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 social 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.

November 16, 2020

ORANGE AND SULTANA CAKE

 


I had had my eye on this recipe for months and, with the birthday season upon us again (there are a lot of winter birthdays in this family) the need for a birthday cake arose.  


Considering how the year has dragged in some ways, my dad's and Nick's birthdays seem to have come round just as quickly as ever.  When I think of all those weeks spent in lockdown, sitting in the garden in glorious sunshine, sipping rosé wine and wishing we were in France, time passed oh so slowly.  Before we knew it, our precious eight weeks in France came and went and now seem a lifetime ago and here we are in the grey and dismal months again.  As we hurtle towards Christmas we pass several birthdays along the way.  Of course we are now in a form of lockdown again, but it doesn't seem as harsh.  We must be getting used to it or maybe have adapted to a new kind of normal.


My dad likes a fruit cake and Nick will eat a drizzle cake or one with a bit of spice.  (I will eat virtually any cake at all.)  This cake by Lynn Hill of Clandestine Cake Club fame ticks all those boxes so was destined to keep everyone happy.

It was delicious.  Easy to make, not particularly fancy but perfect for a grey and grotty day with the brightness of orange, the juiciness of sultanas and the warmth of spice.  Especially good for the "not quite Christmas yet" season.  Definitely one to make again and again.

I followed the recipe without adapting it at all and you can see it here.

November 6, 2020

LEMON DRIZZLE LOAF CAKE

 



We are lucky where we live in the UK in that we have a milk delivery.  The milkman brings two pints on Tuesdays and Thursdays and three on a Saturday, which amounts to seven pints a week or one per day which is exactly right for us.  He also brings half a dozen eggs on Thursdays.  For some reason we had not been getting through the eggs and I also had some lemons lurking in the fridge.  Every time I opened the fridge door they were calling "lemon drizzle" to me very softly and I remembered a recipe I had seen in a blog post here.  It's a Mary Berry recipe for a lemon drizzle loaf cake.

I wondered which Mary Berry book it came from, had a quick shufti through my collection of her cookbooks (I have a few) and couldn't find it.  There are plenty of other lemon cakes, including the lemon drizzle traybake which appears in several of them, is delicious and which I have made a few times (see here).  However, the loaf cake recipe appears all over the place on the internet, attributed to Mary Berry in two versions, a 3-egg version like this one and a 4-egg version and both are highly acclaimed.  So although its origin is a mystery it definitely looked like I should have a go.




I started gathering the ingredients (there aren't that many) and then discovered I was almost out of self raising flour.  Now that's a first as I'm not one for running out of flour!  A person who frequently needs an emergency cake usually has that covered!  However........

Where we now live in the UK we have lovely neighbours and our nearest, Janet and Malcolm, are also cake enthusiasts.  I can't remember how we started but we have a sort of cake exchange thing going.  We get a couple of slices of hers whenever she bakes and vice versa.  How wonderful is that?

Janet makes fabulous light and fluffy sponges and in one of our many conversations about cake she mentioned that she uses something called "sponge flour".  When the panic buying of flour had died down and all kinds of flours I had never heard of started appearing in the supermarkets Tesco had a whole shelf of Homepride sponge flour and I can honestly say I don't think I had ever noticed it before.  It's in a purple box instead of the regular blue box and I bought some.  

With my other ingredients measured out and the lemon zested I remembered the purple box and with some relief fished it out from the back of the cupboard.  I used the last of my ordinary SR flour and topped up the quantity with the sponge flour, so about half and half.  Note to self: must stock up on flour next time I do a supermarket order or feel brave enough to venture into the shop in person.

I used my new loaf tin, bought in The Range when they had a promotion on their range of pink baking tins a few months ago.  It's slightly larger than a standard 2lb loaf tin, very sturdy and as the recipe seemed to make a bit more mixture than I expected this tin was perfect.



The recipe is essentially a classic Mary Berry all-in-one type of recipe.  Marie Rayner who wrote the blog post also added a splash of lemon extract to hers, which I happened also to have in stock and as we like our lemon cakes very lemony I did the same.  The cake was delicious.  It had a lovely, even, light and fluffy crumb, just the right amount of lemonyness and a lovely crunchy topping.  It may well supersede my previous go-to lemon drizzle recipe which you can see here.

Ingredients

For the cake
175g softened butter (I used Stork for Cakes)
175g caster sugar
175g self raising flour
3 large eggs
¾ tsp baking powder
½ tsp lemon extract
zest of 1 lemon

For the drizzle topping
100g granulated sugar
juice of 1 lemon

Method

Grease a 2lb (900g) loaf tin or use a paper liner.  Also add a strip of baking paper long enough to go the length of the tin and hang over the ends to enable you to lift the cake out.  This is a good idea as the cake is quite fragile when still warm.  (It goes under the paper liner!)  

Preheat the oven to 180°C / 160° fan / gas mk 4.  

Put all the cake ingredients into a large bowl and using an electric whisk beat together until smooth and well combined.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and level the top.  Bake for 40-45 minutes until done.

Remove from the oven and leave in the tin to cool for about 10 minutes.  While it's cooling make the drizzle topping by mixing the lemon juice and sugar together.  Pour the mixture over the warm cake.

After the 10 minutes carefully lift the cake out of the tin using the paper strips and transfer to a rack to finish cooling.

Cuts into 8-10 slices.

October 31, 2020

LIVER WITH BACON AND ONIONS


Liver is the only offal I enjoy eating.  My mum loved it and we had liver with bacon and onions regularly as kids.  It's dead easy to make, taking only as long as the veg take to cook and you have a delicious, cheap and nutritious meal on the table in super quick time.  


This is my mum's recipe, or rather, her way of cooking it.  I have never consulted a recipe for liver and onions and have always made it this way ever since I left home, having watched her make it a zillion times.  She always used lamb's liver and would dip the sliced liver in seasoned flour before cooking it in lard, which I did too for about the first thirty years of making it.  Nowadays I just sprinkle the flour into the sauce as it cooks.  Mostly she would cook it entirely on the hob, perching a saucepan lid or plate on the pan to cover it.  Sometimes she would transfer it to a Pyrex dish and finish it in the oven, usually if we were having baked potatoes with it.  They would already have been in the oven for some time and she was not one for wasting the gas if there was the shelf space!

The other main difference between then and now is that it would have been unheard of to serve slightly pink, undercooked liver in our house.  My mum would have been horrified at the very idea.  Everything we ate was well cooked.  Something to do with old ideas about food hygiene perhaps, bearing in mind that we didn't own a refrigerator until I was probably in my early teens.  They were way too expensive in the early 60's and well beyond my parents' means.

On this occasion we had ours with mashed potatoes and green veg.  Yum !!

Ingredients

Roughly 250-300g sliced lamb's liver
2 rashers smoked bacon (back or streaky, either is fine)
1 large onion
1 tbslp vegetable oil
1 red oxo cube
Worcestershire sauce
splash of red wine if you have it open (optional)
1-2 tblsp plain flour

Method

Peel and chop the onion coarsely, not too fine.  Heat the oil in a large frying or sauté pan and cook the onion gently over medium heat until soft and just beginning to brown, 5-10 minutes.  Slice the bacon rashers into large pieces and add to the pan.  Cook for about 5 more minutes until the bacon is cooked.

Cut the liver into evenly sized slices if not already so and remove any sinewy bits if necessary.  Add to the pan and cook gently, turning often until browned all over.  It will still be pink inside and oozing slightly.

Crumble the oxo cube into the pan and pour in the wine and enough boiling water to make a sauce.  Use as much liquid as you like depending on how much gravy you want!  (We like plenty if we're having mash!)  Stir to dissolve the oxo cube then sprinkle in a tablespoon of flour.  Stir again to mix in the flour and remove any lumps.  Add more flour if you have lots of liquid until the sauce is as thick as you like.  

Add salt and pepper, a good splash of Worcestershire sauce, stir well and put a lid on the pan.  Cook for a further 5-10 minutes until the liver is cooked through.

Serves 2-3 depending on appetite and how much veg you have on the side.

October 11, 2020

APPLE AND CINNAMON CAKE


I had been meaning to make this cake ever since I first spotted it on Lynn Hill's website here. I had in fact already tasted it, when a friend made it for our cake club meeting last October.  Sadly the cake club as such no longer exists.  It's been replaced by a "cake and bake" club that, more often than not, meets at lunchtime instead of mid afternoon.  This means that there are more savoury bakes, quiches and the like, because it's at lunchtime, (even salad, soup and sandwiches have made an appearance) as people think that lunch is not lunch unless you have something other than just cake.

It depends on your perspective I suppose!!


Anyway, this cake (diets notwithstanding) was baked because we were having visitors and a cup of tea in the afternoon just doesn't seem right unless there is a cake to go with it.  (Sounds like a good excuse to me!)  As usual I made it in a 23cm round tin rather than the square tin in the original recipe.

Like all of Lynn's recipes, it's straightforward to make and works perfectly.  After all, what else would you expect from the lady whose brainchild was the Clandestine Cake Club, a brilliant idea that ended up with thousands of members all around the world.  Sadly it is no more and I still miss it.  However, I urge you to check out the website and browse all the lovely recipes.

This was an excellent cake, just the right amount of moistness and spice.  The drizzled warmed golden syrup on top is a trick I might try on other cakes.  Our visitors loved it, had second helpings and jumped at the offer of a slice to take home.  Mind you, they thought it could stand more spice and suggested adding some ginger.  Judge for yourself if you make it.  I was concerned that I had sprinkled too much ground cinnamon over the cake before drizzling the icing on top, and that it might taste a bit "soapy", but in fact it was just right.

It's one of the few cakes I have made that have been gone in less than 24 hours.  Here's my adaptation of it.

Ingredients

For the cake

1 dessert apple (or eating apple as my mum used to say!)

180g spreadable butter (I used Country Life Spreadable)

180g soft dark brown sugar

3 eggs

200g self raising flour

1 tsp ground cinnamon

3 tblsp golden syrup

For the topping

3 tblsp golden syrup

1-2 tsp ground cinnamon

4 tblsp icing sugar 

1 tsp preboiled water (you could use lemon juice)

Method

Grease and line the base of a 23cm round springform cake tin.  Preheat the oven to 180C / 160 fan.

Peel the apple, cut out the core and chop into 1cm dice.  Put the chopped apple into a small bowl and cover with cold water.  This will prevent the apple from going brown.  Set aside.

Put the butter and sugar into a large bowl and beat with an electric hand mixer until lighter and fluffy.  Add the eggs, one at a time, along with a little of the flour and beat in.

Fold in the flour and cinnamon, mixing until well combined.

Drain the apple and tip onto a tray lined with baking paper.  Place another sheet of paper on top and pat the apple pieces dry.  Add to the mixture with the golden syrup and stir well to combine.

Tip the mixture into the tin and level the top.  Bake for 30-35 minutes until golden brown and done.

While the cake is cooking, put the 3 tblsp golden syrup for the topping into a small saucepan and heat gently until melted and very runny.

When the cake is done, remove from the oven and prick all over with a skewer.  Pour on the melted golden syrup and brush over with a pastry brush.

Cool in the tin for about 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack.  

When completely cool, dust with ground cinnamon.

Make a water icing using the icing sugar (sieved) and water (or lemon juice) and drizzle it decoratively over the cake.

Cuts into 10-12 slices.

October 5, 2020

PILCHARDS ON TOAST, NEW CAKE STANDS AND SOME SAD NEWS



Now I know this may be an odd thing to post about but bear with me.

The recipe, if you can call it that, popped up in my FB feed and I was instantly compelled to make it for lunch!  We had it that day.

I was brought up on pilchards.  Not sardines*, but tinned pilchards in tomato sauce, warmed in a saucepan or in the oven and served on thick slices of toasted wholemeal bread.  Proper Hovis bread that had that delicious and unique aroma that Hovis doesn't have any more.

We usually keep in stock those very small tins of Glenryck pilchards in tomato sauce and at around 50p a tin they are just the right size for lunch for two.  The tins usually contain two plump pilchards that when split open and served with hard boiled egg make one of our favourite salads.

However, this particular recipe is a bit more sophisticated than just pilchards on toast!  It includes crushed avocado and rocket.  So, late to the party as usual, I have finally discovered that crushed avocados can be quite nice - how exciting that you can do more with an avocado than just serve it in wedges in a salad or prawn cocktail!

On the day I spotted the recipe I happened to have both a packet of ready washed rocket and two avocados in the house.  We also had a home made wholemeal loaf that Nick had made the day before.  You can see the toast recipe here, although it is actually for sardines and includes a sprinkling of chilli seeds which I omitted.

Ingredients
2 slices wholemeal bread
1 avocado
1 155g tin Glenryck pilchards in tomato sauce
a handful of rocket.

Method
Empty the can of sardines carefully into a dish or plate and split them into two along the back and open out.  If like me you are not partial to the larger bones remove the spines.  Transfer carefully to a small saucepan so that they don't break up into pieces and heat gently.

While the sardines are warming through toast the bread.  Halve the avocado and remove the stone then the flesh with a dessert spoon.  Put the flesh into a small bowl and mash with a fork.

Spread the mashed avocado on the toast, top with the rocket then the sardines and serve warm straight away.

Serves 2.
*A sardine is a small pilchard.  In other words, pilchards are bigger and plumper than sardines.


Now for the cake stands.  I had a couple of Ebay successes recently and added to my collection.  This one is a Clarice Cliffe creation by Wedgwood and I was thrilled when it arrived.  I was not so lucky with the next one.



I often see cabbage leaf pottery on sale at French brocantes (a brocante is like a flea market) and it is usually quite pricey.  Most of it is also quite hideous.  I spotted this cake stand on Ebay just after I had already bid on the Clarice Cliffe one and it also came with two fairly large plates.  I was not fussed about having the plates but coveted the cake stand.  I turned out to be the only bidder and got the lot for £15.

Unfortunately the seller made the double error of not wrapping it very well and sending it via Hermes.  Over the last few years we've been doing a dog walk that begins at a small car park on the edge of town.  It's used by Hermes to decant parcels from their huge lorry to the cars and vans that deliver them to people's homes.  I have seen the way the parcels are handled and personally I would never use them to send anything even vaguely fragile or more valuable than a cheese sandwich. 
The seller has refunded my money and the three items are now in the bin.  Such a shame.  It will be a long time before I ever see another one like it I expect.

Lastly, the sad news as mentioned in the title is that the cake stall that we held at my place of work every year is no longer going to take place.  Not just this year (for obvious reasons) but not ever.  The owners of the business have decided that the Children in Need charity is already cash rich and any funds should be raised a different way and given to a different charity. 
 
So, no more huge baking sessions to supply the cakes.  
The first time we did it in 2003 we raised £130.  Last year we raised £2,113 and the grand total over the years is well over £15,000.  That's an awful lot of cake and I shall miss doing it.  It's what renewed my interest in baking and extended my repertoire beyond the annual Christmas cake and the occasional birthday chocolate cake.

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I have done a bit of research and discovered that the "lettuce leaf" plates and cake stand are quite sought after and can be obtained elsewhere for quite large sums of money.  The design is actually "geranium leaves" and now I look at the pictures they do look like geranium leaves.  I can get a cake stand for £52 and the plates for £35 each.  What a shame that the seller did not pack them more carefully.  

October 1, 2020

A PIE AND A QUICHE

 When I cleared our fridge in France I brought back to the UK three packs of ready made pastry.  They were "pâte brisée", or plain shortcrust pastry.  I had bought them to bake something savoury for an event but in the end made a cake instead.  They still had several days left on them before the use by date but they needed using up.


With one I made a chicken, leek, mushroom and potato pie using this method here.

The chicken, mushroom and potato elements were leftover from the previous evening's dinner, a sort of fricasee that Nick created and served with lovely new potatoes.  I just added the leek and a pack of smoked lardons, also from France.

With another pack of pastry I made a bacon, caramelised onion chutney, spinach and cheddar quiche using this method here.

The lardons were in a twin pack so this used the second half.  We had it with homemade coleslaw using this recipe here.  (Also with baked beans - but nobody's perfect!!)

September 26, 2020

RHUBARB AND ALMOND PIE


We have been enjoying Mary Berry's new TV series called "Simple Comforts".  With so much uncertainty about the coming months I need simple and comfort more than ever.  Mary is such a genius at what I would call proper home cooking.  Designed for us ordinary folk for every day meals and the special family occasion.  You really can't go wrong with her recipes.

However, I did with this one!



Here we are back in the UK for the next six months, pining for the lost months that we didn't have in France this year but at the same time feeling so thankful that we managed to get there at all and enjoy eight glorious weeks of almost uninterrupted sunshine.  Back home we are almost through our quarantine period and the weather has been perfect.  Some would call it an Indian summer.  It's been wonderful to be able to sit in our little garden and enjoy some fresh air, even on rainy days the sun has come out in the afternoon.  Quarantine could have been so much worse if it was cold and wet most of the time.


Nick has nurtured our flowering plants back to life so that we have been able to enjoy some colour in the garden.  I picked some of our flowers to cheer us up indoors.  To our delight we have also found that our rhubarb plant, only one year old, continues to keep on giving.


In the first episode of her new series Mary made an apple dessert called "brioche frangipane apple pudding" which looked both delicious and easy to make.  For the base she used slices of brioche and it just so happened that I had brought a sliced brioche back with me from France.


I also had loads of rhubarb from the garden so I decided to use that instead of apples.


Unfortunately it didn't work out quite right as I used the wrong size of dish.  Mine was slightly smaller in diameter and a bit deeper.  The upshot of this was that when the cooking time was up, the middle of the pie was still uncooked, positively liquid in fact.  So I had to cook it for much longer and in spite of covering it with foil to try to prevent burning it did end up being rather crozzled around the edges.  Which does go to show that size does matter!




I was disappointed to say the least and didn't do the extra step of brushing with an apricot glaze and sprinkling with flaked almonds.

However, it was yummy!  Ignoring the occasional rather dark tasting bits, it was quite delicious.  I will definitely be making it again, either with apples or with rhubarb.  Possibly even with sliced pears or plum halves.  But next time I will use a larger, shallower dish.

I especially like the idea of using a layer of brioche for the base of the pie (or pudding).  It worked really well and is a nice change from a pastry bottom.  (Although mine was a touch overdone.)  I shall be doing that again!

The episode with the recipe is currently still available on BBC iPlayer and you can see it on the internet here and here.

Ingredients

4-5 slices of brioche loaf
175g spreadable butter (I used Lurpak spreadable)
175g caster sugar
1 tsp almond extract
175g ground almonds
3 eggs
25g plain flour
about 6 sticks of rhubarb, washed and cut into 5cm lengths

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.

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.  Serve warm.

Cuts into 8 generous slices.

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I made it again using a larger, shallower dish and it worked better.  It was cooked perfectly in the 40 minutes stated in the recipe.  I also used slightly less ground almonds and more flour; 150g and 50g.  This was because that's all the ground almonds I had in stock but it was still delicious - if anything I preferred it.


I later made it in an even bigger dish, 28cm, using apples as per Mary's original recipe and that worked even better!  You can read about it if you go here.

September 23, 2020

SALAD


We are now into week two of our two week quarantine and eating our way through a hotch potch of food items.  Some are the contents of our fridge in France, hurriedly cleared before we departed.  Some are what we equally hurriedly thought to put into a Sainsbury's delivery.  Some are what neighbours, my brother and Nick's sister brought and left on the doorstep.  So we will not starve, even if some of the food combinations are a little out of the ordinary, and we haven't yet had to resort to the contents of the freezer.

When I was little a salad was lettuce, tomato, cucumber, spring onions and beetroot, all home grown.  The beetroot would have been pickled in malt vinegar and there might also be home pickled red cabbage, home pickled onions and home made piccalilli if we were lucky.  The meat would have been a thick slice of boiled ham, hand carved from the butcher or sliced on one of those huge slicing machines, some tinned salmon or, if we were very lucky, some tinned corned beef.  On special days it would be tongue and if we were very good a slice of boiled egg.  We always had salad for Sunday tea in the summer (having had a huge Sunday dinner of roast lamb at lunchtime).


The only dressing would have been Heinz Salad Cream.  I remember the furore when, possibly in the 90's, Heinz threatened to stop making Salad Cream due to poor sales caused by the increase in popularity of other, more fashionable dressings, such as mayonnaise and vinaigrette.  The public revolted and Salad Cream remains on our supermarket shelves!

How things change!

This salad was a glorious mixture of French and English items that needed using up.  The main event was some sliced leftover duck breast.  Every week or two we treat ourselves to a prepared duck dish from Sainsbury's; Gressingham duck in plum sauce.  We had joyfully added it to our rushed order for delivery (although forgot more sensible staple items) and the portions were huge.


There was the equivalent of one whole breast left over, some of which we had one lunchtime in a wrap and the rest in this salad.

So, salads these days have little resemblance to those I ate in my childhood and up to my forties.  Even in the scotch egg years (home made of course) of the 70's salads were nothing like as exotic as the salads we eat nowadays.  I don't think I encountered a real avocado until well into the 80's!  And as for putting anything warm in a salad........my mum would have detested the way it wilted her lettuce!

Another favourite is homemade coleslaw and I had remembered to put the ingredients into the Sainsbury's basket.

This salad contained

Brought from France:

red lettuce

feta cheese cubed

walnuts

a few black olives

From the UK:

hard boiled eggs

sliced leftover cold duck

cucumber

cherry tomatoes

sliced leftover cooked new potatoes

For the coleslaw

a chunk each of white and red hard cabbage, shredded

1 large carrot, grated

a handful of sultanas

*I often add other ingredients if I have them in stock, such as shredded fennel, sliced celery, finely sliced spring onions, chopped chives or other fresh herbs, whole grain mustard, chopped walnuts.

All mixed together with just enough mayonnaise (from France) to bring it together, a dash of French mustard and a splash of white wine vinegar, plus salt and pepper.

Not a pickled onion in sight!!  But I confess to adding a blob or two of Salad Cream.