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S&H Suprise Checker Cake

For two whole days the S&H Team have been waiting with baited breath to see if their “Surprise Cake” was going to hit the mark. The plan (if it went to plan) was to create a checkered cake; something Katie had become obsessed with after seeing a YouTube video. When cutting into such a dessert, the ‘slicee’ is amazed by the checkered affect inside the cake…determined to succeed and impress our friends who we had not seen for two years, we threw ourselves into the challenge…
10 - The Suprise For a checker cake you need to create three single layers of cake that differ in colour. We chose a chocolate layer, a standard Victoria sponge layer and a Victoria sponge layer with food colouring to create a variation. In previous blogs we have shared our favorite chocolate cake recipe* and our fluffiest Victoria sponge recipe**. We baked them the night before in 8inch cake tins and constructed the cake in the morning.

How to make a checker cake (the pictures and video below will help!)

  1. Use a 10cm and 5 cm pastry cutter to cut each layer into two doughnuts and a circle
  2. Trim the smaller circle and larger doughnut by a few mm to make space for the butter icing
  3. Put butter icing the around each layer (ensuring that you get it into every crevice)
  4. Carefully place one inside the other reconstructing each layer from the three sponges
  5. Cover the whole cake in more butter icing
  6. Put fondant icing on the cake – we have watched many videos on YouTube this lady is the best:
  7. Decorate as you like…
  8. Then slice! It is magical…
  1. *Chocolate layer ref: November 6, 2012 we used half of the mix for a single layer
  2. **Victoria sponge layer ref: October 23, 2012 and increase the measure to 110g for a single layer, omitting the lemon

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A meal to remember: James’ Pigs Trotters

Pigs’ trotters have gone from poor man’s favorite to gourmet dish of the moment. Supermarkets say they are flying off the shelves, and one restaurant sold out of nearly a month’s supply in a week when it put them on the menu [1]. The increase in their popularity has been linked to the recession, as they are a cheaper cut of meat. Pierre Koffmann’s “pop-up” restaurant at Selfridges has witnessed guests munch through 500+ trotters in less than a week and as more foodies are now buying and advocating the humble trotter their popularity is on the up. They have also been associated with anti-aging properties at the Hakata Tonton restaurant in New York, where 33 out of the 39 dishes contain pigs’ feet. Its owner, Himi Okajima argues that that they are rich in collagen, the protein responsible for skin and muscle tone, more recognisable to beauty addicts in the form of face creams and fillers [2].

Anything that is tasty, cheap and keeps us young is worth a go… the S&H team had get involved to see what all the fuss was about!  Here is what we did…

  1. First debone the pigs’ trotter, being careful not to pierce the skin.
  2. Fry the Mirepoix (carrots, celery and onions) in an sauté pan to soften, add the pigs trotter, then add a healthy dose of port both to the pan and to your tummy…heat the pan until the contents are bubbling away, add some beef or veal stock and then cover and put in the oven for about an hour and a half to two hours.
  3. While it is cooking, pan fry shallots, dried morels and sweetbreads with some butter. Once cooked set aside to cool.
  4. For the mousse filling, blitz a chicken breast with a tiny bit of egg white, and pass through a fine sieve. Then mix in some double cream until it becomes smooth. Carefully fold in the morels and sweetbreads keeping the mixture airy.
  5. Once the trotter has cooked enough so you can pass the point of a knife easily through the skin, remove and allow to cool for 5 mins. Turn the pigs’ trotter over and fill the cavity with the mousse mixture and wrap tightly in tin foil forming it to its original shape. Place in a steamer for about 20mins.
  6. Serve with some of the sticky port sauce from the sauté pan and a big pile of creamy mash potatoes!




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A meal to remember: New Years Eve 2012

Never ones to shy away from a challenge, this New Years Eve S&H provided part of the catering for the New Years Eve party that we had been invited to. Collating our thoughts and ourselves together at 11am we gazed over the menu and the mission that lay ahead of us. The brief “an Italian / English fusion” (so we all stuck to what we know best). The aperitivo, starter and dessert were to be supplied by our party host whilst we took on the task of the Primi and Secondi courses for 10 guests (including the hosts mother-in-law – yipes!)


Armed with a raviolo cutter and as defiant as a warrior going to war, Marco began hand making 150 ravioli. This was no mean feat. After creating his pasta dough and mixing 2 kilos of very fresh ricotta that had been bought in Naples the day before (we will explain about cheese transportation in another blog) with mint, the process of carefully filling, folding and cutting the raviolo began. A back breaking 4 hours later we had several trays of perfectly made pasta treats hiding in the corners of most of the rooms!

Alongside him James created a fresh mushroom duxelle that was to be one of the layers for two epic Beef Wellingtons (some of which slipped into a few of the ravioli for us to try – we are going to start a ravioli company where you can choose your fillings because mushroom and ricotta is amazing, but I digress). Earlier in the morning he had been to visit the local butcher and had purchased two incredibly succulent beef fillets which he part cooked for 20 mins and allowed to cool. He covered each of them in a layer of mushroom, wrapped them in Parma ham and chilled them in the fridge so that they were firm enough to handle. He then egg washed and wrapped both in a layer of puff pastry. These were then placed back in the fridge, ready to be cooked later. He then created yet another show stopping chicken and lamb ragu tomato sauce for the ravioli.

We tarted ourselves up, loaded the food and went to the party! On arrival we enjoyed some bruschette and Spritz. We then got down to business, cooking and eating and enjoyed the following menu:

  • Apreitivo: Bruschette, anchovies and squid in Ink
  • Starter: Scallops on mint pea pure with bacon
  • Primi: Raviolli in a tomato sauce
  • Secondi: Beef Wellington served with grilled confit potato and peas
  • Dolce: Tiramisu

The next day we polished off the left over Ravioli (eyes bigger than our stomachs, again) with the ragu that had developed some serious flavors overnight and was even more spectacular the second time around.

Happy New Year everyone. The Sober and Hungry team are very much looking forward to all the food we are going to cook, share and eat this year!