pop in the oven to lightly roast, watch them like a hawk as they turn and burn fast. Remove, and rub the skins off and gently break up. Likewise splash the butternut seeds with olive oil and salt and toast in the oven for 15 minutes.
4. Wash the salad and spin dry. Crumble the feta cheese.
5. Make the dressing by whisking the pomegranate molasses with the olive oil and honey. The dressing should emulsify but can be loosened with either vinegar or water.
6. To serve place a handful of leaves on a plate, followed by the butternut, seeds, nuts and crumbled feta cheese. Repeat, and build up the salad, dressing the leaves between layers. Server immediately.