January 18, 2021

BLUEBERRY AND LEMON YOGHURT CAKE

 

This is a recipe I have had my eye on for quite a while.  Blogger and blog friend Angela posted about it last year as you can see here.  The original recipe comes from the Dairy Diary cook book.  Do you remember the Dairy Diary?  I definitely used to buy the occasional copy in the 70's and 80's but didn't keep them.  They're still being produced and every December our milkman leaves us an order form for one - we haven't been tempted yet although some of the recipe books look interesting (and I do like a new recipe book!)  

You will find the original recipe for this on the Dairy Diary website here along with lots of other really good ones.  This is one of those "just mix it all together and bake" kind of recipes of which I am a great fan!


On the website the recipe uses melted butter but in Angela's version she uses oil instead.  If it's a tried and tested old recipe, I wonder if it originally said to use oil and that butter is a recent change.  I have noticed before that recipes get changed on websites without any mention of it.  For example, my well used recipe for upside down cake using fresh pineapple on the Tesco website has been changed to use tinned pineapple - see here.

Angela also adapted the recipe to use some blackberries instead of the stated mixed peel which makes me think that this is yet another of those very useful recipes that can be adapted for whatever you have in stock.  I'm a great fan of those, too!

For mine I used blueberry yoghurt and some blueberries, with the zest of a lemon for good measure.  Annoyingly, my pot of yoghurt was 30g short of the required amount so I put a dollop of crème fraîche in as well.
The cake was beautifully moist and kept well for several days, the last few slices being used as a pudding with a good slathering of instant custard.  

However, I'm putting this on my list of recipes for tweaking, just because I'm curious to try it with butter instead of oil.  "Just because"  as my mum used to say when asked the eternal question "why?"!  There are quite a few on the list now, some of which turned out a disappointment but I thought they deserve a second try.    
The list goes like this:

The Dairy Diary yoghurt cake (in this post) - try butter instead of oil "just because".

The banana and apricot cake from the Trex website, see here - try butter instead of Trex to improve flavour.

The country apple cake from the Good Food website, see here - try more chocolate to get any kind of flavour!

The rose and coconut cake from the Whitworth's website, see here - try more coconut because not coconutty enough.

The last three of these cakes were frustratingly not quite right but had elements about them that deserved a second chance.  With plenty of time on my hands due to the lockdown it could be now or never!

Ingredients
For the cake

150g pot of blueberry yoghurt

175 self raising flour

150g caster sugar

1 tblsp oil

2 eggs, beaten

70g blueberries

1 lemon, zest only  

For the icing

2 tblsp sifted icing sugar

lemon juice

Method

Preheat the oven to 180° C / 160° fan / gas mk 4.  Grease and line the base and ends of a 2lb loaf tin, or use a paper liner.

In a large bowl, mix together all the cake ingredients except for the fruit until well combined.  Fold in the blueberries until evenly distributed.

Transfer to the tin and level the top.  Bake for 30-40 minutes until done.  Cool in the tin for 15 minutes then turn out onto a wire rack to finish cooling.

When cool, drizzle with an icing made from the icing sugar mixed with just enough lemon juice to make it runny but not too thin.  

Cuts into 8-10 slices.

January 16, 2021

PASTRAMI HASH - a Saturday brunch recipe.

I really do not like this internet shopping lark, especially for groceries.  You don't find out until it's too late that some of what you ordered is not available and when we have allowed substitutions they have sometimes been quite bizarre.  My brother for example recently ordered a cheap stew pack of veg to use in his new soup maker (see previous post - I treated him to one as an aid to getting more veg into his diet) and ended up with a hugely overpriced bag of pre-prepared cauliflower and broccoli florets instead.  Who in their right mind would pick that as a substitution?  Why didn't the picker pick one onion, carrot and turnip for him instead?  Because it was picked by someone who knows nothing about veg, that's for sure. 

We always over order to make up for the items that we can't get, otherwise meal planning is impossible, like Ready, Steady, Cook every day for half of the time.  How I long for the days when I could browse the supermarket shelves, use the shopping list as a guide and take anything else I fancied instead, just because I could.

Anyway, we always end up trying to use up stuff before it goes out of date or before the next lot is ready for collection.  On this occasion I was looking at an unopened pack of pastrami.  I love a pastrami and red pepper wrap for lunch but somehow ate other things instead this last week, leaving the unused pastrami on the shelf.

I googled how to use up leftover pastrami and came across this recipe on the BBC Good Food website.  It sounded delicious and a great way to use up a good amount of it.  I also decided to use some frozen hash browns in place of the potatoes.  (It occurred to me it would also be good with frozen sauté potatoes.  I have no idea if you can get them in the UK but we often buy them in France.)  

We never eat hash browns.  I bought them some time ago because I had spotted a recipe somewhere that used them as a topping for something like a shepherd's pie.  The moment passed, the recipe got forgotten and is now lost, and the hash browns languished unwanted in the freezer.  So I used half of them for this recipe and they were scrumptious!  The good part is we have exactly the right ingredients left to have the same thing again on Sunday!

Ingredients.

about half a bag of frozen hash browns (I used seven)

about half a pack of sliced pastrami (it would work with ham instead)

2, 3 or 4 large eggs (I used 3, one for me and two for him)

a handful of grated cheddar cheese

Method

Preheat the oven to 230°C / 210° fan / gas mk 8.  Line a baking sheet with baking paper and lay the hash browns in a single layer.  Bake for 12 minutes.

Remove from the oven and reduce the temperature to 180°C / 160° fan / gas mk 4.  Cut each hash brown into 3 rough chunks and tumble into a suitable ovenproof dish.  Aim for a single layer but with no gaps when choosing your dish.

Tear the slices of pastrami into rough strips and tuck in among the hash browns.  Sprinkle the grated cheese over and make a well for each of the eggs.  Break an egg into each hole and return to the oven.  Bake for another 8-10 minutes until the whites are set but the yolks still runny.

Serve immediately with mustard and gherkins.

Serves 2.

January 9, 2021

NEW YEAR, NEW GADGET

 

My friend Gaynor mentioned that she was having great success with a new gadget, a Morphy Richards soup maker.  Apparently she was served a delicious mushroom soup made in one by a friend (in the days when you were allowed to meet socially distanced in the garden) and was so impressed that she got herself one.  She now uses it two or three times a week.

I am very much a fan of home made soup but am not always well organised enough to make it in time to have for lunch.  (The recipe I normally use is a Nigella one which you can see here.)  When Gaynor mentioned how easy her soup maker was to use and how rapidly it made soup I was very tempted.  When she told me what a bargain they are at the moment I needed no further convincing and dashed off to buy one.  This model that you can see here is currently on offer for £40 in a chain of shops called B&M, which is even less than the special offer price of £49.99 and less than half the recommended retail price.  Bargain!!  

I was a bit concerned where it would live in the kitchen as worktop space is filling up with other gadgets (since I got my lovely Kenwood KMix food mixer - did I mention that already?) but it is not all that big, just a bit bigger than an average kettle.  My kettle that you see above is quite a small one.



In fact the soup maker is effectively a large kettle with a hand blender inside it.  The liquid you put in the pot cooks the veg and the blender bit processes it smooth.

All you have to do is put peeled and diced veg in the pot with the right amount of water and a stock pot or cube and switch it on.  You can choose to have the soup chunky or smooth and hey presto you have home made soup about twenty minutes later with hardly any washing up.

I was a bit concerned about the washing up part as the components, all two of them, are not immersible.  In reality I found that if I rinsed the top under the tap, filled and rinsed out the pot with clean water, wiped over with a clean cloth, rinsed again and dried, it was dead easy.  Quicker than  trying to wrestle the bits of a food processor into the dishwasher in fact.


For the first use today I used the recipe in the booklet that came with it to make my usual soup.  It was delicious.  There are numerous tweaks and changes I can do to experiment with it which I look forward to immensely.  Highly recommended.

There are several soup maker recipes on the Good Food website here.

December 29, 2020

APPLE, CRANBERRY AND CINNAMON "CHARLOTTE" CAKE


 I baked this cake because I was keen to use the lovely new Nordic Ware cake tin that my brother had given me for my birthday.


The idea is that the cake baked in it looks like a classic "Charlotte" dessert.


I looked on the internet for recipes using this tin and the only ones I could find were American ones using cup measurements.  There is in fact also a recipe on the slip cover of the tin, again using cups.  

I have a bit of a thing about cup measurements, having had a couple of failures in the past.  Not quite disasters, just disappointing results.  I wondered if it was because using a cup is not as accurate as weighing in grams.  If flour, for example, has settled in the pack, box or jar, a cup of it will not weigh the same as if it was looser and the same with sugar.  In fact perhaps even more so with sugar.  In any case I tend to steer clear of recipes using cup measurements unless it states the quantities in grams as well.  

So, I looked at the tin and thought it would probably be the right size for my all-time go-to all-in-one sponge recipe, the one in my ancient Homepride Flour Grader's recipe book from the 1970's.  Very early 70's in fact as it has a number of unused coupons inside where you could send off for extra copies at 13/6 each.  That's 13 shillings and 6 pence so pre decimal currency in the UK - ancient indeed.

How do other people get on with cup measurements?


Getting my usual cake release paste into all the nooks and crannies was a bit fiddly and required a bit more patience than I normally devote to the task.  It was important to do it thoroughly otherwise the "sponge finger" effect would not have looked right if it had stuck.


I went with the usual, 150g of everything and 3 eggs, sponge, flavoured with cinnamon.  I fancied using up some cooking apples and some leftover cranberry sauce and one of the recipes I spotted on the internet also added cinnamon which seemed like a good idea.  The quantity of mixture was just about right for the tin and it turned out beautifully.


Of course, the end result using this tin is not really like a traditional charlotte dessert, which would have a shallow cake like base, sides built up of sponge fingers and a fairly deep filling of some kind of mousse.  It's more like an alternative to the old fashioned sponge flan, but with a deeper base.  Or even an alternative to an upside down cake.  But it looks the part, is fun to make and has endless possibilities.

  

It turned out really well.  The sponge base was nicely flavoured with a hint of cinnamon, the caramelised apples were just sweet enough and the cranberry layer just tart enough.  Definitely a cake I would make again, although there is a huge temptation to experiment with other fillings first.  Well done little brother for giving me a very thoughtful, useful and delightful birthday present!

The cake was excellent served as a dessert with leftover brandy butter and cream.  It would also be good with custard or ice cream and is just as nice on its own with nothing else at all.  (Except maybe a cup of tea or coffee or, better still, a glass of sherry or sweet wine!  It is Christmas, after all!)

Ingredients

For the cake
150g self raising flour
150g softened butter or spread (I used Sainsbury's Buttersoft)
150g caster sugar 
3 medium eggs
1 tsp ground cinnamon

For the fruit topping
2-3 tblsp cranberry sauce or jelly
2 large or 3 medium cooking apples
25g butter
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 heaped tblsp light muscovado sugar

Method

Prepare the tin by buttering and flouring or using home made cake release paste (see side bar).  You can also use a standard 20cm round tin.  Preheat the oven to 160° C / 140° fan / gas mk 3. 

To make the cake, put all the ingredients into a large bowl and beat together until smooth and well blended using an electric whisk (or use your brand new (ahem) Kenwood food mixer).  You could also just use a wooden spoon, as I did with this recipe for decades, as it beats together quite easily and quickly.

Spoon the mixture evenly into the prepared tin and level the top.  Tap a few times on the worktop to dislodge any air pockets.  Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown and firm.  Leave in the tin for 10 minutes then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

While the cake is cooking prepare the apples.  
Peel and core the apples and chop into large dice*.  Melt the butter in a medium saucepan, add the apples, sugar and cinnamon and cook gently, stirring often, until the dice are soft but holding their shape.  Set aside to cool.

When the cake is cool, spread the top with a thin smear of cranberry sauce or jelly.  Pile the diced apples on top.  Dust with icing sugar before serving.

Cuts into 10-12 slices. 

* Apple slices would also look nice arranged on the top of the cake but they can break up when cooking in the saucepan.

December 15, 2020

NUTTY APPLE CAKE

 

The other day I braved a visit to one of our local charity shops.  There were no other customers and I needed to enquire whether they have begun accepting donations again after the last lockdown.  We have been gradually sorting through the contents of my dad's bungalow since he moved into sheltered housing and we're trying to sell or give away anything useful rather than just leave it to the house clearance people to dispose of it.

Of course, while I was in there it was impossible to resist a browse and so I bought this book by Rachel Allen.  I like her recipes and have had a good deal of success with them.  When I got home and picked the book up to feast my eyes out plopped yet another hand written recipe, entitled, quite simply, "apple cake".


This has happened several times before and yet again I felt compelled to try the recipe.!


The ingredients were much like a basic sponge recipe but with added apple.  It didn't say if the apple should be chopped or sliced and no tin size was given.  It sounded like a normal 2lb loaf tin or 20cm round tin would work but I decided to use my Tala Bundt tin as it's good for normal quantities of cake mixture (as opposed to the greater volume required for most of the Nordic Ware tins).  It was time for it to have an outing, having been lurking in the depths of the wardrobe for some time.  (I now store my Bundt tins in the wardrobe as they are awkward things to stack and take up a disproportionate amount of space in a kitchen cupboard.)

One of the things that made me want to make the cake is that it called for wholemeal self raising flour.  This is something that I happened to have in stock, a rogue purchase from the previous lockdown when, flustered and not concentrating, I picked it up mistaking it for bread flour.  I used golden caster sugar instead of white and also assumed the 5g of chopped nuts was a mistake and it was meant to be 50g.  The cooking time given was 1 hour but mine was done in 40 minutes so it was a good job I decided to check!  It was probably using the Bundt tin that caused it to cook more quickly.


It was lovely.  With the wholemeal flour and the chopped nuts it had a distinctly nutty flavour and was quite delicious.  It wasn't overly sweet either, in fact you could almost consider it "good for you"!  The only thing I might change for next time would be to maybe increase the amount of cinnamon to make it a bit more spicy.  I could have dusted it with icing sugar or even given it a drizzle of icing but leaving it plain as it came out of the oven seemed just right for its wholesome appearance and flavour.  Definitely a cake I will be making again.  

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

As it turns out, I am not all that thrilled with the Rachel Allen book.  A glance through it didn't inspire me to make anything in particular so it may well end up back at the charity shop!

Ingredients

175g wholemeal self raising flour
175g golden caster sugar
1 tsp baking powder
3 eggs
175g soft margarine or butter (I used Anchor Spreadable)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
50g chopped mixed nuts
1 cooking apple of about 250g, peeled, cored and diced
1 tblsp demerara sugar 

Method

Preheat the oven to 170 C / 150 fan / gas mk 3.  Butter a 2lb (900g) loaf tin, 20cm round tin or a small Bundt tin.  

Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Beat in the eggs one at a time with a little of the measured flour.

Mix the spice and baking powder with the flour and fold into the mixture.  Finally add the chopped apple and the nuts and mix well to combine.  Spoon the mixture into the tin, level the top and, if using a loaf tin or round tin, sprinkle the demerara sugar on top (omit with the Bundt tin as the top becomes the bottom).  Give the tin a few sharp taps on the worktop to settle the mixture and avoid any air bubbles.

Bake for 40 minutes to 1 hour until done.  Cool in the tin for 10 minutes then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Cuts into 10-12 slices.

November 30, 2020

LEMON AND SULTANA BUNDT CAKE, an early birthday present and a bit of a rant about the Bake Off!

We watched the final of the Great British Bake Off last week, rather grudgingly I might add - but more of that later.  I was shocked and saddened to see the tribute to a former contestant, Luis Troyano, appear in the credits at the end.  I instantly remembered who he was, a gentle giant of a man who produced exceptionally good bread during bread week.  He was a finalist in series five in 2014 and was only 48 when he died of cancer just a few weeks ago.

As so many of the contestants do, he produced a book after that series finished and I bought it a while ago.  Until now the only thing in the book I have made is his pumpkin pie, which was, in fact, divine.  You can see that if you go here. 

48 is no age at all.  Amidst all the trials and tribulations that this year has thrown at us, the perpetual fear of impending doom, the worry, the isolation, the pandemic waistline and brain fog, the intense longing for normality, it's frightening to realise that all the other things that normally get us are still out there as well.

A sense of my own mortality set in and with gay abandon I took up Nick's offer of an early birthday present.  My birthday is only a couple of weeks away anyway but what if I didn't make it that far?  You just never know.  

I already own a Kenwood Chef which resides in France.  I took it there thinking that that's where I would do most baking and for a few years that was the case.  Oh but how I have missed it this year!  And how thrilled I am to now have this retro styled baby Kenwood!  I christened it without delay by baking my own little tribute to Luis, the recipe for a lemon and sultana Bundt cake that's in his book.


There was too much mixture for this particular Bundt tin and remembering that I read somewhere that you shouldn't fill them by more than three quarters I used the excess to make four muffins.  Bundt tins do vary in volume depending on the design so in a different tin the quantity of mixture would probably have been perfect.  (This design is called "elegant party".)

The baking time was given as one hour but after exactly an hour I would say that mine was, to quote Paul Hollywood, slightly over baked.  The top (or the bottom of the cake) had a distinctly dark appearance so next time I would check after 50 minutes.  (On re-reading the recipe it seems I overlooked the part about covering with foil to prevent burning after 45 minutes!)


And now for my little rant about the Bake Off.  Jump to the recipe if you're not interested!

The contest was in its hey day when Luis was a contestant.  The wonderful Mary Berry was one of the  judges, Paul Hollywood (the Craig Revel Horwood of baking competitions) was the other and Mel and Sue were joint hosts.  Mel and Sue were a class act, providing intelligent humour, support and comfort to the contestants and an all round feel good feeling.

When the show moved to Channel 4 and all but Paul Hollywood quit, I thought it would never be as good.  However, I quickly took to Pru Leith.  Paul was just the same old Paul but we also had that nincompoop, Noel Fielding to contend with.  His puerile sense of humour was somewhat compensated for by the clever and witty Sandy Toksvig whose silly japes I didn't mind so much, but now that she has left and Matt Lucas came along instead things went rapidly downhill IMHO.

We have found the series almost unwatchable, the inane fifth form common room jokes and pranks intensely irritating and cringe worthy.  In order to stop ourselves from throwing things at the TV we have recorded programmes and watched later so that we could whizz through most of the waffle.  I don't know what Channel 4 are aiming for but it's not the quality programme it used to be with that pair of idiots cruising round and hassling the contestants while they're having a meltdown over their crème pat.  Rant over.

So this cake was my tribute to the gentle and talented Luis Troyano.  There are lots of other really lovely recipes in his book which I highly recommend.  I shall bake my way through a few more and no doubt write about them.

His recipe for this particular cake includes a glaze made with limoncello but I thought the cake looked quite beautiful without it and turned out to be amply lemony enough as it was.  Definitely a cake I shall be making again.  R.I.P. Luis.

Ingredients

225g softened butter (I used Tesco Butterpak Spreadable)

500g caster sugar

4 large eggs

380g plain flour

1 tblsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

120ml buttermilk

120ml lemonjuice

170g sultanas (tossed in a little flour to prevent sinking)

zest of 2 lemons, finely grated

Method

Prepare your Bundt tin by buttering generously and dusting with flour or using this method here.  Preheat the oven to 190 C / 170 fan / gas mk 5.

Using your brand new Kenwood mixer (ahem!) or a hand held electric mixer, beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

Add and beat in the eggs one at a time along with a spoonful of the flour to prevent curdling.

Add all the other ingredients and beat until well combined.  Pour into the tin and level the top, remembering not to fill by more than three quarters.  Give the tin a few sharp taps on the worktop to ensure there are no air gaps and bake for about one hour.  Cover with foil after 45 minutes and check for doneness after 50 minutes.

Cool in the tin for 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Depending on the design of your tin, cuts into 15-20 slices.

November 19, 2020

APPLE AND ALMOND PIE


This pie began with a visit to the local DIY shop.

Where we live in Derbyshire we are very lucky to have an old fashioned hardware shop in the town.  In the "olden days" you would have called it an irongmonger's.  To be fair, it is principally a DIY shop but it sells everything from pots of paint, tools and ladders to pots and pans.  It's a wonderful shop.  Well, for someone like me it is anyway.  I have rarely come out without what I went in for and on the few occasions that they didn't have what I wanted they got it for me from the wholesaler a few days later.  How good is that?


Since the lockdown in the spring it has remained open and served customers from the door.  It's a big shop but well crammed with so much stuff that self distancing is virtually impossible once inside.  Customers have queued good naturedly outside on the pavement come rain or shine while staff would search the shop for what they wanted and bring a selection to the door.  They have been busy all year.

So, imagine my joy when, the other weekend, I arrived at the door ready to request a replacement light bulb only to find that I was invited inside!  Woo hoo !!  For the first time in eight months I could browse the bin liners and buckets to my heart's content.  

That's when I set eyes on this Pyrex flan dish.  It's a giant, 28cm version of one I already have and used for my second attempt at the rhubarb and almond pie you can see here.  "Aha" thought I.  The recipe might actually work with a dish that big.  And for only £3.25 it was definitely worth a punt.  Did I mention that the prices are also very good in our local shop?


I now have this flan dish in three sizes, 21, 25 and 28cm.  As the smaller two came from charity shops for a pound or two each, I'm well set up to bake any size of flan/quiche/tart/pie for very little outlay on equipment.

And indeed, the big size worked perfectly.  I had to use brioche finger buns for the base as by the time I got to the supermarket after visiting the DIY shop there were no brioche loaves left.  They worked fine.  


I used apples as per Mary Berry's recipe in the book "Simple Comforts" but slightly less ground almonds and more flour, a combination that I prefer.



It was yummy.  I glazed it with apricot jam to give it that patisserie look and it looked a million dollars.  An excellent dessert for a large gathering - or for just the four of us with ample leftovers.  Delicious warm with cream or cold with custard.  Or for breakfast - 28cm is a large pie and will go a long way.

Ingredients

4-5 slices of a brioche loaf or 5-6 brioche finger rolls
175g spreadable butter (I used Lurpak spreadable)
175g caster sugar
1 tsp almond extract
150g ground almonds
3 eggs
50g plain flour
1 large or 2 small eating apples, cored but not peeled.
2 tblsp apricot jam for glazing the pie

Method

Preheat the oven to 200° C / 180° fan / gas mk 6.  Butter a large, shallow baking dish about 28cm dia.

Press slices of brioche into the bottom of the dish, filling in gaps but not overlapping.  If using the rolls, slice off the top and bottom crusts then slice in half horizontally.

Slice the cored apples into thin wedges.  I find the easiest method is to halve the apples then use a melon baller to remove the central core, then slice each half into wedges.

Put the butter and sugar into a food processor and whizz until light and fluffy.  Add the extract, almonds eggs and flour and whizz again until nice and smooth.  Spread the mixture evenly over the brioche base and arrange the fruit on top.  

Bake for about 40 minutes until golden brown and the centre is firm.  Warm the jam in a small saucepan to make it runny then brush it all over the top of the pie to glaze.  Serve warm or at room temperature, with cream, ice cream or custard.

Cuts into 10-12 slices.