Happy Victoria Day: Victoria Sponge

In honour of Victoria Day, here's my not-so-classic take on a Victoria Sponge.

A Victoria Sponge also known as a Victoria Sandwich is a typical British teatime treat made with strawberry jam and butter icing, sandwiched between two layers of sponge cake. It was said to be a favourite of Queen Victoria's, and popular during her reign, hence the name.

Marmalade Victoria Sponge. Photography and Styling by Helena McMurdo, My Endless Picnic.

Instead of strawberry jam, I went with marmalade. I am a marmalade addict and lately my favourite comes from Le Meadows Pantry.  Her Grapefruit and Sea Salt Marmalade is absolutely divine.

Marmalade Victoria Sponge. Photography and Styling by Helena McMurdo, My Endless Picnic.

 

Marmalade Victoria Sponge

For the cake:

150 g butter

3 eggs

150 g flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 tsp salt

 

For the  filling:

60 g butter, soft

125 g icing sugar

3 teaspoons warm water

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

4-6 tablespoons of your favourite marmalade

Preheat the oven to 350 Degrees and baseline a 7 inch cake tin with parchment paper.

Sift or whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt and set aside. Cream the butter and eggs together until fluffy and then add the dry ingredients a little at a time. When mixed through, pour into the cake tin.

Bake for 45-50 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack. In the meantime, make the filling

Put butter, sugar, water and vanilla in a bowl. Beginning slowly at first and gradually increasing speed, beat with an electric stand or hand held mixer until the mixture is very light.

Slice the cooled cake through the middle so you have two layers. Spread the butter icing on to the cut side of the bottom half of cake and spread the jam on the cut side of the top half. Sandwich the two halves together and then dust with icing sugar.

Pour yourself your favourite blend of tea and enjoy like a Queen.

 

 

Inspiration: Peas and Ham

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So all this revisiting of my recent trip has given me a craving for some simple Spanish cooking here at home in Vancouver. I was at Granville Island yesterday and spotted some lovely English Peas and thought - peas and ham. And by ham, I mean Serrano. Claro. I can always count on Oyama Sausage Company for some of the good stuff.

There is something so simple and  satisfying about this dish. Fresh peas are boiled and then tossed with bits of ham in a sauce of nothing more than olive oil, pimentón and garlic. A bit of bread to mop of the smoky, scented oil and a glass of wine and you've got something truly delicious.

You will need:

About 3 Cups fresh, shelled English peas

100 grams Jamón Serrano cut into little bits (like lardons) (I bought these pre-cut from Oyama Sausage Company which saved me lots of time).

3-4 TBSP Olive Oil or more

2 Garlic Cloves, flattened and blistered with the back of a knife

Approx 1 TBSP Hot Smoked Paprika (Pimentón Picante)

Ok. So now we have to talk about Pimentón. You may or may not know that there are three types of Smoked Paprika from Spain: Dulce (Sweet), Agridulce (Bittersweet) and Picante (Hot). Where I live in Vancouver, I find it is more often the Dulce or Agridulce varieties that are on shelves. Picante can be hard to find but it is my preference in this recipe. In our family, this item is something that tucked into a Christmas stocking, can make someone very happy. So grab it when you see it.

The method is simple.

Boil the shelled peas until they are tender. How long? I have no idea. Keep tasting them until they taste good to you.

In the meantime, heat the olive oil and fry the garlic and ham very gently, just browning the ham. When the ham is done, remove it and let it drain on some paper towel (or not). Keep frying the garlic, pressing on it with a back of a spoon to mush it up. The purpose here is simply to flavour the oil. You will actually remove the garlic when serving. I know it can seem like a lot of oil. It is. But most of it is going to settle to the bottom of the dish and you are going to mop it up with your bread. You'd eat as much when you dip your bread in oil at an Italian restaurant and you wouldn't even think about it.

Just before the peas are about to be ready, remove the pan with the oil from the heat, remove the garlic and add the pimentón. The pimentón will fry very vast in the hot oil so keep stirring constantly. Quite quickly the oil will cool. At this point, you can set the pan aside. Now the peas will be done. Drain them and combine with the pimentón oil mixture. Easy peasy. Did I just say that? Oh boy.

PeasandHam2 ©2013 Helena McMurdo

So there you have it. I hope you will try this with some fresh local peas. Let me know how it goes. I would love to know.

Albóndigas

Shortly after we returned from Spain, Super G gave me a gift of Phaidon's The Book of Tapas, by Ines & Simone Ortega which delighted me to no end.  The photography is beautiful and there are lots of recipes to try out.  You can buy it here. For my first venture, I decided on meatballs or albóndigas because I thought these could also serve nicely as picnic food, to be warmed up on the barbeque.

So I pretty much did the prep at home and then took them in my fabulous picnic tiffin tin to the picnic site and then warmed them up on the barbeque in a roasting dish.  Worked a treat.  I will try this recipe again although I would probably play with the spice mixture a bit.  For me the seasoning was not adequate. That said, they were even better the second day.

Here's some shots from the preparation:

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Eggplant, Goat Cheese & Tomato Stacks with Basil Oil

This is a recipe that I found on my iPhone's epicurious app...which I love by the way. My favourite part is the built-in shopping list feature that allows you to check off the items as you shop or even email them to your honey to buy for you. I came into some basil recently via some props for a  photo shoot we did for a client so it was great to put it to good use in this dish and I made a lovely basil oil by blending a very generous handful of basil with 3/4 cup of olive oil and a pinch of salt.

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Afterwards you need to drain the oil from the basil 'solids' using a  coffee filter. I was at Super G's this day so I fashioned something  makeshift out of a chinese rice bowl, a coffee filter and elastic band  borrowed from a sprig of asparagus.

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You grill the eggplant  - I used a grill pan rather than the barbeque  and got those lovely charred grill marks.  Make a stack - eggplant,  tomato, basil oil, goats cheese, basil oil. Repeat.

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My intention was to use these for our planned BC day picnic so I wrapped them in foil and put them in the fridge so that they could just be popped on the barbeque.  The popping on the barbeque part worked great...I just couldn't wait until the picnic to eat them and we ended using them to test drive the new portable barbeque commissioned earlier in the day.

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On reflection, I'd probably pare the goat's cheese down to just one round within a stack. But it sure looked purdy! And yummy too.