Sunday, 30 October 2011


Is it a bird ? is it a plane? no its achocha a mexican vegetable we have been growing in the garden this year. Despite almost taking over the garden, this is the sum total of the produce from the 4 plants, I don't think we will bother next year, apparently you cook them like green peppers. So I'll let you know what they taste like !

Cherry and Almond Loaf

Feeling a autumnal nip in the air, I wanted to bake something comforting and homely. This is cake is the equivalent of a cosy snuggly jumper. Based on a recipe from the Domestic Goddess herself, Nigella, its a pretty easy bake. Glace cherries always remind me of when I was little and my Mum used to buy glace cherries in different colours (green, yellow, red) and other dried fruits for Christmas loose from a lovely shop in Southport, the shop is no longer there and loose dried fruits is something you don't see now. 

  • 200g glace cherries, preferably the undyed if you can get hold of them
  • 250g self raising flour
  • 225g butter softened
  • 175g caster sugar
  • 3 eggs beaten
  • 2-3 drops almond essence
  • 100g ground almonds
  • 6 tbsp milk

Preheat your oven to 170c, grease and line your 2lb loaf tin

Firstly rinse your glace cherries,drain and dry and then tosh in a little flour. Beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, then gradually add your eggs and almond essence, until well mixed, now add the flour and ground almonds. Lastly mix in the milk and the cherries. Now spoon into your tin, bake for approximately 45 -60 minutes until golden and baked through when tested with a skewer. 

Allow to cool in the tin, stores very well in foil.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Awesome beef stew & fluffy dumplings

My all time favourite casserole / stew is based on Jamie Oliver's Jules Beef stew, Jo had the idea of including butternut squash in his vegetables which cooks down to a satisfying mush in the gravy and not browning the meat. Both contribute to producing a casserole which has non of the bitter edges which sometimes result from slow cooking beef.

Ideally when sourcing you beef, buy from a good butcher or farm shop and go for beef skirt or shin which should ensure a great result if its available. I will be buying my from Spout House Farm, delicious local meat.

  • Beef - stewing, shin or skirt, toss in seasoned flour
  • Onions - chunky chopped
  • Carrots - chunky chopped
  • Butternut squash - chunky cubes
  • Fresh sage 
  • Fresh Thyme
  • Beef stock
  • Red wine or beer
  • Tomato puree
  • Other vegetables, maybe parsnip, celery, swede - chunky chopped
  • 50g Suet - vegetable
  • 100g Self raising flour
  • Dried herbs
  • pinch of salt
  • Water

Preheat your oven to 150c, add all your non dumpling ingredients to a cast iron casserole, ensuring you only add as much stock / wine to just cover your ingredients, bring to a gentle simmer, cover and place in oven for anything from between 2 - 4 hours. I often use my slow cooker and simmer all day whilst at work. Be assured its better to cook long and slowly to achieve a good result, this is slow cooking at its best. You know its ready when the vegetables are beginning to fall and the meat is soft and tender.

Now to make your dumplings, mix all your dry ingredients in a bowl and then add enough water to make a soft dough, split the dough into small round balls - golf ball sized this mix makes approx 6 - 8 balls, be gentle with your mixture as over working makes your dumplings tough, pop into your casserole for 20-30 minutes until well risen and fluffy, serve and enjoy.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Banana and almond tray bake

This weekends bake is an easy traybake using up a couple of spotty bananas from the fruit bowl in the process. The recipe is based on a recipe from "The Great British Bake Off, How to Bake" book. I like traybakes as they are perfect for lunch boxes and for packing in a picnic.

  • 175g butter softened or quality margarine
  • 250g caster sugar
  • 1/2tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 free range eggs - beaten
  • 50g ground almonds
  • 225g self raising flour
  • 150ml creme fraiche
  • 2 ripe bananas

Preheat your oven to 180c. Grease and line a tin approx 25 by 20 by 5 cm.

Beat your butter until softened and then add your sugar and beat together until lighter and fluffy. Beat in the vanilla, then gradually add your eggs , beat well after each addition.Now fold in the ground almonds. Sift in approx 1/3 of the flour and fold in, add 1/3 of the creme fraiche and fold in. Now add the rest of the flour and creme fraiche and fold in. Now add the lightly mashed banana and stir in, tip into your tin and level before baking for approximately 50 minutes until golden brown and a cocktail stick inserted in the centre comes out clean. 

Allow to cool slightly in tin and then cool on a wire rack. Cut in to approx 20 pieces. 

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Apple Cake

Maple apple cake was my second bake for the South Lancashire Clandestine Cake Club, despite a cake malfunction which involved shedding most of the icing and a broken plate whilst transporting the cake to the meeting, the cake turned out well and was incredibly light yet moist. I hope all my cakey friends enjoyed it. Sorry I haven't a piccy, I 'll have to bake it again, in the meantime here's the recipe.

  • 400g cooking apples
  • 3/4tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2tsp maple syrup
  • 125ml sunflower oil
  • 150g light brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 lemon grated zest
  • 2 large free range eggs
  • 275g plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1tsp bicarb of soda
  • good pinch of salt
  • 2 large free range egg whites

Preheat your oven to 180c. Peel, core and the apples, cut into approx 1cm chunks and toss in a bowl with the cinnamon and maple syrup. Now mix the oil, sugar, vanilla, lemon zest and sugar in a mixer, until fluffy, break in the eggs and whisk until fluffy.

Now sift the flour, powders( salt, bicarb, etc), into the bowl and mix, add the apple mixture and stir,  this will be a stiff mixture.

Whisk the egg whites ( I use my lovely Kitchenaid mixer) until at the stiff peak, now fold into the other mixture trying not to lose air. Spoon into your prepared (base lined and oiled tin), I used a round springform tin approx 8 inch across, or you could use a tray approx 25x20x5cm.

Bake for approx 30-35 mins until cooked through, well risen and golden.

Allow to cool in the tin and then on a wire rack. I iced mine with a cinnamon soft cheese icing, but its so pretty that you don't really need to.

Store in an airtight tin.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Cup of Tea cake

One of my most faithful and reliable recipes is a straight forward matter of fact, tea loaf. It can be made with store cupboard ingredients and has minimal washing up so its a favourite I make very regularly. Its also very comforting in a like "Granny used to make" way. You can serve it as it is or buttered and of course with a cup of tea, if you want to ring the changes then use different types of tea, earl grey or Rooibus are nice alternatives.

  • 4oz butter
  • 1 cup of strong tea
  • 8oz Dried mixed fruit
  • 1 tsp bicarb of soda
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • 8oz self raising flour
  • 4oz sugar
  • 1 egg - free range


Preheat your oven to 160c and grease and line a 2lb loaf tin. Melt your butter in a large pan, then add your tea and mixed fruit, bring to a gentle simmer for 2 minutes, so as to swell the fruit. Now allow to cool for about 5 minutes so as not to curdle your egg. Once cool add the flour, sugar, bicarb and spice, mix well and then add the egg, mix well. Pour into you tin and bake for approx 1 hour until well risen and golden brown, test with a skewer to ensure its cooked through.

Cool in the tin and then on a wire rack, freezes beautifully when double wrapped with foil.


A few weeks ago my weekend bake was chocolate beetroot brownies, so to ring the changes its blondies, these offer  the same dense squidgy experience but with white chocolate and comforting vanilla hit. The recipe is almost identical to normal brownies, in this case I added a handful of dark chocolate chips, you could use nuts, they do have a tendency to sink through the mixture but who cares it chocolate. You are aiming for a more buttery caramac ( for those old enough to remember) flavour rather than an intense chocolate hit.

  • 125g butter
  • 200g white chocolate
  • 4 eggs 
  • 1tsp salt ( if using unsalted butter, otherwise adjust)
  • 350g caster sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 300g plain flour
Brownie tin- 25by20 by 5cm ish tin - buttered


Preheat your oven to 170c. Melt the butter and chocolate using either the microwave, a bain marie or the warming oven. Mix the eggs, salt, vanilla and sugar and whisk until fluffy, Then add the chocolate, butter mixture once cooled slighty, mix and finally fold the flour (and choc chips, nuts if using), pour into your prepared tin and bake for approx 30 minutes, until golden, well risen but still a bit squidgy in the middle. Allow to cool initially in the tin and then cut into small chunks and allow to cool fully on a wire rack.


Sunday, 9 October 2011

Chocolate Banana Muffins

This weekend's bake is inspired by a couple of spotty banana in the fruit bowl and a recipe I came across in "Cupcakes and Muffins" as reviewed in an earlier post. It's an easy recipe that uses things you would normally have in the store cupboard, I switched the spice from cinnamon to cardamon as that is what I felt needed to be experimented with but it's your choice.

  • 125g softened butter or quality margarine
  • 225g soft brown sugar
  • 2 large spotty bananas - peeled and mashed
  • 2 eggs - free range of course
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon or cardamon
  • 225g plain flour
  • 25g Cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp bicarb
  • 85ml buttermilk (or milk with a couple of drops lemon juice)

Preheat your oven to 180c. Line your muffin tin with paper cases, the mix makes approx 12-14 large muffins.

Whisk the butter and sugar together , add the mashed banana, eggs and vanilla extract and mix, sift the spice, flour, cocoa powder and raising agents and mix gently and then add the buttermilk, mix until smooth. Spoon the mix in to the cases and bake for 25 minutes until well risen and firm in the centre. You can then decorate to your taste once cooled.

Bought, Borrowed or Stolen - Allegra McEvedy

Bought, Borrowed and stolen is not your usual cookery book, its the intensely personal food journey of chef "Allegra McEvedy". Allegra is well travelled and has visited a myriad of countries both as a chef and as a child following her historian Father.The book charts her journey and the life experiences she encountered on the way  and where and how she experienced the recipes  that are detailed in the book.

Unusually Allegra collects knives where ever she goes and these are sharply displayed in the book making a point of their importance in her life, the countries or cities each having a bio so you get a sense of the place before going on to the recipes. The recipes in the book  come from such diverse locations as Malawi to New York.

I particularly liked the fact that every recipe is illustrated, the two recipes I have tried so far where easy to follow and gave good results, they did however challenge some of my culinary boundaries, this is a cook book to buy for yourself or a close friend who will appreciate the personal stories Allegra tells.The narrative is modern and chatty, I can almost hear Allegra making the comments in the book.

My only criticism is that the book has a fabric cover, which isn't very practical for the kitchen.
You can purchase a copy from Amazon, I was fortunate to be given the opportunity to review the book by Octopus Publishing.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Boil and Bake Christmas Cake

Last weekend I made mincemeat for the store cupboard for Christmas, this week I am baking a Christmas cake. Over the last few years I have made a variety of different cake recipes , traditional fruit , chocolate fruit, so this year I have gone for a boil and bake fruit cake, sort of a combination of the two. This recipe is based on one I came across in Good Housekeeping magazine and is very easy, the result appears to be quite impressive but only time will tell.

  • 175g butter
  • 500g mixed luxury dried fruit
  • 100g ready to eat prunes - chopped
  • 100g glace cherries - roughly chopped
  • 100g Cranberries / Stem ginger (your choice)
  • Finely grated zest of a lemon ( unwaxed)
  • 150ml amaretto
  • 175g dark brown muscovado sugar
  • 200g self raising flour
  • 1tsp mixed spice
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp ground allspice
  • 3 eggs beaten
8inch cake tin, loose bottomed - greased and lined on base and sides


Preheat your oven to 140C. Place all you dried fruit in a large pan with the lemon zest and amaretto, bring to the boil and allow to simmer for approx 5 minutes. Then add the butter and sugar and allow to melt and stir to ensure well incorporated and the sugar has melted.

Take the pan off the heat and allow to cool  slightly before adding the other ingredients and spices, stir to mix well and pour into the prepared cake tin. Bake for approx 1-45 to 2 hours, until a skewer inserted comes out clean. Once baked leave to cool in the tin, once completely cool, wrap and store in an airtight in, feeding at weekly / fortnightly intervals until Christmas.

Beetroot Rosti

Another #thinkyouknowbeetroot recipe this time for an accompaniment to a main meal, based on the traditional rosti recipe this one uses beetroot.

  • 3-4 large cooked and peeled beetroot 
  • 2 tsp Rosemary fresh leaves chopped
  • Salt and pepper 
  •  ½ cup of plain flour
  • 2 tbsp butter

Grate the beetroot with a coarse grater or food processor, Press any excess water out of them using a sieve. Heat a large non-stick pan on a medium heat ready to fry the rosti.Mix the grated beetroot in bowl with the rosemary and season to taste, then mix in the flour, adding just enough to bind the ingredients.

No with your hands press the beetroot mixture into patties and form the rosti, add the butter to the pan and once it begins to sizzle, add the beetroot patties.Turn the heat up a little, fry the patties for 10 minutes and allow them to crisp, shimmy the pan if they start to stick. Flip them over and fry for another 10 minutes on the other side.

Delicious, here served with chicken and a spinach sauce.
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