New year's resolutions

Hi, and welcome to Eat and Two Veg: the start of a year of culinary experimentation. A long Christmas break (spent lazing and cooking most of the food in the known universe) has given me a good chance to think about goals and potential projects for the new year. In 2011, I signed up for the 365 project and took a photograph every day for 365 days. Not always as easy as it sounds, but good fun and I'm already feeling slightly bereft at the loss of my daily challenge. Hence this blog, in which I'll be able to combine my love of photography and cooking. Unless otherwise credited, all photos in my posts will be taken by me.

The idea is to spend a year searching out and trying new recipes - at least one new one a week - and then posting about the results here. A 'Project 52', if you will. They won't always (or even usually) be incredibly complicated, since the best food is often the simplest. Can you really beat a good plate of macaroni and cheese, after all? But I do hope it will give me the chance to learn some new techniques and experiment with different flavour combinations. I'm also hoping that family and friends will sign up and help me out - whether on a regular or occasional basis. By the end of 2012, this should produce a collection of great recipes to share around.

To start off in style, here's a cake I made for New Year's Eve. And yes, technically that was last year and shouldn't count, but it's my blog and my rules. Slightly labour intensive, but well worth the effort, especially if you love coconut. And while this could be done with dessicated coconut, I'd recommend trying it with a fresh one. The taste is more intense, and it's fun breaking into it with a hammer! Recipe provided by Delia Smith, and given a twist of lime.

Fresh Coconut and Lime Layer Cake
(Adapted from Delia's Vegetarian Collection)

For the cake:
3 oz (75 g) finely grated fresh coconut
6 oz (175 g) self-raising flour
1 rounded teaspoon baking powder
3 large eggs at room temperature
zest and juice of 2 limes
6 oz (175 g) very soft butter
6 oz (175 g) golden caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the coconut frosting:
1½ oz (40 g) finely grated fresh coconut
9 oz (250 g) mascarpone
7 fl oz (200 ml) fromage frais
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 level dessertspoon golden caster sugar

Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 3 / 325°F / 170°C.

Preparing the coconut is the first step, which isn't as difficult as it sounds. First push a skewer into the 3 holes in the top of the coconut and drain out the milk. Then place the coconut in a polythene bag and sit it on a hard surface – a stone floor or an outside paving stone - and give it a few strong blows with a hammer. As my friend Birgit discovered, this was the best part of the process!

Remove the pieces from the bag and prise the top of a knife between the nut and the shell. You should find that you can force the whole piece out in one go. Discard the shell and take off the inner skin using a potato peeler. The coconut is now ready to use. The best way to grate coconut flesh is with the grating disc of a food processor, but a hand grater will also work. Let the grated coconut soak in the juice of the limes until you're ready to add it to the batter - it cuts the sweetness a little and is a nice addition.

To make the cake, sieve the flour and baking powder into a large bowl, holding the sieve high to give them a good airing. Now add all the other ingredients apart from the grated coconut to the bowl and combine everything with an electric hand whisk until you have a smooth mixture,which will take about 1 minute. If you don't have an electric hand whisk, use a wooden spoon.

Finally, stir in the 3 oz (75 g) finely grated coconut and the lime juice and zest, and divide the mixture between two eight inch (20 cm) sandwich tins with a depth of at least 4cm - lightly greased and lined with parchment paper [note: you can also make this as a solid cake by cooking it in a single deeper tin].

Place the tins on the centre shelf of the oven for 30-35 minutes. To test whether the cakes are cooked, lightly touch the centre of each with a finger: if it leaves no impression and the sponges springback, they are ready. Next, remove them from the oven, then wait about 5 minutes before turning them out on to a wire cooling rack. Carefully peel off the base papers, and when the cakes are absolutely cold, carefully divide each one horizontally into two halves using a sharp serrated knife.

Make up the frosting by simply whisking all the ingredients together in a bowl to combine them. Next select the plate or stand you want to serve the cake on – you'll also need a palette knife – then place one cake layer on first, followed by a thin layer of frosting (about a fifth), followed by the next layer of cake and frosting, and so on. After that, use the rest of the frosting to coat the sides and top of the cake and finish by covering the whole thing with the rest of the coconut. Et voila. It should look something like this - a bit messy but delicious nonetheless:

Here's to a year of good cooking and good fun!


  1. Wonderful Photos. I am going to have to try this recipe!

  2. *grins* good thing you're on the ground floor!