February 13, 2019


It was my sister-in-law's wedding anniversary yesterday and she phoned to say that she and her husband were going out for lunch and would like to pop in and see us on their way home.  As it is also Valentine's Day tomorrow it seemed appropriate to bake a Valentine cake.  When I asked my own Valentine, Nick, what kind of cake he would like he asked for a ginger cake.  No surprise there.

I needed to bake a cake that would be ready to eat in just a few hours' time.  This made choosing the recipe a challenge as many of them say that the cake improves with keeping, being at its best a few days after baking.  I found one that didn't, the recipe by Delia Smith for her preserved ginger cake, which you can see here.  In her recipe the cake is baked in a square tin and decorated with fondant icing and chopped preserved ginger.  I have made it before which you can see here but this time I wanted to bake mine in my heart shaped ring tin instead.  The quantities seemed about right so I decided to risk it.
The tin is actually a silicone mould that I bought in a sale a few years ago and only comes out of storage once a year for Valentine's Day.  I have had mixed success with silicone moulds in the past in that the cake doesn't always come out in one piece.  However, by using my own homemade cake release paste it slipped out clean as a whistle with just a little shake.  Marvellous!
I obviously omitted the fondant icing and drizzled a simple lemon water icing over the cake instead, which worked really well.  Mind you, I had to put the cake outside to cool so that I could ice it and it was done in the nick of time.  It landed on the cake stand as the happy couple rang the doorbell!
This was an excellent cake!  I have given it two stars in terms of faff factor as personally I find chopping stem ginger really fiddly and time consuming.  However, it was well worth it.  It's a truly gorgeous ginger cake, very gingery with a lovely texture.  You can't really go wrong with a Delia Smith recipe, can you?!
225g self raising flour
1 slightly rounded tsp baking powder
175g spreadable butter
175g golden caster sugar
3 eggs
1 tblsp black treacle
2 tsp ground ginger
2 tblsp milk
1 heaped tblsp ground almonds
5 pieces preserved stem ginger
2 tblsp ginger syrup from the jar
50g icing sugar
juice of half a lemon
Grease a ring tin with cake release paste, or melted butter.  Or butter and line a 20cm square tin.
Put your tin of treacle into a dish or pan of boiling water.  This makes it runnier and easier and less messy to measure out. 
Chop the pieces of stem ginger fairly small.
Preheat the oven to 170C / 150 fan / gas mk 3. 
Sift the flour and baking powder into a large bowl.  Add the butter, sugar, eggs, treacle and ground ginger and beat with an electric whisk for about a minute until light and creamy.
Add the milk, ground almonds and ginger syrup and mix to combine.  Finally mix in the chopped stem ginger.
Spoon into the prepared tin and level the surface.  Bake for 40-50 minutes until done. 
Cool in the tin for 10 minutes then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely. 
Make a runny icing by mixing the sifted icing sugar with enough lemon juice until it's roughly the thickness of single cream.  Drizzle over the cake in whatever pattern you like.
Cuts into 10-12 slices. 

February 10, 2019


I made this cake after spotting a recipe on the Delicious Magazine website which you can see here.  In the original recipe it's a loaf cake with extra maple syrup drizzled over it.  As you can see, I made mine in one of my favourite "round" tins (a purchase from Ikea a few years ago).

It was one of those recipes that I felt compelled to make instantly!  With the right number of bananas going brown in the fruit bowl and some pears that would soon be past their best, I found that for once I had all the right ingredients in the house.  Well almost.
We are gradually working our way through a large box of windfall walnuts that we brought to the UK from France last October.  The recipe calls for pecans but with all those walnuts in stock there was no way I was going to go out purposely to buy some.  I do realise, of course, that pecans taste different from walnuts but - waste not, want not.  And I am a fan of walnuts, especially when they're fresh and sweet like the ones we have.
The other change I made is in giving my cake a very light dusting of icing sugar before serving, rather than drizzle more maple syrup over it.  As it turned out it was quite sweet enough and I think the extra maple syrup might have made it too sweet and possibly a bit sickly.  I will have to make it again and add the maple drizzle just to check!
As it was it had a lovely texture, a nice crunch from the walnuts which I had deliberately not chopped too small - and it didn't last long.  I'd like to be able to say that it kept well but it was gone in a couple of days!
100g unsalted butter, melted
3 (about 250g) really ripe bananas
100g golden caster sugar
2 ripe but still firm pears, cored, chopped and dusted in a little flour
1 tblsp maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 large egg
150g plain flour
½ tsp bicarb
50g  walnuts (or pecans), roughly chopped
Preheat the oven to 180C / 160 fan / gas mk 4. Grease and line the base of a 20cm round tin, or a 900g loaf tin, base lined with baking paper or a paper liner.
Mash the bananas in a large bowl, stir in the melted butter and sugar until well combined.  Stir through the pears, maple syrup and vanilla then beat in the egg.
Sift in the flour and bicarb and fold in with the nuts.  Transfer to the prepared tin and bake for 45 minutes until done.
Leave in the tin for 10 minutes then lift out onto a wire rack to cool. 
Drizzle some extra maple syrup over before serving if you like.
Cuts into 8-10 slices.

February 6, 2019


I had had my eye on this recipe for some time and eventually got around to making it for one of our last CCC meetings last year.  It comes from a book called "Freeze and Easy" by Sara Lewis, who writes for magazines such as Sainsbury's magazine and has a number of other book titles published including "Gluten Free and Easy" as well as "The Complete Slow Cooker".  I have cooked recipes from all of these books with great success including Sharon's Hotpot which you can see here.

The recipe suggests sprinkling pumpkin and sunflower seeds on top of the cake before baking but I didn't because I didn't have any so I just went with the chopped crystallised ginger instead.  The instructions were for an oblong tin but I wanted a round cake so used a 23cm round one.
It was lovely and interesting.  Beetroot cakes are not to everyone's taste as they have an earthiness which not everyone likes.  I have friends and relatives who recoil from the very idea of beetroot in any shape or form but we love it.  Maybe because we were brought up on pickled beetroot in salads for Sunday tea when we were small.  Cheese and beetroot sandwiches (on sliced white "wonderloaf" style bread of course) are still regarded as a special treat in this house!
Anyway, it had a lovely texture with a slight purpleness to it and of course with ginger and orange in it, what's not to love?
3 eggs
150ml sunflower oil
175g light soft brown sugar
225g self raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
3 tsp ground ginger
1 orange, zest and juice
175g cooked beetroot (cooked without vinegar), coarsely grated
40g preserved ginger, drained and finely chopped
140g granulated sugar
Preheat the oven to 180C / 160 fan / gas mk 4.  Grease and line a 23cm round springform tin with baking paper.
In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, oil and sugar, briefly.  Sift in the flour, baking powder and ginger and whisk in until just mixed.  Add the orange zest and beetroot and mix until smooth.
Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 30-35 minutes until brown and done.
While the cake is cooking make the drizzle by combining 3 tablespoons of the orange juice with the granulated sugar.  As soon as the cake comes out of the oven, prick all over with a skewer and spoon the syrup over the top.  Dot with the chopped ginger and leave to cool in the tin.
Cuts into 8-10 slices. 

February 3, 2019


This is a recipe of my own invention, if you can call it a recipe.  It's more like a guide for using leftovers.  Leftover salmon, that is.
It came about because I bought a pack of four salmon fillets in the reduced section in the local supermarket.  With three of us for dinner that evening, me, Nick and my dad, I cooked them all and that left one piece of cooked salmon to use later.  I had ideas to use it in a salad or pasta dish but a trip to Ikea intervened.
For some time we have been buying the pouches of lemon and dill sauce that you can buy in Ikea's food department every time we visit.  They have a good shelf life and can be kept in a cupboard so don't take up space in the fridge.  You can see them here and they also do a tomato and herb version.  You simply pour the sauce over four salmon fillets and bake to get a delicious meal.  I have also used it with chicken pieces and it is just as tasty.  Mostly we use half of a pack for two pieces of salmon (as normally there are only two of us for dinner) and the rest on some chicken a few days later.  I know that this is a cooking cheat but sometimes we can't always be bothered to cook entirely from scratch - plus the fact that this is quick, easy and not too guilt-ridden.
This time I had one cooked salmon fillet and almost half a pack of sauce left in the fridge.   Also part of a pack of puff pastry in the freezer.

And so a recipe idea came to mind.  I cut the pastry into two oblongs about the right size to enfold a half of the cooked salmon fillet, dolloped the leftover dill sauce on top, created a parcel and baked.  It was absolutely delicious!
We had ours warm with some new potatoes and greens but it would have been just as good cold with a salad.  Or anything you like....baked beans, ratatouille, you name it, the possibilities are many.  I wondered about experimenting by making it into little open tartlettes baked in a mini muffin tray to be served with aperitifs...…..

One cooked salmon fillet, cut into two equal portions
half a pack of puff pastry (ready rolled or otherwise)
half or a third of a pouch of Ikea lemon and dill sauce
1 egg, beaten, to glaze.

Preheat the oven to 180C / 160 fan / gas mk 4.  Line a baking sheet with baking paper.

Roll out or cut the pastry into two oblongs about double the size of each piece of salmon fillet.  Place each piece of salmon on one half of each oblong.  Put spoonfuls of the sauce on top of each piece of fish.

Dampen the edges of the pastry and fold it over to form a parcel.  Press the open edges together and seal by pressing with the back of a fork.  Brush with beaten egg to glaze.

Bake for 20-25 minutes until the pastry is golden brown and crisp.  Serve with salad or veg.

Serves 2 as a main meal.  (Smaller parcels could be made to serve more as a starter.)

January 27, 2019


At this time of year I always find myself lingering over the bundles of pink rhubarb that appear in the supermarkets - and thinking that they are a bit pricey.  Luckily they frequently turn up in the bins of items reduced for quick sale.  So the other day I swooped and bought myself two bundles.

As it happens, I had been talking to a friend of my brother about rhubarb a few days before (we had all gone out for a curry and conversation centred naturally around food of all kinds).  This lady recommended a recipe for a rhubarb crumble cake that she had in an old Prue Leith cook book but when I later Googled it nothing that sounded like it appeared.  What did appear was a recipe by Rachel Allen, which you can see in several places, one of which is here.  That turned out to be a recipe in this book, "Entertaining at Home" which, as it equally happens, I had bought for £1 in a charity shop recently. 


So, with all the stars aligning in the direction of a rhubarb cake, I made one, but with a slight amendment to the recipe.

Rachel's recipe is actually for a rhubarb and ginger crumble cake, but I wanted the rhubarb itself to be the star of the show, so I omitted the ginger and added vanilla extract to the cake instead.
I gently cooked the rhubarb in sugar and two tablespoons of water until soft as per instructions, which resulted in quite a lot of liquid.  The recipe doesn't say whether you should add the liquid to the cake along with the rhubarb so I didn't, thinking it would have made the whole thing very soggy.  Even so, spooning the rhubarb out of the pan on top of the cake mixture inevitably meant that a certain amount of liquid went in with it.  As the cake turned out just right, that's what I would do again.  The baking time given was 45-50 minutes but mine was quite well done (not too well done) after 45 minutes so I would check after 40 minutes next time.

It was lovely!  It had a nice, even texture, just the right amount of tartness in the rhubarb balanced by the sweet crumble on top.  We had ours whilst it was still warm with some cream.  It was just as lovely the next day when completely cold.
This is definitely a cake I shall be making again and I'm looking forward to getting my hands on some green rhubarb later in the year and trying the original version with ginger instead of vanilla.
400g rhubarb, wiped and trimmed into 2-3cm chunks
100g demerara sugar
For the crumble topping
100g plain flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
75g cold butter
75g light soft brown sugar
25g flaked almonds
For the cake
100g softened butter (I used Flora Buttery)
100g caster sugar
2 eggs
2 tblsp milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
175g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
Put the rhubarb and demerara sugar into a medium saucepan with 2 tblsp water, simmer on low heat until the rhubarb is just softened, not mushy.  Remove from the heat and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 180 C / 160 fan / gas mk 4.  Butter a 23cm springform tin and line the base with baking paper.
Make the crumble topping by putting the butter, flour and baking powder into a food processor and pulse briefly until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs (or rub in by hand).  Add the sugar and almonds and pulse very briefly again (or stir in).
To make the cake, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy using an electric whisk (or wooden spoon and muscle power), beat in the eggs one at a time.  Whisk in the milk and vanilla.  Sift over the flour, salt and baking powder and fold in.
Spoon the batter into the tin and level the top.  Use a slotted spoon to transfer the rhubarb over the cake mixture in an even layer.  Sprinkle the crumble mix as evenly as possible over the rhubarb.
Bake for 40-50 minutes until golden brown and done.  Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin for a few minutes before releasing and turning out onto a wire rack.  Serve slightly warm or at room temperature with a dusting of icing sugar if you like.
Cuts into 8-10 slices.

January 22, 2019


This has to be one of the least inspiring photos I have ever posted in the blog but don’t let it put you off……..

At a couple of events in France last summer bowls of this stuff appeared on the table with the other nibbles.  When I said how delicious it was the ladies who produced it told me how easy it was to make.  I next encountered it when we went to a restaurant for a pre-Christmas meal with family where it was served as a starter and I thought it was time to have a go myself.

Dead easy it really is and tasty in measures well beyond the level of competence required to make it.
The first time I made it I blitzed it in my food processor and it turned out really smooth.  The next time roughed up the fish with a fork then processed it only a little so that it turned out more rustic in appearance.  I preferred it this way, although it did leave the odd tiny bone.

You can make it look much fancier by adding herbs or salad.  I liked serving mine in my ancient lidded dish made by Pearsons of Chesterfield, the maker of rustic cookware now sadly long gone.  I could just pop on the lid and leave it in the fridge where it kept well for several days allowing us to dig in as and when we wanted.


A twin pack of smoked mackerel fillets
1 tblsp crème fraîche
1 tblsp full fat cream cheese
1 tsp French mustard
1 tsp horseradish sauce or creamed horseradish
a few drops of lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste


Remove the skin from the fish and place in a small bowl.  Mash it with a fork to break it up then transfer to the bowl of a food processor.  Blitz briefly for rustic looking paté or for longer for a smoother paté.
Stir in the other ingredients and mix until well combined.
Serve chilled to spread on toast, bread or crackers, or as a filling for a jacket potato.  You can dress it up with herbs or by serving with salad and a lemon wedge on the side. 

Serves 6 with an apéro, 4 as a starter, just 1 or 2 as a jacket potato filling.

January 20, 2019


I have decided to have one more try at publishing in Blogger, copying my draft text saved in Live Writer, adding it to a post bit by bit and adding the photos all over again.  They seem to load quicker if I resize each one for a web page.  I don't find the finished result as pleasing as being able to publish directly from Live Writer, but it's possibly better than the alternatives - give up altogether or try to get to grips with some completely new way of doing a blog.

Some time ago I was looking at some rather tired apples and bananas in the fruit bowl and wondered what I could make with them.  I am still searching for the “perfect” apple cake recipe and I love banana cakes so I wondered if I could combine the two.  I looked up “apple and banana cake” on the old laptop and up popped a really good recipe in a blog called “feeding boys” dating back to 2010.  The author tells us that it’s adapted from a recipe in a book by Tana Ramsay called “Family Kitchen” and you can see it here.
The recipe is for a loaf cake but I wanted to make a round one.  I have found that an 8” (20cm) round tin usually works perfectly well for all 2lb (900g) loaf tin recipes so that’s what I used.

I also decided to add the zest of a small orange to the mixture and some slices of apple on the top, just for the fun of it.

It was delicious!  It had a nice, moist, even crumb that cut well without crumbling too much.  The flavour was lovely and it kept well in an airtight tin.
In fact it was so good that I have since made several variations of the recipe:

Apple, banana and blueberry cake, made by adding a handful of blueberries to the basic cake mixture.

Pear and banana cake made by substituting chopped pears for the grated apple – only because the pears were too ripe and juicy to grate.
I made this one using the all-in-one, beat it all together, method, which may account for why it turned out a bit more rustic looking.  It was still delicious though!

I love versatile recipes like this one.  There aren’t many cakes that I make more than once or twice but this is a simple recipe that always seems to turn out well and be endlessly adaptable.  In fact I tend to think of it as my “fruit bowl cake” as it seems to work using whatever fruit is in need of eating up.
Mind you, I have yet to make it as the banana and apple loaf cake in the original recipe.  Soon, possibly!
150g light muscovado sugar
85g softened butter or spreadable butter
2 large eggs, beaten
4 medium ripe bananas, peeled and mashed
1 dessert apple, unpeeled and grated
250g self raising flour
½ tsp ground nutmeg
½ tsp ground cinnamon
pinch of salt
Preheat the oven to 180C / 160 fan / gas mk 4.  Grease and line a 900g / 2lb loaf tin or 20cm round springform tin.
Cream the butter and sugar and gradually beat in the eggs.
Sift in the flour and spices, add the banana, salt and apple and mix well together.
Transfer to the prepared tin and bake for about an hour.  Check after 45 minutes and cover loosely with foil if the top is browning too much.
When done, remove from the oven and cool in the tin for 20 minutes.  Turn out onto a wire rack to finish cooling and dust with icing sugar before serving.
Cuts into 8-10 slices.